Promises to tomorrow #23 Winter Solstice

Winter has arrived, stripped bare trees remind me of nakedness, adornments have been shed and the elements have their way. The dark and light dance to make shadows as fairy floss fog descends on the village under the gaze of a Sagittarian strawberry moon. I have never had much interest in astrology, however the sun, the stars and the moon are my constant companions and I can usually find Venus in the night sky. The Seven Sisters are my favourite constellation and in the winter, and with the solstice approaching they take their place centre-stage.

Once the solstice arrives, the shortest day of the year, and in the southern hemisphere we are furthest from the sun, and we are poised to begin a new season of turning. This is what will happen again in a few days, a turn away from the dark, a journey towards the light. Energy begins to be stored and, emerging from the dark, potential from what has been incubating under ground now begins to be visible. I have not pruned on the June long weekend like I usually do and so I not in sync. The solstice helps to re-set and forecasts the light arriving to do just that

There are going to be arrivals and departures between this solstice and the next, in much the same way there is every year. Comings and goings inside the hidden places of the soul and in the highly visible public places of airports and churches. An arrival of a loved one, international gathering for celebrating lives committed signing up for a life long journey … and probably between this solstice and the next …. a goodbye.

Moving with the seasons and having respect for the shortest of days and the longest of nights is a movement of the heart. To live in harmony with the elements, intertwined with nature and love, where, like a Celtic love knot, there is no beginning or end. To live enchanted by this phenomena of constant movement to and from the light is my promise to tomorrow. Imagine always living knowing what step you are taking towards or away from the light. When the sun hits the ocean’s meeting place and throws itself on to the horizon reaching as far as the eye can see, the curve of our planet glows. Radiant beams. ‘You are alone with the transfiguration’…. ‘you ask the question you are afraid to ask’ May the shortest day of the year and the longest night bless and remind us the transitions from dark to light and light to dark.



Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.

Walk the green road above the bay
and the low glinting fields
toward the evening sun, let that Atlantic
gleam be ahead of you and the gray light
of the bay below you, until you catch,
down on your left, the break in the wall,
for just above in the shadows
you’ll find it hidden, a curved arm
of rock holding the water close to the mountain,
a just-lit surface smoothing a scattering of coins,
and in the niche above, notes to the dead
and supplications for those who still live.

But for now, you are alone with the transfiguration
and ask no healing for your own
but look down as if looking through time,
as if through a rent veil from the other
side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream
of generosity from which you drank,
how as a child your arms could rise and your palms
turn out to take the blessing of the world.

In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press


Glen Helen


Promises to tomorrow #23 Convicted

When I get accused of being something (eg a feminist, a socialist, focussing too much on community) I take it as a badge of honour. In the 80s we used to apply the tenet – If you a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Before conviction you would have to be noticed, accused, arrested and post conviction there would be the sentencing and maybe even rehabilitation.

I fall way short on many fronts where despite my values and aspirations, they are not fully realised into actions visible. I support the end of plastic bags, yet you will find a roll of cling wrap in my cupboard. I know climate change is real, yet my transport options don’t always reflect my understanding of the contribution I am making to extreme weather events. I have a vigilance around sexism, inequity, racism and the common good and yet there are times when I seem to ‘go on holiday’ from these values – a little relaxation and before long it appears I have abandoned such values and fallen into a chasm of carefree behaviours! Living intentionally brings alertness and requires you to be awake and sometimes, just sometimes, flirting with sleepiness seems reasonable.

The insignia of self-respect is the reward for the charges being laid.

In a week of finding new ways to live and be, I find a promise to tomorrow is being fostered by humility and the breath takes the voice on a journey to conviction. Stripping away, like an acoustic session in a crowded bar, knowing there is sound coming to the ear, but not always knowing what you are hearing: a familiar phrase or chord that echoes in muscle memory or tugs at the heart, as the static around the sound fades and clarity arrives – that is the moment I become a convict. At that very moment, I am a hostage to truth, tried and sentenced in the court of fact. Vulnerability comes as a consequence of those early acts of audacity, and arrives in its fullest form, when you face the reality of the accusation being laid. My promise to tomorrow is to keep taking the risk of being accused and striving to be worthy of being convicted.20170326_192506

Promises to tomorrow #22 Darkness & Light

A crevice can be an echo chamber; a crack, a place where light gets in; a hole, a container full and empty simultaneously; a sink, expectant, flirtatious. In the dark underground a seed makes its way to the surface to finally reveal all the effort and cell dividing and multiplying activity that has taken place away from the human eye. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

There is panic on the planet, a madman on Pennsylvania Avenue, a bomber with a jacket of explosives, children toting guns in the tropics. There is abundant love and endless random, and strategic acts, of kindness bursting up through concrete and clay. There are lamps being trimmed and hopes coming to life, impactful conversations matched with impactful actions doing good. The scales are tipping, as the vessels for change take on their new forms, mediated by technology and human touch in equal measure. Nothing will replace the kind word or the hug. And just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening behind closed doors, new love is growing and blessed unrest is flexing, Aslan is on the move.

This day, of all days in the Christian calendar, the feast of Pentecost, where all the languages can be heard and understood, where the feminine spirit rises and descends into hearts and minds. While they gathered as Jews in the upper room to celebrate Shavuot – a harvest of all the fruits of all the labour, bringing home divine knowledge – new wisdom. The wisdom of nature to remind us in the dark and with anxiety harvest is possible once out of that dark and anxiety light and energy is transformational. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening the flickering spark grows and a gentle glowing flame comes to rest inside each of us, fuelling us up for the transformational work ahead. Into our being this energy takes hold – explained as the inner flame of the Sufi – this is the light of all light inside of us, visible to a higher power and our guide to decision making – what will bring more light, more love, more goodness. It is all the same light regardless of tradition or even if you are bereft of tradition we all know the look and feel of goodness, wisdom and light. We have collective genius. We are unstoppable. We have been feeling our way in the dark.

My promise to the future is to seek to trust the dark and underground spaces to do their work, to come into the light and feel with warmth and wisdom and remember sometimes it takes fifty days before there is visibility.


Promises to tomorrow #21 Start

When I was writing my masters thesis (some time last century) my course director’s advice was: don’t wait til it’s right, just write. I think that same advice applies to many other things – just make a start and then you will have started. Building a movement for change starts with a ‘lone nut’, but it is the first followers, the early adopters who join in and then before you know it, only the laggers are to come.

Deep, down, in the dark

The start spark glows

Out of the shadows

A flame grows.

So I set a date and got together a few people and thoughts to explore the idea to launch a network, that I think has potential to become an intermediary and change the equation on investment to women innovators and entrepreneurs in start ups and social enterprises. Did you know women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money invested? Did you know women-led tech start-ups have a 35% higher ROI when venture backed and generate 12% higher revenue than male-run start-ups?

Facts gathered

Come into the light

Are brought to mind

And into sight.

The launch date set, facts gathered and platforms activated, early signs were encouraging. Back lash on line within the start up community, a culture known for its high levels of immature testosterone and roaring risk taking set the scene and drove new people to the online community I was setting up. The gift of trolling was never more welcome. Turning negativity into an asset unleashed positive energy.

Magnetic attraction

Released energy

Founders, friends

And loving family.

Conversations along the way began to gather in momentum and extend way beyond my own sphere of influence. Sunlight is the best antiseptic and bringing evidence and experience together where they can be heard, considered, deliberated and turned into actions is a pathway to change. Holding the space for these conversations to be had and providing a few tools to help the conversation along is not that difficult. The friendly ambience of wine and nibbles, a coterie of intelligent women and men, a timeslot that supports workers and understands some people want to be home to tuck a toddler into bed. Creating a genuine space that fosters collaboration is helped along with mood lighting, warm smiles and small tables.

Glasses of wine

Cheese platters

Great questions

Real life matters.

A social media campaign helps to and finding others to follow and join in with you can be as simple as following them first, asking for their tips and inviting them to help you out. I usually respond positively to requests I get, but hardly ever ask others to help me … so trying to turn this around. It seems to be working and today the campaign hit 200 followers on twitter and 250 in the closed facebook group – they are mostly different audiences. In the last month the tweets have earned just over 9k impressions.

Following posts

Liking tweets

Curating data

Collecting deets

Chooks launched this week at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide. Let’s get this done – gender equity in investment for women innovators and entrepreneurs. My promise to tomorrow is to keep up the momentum, don’t wait to join someone else’s movement – start your own.

Promises to Tomorrow #20 Carelessness

What do I want from the public service? I want champions of the public, regardless of our rank, colour, education, health status, age, ability. I want the concept of serving the greater good, the commons, support for systems to be improved every time they are touched.

My recent experience of the public health system has been devastating – so much so that I have given the system some feedback via the complaints officer at the hospital concerned. Throughout the encounter there was a series of acts of carelessness, one after the other, turning into what could only colloquially be called a clusterf*ck . It was truly horrible and perhaps for someone else might well have been cause for suicidal ideation or even worse an attempt or even worse again, a success. Carelessness is a sign of that frog in water where over time the water has come to the boil and the frog just didn’t notice and jump out in time. The ones being careless are signs and symptoms of malaise, probably eating away at those in the system with the same tenacity as the disease that lives at my house that eats away the one I love.

My white, educated privilege allowed me to make that complaint and to be affronted with the information, the particularly clinic hadn’t had a complaint for over six months. I am not surprised they haven’t had complaints – who wants to complain if they think they may loose a service, who can complain if English isn’t your first language, who complain if you’re unable to find your voice, who can complain if you don’t have the emotional energy or capacity to make a complaint – these are the people sharing the waiting room I was in that day – so no wonder no one has ever complained.

What ever happened to the tea lady (I used to know her as Vera) who would come along the corridors and monitor the wellbeing of the patients and families in the waiting rooms and offer refreshment and a friendly ear to staff as well? Vera behaved as if we were all honoured guests in her home. The surveillance camouflaged by Caterers Blend coffee and Coles tea bags offered respite while waiting for many people over the years – doctors waiting for results, patients waiting for doctors, relatives waiting for patients.   The ritual of an out patients appointment always included the tea lady. I am not nostalgic for the beverages, I am nostalgic for the care and humanity.

I heard one of the most senior public servants this week call those public servants who worked at the edges, with little or no resources “scrappy”. He was using it as a term of endearment and encouragement – people to be celebrated who without much support from their peers or their executive leaders, used the margins to find and leverage innovation by flying under the radar. These people are not scrappy – they are doing their job – making the system work for the public, offering new ways forward, because the old ways are not working and should frankly be stopped and squashed. The old ways are also careless, business as usual is not what we need at a time when our whole economy, environment and therefore our society is in transition. I am looking for those public servants who know how to wriggle, wrangle and contest the systems they find themselves in, to be guides and help with reconnaissance missions to find new ways forward, to not read the words on a plan and say lets do it, when all the facts point to the plan not being viable.

Sobbing my way through a complaint to the public hospital is humiliating but easy at one level – the personal is political. The scrappy public servant needs to be the norm in these times and frankly I want more of them please. Stop being bystanders and start being upstanders, call out the carelessness (that verges on negligence at times) don’t hide behind rules, find ways to champion and not fly under the radar – there are lives to be saved.

My promise to tomorrow is to call for more recklessness in the public sector that truly disrupts and drives out carelessness.  Seeking those public sector leaders to foster more courage to be scrappy and make scrappy the norm.



Promises to Tomorrow #19 Manifestation

This is a rambling reflection.

Conjuring up what you need may be alchemy, or the universe conspiring with your friends and allies to hold you when you need to be held and sending you away when you need to be sent away – whatever the magic – it is possible to manifest. Manifest in a nutshell means to make public.  It is not supernatural, it is alignment, a kind of revelation.   The phantom of an idea comes out of the shadows and is visible to all – that moment revealed when the emperor has no clothes or the crowd intuits the next word of a song to sing along with the minstrel – this is manifestation. Once we have seen a new way, there is no going back.

Over the course of the week apparitions in the form of women feeding hordes from harvested orchards and keeping the books so the economy is healthy as well. I have applauded and celebrated talents and then those same women acclaimed have appeared almost immediately before me, enabling me to publicly tell them my admiration.  I have even wondered about the shape of the moon, only to find it beaming on me as I left the darkness of city streets.  Sitting in a pub with a sojourner  a drain pipe reveals relevant initials and a promise from which I hear Simon and Garfunkel singing in my head: “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”. There seems to be no bounds to what can be manifest, when first you still your mind and look outward.

And now for a random and slightly related thought: To be infested is something else again, it is being tormented and harassed, over run, creeping and crawling. And what would ex-fested look like – to turn outward and away from the causes of damage and disease?  It might be something like exfoliation perhaps? Or the interplay practice of exformation (to explicitly discard information) where we shake off and send out the overload.

What is invisible becomes visible when manifested and then in the bright, clear light of the public space all can be revealed.  To see the shining smile of someone who has been recognized for their talents and publicly acknowledged for the gifts they bring; or the beauty of vulnerability in public places that gets greeted with compassion.  Such a contrast to experiences of being marginalised and airspace clogged with words to beat off anxiety.  Being infested with bugs of a different kind, I am being bugged and have little niggles nipping and biting me, distracting me from what is important and trying to get my attention.

The words pest and control together seem like an oxymoron – pests by their nature are often out of our control and despite all efforts seem to come and go on their own timeline.  (The recent mini mouse plague is testament to this as well as the Revenge of the Possum play with its soundtrack most evenings awakening me from slumber.) The pests of the mind, the chattering monkeys, I am manifesting so they find their way from infestation to ex-festation.  Imagine how much more manifesting can be done if those monkeys weren’t so pesky.

My promise to tomorrow is to take that mindful minute and be still before decision-making, before sharing, before opening, to call upon the quality of the cosmic consciousness that happens when two or three are gathered in goodwill. Not taking that moment invites the monkeys to make a home where pest control is required.

Promises to tomorrow #18 Time

Money is not the only currency and for most of my life, I prefer to think of time as my currency. I want to spend my currency in ways that serve me, my family and those around me. I don’t like having my time wasted, and will happily make a donation of money not to spend time on something perhaps someone else can do, and gift my time as my most precious gift to a cause or a person that may need my skill set or knowledge, love or support. Time is in a bank that is constantly being replenished, and yet you are in a constant of withdrawal transactions.

Not everyone’s time is treated as equal. We all experience having to wait. Recently at the Post Office in my little village the staff chatted away in front of me while I waited to be served, I wasn’t invited into the conversation and after a few moments I interrupted asking if I could be served as my time was important to me and I didn’t want to spend it listening to them …. I wasn’t rude but it was a close call. I saw their behaviour as being outside of the customer-at-the-counter service protocol. We waited an hour for a scheduled appointment with a doctor this week, who didn’t have the information, records or advice to provide when we got to see him – our time not being valued as much as his. We were in good company with the poor, the lame, the sick and frail – the kingdom of God literally in the same waiting room while the Pharisees and scribes were are their desks.  These are common experiences we all face.

There are different definitions of time – when I think something is urgent, I think now, immediately and recently discovered that for a colleague urgent meant within the week and another within a few days. We don’t have a shared vision of time and how its value in one another’s lives.   I would rather spend ten minutes looking at the sky and contemplating the beauty of a flower than in a waiting room, or at a counter, or looking at an inbox that still doesn’t have what I need to advance my endeavours. Waiting is not a bad thing … and I quite like the space waiting makes, like the pause notations on a piece of music, the quiet contributes to the overall sound … but I do mind my currency being spent by others when I am not invited to the transaction, but am effected by it.

Time is the most precious of resources and it is not renewable. My promise to tomorrow is to be careful of not accidentally spending someone else time or taking for granted the way they want to spend their allocation. Each moment oozes with the essential oil of life, gently, and sometimes furiously, fostered by impatience. I would love my vehicle to be the Tardis and life unencumbered by the frustration of my time being disrespected.