Life is a trapeze

Maude Banvard, The Catch, Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, 1907

Life is a trapeze.
It may be scary to jump off
but if you let go,
take a risk and trust,
you can revel in the heady excitement
of the leap
and learn to fly.

Shannyn Steel

This image captivated me this week.  When I saw it I drew a deep breath and sat up entranced.  It crept back into my thoughts constantly. I wasn’t sure why it enthralled me so until I sat down just now to write about it.

The image is a beautiful metaphor for so many aspects of life.

Jumping off – you can’t begin anything until you take that leap of faith.  We all know the adage that reminds us that if we don’t jump, we can’t fly.  If you haven’t jumped, and you are pushed, take it as a sign you should have jumped and embrace this new chance to fly.

Letting go – jumping off requires letting go. You can’t grab hold of the next bar until you let go of the one you are holding.  Who knows what’s next but a friend of mine regularly reminds me to choose the exciting nerve-wracking option (can’t get any more nerve-wracking than trapeze. Well, there’s skydiving I guess).

Transitions –  all transitions require jumping off and letting go. It’s in that space in-between that we reassemble and redefine ourselves, so we can fully embrace the next opportunity.

Living a happy and fulfilled life – do something that scares you every day , or so say today’s life coaches.  Jumping, letting go, choosing the nerve-wracking option will cover that objective pretty much. Living a happy and fulfilled life is also, for me,  about not tying happiness to a person or things but to goals.

Then there is vulnerability, trust and risk. You can’t gain anything without an element of risk, sometimes you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to attract the good in life and even when trust has been broken, you can’t live life without it. To get the best out of people you have to expect the best and offer your best. It’s a simple, elegant yet uneasy equation but one that will pay off.

I am sure there are many more elements to be captured from this stunning image. I’m not sure I’ve exhausted every reason this photograph delights me. I shall continue to ponder its magic and messages. In the meantime, take a leap of faith – see where you land. I will be, you can be sure.

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The ache of beauty

Dashing by
your wounds
caught my eye.
I stopped,
struck
by the scars
scored deeply
into your surface

The beauty of your ravaged countenance
the fragility of life
and the strength of it,
both evident
on your façade
caused my heart to throb
with bittersweet knowing.

Our humanity is the natural world

To listen is therefore to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.  George Haskell

Maria Popova’s recent newsletter, Nature and the Serious Business of Joy, resonated strongly with me and I was struck by how shared sentiments can connect us across centuries, borders, gender, time and place. I was delighted to discover Whitman, Thoreau and I share a love of trees. That the work of Michael McCarthy articulates the deep-seated joy I have when in nature.  Nature pulls me. I am drawn to it and feel very at home, embraced, when in the wild places.

Over the years I have realised the pull of nature and my respect and adoration of it can only stem from being of the earth myself and of sharing the same transcendent source as the natural world. Rachel Carson expresses it beautifully:

 “Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.”

Michael McCarthy has walked the same paths as I. He too has felt, numerous times, that sudden and involuntary love of nature that bursts forth with such “a startling intensity, in a burst of emotion which we may not fully understand, and the only word that seems to me to be appropriate for this feeling is joy.”  And yet what is joy? Sadly it seems a term used only by those delusional romantic types (like me), caught up in the fanciful, magical type of thinking that a weary, cynical populace denounces.

McCarthy weighs the precariousness of joy in our modern world: “Joy is not a concept, nor indeed a word, that we are entirely comfortable with, in the present age. The idea seems out of step with a time whose characteristic notes are mordant and mocking, and whose preferred emotion is irony. Joy hints at an unrestrained enthusiasm which may be thought uncool… It reeks of the Romantic movement. Yet it is there. Being unfashionable has no effect on its existence… What it denotes is a happiness with an overtone of something more, which we might term an elevated or, indeed, a spiritual quality.

Nature speaks to so many of us, it awakens our senses and, at times, offers us a glimpse into the extraordinary, yet so few speak of these experiences publicly.  We should extol nature’s virtues loudly. Share the revelations uncovered while in the wilderness. Thoreau recognised nature as an antidote to the diminishing of spirit amid a fast paced, ego-driven society — “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean,”

McCarthy takes Thoreau’s idea further and reminds us of our origins, the roots of our being and our evolution with the earth and our connection to her —

“They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

We are not separate from the natural world, we do not simply walk upon it, we are part of it as it is of us. We belong to the natural world and ought to rekindle our connection to be once again filled with joy, substance and beauty.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” Whitman.

Unbecoming everything you thought you were

What if the journey of life wasn’t about becoming anything. What if the real path is actually unearthing and then unbecoming everything that isn’t really you? What if the true course was to unravel so we could be who we were meant to be in the first place?

It’s a beautiful and awe-some thought isn’t it? Do you feel it too? It’s so compelling.

Last week I had a short psychic message offered to me, in which the reader interpreted an image that didn’t feel quite right. When we investigated further he said he’d seen a rope fraying or unravelling. We agreed, that while it could very well mean I was mentally unravelling, which is highly probable given where my head is at right now, we were comfortable (and relieved) it was something different. It was, we discovered, about unravelling from old, long-held behaviours, beliefs and routines that had defined me for much of my life. Beliefs, behaviours and actions that I had allowed to define me based on expectations of others, circumstances I was in, and roles I had held. The image of the unravelling rope was about letting go, loosening up and unbinding.

There was a deep realisation that we’d hit on the truth of what was happening for me. There came not only a realisation but a joy in the freedom and liberation this new stage of my life held for me. There was also a respectful gratitude for the possibilities and a cautious excitement at what I might find once the unravelling was done.

Then, quite randomly, several days later I came across the quote above and the synergy of the two fit perfectly, like a hand and glove and I so wanted to share my rambling thoughts with you.

The beauty in the symbolism and essence of these two signs have captivated me. I wonder if they speak to you too.

She aches and yet she heals

The most we can do is write – intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively – about what it is like living in the world at this time.  Oliver Sacks

She aches and yet she heals

A warm bath
Frothing
Bubbles gently exploding
around her tense form
Soothing taught muscles

Honeyed chai
fragrant and sweet
Soothing the inner aches

Billy Hayes, Insomniac City
Propped above
Bringing tears
The exquisite love expressed
wrenches at her anguished heart

Tracy Chapman
Mellifluous, softening the harsh silence
Filling the empty spaces
gently softening the edges of pain

She needs no more
Right now
She is whole
She is complete
She aches and yet she heals
She will not be undone

When reality challenges image — how do you present to the world?

“I was like a chocolate in a box, looking well behaved and perfect in place, all the while harboring a secret center.” ― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

“I am looking for the one I can’t fool.” ― Kamand Kojouri

How we are and how we are perceived often differ. There are many reasons for this, but the striking truth is that image and reality are often skewed

I have written before of the labels we place on ourselves and those others bestow upon us. This idea of image versus reality arose again in my conversations and thoughts and has me asking a few questions.

A friend and I struck upon a shared observation recently, that we’d met people who (and this is not limited to this field mind you) label themselves as spiritual and dress the part. We observed the wearing of certain adornments, clothing of a particular style, adopting coiffed dreadlocks or making radical statements by being unwashed or going unshod in public.  This attire and this façade of course have nothing to do with the level of spirituality one possesses but I wonder if it has more to do with aligning oneself where and how one wants to be perceived.

Let me explain.  For many years I have marvelled at the disparate views people hold of me compared to my own view of myself. Yes, yes, I know we judge ourselves harshly but that’s not what I am talking about here. Mostly everyone I come into contact with draws the conclusion that I am quite prim and prissy (yes, it’s a burden). Once they get to know me they can’t quite match my potty mouth and my beliefs with the external presentation.  I’ve never understood it, I don’t see the disparity.  People have repeated things like:

“I can’t believe you can say that word and get away with it.  It seems so unexpected coming from you. If it was me people would expect that language and be offended.”
or
“I would never have thought someone like you would have a faith.”
or
“Really, you have crystals and signing bowls?” (If only they knew the half of it.)

I’ve never understood it. I’ve looked but can’t see the elegance and poise I hear described.  Now, I certainly dress in a particular way to go to work that is far different to how I choose to dress at home.  But even in social settings people have shared the same opinions.  I don’t see the façade they do. I feel the inner messiness is clearly reflected externally.

So, back to our friend with the dreadlocks presenting as a deeply spiritual, connected person, and hey, maybe he is, who am I to judge?  Apart from personal choice and comfort, on some level the projection is a façade.  A costume. A symbol.  Yet, look around the room at the grandmother in her twin set and pearl earrings and that big dude dressed all in black with the tattoos they are not projecting an image that screams “I’m spiritual” but they’re both highly skilled channels and mediums and have a deeper grasp on universal and metaphysical truths than most.

As I ponder these scenarios the questions rise.

Why do others interpret our image in particular ways? 
I guess that’s conditioning. Labelling seems a natural human tendency. The need to pigeon-hole creates a level of certainty and comfort. Certainly, some of us adorn ourselves in ways that help others identify us how we want to be identified rather than misreading us and forming beliefs about us that don’t align to who or what we are. In both of these situations we draw upon some very strong and often unconscious archetypal symbols here.

Why do we/ how can we believe one thing to be true of ourselves, yet others see us in a totally different light?

This one stumped me for a bit then two more questions dropped in and I suddenly realised something I hadn’t before.

Do we create an image to reflect who we are? Or do we create an image to protect who we are?
And there it was. I have done the latter. My wise friend’s words came flooding back – he was curious about how I present to the world and what lay beneath the surface.  He touched on things being undiscovered and undisclosed.  I realise I have made an unconscious effort, from a very early age, to project a certain image to the world to protect myself, believing and knowing on some level others wouldn’t understand the truth of me.

It’s a curious and interesting concept to ponder and one we should all be aware of.  There is so much more to a person than their external image. We know that and often forget. Reality often challenges image. In your meeting of people remember the iceberg effect —the little bit we see does not adequately reflect all that is under the surface. Similarly, is the little bit you reveal reflecting what you want the world to know of you?

 

 

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!

 

 

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.