Monthly Archives: June 2017

Promises to Tomorrow #24 Ask

There is a spectrum to asking – all the way from clumsy and heartfelt to bold, brassy and choreographed. It is a simple thing to ask and with the invitation comes expectation, trust, hope. The fear of rejection can bring a paralysing effect to an ask and equally the potential may bring excitement. Crafting an ask is a work of art. Siddling up and gently putting a question fuelled by courage opens the other to receive the gift of the invitation and in turn join in the dance as a partner to complete the ask.

I learnt from a past Premier, never to be afraid to ask, what is the worst that can happen – they say no and you at least now know that is the answer so you have more than you did before the ask. I have developed a shamelessness in asking over time, and try and put the ask as an act of anticipation and invitation to join something bigger. I am rarely disappointed and if the answer is no, the door is still ajar to come back again or work towards another opportunity.

There is the ask that comes with deep humility and the acceptance with gratitude and honour for having been asked. These moments are often sacred and bring a wholeness to both parties. Being asked to hold another’s hand in childbirth, on a death bed, in a chamber of horrors … all asks imbued with deep privilege dripping from the moment into a future sacred memory.

Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened … lines from the Christian tradition equally matched in other religious traditions. To ask is an intentional act and being able to ask is to put yourself in a position of vulnerability; after all you might be rejected. But without asking you will remain innocent and blind to the possibility of unlocking or unleashing of a latent gift longing to be shared.

To ask, is a promise to tomorrow, the future embedded in the act. As well as asking more, there is the respect I can bring to the asks that come my way, to give them the due courtesy they deserve to be answered honestly and as often as I can.

I am being asked a lot right now in my life, and to receive the questions with the purity they deserve, uninfected by fears is a discipline to tomorrow. To live in the ask, is to live with openness and possibility, to act as if every invitation is a step towards wholeness. Living the questions brings the gift of an ask. Every question is embedded with an ask to ourselves. As Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


Bee and Grevillia in Willunga

Promises to tomorrow #23 Winter Solstice

Winter has arrived, stripped bare trees remind me of nakedness, adornments have been shed and the elements have their way. The dark and light dance to make shadows as fairy floss fog descends on the village under the gaze of a Sagittarian strawberry moon. I have never had much interest in astrology, however the sun, the stars and the moon are my constant companions and I can usually find Venus in the night sky. The Seven Sisters are my favourite constellation and in the winter, and with the solstice approaching they take their place centre-stage.

Once the solstice arrives, the shortest day of the year, and in the southern hemisphere we are furthest from the sun, and we are poised to begin a new season of turning. This is what will happen again in a few days, a turn away from the dark, a journey towards the light. Energy begins to be stored and, emerging from the dark, potential from what has been incubating under ground now begins to be visible. I have not pruned on the June long weekend like I usually do and so I not in sync. The solstice helps to re-set and forecasts the light arriving to do just that

There are going to be arrivals and departures between this solstice and the next, in much the same way there is every year. Comings and goings inside the hidden places of the soul and in the highly visible public places of airports and churches. An arrival of a loved one, international gathering for celebrating lives committed signing up for a life long journey … and probably between this solstice and the next …. a goodbye.

Moving with the seasons and having respect for the shortest of days and the longest of nights is a movement of the heart. To live in harmony with the elements, intertwined with nature and love, where, like a Celtic love knot, there is no beginning or end. To live enchanted by this phenomena of constant movement to and from the light is my promise to tomorrow. Imagine always living knowing what step you are taking towards or away from the light. When the sun hits the ocean’s meeting place and throws itself on to the horizon reaching as far as the eye can see, the curve of our planet glows. Radiant beams. ‘You are alone with the transfiguration’…. ‘you ask the question you are afraid to ask’ May the shortest day of the year and the longest night bless and remind us the transitions from dark to light and light to dark.


Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.

Walk the green road above the bay
and the low glinting fields
toward the evening sun, let that Atlantic
gleam be ahead of you and the gray light
of the bay below you, until you catch,
down on your left, the break in the wall,
for just above in the shadows
you’ll find it hidden, a curved arm
of rock holding the water close to the mountain,
a just-lit surface smoothing a scattering of coins,
and in the niche above, notes to the dead
and supplications for those who still live.

But for now, you are alone with the transfiguration
and ask no healing for your own
but look down as if looking through time,
as if through a rent veil from the other
side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream
of generosity from which you drank,
how as a child your arms could rise and your palms
turn out to take the blessing of the world.

In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press


Glen Helen

Promises to tomorrow #23 Convicted

When I get accused of being something (eg a feminist, a socialist, focussing too much on community) I take it as a badge of honour. In the 80s we used to apply the tenet – If you a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Before conviction you would have to be noticed, accused, arrested and post conviction there would be the sentencing and maybe even rehabilitation.

I fall way short on many fronts where despite my values and aspirations, they are not fully realised into actions visible. I support the end of plastic bags, yet you will find a roll of cling wrap in my cupboard. I know climate change is real, yet my transport options don’t always reflect my understanding of the contribution I am making to extreme weather events. I have a vigilance around sexism, inequity, racism and the common good and yet there are times when I seem to ‘go on holiday’ from these values – a little relaxation and before long it appears I have abandoned such values and fallen into a chasm of carefree behaviours! Living intentionally brings alertness and requires you to be awake and sometimes, just sometimes, flirting with sleepiness seems reasonable.

The insignia of self-respect is the reward for the charges being laid.

In a week of finding new ways to live and be, I find a promise to tomorrow is being fostered by humility and the breath takes the voice on a journey to conviction. Stripping away, like an acoustic session in a crowded bar, knowing there is sound coming to the ear, but not always knowing what you are hearing: a familiar phrase or chord that echoes in muscle memory or tugs at the heart, as the static around the sound fades and clarity arrives – that is the moment I become a convict. At that very moment, I am a hostage to truth, tried and sentenced in the court of fact. Vulnerability comes as a consequence of those early acts of audacity, and arrives in its fullest form, when you face the reality of the accusation being laid. My promise to tomorrow is to keep taking the risk of being accused and striving to be worthy of being convicted.20170326_192506

Promises to tomorrow #22 Darkness & Light

A crevice can be an echo chamber; a crack, a place where light gets in; a hole, a container full and empty simultaneously; a sink, expectant, flirtatious. In the dark underground a seed makes its way to the surface to finally reveal all the effort and cell dividing and multiplying activity that has taken place away from the human eye. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

There is panic on the planet, a madman on Pennsylvania Avenue, a bomber with a jacket of explosives, children toting guns in the tropics. There is abundant love and endless random, and strategic acts, of kindness bursting up through concrete and clay. There are lamps being trimmed and hopes coming to life, impactful conversations matched with impactful actions doing good. The scales are tipping, as the vessels for change take on their new forms, mediated by technology and human touch in equal measure. Nothing will replace the kind word or the hug. And just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening behind closed doors, new love is growing and blessed unrest is flexing, Aslan is on the move.

This day, of all days in the Christian calendar, the feast of Pentecost, where all the languages can be heard and understood, where the feminine spirit rises and descends into hearts and minds. While they gathered as Jews in the upper room to celebrate Shavuot – a harvest of all the fruits of all the labour, bringing home divine knowledge – new wisdom. The wisdom of nature to remind us in the dark and with anxiety harvest is possible once out of that dark and anxiety light and energy is transformational. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean nothing is happening the flickering spark grows and a gentle glowing flame comes to rest inside each of us, fuelling us up for the transformational work ahead. Into our being this energy takes hold – explained as the inner flame of the Sufi – this is the light of all light inside of us, visible to a higher power and our guide to decision making – what will bring more light, more love, more goodness. It is all the same light regardless of tradition or even if you are bereft of tradition we all know the look and feel of goodness, wisdom and light. We have collective genius. We are unstoppable. We have been feeling our way in the dark.

My promise to the future is to seek to trust the dark and underground spaces to do their work, to come into the light and feel with warmth and wisdom and remember sometimes it takes fifty days before there is visibility.