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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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

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

 

 

 

 

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…

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

 

 

 

 

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