Monthly Archives: June 2013

Random thoughts on Conducting

I am travelling and among the many opportunities that are coming my way, I have been reflecting on the ability to conduct. Conducting means to organise or carry out, to lead or guide; a transfer of energy. I conduct often for our playback company and it is a mix of a MC and director role, it is a very specialised facilitation practice and I do think of conducting as a practice, just like meditation is a practice. I see conducting all around me. In the mother who orchestrates outcomes to meet her needs; not quite facilitating, more manipulating; the father whose conducting is akin to being master and commander rather than a channel or a vessel. Other elegant examples though appear in the travellers’ aide who enables information to flow to empower and reassure what is going to happen next; in the candle that waits silently for me to light it at the tomb of the saint; in the book gifted by a friend that remains pristine until ready to receive my thoughts.

What situations lend themselves to being conducive? Surely the sunset on the Po delta and sister moon in her fullest glory on the Grand Canale; the blue summer morning sky hosting the swallows circling over the shingled roof tops of the Tuscan valley; the warmth of the fresh wheel of Parmesan cheese about to lie in rest for the next thirty-six months; the taste of fresh produce from the octogenarian’s garden while the nonagenerian shares his memories. My task is to allow myself to receive the transfer of energy and to recognise the conducting of the other – be it human, natural or divine.

Each time I plug-in a device to get recharged, I am reminded just how much I rely on conducting! And the metaphor is not lost on me!

While I travel, I am not disconnected to what is happening at home and I won’t use this blog to reflect on the conduct and conducting of various ALP members in Canberra – that is for another day. All of Australia seemed to be witness to a Shakespearean drama unfolding before its eyes more riveting than any reality TV. The lack of a facilitator or conductor on the set a definite gap.

I do wonder what cabinet, caucus or even the House would be like with a facilitator/ conductor? A chance of harmony breaking out?

I love this little video explaining facilitation.

While I watched the cheese makers today in Parma, I thought about how they were guiding, transferring their energy, conducting the milk, turning it into cheese with their skills, a few simple tools and a blend of knowledge, timing and genuine love of all the ingredients – from the special grass for each of the cows through to the wooden slats holding the 12 metres of cheese row after row quietly sitting in the dark waiting patiently to be ready for release into the market place.

Playback training in Toronto

Playback training in Toronto

Inheritance and Invitation

Setting off in the dark seemed the right thing to do.  I have decided to frame this 30 day pilgrimage as “inheritance and invitation”.

I am expecting that as I travel I will connect with both my inheritance and be invited into new places and spaces as well – by design and by accident.
Vigilance will be my companion and I will keep my ears, eyes and heart open. I will follow Br David’s advice to look up. (I just did that and saw a beautiful ceiling in the Dubai airport, the traditional geometric shapes of the Islamic tradition with the blue morning sky streaming in – and if I could get all the technology to work together then I could share it with you dear reader!)
My litany for today’s inheritance begins:
The imagination of the Wright brothers
The arrogance of Steve Jobs
The confidence of a King
The wonder of a young traveller
The fear of a lost soul
The compassion of a lover
The patience of a parent
So much more to come!
And the invitations are being written with such speed that receiving them all would create an impossible tsunami of emotions. Truly overwhelming. I am currently resisting an invitation of a dozen juicy oysters flirting with me from a  seafood bar. I don’t want to make the Coffin Bay oysters jealous.
My contemplation at 35,000 feet, I offer as I found myself between heaven and earth. Dear Hildegard I wonder what you would have made of flight? I suspect you too would be in awe as the journey also offered moments of stillness while still moving.
Moving Parts
Moving parts
Like a Rubik’s cube
A secret combination
Would allow the path to be clear
The pass to be made
Moving parts
Like a Swiss clock
A hidden combination
Would allow the cogs to be free
The time to be made
Moving parts
Like a gloved hand
A shrouded story
Would allow the care to be shown
The love to be made
Moving parts
Like a conveyer belt
A certain path
Would allow to trip to be mapped
The steps to be made
The missing parts found
No longer secret
No longer hidden
No longer shrouded
No longer certain
Deep time having set the course
Preordained by the constellations moving across the skies
Waiting for only me
To stop.
Sunset Willunga

Mothering and Daughtering

Balancing mothering and daughtering so that the see-saw can bring joy from the bounce rather than a thud seems to be part of mid-life for the sandwich generation I find myself in.

It is not just about biology. I am finding myself surrounded by these moments of mothering and daughtering all around me.

Here is a random sample from the week:

       woman in her 80s at the gym asking me in the showers – What’s an“app” ? and did I know of one to help with memory – as it happened I did thanks to input from a special guest at a Think Tank I’ve been facilitating

       post doctoral daughter asked – Do you know if the Greek word oikumene has any feminist theological implications? – as it happened I did and was able to send through a paper I had prepared covering some part of the topic back in 1992

       biological mother asked – Can you pick me up from hospital? yes of course and I will stay overnight – the value add only a daughter can somehow bring

       Should I apply for this job? from another biological daughter – yes of course, you could do it with your eyes closed

       foster daughter claiming her choice of family by taking a photo with the one man she knows as father to share with their common sister and daughter the bond stronger than DNA – a response to a question long ago – Mum can A come and live with us?  Yes of course

       Can I debrief with you – that was an intensive rehearsal? Of course, look forward to your call.

       witness to gasp and cry from a woman in toilet at work who rediscovered her mother’s wedding ring she thought she had lost the day before; uncovered in the crumpled paper towels at the bottom of the waste basket.  This event has haunted me all week and the deeper I go into the moment with all its implications the more likely a poem is going to come out – so stay tuned for that one! Thanks for coming to see if I was alright I didn’t mean to alarm you with my shriek.

       Thank you for the wonderful gift of nurturing and being held by the chiropractic treatment.  You are welcome my friend, thanks for being on this part of the journey with me.  (This was a most marvellous gift I relished receiving this week! And a poem coming on this too!)

       Thank you for sharing your personal stories of loss and grief from abuse of your loved one with an intellectual disability. I will write the submission to the Attorney- General your mothering and witness is like a rock.  I think you’re doing a good job for us, you’re a mum so I think you understand, thanks.

All these moments form a heady mix of virtues and vulnerability.  Mid-life is teaching me how vulnerabilities are virtues. Letting the layers of the onion peel away.  Each layer bringing a deeper potency of flavour and more tears.  The wash of the tears cleansing and clarifying and getting to the centre where the essence lies waiting for you.

Learning to give and receive seems to be at the heart of mothering and daughtering and is a great metaphor to help me understand the responsibility and wonder of co-creating, receiving and giving in equal measure.  I look for the bounce not the thud on this see-saw and gratefully welcome each time I am on that piece of play equipment going up and down squealing, giggling and sometimes being in rhythm and sometimes not.

Mums and Bub

Pilansberg National Park, RSA – Photo credit: L Deslandes 2012

Precision Poetry

This week I was treated to truth compressed in poems heard and printed on the page.

Story and song inspire, comfort and trouble me – sometimes in equal measure. I can’t imagine an existence without narrative being either backdrop or foreground to my every step. “When truth is told through the imaginative patterns of stories and poems, we have a chance to be caught up and rewoven into truth’s own designs. … stories and poems offer a far more practical thing: self-understanding that can illumine and help transform our lives” (Parker Palmer: The Active Life p.11).

One of the questions of biblical proportions put by Pilate to Jesus – What is truth? Was hurtled at us in quadraphonic sound with light and colour and movement at the production of Superstar I saw during the week. The production was stunning and the modernisation at times spine tingling and no more so than having Pilate gown up during the rendition of his solo piece (Pilate’s Dream) and the shadow boxing fitness routine to send Jesus to mob rule for trial and sentencing by Herod. The mob rule, trial by media and reality TV sentencing is not the precision of poetry.

And what would my answer be to Pilate’s question: What is Truth?  I would say to him: “Sir, truth is stripped bare when it appears in a poem – truth is laid on the table for all to see – a wound gapping open with no where to hide. Truth is raw, precise and elemental.”

Hildegard you heard and created poetry all throughout your life allowing your music to support it and bring it to life, allowing your beloved scripture and landscape to hold the words and the sounds together bringing truth to your generation that has continued to echo throughout the ages.  The truth of your God being universal – uni – verse – One Word.

The production of  Superstar revealed Jesus as an Everyman Activist – another leader on the frontline of a G8 riot or wikileak informant ending up in Guantamano Bay with an online iPhone army of disciples with the hashtag #TheTwelve.   The truth of his God being delivered in a haunting melody travelling on the breath of the flautist through the steel of the flute into the air all around us – the sound – a feather on the breath of God – landing into his lungs as he gasped his last breath on earth. Truth, beauty, art and for me, a poem of biblical proportions.

I will never be far away from the Jesus narrative, having signed up for the Jesus project and happily being a life long card carrying project officer ( a metaphor that has sustained me since I learnt of it first hand from the wonderful Brazilian team that visited Adelaide back in the 80s).  It is the activist Jesus that inspired me and now the contemplative expressions that sustain me.  The activist is drawn to external provocation, however as you go deeper and find truth it is the contemplative life that draws you to activism and says good bye to being a re-activist.  The activist Superstar version of Jesus has Jesus reacting to his homeland being occupied by Rome; yet Hildegard your Jesus is co-creating more beauty and the groaning and pain of his prayer to his Abba is from a place of solitude not amidst the noise of the crowd.  I will have my moments of being seduced and find myself being a re-activist but now I strive to be the poet who can reveal truth the precision of an arrow hitting a bullseye shot by a gold medallist archer.


Deep Time Moments

284102_2251618859109_1507394760_32466063_7443968_nI was listening to a TED talk by Hendrik Poiner about bringing back the woolly mammoth and he mentioned our love affair with these creatures from the Ice Age. He made a number of hypothesis of way this might be so, but the one that struck me was the concept of deep time – the concept of geologic time.

In doing a little wikipedia research, and one click led to another, I was drawn to Avicenna who wrote a book of healing in the sixth century that was still being used in your time Hildegard and I wondered if you ever saw it?

Deep time connecting us beyond rock and clay.

I occasionally connect with someone that I feel I have known for generations, there being something familiar and comfortable in the space created between us and within a very short time intimacy occurs. An expression, a few words, a touch, an idea that magnetically fuses us into one single moment.  Maybe it is deep time that has connected us – we may have both come from the same part of the earth or rock formation or our mitochondria recognises each other!

I have an expectation that I will be having some more of these moments in my life as my travels start. Being on the road as a pilgrim, and even when I approach my everyday life as a journey, I discover many more people in my path that I have a deep connection too.  When I get to the land of my ancestors, I will not be surprised if, I find, deep time waiting for me as it has for aeons.  There will be single moments of connection to the rock and clay, the seascape and the landscape, the people for whom that place has been their own for generations, and for pilgrims like me who pass through once in a lifetime, like a comet.  Time could well stand still creating that most exquisite moment of intimacy where there is no space at all between the past, the present and the future.

Even when you don’t know you have a wound to heal, these moments seem to find a cut or a bruise or a festering sore that needs healing and the moment is a soothing balm and you come to a realisation that there was a closed wound within you that was benefitting from the dressing or liniment being offered by the moment. The body and soul more whole than it was before.

The Aboriginal people of the Flinders Ranges call themselves Adnyamathanha which means rock people.  The rock owns them.  It has been my privilege to be on their land many times and the deep time that they know in their very DNA is not separated by real time. Their dreamtime transcends and brings a constant intimacy with the whole cosmos and all beings past, present and future.  Perhaps I will get a taste of what Adnyamathanha know when I am in the land of my ancestors?

The separation from your homeland lasts across deep time. This pilgrimage might turn out to be a bit of heart surgery – perhaps the equivalent of a stent being put in – to keep the blood flowing and end a blockage that is currently undetected? Deep time moments of heart work beckon.

Rainer Maria Rilke writes in Turning Point:

For there is a boundary to looking.

And the world that is looked at so deeply

wants to flourish in love.

Work of the eyes is done, now

go and do heart-work

on all the images imprisoned within you.