When good people do nothing

albert einstein

Apologies it’s been one big breathe between inhales & exhales, since I last unwound the words, the thoughts & unpacked. I’ve missed everyone of my writers therapy sessions for the past year or so, missed mentors & even missed those delicious vegan Monte Carlos; missed good friends out doing what is write…..ooops was that right? I’ve never really ever understood why anyone could look the other way in a know what’s wrong & choose to do something other than what is right sort of thing; operationalise the behaviour yes, analyse & present a paper on it can do; but fundamentally as a human being, to the core of whatever it is that neuroscientists are suggesting is beyond the human body, creates an energy that connects, sends our signals energetically from our powerful minuscule neurons, to the neurons of those around us, seeking to understand the humanity between us, sort of way sometimes does my head in just processing it.

Why be silent if you have a voice or hands to write it down? You could paint it out, sing it, dance, act or be the change you need to see, but, yes it’s a but (I hear you and still think differently), when I began to unpack this in my normal Google all this patterns & histories of its occurrence (my data nerd kicked in) I discovered it’s not something which seems to be decreasing, in fact as our population increases so does the rate of stupidity, ignorance, crime, ignorance to suffering. That’s not to say there are not good people out there screaming even at the top of their lungs to make a difference or ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff to raise awareness both as individuals or on mass. Yet let me just say to you…Trump & Boris, need we say more. It would appear on mass popularity means a whole lot more & it’s not all good.  When the best seller “How not to give a F***” came out, surely, those out there enjoying the pages of the F bomb could see, it wasn’t about not giving a F about the things that matter, it was about smiling & waving to the nonsense out there, about wasting your energy & time, your voice on the crap, the bullsh**, the things people say about you, the stuff that holds you back from being the best you there can be. It was about aparigrapha in yogi terms, non-attachment to the voices of your ego & most certainly wasn’t suggesting you be silent about the things that matter.

Sometimes silence is a blessing; preferable to 2am when your dog wants to go outside, 3am when someone needs a glass of water & thinks its better you brave the cold than them. Silence is not OK when there is suffering involved. When you tilt your chin towards your chest, lower your eyes, even close them, think something else so your ears tune out & keep walking. There are times when silence is the foundation of that bulls**. The more we know, the more choices we have to do something about suffering, to raise awareness, to speak out, stand up & speak loud about the things that matter. We have choices, every single one of us, to not be silent about the things that matter or choose to do absolutely nothing.

There are certain times I advocate for the blessings & self awareness that comes from being alone, silence has a purpose, however just like the westernisation of many of the good things we have & can do as human beings, even silence has been turned into something harmful.  Silence is great when you meditate, are in the present moment, trying to hear your thoughts, unpack the ego, yes I love meditation too, an opportunity to inhale the good stuff & exhale the rest. When I’m weathered by the storms of imperfection, the words & thoughts of others, their expectations & attempts to fit my unique shape into the square pegs & round holes, meditation keeps me grounded both feet on the ground I share with billions of others.

Lately that moment, presence in the moment has been a life-saver, has allowed me to absorb the good stuff & let go of some not so great human failings, been boosted by the special people my life, who remind me to stay true to myself, to be the change I want to see, as different & as hard as that often is. Somedays it can take one simple email “you are amazing, the best leader we’ve ever had” to reassure you, even when you question & doubt yourself, wonder if you are actually losing your mind, remind you to go back to the facts, to stay on the path, to look ahead & never be silent about the things that matter, to look that fear of not being understood in the face & tell it to get the hell out of your way, you are coming through.

one true sentence

If I had never believed my thoughts in the present moment or had the benefit of support around me a decade or two ago or both, I’d never have raised awareness, never spoken out at large gatherings, never written that letter or the other one, that statement or my version of the truth; never sat with my shaking words or hands in that witness box, or let go of a career & envision another. With each step I took, every corner I changed direction, ever time I adjusted the sails I’d meet another person, a friend, a mentor, a colleague, the one in a million who thought differently, who gave me the courage to keep going & believe that if there was change to be had, it started with yourself. I learned how to keep my eyes forward, to embrace the opportunities of like-minded people, who cared about vulnerable people, who gave a sh** about the impact their choices could have on the lives of those either in their micro or macro systems.

I wouldn’t have believed I could be the change, with my soft little voice the one someone once told me was too soft to speak over the phone or in meetings or to parent! Yep someone once told me that. Funny how that same person now has grown adults going down a path they never imagined possible & feared, mine are kicking goals one after the other as I can now smile & wave to the ignorance. The more I learn about behaviour, the more I see behaviour in individuals, the more I know verbal behaviour may take you only so far, if you want to make a difference, if you want to parent effectively, to change the world you see, then it starts with you, changing your behaviour; it begins the day you decide you are the change that is needed. As Margaret Mead once said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.

When I first read that quote, I started collecting her work, every book. I’d never heard the title ‘anthropologist’ before, I didn’t know you could study cultures, I never entertained the thought there were other communities out there living so vastly different other than what they eat, the language they speak etc, improved, kind, compassionate people & cultures, parenting differently, supporting each other; I was young & thought like so many what went on around me was all there really was, that basically didn’t all people behave just like us?

It was around the same time I received my first penpal, yep those were a ‘thing’ back then. No emails, no snapchat or iMessage, just a pen, paper, scissors for cutting & pasting your stories to each other & someone miles away waiting weeks for that stamped envelope to arrive in the mail. I learned about a wall that surrounded a city to keep people in & others out first hand from those who experienced it. I learned about classical music, playing the violin, orchestras & ice skating, as I sweated through the dry western summers & small mindedness those letters were a world I was yet to see. It was those letters which gave rise to my passion for travel, to dreams of one day going to this place & exchanging the memories of those letters through our childhoods. It was also the earliest memories I have of being a writer, not a very good one (just like today), just one that spoke about the things that mattered, shared stories, raised awareness, made a difference in a community bulging in racism, ignorance & mental illness, alcoholism, drugs, family violence, sexual abuse & cycles of silence.

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I realised I didn’t have to be a good writer, I just had to write, to tell the stories to make a change. It wasn’t too long after that I boarded my first plane, visited my first overseas city,  I think I was 18 or so, where I began to see a whole different world outside of the textbooks of education.

I stood a few rows back from Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu on stage at a Free Nelson Mandela rally, still incarcerated at that time; it was the first time I learned the term ‘soap box’ & completely inspired by the bravery of someone bold enough to stand up & speak out about the things that mattered to them (even if some of it was weird & humorous).  It was the first time I voluntarily stepped outside my comfort zone for more than just entertainment or travel, to win a prize or score a mark; joining friends for drinks at an underground bar & listened to stories from the victims of apartheid somewhere near Covent Garden, beneath a quaint little bookstore, where I made friends with Vincent, a from Africa, whose dream was to cycle home via the Sahara & nearly had me convinced I could do it as well, if it wasn’t for picking up work in the Cotswolds. I was convinced, sparked by the idea, I too could have dreams so big, so challenging & so unimaginable, they were actually possible, I could do anything I just had to choose it. Wow that could have been a whole different lifetime had I not taken that different turn. When I think of all the experiences I can remember, I wonder about the ones I now forget, the ones MS steals & yet part of me contemplates if my brain is exhausted most of the time because I have had so many incredible experiences to learn from, maybe it is just too full; imagine if I could remember it all!

I guess I’ve always loved writing, telling stories, deconstructing human behaviour, why we do what we do & say what we say, realising I didn’t have to be even good at it, just want to give it a shot, one experience began to lead to another, suffering became opportunity & resilience grew from the pages, stories, events in-between. Whether it was the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song, the words of Shakespeare or inventing my own, there was something incredibly powerful about putting words to paper, the power of the pen being mightier than the sword. Yet just as intriguing are those accounts of history, tales of injustice, stories of amazing human being or passionate songwriters changing our thinking, so many stories to be told, shared, to inspire & change our evolution. I began to open my eyes to a whole side of humanity through both experience & observation, discover the suffering that comes from hurt people, hurting people, the ignorance & antecedents leading to the behaviours of those who not only inflict harm on others, those who stand by & do nothing while it occurs.

I listened to the words of people who lived through the isolation, the oppression and abuse of apartheid, something I knew so little of despite receiving 13 years of Australian schooling & although I had spent most of my childhood in regional NSW, new so little of our indigenous history at that time, realised the version I had been given was so far from the true history, discovered how ignorance shapes the stories people tell in order to fit in; however, things changed from that moment, something uneasy stirred. Maybe it was the recognition that I too had felt that oppression from gender & vulnerability, from being new in a small town, female & isolated. Maybe it was my particular experience of being vulnerable, of having no voice or a voice that was silenced, wasn’t there when I needed it or maybe it was the events of discovering that courage was not about doing what was comfortable, it was doing what was right when it was uncomfortable. Those feelings that arise, of lack of control over the direction of your life, having to make a choice in a split second, realising right now in this moment you can go one of two ways, you could change the direction of someone else’s life, to empower the disempowered, to be a voice for those who are silenced. Maybe it was the pain of raw skin peeling off that bone, laying it bare & feeling that fear of standing alone with your truth, hitting home & finding a single light switch in the dark as you stumble through the mess of human beings doing nothing, your own struggle to see a way forward despite how scary & uncertain it was, to survive in order to reach the person you may be today, knowing that even the impossible is possible, realising the very word says ‘I’m possible’.

Maybe you could call it ignorance or maybe opportunity or lack of, to know the truth as it is & was, I continued to find myself with opportunities to learn the extent to which human beings can & will do whatever it takes to do what they think they must do to appease their own ego;, as misguided, as hurtful, as unashamedly unjust as they do, there remains so many others out there speaking out & speaking up – we actually have a choice. Fancy that, you can choose to make a difference or not. You can choose comfort over leadership, you can choose to define what it means to be a good person.

So I made mine, a choice, a clear, decisive, passionate choice in the darkness of that bar, somewhere in London; to never be silent about the things that truly matter, when it came to the basic rights of each person, regardless of the colour of our skin, our age, ability or gender, to speak up, speak loud & say sometimes what no one else will say, not because it was born from self righteousness, because what is sometimes unpopular is right, just because more people say it’s true doesn’t mean it is. Think of dictators, of abuses of human rights, of the power of individuals throughout history who have tortured, murdered, committed atrocities yet had the power to influence the masses. To be self-assured so much that I would never feel alone because I always had myself, what I had to say was another way of seeing what was happening. So I took a few detours along the way, I found her again, that quiet voice & passionate heart, after many more experiences & stories, information & data gathering & still dream of being that anthropologist someday in retirement, to write meaningful, purpose filled stories that inspire change from those who actually create it.

Although it was a long time before I realised suffering could be made into the foundation I would build a life upon & despite telling my story at different times throughout my life, the whole truth & nothing but the truth is still a non-fiction novel yet to published, a saving it for a rainy day & more time edition opportunity maybe I’ll finish that book in the cabin not far from the sea, in the silence & comfort of work being only what I’m passionate about. The more I lose my mind to MS, the more it is re-shaped from tea loving to coffee snob, from red wine to whiskey shots, from needing to belong to not giving a sh*t about expectations of what I should & shouldn’t do, wear or shouldn’t wear, how I mean’t to be behave or fit in & choosing to give that energy to the things that matter, the more I come home to the place I longed for all those years ago, the friend I wish I had, the adult I needed to protect me from harm, the voice I wish had spoken up & stood up when I was too small to do so, the more I feel myself than at any other time in my lifetime of 50 years.

Each brick that was thrown, every scar, hurt, pain; I soon realised I had the opportunity to create another layer with those bricks, that I could stand taller, my voice despite being soft would be louder the higher I took myself, if I learned how to use it. I became more aware I had the power all along to choose to let go of whatever did not serve a purpose, I had choices, oh my f**** goodness I actually could choose a different path & I made them, every single one since. Yoga gave me insight into giving myself permission to come home to myself, allowing others to do the same. The more decisions I made, the changes in direction I took, I soon realised I was also opening up a consciousness to how power, ignorance & greed controlled the choices of others.

I was called & labelled idealistic, advised never to work for a Government department as I’d be frustrated by the lack of change, the staleness of human beings following a path of little progress, by the fitting in & lack of standing out; told idealistic people can’t change systems, laughed at, even from the nicest of people & continue to see the misguided belief that when I  raise a concern, when I’m the only one speaking up, saying what no one else has the courage to say, then something must be wrong with me, if I could identify injustice in places where no one believed it would occur, then it must not be occurring at all if the person I’m telling can’t see it too.

silence of our friends

Then a mentor & well respected professional advised me to take a different career path, if I was to be the change, if I really wanted to make a difference, one person at a time, it started with me; I had to think differently, strategically, to keep my eyes on the ball or the prize or whatever damn vision I created, collect the data & join the dots. I needed conscious choices, not unconscious reactions to my environment. I began to see if it was to be, then what mattered was up to me. I also became acutely aware, despite how tall I had become on those bricks, my voice was still soft & never going to be loud enough from where I was standing. I was going to wear myself out banging my growing yet trauma influenced brain against those brick walls, I had to come up with a different plan & required putting on different gloves. I was encouraged to read about those who had made a difference, those who were disempowered & silenced, the paths they took, who changed the world one word at a time, to keep my eyes open, my heart higher than my head, yet still ensure my head was along for the ride. That change did not have to be massive & only when I took on learning about behavioural science did I first hear the term, to change the culture we must first change the behaviour, change, real change, starts with just one person. I looked for stories, began to believe in the impossible, even dreamed in places where not one person was brave enough to do what was right, that someone could be that change. Even now I still prefer to listen to stories of people being the change they want to see, about overcoming suffering, being stronger than they imagined possible, movers & shakers, even called ‘the crazy ones’. I much prefer following their path than watching some desensitising brain numbing series which contributes zero to extending my knowledge or purpose.

I started to imagine that despite the unpopular, making hard choices could result in change, even if I doubted what I had to say, holding back wouldn’t change anything so it was better of to get it off my chest; even when it seemed those who chose to fit in rather than stand out had more power & persuasion.

I began to identify every opportunity to build relationships with those who had the power to make change, to see different directions, become an academic, even this was a long distant vision, the possibilities from gathering, documenting the evidence & be a voice through words, take risks & speak up, to never be silent about the things that matter & to be the change I want to see.

I learned to sit somewhere different on every day of a conference or opportunity to meet people, you never know what opportunities arise. I would speak my truth next to leaders, Directors, journalists, victims & listen intently; absorb the chance to see things differently or to speak my truth, to create a meaning, a purpose to get up everyday, a direction forward. I studied writing, made friends with people just like me, filled with a passion for making a difference despite the personal cost; from book launches of horrific suffering, I took opportunities I never dreamed I’d have, spoke my truth & began studying hard, one foot in front of the other, community rallies, public events, even a tv talk show, one layer at a time, one foot in front of the other, with not one event or opportunity being more important than the other, just doing it, learning, being as crazy as someone thought it was, to speak the hard truth from my little soap box.

As I sip my resveratrol filled glass of wine tonight & the flame flickering winter fire keeps my toes warm enough to make my fingers move,  I find a little more clarity from those who know the difference between the truth, I revisit old ways of lifting those feelings of frustration, catch up with a few old friend’s still telling it how it is, being the change they want to see. I’m reminded of a good hug I had today, of younger voices going through the same struggles I had all those years ago & explore the gratitude I feel for a whole lot of love I’m blessed with & rational thinking about justice, of doing what is right, feeling so lucky to have so many good people in my life, from the person who makes my world a better place everyday, the loves of my life who give me purpose despite my sometimes leap before I check the depth wild, crazy behaviours & remember the commitment I made all those years ago when I didn’t even know behaviour was a science, when words & the truth could be the only choice you have, yet it is still a choice. I renew that vow to never be silent about the things that matter. Even when my voice shakes, despite what people will say, whether it makes sense or is interpreted as emotional, I will still say it & to whoever it going to listen. It maybe on paper, it may have a paper trail leading all the way to that hole people dig when they do the wrong thing, yet I will still say it regardless of the personal cost.

Living with a brain disease, a brain continually being reshaped may have created a vulnerability I never imagined I’d carry. It may have even developed a sensitivity to choosing a less confrontational path, an easier, less painful choice. Yet as I revisit those stories of the ones who made a difference, I stay up all night trying to understand why people chose to look the other way, I go back through my origins, with each page I turn & remember the catalyst for the direction I took, I’m reminded there is no meaning to existing unless we have purpose, whether you consider yourself a good Christian, a passionate advocate, get paid to make hard choices, you undermine the meaning your life has – when you sell out, look the other way, stay silent, while people suffer, when you choose against what is right to do, for what is easy, how can that possibly be the actions of a good person?

As a behavioural scientist humanity continues to amaze me, how groups, communities, masses follow what is popular, despite the destruction, the hate or corruption that underpins the motivating operations or their MO. How a socially awkward male, known for hurting animals as a child, could convince a church full of people to move, set up a whole new community & then take their own lives because he told them to (Jonestown). Of the 1,000 US church followers & their community, only 33 survived the cult leaders instructions. How could so many educated, knowledgeable people notice the signs, could see this occurring & said nothing, leaving their intervention until it was too late, until children & adults lost their lives? How many lives could have been saved?Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Germany, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Gadafi, just because a mass of people follow & chose to ignore the power of an authority, it does not make it right!

When we are silent about the things that matter, the things that matter suffer.

It’s not something that happens off shore or somewhere else, so if you are reading this from the same land as I stand upon, Australia has it’s own history & present day turning the blind eye occurrence. You don’t have to tell yourself it’s someone else or over there, to imagine ‘not in my backyard’, our communities are littered with histories of suffering.

In the mid-1960’s The family, a cult following, where a yoga teacher come leader Hamilton-Byrne convinced well educated & financially secure families to surrender 14 of their infants/children to psychologically & physical abuse without question. Well educated professionals believed her words, families surrendered their children, no-one questioned her motivations or the stories she sold & even today I see the same ignorance, schools, institutions, organisations, departments, ignorance is alive & well.  It was many years before the truth came out about the abuse occurring & not without a lot of suffering in between, not before the only brave souls to tell the truth were the young victims, not the powers paid to protect them from harm.

On Friday February 12th 1993, James Bulger a 2.5 yr old boy was abducted by 2 ten year old boys in the UK, they walked around the city of Liverpool for at least 2 hours, passing many, many people, before little James was murdered. Adults who witnessed, observed a terrified little boy & did absolutely nothing. Good people maybe, ignorant none the less & people who could have prevented the tragic loss of life of that little boy. Then even little James was let down by his community, before many tragedies across the world, was the widely discussed Kitty Genovese story of 1964 in New York, where 38 witnesses ignored her cries for help “please help me, please help me, please” as she was raped & murdered in a park, where her cries for someone, anyone to stand up, speak out, hell even make a phone call if they didn’t feel brave enough to go towards her cries, yet they did nothing, absolutely bloody nothing, later stating they did not want to get involved. Those horrified about the behaviour which prevents people from intervening, where supposed good people do nothing leading to suffering, began to study this tragedy, hypothesising a theory many still refer to today, widely known as the bystander paradigm, where so-called good people do nothing & why. When I was first aware of this theory I wanted to know where are the stories of those who do something, those who step up & speak out?

Every day across our country children disappear, lives are taken, family violence occurs, corruption, deceit and opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable continue to be reinforced not by the perpetrators or those who commit crimes, their behaviours are strengthened by those who know something & do nothing, by the lack of consequences for their behaviours. Good people, can and will do nothing, then go to their homes, churches or peers & tell themselves a justified sanitised version of why they couldn’t, shouldn’t & didn’t.

If I am to understand why, if we are to move beyond the paradigm’s defining this behaviour, if we are to ever prevent suffering, then more must be done to positively reinforce those who do something, to better understand not only what prevents people from speaking up, what are the motivating operations of those who do! Behaviour goes where reinforcement flows & its way, way, far from a point where that reinforcement needs to flow following the behaviours of those who speak up when thousands remain silent.

speaking the truth

The Age in 2013, stated the State of Victoria’s police and politicians had the worst corruption within Australia, they were not alone or was it isolated, it included political figures, Department heads, it wasn’t restricted to people with no power, it was rooted in those who were given the power & authority to make a difference, they did, just to benefit themselves, journalists suggested the state of  Victoria had become “a dirty State”, a cesspool  of abuse of power and opportunity. How many people can you imagine knew of these behaviours, witnessed or were victims of crimes, of corruption, of abuse of power & did nothing & how clean is this once dirty State today?

History is littered with tragic, horrific & unbelievable stories of human suffering at the hands of other human beings. The Bystander Effect as it is known, suggests human beings are more likely to intervene as a stand alone individual, just one person, that an act of justice is more likely to be a solo act than a group of people who have the capacity to raise awareness, to ring the bell; less likely to ever be an organisation, a sporting club, a community or authority, throughout history there many, many stories of these same groups of people brought together by values or employment, doing absolutely nothing. Science says we are shaped by our environments, the people we become, the behaviours, our responses, what matters, cultures only thrive on individual behaviours, groups of people fear being outside the group, saying something different or uncomfortable, they choose comfort over courage. Therefore I guess it goes without saying, if we are to change a culture,  it will take beginning with individual behaviours & if those behaviours are filtered down the lead, role-modelled by those who do nothing, then individuals don’t stand a chance, unless they pour cement down their spines & grab a megaphone or speak to those who have the power to do something.

It’s estimated over 20,000 Aboriginal families, individuals, lost their lives during the Colonial Wars, Australia has a history of doing nothing when it comes to suffering. Of the estimates, approximately 250,000 Aboriginal people living in Australia when it was first settled or at first contact, only 60,000 remained by 1920. Massacres, murders & generations of families were killed because a majority of people did nothing to stop it. Even today we still have streets, parks, electorates named after mass murderers.

The suffering continued well into the present day. However, along our historical path, to our shores our nation has also been shaped by passionate, courageous people who have braved the ignorant masses and authorities who should do something & do nothing.

The likes of Margaret Humphries from the UK, a social worker from Nottingham Shire Council, in child protection and adoption services, in 1987 investigated the British Government program of Home Children, who later brought her passion to Australia, who was the changed needed for thousands of children. The forcible removal of thousands of British children across the Commonwealth nations, including Australia, who willingly participated. Up to 100,000 children were taken, their parents lied to, moved across the world, separated from their families, 7,000 of these children were re-settled in Australia, in institutions and homes where many were abused. Saving money was apparently the motivating operation behind the program, because it was far cheaper to move them than to provide support to struggling & vulnerable families. It was costing the UK government at the time 5 pounds a day to care for children, whereas it was 10% that cost in Australia. So they (the British & Australian governments) lied to the people, lied to their parents, lied to the children & put babies & young people on ships to Australia. Humphries voice was the catalyst for the Child Migrant Trust, offices opened in Melbourne & Perth, the suffering was publicly shamed, it became the story behind the movie Oranges & Sunshine, educate yourself & be inspired to do something different.

Despite our history of suffering, of silence when suffering occurs to our most vulnerable; our statistics tell the story of slow & little change, of systems which continue to fail our most vulnerable. In 2017 1 in 5 or 1.7 million Australians had reportedly been sexually assaulted or threatened since the age of 15 (based on those who reported these crimes); intimate violence accounts for more deaths than any other risk factor for women between 25-44, with 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men violently assaulted or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner since age 15 (ABS 2017). The financial cost of this to Australia is over $22 billion. If it doesn’t make moral sense to protect children & those suffering, then it damn well makes financial sense. The cost of doing nothing might create jobs, yet it burdens society by creating so little change. Imagine how different our societies could be if we could reduce suffering, when we know better & actually do better, how advanced our species could be if we took all the energy, resources & money it takes to attend to crime & suffering & we were able to redirect into advancing humanity & saving the planet?

During May 2013 and and November 2017, the Royal Commission into Child Abuse in Australia heard from 16,953 survivors who contacted the Commission re their terms of reference, of these 7,981 accounts of child sexual abuse, 2,562 referred to Police and these were the individuals who courageously came forward to tell of the horrific traumas of their abuse; 58.1% assaults took place in institutions, 32.5% in government run institutions and 10.5% in non-government. Good people were employed in these services, good people did nothing, good people kept silent, looked the other way, went home, poured themselves a glass of wine & pretended it didn’t happen. Children suffered, lives were destroyed, people lost their lives. Suffering occurs when good people do nothing. We need to study more the behaviours of leaders who do something, to positively reinforce, acknowledge & highlight those who do something.

daring leaders never silent

When I heard this data, our history of failing to protect our most vulnerable amidst a crowd of passionate professionals at the International Trauma conference some time ago & listened to the words of young people who had spent the first 17 years of their life in OOHC, with up to 70 moves from place to place, I couldn’t help but wonder where we are today & why, what was behind the lack of change, how could intelligent, educated, powerful people continue to allow this to happen. The experiences I’ve had in various roles, in children’s lives; what is difference we are making if we remain silent about the things that matter. How many people heard, could see, feel & sense what was going on & kept quiet in those institutions? How many lives were hurt, traumas inflicted, if we continue to react by protecting ourselves, instead of act? Are we really evolving at all?

Many years ago I witnessed this first hand, what people are prepared to do, sell their soul if you call it that, turn a blind eye & today wonder, maybe people who are prepared to lie, cheat, deceive and manipulate from their positions of power, those who know it is wrong & do nothing, are they really good people after all? I’ll leave you to think about that.

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“I have a dream” Martin Luther King, JR said to the masses, so many of us do, passionate, kind people have dreams of equality, empowering those whose voices are silent, bring consequences which change behaviours, prevent harm from occurring, to those who use their power & excuses to hurt others. Last weekend as I spent days hanging with the best in the behaviour analyst world in Australia & took time out walking through Melbourne, I realised I’m more tired than I’ve ever been before of those who do nothing & it isn’t just because my brain has little white lesions splattered across it, human suffering is exhausting to be aware of & it feels powerless. The streets of one of our beautiful cities, lined with expensive stores & bad coffee (sorry Melbourne, it’s really hard to get a good coffee!), also with people sleeping rough in winter, homelessness in a society of wealth, really, how is that possible? People passing by those sleeping in the cold, by people in suits with notes in their wallets, can’t afford to donate a few yet can drive a car that costs more than a house. Despite practicing non-attachment every day, it still bothers me that the suffering in the world is not just the people who inflict pain & suffering on others, it’s the nothingness that is done when organisations, individuals, families stand by & do nothing about preventing or ignore the need for consequences to prevent suffering, who promote themselves as giving a sh**, as doing something, when really they too are desperate to fit in, to be liked, to receive more financial support & this responsibility often means doing nothing; it makes one want to sell up, pull up digs & move to somewhere remote & peaceful, plant a garden, talk to the birds, somewhere without reminders of the suffering inflicted onto others when we could do something about it. However that would mean being part of the problem, not a solution.

When humans fail, when they stumble, when our society turns the other way to injustice it falls hard, like glass to concrete from a height. I cried through ‘When they see us’ and it tells me a lot about those who have since told me they couldn’t stand to watch the entire series, it was too difficult to watch, to imagine that 5 young men could be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, how our systems could get it so wrong.

In the spring of 1989, I was 20 years old, yet I don’t remember this story, I certainly won’t forget it now. A group 30 teenagers were out in a park in NY city, of which were 5 boys when a crime occurred, a woman was raped & murdered. These same 5 boys were wrongly convicted & spent from 5 to 15 years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, named the Central Park Five, this story epitomises the injustices which continue to occur today. Just consider for one moment how many people, how many professionals with power & authority it must have taken from the time of the suggestion of those boys, through the arrest, the manipulation of the evidence, the justice system, to the abuse in the prisons they endured, where still today it is not just one person, it takes a system of ignorance for injustice to occur. Just think about the number of people in paid positions, people employed to uphold the law, to administer the law, to bring justice to those who commit crimes, who are so hell bent on believing their own bullshit, their own egocentric, racist views, their own self appointed ignorance, who have the capacity to convict 5 innocent young men of a crime they never committed & take from them the lives & opportunities our basic human rights say they deserve.  The fact that I am not surprised is concerning, that I hear so many of these stories time & time again about the lengths people will go to ignore, save their jobs, prioritise money over justice, save their backsides, make their life easier despite the pain & suffering those choices inflict on others, is tiring & nauseating, frustrating & confusing, sometimes even disempowering & begs further understanding to prevent more of it in the future.

Right now, somewhere, someone is losing their life, someone is suffering, millions if we are more accurate & you are welcome to tell yourself, lie if you must, we are evolving, we know more & we are doing more. You would be of course, lying to yourself, because the data doesn’t lie. In June 2017, there were 47,915 children living in OOHC in Australia. Given all children have at least two biological parents, even if they are not actively parenting, the data is suggesting nearly 100,000 parents’ behaviour is so irreversible, so adverse to risk of harm, with all our science and interventions, our medical & scientific technology, our societies & authorities deem they cannot have their children in their care – how is it possible if we are evolving? If our system is working, changing, improving? Because guess what? Is someone not asking the obvious here?

Tell yourself it’s not your problem, look the other way, be more concerned about Netflix ‘big pharma’ docos about making money of prescribing drugs you don’t need or thinking you are making a difference by not using plastic straws or a better human being because you don’t use a plastic bag. Feel free to get up everyday & your inner dialogue is a narrative that says you continue to be a good person because you use natural products to clean your home or maybe your vegan like me, maybe you ride a bike instead of driving a car or you give that $2 per week to a child somewhere in a country you don’t even know the history of, let alone want to know more about the organisation taking your money & administering it. You tell yourself you a wellness or wellbeing guru, you run classes or courses to heal others from their own ignorance, because you alone have all the answers. You have choices just like me, the choice to choose to make a difference in anyway you decide, your choice is to ignore suffering, to focus on building your fortress or bank account. Yet ask yourself in your silence, in those quiet moments, what difference are you really making? If the data says something completely different? It doesn’t mean we give up or stop trying it just means we need to be far more critical about what is working & isn’t, to own our role in the legacy we leave our children.

Of these statistics of vulnerable children, 601 were under 1 year of age, most at birth (2017), another 785 1 to 4 years of age and that is just in the State of Victoria. Statistics out of AIHW suggest 75% of referred families, to Victoria’s CP each year, are the same families the following year, that’s a 25% change to the problem of parent behaviours causing harm. You don’t need to be a behavioural scientist to know, where reinforcement goes, behaviours continue. Something is not changing, something is actually increasing these behaviours & making them more likely to occur. Maybe it’s the system, maybe it’s the workers, maybe it’s the lack of justice, we need to be willing to ask the hard questions, to speak up when it’s not working & do something to make this change direction. There is no denying it isn’t working.

We have a system which doesn’t even require a degree or qualification in understanding children to assess the needs of children before placing them into the care of strangers, a system advising parents how to parent, with not an ounce of knowledge, skill or education in parenting by so many professionals who take a few weeks to know how to complete a form, assess risk & develop an inability to recognise their own unconscious bias before inflicting further suffering on families. This is not to say anyone in those categories doesn’t have a capacity to do good work – it comes down to choices!! When we know more we have the capacity to do more, I see good people, kind, compassionate, well meaning people doing incredibly great work & qualified experienced people doing the opposite.  We have a historical reference point for abuse of power, of neglect, of systematic abuse & the answer appears to be more money, however, less change. While we have a system motivated by escape & avoid behaviours & the reality of what is actually occurring, excuses of overworked, underpaid staff; however increases in both areas, little change occurs, present & previous solutions are designed to do nothing except stick band-aids on problematic behaviours causing harm, so we are destined to continue with the same consequences.

If we stay silent about the things that matter, the behaviour continues, it becomes stronger & more persistent, just as persistent as the ignorance, the apathy, the relationship building which overrides our capacity to be the change our communities need. If there is to be change, we need more people passionate about change, more people speaking up, speaking loud, standing on the bricks & understanding, identifying,  the system as it is, not always, although often failing & doing something different. I for one prefer to reinforce those doing the right thing than those actively working against what is just. I prefer to use my energy to reinforce passionate individuals regardless of their qualifications, knowledge or skill, who have true compassion, real empathy, whose motivations are to prevent harm from occurring. These are the people we need more of, where our reinforcement needs to flood in & change humanities trajectory.

Brave doers, courageous movers & shakers, people not caught up in niceties & silenced by egos & maintaining a system of historical & present day suffering. People who are willing to stick their whole body out, not just a neck or two, people who are the change we need in our communities. People who may be part of the system designed to protect us all from harm, yet will not give their consent to behaviours which continue to inflict suffering on others. People who stay true to their word & values.

I’m not saying it is going to be easy, just that our future, the real legacy we leave our children, the leadership it requires, will be a path for future generations to be proud of, to celebrate how we evolved as a species, knowing we are doing better than before, we are actually make a huge difference, how we made the time & effort, looked critically at our errors in judgement, our self-centred motivating operations & did something different.

When good people took the data, implemented change, did something completely outside the square of fitting in, because their goal was not to save their arse, it was to prevent suffering, it was to make a difference, to be the change they want to see in the world.

Now those are the values worth living by. xo TJG

If it is to be, its up to me

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Imagine for one moment if everything you did you came from a place of good intentions! Everything, cleaning the bathroom wasn’t a chore, you put your heart into it, some things just need to be done. If even in those deepest, most painful moments, you could find the ability, a capacity to recognise, projecting your suffering onto others will not bring you closer to peace or stop the pain hurting any faster.

I shared over the last few weeks the story of Shiva, of virabhdrasana, how no matter how it hurts & it will, because we are human beings not human machines, attachment is at the core of suffering, it’s how you respond which makes the difference. Projecting it onto others will not bring you closer to inner peace, to easing the suffering, it can make it far worse. 

If we were to dig deep & let go of the thoughts & our attachment to our thoughts, to find a place of self love, to take the next step or speak the next word from a place of good intentions, imagine the difference we can make to each other in every moment. Yet sadly not everyone knows what love is, feels it or receives it & so for those who have abundance, we have the capacity to share it wide & far. Everyday, everywhere, people have lost connection between the roots of love & that connection with themselves. The connection that sparked an emotion, from kindness, compassion, respect, selflessness. They’ve been taught or learned love means something painful, it gives them power or is the root cause behind justifying hurting others. This is not love. 
Over time, poor representations of experience have been called love.
I think the word has been lost in the confusion, the misguided pouring of information from the media & marketing materials, from stories constructed from unhealthy attachments, fear & anger; yet each of us can make our own choice. Dramatic t.v. shows leading people far from the path of what its true meaning is. There is no hurt or harm & it starts within ourselves. 
Behavioural science teaches me all behaviour has a function, yoga teaches me how attachment to suffering (the past) ends up in the present moment. The combination of the two disciplines have been incredibly life changing. I see, hear, feel things far differently than I did when I only received a mainstream education, inherited the lessons of the past; sometimes a one size fits all approach, absent of eastern philosophy & wisdom & far from the analytical science approach of understanding why children do & say what they do.
Understanding why we do & say what we do is half way to discovering what matters to people, what underpins, drives, motivates their intentions, answers the question ‘is it helpful or harmful’ & influences the path or consequences as you go forward.
Samadhi or enlightenment is often seen as the elusive goal of yoga, a wisdom so far into the future, unless you remove all earthly possessions & surrender yourself to the mountains somewhere & let Om reverberate your every being, there is only one way to become wise, to learn from the philosophy of all 7 other limbs of yoga. When I contemplate this, I wonder if this too is underpinned or in conflict with the other moral codes & observances of yoga?
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Is there is attachment within the philosophy itself to righteousness, to only doing & being one way in order to become wiser, more at peace & at one with yourself? Is the interpretation of the text itself, a judgement, an assumption about others?

Across the world our continents, our stories, our lives, our communities differ & we can learn as much from each other as we can from ourselves, there is no one way is the right way, just your way & my way & surely if we come from compassion, kindness & take the heaviness of the ego off the mat & become more conscious of its influence on decision-making, we become more in the present moment with the results & more responsible when it comes to preventing harm to ourselves & others. If you are driven by the  need to control, whose responsibility is it to work out why? to do something about it? 
The day I realised I didn’t belong to anyone or anything, I was responsible for my choices, my behaviour, my thoughts, whether I loved me or loved others & what that looked like, life began to shape itself, into this incredible place I wanted to be present in every single moment, I didn’t want to miss a single thing. I found something magical, in a walk through the farmers markets & someone’s smile & realised everything was right there in the right place at the right time, it was now. 
I stopped being the young mum at the mother’s group seeking ideas for a baby not sleeping only to be surrounded by puffy eyed & worn out Mum’s looking bewildered with statements they all had angels & something must be wrong with my infant.
I stopped being the permission seeker, for anything, what I should wear, study, where I work, what I eat, what music I listen to, whether spotted socks go with sandals or whether I should wear a hat with this or that or how I should spend my money, choose relationships or live my life. I made those choices consciously & I have loved every minute doing so. My life is more rainbow than it is black & white & it isn’t because of any labelled sexual orientation.
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I wish I could wrap in a little box this gift I found of finding what I was looking for was never out there, was never in a marriage that was painful or in a struggle to be a perfect parent or was never in constantly trying to achieve at the highest level to show I was worthy or could do anything I put my mind to, I stopped jumping hoops or demonstrating for the entertainment or unworthy people I kept in my life.
I made choices. They were my own. It was like walking into a light & everything was illuminated for the first time. 
I started to see everything around me was purposeful & meaningful if I allowed it to be. There was magic in every moment, lessons to learn, I could do things differently or stay the same.
I didn’t have to follow rules or I could, yet whatever I decided, wherever I went or didn’t, I went with my whole self, my whole heart, not because I was forced to or needed to or should, I decided.
I owned what is referred to as mistakes & imperfections as uniquely me. Weird, crazy, different, whatever labels someone needed to give, I loved them.
No doubt every so often the old habits creep in, nothing can trigger patterns & history more than poking at someone’s imperfections or “mistakes”, particularly when you are living with a brain disease & wondering everyday if this might be the day your legs stop working or your mouth or maybe you will lose your capacity to swallow altogether, this is progress not perfection. Which is why it’s so important I meditate & practice yoga & understand the triggers of my own behaviour, to nurture my brain, to kick start that parasympathetic nervous system with feel goods & hugs & loving life with as much gusto as I can, it’s why I challenge ideas, speak up, speak out & be the change I would love to see more of in the world, in my life.
When I think of what get’s me up each day, there are motivations I’ve previously discussed, however the travel slogan ‘if you never go, you’ll never know’ comes to mind when I step out of bed & embraces every second of every moment & stop thinking what if this doesn’t work or I don’t succeed or I can’t, I replace it with what if it can, what if it does & even more so, let go of the attachment to any expectation & all & go with whatever presents itself. I dream big & I believe in those dreams & I pass that message to my children, nothing is impossible, the very word says I’m possible.

The confusion about yoga is often its relationship with the asanas, the movements are labelled or synonymous with the word yoga. People will often say “I do yoga at the gym, it’s an awesome workout” or “yeah I do that online” (which by the way are also great!), yet the asanas are only 1 benefit, one gift from yoga.

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

We are more than our bodies, more than shaping & strengthening our muscles. Many never realise there is so much more to learn, discover & nurture being, other than just the physical benefits of yoga.

So this little early morning sharing of wisdom, as I continue on this path of being me, of being, is to let you know there is time, right here, right now, you have potential, you can be, do what you choose to be & do. You can be caught up in rules of grammar or be passionate about sharing words. You can be caught up in rules of which brush or colour to use, or just go about your life creating something new.

You are not your thoughts, you are not property or a mat someone wipes their feet on as they enter a building. You are a human being, an incredible, amazing, beautiful soul who has come to discover their gifts & then share them wide & far. Maybe it’s being you, that is your inner peace, maybe its being creative or academic or you are great with your hands, maybe it’s your patience, your ability to nurture. Maybe you are a great communicator, maybe just being you is what makes you…..YOU!

Institutionalised learning has its purpose for reasons, yet don’t forget you are not a box or round hole. How you are taught to paint is only one way, one thought view on how things should be. How someone teaches you any skill or fills your mind with knowledge is always limited by how much that person has themselves, how imaginative & creative that system is permitted to be. When you think that there is no limit to what your mind can create or do, really imagine it, contemplate if you dream of going to hike through the hills of Peru or cycle across countries or backpack or choose to raise a family, whatever your choices, be all you, let your intentions come from a place of good intentions, from kindness to yourself & others. There are no limits to what you can do when you are true to yourself, when you stop living other people’s dogma, stop the culturally ingrained need to fit into someone else’s idea of who you should be, what your body should like, what car you drive, your house or wardrobe or career.

When my son died, he had this beautiful way of drawing & painting rainbows all the time whenever he was doing something creative. I found this little saying about it takes rain & sun to create a rainbow. It reminded me from every event, from each moment we can shape it into whatever we decide, we can change the function of our behaviour, we can choose differently.

I took those pictures of rainbows (I kept a few), I put them in frames, with a quote underneath, I gave them to the people who made a difference to his life, who did everything they could to save it;

“A hundred years from now
it will not matter what my bank account was,
the sort of house I lived in,
or the kind of car I drove.
but the world may be different
because I was important in
the life of a child”.

Forest E. Witcraft (teacher/scholar)

Each of those specialists, each nurse, each person who had shared their skills, knowledge, compassion & kindness through the hardest experience I’ll ever know or feel, made the difference to a child every single day.

As parents we can be the difference, we can help or we can hurt, as partners, as friends, as family, as colleagues, as human beings, we can be the difference.

We can own our responsibility for nurturing children into adults who will make a difference, we can accept we own no one, the presence of someone in our life is a gift not to be wasted or ignored, family is forgiving & nurturing, we can choose our friends as family or make the most of what we are gifted with. Everything is a choice.

I might not subscribe to labels I’m given, like fitting single parent boxes, female pegs or labels which have no purpose, however I try to also embrace them all & learn from the people who make them, it tells their story, not my own.

We decide lovely, incredibly, amazing people, you decide at any moment to change the direction.

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Learn from those around you, all of them. Learn from the hard, difficult stuff & the incredible stuff, make different choices, lift up your heart & let it drive you forward with gusto. Go out there & create the magic your heart might long for or discover the peace within. Be courageous, be curious about life, about people, about why things are this way or that. Get to know you, what is it & why do you long for anything, what does it tell you about your story. Can you let that go, can you be accepting & present with each moment, in the gift it is? Just be, be incredibly, amazing….YOU!

Remember no book or rule can decide the path of every single being. There are so many interpretations of even the most detailed books of our time, moral codes, ways to live, have faith, to trust & be. No one way is the right way. Just…your way. Be true to you. Real love, starts on the inside. First, do no harm.

xoxo

Living consciously

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I want to be able to say to you it will be easy, I can’t.
I can’t say living consciously or the path to a more authentic you, the journey to living a life with inner peace, clarity of mind, heart and soul is going to be without hurdles to navigate, challenges to face or letting go of stuff you’ve held a tight fist around, will be a breeze. Is life really mean’t to be without effort?

From the first gasp of air our survival isn’t without struggle, it’s engrained in our DNA. I wish struggle could be seen as I have learned, an opportunity to grow, learn, get back in the driving seat on this journey or path, which every philosophical road you are taking & know, there is so much more than just those moments that knock the wind out of us. Easy means no effort, no hard work, not worth the motivation to exceed your comfort zone, energy coming in, nothing going out. How can we make a difference is nothing we learn, touch, feel ever leaves our soul? Oh, there is so much more, beyond the events and moments, the people, painful memories which push us unwillingly outside our comfort zone.

There is no doubt life is a lot more overwhelming for some more than others, don’t you believe for one moment anyone escapes the impact of their choices and decisions, or breezes through life without challenges. We all face challenges just in different ways, different intensities and magnitudes. Get out of your head, bring yourself into the present, it won’t be easy, however, it might just show you the light to life isn’t always how you want it to be, design it to be, predict it will be.

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There are also differences with the tools we have in our box of tricks to meet those challenges and there are some huge differences in the way our childhoods, adult experiences and lifestyles, socio economic and geographic experiences shape those outcomes. Having more resources and opportunities certainly produces different opportunities for many. The more I learn about human behaviour the more the story unfolds, the more I am intrigued by watching human beings, even other species, my dogs play, interact, engage, respond, communicate and the more I see how everything we do and say occurs, the more it creates a story to understand what goes on inside.

I can only say from personal experience, living consciously, being true to your authentic self, finding, discovering and honouring the you that isn’t out there, yet maybe out there, by taking yourself on one adventure after another, you may discover parts of yourself that were previously unknown, if you pursue it from a place of good intention, although whatever experience you decide know you have decided.

There are going to be times when we do not have the courage or strength to rise above something which seems so painful or hard or difficult, know there are people with you, maybe not physically beside you, there are people out here, out there who like you know how hard this can be. Put your hand up, wave it about so they can find you, speak up even if your words are soft, keep asking, keep telling your story & make noise, loud noise, don’t settle for less than you deserve.

I honestly have only ideas, theories and a little science to tell me how I managed to survive so many events, so many of the top 10 traumatic experiences and still be so relatively sane, it amazes me at times as much as it does therapists! I often wondered about how we talk so little about the people who survive events, outside of the tragedies and horrific situations which occur, what can we learn from alternate paths, different choices. This in no way diminishes the suffering of those who endure incredible experiences which should never have occurred, yet we can learn so much from those who have preventative stories to tell. The number of times a ‘specialist’ wrote details of how I should be or what should be expected and I haven’t been once able to fit their square peg or round hole, I loose count. I also see how many people are disempowered by labels, once told they have a diagnoses or are a victim they forget they can also keep moving towards wellbeing and being a survivor of their events and to re-write their story.

We are not the things that happen to us, they are part of the pages in between. We are not the people we make choices to meet or love or stay with and the suffering this might entail, these are part of the choices and lives we live, there are so many other moments and years in between and to live and re-write the narrative, to paint a different picture of our entire life. We can choose to let go or hold on, we can decide when we realise these moments are not serving us well, to plan and forge a different path, to reach out and seek support from those who have the strength to keep us going forward to life we deserve and accept for ourselves.

I’ve always had to manage a little stubborn part of myself, if I were to look at it like a positive I’d call it a strength to persist, to overcome, to endure anything. However in reflection today I’d say discovering the power and strength from non-attachment, aparigrapha, the practice of yoga, of realising my own potential does not begin outside my body, in others, in labels, in my gender or size or shape or titles, it beings inside, I choose, I decide and I feed that potential and decide to withdraw from that which no longer serves me well.

I was raised and grew up in an adult body/mind with cultural concepts and rules which neither served me well or continue to serve anyone well. Ideas around my gender, titles, roles, age and belief systems which underpin some of the failings of our societies today, contribute to disempowering individuals, causing harm, perpetuating stereotypes and increase a sense of better and less than in people and communities, that somehow money, self-appointed status, what you wear, what you do for a living, how much money or things you have, suggest one individual or group is better than another. Guess what….we are all on this journey home, all going in the same direction, we are born and we all die in the same body, no body gets out of this alive. We all start with the year we were born and the date we leave this world only a dash, a simple – separates those dates. How you live your dash is entirely up to you.

There will be moments that scare you, moments that push you way outside your zone of comfort, of tolerance and these things you do not deserve, but…. you are more than those events, more than the things which happen, more than the hurt of others which they fail to identify and do something about, to prevent it impacting on you, you have a potential inside you to seek out and choose a different path.

Years ago I read on the stories of Nelson Mandela, at the time I was living in London, joined the anti-apartheid movement for a while, went to rallies, thought how could a man who had been the victim of so much injustice have so much faith in humanity? To learn this man, one human body, could change from his experiences to become the leader of a country after serving this injustice in prison for so long, to endure the hate and racism of apartheid. Yet he did and his faith went on to inspire millions and there are so many others out there if you seek you will find. People who were told as children they were delayed or would not amount to much, individuals ridiculed due to difference or before their time, the same people who went on to shape the world, change the planet, invent, create, exceed expectations, because something inside of them was greater than those beliefs.

I have more lovely visitors from around the globe who have been staying of recent weeks, one at present from Argentina and we sat last night reflecting on the strength and life changing perspective of non-attachment, the freedom and peace which comes from allowing others to think and do as they choose, to focus on the choices we make as individuals, to honour our true self. The moment you realise if I can’t call back someone, I can’t, I’ve made the best dinner/meal I can or shared the best of what I have, it doesn’t meet their expectations, yet you have given your best and that is enough. You are worthy of your own love and connection, it is not measure by how much you can gather from others. Not because they don’t matter or I love them less, sometimes we can’t do it all, sometimes we forget, sometimes we are busy and it is not our role to fill up the cups of others rather share our love and connection and as a consequence we give love and belonging freely without expectation, without rules if they want to receive they will choose to open their hearts or close it.

We do not belong to anyone or anything, only our true selves.

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We are not property or a physical object someone wipes their feet on, takes out their frustrations and we are not here to be shaped into something due to someone else’s missed opportunities or be moulded into a perfect being. If you don’t dress, speak, look, cook, serve or meet the needs of someone, you have the strength in you to decide if you are living your true self or the expectations of others.

We are who we decide we are and when the reality of this sits well with you, when you can unpack the expectations and realise I need to be in this moment right now, to sit in the garden and be mindful, to take a walk, to change the situation which neither feeds my soul or lifts up my heart, when you truly come to the space where you meet the inner voice & decide to listen, there is a tranquil feeling of coming home, of learning, a courage more powerful than anyone has ever told you before. The day takes on a new meaning, the morning feels different, the moments and spaces in between are no longer filled with waiting or expecting.

There really are no rules about when the dishes need doing, the washing needs to be out, when you live with kindness and compassion it begins with you, to yourself, to make choices which you have no regrets with, regrets take up space inside, space you could be utilising with joy, happiness and self-love. If you do something for someone do it with love, with good intentions, without wanting them to give in return or to be something which they are not.

I came to this place some years ago, I stopped following rules and societies expectations of who I should be, what type of mother, woman, friend, family member, I didn’t need to attach to any label. I remember explaining this with  friend, no matter how much I told the story, they heard what only they wanted to hear and so were disappointed when I didn’t turn out to be who they wanted. Expectations often never end well, because no one lives in our heads, no one knows the narrative in our minds, the one that says if I have this, I will be happy, if I have more money, if I have someone with the perfect this or that, I will be happy. If I live with these material possessions I will be happy – then constantly searching why do I feel numb, why do I feel so empty inside?

So I decided, my true self was worth the self-love it deserved. If there were people out there great, if not, great, those who rippled a vibe, those like a tribe, people like me. If I created a different path so be it, if I decided to wear boho on one day and vintage on another, it was OK, I began to feel and create space to try more things, meet new people, make more friends, attract a tribe who totally gets the vibe. I decided to put myself outside my comfort zone, to do things I’d dreamed of, things I never thought I could do. This year I completed a Masters, I’m setting my sights on a Phd, more research, I went back to work, I have a business and work, my life is pretty damn good. I live with yoga in my heart & soul, eat vegan & wear whatever I damn well like. I don’t feel the need to fit any status or rock any rules of who I should be for acceptance, I accept myself just the way I am.

I let go of the weight and tireless demands of meeting other expectations.
I let go of the people who wanted me to be something which suited them and disregarded my true self.
I let go of people who took advantage of my kindness, people who had hoops I no longer needed to jump through.
I let go of explaining myself, my decisions, choices and with it came the opportunity to see so much more than a narrow view, the only view I had accepted & provided up until then.

I stopped needing to make others feel happy and feel empty and exhausted in return. I decided to be happy and by that send a ripple to others to join in the ride.
I stopped chasing people who only would leave a few breadcrumbs to navigate the way into their life & let them walk out an open door, to enter or leave as they choose.

I stopped needing things and started realising anything my life provided was a blessing, hardworking paid dividends and gave lots of choices, I didn’t need a partner to fulfil dreams, I made my own, everything was a choice, to learn how to sense where those decisions were originating from and to tell the ego it wasn’t invited on this journey.

I got up a long time ago from where life had knocked me down a few more times than many thought one person could endure and it gave me rock solid feet on a ground made for connection to everything, to breathe in all that is beautiful and worth living for.

It’s not all sunshine and roses every single moment of every day. I get frustrated too, I am imperfect, sometimes it is damn hard to raise children on my own, juggle work, a business and a full-time post-graduate degree & live with a chronic illness.

Yet when I look out my window this morning, sip fresh coffee, home-made muesli, contemplate the day ahead, a drive to Ballarat to pick up some birthday gifts for a special person turning 21 soon, I am the mother of challenging, sometimes frustrating yet amazingly beautiful human begins who will change this planet for the better, I have a lovely visitor staying, great friends, an awesome job and spend time with awesome colleagues, a great career, the sun is out, the birds woke me this morning, my body is moving well, I have the energy to wake up and feel the sun on the back verandah as I take the dogs outside for a play, I’m still in my pyjamas and I’m sending messages to friends I’ve had for decades, life is good, not just good it’s damn amazing and blessed to be breathing in, absorbing and experiencing every minute.

This is what richness is all about. Living consciously.

xo

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The trouble is..you think you have time.

you think you have time

I grew up in a small town in the west, very small. We moved from the city at the end of primary school and newly a teen in a new town, a small town, very small town.
The thing is no matter where you live, whether it’s a small town or a large city, your community becomes the people where you reside, you live, work, play, rest, or try to.

For children it’s their formative years, where they learn to trust, learn about people and about themselves. Most scientists, whether it’s behaviour or psychology, thinking theories or behaving theories, refer to these environments as our ‘social environment’. More and more evidence is piling up on the massive influence the social environment has on the development of not only our thoughts, on the physical shaping of our brain, on it’s function and some would say where our resilience is born, shaped and cemented into existing or not.

Early theorists would tell you it your attachments or non-attachment opportunities, will become the greatest influence, how much love, the frequency and quality of experiences with affection, how warmth and belonging is essential, many will still claim this can only be sourced from your mother. Some still believe this to be true and still there are countless stories of motherless children, in non-western cultures where communities have raised perfect, healthy, worthy children.

If we take a deeper look through a longer lens, even with support, love and nurturing in the first few years, the years of neurons, wiring and firing away in your brain, we might realise beyond the arms of our mothers, how the wider ecological system is influenced by the synapses of every other organism your brain comes into contact with regardless of how you arrived in the world, were breastfeed every four hours or received your early experiences. The philosophical struggle has always been internal and external, cognitive, behavioural, believe it or see it, with many great scholars on either side, manipulating the way we see the world, see ourselves & others & explain how not only one human being could hurt another, how we could ourself.

Recent neuroscience, in the last decade or so, goes a step further in suggesting the brain, our ‘social brain’ needs to connect to other brains in a way that increases its development, just like one neuron connects to other neurons (those specialised little nerve cells that send signals to other nerve cells), so much so that a brain starved of the social environment, healthy human connection e.g. neglect or social isolation, can in fact form differently; higher levels of mental health, stress, depression, the impacts of a brain without adequate stimulation to fire up and wire up.

Some years ago a young girl, beautiful, stunning, intelligent moved to a new town. No this isn’t my story yet I’ll get to that later. Like most high schools and new kids, whether you are smart & gorgeous or considered ordinary & not doing as well as other kids; whether it’s glasses or freckles or short hair or long, in some environments a new person, becomes a threat to the well established social environments of young teens (sadly it’s really not that different the older we become). Whether it’s a sport, a club, a group you belong, pack mentality is across many species. In human childhood’s these relationship experiences can be mean & cruel, something I know all too well. This young person begged to leave school and like most of us today, was encouraged to stick it out, kids just being kids.

The thing is, in my day when kids were being kids it was notes and phone calls with no one on the end of the phone. There were still unfounded rumours, anything to change the way people think about you. Back then,  I could go home, go to my room, pretend I was in a different place, I had a chance to recharge. I could saddle up & ride into nowhere particularly. I could spend hours mowing the lawn & not be interrupted by the constant buzz of a mobile phone every time someone responded to a nasty rumour on snapchat or social media.

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With the pace of technology also came the opportunity for kids to take bullying & cruelty to a whole new level. No longer was there a safe place for young people to have time out. Websites, chat forums, social media pages popped up providing the opportunity for teens to start a rumour & spread it worldwide, to literally crucify someone they felt threatened by, regardless of the impact or the truth, today there are few places for young people to hide unless they disconnect from technology.  It’s why I ensure my young & older people do this regularly, to remind them it’s  not essential, it’s not a requirement of existing, it’s just an advancement in technology with an & and off button you can choose.

I don’t think resilience only comes from childhood healthy attachment, it’s a component & one of many. Healthy human beings with loving mothers, loving fathers, good early childhood experiences still struggle through the apathy, anger, frustration, anxieties & hurt within our communities. Good people still become hurt people. Survival of a species relies upon our ability to adapt to our social environments & regardless of whether you develop an addiction or happiness or you experience anxiety or social isolation, your brain is doing the best darn job it can to adapt to whatever social environment you have been thrust into.

So, this young person and like so many others that year, doing their best to survive in a social environment that causes harm to those doing nothing other than existing, decided it was too much, despite a loving family & healthy attachments (although some may argue), surviving the social environment at that time was unbearable, taking the only decision still in her control, to end her life.

I’m not sure where I’m going with my studies after this year is out, I do know that I’ve seen far too many hurt people, hurting people, too many lives being lost for no other reason than trying to be themselves in a social environment with racism, xenophobia, bigotry, ignorance and intolerance, bullying and violence. Communities, institutions & environments where individuals project their hurt onto others, unaware their battle is not outside themselves it is through trying to navigate the insecurity, the confusion they sense on the inside, hurt people, hurt people.

In Australia over 2,500 people take their lives each year, of these 75% are males. There are suggestions the law needs changing to make those who use defamatory statements to experience greater consequences. Although in the State of Victoria the defamation laws already exist, if you intentionally defame someone, to cause the harm or their livelihood, it is a criminal offence, so when then is the law never used by those entrusted with the power to use it.

I’m not certain whether increasing the law or moving for change to legislation to punish those who spread malicious gossip, who attempt to hurt others in order to achieve their own goals, will actually achieve a great deal, from a behavioural perspective, punishment rarely works.

What is known widely across the cognitive-behavioural scientific world, is there needs to be a significant change in our values as a society, in the way we speak, treat and live alongside each other. It starts with changing the attitudes behind a culture, individual by individual, if we are to ever reduce the mental suffering of people who did nothing more than exist in the same space.  With all our human intelligence, if so many people are suffering, hurt and taking their lives, how could we possibly be considered the most intelligent species on the planet?

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Learning about myself, who I am, what I love, what makes me passionate, secure, authentic, exploring my own truth, has become the most critical part of survival. I am just as happy on my own as I can be in a group of people, I love to learn about others, even when they are not so nice, when they are giving their best & find people interesting even when they behave in an unnecessary way which impacts on others. Human behaviour, human beings who have no idea who they are, just going about their lives responding to stimuli, unaware what they seek isn’t on the outside, it is within, never gets boring.  Little surprises me or the levels people will go to meet their own needs.

I moved to another small community some years ago, to recharge for a while. I started a little business to keep the money flowing in, to make my way through a new illness, transition from one chapter to another. Maybe I had forgotten how cruel small towns can be, since high school was such a long time ago now or maybe I had just developed more faith & resilience, underneath the scars I truly believed if you come from a place of good intentions, kindness & compassion towards people, good things will follow; if it is to be, it is up to me & the only way through the dark is to be the light.

I set up my little store after an offer to use a vacant store in town. Small towns across Australia are dying at rapid rates, this region has the fastest declining population in the State. The price of housing is the most affordable in the country, so if you don’t mind travelling, there is the opportunity to live life without a mortgage, kick back a little, enjoy the world going by. The water isn’t cheap, the NBN unreliable, it takes a bit to find a good coffee. Although, if you love vegan food like we do, you might need hunt around to find a few favourites, if you enjoy travel, can accept the lack of variety in groceries, it can work. We have the best adventures, long drives & love every short trip to the city. Despite its flaws & challenges, I still love the country.

Sadly the new store was in a fire at the beginning of 2017. What was even more tragic was it wasn’t the fire that was the hardest to bear, it was the human behaviour & gossip that followed. I was managing my MS really well up until then this point, to say I was content with how life had turned out would probably be an understatement, things were easy, life was good. Then one Sunday I was at home, had just made my lunch, enjoying it down the backyard, had a conversation with my kids, when a neighbour knocked on the door to let us know the store was on fire. In fact it was the pharmacy the store was attached to. Later on, we would see the room that joined the pharmacy at the rear to the store & later believed to be where the fire had started (but if you listen to the unofficial armchair forensics they had a different story to tell). Inside the store most of the damage was done by smoke & from the fire personnel who smashed their way through to save what they could. The ceiling collapsed on the storeroom, which appeared to be due the fact a great deal of the fire was in the roof or at the rear, a lot of the stock was covered in water from the hoses.

Of all the people who came to help that day, a woman in town who has the only cafe’, where I was told by a number of other businesses “never go there”, who had also been a victim of horrific bullying & rumours, brought bottles of water, handing them out to random people, despite differences, has continued to send a message every so often, to check in to see how I’m going. No one really knew what I did before I settled here, they thought I was ‘just a store owner’, dealt in shoes and clothing. So when I was advised by many local people not to visit this little cafe’ it told me a lot more about their personality than it did about hers (but that’s another blog).

Of course there was an investigation of the fire, detectives and a forensic team came up from Melbourne, I kept going over & over in my head the last time I was in the store, how I would light 3 candles each day, a little thing I did in memory of my son – repeatedly questioning myself, did I blow them out, could it have been something I did, you had to slam the front door really hard to close it, could something have fallen, could I have inadvertently caused something to happen, had the fridge short-circuited, did I leave the air conditioner on?

A local authority, yes I’m careful about pinpointing who, but I’m sure knows who he is, wasn’t even in the community at the time, started a rumour suggesting I was behind the fire. I’ve come to learn something I hadn’t taken enough notice of before the fire, where there is smoke there is definitely fire. When someone is making up a story, spreading gossip, it’s usually to deflect from their own untruths, where there is motivation, there is cause, beyond all reasonable doubt. Like a narrative I couldn’t end, over and over in my head, no sleep for days, loads of tears & a lot of uncertainty, there had to be more than an explanation of ‘unexplained accident’. Of course with lesions all over my brain, my rationale brain, my pre frontal cortex and survival brain was on alert, I’m still challenged to remember conversations, there are huge blanks in between, so it’s no wonder my brain responded poorly to struggling with the grief & combination with MS at the same time.

The detective was very nice. A few days later she returned to tell me she had gone into the store & the candles were in the same place I had said they were. The fire was deemed an ‘unexplained accident’. It was an old building, sometimes they said mice chew through wires, anything could have happened, but it didn’t stop the rumours.

On one occasion a drunk at the local pub told me they heard a rumour I had started the fire, so I asked him how much did I get as a result, he couldn’t answer; on another I was informed I’d been sent to the psych unit at Ballarat when I had actually gone to the neurology ward for an MS flare, on another one of those involved in putting out the fire had told someone else they had seen me there just as it started, despite my children being with me at home after I had just had my lunch & had called me from down the backyard. It didn’t matter what the fact was, that’s the thing with gossip, it has a momentum of it’s own. Well surely people must have all the answers if they started the story where is the ending? No one cared to be honest. Not only were they unaware every last cent went into that store, it was the only income I had coming in, I would never financially recover from all the time that comes without value when something like this happens or from losing my business. I didn’t owe anything to anyone, the only person affected would be me, not only did it make no sense it had no value, yet gossipers don’t unpack the truth nor do they care.

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You would think in times of something tragedy, it would bring out the best in smaller communities, where people live alongside each other, where something small can have such a significant impact on the entire community. Then I reflect on my sister who took her life in a small community, how much she endured and suffered and was let down by people who cared more about status than they did about really connecting with each other, standing up for the truth, what is real, in creating change that helps others rather than just themselves. It wasn’t to be and like  previously, I’d forgotten how living in a small community can intensify the impact of a small rumour & from the boredom of people who fail to challenge gossip, go on to share stories they don’t know are either true or have any basis at all.

Years ago I knew of a story where two young girls who were late home from school, after getting up to mischief they shouldn’t have, knew they would be in trouble big time. So when they’d heard a rumour of a teacher sleeping with a student, told their parents they were with this teacher who had made unwanted advances. The ripple affect of such a small lie was catastrophic. I was working with a children’s service at the time, I’ve forgotten who told me the story. The teacher lost his job, his marriage broke down, he was charged & as the girls feared outing their lie, they held fast to their story & the rumour grew bigger. Just like in the practice of extinction, of outing a socially inappropriate behaviour, a burst occurs before the behaviour ever changes. There was a burst, the teacher took his life, then & only then did the girls finally tell the truth. His community had let him down, the people who should have been his friends, his family, had also let him down.  So often today the truth doesn’t set people free or bring peace, when the weight of untruths is too heavy to hold, when innocent lives struggle beneath the burden of the truth without anyone beside them helping to carry the load.

So for the next 12 months after the fire I had no income. Not a cent coming in, the only $ I had at that time was when the insurance finally processed. I wasn’t entitled to any government payments or support and well things were pretty tight for a while, I decided to sell my house. My MS flared, I ended up in hospital with no movement in my side, I started a new treatment, started losing my hair and decided the best thing was to cut it short for the first time in a few decades.  I began an additional new drug to speed up the neuron to neuron communication, particularly where the damage was in my brain, so I had the capacity to consider working again, could make it to the sink for water when I was thirsty & slow down the tremors, manage the unbalance & a few symptoms I keep between myself and my specialist.

All the work, hard work of building a little store in a little life based on giving back & spreading good karma; all the relationships I’d established, the people I worked with, the amazing companies I hand-picked because of their commitment to social projects, giving back to their communities, fair trade products, all the miles of driving to visit and meet in person, all gone in one afternoon. My initial thought was to rebuild, if anything I’d learned I might be small but when I put my mind to something I am fierce, I fight back hard. Being knocked down many times had taught me that staying down meant a pretty boring view, the only way to get through adversity was to get back up. The inspector first said the building was salvageable, yet the strangest events began to unfold, even now  the term correlation does not equal causation borrowed from psychology, I sometimes wonder about the darnedest thing, how one event leads to the opportunities that arise from the flow of others, whilst we can never really establish beyond all reasonable doubt, some things just don’t add up.

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Within days of the decision to save the building, owned by another business owner who I rented the little store from, a ‘demolition order’ was placed on the building, which had been previously assessed as salvageable. It was the strangest thing to pull down a lovely old building that had no reason to be destroyed. Two days we were given to clear it out or the Council would take it down for the owner. So the stock was cleared, rubbish thrown out, the insurance guy had to get in fast. I didn’t really have time to process much and yet it was only 24 hours after the fire, I was still in a brain daze of not even really taking in what had happened or the flow on affect, when I was approached by someone on a committee to ask if they could use the tragedy of my business to push for government funding for a building project they had been pushing for, if I could look more emotional, put on more tears it could help their cause, the timing was impeccable if not to say insensitive.

I had forgotten completely about the push for this project. They didn’t have a location at the time, I had heard rumours they wanted to purchase the little supermarket right next door to where my little store was, yet they needed more space, it wasn’t quiet big enough as the two stores next door were already occupied my business & another. So I guess it is fate really, that the fire occurred as an ‘unexplained accident’, luck the order to demolish the building was then given so quickly, the building was flattened despite a gorgeous historic well found underneath & before I could organise Heritage Vic to inspect the site, the demolition crew had orders to tear it down, fill in the well & the vacant block appeared in a perfect location for the new project. Not even the lovely historical verandah facade was saved. Whenever I travel through Europe I’m always in awe of the beautiful historic buildings carefully tendered, it’s so disappointing to continually witness an ignorance of Australia’s history & early architecture disregarded for ugly modern monstrosities.

Every time I drove past the vacant block their was an ache in my chest and I held back tear, each time it was difficult to pay the electricity bill or put food on the table or pay school fees, I even sought out a financial counsellor for the first time in my life to make sure we didn’t go under, although, the rumours didn’t stop. Despite using the stores tragic ending to push for funding, no one visited except a couple of good people we had come to know. The values promoted by the community are certainly not available to those who are new to the community, only to those who follow, who don’t ask questions.

It’s the strangest of human behaviours I find myself often reflecting on, I mean ,violence I can see a trajectory from so many antecedent events, however, when people go about their day willingly spreading gossip which hurts others, without any truth or reason, they become mules, tools, for those who seek to purposely cause harm. I can suggest this type of harmful human behaviour, stems from a deep sense of personal inadequacy, from places I do not identify with and so unable to articulate in words to understand it’s purpose. What makes a person create stories that hurt others can only be from a place to meet an unmet need of their own, the only consequence to follow can be empathy, hurt people, hurt people, otherwise the cycle continues.

So the owner of the block decided to rebuild, hired someone to act on their behalf because the relationship with the authority to authorise was as painful as our own. We both struggled with permit approvals, the decision-making, hoop jumping lagged on. They eventually offered the purchase of the block, which I declined. We had decided to purchase a little house just up the road, thought surely permits would be easy, since there were no other stores of our kind in the region. We had hoped to add a gallery, a social environment to run art classes, provide food like you had never seen it before, however, the hurdles & obstacles continued, even our ideas, taken & adopted by other businesses.

Then I was at a yoga class teaching outside the community, a person approached at the end of the class, a little intense for a student yogi, to ask why I had obstructed the new community shopping precinct development in the little community, they heard a ‘rumour’ I had written to object. I’m not sure how I responded after just teaching an hour of kindness & compassion to be asked something that was a complete utter untruth, where does this stuff stem from? On the drive home, it went over in my head & like the flick of the headlights to high beam, strange how some moments, light up the puzzle pieces, which always felt like one was missing, didn’t seem to fit. Whilst we may never really get the truth out there or know the reason the fire started, the mind ponders on the ripple affect how one tragedy has as been mighty advantageous to others.

We didn’t get our permits, my daughter has decided to reside in the house, the other business owner, decided they wouldn’t rebuild, both frustrated by the lack of support or ease to establish a new business in a struggling community; the battle after losing our businesses, we assessed were not worth the money or time it cost. I had fancy new plans yet it was far easier to write-off the costs, with so little support in the local business community, in fact the only business owners to encourage us, were the little supermarket & the other cafe’, who really, given we were going to serve food you would think it would be the opposite. I was even asked a few weeks ago why I turned down the offer to open the store in the new complex, the funny thing is I was never asked yet it seems like a good rumour to spread if you are covering your backside. The truth being, I would have turned it down anyway, I’m really content with how life is working out.

there is nothing stronger
It had been some years since investigating why hurt people, hurt people, particularly the most vulnerable in the community, despite having always had a passion for the behaviour of what people do to others, I’d forgotten what it was like to look at the big picture via the little piece by piece of a puzzle & as a writer/storyteller, a lover of the science human behaviour, it seemed the only way to sometimes tell a story is to put in down on paper, to dissect the pieces, the personalities, unpack the ideas, instinct & mind-map out the stories path, through the eyes of those who experience it. Just like science, you take a hypothesis, you conduct your experiment, you write- up your results, maybe this would be interesting.

With a sheer stroke of luck, a story evolved, whether it is fiction or true will be up to the readers to decide.  A little Bryce Courtney, a little Kathy Reichs, a lot of damn good experience, with great instincts, along with a timely, demolished building, a business owner in the way, paving the way for a vacant block right in the space one was needed. A tragic story used to gain government sentiment for a struggling community, rumours in attempts to destroy any good person in stood in the way of progress, any business owner or reputation. If you’ve ever heard the phrase from the days of the Vietnam war, we had to destroy a village in order to save it, you would know how tragic is the human being justifying hurting others in the pursuit of their cause.

I put my house on the market, I stepped back into the life I knew well, not the shop owner small minded community one. I returned to the skills & passion for working in the environment I enjoyed. I went back to study, earned a scholarship, let go of the need to fix what felt like was broken, I just opened up my hands and let go. I remembered how resilient I am, I surrounded myself with the good friend’s I had developed over years, trusted, good, kind people, authentic people, those who also cared little for intolerance, gossip or greed. I reminded myself daily with my yoga practice & meditation, of the microcosm of communities being just a small drop, a pinprick in the greater world, where there were so many people who did not behave like this or have a need to. I charted a new course, it’s as if it is the course that was destined all along.  Out of sadness & struggle, life has being going from strength to strength for all of us under the same roof. Nothing is little anymore other than a few minds and the big world with all it’s opportunities just keep appearing, one nice person after another.

When I was going through a far more difficult time years before, I had a fabulous GP who sadly passed away suddenly from an aneurysm a short time later, he would always remind me “you can’t change what they do or say, you can only change how you respond to it”. I was referred to yoga at the time, a naturopath, had massage regularly, began for the first time understanding how critical it was to change my thinking, which altered my behaviour, changed the way I responded to things outside of my control. It was as if the words of that jolly little bear Winnie the Pooh would become the best words I heard ever, what we need isn’t outside, what matters at any given moment is what is going on inside, it’s been that way all along.

The thing is, so many people think they have time. Time for hate, time for greed, time to do what they want to others in order to achieve a goal which is outside themselves. Time to say horrible things, time for gossip, time to avoid the truth, time to meet their own needs anyway they decide. There isn’t time. There is no certainty about tomorrow or the next, there is only the here and the right now. I for one will not be wasting time on rumours and small minds.

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I really didn’t get it until a little further down the track, I had loads of experiences to support this rationale, my GP’s advice with that of another mentor I had at that time who reiterated the quote. Today I know this through Skinner’s theories on reinforcement & operant conditioning, on the tragedies and sadness, the grief, the loss, the horrible things people do to others in the name of progress, greed, anger, violence, that hurt people hurt people.

We cannot change others, we can only change ourselves and through changing how we respond, we evoke change elsewhere. Someone can take from you, if you allow them to. When tragedy and hurt strike from the anger & events happen outside of your control, I’m sorry for the grief, the suffering, the loss you will experience. I just hope you can see the good in you, the person who remains despite how unfair life has been, then stand up & raise up your chin & go grab the life you deserve, you are more & better than any event that attempts to steal from you the best that you can be. If we could only learn more how to change the way we respond, step back from reinforcing the hurt of others, away from strengthening the reinforcement at all, remove the power, then maybe, just maybe we may actually begin to evolve.

I wish I could have shown this, shared this with so many of the beautiful people who have taken their lives as a result of what other people have said. I wish my sister had known, no matter what she was feeling, we would have been there for her, that living without her is much harder than dealing with any uncertainty or confusion she was experiencing. I wish I could have shown them hurt people hurt people, when you learn about human behaviour, any behaviour, you will discover it’s never about you when people gossip, spread rumours, make up stories, say nasty horrible things, it’s how people respond that reveals the truth, it never tells your story, it tells their own. It’s why behaviour is so predictable.

We want to believe in people, because inside ourselves we want to trust, we want to believe others are trustworthy. The thing is, not everyone is on the same path or experiencing the same journey or want to be. Listen to your gut instinct, sense the body, listen to that human instinct which lets us know when the light bulb is flickering, begging to be turned on, turn away from those who need to push their hurt selves onto you.

If you know who you are, if you know you are a good, honest, kind and compassionate person or creative or different or maybe  you dress in a way that doesn’t align with the local code or have ideas on subjects no one else is interested in, maybe its your sexuality, relationship status, the way you wear your hair or friends you hang with. Guess what, it’s ok to be you, don’t change if your intentions are to love who you are, to be yourself in all your beautiful uniqueness. If we could encourage people to get to know themselves, what makes them tick, what lifts their heart & spirit high, what makes them passionate about life, to create a place where they belong even in small communities that try to push people out, anyone who is different than the status quo, anyone who disrupts their agenda, nothing will alter what they know to be true, you could live anywhere, be anyone you choose to be, live life you deserve, if we could build communities with love & compassion, maybe it could be the ripple the world needs.

So a little while later, after catching my breathe and taking a long hard look at a series of unfortunate events to us although, fortunate for others, wouldn’t you know it, the funding got approved for the new shopping centre, to be built on the land where the ‘unexplained fire’ once occurred, so if anything now, it makes for the start of good fiction writing & might increase the value of my property, so why sell.

I have a really blessed life, despite some of these struggles & challenges & I’ve learned how to respond & not respond. I’ve learned through yoga to not be hung up on what I can’t control, the behaviours of others. I’ve learned & become passionate about Skinner’s work, about the science of human behaviour, the stories people tell through their behaviour yet be able to stand back from the heat, how human beings will do just about anything to meet their own needs, even if it hurts others in the process, how powerful reinforcement can be.

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Somehow, I’m not sure how or can define it really in words, I balance this with eastern philosophy, see how suffering is rooted in the human beings attachment to things, to people, to the stories they are told & by lifting that attachment, which goes against the grain of western theory, to just completely let go of the need for attachment to anything or anyone, be content with being, with letting go of any need to fix myself or see myself as broken, let go of any desire to fit in or stand out, to resist any urge to wear anything other than what I feel comfortable in or conform to any standard set by others who have no certainty about who they are & live through an image they aspire to fit, driven by a monetary or materialistic success they believe will bring happiness, I will find the peace individuals long for. By just practicing being present in the beauty of each moment, allowing others to be responsible for their own karma, life takes on a whole different perspective, a weightlessness that weighs so many down.

You think you have time?

How much time do you  have?

How much are you willing to give up to pursue anything other than being the best version of yourself?

How much time do you devote to being present in each of your moments?

How much time do you have for the truth, to stand up, speak out, be the change the world & communities need?

May all those who suffered and lost their lives at the greed, anger & hurt of people attempting to meet their own needs by hurting others, may you rest with eternal peace.

Namaste readers xo

 

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Mindful of each moment

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I wish I could tell you when you experience grief and loss there was any easy, magical way of moving through what feels like the most excruitating physical pain you’ve ever experienced, to turn back the clock or a workshop on what this feeling is, may help you heal it.

There was a time I ruptured a cyst on an ovary & they couldn’t find out for over three days in one of the largest hospitals in Brisbane what was going on, until all they could see was a huge mass, I went to surgery not knowing what parts I was going to miss when I returned, nearly out from all the drugs to manage the pain, or the time I was crushed under a horse & knocked out most of the memories of childhood at a time I needed it for high school exams, when there were no MRI’s and so little known about neurological trauma. There are so many moments where life just didn’t go the way I planned, yet none ever as painful as grief and loss.

I can’t tell you it won’t hurt or feel ike it will never go away, we will all experience these emotions in our own personal way or how to step by step like a dot to dot drawing, put the pieces back together.

I can say there is something on the otherside of grief, so profound it can change your life as every experience does, reshape your experience and has the potential to see the world as if you are looking through a different lens, not available unless you had experienced that moment, as sad, as tragic and as heartbreaking as it may be. The intensity lessoned, the ability to get up and keep going strengthened and somehow I learned through the courage of a child to look at scary stuff in a whole different way.

It was once hypothesised experiencing so much grief from various events, including the death of my son at such an early age, had made me weak, more vulnerable to suffering, to trauma and I was so fortunate at the time to have a wonderful clinical psychologist supporting me through a really tough time with a few stressors at work who retorted, not only was this incorrect, these events had not created a weakness or vulnerability, they had in fact reshaped my perspective to be one of the most resilient people he knew.

Facing cancer in your 16month child, was up there on the hardest challenge I’ve ever had and the first of so many challenges ahead. However, when I forget to be present in a moment or I meet another simpler, yet what feels like a diffulty at the time, I find myself reflecting, drawing on those experiences, innately as if my body recalibrated it’s persistence and resistance gear, shifts in the next and reminds me nothing will ever be that hard, keep going, you’ve got this.

Some days it can be frustrating to see how trauma, grief, loss and suffering is manipulated by those who think anyone who feels more intensely psychologically or emotionally will be somewhat less than they were before; as if trauma creates imperfection, individuals are more likely to attract further suffering and trauma through what some professionals are paid to describe as a weakness. Our entire compensation, rehabilitation and mental health systems underpin a great deal of this thinking. Post traumatic stress disorder cannot be compensated for unless you have a TPI diagnosis, total permanent impairment (TPI) and the reality is those who do suffer PTSD, may in fact live with this for the rest of their lives, as we do with all events, all experiences as much as our body, mind and spirit recall. How we live with suffering, how it impacts on our body, our mind and erodes the spirit, will show in the future hurt people experience, be present in their behaviour to others and with themselves.

However, what many professionals won’t say, is you can learn to live with trauma and still move forward, reshape these experiences, rewire your brain, get to know your body through sensory awareness, to understand the relationships between experience, thoughts and behaviours, these are beginnings of choosing the way you continue to experience the life ahead.

It is physically not possible to change what has already happened, you may even try, many do, afterall we are hardwired to survive, sometimes attempting to do whatever we can to keep going, often with consequences and still we survive, with a strength that has kept us going. Substance abuse, alcohol, drugs, over spending, working in places they people don’t enjoy, cigarettes, self-harming, over eating, over obsessing, social isolation or taking risks, violence, all hurt people, hurting people, even themselves. Our behaviour tells the story. You may not be able to rewind the tape recording of your internal diaglogue, although you have another option. Not sure if you are old enough like me, to remember the old cassettes? We would recycle old songs or conversations on tape, by recording something more recent and new over the top? You have the power to change your narrative, to tell yourself a different story, to rework your inner diaglogue, just like when you hold back from something which your inner self says “not a good idea”, only reworking a narrative which may have taken root over years, might not be easy.

There is a great deal of evidence to link the sensations in the body to trauma and suffering. Somedays when I smell certain things, my sisters perfume (who took her life the year I my son died), when I hear a song, touch something, a word or phrase, a movie, my body remembers, the sensory relationship with an event, an intense moment of either pleasure or pain can be triggered, it is often more widely discussed in relation to veterans or complex trauma. There isn’t a lot of television I watch, things I no longer do, I decided I wanted an inner dialogue which aligned with my need for a healthy brain and helpful narrative. I no longer pursue things for the sake of filling time, stay in relationships friendships or with a partner, for any other reason than it is helpful, rewarding, inspiring, challenges and fosters a capacity to continually evolve.

It means not needing to worry about why someone hasn’t returned a call unless I’m concerned about their welbeing, thinking differently about allowing others to take responsibility for their own thoughts and behaviours. It’s about not having to save the world or myself, just do my best at whatever I do, when I know more, do more, be more and most importantly, be present with who I am in each moment, I’m enough without a desire to fit any square peg or round hole, just do my best and sleep well with that.

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We are a social species, we interact, communicate and learn in social environments, it shapes our behaviour. Identifying and understanding how this occurs can often lead to changing, rewording the narrative and mapping out a path forward which provides you with a different lens to look through.

If someone would ask how could I possibly get up after so many things had occurred and keep smiling, keep moving forward, being optimistic, my response would be, when you get knocked down, the view isn’t very good from down there, of course you can stay there, yet the only way to see where you are going, to be in the present moment, is stand up, stand tall, look ahead and keep going. Rest by all means, recharge, do what you need to validate your emotional connection to events, people, moments in your life and give yourself the opportunity to ask yourself is this where you want to stay, to celebrate in the beautiful ways those who come into our life, move us, show us how to feel things we may never have experienced. Clinging to them as if we need a safety raft from the life we are not living with authenticity will only weigh you both down. Love does not require possession, you can love anyone or anything you like without having to hold a single thing in your hands. Love is an inside job, not something you must touch in order to have it. I love the sound of the ocean, I love my children, my dogs, the smell of spring, a storm on a tin roof, being alive, these are not all things I can hold or possess. Sometimes love is letting something be, someone be as their life goes in a different direction.

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Too often therapy becomes about ‘fixing’ people, as if we need to disregard or worst squeeze out the pus from someone’s grief wound, somehow pushing pain to the surface and reworking it means it will heal. There are thousands of therapies around the globe for trauma, although, the efficacy of most is poor.  The term ‘let go’ has become about forgetting experiences, if you just learn to forget, you could be all better. For some, a type of cathartic experience of scrapping  your mind of anything which hurt and filling your world with only positive words, positive people and positive experiences, the reality is shit happens, we cannot control others, we can only make choices about ourselves. Peace is not out there, in others, it comes from within. For me I choose a different path and whilst every year on this day I feel somewhat different, there is a great deal that remains the same, nothing can change the past or the date. What I can change is how I experience it, I can redirect my attention, reword the narrative, identify, validate, know these events are my life, I am who I am today not just because of, despite of all the events and some have given me incredible gifts.

Today my son would have been 23 years old. Ben remains forever 3 years and 4 months of age, it was a long time ago and it’s how I understand, became passionate about trauma, grief and loss. In just a few short years, the incredible battle of one small human being, with no doctorates or letters after their name, no scientific discoveries or wealthy investments, property or status taught me more about life and being human than any person since that time or before. Prior to walking into the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne or even the GP who was the first out of 6 specialists to pick up it wasn’t a lazy eye, it was something far more sinister, I was a very different human being, with different goals, different ways of doing things, of even seeing and experiencing life.

Ben was diagnosed at 16months of age, when most babies are discovering the benefits of walking, grasping hold of things they see as interesting, learning to laugh, seek out cuddles whenever their sensations demand, look for reassurance and step into a world of adventure and discovery. It was hard, very hard. Hard to sit with an awful lot of parents, families and children who became our family for the next two and a bit years, I lived at the hospital most days, 5 days a week with my eldest in more hours of childcare than any other child, so much I exceeded the authorised amount and was asked to sign a declaration as to why. I was also having my third at the time, three under 4 years, 5, 3, 1 when it came time to plan a funeral. There were times I had to sit one on my lap, one in the pram and another in the safety seat on top of the pram, just so I could have a haircut.

Even at this time, I had this overwhelming ‘get on with it’ pushing me out of bed every day, things to do, central line to keep clean, injections to give, alternate therapies to seek out, debrief with families around the world on a forum for rare tumours, as the internet just begun to develop; needs to meet, ways to do better pushing me forward. I don’t really know exactly where it begins or hardwires because I know there were times, like many years later I find myself in tears when my Mum calls after a busy work week, around 3 hours sleep a night, being told it was not enough to give all I could and then some, in tears because I couldn’t find a broom to sweep the floors. So I’m not here describing having all the balls in the air at the same time and doing the Irish jig as well, life is hard on us at times, we are human beings, not machines.

I can tell you, the things which made the difference.

What made these moments less painful were the smallest of moments. I came home one afternoon, after a long week of chemotherapy, day in, day out, physically exhausted, child to collect who had bitten someone that day, paperwork to fill out, everyone else focussed on what they needed, I dreamed of a quiet bath and sleeping children, my husband at that time (far more work than 3 children put together) away for work and when I pulled in the driveway well after dark, tummy touching the steering wheel, grumpy preschooler and very toddler after a week of chemo, noticed something stuck to the door. Someone had not only gone to my clothesline and folded the washing, leaving it at the back door, there was a note to call into their house and pick up dinner and freshly home made bread. Just to sit and eat a meal, to not have to worry about one extra chore made the most enormous difference, I’m certain many will appreciate. There were more of these experiences, kindness and compassion eased the load and whilst others made it harder, I can only say in my experience, human empathy in the face of adversity can be the difference to how we survive.

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So today, rather than feeding a narrative of how difficult this was, I can reflect on how much gratitude I have for the lessons I learned at this time, for those who made the difference, how human beings can be so incredibly powerful in reshaping our experiences, in strengthening our resilience, in how the courage, bravery and love of someone can entirely change the way you experience life, if you allow them to, regardless of their age. One person can make a difference to an entire life.

It can be easily to slip into allowing those who are hurting to hurt others. It could be easy to fall into a pattern of only seeing that which makes life hard, to not notice that whilst there were no carparking spaces in the parents with prams because someone without a child didn’t want to walk further at the children’s hospital and you are heavily pregnant with a toddler needing carrying, a preschooler who doesn’t want to be there, need to park on the top floor and navigate several flights of ramps, only to find the white cells are too low, your bills won’t get paid and you are not sure how to find petrol to get there to do it all again the next day, the nurse has a smile, sings to your children to calm them down, incredible, amazing staff with hearts of gold make the difference the day needs, someone lets you in to the traffic lane you need, the person at the supermarket makes eye contact, smiles and tells you to take care, you get to read your children a story with their heads resting on your tummy to hear their sister and for a little while the world reminds you how the best parts and people are there, around us, in our lives, in communities, we just have to open our hearts and our eyes to see them.

If your world doesn’t appear to have kindness or compassion, I beg you to go exploring. Give yourself the opportunity to get out there, join groups, go to work, seek out that which you need to life up your heart and feel the love everywhere, in so many people and then we you are strong enough, go spread your own as wide as you can, first put on your own oxygen mask, take care of you before you go taking care of others.

Although I must say, somehow in all these years, nothing has ever felt as warm and fuzzy as giving to others. It’s as if our life force is born out of selflessness. The more we take, we do not receive, we drain our capacity and continue filling an empty void. The more we give, the more we feel lighter, free, loved.

No matter how much Ben suffered, he always had this way of smiling, of changing the way people felt. Of course he didn’t have the scary information adults have about cancer, about dying, about life being a particular length or story. There is evidence out there to say children with cancer often survive way longer than adults because they have a very different narrative in their heads, they don’t know what they are expected to do. Neutropenia or not, play means play and if you are up to it, you go for it and sleep when you must.

Ben painted rainbows and loved sprinkles, sand on his hands and feet, hanging with his brother and smiling at the new sister who he welcomed for a year, he could never have too much of anything, with an infectious laugh, even if you were in tears would change the way you felt and we were all blessed for having his presence and magic in our lives. I am forever grateful.

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Namaste xo

May you find peace and compassion in your heart.
May you learn how to give without wanting in return.
May you see the goodness in people and learn to forgive.
Not so others may be without consequence, so you can be free.
To live the life you deserve.

Go spread that magic as far as you can, to as many as you can.

Lift up your heart with gratitude. xo

In memory of Ben 10.8.95 – 12.12.98

Time to move on…. don’t you think?

So I went off to the International Childhood Trauma Conference in Melbourne for a fabulous week of extending my knowledge on trauma only to find a small part of the information sharing actually built on past experience, studies and information hanging by those myelin stripped threads up there.

No one is suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater after all good scientific research has given us life saving treatments, understanding why we do what we do, yet let’s not forget most of this didn’t come just from psychology, so it would be great next time it comes around to hear from a broader spectrum of theorists than one professional domain.

In saying that, if you haven’t heard Dr Louis Cozolino speak, it’s a must if you love a fantastic combination of laughter, connection with the speaker and evidence base, although he rightfully suggests “don’t believe me” acknowledging anything put to you by a scientist is a hypothesis, it may have copious correlations, yet surely the psychologist’s speaking remember that psych 101 quote “correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation”.
Inspirational turning 50 quotes Pin by abigail mary on gentle words Pinterest
We are an incredible species, why we call racism something about race I have no idea, ignorance is born into us, it’s made and it’s about poor education and generalisations not about an entire race, considering we are all of the same race, human beings. We have this way of creating words and statements, positing ideas where people need to validate their own views and grab whatever square of information fits into their blank space “aaaah that feels better, now I feel clever because someone else said it is true” and put a whole group of people, different, unique people because of colour, religion culture, belief systems into one massive big stereotype.

I’ve always been attracted to people who challenge the status quo, not in the large ego on a stage with thousands clapping type move and shaker, the quite reserved theories, the scientists in laboratories who sit back and quietly change the world, the person who has overcome adversity to shine their light, the individual who gives when they have so little, whose acknowledgement is well deserved and any on mediocre salaries or none at all, they do what they do for the sheer reward of creating change and triumph over adversity at odds would suggest they had no chance of succeeding.

The same could be said for parenting, those parents who do what they do because it’s right, it feels right, it is about their child’s individual best interests, with care, compassion and selflessness, not their ego, not about status or fitting in or standing out, because they shaped their world according to the individual needs of their family with no need to compete with someone in a totally different household or surrender to the pattern and history that has shaped their own behaviour and impacts on their children.

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Many of you know I’m a fan of Darwin’s work, I still manifest a vision of a quiet space in a big house that only fills on holidays and random surprise visits with grown up happy children doing their thing, with loving partners, children and lives, maybe one has loads of dogs (or so she says!), living a life of purpose while I travel the world and retreat to my little quiet office filled with the works of Margaret Mead and anthropologists, scientists, dream makers and shakers, art, song and good wine, who dared to say something different. It’s a little while off yet, one piece of paper at a time, although this time of information gathering doesn’t have to be sit back and boring, I’d like to read and explore as much information as possible, so going off to international professional conferences can be riveting if it’s outside the what we already have learned.

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So back to the conference….have you ever noticed how many theories on development and attachment were from white middle class men! Have you ever thought about the political nature of theories? How they appear right at the time when women were occupying factories to cover the roles of men off fighting war, organised by men, how those jobs were needed once the fighting was over and like magic these theories appear, right at the same time women were needed back in the homes and wouldn’t you know it, these theories suggest being a mother is the most critical component of a child’s development! If you don’t spend those critical years nurturing day in day out your infant this could have life long implications for society. No going back to work, no women’s rights, no feminism at this time, heaven forbid. Aside from the cheap sarcasm, it would make sense to posit a theory suggesting the first three years of a child’s life requires only their mother and then sell that to the world.

A little like the theories behind the food pyramid, now completely de-bunked yet still we have schools, universities and institutions telling children, adults and societies, we must have a diet with dairy and a great deal of wheat because years ago these industries were hitting an all time low and as is the case with a great deal of westernisation, money speaks louder than human need, so an industry paid a spin doctor to come up with a theory suggesting we needed something we didn’t. Within ten year the obesity and disease rates had sky-rocketed. Yet hey…of course it is the vegan’s now who are the ‘crazy ones’ lol.  My brain has never been healthier, I’ve never felt calmer, slept better since I gave up dairy, meat and mostly wheat.

Change for many human beings is incredibly painful, evolving is a hard pill to swallow, some choke, some spit it back out and refuse to change altogether. I mean if we were all to recognise the impact the meat and dairy industry is having on the planet and actually do something to improve our disease rates, save the environment humanity is destroying, it would require confronting industries and habits which directly impact on the jobs and livelihoods of thousand of people, large corporations and lifestyles! You can see why it pays to reject new evidence. Remember, if you are old enough, when the evidence on smoking began to mount? I mean at one time it was cool! At another time smoking companies were major sporting sponsors, they were painful years for many organisations. Yet despite knowing what this does to your body, knowing how if affects those around you, knowing the cost on our society, on the medical industry, on human welbeing, still it challenges the human beings right to choose their own destiny and it means people have to face. Whatever substance you choose, substance abuse is just another way of escaping our reality, when the reality is too painful to deal with, it helps switch off from your anxiety, the stereotypes you’ve been sold about who you should be, it is far easier to down a few drinks, take whatever you need, rather than walk through something that is outside your comfort zone. We aren’t the only species which runs from any sign of danger to our welbeing.

Yet in search of answers about why we do what we do, how many theoretical discoveries were actually about the science and not about the political climate at the time? How much of this stuff is actually bullshit and you handed over the cash of your intellect and bought into this stuff on sale!

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We have institutions still referring to Vygotsky’s studies, despite Lambert & Clyde’s (Australians) critical analysis of his work of socio-cultural theory and many more following. Lev Vygotsky, a communist psychologist who posited theories of the impact of the social environment on cognitive development, he’s considered a foundation of cognitive theories on human development. He developed his theories about the same time Piaget was out there sharing his work, although they both came from different angles.

Vygotsky sadly died at 38yrs so he never really got to challenge his own theories or expand on his original work, work that leaned towards the impact of culture from the social environment on cognitive development, yet if you hear people speak about his work, this little bit seems to get lost in the translation. Speaking of which…translation. Did you know when his work was translated, there was a bit of creative adjustment? It seems to miss most institutions or maybe just skipped over, to ignore that not only was Vygotsky living in communist Soviet Union at the time, it was the WWII period, the culture a great deal different to the those who translated and marketed his work, yet also skpped the fact his studies were with children with developmental delay, whose cognitive capacity was a great deal different to those it is currently applied to.
Vygotsky’s theories apparently suggested the adult culture imprints on children and children adapt to those learning opportunities which shapes their cognitive development, yet again you don’t really hear that part of the work being translated, the focus is more on the ZPD or zone of proximal development.

Westerners, some, particularly academics with agendas, have this unique way of taking what they need from something, like picking fruit at the grocery store. They look for what is a perfect fit for what they need and skip past anything that looks a bit ordinary or not quite what they need, lacking more internal credibility than just internal validity.
I often wonder if there has ever been a study on the different sizes of egos according to culture and geographical location!

Piaget’s focus was on our sensory abilities and reflexes during infancy, Vygotsky more on the mental functions of children with disability. I mean the terms used to separate human beings are also ways to disempower, to say one person has more status or intellect than an another, when really we are all just different. Whether you have more money or status or more connections to important people than me, I don’t actually care if it means you are rude, angry and nasty. I enjoy the company of good hearted people, who have compassion and kindness in their lives in my personal life and thorough enjoy the challenge of supporting and helping those who have missed out on the opportunity to know what living with joy and happiness is like.

What I find fascinating is how easy it is to lead thousands of people along with theoretical wives tales, add a little seasoning as you go and like magic we create the theories we have today and no one ever needs to question what you say as long as you start the sentence with a dead white middle class guy’s name and then his theory.
OK, so I’m being a little facetious, it’s early and my brain is on fire and I love science, the way it challenges us to think outside the square, all of it, even the crap stuff, the challenge the way you think stuff, even the bits when all you can do is smile and wave. Psychology has been pushing to be recognised as a science for decades, to join in the boring data driven evidence-base of empirical and scientific evidence, yet wouldn’t you know it, it is the very same profession which is also now pulling faces at this evidence-base.  What is the point of an evidence-base some ask? I don’t know, maybe it underpins your qualifications which help pay for those nice things and big income.

There are some amazing psychologists out there, I know many and no one goes into a people focussed, child-centred profession without a pattern and history of their own. Maybe I’m just a tad bored at the popularity and power and the McWesternisation of everything good with great research and theories, yoga is another one. I went to a workshop to learn something new only to find neither had even studied yoga and wondered why the results were not as they had hoped! So many people then leave thinking yoga has no validity when it comes to changing behaviour or go to a gym class where it’s taught as an exercise or sold as an image with fancy tights and then wonder why they still feel crappy!

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What I could appreciate and aligned with a few thoughts I was having, is how strange the phenomena of going to weekend workshops or studying a free course online, reading a book on something and suddenly you are an expert on it, can apply it in real time with real people and not only are you not a member of any professional association, you are anti-evidence based work and sell your newly given professional experteise to vulnerable people who are desperate for behavioural change and happiness, yet don’t want the expense of someone who has had to dedicate six or more years to their life to work through these war and peace sized theories to posit their own hypothesis.

No one is suggesting Bowlby wasn’t onto something, his work underpins the later work’s of Mary Ainsworth and the The Strange Experiment theories and more generalisations, I mean these experiments were conducted with mothers only, in clinical environments, specific to culture, specific to a particular cohort, how could it possibly be assumed the results are across all humanity? I mean Bowlby studied institutionalised children and of what some criticised as shaky evidence from the environment of an horrific orphange experience. In the beginning Bowlby’s theories relied heavily on Freud’s psychoanalytic theories, the ego and superego, to the mother-child bond and it’s relevance to a survival importance, then evolved to later attachment is dependent on early attachment, later Bowlby stated despite his heavily influenced early theories which professionals still refer today, ‘The phenomena to which he called attention are immensely important, but the theories he came up with are very dated and inadequate’ in reference to Freud, in 1986. He stated it was a constant process of learning more about the internal and external impacts on development.

Yet think about it for a minute, just a minute. Do you honestly believe that honest, nice, kind, compassionate parents, only produce honest, nice, kind and compassionate children? This is what a great deal of these theories are suggesting. You get that first three years wrong or a bit ordinary and you aren’t pushing a cushy marshmallow up the hill! Why wouldn’t people give up if all these theories are spot on accurate? Because children change, people do change, experience and the social environment also has an impact on development, neuroplasticity suggests the brain can rewire under different environmental and even drug induced conditions.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, yet I know I had a nurturing Mum in those critical years, yes I may be the reason for many of her aging years today (said in the most affectionate of ways), I was a horrible teen. OK there were a few bumpy years and it certainly wasn’t perfect durnig the adult years either, but I certainly wasn’t an easy teen at a time when culturally our ideas about parenting were changing.

What impact do you think it had at a time when the age of children society says in some cultures today should be at 3 extra curricular activities, wearing the lastest labels and have an iphone today, were being expected to work in factories, when it was legal to physically abuse your child to the point of passing out, before child protection laws began to change, what impact do you think this had on parenting and so-called attachment? How can we possibly assume theories written at times when our socio-cultural environments were entirely different?

Context people, context! Yet still today we have entire industries with their policies and procedures firmly rooted in out-dated theories of dead white middle class men.
Whilst I’ve been a single Mum for over a decade and my children have had to rely on extended family for male role models and friend’s, I was a bit disappointed to not hear much about the role of fathers. I know some great fathers, whose children changed their lives, the course of their sense of purpose, meaning and belonging, who did the best they could just like mothers at the same time. Every adult in the lives of a child has the capacity to influence the child’s development.
Look around our culture today, some children are raised with two mums, two dads and no they don’t all have attachment issues for goodness sake! Evolve for goodess sake, lift yourself out of the murky mud filled holes of ignorance you may be stuck and think critically!
When are we going to stop twisting and manipulating the good work of theorists to fit goals and agendas which have a cha-ching attached to it!
They want to talk about trust? Children building trust and sense of security? How about we start with role models and professionals who speak with authenticity? About adapting to our current socio-cultural needs, to individual needs, to what matters right here, right now?
So the theories goes something like this, nature gives us the baby, the environment, particularly parents shape and ‘nurture’ it, the nature vs nurture debate lives on.
Critics of the nurture assumption like Harris, posit some interesting questions on this argument, like how is it that twins separated at birth, raised in two different homes have exactly the same habits, yet identifical twins raised in the same house do not? If it is true the nurture assumption being that either genes or parental behaviour are the greatest influence on their children, then how could this not fit the hypothesis? Is it both or not both or neither? Interesting.
Harris (1998), suggests peer group and cultural environment plays a much much bigger part of the impact on shaping an adult than a parent and genes can play an important role in providing the tools in which to kick start things. Yet what if a parent dies? Parent’s divorce? A child is adopted? What about the 80,000 odd thousand children forcibly removed after an agreement between the UK and Australian governments to bring children to Australia where so many were abused in institutions? What about the stolen generation? The list goes on.
Think people, I’m not suggesting one theory is true, put it altogether and think critically for yourself, even if it challenges you to stand up and say “excuse me, I was wondering, what about…….?”
About two decades ago I had this friend at the time, I’d had since I was around 18 years.  We had children around the same time and I often had this feeling at the time of not being quite good enough as a parent to her standards or person for that matter (why she wanted to be friends I don’t know, maybe having people she thought were less of a parent as she was made her feel superior?), she always had this way of criticising, judging. It was in my early days of learning about behaviour, I could see inwardly there was an angry, unhappy person who needed to know she belonged somewhere and because it was never acknowledged or validated, she strived for connection through her children, in shaping them into perfect human beings and judging all those who didn’t follow by the same rules and status driven decisions; like many parents live out their own inadequacies through their children, rather than allow them to grow into the people they innately are driven to be.

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I can remember one weekend I was putting my foot down with my daughter about a sleep over, at the time my friend allowed her daughter, slightly older, yet still under 16years to have her boyfriend sleepover, the rationale was if they are going to do something then it may as well be under her roof, there was always this belief of being a friend first, parent 2nd. I didn’t agree and went about my own way, developing as a parent as I went along, of course it just took a long while to realise this person was never a friend and the relationship ended. I remember the firey snappy quote that followed on one occasion, “you just wait until you end up with an out of control teenager who resists everything because you didn’t let them have a boyfriend stay over or go to parties”, they did go to parties, just not with alcohol I had paid for or given them (as this friend had, despite a law which said otherwise).
Over the years I’ve had a lot of those uninvited tips of advice, about having my children live at home too long, some from people without children, about my children, adults now, staying at home into their adult years, about telling me I should be putting my rules down and making them clear, about taking them travelling around the world when I could have spent thousands on myself or paid for something which gave more status, about doing too much for them, allowing them to choose vegetarianism and veganism, about their choice to leave school before finishing and pursue their own interests. I could go on with the number of times someone has given me their advice, from a position of little experience not only with my children, their own. One would think with all these poor decisions I should sleep terrible at night! I don’t, I did during those years.
So now I sit back and whilst they still don’t pick up their towels at times or think how much their Mum would love a hot cooked meal after a long drive and being away for 5 days, they light the fire before I’m home, play games and laugh with each other, they work, study and hang out washing, help with the shopping and driving on big trips, have good manners, never been in trouble with the law or committed a crime or do illicit drugs and not to say those children who do any of these things are any less or any better, yet I am incredibly grateful I have not suffered those challenges and feel for those who do, many of whom may have be the reason for their children’s behaviour, many who were not. Yet there is no one rule that fits it all.

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I’ve had tears and I’ve had challenges and they resist learning hard lessons, we all do. However, as I explained to one adult child the other day, I’m your Mum, a mother first and if we are friend’s how fortunate are we to achieve this as well.
I have an auto immune disease and no my mother and our attachment did not cause it. I believe it is more likely auto immune disease is so high in statistics at a rate of child abuse and neglect it wouldn’t be hard to draw this correlation together, yet does correlation equal causation? Oh please.  My guess is all the events after this, possibly as an adult, the enormous stressors I put on my brain and early life choices as a young wild adult travelling and backpacking, years of a horrible marriage and possibly the grief of experiencing 9 out of the top 10 most stressful events played a much greater role than the first years of infancy which by all accounts were pretty good.

It could be diet, I know my brain has never felt better since I changed to veganism, yet I also know yoga and meditation keep me sane and able to do a great deal of what I can every day.

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I look at people who are forcing their views down my throat as if with some desperate need to fill that empitness and unworthiness inside them, to power up their ego possibly or maybe it’s the only way they can make a connection because of their own genetics or nature/nurture assumptions and feel sadness for the fuel in their bodies which appears on inflamed by ignorance and self-hatred.
What I do know is there is no one way, there is only your way. There is no white-way is the right way either. Theories are just that, theories, hypotheses. We can learn from or let them fuel the ignorance and stop evolving.
We have thousands of cultures, millions, billions of people around the world who do not fit the white dead guys westernised theories, who raise their children in community cultures, we have different societies, collectivist and individualistic, no prizes for guessing which one western society fits. We have parents who co-sleep and raise resilient adults, we have parents who co-sleep and pamper to their child’s every whim and raise arrogant little nasty people. Me, I’m more inclined to lean towards the strength of Skinner’s work on reinforcement, on the evidence base of operant conditioning and how the social environment shapes the behaviour and the tools we begin life with. If you take an infant and respond to its cries for food, it learns where it comes from. If you don’t respond it learns not to cry and reshapes the brain, what we learn helps us thrive or not thrive, to develop or during those synaptic pruning stages, what we don’t use, we loose.
I study behaviour not because I’m in search of a miracle answer to explain all the horrible things human being do to each other, I like learning about understanding communication through behaviour, why you do what you do and say what you say and event the horrible stuff, to understand it and prevent more individuals from using their hurt to hurt others. Ok, it has a few benefits, reading quickly someone’s theatrical performance of trying to convince you they are your friend when they are doing a crap job via their change in voice tone, little idiosyncrocies, when their ego is on show for all to see, when their trauma is out front, when their suffering and self-loathing presents before authenticity, fear of being themselves, need to fit in, what a desire for status and affluence may indicate about how they really feel about themselves. This is what interests me, being able to just smile and take it in and help those who want to make a difference to their lives.
My interests is to understand why we must keep pushing support and services at people who don’t want or a cognitively or behaviourally ready for behaviour change, yet because we have to seem to be doing better, when we actually are not, to improve KPI’s, must keep throwing thousands at individuals who show no indicators they are ready to change, just to prove we have done something even if it doesn’t work, even if the theories being used are out-dated, have no relevance, even if the programs have no evidence-base. We are doing something right?

We have entire professions driven by political climates, shaped by public knee jerk pressure and the profits of media driven by a handful of wealthy egotistical white folk, men mostly and then try considering the outcomes, the results of the trust you place in all these decisions, in the services, in the media, in the politicians who choose to end or continue suffering in our communities, where our money goes and where it does not. Have a think about the rising statistics, not declining. Crime, family violence, child abuse, disease, suffering. Tell me where or show me where we are evolving into a humanity which is improving it’s outcomes? Why is so much invested where there statistics keep going up and few are saying who me the investment has the outcomes we need?
So today I need to get a head start on my next literature reviews, choose a target behaviour and at least five evidence-based studies to underpin treatment options. I wish I could write about kindness and compassion, empathy and human connection, yet I’ll be focussing probably on reducing my Heeler’s compulsion to take everyone’s heels when he gets excited and steer away from the cattle dog genetics debate and stick to the applied behaviour analysis focus. I’d like to tackle parenting behaviour, child abuse, alcohol and substance use, yet I don’t have a four year Phd at this stage to complete, just a few weeks to get this in, so a timeframe will shape this bloggers decision making over the next few months to get things in on time and with healthy grades.
When we know better, we have the capacity to do better and the question is should we?
Should we continue to market products which are out-dated or advance these products to enable our species to evolve and adapt as Darwin suggested, take what we’ve already learned and do better?

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Or are nice cars and big homes, speaking circuits and big egos more important than real science, the stuff that saves lives and changes the way our brain passes on all that genetic imprinting?

Should we be studying more of those cultures where anger is rarely seen, where love and kindness are plentiful and the need for status and ‘things’ is only for societies like our own? Where the environment is a living organism aligned with our selves, where respect is part of our daily existence to each other, to all that is living, to our entire social cultural context.
Should we be funding empirical or scientific evidence-based studies of these cultures, of learning from those who don’t need to read a book on happiness or put on tights and buy a membership to feel they are doing their best at being happy, that somehow it is in something external, rather could we learn from those who have known since the dawn of time, everything we need is already inside us, love is not out there, we need to love ourselves and then spread that magic wide and far.

I don’t know what your environment says about you or what you can learn from mine, I do know human connection changes who we are and genetics plays a big part in starting off your story, yet don’t be dismayed by the beginning, you get a hell of a lot of choice about the chapters in between. Take those events and shape them into the life you choose. Sometimes crap happens, take back the steering wheel when you trust someone up front to get you there and they took your down a dark lonely road, you are human, we make mistakes, we might not control those moments, you can learn however learn from them. Get back into that vehicle, start her up and get as far away from that stuff as good meditation, gentless and compassion with a lot of self-determination can get you. Go where the sunshines through you and beams out.

I know touching the scars will hurt, opening wounds up to clean out the crap that prevents them from healing might be painful, yet I also know how it feels when those gaping big holes heal over and you have all this space and lightness from letting go of stuff which has been weighing you down. Choose friend’s wisely and feel  just as much compassion for those struggling with their own inner demons as you may have with your own. Above all if you are needing respect, then give that which you are seeking. Like a beacon calling you in the distance, begging you to wake up and switch on the light, to live admist the chaos and still find peace, because wherever you go without doubt you know it lives inside you, not out there in others or in things, be the light, be the change, step up and know there is no one way, just your way of being you. Why be a carbon copy of someone else?

I know I was born into a family of challenge and struggle, a family with a pattern and history of events which shaped and determined those challenges. I know I struggled through the horrible things human beings do and still do to each other, that little has changed. I know the same friend’s I had at school with low self worth are still battling to work out it isn’t going to come from outside them and hurting others who are being nice to you will not ease that emptiness you feel inside. I’ve lost people I love to that struggle, to feeling as if no one would understand their hurt or help them through dark times, who I miss terribly and yet that pain is something I have chosen to allow myself to learn from, to do better and be better.

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Right now on my desk, is a large coffee, two mobile phones, two computers, art pencils, some brushes, my assignments, sticky notes with positive quotes and a pile of books;
Understanding behavioursim – Baum
Braving the Wilderness – Brene’ Brown
Kid Yoga – Pegrum
The Neuroscience of Human Relationships – Cozolino
Good Dog – Garden & Gun
Pablo Picasso – Colour in book
Trauma & Recovery – Herman
HOld on to your kids – Neufeld & Gabor Mate’
Ethics for Behaviour Analysts – Bailey & Burch
Understanding Applied Behaviour Analysis – Kearney
The boy who was raised as a dog – Dr Bruce Perry.

and the cute little purse, hand-made in Peru, from when my daughter I permitted to leave school early, purchased her first house at 19yrs, is in the Uni course of her dreams and backpacked through South America, through to Machu Picchu, when it was foretold she would be out of control. Yeah Ok, right back at you with that prediction, ye who have so little faith in my super powers.

The cheeky Heeler is asleep under a comfy blanket on the bed, the fire is on, I’ve got washing to fold, I’m wondering about what I might have for breakfast, home made muesli may be on the cards with a banana, the guitar is gathering dust and maybe when study is over I’ll pick it up again. The sun is rising through the trees out the back, a pool is going in and there is mud from one end of the place to the other. Everyone else is asleep and I look around these small insignificant things (except the children and dogs sleeping) and these things tell you a story of the people who live here, this is my story and the story of those before me and I embrace all of it, because every gene every hurt, every piece is part of who I am right now, I’m good with that. I’m feeling pretty grateful I still have my parents as unwell as they are, they’ve showed me and given me a legacy of wanting to understand how to change the way we do things, how to prevent hurt people from hurting people, even if hurt people, hurt me; how to be imperfect and be OK with that, how not to follow with revenge, to follow with not doing the same; how to let go of judging those who are doing their best with the tools they were given despite how imperfect this is. I could not have got to this point without all the experiences I’ve had. Sure I wish I didn’t have many of the suffering that has occured along the way, I wish as my son’s birthday approaches and he is now in our memories, there was no cancer and no suffering. Yet this is where I’m at and turning the hurt into something that weighs me down is not an option, even if it’s purely because it would be too heavy to carry. I know better and if it takes all my energy, I am going to do better.

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This is what interests me, our stories, your story, as imperfect and unique as it is. Your imprint on the world, on yourself, on my life. Why you do what you do, live as you live and how can this learning help people to find more joy and peace in their life, how can I understand more about behaviour to provide opportunities to build safer, more resilient happy individuals and communities. When I find something good, something that helps make things easier, I will share it wide and far. If it changes one life, then my life has been worth every hard lesson.

We are all born with a potential for love and belonging, our genes may give us the tools our social environment and every single person we connect with plays a role in shaping it. Let’s get off the mothering blame game, let’s hang up modified theories and start speaking with a little truth. Let’s stop pushing our shit onto others because we can’t bare the effort of cleaning up after ourselves. Take a dustpan out and start picking it up and throwing it out, get on with living the life you deserve.

Let’s learn from cultures around the globe how to be better human beings, nicer, kinder, less egotistical and more selfless, so we can reduce harm, increase kindness and bring more love to our lives. Be a beacon that lights the way for others. I mean ponder it a while today, Australia has the oldest culture on the planet, who were doing fine until colonisation, only a few hundred years and how much death, destruction and mayhem has occured in that time. Honestly we are doing better? Please…. We are here and this is now, so let’s learn something from those who managed to survive for around 60,000 years.

Think outside the box, think critically and if not about others and the information they are selling, think critically about why you are resisting broadening your thinking. Question, question, question, and don’t take my advice or believe it’s true, think of it as one more ingredient in a massive experiment, with your own thinking. Let go of that which weigh’s you down, hurts others, contributes to anger and hate, anything which takes human evolution in the opposite direction.

Choose to know better, to do better, to learn more and grow more.

Take a little time today to reflect on what your social environment says about your story, take up the pen or keyboard and start writing the next chapter with you as the author not the reader.

I am enough

Happy blessed Sunday everyone xo

Love & kindness to all xo

When we have more, know more, we can & should do more

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There is only so much you need isn’t there? Really think about it, contemplate for longer than it takes to turn on a tap, fill up the jug, pour yourself a coffee. You don’t need takeaway, you could cook, you don’t need 50 pairs of shoes when you can only wear one at a time. The minimalist movement has clearly demonstrated we could do with less and it would be better for the planet.

However, there is over 780 million people without appropriate water sources, 2.5 million without improved sanitation, more than 35% of the world’s population, imagine if that was your community. For me, I live in a small little town less than 400 people, imagine the impact it would have if nearly a third of the community were affected by something as fixable as providing water and sanitation? (Global Wash, Fast Facts). Although small communities are still affected by family violence, mental illness, substance abuse, crime, bullying, suicide, sexual violence, child abuse and still many of these occurrences continue to rise in statistics. If there is to be change, it starts with ourselves.

Sadly a microcosm like a small community, is a good representation of attitude differences across the world. I haven’t completed a thesis on it, although the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) provide data via the World Giving Index on 140 countries across the planet in relation to helping, donating, volunteering; providing for those less fortunate than themselves.  Called the world’s leading study on generosity thus far, highlights those countries more active in volunteering and giving than others. Who would you predict?

In 2017, Mynamar (Burma) and Indonesia were infront of Kenya, some suggest the high rates of compassion, could be the result of Theravada Buddhism, the practice of Sangha Dana, giving to others. Australia ranked in the top 10 at number 6 for most generous countries (giving $), although for helping a stranger, not even close to the top 10. Giving money seems far more convenient for us Aussies than our time, our energy and our compassion 1:1. It means you can give from your laptop, your phone, without modifying your words or social behaviours towards others. You can give cash “I give to charity” without shifting your vibration at all.  Of course this group is a small study of 1000 people in each country & hypothesis from the data. For all we know the people of seaside communities may or may not be less giving than those in rural communities or cities & analysis depends on an incredible amount of variables, something I’m intrigued to explore more of.

During WWI, soldiers would lay down their weapons, the war would stop to allow the dead and injured to be removed, soon after the fighting would begin again. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if human beings have the capacity to turn a war on and off to honour the dead and the hurt, then surely we had the capacity to not turn on a war at all? To be kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, to prevent suffering, trauma and the scale of devesation we see in the aftermath of human beings at war.

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On Saturday 3 November this year will be World Kindness Day, it takes a day dedicated to highlighting the need for kindness across the globe, the decreed date is November 13, first began back in 1998 from the kindness movement. The group suggest maybe little has changed since those actions in WW1, I mean, we have Clean Up Australia Day, Valentines Day, Christmas Day, we have so many days to highlight the diversity of our communities and then go back to our normal lives, as if kindness and compassion is something we are still behaviourally, turning on and off. Some may tell themselves, they’ll make this $20 donation online and that small generous act has achieved their kindness for the year, give to charity, done their bit, then report a neighbour’s dog to the pound for barking or take someone else’s ideas and make them your own, spread gossip which is not only harmful, it’s untrue with complete disregard for the impact or worse, allow your own feelings to project your behaviour onto others, allow someone else to suffer as a result of your own behaviour.

Last night I had a chat with my children about an incident earlier in the week when they were really not very kind to each other, normal sibling stuff by all accounts, however, an opportunity to reflect, revisit and ask how it could have been done differently. One was called into work urgently at the last minute and had organised an appointment for something to be done & another had time to do it, yet wasn’t happy about having to spend their time helping a sibling! They called me with the drama at work & this wouldn’t be the first time, once I was stuck in Indonesia and spent a whole day trying to mediate until my phone ran out of battery! The thing is they are both so similar in personality, their Myers Briggs only separates them with an E & an I. I had a full week, I was at the time concentrating on a task & balancing it with others I had, one of the challenges of living with this new brain & MS is recalling information when distracted. I forgot a task, a phone call I needed to make & when I had remembered it was a few days later. It could have potentially had a really poor outcome, fortunately it didn’t, yet it gave me time in bed last night to think once again about how the actions of one person with no relation or social connnection can have an impact on others, like a chain reaction.

The publican who allows the local to continue to drink until they are so wasted they cannot stand who says they are not responsible the person either drives their car and causes an accident, taking innocent lives or goes home and violently assaults their partner, while breaching their licensing laws. The police officer who turns a blind eye at one crime and then victimises others. The teacher who rewards those who comply, finds it difficult to teach those whose behaviour is the result of complex trauma and child abuse. The list I could write until my hands could no longer move. Every single event, every one of your behaviours has the potential to impact and influence the behaviour of someone else. If you want change, then get off your backside and change yourself! Be the change we need, leave our children with a legacy of hope for a better future, not a repeat of the past.

Is humanity, as the Kindness Movement question, going through some sort of world mid-life crisis? Well, the answer is not to blame millenials, it’s to own our role in creating the adults they’ve become. It’s not to blame people in our communities for their substance abuse or violence, it’s to lift our vibration and ask ‘what can I do to help’, how can we overcome these challenges together. It’s not to bully and intimidate a shop owner whose children may or maynot be struggling with substance abuse, or spread hateful rumours, put objects in their yard in the hope they’ll be arrested & have to leave the community. It’s to say how can I help you, what can we do to help, where is the kindness and compassion in our communities? How can these very same people sit in churches, in meetings, on community groups, seek funding for a so-called ‘community in need’ using the tragedy of people for their own agenda and then socially isolate those very same people?

Some years ago when my son was on chemotherapy, the rainbow years, Ben would draw rainbows everytime he had an opportunity to; a year or so before he passed away, I was one of several Mum’s on our ward that night, the ward where all the children had cancer, were admitted due to neutropenia or very unwell. All our children were under 5 years of age. We’d stepped out of the rooms while our babies slept to grab a cuppa & began chatting about camps, opportunities for infants to have time out just like the trips, gifts and opportunities older children diagnosed with cancer were given. The next day I called a major international charity, known for putting the face of little ones with cancer, little bald heads in it’s advertising. I asked about a surprise for my son, he loved Thomas the Tank Engine, we were really struggling to even find the petrol money to get to the hospital, down one income, I spent most of the week, everyweek at the hospital, yet they told me the dreams of children were only taken into account at that time if they were over 5 years of age as there was some concern parents could influence children to select trips to Disneyland or far off expensive places. What? Didn’t they think parents could do the very same with older children or the lives of infants mattered any less or their dreams? Now we now what increases happiness, joy, love in our lives is actually super good for the health of our brain, the more positive experiences we have in childhood, the better it is for our brain development! So imagine how much joy & positivity could come from providing children with brain tumours awesome experiences.

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Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

So together with a group of parents with little ones, we decided to approach an organisation which organises camps and suggested if we could find enough families with young children would they organise a camp? They agreed and off we went on our camps. I made good friends and supports during the challenge of my son dying of cancer from those camps, friends that helped get through those difficult times, to listen, to offer ideas for support, with families going through what I was experiencing. Brothers and sisters had the opportunities to spend time with their families to laugh, play and talk about how it felt to not be getting the attention their very sick sibling was getting.

When I told this story to someone at home, I mentioned my son may never go to school, will miss the fun of playing with others, the joys of friendships, they organised a benevolent society to send us on a trip to the Gold Coast, all expenses paid as a family to go to Movie World, Sea World with our children. The pilots who became aware of the boy’s and their passion for aircraft and flying, asked us to join them in the cockpit, they gave their pilot wings off their uniforms as keepsakes, even now I still get teary after all these years when I think about how kind, generous & thoughtful complete strangers were.

When I look around I see kindness in so many people, many who continue to be complete strangers. A lady who pays my photocopying at the library because I forgot my change or someone who puts left over coins in parking meters ready to expire, the man/son of a woman who brought in a box loaded with gorgeous vegetables and fruit to me one day to say “thank you”, because I paid his mother’s groceries at the supermarket, when clearly she was so distressed, people were staring as she struggled with her purse and understanding what the cashier was saying, with little English was unable to use the Eftpos machine, so I just handed her my business card & said “it’s ok”.

When we have more, we know more and we can do more, we should do more.

It’s not that there is a need to acknowledge giving or to give back, we can allow the experience to change who we become, how we treat others, we can keep the pay it forward it going.

Your choices can change the lives of so many. We must resist the urge to only see the pattern and history of people and strive harder to seek out their potential, to believe, to have faith, to say “It’s Ok, I’ve got this”, to give people a chance to change, the strength to get back up after life pulls them down, to provide the very opportunities, even one, to change their lives and begin to create their own ripple of kindness and it starts with us.

It’s not to reinforce the greed of small business or large by continuing to purchase their products, push up their bottom lines, it’s to choose wisely the products, services and companies we support. It’s not to take advantage or mark up your products beyond what is necessary, it’s being generous with spirit and not taking more than we need. It can start with something as small as changing where you buy your toilet paper. My daughter encouraged her workplace to change their cheap nasty rough bottom tissue to purchasing ‘Who Gives a Crap’, 100% recycled, 50% of the profits given to help build toilets for those who need something as life changing as sanitation! We can all make a difference, by changing our own behaviour.

Contemporary Foundation Joseph Rowentree suggest a culture of fear is eroding the qualities of our society which directly influence our compassion, kindness and wholeheartedness to others, that ‘the common good’ is something of the past. Greed, desire to be the best, to win at all costs, underpins motivation and intention. As a behavioural scientist and yoga teacher I’m always fascinated by why people do and say the things they do and say, particularly how the social environment influences our behaviour towards those around us and their behaviour influences our own.

As many of you know, in the last few years I’ve felt the force of this shift towards fear driven motivation and intention first-hand, moving to a small community with different thoughts, ideas and behaviours is never easy. Small communities are certainly not immune from these behaviours and if anything, the smaller the cohort, the more it stands out. History is littered with the way groups of people, ignorance, fear, hate, can disempower, hurt and impact on minorities. With a blend of science and yoga philosophy I decided to shift what one stream may call ‘my vibration’ and the other ‘change my behaviour’ by refusing to reinforce the behaviour, I stepped back, stepped out and increased my kindness and compassion towards others, by refusing to associate with those who participated in those behaviours or to strengthen the lack of empathy towards others by feeding this ignorance any further with attention or my presence.

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It doesn’t suggest I have no empathy for those who participate in such behaviours, although I’m one person like you, I only have so much time and so much energy to give and I choose to use it wisely to those who are ready, those who promote, encourage and lift up the vibration of others, by altering their own frequency. I’m incredibly blessed to work within environments which provide the agency I need to support those far less fortunate than my own. Our languages from different disciplines are all talking the same thing, we just use different words, different way of expressing human behaviour and our needs. Whether it’s your energetic vibration, your cognitive choices or your learned behaivour – it can change. The principle of ABA (applied behaviour analysis) is optimistic, we believe everyone has the capacity to change their behaviour.

Some blame millenials as contributing to the decline in values and compassion, which is odd as the young people I know are passionate about the earth, climate change, recycling, erradicating plastic, veganism, improving the planet they’ve inherited from our generation. Albeit their approach is a little in-your-face at times (still a generalisation), however, if you look at their intention, I see millenials with a sense of purpose, a little impatient, yet driven with compassion, underpinned by their search for meaning.

When we have more, we can and must try to do more.

Kindness and compassion underlie my yoga practice and philosophy and yet of late I’ve really had to reign in my classes, which has been difficult as I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of taking yoga to regional areas, small little communities, working with corporate clients and individuals 1:1. Sometimes I drive up to 1.5-2hrs one way for a class, if less than 7 are on the mat, due the cost of insurance, tyres, fuel, cost of venue etc. I run the class at cost only, my time is for free.

This is the struggle of bringing any service to remote regions & maintaining justification for their need. It is my belief if one person has a need, then this is justification. Sadly public and political policy does not see things the same way and if I am to advocate kindness and compassion, it includes myself, my children, my family.  We lose health services and vital infrastructure when populations decline, some researchers believe ‘let them die’ of small communities, the cost is too large. The irony is in my own community I could nearly provide yoga for free, I’d have no travel time, no impact on  my vehicle & less costs, yet to hire a venue is 5 times the cost it is in the other communities.

Allowing others to step up to the plate by removing our reinforcement of their behaviour and choices is one of the hardest choices we make. Yet staying will not create change, allowing people to treat others with disrespect, to not be responsible will do nothing to alter the behaviour, giving in to a child’s tantrums, rewarding a behaviour you need to change because it’s having an impact on you, will do zero, unless you change the way you are responding, interacting, reinforcing the behaviour of others.

Letting go of the child’s bike seat so they can pedal for the first time.
Leaving a unhealthy relationship you felt miserable, even unsafe for too long.
Instilling values, manners, respect with your children by removing your own reinforcing behaviour, treats, rewards, messages which fail to change their behaviour or increasing reinforcement at positive times.
Ending friendships, changing your mind on a decision you know was not the right one.

Accepting if change is to occur in your life, then it is up to you. You cannot change others, you can only change yourself.

There is no doubt, all or any of these choices are incredibly difficult, validating and coming to the realisation as adults is definitely much easier if you’ve been raised in a childhood of consistent, predictable parenting where you’ve been given the tools to rationalise your behaivour, to reflect and take responsibility, to own your crap to know if you stuff up, your parent/s still love you, you have a soft place to land. Not everyone has that blessing.

So back to the millenials and all the adults criticising a generation on mass (if that’s not an example of generalisation what is!), just remember, their behaviour is a product of their parenting and the social influence of peers.

So here is where it becomes easier – if we are to desire a common good, values which enrich our communities, lift the vibration, change behaviours, it must come from promoting equality, a more peaceful, giving humanity within our communities and across the planet.

We can witness it already with volunteers, fundraising for those who are less fortunate, if you Google, Youtube or pick up a paper, you can find kindness if you look for it. Wouldn’t it be so much better, healthier, nicer for the planet if it were the majority, if everyday, everywhere, every person we came in contact with, cared about others, took responsibility for their own behaviour, lifted their vibration and were the very change they once sought in others?

Be the person who gives a crap! Be the answer to The Black Eyed Peas song, “where is the love?” “Can you practice what you preach?”

“And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how hate works and operates
Man, we gotta set it straight
Take control of your mind and just meditate
And let your soul just gravitate
To the love, so the whole world celebrate it”
Today and every day, don’t wait for Kindness Day, go out there and be a ripple of generosity, if all you have to give is your time, then give it. If all you have is a creative pursuit you could share with others, if it’s in your work, your home, your relationships, with your children, in your community. Be kind, be giving, share the love.

This weekend, jump onto your Spotify or playlist and add a little kindness to your day, a little inspiration or find mine ‘Kindness’ playlist!

Who gives a crap
https://au.whogivesacrap.org/pages/our-impact

Kindness Movement – Australia
http://www.kindness.com.au

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Do what you love with gusto

I was on a holiday trip with my youngest yesterday when she asked “I’m thinking of writing a story, a book, do you want to hear my idea?”. Of course I did, how many times I had been stuck with a character and she had helped out with a different perspective. The last time we created a story together on a trip home from town, she begged me to begin writing the moment I came in the door! We were both so excited we’d created a mini series through the eyes of a fictional author, we named her Ava Johnson.

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Many writers write under fictional names, sometimes it takes doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Sometimes we need help, sometimes we need courage, sometimes we need strength, resilience or just a little persistence. Whatever it takes for you to follow your calling, be true to you. If it comes from a place of integrity, of compassion for yourself and others, then give it a chance “to thine own self be true” as Shakespeare would say.

Only recently, a year or so ago has my daughter discovered a passion for reading. Up until then teachers were concerned her reading “wasn’t where it should be”. I often thought it was singing opera, acting in the theatre, had been far more important and interesting for a long time and reading didn’t fit where she was at or the mould education created of what and who children should become, afterall if you love opera and theatre where is it in education today? Is there nothing more frustrating than having a song in your heart and no one can hear it except yourself? Even worse, you silence it.

Believing in yourself is hard enough as an adult, let alone being a small child with different ideas and imagination in a world or community of sameness.

Remember when you were small and dreamed of being bigger, older, having choices where you could do anything you wanted? How is that working for you?

I meet so many people living someone else’s dogma, in relationships, careers, locations situations, sucking the life out of their soul, ignoring the spark inside their hearts. Whether it’s painting, drawing, writing, being an adventurer or baking cupcakes for a living, they continue to stay in the safety of the plane for fear of leaping for their lives & discovering what colour is their parachute, hell of a view from up there if you’ve ever tried it. Can’t really experience it unless you let go of the safety net, outside your comfort zone.

When I was young I fell deeply in love with writing. By no means do I profess any talent and have only had a couple of published pieces, it is fiction and the love of great characters, stories of adversity, strength, courage, human behaviour through story-telling which lights up my early mornings and fills up the notebook beside my bed at early hours. Writing challenges the wiring in my brain, even more so now there are short circuits everywhere due to MS. It has taken a new perspective on thinking and processing, to embracing how influential positive experiences can be to neuroplasticity, for me to continue to write, regardless of what comes out at times, whether it is Ava or me or another name, another story, another time or character, whether the story is true or real or completely imaginative. Even completing a Uni assignment can be exciting if I stay true to myself.

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At first it seemed self-indulgent, a time wasting exercise of pursuing something which had no financial value to it. That all changed when I received my first message from someone moved by a post I had written on a forum. I remember thinking if I applied this yard stick to everything I learned, why would we pursue anything at all if only for monetary gain or recognition? We don’t and at that time particulary staying true was never more important as one of the most difficult times in my life and more so now as an adult when life is filled with obstacles & challenges. That was 20 odd years ago, the internet was just gaining popularity.

Ideas would randomly fill my head, distract my thoughts in meetings, driving, eating, watching children play. Poems, quotes, paintings, newspaper articles, documentaries, so many forms of story-telling were sparks of inspiration. I could see stories in the smallest of detail and the more I learned about human behaviour, the more story-telling evolved.

Of course it would be nearly 20 years later before I’d ever invest in attending a writers course, let alone contemplate writing as a calling I couldn’t ignore.  Although by then I’d achieved a HD on a research paper during a teaching degree at University and I learned the art and difference of writing to the needs of your teacher, for a purpose and for yourself.
Strange are the ways we silence the passions in our hearts. Along with writing I love the science of human behaviour, to paint, to garden, create with my hands, practice yoga. I lost interest when my hands began to tremble at times, my body ached, developed an injury in my hip. I made excuses and diverted my attention, blurring what turned out to be exactly the path I was supposed to be on. There were times when routine & not following my own dreams weighed heavy on my heart. When we stop listening to the voice inside, disconnect from the intrinsic interests, sparks which ignite our passion, is it any wonder we feel lost, confused, depressed, sad when we are heading in the wrong direction? Although the message was there, it wasn’t really a wrong direction, every path an opportunity to learn more.

The more I learned, more detours I had taken, the more I discovered about human behaviour, the greater my interest in story-telling. I thought I was off track, when really I was exactly where I needed to be. It’s a tad hard to write about something you know nothing about and difficult to create without lived-experience.

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I researched the lives of writers I admired, whose books I couldn’t put down, had turnability on every page. Many of whom discovered a love of words and story-telling in retirement, they too brought to each page an authenticity sometimes lost with just imagination. I contemplated this at a forum workshop a few years ago in discussion about those who tell the stories of people diagnosed with a disability yet have never lived with a psychological, cognitive or physical impairment. Males writing about female sexual abuse, female writers telling a story through the eyes of being male.

Of course you don’t have to be living in the 17th century to tell it’s tales or the gender of your charcters. Each author brings an authenticity and power to reshape how we think about events, people, behaviours with every single word. Whether they do justice or manipulate the truth with creative licensing is another discussion.

What I learned and still discovering is when it comes to writing you can be who you choose to be. If people will read what you write about, connect to your characters, a publisher jumps is unknown. Lord of the Flies brillance, Willam Golding had 20 rejections before his work was published. John Le Carre’s The spy who came in from the cold, was told he had no talent. Margaret Mitchell rejected 38 times for her novel Gone with the Wind. Ann Frank, Beatrix Potter, Stephen King, JK Rowling, the list goes on, some of the most successful novels of all time all rejected, even self-published their first novel due to criticism and rejection. Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder.

The first time I picked up a brush after years of absence I felt inadequate. The hands didn’t look like hands, the picture an abstract story of lived emotion, a friend asked “who is it for, why did you paint it?”. I had no one to paint it for, for no other reason than I loved to paint, to which they replied “well why does it matter if it comes from within?”. Van Gogh’s paintings took on a whole knew painting, I could see a story in Picasso’s bizaree depictions. It didn’t matter what their purpose was, where it came from, it was a different experience for each person and writing had the potential to create art with words.

We really have no idea what capacity we have until we try.

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If your motivation is to succeed, to make a fortune, if your intention comes from an energy rooted in self-centredness, a vibration which doesn’t lift your soul purpose, it sucks the life out of it and those around you, then is it any wonder you keep feeling as if you are going in the wrong direction. Writing wasn’t something I had to do at 20 or 30 or even 40, I wrote regardless of when or who or how. Along the way I grew as a person, changed careers, studied more, became the very characters of my novels, I learned I enjoyed reading Esther McKay’s work just as much as Catherine Overington because their professional experience gave their work an authenticity missing sometimes in fictional writing, yet Kathy Reich put that belief to rest with Temperance Brennan. It gave a different life and character to Justice Stewart, who is still evolving as I type this emptying of my thoughts. A child, a woman, a behavioural scientist, retired to a small country town after a desk role with the AFP, a new challenge. A hurt child, a suicide, a police officer with a past to hide; a woman with a plan, a new role, career and justice, the namesake from her University years, every motivation, a sense of righting every wrong, the truth in action. Strong women, strong characters, turning the page on role modelling and yes the truth sets us free. In every place, justice is served, like the broccoli you push to side and never want to taste yet eventually if you need it, the uiverse has this way of serving you up what you need.

I loved reading Bryce Courtney’s creative spin on the truth just as much as Clea Koff’s true accounts of The Bone Woman.

I began to see every experience as a flag post, an opportunity to reflect, grow, learn, evolve. When I made a few difficult choices in my life, to listen to those moments when I could hear the beat of my heart above the voice of reason at times, I wrote a list, a bucket list of things, places, people, ideas, I’d pushed down and silenced. I wrote down every single thing for as long as I could, I exhausted and emptied my brain of ‘before I die, I’d like to’ and didn’t place rules or ‘shouldn’t haves’ or the grammar wasn’t write or the words didn’t fit on the page or listen to the guidelines of others, somewhat like the free flowing of an intuitive painting, I connected to the parts of myself which took the pen & wrote as fast as the ideas flowed and the fingers could type. This blog is the third or fourth in a long line of blogging about nothing and everything.

I generated a list of over 100 things at the time, the list is still somewhere in my filing, I stopped looking at it after I realised by sending out the energy to the universe, tuning into a self I had quietened, I didn’t need to explain or rationalise I just knew it existed, all of a sudden these events, people, places, began to appear, dreams turned into reality.

Now this probably makes no sense, I can’t tell you from a to z or 1 to 12 how this actually happened. I just sat back and followed my instincts, with people, places, events. I opened up my mind and heart to the unknown. Instead of thinking I’d love to do a yoga course, I went and completed a yoga course. Instead of thinking about writing, I started writing. Instead of wanting to take my children around the world, I took them out of school, packed everything into a container and off we went through Europe, the UK and the US. I stopped making excuses, pulled myself out from behind a desk, finding reasons to say why I shouldn’t challenge myself or listening to people who had more fears than I at the time or thought a new car was more important than following my heart and I had total faith in my parachute. I made calls to people I hadn’t seen in years and kept daydreaming about, I wrote poems, painted, cooked meals I always wanted to try, stopped to look at sunsets. Writing finally had a purpose.

When I was diagnosed with MS I had never been so glad for making those choices and for a short while the I stopped pursuing the things I loved. I allowed anxiety and the fear of my brain changing, body hurting, hands trembling, override interests, passions, silence the inner voice again. It didn’t take long to realise I was playing it safe once more.

Throughout our lives there will be people who cannot see what you see, feel what you feel, hear what you hear inside yourself. They are not you. We owe it to ourselves to listen closely to our hearts, it’s voice is quiet amidst the noise of everything going on around us. If we are to find happiness, joy, connection, it takes an honesty and truth to ourselves before we can discover it in the world around us. Suffering in silence is not the answer here.

Finding your truth and then living it may be one of the hardest, most challenging parts of being human, if you are surrounded by those who see the world differently.

your vegan food journal

Whatever your passion, whatever your inner calling, if there are good intentions beaming from within, listen and follow. If you never go, you’ll never know. If where you are at right now doesn’t feel right then what if what is out there is so much better, richer, tastier, adventurous than where you are right now.

It might mean ticking a few boxes and moving on when you realise some of those ideas were just thoughts that needed exploring to get you closer to your true purpose. It might be when opportunities arise, stop hesitating,  you were omitting a frequency and the universe answere, step up to the plate, let it take you where you need to go. Maybe that guy you thought was perfect wasn’t really after all, yet you had to sort through a few to get to where you needed to be, let go of the crap that doesn’t serve you or lift up your heart and let the stars burst out. It starts with a choice. To decide you matter, your life, your ideas, your purpose, matters. Regardless of what events or obstacles get in your way, keep going, move forward, believe in yourself. Trust the process, believe in the truth.

Whether someone buys my paintings, reads my stories, attends my yoga classes, wants me to analyse or change their behaviour, whether I find a partner or not, it no longer matters.

Wherever I am going, whoever I meet along this journey, I am open to knowing, to receiving, to gifting myself with whatever appears.

A writer must write. A painter must paint. A chef must do what they must do. I’ll keep writing, working on the dozen or so pieces evolving over years of tap, tap, tapping away, if I had never started out in that boring typing course, computer programming, I would never be able to produce thousands of words in such a short amount of time, the ease would have been a struggle; travelling, painting, gardening, tell stories, observing and analysing behaviour, following my hearts calling, every struggle is food for more story-telling. Everything has a purpose. Every person I meet, every place, every career, more stories to tell.

“The pen is mightier than the sword”. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Playwright – 1839), I think some credit it also to Kennedy.

The one thing I love most about writing is you can put just about  anything in fiction, even the truth.

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Find what makes your heart sing & soul dance, lifts up your spirit & brings a vibration of purpose & meaning to your existence, it may just….set you free.

Find the love in telling your own story or maybe someone elses.

Stay true, be you xo.

Lift your heart towards the light

 

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When I think of the longest day of the year, it would be easy to feel a sense of dred or down about the day being shorter, colder, longer, as if we are losing something, being pushed just a little bit more outside where we are most comfortable. Yet in many parts of the world the cold & wintery days are embraced, their is industry & profit & people who celebrate winter. The cold becomes a way of life, the night sky more familiar than the light & so as it is with all we perceive about the social environment & world around us, it is just perspective.

Life never goes as planned, some days are more easy than others. There are moments when it just never seems to end, one battle, struggle, challenge after another, as if someone, somewhere is throwing one brick after another, it’s difficult to see any path through the forest for all the trees. Keep going.

The winter solictice is a time of rebirthing, as looking towards the sun, we lift our vibration, our hearts, towards our vision of the future, we give way to an ever increasing light from this day forward. It is time to step out of our comfort zone, take down the wall built with those bricks life kept throwing, the wall we created to keep ourselves safe & yet at the same time, keeps us isolated, living with anxiety, fear, withdrawing from all that makes life beautiful, incredible, amazing and worth giving ourselves to everyday.

The winter solstice is a time we celebrate the sun on it’s return. We have made it this far, to the longest day of the year, we have overcome, survived, strengthened our resilience. We are ready now to embrace all that is worthy, all that lifts our vibration.

In your practice, set aside time for quiet inner reflection, take a peak behind that wall or if you are ready, take it down.

It is from out of darkness we see light.
It is from the darkness of soil, tiny seeds give birth to new life.
As the new solar cycle begins, fill up your soul, welcome the sun.

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We’ll be lifting up our hearts over the coming weeks, leaning in towards the sun, embracing the light, our light, embracing challenges, lifting our vibration, meeting ourselves with compassion, kindness & courage. Leaning in to the struggle, to the uncomfortable, learning to know ourselves from the inside out. We are not here to perfect asana, to be motivated by an ego or constant comparision to fancy instagram pics or by size, age or ability. We are here to discover our own gifts, to share that radiance far and wide, to be ourselves with all our might & to know at all times, we are not on this journey alone, we are all in this together.

Be to yourself as you are to others & treat others as you would like to be treated. Be kind, be compassionate, understanding, tolerant & patient. There is no one on this planet who has not been challenged. We may experience these differently, with different intensity, yet we each have our own share & we can ease the suffering by sharing our light with others.

Be the light in someone else’s darkness, bring the light into your own life. Reflect on how far you’ve come, how resilient, courageous, brave you have been & how incredible the life is as you continue on this journey forward.

Surrender yourself a little more in each practice, let go of the tightness, the tension, the angst & worries you carry.

Ease yourself into your asana, allow the mind to rest for a while, validate the thoughts & know you can come back to them at a time when you are ready, right now, give yourself this time to rest, restore & renew.

When you are ready, peel back the layers, bring the light to inner relfection, be kind to yourself, ignite your dreams, your passions, your visions. Lighten the load from all the heavineness you’ve been carrying around, the words, expectations, thoughts and demands of others, the struggles & challenges of the past.

Look towards the light now, you’ve made it this far, visualise the sun from the longest day of the year & step forward toward it’s radiance.

You’ve got this!
You deserve this!
Be you.

xo 

Awakening the inner truth

Awakening – not a new you, just a more aware you, the inner truth.

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It’s the strangest thing and yet normal to go through life with little awareness of your inner consciousness. You probably hear it from time to time, the quiet voice, the one that might appear a split second before you do something you later wish you hadn’t, the moment before you act without taking more time to process, you just hurl that stone into the water without regard for how wide the ripple will spread, sometimes with the illusion there will be no ripple at all, however there is always a ripple. Human behaviour is rooted in the impacts of our social environment, everything connects, all living beings. What we do, say, act upon, our decisions affect the social systems around us.

Suggesting you ‘discover’ an inner consciousness sounds as if it’s an experience of stumbling across something that has existed through all time and never realised it before, so in this sense I guess it is a discovery, like a place you longed for, somehow your intuition knew it was there, just it seemed to far & you didn’t know the way. What you had been looking for in things, in stuff, in status, money, power, religion, has been inside you all along, not on some map or in another person, yet maybe you discover it via one of these or all of these moments, external environments in life.  Although sometimes awakening to a greater awareness of your inner truth might feel a bit odd, there is something familiar and true. Yet for some it may feel overwhelming and outside your comfort zone, particularly if you have followed the flow, without resistance, stepped from one stone to the next as you were told, controlled life, planned and organised or maybe you awaken to how much you’ve hurt yourself and others, ouch; suppressed your emotions, or realise you don’t feel anything at all & something is not right about this awareness.  Maybe you’ve shut those senses down, you played it safe, followed all the rules, stayed where you were told to stay, always following someone else’s dogma, while inside you felt like something was missing. For some, awarness may feel like an unravelling and frightening.

For those of us who had tolerated or accepted something in life as it was, maybe it was a person, a relationship, a career, a behaviour or situation. You told yourself this is your lot, this is how it is, make the most of it, be grateful (gratitude is another discusison altogether), maybe you accepted ‘good enough’ because someone else told you so, so is the story of so many who were advised by generations before them.

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Women were told they were the property of their spouses, many laws didn’t change until uprisings, women were given the right to vote, family law was introduced after the matrimonial act, things changed, we evolved, the consciousness grew. Many indigenous groups around the world were suppressed, murdered, tortured, so many people sat quiet and accepted what governments told them is true, despite their inner consciousness saying otherwise. So many still today, accept the fate of the environment, despite thousands of species lost to extinction. So what makes the difference between those who awaken and those who stay silent? Asleep? Who follow the status quo or who say ‘not my problem’, who manage to go through life without regard for the impact their ripple has on the wider social environment?

Awareness, the ability to ask questions, the moment you tune into how the body feels, what you sense and think, in that moment, acknowledging, validating, awaken to the inner truth under your skin. When you begin to connect and unpack the sensations by examining the inner truth “why does my skin crawl when they raise their voice?” “Why do I feel sick, sad, depressed on my way to that job everyday?” “Why doesn’t this feel right to say this?”, “why cannot I not sit at home & need to drink at the pub every single night?”, “what is it about life that I’m hiding from”…….

It’s not easy, it may not be smooth, as a species of patterns and habits, we develop comfort zones, stay inside the lines where we can predict with sometimes certainty what will happen next, even if it is painful, this is far easier than the uncertain future of challenging the sensation or exploring answers to those questions. For years the many social environments have demanded perfection, parenting to be without effort, make friends with your children rather than battle against their own inner truths or understand guiding a human being into adulthood will not be easy if you are trying to force them into being someone that is in conflict with their inner consciousness. Staying in situations you have found yourself in is a better possibility, if you’ve done it for so long. Feeling something may be so much harder than taking down the wall you’ve built to protect yourself from further pain and believing in yourself, acceptance of you deserving love and connection as anyone and trying something completely knew may come with endless possibilities, may take you to places to people you’ve never thought possible, if you step off the mat of predictable and certain, not knowing how far you might fall before your wings open is just too greater risk to take.

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In my experience, this awareness is somewhat like what Dr Brene’ Brown discusses in those who dare greatly or in the whole hearted and not whole hearted, those who are willing, consciously choosing to get up and get up and get up, every time life takes them down, when it hurts, when it’s not easy. Those who are willing to dare there is a possibility life can be more than it is right at the moment of impact, to look beyond the suffering, the attachments, the things and stuff we accumulate and question the purpose, fulfilment and greater meaning which is buried under the layers of acceptance we’ve perfected for so long, letting go takes faith, sometimes extreme levels of faith. I liken it to a moment in Scotland I was hugging a tree several stories up at an adventure training centre, my adult children were calling “Mum let go of the tree”. There was a foot space between my feet and the edge of a small round platform that hugged the tree, the next obstacle was two thin lines, one above to hold, one below to walk across to the next level. Mind you I had a safety harness, it didn’t matter, my heart was racing, fear gripped my fingers into the bark.

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I looked down to my youngest who had a huge fear of heights and yet had already made it to several obstacles and then had decided to absail down the tree, it was too much. I thought for goodness sake, you have faced more obstacles than a thin line with a safety harness, you can get passed this, you can show her to look fear in the face and tell it to get the hell out of your way. So I let go of the tree. I can’t really express what happened in those few minutes, it was a culmination of so many other fears connected to that one moment, a fear of greatness, a fear of being outside my comfort zone, of asking hard questions, of unpacking a crap load of stuff I was heaving from one moment to the next. Everything after that first step onto the line, through the tyres, onto the swinging small pieces of timber, down the zip wire three stories up, life just seemed easier. Colours seemed richer, the sun had a different glow, I started spending more time using my senses, listening to my inner self more and more and more. It was only a day or so after, we were driving out towards Glencoe, the most incredible scenery I had seen, snow capped mountains, isolation and peace, I came across this dirt road & put my indicator on. The kids were “where are we going” their fear kicked in, worried the GPS didn’t pick up the details & we’d be lost. I just knew something was pulling me forward.

I came across this small lake, what we would call a small lake in Australia, I think is more like a Loch in Scotland, it was bitterly cold and yet I stepped out of the car, took off my shoes & felt the need to walk to the waters edge & step in. I can’t really tell you what was going through my mind, yet I had the sense I had been there before, I felt incredibly emotional, sad, as if leaving was like leaving home, I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. For the rest of the trip around Scotland I kept sensing a connection, leaving was harder than leaving anything I had before. For someone who has spent their entire career and life moving about, it was more than odd. There was no more fear, no more disconnection. I started making choices from a deep sense of knowing, from intentions bound to an inner truth. Life began to take shape, doors opened, I began to meet people I loved being around, enjoyed and learned from.

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I’ve witnessed people step out, step back in, try time and time again to tune in to their consciousness, fear can at times be overriding, leaving a situation they’ve known for so long, to let go of the opinions of others, should do and could do, if they only would do. At times it has resulted in depression, yet also periods of intense suffering by not tuning in, by knowing there is something more inside their soul and then silence it everyday with keeping busy, staying with what they know, expecting less of themselves, making partners with acceptance. Of all those I’ve known, all of them, who have made the conscious decision to increase their awareness of an inner truth, they have not looked back, increased inner peace and happiness.

There are so many quotes to stir the inner consciousness, we see them plastered across social media, through poetry and imagery, friend’s, family, colleagues post them, I even hear people complain that they irritate them. What is it about a small number of words from some other person which triggers frustration? The inner voice, truth, reaching out hoping somehow someone hears the quiet voice, with a soul not ready or brave enough to shout it from the roof tops and those where it touches a raw nerve, stuck in lives they continue to tell themselves there is now way out from, a lost hope of ever knowing a someone who can hold our hand and lead us through to happiness, joy, fulfilment, out of the mud and that someone is ourselves.

We ventured on to Europe, to the States via Iceland. Yes I could have purchased a new car, flashier homewares or completed studies earlier. I could have purchased my kids lots of new gadgets and against the grain, I packed backpacks & took them on the adventure of a lifetime, to show them life didn’t have to painful, they had a much bigger world than all they had experienced, amazing people lived on this planet, incredible places, inspiring adventures, to look outside the box, to look inside themselves, to learn how to contribute to life rather than take from it.

To simplify life, we often settle, give in, cooperate, buy things instead of giving more of ourselves, rather than over invest into others hoping it will fill an empty feeling inside and no one is suggesting this is not OK either to invest in others. However if you are going to give your heart to all you do, take your brain along with you, become familiar with your intentions. If your inner self is safe and content, if joy is found in this place you have chosen to stay, then embrace it.

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

If this resonates with you and changing your situation is too great a step to take, then maybe its about practicing, building on your capacity to allow yourself to unfold and to awaken. Maybe it’s not entirely a cathartic experience of scraping everything off your shoe, rather rediscovering yourself in the process of moving forward, giving yourself more time, reflecting on your inner truth rather than seeking it in others. It’s deciding you don’t want another drink when someone keeps persisting “go on, I know you want one”, it’s saying no means no & saying no when someone asks you a simple question, it’s being honest, authentic, real, true to yourself, instead of always being agreeable and feeling miserable later, own your stuff, rather than be a carbon copy of someone else.

I had this knack when I was younger, I didn’t unpack it until much much later, of tending to do the opposite to what was expected, I never realised a deep need to feel I had something to prove stemmed from feeling ‘not good enough’. Now some of you may assume I was already on the path of awakening, of stepping outside my comfort zone, no it was more ego than anything, it was me not wanting to ever be pigeon-holed into a square or round peg, it was one experience after another of messges of being different, not enough, not worthy. So if someone said I couldn’t I had this urge to do it even if I wasn’t interested, if the jump was too high, I had to jump it, even if it took months to train. Some of it was scary, some of it fun, adventurous, yet until I started to unpack why I was doing what was clearly exhausting, stubborn, connected to feelings of inadequacy, to never being enough, until I unpacked the layers of words stacked on from other peoples perspectives, I continued to react instead of connecting to the inner consciousness. I thought I was in control, I was so not in control. I was reacting each time, triggered by someone else’s belief system, without even questioning my own.
I was under the misguided belief this was my inner strength and energy, yet how could it possibly be strength, if I was unable to control my emotional and psychological responses to the words and actions of others, if I didn’t have the courage, the capacity to say “I don’t need to be enough for you”, “I am enough for me”.

Many years down the track, one experience after another, many incredibly traumatic & painful, the inner Shakti grew. An ability, effort, energy and strength, a capacity to tune more deeply into myself within a much bigger universe than the one I had believed I existed, my own. The goddess Shakti represents the feminine energy of all, the universe, the divine mother. Our inner Shakti, our inner strength, power and energy, life force; the creative force aligns our thinking, acting, our feelings, senses, the capacity of our mind and emotions to power up our health, wellbeing, psychological and physical.

It goes without too many more words to say if life isn’t going as planned are you really tuning in or tuning out? Are you living your dharma or someone else’s dogma?
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There is so much written about inner peace, just enter it in Google and begin reading, we all have different views, it means so many things because we are all so different. In my experience, inner peace is not found by blocking out all the negative, in how many cars you drive or things you have, how much you remove yourself from challenge or forces beyond your control, it’s not about control at all. I found inner peace in my capacity to stay present in each moment, it’s a constant work in progress, to develop, embrace and foster an inner resource in the smallest of ways in order to strengthen myself in more difficult situations, to awaken my inner consciousness, to open up the door, to recognise how I was feeling in a given situation, listen intently, observe the detail, to build a mental strength where I could call upon an inner calm even in the most difficult of situations. It’s been even more challenging with a physically changing brain, living with MS, reshaping the brain I knew I could rely on, staying in the present moment, working with what is, rather than what I want to be, is vital to ongoing health. The more I tuned in, the more confident I became. The more I unpacked, the lighter my heart felt, the more space I created to welcome the  peace, the calm, the self-love, the whole-hearted, the more room I had to be with people in the present moment.

Be curious when your inner voice speaks up, ask questions, explore and examine sensations in the body, inquire more.  Tune in to those feelings, give yourself permission to ask more, to silence the overriding control and manipulation of your own body speaking to you. I’m certainly not prophesising the answer is just around the corner, you may continue on this journey through many discoveries, more questions may arise; there is no possible way I could have visualised I would be where I am right now, doing what I am doing, with the life I have, a decade ago.

One day and literally it was one day, I had enough of being quiet, of being silent, of accepting life the way it was as if I deserved the life I was living. I knew for a long time I wasn’t in the place I could have been, with people who lifted my vibration, could see possibilities, encourage or allow me to find my gifts and give them freely away. I knew on every drive home, every moment to think long enough, to tune out to how I was feeling, over eating or over indulging, over doing anything to numb how I was feeling, I was aware, just working hard & telling my inner voice to be quiet, I just didn’t have the strength and courage to make the choices I needed to make or the inner resources. Like most moments in life, we are challenged or forced to change & that time came leaving no option to stay quiet. I thought if I just gave and gave and gave more, happiness would come from giving 150% of myself, I just hadn’t realise the bucket was empty & how tired I had become. One loss after another, it was easier to be distracted, to hold the tree, it took one moment to overcome the fear of letting go, to ignite the torch I needed to see the way forward.

There were ties I severed, not out of negativity or anger or a sense of righteousness or better than, I let go because the weight was too heavy to carry any longer, I stepped back from keeping others from discovering their own inner purpose, for taking responsibility for their own actions, words, decisions. I no longer felt any need to apologise for not being perfect or better or complete. I no longer needed answers I was ready to let things unfold as I stayed in each moment. I stopped attaching to the wrongs of others, a need to fix or repair the choices of others, to pave an easier path, to soften responsibility and accountability. I gave my best and it was enough, it still is enough, if it isn’t then it is you who needs to do more work on your inner consciousness. I am enough.

From the moment I cut the strings and allowed myself to be non-attached to things, to words and actions of others, I began to grow, it was as if there was no possible way I could rise when I was tethered to the weights of attachment to what other people thought I should be, I was, I am, me, as different, as odd, as wild & as free as I allow myself to be. I no longer needed the ego, it didn’t matter if I should wear two blue socks or one red and one blue, if I was size 8 or a 12, as long as my feet were warm right in that moment, if I knew I was enough, the day just seemed to take on a whole knew purpose & meaning. It didn’t matter if I was single for a decade, I went against what others said was ‘normal’ or ‘expected’, I fine tuned the reception & volume of my inner voice, let Shakti raise her voice & allowed others whose expectations I could not meet, go their own way without any need to make them stay, to impress anyone, to convince them to like me, I liked me.
The moment when you awaken to being fully responsible for yourself, for your interaction with others, for staying or going, for acting or reacting, for words, thoughts, decisions, is a bit like turning off the GPS because you are in the middle of nowhere it is telling you to turn left & yet to the left of you is bush & there is no road, instead of you keep relying on the GPS, you stop looking towards others to tell you where to go, how to get there and why you are on this journey in the first place, you tune in to your own guidance, to the inner knowing, your truth. If it is to be be, then it is up to me is your new mantra.

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I had stopped believing in myself, lost faith in my own capacity, I had allowed others to tell me where I should be, how I should be, who I should be. People came and they would go, leaving their mark & many scars, I chose to carry these & each time the next person touched them, I reignited the power it had to still hurt until I said ‘enough’, I had to make a conscious, aware decision to acknowledge this before I could heal those wounds.

Tuning in to the inner consciousness, allowing the awakening, is saying to yourself growth did not stop at the point of childhood to adulthood, it is never ending. Every person provides an opportunity to learn, to discover more about yourself, every opportunity, event, more room to grow as you own your role in every moment. There will be many people who will hurt others, because they are hurting, believing if they project their own untruths onto others, it will lighten their suffering. Try hard to stay present in the moment, to see this hurt for what it is, open up your heart rather than close it off, let them be who they are, you be who you are, without the need to attach to what you truly know, deep within, is not true of yourself.

You may find you begin wondering why you always say sorry for being late, when you really did your best. You might stop expecting others to meet your ideas of how they should be, you may discover you sleep better when you are not pushing the judgements and self-righteousness of others to the back of your mind to disrupt your rest.

Allow yourself to do the best you can, when you can and when your best is not enough, give yourself permission to see you are enough, you are doing what you can, when you can, there is no more of you to give, regardless of the expectations of  others, be realistic, be true, be authentic.

What others believe is based on their own perceptions, they may see something in you, maybe you can’t see in yourself, yet it is you who needs the energy to realise that potential, it is you that will need the physical & psychological strength to rise to each challenge. It’s not abandoning everything you’ve ever known or maybe for some it is. Maybe you are so far into a life that doesn’t look anything like the one you’ve dreamed of, the only way out is to leave it all behind, it will not be the same for all of us. Yet for many, an author I know, it is staying in the job that pays the bills & keeps the family with food on the table, it is staying up until early hours after work to finish their book, their inner passion & when that first one sold, it paid for the next & within a couple of years they were able to leave their day job & find their purpose without hurting others in the process.

Allowing your inner Shakti to connect to the divine you is without arrogance & ignorance, it’s with an absence of disregard or causing others to suffer as you power ahead. Go gentle into the unknown, if you can live without hurting others, why would you?

If it’s not now, then nurture your inner awakening in your meditation practice and make time to examine your sensations in the body during your asana practice. Give yourself permission to explore the deeper consciousness, connect to your inner Shakti, create a ripple of consciousness, contribute to the vibration of a greater awakening across the globe, ask yourself are you being kind to you, compassionate, patient, authentic & true?

In more recent times we have seen more consciousness with the #metoo campaign, of more awareness & changes to law relating to domestic violence, sexual abuse, how countries regard those seeking to be free from persecution, basic human rights being abused, a global shift in consciousness begins with the individuals who raise their own vibration, who say ‘enough’ we can do better, there is more than this, it’s our purpose.

As a vegan I’m challenged everyday by my decision to choose not to harm other living beings. I don’t go about my day judging others for their choice to not be vegan, I live, work, play, socialise with people making their own choices. Yet everyday on social media, in the community, the wider world, there is condemnation, bullying, harassment of those who make a decision to not harm others because we don’t have to in order to survive.

My choices are not a reflection of your choices they are not a slap to those who choose the opposite. They are merely the evolution of my own consciousness, a decision to listen to my own body, sense how I feel about how I live my life and make choices which generate more calm, more inner peace, more awareness, to go about my life leaving as little footprint as I can. It’s recognising habit forming behaviours, it’s awareness of patterns of behaviours which are emotionally harmful or disempowering. It’s developing a spirituality which aligns with my own consciousness, rests, restores and renews.

I’m often asked why I’m single, why I’ve been on my own for so long and it’s usually measured by someone who is not single or has never been, there must be something wrong with me because I don’t fit their own beliefs around how culture has ingrained a belief system which says become an adult, have a relationship, get married, buy a house, have children, grow old together, regardless of how you feel. I was that person, I lived that life and I wasn’t happy. If I am to connect to my inner truth, spirituality, faith & awareness, it takes a time & energy I wouldn’t have within a relationship that demanded all of my energy. I didn’t want to be half of a relationship, I desired to be a whole person on my own first. It showed in my health, in my psychological & emotional wellbeing, in the choices I made. It reflected in my friendships, in how I cared for myself. I see it in so many others & while I may be further down the path, it is their journey to discover their own awareness, to learn from others, to discover their own truth.

I believe there is a global shift happening there is a growth in a greater consciousness. People are questioning what is true, what is reasonable, what is fair & what is kind, change is happening. More people are listening to their inner self & it’s contributing towards a global awakening & its not something you are gifted with at birth, something you buy or pretend to participate in, it comes from the inside, it comes from sometimes painful hard enduring work on your self of the realisation you are completely responsible for your life. If it is to be, it is up to me.

It comes from patience, understanding, compassion, to yourself; its not found in going along to a yoga class to force poses or beating yourself up about why can’t I stand on my head or why can’t I sit in full lotus when that person can or in the attachment to social media images in difficult asana and counting how many likes you receive. It comes from embracing your body, your own senses and breathing as you experience it, as your body, soul, spirit presents, an acceptance of your body as you feel each sensation, validate the thoughts, acknowledge & then nurture yourself through meditation, a deep realisation there is more to you than what is on the surface, you can run from your inner awareness, but we can’t hide, our body knows the truth & it speaks to you through illness, suffering, physical & psychological health, through your experience of unhappiness.

As you let go of the weight of attachments to expectations, you allow yourself to step more freely into your future you contribute to your own evolution. This is not suggesting everything can be miraculously repaired by just becoming aware, disease happens, illness occurs, some is beyond our control, there are people who suffer at the hands of others, who become ill due to environmental & unknown causes, let’s not blow this opportunity to improve our welbeing by taking everything in the literal sense. I’m speaking merely from my own experience, knowledge & from the lessons I learned along the way. What you decide to take from this is entirely up to you.

I love my life, it took a long time to get here, I know my purpose, have embraced the challenges of what that is, accept the hard work & energy it takes to be part of something much, much bigger than myself. Yoga has certainly been a force directing the old me into the new more aware version, not someone else, just someone more consciously aware & responsible.

Have faith as you move forward, have faith like riding a bike, you won’t need someone to hold the seat forever, have faith you can do this & keep going.  There is no wrong, allow yourself to tune into the pull towards your hearts longing, where you feel most like you belong, lift your spirit, embrace your authentic self, invite as much joy & happiness into your life as you deserve.

Allow yourself to grow, to learn, to feel, to love. Lift your vibration to spread as wide as you can, create a ripple of joy, of compassion, kindness, truth; as you give yourself permission to let go of the weight holding you down.

Awaken yourself, stretch out your arms, lift your heart to the sun & welcome life as the gift it is.

xo