The juxtaposition of elevation

Elevate

Two Images juxtaposed —

ethereal, cheesecloth clad, crystal waving souls
floating
to unexplored realms
faces raised to the light,
smiling in joyful anticipation

 —

black suited, anxious bodies
riding steel contraptions
to the next meeting,
heads down,
foreheads creased,
thumbing messages into small devices.

—Merge!—

Elevate
Rise
Ascend

 

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For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

My plans went awry today and it was great!

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Wilderness places and the natural world are antidotes for an anxious mind and tired body. I went for a drive today.  It was longer than expected ― the way was blocked by a landslide close to my destination. I rerouted, the long way, and after more hours than intended I arrived high up in the hinterland where a cool breeze whispered around my body and danced in my hair.

I set out with the intention of shrugging off months of overwork and brain drain on a 17 kilometre walk. Alas, it was not to be. The track was closed due to recent weather events and was unsafe. This was not shaping up to be the day or the soothing balm I had intended. Not to be deterred I opted for a much shorter though highly picturesque walk and drank in the gifts around me.

 

Satisfying wanderlust at home

Old Mill built 1829 by convict labour

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” ― Anatole France

My current situation does not allow for extended voyages across the sea to distant shores and yet my wanderlust must be sated.

A powerful desire to journey, to sightsee, to expand and grow saw me wandering my city on a very hot and muggy Sunday morning.  It was 33 degrees celsius and, I swear the  humidity was at 90% at 7am.  It was uncomfortable.  It would have been more sensible to stay at home in air-conditioned ease. I have been accused of being too sensible for so long now that I’m starting to resent the title and so, to spite myself, I went out to follow a trail that would take me to some of the interesting historical sites, churches and shrines in my city.

As an art lover I am as easily captivated by architecture as a painting on a gallery wall. I revel in the juxtaposition of old and new as my mind tries to make sense of history in a modern landscape.  I wonder at the skill and the talent of those who design and then build absorbing edifices.  I marvel at how function and aesthetics combine.

The trail did not take me to previously uncharted territory.  I was familiar with all the streets and lanes I found myself in, though wandering about on foot provides a different perspective from which to view the canvas. You notice things, you can take longer to appreciate the placement of structures in the environment. Being one of very few crazy people out on this particular Sunday, I had many places to myself for the majority of the walk.  What a rare treat in a busy city.

Brisbane was once noted for a particular domestic architecture dominated by timber houses, raised on high stumps with wide verandahs wrapped around the outside to catch the breeze. In contrast, many of the early public buildings were made of stone and brick; a reminder of English origins.  There has been some rapid and interesting changes in the architecture of Brisbane in the last twenty years but my focus on this particular morning was on the quaint buildings, quiet parks, and many charming churches and shrines located at the top end of the city, a hilly location, once a very fashionable residential area, that is now known for its many medical clinics.

Some of the churches were closed, others were filled with worshipers.  To avoid disrupting Mass by taking photographs, I plan to return during the week when, I was assured by church elders, I will be welcome to enjoy the space and take as many photos as I please.  En route I had a lovely conversation with a bus driver who, thinking I was lost, asked if I was visiting the city.  He was surprised to learn I had lived here for over 20 years and then revealed that he too enjoys wandering the city to take in her offerings.  He suggested a public art walk I hadn’t previously been aware of, that is now on my list of ways to satisfy wanderlust between trips.

What hidden gems would your city reveal if you had the time to wander about, on foot, with no other agenda than to absorb and notice? I’d be keen to hear how you satisfy your wanderlust when the itch arises but the timing isn’t right to travel.

Emma Miller Place

 

Using tech to keep track of resolutions

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”
― Charles M. Sheldon

Every year between 41 and 63% of us, depending on the country you are from, make resolutions, set goals and have shiny new aspirations for the year ahead. January is usually a month of promise. All our plans are firmly in our heart and mind, they are enacted with zeal. February sees us still buoyed by our visions, by March we are slipping away slightly from the goal. In April, May, June that little voice in our head tells us we really should get back on track and do that stuff we’d planned. Sadly, as the months roll on the resolution is a dim memory, discarded detritus. Most resolutions don’t see the year out.  80% are forgotten, sidestepped or bypassed in 3 months.  Does that mean it’s futile to set resolutions?  I don’t think so, though I think there are better ways to improve life.

I gave up on the resolution idea a long time ago.  It  didn’t work for me, I sucked at it and it added more pressure than was necessary to a life already complicated in other ways. I opted instead for making a bucket list to support a well lived life.  It was a long list of joyful activities, challenges and pursuits to colour and flavour the year ahead. No pressure, no strict deadlines, no do or die expectations. Some years later I started creating a photographic montage, a treasure map of sorts, a nice visual reminder of those bucket list items which I started to call my love list (giving it a more positive spin). The visual cue was  successful. I achieved way more on my love list than ever before. It was appealing, motivating and in view each day.  Some time in between I used post it notes and a big wall chart to plot my goals and progress.  The visual was good. Adding, updating and moving notes to the progressed section was appealing.  I experimented with boldly writing goals on the shower screen in non-permanent pen.  In bright colours my yearly goals were accompanied by affirmations and uplifting quotes.  There was no missing them. They were quite ‘in your face’.  I liked that too. Though I’m not sure I saw any progress.

This year, as I contemplated my visual treasure map, my son intervened.  He sent me an invitation to view his goal list for the year.  He was building accountability by sharing his goals and aspirations.  I was honoured that he would consider me a worthy ally in his quest.  The vehicle he chose to keep track of his goals is a tool called Trello.  He encouraged me to use it too. My first challenge for the year.

I have a fairly open mind when it comes to technology but I’m awkward with it.  I love pen and paper, I love building things and crafting things by hand.  So I wasn’t at first impressed by it.  It felt flat and bland and simply too hard for me to work out.  Until one Saturday morning with a cup of tea I decided to explore a little more.  I moved away from the way my son had used it and painted my own adventure.  I created something I liked. I added some images for appeal and was quite happy with my creation. Doubt lingered however. I wasn’t convinced it would be as immediate, arresting and useful as my good old A5 photographic treasure map. It required a different set of behaviours and habits on my part for it to work.  I can report, that two months later, with a little persistence and a change of attitude, I’m hooked.

I am pretty sure Trello was never designed for a middle-aged woman (despite how young at heart, vibrant and energetic she may be) to create her love list for the year.  It is, however, a brilliant project management tool that can aid the smallest personal project through to the very largest corporate projects.  It’s basically a great big empty wall you can fill with ‘post it’  notes to keep track of your stuff. You can add comments, create lists, add labels, cue due dates, send messages to other people in your project, label progress and that’s just in the free version. For a small fee there are loads more tools at user disposal.  Oh, gosh, that sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it?  It’s not meant to be.  I simply wanted to share a new tool that is working for me that may work for you.

It’s an extremely flexible tool too.  Once you create your “post it notes” you can move them around and order them, you can insert new ones at will, discard them, batch or group them.   I am finding it a useful place to hold my ideas, I can share them, I can ask for input from my son who I share my board with.  My initial fears and concerns have been allayed.  I am referring to it regularly to keep track of my progress and add new adventures.  It’s fun and engaging.  I could use it to plan an overseas holiday.  I could also have used it to plan the multi million dollar project I am managing at work.  If you are looking for a way to motivate your goal setting or a neat project management tool, check out Trello.

If, like me, you are a novice with technology, keep Walt Disney’s sentiment in mind – don’t be afraid to keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things. Being curious leads us down new paths and who knows where that will lead?

 

Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

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It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

Celebrating art

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It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. ~Kojiro Tomita

Art can be celebrated any day of the week but this year my home town of Brisbane is celebrating the 10th birthday of our very own Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art – GOMA with a summer long exhibition and series of activities. I popped along to join in the fun on another day of celebration, for some, – Australia Day. 

The 10th birthday celebrations feature a whopping 250 contemporary artworks that are a true feast for the senses. There are some newly commissioned works as well as a lovely smattering of old favourites.  The intention of the exhibition is to reflect our complex connections to the natural world through the senses. My senses were pleasantly engaged and enchanted by the multi dimensional and interactive landscape artfully curated for art lovers of all ages.

Visitors are greeted by two spiralling slides that rocket the brave and childlike from the top floor to the bottom. Around the corner vivid colour strikes the eye as a landscape of synthetic hair that appears to grow from the ground reaches toward the ceiling. A sudden change of sensory input occurs when you step from the bright, well light open space of the gallery into a softly dimmed cavern containing a Heard of sculptural horses that I believe can be brought to life by dancers.

I was pleasantly surprised and no less intrigued to see Ron Mueck’s massive and life-like sculpture In bed on display again. The detail and the intimacy of the work is mesmerizing. This is one work I long to reach out and touch.

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The hugely popular installation of thousands and thousands of white Lego pieces was back.  The joy of this piece is in watching young and old sit and build fantastic structures.  It was slightly disconcerting for me to have it placed in a different spot to the first time it appeared. It was deja vu gone wrong.

Pinaree Sanpitak’s Noon-nom installation drew me. I wanted to sink into it, lounge atop the soft sculptures and enjoy the view of the river.  Having commented to the gallery staffer that it was tempting to do just that, she informed me the work was designed for relaxing on. At first glance the installation appears to be a lovely compilation of multi coloured bean bags.  The many soft sculptures actually represent breast stupas; a lovely bringing together of the human form and the spiritual. I had to giggle at myself for lounging on large breasts but marvel too at the artist’s ingenuity in capturing the nurturing form so well.

So many of the exhibits and installations provoked a mindful consideration of our being and our interactions with others and the world. Standing beneath a gigantic aluminium snake skeleton that spirals 53 metres gave me pause to reflect on how tiny we humans are yet how bold our ideas, traditions and stories can be. Tomás Saraceno’s Biospheres bought to mind soap bubbles, jelly fish, a fragile globe all at once. Another delightful yet fragile landscape was constructed by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s in his musical installation of live finches. I felt a world away from the hustle and bustle and was lucky enough to be the sole visitor for a while in this soothing space. Lee Mingwei’s Writing the Unspoken was a change of pace. In an intimate room with subdued lighting three small asian inspired booths offer visitors the opportunity to exchange ideas, communicate gratitude, insights and forgiveness. Visitors can write unspoken messages to be sent by the gallery, if sealed and addressed or leave a message for others to read and enjoy.  I was moved by the strength and beauty of the words people chose to leave for strangers. 

Congratulations GOMA on your 10th birthday. Congratulations to the curators for bringing together seemingly disparate pieces and creating a world of joy, contemplation and reverence.  Well done. Thank you to artists everywhere who through great talent, sacrifice and struggle bring us these works that move us, shape us and create something that lingers long after we’ve taken in the work itself.

 

Harnessing the power of your emotions

… let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.  ― Shannyn Steel

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

― Helen Keller

I have completed a number of small projects around the house already this year and I feel a great sense of achievement. To actually get in and tick them off my ‘want to do’ list has made me feel, well, good.  I thought the emotion might be pride. I don’t  like the connotations connected to pride. On closer inspection I realise it’s joy I feel.  If the power of joy can help get things done and keep me motivated, I’m choosing joy as my motivator this year.

There is some research behind engaging with your emotions to create change in your life. Dr Tara Brach says we can use the eight main emotions to help us reach our goals.  As rational beings we require the power of emotional engagement to propel us and keep us motivated. For instance, someone might think the local creek needs to be cleaned up (rational thinking) but it may not be until their disgust (emotion) becomes the powerful motivator that they join the ‘clean up Australia day’, or similar, activity to restore it. Another’s anger may be the spark that leads them to campaign for equality. Love is powerful emotion that drives people to do incredible things for others.  Instead of shying away from or hiding our emotions, let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.

How might you engage with fear, anger, disgust, shame, sadness, love, joy and surprise to move you to take positive and purposeful action this year?

 

 

Create your own reading festival

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Reading has been a huge part of my life, since, well, almost forever.  I loved being read to as a child and once I could read I enjoyed learning new things that came from understanding print.  Exploring different literary periods at university enhanced my insatiable need to consume the printed word.  A few years back I set myself a goal of reading fifty books in the year. I ended up reading many more than that.  It was a great experiment and afforded me the opportunity to explore different genres and forms of writing. Since then I have been reading anything that takes my fancy: I’ve read whole series, one-off books of interest, recommendations from friends, plays, novels, non-fiction etc.  At times I’ve struggled to select books and found myself hankering for a little guidance in my selections.

Now that the new year has begun and many of us are pondering the terrain ahead and how we can make it joyful, I’ve been inspired to consider focusing my reading choices and reading with purpose.

My son was the first point of inspiration.  He discovered a book reading challenge where you read a book every two weeks from a different category.  Categories include a book:

  • you read in school
  • from your childhood
  • published over 100 years ago
  • set in your hometown/region
  • with someone’s name in the title
  • with a number in the title
  • with a character with your first name
  • you can finish in a day
  • previously banned
  • with a one-word title
  • translated from another language
  • that’s a memoir or journal
  • set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year.

Sounds like fun. Check out this link for more ideas.

Then I read my friend Nicole Cody’s blog and she had an interesting take on a reading challenge and it sits very nicely with the idea of paying it forward and donating to charity.  Her idea is to read a book a month, put aside a small amount of money for each book read and then at then end of the year buy a book and donate it to charity for Christmas.  How neat is that?

Tim Ferriss, in his 5 bullet Friday, always has some interesting book recommendations – things I would not select myself.  He is a great source for reading inspiration, as is Pinterest, the weekend newspaper and Avid Reader bookshop.

Having been motivated by the two reading challenge ideas and having good sources for recommendations (although I do have enough unread books on my shelves and in my kindle that I probably don’t need to purchase a book this year) I am going to combine the two ideas and read at least a book a month from a different category, putting aside a few dollars for each book I read to purchase one for  someone in hospital, a nursing home or shelter at the end of the year.

Where will your reading take you this year?

Link

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You’ll never be disappointed if you always keep an eye on uncharted territory, where you’ll be challenged and growing and having fun.     Kirstie Alley

I celebrated a birthday this week and decided to treat myself. No it wasn’t a BIG birthday, though each birthday is a big bonus. I usually go pretty low-key on my birthday, let it slip by without causing a blip but this year I made plans. I booked in for a skydive.

There’s a small caveat I should add – it was indoor skydiving. I’m not known for being outrageously spontaneous or reckless so I figure you can’t go from zero to 100 right off the bat.

The experience was immensely entertaining and massively good fun. Ten other flyers aged from 4 through to late 60’s arrived for a morning of high-speed adventure.  After a short training session we suited up in overalls, goggles, earplugs and a helmet. I’m not sure how the instructor expected us to hear him once earplugs and helmet were firmly in place but we did manage through sign language.

We took seats in the viewing area around the twelve-foot vertical wind tunnel into which we would soon venture.  It’s always amusing watching people try to manouver into the first position when faced with a queue.  Strangely, there was no jockeying or positioning this day.  Perhaps, like me, no one really wanted to be first, despite the excitement.  This is one of those rare occasions where I knew it would be beneficial to watch someone do it before I had my attempt.  Having successfully secured the third position I took mental notes, between cheering and clapping, laughing and grinning like a Cheshire cat, and was sure I could overcome the body alignment issues my fellow flyers had encountered.

It’s fascinating how difficult it is to maintain control over your limbs when you’ve literally been swept off your feet and buoyed by a surge of air.  A surge of air that is causing your nostrils to flare alarmingly, like that of a skittish steed. Once I’d reassured myself I could breath, despite my initial alarm, I was heady and slightly disoriented and I couldn’t stop laughing. That was until I realised I had little control over my saliva and that it was now dampening my face (I had wondered why the instructor wore a helmet with a full face cover.) Trying to laugh with a closed mouth, breathe, ensure my legs and arms were positioned well and smile for the camera was an awful lot to pay attention to all at once.  My certificate states I can fly with minimal assistance, move up and down in the air flow, turn 360 degrees as well as hold a still, controlled body position.  I have a way to go to fly to a given point and move forward or backward apparently.  I had no idea I could do so much in so short a time frame – it really wasn’t a conscious effort.  I’m almost sure it was all luck.

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Indoor skydiving was a most unusual and exciting experience. It’s quite unlike anything else, expect, I imagine, jumping out of a plane. As a result of this and another recent exhilarating escapade in an escape room I am on the hunt for fun and exciting experiences to add to my love list (more commonly known as a bucket list). Any ideas?