Get your groove on ―it’s a rush!

Go ahead. Get your thrill on.” ― Gina Greenlee

I swept through the door and sent a message to my friend:

“I’m in love with life, my body and dancing in the dark for making me feel this way.”

I was on a high—giddy with the tantalising buzz of having spent an hour dancing in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers.  Usually sensitive to loud music I revelled in the noise that created a space in my head—a space where there was no thinking, no ruminating, no space for anything but the rhythm and the beat.  Once lost in the music my body began moving. Tightly sprung, rigidly held muscles loosened and I began to dance. No plan, no style, no care or thought or partner just moment. Just dancing in the dark.

What’s more, there was no self-consciousness because all the lights were out and while I could just make out the silhouette of the people nearby I couldn’t make out features or anything distinct. Everyone just did their own thing, anonymously, uninhibited and carefree.

For an hour I let it all go. Jumped, jived, swayed, shimmied, bopped and boogied. It is the best $8 I’ve ever spent. What a rush.

Needless to say, I can’t sleep and so, my friend, I share my excitement with you.

Do you have a No Lights No Lycra or Dancing in the Dark night near you? It’s definitely worth investigating if you do. I haven’t felt this alive in, well, almost forever.  Yippee!

 

 

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Today I wept for women

“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”
― Nellie L. McClung

“Because there’’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.”
― Robin Benway,

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
― Madeleine K. Albright

I sat in a weaving circle today and wept with joy for the sacred space that was created. I wept with understanding and acknowledgement of the simple but powerful message taught. I wept too for the lack of such an ancient practice in my life and the desire to seek and create opportunities for more.

Women’s circles have been the basis of many cultures and traditions around the world and throughout history. For centuries women came together, in circle, to share and learn and support each other. It is a place for finding out about the world and your own nature. In circle women are united as equals for a common purpose.  Today’s purpose was to learn to weave.

Our vibrant and wise teacher, Hannah Gutchen taught us a lightning weave. Using a strip of coconut palm we wove and folded each leaf over and behind the spine to create a stunning pattern. One leaf began as the leader, the other the follower. Then the roles reversed so the follower became the leader and the leader the follower and this became the gentle flow of creating our lightening pattern.  We quickly learnt the traditional way of utilising both hands throughout the weaving process so no hand was dominant or favoured but both used equally.  On establishing the circle Hannah told us we were all leaders and followers.  We all had responsibility for watching out for the women either side of us, to work together and ensure no one was left behind.

The idea that one does not nor, perhaps, should not always be a leader or a follower was suggested and we pondered the wisdom in that. Ideas flowed and were shared unself-consciously.  The conversation, like our weaving, took on a rhythm of its own. I was quite struck by the ease with which we slipped into it.

What an honour it was to sit with a group of women and develop so quickly a bond where each works with the other and checks in on the other.  Where conversation and support were so freely and generously given. It got me thinking about the incredible power women have to heal and nurture. I lament that many of us have lost sight of the power of sisterhood.  Too often I observe women competing with each other and disregarding each other through selfish choices. Imagine what could be achieved if women sat beside each other and built each other up instead of tearing each other down. Imagine what could be achieved if women united and honoured each other rather than taking from each other. Imagine if we could heal our individual wounds by taking up ancient practices. Imagine if we re-established practices where we helped each other reignite our dimmed inner lights ― how bright the combined luminosity would be.

I believe if we regained the ability to sit and talk and use metaphor as was taught in today’s weaving circle we would connect with each other better as well as reconnect with nature on a different level. If we could come together as communities rather than consumers we could make a difference and save this planet and ourselves in the process.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by First Nations artists Hannah Gutchen and Maryann Talia Pau and the One Million Stars to End Domestic Violence project.

Samoan-Australian artist and practising weaver Maryann Talia Pau is the founder of the One Million Stars to End Violence project and co-founder of the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle. Hannah Gutchen, is a Torres Strait Islander traditional weaver and artist currently practising in Brisbane. Gutchen has been passed down sacred knowledge of creative practices that inspire self-expression, self-healing, sharing culture and connecting stories.

 

 

 

Letters from near and far

“To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine!”
― Susan Lendroth

“Letter writing can be seen as a gift because someone has taken his/her time to write and think and express love.”
― Soraya Diase Coffelt

A wonderful, magical thing happened yesterday.  I received mail. No bills, no formal letters from council or banks or insurance companies. No junk mail. Actual mail from dear friends.  Rarely do I receive personal correspondence so you can imagine my delight when opening the letter box I saw two rather plump envelopes addressed to me, one from near and one from across the oceans.

Okay, sure, receiving mail isn’t exactly magical, I’ll concede. It happens every day all around the world and millions of people still receive mail even in this automated world of electronic mail and text messages.  The magic was in the similarity of each letter.  My darling friends, have never met nor know of each other.  One lives in a town close to me and we formed a bond when we met eight years ago.  We have not seen each other in that time until last weekend when we both attended an event, each for the first time, and reconnected like we’d never been apart.  Her warmth and gentleness enveloped me like an embrace. My other friend lives over the seas in a place I have not yet visited. We are still to meet face to face yet we share many similarities and have forged a lovely connection woven by sharing words sent back and forth across invisible networks, spanning continents. So warm is our connection it feels as though we each sit regularly in the other’s kitchen and natter over a pot of freshly brewed tea.

Both of these remarkable women sent a letter from their hearts and homes that arrived on the same day. Both reached out in the most remarkable way to let me know they were there for me.  Okay – not magical enough yet?  Each envelope revealed an exquisite card, warm words and a gorgeous gift. Both women had chosen a gift of a magnet. What are the chances? You’d have to agree that’s pretty magical; for two women who have never met, who live on different continents, to send a letter that arrives on the same day that took the same form and held a similar gift with the intention to raise my spirits and let me know they were thinking of me.  That, my friends, is pretty synchronistic if not magical to me.

Have you had a magical, synchronistic moment that warmed your heart?

 

A year of inspiration: Inspired by friendship, magic and the workings of the universe.

Stepping out on opening night

Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less.         Norman Mailer

In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get into motion and grow. Lou Holtz

Julia Cameron talks of artists dates. This was a practice of mine some time ago and I fell off the wagon. Due to a recent change in circumstances I have felt isolated, alone and needing connection. I’ve identified activities and events to attend, I’ve flooded my calendar with them in fact but when the time arises I find it hard to get dressed and step out the door. It’s so much easier to stay at home and hide from the world.

Scrolling through social media I noticed a friend was interested in an event. Looking into it I discovered it was an opening of an indigenous art exhibition at a gallery I follow. I popped it in my calendar thinking it could be a nice opportunity to get out and be around people.

An hour before the event I was already seeing myself curled up on the couch with a book and cup of tea. I was making plenty of excuses not to go. Noticing this self-defeating pattern of behaviour I messaged my friend and asked if she was going. She was unwell. She did however encourage me by reminding me of the artist date concept. After a little delay I threw caution to the wind  (oh yes, risk taking needs to become a bigger part of my life from now on. Minimal as those risks might be in the short-term) and got dressed (yep, big decisions here too. Could easily have derailed the whole thing right in the wardrobe. To cut the crap and the debate in my head I selected a simple dress and sandals. No fuss – simple and easy) and headed out.

A lightness instantly descended upon me, or is that the heaviness lifted? Either works and perhaps are synchronistically synonymous in this instance.  Parking a short distance away and walking toward the gallery, passing Friday night revellers I felt a freedom and a confidence in having made the decision to step out of the house, out of my funk and into life. Choosing action over inaction and movement instead of ‘stuckness’ felt great.

The exhibition was intimate. The works pure and innocent with captivating colours and symbolism. Compared to other crowded opening nights it was an event attended by a small number of art enthusiasts passionate about indigenous art. I wasn’t exactly surrounded by people and I didn’t connect in any overt way with anyone but it was nice to share the space and see the appreciation for the works in the demeanour of others. It was a shared experience.

My excursion wasn’t a long one but gosh it was liberating. Some readers may think that odd because going out on a Friday night is such a normal thing to do and going to a gallery opening isn’t exactly skydiving. When the fabric of your life has been slashed and your self-esteem and sense of self-worth have been demolished by the cruel acts of another and tragic circumstances it’s hard to stand up straight let alone step out into the light.

I know this is just a small step to recovering and rediscovering life. I am looking forward to many more opening nights and opening myself to new and exciting opportunities.

 

A year of inspiration: inspired by my friend Catherine and the need to step out and into the light and explore life from a new perspective.

Shibori to soothe the soul

“Go wide, explore and learn new things. Something will surely have a kick for you”
― Mustafa Saifuddin

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”
― Germany Kent

Shibori, a form of Japanese cloth dyeing, dates from the 8th century.  A variety of techniques produce some stunning designs on fabric.

I recently attended a short Shibori inspired workshop and walked away with two, once snow-white, beautifully patterned pillowcases in varying shades of blue.  Traditional Shibori dye is indigo but due to the cost of indigo and the smell (the workshop was in a shopping centre believe it or not), we used instead a commercial blue dye.  Having visited an indigo dye facility in China many years ago I can vouch for the smell being quite pungent and permeating.

Traditionally, particular Shibori techniques were used with different types of fabric and the pattern one wanted to achieve.  The fabric can be bound, stitched, folded, twisted or compressed before the dyeing process.

One of the techniques in the workshop was similar to tye-dyeing, where sections of cloth are gathered and bound using either rubber bands, twine or string.  The pattern differs dependent on where and how tightly the binding is tied.  The tighter the binding the whiter the fabric underneath.  This is most similar to Kanoko Shibori.

Pleating and folding the fabric before binding produces not the nice circular patterns of Kanoko Shibori but patterns more in line with Kumo Shibori. I concertina folded my pillowcases, one lengthwise, the other along the short edge. I used a combination of pegs and string to bind.

The preparation of the fabric was quite quick.  First it needed to be dampened.  Then bound in the desired manner before being submerged in dye.  After a twenty-minute wait, an unbinding and quick rinse the patterns were revealed. I’m quite pleased with the effect.  My final products are by no means works of art but the process was fun.  I got to spend an hour and a half with a group of men and women from diverse backgrounds, we chatted and laughed and sipped coffees, iced chocolates and tea and nibbled on fruit and cheese.

This simple act of creating something, time spent with strangers and stepping out of routine buoyed my spirit and gave my mind a break. The act of making patterns on fabric is a great analogy for the act of reimagining and recreating the patterns of my life. A process I have just recently begun.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the need to give my brain a break and the necessity to recreate the pattern of my life.

Contemplating the lines life has marked into my skin

 

“I wear my wrinkles like battle scars, having earned every last one slaying life’s dragons. They boast of my victories and some defeats while their beauty is a wealth of wisdom gained.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

I caught sight of my face, now aging, the fine lines and the not so fine lines criss crossing once smooth surfaces.  Some I dislike, others worry me not.  Those emerging, vertical puckers above my top lip repel me (can I say they are from a lifetime of kissing and thus portray myself as a passionate woman? I think not). Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?

According to the pagan stages of womanhood I am on the cusp of Crone; no longer a Maiden and leaving behind the bounty of Mother. You know what? I am not associating with that label any more.  Once it did not concern me.  I embraced the wisdom of Crone but now, standing in this place, I reject the western connotations of Crone being dried up, past a used by date.  Instead I step into the Maga phase and embrace it.

Jane Hardwicke Collings explains that now women live longer and that motherhood begins later an additional phase of womanhood has emerged; that of Maga.  This is the extended Mother phase, after Mother and before Crone. Maga is the autumn season of a woman’s life, the harvest, an integrative place. The Crone is the winter season, the season of “retirement”, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focussed, she is in contemplation mode, a distillation of her life lived. She philosophises, tells stories, prays, gardens and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, which enables a ripened access to spirit. She is the wise woman.

I’m not yet Crone and recent upheavals have helped me see I am not ready for this stage. Very recently I have been sent spiralling (when I know how I will write about it). The path before me and the environment around me changed suddenly, through no choice of my own, and while fearful, there is a future I have yet to create and I know am far from the retreat of Crone.  I am seeing a strength I had forgotten. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have and continue to collapse into tears of heartbreak and eddies of despair but I glimpse an inner fortitude that is shining away – ready to light my path.

I reflect on my earlier questions – “Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?”  Oh, for sure, I have been damaged along the way but I am fuller and more sturdy as a result (or soon will be). Diminished – hell no.  Life throws many things at us and we can choose how we respond.  I am choosing to place delight and mystery, joy and love  of self back on the shelf.  I will no longer be sucked dry of them.  I allow the hidden order and secret meanings of my life to reemerge, into full view, and explore how that feels. I choose to bring my life into better alignment with my values and beliefs.

Am I past my used by date? No way. I sense already, while not fully transitioned from my old life into the new, that I am arriving at myself.  I can see a freedom that comes with a developing confidence; a lightness at shrugging off imposed (many self imposed) boundaries, routines and habits that kept me from being my true and authentic self. I kind of like the idea of recreating my life (deep breaths to stave off panic). Like Salvador Dali, I am open to life teaching me, even if that means more of those fine lines and wrinkles but if I never look in a mirror perhaps they don’t exist. Right?

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the daily prompt; wrinkle” and by my loving son who helps me to see the light.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

WENDELL BERRY

Suddenly

“Sometimes life takes you into a dark place where you feel it’s impossible to breathe. You think you’ve been buried, but don’t give up, because if truth be told, you’ve actually been planted.”
― Karen Gibbs

I suddenly found myself unable to breathe.  My heart ached from the pain of the news just delivered. I’ve been crippled by it, weighed down and tormented by it for a month now. It’s like no pain I’ve ever felt. It feels like my heart is expanding beyond its borders, about to explode and yet, it feels gripped, pinched and constricted, tight and throbbing. I look down and can see it frantic through the fabric of my dress.

My heart may well be broken. It aches so.

And yet, in the midst of the pain,  I realise there may exist that silver lining they speak of. I glimpse the opportunity to restart and rejuvenate, to renew. I try to focus on the opportunities that lay ahead and of the freedom to grow and expand and to revel in life again.

Suddenly, I realise I’ve been planted and breathe a little easier.

Assayed by the Universe

Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires. Sheri L.

I have to admit, I’ve not used the word ‘assay’ and had to look it up. It’s used quite a bit in Pharmacology and Metallurgy but the definitions were intriguing and have a wider reach.

Assay (əˈseɪ,ˈaseɪ)

  • To analyse for one or more specific components to determine its ingredients and quality
  • To determine its purity; to judge the worth of
  • Examine (something) in order to assess its nature.

Every now and then life tests us in dramatic and unexpected ways and we are exposed to an analysis that reveals our inner essence. We face trials that bring to light our true nature and we get a deeper understanding of the ingredients that form us.

Why does the universe assay us? The universe doesn’t need to do this to inform itself. It is, I suspect, for our own growth and development. For us to truly see ourselves—to see the shiny parts, the precious parts, the components that make us unique; the ingredients worthy of celebration, of honing, of sharing.

If the universe is testing you it has a lesson it wants you to learn.  It may be a difficult to navigate through the obstacles of the test and it may be an emotional and challenging experience but there will be a lesson—one you’ve missed before. The part I find hard about learning lessons is to trust and have faith that the universe has my back.  I find it hard to surrender. I find it hard to relinquish control and allow the unfolding of what is.  I want answers, I want to see the outcome, I battle against the discomfort. I guess that’s normal.  Three cheers to you if you can surrender and have faith.  I want some of what you have.

In small moments, amidst the turmoil, there is clarity where I can see what I am meant to see.. Where I understand the lesson to be learnt.  These snippets are worth holding onto. These small awarenesses will help me to find my way again when the clouds have cleared. Look for them if you too are in the middle of a perfect storm.

 

A year of inspiration.  Inspired by the Wordress Daily prompt

Change can be uncomfortable

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” ~ Richard Branson

Several years ago I moved house after being in the same house for 17 years.
I chose to move but it was a hard move to make. The house I was leaving was the first house I had owned. My son grew up there. My beloved and I celebrated our marriage there and over time we renovated it and made it comfortable.

I cried for weeks as I was packing up, moving into the new place and cleaning the old ready for new owners.

At first it was difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. I had to stop and think how to get to the places I frequented after using the same routes for 17 years. I had to find a new supermarket. I kept reaching for the third draw in the kitchen, which was no longer there. In short, there was an adjustment period.

The change was uncomfortable because I didn’t think I could be as happy or as comfortable in a new house as I had been in the old. I had to change some habits and routines to suit my new environment. I underestimated how good the move could be. The new house was lighter and brighter, it had a yard and I could start a vegetable garden for the first time. While I had to shop at a different supermarket, I was familiar with the one in the suburb, not too far away, and it was a very good supermarket. So that was a big bonus.

The travel stumped me for a while and each time I jumped in the car I had to really think about how I would get to where I was going. I soon realised I had better access to many destinations from my new home.  So I stopped using the old ways to get around. But even through this I realised much stayed the same. I was still travelling in my own car, I was still using the road system, a GPS could help me navigate if I really needed it. I just had to build some new habits and tweak others.

The curious and intriguing thing about change is that it isn’t change itself that is so hard, it’s the thought that we have are expected to change that causes discomfort. When I reflect on all the difficult changes I have encountered in life I’ve made it through. It comes almost as a revelation with hindsight that it wasn’t really as hard as initially thought. I guess it is part of the human spirit to endure.

Change can feel uncomfortable for a while but it’s good to remember that often times much of what you do now will remain the same. Look for the familiar structures, the commonalities, the shared routines. You might use slightly different paths to get back to a sense of comfort though you may well draw on many familiar strategies too.

Like my move, I overestimated how good what I had was and underestimated how good living somewhere else could be. Similarly too, when going through changed work conditions, physical, emotional or social change it’s to be expected there will be a pinch. We become comfortable in our routines and the familiarity of our surroundings, so it’s to be expected that there will be some discomfort for a while.

It helps to reflect on our own habits, practices and routines to consider what we will stop doing, start doing and keep doing to negotiate ourselves through the discomfort of change, to emerge confident and operational on the other side.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Queensland teachers preparing for a new curriculum and assessment system in the senior phase of learning.

Postscript

I wrote this post before receiving some wrenching news that will change my life in  inconceivable ways and I feel much of what I wrote above is trite in the face of the changes I am about to undertake. I am currently in a mire of pain, despair, confusion, anger, sadness, loss and desperation. At times, when the tears stop and the ache in my heart lifts, ever so slightly, I can see the promise of new opportunities but first I must walk through the hellish pit of despair dragging the weight of sorrow and suffering to reach acceptance to emerge. My intention with this post was not to trivialize anyones great pain due to major life changes. I hope this experience of mine helps to make me more aware and compassionate in the future. I have too many words and not enough to share with you where I am at right now. I hope to gather myself enough to find something worth expressing soon.

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ~ Eckhart Tolle