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10 amazing life lessons from swimming in the sea

July 4, 2017

sea swimming

This year I started swimming in the sea. I swim two or three times a week, about a kilometre each time. It’s coming into winter in Sydney and I’m still swimming.

The greatest surprise is how much I love it. Getting stronger and fitter was a goal I set to work on with two coaches this year as part of my coaching training and development. I’m supporting my mum who is not well as my primary life focus at present. Ensuring I balance this priority with my own self-care, well-being and fitness at this time is an important goal.

The other big surprise is how much I’ve learned from it. Like walking, swimming is a meditative practice and swimming in the sea adds other dimensions of weather conditions, sea creatures and a natural underwater world to explore as you exercise. There’s time to reflect on life  as you stroke and watch the sand patterns, the fish moving and the seaweed swaying.

So here’s some learning I’ve gathered from my experiences of swimming in the sea.

10 amazing life lessons from swimming in the sea

1 You don’t have to see clearly to keep moving

Some days the water is cloudy and you can’t see well. Sure, it’s a bit off-putting but you can still exercise, keep moving and achieve the same goals. Not being able to see clearly can be challenging but it’s also something to work through and learn from. You could give up on account of not being able to see clearly but knowing where you’re eventually heading is enough to keep you moving forward. And you can develop resilience in managing the not-so-perfect conditions as well. Let’s face it – everything’s not always going to be crystal clear.

2 You can adjust your stroke to the conditions

Each day is different but you can adjust, mixing up the strokes so that you can manage the environment. When it gets choppy, breaststroke is a gentler way to ride the waves. If you need to get through some challenging currents, you might need to switch to freestyle and stroke more strongly, digging deeper. That ability to mix up your responses, dialling up and down, emphasising and de-emphasising helps you stay the distance.You can modulate your stroke, powering up and powering down, depending on the conditions. That way you can still make headway without losing too much energy in the process.

3 Breathing deeply and rhythmically is the best solution to feeling challenged

Sometimes the water’s choppy, other times your equipment proves challenging and you take in water; other times, something’s just worrying you and you feel rattled and you don’t move as smoothly through the water. But you can stop and sort the issues out, then restart, breathing deeply and rhythmically. It’s so calming and soon you’re stroking and moving with grace again. It seems that deep, rhythmic breathing is potentially the best and simplest way to tackle most situations that are troubling.

4 Getting all your equipment right helps immensely

You set out all positive but sometimes your equipment lets you down. A leaky swim mask can be so frustrating and you have to keep stopping. Without the right wetsuit, you’ll find swimming in cold water very difficult. You learn from others and from experience and the days you get all the equipment right, you swim so much better and so much more comfortably. It’s partly preparation and partly experience, but it makes all the difference when you get all the aspects working together. It’s a good reminder about the value of setting out in an organised fashion, putting in the research and listening to and learning from others.

5 Learning the names of things (like sea creatures) enriches our experience

Sage Cohen in her book, ‘Fierce on the Page‘, talks about poet Galway Kinnell’s advice to younger poets: “Learn the names of things.” Sage goes on to explain:

When we learn the vocabulary of any topic – insects, dinosaurs, solar systems, or bath towels, for example – we transcend time, space, and form, and we get to experience particular realms through the specificity of language. The names of things are the keys that unlock such raptures. (page 98)

So I’m identifying and learning the names of what I’m seeing as I swim like: magpie morwong, shovel nose ray, catfish, whiting, nudibranch, flathead, bream and sting ray. I research afterwards so I know what I’ve seen. It helps me really look at the fish and the other creatures carefully. Staying curious and learning the details provides so many resources you can use in other contexts, like writing, plus it’s so much fun.

6 Facing our fears is often as simple as just moving and doing it

Once I would never go beyond my depths in water because of a fear of things, like, well, deep water. But I was missing out on so much and the fear was out of proportion to the risk. Now I swim in deep water and I swim with tiny baby Port Jackson sharks sitting on the bottom of the sand. They’ve come into the bay to grow and I swim over them looking in wonder at their beautiful colours. So now I swim comfortably in deeper waters between boats anchored and I look down at baby sharks and it’s so empowering. It’s true, just doing what we fear can be the best way to face our fears, assessing and managing any risks but watching our tendency to overstate them.

7 Solitary activities can be more fun with the support of a friendly team

There’s no way I would do this by myself. Even though swimming is mostly a solitary activity, I swim with a group. Different locals turn up each time; there’s a core of people and we swim together. We share experiences and tips and laugh together about how crazy we are to swim in winter. We support each other and have coffee together after when it’s freezing. It makes it so much easier and more enjoyable and I learn from them. It’s a reminder that even doing solitary activities, like coaching and writing, can be so more fun when we’re supported by a friendly community. Finding ways to form groups around independent working, creativity or exercising is so valuable and will help keep us going for the long haul.

8 You can zig-zag and still get to your destination so don’t be too hard on yourself

Swimming in the sea is different to other swimming I’ve done. There’s no chlorine (yay!) and you need to learn to work with different currents and waves each day. And sometimes it gets all so interesting looking at everything under the water, you lose your direction. But it’s okay to zig-zag a bit. Over time, you get better at navigating via the tracks in the sand and keeping your line. So don’t be too hard on yourself for not swimming perfectly straight occasionally. It’s all fine – you’ll still get there and maybe learn or see something new in the process.

sea swimming

9 Exercise can be the best kind of meditation (Swimming with fish is the best!)

We start and end our swim near a reef with beautiful fish. Most days you can see hundreds of fish of so many different varieties. You can swim through them and above them – tiny silver fleeting fish, black and white and yellow magpie morwongs, little bright blue fish, zebra striped ones. And there’s seaweed and rocks for them to move amongst. It’s a backdrop of waving beauty and there’s light making stunning rainbow patterns on the deep sandy bottom.

To start and end the swim this way is a kind of meditative asana, like the beginning and close of a yoga class. The body begins to exercise, the mind begins to still, and then comes to rest at the end as you climb out of the water feeling like a different being. It’s important to remember that exercise can be a form of meditation – walking, yoga, swimming – and this kind of break in your week is so very needed.

10 You can be meditative, mindful and let thoughts go as you crystallise new perspectives

These ten lessons I’ve learned from swimming in the sea I gathered together whilst swimming in the sea. And like any meditative exercise, it’s a combination of being mindful and letting thoughts go as well as crystallising significant reflections. Just as you coalesce thoughts as you step out on a walk, you can gather random intuitive pieces and frame them into new shapes. For example, a blog post to share with others. Meditative exercise can help us rest the mind and also help thoughts come together into new realisations. These perspectives can be so valuable in gathering our thoughts, managing uncertainty and being resilient. And with this strength, we can be of assistance to others.

Thought pieces

This post is dedicated to two amazing, fit women who are life coaches trained by the Beautiful You Coaching AcademySamantha Jayne Wheatley and Jeanette Buchanan. I have had the pleasure of being coached gently by both these inspirational women. They have taught me by example and through their coaching, about the power of being healthy, of getting out and moving. And of the value of self-love and self-care in this activity and how it can be of benefit to others.

I am so grateful. Love you both xx

When you start creating for and in honor of those that have made a difference to you, your work changes.

Seth Godin, Dedicating the merit

sea swimming

Feature and fish image from pexels.com and used with permission and thanks.

Bottom image from a beautiful local swimming day recently.

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Remembrance and unconditional love: thoughts on ANZAC Day

April 28, 2017

unconditional love

Anzac Day

25 April is ANZAC Day here in Australia. It’s a day of remembrance for those of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps who served and died in war and related activities including peacekeeping. And a day to remember those who serve now. Celebrated on the day of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915, the spirit of Anzac and its qualities of sacrifice, courage and mateship have immense meaning for Australians and New Zealanders around national identity, bravery and freedom.

For me, it’s always a very emotional day. As a Queen of Swords, INTJ, Virgo, (some might say ice maiden) type, it’s surprising how this day seems to touch me so deeply and I am in tears for much of it.

I don’t know exactly why but it’s the stories that touch me, the young men and what they went through in World War I and II and other conflicts. Stories we really can’t fathom or ever truly know. And our own personal connections with that through our family history or people that we know directly involved now.

It’s the families and loved ones left behind and impacted when they came back. It’s those who serve now and what they face and experience. The solitary courage of it, the fear, the silence of those who cannot or could not tell their stories. The inner strength they need to search for and the support of each other. It’s the sadness of it all, that it just should not happen, the unnecessary waste of life; that people should not have to go through all this and the aftermath of physical, mental and spiritual pain and suffering.

It’s also that we can be thankful that we have people who can be strong when it’s needed to do this work for the freedom, support and safety of others. Mostly men, mostly young, mostly strong but also vulnerable.

Postcards from the war

In the last few years, I received a box of memorabilia and photos that belonged to my great aunt, Vivie, who died in 1992. A strong woman who never married, she was a connector and recorder within the family, capturing daily life in photographs and keeping in touch with many in the extended family.

In this box was a beautifully embroidered postcard sent from the Western Front in France in 1916 by my great uncle Walter to Vivie, his sister back in Australia.

WWI postcard

The stitching, perfect and precise, must have caught Walter’s eye and he has written on the back of the postcard. It’s a message saying he is well and not really saying much more except that he will be in touch with other family members too. What could you say about those horrors of war except that I am here, standing now? And I am thinking of you and love you.

I knew a little about Walter’s war service but I looked into his war records on Anzac Day this year. Joining up with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on 1 February 1916 and leaving the country on 13 May that same year, he was on the Western Front in France in the 55th Battalion and saw active service amidst some of the most difficult conflicts of the war.

He served in the Anzac Light Rail as part of this, building and running light railways on the Western Front to provide transport through the difficult terrain. I cannot imagine how hard all of this work was and the terrible conditions in which it was carried out. He was discharged from the AIF on 16 July 1919.

Walter received a Military Medal in 1919 for:

“conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack on St Denis Wood Perone on 2/9/18. During the initial stages of the attack heavy machine gun fire was encountered. This man, noticing this with great courage and deliberation worked his way forward into a position from where, by sniping he was able to place an enemy machine gun out of action, not withstanding that he was under enemy observation and continually fired at the whole time. This soldier’s action in silencing the enemy machine gun enabled a Lewis Gun to be brought forward thereby greatly assisting the attack. The man’s courage and disregard for personal safety during the operation was most noticeable and his action through-out were a great incentive to his comrades.”[1]

This is not to condone violence or war in any way. Personally, I find violence in any form hard to contemplate or witness. But it happened and for Walter it was real. The postcard is a poignant reminder of the fragile and powerful connections with home in all of this – beauty amidst chaos and war; love of his sister and family sent from afar; such vulnerability and risk.

I cannot imagine how precious that card was once received in Newcastle in Australia on the other side of the word, in so few lines saying so much. Or hard it was for Walter to find words to say along the lines of “I am okay” when the reality was most likely far from that.

Closer to home

The other overlay of emotion for me on Anzac Day is about my brother. Martin served as an Australian Federal Police Officer in East Timor in 1999 as part of the United Nations peacekeeping effort and was awarded the Overseas Service Medal in 2003. Martin is no longer with us now, having passed away tragically in 2007.

The memory of Martin as an unarmed police officer who went to East Timor, now Timor Leste, to provide support, peace and justice to people in the most challenging of circumstances, fills me with pride and love. It symbolises the strong sense of justice and fairness that drove his passions and focus in his career and life.

Here he is in action in East Timor, featured at that time, in Time Magazine on 27 September 1999 and in Aussie Post Magazine in October 1999:

Martin Ryan

I don’t know what he saw there. I don’t know what he experienced there. Like many first responders and police officers, they cannot always talk about what they saw, experienced and felt. And whilst I am proud, I sense that the experiences in East Timor somehow had a deep impact on the sensitive soul that was and is my brother. How could they not.

A poem of remembrance and peace

So in the early hours of Anzac Day this year, these words come to me:

On Anzac Day

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
wreathed there,
amidst the days, red poppy lights
flare occasionally,
lighting up your smile,
buried beneath granite, grass,
days of pain, cascading
hours of grief.

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
at nearly dawn here,
for you, my own service,
my own dawn,
my own not forgetting
that war somehow
touched you
and led you down a path
I wish you had not gone.

I lay a flower in the remembrance
of my heart,
amidst tarot, words, books,
the morning’s nearly dawn,
the marching of feet,
to come,
the early days towards
ten years of remembering you,
to come.

I lay a flower in the remembrance of your heart.
I shift that stone of trauma laying there.
I hold the hands of our hearts in peace.

Rose, rosemary and remembrance

Shortly after on Anzac Day, in an Activate sessions with Amber Adrian, working with healing energies and guides, both rose and rosemary comes up as energies to work with, with remembrance as a strong message.

We are reminded to activate our inner love, work with remembrance and our true divine self, and to connect with that unconditional love that is our essence. We are reminded to work with protection techniques every day especially around protection of judgement of others and ourselves.

It’s an emotional day. You can see why the tears come.

Tears of memory, gratitude, appreciating sacrifice and remembrance. And the lessons I’m still learning of unconditional love.

Let us all keep focused on these immense qualities in moving forward:

  • focusing on the beauty in life
  • maintaining a passionate sense of fairness and justice in everything we do
  • and finding a love that can transcend every difficult moment.

And may we all be peacekeepers.

Sources

[1] Source: Ancestry.com. Australia, WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: National Archives of Australia: B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

The Rose of Unconditional Love in the featured photograph is from the beautiful Plant Ally Healing Cards deck by Lisa McLoughlin.

Thought pieces

Ask for help, talk to others

This was not an easy piece to write especially with regard to my dear brother. However, I felt it needed to be written as there is too much silence. I also want to highlight the power of remembrance and unconditional love in healing and moving towards peace.

I am aware it may not have been easy to read for some people. If anything I have written in this post triggers anything for you, I encourage you to reach out to others for support. Talk to a trusted family member or friend. Or contact organisations set up especially to provide support. In Australia our key organisations for support are Beyond Blue and Lifeline. International support organisations can all be found here.

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inspiration & influence transcending

Courage to ride the Wheel of Fortune

December 19, 2016

.wheel of fortune

Image via Pexels.com

The Wheel of Fortune

The ‘Wheel of Fortune’ tarot card has been popping up for me for a while now raising questions about courage in the face of uncertainty.

It first arrived in April this year via a personalised reading by the fabulous Marianne aka @twosidestarot and featuring the dynamic Sakki Sakki tarot deck.

At that time, ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ was intersecting closely with the ‘The Moon’ in a broader reading that generally indicated change was afoot. An attitude of surrender and also of ‘throwing my hat into the ring’ was encouraged. As Marianne’s beautifully worded reading explained:

The best way to approach The Wheel is to surrender our attachment to the outcome and take a risk anyway. It is a super bold move, it takes a lot of courage and strength, but I think it’s a good hand to have up your sleeve as you navigate this period.

This initial introduction and the events that have ensued have indeed shown me firsthand that ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ can be a very wild and spontaneous ride, with much of it outside my control. Events have also reinforced that trust, courage, risk-taking and actually learning to enjoy the ride despite the uncertainty are part of the challenge.

Embracing uncertainty

It’s made me think about my own relationship with carnival rides over the years. When I was younger, I wasn’t naturally keen on wild rides like roller-coasters. Over time, I taught myself to enjoy the speed, the excitement and the wind in my hair. As I got older, I became more afraid again and more reticent to take the risk to enjoy the moment. And later in life, that side of me that enjoys a bit of wildness and uncertainty has reappeared.

In one instance, I was the only one in my family wanting to go on a roller coaster ride. I consequently found myself sitting with a ride-savvy nine year old who had great pleasure in hinting about the approaching terrors. It was great to feel the acceleration and speed of the turns and again embrace uncertainty.

Playing a role in change

Just as I have had a changing relationship with rides over the years, so our own relationship with change can be a factor. ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ card has continued to arrive reminding me about the big picture and the need to ‘expect the unexpected’. Most recently, it appeared via Dame Darcy’s Mermaid tarot, this time with the image of the Wheel of Fortune as a ship’s wheel:

wheel of fortune 4

As Wikipedia tells us:

A ship’s wheel or boat’s wheel is a device used aboard a water vessel to change that vessel’s course.

I like the imagery of this card suggesting that while life changes around us, we can play a role in changing course and influencing outcomes by taking risks, perhaps also with a little research and navigating.

For me, this latest journey is about shifting more into the realm of inner life and spirit. So whilst I can play an active role to some extent, some of this landscape is unfamiliar and the horizon is uncertain. I can see that the journey is ultimately about self-transformation, spiritual growth and expansiveness. Looking for opportunities for learning and growth as I traverse this time is critical.

As Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom reminds me:

The Wheel spins our fate. We can ride it – or gamble with it. Life is a game of chance and the Big Wheel symbolises the joy of playing the game.

It’s important to look beyond the current situation to see the broader map, the tides, the whole pattern and my reaction within that context.

‘Courage is not just the absence of fear’

This has also made me think about courage at this time. As Colette Baron-Reid wisely explains with reference to her oracle card ‘Sacred Pool’ in The Enchanted Map deck (in the protection position):

Remember that you have a responsibility not just to yourself but to the Divine spark within you. Courage is not just the absence of fear. Accept the discomfort of seeing with clear eyes and you’ll soon find that wondrous adventures are awaiting for you. Step into your magical life. Take the leap of faith.

Those words – ‘discomfort’ and ‘leap of faith’ echo the sentiment that it’s not always to effect change especially in unfamiliar terrain. Sometimes you have to sacrifice certainty for progress, feeling secure for being challenged and being comfortable for seeing things from a new and deeper perspective.

Around that same time, Lisa McLoughlin’s Plant Ally card ‘Courage’ also made an appearance asking very directly:

What brave steps can you take to move forward?

courage

Trusting intuition

Ironically, I think the bravest steps are actually the vaguest: trusting my intuition and embracing it.

I am an INTJ Myers-Briggs personality type so introverted intuition is my dominant gift. Whilst it’s an orientation that is naturally strong, I need to value and activate it more in my life now as a guiding light. Courage is indeed a step beyond just not being afraid. It’s about actively taking on this uncertain journey where the word ‘spirit’ is making an ever increasing appearance.

It’s about embracing these intuitive powers as a gift rather than something I secretly rely on and don’t really understand. It is about learning about this power, communicating it and using it to connect with others, with spirit and with my calling which is finding its way forward.

So the courage to ride ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ and navigate its surprises is essentially within, spirited by deep connection and collective identity:

But enlightenment is a deeply personal experience. It cannot be studied or even pondered but only lived. The series of outer lessons culminate in the Wheel of Fortune which shows us a vision of the world and ourselves which must be answered.

Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack (p71)

So I’m bravely stepping into uncertainty, going on that ride, turning that wheel and surveying the landscape. Must say, despite the strangeness, it’s riveting and I hope to share more of this with you as I venture forth into this new terrain.

I’d love to hear from you: Where in your life are you riding on The Wheel of Fortune and finding the courage to leap?

wheel of fortune

Thought pieces

Uncharted – by Colette Baron-Reid is my current read. It’s an excellent guide for navigating the uncharted waters of intuition and spirit.

Two Sides Tarot has Daily Weather reports on Instagram, essential reading for me every morning. It’s great to be learning about tarot each day as well as checking the weather for the day. Marianne’s tarot readings are beautifully written and insightful. Plus there are tarot decks for sale with free postage for those in Australia.

Let’s support those living and writing intuitively!

love, loss & longing transcending

This past week, this year

December 23, 2014

IMG_0869This past week was long and difficult. Monday last week started as it usually does – off to work, getting organised for the week and at this time, getting ready for Christmas celebrations and a final busy week before winding down for the festive season.

About 10am on that Monday, everything changed with the news of the siege close by in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. Like many other Sydney workers, I found myself in lockdown, then being evacuated, then unable to return to the workplace.

And emotionally connected to the unfolding events.

The overwhelming feelings were of horror for the hostages and intense terror for their helplessness and fate. Like much of the country, I watched for hours into the night, breath held in a surreal landscape of fear of what might happen.

The early hours brought the news of the tragic outcome.

In the following days, the mood has been sombre, a different atmosphere on the train into the city, a sense of collective sadness. The flowers cascading their way down Martin Place reflecting this.

Many of us, it seems, have in our individual ways reflected, been touched, reassessed much.

For me, the return to my office and buying my morning coffee filled me with sudden and overwhelming emotion. The ordinary every day action of so many Sydney-siders suddenly poignant in the aftermath.

The sense of vulnerability, that it could have been me or so many people close to me. The harsh reality of its randomness.

The collective response has been heartening though sad: the growing sea of flowers reflecting the grief of so many individuals pieced together; the emerging sweet fragrance in the air; the multi-faith ceremonies and statements of support and the solidarity across religious boundaries that re-emphasise that we are all one community; the wave of support for Muslim women and others possibly affected by intolerance arising from this event.

IMG_0856I have engaged with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections, 2014 this month. It has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the year and as always with Susannah’s initiatives, a chance to reignite our own creativity and look around us with new eyes.

At the end of the week, the day 20 prompt in December Reflections was “this year was…”. I have to say this year has been intense for many reasons. But as the events of recent days have reminded me, there is much to be thankful for: supportive and loving family, friends, work colleagues; having a beautiful city in which to live and work; summer arriving; creativity always; books to read; maybe books to write; and the power of collective feeling..

This year and these past days have reminded me of what is of value.

IMG_0860

 

 

 

inspiration & influence transcending

Choiceless as a beach – a photo essay

November 9, 2014

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Gift from the Sea

It’s been the usual busy, a constant onslaught of work and travel and the ongoing struggle to create. The occasional day off work in the working week comes. A day to myself. A day to wander, to have coffee, to read, to walk the streets of my village, to scramble on the rocks, to stand in rock-pools, to look out at the water, to wade into the gentle waves lapping, to sit under a tree in the shade reading and watching others walk by and the boats, with the flutter of the intense sun on the water, the horizon out- stretched.

And to take photos, to snap the images of all this, the piece that can capture the release and the beauty of the place and the day and its utter choicelessness. No decisions, no pressure, no impatience. Just observing, seeing, watching what the walk, the day, the sea brings in its waves of moments and tides.

 IMG_96601 rock beach

4 feet in the water

5 feet in water & shells

 

7 shell 1

8 shell 2

9 shell 3

10 waves on the shore

11 sea treasures

12 reading on the beach

13 water bird on the shore

14 view backwards

inspiration & influence transcending

Reminders to shine

February 23, 2014

Waterford Crystal, IrelandThis week a number of reminders to shine.

Firstly a lovely, lovely post How to Shine Your Light, Even When You Don’t Feel Whole from @tinybuddha read on the morning train to work one day, the final words:

Perhaps there will be times that you feel less than whole, but when those moments come, encourage yourself to remember a time when you made the world a more positive place. Regardless of where you are on your path, that moment mattered.

And on that same train trip, I read an instagram post from @talepeddlerjo Australian author, Josephine Pennicott, with some beautiful words from ‘When I am among the trees’, by Mary Oliver:

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

A reminder to be restful, grounded and to shine.

And finally, that same day, after a busy day, travelling the last leg by car through trees, the words from ‘Yellow’ that often come back to me and connect me to my brother:

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you and everything you do

So many reminders to shine, all in one day.

IMG_6391

poetry transcending

Remembering Sylvia Plath

February 11, 2014

Sylvia Plath's grave at sunset, Heptonstall, West YorkshireI visited Sylvia Plath’s resting place at Heptonstall in May last year. Coming from the other side of the world, I had somehow ended up in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire without any forward planning to be able to honour the poet whose work had impacted me so much over the years.

We had dinner at the Stubbing Wharf Hotel – a place where Sylvia had also had dinner I later discovered. Then we ventured up the steep hill at twilight to Heptonstall.

It was quiet and still, the sun was setting, daffodils bright against the grey light and headstones. There was just my partner and me there in the cool air. It was so peaceful and I was able to silently honour Sylvia’s memory with thanks for all that her writing has meant to me.

On this anniversary of her death, I remember that quiet evening in Heptonstall and reflect on Sylvia Plath’s poetry and its value to me. These words of Sylvia’s run through my head:

Surely the great use of poetry is its pleasure– not its influence as religious or political propaganda. Certain poems and lines of poetry seem as solid and miraculous to me as church altars or the coronation of queens must seem to people who revere quite different images. I am not worried that poems reach relatively few people. As it is, they go surprisingly far–among strangers, around the world, even. Farther than the words of a classroom teacher or the prescriptions of a doctor; if they are very lucky, farther than a lifetime.”

Sylvia Plath, from her essay “Context”, The London Magazine, February 1962

blogging transcending

Keeping transcending

December 3, 2013

Keeping transcending Yes it’s been quiet here…nearly three months to be precise but who’s counting.

I’ve missed it here, creating these pieces of me to put out into the world. It’s been hard to get back to it, a combination as always of work pressures, plus more travel time. I am working further from home and in a new, exciting and intense job role that has required my highest attention and priority.

And then there’s ‘Transcending’ itself, as the blog, as the practice it talks about: ‘strategies for rising above, cutting through and connecting…’ In the strangest of ways, the practice of writing the blog itself enacts this, how I have to keep coming back and revitalising it.

Many times I have nearly stopped writing here altogether especially after a break such as this. I’ve nearly given up on it so many times.

But it’s important to keep going, to keep transcending and to think about what I have achieved, why I do it and write here, the reasons for it, who has helped me and been on the journey with me and what I hope for ‘Transcending’ into the future.

So what have I achieved?

I started this blog in May 2010 and in between busy job roles, I’ve kept writing and creating its content, even if there have been gaps at times. The wonderful ‘Blog in Review’ report for my blog for 2012 sent from WordPress is insightful. I have revisited it now to help me see what I have achieved and what else I can do to keep the momentum and to do it better and more often.

The report told me there were 2400 views in 2012 alone. That might not seem many to some with bigger audiences but to me, it is staggering. I have now created an archive or body of work of 88 posts since May 2010. That’s probably about a post every three weeks. I could be more regular in my work here and write shorter posts more often, but in the circumstances of my life and full-time work role, I’m claiming it as an achievement.

My busiest day so far yielded some 197 views of a single post and I am proud of this and grateful – it was thanks to mentions posted by friends in the blogosphere and especially Tammy at RowdyKittens and a flow on from her extensive readership. It reminds me of the continuing need to visit others and spread the pleasure of their work as well, repaying the kindness. And to be thankful.

My top posts of all time are:

Poetry: into the light

Working your introvert

The value of howling into the wind

Poetry: Optical Illusions

About stillness

My 2012 ‘Blog in Review’ report tells me:

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2012. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

This is good advice that I need to heed. Especially the posts on poetry, one of the major loves of my life, seem to have resonance, so this is something I can work on in moving forward. This can move both loves forward: poetry writing and blogging.

One of the main search terms that found my blog was: “theme +passion to create”. I am thrilled that I came up as a reference point under “passion to create”.

I am grateful for my blogging buddies, my referring sites, my new and enduring friends developed through Susannah Conway’s ‘Blogging from the Heart” and “Unravelling” e-courses as well as the Australian women writers and blogging communities I connect with. I am especially grateful to:

Victoria at The Mojo Lab who continues to inspire and support

Liv at When Ideas Fail for all our connections and her beautiful reflections

Tammy at Rowdy Kittens who gave me the first thrill of a flood of readers and a taste of what could be

Ellen at Choose Your Own Journey for connecting on choice and authentic journeys

Evan at Living Authentically for being such a faithful reader and commenter especially in the quiet times and for all those readers who have stayed the distance quietly

Sage at The Path of Possibility, my poetry teacher and muse who encourages me here still and to whose writing I return regularly for poetic encouragement and structure

Susannah Conway – for her blog, books, inspiration and fabulous e-courses which have kept me renewed and alive and connected with kindred souls across the world…and for being the best role model for enduring creativity ever: “using creativity to set us free”, being one of her core mantras.

I am also really grateful to all the recent people who have subscribed to my blog in the midst of its current silence – you have come from all different places especially my current Unravelling team – and I am honoured. It’s been a real spur for me to return. Thank you for your faith in me to write again.

So it seems this blog is as much about practising transcending as it is anything else. My spiritual name given to me by my yoga teacher is turiyamani – ‘transcendental jewel’ and that is very much what all this is about, finding a way to keep it happening, here and elsewhere as creatively and positively as possible. And in that, to shine.

There’s a sense of keeping on, resilience in writing here so I am going to keep transcending and not give up. I thank you for sharing the journey and hope you will stay and keep transcending also in whatever is your journey and passion, keeping the faith and the practice of what you love.

blogging transcending

Thought pieces #1

June 23, 2013

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‘Transcend’

Verb:

to rise above or extend notably beyond normal limits

to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of: OVERCOME

Middle English, from Latin transcendere to climb across

from www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transcend

That’s what this blog is about and it seems one of the biggest applications of this has been trying to overcome the challenges of writing the blog itself. In the context of a busy work and life schedule, to be able to carve the time and headspace for reflecting and writing here.

If that is all the blog does: document the attempts to carve this unique space then perhaps it has served a useful purpose.

One of the pressures I unwittingly place on myself is the sense of having to write full-blown pieces, fully researched and documented, edited carefully and dense in texture.

I am an INTJ, a Virgo and an Ox – so no surprises there that this should be my natural inclination with such perfectionist tendencies, shoulder to the plough approach and an introverted analytical approach to life.

Yet some of the blog posts I love are more elegant and less dense but have more impact because of this: a photograph or series of photographs and none or few words; a quote with a perfect visual image like Liv White’s wonderful Sunday Reflections; or perhaps a poem or a sequence of more random thoughts like this leading to a new direction (or not).

It’s time for some release of intensity here. I’m currently doing Susannah Conway’s ‘Journal your life‘ e-course and that may be a subtle influence in this direction towards the more natural and spontaneous.

I’m calling this post ‘Thought pieces #1’ – always scary as you don’t always know what is next with #2 and beyond, but here’s to randomness, elegance, spontaneity and more simple flow here to find a stronger and more frequently heard voice between the spaces of an otherwise busy life.

transcending

Getting through

January 6, 2013

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When I walk with my little old Maltese dog, the southerly wind is often blowing and she trots along very strongly into the wind, enjoying her walk, ears pinned back and getting through.

The end of 2012 has felt something like that for me. It’s been very quiet here on the blog for a while; no posting, no writing. It was very busy at work and elsewhere at the end of last year and hard to get space and time to think and write. The introvert in me finds it challenging to get time and space to recharge between all the events and busyness.

And it’s a difficult time of the year. My brother died tragically 5 years ago now at the end of November. Since that time it’s generally been a time of getting through in many ways, but it’s always hard in the lead up to Christmas as we seem to quietly relive aspects of those terrible days for much of November and December. It was also my brother’s birthday in December as well so you think of what could have been.

Christmas has never been the same and there always seems to be a sharp contrast between happiness, family and appreciation, and sadness, loss, and the gaps left by those we loved and love still, but who have left us. There’s a sense of pieces missing and a constant tinge of sadness. I suppose it is like that for many. There have been moments of just losing it in between it all, the familiar waves of grief coming back again but it’s always quietly, when on my own and no one is looking as it has mostly always been.

So it’s been a matter of getting through, ears pinned back through the busyness and events. Sometimes I am aware that I deliberately keep myself busy. There are times I enjoy, especially the precious time with my family and the end of year appreciation and camaraderie with work colleagues, but I am always glad when the busy times are over and I can look forward to the start of another year. I love relaxing after Christmas and into the new year with time and space to read and reflect, watch the cricket, go to the beach, take some walks and generally wind down.

I’m also taking solace in the words from a little book, ‘Be Happy: 170 ways to transform your day‘ by Australian author Patrick Lindsay. A gift from a dear friend at Christmas, it’s a gorgeous book with simple reflections and quotes “to inspire you to find the best in yourself and the world around you”. My eyes went straight to:

Be happy…

Put the past behind you

You can’t change it,

so don’t wear it like a chain.

Understand it.

Learn from it.

Turn the experience into a positive.

Use it to look ahead.

This has become my purpose, my raison d’etre and is why this blog is called ‘Transcending’. Sometimes though this may be as simple as just getting through a day, a week, a month, a year. I try not to beat myself up too much when I need some time just to reflect and remember, to just pin my ears back and get through and when I cannot write or blog as much as I might like to.

But it is good to be reminded also to look ahead and not get caught up in the past especially what cannot be changed.

I’m looking forward now to what 2013 will bring. It’s something of a tabula rasa at this time, a wide open space on which to inscribe and I’m starting to plan and prepare for what it might bring. I look forward to travelling with you this year into what our mutual journeys might uncover and contribute. I hope your year is full of positives and light.

calmness for a new year