Beyond the drama…

Beyond the drama there is silence

Beyond the drama there is dignity

Beyond the drama there is grace…

Owning your story, the honest truth, that way lies healing…

There’s a lot going on in my life right now.

In addition to the usual demands of life, I’m spend 3 to 4 days and nights each week in town supporting my parents as my father declines with end stage pancreatic cancer. I’m also travelling through the grief of childlessness and birthing a new creative project.

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This involves big demands, big emotions and being a sensitive soul there is a huge energetic backwash.

In the past, i would have been at sea, lost in the drama of my thoughts and emotions, washed all over the place. Blending, not knowing what was mine and what was absorbed from others. I would have numbed, criticised, diminished, strung out and sacrificed myself.

But years of being and knowing me has allowed me to develop some proactive self care strategies.

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Firstly to self monitor and be aware of how I’m travelling. What am i feeling?  Observing my thinking and particularly being mindful of overwhelm. Most particularly what that looks like for me. The times when critical thinking or emotional numbing is slipping in. Not to judge myself for this, but to just observe it and plan a scheduled break, some self kindness.

Secondly to be proactive in caring for myself. My overwhelm and stress has led to some sleeplessness. Waking up at 1 or 2am. In the past i would have panicked and lay awake, my mind ticking over,  strategising how to regain sleep. Now i just sit and observe, bring myself into the present moment, acknowledge feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Just to sit for a while and be with it.

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Then, i pick myself up, take myself out to the back verandah and gently lie myself under the stars.  I allow the stress, the overwhelming energy to seep back into the earth. I am cradled by the smells, sounds, the beings and energy of the night.   I absorb the healing balm and i am deeply grateful.

Looking up at the moon and stars, into the face of the universe, helps me gain perspective and peace. Many times i have fallen into a deep healing sleep. I put myself back to bed after a few hours and wake the next day feeling nourished and restored.

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Finally, to know that i am not alone. We all go through struggles and tough times in our lives. That’s part of being human. To connect, sometimes in silence, with dear souls who nourish us, and us them. This sole journey is shared at times with loving and kind companions, even if they are not physically present, it is a shared human experience. When we commune with the goodness of the human collective, sometimes energetically, sometimes through art or literature or other creative expression of the complexity of life, we are never alone.   I am deeply grateful for this blessing.

Sometimes,  a break is not possible, you just have to keep going, to be solid. But i find when i create drama around the exhaustion, it only makes it tougher. When i cut through to the core, the essence of how i’m feeling and what i need right now, it really helps to keep me going.

I’d love to hear what works for you when the pressure is on and you can’t escape, but you need a modicum of relief.

Big love for you today!

sarah

 

 

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Dare to dream…

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”. Nelson Mandela

Years ago, when working with young people experiencing homelessness, I noticed that one of their greatest fears was to dream. There was this overwhelming feeling that life and people had let them down. Whilst they often secretly yearned for something different, they were afraid to dare dream, lest they be shattered again.

“It’s always easier to sabotage dreams myself, than to wait for it to happen, the waiting is the worst!” I was told.

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My heart always went out to them, and secretly dreamed there was an easy way for them to move forward and unlock the life they wanted. A life based on self love and acceptance, nurture and connection, being at peace. In reality, it was a slow process of listening, being respectful, offering practical support and strategies to gently move someone into their future.

The key was to honour the story and its impact, to shift perception, and to gently create and experience a new reality. For example, after listening to a life story of hardship and abuse, we would take time to pause and acknowledge the young person as an amazing survivor. This would often be a new way of seeing themselves, as more than a victim of circumstance.

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Sometimes there were big shifts, sometimes small, always tempered by the complexity of human beings weathered by unjust circumstances. Even now, years later, i hold each and every young person close in my heart and wish them the very best in their lives. I particularly hope they have created the loving family they often craved.

So how do we gently nurture our hopes and dreams?

In they busy-ness of life, the paralysis of fear or adversity of life circumstances, how do we keep those secret yearnings alive and bring them into reality?

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What strategies work for you, especially when you’re feeling stuck or fearful? Perhaps a dream journal, a vision board, a gentle shift in your state of being or another method? What gets you motivated? How do you gently nurture yourself and your dreams?

Love to hear your suggestions…

Wishing you a magical day, to release fears and unlock your beautiful dreams.

Much love

sarah

Lighting the path…

Last night I had a rather unusual, yet insightful experience…

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I received a phone call last week inviting me to a market research consultation with my superannuation company. Two hours of my time to give my opinion and receive a payment. Sure – I’m not working, some extra cash is always handy!

I dressed in my work gear for the occassion, it would have been a more accurate reflection of my current life to wear my overalls covered in mud, but i was stepping back into my work persona for the night!

I arrived at 5.45pm, as instructed, sat in the lobby with a big group of others, awkwardly crammed into a small space, waiting quietly, unsure what lay ahead. I started chatting with a lovely woman next to me, had she done something like this before? Did she know what to expect? You know small talk…

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Running a bit behind time, we were ushered into a corporate meeting room, complete with cameras, recording devices and silent observers in another room. We met the guy who was to facilitate the discussion, a bit older than me, a relaxed and friendly man.

It was as group of seven women in the 35-44 demographic, gathered together to discuss superannuation, financial planning, life expectations, retirement etc. It was a fascinating, random snapshot of women in my city, my peers, checking in about our lives and how we’re travelling, both financially and in other ways. I rarely get a chance to step outside my mileau, so i was pretty intrigued and honoured to hear everyone share their stories.

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I must confess to recently watching episodes of Sherlock Holmes, so at the start, while we were waiting, I quietly observed each person to deduce what i could about them. The truth is not very much, the facilitator wore a wedding ring, many of the women looked tired, fatigued, perhaps overworked, parenting pressures or some health concerns?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to rely on my ‘deductions’ alone, we did introductions around the table.

A younger lawyer recently left the government, a woman working in admin with three children, a teacher with two children, the creative woman i met at the start worked in film and tv, a woman with no children who was very focused on financial security and retiring as early as possible, then me, who is ‘cough’ between jobs or how do i describe it? Having a forest change?

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We got chatting in a friendly and open way, each providing comments and insights, listening to each other. The atmosphere was friendly and calm, this was going to be a breeze!

About 15 minutes later, the final participant arrived. She was late due to a large accident and horrendous traffic. She was a single mum, casual work, struggling, health issues that she described in some detail. I could feel great empathy for her situation.

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Despite being late, she went on to take most of the oxygen out of the room. She would have spoken for a good 50-60% of the time – long winded answers, jumping in when others took a breath, talking over others, commenting and asking questions about everyone else’s comments – strong opinions.

Well the energy in the room changed immediately, everyone took a step back into heavy silence, less willing to openly share and it became a matter of enduring what time remained. The facilitator did his best to keep redirecting the conversation to others for input, but it was a challenge without direct confrontation.

I had a series of responses, firstly tolerance and openness to the diversity of people who make up the world. I tried to remain calm but something inside me started to well up, feeling annoyed, should i say something or let it just pass through? I did the latter and wondered how many other people just walked away from this woman, how isolating and frustrating for her to experience this reaction from others.

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The most fascinating thing was the insight into each woman. The life choices they had made and how they reflected on this at mid life. A few women had lived for long periods overseas, some had children, some did not, others were very career driven, others keen to leave the work world behind. It was interesting to see the impact of these life choices on the women themselves.

One woman described how exhausted she was with three small children, mortgage etc, she was into phone apps, and loved using them on the train home. Others described having virtually no superannuation and not being able to rely on it, they were very subject to the changing policies of government. One was very focused and in control of her financial planning, with a view to retirement as early as possible.

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One woman, described the unbearable pressure of being on a moderate salary and paying for two children to go to private school. Another 5 ½ years of this pressure to ensure her children have access to the best education that she could provide. The single mum challenged her “well you’re lucky you can afford to send your kids to a private school”, she softly replied “we work really, really hard to afford it, we forgoe many things.”

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At the end of the session we all left as quickly as we could, as we exited the building some women expressed disbelief and anger about the woman who dominated the group. I could feel their frustration, but at the same time i felt for her, as she would wear the consequences (as we all do) of who she is in a social context. Perhaps she constantly experienced the anger and rejection of others? What complexities drive behaviour?

I had a wee chat with the lovely woman who i first met, and then we jumped into our cars, driving off into the night, never to see each other again.

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Life is such a fascinating journey. We can make a lot of assumptions about people’s lives but this can deepen when we hear the story from within. When we consider who we are, the choices we make, perhaps our lives could only be exactly as they are, a mirrored reflection of ourselves. If we wish to make changes in our lives, perhaps the initial change is internal?

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Making life choices can also be really tough, especially when the way forward is unclear. We live in a complex society that can be difficult to navigate. We rely on personal qualities, social skills and fortune of circumstance to have friends, mentors and wise elders who can assist.

Almost like negotiating your way through a maze, one can get lost in the detail. It feels like a combination of active decision making and plain dumb luck has led me in life. Whilst who i am is a big factor, it’s not the whole picture either, as the choices i’ve made have also created me.

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Ultimately this whole experience felt like a gift from the universe, to pause and reflect, to consider my life and a small snapshot into the lives of others. It has brought into greater focus the blessings, and i feel honoured to share stories with others.

Wishing for you great insight, harmony and peace in you life choices.

Much love
Sarah

 

Thoughtful kindness makes a day…

I just heard this delightful story about my friend Mich.

Her 90 year old neighbour Norma, is celebrating her 68th wedding anniversary today.

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Sadly her beloved husband passed away four years ago and she misses him terribly.

So today, my friend surprised her with a bunch of flowers and a happy anniversary card, left on the doorstep for when Norma got home.

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Norma was delighted and popped in to tell Mich that she made her day.

Best of all, to be able to make Norma’s day, made Mich’s day as well!

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I’m so proud of Mich’s beautiful kind heart!!

Don’t you love the happy feeling you get from such spontaneous and thoughtful kindness? In it’s purest form, there is a beautiful exchange of loving energy.

Both giving and receiving is a wonderful blessing!!

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Wishing for you unexpected kindness and the opportunity to give the same to others

Loving communities start with us, so thank you Mich for the inspiration!!

Much love

Sarah

 

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?

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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.

A most underrated quality…

“Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

Recently my parents, now in their mid seventies, downsized their house. From a large double story old Queenslander house, they moved into an apartment in town. A brave and adventurous move for them and the start of a new chapter of their lives. It has been inspiring to watch them release the burdens and responsibilities of possessions and bask in this new found freedom. They have been tremendously generous to me and my siblings with the gifting of their cherished items. One of my beautiful gifts was this Royal Doulton stag and deer sandwich platter. An item that came from my father’s mother, my grandmother Hilda.

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Now I love this platter. In fact i love it so much that i kept my eye out on ebay and bought a few companions for it. This was in the days of working when i had some extra money to spend.

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This item means a lot to me. Not just because it is a gift from people who i love deeply, but also because for me it captures the essence of close family members. The stag and deer  represent gentle strength. These are qualities that my father and partner Kevin have in spades. My grandmother Hilda also had it. It is easy to assume that someone who is gentle is weak and easily manipulated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Public images of masculine strength often involve outward displays of physicality, toned muscles, testosterone, fire fighters rescuing vulnerable people from burning buildings or tough guys in action movies.

The strength that i admire is far more subtle and for me more beautiful. This is strength that comes from within. It is an internal core of strength disguised in a covering of gentleness and often kindness. Kindness is a most under rated quality, but one which i love. I am not a naturally kind person, but i have been fortunate to learn from others who are kind in their essence or who have chosen to nurture this quality in themselves.

Kindness is not about being patronising or diminishing another, nor it is about manipulating another or giving with expectation. It isn’t about being cheesy or operating from obligation. It is a quality that comes from the heart. Being thoughtful. It stems from a core belief in the goodness and value of other beings. It’s about supporting them in their wholeness. The best kindness is gentle, unexpected, when someone reaches in and softly touches your heart. Genuine kindness always moves me.

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Image from www.quotesvalley.com

This is not the false kindness of social role or duty, but it is about being authentic and genuine. I particularly admire social kindness, such as:

  • valuing relationships as part of connected community, rather than competitively scaling a social hierarchy
  • welcoming someone into your world, listening to them and sharing from your heart, gently filling in the awkward conversational gaps,
  • speaking to the best attributes of another, seeking more information when you don’t understand,
  • choosing gentle silence or diplomatically avoiding topics that may cause discomfort,
  • being truly empathic in seeing the world from their perspective, giving someone the benefit of the doubt,
  • knowing, accepting and loving people in their wholeness and differences, including their imperfections
  • being self aware, particularly of the your own egoic triggers, managing and taking responsibility for them and not projecting them onto others.

Kindness is the ability to suspend judgement, to listen to another person’s story and to feel it on an emotional level, to feel how they experienced the situation. It’s not about being stepped over, having no boundaries, it comes from that core strength, not being afraid to be gentle and vulnerable. People sometimes say they feel “political correctness” has gone too far, but i always think of it as being kind and thoughtful to others, of which i’d love to see more.

I have a few friends who are wildlife carers, really they are animal whisperers. An ability to connect with the essence of the animal in a way that makes them feel safe and heard. This incredible ability comes from being kind, gentle, yet strong. Loving the animal and knowing its true nature, not their projected image. They are in touch with their own vulnerability and gentle strength. They take the time and create the space for animals to come to them on their own terms.

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Image from worldtravaillers.com

This morning i woke up feeling very emotionally flat. Fuzzy head, a bit sad and down. In the past i would have looked for the reason, the story that justified these feelings or i’d reach for a cup of coffee to chemically numb myself or talk myself up, pep myself into action to get things moving and push this behind me.

After many years, i’ve learned to be kinder to myself. I do this by taking a deep breath and just allowing myself to be wherever i am. To suspend judgement, to gently observe myself, to quieten my thoughts, perhaps to meditate, to observe the energy patterns, where do they sit in my body? Where are they stuck? I may lie in the pillows and drop into a nurturing space of allowing myself just to be. I quietly got up and took Max down to the dog park, just allowing myself to be, I gently walked five laps of the park and by the end the feelings had dissipated with ease. On the way home i stopped for a lovely unexpected chat with my neighbour who was riding her horse down our street.

Today i wish kindness and gentleness for you and for others when the moments present.

Much love
Sarah