Sharing a little of Walter Mason

I met Walter through my beloved friend and then publisher Maggie Hamilton. The minute I met him I knew this was a man so gracious and kind that it is impossible not to love him. I can’t imagine anyone feeling differently.

He writes a blog called Walterblog and generously shines a light on  many books and writers.

He is an exceptional author in his own right and a vibrant, knowledgeable  speaker. His two travel memoirs are Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia, both published by Allen and Unwin, are idiosyncratic and big-hearted romps through beautiful and complex countries.

I will always treasure being taken to some beautiful Buddhist Temples in Cabramatta where Walter lives with his wonderful partner,Thang Ngo, a prominent Vietnamese-Australian community leader.  Walter must know every delicious restaurant in the entire area and my late husband and I loved exploring under the guidance of our friend.

During this time of lock down I thought Walter’s blog would give hours of joyful reading. Please take the opportunity to wander through the world of delicious books and some of our most riveting writers.

Walter interviewed me back in 2012 following the publishing of my book, The Little Book of Everyday Miracles.

Below is that interview.

I first became aware of author Sharon Snir when I was sent a copy of her book Looking for Lionel to review. This book, a memoir of the way her mother’s dementia affected her family’s life, was so tender and insightful that I have since bought several copies to give to people living in the same situation. I finally met Sharon at a publishing event, and I became a huge fan of her third book, The Little Book of Everyday Miracles. I had so many questions to ask Sharon, and I thought it would be wonderful to share her wise and inspiring answers with all of you.
As well as being an author, Sharon is a counsellor, psychotherapist and healer, and you can read more about her and her work at www.sharonsnir.com 

Here is what Sharon had to share:

Q1. What is the miracle that has had the greatest impact on your life?

I had moved to Israel after the painful break up of my first marriage. I was living in a windowless storeroom under a block of fancy apartments. I made that 6’x 6’ space my little castle, despite the fact that there was no shower in my room.  It was not far from the beach so I would go daily for a swim and then shower and dress in the public change rooms. I remember going swimming once on the holiest day of the week, just before the Sabbath. After coming out of the water and into the change rooms, I realised my watch was gone. I fell into a pitiful heap.  I sobbed so loudly that people came to see what the matter was. I spoke no Hebrew and blubbered in English, I’ve lost my watch.  Understandably, most people told me that wasn’t so bad, which only caused me to sob more passionately.

I imagined all the dreadful things that would now befall me. Irrationally, I believed I would not know when to eat or sleep. I would not be able to leave my room because I would no longer know the bus timetable.  And then the worst thought came to my mind. Being Friday all the shops were about to close, and would not open again until 10 AM on Sunday morning so I couldn’t buy a new one. I know it sounds crazy now, but at the time something cracked open inside me and a tidal wave of fear followed by unstoppable tears overtook me. Clearly, I was having a minor break down.

I had been given the watch as a farewell gift from my mother and although I thought at the time I would never return to Australia, it connected me to home. On walking into my tiny room, I fell onto my bed and hit my forehead on something hard. It was my watch.  I began to speak to myself in a loud firm voice. “Pull yourself together girl. This is ridiculous. Get up, get out and get a life!”
I booked an eight day tour around Israel the next day, had a delicious affair with the bus driver, moved into the most beautiful Kibbutz and over the next year a new world opened up for me.
A miracle is in the eye of the beholder. What is a miracle to one person may not be a miracle for another however, for me, losing my watch allowed me to release all my fears and pent up misery.

Q2. You talk about how your publisher missed your first ever appointment. Can you explain more about the significance of waiting?

I worked as a counsellor for six year at the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) in the early 90’s. There I worked with many incredible people who were waiting to die. After the initial shock of contracting HIV, some people began planning their death, even preparing their own funerals and, incredibly, they were given a new lease on life. As I spoke to my clients, I heard how the significance of waiting gave them renewed passion for life. They described the experience as waking up and seeing life more clearly. They didn’t have time to waste and many were doing things they had always wanted but had never taken the leap to do.

Then came the arrival of antivirals and for some it was a shock to be given back their life. “What do we do now? We have given up our job, given away our possessions and given up on living a long life. How do we just start living again?

Paradoxically, the arrival of antivirals was not always seen as a miracle for people living with HIV but surprisingly I heard over and over again that contracting HIV itself created a miracle in their life. Why? Because it turned lives upside down and inside out, and many went from being unaware to becoming conscious and present. Time after time, I heard stories of the miracles that had happened while waiting to die.

I believe that all is perfect in time and space and therefore nothing is wrong. So when someone doesn’t turn up for an appointment, or when I fall and twist my ankle, or when a diagnosis of some kind is handed over, I know there is a purpose, a lesson and a gift in that experience waiting to be discovered.

In other words, rather than focusing on the appearance of the situation, I prefer to understand the significance. The significance of waiting connects us to Universal time. Most of us live our lives as if time is our Master. We even talk about time as if it was a physical object. “Where has all the time gone? I don’t have time. We have run out of time. Do you have any time today?” Substitute the word ‘sugar’ for the word ‘time’ and you’ll get what I mean. Linear time, or the time we humans make up, ignores the greater cycles of time.

The Universe, generous beyond imagination, gave us night and day, summer, autumn, winter, spring, annual and perennial crops and plants, animals that hibernate and birds that migrate to teach us something about cycles. Timeliness is not only up to us. Things happen because it is time for things to happen. In the words of the beautiful, gracious and very present Byron Katie:

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”


Q3. You always write so beautifully about the experience of ageing. Is there any advice you can give to people dealing with the reality of ageing parents?

Accept them as they are right now, in this moment. Try not to yearn for the person they used to be.  Over the past 19 years, my mother has had Alzheimer’s disease and I have learned that when I meet her in her world,  when I sing with her, smile with her, move my body closer when she leans closer, she melts into the grace of being accepted exactly as she is. She becomes a warm, loving person and joy to be with.

Five years ago, when caring for my mother became too much for my 90 year old father, she went to live in a residential home for people living with dementia. She stopped doing many things she had once done, including going to the hairdressers every day! Her hair began to slowly change to grey and I decided I would go grey with my mother. Today I embrace the elder I am becoming. I have a mop of grey hair and often have to laugh when people ask me where I got my hair streaked. I tell them at a place called ‘Old Age’.

We- the older generation, 55 years and over- have a wealth of experience and wisdom to share. Living a long time turns the aged into living historians.

Although I believe we need to eat well and exercise our bodies in moderation, our addiction to youth diminishes our belief in ourselves that we are of great value and benefit to our communities and to society as a whole. We are living longer now and so we need to make some important choices. Do we embrace our elders as beings of great wisdom who have the power to contribute to every level of society or do we continue to try to look, sound and act younger than we really are?

My father is about to turn 95 and every child in our family relishes the opportunity to sit quietly and talk to him. Knowing how to listen, ask good questions and share diverse thoughts is the precious legacy my father will leave behind when it is his time to move on.

Q4. You talk about your own experiences with other worlds as a child. How do we keep ourselves open to receiving miracles?

There are three qualities that open the door to receiving miracles. Gratitude, Forgiveness and Wonder.
Gratitude connects us to our hearts and turns even the most ordinary and mundane experience into a sacred moment. Even the most profound and life changing miracle will lose its brilliance and fade unless it is accompanied by gratitude. I was an unpopular child. I didn’t like running or skipping or playing hide and seek. I loved to read and was considered weird.  Life at home was also often difficult. My mother was both overprotective and at times neglectful. She could be sweet and tender one minute and cruel and dismissive the next. I was severely disciplined, mainly for making up overly creative stories that were seen as lies. So in the face of this I made up games.

I was about seven years old and I told myself that if I laughed three times in one day I could call it a good day. I would lie in my bed every night and look back through my day and try to find three times where I laughed. It created a very strong relationship between me and gratitude. So the practice of looking back through your day just before you fall asleep and recalling the events in your day for which you are grateful creates within you a magnet that calls more and more moments of grace or everyday miracles into your life. The more we focus our thoughts on something, the more we call it into our life. For example if you focus on rude people, you will probably encounter many rude people in your life. If you focus on your ailments, you will almost certainly experience lots of aches and pains. On the other hand, if you focus on compassion, loving kindness and generosity, the likelihood of you experiencing these in your life is also very high.

Forgiveness is another door to opening miracles. When I met Sandy Macgregor and heard his story I knew then that nothing was unforgivable.

Eighteen years ago, Sandy lost his three teenage daughters and their friend when they were shot dead in their Sydney home. Few people would ever get their life back together again after such an event, but Sandy went much further than that and found a way to forgive. In his book Peace of Mind he describes the technique he used to do this. He also makes it clear that forgiveness is not about condoning an action. Forgiveness is only for yourself.  What the does perpetrator with your forgiveness is up to them. Whatever they do is not your responsibility. You are primarily responsible for yourself only. The miracle that comes out of forgiveness is freedom.

Wonder clears our lenses and allows us to see and hear and touch and taste for the first time, everyday.  Connected to wonder is innocence. That childhood sense of playfulness and purity that heightens everything we do.  As we experience wonder, life simply becomes more wonder-full.

Q5. Can you give 5 brief pieces of advice to someone who wants to take the leap and explore their own creativity?

1.    Be in your element

To be in your element means doing something that you have an aptitude for. According to Sir Ken Robinson, we all have an aptitude for something. Cooking, cleaning, playing guitar, doing mathematics or writing may be things you love and have an aptitude for. But you don’t have to be good at something to be in your element. All you have to do is enjoy and love it and then naturally you will be in your element.

2.    Re-establish a relationship with your imagination

When was the last time you thought it might be a good idea to plan a dress-up party? My daughter just went to a sequin party and I was only sorry I didn’t know the person having it. Do you remember when you were a child, when you were not distracted by technology and would use bits and pieces of nature to create a cubby, or a tea party, or a battle field? Exploring our creativity requires us to regularly turn off the computer, iphone, ipad and go out into nature. Look around you and see the faces in the bark of the trees or the animals in the rocks, or the dragons and angels in the clouds. Exercise your imagination. It is a muscle and like all muscles you have to use it or you might lose it.

3.    Practice Spontaneous Stupidity

Spontaneity is letting go of control. Releasing our rigidity and need to create structure, strategies and order in our life. Stupidity is a lack of knowing, allowing ourselves to not know and to explore freely.  Many of us are absolutely terrified of looking stupid but that is because we have misunderstood the true meaning of the word.  Not knowing something is the only way to learn. I coined the term Spontaneous Stupidity many years ago when I found the only way to cope with five children under seven was to be both at the same time! I love being silly and laughing at the ridiculous. Most of us lose that ability to be silly and are overly concerned with how we appear to others.

In the Middle Ages, the most spontaneously stupid person was the court jester who was also the closest ear to the king. He was able to offer guidance and wisdom by being creatively silly. He would speak in rhyme and riddle but his wisdom lay between his words. In a Danny Kaye movie called ‘The Court Jester’ he speaks these words of warning to the King: “The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison and the chalice in the palace has the brew that is true.”

4.    Play Games

Invite some friends over and instead of an elaborate three course meal, host a game. It could be a writing game, a drawing game or murder mystery game. My kids, all adults, now love games and “What would you rather?” is one of their favourites. So what would you rather do, kiss old aunty Daisy on the lips or clean all the toilets at central station with a tooth brush? It gets worse. The laughter becomes louder and louder and the creative ideas more and more disgusting but laughter lights us up. It literally bring us to enlightenment,  switching on all our creative senses.

5.    Eat, Move and Rest

Confession: I am guilty of not always doing this. I can be sitting at my computer six or even eight hours until I am seconds away from being totally brain dead, without eating or moving all day. We need to eat to keep our minds working. I can literally feel my energy seep away if I leave too long between a snack. Writers’ block is a very common phenomenon and the only way I know to shift the energy is to get up and go for a walk. I clear the brain by breathing deeply and reconnect to the spirit within. And finally, not only do I recommend going to bed at a reasonable hour but taking a few minutes to meditate on retiring and rising allows the mind to stop thinking.  After ten or fifteen minutes of breathing and allowing thoughts to rise and dissolve something quite lovely happens and we enter into a place of true communion with our self. This is the source of all creativity.  A sacred space where everything and nothing exists in harmony together. A place where we can align our own spirit to the infinite flow of universal creativity.

 

 

 

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The Incredible Power of a Simple Acknowledgement

I can’t believe it was over twenty years ago when my husband and I sat in an introduction evening for the Landmark Forum. The Forum Leader was a steely faced man called Jack Schropp. I loved him from the minute I heard him talk. He was a Navy SEAL through three tours of Vietnam and every soldier under his command returned home safely.

His oh-so-dry sense of humour moved even the toughest listener. That night he looked at each person in that room with a stern unwavering presence and waited till there was absolute silence. Then, slowly, very slowly  he said “Good Evening,  My name is Jack Schropp, and this is me smiling.”  The room fell apart laughing.

For the next ten years Oren and I participated in many Landmark courses and we enrolled all our children into their age appropriate courses too.

When Jack died, in 2018, his wife Shari wrote, “He used to tell me that ‘making a difference’ is not about getting your face on a dollar bill one day or getting medals. It’s about making a difference in the moment, when the momentary opportunity arrives.

One of those moments arrived a few days ago. I received a note written by someone living not too far away in my suburb. She introduced herself as Millie, shared a little about her understanding of the difficulties some older people are facing during lock down and offered to do some shopping or give a hand if anyone needed it. Just so happened that I had been unwell that week and thought it would really help me if she took my dog for a little walk. She came and picked up Bentley and I felt a big weight lift off me. I really wanted my dog to go out but it had been so difficult and suddenly I was able to relax knowing he was having some exercise.

She had popped her letter in many people’s letter boxes, wrote only her first name and left it at that.

I learned many things through Landmark, but the one that has stuck like glue is this. Many of our actions, words and behaviour are connected to fixing something, becoming something or getting somewhere. Think about it. In other words there is usually an ‘in order to’ be seen, be heard, be noticed, be understood. Often it’s so ingrained in us we don’t even notice that is what we are doing.

The one thing that does not involve an ‘in order to’, is real, authentic acknowledgment.

As Forum leader, Jo DiMaggio wrote,  “When we’re really generating acknowledgment, we’re literally standing in nothing, being given by nothing, and bring nothing into our giving or receiving of acknowledgment. Nothing is the foundation for possibility. Acknowledgment ultimately brings something into being—something that we’re actually creating. Acknowledgment at that juncture becomes a very powerful catalyst.”

So why am I telling you this now? Well I was so moved by Millie’s genuine kindness and open hearted generosity, I posted a copy of her letter onto a Facebook site called Willoughby Living along with my appreciation for the beautiful community I am blessed to live in.

Next day there were literally 1,300 comments!!

People apparently were as moved as I was. That small acknowledge of Millie, was picked up by a news station, and was published as far away as the United Kingdom. That small acknowledgment found a life of its own and went on to touch more people than I could have  imagined.

“Real acknowledgment is not true-or-false, right-or-wrong—it doesn’t describe, report on, express, command, or manipulate. It’s not to make something happen, produce a result, make us or another feel good. There is no scarcity of things for which to acknowledge someone, there’s an abundance.” Jo DiMaggio

I have no idea how many people have been touched and inspired by Millie’s note, but I do know that through a simple acknowledgement, it became a catalyst for people to be moved and inspired.

Acknowledging someone can be as simple as thanking them, giving little compliment, dropping them a note, or just letting them know you appreciate them.

It can be anonymous or not.

Is there someone you feel called to acknowledge? If so don’t wait. All we have is now.

 

 

 

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A Simple Conversation

If you wanted to ask anyone in the world a question, who would you ask and what would you want to know.

Some of us tend to hide behind the words and the questions of others. We hesitate in putting ourselves out there and speaking up for a number of reasons, some of which we imagine are valid. Perhaps it is fear of being judged or ridiculed. Perhaps it is fear of being ignored or worse still, the fear of being seen.

The world we all live in is struggling physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Physically through Covid, climatic changes and environmental issues. We are watching super powers beating their chests in a he-man show of who is stronger. Emotionally there is fear and anger, resistance and resignation towards our leaders, our friends and families and those whose differences apparently form a bridge too wide for some of us to cross.

Mentally there is trauma, despair, anxiety and uncertainty. None of us are sure what is coming next. In truth we never have but somehow our lack of control or the imposing of control upon us, causes us to feel powerless.  And if you are thinking right now that this does not include you, just turn on your TV, read a headline, listen to your friends whose jobs are on the line or whose marriages are breaking down or simply ask yourself what are you doing to make this world a little better. So unless you have suddenly left this world, and are floating around in nirvana, this definitely does include you.

Our world cannot heal unless we take that hugely courageous step into the unknown and share ourselves from the heart of who we are. Sharing our thoughts and ideas without clashes and chaos. When was the last time someone did or said something that you absolutely disagreed with, but were willing to quietly discuss it without accusations about who is right and who is wrong?

So here is my invitation. A conversation.

If you wanted to ask anyone in the world a question, who would you ask and what would you genuinely want to know?

AND, if you are brave and are willing to throw caution to the wind, have that conversation the next time you go into the office, or sit at the table with family, or are with your doctor or waiter, or son or daughter.

THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS

LEADING TO OPEN DISCUSSION

LEADING TO EXPLORATION AND COLLABORATION.

There is no right or wrong question or answer. EVER

Write your thoughts or questions below and every month we will have a topic of conversation that may just inspire someone to take it one step further.

My question for this month:

To the man who sits on the corner of George St outside the Queen Victoria Building-  “What’s your name, and how’s it all going?”

PS: If you happen to see him before I do, can you please ask him for me?

 

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Friendship – Waxing Lyrical with a few Quotations

Occasionally a person turns up in our life and there is a spark or a connection that just can’t be ignored. Friendships are made out of a mutual desire to connect and to belong.  And just as life carries us through its ups and downs, friendships also ripple and swell and rise and fall with the undulations of life.

Everything Changes

Some of my friends have been in my life for over 60 years. Some even longer because their parents and mine were friends before we were even born. Some entered my life by chance and some I sort out because I was drawn to them as soon as I met them. Some friends became friends because someone introduced us and then some surprised me by stepping up when other friends didn’t.

Soon it will be my 50th school reunion and many with whom I shared my school years I have not laid eyes on for 20, 30 40 years. There are, however those who  have remained friends for decades and who I consider some of the most precious people in my life.

Everything changes

When someone dies and grief is carried into our friendships, some of those friendships die too.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S Lewis

Poet and writer David Whyte-

Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

So, does that mean true friendship transcends mortality and death?

Was that friendship that wrapped us in years of deep conversations and joyful holidays and hours of laughter and the salty mix of tears, not true, because it’s over now?

Of course not.

Everything Changes

Megan Divine author of “It’s OK that you’re Not OK, writes,

Grief changes your friendships: people you thought would hang beside you in anything turn dismissive, unable to hold their gaze on your pain. People you thought would have no capacity for stillness turn out to be consistent witnesses.

A friend just responded to a letter I wrote to tell me she did not contact me for the past two and a half years so as not to bother me in my grief. Really? I asked her how she imagined I would feel if every friend I knew did the same thing. We all have our limitations and struggles knowing how to respond when a friend is in pain. The reality however, is that although opportunities to offer a hand of friendship arise, these opportunities also come with a due-by -date.

You never know who will come through and who will fade away. The only thing for sure is that grief will rearrange your address book: relationships change

Whyte writes,

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life. A diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armoured personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in the most average existence.

And yet diminishing friendships are not only because of this.

During the years I volunteered in an aged care centre I visited a few people who had no visitors. I knew these people had lived rich and meaningful lives and yet aging and distance from family, left them with no friends or visitors. I considered one of these people a friend. I loved visiting him. He was a cantankerous physicist who swore brilliantly. He was angry and lonely and we would laugh at the outrageous things he loved to say. I hope I brought him a little joy in his last days. I know he enriched my life and I am a far better person for having known him.

My father lived to be 94 years old and naturally buried many friends. By the time he died there was only one or two people that had remained friends. It is an inescapable fact that as we age so too do our friends and the longer we live the more likely it is that our friendships will diminish and die.

Everything Changes

Friends and relationships change as we grow older. Some cannot survive life’s shifts and changes and some are born out of the same. Some have been dormant for decades and are resurrected much later in life. It is true that friendships hold up a mirror and reflect back to us our light and our shadow. But even that, as true as it is, is not the greatest gift of friendship.

Again David Whyte. “….. no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self. The ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone, and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another. To have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

And yet, we also need to recognise the moment when life offers us the opportunity and sometime the challenge, to befriend our self.

When we can stand in understanding, acceptance and forgiveness of ourselves, we are far better equipped to do the same for another. And none of us can always do that. We are human after all. We may be all here for a purpose, but thankfully we are not here to be perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s Love Got to Do With it?

     Everyday Miracles was published in 2012 and since then miracles have continued to flow into all our lives. Of course some of them might have been missed if we were looking the other way and others might have been overlooked because we simply were not paying attention. But many miracles have touched all our lives again and again over the years because that it what miracles do. They touch our lives and often point us in a totally new direction.

Miracles and Love however, are intrinsically connected.

What’s Love got the do with Everyday Miracles? Is there a point where the energy of Love carries us into a realm of unimaginable wonder, a place where we become both the creator and the recipient of Life’s miraculous moments? I believe there is.

But before I tell you why, I want to ask you to close your eyes for a moment and answer this question. What is Love?

The Urban Dictionary defines Love as the most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling for someone. The Oxford Dictionary says it is a strong feeling of affection. The Webster Dictionary defines it as a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. But none of these definitions encompass the depth and breadth of Love because they all seriously have limited Love by referring to it as a feeling or an emotion, and it is neither.

      Love is a State of Being and our ability to live in a state of love evolves as we evolve.

When we are children we develop attachment firstly to our parents or caretakers, and in time this attachment, when nurtured in a healthy manner, leads us towards experiencing ourselves in loving relationship with our own self and with others. Our development then extends to include family, peers, colleagues and communities.

Some of us who are not nurtured in a healthy manner have elements of narcissism, grandiosity, self-righteousness, and superiority which blinds us to seeing clearly and, as a result, limits our potential and slows down the evolutionary process.

  However, we all have the potential to evolve and discover other aspects of love including compassion. Compassionate love is love where self-criticism and self-abuse no longer exist and where we begin to see the beauty of others and appreciate their differences as well as their similarities. This then frees us to step into the next stage, which is love of humanity or group consciousness. Here, the call to be of service to humanity, to the animal kingdom, to science, art or medicine is heard. We feel a connection to something greater than ourselves. Love through the Soul enables us to move beyond earthly limitations, and we begin to reach outwards and connect to the powerful energies beyond the chaos of our planet.

     In time this leads us to a recognition that each living being is an individualised spark of Divine Essence and we know that this is our true identity. The ‘I Am’ presence is in each and every one of us. This is also known as Unconditional Love. My spiritual teacher once told me:

“Your world has two choices: To love the Self unconditionally – and, in so doing, become an extension of everyone and everything else OR to fear the Self as being inadequate or inappropriate, and experience disconnection and fear of being open to others.” [Quote from John the Beloved, 22/2/2001]

But before I say more about Love, let’s look at the term of Everyday Miracles because in actual fact the term itself is a paradox, an oxymoron, a contradiction.

How can miracles be everyday?

How can something that is so life-changing and unique and magical and full of the essence of the divine be everyday? – and yet, according to Albert Einstein, how can it not? For he says: “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

I  have always seen life as Miraculous. But not life in general, because when we speak too broadly we run the risk of becoming too vague and losing the context, but rather I see the miraculous in the moments of life: the unexpected messages we receive, the coincidences, , the synchronicities, moments of serendipity and happenstance. These are what I call Everyday Miracles. So what is the difference between a Miracle and an Everyday Miracle?

I think the answer to that question is simply interpretation, and interpretation comes from a person’s individual attitude. What is a miracle to one person may not be a miracle to another. The way we see life, the way we perceive and observe and the meanings we attribute to events in our life determine whether we see events as miraculous or not.

Recently I discovered the work and writings of Tim Hansel. He was a strong, risk-taking, all-out-effort kind of guy. He climbed mountains and led wilderness expeditions. One day, on the way back to camp after climbing on the Palisade Glacier with friends, his foot slipped and he fell a long distance down into a crevasse, landing directly on his back on the ice. The damage was tremendous and, although he lived, he continued to experience severe pain for the rest of his life. He also lived life from a place of choice.

He said, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” One of the greatest lessons that this courageous man learned during this process was that he had the ability to choose joy, even in the midst of pain. This, says Tim Hansel, is in contrast to happiness which, you will note, comes from the same root as the word happening. Whether or not we feel happy depends on what happens to us. It is circumstantial. Of course there is nothing wrong with happiness! We all rightly enjoy when things are going well in our lives and circumstances. But what about when they are not? People like Tim Hansel, who lived in chronic pain, and others in a thousand different difficult life situations struggle with feeling happy. Hansel encourages us, alternatively, to remember that we are privileged to be able to choose joy.

I recently read a wonderful story of a man sitting in the park watching his children play. He had just completed six months of chemotherapy and was feeling so peaceful, so grateful to be alive on this beautiful day. He looked up at the clouds. A small patch of fluffy clouds moved away from the rest forming three separate letters. The first was J, the second looked like an O and the third was a Y. JOY He believed this was a miracle to remind him that Joy is there just for the looking. Everyday miracles reveal themselves when we choose to pay attention. The more present we are, the more frequently these moments occur. Life, regardless of our circumstances, is enriched a thousand times over when we stop and pay attention to what is happening right now.

Tim Hansel wrote “Life becomes precious and more special to us when we look for the little everyday miracles and get excited about the privileges of simply being human.” Some of the privileges of being human include the ability to feel gratitude, to give and receive forgiveness, and to live in wonder. When we connect to the wisdom of the heart we are more able to change our perception and see the miracles that happen around us everyday. So how do we connect to the wisdom of the heart? One way I find that works well for me, no matter what the situation is to stop and take a deep breath. And, if you can remember to take another, all the better. By giving yourself a breath you can go within and connect inside yourself. You can then access your own divine in-sight. When you go within and visualise your heart centre, maybe as a ball of light, maybe as a vessel you can fill with light, you are bringing your awareness to the heart of who you are. Giving yourself a breath helps us to slow down, pay attention and connect to the Spirit within. It allows us time to focus on the positive rather than lose ourselves in the negative. And, because like attracts like, we then call more positive and magical moments into our life.

I want to briefly mention four qualities that can help open us to the world of everyday miracles. Kindness, Gratitude, Forgiveness and Wonder. These four qualities are intrinsically linked to Love.

Kindness, especially random acts of kindness,increases the quality of Love into the world. A kind act may be keeping silent when a word may cause someone pain. It may be leaving $50 in the letterbox of someone you know is struggling a bit. It may be mowing your neighbour’s front lawn at the same time as mowing your own. 6 One person’s random act of kindness is another person’s everyday miracle.

Gratitude connects us to our hearts and turns even the most ordinary and mundane experience into a sacred moment. Even taking a breath is something we can be grateful for, especially when we have witnessed someone take their last. On the other hand, the most profound and life changing miracle will lose its brilliance and fade unless it is accompanied by gratitude. Recently my beautiful father passed away and his absence has been a great loss in my life. In only six years I lost my father, mother and husband. They were my anchors and the rocks of my life. Their passing woke me up to the fragility of life.  I wake up knowing this could be my last day.  it could be the last day of another person in my life that I deeply love. Knowing this and bringing it to mind heightens my sense of thankfulness for every minute of the day. The more we practice kindness and generosity the more we find it flowing into our lives.

Forgiveness is another door to opening miracles. Robert Muller said, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” But how do you forgive the unforgivable? When I met Sandy Macgregor and heard his story, I knew then that nothing was unforgivable. Eighteen years ago, Sandy lost his three teenage daughters and their friend when they were shot dead in their Sydney home. Few people would ever get their life back together again after such an event, but Sandy went much further than that and found a way to forgive. In his book, Peace of Mind, he describes the technique he used to do this. He also makes it clear that forgiveness is not about condoning an action. Forgiveness is only for yourself. What the perpetrator does with your forgiveness is up to them. Whatever they do is not your 7 responsibility. You are primarily responsible for yourself only. The miracle that comes out of forgiveness is freedom.

Wonder clears our lenses and allows us to see and hear and touch and taste for the first time, over and over again. Innocence gives birth to wonder. That childhood sense of playfulness and purity that heightens everything we do. As we experience wonder, life simply becomes more wonder-full. Paying attention to everyday miracles reminds us that life is a gift. The joy of taking a deep breath cannot be taken for granted, especially when you have seen someone take their last. The gratitude that fills your heart when your child succeeds in getting a dream job, or your grandchild says “I love you” cannot be underestimated. The peace we experience when we befriend an old enemy is possibly the greatest miracle imaginable. The willingness to let go of complaining, let go of being a victim, let go of our addictions to drama, brings into our lives a world of everyday miracles. From the Course of Miracles it is written: ‘Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.”

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A Year Of Change

Change

” Most everything in the Universe changes with age: Stars consume their fuel and die: the Earth loses its atmosphere by evaporation into space and ultimately will become an airless, dead, planet and we, as humans grow wrinkled and wise.” Kip S. Thorne (Black Holes and Time Warps)

Change never takes no for an answer. Whether we are ready or not change will take us by the hand and dance us to its own rhythm, be that a Foxtrot, a Tango or a Waltz. And when change occurs with a clash of cymbals, a roar of timpani, or the deafening silence between, we know the moment, this moment, has caught our attention.

Some see change as “too fast’ or “too slow”. Some of us resist change while others jump into the abyss with wild abandon. Change brings out the best and the worst in us. We resist it, long for it, dread it and love it. All depending on our present circumstances and the moment in which we notice its arrival. For although change is ever present, we only notice it when the comfortable rhythm to which we have been dancing, suddenly shifts.

Whatever change means for you, for me it is most often about opportunity. How can I use this change, the one I had no idea was coming, to inspire myself and to re-member the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? Perhaps not all within me is aligned. Perhaps I have  judgments about the physical, the material, the emotional or the mental parts of myself. Perhaps I have a  habit I have not recognised until someone or something points it out. Perhaps there is a struggle that repeats itself time after time and now that I recognise it, have the choice to do something about it, or not.

How precious is this time of Change when we can look outside ourselves and see with startling clarity, the time to make a difference has arrived

JtB, my Teacher, for the past 20 years tells us “We were born to be of service.” That does not mean we have to jump up and do something. Our service to our world, to humanity, to the animal and plant kingdoms can come by simply taking the time to look at how we  choose to respond or reacted to the changes around us.  Have we struggled, complained, ranted against the powers that be, or have we discovered ways to take responsibility, accept our civil duty, share our compassion, kindness and in so doing bring a little more light into the world.

Meditating on what we want our world to look like, sending circles of light and love to every living thing in and on our planet for a minute or two everyday can make, literally the world of difference.

And yet, how and when we offer a hand, a meal or a little kindness depends so much  on how and what we are going through ourselves.

The greater our struggle the more profound is the impact  when we share something of ourselves.

When you think back to January and February last year what were your plans for 2019? Who of us imagined the world would literally stop. Billions of people have experienced and are still experiencing  unimaginable change and loss. Millions of people are grieving the death of 1.8 million deaths due to the Corona Virus, not to mention 85.2 million confirmed cases people who have contracted the virus and whose health may have now been permanently compromised.

Here in Australia we went from catastrophic bush-fires to Covid 19 in a matter of a few weeks. No time to even consider rebuilding lives let alone estimating the loss of life ( at least 33 people) and animals ( estimated at 3 billion) when the virus arrived. Months of being in lock down, mandatory wearing of masks, profound feelings of isolation and loneliness, illness, deaths  followed for so many of us. Loss of businesses that were build out of the dreams of their creators.

So you may ask how can we shift focus from our great losses to being of service. In my experience one does not cancel out the other. Grief and joy can coincide. After the sudden and unexpected death of my husband, in my darkest moments, I remembered the words someone once told me. If it was you and you are reading, this forgive me for not remembering your name and please let me know it was you.

When you feel you have nothing left to lose, give something away.

I contacted an organisation and asked whether I could volunteer. After police checks, car rego checks, insurance confirmations, I was at last welcomed into this organisation. The people I visit every week have no idea how much they give me. They could not begin to imagine the joy I feel as I visit them and see their faces and have a 60 second chat.

As we now get around like masked bandits it’s hard to smile at a friend or a stranger but crinkling my eyes and hoping those wrinkles convey a smile is my latest challenge.

Everything changes and there is no normal to return to.(Sorry but that’s the truth)

What sort of world do we want to live in? According to Sam Harris we want to live in a world where people are incentivised to do creative work that makes the world better and better.

But not just that. We want a healthier world where devastating diseases are controlled and eventually eradicated.

But not just that. We want food and clean water to become a natural and accepted part of Global distribution.

What sort of world do YOU want to live in? I have been asked this question a number of times over the past few months.

Personally, I want a world where diversity and difference is accepted. Where acceptance of self and other come before beliefs and opinions, although we have every right to have those too. I want a world where we understand the true meaning of Living in Harmlessness. And I want a world where random act of kindness become an intrinsic part of Man-KIND.

What about you? What sort of world do you want to live in?

The poem below is one of my favourites. Read it allowed. Read it slowly.

And then read it again.

CHANGE -Anonymous

One of the difficulties

in moving out of the familiar

is the temptation

to close off the full drama of change

before its own attractions

have a chance to ripen.

The sense of being bereft

of all that is familiar

is a vacuum which threatens

to suck up everything in its reach.

What is hard to appreciate,

when terror shapes a catastrohic gap,

is tha this blankness can be a fertile void.

The fertile void

is the existential metaphor

for giving up the famliar supports

of the present

and trusting the momentum of life

to produce new opportunities and vistas.

The acrobat who swings

from one trapeze to the next

knows just when he must let go.

He gauges his release exquisitely

and for a moment,

he has nothing going for him

but his own momentum.

Our hearts follow his arc

and we love him for risking

the unsupported moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Bubble At A Time

Last night I sat around a large dining room table with 12 people and a suggestion was made to share, one person at a time, what we are grateful for during one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced,  2020.

Over the years I have learned there is a significant difference between being grateful and being thankful. The energy of each word is different. Try it yourself.

Say, “I am  grateful for …….” ( you add the next word)

And now say, “I am thankful for …..”

When we say grateful the energy of that word is that we are humbled and even a little overwhelmed by the amazing and wonderful things we experience.

For some people there is even a tinge of incredulity, how did I deserve this?

When we are thankful our heart is open and we are able to simply accept that beautiful , kind, wonderful things do happen. They happen to us and to others and rather than being amazed, we accept that and are thankful. Truly thankful, but not ‘hands in prayer on bended knees grateful.’

So as we went around the table last night, my friends shared their gratitude for family and friends, for being here on this wonderful island of Australia, for the food on our plates and the health of our loved ones . Very few of us had friends or family that had contracted the Covid 19 virus. And even though travel and gatherings for significant family events were cancelled or seen only through zoom there was a sense of appreciation that we are all so very blessed. One person spoke about the opportunity to be of service to others during the year, another held tight to her husband as she lovingly honoured their long lasting love. And so it went on until my turn.

I tried not to think what I would say as each person spoke. I wanted to be present and authentic and everything others said I was also thankful for, however, those good things were not where my heart was taking me.

As I started to speak I realised it was the challenges that ultimately offered me a gift that left me feeling thankful. Certainly Covid and being in lock-down gave me the opportunity to choose between the many distractions offered on line or to be with myself in the roaring silence of aloneness. I was thankful for the days and weeks where I could simply Be, as uncomfortable as that often was, and to explore how I felt about a status that had been foisted onto me. Being a widow was not on my to-do list.

As I spoke to all who sat around the table I cheated a little. I slipped back two years almost to the day, to a memory on November 13. A white ute rolled back and hit my car just as I was about to drive away after having coffee with my husband, Oren. Of course I had no idea that was to be our last coffee.  He had already walked over to his car and we planned to see each other later. Once the accident occurred I called my husband on the phone and he arrived a minute later. He was calm and easy going, took a few photos, said not to worry, and as the driver of the ute drove away,  I felt my husbands’ arms around me, once more. He asked  me if am I okay. I said I was a bit shaken. He gave me a kiss and assured me everything will be alright.

I have blessed that driver a thousand times over the past two years. I am thankful he hit my car. It was a gift. He gave me my parting gift of one last hug. One last kiss. At 4.30 pm that same afternoon Oren’s  heart stopped beating.

I’m thankful that so much of the year didn’t turn out as I had hoped because what I learned about myself and others has and will always be invaluable. What I learned will guide me toward the next step of my life, and the next and the next.

Of course we are thankful for the blessings and the gifts. And yet we only get to marvel at our own resilience, at our will to persevere, when all seems hopeless. We only get to face  our courage and to feel the depths and heights of our emotions without drowning in them completely, when we look back in retrospect and see what we had to undergo and how we were able to overcome the greatest trials life threw at us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing on a cliff edge overlooking the great Ocean of Life saying ‘bring it on’. We all have to be very careful what we ask for. What I am saying is through the greatest loss of my life, I am thankful there is a gift, albeit often hidden for a long time, in everything. It takes endurance, patience, gentleness and bucket loads of self-compassion to allow those gifts to float to the surface.

One bubble at a time.

 

 

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And It Was Good…. though it may not appear that way.

Cooking for three days in anticipation for dinner on the eve of Rosh Hashona (the Jewish New Year)  has rekindled my belief that if you do what you love, with love, from an open heart, you can rest assured that what you create will be good, even if it does not always appear that way.

It is these words in Genesis, “And it was Good” that inspired me to write today.

During those three days, I attempted to bake a coffee /honey cake. After all, we are celebrating the World’s Birthday. Guaranteed to be delicious, I did everything in the recipe and placed the mixture in the bundt pan and waited. Nothing much happened for a while and then my oven became a container for Mt. Vesuvius. Bubbles rose and filled the hole in the bundt tin, batter poured over the sides and began to ooze out and fill the aluminum container I manages to slide onto the floor of the oven. I just stood and watched in shocked fascination. Eventually, I removed the disaster from the oven and tried to rescue a corner here and there that was not burnt or still runny.  I looked up the reviews on this recipe and many people said the same thing happened to them.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a request for a recipe.

It is a metaphor. Even when we put forward our best efforts, bad things will sometimes happen. They have to. We don’t live in a fairy tale and real life is not about happy endings. Real life is not about devervability. Just because we are good and kind and reasonable, it doesn’t ensure we will receive the same behaviour from others. Just because we drive our car with care, doesn’t mean we will never be in an accident. Just because we were good parents, doesn’t mean our children will forgive and forget our mistakes. Just because we are generous to others, doesn’t mean others will be generous to us.

It doesn’t work that way.

If we do unto others what we would have them do unto us, it doesn’t mean they will.

At this time in the Jewish calendar we are given ten days to look at ourselves with clarity and compassion. We are asked to focus on who we have been over the past year and  we are given the opportunity to forgive ourselves for the times we  reacted rather than responded. For the times we treated our self or another harshly, rudely, thoughtlessly or angrily. For the times we forgot to offer help to another, neglected our true beliefs and wasted time complaining rather than taking action. For the times we chose not to understand why a friend would behave in a certain way, or a family member remembers something you wish they had just forgotten.

At this time we are also invited to forgive every person who we believe has done us wrong. Why would we do that? Nothing happens to us that, on some level, we have not the capacity to understand and forgive. Actually nothing happens to us. We are the creators of our own lives, whether we are consciously aware of that or not. If life just happened to us, then we would all be victims. And surely we are not. Indeed we are the creators of our lives because we can choose how to attend to everything that happens.

As author and teacher Wayne Dyer said, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Either everything is an opportunity to help you grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

Self-pity can mask itself as entitlement.

It starts with a ‘should or should not, a must , a have to, or an ought.

She should not have written such a thing.

They should apologise first.

He has to make the first move… because I always do.

They ought to help out because… blah blah bah

All these shoulds and have tos etc, camouflage the underlying issue.

“Poor me. I don’t deserve this.”

Self-pity can also mask itself is righteous anger.

When we step into this way of being, when some of us would prefer to lose family, friends and relationships rather than be wrong, when some people would prefer to die than be wrong, we become blind to the truth.

In the words of Helen Keller, “Self pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”

My failed honey cake was a gift. It took nothing away from the joy of the evening with family and friends. It was a tiny hiccup that melted and disappeared in the face of what was important. Love. Connection. Joy. Thankfulness.

One the tenth day we arrive at The Day of Atonement and as important as it is to atone for the hurts and injustices we may have perpetrated, it is, in my humble opinion, far more holy and rewarding to reach a State of At- One- Ment with All That Is. As we look into ourselves and recognise that the parts of ourselves that hurt others usually come from the parts of ourselves that remain unhealed, we are ready to  ask ourselves this question.

Whether you are from the Jewish faith, or another faith or no faith at all, ask yourself am I holding myself back from trying to understand the significance of what happened or stuck in blame in order to remain right, or am I willing to embrace this opportunity, step out on the limb of humility and grace and accept compassionate responsibility for my own actions, my own words and my own life?

 

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Oops! I forgot

Over twenty years ago, a man I saw for clinical supervision had forgotten our  appointment and was not present when I arrived.

Later that day he sent me a message saying, “Please forgive my memory.”

I thought that was such a strange way to apologise. Can we really disassociate ourselves from our memory? And because I never came to any clear understanding of that kind of apology, his sentence, “Please forgive my memory,” has lingered in my own memory bank ever since. I was angry he had forgotten our appointment and I judged him.

Now in my sixties, having undergone some of life’s big challenges the question of memory has risen again. And it comes out of feeling a sense of compassion for my own occasional  lapses in memory. They come not as a result of anything dire and serious, but rather as a result of one or more of the following.

Remembering and forgetting are impacted by our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual situation. They are ‘here and now’ experiences. Grief, sorrow, depression and loneliness all affect our ability to remember certain events, appointments and things people say. When our lives suddenly change and we find ourselves confused, or mixed up we can forget who said what and even the name of our best friend standing right next to us. When we have been unwell, recently undergone surgery, or getting over a fall, we are more likely to forget something someone may have said to us, even though they apparently remember it clearly.

Forgetting is human.  It’s what we do when we or someone we know forgets something that was  said or planned, that takes us to the next level of humanity.

Judging someone who does not remember something is more about the person doing the judging than the person doing the forgetting.

I’ll tell you why.

When we judge or criticize another it is usually in an area we dislike about ourselves.

When we judge someone we cannot appreciate them fully as well.

When we judge we block our ability to understand. Understanding blocks judgment.

When we judge we make ourselves dissatisfied and unhappy with the way things are.

When we judge another we lower our vibration, shut ourselves down from receiving joy and abundance and prosperity from the universe.

And so to that supervisor so many years ago, I get it.

Your memory is not who you are.

And of course, I forgive your memory.

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Thank you

How often do we thank each other for a kindness and thoughtful phone call, a birthday gift or a bowl of soup from a neighbor when we are under the weather?

I am sure most of us would say we say the word thank you every single day.

I began to think about who and what we thank a few days ago when I realised the time to I exchange the hip I was born with for a ceramic and steel ball and socket was getting closer. This hip, that has only a few more hours left before it is to be replace, has served me so well. And I feel it is only right to thank it for supporting me from the time I began to walk, to running the egg and spoon race, to helping me carry our  five babies. It has helped me move tons of shopping up the steps of our family home and climb thousands of steps over my life time.

It moved me to the beat of bands such as The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival  and took me on long beautiful walks  through wonderful countries and in our own gorgeous Australian bush

How do we thank our bodies that tirelessly help us get well after illness, for taking us to the top of a mountain, or to that finishing line. How do we thank our bodies for keeping us alive when we felt too ill to move. For healing the infection, and disease, the burns, the pain, the cancer?

So to my hip, who has been such a loyal and trusted part of my life for well over 60 years, I thank you.

Here’s to joining the marvellous medical club of new knees, new hips, new hearts and lungs and infinite new possibilities.

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Can’t Wait Till We Can Return to Normal. REALLY?

I hear it often. “Can’t wait till we can return to normal.” And I think to myself, “Really?”

Now let me be clear. I am not a heartless creature who wishes suffering or pain on anyone. I am well aware that Covid 19 has entered our lives and taken many away. It entered our bodies and left millions sick and it interrupted life as we have known it and left millions without work, and shelter and enough to eat. Because of this virus, towns and cities have been shut down, and we have been asked to take responsibility to stop the spread, by staying home. We all know that. So before we rush, (yes I am intentionally using that word) back into the world that cut down trees, and filled our oceans with plastic, and dumped toxic rubbish near towns and villages, and stopped the distribution of food for political reasons, perhaps it would better serve us to look again at our world that has, for the last few months, stopped.

We have been given an opportunity to have a tiny glimpse at a world that could be different.

We have been given a glimpse of a world that is cleaner, clearer and moves a little more slowly. What a pleasure it has been to have longer conversations without those blasted interruptions of an  iPhones ringing in the middle of a sentence. We have been given a peek at how working from our home gives our children a chance to eat more meals with their parents, watch a movie together and more importantly go out for walks together.

Communities have not only sprung up focusing on how they can help others and make a difference but many people have welcomed their communities love and care and now feel seen and heard and remembered in ways that didn’t always happen.

We have begun to see ourselves in a different way.

Some of us have been so frightened we are willing to fight for a packet of toilet paper or buy 7 cans of Glen 20 just to be ‘safe.’ Some of us have done everything possible to avoid being alone. Zooming three times a day and watching Netflix for the remaining hours.

Some of us have avoided the one thing that would give us peace of mind. Without this there is no space to ask and hear what all this means and where to go to next. Silence. Some of us talk about being bored with doing nothing and yet doing nothing is the gateway to wisdom. Doing nothing, sitting in silence, opens our consciousness to ideas, imagination, and guidance. As long as we fill our hours with chatter and stuff to do, we cannot create or contemplate, we cannot meditate and concentrate on growing, on evolving, on learning and taking a risk or two. Without taking risks we cannot grow.

The one and only thing that can open ourselves to our inner wisdom, is silence. Sitting still. Not looking down at our phones or filling in all the hours, but giving ourselves the gift of silence between the actions.

Some people have discovered that not only can they still run a business at home but they can teach their children and cook and clean, and smile, yes, still smile! and manage brilliantly. Of course they are tired. It’s been huge, but did you know you could do it? And you did it so well.

We are so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

So, what is the normal we so desperately want to return to? This experience of the world stopping is not an accident. It is an opportunity to look at our lives, at how we have chosen to live and to ask ourselves do we want to go back to that; to rushing to meetings, speeding off to Pilates, squeezing in speedy phone calls in the car and scratching out those surreptitious texts at the next red light. It’s okay to be busy but not if it steers you further and further away from your heart.

For those who were constantly helping their children and grandchildren, coming home and sharing only with a  good friend or two how exhausted and tired they are, how every bone in their body aches, we have now seen that our children have managed well without us. No one is indispensable. Is that the normal you can’t wait to return to? No, I’m not saying we stop being available, I’m saying being available only when it works.

Yes our world stopped. And maybe it stopped to show us all how important it is for everyone to occasionally stop too.

And to consider the most pressing question of our time.

What next?

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Trouble with a T

Over the past few weeks I’ve discovered different natural bush walks and flat walks along the long roads near my house. And I try to walk for the length of the podcasts I love to listen to.Usually around an hour. Today however, the pain in my right hip, that arthritic bone on bone that comes with age and probably carrying more than my small frame could manage over the years, gave me reason to detour home a bit more quickly than usual.

That first twinge after 20-30 minutes and I whisper to myself. “ Here comes trouble.”

Clearly I like walking more than I dislike the pain because I won’t stop. So back to my walk. As I was walking today I just couldn’t get this song out of my head. You know how that happens sometimes?  It reminds me of when there was a scratch on one of my records and it just repeated over and over again. So the words go like this,

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

It seems Joni Michell  has a lot to say to me during these times.

She once said trouble was her Muse and maybe that’s one of the reasons she keeps popping up for me. We are not short of trouble during these time. I know that in years to come, if we are still alive, we can look back and observe and reflect from a distance what came out of that time for ourselves personally and for the world.

And we can ask ourselves, did trouble inspire me too?

Trouble inspires me to clean out all the cupboards in my kitchen and brushed away those cobwebs from the entrance to my house. I like cleaning my home. Why not? How wonderful to clean our space.

Trouble inspires us to have a two minute chat with a neighbour you never met before.

My kids call me every day and that reminds me that paying it forward has never been so important. I belong to a group of people from all over the world and we meditate together. We learn and we share what we are learning with each other. And our last conversation was about what can we do in service for others in these troubled times. Trouble was standing very close to me the last time we all met. But the enthusiasm of those in the group sharing their ideas about what could make a difference to those in the world where Trouble wasn’t leaving their side, was enormously uplifting.

I don’t think we necessarily need to feel proud of the kind and thoughtful acts we do for each other, but I do know that doing acts of service bring a sense of joy and fulfilment into our own hearts. I have a school friend who is a bundle of bubbles and joy. And she has known crushing sorrow. She has found ways to be of service to others, including me and every time I see her she appears more and more joyful. And it’s not the joy that requires big wide grins and flowery effervescent sentences. No. That kind of joy is often too much to take when trouble is standing very near.

It’s a warmth and a kind of ‘of course-ness’ that emanates from her when I see her. Of course I’m popping over to give you some of my potatoes. Of course I’m dropping off a pot plant. Of course I’m leaving you with two hand-made masks. She is the one I called when Oren was in ICU and ‘of course’ she just said all the right things because, well she knew exactly what I was going through. She’s had her own troubles.

Did you know there are 339 songs that have Trouble in their title? I looked it up. Trouble has inspired thousands of artists to write and sing and paint and create from their experience of it.

As a child I got into so much trouble. I just didn’t fit into a neat box. I argued with my parents, questioned my teachers, hitchhiked in strangers cars and walked a road less travelled.  Some people seem to attract trouble into their lives more than others. Believe me I know!

And so when I listen to Big Yellow Taxi by Joni, I know what she means. Everyone who listens to those lyrics knows what she means. And so I guess the reason this fame-shunting  genius, who wrote and painted and lived life with vulnerability and courage, is so loved and admired, is for one simple reason. She is relatable. There is nothing that draws us closer to friends than that feeling of being able to relate. That’s why our acts of service need to be experienced not only as a giving but we must acknowledge that in the giving we are too are receiving.

There is a television series called Merlin. I loved it but probably not for the reason the writers and producers intended. I loved Merlin, the young Warlock whose whole purpose was to protect Prince Arthur who later became King Arthur, because everything he did was done in complete anonymity. Arthur was never to know. And although Merlin was often ridiculed and teased by Arthur, he never revealed that he was the one that rescued the King when he got into Trouble. Without Merlin, Arthur could never have become King of Camelot.  And without Arthur, Merlin could never have lived his true purpose.

And so maybe I can’t walk as far, or as well as I once could, but I can relate to those, who know that they have lost something they once had, and yet are damn thankful for what they’ve still got.

Trouble has the power to inspire appreciation. Its paradoxical but true.

In the words of my wise and wonderful late husband, If you don’t have what you want, want what you have.

Posted in Being Here and Now, What Breaks Your Heart? | 1 Comment

I Get It Now

Transformation -it’s bloody hard!

Many years ago I met a young man at a Gestalt therapy training in San Diego. We  had very different way of understanding and practicing our chosen  modality of psychotherapy. One day we were playing with these inner-sight cards. You know the ones with words like Kindness, Compassion, Introversion, Truthfulness written on them. I picked Introspection and sighed. I guess that was what I knew I needed at the time but didn’t want to admit.

Introspection requires self-examination, analysing yourself, looking at your own personality and actions, and considering your own motivations. So for me an example of Introspection is when I meditate to try to understand my actions, thoughts and feelings.

My friend chose Transformation. And in my excitement, imagining a quick and wonderful change to his life and exclaimed, “Oh Wow . How wonderful!.” To which he slowly replied,

“Transformation is not easy. It often hurts. It’s usually a complicated and challenging  process.”

And at the time, I confess, I didn’t completely understand. I was in the throes of studying to become the psychotherapist I would eventually become, and I was excited to have entered a world that would change me and I was loving the changes. But that was not what my friend meant. Not at all.

In an organisational context to undergo profound and radical change that orients an organisation, community, country and planet into a new direction  required a dismantling of the structures that held the original ‘oragnisation’ in place.

And as I believe physical, emotional and mental change cannot occur without recognising the implicit Spirituality that exists in all that IS , then clearly we are all experiencing a Spiritual transformation of, as I prefer to call it, a Spiritual Shift.

As I contemplate this I can reminded of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar and I began to wonder how that feels. But before I could imagine this I needed to know what actually happens. This is what we all know.

The story usually begins with a very hungry caterpillar hatching from an egg. The caterpillar, or what is more scientifically termed a larva, stuffs itself with leaves, growing plumper and longer through a series of molts in which it sheds its skin. One day, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig or leaf and spins itself a silky cocoon or molts into a shiny chrysalis. Within its protective casing, the caterpillar radically transforms its body, eventually emerging as a butterfly or moth.

But what some of us, including me didn’t know was that in order to be able to become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to fall apart completely, decompose down to its very essence, devoid of any shape or consciousness. It literally dies. There is nothing left of it. And from this liquid essence, the butterfly starts to put itself together, from scratch.

In a way that’s what appears to be happening now. There is a ‘falling apart’ of the structures that we believed or perceived,  held our world together.  There is a Spiritual Shift occurring, a transformation and is not comfortable. It not easy. It’s often painful, frightening and full of uncertainty.

I imagine those of you who read my writings on Speed of Light-Heartedness are already conscious and even welcoming of the changes that are occurring, but some of us are  so overworked, so struck with the grief and horror of the loss and sickness and death, so confused and angry and just so, so tired,  that they naturally want this to end as soon as possible.

Here is how I think we might be able to speed this up for ourselves and in doing so help everyone.

When we are pushed in the supermarket, spoken to rudely, when groups of people stand too close to you, when you disagree with the leaders that hover and change their minds and say something you completely don’t agree with, when people regard you as overreacting, when you feel judged, when memes, Facebook and Instagram images and posts putting down individuals find their way into your email boxes, I want to suggest what you might want to do.

  1. Remind yourself that they are frightened and this is how they are reacting.
  2. Try to respond from the heart and not react from fear.
  3. Take three breaths( they don’t even have to be deep) while you wiggle your toes in your shoes.
  4. Look at your feet and remember we are all walking this journey together.
  5. Remember no one is less than or better than another.
  6. Become aware of when you are being judgmental and just stop.
  7. Put your awareness ‘or your hand’ on your heart and say, 

Who do I want to be right now?

What needs some healing of love within me right now?

What words of comfort do i want to hear right now

8. Speak carefully

9. Be Kind

10.  Be Forgiving

11.  Be generous

12. Consider the rude, the cranky, the judgmental, the frightened and the struggling are all part of our spiritual family

And so to my old friend from San Diego, all I can say to you is, thank you.

I get it now.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Being Here and Now, The 12 Levels of Being | 2 Comments

Bringing Calm to Chaos: Now Is the Time

As I sit in my home quietly living out the days of quarantine, following my return from Northern Italy I ask myself this question. What was my soul’s intent for this incarnation? What did I want to learn, to understand, to create, to share? As I sit in my home thankful for the powers that be, who brought me home at the eleventh hour, just before the doors of Italy were shut, I ask myself, how is this experience connected to the Intent to which I was born.

Let’s take a few steps back. To even ask myself this question, it is clear that I believe we have consciousness that exists beyond our physical life. That I am, you are, a sacred, indivisible spark of Light that originated as part of the Source of all Life. That spark of light does not wear out or flicker and go out in a puff of cosmic smoke. That spark of light holds all the memories, lessons, triumphs and tribulations that make up who we are from the very first moment we enfolded and surrounded it with a physical body. There is a difference between the Essence of who we are and our Soul but that is not the purpose of this writing. The purpose is to explore with you, what is my, your, Intent for this life.

In The 12 levels of Being I explore the significant difference between Intention and Intent. They are not the same. Intention is more like a hope. We have an intention to wake up early every day and go for a walk or we make an intention to write in our journal, or stop buying chips for a month, or read a new book a month. We make these statements but they come from a desire, a wish a hope that this is what we will do.

Our Intent is something different. Intent is a higher frequency. It requires clarity and action. It requires a deep understanding of how to action this Intent and to put that action into practice. Intention can become Intent with clear and concise action but without it Intent can slip right back into intention or  sit is a metaphorical place where our Intents, those sparks of Divine energy gather and wait to be remembered.

Our ethnicity is intrinsically connected to our Intent. We learn because of who and where we come from or in spite of who and where we come from. From my perspective there are no mistakes and so, however we arrived in this life, it was part of that Intent for this life.

Why am I exploring all this with you at this time? Because as part of my own spiritual growth I have been invited to look at what was my Intent for this life time and as I am confined to my home for two weeks, I am struck with the realization that I am not waiting to get back into my life. This is it. This moment, though not one I had even thought of when I left for Venice 6 weeks ago, is my life.

 How do we live our life without waiting for the next part of it? How do we embrace the unexpected, the challenging, the painful without waiting till it’s over?  When my husband, Oren died, just over a year ago, people often tried to console me by telling me how I will feel, in time,  how and when I will heal, eventually. It’s the same with chronic illness, years of sleepless nights with tiny children, incarceration, or detention. Waiting to get better, waiting to sleep the whole night or get out of jail, though completely normal is not accepting that this situation is actually my life. Here and now. And to use it to become stronger, wiser, more resilient, turns it into a powerful opportunity to reconnect to your original Intent.

There are many examples of people who have done this and have changed the world through aspiring to live their lives every day and not waiting till it gets better. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Dass, Steven Hawkins, Franklin Roosevelt and Victor Frankle, just to name a few. If I look at these lives, I love to imagine what was the Intent made by their souls for their most recent life. They all inspire me. I certainly aspire to live every day putting into action the Intent that informed my birth in this life.

We have watched and perhaps even participated in the panic and chaos that Covid19, or  Corona Virua,  is bringing to the world. We worry about what ‘might’ happen if…….

We do, we say and we behave in ways that are not aligned to our perception of ourselves and we try to defend or rationalise our behaviours because of the situation we all find ourselves in.

I have given myself a small challenge and I want to share it with you.

How can I bring Calm to Chaos  in my actions today? Whether it is at work, shopping, caring for our children, elderly, sick or infirm, how can I bring calm to chaos right now? What can I say that shifts the energy? What can I do that brings a smile to that person in front of me?

Who do I choose to be in the life I am living, right now, at this time, in this situation?

There are no mistakes. Only choices and the opportunity to action our sacred Intent.Bringing Calm to Chaos

 

Posted in Being Here and Now | 2 Comments

And We Go Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

We’re Captive on a Carousel of Time

I’m in Venice walking for hours every day. I’m never sure where I’m going unless it’s to the dentist or the hairdresser. Getting lost down a calle ( side street) and turning corners day after day, and finding myself going round and round in circles has become the new normal for me.

I’m okay with that. The heart is open and I am here to Be and to see and to touch and taste and feel it all.

I only learned that Carnivale was cancelled from my children because the news here is in Italian and I listen but don’t understand what I’m hearing. I hope that by some magical form of osmosis I will suddenly click and understand everything, but so far I only understand a spattering of words. One of them is Corona virus. Once I hear that, I tend to change the channel or put on Netflix mainly because I know there is a lot of media hype and fear creating going on. The media influence mass consciousness a bit like the spread of well….an infection.

Level 6 in The 12 Levels of Being is Mass Consciousness. That is the emotional climate of a community, country or indeed the world. It could be grief, blame, fear or revenge and it permeates people’s consciousness until it becomes difficult to differentiate between the feeling as being yours or being something that is so strong in the mass consciousness it only appears to be yours.

Turning off the television only partly works. My friends call me… did I know……..?

Did I know that the planes to Israel have been canceled if have they come from Hong Kong, Singapore or Korea? No! And did you know that all the theatres and places for events has been closed in Italy? No. And did you know that… well you get the message. It was stuff they hear and read through the media.

So, to be clear I am not worried. Let me get that out first. And I am taking some precautions.  I wash my hands all the time. But every bottle of sanitizer and every mask in the whole of Italy was panic-bought last weekend. I kid you not. Nothing on the shelves.

All this made me start to think what could the significance be? The appearance is easy. A new virus it causing people to become sick and some to die. The result is panic.

But what is the significance?

We all know that individual countries are  concerned about themselves. Their financial situation, the education of the population, their medical services  and their people’s well-being. Every individual country has their own ideas about what is right for their country..

Then one day a new tiny little microscopic virus arrives. Even though influenza takes a few lives every year and the SARS virus cause a bit of Asian panic this virus seems to be scaring the whole world. I remember when HIV and AIDS terrified the world but in our ignorance it became an us again them situation. In other words Separation. This corona virus has the whole world working together for one of the first times I can remember. The common enemy. A teensy little virus that can cause serious illness and occasionally death. The whole world is trying to work together to eliminate this new strain of virus.  Universities and laboratories around the world working together, hospitals and towns across borders protecting their cities and towns and communities  And every time this tiny virus shows up in a new place or in a new person the whole world hears about it.

But. And it’s a big BUT

Panic is the main cause of this global connection. Fear is bringing people and countries together and unfortunately still turning some people against others. So my question is why do we need Chaos for us all to come together?

What would every nation leader say and do if they could all come together for the highest good of the entire planet.

How could we as one living entity called Earth unite and make Global decisions for the highest good of all.

What would every nation commit to and create for the whole world to thrive?

This is virus is an opportunity. Another one. They come and they go, but without recognizing an opportunity it’s like a wave that breaks on the beach and just disappears. We have an opportunity here to disconnect from mass fear perpetrated by the media in search of some new drama to sell news. I’m here in Venice. It’s quiet today, but the re are some restaurants and cafes are open. Hardly anyone is wearing a mask. People are smiling and children, home from school for this week, are enjoying time with their parents. Life is not a swirling mass of terror as much as the media would wish you to think.

As I walked in circles trying to find the vaporetto that brought me here, I notice an art gallery. I get distracted by a moment in time.

Everything the artist, Enzo Fiorie makes comes from trees and roots, and dirt and dead insects. This work is beautiful in its honoring of life. From dust to dust. The richness of life emerges. She, our Mother Earth will survive no matter what,  no matter what we fear. Indeed no matter what we do. But we also have choices.

As I walk around and around I realise I am embracing uncertainty.  I am here, we are here, for such a brief time and the opportunities to make a difference, to  open our eyes and hearts and take it  in, moment by moment, come and go. Sometimes the opportunity to do something beautiful, something meaningful, something  purposeful only comes once.

It’s a new day here in Venice and I’m back on the carousel.

Posted in Being Here and Now | 11 Comments