Monthly Archives: April 2015


Dear Sor Juana,

The sun snuck through a break in the clouds bringing dawn rays over the thousand odd throng gathered for the commemoration of Anzac Day in my little village of Willunga. The great grand daughter of a local, aptly called Poppy shared some of her family story. Children from the local school sang of biscuits, and shores gird by sea.

This day is the century of an event in our national story that has created a myth around themes of sacrifice and that great Aussie characteristic we call “mateship”. Nationalism is writhing strong in the veins of a country who has just sent troops to ward off the marauding radicals of another generation. It is a mystery to me how Christians can go to war at all, it is so totally against the founder’s vision and even the scripture this morning for the service, as in most years I’ve been is the most powerful benediction – blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. There is plenty of evidence Sor Juana that early Christians took an oath not to fight and one of those first instructions from the founder was to turn the other cheek.

Just like in your time, fundamentalism is the scourge that eats in the human spirit and brings terror; it feeds on fear. Looking for an antidote against intolerance and hatred is surely part of the mission of everyone who wants to follow the Way? It’s not enough to turn the other cheek, I want to build resilience in order to inoculate; to build trust in order to confide, to build cooperation in order to build a culture of sharing.

Listening to the young ones this morning, their quiet voices pitched against the shouting of military commands embodied blessed are the meek.  These young ones will inherit the earth, and what kind of earth will we leave as our legacy?

In my current grandmother-in-waiting status I am thinking a lot about what this little boy will be born into and what I will be doing and what I have done to shape the world he will be inheriting. What songs will he sing and stories will he tell?  For my part, I am going to try and keep to the instructions from the Mount, look to the skies each day for inspiration and to the horizon to stretch me, all the while knowing it is not enough to turn the other cheek, as it is in the peacemaking that the innocence of a child will reveal the Divine.

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To be consoled as to console

Dear Sor Juana, How were you consoled? Getting a consolation prize in my world means getting a prize for coming second – “close but no cigar” – but coming second means you didn’t get the prize and coming second is so far away you might as well have come last. Yet to be consoled can be the sweetest of things, to be comforted when there is a disappointment. To have loss and grief honoured with a soothing word, bunch of flowers, loving gaze can and does lift your spirit. Sadness seeks consolation from the soul Soothing sweet sounds Harmonics to hold tears It is an act of solidarity to be with another and console them, to hold the space where the tears can well and anger be accepted without hurrying them along to their final incarnation of acceptance. The first witness to consolation is often to notice the shock, a sharp disruption to homeostasis. There is a tearing, a ripping away of the familiar leaving a gaping hole; often a wound is made. Shock had me lying in state Speechless. Blind. Senses numb. To console oneself is an act of healing and perhaps in the convent Sor Juana you needed to go into your own prayer and deeper self to find that place where you could be embraced and calmed? I will come back to this letter later Sor Juana, as I seek to console although I suspect in that act, I will be consoled.



Just Around the Corner

Dear Sor Juana,

There are so many possibilities just around the corner. We move towards the corner and as we approach not everything is quite revealed, some things are in shadow and others camouflaged or incandescent because of the light. What is hidden just around the corner may have surprising qualities or fill us with dread.

Just around the corner moments seem to be everywhere this week.

I dropped a friend off by the river earlier in the week and I went just around corner, as I did a couple of pedestrians were mown down by a careless possibly confused driver. One of the pedestrians is seriously injured and the driver facing charges.

Just around another corner I find myself chatting to a neighbour who has called into home for a short while in between touring the country. Next up will be the east coast having explored the great centre of this red land and broad blue skies.

Still another corner I am in a bar with a young actor as she prepares for her future residency. She shares generously about the next corners she is planning to turn towards.

There are corners everywhere – places where two trajectories meet where there is a resolution and clarity. Although corners can be a bit rough around the edges and looking for a short way around problems we do try to cut them, there is something about corners that does sharpen the senses. Anticipation may build, anxiety or even fear, generally though it is a meandering that leads to go just around the corner to take me onwards, to ground a curiosity or maybe an innocent mistake has taken me there … and before I know it I am around the corner.

We never really fully know what is just around the corner, but no matter how many of us are travelling together when we get to a corner, it is a solitary experience. Coming to a corner, sipping a stillness and shape we then move.

There is an improvisation training exercise Sor Juana I am fond of where we walk around the room backwards, forwards, in as many ways as we can to find the corners of the room, the centre, the edges, taking up lots of space as we go and as little space too – it is an activity I find meditative – fast and slow – in silence. As the energy of the room starts to change, like the wind you can’t see but can feel, this energy moves through all of us in the room, but for each of us it is a unique and individual experience. I experience an untangling of thoughts as they are loosened by the movement, as if a thread has been pulled. What might look like aimless wandering is an experience of coming home to oneself – a pilgrimage. Perhaps that is a little like the prayers you made – from the outside it may have looked like nothing was happening and you were going nowhere – but from that place sprung intellect, poetry and presence. Going to the corners of your inner life you found words and meaning just around the corner.

The meeting of the corners between us and around us remind me of all the threads that weave us together – the weft and the warp – the one cloth that binds us together and each time we go just around the corner we add our steps to that weave.


Reflection on Revenge

Dear Sor Juana,

I have discovered that gossip and scandal, lampooning and scuttle buck are ways revenge takes shape in my language and conversation – from a subtle put down here to a full blown personal attack there.  Words laced with vengeance have a capacity to rise up from a from a well deep inside I had thought was dry. The words echo from this dark chamber and make a lot of noise.

I can see why you might have chosen silence as a way of monitoring your own behaviour. Silence need not still the thoughts and from time to time they eek out through my mouth and become audible.  I had one of those times this past week.  Revenge is one of the dark sides of the desire for control.  I am indebted to Hugh Mackay who unintentionally helped me join those dots this week while I was reading his book “What Makes Us Tick“?  And reminded me once again of the difference between justice and revenge; “one civilised and measured, the other brutish and primitive”.

Control issues are inherent in my personality and the quest for integration is a balance of leadership and power and surrendering to vulnerability. I noticed my anger and vengeful self having a day out this week. Sor Juana your uneasy relationship with power and authority perhaps propelled you through the courts using your intellect to control others and within the container of the convent able to find balance in community and prayer, subjecting yourself to the rule of religious life.

The search for equilibrium is universal and in our western world phrases like “work-life balance” abound. An on / off switch regulating my working hours makes no sense to me. This is becoming easier as work practices are more dynamic and technologically supported; but it is also becoming easier as personal reflection is an integrated practice.  There is no work-life divide – just as there wasn’t for you in the convent – it is vocation to be who you are (warts and all).  I have written about this previously and been encouraged by David Whyte’s work in his book The Three Marriages.  This constant conversation is with all the elements and when the conversation is undertaken in whole heartedness, insights emerge healing and inviting us to our deeper selves. In the case of revenge, it may lead to forgiveness.

Forgiveness begins in the shadows of fear, betrayal, anger and breaches of trust. Finding the light, brings humility and is restorative.  As a pilgrim, I accept “We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel” (David Whyte, The Three Marriages). The river flows through rocky rapids and other times takes up a foetal position in a cul de sac nudging the muddy banks. The invitation to get inside what revenge is all about has been an act of restorative justice. It is self restoration, a coming home to myself from darkness to light and appropriately so in this Holy Week Easter season.

Easter Sunrise

John O’Donohue

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you

Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.


Corcomroe Abbey, where John O'Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013

Corcomroe Abbey, where John O’Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013