Thursday, November 30, 2017

Deep waters

The suchness of things is that anxiety has been my companion for a very long time. I'd fight against it in various ways. Mainly, I'd push through it. It compromised performance in situations like exams, for sure, but I still sat the exams, didn't allow it to topple me.

Once a mother, anxiety seemed almost a natural way of life. There was the children's health to consider, their happiness, doing things in the right way. Being an empathic person, I'd see the situation through their eyes. I didn't ever want them to feel that as their mother I'd fallen short, so I'd go the extra mile. I actually worried about whether the snack I sent to school was okay, or if the children were doing the right activities. I sweated all details.

One summer I registered my eldest son for a 5 day program in a sort of park. I think they called it the Indians program, or something like that. He wasn't happy about this, begrudgingly got out of the car, as 8 years old can do, making their mothers feel so guilty. When it was time to collect him they were doing some sort of pow wow gathering of the clan and I thought to myself, 'Oh wow, I think he was right, it's kind of cheesy.' But, the thing was he adored it and couldn't wait to get back there the next day, hurried me up so he wouldn't be late.

I say to them every so often, 'It's impossible I always got it right. If I did or said something that has damaged you please talk to me about it.' They've told me the odd thing, mainly laughing about it as they said it, but I think the report card is pretty good. They still write me the most amazing statements on birthday cards.

I'm not entirely sure how I made it through bringing up four children and being plagued with crippling anxiety, but I somehow did.

Nowadays, I've more time to myself, though there is still plenty of work to do and places to go. As time goes by I relish the days when I can be silent. I think there is peace to be found in silence. Silence gives the ego a rest and gets us in touch with the inner part of us that is peaceful; that part that is free of worldly identity and roles. Silent, I am just me, pure consciousness. I notice the whir of the fan, the air that moves in and out of my lungs, the light touch on the tips of my fingers as I create these words on the screen.

With a sense of acceptance now, with a stronger sense of the Now, I am much more able to access peace, which is for me a non anxious space.

I can make the excuse that we have had a ridiculously hot November which has probably slowed most of us down but the truth is that I have felt less inclined to run about and less inclined to do work of any kind than I ever have before.  The shirts to be ironed are mounting up!

Already I see I must get a 2018 diary to fill in all the appointments and plans being made, some of which I am very excited about. Yet, it's a commitment to noting time which doesn't suit me at all right now. Honestly, if I could escape to the mountains for months and stop counting time that would suit me very well. There is so much happening inside of me, I want to soak in it. i don't  want to have to note the day of the week or the time of the day.

On Sunday I had the good fortune to attend a silent day retreat. We walked in silence and sat in silence and sometimes we talked, not a lot of chatter but an opportunity to pose a thought to the group, one at a time. It was a nice taster, an aperitif, for a week long silent retreat I will do next year.

I noticed that on return to home it was a nightmare for my mind. There was dinner to prepare, and extra people to serve that had dropped in. Then, my son brought home a rowdy crowd. I simply had to escape to my bedroom and breathe slowly for 5 minutes. There was no transition from the retreat space to a loud home space and it felt to me like everyone was on steroids. We don't realize how loud it all is until we dive into the deep waters inside.

Perhaps it is no co-incidence that I got on very well with my maternal grandmother when quite a few other people found her inaccessible. After a very busy life both as a mother and a businesswoman she craved the life of the keeper of a lighthouse. I got that.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The present moment

For November, I don't think it is an overstatement to say that we are in a heat wave. Unless I had scheduled my surgery in February, I don't think I could have chosen a more inappropriate time to be wearing supportive panty hose.

I have a bit less than a week to go and it's an interesting study how one gets through testing times. First, one hears that surgery is advisable. I am quick to make the date. If something needs to be done, I don't put it off. I don't like hearing 'we could do it later' because then I have to think about it over and over again. So, booking in was easy.

Going to the hospital was no problem at all. For maybe two seconds when they put the oxygen mask over my head I felt some nerves. I took maybe three breaths and that's all I knew.

Underestimating how tired I was the next day I continued on with the events listed in my diary. I went to school in bandages and to town the following day, when I was allowed to take off my bandages and shower. One can't alter easily one's nail appointment. My nail technician is the best in town and there are dozens hungry to take one's spot.

The point is that I got through with incremental thinking. 'Not long before I can have a shower.' Only a few days more before I don't have to wear the stockings at night.' 'Only ten more days before I can take them off altogether.' 'Today I will wear the stay ups under a dress, that won't be so bad.' 'Today I will wear the toes in tights under exercise clothes and go walking.' I tried to find the positive in the day and kept the night close to my mind. Not enjoying the heat nor the stockings, I am having a love affair with the setting sun. As much as possible I stay in the present moment and deal with it.

In my younger years I made the mistake of saying in hard times, 'When will this end?' In this way, I held onto anxiety awaiting an outcome that sometimes never came. This created a great deal of unnecessary stress. Rather than bowing to reality, accepting it, I tensed up and held on, almost like holding one's breath when breath cannot be held for longer than several seconds. It's an exercise in stupidity to wait for a better day rather than enjoying the day one has right now. Better days may well be ahead of us but to delete the possibility of happiness today in the face of adversity is to miss an opportunity.

I can't put a date on it. I don't know how long I am talking here, but it feels recent that I have noticed a wonderful sense of ease within myself. If I had to put a date on it I would say that there was a drop into ease when I began to listen to the podcasts of Catherine Ingram who describes her 'living meditation' way of life. It resonated because it was my underlying goal. I just didn't have the right words to describe it, here or to myself, but she gave me permission almost to live in a way that I had always wanted to live.

In two days something will take place in our lives that will, or won't, make a huge difference. I am hopeful that it will take away a great of anxiety and that it will enable us to breathe a huge sigh of relief. I am hopeful that my husband gets the result he would love, but if it doesn't pan out quite like that, life will go on. I am not holding my breath. I do admit to the thought flashing into my head of the moment when the project is put to bed, but I also have the image flash through my mind that it might take a little bit longer. I have rehearsed that thought out loud with my husband and I think that has helped him too. Whichever way it goes we will go through it together. I am living moment to moment, at ease, thinking when I need to think but then returning to a non-thinking state, not unlike an animal, or perhaps an object.

I used to wonder exactly what people meant when they said that we are not human doers but human beings. I recognized the difference but I was still operating so much up there in my head, I hadn't reached an understanding of what it was to be a human being. Like my dear little dog, I take life as it comes these days, neither thinking about yesterday nor worrying about tomorrow. I live in the present moment. It's divine there.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


In spite of the fact that going through hot days in tight support hosiery isn't remotely comfortable, I've been quite content. I don't go out in the big, wide world more than I have to, but I have enjoyed my days at home. I have tolerated my ghastly tight stockings. That's the best I can say about that. I hate them with a passion.

Oddly, I have had trouble sleeping beyond 6 am,which I think relates to some hay fever. Some days, I work away at tasks until I am tired enough to possibly nap and it was like this yesterday.

When I woke, refreshed, it was time to get ready for a 'Sound Healing' meditation that I had registered for. Just before I left I opened my husband's study to say goodbye and only had to look at him to understand he was upset. I asked him what was wrong and this opened the floodgates to his frustrations with other people; what mistakes they had made; their incompetence.

I listened for a few minutes, and made the executive decision to proffer some advice, rather than just listen and nod, as I mostly do. This was my frustration taking over from what I know to be a better practice: nodding agreement.

'Going over the history of the thing isn't going to do any good. Let's just solve the problem. They'll need to attend at both times. It is their mistake.' (Don't worry that the dialogue doesn't make sense without context. Just notice that I already said too much.).

Giving advice isn't really a good strategy. Maybe it is, but one only knows this later, when one realizes the advice was taken. In the moment, it tends to make for more commotion, more energy that has to also be put out.

I'm not too shabby at noticing my internal reactions now and what I noticed was that I was immediately quite shaken inside. It wasn't that a mistake had been made, something not at all out of the way when multiple people are involved in a project, but rather it had brought on verbiage instead of problem solving and action. It can baffle me and confuse me. It's not that my husband wouldn't attend to the issue, but rather that I had difficulty understanding, as I always do, that he needed to unload his frustration on me. This is me denying reality.

I reached a point where I said that I needed to go and I'd be back soon with dinner. I was disappointed to go off to the Meditation feeling discombobulated but I was proud of myself that it was minor to the way I might have felt in earlier times where I might have put off going at all at this point.

Certainly, the thought still comes, 'if only he weren't so emotional and wordy', but I didn't let it derail my enjoyment of the session in any way and I was proud of myself for that.

On return, he still needed to go over this matter with me; still needed to air his frustrations, but I accepted that, 'This is the way it is. This is the way it is. You have strategies in place to deal with this best. You don't need to be upset that he is upset. It will pass.' I talk to myself in this way, settling myself and accepting the reality of the situation.

I made the salad, cooked the salmon. The frustrations began to lose hold over his mood and he even showed me later in the evening some plans for another project of his that he was clearly pleased about. His delight in this progress was obvious. I was proud of him that he could 'let go' in this way, even if just for a short time. This is the way it is. The moods ebb and flow according to the vagaries of the outside world and an inside world that alerts him to all the possible things that could go wrong.

For many years, I struggled and struggled in how to be happy living with a person who was so emotional, so wordy, so prone to moods that seemed to change with the wind and yet so willing to take chances that made me feel most unsettled. Some days he'd go off moody only to have a perfectly high functioning day whilst I had trouble shifting my low mood from the exchange. This was a big learning curve, to snuff off the moods of others and see it for what it was; their problem, not mine.

I would talk to him, explaining as best I could that I felt that he was "dumping" his worries on me. But, it's not something he has ever understood. He is not complaining about me, but to me, he would say. What was wrong with that? Interestingly, he's not the only man that has said that to me, as if they look at me and see a willing place to park their worries; as if I have the strength and fortitude for that.

It's still not a perfect score but most of the time I am now able to deflect the worry he expresses to me, worry that could lift a moment later, worry that is quite likely only in his head. He talks his worries out loud and this seems to be how he processes his worrying mind. It is what it is.

Ideally, that is, if I had the sort of life that would be perfect for me, I'd be left to live in my little bubble of happiness, noting the beauty of the natural world, creating in the kitchen, in the garden, through expression of my personal self, and passing on my contentedness to other people.

My husband likes to make the argument that he provides for and protects me through his handling of worldly matters. It's a fair argument and I can't deny the logic of it. I don't have an ambitious bone in my body, for me. I won't get to my death bed and regret the absence of a career.

Apples rarely fall very far from the tree. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to have a discussion with my oldest son about how he sees his future. He is with a girl who he will most likely marry and they will, most likely have children, he told me. He seemed not entirely passionate about this likely outcome and I expressed that thought to him.

'Like I don't have enough people to be responsible for,' he said in his blunt way. I laughed. 'Is that the way it feels, darling? (He rose fast in his career and does already carry a lot of responsibility.) 'I'm happy to go to work and make the money, but I think she'll have to be a stay at home Mum. She can have a little business from home, but I don't want to come home at the end of the day and listen to all her career worries.'

I was smiling away. I didn't stop the flow.

'I had just come home one day last week when the phone rang and it was Mike (the boss). 'G'day', I said to him, "I just walked in the door.' 'Do you feel like walking out again?' he said to me. 'Well, he has kids,' I said, 'it was probably still bath and feeding time. He was projecting his life and feelings onto you.'

'Yeah!' he said, 'I realized at that exact moment that Dad used to sit in the car when he came home and listen to the radio. As a kid I noted that but now I know why.' 'Yes,' I said, 'he was avoiding all the hub bub of family life. It's what guys sometimes do. Why walk into all that chaos when you can listen to the radio in the car. Some guys at  Daddy's work in America stayed at work late for this very reason.'

We were both laughing.

It's no co-incidence that I was a stay at home Mum. It is what we both wanted and what worked for both of us. Everybody needs their time of peace. Nobody finds it easy to change. It is what it is. Those who recognize and accept this do best.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Day in the Life

Yesterday was going to be a good one from the get go, for me personally. I have had some vascular surgery recently and have to live in tight, uncomfortable support hosiery day and night for a time. The weather has been hot and I've been uncomfortable. It was my first night without the hosiery and I slept soundly and woke refreshed.

Knowing I had to get to school for my little volunteer job I dashed through the morning tasks and immersed myself in the tasks with the children.

Small group work is incredibly intensive with young children who are struggling. It can be exhausting, but I revel in it. I also love that my mind is entirely focused. I never have a random thought when I am with them because they demand 100% of me.

I was particularly thrilled that Charles, a distracted boy, engaged with me about the World Cup qualifier to happen that evening. I am not clueless when it comes to soccer and we talked like a couple of pros about Australia's chances. It is so fascinating that when a distracted child gets onto a topic of which he or she is passionate, the focus is sharp.

By the time I finished classes the announcement had been made that Australia voted overwhelmingly YES for same sex marriage in the voluntary postal ballot. More people voted than in the American election, as I understand it. It was a day to be proud of one's Australian citizenship. It brought with it much collective happiness.

I managed to visit with my daughter for some afternoon tea. She's struggled lately with some negative emotions and we talked at length about this a few weeks ago. She said she was doing much better and we had another very frank talk over coffee about our perfectionist natures and ways to break that down. She seemed a lot better. 'I think I've been very hard on myself,' she said. Oh boy, that's the understatement of the year, and wonderful that she was seeing that now. I felt relieved.

Naturally, we watched the World Cup qualifier between Australia and Honduras in the evening. We had to wait until some minutes into the second half to get the first goal and the celebration was jubilant. From there, the team rose, and they fairly quickly finished off the task with another two wonderful goals. Certainly, Honduras never gave up and to their credit managed a goal of their own in the final minutes. By then, the crowd was already in mass celebration, singing those iconic songs of ours.

Moments later, we saw visions of colorful fireworks going off over Sydney Harbor Bridge near to our majestic Sydney Opera House and I found myself saying to my husband and son, 'What an amazing day for Australia!'

There was a sense in me that my heart was opening wider. It reminded me that we are indeed one, connected to the whole, not at all separate but very much connected to one another. It felt incredibly hopeful for our future, and the future of our children and our grandchildren. One by one by one, one vote at a time, we can make a change for the better.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Finding peace

Whilst I was at the retreat I had several conversations with Deirdre. She is a 72 year old woman who has had more to bear than most of us. She lost two daughters in separate accidents and her surviving daughter has a severe intellectual disability. Recently, a space became available in a good home for her and she has had the added emotional difficulty of placing her only surviving daughter there after a lifetime of looking after her twenty-four hours a day. Her husband divorced her many years ago but there relationship is reasonably amicable. He owns the home in which she lives and checks up on her, so that's a good thing.

A few years ago Deirdre developed cancer of the pelvic or stomach region. I was happy to let her talk to me and I didn't want to delve too far into asking questions. She wanted to heal the situation herself and at this time she is cancer free. She meditates, has a simple but content lifestyle in a beautiful and temperate area of Australia. She lost considerable weight when diagnosed and is now slim. She watches carefully what she eats - no dairy or meat or sugar - and she takes handfuls of supplements.

I noticed that Deirdre was able to tell me her story almost as if it had happened to someone else. She is a positive person, enjoys her life and her routines. The retreat may not have been the best idea for her. She wondered if she had done the right thing, the stress of meeting planes and buses, and of leaving her lovely weather and daily activities - a  morning walk to the marina and a coffee made by a woman who welcomes her and knows her well - for heavy rain and cloud in New Zealand.

It went through my head, 'but how do you live that life and not come out demented?' But, she'd done it. She was a pleasure to talk to and although she was clearly a bit anxious out of her milieu, she was coping fine.

One day, she had a one on one psychotherapy session and after that, she wasn't herself. She told me it had been a mistake.  'Oh?' I offered. 'She wanted to go back to the deaths of the girls. She said that I was holding onto trauma. But, why dig up the past like that? I feel so upset now,' she said.

It's a conversation that stayed with me. I wondered myself, was it indeed such a good idea to go back to the past and dig it all up? I get where the therapist was coming from. We can hold onto emotional pain in our bodies and we do need to process it all, but this was decades ago that these accidents happened. Deirdre was living her life on her own terms. She didn't want to return to the grief of the past and I couldn't blame her for feeling that way. She wasn't in denial about how hard it had been. She just didn't want to relive it in this way.

I listened to a podcast this morning that reminded me of this conversation. Catherine Ingram made the point, why do we need to rummage through the trash of our past over and over? Why not see those unpleasant thoughts as thoughts that will come and go, not requiring us to hold on to any attachment to them? Recognize them, notice them, but not necessarily allow them to disrupt our peace of mind; to derail us from having a relatively tranquil day?

That Deirdre has had a difficult life is most likely picked up by those who interact with her. She is an old looking 72 year old and she grumbles about little things like a much older person. But, given the circumstances of her life she is doing amazingly well.

I can't say that the retreat was a particularly worthwhile experience for her. She had sorted out her life, created a life where her peace of mind was as intact as it was ever going to be. She was a survivor on her own terms.

This leads me to tell you a little about a surgeon who attended the retreat and was deeply curious to learn. He had endured physical pain and depression and he saw the week as an opportunity to learn another way to approach his circumstances. Over the week he shared more and more with me and towards the end he asked me if he should teach his wife about meditation and the spiritual life. He shared that she was a naturally happy and optimistic person, enjoyed spending time in nature, with the children and animals. Nothing really could bring her down.

'Why bother?' I said. 'She has the natural gift of happiness. Let her be.' He nodded his head in agreement.

If you are born with a nature such that you don't particularly like your mind, wouldn't have chosen it, aren't happy about the way it over thinks and stresses, you're more likely to go looking for answers to the dilemma. You might find that BDSM provides you respite, or dancing, or swimming, or meditating, or gardening, or making movies.

Notice when your mind is at peace. Repeat often. There is no one right way.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Searching to return

For all the 'noticing', the self-examination, the determination to provide myself adequate self-love; for all the meditation and mindfulness and attention to the breath; for all the understanding of personality and damage in childhood and odd behaviors that accrue from that; for all the thoughts about karma and why I came into this life as I did, and what lessons there were for me to learn; for all that I have and am grateful for; for all the efforts I put into loving unconditionally and the expressions of love offered to me, there is one thing that refuses to change.

I remain profoundly kinky.

If meditation eases my mind because I am able to reach a peaceful state when meditating, then it is dominance - a combination of will and innate desire - that relaxes my body and empties my mind, leaving nothing but a state of bliss no better or worse than the sacred mindset of a guru.

I am sitting on the top of the mountain, elevated.

Here's the truth: If I were to have access to experiences that led to submissive joy in an even vaguely regular way, I'd never have explored meditation. I would have had a portal into bliss more than adequate for my needs.

I can only guess still at the lessons I am meant to learn in this life, assuming there is indeed Karma and a reason why we are born into the situation we are born, but maybe it has to do with this; wanting something I can't have and needing to find a way around that.

Maybe in this life I am meant to seek out the Sacred in another way, dealing with issues in a past life or preparing for the one that comes after this.

There was a moment at the retreat - somewhat fleeting but very significant - where there was talk of Karma, past lives and the meaning of this life for each of us personally. Maybe, it was suggested, there was a good reason for why we were born into our family, with all the rewards and difficulties of that situation.

After lunch, during free time, I took myself for a walk. It occurred to me, simply entered my mind in the silence and beauty of the landscape, that I might have been a slave or servant in a past life. As I traveled on up the mountain I began wondering if I was a slave or quite the opposite, a Queen. The more I felt into this the more a high ranking position of society seemed the more likely space. It was just a feeling, not an intellectual thought.

If I was a Queen, I thought, perhaps there was something about the submissive life that might be a lesson for a person who had been a Queen. Maybe I'd made decisions that suggested I had lessons to learn on humility. It's a weird line of thought, or feeling state, but that's what happened. Maybe that's why it's all so upsetting to me, to be denied those experiences.

Or, maybe I'm just being entirely selfish about it all. I feel so abundantly happy in a deep state of letting go; feel so light and joyous afterwards, that having been there I am hungry beyond measure to return.

Our 'teacher' at the retreat made a remark over morning tea; that sometimes when a person has an experience of stillness of the still mind - in other words, a state of nothingness; abundant joy, knowing, supreme love, profoundly positive - they can spend their whole lives trying to get back there.

That's me.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


It would be reasonable to expect that on a meditation retreat there would be opportunities for disclosure of difficult thoughts and yet there was really only one conversation where I revealed myself a little or where anyone else dug below the surface.

We were asked to work in pairs on the final morning for a few minutes, each taking turns to talk about any shifts or revelations that had occurred over the week.

I happened to be seated next to David, a very pleasant man around my age who had been open about his thoughts on a number of subjects over the course of the week. When it came to compassion or unconditional love or forgiveness he wasn't of a mind to include psychopaths. No matter what the teacher offered to convince him that all people must be included David held strongly to the view that if you act inhumanely that makes you something other than human and hence not worthy of his forgiveness or compassion. I knew David would listen to me intently but I also knew he wouldn't hold back on his assessment of my words.

I told him I had always operated primarily in my heart space, not my mind space. I had a strong tendency to please, to keep the peace, and to live peacefully. Yet, assessment of my life made clear to me that still some more changes had to be made. Developing a sense of self love this year, I had determined I needed to "give myself permission" to open the gate and walk through to a world where my needs were heard and given some allocation, either by myself or others in my life."

When talking to someone I think there is a tendency to hold closely to the words. I noticed there was a bit of tendency for David to see himself as one up. It wasn't overt. He was polite and kind. Still, I felt one down and I don't always feel that way, hardly ever feel this way in conversation with people other than my husband.

Then, there's the matter of expression in ways other than words. I smile a lot and I giggle a great deal. I tend to offer the other person joy, because that is what I have to offer. I tend to see the quirky side of the world and I tend to have an irreverent Irish sort of humor. It's hard for me to be around people who don't smile much. David doesn't smile. Nor does a girl my age who was there who I had known all my life. It was my friend who pointed this out to me.

It's a strange sort of an observation, a bit unsettling. Here I am with this desire to have my silliness bubble up and find expression and yet I have been married to a serious person all my life. I'm not sure that has been good for me, not allowing my quirky, silly sense of humor to seek the sunshine as often as would be natural to me.

It's interesting to note that when I get with my brother we tend to collapse into laughter at the drop of a hat. We each make other laugh a lot. My mother makes people laugh all the time. Even the day before he died my Dad had the staff of the hospital smiling. 'I'm in more trouble than a pregnant nun,' he said.

Both my youngest sons have the loveliest sense of humors and many times a week they share jokes with me, U tube clips, comedians, silliness. My eldest son is a little different. It's not a daily thing for him but when he lets his hair down he is the silliest of us all.

There are numerous elements to my bimbo identity. There's the undeniable pleasure. Then, there's the arousal response, the letting go response, the satiation of my innate personality; the seeking of joy and total relaxation.

Then, there is the silliness. Before my daughter married earlier this year the happy couple got together with the marriage celebrant and she listened to them talk. At the service she said that my son in law is dependable, rational and reliable; her rock. That's definitely true. She is soft and creative and silly. That's right too. They are polar opposites and he loves that she is silly, that she is creative; emotional where he is rational. They both were attracted to what they did not see in themselves.

I think going forward I need to acknowledge more my own quirky way of operating in the world. I am capable of immense joy. I am so lucky in this way. I can feel intense happiness, peacefulness and love. My cup can runneth over. I need more of that; much more silliness. I need to allow myself expression of my natural delight in being alive. This is an important element of my authentic self.