Stunning beauty…

Breaking Surface

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won’t let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can’t be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.
You are the only explorer.

Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

Mark Nepo

 

Solitude and stillness.

Keys to connecting with soul.

Stand in direct conversation with the universe.

No intermediaries required.

solitude

Image by Colette Baron-Reid

 

Today the well is full of gratitude for poets.

Much 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

 

My secret dream project…

I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning. There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes? I know you are unable to imagine this.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel.

The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and it’s dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.

Meg Rosoff

In the first couple of years of my struggle to have children, I would occasionally wake up from very dark dreams. Dreams where i had died.

This wasn’t about suicide or a wish to die.  It was my sub-conscious expressing my inability to imagine a fulfilling life without children.

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Infertility can be a complex emotional journey – the path littered with strong emotions – hope, sadness, shame, anger, joyful possibility, guilt, envy etc.

My sense of self had always included motherhood.  From my late teens, I had randomly collected baby clothes, furniture, fertility books, children’s books, toys etc. (Yes, i’d always been a hobbit hoarder!)

It was a matter of waiting for the right circumstances. After a bumpy twenties, i met kev and we tried for over ten years to conceive a child.

We went through many options, including IVF, and just recently, we have ended our infertility journey.

To never be a mother was a pain beyond anything i could express, which is why i held on, trying for so long.

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The invisible grief, as children arrived for others, the media bombardment of happy family images, the assault on my sense of identity, my anticipated future crumbled away…

Sadly, infertility is not new to human society, yet it leaves many unsure about what to say. It is hard to explain the unpredictability of the emotional journey, the ongoing sense of grief.  There are emotional and sad days, but after lots of healing and grief work,  life is actually pretty good.

The last decade has been an incredible journey of growth and connection. Infertility has been the most incredible teacher.

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There are so many unexpected gifts.  Connection with my body; deepening my relationships; connection with spirituality, deep wisdom and other dreams; communion with others experiencing similar struggles etc.

Yet, like other complex grief, looking on the bright side, doesn’t make the sadness go away and is best arrived at oneself.

Infertility is one of those griefs from which you may never completely move on, but you can move forward and integrate the loss.  Slowly, step by step, walking through the grief and starting to imagine a life of new possibilities.

My focus is slowly shifting from looking back with regret and sadness. From defining my life by what is missing, to looking forward and creating a fertile life.  To embrace the future that is opening up to me now that being a parent is no longer an option.

This month, I took a big step.

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On my computer I opened a folder called my “secret dream project”.

I wanted to start collecting ideas and research on one secret dream. A possibility that childlessness opens for me.

My dream is to do wilderness trekking trips in different parts of the world.

I don’t know when, how, where, cost or any of the details. For now, it’s for collecting images, ideas, location details, logistics, equipment ideas etc.

It’s me dipping my toe in the pond of possibility.

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I’d love to hear from you.

What has helped you rebuild following great life disappointments?

If you have felt beaten down, perhaps you could gently try this idea if it resonates.

Big 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

 

My little fluffy guru…

Two cards drawn this morning – MENTOR and CHILD: NATURE.

The message received – Let nature be your guide.

mentor child_nature

Images from Carolyn Myss archetype cards.

Max sat on my lap during the writing, so I cannot take full credit for this work! :o)

There are times in our lives when we all need our nurturers, teachers and mentors. These don’t always arrive in human or even visible form. We can have spirit teachers, guides, ancestors, teaching angels, nature spirits and others who assist us on our journey. We simply need to ask.

IMG_20140307_101025_472One of my gurus and a great joy in my life is our moodle (maltese x poodle) “Max”.  Although small in stature, Max is big in wisdom and character. Max came into our lives at the start of a long and painful journey. Our friend J owns Ruby, his mum, and the neighbour’s dog, Ralph, is the father.

We went over a few times to visit this wee puppy and loved him from the first moment.  When we arrived, Max took one look at us, said hello and ran off to play!

13-12-07_1129We discussed names and felt drawn to “Max” as he was the larger of the two puppies in the litter and well, it just suited him, it just felt right. When we told J, she laughed, because without us knowing, Max had been the name she’d been calling him since he was born, but she’d left the final naming to us.

On the way over to pick him up the last time, we stopped at a coffee shop in a wee panic. Were we ready to take on such a big commitment? A dog, for us, this was for life.  Fortunately we did and Max has been the best companion.

So here are some of things I’ve learned from Max:

Max is the embodiment of joy! He has a pure loving heart and is full of curiousity, courage and a sense of adventure. He lives in the moment. Max has his own little joyful dance. Up on his back legs and waving his front legs up and down. Whenever someone comes to the door, they are of course there to see him. He does his joyful dance and goes through his excited greeting ritual, which involves loads of bouncing and joyful squeals. He got so excited once, he pee-ed on our friend’s foot, luckily a good friend! Now the first thing I ask when guests arrive, “are you a doggy person?”. He has a particularly special bond with a few of our friends.

IMGP3493Max is naturally a very gentle and kind dog. It took him about 18 months until he met a dog that was aggressive towards him and he was literally taken aback, surprised at the hostility of another being. He used to always roll over and be submissive, but he has learned to stand his ground now.  Regular dog park visits and training has socialised him well.

IMGP0087 Everything in Max’s life is a treat and received with gratitude and joy!

Each day:

  • a bowl of dog food, JOY!,
  • trips in the back of the car, JOY!,
  • hanging his head out the car window, JOY!
  • playing with furry friends at the dog park, JOY!
  • a tummy rub or a bone, JOY!, JOY! JOY!

Max lives life with intensity and focus, he actually has full body thoughts. Just by watching his body language I can see him change his mind, problem solve things and express his feelings. Even if he has been left alone all day or experiences something he doesn’t like, he doesn’t dwell on it, he literally shakes it off and chooses to just be happy again.

New sniffs, new smells, new adventures, the world is an exciting place, full of adventures and discoveries.  Things to be chased and barked at, conversations to be had, and of course at the end of it all big long naps!!  There is nothing better than hanging your head out of the car window, smelling all those new whiffs and feeling the breeze rushing through your coat.

IMGP0075As a poodle, Max is very clever. From a young age he would problem solve situations and change his behaviour according to how he read people and situations. When we go to the dog park, he runs the whole circuit and says hello to every dog and person. Recently we were there and he came bounding up to a pair of small dogs, one was very nervous and started barking aggressively. Max ran away but the next time round he stopped about 2 metres from the same dog and allowed him to approach on his own terms. They became best of mates. He’s a whiz at managing other dogs, he very good at putting young silly puppies in their place, whatever their size.

Max is also very good at reading and managing people. We took him to dog training and he picked it all up immediately. The thing is that he turns his obedience on and off according to his judgement of what he can get away with, so he is a bit of a chancer!! For example, he is the model of a perfect dog when my father in law visits. When he first met our friend, a dog whisperer, you could see in his body language he was so excited that he was noticed, understood and could communicate so clearly.

06-04-08_1607Whenever we go somewhere at night, if it gets too late and max is tired, he’ll go and sit by the door ready to go home. When he’s tired he just takes himself off to bed, content with his predictable and loving home, and his regular routine. I’m sure on those long days, left alone whilst we were at work, the fairies came and tickled his paws to keep him amused!

Then  of course  there’s the help in the garden, which isn’t the most fun, that mower sounds awful, but he gets to hang out with his pack, one of his favourite things.  Max is authentic, honest and completely true to himself. He is also a comfort dog, if you can’t find Max, you can guarantee that he has found most comfortable place in the house. Which in the past has included the pillows on my in-laws bed, this only happened once!

IMGP3618 There’s nothing better than growing your coat long and collecting whatever you can on your long walks. One of the disadvantages of very short legs is that the ground isn’t too far away, which is great for collecting leaves, dirt, sticks, smells etc. Rolling in things, like dead birds, ooh the smell!

Not very keen on getting washed, he avoided water for a long time until he realised the value of water cooling you down on a hot summer day, and afterwards, you can run around to dry like a total lunatic, letting the excitement zap through his body! No one throwing you something to chase?  That’s alright, you can pick up anything in your mouth and lob it across the room – shoes, bones, even dog bed mattresses!!

There are clear rules in the house (no jumping on sofas or bed, no begging for food) but by his very nature, Max is one to take advantage of opportunities (including a pair of very malleable owners!)

IMGP3744So here’s to all the teachers, mentors and joyful companions in your life. May they fill your home with love and laughter. May we be wise enough to observe, listen and learn from them!

Much love

Sarah

PS This also includes cats, turtles, birds, gold fish, guinea pigs, snakes, possums, spiders, or any other living being that graces your home! :o)

Giving it a crack…

Recently a dear friend, told me a story about going to a mutual friend’s fashion launch in Sydney. This fashion label is high end and is now internationally successful.

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At the event, our friend was asked how she was feeling about her first big fashion launch. After many years, long days, hard work, creating original design and strategic product development, negotiating manufacture using old artisan methods, honing her entrepreneurial business skills, building networks and strategic marketing to her customers.

Her response? “I’m just giving it a crack!”
Another Aussie saying for “giving it a go.”

And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Stepping up, putting ourselves into the game, not being weighed down by anxiety and expectation. This first step could be a giant splash or a gentle breath. It’s about learning, developing skills, preparing, thinking, observing, doing our thing, being strategic with time, resources and action. But at the end of the day, it’s also about taking the risk, jumping in, embracing serendipity and just being yourself. Going with the process with an attitude of joy, lightness and grace.

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This is certainly not to say it’s easy. But it’s about not being overwhelmed by the fear of failure and the anxiety of putting ourselves out there. We all experience this fear, but it’s about doing your thing anyway – being bold and game, yet being gentle and kind to yourself. Being your own frame of reference.

Recently, I talked about health and particularly the challenge of a regular exercise routine. Well, I’m taking a leaf out of my friend’s book, and just giving it a crack!

Not over-thinking it, just blending passion and action, which for me, means being out in the garden doing my thing. Here are some of the results…

A few months ago we went to a garage sale and found a great bargain about 60 square metres of pavers for $200. The catch… It didn’t include delivery – so each weekend we’ve been going in a borrowed van and shifting the loads by hand – this is the result – paving for outside of the studio we’re about to build.

IMGP0014Bit by bit, step by step, we got there. Back and muscles getting a good workout, but progress towards one of our goals.

Remember this disaster? The citrus orchard…

IMGP0006Well after digging out the weeds by hand with the garden fork, laying weed matting, mulching and planting, the bed now looks like this…

IMGP0002The shrubs have been recovered, (syzygium paniculatum dwarf, grevillea rosmarinifolia lutea and syzygium wilsonii) and i’ve planted the native blue flax lily (dianella brevipedunculata) which will form a great border as a tufting plant, interspersed with some winter flowering bulbs – jonquil and iris.

There’s still more work to do and my back is sore, but it’s my thing.  It’s taking the first step and then keeping going. Not thinking too much, just planning and getting on with it, putting one foot in front of the other, savouring each step and trusting my intuition.

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One of the tips i’ve learned is not to set daily task goals.

There’s an overall goal for the whole garden to be completely restored using native revegetation and permaculture methods, but i don’t set task goals for each day. Instead, i decide what i’m going to start working on, bring myself into the present moment, walk out the door, start working and finish when it feels the time to finish. This way i’m not engaging the critical mind in what i ‘should’ be doing, i’m not setting myself up with any expectation or possible disappointment.

When I do this in my garden each day, it feels energetically lighter and the irony is that i achieve far more than self imposed goals that engage the judging self!!

This simple method was reintroduced to me in the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

Be – do – have.

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Here’s an example, if you’d like more happiness in your life – start by feeling happy or reaching for the energy of happiness, then do things that make you happy, which in turn creates more happiness in your life. Ok, so this might not be the magic panacea for everything, but I’ve found it a useful tool.

As for my foray into garden high fashion? Well these overalls fit the bill perfectly!

IMGP0011Looking at the big picture, the life changing transformation, leaving full time secure employment and stepping into the unknown, being my essence and allowing life to flow from this place with ease…

At the end of the day – I’m just giving it a crack!

Wishing you the very best in all your endeavours!
May they flow with ease and may you be filled with peace and joy!

Much love
Sarah

Hot garden tip

The syzygium wilsonii, a native plant of Northern Australia is an absolute cracker! :o)

www anbg gov auImage from http://www.anbg.gov.au

 

A family wedding…

Last week we travelled down to Melbourne for a family wedding, and we were excited!

For me, weddings are an opportunity for a fabulous community celebration of love and connection in our lives. But it’s not always been like this for me.

I was raised in a feminist family and for many years was anti-marriage. As a social institution, marriage, particularly for women, has a very chequered history. The historic notion of women being property, firstly of the father and then ‘given away’ into the custodianship of the husband, has always grated. Particularly when i consider that in my culture, my female ancestors had little or no access to education or means to make an independent income.

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Women were unable to own or inherit property and were legally subject to the whims and mercy of their husband. There was no rape in marriage laws and ‘rule of thumb’ law meant men could beat their wives with a rod whose diameter was no larger than their thumb. This is just the start of my reservations about marriage as I believe these traditional notions of marriage were oppressive for men as well.

Our reservations about marriage were also about the injustice of gay and lesbian people not having the same legal marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

Marriage has a long, diverse and complex history. Truth is, I’ve always struggled with gendered concepts around role, work, social status and expectations. It amazes me how ingrained and limiting these patriarchal beliefs can be. Feminism for me, represents freedom, not just for women, but for all people to be free of gender stereotypes and expectations, to create themselves according to their own truth, purpose and values.
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To strive for freedom and liberation, one first needs a conscious awareness of their own chains and limitations. But this isn’t a post about feminism, it’s about marriage, for me they are connected.

I got married just over two years ago. Why? So what changed? Well in a nutshell, me.

Our decision to get married started as pragmatic. We were approaching the 10th anniversary of our relationship and we wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. Most of our family live interstate and overseas and we realised that they were unlikely to travel for a party, but the big ‘M’ might motivate them! :o)

Truth is, we’d been cogitating on marriage for a few years. We had attended some lovely weddings in the preceding years and were warming to the idea. We decided to unpack the concept and redefine marriage on our own terms. In fact, we could just as easily not have married, but we embraced the concepts of joyous celebration.

At its very basic core, a marriage is an economic arrangement where two people agree to take financial responsibility for each other. Pre-liberation, when women were economically dependent, this usually meant men taking responsibility for women. When someone makes this kind of economic commitment to another person, it is a beautiful gift and in my mind should not be limited to opposite genders and some other constraints.  Sadly, Australian laws limit marriage to heterosexual couples only.

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Religion, culture, and social norms have layered meaning and expectations onto this social institution, particularly around gender roles, work, sexuality and the procreation of children. Couples now, have greater opportunity to redefine their relationships on their own terms (within existing cultural constraints). However, change is needed to the laws on same sex marriage, heterosexuals don’t own marriage.

Our marriage is an ongoing creation, but let’s look at our wedding itself. When it came to the wedding, we started with a blank slate. We threw out all the expectations, all the assumptions about what we should or should not do and created the event ourselves.

We came to understand the wedding as a public statement and celebration of what already was – our existing love and commitment to each other. We went further and saw it as a deeper spiritual ritual. We set the intention that the event was a gift to our community of family and friends. Our theme was “a celebration of love in our lives in all of its forms.”

Wedding program coverOur beautiful friend Narelle was the celebrant. She is very open and supportive of us. Many of our family and friends helped to organise the event. We are so grateful for their love and generosity! The ceremony took place on our land among the trees, birds and nature spirits. We created a magical ritual and cast a circle, we honoured the Aboriginal traditional owners and custodians of the land, and invited in the divine, our ancestors, elemental spirits and beings of light. The process honoured self love first, love and gratitude for our parents, love for our community, and romantic love for each other. We did a hand binding and exchanged rings and our own vows. We created and activated blessings for ourselves, each person present and their family, friends and community, and finally blessings for the earth and all beings.

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Now I understand the spiritual concept of the glowing bride. On the day, I became an open channel as an extraordinarily beautiful and joyful loving energy poured through. Throughout the whole ceremony and party afterwards this energy kept flowing. I set the intention for it to continually flow to all the people in attendance (and those who could not) and sent it out to the planet and all beings. We created an energetic mirror around us so that all the love, good thoughts and intentions that were sent our way were gratefully received and magnified 10 fold back into the lives of the sender. This was the spiritual gift to our community.

The focus for us was on celebration. We had a wonderful fun party afterwards at our family home. My parents were so generous in supporting us and hosting the event. We kept dancing and laughing til 5am, when we collapsed in a heap and watched the sunrise over the front deck. I can’t tell you how blessed and grateful we feel for such generosity from our community and our blessed memories.

_DSC6432 So i’m a convert to the joy and blessing of weddings, or parties, or whatever you choose to celebrate love and commitment. After you have organised and run your own wedding, there is a totally new appreciation for the gift of an invitation and just how special weddings can be. We’re loved the celebration of the family wedding, the fun and joy and the gift that we could give, without all the hard work!

The most important thing about a wedding is that it is a true and authentic expression of the couple. It can cost nothing or be massively expensive, most critical is the intention and meaning for the couple and their community.

A friend of mine, who is a wedding photographer, said to me recently, “it doesn’t matter how much a couple spends, one of the best wedding i’ve been to cost $100, what matters is the love in the room!”

I wish you celebration of love in your life in all its forms.
Know that we are blessed, truly!

Much love
Sarah