Archive for August, 2014

There’s Something in the Air

August 29, 2014

There’s something in the air, a turning, a glimmer of newness, I can smell it. I’m feeling the imminent change of seasons, the excitement of Spring is a sniff away.

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It’s the last week of winter and the days and nights are still cool, although not as cool as they’ve been. It’s not just the temperature that’s marking the change. The days are getting longer, my afternoon walks more leisurely. I’m noticing that I don’t having to rush back before darkness descends. In the mornings I’m waking up earlier with the coming of the light. The birds seem more active, more vocal, the rainbow lorikeets screeching and chatting to each other as they feed on the grevilleas, drinking in the nectar. The bees are buzzing around the flowers that are opening more each day. It feels like everything’s beginning to wake up.

 

Winter for me has been an inner time, a time to stop and rest, to reflect, heal and regroup, perfect winter activities. In the last two weeks I’ve been handing over my Office Manager job to someone new,IMG_1504 after over 3 months of working part-time from home. My paid work is now a day by day proposition as I finalise the handover.

In my waking hours I believe that new paid work will come soon and that there is nothing to do but keep focussing on the type of work I want and keep listening and wait for the beat to signal what further action I must take toward it.

 

 

My sleeping hours are sometimes different. I recently had a dream that a typhoon was heading toward me at a fast rate and my anxiety was rising. I was about to be tossed about by a tempest and woke up in a sweat. I told my friend Val about my typhoon dream and she replied in an excited voice, “storms can be exciting!”. That’s true. After a storm has wiped away the old, new life always springs forth. Always. Just because you can’t see what it is yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t come. Val is an optimist and as a trained pessimist who has retrained herself to be an optimist ( in my waking hours!) I know it’s important to focus on what I’d like rather than what I fear.

 

My birthday is this week during the last week of winter. Birthdays and New Year are natural full IMG_1194stops and I find them a perfect time to review what I’ve achieved in the year that has just gone and think about what I want to create in the year ahead. On reflection I realise I’ve achieved a great deal in the year I was 50, including caring for myself well by taking a sabbatical and turning my health around, reconnecting with myself in a deeper way, with the natural world and my passions and finally getting this blog started.

 

So what do I want to create in the year ahead? Twelve years ago I was trained by Kate Ramsay of AnD Leadership Consulting to be a leadership coach and a life vision coach and I learned from that work the power of having a vision. Part of the coaching process is to clarify and describe how your ideal life would look and feel if ‘I have a magic wand’ and there were no obstacles in the way. Bringing to the spoken our deepest wishes, how we’d like our lives to be, helps us navigate our way there. It is a simple and powerful process. I’ve learned that the path to achieving our desired state may take longer than we think and may involve many more steps than we thought, sometimes leading us up unexpected roads. It demands we surrender all that is unlike it.IMG_1459

 

The visioning I did with Kate when I was in my corporate career in 1994 crystallised what was important to me and led me to change everything about my life, from where I worked to where and how I live.

 

What do I want in the year ahead? In the coming year I’d like to invite in resilient and ease-full health. I’d like to become involved in a project that’s IMG_1458making a positive difference in the world and which inspires me. I’d like to be contributing both my skills and ideas and the great people I work with pay me well. In my vision I absolutely love and enjoy what I’m doing and I have a manageable workload that means I’ve time in my life to write and develop my blog, to walk and spend time in nature, spend time with my friends and family and if a lovely man is part of that then that will be a bonus. I dance, sing, play, create, laugh and relax deeply. I love and care and am connected to and support my community. I make choices for the benefit of all and combine with others to remind our politicians about what is important and vital for our grandchildren’s grandchildren and the most vulnerable in society.

 

What about you? What have you achieved in the last 12 months? If you write all of your achievements down, you may be surprised at how many things you can think of. What would you like to bring into your life in the year ahead? Spring is almost sprung. Creating a vision of your ideal life is like sewing seeds. Water it and nurture it and then let go and surrender to the wisdom of life. Listen carefully and you’ll be guided toward it, one step at a time. Maybe that is what I can smell. The scent of new life.

 

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STOPPING BUSY

August 21, 2014

“Hi. How have you been?“. “Busy”, is an often heard response. I caught myself saying it recently and felt a slight twinge of something as I said it.  Justification? Pride? Our society has become addicted to ‘busy’, our worth is measured by activity or output, doing has become more valued than being. An excellent article in the New York Times in 2012 called it ‘The Busy Trap‘. We are in a rush to…where? I’ve found that being busy is not necessarily related to how much I have to do in a day. Stopping can be  scary. What’s left when I stop?  I’m on a quest to find and restore my lost ‘off button’. I’ve learned good health depends on it.

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In our modern world we’re all exposed to an increasing amount of environmental toxins that accumulate in our bodies if not released and this toxic load underpins many chronic health conditions. Constant busyness creates stress that gets in the way of that release as many essential and restorative bodily functions are put on hold. When we don’t deeply relax and switch off regularly in healthy ways,  it means in essence we wear ourselves out.

 

My highest health priority is to detoxify my body after being exposed to chemicals at work, and supporting my liver, kidneys and cells through nutritional, herbal and other natural methods is only part of the picture. At an early age my fight and flight response was triggered and whilst any threat is long gone my system does not naturally switch ‘off’ and this is  exacerbated by living in a society that values constant doing.IMG_1223

I’m feeling grateful for the choice I have made to work at half pace from home right now and the time this is giving me to reconnect with myself and delve inside, to loosen up the edges and identify ways of being in the world that are toxic and unhelpful… even damaging. I’m noticing the tension that I create for myself, even when there aren’t a lot of demands on my time.

 

For example, a health practitioner recently recommended that I spend some time relaxing after my morning walk. Relax? Normally I get back home and get straight into hastily preparing and eating breakfast, then immediately launch into whatever I’m doing that day, often rushing out the door. Rest and relax? Gosh that feels challenging. IMG_0713I’m gradually retraining myself.

On some mornings I’ve allowed myself to lay down and deeply relax after my walk and I feel much more energised, relaxed and focussed afterwards. More present. I’ll confess that the insistent list of things that I believe need my immediate attention beckon me on other mornings. It’s a work in progress.

Tuesdays and Thursdays have been my days ‘off’, unstructured days with all possibilities, yet my mind gets busy, wanting to work out what to ‘do’ in that day to get the most value from that precious time. A few weeks ago I even had a day off ‘to do list’. Oh No! A list of things to DO on my day off. Then I felt the pressure to decide what to do first! A relaxing day suddenly became unrelaxed. How can I retrain myself when my habits are so ingrained? Time to call in a specialist. Enter Kylie Martin.

 

I’ve started going to Kylie’s deep rest therapy classes. She says she ‘is a specialist in stress related illness and body-mind conditions’ and has healed herself using these methods. HIMG_0270er two hour classes are about deep release and relaxation, switching off the nervous system, to help release old patterns of holding that we may have carried for a lifetime. I found myself in the first class thinking impatiently, ‘well there’s not much going on, we’re just laying here, and I am paying for this and how many people are in the room? That means….!’. Of course stopping was the point, physically and mentally and I eventually got there.

Kylie’s given me homework, including inviting me to gift myself every day with a modified Shavasana relaxation.   Shavasana relaxation is the integrative period of stillness at the end of a yoga class. I’m noticing the accumulated effects weaving into my everyday life and a sense of stillness beginning to infiltrate my body. Let me talk you through the process in case you’d like to try it. I’ve been doing it at the end of the day before I cook dinner.

 

Grab a towel, an eye pillow and some blankets and put some nice relaxing music on. Because it’s winter and a bit chilly and it’s part of the process to have weight on top of you, I lay on my bed under my doona with my feet wrapped in a blanket and pushed up against the bed head (or wall). Having your feet against a wall helps your nervous system to feel safe to relax. You could also lay on a mat on the floor. Having your knees slightly bent over a cushion is optional and IIMG_0398 prefer it that way.  Having weight on top of you in the form of blankets also helps your nervous system relax, so lay some folded blankets over you.

Put the towel around your neck like you are carrying it to the shower and then lift the ends up and cross them over your forehead and wrap the ends behind your head. You are wrapping your head up so it feels nice and cosy and held. Extremely relaxing for the nervous system. Put an eye pillow on your eyes and lay with your hands, palm upwards, by your side. Now relax. It feels like you’re cocooned. Focus on noticing and letting go of any holding, notice your breathing and scan through your body, releasing tension, bit by bit by bit. It feels delicious. I do it for 15 to 40 minutes.

 

A popular quote doing the rounds is ‘stop the glorification of busy’. Let’s replace it with the power of stopping and the miracle of being. I am beginning to re-program myself to cure my busy habit and develop new nourishing habits. I am learning how to deeply relax and literally switch off to build a healthy and resilient body and to connect to what’s important ratheIMG_1133r than what I might have thought was urgent. Many years ago I wrote a poem about this topic unsurprisingly called Stop!. The last stanza says:

I stand within the stillness of stopping

Peace and joy permeate the space

I feel excitement, joy, the urge to create

Everything is possible…when I stop.

 

Kylie told me that she gives herself a period of deep rest every day and she is able to achieve a lot without depleting herself. She is now productive, energised and relaxed rather than busy and exhausted. Sounds good to me.  So how have you been?

In the Forest

August 6, 2014

I went for a walk in the forest. A meandering walk. Not my usual purposeful morning exercise walk. I needed to be with things I heard at the Byron Bay Writers Festival last weekend. I felt stirred up.

A session provocatively titled “The Ocean is Broken” with Tim Flannery and Lisa-ann Gershwin was sobering. I know that we need to hear these tIMG_1001hings and it is not easy to take in all in one go. Our life support system, our ecosystem has been and is being altered by us humans.

Overfishing, chemicals and water temperature increases have changed things and the aquatic ecosystem is becoming more toxic and responding with things like a worldwide overgrowth of jellyfish. Lisa described one species which does not die, it just regenerates and multiplies.

Lisa reported that even if we stopped our human impact immediately it would take 10,000 to 100,000 years to begin to repair and millions more to do so and then it would be to a new ‘normal’, not what once was. We can’t go back to what was.

 

It is not in our hands, it is in the hands of this dynamic living system we live within and are one small IMG_0953part of. An anthropocentric world view, the belief that human beings are the central or most significant species on the planet, has driven unrestrained human development and is based on the illusion that we are somehow in control of nature.  The people who introduced a handful of toxic cane toads to Northern Queensland probably thought they were in control, yet 200 million cane toads prove otherwise.

 

I love saying the word, ‘anthropocentric’ out loud, I like the way it rolls around in the mouth. My other favourite word to say out loud for a similar reason is ‘recalcitrant’ and I think it applies to us humans in this time. The stubborn refusal to obey rules, in this case nature’s laws.

 

When I feel the pain, anger, sadness and helplessness that comes inevitably from facing these issues, I know the best solace is to go and connect with the earth IMG_0951herself and to listen.  I once attended a workshop run by Joanna Macy, whose work centres around needing to feel our feelings about the damage to the earth, to fuel and inspire action, rather than being overwhelmed and immobilised.

 

Joanna described to us the work she did with the people of Novozybkov, a town in Russia, 294 kilometres from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and only one kilometre from the exclusion zone created after the 1986 disaster. It is a town that had all its wooden homes bulldozed to make way for concrete high rise homes, to get the people off the contaminated ground. They will never be allowed to enter their radioactive forest. They had always been people of the forest and they were grieving.

I felt the grief rise up in me aIMG_0998nd I went outside and lay on the earth under a huge fig tree, under the gaze of Mt Warning and cried for them, for the poisoned earth, for us all.  After a while I began to feel soothed. I am not a religious person and as I lay there some words from a long ago psalm came into my mind. ” He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he restoreth my soul. ” As I lay there I felt a deep sense of being connected to something much greater than myself.

John Seed has said, “I finally surrendered to the earth. Now I find myself asking for guidance and direction and energy and wisdom from the earth, knowing that I am part of the earth.”

 

As I entered the forest this week it had rained overnight so the ground was damp, the colours deeper. I took my camera along to take a photo for the Breakfast Club Diaries, a Facebook group started locally and now 1000 strong and global. The invitation is to take a snap on your morning walk and post it with the time and location.

In the forest, the damp forest, I smelt the leaf litter, the musty smell of damp decaying leaves returning to thIMG_0935e soil. I saw new shoots beginning their journey upward to the light. The whole cycle of life and death right there. I listened, bells birds calling and responding, taking me back to my childhood and a drive in the family car through another forest. I looked up into the canopy of gumtrees, a grey sky filtering through. I love the grandeur of gumtrees, their majesty.

 

In the forest, the breeze whispered through the foliage. I listened. I began to feel acceptance. Acceptance that what has happened has already happened. We can’t go back. We can only go forward with what is and we all have a part to play in what the future looks like by the choices we make today. What choices will I make ?

In the forest peace finds me.