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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Big girl glasses…

Some of the best things about being human – our magic, our strength and our foibles. The last can be a source of frustration and amusement.

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Here’s my latest one…

Just recently, i went to my first optometrist appointment, did an eye test and received a pair of prescription reading glasses.

Now that seems like a pretty pedestrian thing to do, and it is.

Except that my eyes have been overcompensating and my reading has been fuzzy for a few years. The denial and avoidance was not just because i’m the procrastination queen!

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So why? Why has it taken so long?

I could make excuses, time, money, busyness etc, but that would be bollocks, cause we all make time and find the resources for the things that are important.

The truth is, it’s because i’m getting older!

Much as my ego likes to pretend that i’m not, that part of me, that bit that fears aging, focused on my eye sight and pretended everything was fine!  Just give it time, it will heal itself!

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I am also one of the few family members without glasses, and I kinda liked that uniqueness!

Don’t our egos tell us funny stories?

Quite a few years ago, my sister mentioned that 44 is often the age that people with otherwise good vision might need assistance with eye sight.

But not me! Forty four came and went, and i was fine, right?

My little ego danced away in denial about getting older for over two years.

come to the edgeFrom the Wisdom of the Oracle by Collete Baron Reid

So a few months ago, I called myself on it, put on my big girl pants, made the appointment and took myself off for the eye test.

Turns out i have presbyopia, common garden variety, age related, near sight degeneration.  It’s harder to focus on short distances, but my long distance vision is fine, better than 20/20.

The Chinese word for this “Lao Hua” or old sight. So it turns out that whilst i had myopia of the mind, I was evolving old sight of the body!

My body is one of my great wise teachers. Mental note, listen more!

Standing in the glasses shop, i spent almost an hour trying on specs for my hard to fit nose.  (This post is being written peering through said lenses.)  And of course, it was the best thing i’ve done in ages!!

IMG_20160203_143316Remembering how much I love reading, the last few months i’ve been ploughing through the stack of books on my bedside table. Most evenings are spent engrossed in some tale or wise tome.

Reading is an early love, it’s been missed and welcomed back with a big heart. Luckily my parents read to us as kids, instilling a life long love. Feeling gratitude for all our writers and thinkers.

The best bit, not only does it help with physical focus, but it also helps with concentration. Wearing the glasses, the book or computer screen is in full focus but the background is fuzzy, which reduces distraction. It’s like a tunnel of focus.

The cure for the mental myopia – to embrace aging, of course! Still working on that one!

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Here’s a question for you.

Is there anything you’ve put off that ultimately, will probably be really good for you?

Love to hear your story.

Wishing you a brilliant day of love and connection with yourself

Big love

Sarah

Some of the fab books recently devoured:

  • “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey
  • “The Go Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann
  • “Poke the Box”, “Tribes” and “We are all weird” by Seth Godin
  • “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle
  • “Zen and the art of making a living” by Laurence Boldt
  • “What I know for sure” by Oprah Winfrey
  • “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown

And a few others…

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

 

Fragments of joy, part one…

On a whim, we went to Sydney last weekend. We booked at the last minute, using frequent flyers, found a cheap hotel in Potts Point and visited some of our favourite haunts. It was the last chance to catch up with my sister before she heads overseas for 12 months. So the short time was focused on enjoying some relaxing time together and helping her get away.

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Sydney is one of my favourite play cities. I have visited every couple of years since my late teens. Beloved family and friends live there.  We love catching up and indulging the senses in the sunshine, sights, creativity, beauty and sounds that make up this lovely city.

In thinking about this post, an old dilemma resurfaced. Writing about joyfulness, pleasure and beauty – does it present a false picture of my life? Am i entering into that egoic social networking space of “look at me and my fabulous life’? This creates an illusion and can generate a negative backlash.  This got me thinking about the kaleidescope of emotions, especially the ones that are less palatable.

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“A person who wishes another ill, is jealous, envious, or angry towards another person, is said to have the evil eye.”

When travelling in the middle east, we were given similar interpretations of the evil eye. To avoid this, one does not draw attention to successes or blessings, as this may provoke the ‘evil eye’, or envy reaction, in others and bring down negativity on oneself. Instead, one humbly and gratefully accepts the gifts one is given without showiness.

Now most of us quietly admit, that there are times of being possessed, or at least lightly touched by the evil eye or the little green monster. Usually this comes from a place of feeling something is missing in one’s life. This can be generated by negative self comparison and not feeling good enough. Envy is one of the emotions that can be stigmatised, so we often hide it, ashamed and embarrassed.

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Recently I was inspired to read in Conversations with God, that envy is quite a normal human emotion, and to use it as a tool to identify what is missing, and become inspired to create that thing in one’s own life. To see it as a message from the soul about it’s aspirations, and to use it as motivational, rather than destructive energy.

It also helps to examine that which makes us envious – is it a constructive thing, like love and connection, or destructive? Often envy of material things is a metaphor for what that thing represents, eg freedom, opportunity, relief, security, fun, feeling worthy and esteem about oneself, happiness, etc. So it can help to dig deeper to uncover what it is we truly desire which is aligned with our values. This is our personal ethical journey to unravel.

To assist in writing this blog, i drew some wisdom cards to examine it further.

THE SCRIBE AND THE HEDONIST.
scribehedonistImages from Carolyn Myss Archetype Cards

Well I couldn’t get a clearer set of cards that focused on the question of writing about pleasure, beauty and joy.  There is a balance in these two cards, the first is reflective, contained and focused, the second is open indulgence. The blue of communication in words of the throat chakra and the red of the sensual pleasures of the base chakra.

It is a about finding the balance between the two. That to write about joyful things is not done with the intention of a self indulgent boast but rather in a measured way, to reflect, celebrate and inspire.  To value the small blessings that we are all given. The key to resolving this dilemma is authenticity in the intention and manner of the writing.

What stood out for me in the first card was the pages laden with words and information. Everyone has their fabulous gifts to share with the world – one fabulous gift is sharing information about delightful experiences, places and opportunities that can be explored later.

This post is about all that great stuff, but also about the broader emotional landscape, that through its contrast, makes the joyful stuff so special. The truth is that joy coexists with moments of intense darkness – pain, sadness, loneliness, that stuff we all experience. The light exists in contrast to the dark, perhaps our task is to experience it with love and compassion, rather than judgement?

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Brene Brown’s work on shame and wholehearted living, tells us that we can’t selectively numb our feelings. If we choose to engage in the fullness of life, it includes the vibrancy of both the light and the shadows. At this stage in my life and writing, I choose to focus on and share the light, love and wisdom gained from these experiences. It has not always been like this for me, so I honour this and choose to experience without judgement, the whole kaleidoscope of emotions in order to lead a richer life.  It is not always an easy path but it is authentic and real.

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Getting back to the weekend in Sydney, well that’s for part two.

In the meantime, experience the fullness of life with a whole and joyful heart, and be very kind and gentle with yourself during those darker moments.

Much love

Sarah

 

 

The artist’s moon…

“Art is not a pastime but a priesthood” Jean Cocteau

“Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does, the better” Andre Gide

artistThe Artist, Carolyn Myss Archetype Cards

I was recently introduced to the work of Raven Kaldera. I love learning from others, whatever their life experience. The challenge is staying open and banishing preconceptions.

The upcoming full moon on 15 April 2014 is a red moon coinciding with a full lunar eclipse. Here’s what Raven has to say about the full moon in Libra.

“In the Libra Full Moon, the emotions and appreciation of beauty of the Lover spring forth into the Artist. The experience of love has inspired Libra Moon people and thrown them into a paroxysm of creative fervour. The Muse has spoken, and the inner feelings are externalized onto paper, or on canvas, or in stone, or in music. The Full Moon is always a blossoming, and to some extent the purest and most archetypal form of that Moon sign, so the Artist is the ultimate expression of Venus filtered through intellectual Air.”

Raven goes on to explain – at it’s highest expression, art can help us to see the value of aesthetics and to see things in a new way. On the shadow side, it can be about judging people and things for their aesthetics and not going beneath the surface. During this moon phase we can learn to appreciate art with our intuition. It’s a great time to start or pick up unfinished creative projects. You could go to an art exhibition, support the arts or even buy some. It’s also a good time to go public with your art.

“We all know that Art is not Truth. Art is the lie that makes us realize the Truth – at least, the truth that is given to us to understand” Pable Picasso

The creative arts are a cornerstone of society. They are so critically important for a people in knowing and expressing themselves, and in imagining possible futures. Art also has an incredible ability to cut through rationales and justifications and see into the truth of a matter. There is a rich legacy of artists who have challenged injustice and been vilified. I honour them, as a I share this burning passion for justice. Picasso’s Guernica is a fabulous example:

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Art comes in many forms: painting, sculpture, music, dance, storytelling, writing, film, performance, crafts, sewing and needle work, mosaics, pottery etc etc. The list is endless. A friend of mine came back from Bali and told me there is no word for art. The word for art is “to do” as everything you do is creative expression. I encourage you to think beyond the constraints of the fine arts and transcend fear and perfectionism that block us creatively.

“I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning . . . Every day I find something creative to do with my life.” Miles Davis

The creation of your self and your life is one of the greatest acts of artistry. Everything is creative, life is creative. How you dress yourself, how you create a conversation, a meal, your home environment, your garden. Everything you do is a creative expression of yourself. Unexpressed creativity can manifest as illness, depression, anger, bitterness etc.

So you’re not even sure where to start? Nicole over at Cauldrons and Cupcakes has some fabulous posts on creativity. Enhance your creativity and How to nurture your creativity are a great beginning.

A couple of years ago, I did the course “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, it’s a fabulous 12 week course for helping to unblock and further develop your creativity.

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter” Oscar Wilde

Kevin portraitAt my essence I’m a spiritual artist. I’ve dabbled in many creative forms over the years, including painting, drawing, quilting, needlework, etc. But it’s quite a leap to go from squirreling away in a corner to putting the work out to an audience. Even a garden is creative expression. Here’s my latest project, the herb and flower garden.

Herb gardenSo all my dear friends who are quietly writing or painting or expressing yourself, we’d love you to share you work with us. It is such a great gift to others to step beyond the fear of judgement and share your art with the world.The wise amongst us will embrace you with a loving heart. This is an invitation, but please be true to your authentic self, some art is just for doing not for sharing. There is wonderful value in this as well!

This week for me, is about creative expression. The rest of my life is the unfolding of a beautiful work of art.

May you see unexpected beauty and be creative today.

Much love

Sarah

 

 

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