Moments That Matter

It’s that moment I hope for but is never guaranteed.

“I didn’t think it was a great story, but I’m not so sure now…! Haha”

These were the words from my client Bob, 88 years young. As we move into the production side of his memoir, he looks upon the stories of his life laid out in post-it-notes and grouped thematically

Over the course of our storytelling sessions together and months of me working on the words, his observation somehow manages to catch me by surprise.

It also reminds me why I do this work.

For as valuable as the finished book will be as a permanent legacy for his family, I know what really matters is Bob’s shift in how he sees his own life journey.

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“I’ve always felt that the story was really nothing great. But when it’s layed out in front of you like that. There’s more to it isn’t it?… step away from that. And you look at the whole picture in a glance. There it is.”

With a hint of the ‘I told you so’s’ I remember responding to Bob, “This is what we’ve been saying all along. This is what your family’s been saying. Is that your life has actually been really, really full. Each of these phrases on bits of paper represents an amazing and extraordinary story Bob.”

I think it’s finally sinking in.

Yes every life is extraordinary and it’s the moments of realisation like this that really matter.

Click here to check in on the production of Bob’s story.

 

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The poet doesn’t invent, he listens.

My reflections and inter-subjective responses in working with my client Bob on writing and publishing his life story:

In this day and age of ‘not enoughness”, where so much of our world is about being more, having more, it is both a relief and a breath of fresh air to meet someone who is truly content with what they have. What a pleasure it was to spend time with someone who isn’t always looking for the grass that is greener.

Even as a younger man, Bob had the sense to recognize true teaching and wisdom when he heard it, taking it on board. Plucking a feather from each passing goose, young Bob looked up to his many teachers, those figures who ignited his passion for engines.

With an enduring passion for machinery, rowing and bowls, it was the camaraderie, friendship and teamwork in physical activity, common purpose and sport that characterised Bob’s life. His stay is an homage to the people that influenced his life.

Bob saw and appreciated the quirks and idiosyncrasies in the people he met along the way. His pride in having known the people in his life is real and clear.

Respecting generosity, mindfulness, cooperation, open mindedness with a side serve of caution, he lived according to his basic principles with honour, decency and good humour.

A ‘nuts and bolts man’, his life took a few unexpected turns with his three year ‘Walkabout” and the decline of his wife Kathleen, the rock of the family.

Bob was a man who knew how to be content. At all times humble, he saw his life as ordinary, but it is truly no less than extraordinary. This is Bob’s story.

An Ordinary Bloke Having A Go.

River

The River

Still waters run deep
The surface so often holding the unspoken
Yet hands
Say so much in gesture
Point to richness in depth
Holding oars
In teams moving as one
Grasping what is in front
Here now
This step
This stroke
Not the next
Pairs, fours or eights
Turn to liquid in motion
Of river’s holding
Coasting and sliding
Every contraction
And expansion
Breathing forward momentum
Egos dissolve
As men listen
To rhythms of another
Of all

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Rowing Engines

My seat
Setting time
For my team
Stroke
Legs extend and contract
Like pistons
Intakes of breath
Compress
Driving power
To exhaust
2 or 4 stroke
Cycles
Engine us forward
To race

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Innocence of Youth

Crossing childhoods’
Little bridges
A time of The Depression
Of early play
First homes, parents, friends
In country
And timely lessons

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Passion for Engines

Sparks ignite
Fuel for soul’s movement
Appreciation of what sits in front
The curiousity to understand
Parts fitting together
To run smoothly
Or run broken
To bring that which is still
Alive in movement
To repair (the broken)
To restore
Back to former glory
With ingenouity and inventiveness
Resource-full
Tools of the trade
Team with hands
Grasping, twisting
Timing belts, heart beats
Intakes of oxygen mix
Injections of fuel feed
Life’s breath into machines
Driving characters
From home to farm
Safely

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Camaraderie & Mateship

Competitive spirit
Brings mates together
Teamwork
And a laugh
Shared joy in action
In company
Together problems solved
Finding new ways
Directions on the road
Ways to move boats

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Making much from little

What is in front of me
Is what matters
Accept or mend
Grateful for what is
And use the available
Dances with tins and wooden boxes
To make do
With what you have
Repair, restore
To former glory
Bringing life
A new shine
To the old
Content to stay
Not tempted by allures
Of pastures greener
When all is needed
Is here
In its original condition

Rock

The rock of the family

The rock
Sits steadfast
Quiet and strong
Setting foundations
Support to build on
Encouragement
Enabled and allowed
Freedom
To pursue work’s passions

The rock that was always there
Setting foundations of freedom home
Suffers in fragmented memory
As fissures crack open
Space
For me to be
The quiet presence
You were for me
For so long

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Walkabout

Understanding bravery
Getting in touch with spiritual guides
Moving over unmapped lands
Guided by a spiritual power
Survival test to manhood
Proving to elders
Of capacity to survive harsh environment
Of his native land
Time for self-evaluation
Of reflection
Journey across land
Mind and spirit

My Walkabout

Having the balls
To back yourself
Moving in unfamiliar directions
Away from the known bolt and nut
The familiar bench
Mark
Of bravery
To step to a place
Of insurance
With very little assurance
Except faith in self

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Heading Up

Sharing what was learnt
A part of something bigger
Natural progression
Responsibility for those around
Doing more than you have to
All you can
As best you can

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Principles

To live by
Beliefs
Collection of goose feathers
To suit the truth of my flight path
Not just one to follow
Upright intentions
Trust and brotherly love
Helping those in trouble
Appreciating kindness and fairness in people
Never forgetting a good turn
Honourable and decent
Respecting generosity, mindfulness and cooperation

The good sense
Of a young man
To recognize true teaching
And wisdom
An older man
With a collection of goose feathers
To suit the truth of his flight path

#MeToo #YouToo. We’re All In This Together

#MeToo Calls For A New Way Of Being For Men

(Read this article on The Good Men Project).

My heart broke reading my Facebook feed. I wrestled with so many mixed feelings of anger and sadness that it kept me awake until 4am .

Whilst it can be uncomfortable, overwhelming and confusing to think about what it all means, this much is clearly reinforced in my mind.

It is not women who need to explain themselves in situations of sexual harassment and assault. It is the person responsible. It is the perpetrator who should justify themselves.

Unfortunately, the perpetrators are almost always men.

I say ‘unfortunately’ because I’m one of those men who yearns to claim the category “man” with pride, as something representing honour, respect, gentleness and compassion, as well as strength.

Unfortunately there are just so many examples of men behaving badly (and getting away with it) that claiming to belong to the group of ‘men’ becomes well… challenging.

It is not women who must learn better to protect and defend themselves from men. It is the task of men to reinvent themselves together, recreating new ways of being, new ways of relating and communicating. It is our responsibility to create healthier models of what it means to be, not the man, but a man.

In all this, there is the real temptation to lose hope – if and when we really take in the experiences of men behaving inappropriately and abusively towards our female friends, colleagues, wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters. But there is one word in all of this we must all acknowledge and be inspired by.

Courage.

 

The courage that sits with women, who despite experiencing exploitation, can still open their hearts to men and let their sexuality be seen and celebrated.

The courage that sits in men who choose the more riskier and vulnerable path of exploring their inner worth enough to meet women as equals, rather than exerting power over others. Let’s acknowledge men who courageously explore their own sexual energy with presence, owning it without projection.

In dark times of uncomfortable statistics and instantaneous global social-media polls, there is still much to be grateful for.

To all the positive male role models I’ve had in my life I thank you. Whilst they have been few and far between, and humanly imperfect, I am nonetheless grateful. Your commitment to your own difficult inner-work and the nurturing others, gives me hope that we can evolve to be better men – gaining better ways to be, and better ways for men and women to authentically, and respectfully #MeetToo.

 

#youtoo #metoo

 

Renovate your Heart

Leunig-Live in Heart

Renovate the space in your heart

Create art

That you can live in

Home

A place built and grown

That keeps on giving

 

Renovate the space in your heart

So all who enter

All you invite into your centre

Embark on an adventure

Cosy and warm

 

Design, rebuild and renovate

Knock down walls to create

More space to:

Move

Dance

Cook

Eat

Breathe

Sing

More space to let the light in

 

Renovate the space in your heart

Tend to your garden

Pull weeds

Plant seeds

Before your arteries harden

Touch soil with your hand

Understand

Your nature

Human

 

Secure your roof and windows inside

Sanctuary from the storm

But remember you needn’t hide

Any longer, any more

Behind a locked door

 

Renovate your Heart

The place you always return to

From the world you roam

A fixed address

Sometimes a mess

But your one true

Home

 

By Francis Icasiano

(Image by Michael Leunig)

 

 

To flow or not to flow

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When to go with the flow? When to swim upstream?

On a hot summer Melbourne day I make the trip to Laughing Waters in Eltham. Excited to be meeting my friend and journey out to one of my favourite natural refuges from the city in its mad lead up to Christmas.

We sit on a rock embankment, our lower halves submerged in the cooling waters, gently danced to silence by the sweet river song. What a wondrous place!

Time to explore. As we wade, feeling the gentle current pulling us towards the rapids we sit on the rocks, water massaging our backs. Making our tentative way down we enter the most powerful part of the river.

And float.

What a wonderful feeling to be carried by a river! Held. Watching the world drift gently by. Nothing to do but surrender to where the current takes me (watching for submerged rocks of course! Ouch!).

We sit on another rock, talk, feeling the sun warm our skin. Time to go back. “I’m not sure I have the energy to swim back upstream,” says my friend. But we do.

I’m surprised. What seemed like a difficult swim upstream, wasn’t at all. Slowly but surely we inch our way back to the rapids And I feel a satisfaction of sorts.

Swimming against the current to get where ‘I’ want to be.

Strangely, once past the strongest flowing part we found ourselves in a section that actually flowed back up river! Hmmm?

When do you go with the flow? When does being receptive and open serve you? When do you allow yourself to be dictated by forces outside you?

When do you swim upstream? When do you commit to act despite the external signs, opinions, habits and momentum of others? When is this being stubborn? Or is this just being driven to achieve?

I’m no guru. But I imagine it comes down to instinct and intuition. Tuning into the currents inside and out. And if we develop instinct through experience, what are we waiting for?

Jump in your river and take a dip.

Home Is Whenever I Am With Me

Smiling Heart“I am coming home.”

These were the words I wrote returning to Australia after six months of travel across Europe. But parting with so many new friends and heart connections, I came back to a chaotic living situation with an uncomfortable feeling…

The place I called ‘home’ did not feel like ‘home’.

So as always, when I don’t understand something I embark on a mini-project hoping to find some wisdom. I asked friends for two things: songs that give a sense of home, and their meaning of home. Because what is home anyway? Is it the house, neighbourhood or country we live in? Is it a feeling? If clichés tell me “home is where the heart is,” where is my heart anyway?

My conclusions may surprise you.

HOW TO FEEL HOME

1. Travel often. Travel simply.

It may sound paradoxical, but the best way I have come to discover a sense of home is through travel. After months of living out of a backpack, the simplicity of having less things is liberating, reminding me that home is not a house and the stuff in it.

As in life, when I travel by myself I have a fear of never finding people to authentically connect with. But once travelling and travelling simply, I am both surprised yet somehow reminded that ‘like attracts like’ and that the most incredible individuals and ‘teachers’  appear for me when I need them the most.


“Wherever I go, there will be community.”


2. Be vulnerable*. Be seen. Live your creativity.

I dance, write, draw, I have given birth to a new social initiative, and I have made dreams of travelling the world a reality. Despite the potential for judgment from others, I have known what it is like to put my creative self out there, knowing that it is this expression that is Me.

But beware! Taking the risk to be vulnerable ultimately leads to one thing – feeling truly alive!


“Find rest in my creative activity.”


(*As Brene Brown says, having the courage to be vulnerable can ultimately deepen the quality of our relationships, in fact this is how we achieve intimacy! However  there are times when people will not be able to hold your vulnerability, or to hear your story.)

3. Dance to the beat of your own drum.

I believe we cannot feel home if we don’t have our personal freedom. There are many voices in our world, both outer and inner, which advise, judge and may even appear to be in our best interest. However, there does come a time in a man’s life when he becomes aware of his own values, voice, direction and rhythm in life. Following this is the hallmark of courage. I will spend the rest of my days learning to trust to live my life in the most authentic way possible.


“There is only one me. Honour my uniqueness, no one can do this for me.”


4. Be curious about the people around you and what is important to them.

While it is important to be clear on my own values, no matter how much I travel (internationally, or just ‘down the street’), I do not live in a bubble. No man is an island, I am human and therefore a social creature that needs to belong. There are other people in my house, neighbourhood, community, country, and even the on the street I walk on. Why do they do what they do? Why do it that way? Why do they spend so much time and energy pursuing the things they do?


“Being open, curious and engaged with people enables me to better understand and empathise with others. If I am closed then people will feel ‘too different’ to me, I will not be able to ‘meet’ them, and I will feel disconnected.”


5. Be open to being challenged. Challenge respectfully

I need to be challenged from time to time. It’s not that I’m not right, it’s just that I’m not always right! The deepest friendships I have are those who respectfully challenge my assumptions and do so with grace, tact and discretion. I ultimately arrive at my own judgment but it is the openness that is necessary to ‘meet’ people. Conversely, I must trust myself enough to do the same, and to challenge people when I see that something is wrong or could be improved. This goes for the people I live with, partners, friends, colleagues, community, businesses, institutions and governments.


“I must be open to learn about my own assumptions, yet trust myself to respectfully challenge those around me.”


6. Focus your energy, time and space on practices which nurture you.

For me, movement meditation practice is my way of reconnecting with the wisdom of my body, it safely pushes me to ‘my edge’ while honouring my growth. For others it is yoga, art, men’s groups etc. I can waste time just like everybody else, but once I find what really resonates for me the commitment to it flows naturally; and each time I practice I pray to the divine part of Myself.


“Many behaviours shortchange me. Find practices which honour the sacredness of my body, mind and soul.”


7. Focus your energy, time and make space for people who honour and celebrate your current growing self.

A friend said to me that: There are parts of ourselves that we don’t always live with. We like and love these parts but they are not always seen, honoured and celebrated.


“Home is when I am most accepting and loving of Myself.”


Home is when I feel I am celebrating and honouring all that I am NOW. The current version of me, not in five years time, or whenever I create the perfect job, house, body or partner.

I understand now how lucky I have been to be part of relationships and communities which have celebrated, honoured, respected and challenged me. Safe ‘places’ and ‘spaces’ to explore my light, as well as dance with my own beautiful darkness. People and practices discovered which honour and value the growing self, which push me to ‘my edge’, and expand the horizons of my inner world.

I believe now that it is when I seek, choose and create these kinds of relationships that I feel a sense of home.

So as the clichés suggest, it seems that ‘home is where the heart is’. And as some of the songs say, it does seem that ‘home is wherever I am with you’.

I just never lived in my heart before. And I must sing more songs to Myself!

Live in your heart

Candle in Cappodocia Cave


“If light is in your heart you will find your way home.”- Rumi