Tag Archives: Margaret Attwood

Promise to tomorrow #13 Discomfort

I was at a yoga workshop last night – a beautiful concoction of sound, stretches, postures and praise for what the body and mind can do.  The instructor gave us definitions for discomfort and pain.  Discomfort is when the mind says to the body you can’t do that any more and tries to over-ride the brain, teasing and tricking and fooling you into thinking you can’t be stretched any more. Pain is something else, a symptom of some underlying condition, an intense assault requiring immediate withdrawal.

The invitation from discomfort is to hang with it and get to know it, push through and see what there is on the other side of that discomfort. Easing in, breathing in to the discomfort may be a seduction, a not realising the discomfort is the herald for pain and indeed may well be an early warning signal.  So often I have hung in with the discomfort only to become accustomed to it, and not understood it as the beginnings of something more dangerous and toxic.  There is a process of discernment required to notice whether it is discomfort or pain and in that process we ask ourselves about the nature of our experience: is it transitory? is it consequential? does it have a trigger? is my mind playing games? We collect evidence and notice patterns. Eventually we make a declaration to our selves.

Discomfort deserves attention and breathing into it might be one way of giving it attention, ignoring it another …. but if there is an underlying problem in the discomfort that requires more immediate attention … then discover it before it becomes toxic.  You may need to inoculate yourself, withdraw, move or eliminate it from your environment before you are in real, and hard to release from, pain.

Niggling feelings, nagging doubts, gnawing thoughts … enticing us to go deeper into discovery of what discomfort has to teach us.

Promising to tomorrow to pay attention to discomfort, may open up new horizons. There are plenty of things I am uncomfortable about – the voters and voting system in the US delivering to the world Trump, the shareholders of companies ignoring evidence that leads to destroying lives and landscapes, my national government continuing to treat asylum seeks as illegal, child protection agencies unwilling and unable to unfetter themselves from the shackles of poor design and practice, the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in mortality and well-being  indicators … the list goes on.  And then I turn my attention to myself and there are plenty of discomforts there – eating and sleeping patterns, kindness (or lack of it), ability to serve and be served … and this list goes on too.

Breathing into the feeling of discomfort might be part of the promise to tomorrow to understand the source and meaning, but it certainly isn’t going to mean staying in that place. Discomfort shows you are on the path to growth and discovery, that your antennae is getting tuned in and is turning symptoms into data for discernment and decision-making. It is an invitation to be honest with yourself.


Here’s hoping the reprise of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale brings discomfort


Call and Response

The basic form of any interaction is call and response.  It takes centre stage in performances that begin in the cradle where the child smiles and we goo and gah back … or is it the other way around. Over the years the call and response might get a bit more sophisticated and spicy when you add in gender, sexuality and music.

There is an eternal question of whether we find our own vocation or it finds us – the master arriving for the student when the student can receive the master … and so the same call/ response pattern continues. So it is with our spirituality – does your practice find you? or  do you find your practice? Who has the call? Who is the respondent?

I sense Hildegard that the more I am open the more it is likely that I can receive and hear the call rather than make the call and have a response back from the UniVerse. One voice and a chorus response reminds me of what happens on twitter one message being re-tweeted to hundreds and sometimes thousands of others. Such a wild way of thinking about call and response in my time.

Hawken’s Blessed Unrest names and claims what so many of us are a part of, invisible and indivisible threads woven together by a common vision of a world that comes into being because of our collective, if sometimes dis-organised arrangements.

We gather in time and space, on line and off line, in the crevices and crannies of cyber space portals, making our mark and making a difference.  Unfettered by sovereign boundaries we say yes to our common values and there is what Hawken names as a collective genius at work birthing an alternative narrative to a doom and gloom future.

When I was CEO of Volunteering South Australia and Northern Territory one of the key points I regularly made in the public domain, was that when we vote we have a say for the type of government we want every three or four years, but every time we volunteer, we are voting with our hands and hearts on the kind of community and environment we want to live in and create.  I am limited in the number of hours I can volunteer in a face-to-face way these days, and after serving on community boards and committees for more than three decades, I am looking for ways to mentor the next generation. I am looking for ways to volunteer, where I can make use of the time I have, and the platforms I have to bring about the future that I envision.

In song, the call and response is a pattern of successive phrases taken in turns and where the first singer or musician makes the call and it is echoed by the second and so the conversation continues in lyric and tune.  The sophistication of verse and chorus is just another example of this pattern.  I send out a tweet and then there is a response from the twittersphere. Sometimes I respond to other tweets and I became the respondent to the call – the power of the re-tweet – a loud echo to the single 140 characters or less call.

This past two weeks I gave myself a virtual volunteering quest. I didn’t subject myself to any screening procedures, sign on with a not for profit, undertake training to do the voluntary task or be invited. I gate crashed my way into a virtual volunteering role.  I have always supported anything I can to bring recognition of Aboriginal people and to right the wrongs of colonialisation.  I haven’t done a lot, but I have contributed to actions and discourse over the years and maybe that account is for another blog.  You may recall my recent entry about identity, well I thought the best thing I could do is see if there was anything in the Recognise campaign I could help with.  On investigation and my usual online trawling exercise I saw that a film Vote Yes was being finalised and seeking crowdfunding for the last $20,000.  So I hopped on line and on board to see what I could do essentially through my twitter account (although I did use facebook, email and LinkedIn as well).

Each day for a couple weeks I have been tweeting about the film, shamelessly asking people to chip in and lend a hand with a donation, not out of charity, but as an act of solidarity and to inform the twitter sphere of the issue of constitutional reform to see Aboriginal peoples recognised in the Australian Constitution.

(I was nearly 9 years old when Aboriginal people got the vote in 1967. I celebrated when the Australian government said Sorry to the stolen generations in 2008 and was in the company of some very fine Aboriginal leaders that day.  I have been fortunate to have had instruction and patience from many Aboriginal people in my personal and working life. I am deeply grateful to their grace and what they have shared with me. I have a lot to learn.)

I have sent tweets to people as diverse as Lady Gaga, Fr Bob, Margaret Attwood, Malcolm Fraser and David Suzuki. I was amazed at who retweeted and who didn’t (for the record only Lady Gaga of the group above didn’t retweet).  I added to my knowledge of Aboriginal leaders and groups. I wasn’t afraid to be bold and ask for help and surprisingly celebrity /well known strangers did help out (please note Magda Subanzski and Rob Oakshott).

It has taught me a lesson once again that an invitation to help out is often valued and accepted – people respond to the call – but the call (the ask, the invite) – needs to be made.

So was I called and then made a response? Or did I make the call for others to respond too? Was it a mix of both? Was my gatecrashing welcome or just another sign of colonisation, this time of air space.  I was kindly welcomed and thanked and generously entertained by the custodians of the project who appreciated my enthusiasm for the greater good. Its the least I could do and the most I could do – to call and respond and respond to the call.

In my heart I know there is a dance going on – one where the caller and the responder share the lead and where the dance is on a wonderful tapestry where threads are woven together and sometimes the carpet itself takes flight and leads us to new horizons.

I was once told off at the Broken Spoke Dance Hall in Austin, Texas for not responding to the music a Texan Two-Step properly and dancing in an appropriate way. I may know the tunes dear Hildegard, but there are new dances to be danced and songs to be sung.  I will always strain to hear the call and prepare to be able to respond. I will also try and remain open to the call and when I need to be the call for others to respond remind myself that like you, I am trying to live like a feather that is blown about by the UniVersal breath.  Call and response is the foundation of reflection and action and reflection comes first in that binary equation.