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


Empty Hands. Many Gifts


I am coming home.

After six months of travel I am returning empty, but with many gifts.

I have.

Been woken in the middle of the night by call to prayer in Istanbul. Voices soaring as heaven speaks.

I have.

Felt tiny, wandering the Cappadocia moonscape and sat by the firelight in an ancient cave carved in rock. Rebetico song my lovely companion.

I have.

Danced under a dome near Antalya, my partners the sun, trees, a fortune teller, and a silent goddess divine swimming naked under the shadow of Mount Olympos. Electric fingers touch.

I have.

Slept in treehouses and cruised the lazy straits of Turkey with wandering Aussies.

I have.

Felt the relative oasis amongst the masses at karneval Berlin, dancing dragon perched in a tree, a sparrow my companion. And folk urinating below.

I have.

Been inside the most famous nightclub, returning in full blinding daylight feeling way too old for such things.

I have.

Spent a night in Hitlers holiday camp, freaking out and lost.

I have.

Walked amongst the tall grass in Dresden, sun setting, in silent confusion.

I have.

Danced naked in a torrential thunderstorm, with respectful Germans and excel-ent company. Free.

I have.

Cried at the sight of teabags lined neatly in a kitchen cupboard in Salzburg. In awe of the generosity and warm welcome of new friends.

I have.

Walked out of the middle of opera in Vienna and pumped iron like an Austrian terminator.

I have.

Danced with my dark shadow mask in Prague, cycled to a medieval castle, drunk schnapps with strangers on a train, given a surf lesson at a street food festival, bathed in freezing open air pools in a heat wave, and watched a movie in the open air by the river.

I have.

Felt my senses explode at a music festival in an abandoned mine in Ostrava.

I have.

Navigated the frustrations of Russian bureaucracy in obtaining a visa and travelled cross country without a passport.

I have.

Rested in the most welcoming, warm and friend-full hostel while trekking through the Tatra Mountains. With a brown, slightly smelly hot spring and waterslide thrown in.

I have.

Marvelled at Budapest illuminated at night, on the edge of glory looking out into a moment, full moon glowing.

I have.

No words to describe what I have seen, felt and shared in a tantra workshop near a lake by a peninsula.

I have.

Felt love awakened in all cells of my body in the stone jungle of St Petersburg. Cough. Convulse. Cry. Too beautiful.

I have.

Gone supermarket shopping for alien eggs and happy chickens and fed a radiant goddess.

I have.

Seen the sun set over the ancient Acropolis in Greece, spent seven hours in an archaeological museum in animated conversation with a good friend, reflected on the wisdom of times before modern religion and paid homage to Socrates in the birthplace of democracy.

I have.

Slept in a tent, mixed concrete, rode four on a scooter, climbed an ancient tree, sang Summer Lovin’, repaired a guitar (well mostly) on the Greek island of Rhodes.

I have.

Reunited with Aphrodite on the island of Paros, been victorious in not moving furniture, and felt her sky breathe waves into my sea.

I have.

Walked a candlelit labyrinth in silent prayer, with mirrors of Myself, conversing with the sand and stars.

I have.

Ridden a scooter around pagodas in Myanmar by the light of a full moon.


“I have.”


Let go of so many beauty-full moments, all too brief heart connections. While I have suffered the grief of a 100 goodbyes, I am grateful for the 100 sweet hellos.

Again, as I started my trip, I am keenly aware of what I leave behind, and step into the uncertainty of what is to come.

Did I find the rest, play and inspiration I was seeking? Did I find a clear vision of my next purpose?

Maybe. Maybe not.

We expect a lot from travel. And my quest started long before. All I know is that I am deeply grateful for the people I have met and the chance to move through the world with my growing love for, and prescence of my mind, heart and body.

This trip has been one sweet, occasionally hard fought honeymoon with Myself. Considering I could barely step outside my bedroom, I am happy that I was able to travel and see the honey moon on the other side of the world.

And as I continue to bring more love into my life, I will always remember and cherish these times as special.

thank you


“While I have suffered the grief of a 100 goodbyes, I am grateful for the 100 sweet hellos.”


The F-Word

Fun!!! What is fun?

How many times do you hear people say, “Have fun!” But what is it? How do we have it? Don’t we all need more fun in our lives? Was this easier to have when we were kids?

Yes I’ve set myself another personal social skydiving challenge and will be asking a complete stranger everyday:

“What is fun?”

Very serious business! Here’s what people have said so far!

“Fun is something I do for it’s own sake, doing it just for the pure experience. When I don’t wish to be anywhere else. It’s also a way of looking at the world, like wearing fun glasses! Like seeing things a fresh like a kid. Novelty is a multiplier of fun – if something is just a bit unusual. Also if there’s a bit of pleasure, either sensual or intellectual, it increases the fun!”

-N, 30 years old

Whatever the activity is, you’re immersed in it and you’re not referencing yourself or others, thinking about what others or even you is thinking or feeling, you’re just ‘in it’.

-S, 27 years old

“When you do something you love. You feel good, I like to play on the computer and my friend is fun because he’s almost as good a wrestler as I am. And I like to climb trees.

-Bassi, 10 years old

“Love is honesty, respect, and butterflies… Fun is all of those things with others you don’t want to sleep with.”

-Valerie

 F Bomb

Safety Nets & Neediness

“Would you have gone on a date with me if it wasn’t for Five in Five?”

I asked my first date this question during our evening together. Why? And how did I feel about her answer?

Tightrope walkers use a safety net.

For the novice tightrope walker, starting out with a net not only saves their life but lets the them learn and develop their confidence to play at death defying heights.

skywire-live-nik-wallenda

Before I embarked on my #fiveinfive challenge, going on five dates for charity, I asked a friend who had done something similar if there was any difference between ‘normal dating’ and ‘dating for charity’. He replied, “It’s better! Whenever there’s two single people together you never know what could happen. But it’s better than normal dating. You have a safety net. An ‘out’, so if one of you is not that keen you can just say, “Oh well, that was all just a bit of good fun – for charity.”

But what if you are the one who is keen?

Hmm. I sense an uncomfortable feeling. Vulnerability Alert! Haha

After all, no matter how masterful you become at staying ‘in the moment’ and ‘outcome independent’, you still reach the end of the first date where one of you is likely to want to continue to a second date.

I’m no Casanova but in some ways I’ve finally discovered how to have fun meeting new people. Still, I reflect now on the fact that when I go out with friends it’s those guys who come across as ‘less needy’ who are generally more successful with women – ‘neediness’, it seems, is the biggest turn off. Understandably so, as I’ve experienced it myself with some ex-girlfriends – don’t go there girlfriend! (click fingers)

But in challenging myself to go on five dates in five weeks this creates a little teeny bit of pressure (ok sometimes a lot, especially when it’s still expected that the guy initiates things); it kind of resembles neediness, and for that reason makes me uncomfortable. After all, nobody wants to come across as desperate.

So why ask my first date if she would have gone out with me regardless of #fiveinfive? Was it my ego? Pride? If she said ‘Yes’ then perhaps I could tell myself I could get a date anytime, that I didn’t need the guise of a charity to line up dates?

If she answered ‘No’, then perhaps I could just ‘cut my losses’ early on? All this has certainly challenged me around what I’m looking for.

Perhaps it’s all the above.  All I know is that this raises further uncomfortable questions!

What are the safety nets in my life? How high up am I really? Do I really need these safety nets? It certainly would make for a more exciting show!

Francis

(BTW My date did answer ‘Yes’ to this question. I’m sure I asked because I knew what the answer was going to be!)

If you’re interested in vulnerability check out the guru: Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

The Love Challenge

Smiling Heart

So as if doing Five in Five wasn’t enough challenge for me this year I’ve set myself another one! In the lead up to Valentine’s Day I will approach one complete stranger everyday and ask, “What is Love?”

Here are the results so far!

Love is… ” helping another person be the best they can be, but for their sake, not yours.”

-Lauren, on the tram going to work

 

“I never knew what love was until I held my new born child in my arms. So I suspect it was hormonal!! There’s a difference between the things you do that you love, and the unconditional kind.”

-Izzy, Mumma Bassy (mother of Bassy) at the gym

 

“When you love someone’s existence more than your own. You’d do anything for them, even if it was detrimental to your own happiness. Love is an idea where the depth of it is only apparent when it’s been tested (when the shit hits the fan) and you’re still there.”

-Jeff

 

“Love is the connection between all of us, and the connection with ourselves. It’s the basis for compassion and respect.”

-G

 

“Love is acceptance.”

-Catherine, on the way home

 

“Love is messy and sweaty. It’s imperfect but when you find it, it’s perfect for you.”
-Alina

 

“Love is the acknowledgement of the connection between all living things, the gods and the earth. Because once you acknowledge the connection you see every thing and everyone as part of yourself. Then in turn you love them and treat them as you love and treat yourself. Love is a thing to practice, it’s something you have to work on, like accepting yourself and others. It’s like exercise.”

-K

 

“Love is learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”

-Emily’s neighbour

 

“Love is the intention or wish for someone or something to be happy.”

-Francis (me!)

 

“Love is acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness and recognition; all in a ball of goodness.”

-Chloe

 

“We cultivate Love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. And when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

 Love is not something we give or get, it’s something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them.

We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged and healed.”

-Brené Brown

2014-06-24 14.21.07

No such thing as offline dating

Tinder Logo

So I went on a date the other week.

I met this lovely lady through a friend at a party, exchanged numbers, called her and arranged a date.

I scrubbed up the best I could, reminded myself how awesome and normal I am, quelling the anxious voices in my head which usually take over.

We met at a bar and she was on time waiting outside. She’s turned up. Check. This is the first prerequisite of a date.

I play a little game with myself when I first meet people I’m attracted to and see how long I can go without talking about work,  opening up other topics of discussion (like talking silly, fun stuff really!). It’s not that I don’t like my work, quite the opposite, or I’m not interested in what people do, I just tend to think it (sometimes) defines us too much.

So after a couple minutes of chatting she mentioned that she looked me up online before we met up,  then started asking about my work. I never asked what she meant exactly, but she had obviously checked me out in any number of ways: through my Facebook profile,  LinkedIn, Twitter, my organisation’s website or perhaps even reading this blog.

Hmmm? I guess I was partly flattered that someone would online stalk me but perhaps she was  just being cautious? Or perhaps checking people out online before we meet them is just what we do these days?

What is going on here?

While we increasingly put more and more of ourselves online on social media – can a person really go on a date in this day and age without first seeing how photogenic they are? Who they’re tagged with? And the sorts of semi-staged, semi-spontaneous selfies taken whilst engaging in activities we all wish we were doing right now? Can a person go on a date without any sort of preconceived ideas?

I am not my profile.

In fact I am not  this blogpost even. I realized this the other day and while it seems like something so obvious, it’s something I don’t think people who have grown up with social media acknowledge enough. It’s not that my online profile doesn’t represent who I am, it’s just that it’s a very small part.

So how do people meet each other these days?

A friend of mine told me that  before he goes into a new business meeting he will check out the person on LinkedIn and  prepares  accordingly. Another friend told me that some people now consider texting as dating .WTF?!

Call me old fashioned but I always thought there had to be some kind of awkward face to face, George Clooney-JLo Out of Sight sexual tension thing going on in order for it to be a date.

Are things like Tinder turning us into superficial, shallow, judgmental and unmindful freaks? (btw I had my first Tinder date but that’s another story!).

It would seem so.

So as I embark on my Five in Five challenge, which doesn’t allow ‘online dating’, I wonder if such a thing is really possible. While I like the idea of meeting people ‘through’ my friends who know me, and having a mutual friend to ‘vouch for the other’, there’s only one thing…

The temptation to check out my date on facebook before we meet…!

 

 

If you’re interested in the debate checkout:

Tincan Press The Button Day encourages us to switch off, slow down and spark life into your imagination by pressing the ‘off’ button on your mobile or computer.

How not to be alone – Online communication originated as a substitute for telephones yet these inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication but diminished substitutes for it. Then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes.

#Phubbing – Ignoring the person in front of you in favour of your smart phone