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.

 

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Light and shadow intersect in deep healing.

In order for healing to occur, our good and evil, light and shadow must overlap. Embrace your darkness. See what wonders emerge.

Ancient shamans used to perform a balancing ritual, one in which light and dark meet. The light and dark must meet to integrate otherwise we run the risk of the dark erupting and manifesting in depression, anger, misadventure. Repressing our shadow blocks us from living authentically. It isn’t something to be afraid of exploring.

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Sitting in a Melbourne pub on a Tuesday afternoon in March I idly sifted through the photos on my iPad and found a screen shot of a comment I had left on a friend’s Facebook post in 2014. I don’t remember the post but it must have held some meaning for me to take a shot of my comment and save it all this time. I wrote:

I wonder how often we are open to allowing others to see our darkness, so they can forgive us and love us. I know I make it difficult for people to love me because I hide my darkness from them for fear of … for fear of everything. Being abandoned, being vulnerable, having to explain myself, defend myself. Blah, blah, blah (Yes, I wrote blah, blah, blah).
On the other hand, why is it I am aware of the darkness in others, and when I soften to it I am more willing to accept them for who they are and embrace them more?

Someone responded to my comment saying, “when we are being authentic and vulnerable we are exposing that shame, that fear, that guilt or whatever it is for us that keeps us small or limited/ frightened. People who love and know you, won’t hold it against you, they will love you more.”

It was odd to read this and reflect. I’ve not been afraid to be vulnerable in sharing deep thoughts and feelings. People have commented on my writing and applauded my vulnerability. However, the one person I felt I should have been able to truly show my darkness too, didn’t embrace me more but rather walked away.

Sitting in that Melbourne bar, on my second glass of red wine, I realised it was not my darkness he was afraid of but my light. He also acknowledged he had dimmed my light and was letting me go because of it. Yes, he did actually say that and while I’m not entirely convinced he is that sensitive or attuned, it is nice to hold onto, even though I’d rather villainise him. What I realise now is there was no understanding in him. No amount of explanation could help him meet me, see me, know me, understand me. He was unable to hold me in my darkness, or my light, to accept or comprehend me simply because he had never interrogated or opened to his own darkness. But rather stuffed it down, denied it and avoided it. You can’t hold someone else in their darkness if you don’t acknowledge your own. It would be something too foreign, too frightening.

Now, when I meet people I articulate my darkness. It’s hard to show it but I talk about it, warn people, make them aware so they have a chance to run early and so they know what to expect but most of all to save myself the bother of muddling through it and being disappointed later.

The people who really know me, who really love me, do in fact love me even more once they’ve seen it, felt it, held me through it. These champions of mine; my son, my sister, my friends; see the whole of me and keep on supporting me. Funny my life partner, was not one of them. I knew the moment I accepted his desperate, and now I realise manipulative plea because he’s done the same to another, to support him that I was doomed to a life less than I wanted. I saw it all in that moment and yet was too afraid to say no, such was his need.

I made an observation to a friend that I seem to have a habit of collecting broken birds. People who need healing come to me. I’ve never chosen a partner, they’ve chosen me and as I reflect, they all needed healing. I no longer want to heal people who drain me, who turn around and smite me, hurt me as a consequence. Recently, a man asked how my dating life was going. I mentioned it wasn’t really going and something along the lines of seeming to attract men who were afraid to be alone regardless of a glaring mismatch, that many needed validation, or something along those lines. He made the observation that I attract broken pigeons because I am an empath. How astute. He too had been doing the same, until our meeting.

I have meandered away from where I began, and, in my wandering, I now know that it’s unlikely anyone who needs to be healed will be a worthy witness to my dark side. I am not afraid of my darkness, I can love others despite theirs. I can love someone who is willing to show their darkness and not play small, not limit themselves or our relationship by keeping things sanitary and falsely even keeled. I know too that I require a man who will not run from mine. Who will hold fast. Who will embrace me and help me weather the storm. Who I can be truly vulnerable with and who will ride out the rolling, roiling ocean of feminine emotion while remaining steadfastly in his masculine.

I’ve been talking a lot about the masculine and feminine lately, it’s a theme that keeps coming up for me. Years ago, two very intuitive and spiritual men said they could see me running women’s circles about the divine feminine, female energy and goddess energy. I laughed. It was so far outside my comfort zone, interest and lifestyle it just didn’t seem possible. Once I became more interested in spirituality it seemed possible just not probable. At the time I so often defaulted to my masculine that I had no sense of my feminine. I actually ran from it. In order to survive in my work I had to project toughness, though I believe I was, and was often complemented for being, caring and empathetic. In my primary relationship I had to fight to be heard and seen. I also had to protect myself so often that the feminine was very deeply buried. But here she is emerging. Sometimes as Kali energy, sometimes as Venus energy. People notice. I see people notice it. This is new for me. I have been fortunate to have a wonderful man come into my life who has allowed me to explore the feminine. I have seen too how characteristics and behaviours in other men, not fully in their masculine, throw me out of it. And still I digress from my initial musings on dark and light. But perhaps I may still be on track; for while I am now revealing and feeling more into and enjoying the soft feminine, it is the revealing of the dark feminine that I haven’t explored before and that’s where the path takes me.

I wonder, will I bond with a partner who will be open to my darkness as well as my light, so he might love the whole of me? Will I partner with a man without the fear of abandonment, with whom I can be vulnerable, without having to explain myself or defend myself, a man who will hold me not only in my light but also when the tempest rises thus allowing my heart to remain open and unobstructed? Will I unite with an ally who appreciates being seen and supported in their light and dark? A dream I trust can be a reality. I welcome such a gift.

Love isn’t safe; its beauty is in the unpredictable, the rise and fall, the light and dark. To make it safe only makes it temporary. Know who you are. Know what you want. Be vulnerable. Express yourself and tell your partner what you need. Learn what they need. Be conscious. Talk to the people you love. Commit consciously and meet, truly meet them. This and more.

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

The Road Between Us –– my return to fiction

“I have claimed that escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Every now and then I read a book I just have to share. The Road Between Us is one of them.

Now, I have to admit, I haven’t read fiction for some time and part of my enamourement could be due to the feeling of returning home after a long absence and sinking, delightedly back into the embrace of a long-lost love.  But I believe it is more than that.

Nigel Farndale’s book is exquisite. I finished it today in a quite coffee shop in a normally popular South Brisbane alley. Having escaped the office to read the last 17 pages I found my heart aching and tears brimming.

Explaining to a friend how two parallel storylines, of different eras, were woven together her nose wrinkled, exclaiming that device often didn’t work for her.  I admit, at first, there seemed to be no apparent connection between the contemporary 2012 timeline and the one beginning in the late 1930’s but it soon became clear. The reader is not left wanting.

Initially, I was more invested in one plot line than the other then, miraculously, it would switch until I was hungry simply to keep reading, regardless of the narrative. Farndale skilfully keeps the reader on track, devoted to each storyline as well as provoking the intellect with some not insignificant moral and social questions.  As in life, relationships are paramount. I feel the tentacles of the rich, elegant and complex relationships of the novel wrapping around my thoughts and I expect they will for some time.

I acknowledge my inexperience, awkwardness and lack of sophistication as a book reviewer but, in this instance, I also do not want to give too much away.

I discovered The Road Between Us in a plastic box in a friend’s linen cupboard. A box of holiday reading options for friends.  My copy was scarred by afternoons by the pool and the merriment of holiday makers.  Nonetheless, it was a significant find for me and a glorious return to the world of fiction.  It is poignant, stunning, electrically charged, heart-wrenching and heart-warming with some skilfully refined and unexpected twists to enrich it even further.

I’m flagging this as a must read novel.  Have you read it? I would love to know what you thought. Can you recommend a book I should read next?

Deciphering emotions—improving relationships

Frayed and frazzled by data overload

“The ways of men and women are such a puzzle. And I could barely decipher my own feelings, let along anyone else’s.” ― Megan Shepherd, The Madman’s Daughter

If I asked you to list all the emotions you could name, how many would you come up with? I can produce a list that requires more fingers and toes to count them on than I have. Several people I asked also listed off a decent bundle. Interestingly though, depending on what source you read, there are only a handful of basic human emotions. Some researches suggest four, which include anger, fear, happiness and sadness while others include the addition of disgust and surprise. All other emotions are versions, subsets if you will, of those basic few. Does that surprise you? It did me.

Consider too that the human face has forty-two muscles, which express emotions, and is capable of creating up to 7000 different expressions. Add to that titbit of information that each face due to gender, structure and development is slightly different and may express those emotions in different ways. There are those among us who betray nothing on their face and yet their emotions volley at us, unannounced, through words and actions. Deciphering emotions can be tricky.

Dealing with emotions is complicated. They are, according to Daniel Shapiro: unavoidable, numerous, fluid, multilayered, varied in impact and triggered by multiple possible causes. Is it any wonder we find it hard to negotiate the emotional terrain in our relationships? A better way to prepare to deal effectively with emotions is to recognise and learn how to respond to the core concerns behind the emotion.

Fisher and Shapiro (2005), experienced in high stakes negotiations, developed a framework to deal effectively with emotions by focusing on five core concerns that are important to most of us. They are appreciation, autonomy, affiliation, status, and role.

Shapiro suggests we can use these five core concerns as both a lens and a lever to simplify our approach to emotions; whether we notice them displayed across the face or more overtly through verbalisation or behaviours. As a lens the core concerns can provide us with a way to understand the cause of emotion and as a lever, to offer a way to respond to emotions to improve the situation.

It’s worth investing some time observing and appreciating each of the core concerns. It is a skill that will assist you whether in workplace or personal interactions. It is a skill that will assist you in building rapport, more cooperative behaviour and better relationships. The following exercise suggestions come from Shapiro’s article, Teaching students how to use emotions as they negotiate (2006).

Exercise

Observe the core emotional concern in your own life and appreciate the core concern in situations you observe.

Steps

Take a week to notice each core concern and how it arises in your life and then a second week to appreciate that concern in an interaction you have with someone else. Journal your findings and experiences. This process is repeated for each core concern.

Example:

During the first week dedicated to appreciation, you might observe/write about your frustration when your suggestion at a meeting was ignored or brushed over.

During the following week you might actively appreciate someone else’s input in a meeting or seek their input on a project. Mentally note or journal the experience; what worked well, what might you do differently in the future?

The guiding questions below, linked to each core concern, might support your observations in this exercise.

Appreciation: were your thoughts, feelings, and actions devalued, or acknowledged as having merit?

Autonomy: was your freedom to make decisions impinged upon, or respected?

Affiliation: were you treated as an adversary and kept at a distance, or treated as a colleague/ equal?

Status: was your standing treated as inferior to others, or given full recognition where deserved?

Role: did you feel the many roles you play were meaningless, or personally fulfilling?

Of course there is a quicker method. You could spend one week observing all the core concerns. Journal the situations in which you observe the impact of the core concerns being addressed or unaddressed. During the next week, you could use at least one of the core concerns to try to stimulate positive emotions in yourself or others. Write about a situation and its impact on people’s emotions.

Play around with this idea of identifying the core concerns behind emotions. Whether there are 4, 6 or 20. For me, it’s a better model than trying to decipher 7000 expressions and trying to deal with them based on interpreting superficial data. Have fun. I’d be keen to hear what you discover.

Connecting to place

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The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. Lewis Mumford

When I was young I used to associate Sunday mass with strong, floral perfume and giddiness. The intense perfume the old ladies wore coupled with the tropical heat and hunger (mass was at 6pm, dinner time) would make me giddy.

Purple reminded me of my friend Colleen, who loved the colour. On seeing it I would instantly be reminded of her bedroom, with the soft gauzy curtains and lush shag rug, where we spent hours playing as children.

Into adulthood, fish and chips was a meal that transported me to the beach, a place where we had indulged in this treat as children.

Our senses connect us to the world. They are of course valuable in and of themselves but they can also imprint experiences and emotions associated with them in our memories, for a very long time in some cases. Our senses can evoke strong emotional reactions.  There is a particular spray deodorant that triggers extremely negative reactions in me whenever I smell it. It sends me reeling back to a time and place that wasn’t one of the happiest in my life. On the other hand, there is a smell that I can’t describe to you because it isn’t readily available.  I imagine it occurs only in certain places but I vividly remember as a shy and socially inept teenager visiting the house of my uncle’s friend, a stranger to me, and instantly feeling at ease and at home because this house smelt like my Nana and Papa’s house. I’ve always been strongly aware, quite sensitive and reactive, in some cases, to sound, smell, touch and visual input.

After visiting an interactive exhibition about my city; in which a number of residents shared a smell they associated with the city and vials of some of those smells, including thunderstorm, frangipani and garbage were on display to strengthen the experience; I gave pause to consider if I have any associations linked to my fair city and where none instinctively existed, I began to ponder what associations I would consider best suited to the place I now call home.

It sounds a little odd, I know, but many people do this, perhaps unconsciously. Do you have any connections to where you live? Does it have a colour, a taste, a symbol, a sound that is quintessentially about the place you live?

What follows are my mental and sensory associations to my city.

Smell: The smell that reminds me most of Brisbane was formed in my younger years before I even lived here. The annual Royal Exhibition was a phenomenon I was captivated with. Growing up in a regional area we simply didn’t have anything comparable and so the smell that permeates the air at that magical wonderland is Brisbane to me. It’s not the smell of the cattle pavilion nor the scented wood chopping arena, it is in fact the aroma of Dagwood Dogs (frankfurters o a stick, coated in batter and deep-fried) and tomato sauce.

Symbol: The muddy, murky Brisbane river snaking across the city is the strongest image I have of Brisbane. The river is such a prominent feature of our landscape and lifestyle that  I can’t think about the city without also bringing to mind our river.

Colour: Jacaranda purple is the colour of Brisbane.  In my first year of university the flowering Jacaranda trees around campus took my breath away. The whole of Brisbane is transformed by these blossoms for several months a year. Parks everywhere are dotted with purple covered trees and carpets of purple flowers underneath. I love the deep shade they take on just before a thunderstorm.

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Sound: Cicadas and the Australian summer pretty much go hand in hand. I used to dread the chirrup of these insects on a hot and sultry afternoon when the heat and damp hung in the air, the grass crunched underfoot and ice cream would drip down cones faster than one could lick it. There was a sense of helplessness in the sultry heat that they conjured in me.

Credit to Dodgerton Skillhause

Credit to Dodgerton Skillhause

Touch: If I had to share a touch or texture that is Brisbane I would say it was bindis.  Yep. Those pesky barbed prickles that hide in lawns, parks and anywhere green.  I cannot tell you how many times my joyful run toward a playground swing would be crippled by feet burning and smarting from the sting of imbedded prickles.

 

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?

The Gift

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“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” – Jonathan Huie

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

Often when relationships end, especially when they have ended unpleasantly, we look at all the bad, all the damage and all the hurt that was generated. Recently I was reminded of an old relationship, one that ended many, many years ago. My relationship with this person was tenuous. It didn’t so much end but dragged on unpleasantly for a long time. It was unpleasant not least of all because of the damage done to me but to others I cared for as well. I have done so much work to calm my raging heart and turbulent head. I’ve cut chords and forgiven. I’ve written letters, pouring out my angst, and burnt them, I’ve even sent some to sea. I’ve meditated and used visualisation and, well, you name it, I’ve done it. Over the years, maturity and time have healed my wounds. The rage has abated, and, while there isn’t a sense of true calm about this person, my every waking moment isn’t consumed with thoughts of them. The occasional thought no longer propels me to the edge of reason, teetering on the brink of a black hole of rage and self-destruction.

This last week, I was challenged to look at the gift in that relationship. Yes, you read it correctly, the GIFT!

Now isn’t that an interesting concept? “You mean there was gift amidst all that anger and hate and shame and agony?” Wow! That idea blew my mind for an instant. But you know, it was there. There was a gift; a tremendous and beautiful gift. One I would not have sought for myself if it hadn’t been for that person coming into my life. I spent the next week reviewing the magic of that relationship, looking at it from a new and different perspective. It’s changed my outlook and it’s amplified my gratitude for so many things.

I see now how that relationship, as difficult and fraught as it was, as agonising and draining as it was, has shaped me. It has, through the gift, rounded out my life and made me whole. What an incredible discovery to make. I now feel true forgiveness for the other person. I now know what real gratitude and love is as I can now hold that person in my heart with compassion, respect and a new sense of understanding.

Sounds a bit dramatic and over the top, doesn’t it? I can’t explain the shift that has occurred for me in any other way. Imagine what our lives would be like if we looked for the gift in those relationships that ended unexpectedly or in ways we hadn’t planned. Imagine if we looked for the gift, instead of focussing on the hurt. Imagine if gratitude took over where revenge or confusion, or heartbreak might step in. Imagine how much freer we’d be. Imagine how much lighter we’d be. Imagine looking at your life from a whole different perspective and being full of joy for what you’d learnt and gained and how you’d grown as a result of all of your interactions with others.

Food for thought.

Blessing to you,
Shannyn