Category Archives: 2018

Year of Self-Compassion #46 #poet

On arrival to the Byron Bay Community Theatre, the line is already out the door, while the coffee beans just roasted brew to join with the steam in machines arrested and held by slender latte coloured bodies. There are no ugly people in Byron. I choose a seat in the fourth aisle immediate front and centre with a spotlight above my head. I come as a naked pilgrim, stripped bare and with nowhere to hide and nothing to hide. He tests the sound system with that eternal question from the nunnery scene in Hamlet, the most famous of our English bards handed down throughout to the centuries: To be or not to be. This is no rhetorical sound check , it is delivered not as a question, but as a statement. The perfect beautiful question in this place where yoga and reiki and meditation novices and masters find one another; where stones and chakras and cards are caught, folded and coerced into be-ing and be-coming and be-held.

I am in the light and on this day where being and not being live along side of one another in the poetic practice of blessing and being blessed. I know I am ready and also so weary my eyes can barely stay open. As I settle in to the listening, the three wise women chatting behind me, invoke Jesus, Mary and Joseph as their cussing lineage. Now invited into the space the Holy Family settle in too and appear from time to time throughout the day brought into the conversation by the poet and stories of his beloved friend and this comfort holds me near the nativity, a surprising advent invitation.

In the gathered, there are the groupies and those who have come dragged along by their female lover reminding them a lyric is an aphrodisiac and if only they could serenade their soul like the charismatic poet. We are all seated on red chairs for this red letter day. Phones are being put to good use with texting of girlfriends to tell them where they are. The fifty shades of grey hair in the room are interrupted on a regular basis with chemical offerings of red, purple, blues, blondes and blacks. I think about our desire for individuality and wonder what would happen if we all lived the truth of our bodies, one hair at a time. I notice one of the younger ones in the gathered taking a selfie and think well I haven’t seen that before at a poetry and philosophy session. I am so delighted to see this rock star of the word worthy of this modern iconographic action – it is an arrival all of it’s own, alongside the words and pictures we will be making in our imagination and memories today.

A green Edwardian chair of perhaps oak with a hint of a regency strip is placed next to the clothed table with a pile of his books, carafe of water in a glass already half full and my mind instantly recalls his poem Everything is Waiting for You. The chair and I begin a conversation and within a few back and worth lines, I am mischievously invited to come and sit. It is an invitation I refuse but laugh gently and know this crone is home to an Empress as well and maybe … everything is waiting for me too?

Most of the audience is bespectacled. Ready to see with new eyes and hear with new ears, perhaps a phrase or a line to sustain them as they go forward in their lives. The lady next to me (who I discover is called Susan) has gone to the toilet twice before we start, she is so excited. Locals are connecting with friends and the last of this tribe for today arrives as the final wriggles and giggles leave the bodies. I am excited for them who will hear the poet for the first time in the flesh, in the same way I was excited in the cottage at Ballyvaughan with fire stoked and hearts warmed by other pilgrims. Abundance and generosity had settled in long before we got there.

He stands on the stair off stage but visible to all, his eyes glued to Mel the promoter extraordinaire who has midwifed his visit. She is in a regal blue skirt and she relays his conversational leadership credentials and then with a whoop and a cheer and some serious applause he arrives. Nothing in the way between him and the audience, we are about to begin a conversation and his first words are “very good”. To ease himself into this conversation he invites WB Yeats and his life long love Maud Gonne in and recited the Song of the Wandering Aengus. I surprisingly hear the poet’s daughter Charlotte’s soprano voice waft into the lyric, maybe he is thinking of her as he recites the poem, I decide intimacy is on the menu today.

I start composing a Litany for Intimacy:

To meet life as we find it

to arrive at a place where the river has already flowed by

to go just beyond yourself

to be half a shade braver

to say no to something formed and yes to something yet to form

to be around tonics, those people who with their gravitational pull just make you feel better

to recognise the past in your body

to break promises and vows

to have your heart broken

to fall forward.

We are barely into this day and I am being drawn in memory, once again, to what I have stopped being and what calls me to love. And another litany begins to unfold, this time a list of names start to turn up alongside one another, and, with no filters, unrequited love appears and disappears. Just like the chattering monkeys of meditation, I don’t hold on to them, I notice them and then let them go. Tears fill the well as the poet reminds us all it is only because you care that your heart can be broken, and you chose the person for that special gift, a super power of being the one to break your heart. This gift of a thousand shards leaving me bleeding and bruised, never able to be put back together, I hear an invitation to write more about falling over and it was not the ground beneath my feet no longer there, but my feet no longer able to tread on anything solid. Like The Burren, my favourite spiritual director, I need to learn to walk on ground that is swampy, with hidden crevices, that looks solid when it is not, that is stone and ancient, ready and waiting for me.

I got a glimpse of my old mischievous self at the beginning of the session and caught myself with an inner smile, a familiarity and echo to my old self. It was a joy to recognise, I have been laughing again more, and this spiritual discipline might well be the one to guide me home. My small steps, though infantile and tenuous are helping me fall forward. A mantra is forming “go a step beyond yourself”. This is attributed to John O’Donohue and joins Seth Godin’s line “levelling up” and this poet’s phrase “half a shade braver”.

My bravery, between the cracks, and in the solitude, is haunting and humbling me down – all I need to do is show up. A pro tip arrives with the advice to ask for help – visible and invisible. Another one follows in close succession: develop the discipline of breaking promises in order to keep the conversation real. What promise do I need to break right now, that has been held and nurtured in my soul is a question I expect to lead me to a profound act of self-compassion. I have plenty more to mine from this gift of time and place with David Whyte. His new collection The Bell and the Blackbird has more than enough breadcrumbs for me to find my poetic pilgrim way on this camino.

The Bell and the Blackbird

The sound
of a bell
still reverberating,

or a blackbird
calling
from a corner
of a
field.

Asking you
to wake
into this life
or inviting you
deeper
to one that waits.

Either way
takes courage,
either way wants you
to be nothing
but that self that
is no self at all,
wants you to walk
to the place
where you find
you already know
how to give
every last thing
away.

The approach
that is also
the meeting itself,
without any
meeting
at all.

That radiance
you have always
carried with you
as you walk
both alone
and completely
accompanied
in friendship
by every corner
of the world
crying
Allelujah.

The Bell and the Blackbird
© David Whyte and the Many Rivers Press 2018

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Year of Self-Compassion #43 #effortless

The high note was reached with the lightest touch as she plucked the last note on her instrument, Siobhan Owen is a gifted Celtic soprano and harpist. It looked effortless with a simplicity that only the most sophisticated can execute.  Labouring for decades with joy in her heart to deliver her gift to grateful audiences around the world, it was emotional, it was personal.

How do we uplift others with our gifts and make them visible? Some have an insatiable appetite to be seen, so the equation probably works in their favour. Just because something looks easy, doesn’t mean it is.

Finding peace in times of deep turmoil and making that peace visible is probably a sign of the emotional labour it took to get to that point to exude ease and calm. Nothing just happens, or if it does, it is rare. Most things happen because of years of effort, a few lucky breaks here and there, lots of losses, detours and inexplicable hurdles that have to be overcome.  Many of those hurdles require you getting out of your own way, applying a softer lens and leaving the ego at the door.

I do a lot of work in systems and automating, designing and adjusting systems is only a scaffold; and even the best of functioning systems work-arounds may have to be found for that exception or exceptional circumstance.  Growing, supporting, enabling leaders is where culture and therefore systems can change and the shift from by-stander to ownership happens.

So what has all this talk of leadership and change-making got to do with self-compassion? I can’t see without empathy, I can’t empathise without seeing. My losses have been great, but who do I think I am not to have losses? Some days it feels like a first world problem – that is not to diminish the real deep scars and sorrows that are within – but I have a roof over my head, there are always people willing to laugh and cry with me, there are birds and all kinds of creatures greeting me each day, I have friends far and wide – it is a rich and enriching life. It is a life full of opportunity and for all I know maybe the best is yet to come?

I have been sharing with a confidante the feeling of an empty bucket and I think there is a hole in it dear Liza.  Despite all kinds of treasures and goodness filling it up, it is flowing out just as quickly and this is where the self-compassion comes in. It is the glue and feathers needed to mend that hole in the bucket. The kindness to myself to catch myself out receiving (to pick up from last week’s theme); it is allowing the surprises in and being empty enough inside for the bucket to be made whole again.  I noticed that I have laughed heartily a few times this past week, it had been a long time.  I am taking that as a sign and a promise of more to come. I listened to Krista Tippett from On Being interview  with the co-founder of Illuminations, Mirabi Bush talking about how that business turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise almost exclusively on the back of the rainbow decals that became synonymous with the VWs in the late 60s. I bought a lot of Illumination products as a teenager and young adult – mandalas in particular – I gave them as gifts regularly and I loved the light shining through. It was a delightful memory and sunk me back to my roots listening to the interview. She helped establish Search inside Yourself mindfulness classes for Google!  It was so instructive to listen to her journey never really leaving the corporate world, an evolution and revolution traversing different market places, but actually just being where people were – in the 60s in their VWs and in the 21st century in front of a screen.  I thought my life actually hasn’t been much different, on a much smaller and definitely less corporate scale, but essentially I have travelled where people are and from time to time tried to get a little ahead to make a path for others to trek.

Acts of self-compassion are acts of whole-heartedness, acts of liberation. I noticed this week, when completing one of my last projects in Seth Godin’s altMBA, I am acting with my wings no longer clipped. This is the most free I have ever been in my life, and I am such a beginner, I don’t even realise what is possible just yet. I am beginning too … this could be huge. It might even look effortless!

decal

Do you remember this?

 

Year of Self Compassion #42 #receiving

This week I was asked a number of times if I enjoyed my party and the answer was a resounding yes. One of the things I have had to learn this year is to receive. I have been so unable to do so much so often, reception is what has been left. Bereft and broken, alone and fumbling around I have had to put down my arrogance and fear and be waited on more than once. Vulnerability and humiliation paired up to remind me I am human.  While I invite others to be together, to find the good in one another, to celebrate and extend generosity – I haven’t been so good at doing that for myself. Hence this year of Self-Compassion.  I still have my L plates on, but as a wise woman said to me this week – L plates is a good place to start.  And starting I am, and learning I am, and practicing I am.

Learning to receive is a practice all of its own.  I think the key is the practice …. like any discipline. I was looking up the history of the word receive and it is declining in its use over of the past two hundred years or so. It has Middle English and Anglo-Norman origins from back and take. I think there is a clue in here for me to think about receiving as giving back. In receiving you are giving back, by acknowledging the gift and honouring the giver. It seems to hold a promise and potential too. By receiving you are moving a relationship forward, taking another step in trust towards deeper intimacy.

Another clue to the power of receiving, is the opposite, the betrayal of a gift being rejected. Having spent yourself and given with joy, to have that thrown back at you is a hurt that creates a hole which is often hard to be re-filled.  You are greeting the good in the other when you receive as they give witness to the good in you.

It is not always easy to receive and so I am growing my reception muscles and my birthday has helped me in that fitness quest. Inviting other to give to me so I can receive is quite a big step. To receive random acts of kindness is a whole other level and to be impacted by a stranger or an invisible human seems to always connect me to the cosmic energy of the goodness in the Universe. Universal love is made visible in those random acts.

And then there is the receiving of what is around us everyday – the big blue sky, the pleasure of a cup of tea, the blossom on the trees, the little ants going about their business underfoot, the magpies calling me to the day and the majesty of the grey box tree offering spiritual direction from broken branches, peeling bark and a precarious nest being held halfway to the sky protected from the elements and predators.

Receiving is an art and craft. I find myself bowing to the giver so often, to recognise what they have done in their lives to make the gift and the cost that has been. The act of receiving is only possible because someone else has eeked out time for me, found and prioritised resources, knowing me well enough to match their giving to what my needs are.  This is call and response. And I know the giver receives as well, I know this better because I am good at giving, and learning to receive is what is opening up  … and I like it!  And may you too be blessed with good friends as John O’Donohue writes in this blessing from The Space Between Us and find your visible and invisible soul friends in many you meet on the road.

Blessing for Friendship

May you be blessed with good friends,

And learn to be a good friend to yourself,

Journeying to that place in your soul where 

There is love, warmth, and feeling.

May this change you.

 

May it transfigure what is negative, distant,

Or cold within your heart. 

 

May you be brought into real passion, kindness,

And belonging.

 

May you treasure your friends,

May you be good to them, be there for them

And receive all the challenges, truth, and light you need.

 

May you never be isolated but know the embrace 

Of your anam cara. 

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Photo credit: Catherine Lawson 

 

 

Year of Self-Compassion #41 #garland

I had another fall this week on the night of my birthday and with great counsel and reflection have decided it is an exclamation point to end my 50s and to remind me I have landed, grounded into Act 3.  The road has come and gone on this pilgrim’s path and in places untrod by any other human before me, I have made new tracks across brambles, with pebbles that found their way into shoes ready to be liberated when the day is done. I have had sojourners and people along the way feeding me with food, ideas and wonder gifting me time and time again. I have been challenged to take roads so well trod it is a mystery why they are still needed for so many to travel on them, and now from vantage points and with new technologies, I can fly over them to new places and see them in new ways. I ended this week with a celebration of those roads with many who have travelled some of them with me. Maps I didn’t know I had inside of me and yet still arrived at Act 3 in tact.

A garland of gratitude was placed on my head and so begun an afternoon and evening of being celebrated. I highly recommend setting aside time to be celebrated, and get a glimpse of the addictive experience of celebrity and having fans. The birthday occasion brought joy and colour and with the flowers lovingly prepared for placement all of creation settled on my head. Heaven down to earth, landing me grounded in the beauty of nature and the truth that all things fade, loose their fragrance and come to an end – but not before the blossoming and adoration of their glory.

Entering into Act 3, as I have stolen from Jane Fonda, to begin this sixtieth trip around the sun, I wanted to pause and acknowledge a new beginning. I had forgotten in doing that, I was also recognising Act 2 was over. Three distinct decades and when reflecting on the great gifts of this time it was to the children and their gifts to me that I centred. I marked the moment by pivoting the song sung at their baptisms (Bob Dylan’s Forever Young) to be a blessing for them now and for all my friends and family as they enter with me, what I hope will be a generous Act 3.

I am weary and at times wandering around in fogs of ditheriness (if that is a word) where grief and loss try and fade into the wilderness of back recesses of my mind. The garland is going to be my kit of sustainability to remind of the beauty woven with strings of memories, rewired to land in a new way to hold my head together when it feels like it is wandering around in the dark.  The shapes and hues bursting out from the solid base that holds it altogether, yet remains essentially invisible is a delightful reminder of foundations that seem to keep me together, even when I don’t realise.

I am calling this my garland of gratitude for lessons learnt, harvested colour and beauty in my life, for the diversity and inclusion of a circle, for the giver and the gift, for the ability to receive and have a wreath laid upon my head, for the invitation extended and received to be crowned, for the fragility of life and how nature delivers time and time again on answers to questions formed and emerging.

Celebrated comes from the Latin and means to be frequently honoured and the kind reflections, offerings and tributes that flowed in the garden on this special occasion came often and I certainly felt honoured by everyone’s presence and for those who couldn’t be in the garden who sent messages of love. To all of you who are in my head and in my heart who travel with me and bestow garlands on me I bow with gratitude. This pilgrim’s way will have more moments to take in the garlands of gratitude that descend on me regularly and in an act of self-compassion I am going to roll around in that love more often. Looking to the horizon the road is stretching on.

Santiago

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

— David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press

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Love you Mum Photo credit: Leanne Muffet Garland Mary-Anne Healy Kiss Luke Deslandes

Year of self-compassion #40 #longtimesun

A blessing for myself, my friends and my world sustains me where there is nothing else to hold me.  In a few days I will start my next lap around the sun on this little blue dot. It has been a year like no other. There are literally no words adequate to describe the process of pain, healing, reclamation, confusion, sadness, disappointment, celebration, loss. despair, relocation, affirmation …. processes have collided, subsided and arrived in gentle waves and in tsunamis.

This trip around the sun is one I had planned as a jubilee year, because my 50th which should have been a jubilee begun with devastating news of my love’s life limiting illness and I needed to prepare for being the sole bread-winner and calibrate my life around what was ahead. We thought it was going to be a sprint and yet it was a marathon, ending as my 59th year started. Jubilee is meant to be a time of celebration, harvest and letting the land lie fallow. In this biblical tradition it is the time when slaves and prisoners are set free, debts forgiven, and mercies of God manifest. Forgiveness is a pre-requisite for freedom. Mercy comes from the French for thank you which is hard to accept when the gifts and invitations to forgive are consequences of breaches of trust.  These are the sunk costs of relationships, the decisions made in good faith for good reasons and gifted with generosity – all good decisions although they didn’t end up necessarily with a good outcome.

In the Longtime Sun blessing, usually sung three times, the first time is for your self. Your Self and it is a blessing of Self Compassion. We are stardust – united in time and space, created literally in the heat of the moment, some kind of cosmic love unfolding in points of light made visible in our life force. We embody the blessing and wait for guidance, to be shown the way forward.  This blessing is my go-to when I have nothing else to give or receive. It brings me back to my essence and invites me to turn inward and outward with equal measure to the Uni-verse – the one voice – calling me to love and light, calling out my love and light and in being shone upon empowered to shine for myself first.

Long Time Sun
May the long time sun
Shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light
Within you
Guide your way on
Guide your way on
Making the next trip around the sun with the intention of being a Jubilee experience may reveal new pathways and be lit from within and without.  With insider knowledge about what has been before and with out some of the heartache of the past year.  With freedom and with forgiveness, with gratitude and mercy for myself is how I want to set out on my Jubilee journey.
Making another trip around the sun is a gift and one this pilgrim wants to make with more forgiveness of self. The “if only’s” and “why didn’t I’s” and the “how could I have missed” are not serving me they are sunken costs, good decisions made in good faith, even though they didn’t all end up the way I thought they would, they were still good decisions at the time. This is a lesson from my study this week too in Seth Godin’s alt MBA and  not one I am easily embracing … but it is a truth is … each decision is a new one.
I like the idea of blessing myself and being blessed to go forward and be guided in the knowledge that each decision is a new one. The stardust is the glow and never leaves you and as CS Lewis writes:  There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. But it is Joni singing Woodstock that brings me to take another step in this pilgrim path full of golden stardust, song and celebration and gratitude for having a garden to get back to with family and friends along the path.

Woodstock

by Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

© 1969; Siquomb Publishing Company

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Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

The year of Self-Compassion #39 #HesaidShesaid

He said. She said. Is in the news all around the world. The fear of exposure. The remembering of pain and loss. The anticipation of pain and loss. It is all there – the great gender war of power and privilege. Always believe the woman. The great act of listening with more than your ears, your heart, your culture, your story all come into play.

Lost in the drama of it all those of us outside the national boundaries of this legal and democratic system on trial, may loose sight of what is at stake – the values of a nation corralled into a very tight corner where most of that nation does not fit.  A land that prides itself on diversity and pluralism continues to contract and gets so small that all that is left is the schoolyard banter of He said. She said.  So small is this banter it is the biggest conversation we are all involved in. Who do we believe and why everyone has their own truth.  The truth is always the one you most want to hold until it is no longer able to be held because of some irrefutable compelling piece of evidence – perhaps shocking, perhaps exquisitely beautiful – that pulls you up and you can no longer believe what has held your story in place, a pivoting point that has enabled you to function with ease and confidence, no need for second guessing, or too many clarifications. You just know and you just do.

Once the axis is disturbed you wobble, you might even be thrown to the ground, perhaps you are slingshot to another universe altogether – it is inevitable though – the orbit you were on is no longer. This is true for a nation too.  Falsehoods and fallacies, proclamations and platitudes of grandeur have made a nation wobbly and this kind of disruption to democracy is creating new pathways for change. The old rules don’t apply any longer. He said. She said. won’t cut it and from my vantage point halfway across the world civil unrest seems inevitable. The gender wars are only part of the story, and while foundational, race and class have already fired their early shots and will add their weight to tipping the axis.

While the billboards say He said. She said. hearts and minds are filled with vulnerability, anger, terror and an almighty thunder bursting to rupture into storms that will not be quelled by investigative journalists or the FBI.  These riots of pain from careless use of power for pleasure, take eons to heal and even longer perhaps to become publicly visible. I hear the anthem of the 60s Blowing in the Wind once again being prophetic. Just how many years does it take for a woman to feel she can testify, or for a man to be held to account, for a nation to face its demons, for a community to rally around an injustice, for a friend to say I believe you, for evidence to come to light to lift a veil?  Truths hidden in the dark are still truths and the dark is still the dark.

What we see we can no longer un-see. What we hear we can no longer unhear. These are truths in the dark, and in the light, and we all have our senate enquiry to reckon with.

How the power shifts in our perceptions is dependent on our axis. The power and privilege of the values, systems and perhaps even a single person, that enables us to orbit safely and navigate our paths with confidence. I came to this year of self-compassion having been thrown off course and have been stumbling around most of the year trying to get back on track. Many times I have been very wobbly and uncertain, second -guessing and often not trusting myself.

The scenes unfolding in the He said. She said. public display of discernment around the appointment of a supreme court judge in the USA, are inviting me to look at who sits on my judging panel and what questions I am asked or do I long to be asked. This is not a trial, it is a gathering of evidence on fitness to serve.  So for me, when evidence comes my way how do I treat it, what values guide me on, what entices me to form a view, what evidence do I interrogate to make a decision, when do I stop and pause before investigating further.  Self-compassion implies some self protection too and the answer to how to do that effectively still eludes me and perhaps is “blowing in the wind”.

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him out as a man?

How many seas must the white dove sail

Before she arrives on the land?

Yes, and how many times must the journalists cry

Before they are forever banned?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

 

Yes, and how many years does she take to testify

Before she comes to be heard?

Yes, and how many years can he twist and lie

Before he’s allowed to serve?

Yes and how many times will we look to the screen

Shaken up by what has been?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

 

Yes and how many times will we look up

Wondering if they sky will fall?

And how many tears will it take til we know

This is for one and for all?

Yes and how many times will we just look away

Hoping it will pass this day?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer  is blowing in the wind.

 

And the original lyrics, Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

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Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

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.

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