Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 A year of giving

Of all my children, at some point in their lives they have had the painful experience of having to deal with grief & loss, too many lessons in fact at times they should have gone to bed dreaming more of wish lists and fairytales, what they wanted to be when they grow up, instead of attempting to process how something so painful could be so real, wondering what as adults many never cease asking...when will it stop!

As part of these experiences they've participated in the 'Seasons' program at school, a concept of life being a process of seasons; with everything beginning and ending.  Life being a part of summer, a winter, an autumn, a spring. A time for living, a time for dying, for waiting, for joy.  A season destined with a process of change, for without it there would be no life, we would have no seasons, there would be no symbiotic relationships, no connections, we would all cease to exist.  Instead we do, we exist by our constant interaction with each other, as we begin, we live and life ends.
I entered into to 2012 already stuck an the approaching winter storm.  The gorgeous Australian sun was beaming outside and on the inside we were battening down the hatches. We held our breathe until the storm passed, til the shaking stopped, the noise quietened and waited for winter to begin.  Life is like that, one winter after another, one storm after another. There are days when it seems life has been just that, one long winter. We wait patiently, some make a great fuss about having to stay safe during those cool months, years even, for the moment when 'this too shall pass', we become frustrated, angry, inpatient.
Life is;  there is a time for beginnings, a time for endings, a time for waiting.

I took the time hauled up indoors to keep focussed on the end of winter, I pulled out the 'bucket list' that has kept me alive through every event.  Something so simple as a list of dreams, a list of hopes, of imagining a life other than where I am right then at that moment. It was never called the bucket list back then, it was one of those catalyst moments when you realise dreams are what keep us going forward, they give us hope, they help us grow, aide our change.  As a pre-school teacher many years ago I encouraged children to dream and dream big! I mean what is the point of dreaming who you would be when you grow up if you can't imagine yourself being anyone other than who you are right now.
Somewhere in between preschool and adulthood I noticed the need and greed creep in slowly and consistently.  To prevent it as parents we need to make conscious decisions to foster our children's dreams, to believe in their hopes, to enhance every aspect of their growth. For those who don't have a bucket list or need one, how incredibly inspiring and fortunate. It isn't for everyone, nor should it need to be.  For me there were times when no one called, no one visited and everyday blended into the next; when I looked up to the heavens and said I will not attend one more funeral, I want the next time I enter a church to be a christening, a wedding, a celebration; believing I had unfinished business with life, my foot stuck in the door preventing it from closing, something as simple as a list of tasks, of moments I would love to  experience allowed me to keep going.  I really didn't know when winter would end, so I kept writing my list, I held my breathe and waited for the season to exhale.  Yet to be honest, human behaviour is so predictable that the trajectory of people without dreams, without hope, without belief in themselves or the capacity to change, to learn and to grow, to become a better human being, is pretty clear as all things in nature stagnate. So whilst you may sit there and say I don't need dreams, I don't need hope, I don't need to change; we are not an island. We either change with the seasons or we cease to exist.
I call it waiting for the winter to end, as it seems to be like a ride coming to the final stop; so whilst I call it waiting, it is one hell of an experience in between. It would be ignorant to see waiting as a form of non-participation in life, to see it as allowing others to give you a hand out rather than a hand up, as if waiting is a non-compliance with life.  I strongly advocate positive thinking, staying focussed on your dreams, creating goals for wishes (otherwise a wish will remain a dream), yet the same basic road rules we learned as a child, stop, look, listen, think, applies for every decision you will make.  Waiting is an opportunity for you to stop, look and ask yourself where are you, where do you want to go, what is the impact of you crossing this street, on yourself, on everyone around you; listen to your voice, the voice of others, to the sounds of approaching traffic and over all the noise, listen to your heart; think about stepping off that path in a rush to cross the metaphorical street into spring or summer, are you ready?

Whatever you choose, this is your life, there is a path, one for your neighbour, your friend, your children, your parents, your siblings, everyone and there is only your path. So chose it wisely.

The Mayans hadn't predicted the end of the planet as we know it, why no one ever considered they may have just been short on stone tablets that day is beyond me! The Mayans hypothesised life as having beginnings and endings; a season of growth, of change, of re birth, of new beginnings. What we choose to do with those beginnings will determine the ending, the life in between, the joy, the peace, the happiness, the death. Calendars are another way of constructing a season, a beginning, another end, with man days in between.

For too long humanity has been focussed on need and greed, on wanting more and giving less.  Of taking to the point of generating a drive of consumerism so great we disrupt the seasons of the Amazon, we erradicate species from the face of the planet.  Whether you believe in global warming or not, there is no denying the destruction of humanity on the natural environment in every corner of the globe. As we take more and more from the very living force which sustains our own lives, we de stabilise the very balance of our existence, to live alongside all living things, with each other.

You may think you are just one person, how could you possibly effect something occurring on another continent? So let's take one product, say chocolate for example.  The bulk of chocolate is sourced from cocoa plantations on the West Coast of Africa, some is Fair Trade, yet even then there are no guarantees.  Most of the chocolate we eat has been hand picked by children as young as 6 or even younger; stolen, abducted from their families, told their parents have died or surrendered them into the care of their captors, forced into slave labour to hand pick the cocoa beans which produce the chocolate consumers demand a need for. Without the need there would be no greed.  We produce the need.

You name it, we produce it by how we purchase, how we take, what we fail to give back.  Over fishing our oceans (I mean Queensland has some of the best Barramundi on the planet, yet we are sourcing it from Vietnam?), over clearing our forests, over mining our shores.  I am not suggesting we cease using our resources, yet to the point of leaving a legacy of devestation for our children, a crap load of mess is our legacy? What kind of evolutionary process is this? That is not an evolved race!

It is on these massive scales of selfishness and greed, which trickles into the home, into each person, each instrument of change that the most basic of growth occurs.  It is our inability to step off our paths, to be the force of change, to say this is not good enough, I will not take for granted the air I breathe, the heart I've been given, the life I have. I will make a conscious decision to continue to grow, to change, to be a force of nature, to share my gifts, to dream big, to give back, to stop taking! I will step up and take responsibility for who I am and where I am going.

Life is balance. A balance of nature, a balance of living/dying, happiness/sadness, seasons are a process of balance.  When you stagnate in the suffering, the pain and the hurt, you upset your balance, your balance upsets those around you, those around you upset the universal balance.  You drive the demands of your life, the needs around you, your words, your actions, your beliefs, opinions, how you share with others, give to others, what you give to yourself, it is YOU, it was always YOU.

What if you stopped taking? What if you dipped your toe in the water of change and created a ripple by simply giving back.  Accepting that who you are right now at this moment, you are a part of every person and every event before you. What if you accepted yourself as part of life's balance. What if you discovered your passion, what makes you tick and you gave yourself to it.  What if you woke up and realised it won't matter how many cars you have, how big your house is or bling on your body, without a sense of balance for yourself, you will forever seek to fill an empty space only you can resolve. What if you finally realised love has nothing to do with possession, in telling others how to live their life, in making partners, children, family go without so you feel more fulfilled, what if you stopped taking from everyone around you and started to give back, unconditionally, completely. What if instead of wanting a friend, you were a friend. What if instead of expecting your children to be better, you expected yourself to be a better parent. What if instead of demanding someone love you, you loved someone so completely, so unconditionally, you didn't need their permission to do so.

Life is love increases our sense of balance in life, then love is the stabilising force.  It is a human word and construct, it applies to no other species, we call love anything we want to possess, to own, hang on to.  Yet how can that be love, the very essence of something which is good, selfless and unconditional.  It is not. It is not anger, violence and taking. Like a tight rope walker as our balance in love wobbles from side to side, we try to straighten up by leaning on committment, loyalty, pieces of paper like marriage, on material possessions, even on our children.  We blame everyone and everything around us for our lack of love, our unbalance in life, for our hurt, our pain, our suffering.  Some go to extraordinary lengths as to compete with others as to who has suffered the most, who has it the hardest, who has walked the most miles. We keep throwing things on either end of the balancing pole, hoping that when we get it right, we will find balance.  Don't you get it!

Only one person on the rope at one time! This is your path, your balancing act, the only true force of balance is an empty pole, one foot in front of the other, you with a clear head, heart and soul, from one end to the other, the beginning to the end. You don't add to the balancing act, you give back! Take all that crap off your pole!!!! Take off the material issues weighing you down. Stand naked in all your entered the world in, ask yourself are you ready, are you in the shape you need to make it through winter, to cross this tightrope, are you giving it all you've got!

You cannot force love, you cannot make it, create it, bend it, hold it.  You can give it! Give it unconditionally, share it, spread it, be it. You are your own balance.

You cannot continue to take from others, from humanity, from the planet and not expect that your taking will upset the balance of life.

“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

You cannot love without loss.  There will be winters, the seasons will change, go with it, don't resist, don't try to force it, hold on to it or grip it like it's the last chance you will have. Sometimes you need to feel the unbalance, to remember to listen to your breathe, quieten the mind, connect with your heart and centre yourself. Winters are part of our process of balance in life.  There would be no rainbows without both sun and rain. These events do happen and they will, people will come and go, life will happen.  There will be times of unbalance and times of stability, never stop breathing. Take all life has in and breathe out all that is unnecessary.  Give back to yourself, clear your mind, your lungs, nurture your body, heal the soul.

What if in 2013, you took this opportunity to give yourself to others, to yourself; by starting with nurturing the very gifts you have taken for granted. If you started to appreciate every blessing, every friend, family member, every task before you.  What if by the very process of changing your attitude towards life you created a ripple across your life in abudance. If instead of focussing on others need to change, you changed yourself and by doing so, all around you began to change.

The other night after a few extremely nice wines, trying to stay off a winter chill :) I pulled out my bucket list and with the help of a few volunteers who shall remain sworn to secrecy and nameless, I sent it out there to the universe, it had started to feel like this winter had developed into hibernation and it was time to put a little sun on those seeds of change.  I had unconsciously already started without knowing to put one foot in front of the other, one by one I was removing the weights holding me down, challenging my sense of balance. Not until I looked at the list did I realise it made complete sense why my yoga had improved, my sense of balance restored and the frost was lifting. I was lighter physically, mentally and I was working on the spiritual.

For a long time it  was as D'Souza had stated, "it seemed like life was about to begin", about to.  Stop, listen, think! This is my life, the winter, the seasons of change, these are my forces of change. I could try to resist or I could go with it, be part of the living force that gives us life and takes it away. I could step into everyday in better condition than the day before or refuse to get out of bed. Damn right I was checking off the top most challenging traumas in life and why break a good record now! So everytime you get knocked down it hurts a little more, your body aches a little longer and you need to lay there a fraction more, that is life. Get up! There is no view from down there! Have you ever seen a whale off shore as you bask in the sun during a yoga session on the beach? Get up!

Twelve months ago I could barely cross my legs let alone consider the bakasana. I thought inversion therapy was putting more ice in my drink, never could have possibly conceived the practice of placing my heart higher than my head could create such a ripple of change and a sense of balance. I dreamed of being the same size one day as I was when I finished school (didn't appreciate what I had then either!) let alone go past this and end up sharing a wardrobe with my daughter (I draw the line at cut off denim studded shorts though!!). Yoga has become part of my life, it is my balance barometer and as I salute the sun I am made aware of surrendering to the daily inbalance, the winter, the autumn, the summer and the spring.  It isn't a religion, it isn't something you have to do.  It's a choice.  Seeking balance in life is a choice.  To celebrate what is and what isn't. To breathe in and let it out.  In 2012 People came into my life with skill, with amazing ideas, creativity, friendship and love.  I rediscovered friendships, I found myself. I didn't need to dig too far, it was there all along, I just learned to silence it whilst I was busy getting on with life? People changed who I was 12 months ago and nurtured who I am today. They believed in me and reminded me to believe in myself, to never ever give up.

I learned this year to let go of holding on and start embracing more; I've always known love is not something you steal, take or borrow, it is unconditional, it knows no boundaries, it lives beyond death. I learned not to take the smallest of opportunities for granted, to listen to the lessons, to plant my seeds of change, to nurture them, no matter the years, the lack of rain, to be patient for the sun, that something which has life, that needs rain and sun to grow, needs time. I did a little weeding along the way, nurtured my own patch, worried more about being a better person than being concerned with who wasn't. I shared my gifts more, mothering, friendship, family and love. I made a few committments to myself, to honour the gift of life; to never take it for granted, to be honest, true to myself, to others, to live an authentic life. I opened up to new ways of knowing, of learning, growing, dreaming.  The bucket list grew! I slowed down to spare time to ask an older person struggling with groceries if I could carry anything, hold a new baby for her Mum to shop, pay for something other than for myself, to make someone elses dream a reality and in so I stepped off the path to cross the street!

I'm going into 2013, the year of giving, with a heart open to change, a mind read to explore every adventure as I watch the ripples of friendship (you are just awesome!!!!!! this will be so much fun) break down the obstacles to tackling that bucket list! I have one massive list which includes many miles, many dreams and many challenging experiences, it scares the hell out of me (see crossed another one off just thinking of the list!).  It's like writing your own happy ending, chosing to stop being a passenger of humanity, stop riding on the tailgate, to stop holding life with two hands, to wrap your body around it and suck it in until the two of you become one. The very thought of making this happen is exciting and inspiring, before I even buy a ticket.  I listened to what Oriah called our longing, I stopped, looked, listen and I'm thinking.  Bring on one endless summer!

Ok so I still haven't finished that assignment, I still have 3 exams before the end of January and a pile of unfinished tasks, I didn't say I could do it all over night nor have I have suggested life is easy, I would be the last person persuing that belief! I've stepped off the curb, I've looked and I've listened. I've waited the winter out and I'm looking forward to who and what is on the other side.  The view from where I am standing now is so incredible I can feel the summer on its way.

I have a few mammoth adventures ahead, so if you are up to hiking Cradle Mountain, a trip to PNG, a little Chocolat experience or a damn fine cold beer in Germany, the spiritual connection of Machu Picchu, you have a story to tell and you need a writer or maybe you a publisher and you are after the next big sell! Do I have a year for you!!!!!!

Bring on 2013! the year of giving, to you and to yourselves xo

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