The Fog of Unworthiness

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”
― Tara Brach.

I have so many times wondered how I could explain/describe the new ongoing course Embodied Presence. Recently as I flicked through my photos I found these 3 which have all been take from almost the same spot. I could see clearly with this visual representation exactly what the course is about.

The lower picture represents our real Self – clear, steady, inside and outside matching. The top two photos represent the trance of unworthiness as Tara Brach call it or as I have renamed it The Fog of Unworthiness- the habits we have lived under that belittle us, make us feel never enough etc.

Habits that keep us small, believing we are not worthy to be loved for who we are and not for what we do. Habits that have great power over how we live our lives as they tend to operate from outside our conscious awareness and are like fog clouding our vision, our hearing, our essential goodness.

Over the course of the year we have been together on Embodied Presence we have been mindfully and consciously getting to know the fog of unworthiness, its function in our lives and now as we come to a close we are exploring how we can find ways to lift the fog and allow our true worthiness to shine forth.

I have loved every minute of planning and teaching this course as I have also lifted my own fog and now can for the first time in my teaching career stand proud of the work I have created. It is a most strange and vulnerable stance and one that I am now ready to honour and embody more and more.

I have felt the tremendous support of the 42 participants -between the 2 courses- and 4 fabulous assistants as we all embarked on the journey into the fog and back out. I know real change has happened and we have built support systems to strengthen these changes.

“Just like me” is the mantra that would sum up this course, as we all realised we have our particular version of the fog and we all have a clear steady presence when the fog lifts. No one was above or without suffering and no one was beyond changing. The combination of movement, mindfulness and neuroscience were the ingredients of Embodied Presence.

I’d like to end with quote from one of the participants:

The course you are designing for us has opened up space for me. In understanding how the mind wires itself I can take more control and be kinder to myself by gaining insight into how the brain becomes. By conscious compassionate movement and mindfulness I can choose to change old redundant patterns, this is a real possibility, not just an idea. The dance adds width and joy and love to this learning and is like adding fertiliser to new tilled land. Thank you for taking this step out into your joy.” S.F.

And I thank all who joined me in that dance and made Embodied Presence possible.:):):)

 

 

We saw a Vision

“We saw a vision”

“In the darkness of despair we saw a vision,
We lit the light of hope and it was not extinguished.
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision.
We planted the tree of valour and it blossomed.
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision.
We melted the snow of lethargy and the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river. The vision became a reality.
Winter became summer.
Bondage became freedom and this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generations of freedom remember us, the generations of the vision. “Liam Mac Uistin

 

A friend of mine sent me this photo with this poem inscribed on it yesterday. She saw it in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin. The Garden of Remembrance is a memorial to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom throughout the last few centuries ending with the memory of the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

I have been pondering over the significance of the timing for the Yes to marriage equality vote yesterday-almost 100 years since the Rising. I am someone who believes in the synchronicity of events and that what occurs outside of us in the external world also is mirrored in our internal world.

With that in mind I’d like to share my musings from the side of my mountain……

I have always had a fascination with history and how so often an event that can have occurred may decades previously can have a mirror-like likeness in the present day.

As the results were coming in on the radio yesterday I began to wonder about Ireland in 1915 and how seemingly unaware the majority of the population where, that life as they had know it, was to change forever. Within the space of 1 year an event spurred on by the a small group of men and women who by the nature of their deeds lit the spark that could not be extinguished until Ireland had gained independence from Britain.

I don’t think this time last year that we could have envisaged the amazing support for the referendum shown yesterday. Again it was like the spark that had been lit by a few dedicated men and women over the past few years fanned into a full blow fire in this referendum. It was like the minority of LGBG people in Ireland found themselves being held and supported by a ground swell of people that truly believed the time for change had come. We could rise up again nearly 100 years later to make another stab at an Ireland whereby all its citizens could be cherished equally and be able to pursue happiness as in the “The 1916 Proclamation:

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally,….”

We saw this weekend that the pursuit of happiness and equality is always changing and we continually need to take into consideration the ever changing nature of life and society. Nothing ever remains the same no matter hw much we wish it would, try to hold on to out dated ways of being or are frightened of change. The nature of life is impermanent -otherwise we would never have the passing of time or the sun rise and sunset on each passing day.

As I look around the world today I see so many conflicts that are based on fear and the desire to “have things the way they were”. Yet I believe as long we personally or societally feed the part of us that craves security and the social order to remain the same we will aways be in conflict internally and externally.

We need to learn from history as in the case of the 1916 Rising. In its aftermath was the War of Independence and the the most vicious war the Civil war. The end result was a divided country. As we celebrate the Yes vote I am aware that there are many people not celebrating as they voted No. I ask myself what we can learn from out history to support us moving into a future where giving minority groups their rights does not take away from the majority but actually enhances each side as we acknowledge our differences and simultaneously move towards healthy, wholehearted integration. Daniel Siegel talks of health and well being, being the “linkage of differentiated parts”.

We can grow and mature through our differences rather than fear and defend against them.

I think unless we can honour differences and relax around them some force will emerge which for me was how the Catholic Church became so powerful in Ireland after independence. They saw the chaos and tried -very successfully for a long time – to put order on this chaos with their rigid unbending and unforgiving version of Christianity. Where anything that even smelled of difference had to be quashed, subjected and beaten down. I was born into such a state and felt the shame in the air of being in any way different from this narrow rigid view of the world.

I thank the gods that somewhere inside me was a spark that every now and again reared its little flames and made me question what kind of society was I living in. Rules were there to be questioned not blindly obeyed.Trust and faith were to be earned through thoughtful debate and life had to have a deeper meaning than a safe secure job, a traditional family and head down until death…..

I think inside all of us moments occur in our lives when the spark of our own internal Rising has the possibility to be lit. When we recognise that the maps we are following are outdated, and are leading us up and down the same old same old pathways or into cul de sacs. Life sends us moments of change and I believe if we have the feeling of deep support from allies, the willingness to commit to the hard work involved in change and the courage of our convictions we can all make those changes- we can all have our own internal war of independence.

Then we have to say awake to the possibility of a civil war between the old parts of us that have to be left behind and the fledgling new parts. The old can often feel they have right and might on their side but that is truly short lived if we keep our attention and hearts focussed on the new shoots and tend them careful and mindfully. The old can wither and become good fertiliser for the new shoots. Thus the integration of the old and the new makes the road forward steadier ad stronger

I hope with patience, kindness, courage and confidence we can let go of the no longer useful parts of our past in this country and forge ahead with a new up to date version of what it means to be Irish. Leaving the old stereotypes behind in our history as we create the version we want- not what we think others want of us.

I hope we can harness this new found energy for equality to continue with the may other areas of inequality in Ireland especially our treatment of asylum seekers- virtually keeping them in “Open Prisons” called direct provision centres. I see today as one mighty step on the road visioned by the people of the Rising, and we have more issues to pursue now. I hope you can join me in getting a ground swell of people to show this government that they are presiding over another shameful episode in Irish life in our treatment of the women, men and especially the children in direct provision centres.Yesterday we achieved equality for one minority now we need to achieve equality for another minority living in the country…

 

Oisín Kelly’s The Children of Lir

What are you feeding in 2015

I heard a story once about a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.”

As many of you know I have been studying much of the neuroscience that has come on stream in the last decade or so and especially how it can enhance our experience of the movement meditation practice. One of the interesting things I have found is how the brain is velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity. This basically means that we are so much more orientated towards the negative and it takes commitment, hard work and a willingness, to orientate towards the positive.

The oldest parts of our brains evolved when survival was the most important thing for our ancestors. When they had to be constantly on alert for danger whether it was in the environment or from other bands of hominids. Therefore the part of our brain that saw others as different from ourselves and to be feared was very well developed. Because of this, our inheritance is, that we are also hardwired for negativity. Although as humans we have the most advanced brain-the neocortex- in that we can imagine things being different, we can pause and notice our impulses. We can plan, pay attention, develop compassion and question our beliefs. In order to use this newest brain to our best advantage we have to own our propensity for negativity and its power to control us, and we need to pay mindful attention to the habits each and everyone of us has to feed the wolf of hate.

I think it is vital now that we each begin to take seriously our ways of feeding the wolf of love. In my mind with all the hate that seems to be circulating around the world at the moment we need to apply our imagination to changing this hardwiring in the same way that we need to take global warming seriously or our grandchildren may not be able to enjoy this beautiful world we live in.

I have always kept in mind Mahatma Gandhi’s saying that “whatever you do may seem insignificant , but it is important that you do it” especially when I feel helpless in the face of so much violence and pain in the world and I become convinced that the wolf of hate is running the show. Although it may seem very little in the big scheme of things, each time we pause, notice what we are doing, which wolf we are feeding (and this also includes hurting ourselves by our thoughts or actions ) we are making new neurological pathways in our brains and making a change in the world. Again to quote Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

I do not believe any one can stand and act as if the wolf of love and the wolf of hate do not live inside each of us. We only have to take the time to look at the parts of ourselves that we project on to others, the parts we disown- the ways we speak about people; the ways we compare ourselves to others and either come up better or worse; the instant and sometimes wrong judgements we make and then operate out of; the ways we put ourselves down; the times we thing we have not enough and need …..when in actual fact we have more than enough; when we deem some people’s lives to be more important than others; when being different is about making the other wrong or less than, or not worthy of equality and on and on……

Some people seem to be feeding the wolf of hate to the point that they are obese with hate these days and thus justify every action they take as there is no room for doubt.

I really believe there is such a thing as “healthy doubt”. By this I mean taking a moment to really notice the direction I am heading. To become interested in what I am about to say or do and to have enough space between my actions to ask the question -Which wolf am I feeding?

This may seem like curtailing my spontaneity, but I don’t believe that. At first like the creation of any new habit it will seem odd, awkward and unfamiliar. Yet what we know about creating habits tells us that some day it will become the norm, the familiar. We will have learned to pay mindful attention to how we live and will be taking full mature responsibility for our action and speech and the consequences of them. We will be well on the road to feeding the wolf of love, of kindness, of justice, equality and true happiness.We will learn to use our great skill of empathy to feed compassion both for ourself and others. Right action can become more the norm and we will openly own when the wolf of hate, criticism, jealousy, fear is rearing its ugly head in our actions.

Maybe this may seem like utopia. Even so I believe if we do not strive for such life on this earth now we will be offering our beautiful earth and the great beauty of being human to the wolves of hate to eat and destroy. I do not want the latter part of my life to be oriented in that direction. I’d rather do insignificant things than do nothing, or say nothing.

I will end using the powerful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh-

 

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

 

Wonder

I am just back from my morning cycle. The nip was in the air signalling the change in the weather. We have now entered the time of late autumn. As I cycled I took the time to look around me and in that simple act I felt myself filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude for the day. And I remembered it is Mental Health Day today. I felt compassion for all the people who in this moment would not be able to see what I was seeing all around me – the mist rising from the lake, the moon shining bright and strongly over the 12 Bens Mountain range, the sun colouring the eastern sky with deep orange and pink through the grey clouds, a calf sucking milk from its mother, teenage lambs nestled into their mothers before rising for the day, all quiet as the drama of a night changing to day unfolded.

I could see all this as my mind was quiet and steady. I have known many days when this scene would have been invisible to me as my mind would have been heavy with pain and sadness. When none of my senses would have been available to see, hear or smell what was happen around me. Where my mind would have been stuck in a loop from the past or a loop planning the future way out of the present moment’s pain.

I felt a deep sense of gratitude that change is a feature of life and that things can and do change. I felt the good fortunate that I had had the structures in place to help facilitate the change to be positive.

I live in a (usually) very windy place and it is hard to grow anything delicate or with petals as the wind whips them away . A few years ago I planted a hedge on one side of my garden in the hope that it would provide some shelter for flowers to grow. I also planted a rose bush (totally unbeknownst to myself as I cannot remember doing it, I have to admit) just in front of the hedge . This summer I had the great pleasure of watching it bloom and provide me with something I never thought possible in my garden – a beautiful red rose unfolding fully 🙂

I studied its growth each day and realised that all the things needed to blossom were in place-protection from the hedge, support from a strong stem, nutrition from good soil and sufficient water. It did not need to use its resources to fight the wind or storms, instead it could use everything to fully become itself. I though such a great lesson for life. When all our resources are lined up to support our mental and physical health we can fully become who we are meant to be caring, compassionate, joyful human beings. But when we have to use all our resources to defend against our demons whether internal or external it is impossible to be fully vital and well.

So today I am grateful that my own internal resources where in a positive mindful state of mind this morning to allow me to appreciate the wonder that was made visible all around me as I cycled. And I will cherish it on behalf of all the people in the world today whose mental health issues cannot allow them to feel this wonder right now…….

“are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?”

 

Oceans

I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing.

And nothing happens

Nothing . . . Silence . . . Waves . . .

Nothing happens?

Or has everything happened,

and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan R. Jiminez translated by Robert Bly

 

I have lately been reflecting on the nature of change. Looking at change as a wave, with a starting point,a heading towards the top of the wave to the point of real change and then the far side of the wave where the new way of being takes root. I often notice how much time and effort, information and encouragement is concentrated on the change taking place yet there seems to be so little around when the actually change emerges. As if a taking for granted that we have gotten what we wanted so now get on with it happens…… Yet I believe the changed way of being needs as much encouragement, effort and time in order to be truly embodied in every fibre of our being,………

what is it actually like as” we stand now , quietly in the new life?

For real sustainable change to take root it is not easy,even if it is what we want or need. The change needs to be nurtured, cared for and supported otherwise it can wither away. The new way will involved a different way of thinking and feeling about life; it will involve different ways of moving in the world, different ways of relating to our friends, family and the wider world. It can be hard, lonely and tough to maintain, especially if the “outside” world is used to us in a certain way and we no longer conform to the old patterning and the new patterning is not fully and strongly in place.

It is a delicate, vulnerable moment, the transition……a moment for great kindness and compassion as the seeds of resilience take root. A time worth being fully present to with awareness and mindful attention. It will set the habits of the new patterning, creating the neural pathways in our brain that will support the change and give us the courage to keep moving forward into the “new life”….

Opening my eyes…

If we could see the miracle of a single flower, our whole life would change.

The Buddah

Have you ever found yourself knowing something cognitively, being able to understand it and talk about it quite abstractly and then in a light bulb moment  you know it in your body, an embodied understanding of your thoughts???

Well I had that a short while ago in relation to the constancy of change. I have intellectually know that  change is always happening and I often talk about changing,- the need for change, wanting to change, wishing things would not change etc.  Yet feeling it in my bones only comes every now and again. I was walking on the west coast recently – the first time since the storms. The changes in the landscape were dramatic. Beaches with mini cliff faces as parts of the headland had been swept away, fencing dangling in mid air as the land holding it in place had disappeared, fields covered in stones from huge deposits left in tthe wake of massive  waves,and seaweed hundreds of yards inland from the water’s edge.

I was taken aback by the dramatic changes that the sea and the storms had wreaked on the coastal landscape. As I continued wandering the coastline I was reflecting on the way change can be forced on us by dramatic events and how often we only see change in these big events. A few days later I was cycling on a lovely sunny wind free day (a rarity in Connemara) when I noticed I had my head bent,  eyes on the road and my mind mulling over the changes at the beaches. With that awareness I lifted my head and for the first time in ages I really looked around at the fields, rivers, and mountains of my almost daily cycle. I was truly taken aback at the amount of yellow to be seen, the daffodils, primroses, dandelions and gorse were  like beacons of light in the green landscape. It seemed as if they had appeared overnight. I realised that the landscape had been quietly changing all around me as Spring  had arrived. Winter and the dramatic storms were gone for now . The quiet constant change of life flowing by was  mirrored by the arrival of the primroses, yet I was so absorbed in the big changes that I had lost the awareness of the changes happening around me on a daily basis.

I realise that a lot of time in my life I have waited for or wanted a big change to occur and in the waiting or wanting I have completely missed the change going on all the time. I sense this has happened in my new approach to the work. I have been quietly studying the ever expanding knowledge on the brain and matching the research on mindfulness with what I have seen happening on the dancefloor over 20 years. As I have added a little shift here, a snippet of information there; a curiosity about a movement or a different way of paying attention; unbeknownst to me my approach, my interest and my enthusiasm have been changing.

I have presented a taster of the way I wish to work in my last few workshops and have received delightfully positive feedback. I have the sense of awaking from a trance of not being good enough in my work to feeling really proud of the new focus and all the background work that has gone into this change. In my mind it is a big shift as I feel so at home, genuinely at ease with the approach. I feel like a confidence crepted into my bones under the radar of my ever critical ego. It took root, spread wings and is now supporting me to experience a change I never really thought would happen. I never really believed that I would get to a place  of ease in my work in this life. I kinda thought that was for another time and this time was to be a constant nagging dis-ease within myself- as in the “could do better”….mantra ringing in my ears forever…….

Now I sense I have finally “come of age” in myself and most imporatnatly in my work. Work is and has always been a very important part of my life. At times it has been my saviour as having workaholic tendancies I can get immersed in it when things get rough, use it to keep me away from myself and others. But I truly never thought a time would come when I could put my hand on my heart, look another in the eye and say yes I have done my best and am now enjoying  the fruits of my labour!

I feel such an excitement about the possibilities of change no matter how intrenched we are in our habits. I feel like living proof to myself that very stuck ways of thinking and being can be changed. That we can release ourselves from the grip of the past and come into the present moment  with courage, confidence and resilience in mind and body.

I sense I can truly agree with the Dalai Lama when he says “The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life. Through a difficult period you can learn; you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problems.”

Like the daffodils and primroses that have the courage and resilience to put their heads above the earth and wholeheartedly blossom, even if the weather is not always be kind to them, I feel ready to stand up and embrace the change that has occurred wholeheartedly.

 

The Mapmaker

Whilst recently walking some of the coastline of Connemara I was struck by the changes that had occurred to the landscape after the big storms of late December /early January. Roads that had been there a few weeks perviously were gone, others had holes that made driving them very dodgy. Beaches had acquired different shapes. Rock and boulders that had been in one area last time I walked the beaches were now in a totally different arrangement. There was a visible sense that something had been changed by the storm. I was thinking that if someone had been sent to map out the west coastline in early December and another was sent in early January they would have two different maps to record. Some things had changed utterly.

I began to reflect on maps and mapping and remembering all the different maps I have seen of Ireland over the centuries. Some of the very old ones seem such a strange image of the island as we know it now. And even these days I keep needing to buy an up to date map yearly as we have radically changed the road system. Many times I have followed an old map and found myself driving on roads not recorded on the map in my hand! It has led to many a driving adventure 🙂

One of the most interesting terms I have come across in the Sensorimotor Developmental Training Course I am participating in this year is “The Mapmaker”.  I was quite blown away when I came across it recently as it coincided with my reflections on our changing landscape. The idea is that we make “maps” of our experiences when very young in life in order to make sense of the environment we are born into. and then we live our lives out of those maps. They are the internal landscape of our lives with the roads, mountains, valleys, rivers,seas and oceans of our experiences mapped on them. It got me curious about the maps we all live out of and wondering just how up to date they really are?

I was thinking of some of  the seemingly unsurmountable mountain ranges in my map ,that I did actually manage to climb them yet I act sometimes as if  they were still recorded as “unsurmountable”. Roads that belonged to my childhood sometimes have the look of a three laned highway  instead of a well worn track that leads to the same dead end no matter how many times I try to convince myself it will be different this time. How often I do not see that the boulders of my internal coastline have been washed away in one of the many storms and I keep  needlessly looking for  them or mourning their loss or not seeing the new possibilities their absence can afford me.

I believe Life is always offering us the opportunities whether wanted or not to continually update the maps of our lives. Death and birth are two very strong opportunities for map changes as are new job opportunities, retirement, travel, new friends, losses, ageing, accidents, illness etc.

Life offers us the opportunities to update our psychological map from being a child to being an adult. We do get moments to see the maps we have been living out of and to notice what needs updating. I believe this updating can happen with good support. If you think, the map if Ireland could only be updated with the use of new techonology -it has supported a more up to date view of the world.

Gabrielle always spoke of the 5 Rhythms in terms of maps of different landscapes with endless possibilities of investigation. I sense within each workshop , class or ongoing group I have taught that we are on an adventure of continual discovery, learning more and more about the maps of our lives and the potential to update them regularly. To enjoy seeing the landscapes we inhabit and to take the chance to travel to new more unfamiliar ones with each dance we participate in: opening to a different lakeside view, to a different angle of a mountain, to a quiet stream on a sunny day, to the wind sweeping away  the old debris stored in the corner of the back yard, to the warmth of the sun as you swim in a new ocean,endless possibilities for change.

My aspiration for my work this year and especially the Ongoing course Embodied Presence is that we will have supportive opportunities to see with true self compassion the  internal maps we have been working out of  and begin to strengthen  a more balanced updated map of our worlds.  For example, those of us that have the “not enough” map ruling our world we will find the changes in the landscape that support “being enough” map to come to the fore. I hope we can learn to look with kindness and fondness at the old map – like the way we can look at the old maps of Ireland-, appreciating that that was the best map at that time in life and it has also been changed by life and we may need to bring ourselves up to date.

I’d like to end with this lovely poem I came across in my “mapmaking search”.

The Mapmakers

This day has found something 
almost forgotten,
faded maps in my father’s attic, 
covered with years and dust.
His steady hand drew these maps, 
places he knew, places he had lived 
and those he imagined, 
but the only land he was unable to map
had its own remorseful measure.Nothing seems as compelling now 
as to trace their lines and symbols,
to circumscribe the compass rose 
with searching fingers, north to east, 
south to west and back to north once more.He had feet that adored the earth, 
self-taught hands that sifted soil and planted seeds 
that took deep root and grew straight and strong, 
but my young head was always lost in the stars,
in tortured awe of Armstrong and Aldrin, 
of Eagles landing on windless, tranquil seas 
and footprints into the unknown.
We were as alien to each other
as the planets orbiting those distant suns
that I had loved and named, one by one.
He was unable to chart my terrain 
or my choice of paths, 
though I know he must have tried.The distance between us
was often too great to hold in the hand;
maps failed us, but, oh– how they remind me 
of the same journey we took on different roads!
Ever-widening explorations of life and love
beginning from origins unknown, they oddly
discovered they same destination within the heart.
Now, I must gather up his light and shadow,
the disciplined workings of his practical mind,
his precisely drawn earth and let the stars 
grow farther, still. They are not yet mine, 
but I find myself wishing on them 
with all that I am.The sun finally falls for certain,
reminding me where I am. 
To the east, autumn flows cold 
from the cup of a crescent moon, 
and with a nostalgia of movement,
I pull on my father’s well-worn jacket 
and walk out into the newly born night. 
By nature, I look up and those far away suns 
are there, patiently waiting
to be mapped by my own hand.
I am undone without regret as love demands
of all good daughters and sons at the passing
and though my sky still keeps its place,
between the stars and earth 
and a father and child, 
there suddenly seems 
as if there is no distance 
at all.

© Melinda Kemp Lyerly.

The politics of dance….

 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

 

Like so many millions of people around the world I have been reflecting on Nelson Mandela and his role in my life. I first heard of Nelson Mandela when I moved to Cork over 30 years ago as a young teacher. I became a member of the One World society in UCC and there I received the beginnings of my political -with a small p- education.I was introduced to the Anti-Apartheid Movement and began to hear of people like Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, I learned of the atrocities of the apartheid regime hand in hand with a true awaking to the massive inequalities of this world we all live in.

I learned to go shopping with 2 lists in my hands – one the items I wanted to buy and two the names of companies to boycott- it led many times to having an almost empty basket at the check out. I remember the Dunne’s Stores boycott and being on the picket line at times when I visited Dublin, as well as not shopping there for years after.

This politicisation had an effect on my teaching. I was a Home Economics teacher and it began to dawn on me , -far from being the second class subject it was so often seen as,- this subject had the potential to be truly political. I saw food as the most political of all issues in the world- who has or has not access to good, healthy reasonably priced food. With that in mind I took a year off to do Development Studies in Kimmage Manor, Dublin with the intention of returning and adding the politics of food to my teaching schedule. I never got back as my life took off in a totally different direction and I began to work in a project in Dublin’s north inner city.

I was introduced to the idea that The Personal is Political. This was my opportunity to bring the many strands of my life together as I had already trained in Social and Health Education whilst in Cork. ( Cork has a lot to answer for in my personal and political development). I began to work with great people who encouraged me to design and facilitate personal development and development education courses. It was a challenging and exhilarating time in my working life as the participants on the course all knew at first hand the inequalities inherent in Irish life and were well able to make the connections with peoples of so called underdeveloped countries.

I can remember well the day Mandela was released and the joy, delight and hope that was all around. I was part of the thousands who lined Dame St to hear him talk on his first trip to Ireland. I read his book The Long Walk to Freedom.

As I reflect on this man and what he was asking of his own country and the world: to treat everyone equally, to forgive, to challenge the status quo,to have courage and speak out……… I think in our own individual lives these are the things we must ask of ourselves personally if we are ever to have just society. He had 27 years to learn to be with himself, to get to know himself well and to see what he needed to change within himself to become in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “…….. be the change you wish to see in the world” .

He had the time to build strength and resilience in order not to allow the regime he was under to turn him into a bitter vengeful man. He learned to thrive within his limitations and most importantly to make peace with himself. I truly believe until we make peace with ourselves and our circumstance we can never have real peace around us. A peace full of justice, equality, challenge, vitality and humour.

All of this led me to take my own personal journey to find strength, courage, resilience and compassion within myself and for myself. To travel through many years of internal darkness where hope seemed to have abandoned me, where I often felt that the lights had gone out and I was groping in the dark for some way through. As time went on candles began to light my way until I was ready to embrace ” our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is out light not our darkness that most frightens us…..” by Marianne Williamson

The decision to teach the 5 rhythms was taken from a place of intuitively knowing that movement was the at core of our being. For me movement is political -just like food had been that way for me years previously. I believe that giving people the space to reflect, to get to know our habitual patterns, to awaken from the trance of unworthiness that so many of us carry around inside is the first step on the path to freedom. The freedom to value our own selves and hence the freedom to value all the people, all the animals and plants, and this planet we live on. I believe when we are reconciled with ourselves and with the internalised oppressed and oppressors we all carry around inside, we can tackle wth courage the external oppression in a mindful and courageously compassionate way.

These last few days as I have listened to and read much media coverage of this great man, I believe he showed us ways to find the best in ourselves. Not the perfect self as I am old enough to appreciate that Mandela was not perfect but he was a true leader in the way he showed us how we can change, we can grow, we can learn to forgive, to have humour and we can learn to move…..

Encouragement; in courage; with courage; with heart

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

Hi there, greetings from Connemara on the first of the real stormy days of winter. It is beautiful to see the sea heaving with the huge waves it’s throwing up, to watch the grey clouds scuttling across the sky and last night to witness the mighty electrical storm as the thunder roared overhead and the bedroom was regularly lit up with flashes of lightening. After a summer and autumn of quiet, warmth and lots of sunshine the suddenness of the storm woke me to the fact that things change no matter how much I want them to stay the same. And also to a huge sense of gratitude for the beautiful summer we had, where being outside required little or no effort.

And somehow or other I found the word encouragement going round and round in my mind. Encouragement to gracefully allow the change to happen, encouragement to put on the rain gear and venture out in the wind and rain, encouragement to orient my mind from wishing I could hold on to the “summer” for longer and appreciate what the “winter” may hold.

As I mulled over the word I began to think of the importance of encouragement in our lives. I began to break down the word -encourage, in courage, with courage , with heart…..

I remembered many of the people who had offered words of encouragement to me over my lifetime to date, from the first encouragement to cycle my bike without the stablisers , to fall off and get back up again until I sensed my own steadiness and then the freedom of cycling on my own ; the hand on my back supporting me to go forward at times when I felt the effort to be too much; the encouraging silence of really being listened to; the encouragement to take the risk to train and teach the 5 rhythms; the lighthearted humor of some dear friends who helped me see the chronic madness of some of my very dysfunctional ego parts 🙂 🙂

And now having finally had my back operation (very successfully) to find the encouragement value in the notion of “rest” being as important in recovery as activity.

As someone who is continually active the idea of rest has always had a tricky edge. Yes I can collapse after a days of constant activity – then I “deserve” it, but the notion of resting being active rather than passive is taking quite a lot of internal and external encouragement on my part and of those tasked with the “tough” task of getting me to listen to my body before it starts screaming…..an awful admission for someone constantly asking people to listen to the voice of their body 🙁 🙁 ( thank the goddesses I have done a lot of work on my sense of shame at not being able to perfectly adapt to every situation!!!!!)

The voice of rest is vey quiet in my repertoire of internal voices so it needs a lot of courage to speak up in a steady voice without having to resort to screaming at me…..I have a sense that I am developing “new” eyes to view the importance of Rest, so that I can recover well. I have had fun experiences of being driven around (as I cannot drive or sit upright in a car for 6 weeks) watching the tree tops, the clouds in the differing skies, noticing the birds on the telephone wires and arriving at my destination from a completely different perspective…., noticing ceilings and the different comfort of surfaces supporting my back.

Two of the most influential beings who are teaching me the positive qualities of rest are my two kitties Milly and Joey. They seem to have their antennas out for any moves I make towards the sofa. When I am in place they each arrive from somewhere , hop up, look for a rub before settling themselves down either beside me or on top of me. As they settle themselves without any fuss to rest and sleep I sense my body relaxing to the sounds of their purrs. I know from my brain study that all 3 of us are communicating on a deep brain level under all thinking to an old brain shared by all mammals and humans. I actually derive warm encouragement that what they do best and with such grace – rest- is of great importance to me in my life right now.

Again my eyes are opened to a new way of accepting encouragement. I believe we grow and flourish though encouragement whether we are days old or nearing our life’s end and all in between. Encouragement can quieten negative voices inside, it can allow us to feel safe and supported as we take risks, it is the fertiliser of blossoming and becoming the best version of ourselves.

Today may you feel the encouragement of another and may you be the encouraging person in the life of another.

 

What a difference a day makes……

I woke this morning to the sound of silence  and realised there was no wind blowing outside. Through the cracks in the window blinds I could see  what seemed like sunlight. I got up to check and lo and behold  I was greeted by a vast blue sky and bright sunshine. I could hardly believe my eyes as I have become so accustomed to grey skies and mist covered mountains these last few months 🙁   I also felt  a deep  blessing well up inside me as I had nowhere to drive to today, I could be at home in the mountains taking full advantage of this beautiful day.

As I stood outside my front door looking down on Lough Inagh as it glistened in the morning sun I felt  the cool of the morning air on my skin and and the beginnings of moments of warmth from the sun.

I donned my cycling gear and headed of on my usual circle for the first time in months not having to battle strong winds, or be soaked to the skin with rain or mist. I could actually cycle with my head up  feeling the sun on my face. As I rode up my mountain road I could see the fullness of the Maumturk and Twelve Bens mountain ranges. I even saw Mweelrea the highest mountain in Connaught  as it displayed its quirky shaped top. The shadows  and light reflections in the lake were a delight to behold. And I realised how much I had missed  the blue sky and the warmth of the sun these last months. Although I do try to practice gratitiude for whatever turns up I did feel a  gratitude that ran a little deeper for this beautiful day amd made the decision to be present to as much of it as I possibly could. So I did what I have been longing to do for months moved all my work, -books, notes and laptop outside and spent all day in  the sun and quiet.

As I sat on my swing watching the sunset in a blaze of pink and grey I gave thanks for having had the presence of mind to make my intention for the day to be present, to experience as much as I could of this glorious day and to not fast forward to hoping it will last . Now I feel a sense of  peace  and a spacious inside  and a deep regard for the power of the sun to lift my spirits. So as the song says: “what a difference a day makes , just 24 little hours……”