Time out from time.

I packed my swag and went bush. Jumped in the four-wheel-drive and headed west leaving behind all of the urgent stuff, the important stuff, the have-tos and the must-dos.

No phone coverage, no internet, no busy-ness.

Time out…..

Tucked in behind the sandhills.

Ancient melaleuca and mallee.

Woodsmoke and freshly caught fish.

Reading. Thinking. Sitting.

Indulging in the family tradition of spotting animal shapes in the coals of the campfire for hours on end.

A full moon and a gazillion stars.

Eerie call of the nightjar and the high-pitched bark of a fox….

How often do we put off “time-out” because we don’t have time?

Because it is not convenient?

Because there are too many other things that we have to do?

Because we can’t “afford” the time?

It is when life is at its busiest, when time-out seems least possible, that we most need to make it happen.

To step out of our busy everyday existence, to stop, to reconnect and to breathe. To rest and recharge and to shift everything back into some sort of internal equilibrium.

To simply just be…

(Trust me, the world does not stop if you do……!)

So, it’s worth the effort, the disruption, the plain old inconvenience to simply step outside of our busy everyday lives and give ourselves one of the greatest gifts of all-time…..

Time to simply stop and be.

Make it happen….after all, you deserve it!

 

The cat is dead…. but curiosity didn’t do it…

They say that curiosity killed the cat.

I’d say it was far more likely that a lack of curiosity killed the cat!

Curiosity is the thing that increases our awareness of the world around us and of ourselves.

It keeps us safe.

It expands our horizons.

It allows us to explore, to pursue and to persevere.

It has been the precursor to every new idea and invention, to new thoughts and philosophies, to human growth and evolution.

I am quite often stunned by people’s lack of curiosity-the lack of interest in anything that is happening outside of themselves. People who have never wondered about the important stuff: why bellybutton fluff is always blue; why the old lady next door never has any visitors; how a Willie Wagtail builds a nest out of cobwebs or whether it’s technically possible to draw a fat stick man…

I reckon there’s a high percentage of people who could walk out and pick the daily paper up off the front lawn and not even notice the UFO parked there.

It seems that as people’s focus has become more internal (I E: it’s all about my wants and needs-it’s all about me-very different to self-awareness by the way) and as our connection to the physical world around us has diminished (because we spend most of our time indoors in front of a screen), the level of curiosity in our world has plummeted.

Curiosity empowers us. It gives us the power to question, to change and to grow.

Curiosity is the thing that saw me thrown out of many “Religious Instruction” sessions at school.

I had questions-lots of them- questions that no one, ever, was willing to answer.

“If God only made Adam and Eve and they had two sons, who did Cain and Abel have babies with? (Ewww, very bad pictures in my head…)

“If all of the animals went on an ark what did they eat and how come they didn’t eat each other? And, as for procreating… (More bad pictures -as above-any country kid knows what happens if you inbreed your stock-the world would be full of two-headed elephants and six-legged sheep… and worse. Ewww again.)

And… The one I used to lay awake at night pondering:

“Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” (After all, God didn’t actually give birth to them, he just sort of zapped them into existence-sort of an “Abracadabra Alacazam” moment…)

The result of my enquiring mind?

Being told in no uncertain terms I was a smart*rse and to leave the room.

Sitting outside in the courtyard by myself was much more fun anyway and I would lay on a bench and watch the clouds and tan my legs (Yes- there was a world before “Slip.Slop.Slap” :)) and be quite glad that I lived in a family where I could choose to believe in whatever I wanted and at least I could ask questions and get an honest “I really don’t know…” without being yelled at.

For a couple of days a week at present, I get to hang out with young children, the minya mob. I get to re-experience the joy of living in a world of curiosity. A world full of questions that are okay to ask:

How big a hole can we dig in the sandpit before the world caves in? Why do sleepy lizards have blue tongues? How many “googly eyes” can Jane poke up her nose? Why does dog poo stink? Can a snake fart? How come old people get lines on their face?(“Lines like yours Telene… inney?”)

A world of imagination and wonder where bowls of sand become delicious meals, monkey bars become pirate ships and cardboard boxes take us to the moon and back.

A world where every moment brings a new possibility, an opportunity to ask how/why/what, a new opportunity to experience the world without the fear of looking stupid or silly, a world in which we actually get to live.

Curiosity reconnects you with your world, it sparks new growth and it makes life a hell of a lot more interesting and heaps more fun.

So, how about wearing your “curious hat” over the next few days…brush off the dust and the cobwebs and try it on.

 You might find it still fits just fine…..

Lighthouses and Ostriches

 

There are a small group of people in my neighbourhood who have recently decided to stand up and do something about an issue that is having a huge effect on our community: in this case it’s to do with the destruction of our local coastline. In finding the courage to speak out, they have opened themselves up to abusive phone calls, nasty letters and bullying by those who feel their “rights” may be infringed in some way.

Those protesting are the “againsters”-  people who react aggressively and forcefully to protect and justify their behaviours, even if it’s blatantly obvious that those behaviours are damaging and impactful on the environment and on other people. They are “against” any changes to the way things are. No compromise. No discussion. Just plain NO.

They are supported by the bystanders, the ostriches-the “she’ll be right mate/ ignore it and it will go away” mob- those who prefer to live in Comfort Land where everything has a fairytale ending….(insert fairy sprinkles here :) )

In our society people love to gang up and ridicule those who have the courage to stand up for something. Those who choose not simply to put up with things. Those who are willing to speak up, to blow the whistle, to fight for things, to stand for something. We have a host of derogatory names for them- dobbers, whingers, troublemakers, greenies, lefties, loonies, whistleblowers, idealists…(yeah, I am being polite here!)

I recently read a book that had a profound impact on me (‘Wilful Blindness’ by Margaret Heffernan.) One of the things that was discussed was how the need to fit in and be accepted allows us to overcome our moral judgements. How a fear of standing out from the crowd, a need to be accepted, overrides our moral beliefs about speaking up, even when faced with the blinding obvious. Even when we know what’s happening around us is wrong.…

I know of a man in a small country town. He is a violent, abusive, nasty drunk who beats and terrorises his wife and children. The local police know him well. This is common knowledge yet… he has lots of friends, he is popular at the town pub, everyone is pleasant to him around town and (get this!) he gets to be Father Christmas in the town Christmas celebrations. The local kids sit on his knee and he hands them out presents. Everyone conveniently “overlooks” the fact that he is a violent and dangerous man who should be the last choice to hold this position in a community. (After all, how different from the spirit of Christmas could you possibly get??)

Because “everyone” thinks he is a “nice bloke,” no one has the guts to be the first to stand up and call him on it. People follow the lead of “everybody else” and nobody does a damn thing. And so, the message all around is that his behaviour is okay. No one wants to be the first to stand (ie: create a scene/ cause a ruckus/ make a fuss/ stir things up.)

So, they do nothing.

It’s much easier not to, so they don’t.

And, as one, a whole community combines to perpetuate something that is unacceptable.

We can be awake or we can be the metaphorical ostrich (and sometimes that’s okay-after all, we can’t stand up for everything or we would become totally overwhelmed and burn ourselves out- trust me-tried that one-doesn’t work!)

We do however, have a choice in not joining in with those whose sole purpose seems to be in cutting down the lighthouses who choose to take a stand.

Sometimes you will agree with their cause and sometimes you will not.

The very least we can do is to defend their right to stand for something…

Swimming the moat…

There’s an old Italian story that goes something like this:

Every day an old man would make a pilgrimage to the top of a hill upon which sat a statue.

Every day he would kneel in front of the statue and offer up the same prayer:

“Please! Please! Please!

Let me win the lottery! ”

And then he would turn and make the long trek back down the hill to his home.

This continued for many years until one day, the exasperated statue, so sick of hearing the same words over and over, came to life and said:

“Please! Please! Please!

…BUY A TICKET!!”

How often in life do we play the “waiting game”?

Knowing vs. Doing

All right, I’m going to get really personal and vulnerable today…

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have been locked in a passionate love affair for many years……

with “learning.”

I love to learn new things. I devour books and attend courses. I am always looking for new things, the unusual and the unfamiliar. When I find something interesting I have a curiosity and a passion to know more. Let’s face it, I am hooked, I am addicted. I can stand before you now, look you squarely in the face and admit it- I am a serial learner…

“What’s wrong with that?”,  you may well ask. Well, it has its good points and its bad ones. On the good side, my world continues to grow and expand and so do I. It keeps the neural pathways in my brain plastic and malleable. It allows me to embrace new ideas and to remain flexible in my thinking.(Well mostly…) And it gives me passion and drive.

On the negative side, it can become a bit of an excuse that feeds my self-doubt. You know, the old “I’m not quite ready yet…” excuse. In other words I get into a cycle that involves more “knowing” than “doing”….

The old “I’ll be ready when I know just a bit more about….then I’ll be able to…”

The trouble is, I get into a cycle of never actually starting anything because I just have to know a little more first…. So, “learning more” actually becomes part of the procrastination process, a big fat excuse about why have I actually haven’t started yet.

 

“To know and not to do, is not to know.”

(Chinese proverb)

 

So, that’s part of the reason why I started this website.

To stop simply just knowing and to start some actual doing.

To put my money where my mouth is, so to speak!

(Whoa, how’s that for an unconscious link- I have just phoned up and booked in with the dentist-finally!)

So here’s a challenge for you: what’s something you’ve been putting off starting or making big fat excuses about? Come on, be honest-what’s that really scary thing you’ve been putting off and putting off….. Yep, that’s the one!

So…..

Why are you still sitting here? Get off your bum and go do it!! :)

Duhh…

Today I had one of those “Duhh!” moments.

One of those “I’m such a goose-luckily no one will ever find out” moments….

(That’s why I figure it’s so important to share-I’m guessing that you probably have them too… Just guessin’!)

One day, (only about four years ago), I went to a clearing sale and bought an enormous antique workbench. I then had to duck off to work so one of the neighbourhood blokes, Bill, said he would get some mates and they would deliver it to my place. When I got home they had left it in the middle of my backyard. When I went round to thank Bill (carrying a “thank you” carton of beer), he told me it had taken six men to wrestle it into my backyard and that I would need to enlist some real muscle to move it into my shed.

So, there sat the bench waiting for the day when six muscley men just happened to be available to help me shift it into the shed. Obviously that day never came because the bench has sat there, in the exact same spot, for the past four years.

I’ve had to walk around it, climb over it, cover it, uncover it, wheelbarrow things past it and swear at it quite often waiting for six muscley men to help me move it.

Today I needed to shift something out of my backyard. The bench, as usual, was right in the way. So I walked over to it, grabbed one end and I lifted and shifted it- me, all alone, just me, by myself. One tiny, little woman.… Duh!

How often do we believe something just because someone told us it was true?

How many limiting beliefs do we hold that we never even bother testing?

How much of what we hold to be true is actually bullsh*t?

How much of what we believe to be true about the world around us is simply a fiction created by others?

And how often is it simply easy to believe that things are just too hard… and give ourselves the excuse of not even trying…

So, just wanted to let you know that I have the strength of six men :)

(Just in case you need anything shifted!)

Shark Dive

I caught up with my cousin last night for a  meal.

She was on a euphoric high after just returning from a shark cage dive. There had been five great whites, a couple over 5 m in length, that had swum past and eyeballed her-so close that she could have reached out and touched them. We talked about how challenging the experience was as I had also done it a few months ago. (Well, yeah, so I didn’t actually see a shark but it was still bloody scary and I did see a savage looking trevally and a rather evil looking jellyfish… :))

We talked about how freezing the water was, how uncomfortable it was to breathe only through your mouth (especially when you’ve been throwing up all the way out to the islands!), how the waves toss you around like you are in a huge washing machine, how you have to cling on for dear life to stop yourself floating up and banging your head on top of the cage… But most of all what we talked about is overcoming your fear. We have both have grown up in seaside communities where shark attack is a reality. We both love to swim. We both asked ourselves the same question-“What if, after this experience, I am too afraid to get into the water again?”

How often do we let fear shut us down? How often do we allow it to prevent us from trying new things and from having new experiences?

Likewise, how often do we not do things because they are challenging and uncomfortable? My cousin had to save for a whole year, to spend a day of discomfort, just to have her 45 min experience. Was it worth it? Hell yes!! She has done something that will have a lasting positive impact on her. Forever….

She did something she wasn’t sure that she was capable of doing….and she enjoyed it!

She stepped out of her comfort zone and into discomfort. Every time we do that our comfort zone grows and our world expands….

“If you always do what you’ve always done,

 you will always get what you’ve always got…”

 

What if… more often, each of us simply did one small thing that took us out of our comfort zone and into something new…

What sort of possibilities might that open up for each of us…?

And yes, we will both continue to swim in the ocean…..

Sticks And Stones….

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”…

What a load of crap! That old line that our parents and teachers used to roll out and say to us whenever we complained about being teased or bullied, is just plain wrong! Words do hurt-words have the ability to hurt us very much. They can even kill. I have talked with many victims of abuse over the years and have been told many times “I could handle the hitting-it was the words that did the real damage.”

Words hold an enormous power. They are the things that allow us to make meaning from the world around us. They can lift us up or drag us down. They can make us scared or make us laugh out loud. A single word can make us happy or sad. Words hold power.

Words affect how we feel about ourselves and about others-both our own words (our “self talk”) and those that are directed at us by others. We are also affected by words that surround us-e.g. other people’s conversations, in books and in the media.

Words that are positive empower and unify us.

Words that are negative disempower and separate us. They fracture and marginalise us.

Words matter…

Why is it then, that when I woke up and turned the TV on this morning and watched our politicians in action, I felt physically ill? The very people who we have elected and paid to represent us and to supposedly work for the good of our country, using and abusing words like weapons, using them specifically to cause hurt and pain.

I do not have a political preference. I spend my votes on people-the people who I believe best represent me in what is important to me at the time. (And this continues to change as I grow and change.)

But I, like many people I know, have grown increasingly fed up with how our politicians act and how they speak, both to us and to each other.

In the last week or so we have reached new lows. Following on from Alan Jones (The company we keep) today’s episode saw Tony Abbott continue on where Jones left off.

We all have words that have negative associations for us-they are “trigger” words. I’m sure you know what that‘s like-you’re having a pleasant conversation and all of a sudden there is a word that triggers a response for you-that takes you straight into a memory and a feeling that makes you feel bad.

Tony Abbott used this in a disgraceful way on the floor of Parliament yesterday. Alan Jones stated that the Prime Minister’s father had “died of shame.” Tony Abbott hurled these words at the Prime Minister about her “government of shame.” He used the words “…  a government that should have already died of shame.”

He used exactly the same words as his friend Alan Jones, again directed at Julia Gillard.

The “Sunrise” reporter Mark Riley described them as “a poor choice of words.” They were not a “poor choice of words.” They were a disgraceful, shameful and unforgivably cruel choice of words. What’s conveniently overlooked is that they were a choice.

Incredibly, ”Sunrise” then gave Alan Jones airtime! (Why???)He described Abbott’s verbal assault simply as “an unfortunate choice of words” then launched into an attack on the government.

Where is the accountability? Where is the personal responsibility? Where is the cut off point that says “Enough!!”

Politicians’ lives and careers revolve around the use of words- words are their bread and butter- their livelihood- and they need to be held responsible for them. If Tony Abbott worked in a private corporation he would be sacked. If you or I spoke to people like that we would be sacked. He said he was “oblivious” to his choice of words. Crap.

Words can be used for good, or for evil.

We get to choose….

If only….

Have you ever noticed how what we want most is what we perceive that we don’t have?

I always wanted to be an artist- to be able to do amazing drawings and paintings effortlessly like some of my friends- I could draw but it always took a lot of effort and energy and wasn’t easy and effortless like it “should” be…..

I wanted to be able to play a musical instrument, just by ear- to be able to pick it up and jam with others…to be able to sing and hold a tune….to be a faster runner…a cooler dancer….better at maths…..

While I was busy wishing I had these things I was busy overlooking all of the amazing things I could do.

This week I had some big realisations around acknowledging my strengths.

How is it that we manage so effectively to dismiss, to overlook, to minimize, and to essentially ignore those talents, skills and abilities that come easily to us?

I never understood how I could look at a drawing someone had done with genuine and absolute awe and they would say “This old thing? It’s crap and I’m going to toss it in the bin.” Or understood why someone with a voice like an angel never sang. Or why someone with the ability to create a culinary masterpiece fit for a 5-star restaurant chose to work in a hardware store….

Why is it that when something comes easily to us we honestly often don’t even see it? People are often blown away by how easily I can come up with a rhyming verse on any topic…in minutes. I’ve been told my whole life how clever that is- it doesn’t feel clever because it feels so natural for me. Clever would be being able to juggle…or do a cartwheel….or fix a car engine…

How often have you complimented someone on something and they have brushed it aside as being trivial or unimportant. Or said reluctantly “Well, yes I can (paint/fix/create/do)… BUT…….”

Sometimes we value most the things we have to work hard to get or to learn. That’s understandable.

But, what if we actually stopped and acknowledged the things we are naturally good at already. The things that come “easily”. What if we began to listen and actually hear  the feedback others give us. To truly see ourselves and what we can do.

To appreciate it.

To value it.

To act on it.

Sometimes in our search for “something more” we overlook the most important thing of all….what we already have.

Enjoy :)

The company we keep….

“You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps.”

Whether we like it or not, the people we choose to surround ourselves with say a lot about us.

I watched with interest this week the reaction to the hateful comments from radio announcer Alan Jones directed at our Prime Minister. Despite one’s personal views on the Prime Minister in the political context, the comments by Jones were a truly vile and hateful personal attack that was directed intentionally into an open wound of grief and loss for a daughter who had just lost her Dad.

What has been of particular interest is the reaction from those around Alan Jones, particularly from his fellow media colleagues and from our politicians. Their unwillingness to acknowledge his inappropriateness and nastiness has been stunning.

What is becoming increasingly acknowledged with those who deal in the area of bullying is that the bully is only a part of the problem. The thing that has major victim impact is the behaviour of the bystanders – those who simply stand by and do nothing and in doing so, not only condone and reinforce the behaviour of the bully but also let the victim know that they are weak, that they are alone and that they are worthless…..That is the soul-destroyer.

Despite audible gasps from the audience when Jones initially delivered his speech, not one of the 100+ people in the room who heard those comments protested or simply got up and left. In remaining there they let him know that what he said was okay. Despite later changing it, the Sydney University Young Liberals gave the speech a raving review describing it as:

“Brilliant speech by Alan Jones last night. It’s no wonder he’s the nation’s most influential broadcaster.”

When public disgust became obvious, there was a pitiful scurry to make excuses and justify. In his initial lame “apology” Jones made the excuse that he had simply repeated something he’d heard. ie: it wasn’t really him saying it. (The old school yard “But he said at first!” Or “He made me do it!”) Jones followed the “apology” up by again attacking the Prime Minister. The only real outrage and huffing and puffing was about him getting caught.

Social media began to have an impact on advertisers on Jones’s show but from media, politics and social commentators the reaction was decidedly lacklustre. “That’s just Alan. It will all blow over. Give it a week or two and He’ll be more popular than ever…”

One incident that impacted on me was that involving Karl Stefanovic. He interviewed Laurie Oakes, a journalist of high regard and integrity who was willing to speak out and say “That was not okay.” Oakes also noted the lack of censure from Leader of the Opposition and close friend of Jones, Tony Abbott who  referred to Jones’s behaviour as merely being…” out of line.”

 Stefanovic leapt in and stated “You don’t have much time for Alan Jones do you, Laurie?”

Oakes replied “After yesterday, Karl, do you?”

Looking increasingly uncomfortable Stefanovic then admitted “Yes, I am a friend of Alan Jones.”

He then asked Oakes to clarify how he felt. Oakes told him then asked Stefanovic to clarify how he felt.

Flustered and trapped Stefanovic merely repeated Abbott’s ineffectual line.”Well I thought it was completely out of line…”

Subsequent interviews with other media I saw involving Alan Jones involved “soft” questioning, with journalists assuring us that Alan Jones was a great bloke and that he would be more popular than ever.

Alan Jones is a powerful and intelligent man. He has a lot of things to say that I agree with. He could quite possibly be an interesting bloke to have a yarn with at a barbecue. But his personal hatred has no place in a public forum and his “mistakes” happen again.. and again… and again… and again…

This issue is not about political views – it is about our own humanity – our ability to have empathy and compassion for others and to honour the things that unite us as human beings with a capacity to both think and to feel. To have morals and values that let us know what is right and what is wrong and the courage and self-belief to stand up for those morals and values. This is becoming less common as those with power and influence take less and less responsibility and accountability for their words and their actions. They become bullies because we allow them to be. Those who we trust to give us moral leadership and direction are distinctly “missing in action”……

In her thought-provoking book “Wilful Blindness” Margaret Heffernan discussed how Hitler’s architect and “second most powerful man in the Reich” Albert Speer was able to use “studied obliviousness” to rationalise and justify the events that unfolded in Germany. Through his awe and genuine like of Hitler as a person he was able to cultivate a state of consciousness that allowed him to “see but not see “- how he was able to overlook Hitler’s atrocities, to make excuses and to see only the “good” he chose to see.

A bit like Karl and Tony and their buddies really…

Each of us as human beings has personal responsibility for human decency.

“You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps.”

Who have you been hanging out with lately?! :)