Promises to tomorrow #25 Hugs

Somewhere between stumbles and skips, lies the accomplishment of becoming steady on your feet. The toddler knows this well as they pick themselves up and start again after a fall. There is the breath held to the injury, sealed with a kiss that propels the one first felled into action for the next adventure.

We all need hugs and kisses when we fall, administered by loved ones who know how to integrate the wound back into the body and for healing to start straight away. There are so many open wounds around us all the time, where the getting up again was not supported with the right touch to help us get up and try again. (I know not all falls can be fixed with the ease of a kiss, many are more than skin deep, but there are some.)

My promise to tomorrow is to notice where a hug and a kiss might be just what the doctor ordered and to apply where necessary. Formed in the warmth and simplicity of an embrace, the restorative power of a kiss dispenses courage to go on. Picking yourself up aided by these simple acts of compassion is empowering. Being witness to the fall and then bestowing a blessing through touch is a sign of confidence in the other, that they can go on, you have hope in them, you trust them to be able to keep at it and that the fall is over … until next time … and like the faithful eye-witness you are, your dispensary will be open for the next time there is a spill.

Touch is gift and in this time where touch is often under suspicion, of all the senses it is the most vulnerable to being misunderstood. We all know the dis-ease of a hug that is held a fraction too long, but that doesn’t mean we should stop giving them, if we know what works and often it is touch, well lets not shy away from its healing potential. The amazing organ of the skin and the power of skin to skin contact is what helps a child to thrive, the happy hormone of oxytocin is released and sets off a reaction in the body not just for the person being touched but the person doing the touching as well. Hugs are a health tonic for all concerned, and build trust.

I am respectful of people’s space and we can always request permission to give a hug, we become empathy builders, healers, bringers of hope when we hug and we definitely begin to ‘make it better’ when we give freely the simple gift of a hug and a kiss. These tiny acts of human contact may well be all that is needed in times when we fall to help us get up again. I have both giver and recipient of a lot of hugs this past week and can attest to their power to bringing more solid ground under my feet.  In the immortal words of A.A.Milne coming from Christopher Robin to his beloved  and much hugged Winnie the Pooh:

Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.



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Promises to Tomorrow #24 Ask

There is a spectrum to asking – all the way from clumsy and heartfelt to bold, brassy and choreographed. It is a simple thing to ask and with the invitation comes expectation, trust, hope. The fear of rejection can bring a paralysing effect to an ask and equally the potential may bring excitement. Crafting an ask is a work of art. Siddling up and gently putting a question fuelled by courage opens the other to receive the gift of the invitation and in turn join in the dance as a partner to complete the ask.

I learnt from a past Premier, never to be afraid to ask, what is the worst that can happen – they say no and you at least now know that is the answer so you have more than you did before the ask. I have developed a shamelessness in asking over time, and try and put the ask as an act of anticipation and invitation to join something bigger. I am rarely disappointed and if the answer is no, the door is still ajar to come back again or work towards another opportunity.

There is the ask that comes with deep humility and the acceptance with gratitude and honour for having been asked. These moments are often sacred and bring a wholeness to both parties. Being asked to hold another’s hand in childbirth, on a death bed, in a chamber of horrors … all asks imbued with deep privilege dripping from the moment into a future sacred memory.

Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened … lines from the Christian tradition equally matched in other religious traditions. To ask is an intentional act and being able to ask is to put yourself in a position of vulnerability; after all you might be rejected. But without asking you will remain innocent and blind to the possibility of unlocking or unleashing of a latent gift longing to be shared.

To ask, is a promise to tomorrow, the future embedded in the act. As well as asking more, there is the respect I can bring to the asks that come my way, to give them the due courtesy they deserve to be answered honestly and as often as I can.

I am being asked a lot right now in my life, and to receive the questions with the purity they deserve, uninfected by fears is a discipline to tomorrow. To live in the ask, is to live with openness and possibility, to act as if every invitation is a step towards wholeness. Living the questions brings the gift of an ask. Every question is embedded with an ask to ourselves. As Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


Bee and Grevillia in Willunga

Promises to tomorrow #23 Winter Solstice

Winter has arrived, stripped bare trees remind me of nakedness, adornments have been shed and the elements have their way. The dark and light dance to make shadows as fairy floss fog descends on the village under the gaze of a Sagittarian strawberry moon. I have never had much interest in astrology, however the sun, the stars and the moon are my constant companions and I can usually find Venus in the night sky. The Seven Sisters are my favourite constellation and in the winter, and with the solstice approaching they take their place centre-stage.

Once the solstice arrives, the shortest day of the year, and in the southern hemisphere we are furthest from the sun, and we are poised to begin a new season of turning. This is what will happen again in a few days, a turn away from the dark, a journey towards the light. Energy begins to be stored and, emerging from the dark, potential from what has been incubating under ground now begins to be visible. I have not pruned on the June long weekend like I usually do and so I not in sync. The solstice helps to re-set and forecasts the light arriving to do just that

There are going to be arrivals and departures between this solstice and the next, in much the same way there is every year. Comings and goings inside the hidden places of the soul and in the highly visible public places of airports and churches. An arrival of a loved one, international gathering for celebrating lives committed signing up for a life long journey … and probably between this solstice and the next …. a goodbye.

Moving with the seasons and having respect for the shortest of days and the longest of nights is a movement of the heart. To live in harmony with the elements, intertwined with nature and love, where, like a Celtic love knot, there is no beginning or end. To live enchanted by this phenomena of constant movement to and from the light is my promise to tomorrow. Imagine always living knowing what step you are taking towards or away from the light. When the sun hits the ocean’s meeting place and throws itself on to the horizon reaching as far as the eye can see, the curve of our planet glows. Radiant beams. ‘You are alone with the transfiguration’…. ‘you ask the question you are afraid to ask’ May the shortest day of the year and the longest night bless and remind us the transitions from dark to light and light to dark.



Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.

Walk the green road above the bay
and the low glinting fields
toward the evening sun, let that Atlantic
gleam be ahead of you and the gray light
of the bay below you, until you catch,
down on your left, the break in the wall,
for just above in the shadows
you’ll find it hidden, a curved arm
of rock holding the water close to the mountain,
a just-lit surface smoothing a scattering of coins,
and in the niche above, notes to the dead
and supplications for those who still live.

But for now, you are alone with the transfiguration
and ask no healing for your own
but look down as if looking through time,
as if through a rent veil from the other
side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream
of generosity from which you drank,
how as a child your arms could rise and your palms
turn out to take the blessing of the world.

In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press


Glen Helen


Promises to tomorrow #23 Convicted

When I get accused of being something (eg a feminist, a socialist, focussing too much on community) I take it as a badge of honour. In the 80s we used to apply the tenet – If you a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Before conviction you would have to be noticed, accused, arrested and post conviction there would be the sentencing and maybe even rehabilitation.

I fall way short on many fronts where despite my values and aspirations, they are not fully realised into actions visible. I support the end of plastic bags, yet you will find a roll of cling wrap in my cupboard. I know climate change is real, yet my transport options don’t always reflect my understanding of the contribution I am making to extreme weather events. I have a vigilance around sexism, inequity, racism and the common good and yet there are times when I seem to ‘go on holiday’ from these values – a little relaxation and before long it appears I have abandoned such values and fallen into a chasm of carefree behaviours! Living intentionally brings alertness and requires you to be awake and sometimes, just sometimes, flirting with sleepiness seems reasonable.

The insignia of self-respect is the reward for the charges being laid.

In a week of finding new ways to live and be, I find a promise to tomorrow is being fostered by humility and the breath takes the voice on a journey to conviction. Stripping away, like an acoustic session in a crowded bar, knowing there is sound coming to the ear, but not always knowing what you are hearing: a familiar phrase or chord that echoes in muscle memory or tugs at the heart, as the static around the sound fades and clarity arrives – that is the moment I become a convict. At that very moment, I am a hostage to truth, tried and sentenced in the court of fact. Vulnerability comes as a consequence of those early acts of audacity, and arrives in its fullest form, when you face the reality of the accusation being laid. My promise to tomorrow is to keep taking the risk of being accused and striving to be worthy of being convicted.20170326_192506

Promises to tomorrow #22 Darkness & Light

A crevice can be an echo chamber; a crack, a place where light gets in; a hole, a container full and empty simultaneously; a sink, expectant, flirtatious. In the dark underground a seed makes its way to the surface to finally reveal all the effort and cell dividing and multiplying activity that has taken place away from the human eye. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

There is panic on the planet, a madman on Pennsylvania Avenue, a bomber with a jacket of explosives, children toting guns in the tropics. There is abundant love and endless random, and strategic acts, of kindness bursting up through concrete and clay. There are lamps being trimmed and hopes coming to life, impactful conversations matched with impactful actions doing good. The scales are tipping, as the vessels for change take on their new forms, mediated by technology and human touch in equal measure. Nothing will replace the kind word or the hug. And just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening behind closed doors, new love is growing and blessed unrest is flexing, Aslan is on the move.

This day, of all days in the Christian calendar, the feast of Pentecost, where all the languages can be heard and understood, where the feminine spirit rises and descends into hearts and minds. While they gathered as Jews in the upper room to celebrate Shavuot – a harvest of all the fruits of all the labour, bringing home divine knowledge – new wisdom. The wisdom of nature to remind us in the dark and with anxiety harvest is possible once out of that dark and anxiety light and energy is transformational. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening the flickering spark grows and a gentle glowing flame comes to rest inside each of us, fuelling us up for the transformational work ahead. Into our being this energy takes hold – explained as the inner flame of the Sufi – this is the light of all light inside of us, visible to a higher power and our guide to decision making – what will bring more light, more love, more goodness. It is all the same light regardless of tradition or even if you are bereft of tradition we all know the look and feel of goodness, wisdom and light. We have collective genius. We are unstoppable. We have been feeling our way in the dark.

My promise to the future is to seek to trust the dark and underground spaces to do their work, to come into the light and feel with warmth and wisdom and remember sometimes it takes fifty days before there is visibility.


Promises to tomorrow #21 Start

When I was writing my masters thesis (some time last century) my course director’s advice was: don’t wait til it’s right, just write. I think that same advice applies to many other things – just make a start and then you will have started. Building a movement for change starts with a ‘lone nut’, but it is the first followers, the early adopters who join in and then before you know it, only the laggers are to come.

Deep, down, in the dark

The start spark glows

Out of the shadows

A flame grows.

So I set a date and got together a few people and thoughts to explore the idea to launch a network, that I think has potential to become an intermediary and change the equation on investment to women innovators and entrepreneurs in start ups and social enterprises. Did you know women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money invested? Did you know women-led tech start-ups have a 35% higher ROI when venture backed and generate 12% higher revenue than male-run start-ups?

Facts gathered

Come into the light

Are brought to mind

And into sight.

The launch date set, facts gathered and platforms activated, early signs were encouraging. Back lash on line within the start up community, a culture known for its high levels of immature testosterone and roaring risk taking set the scene and drove new people to the online community I was setting up. The gift of trolling was never more welcome. Turning negativity into an asset unleashed positive energy.

Magnetic attraction

Released energy

Founders, friends

And loving family.

Conversations along the way began to gather in momentum and extend way beyond my own sphere of influence. Sunlight is the best antiseptic and bringing evidence and experience together where they can be heard, considered, deliberated and turned into actions is a pathway to change. Holding the space for these conversations to be had and providing a few tools to help the conversation along is not that difficult. The friendly ambience of wine and nibbles, a coterie of intelligent women and men, a timeslot that supports workers and understands some people want to be home to tuck a toddler into bed. Creating a genuine space that fosters collaboration is helped along with mood lighting, warm smiles and small tables.

Glasses of wine

Cheese platters

Great questions

Real life matters.

A social media campaign helps to and finding others to follow and join in with you can be as simple as following them first, asking for their tips and inviting them to help you out. I usually respond positively to requests I get, but hardly ever ask others to help me … so trying to turn this around. It seems to be working and today the campaign hit 200 followers on twitter and 250 in the closed facebook group – they are mostly different audiences. In the last month the tweets have earned just over 9k impressions.

Following posts

Liking tweets

Curating data

Collecting deets

Chooks launched this week at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide. Let’s get this done – gender equity in investment for women innovators and entrepreneurs. My promise to tomorrow is to keep up the momentum, don’t wait to join someone else’s movement – start your own.

Promises to Tomorrow #20 Carelessness

What do I want from the public service? I want champions of the public, regardless of our rank, colour, education, health status, age, ability. I want the concept of serving the greater good, the commons, support for systems to be improved every time they are touched.

My recent experience of the public health system has been devastating – so much so that I have given the system some feedback via the complaints officer at the hospital concerned. Throughout the encounter there was a series of acts of carelessness, one after the other, turning into what could only colloquially be called a clusterf*ck . It was truly horrible and perhaps for someone else might well have been cause for suicidal ideation or even worse an attempt or even worse again, a success. Carelessness is a sign of that frog in water where over time the water has come to the boil and the frog just didn’t notice and jump out in time. The ones being careless are signs and symptoms of malaise, probably eating away at those in the system with the same tenacity as the disease that lives at my house that eats away the one I love.

My white, educated privilege allowed me to make that complaint and to be affronted with the information, the particularly clinic hadn’t had a complaint for over six months. I am not surprised they haven’t had complaints – who wants to complain if they think they may loose a service, who can complain if English isn’t your first language, who complain if you’re unable to find your voice, who can complain if you don’t have the emotional energy or capacity to make a complaint – these are the people sharing the waiting room I was in that day – so no wonder no one has ever complained.

What ever happened to the tea lady (I used to know her as Vera) who would come along the corridors and monitor the wellbeing of the patients and families in the waiting rooms and offer refreshment and a friendly ear to staff as well? Vera behaved as if we were all honoured guests in her home. The surveillance camouflaged by Caterers Blend coffee and Coles tea bags offered respite while waiting for many people over the years – doctors waiting for results, patients waiting for doctors, relatives waiting for patients.   The ritual of an out patients appointment always included the tea lady. I am not nostalgic for the beverages, I am nostalgic for the care and humanity.

I heard one of the most senior public servants this week call those public servants who worked at the edges, with little or no resources “scrappy”. He was using it as a term of endearment and encouragement – people to be celebrated who without much support from their peers or their executive leaders, used the margins to find and leverage innovation by flying under the radar. These people are not scrappy – they are doing their job – making the system work for the public, offering new ways forward, because the old ways are not working and should frankly be stopped and squashed. The old ways are also careless, business as usual is not what we need at a time when our whole economy, environment and therefore our society is in transition. I am looking for those public servants who know how to wriggle, wrangle and contest the systems they find themselves in, to be guides and help with reconnaissance missions to find new ways forward, to not read the words on a plan and say lets do it, when all the facts point to the plan not being viable.

Sobbing my way through a complaint to the public hospital is humiliating but easy at one level – the personal is political. The scrappy public servant needs to be the norm in these times and frankly I want more of them please. Stop being bystanders and start being upstanders, call out the carelessness (that verges on negligence at times) don’t hide behind rules, find ways to champion and not fly under the radar – there are lives to be saved.

My promise to tomorrow is to call for more recklessness in the public sector that truly disrupts and drives out carelessness.  Seeking those public sector leaders to foster more courage to be scrappy and make scrappy the norm.