“Look up…”

I looked up and as I did my head cleared, my lungs expanded and a lightness of being flooded my chest. I felt good. My head seemed to rest more sensibly on my shoulders and I became aware that I was proud of myself. Life was not easy, but when I looked up, I saw the sky and the wind in the trees. With my chin up, I recognised the sovereignty within me… the sovereignty within us all.

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Image: What’s up there by Sugargrl14, DeviantArt

I realised that I have been looking down a lot… I realised that I was not alone. So many of us are hurrying through our lives with furrowed brows and faces of worry, hunched over and distracted by the next task on our private get-ahead agenda.

Perhaps we should all take a moment… to look up.

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“This is a time of purification…”

What if the troubles that present themselves to us are part of a process of purification? An opportunity to release that which is outmoded, out-dated, that which has run its course and is no longer needed?

MEDITATION FOR COURAGE

Sit quietly and breathe deeply and evenly… yoga breathing… breathing in compassion for self, breathing out compassion for all beings. Breathing deeply and evenly… breathing in compassion for self… breathing out compassion for all beings… deeply and evenly. And you will find as you continue to breathe that you become more and more relaxed. Compassion for self becoming part of each cell of your body and compassion for all beings arising naturally with each out breath. Breathing in compassion for self… breathing out compassion for all beings.

And as you breathe, you become aware of a wise being. This being is a helper and teacher, mentor and guide. They radiate infinite peace, gentleness and wisdom. You see joy and love in their eyes as they look at you. They offer you a gift. It is an acorn. Your helper drops the acorn into your hands and you can feel the woody texture against your hands. You cup the gift in your hands and you can feel the energy of the acorn – all its explosive potential for growth – infusing your being. This is the time of planting.

Around you, nature calls. There are so many places that are perfect to nurture a growing seedling. You find the perfect spot. There is enough sun, enough water and the ground is perfectly suited. You dig a hole in the rich earth, gently drop the acorn in and cover it over, patting the earth in place.

The seasons turn, and the acorn sprouts breaking through the earth and becoming a seedling. As you watch, it becomes bigger and stronger. From a seedling to a young sapling… then from a sapling to a tree. As each season turns, it becomes bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger. Soon it is big enough for you to stand beneath. It protects you. You can hear the wind rustling its leaves and feel the sap running through its trunk. You can feel the bark under your hands.

And as you listen to the heart beat of the tree, you feel it’s strength, courage and protection. Let this strength, courage and protection surround you and fill you. Let yourself absorb the gift of the oak tree – your oak tree.

Know you can come back at any time to infuse your self with courage… and when you are ready you can open your eyes.

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Image: Acorn by Emma McCreary, free images.com

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“Balance is necessary but so are extremes…”

The world lives in balance. The tide ebbs and flows, the chill of winter is balanced with the heat of summer, and the flight of birds is matched by the insects that crawl and the fish that swim. Night balances day, rain balances sun, mountains balance the seas. The more you look the more you find.

Nature lives in balance. Birth balances death. Sound balances silence. Movement balances stillness. And we never have to go far to find balance. Even for those of us most entrenched in urban life. The steam rising from a cup of tea balances the delicious chill of ice cream. The morning train balances a tree lifting itself out of the footpath.

So why is it that as human beings we pursue extremes? And why do we find ourself out of balance, unhappy, perplexed and even desperate? Is it all an accident? Is life one big cosmic joke? Are we such miserable failures at life? Or is there something more to it?

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Perhaps in the knowing of unbalanced and extreme experience, we come to know ourselves better. Perhaps, we even challenge the illusions of the world.

“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.” Dalai Lama XIV

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Help is on the way, or is it?

One day a bright blue sign appeared. The happy colour if it chirruped at me, calling me to attention. Carefully secured to the humble wire fence at the train crossing, it read “Need support in a crisis?” Call Lifeline now 13 11 14”

My stomach dropped and horror swelled up to engulf me. I felt sick.

I knew without a doubt that someone had lost their life – someone who had been a mother, sister, daughter, niece – someone who had been a father, brother, son or nephew – someone who was missed and mourned, or someone that no one mourned. Someone was dead and I hadn’t even noticed.

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In the merry chiming of the crossing gates and the confident toots of the train coming into the station, I had missed the despair of someone ending it all. I had missed the final moments of a human being less that 100m from my door – me – who specializes in trauma, grief, stress and sexual abuse support. How did that happen? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

I have helped so many people. I have sat with people as they were battered by their emotional storms. I have thrown them a rope, helped them find their lifeboat and row for the shore. I have stood in their way when they have talked of taking their lives and said with authority “Not this way! Not this way! We will find the way forward together.” And so, we found a way… mostly.

I have failed so few times, but I have failed. And when I failed, all I could do was pray that they would be alive tomorrow. Knowing for certain that life would get better if they just held on through the dark days, but unable to inspire them with the sureness that I felt for them.

And for everyone I helped, I knew there were more who never reached out for help and others who never found the help they were seeking. How do WE let this happen?

I raged at the way people are turned into statistics and labeled with depression and society goes on as before. I am personally affronted that young people have electricity put through their brains because it is the only way we know to keep them alive. There has to be a better way. There has to be a solution… because dead is not dead.

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“These lessons are necessary…”

The voice that just moments before had been full of joy and the mischief of fun, was now warm with regret and sorrow. This liquid voice that bridged the distance between the physical plane and the highest sub-plane of the mental pane, and thousands of kilometers, to be in 2 places at the same time and bring healing and comfort. He was so sorry that this was the way it was. He could intimately feel the pain and suffering these lessons had caused. Even in these most difficult of circumstances, his generousity of spirit and outpouring of love gently surrounded my friend. He asked me to tell him “I have your back.” I wept for my friend. He so deserved the love and wisdom being offered to him.

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Image: Pots by Inkstewer, DeviantArt

“Why are these lessons necessary?” Such a hard question to answer and the difficulty lies not with the answer but that the words must only be accompanied by love and understanding. I had been told only hours before “Teach only love.” I was struggling with my own lessons. This spiritual friend of my friend brought comfort to both of us.

“Why are these lessons necessary?” So often the illusions of the (Western) physical world we live in leads us astray with its false illusions. Illusions like “Your mission is to be happy and abundant and live a perfect life right now. If you are not happy and abundant and living a perfect life then you are a failure.”, “Suffering is senseless and indicates you are defective.”, “To be defective is wrong and shameful”, and “Never give up fighting against your defectiveness.”

“Why are these lessons necessary?” They are necessary because they teach us. They point us forward towards our future work. They help us raise our spiritual vibration and increase our spiritual momentum. These are initiations. Embedded within each lesson are the tools and strategies to survive and (eventually) thrive. Unfortunately we aren’t given a handy reference manual. We must be willing to grasp the most painful experiences with both hands and all the courage in our hearts. We have each other, and we have friends who see things from a higher vantage point.

And the only way though it… is to go forward.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” M. Scott Peck

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A tale of two pots…

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water, at the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

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After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?”

“That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.

Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

Author unknown

Image: Spanish Pots by Geezer, DeviantArt

It is not the critic who counts…

“It is not the critic who counts,

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,

or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,

who strives valiantly,

who errs and comes short again and again,

who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions,

and spends himself in a worthy cause,

who at best knows achievement and who at the worst

if he fails at least fails while daring greatly

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

from a speech given in Paris at the Sorbonne in 1910

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Knitting blessings of love…

I sat at my Gran’s feet and watched as her knitting needles clicked and clacked. It was always a singlet for a new baby. I would watch in awe as the little garment would grow and be added to the pile in her bag. It never grew larger but it was always being added to. When someone was in need, Gran would reach into her bag with kindly hands and the toppling tall pile would become slightly smaller. We all wore them – those blessings of love – children, grandchildren, friend’s children and grandchildren.

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Image: Knitting by EmilyClaireCasey, DeviantArt

But no one seemed to hear me when I asked to learn. “Your hands are too small yet” they gently explained. I refused to accept it and made them give me yarn and knitting needles, but it was hard and I put them away. Seven, and I tried again, this time with more success. Still no-one seemed to understand the urgency I felt to learn. I taught myself without knowing how and one sunny afternoon, my dolls were soon adorned with red tank-tops and skirts. Then Mum came home…

“Well,” she said. “I guess you aren’t too small!” and gave me a beginner’s lesson in knitting. In the years following, my Gran taught me to pick up stitches and my Aunty Helen (one of those safe family friends that every child needs) helped me with the challenges of pattern reading and my first jumpers.

Since I first picked up yarn and needles, they have never been far from reach. They have seen me through loneliness, abuse, unemployment, romance, heartbreak, a failed marriage, domestic violence, health problems, getting evicted and being so poor that I don’t know how my children would have shoes and coats for winter. Yarn and needles have brought me joy – a way to give and share delight and love. My children have been invited to parties on the strength of my one-of-a-kind handknitted creations. Today, I am the President of the Handknitters Guild of South Australia.

How did I know I could survive as long as I had knitting in hand? I don’t know. It just proved to be true. Brian Weiss says that if you have truly leaned something in a previous life then you just can’t not do it in this life. Once learned, it is intrinsic to who you are. And so it is.

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Knitting is forever…

“definition of knitting:

To unite closely, to grow together, to connect, to engage,

as hearts knit together in love.

as broken bones will in time knit,

and become sound.”

Madaloon on Deviantart

It was the 1970’s and I was very small when I first begged to be taught to knit. Smaller than she had been when she was forced into labouring in the mills. I had a warm bed and clean dresses and a mother who loved me and bullied me in equal measures. Mum seemed to understand that I just couldn’t cope with being hungry and would push the raw cut vegetable pieces toward me with the blade of the knife as she cut them for dinner. I was never hungry and I was cuddled often.

We would get together for family birthdays – my grandparents, my parents, aunties and uncles and cousins. There was a rhythm to family life and a gentle order to our time together. The women cooked. The men laughed and joked. The children played. We ate and ate – wonderful homemade food – food prepared in the way my Irish great-grandmother had handed down – soup and roast and jams and cakes – mostly prepared from what we grew.

Washing the dishes was a ritual that involved everyone offering and most being turned down. Those who cooked were the first to be relieved of duty and teenage children were frowned at until they offered to wipe up. I remember the damp tea towel becoming sodden in my hands as we wiped and wiped, the kitchen slowly returning to order.

And then came the best part. After our meal, Granny and Aunty Dell would sit and knit and reflect. I listened and learned, embraced in their love.

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Image: To knit. by Madaloon on DeviantArt

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Engraved on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta…

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.”

Engraved on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, and written by 19-year-old Kent Keith in a motivation booklet for high school counselors published while he was a student at Harvard in 1968.

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Image: Mother Teresa with armless child