Tag Archives: improvisation

Year of Self Compassion #1


How does a Year of Self Compassion begin?

Making appointments for body and soul is where this pilgrim started, the past need not define the future for the heart to find a new beat and rhythm.

Do you remember that feeling of being on a swing getting higher and higher, more light headed and giddy with of the movement as if you were flying? Pure joy. Self-love swinging yourself into your own bliss. I used to love being on a swing and would sing softly and loudly,  compose melodies and lyrics filling the air with song going back and forth – an embodied metronome. I remember distinctly a couple of very joyful swings – one in the back of what was actually Ian Fleming’s home in the UK (author of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – it was an education centre and my Dad ocassionally worked there) and the other at a country school location being turned into a camp site where my Mum and Dad were helping to get it ready for the next season.  I think I would have been about 8 in the first one and quite old, perhaps 11 in the second memory. These childhood memories of singing to my heart’s content in complete abandon from the world. I was truly in a self contained exhilarating world, slightly expanding with the energy pushing forward, and contracting to slow down to a steady, more gentler pace before hopping off and back into the world again. I think self-compassion might be a bit like that – playfully making music in space and time in the deep security of knowing you are safe and your sounds wafting into the air around you and all whose ears could hear you getting a glimpse of the uncontaminated bliss of abandonment.

My year is beginning in song, but one I don’t yet know the name of or the tune, and, I am just warming up to the swing. The musical style of swing may well have a few clues, with its emphasis on the off-beat. The off-beat is always the weaker pulse in the music, the weakness is the reason it works.

Self-compassion is an invitation to love the weakness, that off beat, to make the whole sound swing. We’ve all heard swing with a soloist heading over the top of all the sound with an improvised voice of the melody overlaid. Making it up as you go along in the security of the pattern holding it all together.  Just as I made up words and music as a child on those swings, and I am improvising now, having forms and knowing their functions to employ as they are thrown at me. The lesson of ‘yes and’ is a great teacher – there is no compromise – you must accept the offer and do something with it. You don’t have to like the offer, you just have to accept it.

Pages of pain are real.

Explicit. Nothing left to imagination.

All the soil has been shoveled.

The first of the choir arrives

Tall and slender in the hot bitumen

Striding down, missing me, calling me to come back.

Laying hands on me at the bakery.

Forecasting: This is your year.

The second arrives

Offering a centurion service

A kind of protective custody

Armed with weapons of mass distraction

In fast succession

Guardians, escorts, witnesses, wise counsellors (after all it is Epiphany)

The choir is now bursting at the seams

In harmony, each knowing their part

Yes, and … I surrender to the sound

Gabriel’s trumpet heralds a mighty day.

The choir of self-compassion is in session.

A self compassion discernment question is forming: Is this an action loving me into my self?











Promises to tomorrow #5 one word at a time

We are drowning in words coming at us relentlessly, rapidly and repeatedly. There are words that don’t stop and pack a punch – like hate, love, passion, fear. The micro poetry distilled in the drops of the work of Julius Popp’s installation work bit.fall is mesmerizing – I am literally hanging on every word. I am watching the words fall – they always fall. Falling away, dissolving in the earth with a steady, rhythmic beat the water cycle and the information cycle end together on the floor. The drops of water start dissolving long before they reach the ground, losing form joining with other elements to complete their journey disembodied from how they began.

Bit.fall is a meditation for our time – a machine holding the mirror up to human nature, revealing meaning via a logarithm making meaning from our collective on line endeavours and in the installation at MONA they cascade between a rock and a hard place. The wall behind the installation formed by bedrock blasted from deep underground and the polished hard place below. Regardless of whose gaze or even if there is no gaze, the fall continues one word at a time. In my beloved improvisation games chest, there is the game ‘one word at a time’ where each person builds on the word of the person before to form a story, a micro effort to find a shared thread of a story, and in the space creating the threshold between one voice and the next, there is a tiny silence where the thread is held by all before the next word bead is added. In the bit.fall the onlookers were doing something similar, holding their breaths with anticipation about what word might come next.

The dance between silence and sound is infinite. When the words keep coming and don’t stop it is hard to catch our breath, let alone the meaning and reflecting. John O’Donohue, the great Irish philosopher, poet and mystic, says if we don’t find these spaces of intimacy and silence we condemn ourselves to exile. Constant talk, faster, louder, where there are no silences in between to hang with the word in virtual suspended animation, is our ticket to separation – we are writing our own deportation orders.

I promise to find one word at a time to lead into more intimacy. Words free of fear, bringing empathy and comfort, words accumulated from a logarithm of compassion, elemental words, words worthy of having a space for silence before and after they are formed.


a moment at MONA 4 February 2017