Meeting the Moment #31 2021

I am revisiting a David Whyte question geared to all, and especially leaders, about courageous conversations which start with stopping the conversation you are currently having. This is the act of giving up the conversation that is taking your energy and paralysing you from taking the step you need to take, the one Whyte nominates as as the first step. the one closest to you. It is a favourite poem of mine and one I return to when I really don’t want to do something and find myself procrastinating or worse prevaricating. The instruction to start with the solid ground you have beneath your feet, for me is to return to what has sustained me before, to trust the firm foundations of my life, however fragile they might be, and to stop listening to what others, ghosts, phantoms included, might be conjuring up or camouflaging as my own questions.

There are a lot of conversations I thought I was in, and ones I have tried to hang onto longer than they required. Wanting to stay in a conversation that had been stopped for me in particular. I have a laundry list of conversations I thought I was in while I was still longing for them to continue; conversations I wanted to keep going with, but in fact I was talking to myself.

I think the first time I was really conscious of this phenomena was when I miscarried in my 20s. I was following a path, love, marriage, baby carriage and then that was abruptly halted. I felt dreadly alone and an anonymous patient in a big, sterile, hospital system and finding my way home in a beat up HG Holden with my completely bewildered husband. I bled for months on and off.

I have enough examples of this phenomena now over four more decades to fill a library. The chapters would include jobs I worked in and left or had closed on me, another would be on political life, institutional conflicts, another on marriage, another on motherhood, and one on grief and death. There would be some references to me halting conversations that were out of sync or step with what was required set in board rooms, performance reviews, terminations of employment, reports to police or other authorities, leaving friendships and setting limits.

We are in the middle of a conversation as a country, and indeed a whole world, with a virus. One that has the capacity to mutate, ability to close down nations, interrupt democracy, write new paragraphs in a fascist playbook, unleash fear and anxiety, disrupt movement, redraw maps. When we say we don’t want to be in the conversation and turn away from the virus, and turn towards each other with compassion, kindness, civility I am deeply encouraged. When we make the virus the baddie in this narrative, I feel more at ease. I delight in our chief medical officer telling everyone this is the weekend to tidy your sock drawer or clean out the shed, and our police commissioner wryly say leaving home to commit a crime is not one of the five reasons to leave your home. These responses are relational and human. Yet tonight I saw our largest capital city looking like a police state, helicopters in the air, every available person with a blue uniform being called to be on duty, all the trained dogs and horses on patrol, military back up for peace keeping and health protection on station platforms and in the public squares. New South Wales a police state, remnants of its colonial origins as a penal colony and my parochial ‘free settler’ version of myself as a South Australian kicks into gear.

The first step to take, for me, is to realise the ground I am on, in this democracy, has not been democratic for all, it is stolen, unceded land and I have to plant myself firmly in that conversation before I get too holier than thou.

But setting that aside, I am deeply disturbed about how we stop the conversation of individual rights and responsibilities over our shared rights and responsibilities. It is the I vs We conversation we need to stop. And one I need to stop myself being in. There is only really ever we. Being able to stay curious, open and gentle with the other starts with me. We are all seeking to belong; all seeking solid ground; all seeking to feel safe. We are all walking into unknown territory, into dark woods where the sunlight finds its way between branches, into uncertainty, where the pathways that were once assured no longer serve us, and new ones are not yet worn. These are the courageous conversations to have with one another, and we start with the conversation we need to have with ourselves. Where we hear ourselves into being bolder, more vulnerable, braver, more exposed to each others fears and anxieties by being in touch with our own. Taking a step towards empathy might be our saving grace and perhaps, the only real protection in a pandemic … to say nothing of the climate crisis ….

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes an
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own

don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,

the step
you don’t want to take.

You can hear and watch David Whyte reciting Start Close In here.

Photo by Kevin Wolf on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #30

A couple of weeks after I was married (I was 19) I went to see for coloured girls when the rainbow is enuf – a series of poems and dance unique award-winning tale of the African-American woman’s journey in America by Ntozake Shange. It was the 1978 Adelaide Festival of the Arts. A few years earlier the Aboriginal Flag had flown for the first time in the square, next door to my high school,  right near the theatre this show was being performed in. I was learning and soaking up stories about being black, being an outsider, slavery and liberation. I knew more about slavery in North America, the slave trade out of England than I did about what was in my own country. As that decade rolled on into the next the apartheid movement and all the injustices took hold of me as well, and I grew in my understanding of the lack of a just settlement in Australia, mainly driven by the investigations and leadership of the Australian Catholic Bishops and the Australian Council of Churches, who I also worked for on and off throughout the 1980s and between campaigns there were children. Organising was what happened in schools, union halls, church buildings and in the columns of community news-sheets. When the bi-centennial came in 1988 I learnt more and had a few key people take me under their wing with practical, theological and ethical considerations to keep me curious, engaged, active. Foundations were laid, never fully or completely taken up, but enough there to hold the seeds in place and odd ones germinated from time to time as necessary.  It was not an intellectual exercise. I adorned the walls of the kitchen with healing bush foods, made and bought clothes with the messages, flags and materials to draw attention to the issues, read stories about justice and held up liberation leaders as role models. There was a fair bit of righteousness going on.  During this time I brought unwanted attention to my family from an ultra-right wing group who threw bricks through the windows of my children’s bedroom, damaged the car, wrote racist graffiti on the window of an overseas student who was boarding with us, had our phone bugged, children followed home from kindergarten, appeared in the press and on television to amplify the stories, gave evidence to a commission …. it was a heady period and there were times I felt courageous, and times I felt terrified for myself and for my family.  It all came together in front of the Adelaide Catholic Cathedral one day when I was abused walking out the front with an Aboriginal leader and fellow member of the Archdiocese Justice and Peace Commission, as we headed off to give evidence of our experience of vilification to a Human Rights Commissioner. A woman well known for her conservative religious beliefs abused me as we walked past the doors of the Cathedral. The irony of the moment left my friend and I in shock. We didn’t speak about it, we just kept walking.  I wasn’t 30 and so young in my activism but already felt I had a life time of experience.  Adelaide is hardly a hotbed of revolution, although we have been home to a lot of firsts in human rights and democratic practices.

The winds and rain and hail these past few days falling around me have brought me inside. In reflection, I have been struck by how little I look back, I try to be a pilgrim, to keep walking towards the light and finding each footing to have its own quality and character to guide the next step to be taken. All the steps of the past are the ones that have got me here, they are all worthy of mention from time to time, to remind myself of where I have walked, who has walked with me, who I have walked with, when I have rested, who I have rested with.

The pilgrim way is one step at a time and when I look back over my shoulder, I can see that there has been a path followed and yet the one over the hill that meets the horizon, remains invisible, melting into the sky. I can confidently keep walking knowing that each step is preparing me for the next.  Of late the backpack has been very heavy and even though it might grow in size and shape, it might also be lighter, such is the paradox of the pilgrim. Come night, the remains of the day, like the sand or pebbles from the road, can be shook from the shoes, rest arrives and silence stills the body and the mind as the inner journey prepares the next steps to be taken.  

I have been quoting Toni Cade Bambara this week who said  ‘As a culture worker who belongs to an oppressed people, my job is to make revolution irresistible.’  That is the work, to make the revolution irresistible. We need all the poets, pilgrims, designers, brand experts, lyricists, writers, musicians and artists. Having time and space to rest into the creative is a gift of these wild and windy days and nights. My response has been to make marmalade. Bitter sweet, citrus fruits, hot, steaming, bubbling and frothing, needing sterilised jars to hold the golden coloured jam, sealed in anticipation for spreading on hot toast. And that feels all just right to meet this moment and I hope deliciously irresistable.

Dark and Light Marmalade – Mandarins, Lemons, Grapefruit July 2021

Meeting the moment 2021 #29

The power was off for nearly sixteen hours and the winds were raging, I was having a Dorothy moment, thinking I might end up in Kansas. It was one of those moments with the windows rattling, the banging of loose tin, something unknown and metallic hitting against a nearby fence and in the distance a crash of a branch. By mid afternoon men in hi-vis and big white trucks were wandering up and down the street and around the corner matching their knowledge to the ferocity of what had been the night before and its impact on 67 households (according to the app). These are the moments I remember to be grateful for power, hot water, wi-fi, heating … I take so much of this for granted in my first world comfort zone.  

A storm like this, only a few years back, had me driving my dying husband around in the car with his ventilator plugged in so it could recharge via the car’s auxiliary power outlet. We went up and down roads and through vineyards and over hills, until the power at home went back on.  We had dispensation to be a priority customer given his reliance on oxygen, but we didn’t get the supply immediately and also up until then didn’t have tanks on hand to compensate.  (We got them after that and never had to use them.)  I am grateful I don’t have to live through all those moments again.  Stormy conditions are not always equitable. Some of us have more resources than others, more jackets to put on, better quality umbrellas, back up powerpacks. I have come to consider the non-physical versions of these, resilience tools.

The breath is what distinguishes something as being alive or dead. The raging storm lets me know well I am alive, all creation is alive.

In the storm, the air finds its voice mixed with the staccato of hail, the rumble of thunder, the crescendo of waves of rain crashing like waves on the beach. Then the quiet arrives, not quite silence, as birds find ways to harmonise with the new post-storm atomic score. You take time to clean up debris, replace and restore what is out of place or is not in any shape to be able to be retained. The path of the storm has left a clearing where, there is now, more light.

I have been haunted by the past and some very tricky personalities presenting themselves this week. I felt darkness descending and shadows forming, not of my making and not at my invitation. In true Celt fashion, a triptych of deeptime sensory discomfort. The storm blew in to deliver lessons. The electricity lines being down seemed to draw a line, cut off supply and blew away the bad spirits. The elements have guided me and delivered the high, fierce and dangerous winds required to shift the predatory shadows circling me. 

The invitation to live in this space between and with the elements, is something I am learning more about, thanks to continuing to delve into my Celtic roots especially through the works of John O’Donohue and guidance of Norin Ni Riain. I am learning to take instruction from the elements, to live more in tune to the seasons, the turn of the sun, the tidal power of the moon and the dance steps of planets and stars. It is not lost on me, this relationship between wind and breath, and the feminine word for spirit (ruah) in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It feels quite pointed and poignant, as I meet the moment of this week, reflecting on the symphonic elemental natural world as my spiritual guide.

Photo by Anandu Vinod on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #28

I slipped over early in the week, nothing serious, but I did break my glasses. The local optometrist team worked magic and put what they could back in place, hopefully long enough to hold before new ones arrive. I find it so hard to see clearly without my specs and the short trip to get it all sorted was as stressful a moment as I have had in a long time.  The anxiety ramped up quickly and how much I take my glasses for granted was instantly the centre of my attention. 

Saturday started on the ocean with an intense sea fog and ended with a stunning winter sunset – and that is how the broken glasses incident was too. It began in complete haze and inability to focus or make anything out and ended in the warm glow of professionals who had seen many a day and knew how to close it up with colour.  I am finding I am living a lot between these two kinds of horizons  – muddled haze and translucent clarity.  Calibrating between these two is more than a binary choice, it is a process of constant adjustment against values and principles and a loose attempt to be living inside planetary constraints.  I am forever falling short and holding myself to account is only part of the story. I really appreciate it when others call me out, give me a nudge or even a push and a shove. It all helps me know where the boundaries are and who or what holds them in place. There are often surprises to when those ‘beautiful constraints’ might be.  More than once I have found my good intentions to fall foul of an invisible boundary I had accidentally transgressed.

This week I had the good fortune to be listening and learning from Aboriginal elders and lawyers talk about how we are governed and what laws get applied when decisions are made. I learnt about Aboriginal law, earth jurisprudence and Western jurisprudence and their differences revolving around the rights and responsibilities inside each and primacy of land and/or humans. All this in NAIDOC Week seemed a perfect alignment, and there were plenty of foggy and clear moments.  There is no way I would have been able to process the conversation and what I was learning without my glasses! The interdependence of what I hear, what I see and how I integrate and feel my through new learning seems completely reliant on being able to see clearly. Fog lifts for me once I can process new information and give it meaning and make sense of it in how I can apply new knowledge to everyday situations.  Big ideas need our big skies and even bigger hearts. 

The joy of discovering a new way of seeing the world usually is followed by the grief of never being able to see it the old way again and knowing that there is a cost to that, because of the privilege you had in holding onto the old way of seeing. It is a constant letting go, unravelling as Leunig would say.  I reminder that ambiguity and lack of clarity are gateways to a more lucid future. Living in the present tense maybe a mindfulness act, but I don’t think it is enough for transformation, being rooted in the past and honestly confronting the consequences of those times in the present epigenetics and trauma and all that entails, is part of the necessary healing and heralding required for a kinder and more just future. I don’t want to go there … often … and it can feel like being on a hamster wheel … by not going there is to remain in the fog with broken glasses.

Slipping to enable glasses to be broken, getting the glasses temporarily repaired, being in the fog, seems to be a process and a natural law for meeting the moment.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #27

Six years ago, today I received a new title and role, Grandma. It was one I was looking forward too and one I have enjoyed very much. At the time I wrote about the feeling of the universe expanding, and that has continued through watching him make his way in the world, and for my part, stepping into eldership and spinning the straws of knowledge into wisdom. There is the constant invitation to see the world from a different height and imagination, a more digitised world, worlds within worlds. A renewed energy for justice making arrived with his birth and with it a reckoning of the amnesia of not paying enough attention to legacy and a less consumptive, less extractive behaviour. Then there is the reminder of living from the point of view of a child, living with wonder, curiosity and the never-ending learning from trial and error.

Places and spaces created for children have simple design features built in, like interactive elements at different heights. Rumour has it the intimacy of watching PlaySchool is in part due to camera operators filming at the height of a four-year-old. If all the world were designed from that perspective, we would get a glimpse of what works for children. Reading Design Justice and learning all about the inequities of design when you apply racial, gender, settler, colonial lens’ and it certainly got me thinking too about the lack of design justice for children, except in places that are designed exclusively with children in mind like playgrounds and children’s libraries. And then there is the policy context, designing a world where there is climate justice with future generations in mind, and the injustices of public policies past and some in the present that have generated so much grief and sadness. The horrors of how children from First Nations from Canada to Australia and everywhere in between have been discarded, thrown away or even worse, spring to mind. Children being removed from families, lost to their communities, disconnected from their heritage. Before there is just settlement of these matters, there is wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

Despair and darkness know no light when pain, shame and stain remain.

Back to the gift I have of intergenerational luxury, we sometimes work things out together and take it in turns to instruct the other in the ways of the world. He thoroughly enjoyed explaining to me how to order food in a drive through fast food outlet and demonstrated compassion at my failure to understand some basic manoeuvres in a game that involved zombies and plants. He eagerly took instruction on turning dry pappadums into something edible through the magic of microwaves and gave his own rationale for sausage rolls having to be spaced apart on a baking tray prior to going into the oven – they need their personal space. These are a few of the joys of being in the moment with a little person. They are moments, beads threaded on a necklace of delight.

The more clearly, we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. – Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring
At my 60th birthday, 2018

Meeting the Moment 2021 #26

Invitations abound to meet the moment of patriarchy and to let it go for a more inclusive way of being people and planet.  This weekend I am working with a bunch of talented individuals who have come from far and wide to imagine what a digital platform co-op might look like that disrupts patriarchy by being a platform intentionally designing in feminist and co-op principles.

What follows is the brief the teams have been given. Maybe it will spark some ideas for you?

In creating the brief I drew on what I was looking for when at the end of last year I started to consider monetizing this weekly blog. I went looking for a subscription platform that was female founded or at least had a majority of female users or shareholders.  I was surprised to find nothing that matched that criteria.  I then started to think about all the other criteria that would satisfy me – a community owned platform, one designed and always being iterated by the owners, one where people were fairly rewarded, one where we would find people like me and others not like me, one where there was the potential for the future to be evenly distributed.

Here is the brief:

It is 2021. We are living in the time of a global pandemic, a climate emergency, a time when the veil has dropped on misogyny, where decolonisation has begun and racial justice is being called for. Equity. Inclusion. Love. Wisdom. Collaboration. Community. Trust. 

We need care before code. We also know the future of work is going to be local including working from home to a global market. This hackathon is set in this context.  

Automation, remote working and the knowledge economy are here and expanding. This is disproportionately impacting on women, First nations, people of colour, LGBTIQ+ and people with disabilities. The platforms being used to buy and sell are predominantly not owned and operated by these groups of people. This is increasing the economic and social divide. If we want a more just and equitable world we are going to need to build accessible, socially and economically just platforms. We need democratic and ethical templates to build disruptive technologies actually focused on real disruption and social change. It is not enough to tweak the platforms we have.  

Can you imagine instead of outsourcing our futures to automated systems that are limited to market solutions, we envision a new social ecologically oriented online community that reinforces its productive energies and creativity, toward restorative and resilient ends? 

We can imagine it, so can we build it? 

We come to this problem with a beginners mind, and a willingness to disrupt our own thinking, to invite beginners luck, to take chances and use our imagination as a tool to unlock and unleash ideas. We come to the task clear about what is negotiable and non-negotiable. There are beautiful constraints in this hackathon, just as there are in all our lives.

These are the constraints that will make our hack beautiful. What we make will be transformational and: 

  • disrupt patriarchy
  • be a co-op
  • reflect feminist principles
  • competitive pricing with other platforms like Patreon, SubStack 
  • make money for its members
  • have an attitude of  abundance 

As William Gibson (scifi writer) put it:  “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” For instance in the bitcoin community is 91% men and 96% of Ethereum users are male. Blockchain definitely promises the potential for more equity in distribution, but this is yet to be realised. How might collaborative, inclusive processes create a prosperous future  for people, planet and future generations?

Existing platforms for creatives take a % in fees and the fintech platforms take another fee, all this before the producer of the content or service can have their share. It is an extractive model. 

Patriarchy is competitive, hierarchical, where masculinity is normative and there is a bias towards male dominance and control. These features are reflected in the business model, design, algorithms, communications and marketing in platforms. Scale is always understood as hypergrowth upwards, rather than deeper or wider. Patriarchy is killing men too – they are dying earlier than women, have worse mental health and higher suicide rates – imagine a world with happier and healthier men.

The problem as we see it is we need to #femthefuture.  This means creating generative, distributive, inclusive and equitable ways to participate in the online economy.  We thought starting with a platform to enable this kind of exchange to take place was as good as any place to start. 

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #25

I have been a close witness to spiritual poverty recently and it is playing on my mind. There is an emptiness and malaise, a recognition of not being in control and being weighed down by this new learning, causing a kind of paralysis of the heart. It is the opposite of wholeheartedness. I am not talking about living with a God or values, it is more like the ego withering in a corner and still hanging on as if still relevant.  And I am also conscious that we notice and name in others what might be a lot closer to home than we would like.

I had the most beautiful spontaneous farewell this week from a community of practitioners that I have sojourned with in various ways over the past seven years and it was a light, joyous and celebratory occasion despite tears and grief.  There was a wholeheartedness, as best as we could create in the two-dimensional zoom platform. A litany of stories spanning decades, a mixture of head wear, a song and musical accompaniment enriched the moment. I feel very deep gratitude for this improvised way of being, uncluttered by calendar bingo and formality.  It was a time of spiritual riches being gathered up and shared amongst the faithful. Leadership and self-organising are vital to the way we shift and move in the world and midwife the next steps we want to take alone and together. It is as Paul Hawken calls it ‘blessed unrest’, not always organised, not always perfect, but always connected and always with threads sewn into the seams with the changes being called for, somehow holding it all together.  The gathering felt like the opposite of the spiritual poverty I had been witnessing elsewhere.

The practice of showing up and reading the papers as a former colleague used to remind me was 90% of everything in governance and that seems to apply here too.  When you show up and read the signs of the times and then enter the discourse, it is inevitable you will catch some of that communally created spirit. If, however you turn up and sit on the sidelines, or turn up and do not notice the signs and messages, visible and invisible, then there is every chance you will miss the moment to co-create.  These ‘pop up’ moments have clarity of purpose as the chance for hidden agendas or any agenda for that matter, do not have the time to be developed or lobbied.  This one was infused with head wear and music – possibly essential ingredients to bring joy and centring gift over grief.  Facilitated with ease and competency to enable all the voices to be heard and faces to be seen is also a must. This role was in very capable hands, and it was a treat to watch the skills close at hand. A gift of being seen.

Such an unexpected way to end the working week to transition away from those relationships and ways of working. I do not seek flowers or cards or goodbyes that have formality and having something that was off the cuff and initiated and authorised by the community is exactly the way I would want to be seen and recognised. I have never been very good with the formalities. When I got an Order of Australia (AM) it took a young friend’s framing to help me accept it – she said it was the community giving me a hug back for all the hugging and helping I had done over the decades.  That really helped me feel differently about the award, and that is how I felt on Friday night, I was getting a big hug back via the people on the screen.

When you work in the ways I do, sometimes very quietly behind the scenes, sometimes loudly at the frontier and sometimes disrupting at the margins, I often find myself wondering what is working well and if I am hitting the mark …. And then on days like Friday I realise that most days, I am giving it my best shot, equipped with my energy, skills, intellect, and good humour, a spiritual practice of radical generosity, sympathetic joy, and gratitude. So when I see spiritual poverty, I want to run from it, and I am finding it harder and harder to be around. Perhaps that is my poverty speaking because I do have times when I cannot meet the moment. This week, however, was not one of them.

A deep and sustained bow to the one who invited me to the call and then initiated the impromptu gathering.  I was filled up and can happily smile and wave goodbye til next time, because as I reminded everyone … it is a bit hard to get away from me. Cheers to my friends in collective impact over the years – Together SA, ten20 foundation, Opportunity Child, Collaboration for Impact. #friends4eva

Photo by Christine Jou on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #24

This past week I have been on Larrakia, in towns with names of Palmerston and Darwin. I pay my respects to Larrakia and thank them for the welcome to their country, their hospitality and guidance.

There were many moments to meet and levels of complexity that took me to my edge more than once. Some moments I was up for meeting and others slipped through my fingers and others faded quickly into the horizon before I was able to gather up my internal resources to meet them. 

A moment from earlier in the week began watching dancers and musicians painted and enthusiastically calling the gathered forward to learn a dance.  The whitefellas seem to be mainly receiving it as a performance and not an invitation to come up and dance. I hesitated to wait for the leaders in the community I was associated with to get up and accept the invitation first … and they did not …. I was terribly upset and a colleague with me could see my distress which enabled me to verbalise. She then said: well lets go …. And together we joined in the dance, and others then joined in.  Yet another reminder to not wait for others, to step up and step into the work to be done, to hear the call, the invitation from community and respond by joining the dance. This was echoed a couple of nights later in a community concert where singing, poetry, dance, and a lot of laughter was shared … unfortunately not too many whitefellas were there to keep the dance going, most seeming to prefer to keep that to the intellectual level which was explored in a formal session of adaptive leadership styles between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working collaboratively.

Another moment that I soaked up was an impromptu smoking ceremony led by a Larrakia elder on the concrete surrounds of a man-made lake in a place that had the right leaves and bark close at hand that could be gathered by two of the children of the elder. The ceremony saw me watch a procession of changemakers from many parts of Australia walk through the rising plumes to the sound of an uncle playing the didgeridoo.  The daughters proceeded to waft the smoke around those who arrived at the burning leaves while Aunty June Mills called us forth and encouraged us to step into the smoke. Stepping up was all it took to receive the invitation and accept the healing. Such a generous offer and none of us were able to resist. One of the women holding the leaves, pressed and held the bunch she had in her hand onto the middle of my back and I felt a clear and direct message – we have your back.  That we, the long ancestral tail of women who have gone before me, and my link in that chain to be the same for those who are coming. An instruction to guide me as I continue to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generation and take my turn to get out of the way. It was a healing moment.

And the third moment I want to call forth in my lessons for meeting the moment was in a car. A driver and three passengers, peers, exploring how to collaborate and support one another to voice and share reflections that would help unstick and unfold as we sojourn to future ways of working together. With gentle support I was able to find the words and the frames needed to hold me in the tensions without self harm showing up. I had been prepped and primed by another peer before hopping into the car and that gift of reflective and careful questions held me too. I am always grateful to have so many skilled and trusted colleagues holding me in these tough times in my practice and when I am tired and emotional.  

I called on a Blessing I had written a couple of weeks ago at Kwartatuma (Ormiston Gorge) a sacred site of the Western Arrernte people and that helped me meet moments this week too, especially as the fullness of the week ended and my body was totally spent and I tried to find my way to rest.

Blessed are the rocks for they shall hold you up
Blessed are the waters for they shall wash you clean
Blessed are the winds for they shall breathe new life into you
Blessed are the gums for they shall stand by you
Blessed are you among women and blessed are the fruits of you labour
Blessed are you to come to stillness and be radically at rest.

Meeting the Moment 2021 #23

Heading to Larrakia country today as part of my lifelong pilgrimage around this land. I am reading Thomas Major’s Finding the Heart of the Nation as part of my preparation to go deeper with the Uluru Statement from the Heart and as I wing my way through the skies, I am moved to tears more than once which is disconcerting to my fellow travellers in row 15.  Power is at the centre. The power of the Rock which I was able to visit just last week as well, and see it at dawn, at dusk and its silhouette in the night with the full moon rising behind it – even if you were not spiritual, it would be hard not to catch the still, steady, deep time presence of the land and the constellations above.

In preparation for this week ahead what power is, how it shows up, how it is recognised, how it is wielded and yielded is top of mind. I am a privileged white, educated, English speaking, awarded and recognised older women of settler stock.  I am flying in and flying out of this land. I am coming together with others doing the same as we arrive at a place that is waiting for us.  There are conversations waiting to come to life, and others that have been going so long whether we turn up for them or not does not really matter. We need more voices in the conversations from across time – past, present and future and I am musing on how I can tap into the quiet and emerging voices as well as not forgetting the ones embedded in the land and the annals of land rights, economic justice, environmental justice, and human rights.

From the 1938 Day of Mourning through to the rejection of the Uluru Statement by the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 the waiting has been sustained by the voices, courage, and tenacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.  This waiting needs to end. It is time for the voices to be heard, for treaties to be signed, for truths to be told and a Makarrata. It is time for our constitution to be adjusted. It is time for a referendum.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart ended with an invitation to all of us to join in the process for a Voice to be enshrined into our constitution, not merely a legislative amendment, anything less would be devoid of the gravitas and vitality needed to right wrongs, heal and most importantly mature. We have a shared humanity, we walk on the same earth, we sleep under the same stars, we learn to walk, together. A Truth Commission to advise parliament, like the Productivity Commission has been suggested by leaders like Marcia Langton AM and my hunch is most Australians are up for it. A people’s movement that is being mobilised, in the cities, towns, regional and remote communities, signing up to the Uluru Statement and public sharing their support for the Statement.  Politicians will follow when they think there are enough people to support it and it will not injure their political power.  We need to mobilise for influence and look to each other, to our family and friends, co-workers, community actors and elect people to our councils, parliaments, boards, and governing authorities that will support the Statement and its goals. We can start from where we are – if we are parents there is your school governing council, if we are members of an association like a sporting club or professional body we can talk to them, if we are shareholders or customers we can start with the products we buy and let their boards know what we want to support, and then by the time it comes to be voters in our next round of municipal, state, territory and federal elections we will be able to tell those seeking our vote what is important to us what we have made happen already and what we want from them.  Voice. Treaty. Truth.  This is moment to be met.

Finding the Heart

Meeting the moment 2021 #22

I have a bruised and bloodied ring finger on my right hand, after an accidental jamming in a car door. It is not a pretty sight, and the throbbing was relieved early by numbing ice.  Trauma in the body is a great reminder of the way trauma can turn up in the mind too.  A sudden impact can often lead to swelling of feelings and blood rushing to the head followed by numbness. Feeling self-pity is often not far behind. I am taking this injury as instruction and a reminder that accidents happen, and we all need someone with an ice pack once and a while to ameliorate pain and discomfort.

This week is Reconciliation Week and I have to say it is not something I have ever been able to get my head around completely. I do not know what Aboriginal people need to reconcile with non-Aboriginal people – I have always seen this as a week when whitefellas can use the prompt to make some amends, pay the rent or at the least do some learning about our past.  I have been on the road and in Central Australia, mainly in well known landscapes with only the barest of attention to First Nations. There were other signs though, the number of young ones in training and in jobs, more dual signage in language of places and flora, artists and art celebrated in public places and premium menus with bush tucker. When I come again, I hope all the leaders will be locals and the custodians of the stories, food and landscape will be so common that the temptation for the exotic over ordinary will have disappeared.  The outback is not like the cities and just like my injury the accidental encounter might jar and disturb but, in a few days, will be healed and not much would have changed. You need to stay longer to get the real impact and not just a temporary disruption, so I pack up my city thoughts and quick-to-judge views with my belongings.

The overall feeling, I have is of gratitude to Anangu for sharing the centre with us all. It is a radical generosity that is quite overwhelming.  Sharing the land and the sky is an incredible gift.  They have watched and endured generations of whitefellas climbing up Uluru and when I overheard people complaining about the cost of going into the park, I was genuinely shocked. I wanted to say – such a small amount of rent to pay – but my words would not come out. I have more work to do in my reconciliation practice.

Treating this time as a pilgrimage and meeting people along the way where they find themselves and find me has been a challenge. I am out of the practice, possibly a consequence of these COVID times. To live as a pilgrim celebrating life and taking practical steps towards transforming injustices and violence, has not been so easy for me recently. My failure to call out complaints about park fees just one of this penitent’s claims, and my swollen finger is hearing my confession, as I clip on this keyboard.  The absolution arising is: vulnerability is a consequence of risking yourself, and sometimes that is painful.

Photo by Ondrej Machart on Unsplash