Monthly Archives: June 2021

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