Author Archives: Moira Were AM

About Moira Were AM

Founder @chooks_SA co-founder @collab_4_good Super activator @sheEO_world. In Act 3. Live in Willunga. Daughter, sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, friend, and alto in a gospel acapella choir.

Sparks will fly #29 #Lunarlight

The last cage built to keep birds on the property is finally down. It has haunted me of a time past and a practice I didn’t much care for. In its place streams of afternoon light make their way to the dusty ground littered with old straw and husks of seeds long gone. I wanted the structure to be gone and now that it is cleared and the potential of being open, revealed an empty space. Making space for all kinds of things usually means clearing things, tearing down, unscrewing, lifting up planks and finding cockroaches, those contemporary dinosaurs, in hiding. The wind started whipping up its wings as the afternoon wore on. Ruah arrived.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruah of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In the beginning a man acted as if he had dominion over heaven and earth.

Heaven and earth had other ideas and let darkness befell him. When all was lost and he succumbed, as all will one day, to the earth. Life above ground went on. The sun rose. The sun set. The moon rose. The moon set. And all of creation celebrated with twinkles in the sky each night to guide those wandering about in the dark. Then Ruah came and blew everything away, taking the good with the bad, washing away memories and threatening to banish anything that was not nailed down. And nothing was nailed down. In a flurry of whirling bursts and blusters Ruah came to be still. She gently fondled the last of the autumn leaves and coaxed them from their branches. She burst into song, howling and moaning through all the places where her voice could be heard. Ruah wailed to her Sister Moon. Lunar light arrived, to softly fill the sky.

Now with the empty space where a structure of wire, tin, wood and steel once stood Ruah is letting others cast their shadow and plays with the light as night descends. There is a lot of descent and a lot of dissent in these activities. The nest I made for myself is now ready to be left. I have had my time to incubate here and the twigs that have held me in place have done their job. I didn’t know if I would have the courage to leave, and I haven’t left yet, but I am on my way.

Ruah roared overnight and so it seems she too is ready to use her breath and wisdom to blow me away to my next stop. I don’t want to wander too far and I like the simplicity and liberation of not having much. I embrace the life of the pilgrim to travel and be on a journey open to experiences, and striving for that be-attitude. To be fully present, fully human, fully alive. With all the imperfections, fears and joys of the world, this is the human condition. It is complex and some days it is really hard.

Mercifully we can choose to be kind to ourselves and take moments. Although, I wish sometimes they were more days, to come into stillness and rest looking at the horizon of what is to come and just glance behind you to know how far you have come.

My journey is inner and outer. The inner as deep and complex as any trip to the moon. I remember the grainy TV in the 60s classroom which we gathered around to watch history being made with less power than a light bulb. I still am in awe of what each individual person is capable of, if we truly set themselves to do the equal inner work it sure feels like you are travelling those 376,000 plus kilometres of the lunar trek. That’s about 40 days if we did 10,000 steps a day on this pilgrimage. Thinking my walking is like travelling to the moon is one of the ways I could see my pilgrimage and 40 days and 40 nights seems like a wandering, fit for a pilgrim. Maybe this is my moon landing.
I am looking forward to some wanderings soon. To tread paths already trod and to add my footprints to those places too.

Tapping into the power of light, where every spark glows to shine the way forward. Even in the dark, sparks sneakily appear in corners and light up a dark spot, and occasionally a beam hits the horizon to make everything clear.

Sparks will fly #28 #CooberPedy

The dugout walls are encrusted with the imprint of the machine that was used to hewn out the rock. The marks and pocks are layered and in relief. The beautiful mechanical cracked patterns at play, make a cave as a dwelling underground. This is Coober Pedy. A place where rules don’t matter a lot and where everyone can be themselves.

The wide blue sky is a canopy over the whole outback and its fidelity to stay blue is hardly ever interrupted by dark clouds or rain. What is it like to live with blue skies every day and a cave to retreat to at night?

Coober Pedy lessons abound: be yourself. find a place to rest in, look up, look down, dig deep for treasure, precious goods lie hidden, all creatures are companions, let people pass through your life, set boundaries, use signs to ward off trespassers and danger, change takes time, rocks can be moved with effort and force.

Going underground to find your own treasures and self- discovery is definitely like hacking through rock sometimes. Chipping away is often not enough to remove the stubborn blocks. Boring through hard to shift, solidified matter requires industrial strength equipment. I am employing some heavy duty machinery in my inner life of spiritual exercises that are taking me from big blue skies of compassion and mercy to the treacherous tunnels and shafts, in equal measure.

Each boring finds a new room to explore. The equipment being used is letting off sparks and some are providing light in the darkness. Leaving these places to be embraced by the light under the canopy of the blue sky, which is always there for comfort and relief.

deepsha

Sparks will fly #27 #blindspot

“What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist.” DH Lawrence

This was quoted to me during the week as the provenance of the adage “You can’t be it if you can’t see it” and whether or not it is the genesis of this oft quoted phrase in feminism, both are really saying there are blind spots. We miss what we don’t know or understand.

I know looking at a landscape with my colonial eyes I miss many of the stories all around me that a Kaurna person would know. I know that when I am in new situations with new tribes I miss cues and messaging because I am not literate in the place I find myself in. I am grateful to those cultural attachés who help me out in those situations. To give primacy to the local expert is just good manners. I am learning more and more about what I haven’t seen because I didn’t know. Once you get a bit of literacy you realise how little you know! Just as a child first recognises sounds and then letters and phonetics there are a few steps to go through before the sense making can start.

You need perspective, interpretation and analysis to get the sensemaking to form. This takes time. Time to decipher, talk things through, time to test possibilities, time to reflect, time to consider expert and outlier advice. None of us have a mortgage on making sense, but we all do have our own version of what we see and therefore also what we miss and that means we also have our own version of truth and what we know. Blind spots are everywhere. Keeping an open heart and open mind is an invitation that keeps being offered. Just when you think you have opened enough, another invitation to go that step deeper, shade braver, extra thread to add to the weave. With each acceptance of another invitation another layer is removed enabling a new one to emerge. Shedding skin seems to be part of  this snakes and ladders game. I take heart in the knowledge that lotus grow in mud, lights are at the end of tunnels and that the sun does rise every day.

A blind spot physiologically happens when our visual field matches the place where there is a lack of light-detecting cells. This place makes things invisible to us and we don’t know where that spot is unless we move. It is defined and detected in relation to what is visible and the boundaries of visibility. You must move your whole head usually not just your eye to move away from the blind spot. Psychologically and emotionally it is the same. You can not see things from the same position, you need to move, your heart and your mind and position yourself in such a way that you can see differently and think differently. We reinforce our blind spots if we keep looking from the same direction, and don’t move the mirror.  I think it also has something to do with increasing empathy and maybe also getting angry. Dissolving a blind spot can only happening by moving out of the place it exists.

Moving the mirror is bound to cause at least a few sparks to start flying.

 

 

 

Sparks will fly #26 #EOFY

I bought a book for the children when they were little called Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between as a way to help me teach them about the fragility of life and what death means.  I was doing therapeutic and narrative work with children at the time so it found its way into my tool kit there too.  The simplicity, authenticity, respectful way that didn’t gloss over the realities that there are ends was helpful and opened up conversations about the nature of life and death. I wish there was a book like that for grownups, maybe that is one I might write?

Today marks the end of the financial year, which I have pretty much used for most of my working life as a marker to get business in order. Whether I have been working where budgets and staffing, reporting to members, shareholders or the public, it is a time and place to come to an account. In my personal life I have used it as a time to take stock as well. This EOFY I have used to get ready and draw a line in the sand as well. Buy tickets for travel – check – thanks to a good friend who did all the research and sorted that out for me. Publicly announce not taking on any more clients for my consulting business – check – uneventful and easy decision in the end. Get the first cohort started in my new venture and that business registered – check – that went down to the wire due to bureaucracy out of my control, but nearly there  (phew). Discern about whether it is time to leave where I am living – check – I didn’t think I would have come to that decision by now and had decided by the end of the first quarter would be the new timeline to give me some more headspace.  Interestingly this decision has been made in the last few days and you always know it is the right decision when you feel at peace about it. The EOFY has proven itself to be useful constraint it has always been to me and once again a reminder there are beginnings and endings and lifetimes in-between.

I love constraints, they really help to bring focus and freedom. Freedom for creativity and to look for ways to fuse and bind together what can be bound and in doing that you are able to discern what can be held loosely. In making and acting on decisions within the constraints, you are know intuitively and sometimes quite explicitly as well where you are going beyond the means of that boundary.  The vows we make to ourselves and with others are there for the purpose to hold on tightly to what is in and what is out.  This is not a  black and white world view. It is about respecting and dignifying boundaries as ways of supporting discernment and living more freely, not less. There was quite a reaction last week to my blog, as far as I could tell, the reaction was predominately that was about the use of the word betrayal. Betrayal is all about a shared agreement of a constraint and one party leaving that shared understanding and deliberately, with no regard and carelessly stepping out beyond that agreed constraint and there are consequences for all.  This is the lifetime in between, that space that happens between the beginning and the ending.  We can betray ourselves as well as others, when we don’t give ourselves the honour and respect of our own sacred contract with ourselves and don’t accept the constraints as gift to go deeper, to explore what is possible within a confine.  My constraint to live within the boundary of my beginning and end, to live fully, in the lifetime in between, is an open invitation to exactly explore what is at my disposal and what is in and what is out.

I set the EOFY to make a decision about moving from where I live in the coming year or not. The whole discernment process has been like the old joke about the man drowning, and a life saver appears and he says to the life saver, thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God. Then a boat comes out to help in as he is in more distress and he says to the captain, thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God. And then the rescue helicopter arrives and throws down the ladder as the seas are so choppy that is the only way for him to get out of the water, he says thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God.  Then the man drowns and arrives at the Pearly Gates and he says to St Peter – why did God let me drown? St Peter says – but we sent you a life saver, a boat and a helicopter!  I have been sent many devices and pieces of information to help me make a decision, yet my prevarications were still entertaining me. Then finally the helicopter was so loud and making the water even more choppy by hovering above me. In the end it was actually quite easy to grab the ladder and be hauled out of the water. It is an act of co-creation and co-salvation when we work with the elements and goodness, the metaphorical lifesavers, boats and helicopters and take the hand of those who want to help us out of the choppy sea. For me I have been and am surrounded by witnesses, who also point out there the helicopter coming and its role in getting me to leave the water. It is our job to discern and to cooperate with the offers around us that will help. I remain grateful to those throwing life lines, sending boats and throwing down ladders.

Putting the date of the EOFY as the moment when decisions need to arrive continues to be a tool to help me get out of the water and not roll up for a conversation with St Peter. I have set up a few questions of discernment for the year ahead and it is inevitable more sparks will fly as I enter the new year and take stock about what can earn compound interest, what needs to be expended and how I can repay myself from the past for the new in-between times that now have arrived. The spark of realisation that flew to me was recognising for the first time the book I mentioned at the start of this post has plurals in its title. There is more than one beginning, more than one end and more than one lifetime.

book co

 

Sparks will fly #25 #winter

Sparks are flying every way. New ideas. New pain.

Is it possible to hold the space inside of myself where expanse can grow wide and deep at the same time I want to crawl away into a tiny tight ball? This pain I carry from new knowledge about the one I loved for my whole life is eating me inside out. I am using all the tools I have at my disposal to inoculate, heal and to help myself, but there are times when they are not enough and the only thing left is tears. I wonder how the body can keep producing them, it is tiring, but I just let them come and let them go. I notice how they arrive invited and uninvited, conjured up by a memory or provoked by pain.

I come to new understandings as my brain allows lessons to be revealed or information to be surfaced in ways I can make meaning.  I long to share with others who have a common experience to do the sensemaking and am so grateful to the few I can tap into, and to others who witness me arriving at new understandings. It is winter.

This has not been an easy week on the inside.

On the outside it has been all celebrations and success, harvesting and sowing seeds that are already coming into bud. An extraordinary beginning of my version of the quest for equity. Everything else though has been an inside job, battling the demons of wounds that refuse to heal and are determined to ooze their toxins and invading me  and infecting me. Feels like vector borne diseases are eager to catch me out when I am not expecting it. The metaphorical mosquito buzzing around me that never seems to be able to be swatted and despite putting on repellent, finds the only place not covered to land a bite. Mozzies in winter are even more annoying than usual.

I am weary and restless from the incessant buzzing and just lie in wait for the bites to come and apply the salve to soothe afterwards as prevention just doesn’t seem to work.

I am finding comfort, as I usually do, in the words of John O’Donohue. His words on broken trust resonate with me as I yearn to  find a poultice of tears to wrap around betrayal, deceit, lies, broken promises to deliver compassion, dignity, healing and maybe one day, redemption. For now though, it is raw and awkward, stumbling, bumbling and fumbling thoughts sending me up and down like a game of Snakes and Ladders. There are more snakes than in the Garden of Eden, testing me and distracting me from climbing the ladder up and out of the depths of contaminated memories. I am holding onto the bright sparks of light, drawing me to the stars and the sky, where the moon now waning, hangs low to welcome the winter solstice. Sparks are flying in the fire pit.

Sometimes there is an invisible raven
That will fly low to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought near to ground.

When he strikes, he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly through the seasons
In the rhythm of tried and tested experience.

With one strike, the shelter is down
And the back yoke of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.

Now the heart’s dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears
To cleanse from loss what cannot be lost.

Through all the raw and awkward days,
Dignity will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.

Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can take root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that cannot wither:

A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance:
The soul ready for its true other.

– – John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

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Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #24 #mindthegap

Decades ago I put to music to some words from Amos the prophet who relayed his God’s message:

The time will come when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested. Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine!

I am longing for these times to come and I can see some glimmers on the horizon, but before the grapes turn into wine, they are crushed and then fermented. There are berries forming in the clear and true knowledge that their journey to transforming is still a way to go and there will be pain along the way.

At the same time, and in equal measure, harvesting is happening and it feels like there is so much going on I can barely keep up! I am enriched and encouraged by the morning song of the magpies, the silver eyed finches darting about and the cackling kookaburras that remind me I am not alone and not to take myself too seriously. But there is a lot to be serious about – from the lack of climate justice, inequity and lack of parity around the world and in my own country.

I have discovered more of the dark side than I would ever have wanted to in my only intimate relationship. I have been filled to the brim with joy at the delight of dancing and skipping around a little one as he finds his own place in the sun. This is the paradox we all lean into if we want to be fully human, fully alive. Searching for the off switch, or even the pause button, is futile in the dark. It is only in the light can we find the moment to be caught in our vulnerability, that dangerous threshold, calling us to transformation. This threshold could be shingled with “mind the gap”.

This has been a week where once again that shingle has turned in many ways: in the not fully formed smiles of a seven year old and on the platforms of our country’s largest public transit system.  Mind the Gap has taken shape in what it means to conjure up the past and what is missing between the memories. It has also taken shape in the spaces between the rich and poor, black and white, those with spiritual freedom and those without, what is public and what is private and all the mud that smudges those lines bringing a lack of clarity.

As the prophet would say, grain and grapes are growing faster than they can be harvested. The gaps get minded. We set ourselves an intention to see them, make them visible and come to their edge, discerning whether we run towards them and leap over, perhaps we ask others to hold our hands so we can take the step over without falling in, maybe we invite someone to do something chivalrous and place a blanket over the gap so we don’t see it and walk on through … but once a gap has been seen it is hard to be unseen. It is an invitation to explore the in-between space.  That is the place between the grain being sown and harvested, between the berries on the vine forming and being clipped, liberated from their vine. This is the space I find myself in so often these days – in and between. In the fullness of the moment that is now and in the invitational space that is next.

Knowing the hills will in time, drip with sweet wine is a comfort, while the in and between spaces have sparks flying to fuel this pilgrim’s journey.

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Mind the Gap – Sydney June 2019

Sparks will fly #23 #misogyny

I have been noticing lately how me and other women inoculate ourselves against misogyny. In my case it has been trying to make arguments palatable, not to offend or harm, to bring people (mainly men) with me on the journey to build gender equity and parity.  But there are days where this just isn’t possible. Days when I feel so outraged at the harm of misogyny to women, but actually for all people. Afterall when half the planet is diminished, we are all diminished. The social construct of gender continues to dominate and reinforce a hetero-centric worldview. I had a moment of being tipped over the edge this week when I was asked what I thought the root cause of the low number of women entrepreneurs was in my State, as if there was one cause and as if it is a linear matter. (I have written about my response elsewhere.) It was inevitable that the word patriarchy came out of my mouth, if I was forced to give a single root cause. It has been a long time since I have used the word patriarchy in the public domain and I felt like I was betraying my persuasive powers to use that language – but really there is no other word. And while patriarchy is the theory, misogyny is the practice.

Misogyny shows up in the way women are excluded, invisible and disappeared in the social and economic narratives. A panel of nine men, hosted by a government department is explained as we asked a woman and she wasn’t available.  The low number of women applying for opportunities to build business and wealth is explained as there just aren’t enough women ready for this program.  The lack of women in parliament is explained as women aren’t tough enough for the the rough and tumble of politics.  Yet it is women’s work, paid and unpaid, invisible, not counted that enabled the men to get their start up going while their female partners toiled to keep the homefires going; the legendary voice of Australia’s first female Prime Minister who said enough is enough to her opposition counterpart and let it rip in 2012, and it is as relevant today as it was then.

I notice how often I am scared of sending sparks flying by speaking truth to power. I notice that when I am bold enough to do that, how this emboldens others. I notice when I use the word patriarchy, misogyny turns up, ugly, gnarly, aged and infused with the power of generations.  I notice there are surprises too – people, especially men younger than me, being embarrassed of their own kind, and speaking up not for me but for the cause, genuinely being upstanders not bystanders. I notice that helps me get a little more brave to do it again.  I notice women feeling encouraged and inspired and urging me to do more. This gives me more courage too.

Misogyny is sometimes like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What looks inclusive – like having 2 women on a 4 person panel (chaired by a man) – ends up being tokenistic – when one man speak for more time than all the women put together (I have started timing this on panels I am asked onto).  What looks engaging and holds promise of support turns out to be little more than a gesture.  Have you ever noticed the man who is always punctual for appointments with men and generally late for appointments with women? Have you noticed the funny, flirtatious man morphing into an aggressive competitor as soon as a woman starts to do better than him?  How about the man who presents in public as the loyal, devoted husband and father who shares the chores in the house, who is a secret adulterer? How about the man who takes up two seats on the train, mansplaying and mansplaining seem to have the same root cause to me.

Cheers to the men who act in solidarity. Thank you. Can you bring a few more bros with you, because I am over it, and need you to do that work?

You can expect to hear me using the words patriarchy and misogyny more often, because it is time for more sparks to fly.

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Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash