Tag Archives: Illuminations

Year of Self-Compassion #43 #effortless

The high note was reached with the lightest touch as she plucked the last note on her instrument, Siobhan Owen is a gifted Celtic soprano and harpist. It looked effortless with a simplicity that only the most sophisticated can execute.  Labouring for decades with joy in her heart to deliver her gift to grateful audiences around the world, it was emotional, it was personal.

How do we uplift others with our gifts and make them visible? Some have an insatiable appetite to be seen, so the equation probably works in their favour. Just because something looks easy, doesn’t mean it is.

Finding peace in times of deep turmoil and making that peace visible is probably a sign of the emotional labour it took to get to that point to exude ease and calm. Nothing just happens, or if it does, it is rare. Most things happen because of years of effort, a few lucky breaks here and there, lots of losses, detours and inexplicable hurdles that have to be overcome.  Many of those hurdles require you getting out of your own way, applying a softer lens and leaving the ego at the door.

I do a lot of work in systems and automating, designing and adjusting systems is only a scaffold; and even the best of functioning systems work-arounds may have to be found for that exception or exceptional circumstance.  Growing, supporting, enabling leaders is where culture and therefore systems can change and the shift from by-stander to ownership happens.

So what has all this talk of leadership and change-making got to do with self-compassion? I can’t see without empathy, I can’t empathise without seeing. My losses have been great, but who do I think I am not to have losses? Some days it feels like a first world problem – that is not to diminish the real deep scars and sorrows that are within – but I have a roof over my head, there are always people willing to laugh and cry with me, there are birds and all kinds of creatures greeting me each day, I have friends far and wide – it is a rich and enriching life. It is a life full of opportunity and for all I know maybe the best is yet to come?

I have been sharing with a confidante the feeling of an empty bucket and I think there is a hole in it dear Liza.  Despite all kinds of treasures and goodness filling it up, it is flowing out just as quickly and this is where the self-compassion comes in. It is the glue and feathers needed to mend that hole in the bucket. The kindness to myself to catch myself out receiving (to pick up from last week’s theme); it is allowing the surprises in and being empty enough inside for the bucket to be made whole again.  I noticed that I have laughed heartily a few times this past week, it had been a long time.  I am taking that as a sign and a promise of more to come. I listened to Krista Tippett from On Being interview  with the co-founder of Illuminations, Mirabi Bush talking about how that business turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise almost exclusively on the back of the rainbow decals that became synonymous with the VWs in the late 60s. I bought a lot of Illumination products as a teenager and young adult – mandalas in particular – I gave them as gifts regularly and I loved the light shining through. It was a delightful memory and sunk me back to my roots listening to the interview. She helped establish Search inside Yourself mindfulness classes for Google!  It was so instructive to listen to her journey never really leaving the corporate world, an evolution and revolution traversing different market places, but actually just being where people were – in the 60s in their VWs and in the 21st century in front of a screen.  I thought my life actually hasn’t been much different, on a much smaller and definitely less corporate scale, but essentially I have travelled where people are and from time to time tried to get a little ahead to make a path for others to trek.

Acts of self-compassion are acts of whole-heartedness, acts of liberation. I noticed this week, when completing one of my last projects in Seth Godin’s altMBA, I am acting with my wings no longer clipped. This is the most free I have ever been in my life, and I am such a beginner, I don’t even realise what is possible just yet. I am beginning too … this could be huge. It might even look effortless!


Do you remember this?


Study in Blue

Hildegard Man in Sapphire Blue

I decided to mediate on one of Hildegard’s illuminations this week and see what she had to tell me. I chose the Man in Sapphire Blue. When I looked at it, I was reminded of finger stitching we all learnt as youngsters and created on the top of cotton reels with a square of four little tacks or nails. Do you remember creating one? Then winding it round and round into a circle?

In this image the weave surrounds the Man in Sapphire Blue and has one entrance and exit. Matthew Fox invites us to notice “the aperture at the man’s head, so that this powerful healing energy can leave his own field and mix with others – and vice versa” (Fox, M Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, 1985 p.23). The energy we have to heal and to receive to be healed can seem to seep into and out of us if we allow ourselves to receive that energy and let it soak in. The outer concentric circles remind me of two things – the planets pathways circling around the sun and ripples on a pool when a stone in thrown in. Both these images require something solid and steady and energised at the centre and here she has the Man in Sapphire Blue holding that space.

I have held the Man in Sapphire Blue at the centre of my meditation, and considered what healing energy might ooze out to me this week. Interestingly I was surprised that the focus I drew was on the little (and big) prejudices I hold and how I allow them to be reinforced. When I hear about the tragedies of shootings in USA, it reinforces my attitudes to the US as gun toting, war mongers who don’t appreciate their place in the geo-political realities of being a super power. When I hear someone shouting at their children in the shopping mall I wonder how long it will be before child protection services will need to be called in. When I see a man being extra helpful and kind to a woman I am suspicious of his motives. All irrational and illogical connections, but ones built on some flimsy facts and experiences.

As this has been a Study in Blue, I also was drawn back of a song of Sinead O’Connor’s: We People are Darker than Blue and with the choir and a mixture of musical styles yearns for the end of prejudice, segregation and separation.

Divisions are big and small – from the Gaza strip to the internal conflict between our false and true selves. It seems to me that there are big and small prejudices just below the surface for those of us who think we may be above them. None of us are really exempt from the virus of division, and it is an act of constant vigilance to keep above it all. There are many times however where I hang on to my prejudices and they even serve to protect me – but isn’t that the lesson? To learn to be vulnerable in spite of our differences?

Hildegard’s Man in Sapphire Blue seems to be reaching out with outstretched hands as if to channel a blessing for equanimity to me – surely the antidote to division.

I wrote this little Blessing for Equanimity in the genre of Blessings shared by John O’Donohue.

Blessing For Equanimity
As the dawn breaks and your head aches
May you be blessed with a still mind

As the morning opens to the day
May you put down divisions and look for synergies

As the sun reaches its height
May you call on your higher self

As vespers arrives and unfinished business haunts
May you gratefully gather up the remains of the day

As evening comes and you toss and turn
May you be rested and refreshed by a deep sleep

As the darkness settles in
May you be filled with starlight.

And may the Man in Sapphire Blue
Bless you with equanimity.
(c) M Deslandes, 2013