Promises to Tomorrow #17 Invitations

Invitations take many forms – a summons, a gentle prod, a formal request, a temptation, a provocation. I take invitations seriously and try to notice when they arrive subtly in the shape of clouds in the sky and not so subtly with the loud voice akin to a cease and desist legal letter. Each one has it’s own flavour and is coloured by the person extending the invite, they don’t arrive without a bearer, endowing them with power, position or pride. Each day invitations arrive that invite us to our own versions of making bread out of stones, jumping from a pinnacle or relying on angels to break our fall. Who is doing the inviting seems to be fully embedded into whether the invitation can be accepted or not – the more pure the person doing the inviting, the more pure the invitation … but maybe the more clever the ego at tricking us into believing that … the old wolf in sheep’s clothing trick!

Several invitations have come my way this week and are now being accompanied on their journey to being accepted or rejected by a discernment process that doesn’t want to be pinned down just yet. The wash behind the invites is everyday life, rich in its complexity, ambiguity and volatility. Unpredictable and yet certain – elements as familiar as thunderstorms that will pass and bring new life and sunshine.

Being open to invitations during thunder and lightning, doesn’t diminish the invitation as the invitee doesn’t always know what is happening in the invited’s life – that is part of the purity of the invitation. Like the best of the old gospel songs and the foundations of all rock and roll – it is call and response all the time. Hearing the call, knowing when to respond and how to respond are all separate acts and honouring the invitation in its own right and for its very self is part of the pleasure and part of the pain.

In making a promise to tomorrow, hearing the invitation for itself and not connected to the discernment or the answer brings gratitude for being worthy of being invited, and if it is the ego at play, then respect for being worthy of the challenge to grapple and discern the purpose of the invitation in my life at the junction it causes by its arrival.

…. then there are the times of ache when you aren’t invited to the party and the ego takes its own course into unrequited love and humility makes a home in your heart. Thinking of how this lesson has best been taught by the Essex troubadour Billy Bragg who I got to hear again this week and on a rainy Monday night, with the faintest sound of rumbling thunder in the distance, the crowd in the pub roared as we accepted every invitation to respond to the call to arms against fascism. An invitation to inoculation warmly and rowdily accepted with no discernment necessary. Invitations to more music will rarely get turned down!

The Saturday Boy

I’ll never forget the first day I met her
That September morning was clear and fresh
The way she spoke and laughed at my jokes
And the way she rubbed herself
Against the edge of my desk
She became a magic mystery to me
And we’d sit together in double
History twice a week

And some days we’d walk the same way home
And it’s surprising how quick
A little rain can clear the streets
We dreamed of her and compared our dreams
But that was all that I ever tasted
She lied to me with her body you see
I lied to myself ’bout the chances I’d wasted

The times we were close
Were far and few between
In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen
Did she close her eyes like I did
As we held each other tight
And la la la la la la la la means I love you

She danced with me and I still hold that memory
Soft and sweet
And I stare up at her window
As I walk down her street
But I never made the first team,
I just made the first team laugh
And she never came to the phone
She was always in the bath
I had to look in the dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited

I never understood my failings then
And I hide my humble hopes now
Thinking back she made us want her
A girl not old enough to shave her legs

Billy Bragg: The Saturday Boy lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

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Billy Bragg, Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, 24 April 2017

 

Promises to tomorrow #16 Die Wise

There is a lot of cosmic energy in the air this time of year with the change of season and various religious rituals. And in my own life I have had my fair share of hatched and matched and dispatched connections around me. It is so often that new life is paralleled with deaths.

The news of one of these deaths of along-time friend came in a phone call. It was a life short-changed. Her death marked by a note in the informal and bleak, cold space of a facebook page, where the smallest group of readers weren’t all across the last details of her life. She set the page up years ago to post a few photos and it had not served her in any way as a community platform. Scratching through archival emails I was able to find some addresses and my forensic skills failed me in being able to find a sister that I knew was out there somewhere. An empty hole, dug to put a body, but not one to put in. A mutual friend and I went to our memories to put into that hole the laughter, quirky, difficult, cantankerous, generous, inspired, learned sojourner and friend she had been to us. On the street, the day after I heard the news, I saw shocks of white hair on every corner, little reminders of the sacred monkey she was in our lives.

I am preparing for the next Salon we are making and it is on the future of death. Unlike the wisdom cultures we are not so easily able to find ways of keeping the generations past with us into the future. We bequeath precious material objects, legally passing from one generation to another those items we want to live on.

A bequest literally means “about speech”, and so what do our bequests have to say about us after we are gone or when we are alive and making the decision about what we want to say to others when we are gone. Stephen Jenkinson, affectionately known as the Grief Walker, says we (of the non wisdom traditions) want to leave things and letters to the living behind because we are frightened of being forgotten and that is the biggest fear most people have when they are dying (once the fear of pain is longer realised). Jenkinson believes, having listened and been with thousands of dying people, this fear is because we have forgotten those who have gone before and not paid enough attention when it happened to others, and now when our turn comes this is the instinct that kicks in. He doesn’t let the dying off the hook and implores mothers to keep mothering, children to keep being children, partners to keep being married, all in the act of dying. The work of this time, and indeed of our whole lifetime, is to learn what it means to be human and to bring that wisdom to life, to die wise. Our bequest is to have our lives speak into the space made by knowing we will die.

We all know we are going to die, yet most of us don’t live that way, cherishing and nourishing every moment. My friend did – she squeezed every moment of life out of every day – truly living life to the full and that is her bequest to me. And only those of us who knew her, got a taste of that indefatigable spirit hungry for life and thirsty for adventure. She traipsed through laws and codes deciphering and searching for justice, turning stones over that refused to be turned and leveraging them out of crevices, often causing her more pain than was really required. She knew from an early age her body would be ravaged and let her down and her mind would probably too and to find her in that state the last time I saw her was devastating. I saw her in a public hospital, the very place she had brought her skills and advocacy too when we first worked alongside of one another. She believed in the public purse, public good and public service. She rioted for equity and access. She demanded a fair go for all and put herself in places where she could contribute to making that happen for others. Fiercely private she died with barely a soul knowing and no public mark or bequests to show for her life. Memories will live on with the small family she shared DNA and for those of us who are scattered, like her ashes in favourite places, we will catch the memories in the wind and help them find a home in our hearts.

Living a life to bequest, to die wise is a big promise to tomorrow, inspired by those who have died recently and the dying I share my living with every day.

ter

 

Promises to Tomorrow #15 #EasterSaturday

The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that day when the tomb is full and grief starts to set in for family and friends. The soldiers have gone home, the rulers are feasting, the market is open for business. Under the cover of night, herbs and spices are being prepared to anoint a dead body, the one who lent the tomb to the family is privately and quietly being thanked for his generosity, bravery and kindness. The friends have gone home and baking bread, preparing food and getting ready to go fishing or for a walk to an artisan’s workshop. There is a sense that it is business as usual with the dawn of the new day. There is sadness and resignation. This in-between day will go unnoticed until tomorrow. When tomorrow comes they will notice this day, but not today. Today will become the day that held them in their grief. The day that didn’t move them forward in their lives. The day they drowned in sorrow. The day that stood still.

In this day, the in-between day, there are moments. Moments of memory, of abandonment, of fear, of disbelief, of surrender and deep down anguish. There are moments of interrogation – could we have done anything differently? Could we have fought our way? Why did he say that? Where were are friends in power? What was that all about?

In this day, the in-between day, there are flashes. Flashes of the past where we laughed, where we ate together, where we wandered along the shore, where we climbed a mountain, where we sat and talked all night and all day, where we listened to stories, and basked in silence.

In this day, the in-between day, there are sparks. Sparks of ideas that held us together, sparks about love, sparks about justice, sparks about peace, sparks about hope, sparks about triumph, sparks about being totally and completely wrapped in joy,

In this day, the in-between day, there are no surprises. It is business as usual, yet nothing is the same. He is not here. His face will never be seen again, his eyes will never meet mine again, his ears won’t hear my laughter or hear my sobs, his hands won’t hold mine, his lips won’t taste my tears. Nothing will ever be the same again and in this in-between day there are no surprises. It is a tedious day it is business as usual and nothing is the same or will ever be the same again. Will tomorrow ever come? And when it comes will I be ready?

My promise to tomorrow, is to know this in-between day, this day when it is business as usual and nothing is the same. In this place readiness is being incubated just as surely as transformation is happening in the tomb. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty and tomorrow I will be more challenged than ever before. It will be my open-ness to new possibilities and capacity to awareness to be able to believe what I see and have my heart tell me what my eyes and ears can’t. I will be confounded but not confused. I will be ready because of the in-between day where it was business as usual and yet nothing remained the same. I will be ready because I stayed open to all there was and all there is and all there will be. When grief comes calling on in-between days, go about your business as usual and let readiness for what is ahead incubate in the darkness. It is in the darkness that new days begin with a moment, a flash and a spark.

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Tonsley, 12 April 2017

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Promises to tomorrow #14 Osmosis

Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.

While osmosis is sometimes thought of, and even defined, as gradual assimilation towards homogeneity, that is not my experience in everyday life. The spontaneity is a carrier of change – indeed being catalytic does not mean having to change to support the process of osmosis and bring equity, not just equality.  What would it take to be membrane? To be movement? To be molecules? To be  solution? To be spontaneity?

To be osmotic and maintain your own integrity and own natural properties is a way of being in the world. It is a call to draw in and to push out and stay true to your self in the process – quite an instruction from the week.

Electrick

Starting with exploding white light

the darkness breaks in a spit

heaven and earth split.

Thor in full flight

thrusting through the skies while mere mortals

get soaked.

All species drenched,

some so heavy with the weight of it all taking a while to wring themselves out.

Positive and negative ions

randomly wild buzzy space travelling molecules

and then …

before too long …

with the precision of Riverdancers pounding the floor in quick step and high kicks punctuated occasionally with a whoop and holler,

find their feet in the pattern.

The charge finds ground. Earthed.

Osmosis begins.

(C) M. Deslandes April 2017

My promise to tomorrow is to follow the charge to ground and to notice the entire cycle of the force of nature.  My friend the elec-trickster of power contained within; ready to make landfall once the energy has been expended in the cosmos. Empowered to be osmotic with internal alignment and integrity at the service of solutions on all sides.

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Before, During and After Storm June 2016

 

Promise to tomorrow #13 Discomfort

I was at a yoga workshop last night – a beautiful concoction of sound, stretches, postures and praise for what the body and mind can do.  The instructor gave us definitions for discomfort and pain.  Discomfort is when the mind says to the body you can’t do that any more and tries to over-ride the brain, teasing and tricking and fooling you into thinking you can’t be stretched any more. Pain is something else, a symptom of some underlying condition, an intense assault requiring immediate withdrawal.

The invitation from discomfort is to hang with it and get to know it, push through and see what there is on the other side of that discomfort. Easing in, breathing in to the discomfort may be a seduction, a not realising the discomfort is the herald for pain and indeed may well be an early warning signal.  So often I have hung in with the discomfort only to become accustomed to it, and not understood it as the beginnings of something more dangerous and toxic.  There is a process of discernment required to notice whether it is discomfort or pain and in that process we ask ourselves about the nature of our experience: is it transitory? is it consequential? does it have a trigger? is my mind playing games? We collect evidence and notice patterns. Eventually we make a declaration to our selves.

Discomfort deserves attention and breathing into it might be one way of giving it attention, ignoring it another …. but if there is an underlying problem in the discomfort that requires more immediate attention … then discover it before it becomes toxic.  You may need to inoculate yourself, withdraw, move or eliminate it from your environment before you are in real, and hard to release from, pain.

Niggling feelings, nagging doubts, gnawing thoughts … enticing us to go deeper into discovery of what discomfort has to teach us.

Promising to tomorrow to pay attention to discomfort, may open up new horizons. There are plenty of things I am uncomfortable about – the voters and voting system in the US delivering to the world Trump, the shareholders of companies ignoring evidence that leads to destroying lives and landscapes, my national government continuing to treat asylum seeks as illegal, child protection agencies unwilling and unable to unfetter themselves from the shackles of poor design and practice, the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in mortality and well-being  indicators … the list goes on.  And then I turn my attention to myself and there are plenty of discomforts there – eating and sleeping patterns, kindness (or lack of it), ability to serve and be served … and this list goes on too.

Breathing into the feeling of discomfort might be part of the promise to tomorrow to understand the source and meaning, but it certainly isn’t going to mean staying in that place. Discomfort shows you are on the path to growth and discovery, that your antennae is getting tuned in and is turning symptoms into data for discernment and decision-making. It is an invitation to be honest with yourself.

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Here’s hoping the reprise of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale brings discomfort

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Promise to tomorrow #12 Compassion

Cutting through virtual paper with the open blades of vertical fingers mimicking scissors singles the beginning of a debate. It is so hard to be binary in these complex times and the introduction of just three simple variables in this most ancient of games. And while there are three choices there are still only two players. Having choice brings the potential for strategy through observing your opponents behaviour and it is a little less random than being subjected to the toss of a coin. Building in explicit choices may begins the process of self-determination yet the winner and loser divide keeps the real choice of success binary. This temptation to feel like you have agency over your decisions, yet you may well be in a simple us vs them or me vs you set of circumstances over and over again. Sometimes it will be the rock over-riding and smashing scissors, the paper covering up the rock we don’t want to see, the scissors cutting through the red tape – these are choices open to us before many debates.

What have you done this week to cover up, smash up or cut through? When were you a winner and when were you a loser? And what would happen if you through your hands up in the air and decided not to play – resistance and civil disobedience are back – although they never left the scene for those on the margins who had already opted out or offered the rest of us cultural alternatives.

Building a culture of compassion goes beyond two players and three choices and necessarily embraces complexity and ambiguity. The maxim of leaving no-one behind, in the vernacular of the military, is an instruction for our times. The pleas from our Senate by a woman once on welfare who was also a soldier somehow captured the mood of the nation this week by those who were the least likely to look to her for leadership and guidance. Yet she spoke from the heart and called out her peers in the chamber. The cuts to women and children as they are the losers always in these decisions are significant. The day the cuts to single parents went through in a past administration was the same day the only female Prime Minister of our country gave her famous misogyny speech – so this is not a political point I am making. This is a point about building a culture of compassion. To bring heart, head and soul to decision making has to be an act of engagement of all those parts. As Atticus Finch told Scout:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87)  To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

We need more climbing into each other’s skin to feel what it is like to be in it and walk around in it. Then the choices may not seem so obvious, the place of resistance will appear before your very eyes and the false dichotomy of winners and loser will evaporate. If we aren’t all in this together on this little blue planet, then we will all be losers.

Holding on to the promise of building a culture of compassion starts at home, right close in with yourself and walking around in your own skin and noticing the decisions and actions you take each day to leave no one behind. This is a big ask, a big promise and a lot of everyday practice.

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Promises to Tomorrow #11 Harvest

On the way home from my weekly walk back from the Farmers Market in my little village a neighbourhood stopped by to say hello and to offer some freshly harvested cherry tomatoes. The season is coming to an end and she offered me a question about endings to accompany her gift: How is it facing separation, knowing it is coming? And in a flash not only had she picked the fruit for harvest she picked a piece of my heart as well.

The inevitable ending confronting me as a little of My Love disappears each day was front and centre and I thanked her for the tasty red balls delivered in the brown paper bag as a I silently continued along the path keeping the tears hidden so not to ripen before I got home. 

What if we lived our lives fully conscious of our disappearance and the disappearance of those we love and indeed the knowledge of the disappearance of our species, other species and our planet? We would live differently I am sure – we more regard for beauty and an arc towards wisdom and skips of joy solidly walking with gratitude.

The poet and philosopher David Whyte asks us to contemplate being in an apprenticeship to our disappearance. In this apprenticeship we learn from and lean into others who can help shape our thinking and desires. We sip from cups of knowledge around tables in cafes, kitchens and bars. We hold onto the sunsets and sunrises as reminders of the every turning truths each day and night holds.

Having a promise to tomorrow orientated to apprenticeship is underscored in the knowledge we are all indentured to those who have gone before us. The reward for the apprentice is to learn from the master and in these post-modern times not everyone has a master to drawn on, yet as the Celts (among others) know well, mother nature never fails to teach and she brings to every class universal lessons of the elemental nature of play, time, hopes and dreams. The tiniest of the tomatoes contains more the enough seeds to bring a future harvest – they are indeed a promise to tomorrow of fecundity and the sweet smell of new life. And the vines in my neighbourhood have started to be harvested too – the seasons are turning all around me.

So despite the heart breaking, as it is prone to do. When you love, and separation is inevitable, the wonder and joy of the new season is also on offer, and the instruction not to hurry to the next season until this one is fully complete and harvested is the promise to tomorrow I met on the road this morning.

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