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

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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

 

Inspired by ritual – setting an intention that welcomes mystery and wonder

Inspired – Of external quality, as if arising from some external impulse.

Inspired. That’s my word for the year. It came to me on a hike across the top of the Blue Mountains on New Year’s Day.

Selecting a word of intention, of direction, guidance or positivity as a focus was once an annual ritual of mine. I can’t remember when I let the habit slip. Perhaps it was several years ago that I selected a word and it trickled through my fingers like sand and was forgotten. Thanks to my friend Gay, from Create, I was reminded of this lovely New Year ritual and was overjoyed when the word came to me while out in the Australian bush.

With the beating sun upon me, cicadas chirruping above and the open track ahead, I mulled over possible words. Productive came to mind instantly. I pondered, “would I set myself up for more of the same? Could the intention here see me manic and stressed, as I had been in 2017, refusing to rest?” It didn’t feel quite right. Purposeful rose up as a butterfly hovered across my path. That’s a good word. I have always wanted to live a life of purpose and authenticity. Grace, I’d selected before. Ease rated a mention. To glide through life with a sense of ease would be delightful. Words alighted momentarily, like the butterflies, then flittered away. I was not perturbed. I walked on, the intention still in mind.

Then it came to me – inspired. This year my intention is to be inspired. This word is a guiding light, it will help me navigate the way forward even in the heaviest fog. After a hiatus; a time of feeling adrift, bored, directionless. A time of isolation and limited social contact I felt a new energy and desire to move on. Inspired is perfect for me now. After many years of being goal driven and focused the last several years have seen me beached. I’ve found it hard to identify the niggling need inside me, I’ve found it hard to know what direction to take, what action to fill the gaping hole, how to satisfy a tormented mind and itchy fingers. I’ve been on the edges of a terrifying chasm and longed to step back but wasn’t sure how.

The lack of ritual tore the chasm wider. Routine helped a little but too much structure only made me more rigid. Something was missing. There was no mystery or magic. No celebration of belief or faith. Selecting a word for the year is a step away from the edge and a return to myself. It’s also trusting the universe, a higher power.

Establishing this word for the year ritual allows me to drop the resolutions, the need to create lists I won’t refer to and the anxiety from not ticking things off the list. A single word sets a positive intention. It encapsulates how I want to feel and what I want to experience in the year ahead.

There is no one way to choose a word. I let mine float up on it’s own. I will either meditate or go for a walk with the question – ‘what might my word for the year be?’ You might make a list or do a search for positive words or adjectives, find a theme or link among the words and then identify one word that sums up a particular theme. You might spend several days simply noticing what words stand out as you go about your daily tasks. Thoughts about how you want to feel or not feel can help. Sometimes the way we don’t want to feel is a good pointer to identifying our true north. For instance, if you keep feeling bored perhaps your word might be inspired or capable or inventive. Look at the goals you want to achieve. How would you sum them up – aligned, bountiful, complete?

I am keen to see where this year’s word and all it’s connotations take me. I am excited to see where inspiration arises and the form it will take. Do you select a word for the year to live by, to focus on, to lean on? Do you have an alternate ritual that acts as a compass to steer you toward the mystery and magic of life?

 

A year of inspiration. Inspired by Gay Landetta, 

Shackled

Shackled.
Distracted by craving,
Greedy with hunger,
An appetite to create.

Eluded.
The subject remains hidden,
Blank pages unscathed by ink
Canvases bald.
Languishing.

Barren are the recesses of innovation.
Desolate—the wastelands of creativity.
No spark.
No glint or glimmer.
No muse.

An impoverished artist—
Defeated
Beaten
Cast away
Aching.

Accepting life’s plot twists

“Life is a story, if you wouldn’t read the one you’re telling, write a different ending.” Good Life Project

 “Would you want to read the story of your life?” Jonathan Fields asks in the Good Life Project podcast.  You know what, I actually wouldn’t and I realised in that moment that having taken a different path the plot of my story diverged and was reshaped.

I had a plan mapped out and before the plan could be realised, circumstances dictated I go another way. For several years I have craved to go where my heart had planned and now I realise a strong physical yearning has taken up residence in my core.

As the author of my life I know I can edit and rewrite my narrative at any stage. I am reassured that the strong pull I feel is confirmation that I haven’t missed the opportunity. That it isn’t too late to go where I had intended. That I may still develop that arc more fully and weave new adventures into the fabric of the tale.

Fields’ question helped me realise that even though the current plot line I’m living isn’t the most absorbing, it is purposeful and so one not to regret or lament. I realised too that there is still colour and texture and taste and smell. It it might not be the stuff of legend but it’s real and it’s honest and it’s part of the short time I have on this magnificent planet and therefore not to be erased or footnoted.

Armed with this reframing I understood I was still the main writer, that I could confidently tell my story identifying its richness and look forward to the time I can take that other path and explore it more fully.

Are you shining the best light on your story to make it worth reading?

 

 

Framed

 

If the eyes are windows to the soul, what are windows?

Arches, doorways and windows offer perfect frames through which to present the world.  These photos are a handful of the many, from my travels, that offered me a chance to observe and absorb the world in digestible portions. (Above: Duomo in Florence)

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi—can’t believe my luck to have this view from both the restaurant table and my convent room window.

Ruins in Rome

A glimpse of the sea from my room in Riomaggiore

Within Rembrandt’s house museum, Amsterdam.

 

The curious act of collecting

“When we are collecting books, we are collecting happiness.”― Vincent Starrett

Losing interest in proceedings my mind wandered and was ignited by the idea of collecting. Curiously, this had no remote link to the lecture I was in.

Intrigued, I began following thought webs as they spun in seemingly random patterns. My mind’s eye posed snapshots; images of rooms full of collectables,  articles I’d read and interviews I’d seen with crafty and committed collectors.

I wondered, with the astounding diversity of collections, what compels us to collect things― stamps, coins, teapots, snow globes, dolls, Elvis memorabilia, matchboxes?  Is curiosity, interest or habit the driver? When did it all begin?

For a short time as a child I collected stamps. I was introduced to it by my father. While it wasn’t something I chose on my own my interest was definitely piqued by his old album of small pieces of paper from all over the world. I remember receiving bags of mixed, used stamps every few months, some still attached to envelopes, from a club I joined. I would spend hours gently  removing the torn envelopes, arrange the stamps by country, date, cost. In retrospect, it was a relaxing pursuit. I could do with some of the calm it bought me, now.

Some stamps were beautifully decorative, others simple and plain. The shapes too were a source of interest, for among the small and large squares and rectangles of all sizes were triangular stamps. There was a fascination too in wondering who had purchased that stamp, who had received a missive with the stamp glued to the  envelope. Of particular interest too was looking for the first edition stamps and envelopes printed in Australia. My father would take me to the post office to purchase these beautiful mint condition treasures. It was nice to share an interest together. Why it lapsed I don’t know. Age, school, lack of real drive and passion. Perhaps a combination.

I haven’t collected anything since, though I do love teapots and sweet antique tea cups and I have several of each but I wouldn’t class it as a collection, merely an interesting display in a cabinet. I do have a habit of picking up shells on the beach and random seed pods and dead leaves that interest me. I have a few glass vases and pottery bowls filled with these treasures.  Maybe they are collections after all? I wonder?

I have seen incredible collections compiled by people who have dedicated their lives to sourcing different versions of a single item. I love the look of a collection. I admire the dedication and the single-minded focus. I’m lazy. I don’t have the dedication to follow through as some do.

Collecting has a history. The Egyptians collected books at the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family, had the first private art collection. Of course our museums and art galleries are collection houses.

A Preston and Child crime novel introduced me to the idea of a “cabinet of curiosities” which was common among scholars, with the means and opportunity to acquire unusual items, from the 16th century onwards. Some of these collections were quite hideous indeed.

In time, with advances and improvements in the general standard of living and the emergence of leisure, more and more people had the means and opportunity to begin collections. But the question remains — why do we collect?

It’s at the core of the human psyche and there are several reasons collecting is a hobby pursued by many. As you might suspect, collecting often goes hand-in-hand with an interest in the objects collected and what they represent. For my friend, blue and white porcelain antiques reflect an interest in an age where delicate, beautiful objects of quality were produced.  There is an enchantment that emanates from a room of blue and white antiques.

Collecting is relaxing.  Tending to a collection is meditative. It can take the collector away from the stresses of life and provide a meaningful and satisfying pastime. I’ve visited a few model train expos and it is evident too that the social connections forged through a shared interest can be strong.

Then we go to the other end of the spectrum where compulsion is the motivator.  I’ve often thought of myself as obsessive and so have tried mightily to avoid or give up habits that see my compulsions escalate. I know for sure if I’d not found Pinterest my love of  tea cups and teapots would drive me, and my husband, to distraction and financial ruin. Pinterest allows me to collect without financial outlay, without having to worry about space, or breakages or dust.

A little tidbit that captured my attention is the link to our past. As hunters and gatherers we were primed to collect food and supplies for survival. Interestingly too, collecting is linked to memory and the making of meaning. The human brain, adept at cataloging and organising information,  associates meaning with objects.

My reverie into collecting was refreshed when, delighted, I came across the tribute (below) to collectors everywhere at the Swell Sculpture Festival. Do you have a collection? I would be interested to know what drives your passion.

Nature’s micro structures

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is for the topic:

STRUCTURE

Here’s the prompt the good people at The Daily Post offered:

Today, take a moment to notice the structure of everyday things around you. Note the lines, freckles, and tiny hairs on your arm, and imagine the biological blueprint that created them. See the bricks of a building, and realize that they were individually placed there by another person. Then, share with us a photo of the structure of something wonderful. We’re eager to see details through your lens.

There are examples of structure all around us.  I am fascinated by the intricate way things fit together and work in conjunction with each other.  I marvel at architectural structure and the process of building but my focus today went to the natural environment. With so much on offer I could not settle on one image, nor do the several below fully sate my curiosity.

Looking into the micro structures of life