Ah, early Sunday Morning.
The people who are staying with me are still in bed.
I get up and clean the kitchen; I sweep and put away the dishes, each cup, glass, plate, bowl, spoon has its place to be put away into. I love that sense of order. I never thought I would, but I do. I love that things have their place and when each thing has its place there is a sense of simplicity and ease.
And then I sit overlooking this magnificent garden with my cup of tea on the deck. There are so many wonderful big trees in this garden; oak, ash, chestnut, eucalyptus, beech; there is willow and hazel, and birch and rowan; there are apple, pear, medlar, plum, mulberry and cherry trees; there is buddleia, bay, and goodness knows what else which I have not even recognized. And all of them have been quietly, majestically living their lives here while we live our own complex human existances.
I went outside and stood under the ash tree. Majestic, huge, towering over me and gently, gently shedding its leaves. I felt grateful for this being, so different to me, so always, simply there, offering up its beauty, and a home and perch for hundreds of creatures…
It is complicated to be human. And not just in these times but (I imagine), always. We have these remarkable brains! We have the capacity to abstract, to conceptualize, to make meaning of all that happens. We know, however much we try and fail to make sense of it, that we are going to die. And we don’t know, actually, how the hell this thing called life came into being and how we got here in the first place. It is not particularly helpful to know about conception and procreation in this sense; it doesn’t help us have any kind of sense of WHY we are here. WHAT is it all for, and how on Earth did this all happen?
We look for answers, or ways to make sense of it all, and – failing that, in most of our cases – we become addicts.
I have been contemplating addiction this morning, and I think it is a particularly human phenomenon. I don’t imagine it happens in the wild animal kingdom (although animals who have been closely engaged with humans in some form or another, and have not been treated with a mutual respect, do show signs of it… painfully so).
I don’t think there is anyone I know well in which I don’t see signs of addictive behavior. I see us all craving and indulging and unable to resist doing things which we know are not doing us (or the planet), any good. I see us grabbing chocolate, junk food, sugar, salt, coffee; I see us over over eating, dieting, under eating; I see addiction in emotional dramas, in energy highs; I see it in alcohol and drugs; I see it in sex, and in excessive exercise. I see it in pornography, in and all kinds of fiction from thrillers to romances. I see it in bullying and people pleasing; I see it in attention needs, in talking, in the need to be busy; I see it in smart phones, social media, computer games; I see it in self development and the obsession with self-improvement; I see it in shopping and socializing; I see it in emotional catharsis, I see it in spiritual seeking, I see it in gossiping…
The list goes on, it is EVERYWHERE.
Often I catch myself marveling, and judging other people’s addictions; and then I am humbled to realize that I am no different, we are ALL in this.
I ask myself why this is.
And these are the answers I have coming.
We don’t know who we are any more (if we ever did).
We are lost, and afraid of dying (not to mention the dying of the planet).
We want to feel good, all the time.
We are running from facing the emptiness and confusion brought about by having no clue why we are here and what this is all about.
We are desperatedly lonely, because we have lost a sense of connection.
We are creatures of habit and we are deeply affected by the waters we are swimming in, by the culture we are living in, and here, addiction is normal.
It is normal to need more and more, to feel we ourselves are not enough, and to think we don’t have enough (whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual).
And we have these extraordinary minds which have the capacity to roam endlessly in the past and the future and are not that interested in being rooted to the present moment; that have the capacity to perceive themselves as separate from the rest of existence. And whether we know it or not, I believe we are all longing for a deeper sense of presence, of rootedness in the moment. And this is not easy with a brain like our one! Particularly in times like ours. Where more and more of life is lived out virtually on a billion screens, where so much of what we live is disembodied and disconnected.
In those times when I am really listening to what is most important for me in each moment; when I am blessed with a deeper sense of presence and therefore the capacity, readiness and interest to really be where I am, as I am; when I can give my energy and attention to a reverence to life which wants to be in service to each moment to the fullest of my ability; and when I am able to forgive myself and others for any lack of such capacity, readiness and interest – then the forces of addiction no longer hold sway over me.
And this takes dedication, commitment and an ongoing willingness to see what I am up to, and feel the pain of my own disconnection and addictive tendencies – and an interest to attend to what is most important again and again and again. And a love which wants to open to the wonder of life again and is willing to do whatever it takes to come back to it even though the addictive patterns would have us reach for the next fix.
Coming back to the trees, these magnificent ones, they help a lot.