Shedding

It’s the end of the year and that’s a great time for shedding. I’m not suggesting you slither out of your skin. And I’m not saying you should go build a man or woman cave. I’m referring to letting go, leaving or removing ‘things’ that are no longer good for you.

Those ‘things’ can be objects in our homes that no longer have purpose or give joy; or clothes we no longer choose to wear because they don’t make us feel good.

They can be actions we take, mindlessly, because we have always done them. They are patterns of behavior that don’t serve us anymore and keep us from moving forward. If there is no reward, why keep doing it?

Some habits are detrimental to our health. My weakness is for sweet things: cake, chocolate, ice cream. And crisp white wine. Neither are good for physical well-being and professional advice is to cut them down. I need to shed the habit of such indulgence, and make it a treat now and then.

Shedding relationships is much more difficult. And sometimes a relationship is the most important thing we can let go of. Whether it be parent/child, husband/wife, friend/‘friend,’ if it makes us feel bad, drains our energy, generates self-doubt or keeps us from being ourselves, it should go. It can be almost impossible to divorce ourselves from a relationship, but it can be most liberating.

Being true to ourselves is one of the hardest things to be. Social norms insist we’re polite and behave according to rules of our culture, family or social group. We’re all brought up to be ‘good,’ and it can be challenging if we discover that being ‘good’ doesn’t serve us well. We learn to wear a mask, even with our loved ones. But how can someone love us truly if we’ve disguised our true natures and desires? Shed the mask and we might lose a few friends, but we might also gain truer friendships.

Let unfavourable things go at the end of the year. It makes psychological space for the entry of more favourable possibilities in the new year. Shed, and put fresh skin in the game.

PS. On a personal note, I was the successful bidder, last month, on a small house (see the Take a Chance blog) and therefore I have begun the shedding of things, with enthusiasm! It also means that I will be thinking of new things next year. All that I keep and all that I gather, will serve a purpose and give me joy.

2020 will, for me, be a fresh start. I hope it will be for all of you too. What will you shed now to make space for good things in 2020?

Humanity

“Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.” Rabindranath Tagore. 1908.

These words stopped me from reading further. I read them again. I could tell they were important, that they resonated with me, that they were revealing something about my values. I was confused.

I have always been patriotic. I love Australia. Its landscape is my aesthetic: its salted-vanilla beaches, its honeycombed cliffs, its red dirt and woody scrub, its life-filled ocean, its tiny Spring flowers, are all beautiful to me. I am grateful for the freedom I have in Australia, the feeling of safety, my ability to choose how and where to live. I believe patriotism is positive.

“I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.” The message reverberated through me like the sound of a didgeridoo and its meaning became clear incrementally, as water seeps into a sponge.

Patriotism is national pride, the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. Patriotism inspires citizens to assist one another in a crisis, rise to a common goal, or celebrate a win.

But if patriots believe they are superior, and their country is superior, patriotism becomes nationalism and humanity is neglected. I believe nationalism is negative.

This is what is happening now in Australia with around 1500 refugees looking for shelter, asylum, or just a chance, held in detention centres.

These detainees are desperate, not inferior. If they arrived in Australia by boat, they saw no other way. People who cross deserts and snow-covered mountain ranges in other countries, are also desperate. They are breaking the rules because there is no other way. If I was subjected to torture, starvation, or utter deprivation, if I saw no possibility for change unless I risked my life for a chance, I would probably break the rules too.

It makes sense to protect ourselves and our environment from human, animal and plant threats; terrorists, rats and bugs should all be weeded out! Logical self-preservation and protection of each other should remain, but shunning the common, less fortunate man? I am not so sure there is any justification for that.

Imagine if all the money spent detaining refugees was spent educating and integrating them. Would that not be the humane option? What is it we are so afraid of that we need to subject our fellow man to such suffering? I object to making or letting animals suffer, so how can I support treating humans so harshly?

My good fortune landed me here. It was my birth. Pure luck. It was nothing I did, and I do not deserve more than a person who was not born here. I will look after Australia, appreciate its attributes and be grateful for what it offers, until the day I die. I will remain patriotic. But I will not choose patriotism over humanity. “I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds.”

Ref: Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was anti-nationalist. The meaning of patriotism and nationalism has changed since his writing (these words were interchangeable). It is appropriate to replace ‘patriotism’ with ‘nationalism’ in the quote.

A Soul Soothing Survey

Today, I walked on the headland at Long Bay. The sun shone and the sky was unblemished blue. The cold wind swept the surface of the rolling sea, sending salty dampness over my face, the only exposed skin. I breathed it in. This was a place I had not been before, and curiosity guided every step. I knew the steel wreck of the Malabar was somewhere here, so I climbed down onto the rocks at sea level and kept walking towards the point. The roar of the crashing waves made no other sound possible. I concentrated on each step, not wanting to end up a wreck myself.

Rusted steel is intensely beautiful; its colour is a blend of orange, red and burnt-wood grey; its texture is multi-faceted, layered and holey. Large pieces of the wreck sat askew the rocky platform and I found myself so mesmerised, I had to go and sit with it. The sea splashed within metres of me bringing its story to life. 1931 and the ship’s engines were not strong enough to keep it off the rocks. No one died. Only the cat, who refused to get off!

As I returned along the base of the cliff, my attention turned to its worn surface, the cream and caramel streaked sandstone, forever clean, with honeycomb holes, ridges and grooves. This too drew me to it. I would have been in trouble if this art was in a gallery; I touched it. The coarse surface was curved, and a few grains of sand dislodged. I placed both my palms flat against it. Was this what the aboriginals did? I felt connected and thankful.

I will leave you with these images and an idea I had as I climbed back up to the track; what if the universe was like this rock? Every grain of sand that made the solid, was an individual. As they came away, from my touch or the wind’s, they still existed. They would end up somewhere else or something else. They would never be lost.

Was this the same for everything?

My soul felt soothed.

 

 

 

 

The Resurgence of Nostalgia

Nostalgia, that bitter-sweet feeling we get when we think back on better times, has made its way back into our lives as a desirable thing.

We are on trend if we are spending more time thinking back, looking through photo albums, sharing photos from our youth on social media and watching old tv series. I’m guessing shows like Friends and Sex in the City, are popular. Our isolation from one another has caused us to reflect on better times.

We have the technology to chat with friends around the world at any hour of the day, without bothering to get out of pyjamas, but we are tired of our screens, tired of the news, and tired of the worry. So instead, we are opting for old school entertainment: making funny home movies with the dog, playing board games with the kids, knitting never-to-be-worn scarves and doing jigsaw puzzles (OMG!).

Others have chosen a more productive but equally nostalgic path: cleaning up the collections of travel souvenirs, re-arranging inherited ornaments, or fixing up that old rocking chair.

If you are missing dining out, going to book club or choir or cheap movie night, physically being with family and friends, you are not alone! 😉

So how does nostalgia help? Have you ever felt a bit sad and chosen to play music that makes you feel sadder but kind of warm inside too? Music that triggers this response through inducing memories, perhaps REM’s Everybody Hurts or Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, consoles us by making us feel nostalgic.

So, what is nostalgia? It is the paradoxical state of being uplifted and sad at the same time, brought on by thinking of time’s past. It is a wistful desire to return to the happiness of a former time, like summers spent at the beach when we were ten, or home when we are somewhere else, like Dorothy and Kansas. It is a sentimental yearning or something that elicits such feelings.

Is it good for us? Apparently, it is. Nostalgic people are more sociable and empathetic. It is a coping mechanism and assists with forward planning by helping us see past mistakes.

There can be a bad side to nostalgia as well, if people get too immersed in memories or feel depressed because they mourn the loss of the time that has gone and have no hope for the future.

My gripe with nostalgia is when I am flung into it without wanting it. Facebook Memories do this, bringing up old Posts from several years ago, surprising me when I was just looking for a short diversion into the world of others. Having been divorced in the last few years, having lost loved ones and dogs, these memories can make me unhelpfully nostalgic.

But I get why nostalgia is experiencing a resurgence. Looking through photos of our babies, of days at school, of firsts – first car, first anniversary, first trip overseas – can make us feel all gooey inside. Sharing stories with old friends makes us relive the feelings generated at the time, often with the benefit of improvements: backpacking in Europe with a humorous slant on the disasters, bonfire nights in the middle of a frosty winter, being so poor a gourmet lunch was cheese with the vegemite sandwich. Yes, nostalgia can be wonderful.

There are certain things that for me are nostalgic: apple crumble (kindergarten), any jewellery from the Bluebird of Happiness collection (an intense need to have that was never indulged), my grandmother’s darning needles and cotton reels (still used, occasionally), a plate painted by my eldest child (so artistically talented), a necklace bought for me at Paddy’s Markets by my youngest child (with his own money), …

I feel that this trend for nostalgia is good. So, let us seize the yesterdays, until this day becomes yesterday too.

 

Ref: All in the Mind podcast 28 June 2020 The Psychology of Nostalgia

Do Things Happen For A Reason?

Was your birth planned and desired, or the result of carelessness or misfortune? Were you born to good parents, nurtured and raised in a comfortable home? Or were you born to a dysfunctional family, with indifference or scarcity?

Where and to whom you were born was chance. Or was it?

I was unplanned, but was it chance or destiny that brought those gametes together forming me? Was there a reason for two young lovers to suddenly be faced with a decision that would change their lives forever? Was there a reason I was born in Australia, a land of beauty and opportunity?

Is there a reason for most things that happen to us?

The answer to this question is of course, subjective. How we answer it depends on our belief system and our biases.

Do you tend to think more rationally and scientifically: cause and effect, X plus Y equals Z?  Or, do you tend to think more emotionally, creatively, and spiritually?

I would venture to say, if you answer the question completely in the negative, then you are unusually objective and factual, purely physical and unspiritual.

I say that because thinking things happen for a reason, is an emotional response. It also implies a belief, or an inkling, that something greater than us has power over our destinies.

Since most of us are affected to some degree by emotion, even the most logical and sceptical of us can be susceptible to thinking something happened for a reason. Think about meeting your partner, or buying your dream home, or finding yourself in a career that you love but never planned for. Good fortune will often make people think they are lucky. And what is luck? Pure chance, fate or inner guidance? What is inner guidance? Intuition, self-awareness, or channelling from something beyond our understanding?

If we notice a song, a phrase, or words in an interview that resonate with us, do we notice it only because we are in a certain state of mind, or also because we were meant to notice it, that is, the message was being delivered specifically to us? There have been many times when I have listened to an author talk, heard a song, seen a shooting star, or seen a Facebook Post, and I have felt that it spoke directly to me. I have thought, there is a message there, I needed to hear that today or, that was a sign.

People are essentially self-centred. It is natural for people to think things are directed at themselves, especially if it is something they are needing, focused on, or involved with.

It is also natural for people to look for a reason or explanation to a situation or occurrence. Humans like stories. It helps them make sense of life.

But if the event is particularly bad, say a fatal car crash or massive bushfire, only solid, physical reasons will be searched for. It would be inappropriate, unhealthy, and damaging to think there was a metaphysical reason for such a thing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been dreadful and had horrific consequences. It is a tragedy. Yet, good outcomes have emerged as well. The air is clearer, the water is cleaner, the streets are less polluted. People in lockdown learned to be less busy and discovered new interests. But people will not think that the reason for the pandemic was to achieve these recommendatory outcomes. That would be too awful a possibility. Too many people suffered. Tragedies are more likely judged as random events, chance, or terrible bad luck.

If a situation is unpleasant or difficult, if there is a disappointment or a failure of some sort, most people hope that things will improve. They also hope that there is a reason for the difficult situation, because if there is a reason, there is a point. Believing there is a point to an unpleasant situation allows us to turn it to a positive. Our minds search for reasons to make life’s challenges more bearable.

Conversely, a depressed or pessimistic person will find negative reasons for their difficulties. They may feel unworthy or deserving punishment.

Life is full of challenges and how we deal with them is different for each of us. Sometimes, the only control we have is to choose our response. If thinking things happen for a reason makes our response more positive, and our feeling more optimistic, then it is a preferable choice.

To the scientists and pragmatists amongst us, this may appear irrational. But humans are not purely rational beings. They are not even fully understood. The earth and our universe still contain mysteries. Who is to say things do not happen for a reason?

I believe that what happened to my parents was chance. What they then did with that chance gave their situation meaning. The reason was given birth to. I believe I was born to parents who cared, in a country that is safe and abundant, by chance. What I do with that gives my life reason. On the smallest scale, each thing I do affects something else. Something I do might give a reason to somebody else. Reasons are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

So, if you believe that things happen for a reason, then make the most of those reasons. Use them to your advantage. Be the best you can be and do the best you can do. Be positive and optimistic. Be the reason for your own happiness and the happiness of others.

Perhaps there a reason for your reading this blog today. I hope so.

 

Letting Go and Having Hope

Letting go is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Most of us have a bit of trouble letting go but to some of us, letting go is overwhelmingly hard.

Why? What causes it to be so hard that it becomes, effectively, self-harm?

When too many things are kept – multiples of things, broken things, bits of things, things that don’t fit in the house or on the body, ‘re-usable things’ – it is destructive rather than useful.

Clinging on to the past so much that there is little room for thoughts of the future, or the now, can be detrimental too. Reliving our experiences more frequently than we live new ones is shackling, prevents freedom and the ability to move forward.

Relationships from the past can leave us wallowing in sentimentality, pity, regret, grief, or delusion.

When we have so much difficulty letting go of things, it is likely there has been some deprivation and trauma, like a catastrophe, or an upbringing influenced by restriction or poverty, or a lifetime of hardship. But I suspect there is more to it.

Hanging on to things can be rationalised. There can be reasons like a dislike of waste, a perceived time in the future available for restoration or creative work, the possibility of needing that thing or document from twenty years ago. Perhaps having it will protect us from harm.

So, is clinging to things a hope for a better future, or is it a fear of a worse one? Looking forward with thoughts of possibility or with thoughts of danger – or a mingling of both?

Is clinging to the past also a dichotomy? Family connection, tradition, respect for ancestors, sentimentality associated with raising children or growing up with grandparents, add value and humanity to our lives. But remembering the past too much can be debilitating. If it prevents us from participating in the now and a progressive future, then it takes away from our current lives.

Wallowing in the past can lead us to floundering in the now, in a state of mundane survival and lack of joy, ‘Groundhog Day.’

So, if non-letting go can lead to a lack of joy, can it also lead to loneliness and eventually, lack of hope? I fear it can.

All of us need hope. A lot or a little, life would be unbearable without it.

Love gives us hope. Love from others, love for others, but mostly love for ourselves. We are powerless if we don’t like ourselves. Liking ourselves comes from within, not without. Surely the first step is letting go of whatever it is that has made us lose our natural affinity with ourselves.

It may be all that is needed is someone to direct us away from clinging on to the wrong things – the junk stored like treasure, the repetitive behaviour and continuous replay of experiences – and lead us to a new path, show us they care, love us, encourage us to take a chance and see a future of possibility.

It may take someone to say, You are fine, you are enough. But that needs to be believed. And the belief can only come from ourselves. If non-letting go is stopping us from having joy, is causing our life to falter, is taking away our hope, then it is a violation; it is self-harm and needs to go!

To have hope is to like ourselves and want to live; it is to have faith that we are enough, that we can look after ourselves, that we are a human with as much worth as another. Letting go and having hope are a team that can allow us to go forward in the world and do whatever it is that gives us joy. Hope is a state of mind and where it takes us, is up to us.

Let in hope, always.

 

An Appeal from Hope

Please don’t forget me

When you need me the most

When you’re down on the ground

And pale as a ghost

 

Please don’t forget me

When I come to call

In the shape of your loved ones

Who can cushion the fall

 

Please don’t forget me

When my wish for you

Is to soar like a kestrel

With a hill and sea view

 

Be not like the bowerbird

Piling high mankind’s waste

There is hope for a future

With a more natural taste

 

Let it go, give it up, girl

Be rid and be free

Give up comfort for courage

And find where you’ll be

 

I know you’re not greedy

You only hate waste

You’ve got the idea

To transform in no haste

 

But this is the story

You’re in reverse gear

You’ve forgotten that hope is

To create with no fear

 

Please don’t forget me

I am hope and I’m here

Let your life be a river

Take a chance and I’ll steer

 

If you let it, the river

Will carve out the stone

That has built up around you

And keeps you alone

 

Once the layers are shed

And your core is released

The truth that is you

Will be much more at peace

 

So please don’t forget me

Without hope, all is lost

I’m always here waiting

No matter the cost

 

Make me your partner

Wherever you go

Let’s go on a journey

See what you can sow

 

I am hope and I’m with you

At all times of day

Go soar like the kestrel

And let me please stay

Written by Carla Simmons

Feeling Joy, Despite the Pandemic

I feel sad for so much of the world. Lately, I have felt sad for the health of the earth, sad for people affected by bushfires, sad for the animals compromised by human decisions. But now, I feel sad for the masses of people affected by the Covid-19 virus. It has overwhelmed us. There is so much suffering, caused directly through ill health or indirectly through the consequences of trying to keep it under control. The situation is dire.

We all know this. We keep watch on it every day. We are all sad. Some of us are so sad, we are depressed. Some of us accept the sadness and put it aside, enabling us to help others, or learn new skills or join virtual social groups. Some of us have become highly creative.

And some of us are still able to feel joy. Joy in the time of a pandemic feels inappropriate. It feels forbidden.

But due to my personal circumstances, I am feeling joy. It is restrained. It is restricted. But it is still, joy.

Just a few weeks ago, I experienced huge changes in my life. I moved out of the family home, something I had wanted to do for a long while, my marriage having broken down years before. I floated in limbo, haunted by the threat of lockdown, isolation, and a precarious house settlement. I feared the failing of the plan to start my new life. I feared I would not be able to move into my new home.

And then the pieces fell into place. Each step completed and enabled the baton to be passed. At last, I felt relief. I was so happy to be free. So happy to be at the beginning of a new adventure. I felt joy. And it had been a long time coming.

I wondered if it was all right to feel joy in the circumstances.

To a certain extent, I shared my joy with family and friends. When I moved into my new house, my mother, my sons, and a couple of friends came to help – on different occasions. Separately. No hugs. No gathering. Lots of hand washing.

I felt guilty that my mother came out of self-chosen isolation to help me, but I could not have kept her away. My father and stepmother also veered from safety to see my new home. We all understood the risk and the need to do so. Joy should be shared.

The news continued to get worse. The restrictions tightened. Many people died, lost livelihoods, became homeless. The UK, America, Europe, Asia, and my beloved India, all suffered immense losses and other complications.

And I kept to myself: unpacking boxes, placing ornaments, shopping at Bunnings, decorating. Each box I flattened, shelf I cleared, drawer I organised and room I finished, gave me joy.

Sometimes my joy felt so great, I chastised myself for bad form. I was careful who I talked to about it in case it was judged as such. My good fortune almost became a source of shame.

And then I remembered the teaching I had read in the Vedanta Treatise (A. Parthasarathy) – it is our duty to be self-poised, self-pleased, be peaceful and cheerful, that to be miserable is a social and moral crime, that spreading melancholy to our fellow beings is like spreading disease, and that we should rejuvenate others with happiness and joy. Essentially, that means it is our duty to enjoy our lives, make the most of what we have, and share good feelings with others.

With self-possession, we can give more of ourselves, be more compassionate, be of greater use. Feeling good enables us to share good with others.

The creative people that have made the world laugh, sing, meditate, learn, and play during this pandemic, are doing wonderful things for the mental state, even the spiritual state, of the world. Keeping positive and happy within ourselves means we can keep going, keep supporting and keep helping others do the same. The medical and science people are giving so much. So are the cooks, the cleaners, the decision makers. We can support them by keeping a good attitude, being grateful and doing what we can for others, even if that is just a smile, a nice word, some small assistance.

I appreciate my good fortune and it makes me joyful. Joy like this is not easy to attain and it is fragile. It should be relished and stored in my heart where it will make me strong, peaceful, and cheerful. Feeling sad will not help me help others but feeling glad just might.

Coping with Social Distancing

If you had asked me three months ago what social distancing was, I would have answered, when people spend more time communicating through technology than face to face. I would have added, when people use their devices while being with someone.

But social distancing today, in March 2020, in Australia, in the time of COVID-19, means staying physically separate from each other. It means not touching, not shaking hands, not hugging – acts normally that are normal in our society. It means going for a walk with a friend but staying one and a half metres away from them. It means waiting for takeaway in a space of four square metres and veering away from someone who passes us on the footpath. Abnormal behaviour.

I’ve noticed that this lack of closeness, so foreign it needs to be thought about, has turned to wariness. People aren’t smiling or even being polite when they pass each other; a sad side effect.

‘Non-essential services,’ a term meaning services that we can live without, have closed in order to reduce social contact further. People have lost jobs, livelihoods, security. Some people have lost the only social interaction they had in a day.

Social distancing today, the result of an attempt to curb a rampant flu virus, has major repercussions. Negative ones.

I worry that social distancing, in place to curb physical sickness and escalation of cases, will have a terrible effect on the mental state of many people.

Ironically, this is where technology will help. Instead of being the problem, we can now use it to solve the problem. If we have a working device, Wi-Fi, data, and the skill to use them, we can use them to talk, see, meet, watch, laugh, and devise ways to stay socially connected and to work. If we can’t interact face to face, flesh to flesh, then virtual interaction is the next best thing.

People are rallying. Alarmed and self-interested to begin with, people are now looking to work from home, to communicate, entertain, express, support and be supported. Life has slowed down, and in a positive direction, imagination has soared.

Gurus are talking to us about quarantine and meditation, Yoga instructors are running live sessions,  artists are teaching kids how to draw, all using technology and the internet, all Posting on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube or other media. There is an abundance of choice in the ways we can connect.

Musicians, actors and comedians are turning old songs and skits into Covid-19 humour. Mothers at home, men with pets and small precocious children are becoming famous in a day, their clever creations turned into film and uploaded to the world who is lapping up the creativity and distraction. We are sharing these films, songs, pictures, motivationals and lessons, with each other.

This is our new social interaction; this is social-distancing – distanced but immediate, our new closeness.

‘Personal space,’ may be a whole lot bigger today than it used to be but through the vastness of cyber space, we don’t need to be distanced! Use it well. And smile! We will cope with the new norm and social distancing will pass.

 

Note: Having no internet or means to use it, is a problem in today’s world. Please be mindful that some people do not have access to this resource and do what you can to be thoughtful and kind within the safety guidelines. We need to care for those most affected by social distancing.

Social Distancing Information:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/social-distancing.aspx

https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Words of Wisdom:

On Facebook:

Shri Jasnath Asan (Yoga Science) – A quiet daily talk from Guruji at the ashram I was at in India, earlier this year.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=shri%20jasnath%20asan%20(yoga%20science)&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Eckhardt Tolle – author of Power of Now

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2744042518965586&external_log_id=793a80a87e475cd18b551878cd507d3a&q=eckhart%20tolle

On YouTube:

Russel Brand – Self Isolation and Mental Health

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1sbp5oyVh4

Podcasts: many

Good for a Laugh:

Facebook, Instagram, Youtube: countless funny videos being shared on WhatsApp and Messenger

https://www.facebook.com/saved/?cref=28

https://www.facebook.com/starbrightangels.angels/videos/2781754881938912/

Chris Mann – American singer and songwriter – hilarious take off of My Sharona by the Knack called My Corona

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojrtwXqqc6g

Online Education:

Ayurveda and Nutrition Course at Prana by Dimple Jangda

https://www.instagram.com/pranabydimplejangda/

Online Yoga with Lilya Sabatier in India

https://mailchi.mp/ab7a376097d3/onlineyogawithlilya

Ekhardt Tolle – Spiritual Teacher

https://eckharttolle.com/free-resources/?utm_campaign=Message%20to%20Community%203-20-2020%20(JtXbyH)&utm_medium=email&utm_source=CC%20on%20all%20emails&_ke=eyJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJzaWJ5bGNAc291bmRzdHJ1ZS5jb20iLCAia2xfY29tcGFueV9pZCI6ICJOazd6WmIifQ%3D%3D&fbclid=IwAR0hH07Q1yPNPQIVs_9EZSFnefxltC31FSpyxc6DuGlxqWcXTVpOof9o7MY

Header Photo credit:

http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2020/01/updates-on-coronavirus-.php

Social distancing includes simple, everyday actions that can contain the spread of COVID-19

To Be An Activist

What Does it Take to be an Activist?

It takes courage – courage to believe in yourself, courage to face opponents, courage to be able to argue the facts, and stand up to those who try to undermine you.

It takes anger – anger against what you believe to be wrong, harmful or unjust.

It takes confidence – confidence to stand alone, lead or support a minority, confidence to stand with those who are weaker, discriminated against and less powerful, confidence in your own judgement.

It takes knowledge – knowledge of the facts, of what is hidden, of what is manipulated, knowledge of the injustice, knowledge of the consequences.

And it takes time – time to gain a thorough understanding, time to plan, time to gather troops.

Activism is difficult. It can be uncomfortable, alienating, dangerous and time consuming.

To be an activist is to be clear on what is right and wrong.

Simply standing up for those around you who are discriminated against – a senior person, a junior person, a fearful person – is activism. Making troublesome choices that care for the environment, living creatures and society – is activism. Joining a group for the betterment of the community is activism.

Those activists who go beyond their immediate world and challenge those with the power, those who lead a cause that affects others, will often be persecuted. They are presented as troublemakers, irrational, stupid and wrong. Their act is misrepresented and undermined by deflection, by the cause itself being manipulated or the action being scrutinised to overemphasize the faults.

There have been many activists in history who have suffered greatly for their cause. They have been jailed, tortured, demoralised, lied about, joked about and killed.

The point of this Blog Post is – activists should be respected, whether you agree with them or not. Because, they are not fighting a cause to be famous or rich or to have something to do. They fight to achieve what they believe is right. And if you look back in history, what may have started out as something trivial, laughable and irrational, has turned out to be something important.

The Bishnoi people of Rajasthan India, back in 1730, were the original “tree huggers.” They died trying to save their forest. This literal, but derogatory term, is used frequently to belittle defenders of the environment, even in “environmentally conscious” Australia.

At one time, in the southern states of America, Eleanor Roosevelt was told, “You have ruined the niggers. They weren’t race conscious until you started hobnobbing with them.” This outstanding humanitarian of the 1940s and 50s was maligned by sexual allegations and malicious jokes, totally designed to undermine her.

The fight against cruelty to animals, discrimination, the decimation of biodiversity, food wastage, water pollution, mining in sensitive areas, and air pollution, are all examples of just causes. We need to do our best to do no harm, to contribute to the betterment of the world’s health, to think as a member of society and the global community, and not purely as an individual.

But if we wish to make a large impact, we need to have the qualities and skills of an activist. We need to focus on one issue. We need to care so much about that issue that we don’t care what people think.

Young Greta Thunberg hasn’t chosen a small issue or a straightforward one. It is one of the most complicated and controversial issues of our time. The discussion around climate change is both scientific and emotional. I used to say I wasn’t a fan of Greta’s. The sixteen-year old embarked on her mission when she was thirteen. She is a child, easy to use, belittle and dismiss. I have read the arguments against her, the hypotheses and the scathing accusations. I wasn’t going to be manipulated. Then a friend, disappointed in my assessment, gave me the book of her speeches. Her desire is straightforward: Adults and World Leaders – listen to the scientists, read the data, inform yourselves and act urgently to stop the increasing temperature of the earth. If you agree that the earth is warming, there is good reason to act urgently. If you agree with the scientific facts that she refers to, there is good reason to act drastically.

Greta is told to stop being disruptive, stop scare mongering and go back to school to finish her education. She says she will, as soon as the leaders start taking action, because without that, there is no point.

Look at history. Don’t dismiss what Greta says before thinking and learning about it. And don’t hate her for being an activist.

The humanitarian, Urmi Basu, recently advised me, “If you really want to know what’s going on in a place, find out what the activists are doing.” Those few words have changed my entire way of thinking.

It’s not likely I will ever be a leading activist. But I will do my best to contribute to the world’s well-being. I vow to remain open minded, curious, community minded, environmentally careful and more courageous than comfortable. My form of activism will be small and spread wide. I will write about issues that I care about. And in that way, I will call myself an activist.

Will you be one too?

 

Reference:

Greta Thunberg No One is Too Small to make a Difference.

“Everyone and everything needs to change. But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.”

Urmi Basu, founder of New Light India, a refuge for children and young adults at risk in the red-light district of Kolkata. www.newlightindia.org

Brene Brown, Research Professor, public speaker, writer and social worker who says, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, American first Lady 1933-45, diplomat and humanitarian, activist until she died in 1962, for child welfare, housing reform, equal rights for women and racial minorities.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

Animals Australia https://www.animalsaustralia.org/ Photo credit.

Extreme Start to 2020

I was in India when the bushfires were ravaging Australia. Even in an ashram in a tiny village in Rajasthan, news reached me that the coastal town of Sussex Inlet, where my beloved river house sits, was in danger. Fires were out of control throughout the South Coast of NSW devastating bushland, National Parks, and towns.

Over December and January, at least thirty-four people and a billion animals died; 186 square kilometres of tree-covered land including 5900 buildings, were destroyed; people lost possessions and livelihoods; wildlife lost their food.

It’s depressing to think that some things won’t recover. The fires were too vast and hot. That which will recover, will take a long time.

But feeling depressed doesn’t help. There’s too much to do.

People are rallying to help. Communities are growing and bonding over the effort. Solutions are germinating, just as plants will.

Ironically, I was in the ashram to talk creatively about the environment. Despite the huge environmental problems in India, it is a place of such spiritual energy at its core, it’s inevitable that seeds of recovery are sprouting there.

The ashram was the location of a conference-like festival called Utasava Maa, ‘a transformative all female festival, uniting extraordinary women from across the globe to share, inspire and collaborate in response to the ongoing international repression and violation of the earth and her daughters.’

Women, the traditional carers and protectors of the communal environment, joined heads and hearts to create ideas about change, starting with ourselves and the most basic of local levels.

Like many of the other Western women, I was attracted to the festival by the passionate motivator, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic. This woman’s capacity to inspire and rejuvenate others is at goddess-level. To be in her company, and of others like her, for nine days in a soul-stirring environment, was life-changing.

On the eve of the end of 2019, Western and Indian women danced together. It was barefoot and free. We sat around the campfire wrapped in thick, woollen shawls, and listened to the guitar and the tabla, and the voices of those who sang or had something to say. We wrote things on paper, things we wanted to let go of, and burned them in the flames. We said goodbye to unhelpful things. It was a ritual that closed off the past and wiped the slate clean for the future. It was cleansing and uplifting.

Except, at home, the fires burned. The contrast was poignant.

I’m concluding that getting back to the ancient ways is a good place to start restoring health. But I’m not going to turn this Post into an opinion piece.

Despite the euphoria I felt at midnight on the other side of the world, reality is problematic. Since I’ve been home in Australia, the positivity I felt coming into the year, has been attacked several times.

Issues that lay dormant over the Christmas/summer holidays, have seeped through the cracks and emerged, persistent. Normal life is uncomfortable. It’s bills and emails, shopping and cleaning, responsibilities and duties.

Reality has a way of slapping you in the face if you get too carried away with dreams. A very dear friend, a passionate, loving, shining light of a woman, lost her struggle with cancer and died last week. Her light has gone out and she didn’t want it to. She had life to live.

It’s important that we live knowing that time isn’t endless. Not only is our time here on earth restricted, but it can be extinguished way before we’re ready.

My point is, that we should use each day well. Be positive and step forward. Do the things that you plan to do, despite the difficulties, the fear and obstacles; despite the chaos of real life. Think about the future, yes, but live each day with vigour, concern for others and care for the natural environment.

In National Parks, the motto is, leave nothing but footprints. But a national park is like an ashram. It’s the ideal. Ideas grow into deeds like seeds grow into trees. In the real world, leave your mark. Even on the smallest level, do something to make the world a better place. Raise the children to be community minded, grow a garden, lend someone your strength.

2020 is going to be another life-changing year for me, starting with moving house and ending with a publisher for my book. I do more than hope. I do something each day towards my goal; despite the everyday hassles and drama; despite what anyone says. My dreams mix with reality. They merge and flow and continue to grow with any fertiliser thrown at them.

Be uncomfortable. Be active. Do what you need to, to make 2020 a good one.

In the words of my guru, Liz G, Onward!

 

What will you do to thrive in 2020?