Connecting hearts – a simple bridge to build connection

 Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.  Dale Carnegie

I’m not sure I totally agree with Carnegie that our name is the most important sound to us but certainly to hear your name spoken by one you love can fill you with joy. I remember my grandmother always made me feel like I was the most special person alive. Whenever I telephoned she would give the most joyful exclamation, “Oh, Shannyn!’ like it was the best thing in her whole day to hear my voice, as though she hadn’t heard from me in years. I loved her for that and I still hear it in my head, often. I can hear her tone, the smile and love in her voice. Few others have ever said my name in a way that has made me feel so loved and valued.

When my lover said my name for the first time it was like the shimmery, sparkly sound that wind chimes make on a lightly breezy day, the sound danced in my ears.  I didn’t realise how tremendous a little thing like that could be.  It came as a surprise because even though we’d known each other for some time our primary language had not been words, until then.

Carnegie’s words have made me more aware. I’ve been paying attention to who uses my name and who doesn’t. There are two people who I have met recently, and have almost daily interactions with, who call me by name. While they are not people I love and are acquaintances only, I feel like I’ve been seen, acknowledged and some connection has been made. It’s an incredibly rare thing, I have come to realise.  Think about it – how often are you called by name? I am surrounded by colleagues who say hello and goodbye, each day, without specifically using my name. I have friends who text or message in some form or another and launch into a conversation without the opening salutation including my name. It feels a little like we’ve adopted the Harry Potter approach and everyone has become he or she who cannot be named. Is it laziness or a consequence of our highly digitalised social media engagement? I don’t know but it’s an interesting exercise to note who uses your name and who doesn’t. I speaks volumes to their character and their regard for human interaction. I appreciate those people a little more now that I have begun to notice.

I also appreciate those who call me by the correct name and those who spell my name correctly. It’s spelt with two ‘n’s’ in the middle.  I’m not sure how you get Sharon from that. It’s also spelt with a ‘y’ not an ‘o’.  It’s been a life time of eye rolling and head shaking. How can they get it wrong I wonder? Australians have a tendency to shorten people’s names. I tend not to do this and I detest using nicknames, especially weird ones, preferring always to call someone by their Christian name as a sign of respect and to demonstrate their value to me. My father and sisters used to shorten my name and call me Shan. I actually don’t mind it. So, it was a surprise to me when Michael came to work for me and very early on he called me Shan.  He was horrified when I said to him “You know, only my family call me that.” He thought he had offended me and overstepped. Far from it, it was really natural, a sign of his comfort with me and of the deep friendship we would develop.  I still enjoy hearing him use it when we talk.

At times, when I’ve been introduced to someone at a noisy party or gathering and I have missed their name or been unsure of how to pronounce it, rather than confirm early I have hesitated and it quickly becomes too late, and I’m stuck in a situation where I converse with someone and don’t call them by name. It’s awkward, I don’t like it and I realise now how different my interactions might be if I more often used someone’s name and simply asked for clarification right from the start.

Using someone’s name is a powerful gesture, a bridge to connect our human hearts across the dross of the everyday. I think it’s time we stopped skating across the surface of life. I think it’s time we connected by simply using the names of those we converse with.  It may not be the absolute, most important sound in the any language but it sure is sweet to the ears and touches the heart. A person’s name is sacred, in a way, and the use of it is a beautiful blessing and acknowledgement of our respect and interest in them. See what a difference it makes to use someone’s name in your interactions; it can buoy a weary soul, calm a raging beast and turn a frown into a smile.

 

“I remember when your name was just another name that rolled without thought off my tongue.
Now, I can’t look at your name without an abundance of sentiment attached to each letter.
Your name, which I played with so carelessly, so easily, has somehow become sacred to my lips.
A name I won’t throw around light-heartedly or repeat without deep thought.
And if ever I speak of you, I use the English language to describe who you were to me. You are nameless, because those letters grouped together in that familiar form….. carries too much meaning for my capricious heart.”
― 
Jamie Weise

Advertisements

I stood on the edge of the world and magic happened

“Breathe next to me. And I will capture a piece of your soul along with mine.”
Marikit dR. Camba, 

Once, many years ago, I stood on the shore; quiet, desperately sad, with eyes closed, and magic happened. I became one with the ocean. I felt I was the ocean and it was within me. I felt the magnitude of the universe in those seconds. For an instant the whole universe was inside me, I saw it, I felt it, I travelled through it as it travelled simultaneously through me. I was connected to it in a way I had no comprehension of, no prior experience or examples. I did not experience it again. Until recently.

Sitting on the hill of a natural amphitheatre, alone but surrounded by approximately 150 000 people I felt a connection to the hearts of each of them, like I felt with the ocean all those years before. It was New Year’s Eve. I was at Woodford for the annual music festival, six days of music and noise, action, laughter and lots and lots of people. Candles had been distributed throughout the day and at 11:30 they were to be lit, followed by three minutes silence.  The idea of three minutes silence in that place was incomprehensible to me, but I was assured it was a ritual that was adhered to every year.  At 11:30 I passed a spare candle to a man sitting nearby.  He asked how we were meant to light them.  I told him that I believed that was part of the magic.  Within 30 seconds the amphitheatre was alight with the glow of thousands and thousands of candles. And a hush fell over the whole of Woodfordia and I wept.

In the silence, in our quietness we all came together and connected.  It wasn’t like we were holding hands, that’s not the connection, it wasn’t even like an embrace. The sensation began as a ripple then became a gentle, undulating wave that rolled up the front of my body, opened my heart and passed into the depths of me and surrounded me. It was like all those souls were gathered into gentle arms and sent lovingly into the night, into each other. In those three minutes I again touched the inky darkness of the night sky that opened to the universe beyond, and I soared, filled with the souls of those around me.

The powerful persuasiveness of scent

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.    
                                                     Helen Killer

It’s a grey Sunday morning. I am content with a pot of chai, soulful music in the background accompanied by the sound of rain falling to earth to quench my parched and neglected gardens. I sit at my desk watching a colourful parrot suck sweetness from the golden Grevillea outside my window and I have the scent of Indian sandalwood incense floating in the air around me.

While in India I picked up a copy of Diane Ackerman’s A natural history of the senses. It’s a tantalisingly rich book. From the very first line I was drawn in and felt myself blissfully sinking into the heady world of sensory delight. Ackerman tackles smell first. She calls it the mute sense because “it is almost impossible to describe how something smells to someone who hasn’t smelled it.”

Reading more about smell last night I was intrigued that the author had a similar experience to one I have had, and I will get to that shortly. Being sensitive, smell has always played a large role in my life, even before I could comprehend and articulate its power.

The smell of my grandmother’s house signalled safety and love to me.  It was a smell I never grew tired of.  Her powdered cheek, camphored linen cupboard and simmering braised steak were olfactory sources of contentment.

The moist, dank smell of undergrowth and dirt on the forest floor combined with the freshness of eucalypt or pine needles is a reassuring, grounding smell.  The spray of the ocean on a light breeze can raise my spirits. Fresh mown grass transports me to summer afternoons of my childhood, when the day was ending, and the mosquitos were just coming out to play.

A particular spray deodorant repulses me.  I return to whole days of morning sickness where that smell permeated the rooms I lived in.  Chemical fragrances burn my eyes, irritate my skin and the lining of my nasal passages. I prefer now natural scents whether in the world or captured and bottled.

Scent enhances our experience of life. The waft of a roast dinner in the oven is a prelude to a satisfying feast.  Inhaling the aroma of a glass of red wine or a good scotch before imbibing, readies the taste buds and enhances the experience. I am sure babies smell so good to make us want to take care of them.  Smell protects us also. Foul, putrid, acrid smells warn us something is not right.  They prompt action, either to remove the offending item, or remove ourselves.

I had an unusual experience last year related to smell and memory. I had been attending a spiritualist church to reconnect with that part of myself that I had to hide in my marriage.  One night at circle we did flower readings. We each brought along a flower without revealing it to others and put it in a basket. The basket was handed around and we took a flower out and did a reading for the person whose flower it was. Richard (not his real name), got my flower.

Richard was 100 percent accurate in everything he said. He picked up that my heart was racing like crazy. He said it wasn’t a health issue but that it was terribly strong and that he could feel it. He held out his hand and it shook. He was overwhelmed. He hadn’t felt that connection before. He also knew instinctively it was me.  He looked directly across the circle and spoke to me.

My heart had been racing for three days before that meeting. It was so strong my clothing fluttered with its strength. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Richard wanted to talk to me that night and find out more. In that moment of speaking with him I realised we had met before. I remembered his smell. His breath. I usually remember people’s faces. There was a flicker of visual recognition but so slight I almost missed it. The smell got me and instantly, in my mind’s eye, I saw us at a healing centre. Then he said I should be healing and asked what healing work I did. Turned out we both did the same healing work. We had the same teacher. That’s where I thought we’d met. He had a vague recollection of meeting.  It wasn’t until weeks later we realised our timelines didn’t match up. Was it a future projection or a past life remembering?  I don’t know but the feeling of knowing was strong and convincing.

Then, like the author of my book, I had another experience that turned me away from someone.  Ackerman writes,

“I once started to date a man who was smart, sophisticated, and attractive, but when I kissed him I was put off by a faint, cornlike smell that came from his cheek.  Not cologne or soap.  It was his subtle, natural scent, and I was shocked to discover that it disturbed me viscerally.”

I met a witty, intelligent man who is great fun to hang out with. We share many similar interests with enough differences to make things interesting. We had been out a few times and had a hoot. One day he kissed me and I mentally and energetically recoiled. There was a smell about him I had not previously detected.  Like Ackerman, I knew it was not a layered scent of soap or aftershave.  What was of particular interest to me was how this played out.  Despite all his strengths I did not in my heart feel the connection he felt to me. I didn’t know how to bring it up and so had avoided it.  The smell was a sign to take action.  We had a frank conversation and I was able to convey how much I enjoyed his company and would like to continue as friends without an intimate physical relationship with him.  He agreed, and we have continued to be firm friends.

There are scents I wish I could bottle and sink deeply into as the mood arises; like the smell of India, the scent of ripening stone fruit on the wind in Tanunda or the smell of a lover and our lovemaking that lingers on my body when we part.  Odours and scents have a powerful persuasion over us, they can transport us to a time and place from our past, repel us and draw us in and lull us.  Smell is the mute sense.  It is so very hard to describe and convey to others because of the uniqueness of each smell and also, I think, because of how they make us feel.

Yearning for place

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.”
― John Muir

“What’s the hurry to move in?” my friend asked when I declined an invitation for an outing the evening after I was to take possession of my new house?

Indeed. There was no real, or should I say logical, hurry to move in or be moving at night. I could go out for a few hours, surely. I wrestled with my heart and relented. However, the reason I so badly wanted to be in my empty house was that I have been experiencing a pain at being unattached to place.  I don’t mean to a dwelling, I mean to a patch of land, to a place I feel called to be.

When looking for a new home my number one criterion was that it be near the forest.  You see, I was drawn to stay close to that forest. A forest I have come to love and feel at home in.  It’s a place I find magical, where animals dare approach, where I meditate and escape the world.  When nothing became available I considered other suburbs with forests. I planned to inspect a number of homes for sale in those areas but, when I felt into it, those other forests were not my forest. Not my place. I didn’t feel drawn to be there. It’s not logical, you’re right. A forest is a forest, right? Well, no. This is not about logic it’s about feeling and about intuition and about what I can only call magic.

I am drawn to nature. I love to wander on the beach, in forested areas and the wild places, away from civilisation. I feel an intricate link with the natural world and connected to a power greater than myself when in nature. I feel at home in nature,so much more than I do when in cites and around people.  I have a real sense of the energy of “my forest”.  It’s like I can read the history of that place and I feel welcome there. It restores me to connect with the trees and the rocks and the bush. My new backyard feels like an extension of that forest. I can see the tree tops of it from my back deck.

So, when my friend asked me out and I really had no rational reason to be sitting in an empty house or moving boxes out of a storage shed into an empty house at night, this was the real reason. I was longing to be home. Longing to connect with my own sacred space and to set down roots.  You can’t reason with emotion, with the sacred and mystical.

I know I can live anywhere but to thrive anywhere? Perhaps not. I feel a fundamental pull to this particular spot. At first, I thought it was habit. In fact, the very same friend who asked me out had me consider if I was just in my comfort zone there.  That question took me by surprise and my hackles raised slightly at first.  However, living in temporary accommodation, before settlement, I examined that question closely.   Staying for a time by the river, a place I used to live, I wondered if I’d made the right decision to stay near the forest.  The river was so lovely, the sunsets stunning, the silky texture of the water, alluring. In my gut though, I knew that while I could appreciate the river and its beauty, I really didn’t feel connected there.  Then, living in a funky and vibrant inner-city suburb for a month, I began to question myself again.  I was enjoying the hubbub and the eclectic crowd but the throb of disconnection and being unattached returned.

I can’t explain the draw to the place I’ve chosen as home; except to say, that since I was a child I have felt the energy of places. From a very young age I’ve felt strongly uncomfortable or completely at ease in some buildings and environments.  When travelling I have been reduced to tears when stepping onto battlefields and I’ve vomited as a result of heavy and overwhelming energies of some places. This connection to “my forest” is instinctual and I am so looking forward to seeing what transpires when, in a few days, I set down roots and return home.

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.

Finding your true north in a crowded world

Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the infinite.   Algernon Blackwood

In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not yet arisen.    R.D. Laing

Each year it’s the same. The new year rolls around and the tabloids and media are brimming with the latest trends, top ten things to help you get fit, be happier, smarter, more likeable. What we really need is less input. What we really need is less information, fewer overwhelming statistics, fewer fads to follow, superfoods to eat or workouts to try. What we really need is some simple rituals.

Rituals? I don’t mean dancing around naked under a full moon. Though you could if you were inclined. I refer to small practices that hold meaning for us. Small truths we can return to daily, weekly or when needed to replenish us. Practices or customs that allow us to step away from the constant focus on the physical and material. Everyday rituals act as compass points that bring us back to ourselves, not our personas as mother, executive, fitness fanatic. But truths that help us shrug off all the labels and hats we wear and remind us of who we are under the layers of societal silt. Small, everyday rituals allow us to settle into our skin and know who we are.

I have written before about the void a lack of religion has created in our daily lives. Many of us would not recognise or admit this. But I believe the constant seeking, looking for more, trying to have more, be more, do more is a result of a shift in our society away from community, ritual and ceremony. If you aren’t particularly interested in returning to dogma inspired worship you can enrich life with some everyday rituals.

Ritual is not to be confused with routine. We have routines that help stave off chaos: we rise and eat breakfast at the same time each day, we catch the bus from the nearest bus stop, and we go to the gym or yoga on certain days of the week. Routines keep us on track and make us feel in control. Routines provide structure and order and allow everything to run like clockwork. Routine is good; it reduces decision-making and ensures things get done. It can also strangle and constrain. Rituals, while also offering a stabilising anchor in the craziness of an overcrowded life, are gentler, less rigid and bring a sense of mystery and, dare I say, magic to life.

Ritual strengthens me spiritually. You may prefer to think of ritual as providing a sense of belonging and stabilisation. Ritual brings the beauty of life back into focus. Ritual reconnects us with the natural world, the inner world and rewards us in ways status, money and the latest HIIT workout cannot. In essence, ritual provides time out from daily routine, it helps us re-evaluate our path and provides us with ways to author our own lives.

Certainly some rituals may become habits and thus thought of as routines but the distinction is always there. Rising early to watch the sunrise could become a habit but the ritual comes from being present and enjoying the sights, sounds and the emotion of the moment. Soaking in a bubble bath each Friday could become a routine but the ritual comes with the intention for the week’s worries and stress to recede as the bubbles pop. Other everyday rituals might include investing in our loved ones by setting the table, serving a meal without television, phones or distractions but a focus on conversation and listening. Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. These small practices enrich us.

Like many, I suffer when my inner world is ignored. I love tarot, astrology and psychic stuff. I am also a realist. I work in the mainstream, need to address people in a range of settings so I understand and respect conventional societal norms and boundaries. I don’t have the luxury of casting off and living atop a mountain to brew my potions and commune with the elements daily, though I am invested in developing spiritually because it makes me whole points me toward my true north. With this in mind I’ll share a couple of rituals I have been practicing in the following posts that aren’t too ‘woo woo’ or freaky that help create balance in a crowded, information driven world.  Do you have some you could share?

A year of inspiration. Inspired by: Sunday Telegraph January 7, 2018