And my world turned upsidedown…

2016 is going to be my year!

I got super organised in December.  2015 was reviewed, month by month, the lessons and wisdom extracted, focused vision, clear plans, goals and tasks for the year ahead. There was even a goal for the end of January – to complete a first project draft…

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And then life happened…

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My father has become increasing unwell.

My sister and her two small children have been visiting from London.

We had a 10 day visit from a family from Southern India who have been dear friends to my parents for over forty years.

We’ve been displaced from our home for two weeks, house sitting and caring for house, dog (Pookie) and fish.

We have ended our decade long journey through infertility and other losses. Regrets, life choices, intense emotions, clearing out, etc

It’s been a pretty big time…

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So having the energy and time to focus on my new project has been challenging.

I have been reading the book “essentialism” by greg mckeown and it suggests a simple filter for all of life’s decisions – “what is essential?”

Most importantly, “what is essential right now?”

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Looking down from my tower of lofty goals and big plans, I asked, “What is important right now?”

Family took priority.  Everything was set aside and the last three weeks (monday to friday) were spent playing games, cooking yummy food and hanging out.

So when i say life happened, i mean super, amazing, stupendous, fun and exhilerating life happened…

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My 3 3/4 year old nephew and I created a collage scrap book of all our fun holiday activities – it’s rather thick, stuffed with imaginative games and adventures…

  • sitting on the couch, we took off in a hot air balloon to paint the clouds
  • we played puppy pile, one person lay flat on the bed, pillows stacked on top, then max and pookie (our dogs) put on top to dig the person out
  • the housekeeping game, wake up, make believe shower, dressing, make breakfast and then a different mode of transport to work each day – bike, roller skates, rowing, helicopter, train, etc
  • doctors and nurses, with some unusual ailments (a fashion casualty and the day the music died) and some rather unorthodox treatments (including the conga dance!)
  • sewing solar system bunting for 4th birthday in march
  • swimming lessons for two weeks at 8am every morning
  • teaching marco polo at the pool with a 3 year old screaming on my back (makes hearing the call and response impossible but loads of giggles!)
  • painting, laughing, eating, park trips, beach, dog park, family feasts, visit to Lone Pine and other fun adventures
  • making Australian animal shaped shortbread on Australia day!
  • and our favourite make believe game of all… TOAST GAME – one person is a piece of bread (always nephew), and the other (always me) would get up, feel hungry, put bread (nephew) in the pretend toaster, spread him with with butter and favourite spreads, and then eat him… to much laughter!
  • there was the vampire game, the post game, the big brother game, the airport game, and loads more fun!

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Of course, all this play had a serious side as well, to support my sister and parents with child care. I feel so grateful for this precious time to forge a relationship with my niece and nephew. Time, for me, is a hallmark of an abundant life.

It has been a fantastic time to clear out stuckness, to get energy moving, to reflect, re-evaluate and remember what is truly essential in life.

Naturally, I’ve been pretty tired most nights. It has also been a very intense emotional time of release, grief and sadness, lots of tears, but i’ve tried to be truly present as i’ve travelled through each moment.

Unexpectedly, I haven’t missed my home and all the associated burdens / work that come with a big property. Now is time to radically de-clutter, to go through everything and for each item ask – “is this essential?”

Also time to review the gardening strategy to create a lower maintainance garden. The fine art of gardening is as much about what you take out, as what you put in. This is a big shift in focus.

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But for today, with family gone and move back home, we’re having a quiet sunday of nesting and peace. Perhaps a trip to the local coffee shop for brunch.

Wishing you a peaceful Sunday and time on what is essential and truly matters to you!

Big love

Sarah

 

 

 

 

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Cracking your life code: Some thoughts on life purpose…

Over forty years, I’ve done a lot of thinking about life purpose and meaning.

I grew up with 5 siblings, three older and two younger. My three older siblings, (my main formative influence) are creative, intelligent, focused and motivated people. From a pretty young age all three appeared to know exactly what they wanted to do – medicine, art history and music, and they moved towards it with passion and clarity of purpose.

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I assumed this was normal, to know from a young age one’s life’s passion and to work tirelessly toward it.*

Truth is, i had no idea what i wanted to do. What was my passion? Let alone the focus of my life’s work. From my youthful perspective the one thing on my immediate horizon was to have a partner, build a solid economic base, and in the distant future, the conventional dream of children and a settled life into old age. This seemed the secure path.

My second life was a creative anarchic life. To follow my curiosity and my passions, to feast on the experiences of life, to create, to be happy and do what i loved. In my youthful eyes, these lives didn’t seem compatible and i was not secure enough within myself to risk chasing my creative dreams. The second problem was, what did i love? That didn’t always seem so clear.

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Over many years I caught myself in a head trip between these conflicting lives – the secure path and the creative life. I also believed I needed to ‘find my life purpose’ and ‘to find my life passion’.  I felt lost and inferior because it just wasn’t that obvious.

After finishing school, i took a year off to work and experience the world, hoping this might crystalise my focus. I worked about 8 different jobs over the year (bar work, waiting tables, admin, delivery driver, martial arts instructor, etc), none of which i found fulfilling or engaging of my passions but from which i learned the value of education.

This motivated me to go to university. My choice was between a creative arts degree and the more ‘sensible and secure’ commerce degree. I chose the secure path and put my creative life in a box. Of course, i was a square peg in a round hole. Accounting, economics, marketing all left me feeling empty. The second part of my degree was populated with politics, law and Italian language subjects (i ended up with what i call a COMARTS degree!)

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At 19, I fell into doing part time youth work engaging my passion for social justice, whilst the ‘sensible and practical’ commerce studies could establish a base to build my career. (A concept I later abandoned). I learned an enormous amount from these studies, and whilst a helpful detour, it never felt like my path. I became a shadow artist, stuffed away my creative side, locked down with fear and self loathing. Not surprisingly, my twenties were characterised by depression, escapism, self destructiveness, isolation and brokenness.

Twenty five years later, and gradually awakening to myself and my dreams, I’ve now completed the decade long and unsuccessful journey of creating children, the death of my other big dream. The most painful losses are those that challenge your identity, your sense of self, to not be a mother is a huge loss of part of myself. So how does one move forward?

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How does one build a creative life with dead dreams piled at your feet? Here are some things that helped me…

First – Acknowledge the bigness of the loss and feel it deeply, intensely, wholely – don’t buy into the story of the mind but sit with the feelings of the heart
Second – Learn how to care for, nurture and love yourself
Third – Know that you are not alone, that every human experiences grief and loss, this is our shared heritage
Four – To practice gratitude for that which you do have, particularly the love and support of others
Five – When you’re ready, to gently imagine a future life, one that honours the bigness of your grief but also allows you to move forward.

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What has this journey taught me about life and life purpose?
Here are some key questions I’ve asked myself in building a creative life:

1. How would you like to feel in your life? Don’t get lost in the detail, ie what your life should look like, instead start with how you’d like your life to feel.

2. What relationship would you like to have with yourself? Who are you? What make your flourish? What are your interests, skills and talents?

3. What lifestyle would you like to create? What is truly of value to you? Your beliefs, passions, what resonates with you and what doesn’t? For example, what does abundance mean to you? Is it possessions, creative expression, time, money, status, career success, family, friendships etc

4. How do you want to be in the world? I’ve found the key to life purpose is not about the doing, but the being. How do you want to experience the world?

5. How can you find your way back to yourself and your essence?

6. How do you create you life with spirit so that all you do is an expression of your essence? How do you listen to your inner wisdom, your intuition, gut instinct, the messages of your wise self? How do these guide you?

7. What are you curious about? If you’re still not sure, gently follow your curiosity.  Follow the bread crumbs.

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I’m reading the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and came across this insightful letter extract from Peter Drucker to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi…

“I am told I am creative – I don’t know what that means… I just keep on plodding… I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours – productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

This struck a chord because it’s so easy to get caught up in supporting or helping the work of others and lose focus on ourselves and our work. So I asked myself the fundamental questions “what is my life’s work?”

I meditated and pulled some oracle cards from Collette Baron Cohen’s deck The Wisdom of the Oracle. I use oracle cards as catalysts to access my own inner wisdom.

IMAGINE and CO-CREATE

The core message I received is to use my imagination to work with spirit to build a creative life.

That seems very airy fairy, but it feels like an awesome life purpose for me. Perhaps it’s not to do an actual thing, but to experience life, to feel and to be at peace with myself and my uniqueness?  I’ve used the questions above as prompts to focus my thinking.

I’d love to hear how you have grappled with these questions in your life.

Dreaming and imagining can be a hard and brave thing to do, especially if you have been hurt. This week, I’m going to start in the place of IMAGINING and wish for you some sacred moments for your dreams as well.

Big love
Sarah

* A clear life purpose from a young age is not the case for most people. Liz Gilbert beautifully articulates this in her talk “Flight of the hummingbird: the curiosity driven life”

http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity

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