Let it be

Let it be

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. 

Thanks for being here.

With love,

Orly

Making mistakes and moving forward

Making mistakes and moving forward

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).

With love,
Orly
The Innocent – an archetypal exploration

The Innocent – an archetypal exploration

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:

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.  


Sending love,

Orly 

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!

15 Reasons to Stay Alive

15 Reasons to Stay Alive

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.

Killing feelings

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.

The challenge

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.

The consequence

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.

Transformation

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.

Soul connection

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.

Do you resonate? Let me know.

Sending love,

Orly 

One

One

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.

Steps on a path of transformation

Steps on a path of transformation

“I’ve always wanted to change my name”.

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.

Feelings

Feelings

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.

One Word that will change your life

One Word that will change your life

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:

  1. What do I need? (what areas of your life need the most change and why?)
  2. What’s in my way? (What is preventing me from having what I need?)
  3. 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.  

 

 

In conclusion

 

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.

 

With gratitude,

Charmaine

 

 

Links

 

‘One Word that will change your life’ on Amazon

One Word website

 

Story time

Story time

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.  

 

public speaking

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.

 

disconnection

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. 

 

a story

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.  

 

karate

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.

 

life shift

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.

 

Sydney

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.

 

excess baggage

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.

 

here, now

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.

 

breathe

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.  

 

words

‘breathe’ and ‘release’ were my words for  2016 and 2017.  ‘INSPIRED’ and ‘EXPRESS’ are my words for 2018.

 

connect

I’d love to hear your thoughts so please write or comment.  And sign up to stay connected.

 

Get connected.  Shift your focus.  Keep it simple.

 

Bold Love,

Charmaine

words | circles | life

words | circles | life

words | circles | life is my new business.

Today, June 14, 2018 is my official start date onto the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), a government support scheme which provides mentoring and financial incentives to people starting new small businesses in Australia.

My business mission with my first product, Circles of Life rings, is to inspire people towards a clearer vision for life.

I have recently put together a detailed business plan for this new business including two years of financial tables, market research, online research, a marketing plan, an action plan for the first year, a weekly work schedule, and all legal requirements.  This process alone has brought a huge amount of clarity and hope in terms of helping me to see how I can really make this dream a reality – the dream being of me working for myself on projects that I’m inspired by.

I am excited about words | circles | life  because it brings together everything I’ve been looking at and gives me one place where things come together.  

words | circles | life is my space for being creative and making connections.  It is a place to put my otherwise unspoken and avoidant voice out into the world – a voice for a silent minority, offering new perspectives on life.  This is my playground for exploring, surrendering and finding peace, clarity and joy.

As I am still in the process of gathering market research I would LOVE it if you could fill in my Online Survey (please click here) (takes less than 10 minutes).

 

What are Circles of Life rings ?

Circles of Life rings are stainless steel bands stamped with words of inspiration that act as guides for clarity and support.  They are a simple, elegant and meaningful gift to yourself or someone else.

Circles of Life rings come in six sizes with the option to stamp any word with up to 14 characters including spaces.  The rings can be purchased online and include free postage worldwide.

These rings appeal through their simplicity, ease and playfulness, and suit both males and females.

 

How did Circles of Life rings come about ?

The idea for the Circles of Life started in 2006 when I was given an offcut of aluminium tube, filed and engraved with Vortex 2006. I wore it as a pendant and called it a Circle of Life. It was created during the construction of a sculpture piece, Vortex, which I designed and created, and then erected on Tamarama beach in Sydney, November 2006.  2006 was a very special time in my life with the creation of the Vortex and birth of my son with my then partner, Ian.  I offered to make similar pendants for friends but kept running into different challenges and ‘Circles of Life’ stayed on my to do list for many years.

In 2016 I returned to the idea and started looking at alternatives. I realised aluminium wasn’t an ideal metal and decided to go for stainless steel. I found some stainless steel rings that I loved and purchased a ring stamper and started to make some rings. They turned out really well and friends loved them. I worked out a range of six sizes to fit most people and designed the packaging. I designed and printed temporary tattoos as part of the packaging.

 

A platform for inspired expression

words | circles | life is my platform for sharing my ideas and my truth, and for making a difference in the world.  It brings opportunities for learning, inspiration, connecting with others, and supporting myself and those around me.  I intend to expand and share my writing, design, and all types of creation.

 

 

 

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Taking my time, finding my way, showing up

Taking my time, finding my way, showing up

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

So .. I’ve been writing this post for a LONG time ..  almost a year.  I’ve written many posts but not finished or published them .. lost in the bubble of confusion that has dominated my whole life.  

This is the post where I start to turn my old pattern of overthinking and hesitation around.  

This blog started as my ‘vehicle for clarity’ – my space for practicing getting my thoughts clear, and sharing them with the world – two challenges I had struggled with my whole life.  It was my space for feeling a sense of my life evolving.  But in an attempt to really shift my old ways and turn things around, I spent the past year ’embracing the thrash’, diving deep into the chaos and confusion of my mind and feelings, with the hope and trust that I will come out the other end with more clarity and confidence.  Plus life threw me a few curve balls that challenged deep fears around losing myself as I got sucked into other people’s chaos and went into overwhelm and avoidance as a result.  But finally I’m showing up here, messily and imperfectly, boldly determined to turn my life around.

One of my huge challenges around writing is that I want to work out what I think and what I want to say before saying something.  But it is by saying something, even the ‘wrong’ thing, that I can get clarity on what I think.  When I don’t speak up, I get stuck in an oppressive overwhelm of thoughts, which then stops me from speaking up.  So I need to let go of the fear of saying something stupid, and just say something.

But before I get too hard on myself around my NOT speaking up, I will acknowledge that my not showing up here this year has felt like an act of self protection and of ‘buying time’ to get my thoughts straight.  I’ve spent a lot of the past year reading (especially psychology literature), doing courses (business, writing, enneagram etc), working in a completely new industry (as a carer in an aged care home), and preparing for my ‘new life’.  I’ve been making dogged progress on my business (but stuck around the publicity and money aspects) and am more determined than ever to finally make it work.

Life path – clarity and completion ..

I started this year with a ‘space clearing ceremony’ in my house.  I had been waiting to do this for YEARS – but never felt ready as there was always something to do first.  Finally, after much clearing and despite still having a massive excess of clutter, the house was ‘clear enough’ for this massive milestone to be achieved.

Action is the antidote to despair.

Prior to doing the space clearing I did a feng shui analysis of my house and came up with affirmations for each of the 9 parts of my house / areas of life.  I could write a whole blog post on that process and those affirmations, but I will share one area of the house I intend to focus on this year.  The ‘lobby’ is a space in my house that is a transition zone between the main part of the house and the bathroom.  This space also contains the laundry and stairs leading down a workshop space.  South facing (in the southern hemisphere) this space represents career and life path.  It has been in a state of incompletion for years, often filled with overflowing clutter, not to mentioned dust, spiders webs and mould.  But the space is now clear and a good clean and a few coats of paint will mean this space can be completed without a huge amount of outlay.  Given that my career and life path are what need attention in order for me to feel clarity and purpose in my life, this space is on my agenda for this year.  The affirmation I have created for this space is

 “I move forward with ease and joy, fulfilling my purpose”.

Transforming how I relate to people

A very old pattern that has had a huge impact in terms of hindering progress on my business and life has been my tendency toward extreme self-sufficiency.  This has been a strategy for avoiding people which is a pattern I developed as a form of Self protection in early childhood.  Taking almost endless solitary time to contemplate and understand things is what I’ve seen as my blissful state, and relating with people has tended to stir up my anxieties and interrupted my sense of peace, and so I have tended to avoid social interactions.  But I am finally challenging many of my limiting beliefs and seeing the origin of some of my unhealthy patterns of avoidance.  I’ve come to see my avoidance of people has come from the desire to escape the pain of disconnection, as well as from an over-developed sense of obligation which had me feeling trapped, and from feelings of hyper vigilance which are very exhausting.  I have also tended to lose my sense of Self, getting caught up in tuning into and trying to understand other people’s feelings and thoughts while losing touch with my own.  The feeling of being lost, of desperately trying to understand what is perhaps beyond understanding, of hesitation, wonder, and never-ending exploration has been part of what has driven me into action, but also has had me going round in circles, lost and despairing, taking forever to do anything.  

But, as I write, I am moving toward a resting place where I can release this incessant search and settle with exactly what is.  I am in the process of changing my experience of being with people to one that invites the joy of connection and the freedom of self expression while being grounded in my own being.  

INSPIRED

My (first) word for the year took a while to emerge.  Immersed in the creation of a book – ‘Your Word Guide’, I was searching for a word that could inspire and support me as I move through this year.  I was thinking of the word ‘inspire’ – but it felt like something I had to do and for that reason did not feel right.  INSPIRED feels more like a state of being.  It reminds me to breathe, be present, and take action without thinking.  It brings me into contact with my heart and body, after a lifetime of holding my breath and holding back.  INSPIRED can feel as simple and being present, or as lofty as being supported by a divine spirit force.  

Random Idea

I come up with too many ideas to execute and get caught in the overwhelm of so many things I need to do to push ahead the projects in my life.  These projects, typically, have been so many and varied that they occupy every spare bit of time that I have.  Since they have been my primary focus they have also negated the need or desire for any sort of a social life.  So perhaps having innumerable projects on the go has been one of my strategies for avoiding people – not to mention endless exploring and never finishing anything.

The creation and setting up of my business, Artistry in Play, is one of my major projects begun about five years ago.  I created this business as a way of supporting myself financially while making self directed projects my living, rather than cramming them into the limited free time when I’m not working for other people.

The random idea, which preceded the train of thought which follows, was this: To select random entries from my 29 years of journals and find stories and lessons and patterns and examples of transformation.  But the truth is that I already have way too many projects on the go and I need to be eliminating, or putting on ice, many of my current projects in order to FOCUS (my second word for the year).

Story time

My lifetime obsession with projects includes an obsession with studying, learning and doing courses.  I have tended to not only have multiple projects on the go at any one time, but also multiple courses.  There has probably never been a time when I wasn’t studying something.  Curiosity is both my strength and my weakness.  It makes life interesting, but has lead to a state of mental clutter, lack of focus, and overwhelm.  And perhaps this brings me to the WHY of my life – I am on a mission to understand life and the world.  The feeling of learning, getting clarity, and evolving is my form of bliss and the thing that drives me forward.

My latest ‘course’ was a 5 day challenge around story writing with a fun and sassy entrepreneur, Jamie Jensen of Your Hot Copy.  Jamie runs a course called Story School (which I want to do), and her 5 day ‘Get Your Story Straight’ challenge was an introduction to the story arc which broke stories, or the ‘hero’s journey’, down into five parts:

The DESIRE, The CHALLENGE, The TWIST, The SHIFT, and The TAKEAWAY.

Telling stories, or really expressing myself in any way, has always been a weakness.  Instead of helping the listener understand something, I tend to leave them (and myself) more confused by losing track of where I’m going and branching off on random tangents.  So the story structure is something that really inspires and fascinates me and feels important for me to study in order for me to find clarity and share whatever I have to say.  I have plenty of stories to tell but have always tended to leave storytelling to those who do it better than me.  But given that my dream is to be a writer, and one of the things I most love doing is writing, I intend to start developing my storytelling skills through this blog.

The DESIRE

My desire has been to experience clarity .. or as stated above, to understand life and the world.  My approach zhas been to be constantly learning, studying and researching.

The CHALLENGE

In my process of seeking clarity, through constant study and exploration, and lifetime of courses and projects, I have continued to find more and more that I don’t know.  After 47 or so years of this I amassed thousands of books, hundreds of courses, and still found myself in the familiar space of confusion and overwhelm, with books and materials (for and from all my projects) adding to my overwhelm.  On top of this, as an extra solution to overwhelm, I had developed a tendency to avoid people (who I felt added to my overwhelm), and ran ideas around in my head in maddening unproductive circles.  Trying to do everything on my own was my worn out blueprint that was stopping me from getting the help I needed.  I had attempted a complete avoidance and rejection of ‘society’ and of conforming in any way.  This included money – which to me represented a hook or a trap of society.  I was almost prepared to starve rather than be drawn into the servitude that money represented.  Sectioning myself off from the world, keeping as much distance as possible from people, and minimising emotional involvement became my strategy for managing my energy which was overly affected by my experience of people as demanding more of me than I had in me to give.  Perhaps I was a ‘highly sensitive person’ – though I actually felt like I was quite tough.  In avoiding the impact of people I was able to do lots of ‘tough’ things – like solo adventures of all types all over the world, and martial arts to protect myself, and braving the world on my own.  But though I had done all sorts of brave things like backpacking into the wilderness, or motorbiking around Australia, or wandering around cities all over the world late at night, or sleeping in parks and train stations, and on and on – the thing I wasn’t brave enough to do was to risk emotional vulnerability.  In fact, I had suppressed my feelings to such an extent I hardly even realised I had any.  My solo adventures were like an armour against emotional vulnerability and I was a master at hiding out and disappearing.  But I have come to see that my hugest fear has been around self expression.  My avoidance meant I did not have to take a stand on anything, or to risk making a fool of myself or being misunderstood.  By not showing up I could avoid being captured and trapped.  I could feel free .. but at what cost.

My childhood blueprint had me feel like I would drown if I didn’t protect myself from the insatiable needs of others.  So I desire to be wild and free and unencumbered by the demands and expectations of society.  I wanted to be free to be myself rather than what someone else told me I should be.  I would work just enough to survive in order to spend the rest of the time doing what I wanted – which was generally a course or project of my choosing.

After getting trapped in a job for eleven years that started with lots of freedom and ended by becoming almost my full responsibility (after I partnered with the boss and he became too sick to work), and with lots of stress and little reward, I vowed to start my own business, to work from home, for myself, doing work that inspired me.  

It has been over five years since I started Artistry in Play – embarked on as a major life project for using my skills, aligned with my values, and part of finding a sense of purpose in my life.  At first I was in my element – starting something fresh, on a steep learning curve, journeying to understand myself and my purpose more clearly.  I had embarked on another journey of exploring many new ideas, and escaping on yet another solo adventure.  But there was a problem .. I didn’t seem to be moving forward productively in terms of this being a business, because I was still in avoidance of the two things that business is centred around – people and money.  

The TWIST

The twist was the realisation that my avoidance of people and trying to live inside my head was what was stopping me from moving forward.  This realisation came, most particularly, thanks to my discovery of the Enneagram, which shined a light on the patterns holding me back.  It showed me that I had to stop thinking and move into action (obvious I know but not so easy to do).  It is over three years since that clarity helped me to see another way, and the journey since has been far from straightforward.  

    

The SHIFT

My shift, in response to my realisation that I was completely stuck in a rut of overthinking and inaction, was taking action in different ways.  Writing this blog has been a huge part in my journey forward .. of practicing expressing my thoughts in a public space and getting more comfortable with the vulnerability of that – and of putting thoughts out that are messy and incomplete, rather than waiting until I have everything figured out before doing or saying anything.  Also proposing a large piece for Sculpture by the Sea which I’ve had accepted by two separate panels for the 2017 exhibition – but which I am still yet to create (since it is a massive undertaking).  And thirdly in setting up a mastermind group to help me to speak up and share my plans and get support and accountability.  

The TAKEAWAY

My message, at this moment, to bring this story full circle, is this:

Words can set you free  (Words create our world)

 

Story summary

The DESIRE – To experience clarity

The CHALLENGE – I felt the only way I could experience clarity was being on my own and trying to work out my thoughts alone

The TWIST – realising that my avoidance of people and running ideas around and around in my head in the search for clarity was in fact the thing that was holding me back.

THE SHIFT – I started to share my thoughts.  I completed applications to share my work (and had some accepted).  I created a mastermind group.  I started to open up more.  I started taking action out in the world.

The TAKEAWAY – Words create our world, words can set us free, the journey continues…

 

Reminders to self

Keep on writing and publishing rather than getting stuck in the thinking process

Stop worrying about what (I think) other people think

Stay in contact with people

Connect to my feelings and allow them to guide me

Set deadlines

Take action

Ask for feedback

Keep moving forward

 

Endnotes

This blog post, in which I’ve tried to unravel my year of not writing, to explore my journey with Artistry in Play, and to explain my experience of the world – probably shows pretty well how I over-complicate things and shows the messiness of my mind.  It also shows how reluctant I am to throw away / dismiss anything which is a big part of my challenge in my quest for clarity.  

I am including these endnotes with the intention that this post can mark the line in the sand between my cluttered thinking and a more clear, ordered and streamlined way of expressing myself (which is the goal of the story structure after all).  

The MAGICAL GUIDE

The hero’s journey often refers to a guide or mentor which shows the way.  This would have to be the Enneagram. As I learnt about the Enneagram I felt like I had finally discovered the meaning of life.  The Enneagram is a model or structure that explains why people react, relate and experience the world as they do.  The Enneagram helped me to understand and shift the way I understood and experienced the world in quite a mind-blowing way (a very type 5 response perhaps).  It showed me the framework I had been using to understand the world and showed me how what I felt was a very open-minded approach was in fact a cage.  It also showed me the keys for getting out of my cage.

Stuck in Point 5

I spent a lot of time in my cage over the past year, retreating to my comfort zone by keeping to myself as much as possible. Reaching out and supporting people is something I have tended to see as my duty and I have been wracked with a lot of guilt over not doing so – although since I started work as a carer in a nursing home I think I felt like this in itself took so much from me that I had little left to give.  I have preserved the little time when I wasn’t working or managing the household to dealing with my overwhelm of projects and stuff – and in particularly with preparing the public launch of my Circles of Life rings project which I have seen as the contribution I want to make to both help others AND myself.

Stepping into Point 3

Part of the new framework that I’ve been preparing to step into is of being visible, expressing myself, shining my light and claiming my value.  My retreating over the past year has been my fear reaction to this transformation, and my desire for more time and more clarity BEFORE I fully step into this more expressive, open and in action way of being.  In a typical stalling tactic, I have been (and still am) in the process of clarifying my purpose, my message, my brand, my product and my vision.  My mission is to help people to take responsibility for their lives and experience the freedom that this gives.

My nursing home work has helped me reenter the world, throwing me into the thick of life in many ways.  Though it is the opposite to what I have been striving towards for so long – to work from home, for myself, doing work that inspires people to evolve – it is perhaps part of my own evolution, as I am working closely with people, in a very intimate way, doing what I can to help them, and making money in the process.  

A closing declaration

I would like to declare, for my own sake, that from here on I will offer up real stories – not just the messy clutter of my mind – as a way of sharing in a more fun and inspirational way.  If you have read this to the end, thank you for your time and I will aim to be more respectful of it from now on.

With gratitude,

Charmaine

 

Deconstructing my life through books

Deconstructing my life through books

A transitional time

The past nine weeks have been a powerfully transitional time for me .. and partly thanks to the input of a number of books and different perspectives on life.

Though I’ve always been a big reader in terms of finding information on topics that interest me, I haven’t been a big reader of non-fiction, or even a big finisher of books.  Instead I have tended to be constantly dabbling in piles of non-fiction, all in an effort to achieve greater clarity.  My ‘type 5’ sense of “not enough” has meant I’ve never felt I had time to fit ‘reading for pleasure’ into my already overpacked agenda of projects and explorations.  Also, I’ve tended to live in a state of overwhelm that had me seeking to limit input rather than add to it.

An experiment

Then nine weeks ago, a friend lent me his Kindle.  There was a book on it which I wanted to read, and he had been suggesting for ages that I get a Kindle to deal with my ‘book problem’ – which was the 3000+ books in my house that had been having a weighing down and smothering effect on me and had me living in a state of constant overwhelm.  He was convinced I needed to clear away all the books and instead get them on Kindle.

A clear answer

Well, I read the first book with relish.  And it turned out there were a number of books on the Kindle I wanted to read.  So when I finished the first I found another to read.  Then another.  And another.  And another.  I have been in some sort of literary heaven with every book I’ve read profoundly moving and inspiring me.  I have even felt my whole approach to life clarified, challenged and opened up in this dive into the world of literature.  And I am reinspired to tell my own story, in my own way.

an abbreviated life

The book I most recently finished was ‘An Abbreviated Life’ by Ariel Leve, telling the story of her childhood and how it has impacted her.  I heard a snippet of Ariel talking on Radio National in a broadcast from the Writer’s Festival in Bali.  The topic, childhood trauma, is one I’m currently fascinated with.  Ariel’s story expresses beautifully many thoughts and feelings I understand.  At the end of the book Ariel writes: “We tell our stories to be heard.  Sometimes those stories free us.  Sometimes they free others.  When they are not told, they free no one.”  What a great call to action!

The Rosie Project

The book I read prior to Ariel’s, and in doing so lost myself in a day of relaxation and laughter, was Graeme Simsion’s ‘The Rosie Project’.  I knew nothing about this book except that I’d seen it in a bookshop and been curious about it.  As a Project Person myself I had so many chuckles of recognition and perhaps developed a greater softness for myself in the process.  I don’t have Aspergers, but my lifetime experience of cutting off from emotions has meant that I have shared many of the attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle choices that the protagonist in the story, Don, displayed.  The very rational, ‘head based’ outlook of Don, has served me well in my mostly solitary existence, but has caused meltdowns and a consequent lack of action when it comes to decision making and relating to people.  I have been very cut off from intuition and have tended to escape into my head rather than experiencing the fullness of life.  Interestingly, when I just started to reread the book, only ten days after finishing it, my experience was completely different.  I felt like I was reading it from more of an outside perspective .. studying it rather than being absorbed in it.  But still enjoying it.

chasing-the-scream

Prior to ‘The Rosie Project’ I read a book that featured in the first ever blog on this website and so had been on my radar for over two years – ‘Chasing the Scream – The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’ by Johann Hari.  I originally heard about this book from an article by the same author in the Huffington post.  This book was a total eye-opener and made clear to me a shift that is needed on our planet to bring things back into alignment.  This shift is away from fear and towards love .. away from disconnection and towards connection .. away from despair and towards hope .. away from a downward spiral of destruction and towards an upward spiral of love, acceptance and peace.  This shift requires the dismantling of the ‘war on drugs’ and the creation of avenues for healing.  I feel like my mission has become much clearer.

wild

It feels strange to be working backwards with these books I’ve been reading .. but perhaps that is part of the deconstruction.  I saw the film based on the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, and enjoyed it but wasn’t overly amazed or impressed.  But reading the book I experienced a totally different perspective.  I enjoyed and resonated with the experiences and challenges of solo adventuring, but was also in awe at Cheryl’s openness and vulnerability with people.  That has never been my strength.  For me, going solo has really been taking the easy route.  It has it’s challenges, but opening up to and relating to people isn’t one of them.  I admired the vulnerability in sharing of details of her experience, and I noticed an awareness and awakening to the possibilities of connecting with people thanks to this book.  My solitude has served me well, but it isn’t a state I want to get stuck in.  Essentially, I felt like this book gave me insight into a different perspective on life and helped break down some rigid thinking that has had me stuck.  I was also inspired, in reading this book, by the quality of storytelling, and the meaningful arc of the story .. evident in the title of the book ‘a journey from lost to found’.  I am keen to dive into story structure in order to tell my own story in such a way that I can both create and discover clarity.

The course of love

And finally, the book that started this whole journey, the one I borrowed the Kindle to read, ‘The Course of Love’ by Alain de Botton.  I loved this book.  In fact, I loved all these books.  It’s like, after holding myself back from this ‘indulgence’, I fully indulged and discovered what I’d been missing out on.  ‘The Course of Love’ is a love story and psychology guide combined.  Since I’ve been quite obsessed with the study of psychology for some time, this book was like the gateway that led to me diving into the fiction and non-fiction that followed.

Deconstruction

I guess I could go into a lot more depth in analysing my life according to these books .. but I will sum up to say that, through these five books, I have felt love, joy, connection, purpose, validation, clarity, inspiration and hope.  And I’ve come to some appreciation of how I have deprived myself in my shut down and avoidant approach to some aspects of life.

Reconstruction

I’m still in the transitional state .. but with a bigger picture of what is possible and a greater sense of clarity and purpose.  What a huge blessing.  And what’s more, in appreciating the value of reading these different perspectives, I feel much more inspired to add my own.

 

Ever onwards.

 

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