Magical hiking shoes…

There is so much to know about hiking shoes!

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This week, much time was spent researching.

So many details: materials, waterproofing, weight, thickness, soles, inner soles, arch and ankle support, proper sizing on flat and inclines, light boots, heavy boots, light weight shoes or sandals.

Let alone advice on foot care: breaking in boots, lace knotting, taping, powdering, oiling, foot soaking, elevation of feet, cleaning, drying, trimming nails and treating blisters.

And I haven’t even started on socks, gaiters, trousers, backpacks and other equipment.

And that’s not the end of the list, just the beginning.

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It’s quite amazing to live in a world transformed by the internet, where there is so much information accessible for just about every topic.

But information and knowledge are different from wisdom huh?

That deeply felt wisdom of the soul.

In the wake of big transitions in my life, living through grief, my deep intuitive knowing is calling me to do something big, something honouring, something monumental.

Each night, during Dad’s final days, i’d tuck myself into bed to read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”. The story about Cheryl’s trek along the Pacific Crest Trail following her mother’s death.  I’d often be so tired that i’d only get through a few pages.

Since my father’s death i’ve felt a fire energy rising within me. Times of fiery anger, burning me away, extinguishing my core in preparation for renewal. Cleansing me, healing me. The call to action, to do something big.

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We’re in the early planning stages of a walk from Southern France into Spain. A trek of about 780km over 50 days.

We’re not doing a sacred religious or spiritual pilgrimage, or for personal healing or transformation.

We’re not going hard or toughing it out in order to suffer or prove something. We’ll average about 15km per day, which for us, as first time hikers, feels manageable.

We’re seeking to create a ripple, an experience in our life, something big that marks the passing of our father and honours the grief of childlessness, in a way that embraces this creative fire of life.

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In addition to advice from friends, the guides and website research on the trek, the locations, equipment, hostels etc, we’ve also been reading books about the art, the history, landscapes, the people, food and wine in this part of the world.

We don’t have a big wad of cash saved up, we’re going into debt, and although this makes me anxious, i am thankful for this blessing.

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With death around me, i’ve looked it in the eye and have its measure, its finality for this life is certain.  It’s a such a cliché, but to fully embrace death makes life searingly precious.

It’s time for me to stop putting life on hold and to prioritise people, experiences, dreams, and focus my energy on what really matters.

What is important to you? How do you hold it sacred and embrace it wholeheartedly?  What is the spark that calls you to action? I’d love to hear your story.

Any trekking tips or advice for a novice would be greatly appreciated as well.

Big love

sarah

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Knowing and knowing…

When i started high school in the eighties, we were given a choice of four languages to study – French, German, Italian or Japanese.

I chose Italian. For no logical reason, it was just an intuitive feeling, with implications for my life that i could not have foreseen.

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In year eight, (the first year of high school), each class was streamed according to gender and language of study. My Italian class was the smallest in the year, with 24 students, 20 of whom were daughters of Italian and Greek families.

My school was located in an inner city suburb with a fairly large immigrant settlement population. Post war Australia received many southern European immigrants, all with their own culture, experience and stories to tell.

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This class, was the first time in my mostly white, middle class, suburban childhood that i experienced being in a cultural minority.  It was an eye opening, expansive and in many ways challenging experience.  Of course, you are often not aware of cultural norms and your cultural lens until taken out of your environment.

Later, in my early twenties, i travelled and experienced being in a minority in overseas countries. Truth is, i was culturally blind and naive in many ways, and these experiences opened my eyes to complexity and difference.

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One of the many things I love about other languages, is learning words for concepts where there is not direct translation into English.

For example, learning the Italian verbs “to know”. In Italian there are two words for this, “sapere” and “conoscere”.

The first, “sapere” is to know through the mind, theoretically through ‘book’ learning.  The second, “conoscere”, is to know through lived experience, to know through the heart.  For me, it’s even deeper, a knowing from your soul or your essence.

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Sometimes it feels to me that the journey of life is scattered with opportunities for the ignorance or knowing of the mind to be transformed into knowing of the heart and soul.

I had such an experience this week.

Last weekend, we were out to dinner with friends and the topic turned to discussion of the Irish living in post war England.  A time when racism took the form of violence, exclusion from jobs, education and life opportunities, social exclusion and slurs in the form of “Irish jokes”. I grew up hearing (and telling) Irish jokes, ignorant of the political implications of using humour to point out the assumed stupidity of a whole group of people, supposing it to be funny.

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During the conversation, it was implied that I, being the daughter of the white, dominant culture, couldn’t really know and understand what it was like to be an oppressed minority.

I was slightly rattled by this, hadn’t i spent over 25 years working against injustice on both a personal and political level? My husband is Irish and we share everything equally in partnership. I hadn’t been through it, but I thought i was a card carrying member of the inclusive, tolerant generation? How could it be implied that i didn’t really understand?

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During the week, i watched the first season of the series The Man in the High Castle. Based on a book by Phillip K Dick. It is set in a fantasy  early 1960’s North America. The story is located in a dystopian world, where the Japanese and Germans won World War Two.  North America is partitioned into the occupied Japanese and German States, and the neutral zone.

It is a totalitarian system, anyone who is not Japanese or German is an oppressed minority and anyone who does not support the regime is exterminated.  It was a shocking world where people were treated appallingly. This was done in many overt and subtle ways, such as standing back in a secondary taxi queue whilst the dominant culture received preference, remaining silent in the presence of the dominant culture, living in impoverished housing, employment in lowly jobs, living with curfews and starkly, arbitrary arrests, mass graves etc.

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This was confronting, but there was a deeper layer in my response. For the first time I was seeing my own culture being treated as an oppressed racial minority. My gut turned as i experienced it coming to life in the unfolding drama.

What i learned, was not what it was like to be part of an oppressed minority, but that i truly don’t know and can never know.

I knew this in my head.  I had been told many stories, read books, seen movies, spoken to people, did “brown eyes / blue eyes training” etc. I thought I was fairly aware of racism but the experience this week enabled me to “conoscere” or experience that I truly do not know.

It is often said that we don’t know what we don’t know.  The first step to knowing is to become aware of our ignorance. For me, this is to know not just in my mind but also in my heart and lived experience.

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There was a part of me that has been blind to my own racial privilege. Not in my mind, for a long time i have know this, but in my heart, to truly feel and own this.  To ‘conoscere’ this.

Things have changed and come a long way in our society, but there is still so much further to go in achieving peace and justice among all peoples, especially for Aboriginal people.  One of the deep fears of an oppressive culture is being treated as badly as we have treated others. When I look around, I sometimes wonder how we can ever get to a place of reconciliation.

Racism, particularly subtle, internalised racism, is both a dirty secret and an uncomfortable truth. Yet when we look it straight in the eye, we can own it and move beyond.

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The courage to do this gives me hope for the future.

What this experience does for me, is to strengthen my resolve to stand against oppression.  To not take my freedom for granted and to demand that others be free. To challenge injustice that any person, race or class experiences.

I’d love to hear your story or your experiences where knowing of the mind became knowing of the heart and soul.

Sending big love today!

Sarah

 

The healing moon…

By Friday night this week I arrived home exhausted.

Driving home feeling vulnerable, reactive and teary, without any clear explanation. I’d been ‘fine’ all week, keeping busy, carrying on, trying to be there for others, but not really being present and tending to me.

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We’d been staying in town for four nights, busy with family, playing with the kids, running errands, working on my new project during the ‘in between’ moments – busy, busy, busy!

Rolling into bed with a book at about 7.30pm, half a page read before my drooping eyes hit the pillow.

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The truth was i felt ‘off’, not quite myself, for a couple of weeks.  It was subtle, slowing building, the cause unclear, my energy not freely flowing, my critical mind quietly snipping away.

Self care is not my default option, as i carry on, often focused externally, keeping busy.

Looking after me often gets lost, so I need to actively remind myself to stop, connect with how i’m feeling, what i’m needing, and take action to care for me.

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At about midnight i woke in the dark, overwhelmed by sadness and fear.

It suddenly hit me how deeply sad i was feeling in watching my father’s decline, this once strong and active man, his health failing, the impact on him, family and friends.

I had been so busy carrying on, doing practical tasks, supporting and being strong for others. At this moment in time, there was now clear space to truly feel.

At 1am, I took myself outside, bottle of water in hand, max at my side, i sat for a long time in the middle of the garden in the moonlight.

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Feeling her healing light pour down on me, all other distractions aside, the beings of the night around me, I just sat with the moon, present to myself, reaching inside, breathing in the night air, peace and healing. The feelings poured through me.

After a long time, i wandered back inside, feeling my body release its tension as i relaxed into the pillow and a deep healing sleep.

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If you’re going through something big, remember to take time for you, to stop and be present to yourself. It can be such a healing balm.

Sending healing love your way.

Much love
Sarah

Country life: snakes alive!!

This photo, taken in my home town, has been doing the rounds on the internet these past few weeks, and well, it looks a bit creepy!

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It’s an image of a carpet python crawling through a gap in a bath room ceiling heat lamp.

We live in a country area, so there are heaps of snakes, including these carpet pythons, and we have the same heat lamp in our bathroom. It has a small bulb and there’s a big gap. Truth is, I’m quite scared of snakes! But spiritual growth involves facing your fears, doesn’t it?

A couple of days ago, after seeing this photo,  i was sitting on the loo contemplating what i would do if a snake came through the ceiling heat lamp just above my head. I developed a great emergency plan. Grab Max, shut him in the lounge, close the doors to the other rooms, open door to verandah, pull down the bathroom magnetic fly screen, grab a broom and encourage the snake out through the verandah door or bathroom window.

I had it all worked out!

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Today was another hot day working on the build. Jim, my father in law, is building a studio extension on our shed. We spent the morning putting up the posts and joists for the verandah section.

IMGP0037About lunch time, I was no longer needed, so i headed to the bottom of the garden to weed and put plant protectors around all the native seedlings planted over winter. An urgent job given how much it’s heated up recently.

IMGP0039Walking back up the garden, sweating, pushing a full wheel barrow, my father in law comes quickly out on the verandah “you have a snake in your bathroom!”

Cause for panic??

Wait a moment, here’s a handy snake evacuation plan that I prepared earlier. I swing into action, Max in lounge, doors shut, brooms in hand, Jim and I open the bathroom door in anticipation. Slowly we look around, but…

There’s no snake!

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There are two possibilities:

– either the snake has gone back up into the roof through the heat lamp or

– the snake has crawled under the bathroom door (that Jim had quickly shut) AND he is hidden somewhere in my house, RIGHT NOW!

But wait, there’s always a contingency plan. So here it is: take Max, who chases anything that smells and moves, into the bathroom on his lead, let him get a whiff of the scent and then sniff around the house for said snake.

Foiled again, Max goes into bathroom, thinks he’s in trouble and does his submissive floppy dog thing on the bathroom floor! So cute, but no beagle or guard dog be he…

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Jim is quite impressed by the my presence of mind, as most women he knows would have run up the road screaming! What does he expect? I’m an Aussie gal! He compliments me and departs, after kindly checking under the bed for no snake. True story, I didn’t even ask! :o)

I ring hubby, who is skipping yoga and coming home early tonight!  In the meantime, i sit here in blissful ignorance, with an earl grey tea, writing this blog post.

My hope is that i don’t have the same experience as my neighbour, who (so the story goes) was in bed taking an afternoon nap, and a carpet python fell from the ceiling onto the bed beside him!

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I comfort myself knowing that snakes in this country were on the menu for thousands of years, so rightly, have far more to fear from us than we do from them. Sensibly, they usually make themselves scarce.

I recently decided to do more things that challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone. As they say, be careful what you wish for! :o)

Much love

Sarah

PS We think it was this lovely green tree snake that lives in our ceiling.

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We’ve previously seen him or her on our verandah, lying on our window sill and just last week, in the garden. It’s probably a bit disorientated, as all the gardening i did over winter will have disturbed it’s usual haunts. I know, not quite as intimidating as ‘old carpie’ in the first photo, but a good story nonetheless! :o)

Here’s a before and after peek at my new garden bed next to the shed. We’re hosting our neighbourhood garden club in November so we’ve been hard at work!

IMGP0015IMGP0016 IMGP0034IMGP0035PPS Hubby arrived home and headed straight to the cake on the kitchen bench. Smart man! I gotta work on this damsel in distress thing! Too funny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gift is the passion…

All of the stories in my blog posts are retold with permission.

One of the blessings of working in community services and teaching is the people one meets. Rarely did I come across someone who wasn’t wise, passionate about social justice and cared deeply for others.  Here’s an example: during a lunch break one day, a gorgeous, wise colleague told me a story about her daughter.

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Her daughter was tremendously talented at physical activity, sport in particular. Anything she tried was highly successful. Hers was a restless passion, not unusual for her age, every couple of years she moved from one thing to the next. My friend was feeling rather down, as her daughter had been a State champion in one sport and had to decided to give it away.

In a reflective moment, my friend said the most amazing thing:

“I suppose the gift isn’t the talent is it? It’s the passion!”

She was exactly right. For many years I had thought that being naturally talented was the important thing, but really it’s the passion.  To pursue and keep pursuing that thing, whatever the natural talent, that is the true blessing. Of course, I mean something that is not destructive to self or others, however you may define this.

Here are a number of beautiful examples of passionate people in my life.

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One of my sisters has always been academically successful. I remember in early primary school, my sister would arrive home from school with a new assignment and immediately start working on it, pursuing it methodically and with fervour. She has gone on to be at the top in her chosen field, medicine, and she recently told me:

“I was never motivated by success. I was never motivated by getting good grades or competing with others. The truth is that I had a thirst for knowledge and loved learning. This was my passion!”

A passion is a gift, but an enduring or lifelong passion is a blessing indeed!

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Another of my sisters is a successful art historian at one of Australia’s leading Universities. She has published many books and travels each year for research. She has secured research scholarships at some of the world’s top universities. But here’s the thing, my grandmother told the story of her as a little girl, whenever she visited, she would explore my grandmother’s china and decorative arts collection. Never for the purpose of acquisition, but to appreciate and admire the beauty of the fine china jugs, the tea sets, and other beautiful objects. What an amazing lifelong passion!!

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My dear brother, I think of him as the man with the magical ears! For as long as i could remember he has loved music, it feels like music flows in his veins. He plays numerous instruments and spent many years composing and arranging music. I feel so blessed to have him introduce me to jazz, classical and other great music. The work of fabulous jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespe, Chuck Mangione, etc. He introduced me to a whole world of magic and melody. When I’m really lucky, he still sends me compilations of music and suggestions for emerging musicians. Over the years, he has found innovative ways to weave his passion into his life, including music for community events, lighting for bands and photography at gigs.

I’m immensely proud of my siblings, particularly having seen first hand the years of hard work, dedication, courage and personal sacrifices that have gone into their success.

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Not everyone has a clear passion. I certainly didn’t seem to. For many years I felt lost and unsure of my direction and purpose, and the truth is, that’s ok.  It took me a long time to come to understand and accept myself. I’d spent many years closed off and numbing my passions. After loads of healing and spiritual work, I’ve faced my fear of failure and found the courage to pursue some passions. Here are some examples:

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At the end of my first Vipassana retreat, (total silence for 10 days, 12 hours per day of meditation), I was on such a high and so happy that I saw two paths unfold in front of me, one totally dedicated to the spiritual path, the other, going back home to my current life with spirituality woven throughout. This is my passion for spiritual development and following a reflective path.

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At my first quilting class, I distinctly remember sitting at the sewing machine, overcome with a wave of exhileration. In that moment I thought that I could do quilting for the rest of my life and couldn’t remember having been so happy. This is my passion for colour and creativity.

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Finally my garden, each day it calls to me and at the moment I am finding it hard to do anything else. The digging, weeding, mulching, planting, it’s so exciting to see the birds and other curious animals drop in to see what’s happening (and find snacks in the upturned soil). This passion involves creating habitat for the animals and a beautiful environment for healing, helping Gaia move back into balance. My garden reflects my passion for justice, love and beauty.

It’s ok to be restless or unsure of your passions, but the key is a willingness to play, explore and uncover them. To stop being afraid, (or despite being afraid), dedicating yourself to that which you love. Sometimes when we’re are truly blessed, we are able to derive an income from pursuing our passions, if not, then there’s other amazing and creative ways we can weave our passion into our lives.

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My partner has a lifelong passion for how things function, particularly metal work and vintage cars. He fixes computers for work and pursues his car restoration hobby in his spare time. I love supporting him to pursue his passion.

So here’s to you and your passions!!

Whatever they may be, let you find time for them and may you manifest them in your life on your own terms.

If your passion is unclear, then I wish for you time for play, exploration and experimentation. It may not be a thing that you do, it might be a love of justice, exploring ideas, socialising with friends, raising children, community building, caring for others or something else.

Whatever it is, enjoy it because you totally deserve it!!

Much love
Sarah

PS Here’s a photo my brother Tim wanted to include, it’s of the Australian Greens. He’s also passionate about environmental sustainability and social justice.

Tim Roberts photoImage by Tim Roberts

 

When sorry is not an apology…

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Image from Doreen Virtue “messages from your angels”.

I used to say sorry a lot. An awful lot. It can become a meaningless habit, a short hand word, a social lubricant used to smooth social situations. Often ones in which there may not be anything for which to apologise or for which someone may not be genuinely sorry. Other people may find it virtually impossible to apologise, to say sorry for how they have impacted on others, the shame of engaging with their own imperfections, the guilt of what they have done or perhaps the fear of rejection or intimacy is too great. Others may be unaware of their impact on others.

Examples of the use of sorry could include:

– The expression of egoic imperfection such as “i’ve forgotten your birthday” or “i’ve managed to use really clumsy words and emotions to express myself and i have offended you”, sorry
– Social graces and politeness – “i’ve stepped in front of you”, sorry
– Social embarrassment for someone who doesn’t take responsibility for themselves “you’ve walked into me”, sorry,
– Apology for your truth “you haven’t listened and i’m trying to state my truth”, sorry
– Apology for someone else’s stuff, their emotional reaction to something you’ve done “you’ve had an emotional reaction”, sorry
– An apology for being “I’m speaking my truth or taking up too much space”, sorry

Women in particular are good at apologising for their truth and the space they take up in the world. Here’s a fab talk by a young woman Lily on Upworthy which articulates it incredibly well.

taking up too much roomImage from http://www.anonymousartofrevolution.com

A genuine apology is an act of tremendous courage and an act of forgiveness is a gift of incredible loving kindness.

So what is a genuine apology?

Some years ago i attended a Festival of Ideas and saw a lecture by Johan Galtung, an international peace negotiator and academic. He spoke wisely about the nature of a genuine apology. He said it involved three parts

  1. An account of what you have done, stated in the first person, not “i am sorry that you got upset when…” but “i am sorry that i did, said…”
  2. A willingness to listen to an account of how this has impacted on the other person
  3. A commitment to learning, change, healing or action to ensure that it won’t happen again

So what are or can we be responsible for?
– To accept responsibility for ourselves, for our actions, omissions, our imperfections stemming from our ego, the courage to be imperfect to be truly seen
– To accept responsibility for ourselves and our reactions, bearing in mind that most of our reactions come from the human ego not the divine spirit within us
– To listen, truly listen to how we may have impacted on others, being mindful that we are not responsible for the reactions of others, merely our behaviours
– A commitment to seeing our imperfections, accepting them, lovingly embracing not criticising them and embracing growth and change. What action do we need to take to ensure we are not continuing to repeat these patterns? What do we need to learn and/or to heal?

john-lennon-self loveImage from linaway.com

In my experience, when operating from a place that is not self loving, i am more likely to act in a way that negatively impacts on others. When i am off centre, operating from unchecked ego, out of balance with my loving core, then i may not be kind or loving towards other people.

Some patterns towards others when we are not self loving include:
– Loss of self, giving up of self to the expectations of others, giving and merging with others, can also be used as a way of controlling others
– Making oneself invisible, accommodating to the needs and expectations of others to the point of giving up one’s own power and own agenda
– Controlling expectations of others, often developed from a young age when a child feels powerless, they might use their mental expectations of others as a way of asserting control

This week i was offered and gave a precious gift. It was the gift of reconciliation. A dear friend and i had a conversation about a misunderstanding that had occurred about 18 months ago. We entered the conversation with open hearts, speaking our truth and listening to the other, really genuinely listening at a very deep level. It was scary, it was painful, it was brave and courageous, it was sacred.
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Reconciliation is a precious gift. It is the gift of a second chance. A willingness to engage in a conversation that can lead to forgiveness demonstrates faith in another person’s capacity to grow and change over time, to take responsibility for their actions. The passage of time can allow someone to be in a different place and have a different perspective.

There is a lingering pain that can stem from the regret of a friendship lost, particularly if you have changed, learned the lesson and not been given the opportunity for reconciliation.
Reconciliation can take time, authenticity, listening, speaking your truth, being vulnerable, being whole hearted, allowing oneself to be seen, including one’s imperfections.Brene Brown has done some great social research on embracing your imperfections and living wholeheartedly.

Reconciliation is the meeting of equals, it requires listening with an open empathic heart to another person’s truth and speaking your truth with insight and courage. Some of the most courageous people i know are the ones who see their flaws and own them as part of their whole being. Empathy is listening and feeling the experience from the other person’s perspective, not from your own. How did they feel about the situation? How did they experience it? How did it impact of them?

Trust the processLet go & Trust the Process: Unveil Your Gift, Libby Creagh. Image from www.elephantjournal.com

Where possible, i also suggest entering into the conversation with no expectations of an outcome, trusting the process and not being afraid of silence, to listen and digest what the other person has said. The friendship may or may not continue. Sometimes the best outcome of such a conversation is to allow you to move to a place of peace and letting go of the stuckness and conflict. It may be that you no longer continue the friendship, but you’ve let go of it from a state of grace, rather than holding on to pain and regret.

Conflict is an inevitable result of diversity and difference, when it arises it can be an opportunity for intimacy and growth.One thing i have noticed is that conflicts that occur over and over in different relationships may be a repeating pattern where we haven’t learned the lesson of our own ego. In which case, it is likely to occur again until we get it.

I wish for the blessing of healing and reconciliation in your life.

Much love
Sarah

I’d love to hear your feedback and reflections on this.