Tag Archive: reflection


I listen to people talk about a “new normal”. I hear it as something ‘out there’ and I wonder, “Who’s making it? Who’s working on building the new normal?”

Sometimes I catch up with friends (over zoom or for a socially distanced walk) and they’ve discovered something wonderful in this season and they ask: “What can I do to keep this? How can I keep living my life with this in it once things go back to normal?”.  There is that word again. Normal. This idea that normal is something that happens outside of us and is controlled by forces outside of us. But what we’re really talking about is life, or culture, and culture is made up of ‘the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people’.  How and why is lockdown having an impact on these?

In trying to come up with a parallel for this lockdown experience, I started thinking about the idea of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a conscious stepping aside from life as normal in order to explore and experience a totally new environment such as: a journey to the Red Centre, walking the El Camino or doing an internship, or taking a sabbatical often for a time of discernment or at a time of transition such as a relationship or job ending.  Anyone who has had experiences of this kind will know that it is not the destination that teaches us something, but rather what we learn along the way.

We have not been able to choose to take this pilgrimage, but regardless there are similarities: We have needed to let go of the ‘way things have always been’ and consider what else they might be. The routines aren’t there, the busyness, the commuting, the activities and events that take up our time… the bustle of life has slowed because we cannot travel more than 5kms and need to be home before a curfew. There is an invitation here to consider, what is essential to us? What can we survive well without or even is a relief to stop? Unbidden, we are being asked to reconsider, “What are my values, beliefs, assumptions…”?

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you sit with a empty horizon before you and allow the land to speak to you, you will discover how full it is; or when you walk (and walk and walk) and hold silence within yourself knowing yourself to be walking where many others have walked, and will walk again, you can identify both as singular and part of the collective of all of humanity; or when you visit a new country and experience being the person who doesn’t know the language, the food, courtesies, jokes or the slang and might know for the first time that you can be the ‘other’ too… it’s not the place we go that changes, or the places we come back to – but us.  I don’t know that change is the right word for this because, really, it’s remembering, and re-membering. A coming back to the wholeness of who we feel called to be, and how we can be – and become – that which we lost sight of somehow.

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you walk, you meet and get to know your own neighbours, you might discover a little library, a lovely garden, a cute letterbox – familiar and new as if you were trying to memorise the face of a loved one before you lose them, suddenly there are details you never saw before and they are precious; or when you are removed from friends, family and the usual social circles, you paint a spoon for Spoonville, put a teddy bear in the window, or leave groceries at the free pantry. Learning without words, without touch, without ever meeting, I can connect with someone and that can be profoundly meaningful; or when you are stuck with someone, or stuck apart, stuck in a job you need or stuck on a job you love and can’t go to right now, you recognise the fragility of life and how important it is to do what you love with the people you love best and who love you well – what will it cost you to have that? What is it worth to have that?

This seems the spot where you might easily drop T.S. Eliot’s ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’. T.S. Eliot wrote these Four Quartets during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain. It is good to remember that these times ARE precedented. Pandemics have ravaged with worldwide impact before, as disease arrived on cruise ships so too it came with the First Fleet. People have lived through experiences wondering if the world would ever be the same again, wondering whether a safe world would exist for their children to grow up in. It is this line from Eliot that drew me today:

last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

The new normal belongs to you.
It is yours to discover. It is yours to remember.

I invite you to gently and creatively engage with any/all of these questions through journaling, a vision board, mind map, or other mindfulness practice you enjoy, as you make your way onwards.

Is there anything you have discovered a lockdown love for? Make a list… what did this teach you about yourself you didn’t know before? What needs did these meet?

Make a list of things you have felt you’ve missed or lost in lockdown. What do you value about them?

Are there things that you haven’t missed? What has putting these down, freed up capacity for?

Land, family, law, ceremony and language are five key interconnected elements of Indigenous culture – how have the interventions and new laws of the lockdown impacted how these elements in your life have looked over the past few months? Was there somewhere outside your 5kms you longed for? How were rituals different, such as birthdays, weddings or funerals? Have you been using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Discord… or silenced by in accessibility of software or skills?

Has this time brought up things from the past that have been painful or difficult? Honour that. Celebrate what you know about survival. Consider doing a compare and contrast of then and now as a way of seeing how far you’ve come and how much resiliency you have learned. If someone was absent – who is present? If someone harmed – who is healing?

Has this time brought attention to or caused areas of your life to become painful or difficult? Honour that. What is this telling you about what’s important to you? One way to enter into this conversation might be to map What Is/What Could Be. Know you are worthy of dignity and respect and a life that fulfils you and brings you joy. Are there any steps, however small, that might create movement between what is and what could be? Take them.

Did you take up new, or see changes in, the roles and relationships you have through COVID? As teacher, partner, parent, friend…  acknowledge these shifts. Have you learned something about your expectations of yourself and others?

#enter #tomo

re-membered holy and whole body identity

I don’t much like looking in mirrors. I find them critical, unkind and discomforting because the image there seems to confront me with all the things I am not: skinny enough, beautiful enough, skin imperfection-free, hair-free… the world tells me in a myriad of ways this is my truth. In fact, the capitalist economy relies on me believing this. The reflection I see seems so distorted – how am I to know myself as holy and whole? I’m not called to a deficit existence but one of abundance.  Made by God and belonging to God. Cheryl Lawrie’s beautiful poem invites us to remember and re-member ourselves through the power of raw grace.

We are each of us made in the image of God.  God knitted us together and we are made as we were intended to be.  A special mention here to those LGBTIQ+ identifying whose personhood has experienced base-abnegation by the church, particularly throughout the recent plebiscite debacle.  I would pray for your wounds but its really not you I think are broken. Please don’t ever doubt that you are wanted and loved.

In his book, Our God Is Undocumented, Ched Myers  tells us to share communion in order to “Remember what has been dismembered. (p.200)  Whenever you ingest this memory, said Jesus on the eve of his execution, you join yourselves to our historic struggle to make the broken body whole.  It was, and is, both invitation and imperative, equally personal and political.  If we refuse to heed it, we are doomed to drift forever on or be drowned by the tides of empire, refugees all.”

I don’t go to church or and belong to a community, in this way I am perhaps a refugee, but I enjoy regularly observing the ritual of communion by myself at home, 1) because I believe absolutely in this invitation to wholeness – for myself and others and 2) I frequently garnish my communion with cheese. I f**ken love cheese.

As with most queries for which I have no answer, I try and pray my way through and that went a little something like this…

As I reflected on my culturally and societally-imposed, as-is, identity I found myself focusing on those imperfections  – the scars, the stains, the marks… it felt powerful to name those things that sit at the centre – fear, longing, doubt, insecurity, hunger, desire, hope… I juxtaposed this with some bible text to explore how it might reframe some of that thinking and was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the invitation to raw grace. I remember and am re-membered.

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I’ve had a bit of a go at packaging this up as a DIY reflection activity… get in touch if you want to be a guinea-pig. The beauty of the invitation to the communion table is not being limited to a plus-one.

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Let me leave you with a psalm by New Zealand author Joy Cowley by way of benediction:

Seeing

Dear God,
I need to see myself
as you see me.
My own vision is fragmented.
I try to divide up my life
and reject those parts of me
I consider to be weak.
I waste time and energy
in the battle of self against self
and Lord, I always end up the loser.

Dear God,
help me to see myself
as you see me.
I forget that you made me just as I am
and that you delight in your creation.
You do not ask me to be strong;
you simply ask me to be yours.
You do not expect me to reject my weakness,
merely to surrender it to your healing touch.

Dear God,
when I can see myself
as you see me,
then I will understand
that this frail, tender, fearful, aching, singing
half-empty, shining, shadowed person
is a whole being made especially by you
for your love.

Joy Cowley
 
 
Amen.

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The gorgeous Dusk Liney of Inspirit Creative recently ran a customised (pretty damn special) contemplative birthday for me down at Pipemakers Park. As she as gifted, so are we all. Please be encouraged to  use this for your own reflections on 2017. 

Pipemakers Park mosaic

Wurundjeri Garden 

Mosaic

This mosaic depicts Aboriginal life before European settlers arrived. Find a place around the mosaic to reflect on your own life this year. Create your own Mosaic/picture – using illustrations, colours or words – that reflects how you experienced 2017.

Capture the good, the bad, the ugly. What surprised you? What enlivened you? What challenged you? What were the unexpected gifts?

burning paper

Fireplace

Before you leave the Wurundjeri Garden, if there is any part of this year that you would like to leave behind, make your way to the fireplace.

Take a piece of paper, put that image, word or feeling down on paper, and burn it.

Childs feet

Early Settlers Garden

Footprints

As you walk to the next station, pause and place your feet on the child’s footprints. Take a moment to be still and be present to your inner child.

Whisper to her what your heart yearns for her to hear.

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One sided Table 

So much of the year is spent preparing food for others. In this moment, come and sit at the table. Think about the hospitality that you show to others and imagine the ways in which you can show that same beautiful hospitality to yourself.

What would it be like for the Divine to prepare a table for you? What would feed your soul? How can you show that hospitality to your soul this year?

Mum and baby under an apple tree

Take a walk over to the apple tree and think of an apple dish that captures that imagining. Write it on a sticker and place it on your clothes.

woman sitting in a fig tree Pipemakers park

Pipeworkers Garden

Dry Garden

Take in the fig tree, the succulents and the drought resistant plants. Each of these plants have survived dry, hot, tough conditions. It is actually in this landscape of lacking that they grow.

Sit here and acknowledge the dry places in your life. Think about the qualities that have grown in you within the dry parts of this year. Write them on a post it and stick it to the dry plant captures that quality.

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Grapevine Colonnade

Then walk under the pipe colonnade shaded by the grapevines. Allow the coolness and shade to wash over those dry places. As you come to the end, sit with the sun mosaic.

Ask God / the Divine / the Sun to shine on you this year, to shine you with light and warmth. Name the desires of your heart and lay them at the Sun as offering. 

Picnic Pipemakers park

Picnic Circle

When you’re ready, come and find a place on the blankets and we’ll gather in a circle to reflect together.

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An outsider would not have noticed any visible changes. The same skies, the same seas. The same faces… But they know that everything was different. Their banal everyday life which they knew with such familiarity had been transfigured,  They had been given new eyes and the solid objects and stone faces which filled their space became transparent. It was as if they saw invisible things which were visible only to those who had seen the angel troubling the waters of the pool – the dead man.

Normal mirrors reflect things which are present; but dreams show things which are absent… their stories about the dead man were stories about themselves. Stories not about what they were (that is what they saw when they looked in their mirrors…) but stories about what they desired to be: this is what they saw as they faced their dreams…

Inside our flesh, and mixed with the noises of Death, there is written an indelible story of beauty.  And even without knowing we know that we are destined to this happiness: the Prince must meet Sleeping Beauty.

The villagers remembered. Their stories were the return of a lost time: the past, desired, repressed, forgotten, dead, resurrected from the grave.

…How could I explain to her that the story was always happening in the present just because it had never happened in the past, in the far distant land?

…the beautiful wants to return… its time is sacred; it is reborn every morning; it is the time of resurrection.

…Once upon a time, in a far distant land…” : a cloud of mist covers the narrative to conceal its real time and space which are ‘now’ and ‘here’… the ‘once upon a time, in a far distant land’ is a metaphorical was of speaking about a present loss.

p.39-41, The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet

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On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 1 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

 

Purpose: How to get somewhere

Constitutions: Tell us what to do and how to get there

Why?: Need to ask, where are these taking us to? What are we going to do with it?

The German word grundnorm (basic norm) combines big + what is normal.

American Constitution says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” this is a basic norm of their constitution and yet there was slavery at the time.  What is constitutional for one group is not for others.

Is constitutional recognition worth fighting for in the Australian context?

If you are given a legal personality this gives you a legal identity/makes you an entity (you can transact).  Constitutional recognition would give Aboriginal people legal personality.

Here we use a Westminster/Western model of constitution – a link back to the UK. White men put the document together – it represented their idea of society then and for the future.  Section 128 allows for the constitution to be changed (function for change provided for in its creation).

What are the founding values and guiding principles?

Cooper vs. Stuart Crown gave 40 acres then wanted to take 7 acres back – appealed to the Privy Council in the UK.  Land that was not “cultivated” was considered not claimed.

Aboriginal people are currently mentioned in only 2 sections of the Constitution. For the purposes of counting in the Census they will have a value of “0” (zero) and in the Exclusion Clause which allows for Parliament to make laws specific to race (applying to anyone not white). This is legalised discrimination. The law makers had the view that Aboriginal people would disappear – either by dying off or being bred out… we are still here!

Following WW2 there was a movement to say collectively we cannot allow for the extermination of an entire people.  Some human values are UNIVERSAL regardless of what some countries and governments might do.  UN developed International law which includes a convention against racial discrimination “No legal or moral authority for laws based on race”.  Australian law has vetoed land purchase in Queensland, High COurt MABO decision recognised Native title in 1992 > Aboriginal people exist.  There is a fundamental clash between the constitution and the law – it is at odds with itself and it needs to be synchronised.

How are we getting there? What will we do when we get there?

I want to see… language, law, culture, spirituality, kindness, interconnectedness to land and animals, respect for neighbours, storytelling and learning… survive.

Recognising is the first step.  We can’t have a conversation if you can’t see me.

The State of Victoria is looking into making a treaty.Section 109 of the Constitution allows for laws that are inconsistent but if it comes to a ruling Federal law would prevail. If the vehicle we take is a treaty – what is in it? protecting/including what?

When applying law there is a sense that we should be able to go back to the original ‘intent’ of the law (read it in context) – it is a legal fiction that we can know or that we do know what that is. “Democracy” when it arrived was for landed white men, then all white men, white men and white women, now voters (excluding prisoners)… what democracy means has changed over time.

 

Te Tiriti O Waitangi and Pakeha-Maori Conversations: What Hope for Change? – Maria Bargh

Strong Spirit in Community Development – Grant Paulson

Repentance and Treaty? – Ray Minniecon

Primal Faith and Ancient Treaty: Precedents on the Abraham Trail – Norm Habel

What might the Australian Church look like in the face of the sovereignty of the First Peoples? – Chris Budden

A Paradoxical Hospitality – Robert Hoskin and Naomi Wolfe

Aboriginal sources and Aboriginal sovereignty – Joanna Cruickshank

Pulling together the threads – Mark Brett

 

Ex nihilo

The Indigenous Hospitality House are hosting learning circles on a breadth of topics. Here are Samara’s reflections on the Quaker session. Photo credit to IHH.

quaker-circle

Start with silence – business meetings, weddings, funerals, protests… this is an intentional mechanism for listening to the prophetic voice.
On the table in front of us we have flowers [something from creation], the Bible, and “our book” [the Quaker queries and advices].
Calm, relax, let go, forget day/tasks/concerns.
Be present.
For me this is often about my body yielding and a remembering of the nature of love to change.
A service might go an hour or more, let’s try and go for 10 mins and close with “Thank you friends”
These spaces
– don’t critique
– not intellectually analysing/deconstructing
…but hearing spiritually.
Spaces are to address spiritual wellbeing. To provide a space to see and understand spiritually.
Quakers believe no priest of minister can do it for you. The hour of silence is an hour of active worship. You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.
Someone might ask a question aloud… [Quakers might reference their queries and advices book if relevant]. They do not give “answers”
Only you have your own answer to deepen your spiritual life.
e.g. “I want to talk about why I’m sad…”
“We can, but what makes you happy?”
The process reframes.
SILENCE
– together
– connected to others present
– not worried about what your thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…)
– take a thought, dwell on it as you need to – may or may not become ministry.
– no veil(s) between me and God
– ministry uncanny to what’s on your heart/mind.

 

 

Ten stolen minutes

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Ten stolen minutes

to say

to see

all there is to see

all there is to say

all there is to be

to breathe

take ten minutes

and breathe

 

 

 

 

Talitha Fraser

The water laps

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The water laps
soothing the disquiet
of all things unknown.
There are larger,
cycles and tides…
rhythms at work…
you will not ever
know the music to.
But you might,
if you are still,
hear an echo.

Talitha Fraser