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.

www aussiehousesitters com auImage from http://www.aussiehousesitters.com.au

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.

www lightforcenetwork comImage from http://www.lifeforcenetwork.com

“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.

www amandaparkerandfamily blogspot comImage from http://www.amandaparkerandfamily.blogspot.com

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?

www lomography comImage from http://www.lomography.com

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

 

 

Crazy cravings…

One of the of the major priorities in my life these days is health. I’m not a naturally physically active person.  Some people I know go stir crazy if they haven’t exercised, well that’s not me, I don’t even watch sporting activity. While there have been many attempts in the past, they were not sustained.

These attempts were also undermined by perfectionism and negative self talk which demolished any motivation – “you should be exercising more”, “you should be eating healthier”, “you’re not doing enough”, “you’re not good enough”,  “you shouldn’t, blah blah blah..” How frickin’ miserable!

www slate comImage from http://www.slate.com

In the last six months, I have set the intention for this to change and to thankfully welcome optimal health.  Recently James Clear wrote a fabulous blog outlining a broader definition of health. He suggests health as containing four aspects:

  1. diet and exercise
  2. adventure and exploration
  3. art and creativity, and
  4. community and connection.

This definition is more holistic – considering the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and contextual layers of health.

For me, the quest for better health has been a spiritual journey. Each day, I revisit the intention, to create health in my life.  I have consciously shifted into an energetic space of just being and being healthy, and the rest is falling into place. I’m not saying it is easy, as it’s a step by step reaffirmation of this commitment. Most importantly, when there are slip ups, it’s about being kind and self compassionate, rather than harshly judging.

meditationbenefits coImage from http://www.meditationbenefits.co

Regular meditation and spiritual practice has helped me to become more sensitive and aware of the needs of my body. As we listen to our bodies, they’re incredibly good at telling us what we need. This includes listening to the needs of the heart and mind, and guidance from intuition. If you’re a spiritual person, you can ask for assistance from your healing teams in spirit as well!

Meditation helps to calm the critical voices and self analysis enables understanding. Seeking health has also been a journey into self love, self compassion and kindness. I am so grateful for my health, many dear friends experience compromised physical health and they have taught me, amongst many other things, to treasure this blessing.

As for physical exercise, I find it so much easier doing activities i love – gardening for hours, walking my dog max, dancing to some funky music, moving meditations, walking on the beach or mountains or other beautiful environments etc. When i blend pleasure and exercise, it’s so much easier!

A bit further along the path towards health, my body has started to crave the good stuff. Today there was an overwhelming urge to eat something green, broccoli in particular – go figure! Glad to find this broccolini on the discount shelf at the local fruit shop! Steam it, cover in butter, add a little pepper – yum!

BroccoliniAs health has become a priority in life, naturally more time and actions support this, which in turn creates this feedback loop of greater energy and more vibrant life force.

Today I’m making a bone broth recipe from one of my spiritual mentors Nicole Cody.  She has documented her inspiring and tough journey towards health whilst living with late stage lyme disease.

www cauldronsandcupcakes comImage from http://www.cauldronsandcupcakes.com

This bone broth recipe is a great basic stock that can be used as the base for soups, pasta sauces and loads of other dishes. It’s full of nutrients and juicy flavours. I make it about once every fortnight. Tonight we’re using it to make this Tomato, bacon and lentil soup recipe.

www cauldronsandcupcakes com 1Image from http://www.cauldronsandcupcakes.com

I’ll write more stories about my unfolding spiritual journey and Nicole’s mentoring in future posts, but in the meantime enjoy her gorgeous recipes…

Wishing for you vibrancy in your life. May you know love, connection, creativity, adventure and cherish the beautiful physical body that has been gifted to you.  May you know joy and freedom from pain.

Much love

Sarah

Btw – the soup recipe is awesome, very hearty and filling and oh so healthy!! Thanks nicole! :o)

When sorry is not an apology…

oceana

Image from Doreen Virtue “messages from your angels”.

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

Examples of the use of sorry could include:

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

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

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

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

So what is a genuine apology?

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

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

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

john-lennon-self loveImage from linaway.com

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

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

This week i was offered and gave a precious gift. It was the gift of reconciliation. A dear friend and i had a conversation about a misunderstanding that had occurred about 18 months ago. We entered the conversation with open hearts, speaking our truth and listening to the other, really genuinely listening at a very deep level. It was scary, it was painful, it was brave and courageous, it was sacred.
reconciliationImage from filipspagnoli.wordpress.com

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.

14 1 19 stag and deer

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.

gentle strength

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.

act-of-kindness2

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