I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do (HAL 9000) from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’
I remember the night I first hooked up the internet in my home. I was living in Haberfield, Sydney and it must have been the early 2000’s. The blue ethernet cable snaked its way from the phone socket in the middle of the house to my office in the front room. As someone who valued privacy and isolation to an unhealthy extreme, I felt some fear at the sense of opening up this direct channel to the outside world.
In the twenty years since then we’ve entered a new world. The internet and it’s capacity has expanded exponentially. It has become a powerful force in the world. And it has led, I believe, to an awakening of consciousness on the planet, with an ever expanding amount of people, ideas, information and connections.
And at the same time, if you’ve watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix or even just observed your own experience, you will know that the internet, via the programs that use it, has also expanded the human capacity for unconsciousness. Because while humans are accessing and sharing information via the internet, so too computers are collecting copious amounts of data on our usage patterns, interests and connections, which is then used to manage the types and ways that information comes to us. And in this way, Artificial Intelligence is becoming more conscious and is in turn deepening our unconsciousness.
Knowledge is power.
As a 5 on the Enneagram, seeking out endless amounts of information is how I have tended to pursue a sense of competence and confidence. The internet has been a drug like no other in this regard. And I have definitely benefited from the information and teachings available 24/7. But along with that has also come a sense of overwhelm given the infinite supply.
Yes, knowledge is power. But I’m starting to think that consciousness is a superpower.
2020 has been a year that has shaken up, activated or affected almost every human on this planet thanks to the impacts of coronavirus. The planet has experienced an awakening of consciousness.
And the internet has come into its own during this time as a tool for connection and finding and sharing information – as well as a source of comfort, disconnection and misinformation.
At the start of the year I was already on determinedly turning my life around. And I’ve taken many bold actions and learnt many valuable lessons. But I’ve also been lulled by the endless streams of information. And while I generally endeavour to follow a wide range of people and ideas, I’ve no doubt also been influenced by the networks of people and information I have been consuming.
It’s less than eleven weeks till the end of 2020. Are there any dreams or desires you had at the start of the year that you’ve lost focus of? There is still time! Or maybe your whole life got tipped upside down and your priorities have changed? Now is a great time to look at the goals your wrote down, and set some intentions for harnessing the power of this year and finishing strong.
Comfort comes into your house first as guest, then as a host, then finally as the master. – Kahlil Gibran
The internet offers so much .. connection, clarity, comfort .. but it can also suck your time and your life force if you aren’t careful.
I invite you to join me in taking actions outside your comfort zone in order to consciously create your life. For me this involves putting offers out there and practicing being with the feelings that come up.
Make 2020 a year to up-level your life. You are the master of your destiny.
With love, Orly
PS If you’d like some help seeing and shifting your unconscious patterns, I’m currently offering 1 hour ‘Pattern interrupter sessions’ for $55. Book your sessions HERE. Let’s up-level together!
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the bluepill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” – The Matrix.
How can I become more conscious? What is my shadow? What do I want? These are some things I’ve been pondering. An experience in the past week helped to shed some light.
The weather was warm and inviting and I’d planned a school holiday adventure with Joey. We were scootering from Urunga to Hungry Head where I’d have a swim, while Joey waited, before we rode back. By all appearances things were idyllic. Joey had come along without complaining and we were enjoying the ride and each other’s company. But inside I was plummeting. I felt like I’d jumped off a cliff and was free-falling. Despite being happy and connected to Joey on the surface, inside I was feeling untethered, adrift, and completely alone. And thoughts and memories reinforcing my aloneness kept coming up .. someone I wanted to be close to but felt rejected by, the aikido community I’d distanced myself from. The aloneness I’d sought most of my life was like a whirlpool sucking me into a vortex of despair.
Facing my shadow
I was facing my shadow .. the unconscious state that drives so much of our actions. The night before I had allowed myself to step into the darkness of the unknown. I had taken an action that meant choosing my desires over someone else’s.
For most of my life I’ve felt like I didn’t have any needs or desires. Around other people my way of making decisions was simply to go with what other people wanted. Since they seemed to know what they wanted and I felt indifferent it was an easy default. I was happy (or so I thought) and they were happy (or so I believed). It was a win-win. Except that it wasn’t. Because it was as though around people I ceased to exist, and I could only sense my existence when I was on my own.
So, what had triggered the state of panic that had me feel like I was plummeting to my death? The night before I’d taken a bold action toward what I wanted, even though I ‘knew’ it would upset my mum. With my 50th birthday approaching my mum wanted to celebrate the occasion with a special family dinner. This meant a trip to Sydney and usually a stay at my mum’s place. Her home is in a great location which she makes as welcoming and accommodating as possible because she loves me staying there.
But given that it was my 50th I decided to let myself think about what I might want to do. And staying in ‘my own place’ and making this a real holiday was what I wanted to do. So I’d gone online and booked an airbnb at Bondi Beach for me and Joey for our three nights in Sydney. Instead of opting for the default and making other people happy, I’d chosen what I wanted.
Resisting the mind and choosing joy
I’d jumped despite my mind telling me that it was a waste of money and I would be causing upset. I’d jumped because this was my gift to me. This was fun for me. And consequently I felt like I was plummeting to my death. I felt alone, hopeless, untethered, lost, and like I didn’t belong in this world. I was catapulted into an existential void.
Our shadow parts are the parts of ourself we disowned or rejected (pushed into the shadow) at a young age because they did not feel safe. These are not ‘bad’ parts of ourself, but rather parts that weren’t accepted or were deemed a threat. But rejecting these parts just pushes them into our unconscious where they control us. Our shadow is a part of our ego that holds us back and limits us under the guise of keeping us safe.
I see the light
Having seen so clearly how unsafe it feels for me to have my own needs and desires, I have gained insight into my struggles around setting up my business. When I look logically at the idea of owning a business, and the fact that so many people do it and I admire and respect them for it – I can understand better why my mind has been sabotaging my efforts, telling me that I’m being selfish and indulgent and that I should go and do work for someone else. It is my shadow speaking, trying to keep me safe by telling me to reject my desires and to help someone else with theirs. Seeing how a simple action like booking accommodation could have me feel like I’d jumped off a cliff, it’s clear how powerful these shadows can be.
Breaking out of the matrix of our old beliefs and conditioning is not easy. It’s not comfortable. And it takes a strong push to take actions that don’t align with our default ways of being.
But breaking out of unconscious, automatic ways of being is part of waking up.
“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man” – Aristotle
Maybe the motivation, or need to wake up is stronger and more essential for some people than others. Here’s how I see it right now:
The patterns for our life are formed in our first seven years. If that time was easy and pleasant, or if you were naturally resilient and not highly sensitive, those early patterns might serve you and allow your life to flow easily. But maybe you were highly sensitive to the feelings of others, or faced chaos, an unhealthy, dangerous or destructive environment, or a family where you felt you didn’t fit in, and that the patterns you formed were out of alignment with your true self so that life feels hard and not in flow.
If you’re lucky enough that things flow easily, you might just coast along and live a pleasant enough life where nothing short of a major catastrophe could alter your trajectory.
If you’ve struggled with things not flowing so easily, with unhealthy patterns or beliefs disrupting your sense of peace, I see two options. You can live in a death-like state of low-grade misery, enduring life, perhaps with moments of peace and joy, adopting coping strategies that keep you unconscious – like denial, avoidance or addictions to numb the pain. Or you can face the pain, go into the shadows, and learn to become more conscious and alive.
The work of waking up
The following message popped up in an email today and I feel like it forms a nice summation what I’ve just shared:
“This work, the work of waking up more deeply and growing up more fully, is a very high form of activism. Every action you take is infused with your current inner state. States of consciousness are highly contagious.” – Scott Schwenk
Red pill or blue pill. Which do you choose?
With love, Orly
PS If you’re interested in exploring shadow work, Teal Swan has a lot of free videos on the topic. Here is one: Diving Deep (Shadow Work)
PPS The quote at the end came from within a breathwork course/journey I am currently doing on the Commune platform called Abundant Joy
But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go- we’ll eat you up- we love you so!” And Max said, “No!”
In thinking of what to write about this week my thoughts went down two separate tracks. The first was on the topic of rules and conventions. The second was on love and human connection. Instead of two separate emails I’m pulling them together.
‘Unconventional’ is a term I strongly relate to. I’ve always liked to do things my own way and have railed at the idea of having to live according to ‘society’ conventions. I’ve also railed against people who tell other people how they should do things while also being drawn to these confident, opinionated people with a sense of wonder and awe.
Rules are an antidote to chaos, which is very appealing, but too much order and predictability is boring and stagnant. Rules are like a taming of nature, and I’ve tended to resent any sort of taming or manipulation that attempts to pin me down and control me. I love wildness, freedom, spirit.
When I look back on my life I can see my determination to not follow conventions has given me some freedom to live life my own way. The social conventions of marriage and a nuclear family did not appeal to me. And a relationship with someone 32 years older than me felt perfectly acceptable. Not fitting in to the norms of society afforded freedom and a release from unwanted expectations.
My relationship with Ian had nothing to do with fitting into society and everything to do with inspiration, expansion, human connection and mutual admiration and respect.
Love and human connection was the other topic I wanted to write about, particularly after spending a week with my sister and sister-in-law whose relationship is so inspiring to me. The joy of spending time with them is bittersweet because I feel such joyful connection being with them and at the same time keenly feel the pain of my singleness.
On this latest trip we watched a series on Netflix called Love on the Spectrum. It follows the journey of some people, all on the autistic spectrum, as they start dating in the quest to find love. The show is touching and heartwarming and I felt admiration, love and respect for the bravery and vulnerability of each person.
Dating with strangers is something I’ve never really done. I find even the idea of it petrifying and have found many excuses for not doing it. My biggest excuse has been that ‘I’m fine on my own’ – which I am, and that ‘I’m not desperate’ – which I’m not. But watching these brave souls admit to wanting a partner and taking action to make it happen has really inspired me. I’ve tended to feel a lot of shame at even the thought that I might not be totally happy alone. I grew up seeing the desire for connection as a sign of weakness. And yet when I think back, I know that the years I spent with Ian were some of the happiest in my life. And my connection with Joey is so precious. Deep human connection is really important to me. And me being alone is something I’ve learned to endure and be okay with, but ultimately it cuts me off from life. And while I’m a master at enduring life (as was Ian), I’m finally practicing enjoying it too.
As we set some end of holiday parting goals for the final three months of this year, I rather vulnerably declared that I would go on at least three dates by the end of this year. If those vulnerable and challenged people in the show can do it .. then surely I can too. And ultimately, though I’ve spent a lot of my life avoiding people, I also love them.
And maybe I’ll find some unconventional way of dating and finding mutual love. I’ll let you know in three months time.
A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. … The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. In the destructive element immerse. – Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim)
This quote is one of my strongest memories of high school. I didn’t finish reading the book until after we’d finished studying it (I got by on the crib notes) but I remember studying for the exam and this quote being drummed into me. “In the destructive element immerse” was in my head all through my aikido class on Wednesday night. I’ve been in an existential crisis this past week .. feeling adrift, untethered, floating in the existential void while I tried to get a grasp on the purpose of my life.
The conditions for this existential crisis were perhaps a perfect storm of events: a phone call on Monday that had me seriously reflecting on the direction and purpose of my business/work (‘my work in the world’ is the area of life I’ve struggled with the most this lifetime) .. overlaid with hormones, a particular interaction that shook me up, and maybe even the moon.
But it is less the existential crisis than the calm after the storm I wanted to write about. Because on Thursday, after a fitful night without sleep, where my body felt like it was burning up (I’ve since changed the doona) and I was immersed in a maelstrom of intense feelings, even praying to mother Mary who kept reminding me to ‘let it be’ .. I emerged into Thursday raw and tender and had a most magical and serendipitous day.
Was it coincidence that Thursday was the new moon, and I’d done a simple ritual on the previous new moon? That ritual seems to have been really powerful because when I repeated the ritual at the end of the day and looked back on the month just gone, I was amazed by what had been achieved in that one month. Essentially, I took lots of actions I’d been thinking about for a long time that allowed for big shifts. I think the biggest shift was .. I had found a way to give myself permission.
Which brings me to Thursday. I dissolved into Thursday starting with an ‘integration’ breathwork session at the crack of dawn, followed by a writing session. The day to unfolded almost effortlessly. I drove Joey to school (which I love to do but don’t do often) and came home to work on my model. At 9.00 I sat in on a business coaching Zoom call that I thought was going to be about mindset but turned out to be on strategy. I shared that my focus had shifted to the sculpture rather than the coaching but didn’t want advice since I knew what I needed to do. On the call a friend and fellow artist based in the U.S. messaged me and we caught up straight after to plan our first mastermind meeting for next week which feels like a perfect match for both of us. Then I worked on the Cloudscape model while watching the recording of a ‘witches roundtable’ call that had happened overnight. I took the model as far as I could before setting off for a swim in the ocean. On the way I revisited the Urunga Small Sculpture Prize exhibition to see if the sculpture I’d fallen in love with was still available. If it was I figured it was meant for me. It was. The piece ‘Bateau d’ amore’ is a boat filled with hearts and wings for sails. I feel like this piece symbolises my vision for Cloudscape in it’s holding of hearts and taking people on a journey. At the gallery I had an amazing conversation with the artist on duty. Her woodcarving piece had made an impression on me when I first saw it and our conversation flowed in all sorts of directions and left me inspired to get back to woodcarving. While I was in the gallery a woman who still works at the nursing home where I used to work came in. She told me about some of the residents who had passed on which brought back some nice memories and I have been able, following that discussion, to get clarity on why it was such a toxic place for me to work.
I feel like I’m starting to ramble, though I’m cutting out some detail, but the next magical event of the day came with my trip to the beach. The ocean is the place where I feel most connected and I knew I needed to dip myself in the ocean. As I turned the corner to park my car I saw someone carrying a surfboard headed down to the beach with her dog following. It was my writer’s group friend who I’d thought about only five minutes prior as I’d gotten into my car. Turned out she was on her maiden surf to christen her new surfboard, and I was there to witness it .. low tide, huge dumpers and all. I’ve since cleaned my surfboard and am excited to have a new buddy to surf with.
Back home from the beach I got back to work on my sculpture model and had the biggest (unexpected) breakthrough. After months (or rather, years) of plugging away on the piece .. it was suddenly finished. Like magic the spheres came together and the journey through the piece finally made sense. Even better was that Joey, now home from school, was sitting near me at the time.
Joey got into a game on his computer with some friends so I decided to visit a friend and take her one of the chocolate cakes I made that Joey refused to eat (I put rock salt in it which I expected to dissolve but it didn’t .. which meant chunks of salt ..). As I arrived back at home and parked in my driveway, speaking my thoughts into my Voice Memos (as I do) I noticed .. fireflies. Fireflies are pure magic to me. Together with Joey I watched a firefly move through the bouganvilia to create an ephemeral string of fairy lights.
There is more magic to share but I don’t want to overdo it. This week seriously felt like my most intense existential crisis ever. Maybe that’s just because I’ve got better at feeling. But I am taking to heart that I AM meant to be here and that Cloudscape, which I truly feel is my gift to mankind as a place for connection, exploration and acceptance, is meant to happen.
The five and a half years since I first came up with Cloudscape has been an intense journey full of side trips, adventures and a lot of inner work. And with the model created, a new chapter begins.
f you’re like me (and I know many of you aren’t) you will understand the challenge of making sometimes arbitrary decisions in order to move forward. This is something I’ve definitely struggled with. I’ve tended to wait for absolute confidence and clarity before I take action, and that has really had me stopped a lot in my life.
I’m reminded of this now that I am finally bringing my attention to finishing the Cloudscape model. The apparent arbitrariness of the placement of the spheres has brought up so much resistance, fear and doubt in me for so long. I’ve learnt that when I’m procrastinating doing something, almost inevitably I find once I start that the job is much bigger than I thought. Every time this happens I go “Oh, so this is why I’ve been avoiding this job”. But even the biggest job can’t happen without lots of baby steps. And once I start, that’s when the clarity arrives.
The sphere above is an example of where I jumped in and took action .. only to find that I made a mistake and the hole was in the wrong place. Fixing mistakes is something I’ve tended to avoid, taking a sort of “ah well, it’s obviously meant to be like that” attitude. In other words, mistakes tended to make me feel like I was stuck with the undesired consequences in a sort of fatalistic, helpless way. So I’m finally challenging that pattern by taking action and allowing myself to ‘change my mind’.
A big part of my resistance was been a resentment of ‘wasting energy’ by having to do things twice. But this has been a huge barrier for me, causing me to waste a lot more energy (though over-thinking) than making the mistake and fixing it.
So with this email I’m marking a line in the sand around this old pattern of avoidance and getting stopped. Instead, I’m embracing being messy and imperfect but in action. After all, it’s not until I TAKE action (which might mean making a mistake) that I actually see the action that I need to take. It’s like I need to take the step forward to then be able to see things from that new perspective.
So, here’s to imperfect action (and expanding clarity).
A year ago I joined a small writing group in my local community. Since writing has been a lifeline for me, this felt like a way to focus on and develop my practice. The most powerful part of being in the group for me has been reading out our writing. It’s a scary and vulnerable thing to do. Seeing how completely different each person’s style is has been fascinating too. It’s been hard not to compare and feel intimidated by the writing skills of some people in the group .. but it’s also a good process of self acceptance.
At the beginning of this year, one of our members did a week long writing course as part of Bellingen’s Camp Creative. The course, Writing Your Life Story, used archetypes as a means of delving into the layers of your life’s journey with the intention of gaining insight and self understanding.
Using the archetype prompts, we did some short (15 minute) writing stints during some of our group meetings. We looked at four of the archetypes – the innocent, the orphan, the lover, and the seeker.
Here is my response to The Innocent:
I don’t remember feeling innocent .. naive .. carefree .. vulnerable .. although I remember feeling the sense of loss as I moved into puberty and felt like I’d missed out on my childhood and wanted to do everything to stop becoming ‘grown up’. That’s when I became anorexic and sought to delay the onset of puberty indefinitely, including plucking out every pubic hair. When I left home at 18 to travel overseas I felt like I had the chance at having the childhood I felt I’d missed. Perhaps I had my innocent phase then .. and perhaps I can pluck a story from that time in my life. In fact, though I say I was never innocent .. I think also that I’ve always been innocent .. choosing to do things that defy grown-up logic and practicality. In my architecture studies I refused to design buildings with square walls. What the world needed, I believed, were more ‘organic’ forms .. forms outside of conventional construction .. forms that allowed for a different experience of the world, a more sensual and visceral experience as opposed to the mental regularity of what was expected.
PS Do you enjoy writing? You might like to try this exercise too. – and send me your response if you want to. I’d love to read it! (Prompt: The Innocent: early childhood, highly optimistic, naive, concerned with happiness more than anything else, desire to be free and happy and keep life simple, carefree …) Set your timer for 15 minutes. Go!
Have you ever wondered What’s the point of life? (and struggled to find an answer)?
I spent a fair chunk of my life trying to rationalise and understand my existence and the meaning of life. And the more I thought about it, the more confused and hopeless I felt.
I’m in the process of writing a pdf download for this site with the (working) title ’15 Reasons to Stay Alive’ – summing up what I’ve discovered to offer inspiration, ideas and insights to others grappling with this question. And perhaps more importantly, I want to offer a sense of connection to others grappling with this question – since if you’re thinking like this, there’s a good chance you also feel very alone.
As a type 5 on the Enneagram, the natural tendency of my ego is to move away from feelings and towards thinking. Type 5’s tend to be highly sensitive and the head becomes a safe space to retreat to when feelings are too overwhelming. Growing up I was proud of my ability to cut off from my feelings. I saw it as a strength. It gave me a sense of freedom and control over my life, and relief from the sadness I felt. It wasn’t really until my 40’s that I came to discover that my avoidance and rejection of my feelings came at a very high price.
Feelings can be painful and confusing, especially for a child. And expressing feelings, especially painful ones, can be uncomfortable for others not able to be with them for themselves. When our feelings aren’t accepted or acknowledged we can feel disconnected or even abandoned. Feelings can also seem unsafe, particularly given that some people will use our feelings or sensitivity against us, to hurt, manipulate or control us.
Having our feelings be met, acknowledged and accepted is something not all caregivers are willing or even able to do. The way people respond is usually automatic and unconscious. In this way trauma gets passed from one generation to the next.
Feelings are messy, complicated and often misunderstood – by ourselves as much as by others. So developing protection strategies around our feelings makes sense. The impression I had of feelings growing up was they they were unsafe, and that life was simpler and easier if I ignored them.
But my protection strategy came with a significant side effect that I didn’t become aware of until much later in life.
Emotional Guidance System
You see, our feelings are an important form of internal guidance, both in relating to people and in making decisions. These were two areas of life where I did not function well at all.
In relation to people, I was able to get on easily with people, so conflict wasn’t an issue, but I felt like I had to give up myself to relate. Disconnected from my own feelings I would hone into the feelings of other people. I was so cut off from myself and my needs (I simply believed I didn’t have any) that I couldn’t receive anything from people and I would simply try and make myself useful by meeting other’s (perceived) needs until I could be alone again. And so my experience of being with people was that I would lose myself. Devoid of needs but compelled to respond to the needs of others I would end up depleted and unsatisfied. I was like a boat without a rudder, tossed around by the needs and opinions of others. The only way I could feel better was to be by myself. And so I became ‘a loner’.
Perhaps even more debilitating was an inability to make decisions. Using my rational mind I would look at every angle of a problem to find the ideal solution. But too often the answer was not clear or obvious. Applying this method to every single decision in my life made progress slow and exhausting. Struggling to make decisions was the death knell to my practice of architecture which required constant decision making at every level, from the big picture down to where to place a dot or a line. The inability to make decisions impacted my time, energy, money, confidence and sense of self worth.
The only things I found satisfying were learning, exploring, and sleep.
And in my exploring I came back, again and again, to trying to work out ‘the meaning of life’. I didn’t fear death, because in a way, I was dead already. It turns out that feelings ARE important.
Breath is life
Two things helped to bring me back to life. Firstly, I fell in love. It wasn’t something I’d had much experience of, being a loner and all. And true to ingrained patterns it was unreciprocated. Which led to intense pain, once I finally escaped a three year bubble of denial. Which led to a breathwork practice that helped me to embody, be with, and release my feelings, including the grief of a lifetime of disconnection.
Feelings are life
Waking up in the morning with unpleasant feelings and negative self talk is something I’ve lived with most of my life. My reaction was to want to keep sleeping. I became particularly conscious of this pattern when I had to wake up before dawn to work at a nursing home, and would give myself half an hour to journal before getting out of bed. Once I stopped doing the early morning care work I would find myself waking up with the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, or helping enough, in a downward spiral of panic, shame and guilt. I was my own worst enemy.
Though 2020 has been a crazy and unsettling year for many, this has been my year of working through a lot of old feelings, beliefs and patterns and building my clarity, confidence and sense of purpose.
Two courses in particular have been key to my transformation – Wheels Reinvented (a teacher training on childhood trauma and the chakras) which gave tools and processes for unravelling old patterns and beliefs, and The Alchemy of Wealth, which has done the same but particularly around money and self worth. Like all self development and growth, the process is not linear but a spiral. There is always more to discover as we level up.
We have a soul and an ego. Our soul is connected to our gifts, feelings and desires. Our ego, which wants to keep us safe, is connected to our mind. Learning to listen to my soul and placate my ego is what I’m moving towards. And I know I’m on track because in the last few weeks I’ve had a breakthrough. Instead of waking up feeling ‘bad’ and wanting to go back to sleep, I’ve started to wake up to the message “all feelings are welcome”, present and conscious without my mind taking over. And while fears continue to arise, I’m getting better at trusting.
I’m trusting that what I’m creating and offering has value, trusting my soul and not feeding the doubts and fears that continue to try and take me down. And I’m learning to celebrate the feelings – all of them – since, as I’ve discovered, they are the essence of life.
This random exploration of thoughts was a 15 minute stream-of-consciousness exercise done with my writing group.
One lone done Only not one-ly What is the one .. one what? The One. The one and only. All is one and one is all, tied up together. One what? One of a kind. Kind of what? Just one .. one and only one. Why not two. Why only one. One is not enough. Why not divide one and make it two .. then things can go somewhere. One. You must be content with the singularity of it. No need to complicate it. Talk about The One. But The One is like a joke .. like a fantasy of denial .. a shrinking down the world into a fathomable dream of simplicity and ease. And life isn’t like that. Change your perspective. You’re stuck. Okay. One world. We have this one world with seven billion world views. But if we move into space it is one, one planet, one moon, one. Shift again. One day. It was one day, not particularly different from any other, and yet, totally unique. The sun rose and set, birds sang in the trees, her heart pumped in it’s regular sort of fashion, but .. no, not really unique. Yes, keep thinking. How was it unique? One word. Complete. Yes, there is the one. It was complete. And each and every moment was an act of completion. A moment of presence that was both instantaneous and eternal. And in this way, the day progressed, the sun moved across the sky, and a day made it’s way into the realm of the infinite.
I said this to a girl I’d never met before on overhearing a discussion about her name — YoYo. It was a Friday evening, just after 8, and we’d been dancing for the past two hours in a 5 Rhythms practice.
“Why don’t you?” she responded. For me, changing my name felt like an almost guilty desire, not something I’d ever do, just a vague, impossible dream. “I don’t really mind my name .. and I don’t know what I’d change it to..” She was super focused on me.. “and I’ve always been worried about upsetting my mum”.
She wasn’t letting go “Come up with a name right now”. I scanned my brain, which instantly went into shutdown. It was too big a decision to make on the spot. “I can’t think of one right now. I’ll think about it when I go home”.
Back at home, showered and warm, I sat down at my computer. I had no thoughts apart from simply exploring. The first step, I figured, was choosing the first letter. Circles had come to represent the meaning of life to me .. connection, completion, nature, cycles, perfection. I’d always felt a compulsive need for closure .. clarity. If my handwriting left a letter open I would go back and close it. And my name started with a C.
And like closing circles, understanding things from many perspectives had been an obsession. I was on a mission to find meaning and clarity in what felt like a meaningless and confusing world. At low points I had despaired at the hopelessness and futility of life. When people would ask me, either genuinely curious or making small talk, what my name (Charmaine) meant, I had never been able to give a clear answer. My response in recent years, after many searches, was “it doesn’t really have a meaning, it’s basically a made up name”.
And then there was the spelling. I was used to sales assistants automatically writing an ’S’ and then asking “how do you spell that?”, followed by the slow spelling out. My name felt like hard work.
I googled “names starting with O”. It didn’t take long for it to jump out at me .. short, simple, meaningful .. Orly .. ‘light’ or ‘you are my light’. After a lifetime of being overly serious and heavy, the word ‘light’ had been a guiding word I’d chosen for the year. I’d even made a ring with ‘I AM’ stamped on one side and ‘light’ on the other.
Anyway .. I guess I could trace the journey from then to now. Basically, I had no plan to change my name .. that was another huge decision. But I did .. and I haven’t regretted it. The name felt almost too big for me, like stepping into a bigger vision of myself. And telling people about it felt scary and vulnerable. But in many small steps it has become my new reality. It continues to allow me to shed old parts of myself that no longer serve me, and feels lighter, brighter and joyful.
For a long time I was proud of my ability to override my feelings Those messy, complicated, sometimes painful things That made the journey hard and uncomfortable. I shifted to ideas, dreams, plans as I was taught. Except something wasn’t right. I couldn’t work it out. I would charge forward, only to slip into hopelessness and despair. Life lacked meaning. I felt confused. Then, almost fifty years later I found feelings again And rediscovered life. I learned to love the pain Because it was life. No longer part of the living dead I watched my life transform I searched for joy And settled into the reality of life’s ups and downs. Now I had tears to soothe and quench me where once I had been parched And I moved boldly towards feelings Understanding that feelings were a connection to the soul a connection to humanity an opening for love and an invitation for life. Amen.
Choosing a word that acts as your guide is a fundamental part of Circles of Life rings. To help people choose their word I created a Word Guide for people to download.
I recently discovered a book, ‘One Word that will change your life’, which elaborates on the power and value of choosing One Word and offers a simple process of finding it.
This post outlines the ideas in this book, including the three step process to finding your One Word.
The secret to life change
Written by three friends, Dan Britton, Jon Gordon and Jimmy Page, ‘One Word that will change your life’ gives examples of the power of choosing and living by a single word. The book claims “it will help you become the person you were born to be”.
The book mostly promotes a practice of choosing a new word at the beginning of each year and living into that word over the year. “By living a single word that is meant for you, you’ll find renewed purpose and meaning through the year and achieve laser like focus and power for your life”. Having a One Word vision or theme is described as “the secret to life change”.
Choosing a word at the start of each year is contrasted to the less successful practice of setting new year’s resolutions. The difference with choosing a word is that we are setting a ‘to-be goal’, what we want to become, as opposed to setting ‘to-do goals’, which are about what we want to accomplish. Part of the power of One Word is its clarity and simplicity. Each of the authors tells stories of how powerful the One Word concept has been in their own lives and the lives of those around them.
Three steps to One Word
The One Word process involves three steps: 1. Prepare your heart 2. Discover your word 3. Live your word. Following is a detailed explanation of each of these steps.
Step One: Prepare your heart (look in)
This is a process of taking the time and space to look inside. It means taking time out of our busy lives to be still and open our heart. As the authors point out, this does NOT have to only happen at the start of the year. They recommend going through this process whenever you are ready, and to simply choose another word at the start of the next year. I would suggest that your One Word can in fact span a longer time than one year, although I understand the clarity inherent in choosing a fresh word for each year, as well as the opportunity to check in with your life to see how things are going and what needs attention. As part of preparing your heart and looking in the authors suggest following two simple steps: (1) Unplug, and (2) Ask.
Taking the time to unplug and find some solitude may be challenging, but it is extremely important. The book quotes: “A word with power is a word that comes out of silence”.
The next step for preparing your heart, while unplugged, is to ask the following questions:
What do I need? (what areas of your life need the most change and why?)
What’s in my way? (What is preventing me from having what I need?)
What needs to go?
In asking the first question, “What do I need?”, it is helpful to contemplate on which of the areas of your life need the most change, and why. This can help to highlight which aspects of your life need attention and I found that this part of the process was really helpful for me. Reflecting on the six areas of life; spiritual, physical, mental, relational, emotional, and financial, can help to reveal areas that need attention and start the process of coming up with some possible words.
The second question, ‘What’s in my way?’, involves looking for obstacles preventing your growth. Asking the question “What is preventing me from having what I need?” is suggested as a way to reveal what we feel is stopping us. This was a powerful question for me as ‘self expression’ came up as a big issue for me and the word I finally came up with was ‘EXPRESS’.
The third question, ‘What needs to go?’, can help to highlight things that we need to let go of in order to move forward.
Asking these three questions, with an open and inquiring heart, helps to create the conditions for your word to appear.
Step Two: Discover your word (look up)
The authors describe this part of the One Word process as where you receive your word – “After preparing your heart, all you have to do is plug in and listen up. Then God will reveal your word to you.”
I am a spiritual person, but after a childhood filled with fear from a fire and brimstone God, along with a fiercely independent personality, I tend to shy away from organised religion. However, I appreciate the essence of this step, which involves letting go and opening up to receiving. This ‘plugging in’ process is specifically referred to as making time for prayer. It is suggested that ‘during your prayers, ask God to take control’, and to ‘ask God to reveal the word that is meant for you’, asking “What do you want to do in me and through me?”.
Each person will have their own way of asking for their word. The power of this step is that it takes it away from being a mental process, and opens up the opportunity for inspiration to guide you. Having asked, the next step is to listen. Your word may be revealed to you in a number of ways such as while reading, in a dream, in prayer or during daily activities.
Step Three: Live your word (look out)
This final step where you live your word, which often involves stepping out of your comfort zone. As the book explains, the yearlong process of living your word may start with obvious areas that could be improved, with more difficult areas of life change coming later.
Staying focused on your word throughout the year is very important and there are many ways of doing this. Posting your word in prominent places is recommended. Circles of Life rings are an ideal way to see your word every day. Having your word on display in your home or as a screensaver on your computer or phone are other ideas. Recording weekly insights and lessons about your word into a journal is another suggestion. Other suggestions include finding sayings, quotes or a song that relate to your word, having weekly discussions about your word or writing a poem or a prayer. The book also recommends sharing your word with a ‘Stretch Team’ – close people who you trust and who will stretch you and help you to grow and help to keep you accountable. The two main points, therefore, for achieving growth with your word are to “post your word prominently and share it with others”.
Share the Power
The book ends with a rally cry to share this One Word concept with others as a group activity, giving many examples of where this has been done successfully with families, schools, businesses, workplaces, sports teams, and organisations.
My One Word
In going through this process, the word I came up with was EXPRESS. Expressing myself, especially verbally, is something I have not had a lot of practice at in my lifetime. And the truth of how your word can have you step out of your comfort zone and open up difficult areas of life change is very front and centre right now after I spoke out of line last weekend and have been feeling the sadness and shame of my transgression ever since. There is no doubt that for me this is a word that I have a lot to learn from.
This book gives a very comprehensive account of the life-changing power of choosing a word to live by for each year. The process described in the book for finding your word is simple and powerful. It is a process of opening up your heart, asking and listening for the word you need, and then opening up to the lessons that your word brings over the course of the year. It is ultimately a process of clarity, alignment, stretching and growth.
I would love to hear your word if you have one, and anything else you’d like to share.
This rambling story begins with some musing on boundaries, specifically between public and private, and onto my journey, and some current thoughts, to a little stab at storytelling with the telling of a memory, to this moment and where I am at in my life. And perhaps I am describing a circle, or circles within circles, because each realisation I have had is like the closing of a circle. My life has been a journey of wondering, searching and answering in endless circles.
public vs private
I’ve always been a very private person. I’ve tended to protect my boundaries like a spy infiltrating a danger zone. When I was growing up I felt my private became public too easily, and so I went into shutdown, hiding out, laying low. That has been my comfort zone for such a long time. And that’s the comfort zone I am currently challenging by opening up and sharing. words | circles | life represents the journey, the circle of life, described in words, telling a story. The irony is that I have never been a good storyteller. I’ve marvelled at people who could with a sense of dismay at their handling of the truth.
And telling stories, and my own truth, were intertwined with my obsession with privacy and need to cut off from people, which came about from a deep sense of disconnection. I turned inward and away from people and learned to live a life of extreme self sufficiency, isolation and emotional disconnection.
Right now, while things are quiet and mostly noone is watching, I am going to be brave and start to tell some stories. I plan to improve as I go. Because stories can be fun. And I can tell my stories while reading other’s stories. And I can release some of my closed off, private self into the public realm and take my place in the arena.
Expression is my simple breakthrough life change experience. All I need to do is to do it. So simple and yet so difficult. I need to stop worrying about what others think or even what I think. In fact, I am my own worst critic. In telling my truth, maybe I can tell someone else’s too.
Seeking to understand life has been my lifelong quest. And my search has taken me on some amazing journeys. And though I feel like I am running late, I am right where I need to be and with perfect timing.
I am going to do some random ramblings while I work out what it is I really want to say. And I am going to get more comfortable with speaking in public.
My extreme sense of disconnection at an early age turned into a longing for disconnection. My bliss was total aloneness. My desire to be alone had me live a simple life of self sufficiency, enjoying the anonymity of large cities and opportunities for solo travel. It opened me up to lots of different experiences and perspectives. I refused to be bound to any person, place, thing or belief. I wanted to understand the world from every possible perspective. I was open to all views and held few of my own. I embraced any opportunity for learning and was constantly in search of the meaning of life.
I am trying to zero down on a story. The place that keeps jumping into my mind is this small town in Japan called Iga Ueno. I lived there for about seven months in 1997 & 98. It was an intense and isolating experience for a number of reasons, but it also helped to break me open and shift me into a new experience of life.
Okay .. here goes .. I will tell a memory which popped into my head the other night, of one particular experience I had in that small town.
Here is the memory. I am walking on this slightly main road in this small town, to get some food. My body is covered in bruises and I am wearing a singlet. I feel defiant in exposing my bruises. This was perhaps the beginning of the end of karate for me. I had just been to a spring camp with my karate club. The style was called GishinRyu, a small full contact karate school I had found that fit into my schedule of teaching English classes afternoons and nights. The dojo was on the edge of town looking out over farmland and I could ride there by bike. I had been having private daytime classes with the teacher and founder of the club in exchange for English lessons. We forged a sort of friendship and meeting him late at night to drink and chat at a local bar became a favourite pastime.
On this day my friendship with my teacher had gone through a rocky patch, partly due to my decision to do less drinking. My life had started down a new trajectory. I had quit my job, moved in with a new friend, and been on my first Vipassana meditation retreat. My hair was cut very short and I must have felt a bit monk-like.
And in a highly sensitised, post-meditation retreat, super introverted state I had gone away on this karate spring camp. I was an extreme outsider. And the training was brutal. I was pummelled. I felt so overwhelmed and defeated I was in tears – and tears did not come easily to me. I returned from the camp covered in bruises.
And on this warm spring afternoon I walked out into this still very foreign town, which I would soon be leaving, wearing the bruises like battle scars with a sense of defiance, a “this is me, deal with it” attitude. I felt quite bold and liberated.
That was before a big life shift. Before I moved to Tokyo and then back to my hometown of Sydney which I had left for dead both five and nine years earlier.
As feared I got stuck in Sydney and stayed for thirteen years, at least nine years longer than planned. But in that time I found aikido, found a partner, finished my architecture degree, made new friends, had lots of adventures, had a baby, sold a business and explored, designed and created.
And I finally moved to a fairytale hamlet six hours north of Sydney, surrounded by nature and culture and an alternative way of life. In this paradise I have finally started to settle down and to let go of my excess baggage.
writing into the light
And now I am writing into the light. In speaking up I am starting to shine my light and be a beacon for others.
And as I write I can step into that singlet wearing battle scarred memory from twenty years ago and remember the “this is me, deal with it” feeling of bold self assertion.
So here I am. Sitting by a blow heater, indulgently using electricity rather than setting up the fire, which would involve collecting wood in the dark. Now I’ve switched it off. I just do it in short bursts. It is winter solstice and tomorrow night I am going to a community bonfire and lantern parade 20km out of my local town at a community hall and fire shed. I truly live in paradise and I am very grateful. I have a sense of having finally landed. I can start to tell my stories and run my business from home, sending inspirational rings all over the world and working towards creating massive public sculptures. My house is filled with inspiration and I am taking focused action in my life.
I need to treat this writing more like breathing .. not holding my breath for too long (as is my wont) but releasing in order to keep the fire alight.
Breathing is so important. Breath is the spirit of life, the essence of life. Being ‘inspired’ is really just about living and breathing. So I hereby release my concerns about my naive expression, since I know I don’t know everything and I don’t pretend to. And I continue to be open to listening to other points of view, but here I am offering my own quirky perspectives, explorations and takes on life.
‘breathe’ and ‘release’ were my words for 2016 and 2017. ‘INSPIRED’ and ‘EXPRESS’ are my words for 2018.
I’d love to hear your thoughts so please write or comment. And sign up to stay connected.
This blog is part of my journey. It represents a shift for me toward expressing myself publicly and engaging with the world. I want others to know that they are not alone and to open up opportunities for connection.
I’m Orly Grace, writer, designer, creator .. exploring human existence in a search for meaning and purpose.