Tag Archives: gratitude

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 sold 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 #31 #scarcity

Having an experience of scarcity seems like an indulgent first world problem to me and yet I go tripping down that rabbit warren more than I have for a long time. Having downsized my life in most ways in the last year, not all at my own hand, I often catch myself wanting.  I recall my economics classes where the lesson that resources are finite, and an insatiable appetite for growth featured regularly.  This economic equation keeps revisiting me at so many levels, practical, spiritual, meta physical.  I want more – one last conversation, one last kiss, one last meal. I want less – one less speeding fine, one less demand, one less choice.

The invitation to simplicity is one giant mathematical computation of complexity that results in an overwhelming sense of a sum zero game that I never asked to play.  This see-saw of being grateful for what I have and feeling a paucity of intimacy is quite exhausting. The ups and downs of the see-saw are grief on her ride through me and the interior landscapes I traverse. Many of these lands are new to me, and some I keep revisiting looking for meaning and magic to unlock and hold memories, hoping the voyage of this Dawn Treader will come to shore soon to rest and find me in a safe habour.   I know I am in a safe habour all the time and I do have enough of all that I need. Yet …

There are triggers all around that sneak up and remind me of scarcity. I see couples making plans for a life together and I want to warn them how it will all end. I hear the dog barking next door, wearing himself out waiting for his family to come home and his loneliness grows and then dissipates giving up just before they arrive. I feel the ash, and am infused with the smell of the fire from the broken limbs fallen from the wild winds the night before, that I have made into a little hearth in the back yard, and I think about the differences between being buried and cremated. (How does carbon get stored and released?) That leads me to think about land, the scarcity of it, my carbon footprint, the legacy I leave by all my actions. This is not living abundantly, my scarcity lens is keeping me from fullness and it refuses to leave me and contributing to a feeling of self-indulgence.

Theologians and economists have always found abundance and scarcity a point of difference. I think the root of the challenge to get this balance right, lies somewhere in gratitude, generosity and hope. Being generous is a sign of abundance, my biggest currency has always been time and now I realise how finite time is and I am making more choices with me at the middle of the equation, again a new landscape and one where I am yet to master. Being grateful is a practice and I am trying to be agnostic about what I am grateful for, everything can be appreciated and received with kindness. This practice seems to be woven with respect and recognition, actually being able to notice the gift however unseemly wrapped it comes to me. Hope offers potential to shape what will come next and to be an actor in that future without letting the scarcity filter, is a daily exercise in my inner life gym.

In this year of self-compassion, I am struggling to replace scarcity with abundance which has been my default for so long. Privileges I took for granted or worse, hadn’t even noticed I had. These privileges are now inviting me to pivot, flipping abundance for  scarcity, There are invitations waiting for me to find the wealth within, the freedom of less and joy of simplicity.  I will try not to shame myself too much for defining this feeling of scarcity as a first world problem, as it is teaching me to be more mindful, more conscious of my consumption of all kinds of things from air time to fossil fuels. To be more gentle on myself and grateful for all the times I have been generous and how that disposition is one of the key reasons for the depth of the wound. After all something that is scarce is also rare and therefore usually incredibly precious and perhaps that is the clue to the relationship between abundance and scarcity – the rare space that one creates for the other.

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Photo by Sam Soffes on Unsplash

Dancing with Speeches #50 Madonna

Madonna’s speech at the Billboard Music Awards this week blew people away with her usual bold, courageous and uncompromising words. Her vulnerability as her strength and integrity had the audience in tears and reaffirmed her fan base to be themselves (as Oscar Wilde famously said) ‘because everyone else is taken’.

How are the gifts of adversity wrapped up and presented to you? What kind of thanks can you give to the rapist, the disease, the predator, the pain? The relationship between grit and gratitude is often a rocky marriage resting on foundations of fear and anxiety, only when trust is given the role of coach can that relationship glow.

You can tell those people who just seem to have an aura about them – a graceful elegance connecting a cosmic presence to the ordinary, human and mundane. These are the people who have come into our line of sight who seem to be able to find laughter in pain and beauty in despair.

What is the recipe for this elixir they have found?

Elixir Recipe

Plant your feet firmly.

Be like a tree by the waterside.

Do not be moved from your calling.

From the deepest well inside of yourself draw the truest of your selves:

uncompromising

cool

contained

reconstructed, repaired.

Wild.

Come completely.

Whole and with holes.

Look down the barrel.

Stare into the eyes of your supporters.

Weep.

Recognise you are a vessel. An instrument. A shrine for the Divine.

A shrine to the Divine.

Hold on. Be still.

Own your dreams.

Be vulnerable.

Be defiant.

Be your Self – inside and out.

 

 

Lens

Dear Hildegard,

All those glorious paintings you did that we get to enjoy and contemplate reveal a woman who could see with more than her eyes; a woman who could see with her heart, her soul and intellect as well.  This has me reflecting on the lenses we use to see and interpret the world around us. The lens of imagination and possibility has often attracted me and at the beginning of this year I imagined that I would write to you each week and try and tune in to the way you saw the world – it was an invitation and I am grateful for it. Thank you.

In this year of writing to you,  I have sought to orientate myself to see, and be in the world, in a way that I might connect with you.  As the year comes to a close I am grateful for this conversation and for the lens your life and gifts offered to me.

Seeing the world through the eyes of a poet, a mystic, a composer, a musician, a gardener, an advocate, a woman, a prophet, a community leader  … has encouraged me to draw sap from deep within myself to rise through my thoughts and actions and be embraced by a higher self, a bigger God and to listen to the Uni-Verse.

A lens can transmit and refract light and so a poetic or mystical lens applied in my daily life equips me to see more clearly, or have light shed on a subject or object and discover meaning that wasn’t there without that lens.  Light brightens and makes visible something that perhaps was hidden and using a different lens revelations certainly appear!

My glasses are multi-focals, tinted to adjust to light and are only removed to sleep. They are a part of me and I feel incomplete without them.  My glasses have corrective lenses. They correct the errors my eyes make so that I can see what is really there without distortion and they bring clarity.  This experience is equally true of any other type of lens I apply.  The lens of the poet has enabled me to see beauty all around me more easily than ever before, and has me tuning into the sounds and rhythms all around me – from birdsong to traffic.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to be surrounded by all this poetry and music.

I recall coming to an awareness and appreciation of rap music after being in the Museum of Modern Art in New York a couple of years ago. There was an exhibition about the foundations of rap music, the percussive beat, full frontal issues and rhyming narratives had eluded my understanding. However that day having walked the streets of New York and listened to sounds of the street it dawned on me that rap was the folk music of the inner city – using the sounds of traffic lights, taxis, subway calls, the “rattle of the prattle” between friends, customers and pilgrims alike and it made sense to me completely.  The exhibition gave me a new lens. I felt less overwhelmed by rap and it opened me up to a new way to eavesdrop on a generation and a culture.

The lens that has made all the difference to me this year has been gratefulness.  I have written to you previously about being a gratitude practitioner. This year I was introduced to the idea of putting on ‘gratitude glasses’ and purchased a number of oversized plastic glasses with coloured lenses and used them to share the idea of gratitude glasses with a number of groups I was working with and my peers. This has been fun and opened up many conversations about what it means to be grateful and how to name and claim the gratitude in our lives.

There is so much I have to be grateful for – not the least living where I do with the ones I love and who love me back – for being educated and employed, housed and healthy.  I yearn for a planet of inhabitants who are able to embrace gratefulness and for those of us who have plenty to share with those who have less – this is a constant call and invitation to deepen my gratitude for the abundance, a veritable cornucopia that I have been gifted and hold in trust.  Having a “Hildegard” lens to reflect and refract the light so that I can see more clearly and deeply appreciate what I am being invited into and what I inherit has been a blessing this year.

Imagine, Central Park, NY

Imagine, Central Park, NY

Gratitude Practitioner

Glen Helen, NTThis has been a week where ‘my cup runneth over ‘.  Family achievements of love, life and learning were in plentiful supply.

How to live in this space of giving thanks and holding the dynamic of being present enough to notice all the micro moments where grace can be found is a discipline. You need to practice your gratitude – or at least speaking for myself I need to practice it.

Last Sunday amidst the celebrations of love and life, clinking of glasses, giggles of small children, and the kookaburras call – a woman came up to me. I didn’t recognise her and she gave me hints of how I might remember her. She had come into my life referred to me by the local priest as someone in distress and needing support in a decision to stay or leave a marriage. As a counsellor and confidante of the clergyman, he thought I might be able to help.  My referral networks were extensive and in very good shape so I had no doubt I would be able to assist her.  Sans a place confidential enough for a conversation in the church buildings, I took her to the beach where we walked and where she sobbed into my arms, grieving for a love lost and feeling completely without a compass, skills or knowledge on what to do next.  She was worried that people might notice me holding her and think we were lesbians – it was more than 20 years ago and those thoughts were common.  It was only when she revealed that memory that I put the clues together and remembered her.

Between then and now there have been many women both professionally and in my personal relationships who I have comforted at those moments of deep sadness.  I was very touched that she came to speak to me … but wait there is more.  I asked her how had things worked out. She turned around a pointed to a man who was now her husband and had been so more 17 years. She had healed from the visible and invisible scars and had truly made a turnover and recovered herself. She said it was that day on the beach that helped; that freed some of the chains that had been holding her back to take the next step to wholeness.  We shared our stories of the man who had brought us together and gave thanks for his wisdom in making that moment happen.

I was overwhelmed to receive the harvest of a lifetime in a single moment with this connection.  She had known I was going to be at the event, was looking forward to being there so she could tell me how happy she was and she laughed, how through her heavy sobs that day she added to her worries by wondering if she was going to be tagged as a lesbian by passersby!

(Fortunately those attitudes to lesbians are dying out and congratulations to NZ for passing the same-sex marriage legislation this week.)

The grace that comes by being grateful seems to be exponential. The little things we do everyday may well be the yeast in someone else’s life. That day on the beach, I was just doing my job, responding to a request from my mate the local priest – sure I was equipped to help – but it was nothing less than nothing and that is when I know I am a ‘feather on the breath of God’ and give thanks. The harvest took more than two decades to be revealed to me and what an honour it was to be witness once again and see the fruits of another’s journey.