Category Archives: 2019

Sparks will fly #33 #presenttense

The plane was on the tarmac and already almost two hours behind schedule and this last waiting time seemed to be related to inappropriate behaviour of a male passenger towards a female passenger. It was very late in the day and meant another delay was going to keep me well away from where I was planning to be. I was being disrupted by a disruptor, I adapted, sorted out a work around.

Everyday we get disrupted by forces outside of ourselves, we are constantly making adjustments. Having a well oiled set of improv skills and a tool kit of hacks certainly helps in these moments. Nothing works better though than having a reservoir of past experiences and the knowledge that this too will pass. Time is perhaps the biggest disruptor that gets the least cred.

I am unfolding from a week, where I have been disrupted, disturbed, liberated, interrupted, cycled through a series of emotions and memories. I am fascinated in how memories show up as teachable moments. Avoiding nostalgia, I drawn on memories that have been left alone in drawers, in fading blue ballpoint ink, untouched for years. The memories flood back of conversations, touches, shared hopes and dreams, yet these words while true in every way are an alternative truth. The complexity of both and words is beyond my grasp some days and my memories fight with truths disrupting every neuronal pathway.

Some of the teachings of the week include making new memories by grounding self deeply into the present – not the past or the future.  This is living with time as the great disruptor. Time is what a clock reads. although we know time is able to stand still, run ahead of us when we aren’t ready and go so slowly that it is torture … possibly all within the cycle of the sun rising and setting.

Tense is an indicator of time and present tense living can be tense, in-tense even. Living in present tense concentrates time with the essence of the moment completely focussing the mind, body and spirit. Just a drop of the fragrance “the essence of time” can perfume a whole day.   I am often in a fog wandering in the present tense fragrance that is always with me, longing for a time, when, as Rumi says, the fragrance of flowers crushed, forgiveness, arrives.  Disrupted by forces outside of myself, my heart crushed, spirit broken, grief makes way for new  beginnings.

Trust is rooted in love and fear rooted in control, trusting the future to hold me, as I separate from what has control over me. Inevitably, these sparks disrupt and offer work-arounds to reveal future in present actions. Present tense still shines a light into the future from the darkness of the past.

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Installation somewhere in New York – I didn’t note the artist #apologies

 

 

Sparks will fly #32 #shrapnel

The fragments of shrapnel, fly loose after the bomb has exploded and continue on a trajectory to hit their target. The pieces of metal arrive through the cylinder that has contained them and with the force of the explosion breaking the casing, separating what was bound together, each piece finding its target and lodging to cause pain and destruction. Often lethal, always hard to dislodge, sometimes almost impossible to detect, sometimes becoming visible though in an infection caused by the puncture, shrapnel is designed to destroy.  There are a few ways to get out of the way of shrapnel, run, hide, protect, not being around where the bombs are likely to go off – all very good and effective strategies. In acts of terrorism, part of the power of that process, you don’t know when those bombs are going to go off, you are completely caught unawares and that is the whole point of it being a terrorist act and not an experience of being at war where the usual rules of engagement apply.

Grief is a terrorist with shrapnel at its disposal.  Just when you think you in safe territory, and have fled to a place where you won’t be under attack or even subject to friendly fire, you are mistaken as the terrorist arrives uninvited, and you have left your amour at home.  I find myself caught out more than once and despite well executed plans, I may well end up in a place or a time or have a thought that will paralyse me leaving me in the path of shrapnel that finds it way to me.

Protective clothing is not enough, not travelling to the places where I might be at risk, following directions to lead me out of unsafe locations, still leave me exposed. It seems so unfair but this is not about fairness, it is about revolution. I am freedom fighter and this is a revolutionary struggle. I need to have my own shrapnel to blast Grief and bring my  own acts of terrorism and show up when Grief least expects me too. To lodge myself into Grief’s body.

I am channeling Banksy.

I am bringing my revolution to life and sparks will fly.

Banksy flower thrower

Banksy’s Flower Thrower

 

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 #22 #truth

There is a truth telling movement emerging. Telling the truth on climate change, telling the truth on what happened during colonisation, telling the truth in the board room – these truth telling moments are playing out in the media and in Royal Commissions and in conversations where counsel is being sought. Truth telling is finding its way through fake news and alternative facts. And what happens when the “truth be told”? What is unleashed? What is recovered? What is redeemed? What is reconciled? Does it bring liberation or more enslavement?

There is the Christian mantra that the “truth will set you free: and Iyanla Vanzant added to that by saying: “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labour pains of birthing it.” And like birthing, truth comes out squeezing and heaving its way often through narrow passages pulsating between contractions and expansions of the muscles that are trying to move it out into the open. The darkness can hide, but nothing like sunlight as a disinfectant.

I have noticed working at the edges and massaging the data to make things look better, to apply my best spin doctor techniques, even getting a bigger re-frame are all psychological gymnastics to get me further from the truth. In the end reality plays the trump card and the game is up. I recently watched a long and slow wriggle and side step in a situation that had been brewing for a long time. Numerous attempts had been made to try and set things right, but there was a fundamental premise which was wrong, on which the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, was going to be able to set a new course of action. It was liberating to watch unfold but the labour pains were real for all involved, and not the least the person who took up the mantle of truth teller.

I am faced regularly with the dilemma of telling the truth, or perhaps succumbing to some sugar-coating, or at least trying to wrap it in words of compassion. But in the end, it is the truth, naked and raw, that exposes what has been hidden at best and deception at worst. It is inevitable truth will disarm. There is no unhearing or unseeing once the truth has been revealed. There is no going back only going forward. The Dragnet line – just the facts ma’am – is an attempt to get to the naked truth, no embellishments, not cloaked in adjectives, just plain and simple about what can be seen and understood. It seems so simple, so why is it so hard?

I have witnessed many face difficult and unbearable truths about their health and we are facing all the news we can about our planet’s well-being. Sometimes preferring to turn away so we don’t have to face facts. Facing facts head on requires courage, tenacity and lots of deep breathing. It calls us to action and to places we didn’t want to go.

I am discovering all kinds of truths in parts of my life and some of them are very, very unpleasant; about people and systems I have loved and trusted. Getting to the facts, is deep emotional labour. It hurts. I sometimes struggle to see how it could possibly be setting me free. I move between shock and disbelief just as a climate denier might when struggling to come to terms with compelling and overwhelming evidence. All the signs in the landscape but my lens and data filters not attuned to the frequencies where I might have picked up the information earlier. Walk on pilgrim, it is inevitable that sooner or later sparks will fly.