Awakening the Spirit through Craft

I was going to title this blog post 'Awakening the ancestral intelligence of the body through craft.' I still stand by that notion but wanted to simplify it. What I see a deficit in our world is people walking with spirit. Not 'Spiritual', but quite simply, with spirit.

I struggle with the word 'Spiritual'. I struggle because it's become currency in these times. Somehow there are more evolved people than others, more worthy people, less human and more spiritual. A lot of the people I've met over the years who identify as 'spiritual' are anything but. A lot of the mechanics and carpenters I've met over the years are more open hearted and less self-centered but don't know a single yoga pose. Right!? ;)

What I'm speaking of here is a sense of 'joie de vivre', a feeling of enthusiasm and delight. I'm speaking of a class of excited children running out of school at the end of the day, all speaking over each other to tell you what they've been doing. 

I'm speaking of the almost car accident, where everyone involved gathers under a bus stop, huddled in blankets in the rain, holding each other, beaming with life and gratefulness even though their cars are smashed up and it's raining, all the people and children are safe.

I'm speaking of the toddlers art class, where parents sit on the side lines watching their kids have fun, then one day a parent comes along and gets involved, gives all the other parents permission to participate too and suddenly the adults who haven't painted since primary school are elbow deep in colours and grinning from ear to ear.

I'm speaking of a crowded festival dance floor after a performance, covered in litter, one man starts collecting the rubbish, and slowly he's joined by countless others, cleaning the space wordlessly, for the benefit of fellow humans.

These are all things I've seen and felt. Places where spirit is present, to bring up just a few memories.

To me, spirit doesn't transcend our humanity, it includes it. It celebrates it. 

There are some ascension based spiritual traditions that teach us that as humans, we encounter the divine when we leave the illusion of our physicality. all light and no dark, no shadow. This is one perspective, they're methods of realising something, but they're not the only method, and might not be the most helpful for us.

I'm not saying spirit isn't expressed through the living world, in the cosmos. I don't know anything about the cosmos, not experientially anyway. 

What I speak of here, and trust you also know this, is the tender crossroads that links embodiment, and the uniqueness of our experience, with the invigorating and life giving quality of existence. It is utterly personal and relative. 

It flashes across faces when people speak of their enthusiasms, it fills rooms, it can be found in airports, taxis, back streets, cafes. And of course, places where craft happens.

Here, I speak of craft as the practice based, honing of materials for a functional outcome. Tangibly working with something for a result that's not conceptual, it's practical and not a performance.

Arts also can have these qualities, but it can be easier to get into performance and think of ourselves from the outside in. 

Craft is an intimate engagement of complete presence with materials, and therefore with life and the fabric of existence. 

I'm speaking of being human and using our hands. Homo-fabricus, one might say. 

I've spent so many years of my life in craft workshops, woodwork, metalwork, sewing rooms, leather studios. After being outside, I'm most at home in a craft studio. The chaotic sense of order, the infinite tools, the smells, the perfect logic of it all. The palpable intelligence of a kinasethetic nature. Aaah, it's just magical. 

These places are spiritual. As in, spirit abides in them. Human concentration meeting the use of hands and the materials of our special earth. Materials we've been using for many hundreds of thousands of years.

What I fear, if I was to so indulge, is the extinction of our human dexterity. 

Did you know that there are junior doctors at the world's most prestigious medical universities that have to take knitting classes when they start training, because their dexterity (vital if you're going to be using a scalpel) is so atrophied from years of writing essays on computers? They can't write by hand any more, it's not as quick as typing so why do it, right?

This is the mode of thinking that creates problems. Addiction to efficiency without seeing the value in something for the evolutionary marvel it is.

Hand- writing, like walking, is something even the most advanced robotics cannot mimic. Hand writing is a deeply complicated bodily skill that comes from hundreds of thousands of years of linguistic, sensory and motor neural networks, profoundly sensitive dexterous ability. But it's not as fast as typing!

Just because the wider culture doesn't see the value in things, doesn't mean we have to internalise that. We need to hold ourselves accountable, within our families and communities, to keep our skills outside of screen engagement sharp. This is essential, I believe in it greatly, and see it as a way to solve so many problems we encounter as modern humans.

We are responsible for family meals happening without screens, we and only we. It's up to us to allow our children to be safe enough to experience boredom so their imagination can find something to create.

If we look at photographs from the 1920's, we see that almost everybody's hands are different to ours. most people in those days had skills as part of their civillian lives that today would be considered master craftsperson level. My grandparents built their own house, from the ground up, over many years. I'm sure you have a lineage rich with people making and crafting things too.

 I have said this many times before, but we need to remember we're going into an age of AI. Whatever our feelings on this are, it's happening one way or another. the future is uncertain, but I know that my friends and I are encouraging our children to become versed in skills that a WiFi deficit won't effect. If our children have intelligence of materials, whatever they are, and have intuition and knowledge of people, AI will not hinder their enjoyment of life of the demand for their skills.

I believe we're entering a renaissance of the Arts, of hands, of bodies, and oh wow am I ready. I was absolutely born ready for this. How about you?

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When we think about mental health, and the meaning crisis we seem to be experiencing worldwide, it's easy to think about so many reasons that contribute to this, but seldom do we think it's because we need to use our hands more. 

Rudolph Steiner, who I deeply admire the work of, wrote that the health of a person cannot be complete and potential realised if the person does not use their spiritual capacity, their intellect, their emotional intelligence and their hands to engage with life. Without the use of these, he taught, something of the person withers. I could not agree more.

We're in a time where we genuinely confuse what we know 'about' with what we know in our bodies and skill networks. The Western world has so prioritised intellectual learning, that many of us,  much of the time, can't even fully experience an emotion without also intellectualising it. 

Craft is a fabulous antidote to this malaise. Craft is a medicine that sharpens our senses, galvanises inventiveness and strengthens imagination. 

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Medicine - Craft in general, though anything that employs dexterity will also heal the malaise and meaning crisis.
Dosage - As often as possible , with friends, community, or in solitude.
Frequency- Minimum once per week depending on severity of malaise. In extreme cases of hopelessness and depression/ anxiety, opt for a daily dose of this medicine.
Contra-indications - do not take alongside mobile device. If addiction to device is extreme then aim to gradually wean off until you're able to participate in craft / art for an hour at a time without checking your phone. Try to keep device in another room during practice hours.
This medicine is unpatented and is available to anyone who wishes to take responsibility for their emotional health. WARNING- The vitality accessed from craft is contagious and you might become addicted. Please share this addiction with fellow humans far and wide.
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There's an emerging new field of science called 'Neuroaesthetics'. It seeks to essentially quantify and tally what indiginous cultures know, what makers know, what we all know somewhere. That is that the creative experience is healing, that we need beauty and that we're wired to participate in its creation. It's a welcomed contribution in a field of research that's long been dormant.

Perhaps we need funded research to believe what our intuition can't pick up on any more. 

Maybe one day, hospitals will be about healing rather than the sick. Maybe one day they'll prescribe beauty, song, community and nature for the unwell, we all have our time in that camp. I'm grateful we have life saving emergency medicine, but what about healing?

Maybe the spiritual meets us in our deepest evolutionary imprints ~ I can't seem to get into this from a moral or ethical stance, it just doesn't feel right. I don't think I'm good at morals. 

Perhaps where our deepest evolutionary grooves meet the overcoming of obstacles, we recognise the spiritual? The strange thing about being human is we can watch ourselves. As far as we know we're alone in that ability . We can watch ourselves and we have bodies we need to take care of, hands and a sense of will. We exist in potentially many dimensions ~ which sounds thrilling but it's mostly experienced as tiring, confusing and bewildering. Better to numb to our potential than glimpse it for a moment only to be greeted by the world of personal limitation, traffic jams and sugar comedowns . Yes, better to not glimpse that. Too confusing. Too confronting. It's the glimpses that are painful . It's painful to see what could be possible for ourselves and our communities ~ painful because potential is by definition unreachable.

Be that as it may, there is magic at work everywhere, and I taste the sacred constantly. I taste it because I look for it in places where people use their hands and bodies. I see it where people work hard and sweat. 

When we sweat we become empathetic. Politicians are always out of shape, and when you don't know how hard something is to do, it becomes abstracted. When we try to make our first wooden spoon, we appreciate the craft of that violin all the more. 

When we try to make an excellent meal and burn it, we appreciate our favourite restaurants all the more. 

Try to sew something? We realise how skilled our grandmother was. 

Empathy. We desperately need it. Craft brings empathy, sport brings empathy. I'm sure you could tell me many of the things that you're involved in that bring empathy, and I would dearly love to hear.

These things take us to our edge and from there we touch a kind of ground that's humble, authentic and can hold us. 

We are mammals. The ethers are not where mammals live. Cyberspace is not where mammals live. We live on the earth, and it is here, and only here that we can participate in this life, alongside the other humans who we happen to share this earth with at this unique time, as all times are unique times.

Our ancestors spent most of their time using their hands, over hundreds of thousands of years. As a modern woman, I'm somehow deeply connected to this unbroken lineage of dexterity, and you are too.

This time, right now, however- is where we are. It's where I am a person called Loren, and you are you, reading this. 

We're called to what we're called to in life. My calling seems to be to reawaken myself, constantly, against this malaise of modernity. To keep myself awake and human, to the polarities of perceived darkness and light. To keep the senses of my animal body awake and alive, to feel things.

We are profoundly more human that our current malaise has us believe. Look at the hands in front of you right now, stretch into them, appreciate the 27 fingers on each of them.

These hands are a portal to all the dimensions of being human, but we have to use them to realise this.

With encouragement, bravery and passion, use your hands for something new today and feel the Spirit enter you.

With love,

Loren

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