Clearing the dead wood

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When we burn away the dross in life the way forward becomes clearer.

The forest near my home has recently been back-burnt. Back-burning is a controlled practice that occurs here in Australia in the cooler months of the year to reduce fuel build up as a preventive measure against serious fires in the summer period. The forest takes on a whole new look when the grasses and weeds and smaller sticks have been burnt away.

As I wandered through the forest on a recent outing I was struck by how easy it was to identify paths where the understory used to be. Where the weeds and grasses and fallen branches had blocked or hidden the way. I realised I was seeing an analogy for life. When we too clear away the rubbish and the dross our path becomes clearer. Our way forward is uncovered. Our path back to our true selves is revealed.

Perhaps, like the forestry department, we too need to take up the practice of controlled burning in our lives so we can liberate ourselves from the damage excess baggage, attachments, negative people, assumptions and beliefs have on us. Regular attention given to burning away the dross would increase our productivity, our flow and our joy in life.

What do you think? Is it time to be mindfully ruthless and ditch the stuff holding you back?

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Would You Tattoo A Stranger’s Name On Your Body Just To Show You Care?

Spending a little bit of time and believing in our young people can make the world of difference to them, and us.

Kindness Blog

Tattoo artist Scott Campbell had an idea so crazy, it actually worked:

Pair at-risk kids with random mentors, who in turn received tattoos of their young charges’ names.

Ten kids from New York-based Good Shepherds Servicesand 10 volunteers met up one afternoon, and after everyone told their stories, the kids wrote their names on their mentors, which Campbell then tattooed on.

“I want them to know that somebody’s always got their back,” Campbell told one of the mentors.

They only came together for a few short hours, but the effects have been lasting. “You can never say that nobody is thinking about you,” says one of the kids who participated. And the adults? According to one woman: “Every day when I get dressed, I can look at whatever name is on me and say ‘I believe in somebody. I believe in an entire generation.’ ”

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Dropping in on the Worldpress Exhibition

We exist to inspire understanding of the world through photojournalism.                                  Worldpress Foundation

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

I had the opportunity to view the Worldpress Photo Exhibition at the Brisbane Powerhouse this weekend.

I’m not sure how I feel about what I saw. It’s always a good exhibition. On a purely aesthetic level the talent of the photojournalists to capture intense moments in time, to mirror the emotion and the personalities of their subjects and to tell a deeply moving story in an image, is phenomenal. A true skill. On another level the exhibition provides one with the opportunity to reflect and to consider the state of the world, the beauty in the world as well as the abject horror and cruelty that exists in the world.

I can’t say I enjoyed the exhibition. I’m not sure that is it’s purpose or intent. It did however cause me to think, to question, to scrutinise and examine. One cannot be a mere observer nor can one escape unscathed from the presence of these photos. They are designed to inspire, to move and to haunt.

Wandering the industrial space of the Powerhouse and taking in the stories on display I found myself contemplating the different things that appear to motivate those who were the subjects, either present or noticeably absent, from the images before me. Hatred, greed, compassion, love, disrespect, neglect and pure self-centred disregard.

John Stanmeyer’s photo of African migrants holding their mobile phones aloft to capture a signal to call loved ones drew attention not only to the gulf that exists between my life and those captured but also that which we have in common, the basic need for links to those who love us and keep us going.

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Horror inducing nausea arose at the stark images presented by Fred Ramos in his photos The last outfit of the missing. My mind simply could not fathom how a crime rate could be so high that the only way to identify murder victims is by the clothes they wore when buried.

Horror morphed to intrigue when considering the motivation of Barbara Janssen, a German woman living in Malaysia, who with a no kill policy, opened her house to stray dogs. Her house is a shelter to some 250 street dogs.

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Carla Kogelman’s portraits of sisters Hannah and Alena enjoying their carefree childhood in a tiny Austrian village were uplifting.

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Devastation was a thread that ran through many of the works on display. Where does one start to rebuild a life after the devastation of a typhoon such as that experienced in the Philippines that displaced more than four million people? Or on a smaller, but no less significant, scale the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than a thousand people?

Rahul Talukder’s photo, The Last Embrace, initially struck me as being an intrusion, an unnecessary narrative of the death of the subjects. Yet, in the next moment, I was awed by the tenderness shared by the couple in their last moments. The humanity shared in their final moments made me want to weep for the potential strength and compassion of the human heart.

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Did the exhibition inspire my understanding of the world? I’m not sure it did. I was confronted. I was surprised, I was shocked. Is that a bad thing? I think not.

Have I come closer to understanding the world? No. But I do have a greater awareness. I have been forced to think. I have been forced to be more mindful. I have been moved to consider how I might contribute positively to the world. I am also infinitely more grateful for my life and my place in the world.

If you have a chance to visit the exhibition, do so. It is running all year in 100 cities in 45 countries around the world. Chances are it is coming to a place near you.

Pilates. A pushover? Think again!

If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.

Fred DeVito

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

I attended my first ever Pilates class this week thinking it would be a walk in the park compared to an Ashtanga yoga class. Wasn’t I in for a shock!

I have a regular yoga practice and while I attend a weekly two hour class my home practice isn’t as conscientiously consistent as I’d like it to be. I rarely practice for two hours at home, instead carving out between thirty minutes and an hour most days. So I’m not exactly a yoga master but all things considered I thought a Pilates class would not be as demanding as my yoga practice. Well, I was wrong about that!

Talk about being floored. Almost immediately my bravado and smugness were shattered. I was surprised by how intense some moves were and how strong one’s core had to be to hold others. I was confused by the breathing, which appeared to be opposite to what I’m used to in yoga, and I wasn’t prepared for the weird sensation and lack of coordination when, lying face down, I was asked to move my leg in a circle. My brain and limb seemed disconnected.

Not wanting to admit defeat I soldiered on and my ‘grin and bear it don’t let anyone know how hard you are finding this’ attitude dissolved into a pleasant challenge. Once I settled into being out of my comfort zone I began to really enjoy the demands of the class as well as the mental and physical hurdles being presented. Before I knew it the class was over, I was walking out the door, thanking the instructor and telling her I’d see her next week.

Yes, I’m going back for more.

My greatest hope is that Fred DeVito is right, I expect to see some fantastic changes in my resilience, my resolve and my abs as a result of this new Pilates challenge I’ve undertaken.

What small challenge are you willing to undertake to see changes in your life?

Shannyn