Monthly Archives: September 2018

Year of Self-Compassion #38 #harvest

The snow peas are now fruiting and some have already made their way into a salad bowl and a stir fry.  The simple act of sewing a seed and watching it grow, is constant reminder of human stewardship and the elements co-creating to bring life. In a week that started with the end of what was a long good-bye, I am ending it with a focus on harvest.

I really felt my brother’s presence at his funeral, in the stories, in the love expressed in the eulogies and in the faces of his offspring. It was a harvest and I was able to give witness to a life that I wasn’t always familiar with – I left home when he was twelve and he lived all over the country during his adult life. I got a glimpse of him as a community builder through his sporting activities mainly and I was reminded that enthusiasm and connecting is enough, talent and perfected skills are actually over-rated.

Harvesting is pleasurable. You can take a moment to reflect on how far you have come, on all the stages of development, bask and gaze at the finished product, acclaim and honour for the result of all that has gone before. From the collecting of stem cells and blood products, to data and knowledge, harvesting is also often about storing and preserving.

This week I was introduced to the idea of sovereign language repatriation by Dr Lou Bennett, McKenzie scholar University of Melbourne (although for me she will always be one of the harmonies in Tiddas). Together with her input and that of Dr Simone Tur on sovereign data of Aboriginal people and its application, I have been unsettled by the colonisation project and how data is harvested and appropriated and incorporated into systems that do not serve. The harvesting of knowledge to exclude and divide can also be used to unite and foster commitments to change. But when I think of campaigns like Close the Gap – the data hasn’t shifted much on some of the key measures; and are they the right metrics anyhow? The assumptions underlying will always need to be examined.  It has made harvesting a little less pleasurable for me this week, yet I am inspired and deeply challenged about how the sovereignty of Aboriginal peoples can be the first and last word in the harvest.  Deep down I have a sense it is only going to be from the rich vein of First Nations our planet can be healed and so what can be harvested from the connection to land and embodied spirit in language on country is the ultimate gift awaiting those of us who are not First Nations people.

Harvesting requires getting the land right first, the conditions for growth, tending, nurturing – it is at the end of a process and in the harvesting you are stripping away what has been.  Not all harvesting is pleasurable as I find it in my garden. There is the harvest that denudes a hillside, the harvesting that strips a soul bare, the harvesting of body parts and human recycling.  There are lots of harvests and in bringing in the ideas of repatriation of coming home to where the data, the words, the spirit belong and from that place be gathered up before being cast back into the world.

Coming home to yourself is a kind of harvesting. The garnering of all that has been flung to the winds and now being collected and held in, is a harvest for well-being, a harvest for healing, a harvest to sew the seeds for a new season.  This new season is being heralded in language, song, story and is all about reclamation not colonisation. It is about holding on and finding what can be repatriated, what can be brought home as well as uncovered already there. There is pruning and weeding of foreign bodies that have snuck in, unwelcome, and severing of what is dead and no longer serves. There is the preparation of the next harvest built into the clearing away of the current one. The bounty may not yet be visible and is held in the promise of the dark.

The self-compassion lesson speaking to me this week is to look twice at harvest and to check what is serving and healing, what is reaping and what might be raping, what is appropriating and what is celebrating and what can be repatriated and returned home to myself at my disposal. Bringing yourself home to your own vulnerability and is the way to personal harvests. Connections help you find your way home to yourself.

20180920_181705.jpg

Dr Simone Tur, me and Dr Lou Bennett at ANZSWWER Symposium 2018, Flinders University

 

 

Year of Self-Compassion #37 #commoncold

The gift of a cold is unwelcome and accepted . My immune system has been vigilant and done an amazing job to keep me cold free all winter, but the change of season is here and it has decided to take a rest. The sniffs and sore throat have arrived and rest is called for … not surprising I am in this state in what has been a tumultuous time. The body will do the work if the brain doesn’t has often been a mantra of mine and inevitably has sent me this invitation to be in the company of tissues, hot lemon and honey, echinacea, menthol and eucalyptus. One of my homemade remedies on these occasions is a cup of hot water with Vegemite in it – unconventional – but it does seem to work more often than not.

I am trying to accept this gift and am beginning to wallow in the heavy head hosting the nasal drip. I have also started thinking about the medicinal properties of chicken soup. My preventative vitamin C tabs, one of my daughters gave me during the early dark days of grief, ran out during the week, and I am reflecting on the irony of an empty jar depleted of its contents and how I am feeling right now.

The “ïf only” mantras are flooding in with each reach to the box of tissues. If only I had got some more vitamin C before they ran out; if only I didn’t do the gig I did yesterday: if only I hadn’t listened to distress of another and batted it away; if only I had rested earlier in the week; If only …. If only …. The If only mantras do not serve me well, they drag me to the past and to regret, they offer no more than a holding pattern and with each nag, lean me into self-flagellation – definitely the opposite of self compassion! I am chuckling to myself even as I write about how indulgent colds are, but giving them credit for arriving to slow you down, hold you in an uncomfortable place and seduce you to rest.  It is a time to allow the flowing out of liquid from the body, carrying the last grams of energy, and when the flow stops it is time for restoration and open-ness to being filled up again begins. Perhaps it is a bit like spring rains, building up slowly and then with a sudden burst of hail, wind and drizzle, the ground is refreshed and the sun comes out so all the creatures can bask in their glory, pampered by the rays warming them on rocks and slowly returning to their homes as the temperature drops.

The heavy head needs attention, over balancing needs a pillow to rest on so the weight of it all is softly supported, being held without holding on. It is the pause button pressed without any urgency to play or fast forward, although there seem to be plenty of thoughts waiting for the rewind button to be pushed with the wallowing mantras making themselves known every now and again. The head is home to the cold and although there is some oozing of aches and pains into the limbs they do not take priority, the head is consuming most of the space the cold is inhabiting. It has got me thinking about how a cold comes and what we do to catch it.  I am mean if something is caught, it means it has been thrown. And I have had my fair share of things being thrown at me in the last few years. I have also dodged a few things coming my way, but this cold has snuck up while my bodily defences were down.  This cold is an external sign of my weariness, my body’s surrender to the change of season and recognition that comes with fogginess, drips and drizzles, gripes and grizzles.

I am comforted, as I am often am, by a blessing from John O’Donohue for those who are exhausted In this Year of Self-Compassion receive the blessing for myself, under the covers, with a hot water bottle, sipping a cup of hot lemon and honey and waiting out this empty time.

 

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

John O’Donohue To Bless the Space Between Us

bryan-minear-317365-unsplash

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

Year of Self Compassion #36 #messy

Somewhere between life and death lies a river that has a few rapids and stones and even the odd waterfall as it cascades into an eternal ocean. Along the way tears turn into tributaries as they are indeed a tribute to love and an act of gratitude for the shared ride in whatever vessel has carried you in the first place.  Lir, ruler of Time and Deep Space commissioned his son, the Lord of the Sea, Manannan Mac Lir to be ready for his responsibilities of safe passage for his charges.  Watching a loved one make this journey is one of the great privileges of life. To be witness to the labour, to be witness to their story and to their love is a forever gift.  So I come to this Sunday with another experience under my belt of this time in another’s life. The transition is yet to be complete and there is not a foot in the boat, but the ticket has been bought and the passport stamped and there are people gathered on the wharf to wave goodbye.

These are the times when the compassion revolution is offered up for strength and for guidance – to help with all the choices to be made. For every moment offers a choice of your best self to step into the space. This is a revolution inspired by wanting the best of our health and social systems and those who administer and work in them. It is a revolution fuelled by disciplines of empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and courage. It is a revolution where the revolutionaries drill with tools of mindfulness, curiosity and finely tuned listening skills. It is a revolution where the heart opens and the brain re-wires.  At this time I am being invited deeper into this revolution and am getting a masterclass from the staff at the Hospice, who connect with ease, confidence and clarity. They pay attention to the tiniest of details so expertly an untrained eye or ear would not even notice, I suspect they are so experienced they don’t even notice their own micro-skills so embedded in their practice.  There is still never enough for those with an insatiable appetite for anxiety, yet staff just seem to use this as an opportunity to practice their discipline.  It is a great lesson for me and while I am a reluctant learner I am taking in the opportunity to learn from them.  I did turn to the colouring in pencils and chose a series of feathers to invoke my beloved Hildegard who said of herself, she was a feather on the breath of God. I am never a great one for small talk and my level of irritation of unworthy conversations gnaws at me, this is my Achilles heel (which I have reframed into my Achilles hell!).  I don’t want to talk trivia.  I have said many times before “life is too short for crap conversations” and in these moments my tolerance of them is at its lowest. With practice, I am learning more about the transformational nature of curious enquiry as a way to unlock and reveal something deeper – a bit like Michelangelo – I chip away to find the lion in the marble. It is a craft and an art and I am very much an apprentice. In the company of Stephanie Dowrick earlier in the year, I sat at the feet of a master and I am invoking her wise counsel in the moments I need to find more compassion for others and ultimately myself.  Being a revolutionary requires discipline in the field of battle and daily practice to be ready for surprise attacks!

The re-wiring is beginning to be visible, but embedded and new neuronal pathways are not fully formed or even mapped out, so I am getting tangled up still from time to time. Making better choices mostly, but not always, is another reminder of the power of self-compassion, to give myself a break. I was distracted by a three year old’s classification system of which animals belonged where – essentially his advice was binary – in a farm or in a jungle.  Such truth in this analysis – we are tamed or wild – and the process of domestication can take generations.  The exotics roam free and find places of camouflage in their surroundings, the conquered are at the service of the system.  A mix of both is what sustains me, and remembering that is an act of self-compassion in these mega-moments where Time and Deep Space is passed over to the Ferryman for another experience to add to this often messy, revolutionary pilgrim’s journey.

 

 

Year of Self-Compassion #35 #blindspot

We all have blind spots, those parts of ourselves where we can’t see something even though it is in full view of others. In a car, we often have to stop and turn very deliberately and with a contortion to make sure we have all a line of clear sight before we can move with confidence, we do that knowing we are on the road with potential hazards all around us and without caution and care we might put ourselves in harm’s way.  This is not true to the blind spots we hold in relationships where we trust, have confidence and operate as if there is no present danger.  We don’t doubt ourselves about the range of vision of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  We often need others to point out to us what they can clearly see as an obstacle we are facing even though we don’t see it in amongst the everyday obstacles of living without fear.  When fear arrives we begin to second guess everything, we start to check and double check and even triple check the incoming information.  The doubts seep in and we don’t move as confidently on our path or make definitive claims or easy decisions at the crossroads or read the map with the same level of assuredness.

I wonder if the blind spot is a way of us colluding with our selves, not turning or examining what there is to see and learn?  I wonder if it is there to protect us from seeing things that will hurt us? I wonder if it is there to invite others to help us see what we can’t see?  A blind spot is incredibly uncomfortable to face once it is pointed out and you turn towards to the light and see what is there facing you in full view. It is a transfiguration of sorts to come into the blinding light of truth to see something that you couldn’t see before. The invitation offered is one to ask questions you have never asked before, to make meaning from actions that have not had meaning attributed to them, to explore new possibilities and to be open the heartbreaking liberation of an unexplored view, a horizon becoming more visible as the fog lifts.

In the Celtic myth of the Tuatha De Danann, the tall supernatural Irish tribe of gods and goddesses, teachers of science and the arts, with mystical powers to communicate beyond the grave and brought with them four treasures – a stone, a spear, a sword of light and a cauldron from which no one would ever go hungry.  At the moment of attack and when their final battle against overwhelming odds was upon them – they turned sideways towards the light and disappeared.  It was not an act of cowardice or retreat, it was a way of not fighting and finding freedom in a new dimension. They went to the edge and from there turned towards, not away, to the light, the light saves them from perishing and leaves their enemies without a fight to be had. The battle evaporates.  They found the blind spot of their enemy and in turn found their freedom – an extraordinary juxtaposition and lesson from a legend.  It took to the third battle before they took this action.  So I take some comfort that even these wise ones didn’t do it in the first instance, and indeed not doing it at the beginning of their war, they were able to make some gains along the way and learn some lessons that lead them to their final departure from the battle field. They were not going to be taken prisoner by the fight or the enemy. To turn and face the light instead of an on- coming maurading horde seems like very good advice to me. Perhaps it is even the foundations of nonviolent action? If there is nothing to fight then the fight is over; the disinfecting powers of sunlight so well known in modern science reinforces the hygienic value of such an action.

There is something about the relationship between a blind spot and turning towards the light captivating me.  To become transparent and the veil has dropped and all is there to be seen is shining a light on truth and beauty, but to turn towards the light, is a movement of you to the light, where the you and the light can blaze as one, not two elements mirroring one another. An invitation not to reflect the mystical, but to be the mystical.

The blind spot that protected us in the beginning pivots as we become the light and it evaporates.  While it is as natural as a flower rears her head to reach the light and rotate to get the best rays, it feels un-natural to not face the enemies when they appear on the battle field. To leave them there without a fight, to leave the scene altogether feels like giving up, but to be transfigured is to be elevated and transformed, it is an act of beauty visible to gods and goddesses and not one for the dark arts of war and wounds. Luminosity on another plane is quite intoxicating, if only it was as easy as turning towards the light.  Checking just how many battles you have to be in before you leave the field and my enemy is an invisible one turning up when I often am devoid of my armoury.

As an act of self-compassion I am reminding myself , I need people around me to help me with blind spots and I am grateful for those who point them out to me. This is feedback with bravery. I am also setting a practice to notice when I can turn towards the light, and in doing find more beauty and peace, more artistry and magic.

 

TOBAR PHADRAIC

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

reflections