Tag Archives: freedom

Year of Self Compassion #7 Dissent

With frangipanis on the altar, forty years ago today I made vows : “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honour you all the days of my life.” We encouraged each other to be our best true selves, and from time to time that level of honesty and authenticity wasn’t easy to hear or live by. Dissent often arrives when we turn up bringing our truth.

[Dissent is paralleled in formalised sets of relationships that become institutions. The great Australian leader, John Menadue wrote in his autobiography:

All institutions, like people, are in need of radical daily reform. Without dissenters, institutions die. In that respect I became more radical as I grew older. I now believe that the one thing above all else I’ve learned is that we need relationships and community if our lives are to be complete.

The protestant tradition of dissent was the foundations for Menadue and fortunately for us he continued to hold that in his public life. It happens that I live on Methodist Street and I am grafted from the oldest of vines in the Christian tradition. Despite this heritage, I am not adverse to the dissenting spirit and it is taken shape in me over the years mostly with feminist and liberation theology, While I have grown weary of holding myself in the places where dissent is a form of survival as well as a political imperative, it is still there inside of me and won’t go away. ]

Dissent gave me a big God and helped me inherit a deeper more powerful story than I was being offered by clergy. If all creatures are made in the image of God, then the sheer diversity of what we can see and what has been and yet to come is surely the only evidence of a God who has many guises. This really helped me get a deep appreciation for ecumenism and then multi-faith practices.

It is in relationship we come to test boundaries and how much dissent can be managed. [This happens in democracy too – a flawed but vital way we organise ourselves to be free within shared agreed limits. It is fragile and we enlist with our vote and then often leave the accountability to the elected. But we have signed up, and in the conversations and public discourse can shape what happens next.]

I want my relationships to be messy, to include dissent, to take me deeper and to new places, to give me insights and challenges, to help me turn up to my true self. I want a road less travelled and possibly along the way slay a few dragons, cross jungles, ogle at vistas and survey huge horizons in awe and silence. I want a big enough canvas for a God too big to be contained on that canvas, and I want to know in all of this, dissent will strengthen, not weaken. I want to be brave enough to bring a dissenting voice or idea with kindness and compassion to any conversation – big or small. I want to be able to say to myself with conviction and follow through with action: the truth will set you free and being true to your self is a freedom.

Freedom is a gift hard earnt by detaching (and de-cluttering) and in this time of detachment, I am learning some things are easier to let go of than others, including the notion of being true to yourself carefully hidden in the first part of the marriage vow – I promise to be true to you – has the power to mean a fidelity to your own truth … and that is a new dissenting idea in this year of self-compassion.

I can smell the frangipanis.

Vows to My Self

I promise to be true to my self

In good times and in bad,

In sickness and in health.

I will love and honour my self

All the days of my life.

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Four Frangipani Flowers, Kuching, 2018

Year of self compassion #4 Shadows

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There is a terrorist lurking in each of us – fear fueling flames – seduced by the fake news that we are in control. The fact check is in – we’re not. Shit happens to all of us and we can’t control all the elements as much as we would like too. We are fragile, imperfect creatures – so lighten up, laugh and be joyful every chance you get – they are deposits in your resilience bank and you never know when you might need to make a withdrawal.

A healer told me this week to worry less, laugh more, enjoy my prosperity, let my family look after themselves, take my creativity to the next level, look after my health, embrace my inner Empress. I am not unhappy with this litany, now to put it into practice.

The shadow we cast can never leave us and it takes its form in dark and light (don’t forget sunlight is the best disinfectant). Keeping the light in front of you or behind you will cast a different shadow. Dappled light will give a smudge of a shadow. Back lighting creates drama, while being lit from the front will be crisp and clean and possibly a bit boring (and maybe there is a lot to be said for boring). I can live with a little less drama and while facing into the light isn’t always easy, to hide and lurk in the shadows has its own seduction to not face facts.

I was watching a couple of young people hearing some difficult news this week and they turned completely away, each looking in a different direction not able to face into the news they were receiving. I kept thinking of all the times I don’t face into the light, the truth, the crisp, clean lines. It’s hard to swallow the idea that the truth will set you free, it’s often easier to smudge and fudge, hide and slide into the dark corners and not see clearly what is in plain sight.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Cor13:12)

We can’t unlock the clouds from their celestial rotation, their movements change our shadow even if we do nothing at all. We are not in control, we can choose though how we are controlled – to take an improv version of life – a yes and, not a yes, but. To take an approach to welcome every offering to play and the eternal invitations to include, embrace, grow.

There will always be shadows and our own is biggest challenge, dancing its way with us and never leaving us for another, wedded to us for all the elements to shine through to keep us on our toes.

We are all confronted with horrors and disappointments – we each have our own hells and cowardice to hold us back and keep us in the shadows.  Turning to the light and facing the truth is the only option to progress our journey to wholeness and healing and to leave the terrorist beckoning inside of us to be born. We turn towards the light and face facts. We turn away and are back lit so only our silhouette is visible on the landscape.

When we turn to the light, our shadow comes too, and melts away fused by the amazing power of light itself. Self love and courage are our aids to face the light.

A blessing

With love in your heart, a song in your step, a laugh in your throat

May you be blessed with a light on your face

so you will glow and grow

with the truth

you are already free.