Saturday, 20 November 2010

Making Up Our Own Minds

"Make up your mind" is a phrase that's rarely used without some undercurrent of frustration or impatience.

It is likely to be thrown at us when we can't seem to act decisively. Or when we can't choose instantly between competing possibilities. We might use it ourselves if we know what we want and someone else seems to be dithering.

It is a phrase that sends a strong message of criticism - as though instant decision-making were itself a virtue, regardless of the seriousness of the situation.

The chance to make up our own minds - and to know them - is one of the greatest gifts of human consciousness. In lives as privileged as most of ours are, "choice" has real meaning.

We can "make up our minds" about our most fundamental decisions - including our lifestyle, values, relationships, beliefs and goals.

We can't determine everything that happens to us, but we can decide what steps we will then take. We can think hard about our strengths and how we are using them. We can also take charge of what influences us......recognising this can be daunting. But I see it as liberating.

"Making up our own minds" means we are not letting circumstances, laziness or other people make up our minds or run our lives for us.

Self-responsibility triumphs here.

And it lets us set the compass for our future!

"Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."
~~ Ralph Emerson

My friend Dianne made up her mind that cancer was not going to sap the life out of her. She is fighting it and winning! Photo of Dianne in her art studio Feb 2007.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Use it or lose it, they say!

Usually the slogan refers to memory or frequent flyer points but the same applies to vocabulary, too.

Maybe you learnt a word last week - let's call it "farkle" - and unless you use farkle in a sentence pretty soon then the same word is likely to melt into oblivion.

Let's pretend farkle means to pick up an object with your toes. Anglers at low tide can be nifty farklers of buried pipi shells, just as anyone who's gathered a sock off the floor has been known to indulge in farkling.

That's the problem with acquiring strange words. Unless we use them, then the farkles of this world will only grow stranger to us.

According to different sources on the web this is what I learnt about farkle:

"Motorcycle enthusiasts may install accessories, called farkles (also spelled farkel), to customize their machine. The term Farkle apparently originated among the ST1100 riders. It is an acronym:"

F ancy
A ccessory
R eally
K ool &
L ikely
E xpensive

"Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use."
~~ Wendell Johnson

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, 2010 - The artist Angus Adameitis called this sculpture "Beside the point". I feel this sculpture represents the word "Farkle" explicatively.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Peace of Mind

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!

"We seek to find peace of mind in the word, the formula, the ritual. The hope is illusion."
~~ Benjamin Cardozo

Sculpture by the Sea, Oct 2010. The artist gave it the title "Mirroring". For me it represents the struggle we have with ourselves in finding that elusive balance.