Tag Archives: light

Year of activism #51

This is the last blog post for this year of activism and typically by now I have started to discern what the next year’s blog theme will be … and I can feel something emerging …but not yet arrived. To enable something to emerge requires some things to fall away and others to become more clear as fog lifts, or clouds part. The word comes from Latin meaning become known, come to light. The idea of something coming to light holds an interesting movement – the light already being and a hint that the light might be stationary, and the coming a travelling towards what is already there but only visible when the movement of going forward to burn off ignorance or spark the new insight. The whole process may often be quite painful, it can equally be liberating as if a load has been lifted, either way once you come into the light there is a shift of arriving at a new threshold. For the activist this brings an invitation to be tested and practiced in the glow of a new vantage point.

A leading activist is often in the role of mid-wife helping to bring out of the dark what was emerging into the light something new, something challenging, something that will support the system taking its next steps. Once the midwifery is done, this kind of activist may well be no longer needed and the work naturally transfers to others to make the laws, codify behaviours, institute processes and mechanisms to keep necessary evolution flowing. You have come to a place where you are no longer needed, and the hard prophetic walk of making a path is ready for others tread and make strong. Just as ideas begin on virgin synapses so the trajectory towards justice needs to be thought more than once and consolidated by action, reflection and more action and more reflection.

Contemplation and action, the practice of being still and still moving, is central to the life of an activist and the season that arrives at the end of each year, spilling over into a new year is a gift. It is the integration of both contemplation and action that matters. The practice is the integration and to recognize when the pendulum has swung too much one way and to correct that so the emergent can keep emerging. When you notice you are staying in one place more than the other, it is quite likely your ego is inviting you to get into check – too much navel gazing, too much action – both states are not good for you. I am often intrigued how introverts and extroverts name themselves as reflectors or actors – but this is a cop out. Introverts who hide behind reflection and extroverts who hide as busy prophets – both need to get their egos out of the way. Both states are ringing warning bells and if you notice these in your activism, be compassionate to yourself and then make a corrective tilt towards integration.

I am going to be reflecting over the next few days how to keep my pendulum swinging in even time, because there are always bursts of activism and reflection, constantly integrating and finding their way inside of me to stillness and movement. Acts of compassion rising from reflection start with each of us and together all those acts birth movements towards justice when they are grounded in a critical and structural assessment of causes, blocks and barriers. And then in the next cycle of reflection those same acts, causes, blocks and barriers are evaluated to help the path to justice become more visible. I find in the fields I am often working, there is an over emphasis on the evaluation component and not enough on the assessment. I notice this in particular, when the practitioners are professionals and not grassroots activists or coming from lived experience. Helping to correct this imbalance, I know has been a feature of my practice and one that will trip me up from time to time. When I want to stay a little longer, it is usually my ego getting in the way. As this year ends I will be relinquishing some roles and responsibilities, taking up others and finding myself looking to horizons which I can’t quite clearly see and while there is some discomfort, it is a reminder of the calibration of integration, a never ending process of renewal.

Thank you for reading and travelling with me in this year’s blog and I wonder what will emerge before the new year begins?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Silver Sands, April 2020 – Remains of the Day

Promises to tomorrow #43 #turn

In this past week several people from a range of parts of my life have given me clear advice saying; “It’s your turn now”. Reflecting on my turn … my turn for what? To be nurtured? To be sick? To take up my old life? To create a new one? To turn towards? To turn away? What does it mean to turn? I can’t help but to go to Ecclesiastes for that timeless poetry Pete Seeger put to music in the 1950s:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This has indeed been a season in my life – a long 9 year season, as I’ve written before, an ultra marathon. It has been a time where the purpose of heaven revealed itself a little more everyday. The incredible patience and diligence to stay the course. A dear sojourner of Tim’s, a wise elder in his life, wrote to me this week saying “Tim taught us how to live and how to die”. What if we lived knowing we had a terminal illness – which of course we all do – we are all dying each day – and yet how many of us embrace and savour the moments we have and saturate ourselves in joy? Br David talks about grateful living, which is beyond living with gratitude. It is a disciplined practice to live this way and one Br David’s 90+ years are testament.

The time to be born is in each and every single moment, to awaken to the moment with the bewilderment and openness of surprise without being hindered by expectations sitting on the precipice of disappointment. The time to die is embodied in every moment – the dying to ego and false self is an invitation that keeps arriving. The times for planting and reaping are never ending too, with the seasons coming and going with natural rhythm, and don’t stop just because our needs are changing, the sun continues to revolve around our little blue planet.

Times to kill and heal – killing off our bad choices, discomfort and anxieties can be inoculated or matched by acts of self-healing, and allowing others and nature to bring therapeutic and restorative powers. The gleeful giggle of a toddler will banish just about any thoughts of destruction. Yet we live in a time where peace in the lives of so many is for self-destruction and self-harm, let alone the national acts of killing that go on in our name. How easy is it to turn towards the joy, the peace?

The everyday choices we make towards make a difference to others, but most importantly to ourselves. Listening to Gill Hicks last night at a dinner to raise funds for a dinner for a peace foundation she re-told her own experience of making a choice for life when the seductive voice of death came calling and the choices a 19 year old suicide bomber made on that fateful day in 2005. Because of his decision, thousands of lives were changed that day and every day forthwith.

The times we have to weep, laugh, mourn, dance, embrace, cast away stones, and gather stones together …. these are those times. All mixed together times to turn toward and away from emotions, reflection and actions. All of these bundled up in every season of our life. And that life is a time of living and dying and we need to behave as if that is true (it is true) in order to squeeze all the joy out of all the moments so we can turn, turn, turn … keeping turning towards the light knowing that even in that light there will be shadows and times of darkness …because how else would be know the light without the darkness? And we all know that it only takes a spark to dispel the darkness.

My promise to tomorrow is to take my turn, as it is being offered, and at each turn make the choice to turn toward, to embrace, the season on offer, to greet it with the wonder and awe it offers unconditionally. After all, it is, always your turn.




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.


Lessons from Lizards

Dear Sor Juana,

Sitting on a rock by the back door of where I live this week were two lizards – a parent and a child. Taking in the rays of the sun, warming up to stock up on food and mingling with more species than the protection the dark and cold offered them for the past few months. They had grown since I saw them last and retreated silently and with haste (for a blue tongue lizard) as soon as I was detected. What do we retreat from even when we are enjoying basking? A potential of threat, however unlikely, can have us scuttling away from what our heart desires or body needs.   Sometimes these lizards call the bluff of potential predator by opening wide their mouth and showoff their tongue with their best impression of being bigger and stronger than what might be attacking them.

The fight or flight response deeply embedded in the DNA of all creatures finds its genome path from the reptiles to us humans in still recognizable ways. Yet with gentle and careful movements these prehistoric creatures can be handled, although there are clearly uncomfortable with leaving solid ground under foot.

Coming into the light, forecasts the next invitation: to recoil into darkness. The nooks and crannies in the rocks at my back door, are a glimpse of the tiniest distance between those two offerings: the distance of a lizard’s breath. Or perhaps as the Celts would have it – thin places – where distance between heaven and Earth collapses. The lizards know this thin place, where in a singular world their bodies unite in the moment of blissful basking. In a moment perhaps easily broken silently by a shadow or unveiled by a raider coming to steal or threaten to break that moment. The lizards are in  conversation with the rock and commune as they meld together.

The giant lizards of pre-history, those dinosaurs pursing us into the dark places of our imagination, maybe no more than the blue tongue lizard quietly basking in the sun offering us a thin place to reflect on being between heaven and earth. There is light and dark in all our lives bringing us shade and cover, exposures us to the elements and everything in between. The invitations to stay in the sun or find the crack in the rocks to slither away, are every present, often in equal measure, pulling, pushing.


National Apology

Dear Hildegard,

It’s been quite a week for leaders on the political landscape – stepping up to the mark, not stepping up to the mark, resignations, sackings and apologising. In the midst of all the upheaval in Canberra, the hearts of mothers who forcibly had their children removed and given up for adoption had a moment in their long quest for recognition acknowledged and witnessed by the nation. I am such a believer in this idea of witness. Witness is solidarity’s sister. It is not vicarious. We could all see, first hand, the effect of forced adoption anguish and the residue of tears of lifetime etched in the crevices of faces, and in doing so we were not the same again.

Loss and grief is a journey that sometimes seems to have no final destination. To carry this around for a life time must be exhausting and relentless and I hope for many of these women and now adult children, they can at least take a rest from that journey for a while. I keep hearing Chuck Girard’s song Lay Your Burden Down in relation to these experiences and trusting that all involved can lay their burden down and rest a while. Where laying down isn’t an act of surrender but an act of rest of handing it over to another authority or sharing the burden so you don’t have to carry it all on your own.

I can find laying burdens down an enormous challenge – wanting to chew over and revisit decisions or relive experiences – instead of shaking off the dust from my sandals and moving on. What is it that enables us to be free and liberated some times and at not others? Is it guilt, ego, pain, the lack of a witness? When you meet witness you discover the power of observation and deep reflection, you notice the details and the nuances, you hear all the modulations of the tones, you see the spectrum of colours. You have taken the time to be still to stare and to soak in and soak up and come to know (word witness root meaning is wit – to know and when you trace that back it is linked to vis – to vision and to see). The sea of witnesses to the apology about forced adoptions gave me a glimpse of a vision of a world where saying sorry brought healing, hearing those words brings reconciliation and forgiveness and being witness to the events of a world where it is possible for institutional power to hear the truth of the words spoken allowing the veil of shame to fall away. As the Quakers would say “speak your truth to power” I wonder if when I can’t lay my burden down it is because I have not spoken my truth?

I hear your voice Hidlegard in your song of light as it is only in the light that the witness can see and in doing so brings more light to the task of witnessing.

A National apology is something I am proud my country can do. As a citizen I give thanks for the work done on my behalf by the Senate to bring this apology to birth and a lighter journey for those who might be able to rest now and lay their burdens down. As a woman, a mother and a daughter I give witness to this event and all the other women, mothers and daughters whose lives are defined by the experience of forced adoption. As a spiritual sojourner, I step into the light so I might see more clearly and know more deeply what it is to forgive, be forgiven and to speak my truth to power.