Harvesting the year that’s been

IMG_0680
Last afternoon of 2019 at Harvest New Years Retreat

Why reflect and celebrate?

Amidst the busyness of day-to-day life, it’s easy to become distant from those parts of ourselves which we hold most dear. We can often feel a disconnect with our lives, values and intentions.

And with the new year, new decade, it’s an opportune time to take stock. Recalibrate.

So here are my reflections for the year that’s been. I start with gratitude.

There were many who shaped my 2019. Partnership, collaboration “doing stuff with people”, and endings/beginnings. These were my themes for the year.

To those good friends who supported me, challenged me, held me in my vulnerability, inspired me to be more than I am. Thank you. There were many introductions to so many wonderful new worlds, friends, and experiences like movie singalong nights, grief dinners and joining new communities.

I’d like to thank all those who put their trust in me. Particularly in my work, and creative passion projects – there’s so much to be proud of for 2019:

I started the year with my workplace values challenged, and my heart’s hopes. As I resigned from a high paying (and stable) job, I did so knowing I was true to my integrity. I recognised a toxic work culture when I saw it. Not resigned to working in a broken system, I resigned. I chose my health.

And whilst the grief of a Thai goodbye still visits, I dive courageously into hope for more for my heart. Mixed with the sadness of a loved parent lost, the anticipatory grief for another has challenged me to grow something from the losses.

I started, completed and launched the memoir of Bob, my Matter of Life client. He was not family or an existing friend to me so this represented a huge step in my small business. It was outside my comfort zone to invite my friend Anoush to collaborate on this work that is dear to me. But this reminded me how enriching partnership can be – achieving more than what can be done alone.

79250322_538040440259571_989444157284024320_o

Last year I facilitated my first Home Body conscious dance classes with Jono and the support of friends like Megan, Anoush and Judy. This has been a massive dream of mine for a few years now. It’s been a huge edge to enter into a new dance of holding space, and to ‘step off the cliff’ with such a lovely fun guy like Jono was double joy.

And what an extra hoot to organise a Climate Silent Disco with friends Alex and Jono. This was spontaneous, this was exciting! I felt we were expressing our shared grief, anger and despair in ways that not only made sense but invited others in.

In all this I need to shout out to all the amazing communities I’m a part of that have nourished, challenged and inspired.

Campfire continued to unlock boundless creativity and warm the heart like no other space. Thank you Luke Hockley for creating a space of welcome belonging, and to all who have shared in campfire spirit. The Art of Grieving was a great chance to meet others, share in art and normalise the feelings in loss. And whilst my Common Circle met only a few times, it nonetheless helped illustrate the passions.

FullSizeRender 4
Passion projects drawn during a Common Circle

After a long courtship I finally became a member of The Weekly Service  and attended the winter gathering of delights. Exploring more intentionally what it means to be in community,  I also took on a Comms role and learnt about storytellers, including coming face to face with deep adaptation to a dying ecology.

Week in, week out, Open Floor dance continues to make the invisible visible – a deep well of embodied presence in all the joys and sorrows of being alive!

Last year I was lucky enough to assist and attend Labyrinth and Hungers workshops and I recall the trust and surrender moving through:

FullSizeRender 3

Longing
Calling
Departure
The Journey
The Unexpected
Arrival
Return

Held by the labyrinth
Trusting
Each step

58461749_10157220458566763_833350545937793024_o

Dot in the middle is
Awakening through connection
A new life breathing
Surrounded by nature
Reaching
Vitality
Strength
New future
Fertilised by grief
Same colour as yesterday
Forever. With. Me.

58613039_10157220458626763_6021278290516377600_o

I ‘book ended’ my 2019 by attending the Harvest New Years Retreat again. I did so with some hesitancy, as the memory of how awesome the first one risked eclipsing a sequel. But in all my years of new year’s celebrations I just couldn’t think of a better way to mark the transition. I went. I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s enabled me to engage in this level of reflection, made possible through the care of Jake and Henry in creating such a tight community, and creating spaces to listen to the natural landscape – inside and out.

Last sunset
Last sunset for the decade
Harvest peeps
The Harvest tribe

 

I’d like to thank friends who entrusted me to hold them in their pain, confusion and not knowing. It’s your example that expands the heart and places treasure there to share.

Finally, I’d like to thank the part of me that took risks in stepping towards my dreams. Much gratitude for that bit of myself that didn’t give up in the face of fear, uncertainty and disappointment. That part of me that showed myself compassion when habitually it had been the opposite.

I’d like to thank the love in my heart.

72679165_10157662776046763_9128231652185604096_n
Overflowed with love and joy on my birthday silent disco through Northcote

Planting seeds for the year ahead

As I call in perseverance, intimacy and collaboration into my 2020 there will be opportunities for growth to come – new and existing relationships, my new weekly conscious dance class, and space and time to grow business passion projects.

Building on gratitude for a full year last year, I look ahead with courage, fire, clarity, strength and resilience.

FullSizeRender 5
Vision board for 2020

I pray that you find courage

In your beautiful heart

May warmth, kindness and compassion for self

Always reside there

When things get hard, overwhelming, scary and confusing

I pray you find trust to surrender

To what may unfold beyond you

And the strength and focus to act decisively and clearly

With that you can grasp and shape

I pray that you continue to surround yourself

With people that nourish, inspire, encourage, challenge and support you

I pray that you do all you can to nourish these key relationships

As you create riches together

Which are not possible alone.

Goodbye Little Buddy

Yesterday, in the sweltering heat I made my way down to Warrandyte for a dip in the river. Ah refreshing!

There’s so many wonderful spots. Trees. Birdsong. River song. I forget how close I am to the city.

On the return back home I decide, quite last minute, to visit mum’s grave at Anderson Creek Cemetery. The last time I visited was on her 3rd year death anniversary a couple weeks before.

I never know how I’ll be once I arrive. Will I feel her presence again. Will I feel like I’m just talking to myself?

I walk in, reminded of the natural beauty around where she rests. It’s not a conventional cemetery and I feel like I’d be in a park, if it were not for the rocks, plaques, and mementos I pass towards mum’s rock.

The first thing I notice are the flowers placed next to her stone, in desperate need of water. I grab a black bucket. Set to it. Murmuring a greeting to mum, then…

I hear a chirp. Then another.

I look down by her grave and see a baby chick of a bird. Barely noticeable amongst the leaves and twigs, disturbed by the morning winds. The same winds that blew my bed sheet off my apartment balcony in the morning fyi!

It seemed the winds disturbed quite a lot.

I look up. Noticing the nest way up in the tree nearby. It must have been quite a fall.

How could something so small and delicate survive such a tumble? And how long had he (I deemed him a He) been laying there calling out?

I return to the car, grab some tissues and pick him up. He’s got life in him! As I feel him rolling about, mouth open wide. So I get some water and manage to drip some fluid into him. He seems to like it.

But what next? Put him back in his nest? It was much too high, and branches too thin to support me.

I decide to take him home.

In the car ride he is quiet. I hope it’s only a sign that he’s settled into rest. When I arrive home I feed him some honey in water and he seems to like it. I find mum’s old wheat bag, heat it in the microwave and lay him on it for warmth; with some soft tissues as nest.

What a cute thing.

He reminds me of a little old man. Patchy hair. Hunched. Half blind. Trying to make sense of this world.

I go to sleep with him on my bedside table. Hoping he makes it through the night (and secretly hoping he can be my new pet).

It turns out we both had a restful sleep and both wake hungry. And alive!

I decide there’s only so much you can learn from Google. So it’s off to the vet for some professional help and guidance.

I arrive, telling them the story of this little guy and our chance meeting. Thankfully it was empathy and understanding that then met me, as the vet assistant took the whole situation seriously.

With kindness and warmth, I’m told (essentially),

Because he’s less than 2-3 days old he has very little chance of survival. Young chicks of this age depend so much on their parents to learn how to be a bird. Wild Life Victoria doesn’t take wild chicks of this age for that reason. It really sucks, because I can tell you’ve really cared for him, but the best thing is to put him down peacefully and pain-free.”

So, knowing and trusting that it’s best for this delicate little creature I went ahead. I would have loved for this little buddy to have lived a full and rich life (with me, or someone else who would care for him). But I also would have hated him to have a long drawn out painful existence.

I’m sure there is some meaning in all this for me. But I’m not asking for your interpretation and hope you respect this.

But if you do wish to share how this story made you feel within yourself, then I’m open to that.

A most unexpected, brief and beautiful meeting.

Goodbye little buddy.

F

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.

IMG_9848

“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.

 

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

IMG_9203

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

IMG_9105

Innocence of Youth

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

IMG_9147

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

IMG_9202

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

IMG_9157

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

IMG_9086 2

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

IMG_9181_blurred

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

IMG_9066

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)