A letter to my friend (#1)

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.—Albert Schweitzer

Letter to my friend
November 2018

Dear Michael,

Someone asked today, as an exercise in gratitude, what the highlight of my day was.  I replied by telling them I’d spent the day in tears.

As you know there have been many tears lately, yours and mine, and I’m crying again as I write this, I’m finding it hard to catch my breath and quell my sadness. The gratitude comes from knowing how lucky and blessed I have been to have you in my life; knowing I have someone in my life who makes saying goodbye so hard. I know we will always be friends, but I will miss seeing you every day.

I don’t think I would survive now without you in my life. You bring the sun with you; you light up the room, you bring laughter and fun but most of all I have valued your wise counsel, your belief in me and encouragement along the way.

Friends cheer each other on, I know that, but you were daily at forefront of my horror and you cheered me on when my biggest achievement was getting out of bed and standing up straight. You have made me feel loved and cared for in a time when I was sinking. You have been a trusted and faithful ally through the ugliest of days, taking me away from the office, making me eat, giving me cause to laugh, checking in on me minute by minute, hour by hour; and when my head gradually rose above the watermark you were still there.

We are an unlikely duo who have become firm friends. I thank God and the universe for bringing us together. We’ve been the dream team: MJ and Pippin, Harvey and Jessica. We’ve played a long game and smashed some big goals this year. We’ve enjoyed intellectual debate and I know it stung when I won but Jessica’s composure and experience will always trump Harvey’s suave impulsiveness.

You’ve taught me what real love is, what true friendship is, you’ve taught me to trust myself and back myself, you’ve encouraged me to fly and pushed me when I was afraid. You’ve listened to me rant, you’ve supported me when I’ve doubted myself, you’ve helped me see the light and taught me to have fun again.

If there truly is such a thing as a soul mate, I believe you are mine. Maybe I have relied on you too much, but the pain of your departure is so intense that it could only be the separating of souls.  You know me in a way only a very special few do. I appreciate your acceptance of my quirks and failings. Your relentless jibes at my (few) particular nuances has helped me laugh at myself and taught me not to take life so seriously.

One of my greatest joys has been watching you fill people up.  You are passionate about life and you value your friendships.  I see you reach out and care for people before you take care of yourself. I see you go out of your way for those you love and expect nothing in return.  You are like a knight who goes to war for those you love, without hesitation.  You love fiercely and unconditionally. It’s who you are. I see your strength, your passion, and I see your vulnerability.

Thank you for allowing me to witness your vulnerability, for trusting me, for confiding in me, for sharing your heart and allowing me to hold the space for you, on the few occasions, when you needed it.  You have grown stronger this year without realising and while you are independent and don’t like relying on others, just remember you’re not Superman, Batman, LeBron or any of the super heroes, you’re a man and you need a support team too mate.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you, how much I appreciate everything that you have done for me and I hope that you know I would do anything for you.  It’s inevitable that relationships change over time and while life is taking us on our different paths, please know, I will always be there for you. You’re my person (you were brave enough to volunteer) and while you have ‘K’ now, know I will be your person for as long as you want.

Thank you for getting to know me, showing me the sincerest support and unconditional love. I can’t thank you enough for the countless half strength flat whites on almond milk, or the times you stopped traffic for me, or held me back from stepping off the curb too early, for all the Pimms jugs, roof top bar chats, my first espresso martini and Jagerbomb, for the gorgeous photos, best Japanese food and the million laughs; for not shying away from my tears and trusting me with your heart and your story and your inner most feelings. Thank you.

I want you in my life forever Michael, you’ve made every single day better. That’s what makes your move so hard. I’m ecstatically happy for you. For the new life you are about to begin; a new job, a beautiful partner, a new home. You deserve it all and more.

I know you will never see yourself in the words I have written but I’ve seen it every single day, and so much more. It’s why you deserve this incredible new life that’s unfolding for you. You deserve every good thing the universe has to offer Michael because you make the world a better place.  I love you for it.

For these reasons and many, many more, the highlight of my day, was you.

xxx

Finding True North, reconnecting with the Wild Woman: what would it be like to know your true identity?

Several things have come up lately that have me pondering what it would be like to know my true identity. What would it look like to strip back the rules and routines, the stories and habits, the over civilisation and learnt behaviours, the false fronts and the polite masks? What would it be like to know and be the ‘wild woman’ within?

The spark:

If you’ve read Women who run with the wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes you’ve probably already guessed the book has sparked this curiosity. Every sentence spoke to me. The ideas expressed were truths I’d always known. It was like coming home to my grandmother’s kitchen, a safe place of love and nurturing. Women who run with the wolves explores the idea that in every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is Wild Woman. Dr Estes uses myths and stories to illustrate how women’s vitality can be restored through reconnecting with the Wild Woman archetype.

The kindling:

I remember a time when it was taboo to talk about female sexuality and sexual desires. It struck me last week that if it was taboo, in polite circles, to talk of female sexuality and sexual desire it was most unspeakable to discuss the sexuality and desire of older women. The lid is being lifted on these topics and women are beginning to share their inner most desires, laugh at failed escapades, lament lost lovers and discuss things polite ladies ought not.

I sat in a circle of women and listened to a 70-year-old woman talk about an emerging sensuality in her mid-sixties. She spoke unashamedly about being dry, going to the doctor for assistance and with the help of estrogen cream became juicy again and engaged in very sensuous sexual relationships.

As I looked around the table, many women were smiling. Those of us close to or enjoying middle age were encouraged that menopause did not mark the end of gorgeous physical connections. One young woman in her early twenties, however, was aghast. She was polite but clearly uncomfortable, a slight revulsion and mocking were evident on her gorgeous face.  “Baby girl, I thought, you are so vibrant and fresh you don’t yet know how things change.”  Other young women were like acolytes, sitting at the feet of a master. They drank in her words and were reverent.

More kindling:

There is a tendency in women, as we get older, to contain ourselves more and more. Part of the over civilisation I mentioned earlier, I guess. A friend showed me a video of her toddler niece joyfully dancing in church. I asked, “when do we become so self-conscious that we lose that freedom?”  We agreed it may be around two, possibly three. We forget so easily that wonderful liberating freedom to move our bodies, to express ourselves so openly. We close up when we are told to behave, when we are told not to shine too brightly and when we begin to sense we make others uncomfortable. Be a good girl, we are told.

Years ago, my friend and coach Adam, told me I had to stop being the good girl. I didn’t understand because I didn’t see it. I didn’t think I was being the good girl. My body knew it. Eventually, it got sick. It rebelled. My mind got lost, my emotions unravelled, and sleep became elusive. For years.

The fuel:

I’m at a turning point. Alone after 22 years I’m discovering many false faces. There are so many routines, so many beliefs about myself, so many behaviours that I constructed to survive a reality I co-created, to align with the expectations of others over a lifetime.  The thing is, these habits, beliefs and patterns are no longer necessary, and they no longer serve me. Oh, I could keep the stories going, for sure. But I’ve seen the opportunity to let them go and see them for what they are. Just stories. But when you take away the stories, the habitual behaviours, the conditioning you start to wonder, “hang on, who was I before all this shit clung to me?”

I have shared this realisation with a friend over several months and she  has added the fuel to the kindling of my current contemplations. My friend has very lovingly encouraged me to take time out and to ‘go feral’ (sounds dreadful, doesn’t it?) and to reconnect with the wild woman inside me. She sees it. She knows it’s been leashed, restricted and stifled.

I now have the chance to awaken the wild woman and to discover who and what she is, how she thinks feels and interacts with others. It’s time to go beyond fear. I have felt her calling, in the distance, for ever so long. Perhaps that’s why I wake so suddenly from sleep and lay helplessly alert, sure my name has been called, in an empty room. I have been denying and ignoring a part of myself that needs to emerge. I have no idea what I will find. I’m a little apprehensive and I’m not entirely sure how to go about it but I’m also freaking excited.  And maybe, in the end, I won’t look a whole lot different to the way I look now, but maybe, just maybe, a little bit of the unruly and wild will keep the fire going, make my cells dance, allow my light to shine and with it create a freedom to live unrestrained, untethered and joyfully.

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.

Contemplating the lines life has marked into my skin

 

“I wear my wrinkles like battle scars, having earned every last one slaying life’s dragons. They boast of my victories and some defeats while their beauty is a wealth of wisdom gained.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

I caught sight of my face, now aging, the fine lines and the not so fine lines criss crossing once smooth surfaces.  Some I dislike, others worry me not.  Those emerging, vertical puckers above my top lip repel me (can I say they are from a lifetime of kissing and thus portray myself as a passionate woman? I think not). Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?

According to the pagan stages of womanhood I am on the cusp of Crone; no longer a Maiden and leaving behind the bounty of Mother. You know what? I am not associating with that label any more.  Once it did not concern me.  I embraced the wisdom of Crone but now, standing in this place, I reject the western connotations of Crone being dried up, past a used by date.  Instead I step into the Maga phase and embrace it.

Jane Hardwicke Collings explains that now women live longer and that motherhood begins later an additional phase of womanhood has emerged; that of Maga.  This is the extended Mother phase, after Mother and before Crone. Maga is the autumn season of a woman’s life, the harvest, an integrative place. The Crone is the winter season, the season of “retirement”, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focussed, she is in contemplation mode, a distillation of her life lived. She philosophises, tells stories, prays, gardens and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, which enables a ripened access to spirit. She is the wise woman.

I’m not yet Crone and recent upheavals have helped me see I am not ready for this stage. Very recently I have been sent spiralling (when I know how I will write about it). The path before me and the environment around me changed suddenly, through no choice of my own, and while fearful, there is a future I have yet to create and I know am far from the retreat of Crone.  I am seeing a strength I had forgotten. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have and continue to collapse into tears of heartbreak and eddies of despair but I glimpse an inner fortitude that is shining away – ready to light my path.

I reflect on my earlier questions – “Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?”  Oh, for sure, I have been damaged along the way but I am fuller and more sturdy as a result (or soon will be). Diminished – hell no.  Life throws many things at us and we can choose how we respond.  I am choosing to place delight and mystery, joy and love  of self back on the shelf.  I will no longer be sucked dry of them.  I allow the hidden order and secret meanings of my life to reemerge, into full view, and explore how that feels. I choose to bring my life into better alignment with my values and beliefs.

Am I past my used by date? No way. I sense already, while not fully transitioned from my old life into the new, that I am arriving at myself.  I can see a freedom that comes with a developing confidence; a lightness at shrugging off imposed (many self imposed) boundaries, routines and habits that kept me from being my true and authentic self. I kind of like the idea of recreating my life (deep breaths to stave off panic). Like Salvador Dali, I am open to life teaching me, even if that means more of those fine lines and wrinkles but if I never look in a mirror perhaps they don’t exist. Right?

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the daily prompt; wrinkle” and by my loving son who helps me to see the light.

Delightful synchronicity

I woke early, eager to read the one word prompt that would focus my writing attention for the day. The word — synchronise — conjured images of elegant swimmers with noses  pinched, swanning about impossibly blue pools.  I thought fleetingly of time too and bronze cogs revolving in an elegant dance.

I put aside my thoughts to meditate a little, after which I drew an oracle card. My intention was for a message to shine a light on my day.  After shuffling, and before selecting a card I offered up a few words—”Blessed be“.  When I turned the card a delighted chuckle rose from my throat and into the crisp morning air.

My card was ‘The bee‘, with a much needed and timely message.

Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, was at play.

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.

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?

 

 

Four profoundly powerful practices everyone should do at least once

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve seen, and the memories you’ve made along the way

A recent hiking holiday reminded me of several things I already knew but hadn’t fully grasped the significance of. I realised there are four things every woman (and man) should do, at least once in their life but preferably more often, for a powerful realignment to their true north.

1. Sleep with your back to the earth
There is something very settling about sleeping with your back to the earth. On several multi-day hikes around the world my beloved and I have slept in the wilderness with just the thin fabric of a tent between us and the elements. Enclosed in a small space, unadorned with furnishings, without manufactured structures between the earth and ourselves we revelled in the grounding, reconnective and healing nature of this opportunity.

I find now, having done this quite a bit, that I crave to pack up and go outdoors to sleep when things get busy and out of control.   Part of the pull is getting back to basics, it’s partly about shrugging off all the unwanted and unnecessary parts of life but a greater part is about reconnecting with nature. Feeling the warmth drain out of the earth, going to bed with the sinking of the sun and rising with the trill of birds and the breaking of day is powerfully seductive in its simplicity. Why not pitch a tent in the back yard, create a lean- to and crawl under it if you don’t have the time or means to take a camping holiday or throw a sleeping bag on the ground, if you are so inclined.

2. Go hiking and carry your belongings on your back
Like the previous item this action is mind-blowing. Apart from the reality check of hiking where time is inconsequential, devices are left behind and routine turns into a gentle daily rhythm, there is something really sobering about lacing on a pair of hiking boots, slinging a pack on your back and walking in nature for several days.

When on a multi day hike you are limited by how much you can carry. It’s a great lesson in prioritising. Only the essentials are necessary for a more comfortable experience. After my first multi day hike many years ago I realised the towel and the soap and the book I’d packed weren’t necessary. Nor were several other items I thought I had to have. Not only were they adding to the weight of my pack but in the end, I didn’t even use them. More recently I realised I could swap my small brush for a comb to lighten my load. I’d taken a sleeping bag liner that wasn’t necessary with the thermals I’d carried. Why did I pack three pairs of socks when I only wore two? Once you are out on the track things change. A clean set of clothes each day isn’t as important a priority as it usually is. Not looking in a mirror or doing the usual grooming routines, one normally engages in, is liberating and refreshing (well, perhaps not too refreshing for those in close contact with you when there hasn’t been facilities to shower or bathe for several days).

I remember on the Walls of Jerusalem walk in Tasmania, a few years back, having a light bulb moment when I realised that all I needed to survive was in the pack on my back: food, water, shelter. I realised, in that moment, that so much of what I’d acquired over the years wasn’t really necessary. Yes, definitely some things make life more comfortable but going on a walk and having to consider what you’ll be happy to carry up hill and over dale day in day out helps you readjust your values and priorities. The things I long to have with me on my hikes are not things at all but the people I would love to share the experience with. Carrying a pack on a hike is a nice exercise in getting back to basics; something we all need from time to time. I challenge you to pack up and go hiking for a few days, what will you carry on your back? Who will you take with you?

3. See the sun set and rise on top of a mountain
There is something magical about a sunrise and sunset. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve seen, it’s one of those enchanting experiences. Sharing the experience with someone is even more special but sharing both, with someone you love, in the same place, is an absolute must do.

My beloved and I camped atop Brinkley Bluff in the West MacDonald Ranges recently and watched the sunset over a magnificent and vast landscape. We woke early to watch it rise again to warm the earth after a cold and windy night. That experience will stay with me forever. It was a highlight of my life such was the magnitude of it. I totally recommend you do it, you’ll not only be connecting with nature in a very real way but you’ll be investing in a shared experience with your loved one and creating a lasting memory.

4. Be a tourist in your own country.
I love to travel. It’s an enriching experience and it changes you. You can’t go home the same after all you see, do, hear and engage with. Travelling at home and visiting places in ones own country is immeasurably pleasing.

I recently visited the heart of my country, central Australia. I’d learnt about arid zones in school when I was young, I’d seen pictures in books and watched movies set in the various places I visited but nothing prepared me for the experience of actually being there. I was gobsmacked by the beauty, the vastness, the palpable spirit of the place. Of course not everywhere you go at home will have the same impact but it’s definitely worth exploring those places you know about but haven’t actually visited. It helps you have a greater appreciation for the country you live in, its history, its geology, the ecosystems that thrive there, the opportunities and the experiences available.

Many people I know were unaware they could ride a lift to the clock tower of our city hall. Nor did they know there is a magnificent art gallery and museum on the same level as the lift entrance. Discovering and exploring these points of interest creates a greater sense of connection and belonging with where you live. It is an easy way to bring more joy into your life through adventure, curiosity and discovery. I travel for work quite often now and approach each trip away with the attitude of ‘what will I discover there this time?’ Sometimes it’s beautiful botanical gardens, or quirky public art, a zoo, often it’s a peaceful place to watch life unfolding in that place.Where will your curiosity take you? What would you like to explore that’s close to home? Perhaps it’s somewhere in your own city or town.

If you feel rudderless and adrift or stressed out and totally wired why not take some time to get back to basics, to realign, to invest in yourself, to embrace life more, to reignite your sense of wonder and awe with some profoundly illuminating, yet simple practices, such as these. Go ahead. What will you do first?