Monday, 16 February 2015

2015 International Year of Light

What a wonderful resolution by the United Nations to declare 2015 as the International Year of Light.

They want to raise global awareness by focusing on the topic of light science and its applications and how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.

It is the year for thoughts and discussion around light to fill minds with bright opportunities and ‘light-bulb moments’.

Well that is quite a statement isn't it!

Light plays a very important role in my life.

My life hasn't always been as happy as it is now.  Many years ago I was caught in a very dark tunnel, all consumed with sadness and fearing I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel again.

I was struggling with a mental illness, my heart had been broken and I was ready to give seemed like an endless state of despair.

Hitting rock bottom and surviving gave me the jolt I needed to ask for help from counsellors and anti-depressant drugs and also volunteering played a big role in my recovery.  Finally I had to find a way to remove myself from the people who upset me and take some control back.

Ever so slowly I regained my self-worth and that all important light returned to my life.

Light now fills my soul, as I hope it does yours, my dear blog friends.

"Mental illness is the last frontier.  The gay thing is part of everyday life now on a show like 'Modern Family', but mental illness is still full of stigma.  Maybe it it time for that to change"
~~ Eric McCormack

"Don't you know yet? It is your Light that lights the worlds" ~~ Rumi

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Slow Down and Focus

The world most of us live in is hectic, fast-paced, fractured, hurried.
What’s more, most of us are conditioned to think this is the way life should be.

Life should be lived at break-neck speed, we believe. We risk our lives in cars and we break the speed limit, rushing from one place to another. We do one thing after another, multi-tasking and switching between tasks as fast as we can blink.

All in the name of productivity, of having more, of appearing busy, to ourselves and to others.

But life doesn't have to be this way. In fact, I’d argue that it’s counterproductive.

If our goal is to create, to produce amazing things, to go for quality over quantity, then rushing is not the most effective way to work. Slowing down and focusing is always more effective.

Rushing produces errors. It’s distracting to flit from one thing to the next, with our attention never on one thing long enough to give it any thought or create anything of worth.

Hurrying produces too much noise to be able to find the quiet the mind needs for true creativity and profound thinking.

So yes, moving quickly will get more done. But it won’t get the right things done.

The most important step is a realization that life is better when you move at a slower, more relaxed pace, instead of hurrying and rushing and trying to cram too much into every day. Instead, get the most out of every moment.

Is a book better if you speed read it, or if you take your time and get lost in it?

Is a song better if you skim through it, or if you take the time to really listen?

Is food better if you cram it down your throat, or if you savour every bite and really appreciate the flavour?

Life is better when unrushed. And given the fleeting nature of this life, why waste even a moment by rushing through it?

"Slow down and enjoy life.  It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why"
~~ Eddie Cantor

View for the Cahill Expressway, Sydney Australia. Walking with a friend last September, I stopped and took this photo after climbing the stairs. I love my city!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Paradoxes of Life

It's one of the great paradoxes of human psyche.....we want to be left in our comfort zones and yet we thrive on the experience of being taken out of them!

Our intuitive understanding of that is why, even among the most settled and comfortable of us, there's a lurking desire for something to happen.

Perhaps that helps explain a fundamental contradiction in our attitudes to this thing called "peace of mind". We claim to be yearning for it, yet we often act as if that's a mere fantasy. We say we want to slow down, de-stress and learn how to relax. We pay a fortune to massage therapists, yoga teachers, acupuncturists and other practitioners in our search for relief.

We seek counselling; we attend meditation classes; we swallow tranquillisers; we drink too much; we cling desperately to "the short break" as a kind of high-octane holiday, or the furious weekly work-out at the gym to compensate for the lack of gentler more integrated exercise every day. We push ourselves to extremes, high on endorphins, mistaking exhaustion for contentment. The struggle to find ways of reducing our stress often looks stressful in itself.

Are we fooling ourselves with all this talk about de-stressing, simplifying and slowing down? Some people have found personal pathways to peace yet many more act as if stillness is tantamount to death! Most of us seem addicted to stimulation and find silence hard to cope with, even in small doses - like a pause in the conversation. Yet even the most restless souls occasionally claim to hanker after "peace of mind".

Observing these swirling contradictions, I'm tempted to ask: is the buzz, the rush, the stimulation generated by our busy-ness, something we crave - and perhaps even need - more that the stability and calm we often say we want? Most of us would say we SHOULD be trying to strike a balance between the two but why does the achievement of that balance seem so elusive?

I suspect it's because many of us actually welcome distractions from questioning the meaning and purpose of our lives. We half-know that, if deeply examined in a contemplative moment, such questions might lead us to a radical rethink about the way we live.

If we were all preoccupied with the quest for personal peace, perhaps nothing would get done - too much om and not enough oomph doesn't sound like the right balance either. After all, it's the irritating grain of sand in the oyster that creates the pearl; it's the itch that gets the book written, or the picture painted, or the deal closed.

The world needs souls to be restless sometimes!

"Paradoxically though it may seem, it it none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life"
~~ Oscar Wilde

The Jacaranda tree and the tall building in Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia
(The Yin and the Yang!)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Blessings of Small Things

Why are we so hungry for bad news? Why do we spend so much time contemplating one moment of horror and so little time thinking about what is right with the world?

Fear is entangled in our DNA. The tribe with high levels of anxiety, perpetually scanning the horizon for signs of trouble, was more likely to survive. Many thousands of generations later, we stare at a car crash with a mixture of pity and empathy, together with an urge to avoid the same fate.

When Alfred Hitchcock was asked, ''How long can you show a couple kissing on a bed?'', his answer was: ''As long as you like, providing there's a bomb ticking under it.'' In other words, fear is an easy emotion to arouse and then maintain.

Fear may be useful, but it can also produce self-fulfilling prophesies. Fear of crime, however unjustified, makes people avoid walking the streets at night, creating neighbourhood streets that really are less safe. Fear of an economic downturn means we stop spending, which then causes the very economic downturn we feared.

When people say ''count your blessings'', or invite you to hum along to ''accentuate the positive'', it can sound inane - a turning away from the world and its problems. Yet sometimes those problems grow larger because of thinking that is too negative, too fear-filled, too pessimistic.

Here's my point: there's nothing soft-minded about ''counting your blessings''.
Contemplating the good in the world is part of giving yourself an accurate grip on reality. This, in turn, is the only way to make good decisions and live a contented, successful life.

We shouldn't be shy about demanding a mix of news that is both good and bad. We also shouldn't fall for the idea that grim news is somehow more rigorous, or truthful, or serious, than news that captures the world in all its richness. (The same, incidentally, is true in the world of literature and film where ''the grimmer the better'' has become one of the more fatuous calling cards of our age).

So, let's say it out loud. We live a third longer than 50 years ago. Famine is much less common. In the fight against malaria, the humans are winning.

It's far, far better to be gay than was once the case. Sydney's air pollution is much lower than it was a generation ago. We decided to stop building our homes from asbestos sheeting.

And let's also give thanks to the Blessings of Small Things:
Most stains come out in the wash.
Snow falls on mountains, which are perfectly shaped for skiing.
The best-tasting drink in the world - water - is also the cheapest.
Deciduous trees grow leaves, and make shade, at just the right time of year.
Socks are designed to fit either the left foot or the right.
A beer tastes best after hard work.

And the more in love with someone you are, the better looking they become.

Actually, you know, it's a wonderful world.

“This is the only advice I offer you. Pick the small thing, and carry it on. Let it change your life.”
~~ Anna White

My friend Marja gave me this petite flower box for Christmas, isn't it lovely with the Christmas Bush.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Continuing the Tradition - My 2015 One Little Word is.......CONNECTING

Every year since 2009 I have picked a WORD for the New Year—as a sort of beacon to guide me through the coming 12 months. This word will help me focus on what I am looking to be, do, feel and stand for in the next 12 months.

For me, 2015 will be a year about CONNECTING.

Connecting more deeply with myself, my inner truth, my authentic self, others, community, love, passion, my own heart and soul.

Connecting even more with the feeling that not only is being good enough, it’s the only person I can be anyhow. Feeling like I need to be more like others just leaves me feeling like I'm not being who I NEED to be to fulfil my purpose.

Connecting with that deep part of me that can help me let go of some of those unrealistic expectations and external standards that don’t equal success for me.

I feel excited to see where my journey with this Word "Connecting" takes me.

How about you my fellow bloggers.  Do you have a Word for 2015?

My One Little Word from previous years were:
2009 - BALANCE
2010 - SEEK
2011 - SHARING


“Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.”
~~ Deepak Chopra

Newtown, Sydney, Australia 29 October 2014.
I am holding up my "Free Hugs" sign under this wonderful quote.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A Call To Action

"It's never too late to be what you might have been" -George Eliot

Here is a call to action. It has always been a reminder for me to keep on target and not lose sight of the big picture. I haven't always known where my target is or quite what the big picture encompasses. Often knowing what it isn't is enough. I clearly remember, many years ago, saying to my ex husband with strong emotion, 'I don't want to do work in an office anymore being an accountant.'

'What do you want to do?' was his obvious reply.
'Something creative.'
'Like what?'
'I don't know.'
The shrug of his shoulders and bemused look, said it all.

The key to my future was that it needed to be something creative. I needed challenges - exciting challenges which would allow my creativity to bloom. I didn't realise the depth of my need at the time. When everything in my life completely changed five years later I embraced an entirely new career which has expanded and changed and creatively challenged me ever since. This blog is part of the rich tapestry of that challenge.

'It's never too late to be what you might have been' means for me, always being creative, and having variety with tasks. When familiarity and the world of the blasé strike, back I go into, 'How can I do this differently?'

The way I work my life is to have big goals and a big picture. How I will achieve my goals, I'm not quite certain - the secretaries of the sky can help me there. I do know, for me, the more I am in touch with the creative woman within, the happier I am.

Give it a go. Do some of those courses you have been putting off for years. Take up that hobby with enthusiasm. Look at your career and think clearly if it has all the elements in it to give you happiness. Some annoying elements you can live with. Being a square peg in a round hole, you must not tolerate!

What about the fear of giving away security? What about that? I know it is frightening. I have been there too. What I want for you is satisfaction and pleasure each day.

There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you are making a difference in the lives of others and knowing, as well, a feeling of confidence and self esteem.

There will be a way for you to have those feelings. Decide that's what you desire more than anything. Now, what are you prepared to do to make it happen?

Know that the very best for you will always come your way, if only you allow it to.

Follow your dreams.

In November 2006 I followed my dream and travelled to Rwanda to teach some orphans photography.  I would like to take up the challenge again and travel to another part of the world and see if I can make a small difference.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Digital Age

Let's consider the pro's and con's of the digital age.
  • We Socialise In A New Way - we don’t learn how to read facial expressions or navigate “real world” social situations.
  • It's Becoming Harder To Concentrate - Heavy multitaskers are much more easily distracted.
  • The Types Of Friends We Make Is Changing - We're becoming more tribal and less exposed to people with interests or beliefs different from our own.
  • There’s An Awe-Inspiring Online World To Discover - Our fondness for the search field may lead to real-life adventures later on.
  • Privacy May Soon Be A Thing Of The Past - We might be forced to change our names one day in order to escape our cyber past.
  • We Could Stay Sharper, For LongerSearching and browsing on the internet exercises the brain in a way that is similar to solving a crossword puzzle.
  • We Procrastinate MoreAt the flip of your wrist, there’s YouTube, chat rooms, jokes, humour – whatever’s your poison, it’s all out there.  
  • Video Games Are Teaching Us New Skills The skills required for video games are being harnessed to useful ends in education, health and even geo-politics.
  • Technology Is Starting To Correct The Damage It CausesRSI will soon be a thing of the past. Instead, everything we presently see on computers, games consoles, tablets or smartphones will be projected in front of our eyes and we will use hand gestures and voice commands instead of keyboards, mouse clicks or iPhone “swipes”. 
  • We’re Becoming Less Empathetic This is down to the superficial way we consume information.
  • Our Memory Is Deteriorating - As it is now so easy to find information via Google we are getting worse at remembering any facts at all. 
  • We're Becoming “Cyberchondriacs” - GPs now estimate a day a week is spent dealing with patients who have diagnosed themselves online.  
So do the pro's outweigh the con's?

It will probably be years before we start to really understand the impact of some of these drawbacks and potential issues.

"I'm certainly not opposed to digital technology, whose graces I daily enjoy and rely on in so many ways. But I worry about our virtual blinders."
~~ Diane Ackerman

The Twelve Apostles - Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia - April 2014

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Outsiders

Being an outsider can have its benefits.

Outsiders can see the inside of things in ways that nobody else sees them.

A significant number of people are quite happy to be different from the rest.

Happy to think and act independently and sit on the outside.

It takes practice to be comfortable being an outsider, or even just being around people who seem like outsiders.

It’s not always easy - you can become the target of people’s fears or seem threatening when you are not.

But the rewards you get from an outsider’s perspective may surprise you and even delight you.

Give it a try!

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
~~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Sculpture by Neil Laredo called "Gate" taken at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney on 9th October 2013.
Part of the Hidden Sculptures Exhibition.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Determination - My One Little Word for 2014

This word sprung to mind a couple of days ago whilst I was in the shower.

DETERMINATION I said out loud, OH YES that will be my word for 2014.

I'm determined to be the best I can

I'm determined to find at least one positive thing every day

I'm determined to live a full life.

I can already feel the power of this word, it encompasses everything as the definition says:

Firmness of purpose; resolve; the act of making or arriving at a decision; the act of deciding definitely and firmly.

In 2009, four Blog friends and myself began a tradition of choosing one word each for ourselves in January - a word that we can focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon as we go about our daily lives.

My One Little Word from previous years were:
2009 - BALANCE
2010 - SEEK
2011 - SHARING

These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another.

They've been embedded into who I am, and into who I'm becoming.

They've been what I've needed (and didn't know I needed).

They've helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer and to grow.

I have come to believe a single word can be a powerful thing.  It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything.  It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow.

From my own personal experience, it can be a catalyst for enriching your life!

So forget the New Year resolution and select ONE LITTLE WORD to serve as your guide throughout the year.

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” 
~~ Sonia Johnson

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney, November 2013 by Ken Unsworth

Friday, 6 December 2013

Man of the Century - Nelson Mandela

Dr Nelson Mandela died today (5th December 2013) aged 95.

He was unique, a rare breed and his legacy will live on as an inspiration to all.

R.I.P. (Return If Possible)

"A Winner is a Dreamer Who Never Gives Up"
~~ Nelson Mandela


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Jacaranda Tree and the Power Lines

November in Sydney is a picturesque time because of the Jacaranda Tree.

Streets are awash with the magnificent purple-blue blooms of Jacarandas as they put on a breathtaking floral display, later falling to the earth carpeting the ground with a mass of colour.

It is said that if you are walking underneath the Jacaranda tree and one of the trumpet blossoms falls on your head you will be favoured by fortune.

I found one such tree in Willoughby, the next suburb from my house, when I was driving home the other day, and to my astonishment it was living in harmony with power lines.

I was genuinely awestruck by its beauty and marvelled that even though it had been hacked over the years to accommodate the power lines it had won the battle and now lives in harmony with the power lines.

What an achievement.

"If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I would say books, friends and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature."
~~  John Burroughs


Monday, 28 October 2013

The Dressing Gown

Ah the comfy dressing gown.

There is no more apt uniform of sloth than the dressing gown.

Merely owning one is a sign of hope.  A signal of slovenly intent!

Dressing gowns accompany the state of doing nothing, but what are we actually doing when we're doing nothing?

THINKING, that's what we're doing.

Society fears the population with time to think.

Populations like that have been known to change things.

This is why the dressing gown is the true uniform of REVOLUTION.

In some far distant point in the future women and men will marvel at the day the seats of global power were finally over-whelmed - by an army of people in dressing gowns.

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age."
~~ Florida Scott-Maxwell

This is Diego, the next doors cat who visits me every day and hangs out with my cats Wilson and Ellie.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Strolling Through The City

In nineteenth-century Paris, there was a type of man known as the flâneur.

He was a sort of strolling dandy, a work-shunning poet, who ambled through the city, lingering in the arcades, lolling on benches and making observations.

Some of the most extreme flâneurs used to take a tortoise on their walks, because they liked to let the tortoise set the pace.

We can be a modern-day flâneur in our own town:  just set out from your front door and make a deliberate attempt to walk slowly.

It will seem unnatural at first, but that is only because we are starting to overcome years of A-to-B speed-walking conditioning.

Soon the slower pace will become more habitual and you will take great pleasure in the world of limitless wonder that ambling opens up to us.

Of course having your camera on hand is an added bonus!

“But the beauty is in the walking -- we are betrayed by destinations.” 
~~ Gwyn Thomas

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
'Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied.” 

~~ W.H. Davies

Fountain near the Sydney Art Gallery

Mural painted on a house in Surry Hills, Sydney

Juneau, Alaska we came across two husky dogs while walking around the town. - May 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Sunday Drive and the App

Does anyone still go on a Sunday drive? The 1970's, I suppose, was the last time it was commonly done. People would set out with no set purpose or aim, heading up the coast, then motor back to town.

The car itself was so engrossing, so interesting, so innately sexy, that time spent in its company required no further reward.

To most of us, that now seems nutty. The point is to get somewhere!

Young people in particular have fallen out of love with the car. They would rather travel on public transport and check their iPhone/Smartphone, the item that's replaced the car as an expression of freedom and adulthood.

There's a battle being waged over those digital devices, some argue the apocalypse is upon us: parents, themselves distracted by their devices, have allowed a generation of young people to rewire their own brains.

This, of course, brings hoots of derision from those who argue that humanity has always embraced new technology and become richer and wiser for it.

The history of the car - and of that Sunday drive - might be a good place to start.

When cars came on the scene there was great anxiety. The technology was seen as alarming and dangerous; drivers were required to hire a man to walk ahead of the vehicle waving a red flag.

In retrospect this seems absurd, yet this was followed by a period that, to our eyes, now appears equally absurd: a time in which the new technology was embraced with such abandon, with such uncritical glee, that it was allowed to remake the world in its own image.

Cars were fun and liberating - that's why we fell for them with such a swoon - yet they also poisoned our lungs, chewed up our countryside and brought foreign wars to secure fuel.

We were unwilling to put any limit on a device so intriguing, so liberating. Adding a seatbelt was a battle that took years. Lead was left in the petrol because the engine seemed to like it.

Most of us look back at that period with bewilderment. We now believe the car should be tamed so it suits our wider needs: seatbelts, emission limits, a better balance between spending on road and rail.

Which brings us back to those digital devices. We are midway, it seems to me, along a road we have already travelled. As with the car, we started with outright anxiety - the red-flag period - then entered a period in which the technology became dominant, as if it were setting its own rules.

This, for many households, is where we are now. Kids and adults sit, dotted around the house, all using different devices, skipping from app to app, for hours at a time.

This is not done to get anywhere, to achieve anything; it's for the pleasure of time spent with the device.

Remember that Sunday drive?

The spaghetti junctions of LA still represent the worst of the motor car and its unfettered dominance. Will the rewired spaghetti of our brains come to represent a similar period of uncritical embrace?

No sensible person believes we can take a hammer to all new technology. True, we couldn't eradicate those mechanised looms, but they could be bent to better suit human needs.

Maybe we now need some push-back of our own. If nothing else, someone needs to say the obvious: if you wanted to produce a machine for creating social anxiety, particularly in teenagers, you'd probably come up with something that looked exactly like Facebook.

When parents demand children put down their devices, or when they make a deal with themselves to take a digital holiday, they are not being Luddites. They are merely getting ahead of an inevitable wave - one in which we will all understand that this technology, like all those that preceded it, must be bent to our needs.

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
~~H.G. Wells

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."
~~Author Unknown

This is me at the family home in 1974 in my Sprite

Love this photo!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pay It Forward Day

Thursday April 25, 2013 - Pay It Forward Day

Please join me on Thursday and let's create a ripple effect that will last all year.....until 2014 when we can do it all Ground Hog Day!

Pay it Forward Day has now spread to more than 50 countries around the world. It's mission is simple - together we can change the world - one good deed at a time.

One good deed might not seem like much, but if everyone did something good for someone else then the cycle of generosity and kindness can spark us to become better people.

Operating on the premise that we all have it in our power to help another, one individual truly can change the world.

A day of great is that! And kindness is contagious!

"They say don’t believe your own hype, but if you don’t why would anyone else? To be great you have to believe you can do great things."
~~ Charley Johnson

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney, Australia - November 2008

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Rainbows, Happiness and Risk

The more money and material goods we have, the more we want - and the less they bring us satisfaction.

The real key to feeling good it seems is to give and keep on giving.

When we stop putting a monetary value on what we do, it is immensely liberating.

We also have an obsession with happiness as though it were yet another purchasable product.

As a child I once tried to stand in the end of a rainbow to feel the colours on me. I ran back and forth across a wet field with friends shouting directions across the cow pats.

But rainbows can't be seen from close up.

And the irony of happiness as a product is that it disappears when we look directly at it, as ephemeral as that rainbow.
When we are young we jump into a pool whether we can swim or not.

We have no fear.

Either we swim or we drown.

Before the age of thirty important things happen to us which shape the rest of our lives.

The first is:
We become aware of ourselves and our own thinking. We reach the age of reason.

The second is:
In our new-found maturity we begin to think in a more adult way.

We become grown up.

Recklessness and risk are not compatible with age.

Risk becomes something which must be carefully considered.

Or is it!!!

We all have a negative voice in our heads that stops us from taking risks. Ask yourself what you really have to lose.

Most of the time it's about ego and less about any real loss. Go first. Have the courage to do something before waiting to see if others are willing.

“Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves.
They flickered out saying:
"It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow thirty seconds.”

~~ Carl Sandburg

Cockatoo Island Art Exhibition, Sydney Dec 2011

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Is Print Dying?

Print — literature, journalism, you name it — has experienced an extended obituary over the last decade, alongside the rise of digital media.

Having survived 500 years of technological upheaval, Gutenberg's invention may withstand the digital onslaught as well.

There's something about a crisply printed, tightly bound book that we don't seem eager to let go of. Holding a book in my hand and the visceral act of physically turning a page that, for me at least, can't be matched with pixels on a screen.

Printed books are universal – anyone can read them today or at any point in the foreseeable future. What guarantees are there that you’ll still be able to read the Kindle book you pay for today in five or ten years time? Will you have to buy a fresh library if a device comes along to displace the Kindle?

Books are timeless. When you present a book as a gift, you do not have to worry about it going out of fashion. Also you cannot loan an eBook to a friend without physically giving them your e-reader, which really isn't an option.

Somehow, books are not the same when they are in electronic format. Perhaps one day in the future when e-books become obsolete and are replaced with even more high-tech alternatives, the children of this generation will say the same.

And so I hope that printed books never die. I doubt they will anytime soon; convenience has not killed other markets but made those markets revisit their roots. Perhaps the eBook revolution will ask publishing to reinvent itself and we will all come out for the better.

When the machines go dark we’ll need a written record of all that has transpired here.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” 
~~ Haruki Murakami  

British Library, Camden, London, July 2008

My Bookends

Picture from Pinterest

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Good Company

The evening closes in on a warm summer's day.

The wine is coursing through you and through your friends but not down into the tributary of political discourse that can end up in an almighty row, but down the waterfalls of laughing memory.

Long forgotten stories and cackles emerge of times past while grand plans are made for the future still to be lived.

Sharing bread, barbecues and those generous anecdotes - the simple gentleness of caring for the people you love.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." 
~~ C.S. Lewis

Celia and Marja, two very dear friends who live in Christchurch, New my second home!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Sleeping in Your Clothes

After a busy day I sometimes find myself lying on the couch drifting off into a hypnagogic state in front of a monotonously TV screen.

My brain is just awake enough to inform me that at this point I should really get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, get undressed and lollop into bed.

However, if I do get up, brush my teeth, wash my face and get undressed then by the time I am ready to lollop into bed, I'll be wide awake again and the delightful spell will be broken.

So instead I revel freely in the moment that sleep threatens to envelop me.

The enchantment in nodding off and then nodding awake a few minutes later is like a gentle rollercoaster that goes slowly enough to be thrilling while managing to avoid the unpleasantness of any theme park sensations.

Next time this happens to you my friends, remain motionless, allow your mind to wander off and enjoy the thrill of sleeping in your clothes.

Leave the TV warbling to itself and luxuriate in the sensation of stalking slumber.

When you wake in the small hours with a slight chill, you can sleepwalk to your bedroom before your duvet greedily swallows you whole.

"Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night"
~~ Dave Barry

This is Bella (Joseph and Charlie's dog) relaxing on the couch in Cromer.  She often sleeps on the couch in front of the TV!  January 2013

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Now, Listen Here

There are all sorts of work shops and self-help books for people who find themselves lost for words in social situations, but the people I really wish would get help are the ones who won't shut up.

Recently, as just one example of many, I went to a small dinner gathering where I knew only the hosts - lovely people.  Most of the other guests seemed lovely too, but I can't say for sure. One woman dominated the evening so comprehensively there was no chance to get to know anyone else.  She talked about herself virtually non-stop.

She was oblivious to the discomfort and boredom around her, the restless body language, the glazed eyes, the failed attempts at diversion.  By evening's end, my mouth was locked in a rictus of feigned interest that bordered on cramp.

Some people somehow have never developed to the point where they take an interest in other people's lives.    Experts say one of the really negative things about this is that they don't learn things.  They remain where they are.  Listening is what takes you into another person's world and expands your own.

These people must have a lack of curiosity and maybe had poor role models.

Another psychologist points out that, these days many people may not be getting any conversation modelling at the dinner table at all. She said "we don't sit down and pass the conversation around the table with our families any more".  "It's like a social skill we no longer use".  And email and social media she says are one-way broadcasts.

"You are just trying to get across your message in your own way and in your own time.  And you're not really being mindful of the other".

Conversation is definitely a collaboration, not a performance.  With conversation skills the most important one by far is the skill of listening.  Long after people have forgotten what we talked about, what they will remember is how we made them feel.

It takes two to have a conversation - something we often forget!

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.”
~~ Agatha Christie

"When I'm in a bad mood, I don't listen".
~~ Cathy Freeman

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney November 2012.  Two sculptures - Wind driven installation of 222 bamboo 'bird-scarers' tuned to D Minor as a reflection on 222 lives lost in the Bali bombings and the Mirador highlighting the complex relationship between man and nature.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cloud Watching

When we pause to look up from our earthbound scurrying, we will see that the skies offer an ever-changing drama.

Clouds shift and flow and move: the sky is never the same two seconds in a row.

As the sun moves, so the colours change and the interplay between the wind, the temperature and the sun create spectacles of infinite variety.

Clouds will form themselves into fantastic shapes, even for a second appearing to resemble an object from our world: a rabbit, a saucepan, a dragon or a heart.

Then they are gone, ever-changing, formless yet with form, solid yet fluid at once.

Clouds are natures poetry.

"Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty and live life with your head in the clouds"

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky"
~~ Rabindranath Tagore

When I was visiting my friend in Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2012 the sky often put on a display like the photo above.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Be Like Water

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
~~ Lao Tzu

There’s a concept in Taoism, “wei wu wei”, which is often translated as “action without action” or “effortless doing”. I prefer to think of it more in the sense of “action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort”.

This is an important concept, because effortless action is a way to not only achieve focus in a world of chaos, but to be effective without stress, to respond to any situation with economy of effort and action, and to pursue our passions while beating procrastination.

Think for a moment of times when you've struggled to work, and instead procrastinated by heading for your distractions — email, social networks, blog reading, games, whatever your flavour might be. I am very guilty of these distractions!

This struggle is often a losing battle for most of us. We fight against it, but only win occasionally.
According to Lao Tzu effortless action is an easier way to find focus and beat procrastination.


An appropriate mental image is that of water, which seems naturally effortless in its action. It isn't necessarily still, nor is it passive, but it flows naturally around obstacles and always gets to where it’s going.

This is effortless action. It uses gravity and the natural contours of its landscape, instead of forcing things. Water can never be anything but effortless, and yet it is quietly powerful.

"We must learn to position ourselves effortlessly within each moment, rather than stumbling through time. We can either escape from the moment or stay with it as it unfolds and do something good with it."

And this is exactly right. Are you trying to escape the moment, fleeing from it and struggling against it? Or are you inhabiting the moment effortlessly?

"Simply stay at the center of the circle."
~~ Tao Te Ching

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
~~ Lao Tzu

I took this photo in Norway in July 2010, it shows how effortless and powerful water can be. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

My Word for 2013 - Surrender

Every year, I choose (or am led to, really) a single word-concept that will be the overall focus for the coming year.  For 2013 my word for the year will be SURRENDER.

I've been doing this for five years now, and it's a very interesting process. Generally, the things experienced and learned for a given word-concept are ongoing, that is, it's not like the moment the calender swings over, everything to do with that word-concept just stops. It's more like planting seeds, which grow into plants, which keep growing and blossoming and bearing fruit, although the focus changes to some new plant.

In our Western culture, SURRENDER has often been synonymous with LOSING. As in, poor you, you gave in, you gave up, you great big LOSER. Wars are created because the parties involved just couldn't let go, forgive, give in, release.

Surrendering is never seen as winning, in this way of looking at things. Non-resistance is seen as weakness, along with gentleness and passivity. The concepts of honour and saving face rule over all. People are more afraid of losing than of dying horribly and violently.

In 2013 instead of being caught up in what could be, what should be, or holding on to shouldas, couldas and wouldas, I'm simply going to attempt to surrender more to what is.  An alternative word could have been acceptance, but acceptance is done superficially each and every day.  To surrender seems more profound and purposeful, which is precisely why I need to do it more often.

How about you my fellow bloggers? Do you have a word for 2013?

"If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments"
~~  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This photo was taken at Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney in 2008 and made into a Scrapblog.
The artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir from Iceland called the sculpture "Presence"

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Real Things in Life - Part 2

More advice that is constantly offered:

Be Healthy!

Of course it's good to be healthy, but this advice is normally so thoroughly bundled up with shame it often does more harm than good.

Yes, people enjoy happier and longer lives if they are not carrying extra weight.

They also enjoy longer and happier lives if they are not laid low by anxiety, depression and self-contempt.

Is our central problem that we ask too little of ourselves or that we demand too much?

We hate ourselves for our every imperfection and then we over-consume in various ways to suppress the shame of that previous over-consumption.

There are two epidemics under way in the West - obesity and depression.

How interesting that both started just as people began obsessing over their body mass index.

"The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind."
~~ G.K. Chesterton

I haven't shown photos of my two favourite boys for some time.  Here are a couple taken this year.

Bella and Charlie (aged 8) hanging out together - June 2012

Joseph aged 6. Photo taken at his school art exhibition  - September 2012.

PS  Still haven't found another music site, but discovered how to add a youtube and start it playing when you click on my blog.  So much for the peace and quiet!

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Real Things in Life - Part 1

People give us advice all day long - parents, lifestyle coaches, magazines, self-help gurus.  What a pity most of it is wrong!

Here is some food for thought Part 1:
Live in the present - This piece of advice is so often cited it has become a reason for NOT living in the present, since so much of the "present" now consists of people lecturing us about how we should live in it.

Actually the recollected past and the anticipated future are both quite nourishing places.  The present nearly always involves a soup of distractions; it contains the thing that's important, plus lots of things that get in the way.

Recollecting the moment you stood in front of a favourite painting/sculpture, for example, is often better than the moment itself, in recollection you can strip out all the things that were unimportant: your sore feet, the couple talking loudly behind you, the queue for admission.  Memory pares down the moment to its essence.

The same is true of the birth of a child, a kiss, a bushwalk.  In memory, the experience is at its most intense and pure.  After remembering these things in blissful reverie, we can then anticipate similar, or better, experiences in the future, the hoped-for experience fizzing in our mind in a way that is pure and unencumbered.

I'm not attacking the present.  It's highly useful in prompting both recollection and anticipation - the real things in life.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes"
~~ Marcel Proust

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney November 2012.
Artist Greer Taylor, NSW called this delightful piece of artwork "transition"

PS My music site MixPod has closed and I haven't found the time to find another site, but I will get around to it shortly....meanwhile enjoy the peace and quiet.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Move Into The Sun

Like plants, to some degree, all of us struggle or flourish according to where we are positioned. Our lives can be hard or easy depending on where the pot is placed.
Most of us, I think, have had this experience: behaving quite differently according to the people in the room at the time. With some people we feel in perpetual shadow; with others, the sunlight seems to angle in and we are aglow.

With one friend you feel as if you are quite intelligent, discussing erudite issues of politics or literature. You are witty, insightful; the right phrase springs into your mouth at the right time. The very next night, in the company of someone else, you feel dumb and boring. Anxiety or insecurity grips so strongly that the right word, the witty phrase, can never fight its way through to the surface.

I've been thinking about the subtleties of positioning - how the sunlight can hit us when we are standing on this spot, but not in this other spot.

Why, then, don't we strive harder to move into the sun?

Why don't we spend more time with those who bring out our best selves, and less with those who bring a nuclear winter? Perhaps we could all send out the mental note: ''Paul Whatchamacallit, I know I'm booked in for a barbecue with you on Saturday week but suddenly I find that I am busy. I'm off to spend time with people who think I'm fabulous. And guess what? When I'm with them, I mostly prove them right.''

The best compliment you can pay someone is to say, ''I like the person I am when I'm with you''.
"Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun."
~~ John Lennon - Instant Karma

My friend Rose grows these beautiful orchids and has them in the perfect position for them to flourish.
These lovely women are a joy to spend time with and I feel so blessed to call each of them my friend.

These life long friends always let me shine and bring out the best in me.