The politics of water

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“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This well-known Buddhist story told by Alan Watts at the 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College have always resonated with me, in many contexts.

I had said, “I don’t like politics”, “I don’t do politics”, “I am not political”… and while the first remains true, I have come to re-consider my place in my mind, in my world about the latter.

I AM in water, rife with politics and I am impacted by it, like it or not. Perhaps I am at the lower end of the spectrum for the level of participation, yet there is no avoiding it. In fact, for every post, every tweet of gender equality, human rights, I am being political. I am glad to name it. Another self-awakening of a 40-something woman. 🙂

This realisation comes from recent events, namely the lead up to the now Trump Presidency and the Women’s March around the world. It is easy to say, as I have heard from others, that ‘they’ are about America thus none of our (Australians) business or the marches are anti-Trump rather than about women’s rights or they are exercises in futility. Hey, I even attempted to embrace these notions to arrest the listlessness and unease.

Yet it does not bring me peace.

There is a shift in global consciousness, signalled by the uneasiness and anger that I (and many others judging by the response to the Women’s March) feel despite being so far away from the source of the triggering events. The notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’, of ‘not this but that’ no longer hold water, we the people are connected, more so now than ever, and we in all we say and do influence and impact on each other, we are humanity as one.

So my response and the lessons from the recent events are these, expressed through those who came before:

Life is a circle. The end of one journey is the beginning of the next. ~ Joseph M Marshall III

We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. ~ Dalai Lama

Each of us is responsible for everything and to every human being. ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see and learn.

Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.

Careful the spell you cast,
Not just on children.                           ~ Barbra Streisand, “Children Will Listen”

 

Oh, and I have no answer, and I suspect there is no ‘Answer’.  We have done things in fear no matter what it is called, what not try love? What have we to lose?

Life is for living; it is movement, constant and every-changing. Let it be a movement inspired by love.

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Do not despair if the answers don’t come immediately. Some answers are only revealed with the passage of time.

Try to love the questions themselves. Do not look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

All along my denial of the political self, I now realise, is not about politics per se, but rather the politics of division, of hate, of exclusion… and even as I am reconciling to the fact “politics” is being played on me and vice –versa, this remains true – love and compassion, understanding and collaboration shall be my beacon. Though I may at times fail, these I strive to be.

One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion. ~ Simone de Beauvoir

One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.

~ Joseph Campbell

I am in water.

Namaste!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

The Plight of Solitude

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I often do things alone. I tell everyone who asked ‘why’ that I love my own company, and I do. I enjoy the freedom of ‘not minding’ and ‘not caring’ of another. I enjoy the opportunity for introspection and contemplation, as if I don’t do it enough.

Why? These statements are simple enough, yet behind each of these simple statements is a world of meaning.

 

Solitude is companionable. I have done this since I was a teenager. A (loosely) self-labelled introvert, I never did have a crowd of friends, rather a few good friends. And like me, they are introverts and a serious bunch. We spoke of ‘things’, discussed ‘stuff’ and we had fun. Then we retreat to our own worlds for respite. I remember being entirely happy with this situation, despite others beyond my world looking at me with pity in their eyes because I was a “loner” and “friendless”. They would not comprehend why nor understand me.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’

 

Solitude is freedom. There is a certain independence and freedom being in my own company. The connection to my inner self, if you would call it that, or to my thoughts, feelings, senses… is heightened when I am alone. Perhaps I am conditioned to be more social that I am – that in the company of others, my attention is to them and about them; and for a long time, this attention was also worrying about how they were and how they perceived me. With a degree of hard-fought self-awareness and inevitable age and maturity, I am comfortable in my own skin now.

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Solitude is nourishing. Cultural, gender and familial norms dictated my presence – to be attentive to others and to serve. I do care, I do serve, I do for others and only to the extent I can and in the circumstance within my control. Beyond this I am merely fretting and worrying, over-managing and to be frank, somewhat of a pain to be around. It also taxed my sense of self, of not giving myself permission to do what I desired and what I would. I have learnt that being selfish is not a bad thing. All things in moderation and to each their own.

“I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it. … the decision to be alone for any length of time is dangerous, threatening, a sign of rejection. … Having never felt the need to be alone themselves, having always lived happily in relationships, they looked upon my need as eccentric, even somewhat mad. But more than that, they saw it as fraudulent, an excuse to be rid of them rather than a desperate need to explore myself.” ~ Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

 

Solitude is growth. Those who know me will attest that I think a lot, some may even claim that I over-think. Being a lawyer and educator, academic and intellectual pursuits are part and parcel of my life, one that I am comfortably familiar and cherish. All this ‘head-y’ stuff can sometimes be overwhelming, or strangely addictive. Either way, solitude is my step away from the mentalising and cognizing, away from boundaried explorations to experiencing varied possibilities, where I can broaden my sphere of seeing, and to draw a thread through the many systems and structures in my world. Most importantly, it allows me to just be. And it is only in these emotional and spiritual states that I am once again reconnected to the inner me which gets forgotten or ignored.

We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

I am practicing this often – to be at peace with my desire for solitude, no matter the consternation of the outside world. The “motivation” to be alone are many – because one has to, because one must, because one has something to prove, because one was forced to by circumstances…

Regardless of the cause, should you ever find yourself alone, revel in it. Take a deep breath, listen to the voice within, observe your self in this place, and allow yourself the joy (however tiny or great) of being your own companion for a while. There is always time to make friends with your self.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’

 

In solitude,
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

#Haiku Challenge 117 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 117 with prompt words – Lark, Rush

The lark, so I am lead to believe, is a creature of flight with great symbolism in mythology. All species live in northern and eastern Australia, with only the horned lark to be found in North America.

Only male larks sing and with great musicality, even in flight, to defend their territory and to attract mates.

According to Wikipedia, “[t]he lark in mythology and literature stands for daybreak, as in Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale”, “the bisy larke, messager of day” … and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, “the lark at break of day arising / From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate” … The lark is also associated with “lovers and lovers’ observance”. According Pure Spirit, the lark symbolizes “beauty, fidelity, happy marriage, and fertility” and self-discovery. “Lark encourages us to explore our inner selves and sing out loud.”

Fascinating indeed for a bird that is not that spectacular in its plumage.

This haiku is a reflection of how the lark sings for love, beauty, fidelity, marriage… and self-awareness, as seasons change without the rush of living thus bringing the truest of love and joy.

Singing lark invites

Seasons change, true love and joy

abide without haste.

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

How love turns pain into purpose – Stephen Hayes

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Disclaimer: what this video is not – an academic talk on psychology.

What it is – an inspiring personal account of the transformative power of love in the face of human struggles and difficulties.

Enjoy!

“… I stood up inside a promise – never again, I will not run from me.” Stephen Hayes

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Words on fear and doubt

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Some of you may know this of me, that I find comfort and inspiration in words.

So here are some words I have gathered around me this past weeks on my little trip of introspection and reflection.

I hope these words take you on a little side-trip to new territory, or re-visit familiar places of comfort and joy.

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.  ~ Henri Poincare

How often have we been told to not doubt? This I believe, that to be open to possibilities, to be adaptable and responsive to our world require a healthy dose of doubt. It is the tiny cracks appearing on the polished facade of certainty and perfection – it adds character and invites closer attention. Don’t you think?

There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.  ~ Alfred Tennyson

And to moving on in spite of doubt, or maybe because of it, suggests to me greater belief and faith in our selves, our relationships, our humanity. We don’t need guarantees of safety to venture out into the world. There is no absolute solution, no certainty –  only faith and perspectives.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.  ~ Helen Keller

Our fear of what could go wrong, our doubt of what could go right… feel somewhat dangerous; they threaten our sense of self, our identity in the world. Yet it is only dangerous and threatening if we strive to hold onto what is, or to the ‘greater what could be’. Life is fluid; and if we approach with a ‘come what may’ attitude and a little confidence that we are enough to meet the future, all is well. Perspective again.

To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.  ~ David Whyte

There is strength in our fear and doubt, to be with our vulnerabilities requires more than avoiding or confronting. At times, avoiding or confronting is what’s needed to cope and to survive. The calling remains, that we acknowledge and be with our vulnerabilities, our imperfections… in them, we become strength, courage, love, grace and gratitude.

And in the end, to fully know ourselves is impossible. We fear and doubt, and if we have courage to seek, we encounter the truth of each moment. And as we know, that which we know changes; our very knowing shifts us into constant becoming.

What I have learnt and continue to practice is, to stand in the midst of the ever-changing landscape on the firm ground of this moment, being present here and doing what is ‘right’ now. Whatever or whoever visits, I will open the door with curiosity. Whatever happens, happens.

Namaste!

~ FlorenceT

A true conversation

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Conversation… what’s it about?

I have encountered ‘conversations’ a lot these past few days, and in many different contexts.

The conversation I promised another, when time permits for the both of us. The conversation I had with another which distilled much and created space for more imaginings. The conversations which signaled change and endings and beginnings. The conversations I referred to imbued with so much meaning and not enough time to explore.

I hope these conversations have been true.

No matter the context, true conversations have a common thread. True conversations are arrived at with a willingness to listen, an openness to receive and embrace, and where required a loving rebuke. True conversations happen with humility and love, supportive and encouraging growth. We hold conversations through engaging with each other authentically. Maybe that’s why we hold conversation – the conversation as a space, a safe space held which allows each conversation-holder to be vulnerable and to express who we are to each other. Otherwise the interaction becomes inter-reaction.

Idealistic? Perhaps. Nevertheless it does not detract me from trying my utmost to being such a holder of conversation. To ask a beautiful question that says ‘I have heard’, a beautiful question which touches another deeply, a beautiful question which invites a genuine answer.

How beautiful and uplifting our relationships can be when we hold true conversations.

A conversation is not the same as a friendly chat, a quick ‘how-are-you’ nor lengthy IMs. Nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about these – each serves a purpose at different moments. Conversations I don’t think can be had all the time.

True conversations are always filled with meaning, meaning-full.

When did you last have a true conversation? And with whom?

Live meaningfully, I say. 🙂

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Surprise, no more

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I was not much good with surprises… I preferred being prepared for things and surprises didn’t allow for that. I may have changed by now… 🙂 With age, knowledge and experience, few things faze me and certainly not the ‘but I don’t have any make-up on’ or ‘I didn’t get a chance to tidy the house’ stuff.

As Paulo Coelho, one of my favourite authors, said,

I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.

So when I saw the writing prompt on RonovanWrites for the previous week (yes, a little late, I say sheepishly), I set out to discover for what others had to say about surprises – an excuse to indulge my ‘nerd-ness’.

Man is always more than he can know of himself; consequently, his accomplishments, time and again, will come as a surprise to him.  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This is something that I have come to realise, time and time again. In a meditative space of gratitude and evaluation of my life, I always surprise myself with how much I have done and accomplished. The saying is true, we are always our harshest critic. So it is curious to me that man still continues to be critical of others in the name of motivation and improvement, though I imagine they are the guises of self-doubt and fear. Doesn’t our own experience teach us that we and others don’t require more criticism, rather support and encouragement?

The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.   ~ Ashley Montagu

In our moments of happiness, we have only to be mindful and notice, to receive, to appreciate and to remember. Like the exuberant hugs of children, the silent glance of a lover, the gentle touch of a friend… we need only be aware of them as they seize us.

What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.  ~ Ellen Burstyn

This is one thing which didn’t surprise me – that being alone is not lonely. I have enjoyed my space, the solitude to think, to explore, to plan, to organize… The quote also speaks of a journey taken to ‘finally discover’ this, and I hazard a guess, a journey of self-discovery, love and growth.

How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.  ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

And lastly, if we are open to the many possibilities of living, then there is no real surprise. They come, they go… and we approach them all with equanimity.

Namaste!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.