What is this ‘flow’ they talk about?

Ideas, concepts, nature and art provoke contemplation in me. I can be occupied for days or weeks in quiet reflection; thoughts mulling about in the background as I go about my daily tasks. I graze and reflect, interpret and try out ideas for myself, finding links and truths, sometimes getting nowhere other times feeling sated by the mere joy of connecting with the brilliance of the original creator of the work.

I read the following idea in Rob Brezsnys’astrological newsletter and made note of it for further thought.

When they say, “Go with the flow,” what “flow” are they talking about? Do they mean the flow of your early childhood conditioning? The flow of your friends’ opinions? The latest cultural trends? Your immediate instinctual needs? When they say, “Go with the flow,” are they urging you to keep doing what’s easiest to do and what will win you the most ego points, even if it keeps you from being true to your soul’s code? Consider the possibility that there are many flows to go with, but only one or some of them are correct for you. Do you know which? Maybe it’s the one flowing in an underground cavern, far from the mad crowd.

My initial ruminations have led me to dismantle this and consider a piece at a time.

When they say, “Go with the flow,” what “flow” are they talking about?

 Good freaking point man.“In flow” too is another curious statement. I’ve always wondered what flow is, even though I’ve used this terminology myself. What do I actually mean?

Do they mean the flow of your early childhood conditioning?

Oh, hell no. That would be freaking disastrous. I would not like that flow. I’ve been trying to leave that ebbing cesspit behind me for most of my recent history, at least 20 years. (Lol. Recent!)

The flow of your friends’ opinions?

Nope. Well, maybe, sometimes. This isn’t always a bad thing. Others can have their opinions, I don’t need to convince them of mine. If I don’t like theirs I don’t have to follow but I don’t have to battle either. If their opinions impinge on my knowledge of what’s right for me then it’s a big no. If it’s about allowing and experiencing something new or different, then yeah, maybe that’s an okay flow to go with.

The latest cultural trends?

I’m not into trends or fads or fashions. So, no.

Your immediate instinctual needs? 

Perhaps this is it. The key here would be to separate self-indulgence from instinct but if we feel something is right why not go with it? This might actually cause a flow state.

When they say, “Go with the flow,” are they urging you to keep doing what’s easiest to do and what will win you the most ego points, even if it keeps you from being true to your soul’s code? 

Well, clearly not. Why would you? Do I do this? Umm, yeah, maybe I do what’s easy sometimes but ego points? I don’t understand that. I don’t consciously do anything that would keep me from my soul code. I think that’s all part of becoming aware and conscious. I strive to unlock my true self, my psychic abilities, my talents. I don’t want to stay away from them any longer. I want to move toward and into them now. Yes, there are triggers and behaviours and habits I am trying to unlock and dissolve so I can come into myself more fully. There is talk of peeling back the layers of the onion. But what’s at the centre? Anything? What happens when there are no more layers? It’s all learning and all part of the magnificent course of life. Maybe this, right now, is the me I am meant to be, the suffering and the joy, the stumbling, the getting up and moving forward are all part of it.

Consider the possibility that there are many flows to go with, but only one or some of them are correct for you. Do you know which?

This statement I agree with. There clearly is more than one flow. We need to be aware of the flow we choose to go with and aware of the consequences. Sometimes there is no harm in catching a ride, just know when to get off. Choose flow that aligns with your heart. Hop on a current that scares you occasionally to see where it leads. Let your heart and intuition guide choice here, I think.

           Maybe it’s the one flowing in an underground cavern, far from the mad crowd.

Anything away from the maddening crowds sounds good to me. The forest. The beach. A mountain top.

What flow will I choose today? The flow of my heart I think.

What does flow mean to you? Have you caught a particularly interesting current lately?

 

Reinvent yourself, reclaim your essence

Reclaim yourself from the living dead. Life beckons”
Srividya Srinivasan

Until the last few weeks I had noticed myself saying, “This is not how I normally behave.” “This is so out of character for me.” “I don’t normally do this.”

It’s been fifteen months since the dissolution of my marriage, since my life change irrevocably in so many ways, for the better, mostly. In this time, I’ve become aware of and begun dismantling some of the habits, beliefs and behaviours that developed during the past 22 years.  Initially, I didn’t know how to define myself without the construct of that relationship around me. Who was I when the persona I’d built, to live within the confines of the relationship, was no longer needed?  How do I navigate the world as a middle aged single woman? It was all very puzzling at first because I no longer had to do many of the things I’d always done now that I was no longer in a relationship. My approach to life was different. Routines fell away because I realised I’d created them to provide a sense of control over my life when I had very little control over the direction or depth of my relationship. Interactions with people changed too. I became more patient with people and more gracious. As a result of my intense pain I noticed I was more accepting of others, willing to listen more, less quick to judge or dismiss. Then of course interactions with men changed too. I was able to have deeper and longer conversations. Spend time with a range of men, things you don’t do, well, I didn’t do, in a marriage. I could go out and not worry about being home at certain times. I could go out on a ‘school night’ even.

It slowly dawned on me that I didn’t have to follow the same rules. That I could choose differently.  I began to let go of “you must be who you’ve always been” and just watched where things led.

I’ve experienced things I haven’t before because of the situation I was in, but I can make different choices now.  If a behaviour doesn’t feel right, then I know that I won’t repeat it. If a thought doesn’t gel, then I won’t go down that road again. But just because I haven’t done or thought or said particular things over the last 20 years or so doesn’t mean I’m not being me or that I’m acting out of character, it just means I’m exploring the possibilities, nudging structures that may no longer serve me. And you know what? If I wake up disappointed with myself, I can always start over and begin again.

The last year has been like an experiment to create a new identity for myself. It’s work in progress, so I don’t think I’ll be bursting through a ribbon, at a convenient end point, proclaiming a bright and shiny new me. The process is more like a resurrection. It’s like a remembering and rediscovering of my truth, a truth that become hidden among the needs of others, a truth hidden in the recesses of memory and youth, if it ever truly had time to develop in the first place. I feel that I’m re-emerging and reframing my life.  I’m discovering that what and who I always thought I was isn’t necessarily true anymore. I am reclaiming the essence of who I am and redefining myself.

If you find yourself in a similar position, my advice is to: resurrect, reclaim, restart and keep moving forward.

 

What happens when you find yourself in the Bardo?

Honor the space between no longer and not yet. — Nancy Levin

Loosely speaking, “Bardo” is the state of existence between two lives on earth, after death and before one’s next birth. It is a state between death and rebirth but not a purgatory as a Christian perspective might suggest.

This Tibetan word, with its provocative connotation, means a transition or a gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another. Barmeans “in between,” and domeans “suspended” or “thrown.”

On listening to an interview by Richard Fidler with George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, I realised I was in the Bardo.  I feel like I’m in suspended animation, in a period of time between my usual or known way of life and what is to come.  Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t on hold.  It’s not like I’m waiting for the perfect conditions to continue but a lot has happened recently, and I find myself in an in-between place — a place without solid roots, a place of itinerancy and it’s a curious place to be.  At first, being adrift rocked me. There were moments of shock, panic and grief. After several weeks, I find I like this place of not belonging, of having no ties or roots. I belong in no place and yet every place.  I have the chance to see life from a different perspective, with fresh eyes and a respect I have not exercised before.

If the Bardo describes a state between reincarnation on earth, after death, it’s a stunning analogy for my life. After 22 years of a certain way of life having spectacularly ended and being without a home, and working toward finding a new one, I find I have the opportunity for a reincarnation of sorts. There is much to learn about who I am. So much of who we are is a response to our circumstances, relationships and the situations we experience.  Strip all that away and who are we?  On a number of occasions in recent months I’ve been asked questions that begin —  “How do you behave when faced with…”.  I can only respond with —  “I used to react like…. but now, given all the reasons I behaved that way no longer exist, I don’t know.”

Rather than face this obscurity and lack of certainty with stark terror, it’s a wonderful time of contemplation and inner reflection*, of spiritual and personal growth as well as transformation.

Being in the Bardo isn’t as dire as might be expected. It’s liberating, consolidating and a unique opportunity that I am, now that I can articulate it, grateful to be experiencing. There is part of me that longs to linger and I need to remind myself it’s a transitional time and place and that a rebirth must ultimately follow. With that vision in mind, I approach with excitement and anticipation.

 

*Interestingly my computer auto corrected reflection and it read perfection. We might never reach inner perfection but gee, it’s a gorgeous concept and a beautiful perspective to contemplate. Thanks autocorrect, for once I’m impressed.

Life is a trapeze

Maude Banvard, The Catch, Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, 1907

Life is a trapeze.
It may be scary to jump off
but if you let go,
take a risk and trust,
you can revel in the heady excitement
of the leap
and learn to fly.

Shannyn Steel

This image captivated me this week.  When I saw it I drew a deep breath and sat up entranced.  It crept back into my thoughts constantly. I wasn’t sure why it enthralled me so until I sat down just now to write about it.

The image is a beautiful metaphor for so many aspects of life.

Jumping off – you can’t begin anything until you take that leap of faith.  We all know the adage that reminds us that if we don’t jump, we can’t fly.  If you haven’t jumped, and you are pushed, take it as a sign you should have jumped and embrace this new chance to fly.

Letting go – jumping off requires letting go. You can’t grab hold of the next bar until you let go of the one you are holding.  Who knows what’s next but a friend of mine regularly reminds me to choose the exciting nerve-wracking option (can’t get any more nerve-wracking than trapeze. Well, there’s skydiving I guess).

Transitions –  all transitions require jumping off and letting go. It’s in that space in-between that we reassemble and redefine ourselves, so we can fully embrace the next opportunity.

Living a happy and fulfilled life – do something that scares you every day , or so say today’s life coaches.  Jumping, letting go, choosing the nerve-wracking option will cover that objective pretty much. Living a happy and fulfilled life is also, for me,  about not tying happiness to a person or things but to goals.

Then there is vulnerability, trust and risk. You can’t gain anything without an element of risk, sometimes you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to attract the good in life and even when trust has been broken, you can’t live life without it. To get the best out of people you have to expect the best and offer your best. It’s a simple, elegant yet uneasy equation but one that will pay off.

I am sure there are many more elements to be captured from this stunning image. I’m not sure I’ve exhausted every reason this photograph delights me. I shall continue to ponder its magic and messages. In the meantime, take a leap of faith – see where you land. I will be, you can be sure.

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?

 

 

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

 

Life unfiltered – looking through different lenses

image

The lens we look through will determine what we see.
Renee Swope

I often encourage people to intentionally focus on a particular perspective by having them consider an idea or a topic through a framework, paradigm, theory or viewpoint.  I’ll say – “let’s look through the lens of a …”, “we’ll explore this through the lens of …”.

This idea of exploring the world through different lenses is interesting  and has been quite pertinent to me this last week.  When I reflect, my first encounter of looking through a different lens came, oddly enough, in my childhood through the cartoon character Mr Magoo, a near-sighted retiree who bumbles from one comical escapade to another. This was the first time I realised (and no doubt, I couldn’t actually articulate it back then) that I could see things others may not or that I could view events differently from my own vantage point. Kaleidoscopes, a type of lens, with their colourful and varying patterns composing and recomposing themselves as reflected in tiny mirrors, enchanted and transfixed me. The world looked different through a kaleidoscope.  I suppose the camera lens was next.  My father had an avid interest in photography and the idea of freezing a moment to be viewed at another time drew my attention. How bewitching to view an image with the benefit of hindsight, with distance, from outside the situation looking in.  To capture a moment to help strengthen a memory is so compelling.

Then there are words,  another set of lenses through which I’ve experienced the world.  Books and poetry, letters and essays. I’ve seen the world through the lens of many an artist too – their paintings and photographs, their sculpture and film have intrigued, moved and delighted me. They have taught me many lessons, sent me off on journeys of discovery and more.

I’ve looked through the lenses of different theories and notions, of different ideologies and standpoints. I’ve tried to employ the lens of empathy to inform my actions, thoughts and beliefs.

I have viewed life and explored its many wonders, trials and events through the lens of a  curious though private child, a complex, self-conscious teenager, a grieving granddaughter, an unyielding and misunderstood young woman, a loving and loyal wife, a vigilant and watchful mother. And it’s this chronology, this moving from maiden through matron and heaven forbid I say it – to crone that I now find I look through a different set of lenses.  Yes, alas, this new type of optical through which I will now view the world, only part-time mind you, are a full framed, clear lensed set of pretty little goggles.

Looking glass, drinking glass? Reading glass!
An affront.
My age, you say, crept up on me
I can no longer compensate.

Glasses.
The reading kind for you today, you see.
It’s your age.
Harrumph

Hush. Hush.
Time to look at the world differently.

It should be a trial, and yet, it’s not.
It simply is.
You see.
It just, bloody well, is.

In and out. Test this, test that.
Look up, look down.
Read this, read that.
Look near, look far.
It’s time for glasses you see.

Tsk Tsk.
Drinking glass?
The looking glass?
Venetian glass?
No, no a reading glass.

Hmm,
I see.
Ho hum,
So dumb.
I’m numb.
What a bum.

Itch! Witch!
Through the looking glass, a grandma I see.
Grey hair.
Crinkles and wrinkles.
The clearer I see, the more damned I be.

Nature is kind, my aunt once said.
Your eyesight goes and with it the wrinkles and crinkles, the greys and the years.

Blink, blink.
Such a to do.
There’s really no fuss.
I’m settled and calm, surprisingly.
Rally and rant – oh, no, not me.

It’s a change.
It’s flow.
New optics,
Silver shot locks
Different look. Different outlook.
No longer a maiden. Alas, a crone.

Wait, wait.
It’s an interesting life.
This cycle of things.
It’s simply a new lens, or two,
through which to filter the world around and beyond you.

image

All the world’s a stage, when you look at it.

image

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Søren KierkegaardIt’s

So much happens in the world, in life in general, in a fortnight. A few media stories, among the many headlines, caught and kept my attention. I found myself  reflecting at different times on a variety of matters. My reflection has led me down different paths; some in search of clarity, some nonsensical and irrelevant (maybe that should be irreverent) some paths have led to a greater sense of acceptance and an awareness that, come what may, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude. 

Pop icon Prince died. Many beautiful tributes from celebrities and fans around the world shone a light on his talent and helped me realise how instrumental he was in forging a brave new world in music.  Though I was never a fan, I do agree that he was a talented musician and, in my mind’s eye, I remember seeing his flamboyant appearances on countdown, a popular music TV show, when I was younger.

Queen Elizabeth II turned 90, making her the first monarch to still rule at that wonderful age. When I see the Queen in photographs with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she reminds me of my own grandmother and I wonder if the Queen too has a heart of gold as well as being an incredibly determined, passionate and focused leader. I’ve marvelled for many years at her particular talents. Her job is certainly not one for the faint hearted and she seems to manage it with dignity, grace and ease.

The 25th April in Australia is ANZAC Day. It marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915.  But it is more than that.  It is a day of remembrance in Australia, a day to give thanks to all the men and women who served and died in war. The ANZACs embodied the qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice. These qualities contribute to our sense of national identity. My own flesh and blood have fought in various wars, their stories I am only now uncovering. Lest we forget.

This past week marked the one year anniversary of my most recent trip to Nepal and the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 9000 people and left close to 21 000 people homeless. The initial earthquake and many powerful aftershocks devastated many parts of Nepal which sadly are still in rubble. Apart from the human cost and loss of life many buildings have been marked as condemned with little in the way of financial support reaching those in need. Having been among the people of Nepal at that time and experiencing terror like never before, it is cold comfort to be living in safety knowing those in need are still suffering.

Having been a teacher of ancient history I read with bated breath about the discovery of a 4500 year old female mummy in Peru. The mummy and the items found with her suggest she was of nobel rank and that gender equity existed at the time. Fascinating exciting stuff.  This significant finding opens the door on a civilisation about which we have little knowledge. While cause for celebration archeologists disagree on a number of points, and there’s the rub, while this is an exciting discovery leading to new insights we also, and rightfully so, have more questions to answer, theories to explore and ideas to support.

I was startled to realise it had been 10 years since the Beaconsfield mine disaster that made news headlines around the world. A rock fall in a gold mine in Tasmania trapped 17 miners. As luck would have it fourteen escaped relatively quickly, leaving 3 men trapped below. For two weeks the rescue efforts were televised and were the focus of many Australians.  Two of the three men trapped below were rescued. the third, Larry Knight died in the collapse.  I remember meeting the two survivors Brant Webb and Todd Russell at a book signing. While I am sure they will forever and a day remember their experience their humble, exuberant, larrikin spirit will stay with me forever. I am known to wear my heart upon my sleeve and empathise deeply with others and this was definitely one occasion where I truly felt a maelstrom of emotions vying for release.

The game is afoot – Game of Thrones that is.  There has been much buzz about the next season of Game of Thrones. Not a show for the faint hearted. Fans are enthralled with the idea of Jon Snow being reprised and raised from the dead.  In this show, if such a thing were possible, the reanimation of this much-loved character would be like an ill wind which blows no man to good. Would death by such means not change one’s outlook, would not one’s heart be as cold as any stone?

This year marks the 400th year since the great Bard himself departed our fair earth. Shakespeare died on April 23rd 1616. Interestingly, he was baptised on April 26th 1564 and so, many people celebrate an assumed birthday on April 23rd. If the numerous events locally and internationally are anything to go by the celebrations have been as merry as the day is long. With so many opportunities to celebrate with plays, dinners, fancy dress and readings it is hard to find the one event that’s the be all and end all of celebrations. For goodness sake it’s hard to be fancy free when you are torn and indecisive.  Amid all the hype I did find one option rather inviting. It was a challenge to weave five of Shakespeare’s most common expressions into a conversation.

I trust my attempt has not set your teeth on edge. I have not slept one wink wondering if the method in my madness will please or displease. I trust none will be up in arms over too much of a good thing. There are over 20 phrases coined or popularised by Shakespeare in the above post. Can you find them?And thereby hangs a tale of a week, or so,  in review.

Do you still have your kaleidoscope?

image

“The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.”                                            James Edward Allen, American Artist

I’ve been experimenting. Not again you might say. But yes, why stop? Life is full of opportunities to explore and investigate. Anyway, my experiment has to do with perspectives and ways of thinking.

I’ve noticed I’m a black hat thinker. Have you heard of the six thinking hats developed by Edward de Bono? De Bono identified six ways of thinking and to help maximise the potential of these styles in classrooms, the boardroom and beyond he labeled them with a coloured hat. A hat you could literally or figuratively wear as called for in different situations.

The image below provides a quick summary (sourced image ).

image

So, as I was saying. When in new situations or faced with new challenges and potential obstacles I more often than not go straight to black hat. I identify all the possible problems, threats, dangers and risks. I used to lament this quirk in my nature. However, I’ve noticed, that as I’ve accepted my mental model more that it isn’t all negative. I do this instinctively so that I can manage potential issues to ensure success is more likely.

I recently complimented a work colleague on his yellow hat thinking. He says yes, immediately. He sees potential and is ready to make magic happen. No task is too big or too small for him. We are total opposites in our initial reactions. From his wonderfully yellow position he shared with me that the strength of a team relies on all types of thinkers. That we compliment each other with our differences.

What a beautiful perspective.

I thought then that life is like a potpourri, its richness and wonder comes from ingredients of different colours, shapes and textures. Then I remembered the wonder of a childhood toy, the kaleidoscope. Life is like that too. It’s true beauty is revealed when we are aware of other perspectives, when we are open to accepting them and challenging ourselves to try on different ‘hats’ so we too can view the world differently.

In my work as a facilitator of teaching and learning I’ve challenged my adult learners to use different hats in given scenarios. They’ve been intrigued and delighted. Personally, I’ve been using my green hat to explore creative alternatives, at home and at work, and it’s so much fun.

Can you identify the hat you wear most? Does it need a little holiday? Are you willing to try on another hat, or two or three this coming week? I encourage you to change things up for, in the words of Sharon Salzberg, “life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.”

Have fun,

Shannyn

Life, it’s a gift. So write your own rules.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Pope Paul VI

image

A friend recently wrote about attending the funeral of a dear friend at the end of last year. Reading her post I was moved and sobered by her loss, the passing of one so young, and the very gift of life itself.

Death forces us to sit up straight and pay attention. It makes all the little things, well, look just like little things. It gives us perspective. It’s a sharp hit of reality that forces us to focus on life. A death at a time of year when many people set resolutions and goals is particularly poignant.

How often do we hear that life is short? It is. It’s too short to live with regret. To live with fear. To live small.  Life is too short not to express ourselves fully, to feel deeply and to enjoy being crazy and daring and doing the things we love.

I wrote recently of setting some goals and creating a love list for the year. I’m going to hike a mountain, swing on a trapeze, I’m going to go to the beach and walk in the forest more often. I’m going to meet friends for lunch and take my husband out, to a different restaurant, each month for dinner.  I have plans for the year. My plans are my way of living. Of making life fun. Of honouring the lives of those I love who have lost theirs. But you know, I was thinking, as I was reading my friend’s blog, that to really honour our own life and the sweet beauty of it, we really ought to focus on giving stuff up too. I’m not talking about sugar and alcohol or cigarettes or whatever your vice might be. I reckon we need to give up guilt and shame and negative self talk. We need to free ourselves from the rules that have bound us, that have hemmed us in. We really ought to rewrite the rules of our lives and live on our own terms unrestricted by those old limiting patterns and beliefs, of the pointless merry-go-round of self sabotage.

The reality of our finite existence sometimes comes with the tragic loss of loved ones. What better way to honour the lives of those who have lost theirs by honouring our own.  Go ahead and make this year your best ever. What will you start doing, stop doing and do more if?

Shannyn