Reframing

Several years ago, I came to understand that daily prayer, meditation, and reflection bring me a sense of being grounded and at peace.  However, instilling a daily practice takes commitment, perseverance, and work. Again and again, I fail to maintain a routine and regularly find myself in a state of anxiety and far from the presence of God and my inner wellspring of wisdom and strength. When this happens, my focus intensifies on my problems, and I struggle to view life through the lens of gratitude and peace.

This morning, in one of my daily readings, I was struck by a different approach to dealing with problems and gaining inner peace. Rather than being frightened and focusing on the problems focus instead on what has already been achieved and become aware of God’s presence in this doing. In trying this simple approach, I was able to reframe my current challenges and see achievements in dealing with them. In so doing I unexpectedly experienced a sense of inner peace, comfort, and calm.

I am once again reminded that learning is an ongoing journey with struggles and new strategies being steps on the way to growth and inner peace.  

It is my prayer to you and to myself that we be open to listening to and hearing the deep inner voice and the voices of wisdom to be found all around us. Blessing to you this day – Jenny

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Isolation – round two

I could hardly have imagined when I wrote my previous blog entry, just a couple of weeks ago, that I would so quickly find myself isolating at home for another 7 days – this time as a close contact of a loved one who tested positive to COVID.

Until Day 3 of this isolation period, I worked from home and in the evenings watched Netflix, listened to an Audiobook, and found a myriad of things to distract myself from the inner voice of frustration. But something changed within me as a friends generous and loving act shifted me from frustration to embracing this second period in isolation. On learning that I was back in isolation, my friend had texted me to let me know that they were dropping off a selection of books to help keep me occupied. To my utter surprise not only had she dropped off a deeply considered selection of books but also a bag of food and drink with an array of cheeses, biscuits, and other delights. Her generosity and thoughtfulness not only brought tears to my eyes but also gratitude and the reminder that I was not alone in this isolation and was in fact held in love.

Amongst the bag of books, lovingly chosen by my friend, were true treasures including – Richard Rohr’s Just this: prompts and practices for contemplation[1]a small volume with short reflective entries, perfect for providing soul nourishment.

Rohr, in his introduction, titled ‘Awe and surrendering to it,’ writes about contemplation and a seeing that, ‘… is much more than mere looking because it includes recognizing and thus appreciating … The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see but teaches us how to see what we behold. Contemplation allows us to see the truth of things in their wholeness.’[2]

As my time in isolation has progressed, I have reflected on Rohr’s statements on contemplation and opened my eyes to recognising, appreciating, and seeing the truths lying within isolation. Yes, there has been frustration but as I opened to awe at my friend’s gift of love, I have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the reality, ‘… that we live in a fully sacramental universe where everything is a pointer and an epiphany’[3].

May you and I be opento awe, to surrendering to it, to seeing and experiencing its truth, epiphanies, and blessings, oft hidden in plain sight in the unexpected gifts, joys, and challenges of life.

With thanks to Juliet, a ‘pointer’ to a new ‘epiphany.’


[1] Rohr, Richard, Just This: prompts and practices for contemplation (Albuquerque, New Mexico: CAC Publishing, 2017).

[2] Rohr, p. 7

[3] Rohr, p. 11

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Soul care and COVID

This last week has seen me isolating at home for 7 days as I experienced the possible effects of COVID-19 (I am awaiting test results). An unpleasant experience but one which has given me the gift of time to reflect on and practice soul care and its changing nature during the pandemic.

Repeatedly, in my life, I have struggled to maintain regular practices of soul care. Like any habit, unless maintained, soul care can easily slip away. When this happens, I find myself out of sorts, anxious and not coping with daily life. I have often pondered why it is so challenging for me to maintain and learn new ways of soul care? I have questioned my will power and been a harsh critic of self. When I allow self-compassion, I accept that I am human, and that each day offers me new opportunities to begin again to instil the habits of soul care that bring inner peace and the ability to hear and listen to the wisdom of the deep inner voice of God.

COVID-19 has brought with it new challenges and lessons in maintaining my soul care during isolation, lockdown, social distancing and working from home. Pre-COVID, my primary soul care practice was time alone with self and God, away from home, enjoying walks, drives, camping, and time spent in nature. During the initial lockdowns, other than walking the suburban streets around where I lived, I was homebound and unable to pursue my nature-based soul care practices. This was a great frustration to me at first, as I chaffed against the new restrictions on my life and struggled to sooth my soul. In time though something shifted in me as each day I walked the same footpaths and parks in my neighbourhood. Where before I tended to rush past the beauty in my small garden, and in the suburban world around me, now I gradually noticed and was present to creation at my doorstep. In slowing down, being present and open to the gifts hidden in plain sight in suburbia I learnt to let go of frustration and experienced a deep inner peace.

Always a bird lover I became keenly aware of bird song in my street and surrounding parks. Kookaburras, cockatoos, and galahs regaled me both morning and night. The Eastern Koel, on its annual visit south from the tropics, called to me with its haunting mating song thrusting me back to past times spent living in the tropics, providing balm at a time when travels were no longer possible. Often at night I awoke to the call of Mopokes as they sang to each other across the distances and unknown to them evoked warm childhood memories of the young Mopoke family that nested one year in the garden of my childhood home.

During these final days of my 7 days alone in isolation, I have reflected on, and practised lessons of soul care learnt through previous COVID-19 lockdowns. Once again, my physical and social world has contracted, now to within the walls of my home and my garden. Here I have experienced the joy of watching birds feeding on nectar from the callistemon flowers in my garden, enjoyed the sight of summer sunsets and the delight of hearing bird song from early morning until evening. Isolation has seen my life take on a slower restorative pace, drawing me to a fresh awareness of nature in my immediate world seen through the windows of my home, gentling my soul, and enabling me to experience the presence of God in sickness and the limitations and gifts that it brings.

Life is uncertain and my soul care necessary in navigating these uncertainties. I am grateful for the ongoing changes and adaptations that COVID has brought to my soul care practices, repeatedly teaching me to be present to the beauty and presence of the divine in nature no matter how small the view or experience.

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Time Passes

Time as we all well know varies throughout the course of our lives. It moves at a range of speeds, can be grouped into eras, be associated with poignant memories, or blocked into work, rest, play or a myriad of other categories.

As I write now, I am surprised, if not aghast, at the number of years that have passed since I last wrote a blog entry. Where have I been and why haven’t I written? I could simply say that life got in the way or come up with a range of other excuses, but instead what I offer is that life did happen, and it has been quite an adventure. As I recommit to regularly writing blog entries, I hope to share with you my journeys, past and present, though my writings and photos, as I attempt to recognise the Spirit’s movement in my ordinary blessed life.

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Missing in action!

It is so long since I’ve posted on my own blog!

Study, a new job and moving to a new town have all distracted me from the written word – though not from reflection, exploration and photography.

I’m in the process of choosing a new laptop so will soon be back posting. Feeling so excited about writing again – there has been an ache in my heart at its absence.

Till then, blessings and love – Jenny

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The gift of sadness

Recently I came across the writings of Australian author Ailsa Piper who is a writer, actor, producer and teacher.

Her reflection on sadness and the gifts that lie within it (see link below) deeply resonated with me. We so often want to understand immediately the meaning of our thoughts, feelings and life experiences. However, often the gift within requires silence, patient waiting and mindfulness before we can truely receive the lessons that await us.

The gift of sadness

In her ‘Lessons from the lighthouse’, Ailsa demonstrates that objects and places in our lives (in this case a lighthouse) have much to teach us. If we but look with open eyes, mind and soul these objects, places and the world around us will whisper, talk and shout at us lessons that can provide us with perspective and insight, guiding us forward on the journey as we stumble or stride through the here and now of daily life.

Lessons from the lighthouse

Ailsa has written many other articles that are found in newspapers and online journals. Amongst her writing is her first book, ‘Sinning across Spain: a walker’s journey from Granada

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Life is Grace

Source: Life is Grace

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Questioning

Hold the Vision

Hold the Vision

For all of my life I have been a questioner, a ‘why’ and ‘how’ person. I have sought to understand almost everything that has crossed my path, especially other people, human nature, cultures and the meaning of life. This constant ‘why’ and ‘how’ is what drove me to study English and Anthropology at university, to then train and work as a Librarian and a teacher and more recently to work in Mental Health. I have not kept my ‘why’ and ‘how’ questioning to myself, rather I have encouraged and worked with others to assist them to gently ask their own questions, to ponder and grapple with their answers and be open to who they are.

As a Librarian I learnt the skills of how to find information, to organize and use it and to impart these skills to others so that they were equipped to become independent life-long learners able to ask and answer their own ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. As a teacher my goal was to honour and address the whole individual and to teach more than just facts. I worked to assist my students to ask questions as a means to identify and employ their preferred learning styles, their passions, their strengths and areas to develop, to better understand themselves and others, to experience the joy of learning and begin the process of discovering their ‘vocation’ in life. Now as a Mental Health worker I work with clients assisting them to question themselves and identify their strengths, values, and skills to achieve their life vision.

Living a life of purpose and meaning requires me to be open to questions, mine and others and to delight in and accept the oft challenging answers. Daily I spend time in reflection, living in awe of life, holding my vision of the life I want to live now and in the future, holding gently the tension of uncertainty, the not yet knowing or understanding and accepting with gratitude what is. Recently I came across a quote that has become a helpful mantra and guide to me, especially on days where I struggle with what is.

“Hold the vision, Trust the process” – author unknown.

These words assist me to willingly be open to the now, no matter how difficult the process. I embrace this process with joy, holding on to the vision as I continue to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ to better understand myself, what drives me, what doesn’t, to claim my beliefs, values, strengths and fears believing that who I am and all that I experience and learn is part of the journey of becoming more fully the person I am called to be.

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The inner landscape

 

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The inner landscape

Since I was a small child, I have constantly been drawn to landscapes and their “thin places”, places of energy, where the divine is sensed. Here I am called to look, listen and learn, to take on board the truths that these places have to share with me, if only I am attentive. Over the years I have learnt to open myself to these places and their messages, whether the landscape is dry, hot, open gibber plains, inland waterways, remnant rainforests, my back garden or coastal beaches, for each has something to say me. Of all the landscapes that I have had the joy to experience it is Central Australia that has the strongest pull on me, providing me with the most powerful lessons. In the desert I am stripped to the core, open and vulnerable.

‘…being in the desert is … a reduction to a state of authentic existence when all the sham and gloss is removed, leaving only that which is real. ‘Now that I am nothing – I am’ (Brown, 1991).

Here I am opened to my inner landscape or “inner terrain” (Palmer, 1997), my authentic self, called to wait and listen not only to the land but to the still small inner voice that whispers truths to me and calls me to open myself to lessons on the journey.

On leaving Central Australia and moving to the coast I was racked with grief at the loss of the “thin places” that I experienced in the Centre. My grief has since abated, though an ache remains within me for this powerful ancient landscape that taught me so much. I have learnt since leaving Central Australia that this “inner landscape” has travelled with me to the coast, is part of me and is at my core. Now I have found new ways of opening to and travelling in this “inner landscape”, through connecting with other landscapes when I walk or camp in nature, grow vegetables, practise Mindfulness or write in my Gratitude journal about all the small things in life that I am grateful for. Sometimes this “inner terrain” is rugged, teaching me painful lessons about myself that I don’t always want to learn and which at times brings me to tears or even tantrums. At other times my “inner landscape” is balm to a weary soul, nudging me to identify my strengths, values and blessings in life that in turn equip me to travel further along the road.

This “authentic self” calls to me to honour and care for it, to spend time in silence reflecting on and taking care of the condition of my soul, to fed my spirit through time spent in nature, or time with family and friends, laughing, creating and celebrating. Life has taught me that self-care, both outer and inner is never selfish, for without self-care we become drained of energy, blind to our true passions and callings and ultimately we have little to offer others in both our private and work lives.

In my younger years I viewed work as a means to an end. Over time I began to feel empty in the work that I did, often taking days off, or wishing each moment at work away, unable to be fully present to the work at hand. Over time I began to question what was happening to me. I began craving for a job that I was passionate about, was true to my values and was fulfilling. In his book, ‘The Heart Aroused: poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate America’, Whyte (1994) describes the soul as “the indefinable essence of a person’s spirit and being” that can “never be touched and yet the merest hint of its absence causes immediate distress” (Whyte, 1994, p. 13). This is the “inner landscape” our “authentic self”. The absence of soul is “sensed intuitively” although we may not recognize or understand that something is missing or lost or what has caused it (Whyte, 1994, p. 13). Palmer (1997) writes of the importance of knowing our “inner terrain” especially in the work that we do. He invites us to listen to our “inner teacher”, to know our “inner landscape”, to be open to and follow the leadings and nudgings of our heart that lead us to work that provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning. He employs an old Quaker saying, “Let your life speak”, listening to and honouring our “authentic self” and “what it intends to do” with us. Our “inner landscape”, if we listen, tells us about our truths and values (Palmer, 2000, pp. 2-3). This is “vocation”, hearing the call within us, listening to life telling us who we are (Palmer, p. 4) and directing us to our underlying “truer life” that is waiting to be acknowledged (Palmer, p.5). Vocation is the receiving of a gift, receptive to the treasures of true self that we already possess (Palmer, p. 10). Yet as humans we tend to look to others for advice, failing to listen to and attend to our “inner landscapes” and may become lost on the journey.

In today’s world being open to our “inner landscape” and accepting the gift of true knowledge and understanding of self is not easy. We are often called by what others perceive as the standards we ‘should’ live by, distracted by the everyday ‘noise’ and busyness of life, believing that it is unimportant to appreciate the simple things in life, increasingly divorced from the world around us and from our own spiritual nature. In addition we live in world full of fear and negativity, fear of failure, of risk, of death, of a hostile world and most importantly our own insecurity about identity and self-worth (Palmer, 2000, pp. 86-90). How then when we are closed to our “inner landscape” can we face our fears, distractions, our spiritual natures and open ourselves to our “authentic self”? Palmer (2000) reminds us that we are not alone, that although our inner work is personal it is not private and that this work can be helped by being in community, by finding others open to their own “inner landscape”, for we are made for community (Palmer, 2000, pp. 74 & 92). In sharing the journey we learn that we are not alone, that others too have places of fear in their “inner landscape” but that there are also places of hope, trust, beliefs and values (Palmer, 2000, pp. 93-94). In these places we can find a firm footing to move forward on the journey of self-discovery, to undertake our soul work.

Our journey in our “inner landscape” never ends. As Sarton’s poem, “Now I become myself” reminds us this journey to true self takes time (Sarton, 1974, p. 156) and for this we have a lifetime.

Now I become myself
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces …
Now to stand still, to be here …
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant …
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.

May Sarton

May you stand strong on the journey in your “inner landscape”
May you find your “vocation”
May you find your true self
and in finding your true self find peace.
Jenny 25/11/15

 

References

Brown, C. (1991). Pilgrim through this barren land. Sutherland, NSW: Albatross Books
Palmer, P.J. (2000). Let your life speak: listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Palmer, P.J. (1997). The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Sarton, M. (1974). “Now I become myself”, Collected Poems, 1930 – 1973. New York: Norton.
Whyte, D. (1994). The heart aroused: poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate America. New York: Currency Doubleday

 

Parts of this reflection have appeared previously in an essay titled, “Journey to the Heartland”, which formed part of an assessment for a unit in my Master of Educational Leadership, ACU.

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The Good Life Spring 2015 By Ami Hillege

otwaylifemagazine

Now that spring is here, we wait in anticipation for an event that has occurred each year since we came to this little farm in the Otways. It’s swarming season. The bees are on the move.

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It is at this time of the year, if we’re lucky to be home, we experience a swarm. It happens so quickly, that ten minutes later you are non the wiser that ten thousand bees had just exited a hive, drifted around in a big black cloud then found purchase on the branch of an apple tree, about ten meters from the hive. The bees swarm when the hive becomes too populated and a new queen is crowned. There is no place for two queens, so one gathers her supporters and they find a new hive. From that one hive we began with, we now have five.

We like to impress people with the…

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