Monthly Archives: March 2018

Year of Self Compassion #12 #consolation

A question for reflection this past month has been: What consoles me?

Shared regret is exposed when consolation becomes visible. Loss comes into view and comfort comes to sit alongside. The power of being witness to an act of consolation, in itself can take you to a deeper place of compassion for yourself and others.  As I traveled through my week I uncovered and unleashed buckets of kindness being poured over me and initiatives I am a part of.  I also just witnessed from a distance, the rising up of young people in the USA, against gun violence – an amazing release and demand from the generation most impacted by the gun culture in that part of the world.

From the balcony

Voices not bullets

From the streets

Standing not running

From their hearts

Hope not fear

From the mike

Life not death

From the classroom

To the Congress

To the Senate

To the President

To all of us around the world

We are all marching for our lives.

So often I have felt bereft at the violence and ill health that draws people to their deaths from the barrel of a gun toted in public places like schools in the USA. But today I am consoled by those young people, their families and friends who have been prepared to “stand up and be counted”. I am consoled by the knowledge that size and visibility does matter when trying to show others the depth of feeling and support. I am consoled the generation often accused of being slacktivists and key board warriors, got up and got out and onto the streets for the world to see.

The act of solidarity of standing with others.

The act of witness to watch and affirm.

These are the acts to midwife change.

Today is Palm Sunday and in my Christian tradition, this is the day, a man on a donkey rides into the centre of his capital of a nation state occupied by colonists who speak another language, answer to another authority, usig the powers of religion and state to oppress the locals. Instead of coming into town through the main gate, he goes through the back one and heads directly to the centre, while at the other end of town the occupiers are holding their own march and meeting in the centre was bound to end in tears. A few days later the man is tried, sentenced and crucified and a few more days go by and the story continues with renewal and transformation.  Today I will be heading into my town and we will be walking from a people’s place to the centre of government. We want to remember all those who are seeking to find in our land and who can’t because they are not welcome by our government to seek refuge here. We want to show ourselves we are not alone in our commitment and efforts to bring these people here as they languish between worlds. We want to invite our friends and neighbours, families and coworkers, to join us. We want to be part of the phenomena that is holy and blessed unrest – the call to action, prophetic witness to be more human and more fully alive of what it means to share that humanity and console one another in our despair.

Consolation is love made visible. It can’t happen in the dark, in secret. It happens in the light, on the streets. It is the touch from a stranger, when we hold hands and sing. In the touch of a child who hugs and hangs on. In the meeting of eyes offering empathy that transcends and transforms. Consolation is love made visible.





Year of Self Compassion #11 #surroundsound

Gifted a ticket to hear Brahms’ Human Requiem I was moved by the generosity of those who bestowed this gift on me … and then there was the gift of the evening itself.  It was and will be a gift that will keep on giving.  The program notes tell me that “Brahms, a humanist and agnostic from the humblest of backgrounds, wanted this work to speak to everyone.” The inclusive nature of the performance had me entranced. We arrived with the performers in and around us, no distinction to differentiate them from us – a common humanity. We were silently invited in the simplest of ways, no words, to gather in a central location, make a paper cup, with each station adding a new step, and the going into the centre to drink minted water, which was deeply appreciated in the muggy night air. And for our home made cups we all drank – a communion of sorts – our common heritage of the global common gift of water – linking our bodies together in this simple act – we are all water – we all drink from the one fountain – we all then leave and go to our places to walk, listen, sit, stand, touch, mingle. We are one.  Fitting ourselves around each other, being held in the spaces and sounds created when we all are in the same frame – this is what embedded inclusion looks and feels like.

The unifying moments we have when the auditorium sings a chorus together at a rock concert truly leave no-one behind and the residue of the experience can carry us into the possible in other domains which is what I need right now. Setting my self-compassion compass to north, I am discovering how much other people are contributing to my well-being and how I don’t have to do it all alone! This week I have received many gifts, invisible and visible,  and been in gracious company for meals, music, theatre and activism.  I have been held by sounds – the sounds of women cheering, the sounds of silence in the pauses between words of comfort, the sounds of the bells telling the time and calling us to prayer in the city cathedral, the sounds of the children skipping, dancing, doing cartwheels as if no one is watching, the sounds of choked voices sadly eeking out a phrase of distress and seeking my support, the sounds of democracy unfolding with all the familiarity of aging pollsters and aspiring politicians. Each sound carrying an invitation to belong to something bigger than myself, holding out a hand to me saying come listen, come rest and be held.

Surrounding yourself with sounds of love and grace are surely acts of self compassion however they might be delivered and Brahms knew what he was doing when he wrote his Requiem and the Rundfunkchor of Berlin took it to new plane. The sound infusing our souls with every breath in and every breath out. At the cellular level we were transformed, as we became one with no bodily fluids being exchanged. Choristers looked into our eyes with such empathy as they moved among their audience. Eye contact surely one of the most intimate acts we humans can participate in.  Hearing a voice true and whole moving behind us, alongside of us and then fully expressed joining with another 59 voices (and the piano played by two people with a four handed score) brings the aural intimacy to fully consummate the experience of surround sound. I belong to an acapella gospel choir and it is wonderful when we can’t hear a single voice, just one sound, that is the perfect descriptor for me of unity.

We are all pilgrims moving through space and time, the great human endeavour to know we are finite and blessed to be a community of sojourners. It is together we travel best, in company and beauty and joy, to be held when we need to be held, to be in the spaces and silences when it is time for those moments. The invitation from others to join their journey, to be part of their story line is an invitation for them as much as for you, there is a mutuality in the gift offered and accepted.

The Requiem opens with a blessing for those that mourn to be comforted, this is a time for the living and I am comforted by the blessings of dear friends, surrounding me with  sounds of love, delivering me grace.

Year of Self Compassion #10 #hugs

There isn’t a definitive moment in my memory when I became a feminist. I have always wondered why people aren’t treated equally and still think gender is the low hanging fruit for an inclusive world – yet it remains as a work-in-progress.

When I enrolled at university for my second degree I was 21 and heavily pregnant with my first child (who, by the way, has a PhD in gender studies). The man at the enrolment desk looked at my completed application and choices for subjects and asked me if I knew I had selected a full-time load. The implication that I didn’t know how to fill out a form correctly was the take I had on the exchange, it was only in response to me explaining that yes I was aware that I realised he meant – you’re pregnant there is no way you could do Semester 1 full-time … I mean you look like you could have that baby any day. Well he was right, the babe was due in Week 3 of the course – but he was 100% wrong that I wasn’t going to complete the course full-time … and for the record I did. It was in these early days of my adult life that I galvanised my feminist streak and it was mostly when pregnant (another three times) that I experienced discrimination and exclusion.

This week I was on a panel for International Women’s Day and a mother with a newborn was in the audience. We caught up with a mutual friend after the session. She had two children – the new one and a seven year old. I asked her if she noticed any differences between now and when she had her first child and she said no. She told me of feeling left out, invisible and two stories of being treated completely differently in academia – one where her lecturer asked her not to breast feed and another where the lecturer said bring your child to everything (it was a course where students would end up working in hospitals and medical settings and the lecturer figured if they couldn’t learn with a child in the room, then they couldn’t work in that kind of a setting). I saw this as a glimmer of hope. The young academic has received honours and national recognition for her work and could still be reduced to tears and feeling left out and left behind once she was seen as nursing mother. And while not all women are mothers, we all have a mother. We know the comfort, reassurance and warmth of the simplicity of arms around us, holding us in place, steady and hearts beating together.

The hug hormone of oxytocin apparently accelerates trust and deepens social connection (and they are relatively easy to get so getting hugging for the health of yourself and the planet). I have a suspicion that the confusion about touch in our culture is not helping feminism and is at the root of many of discriminatory behaviours. Maybe if we feel secure and operate with high levels of trust we are more likely to be huggers, although I can point to a number of people I know (all men as it happens) for whom hugging is on the verge of sexual predation. One of my favourite huggers is coming home to my town this week and we have regularly hugged for a little longer than usual to get a bigger dose of oxytocin and release some dopomine to help us through the day and deepen our connection. (If you want to know more about healthy hugging and how to do it here is a great guide.)

Touch and intimacy in our culture are so heavily encoded with sexuality, yet at its core it is an echo of the bond between mother and child we are all seeking to recreate. Even if our experience was not good in that first stage of life it is still a craving and trust is the first developmental step we need to master to grow into functioning human beings. Ironically it was Erikson’s work on child development that was the first course in my first semester of the degree mentioned above. This development step, according to Erikson develops the virtue of Hope. With hope we can successfully move to the next developmental step which will result in will after successfully learning the differences between autonomy and shame. I often think those who are not feminists are stuck moving onto the second developmental step while they have not successfully completed the first where trust is learnt and hope embedded.

There is nothing to fear from inclusion – you won’t get less and there is no need for a scarcity mentality. An abundance orientation knows there are enough hugs to go around. You won’t be left out if you let others in. I admit I cling to Erikson because it just seems to make sense to me. Every time I see a baby feeding at the breast I am reminded of the primary call and response of hunger and comfort and trust being built in every sip and cuddle. It is at the core of what it means to be a feminist for me too. When we hold each other we are all that little bit stronger, little bit braver. We can push through the nay-sayers who tell us we can’t do it, we are over committed, unable to balance responsibilities, incapable to completing what we set out to do … and we can find someone to give us a hug if we need one along the way or even if we don’t need one but want to give one … the effect will be the same. We will be held and holding – an embrace for ourselves and inclusion. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Press for Progress and the kind of pressing I want to see more of to give us the support we need to stay the course, is the press that turns into a squeeze.

Grandma getting a hug so she won’t be scared of the drone. Coffin Bay March 2018

Year of Self Compassion #9 #caving

Getting to the keyboard to write this weekend didn’t happen so for the first time in years it is a Monday I am writing … a hint that I can be flexible with my practice even though it feels out of line. Part of self-compassion is surely to recognise limits and being clear with myself about what they are by noticing them emerging instead of always pushing through. It is a delicate balance to know what might be a caving in to a lack of discipline or a gentle ‘fair enough’ attitude. Caving in also an invitation to go deeper to notice what is blocking the discipline, so that is where I will go with this post.

Not writing this weekend was partly due to travel and spending time to share in celebrations of a family wedding half way across the state, close to where I was born. The scenery was epic with hospitality to match. Joie de vivre infused every body, heart and soul – a contagion from the happy couple to all those who were breathing the same air. It is hard for me though to be at these beginnings and middles, knowing how it all ends. A fatalism banished from my heart and head as I was blown away by a Baker Street saxophone reprise – that old familiar riff and the lyrics are sung in my head and Sherlock Holmes has been recruited to the cave. The words remind me that maybe in a year I will stop crying, and in the morning, the sun will be shining and I will be going home.

For months now I have had little to no energy or excitement about my business– it feels too big, too far away and too much. There are nibbles of interest but it was requiring me to be the initiator and right now that role is not for me. I have been preoccupied with so much in my own life and immediate family, to go beyond those horizons had felt like a bridge too far. I have had energy for governance work, for my volunteering and community leadership …. And that would be more than enough save for financing my future and some of the dreams that will need funds to bring to life.

My cave is dark, and has a few line drawings from prehistoric times on its walls. Like an explorer I am hold a torch to help cast and throw shadows to get around the space, searching for buried treasure or secrets to be revealed. Not everything I find is helpful or comforting, and with light the finds are uncovered, assessed, integrated. I am being coaxed to come into brighter light and back to work.

There is energy to create, interpret, engage, enable, facilitate and a reminder that I have everything I need. And indeed in the morning the sun was shining and I was going home and there were the early signs of my old work self emerging. I stared to think about the offerings and conversations of the week behind full of promise and possibility. Coupled with colleagues inviting me into a new space with my old toolkit, the saxophone called me out of my cave and into the light (and the dance floor). Grateful to my ears remaining open in the cave to help me hear the sax on Saturday night in a hall on the west coast. Grateful for animate and inanimate instruments of joy calling me forward.

Baker Street
Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day
You’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now
Way down the street there’s a light in his place
He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
And he asks you where you’ve been
You tell him who you’ve seen
And you talk about anything
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything
But you know he’ll always keep moving
You know he’s never gonna stop moving
‘Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
And you’re going, you’re going home
Baker Street lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos
Baker Street lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything
But you know he’ll always keep moving
You know he’s never gonna stop moving
‘Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
And you’re going, you’re going home
Baker Street lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos
Baker Street lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos