I was beating myself up because even after all the Landmark, the nonviolent communication and the transpersonal philosophy, I was still experiencing some hurt over a little comment made by my mother.
For Christ’s sake – how pathetic – and when will I finally be enlightened!
I then imagined myself surrounded by the Xmas chaos, in the midst of screaming kids, barking dogs, people complaining about kids, dogs, and people complaining about kids and dogs. And people complaining about people complaining about kids and dogs. And there is me in the midst of it all – serene, calm, totally at peace with the world – present, but not engaging in all this icky messiness.
And I just started to laugh. I mean, as if.
I just had to stop writing and laugh again: Ho ho ho!
And then I thought We are spiritual being having the human experience. And I actually got it. I am just having the human experience. And just like a Contiki tour, this experience will include joy and pain, satisfaction – and so many regrets. Ho ho!
I am going to feel feelings – all the bloody time! I am going to try and grasp onto some of the fun feelings and give myself a bloody great rope burn even though I know better!
That’s what humans do!
I am going to run away from pain, even though I know that pain cannot be run from and that I am running in circles and will eventually trip over the pain and stub my toe and really have something to cry about.
Sometimes, being human hurts.
And sometimes I will cry. Sometimes I will curse. Sometimes I will blame others for my predicaments. And then I will get exasperated with myself for not being more enlightened. And then I will remember all over again, and I will laugh. Ho ho!
We are walking in the forest. It is cold and softly raining, but we are well dressed for the weather and the dense canopy above reduces that gentle rain to a fine mist. I am feeling happy and carefree, I want to skip and jump. You seem contemplative, quiet. After a few minutes we settle together into a calm and companionable silence.
The path ahead diverts around the buttress roots of one ancient tree. We stop at this giant, and I step over the buttress and lean in, pressing my palms against the damp bark. The bark is rough to touch. Close up I can see the rain seeping down the channels in the rough bark, to be delivered gently to the soil and the roots below. Standing here, I imagine those roots reaching down and down into the earth. The roots hold the tree to the earth, and in the process hold the soil to the hillside. The roots of this tree and the forest around it support the tree, support the earth, support you and me.
Deep underground, the roots of this tree also take nutrients from the soil. These nutrients are pulled upwards. They are pulled to the very top of the tree by the evaporation of water from the leaves. The tree is selecting elements from the soil and using them to build more tree. But the roots of this tree are also communicating with other trees nearby, sharing nutrients and chemical messages in a two-way collaborative network. This tree and the trees nearby are not just building themselves. They are building the forest. My palms are on the tree, touching the rough bark. But my mind is down with the roots and wonders whether ‘tree’ is just a human construct and there is only forest.
I turn my face to you. You are leaning backwards on the part of the forest we call ‘this tree.’ Your eyes are closed and you are smiling a gentle smile. Your warm breath makes a little mist as the moisture condenses in the cold air.
You and I, we are both breathing. We breathe in. We smell the damp and the earth and the forest. To me, the air smells green. To you, the air smells clean. We breathe in the air and take the oxygen that the forest has released in the process of photosynthesis. We breathe out. The forest breathes our breath and in the process of photosynthesis it takes the carbon and creates more of itself. Some of this carbon is shared from tree to tree via the roots. The carbon that started in our bodies will nurture the entire forest.
We breathe the forest. The forest breathes we.
My palms are on the tree, I am breathing in my body but my mind is far above and below with the exchange of carbon and oxygen and I wonder whether ‘you’ and ‘I’ are just human constructs and there is only forest.
Publish my caring science meets info lit work and apply for PhD + scholarship
Start a creative business
Increase my Ipswich Urban Forest activism and tree planting
Last night I wrote a list of projects I would like to accomplish in a year. Then I used a random number generator and out popped: #3. So that is what I’m up for!
I did this because I want to make a difference in the world but am so indecisive — the absolute definition of hot and cold — and end up spreading myself too thin and never really accomplishing anything. And weighing everything up and being logical about it all just leaves me paralysed and anxious. Bottom line is I don’t believe in order and logic, so needed a method that allows for a safe amount of chaos.
So this morning I went and planted out an eroded river bed with rushes, and tomorrow I will plant 14 gums and some native grasses at the same site … Prior commitments that I will not break. I’m giving myself till the end of October to slow the habitat work down, will limit my garden to just one more bed, and the dance to just weekly classes and practice at home … and there is a poetry class that I enrolled in months ago … you see my problem! But I promise to let it all wind down in September/October and get an conference abstract written up too … caring science & PhD, here I come!
So, I started a dance class a couple of weeks ago and I am pretty crap at it. Now my brain is a perfectionist – If I’m not immediately good at something I pack up and go home, but my body is a completely different beast – it just loves to move, it loves to try and fail and try again and practice the moves while washing up, watering the garden, carrying a shopping basket up and down the aisles at Aldi… Wherever, whenever, my body loves to MOVE. And eventually this joy is contagious and I find myself laughing with total joy and abandon as I flail about enthusiastically in class, and even more when I realise that I am moving in the opposite direction as everyone else. Hahaha!
What is not to love and appreciate about this marvellous joy machine that I have been blessed with?
This week my mulberries decided to get all dressed up! I put them both in the ground last spring, and this the first year the black tree has fruited. It has also grown, and is just taller than me – about 6 foot.
In case you can’t tell from the photo, the fruit are sweet and super juicy! They also leave a violet stain on your hands.
This is a bit of a change of pace for my blog – I am writing this post because a couple of people have asked me for a hand when writing a speech and I want to pop my thoughts somewhere where they are easily shared…
so, you have just been approached to speak
… at a special occasion. It may be a wedding; it may be a retirement party; or perhaps a funeral. You may have anticipated this moment, or it may be a surprise. You may be a confident speaker, you may be feeling overwhelmed. In any circumstance, if you want to give a beautiful speech, one that is real and comes from the heart, it will help to consider and bring together the following aspects:
yourself: your feelings and experience
the person you are celebrating: their life, accomplishments, and relationships
the people who will receive your speech: their needs and expectations.
This post talks about how to consider and acknowledge your own feelings and experiences to prepare yourself for the writing. I will link to posts that will help you get together your thoughts about the person you are celebrating and connect with the folk who will receive your speech as I publish them.
your feelings and experience
At any special occasion, you may be feeling a lot of feelings. There may be joy and anticipation. There is also likely to be a surprising element of grief. You may be about to lose a valued member of staff to retirement, a family member who is relocating to a partner’s hometown, or you may be grieving a loved one who has died. Many of us are familiar with Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief . We expect to be working our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, it may come as an unpleasant surprise that these emotions may hit us at a happy celebration, or that they arrive several at a time, or in the ‘wrong’ order or that some may linger, or come and come again. This is actually all normal and ok*. Kubler-Ross herself did not suggest that one needs to spend a certain amount of time in any stage, or advocate trying to rush through grieving. Nor did she suggest that there was an orderly or predictable progression through the emotions of grief.
This is important because to write a eulogy from the heart you will need to be connected to your heart, to be vulnerable, open. Acknowledgement of all of the emotions associated with your grief as you are experiencing it also allows you to more fully explore what your colleague, friend, or loved one means to you and the significance of their place in your life. There may be surprises in this.
The following exercise can help you acknowledge rather than rush through your emotions. I was introduced to it by nonviolent communication teacher, Thom Bond.** Read through the exercise fully before you begin.
an exercise to help you connect with your heart and feelings
Find a time and a safe and comfortable place where you are not going to be disturbed by noise, light, or activities around you.
Set a timer for five minutes.
Sit down, close your eyes and ask yourself: What am I feeling?
As the feelings arise, answer the question honestly and simply. “I am feeling…”
This may sound like: “I am feeling nothing, I am feeling bored, I am feeling a little upset, I am feeling curious, I am feeling anguished. I am disappointed, I am bitter, I am bitter, I am scared, I am jealous, I am ashamed, I am weary, I am feeling a deep, sweet sadness.”
You may find you get stuck on a particular feeling for the entire five minutes. You may cycle through a number of feelings. There are no wrong feelings or wrong periods of time. There is only you feeling your feelings.
Just sit for 5 minutes (or longer) and keep asking yourself: What am I feeling?
If at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, open your eyes and do what you need to do to feel safe and comfortable again, then resume the exercise.
You may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of what you or others could or should have done/said/been. Approach these thoughts especially gently. If you find yourself berating yourself or others, acknowledge the emotion and the cause. This may sound like:
“I am feeling really yukky because I wish it was me having the baby and I would like to be happy for her, but part of me is just stuck in feeling mad and sad.”
“I am pissed off – I spent all that time training her and now she has accepted a transfer!”
“I am feeling awkward because really my brother was there to help her and I rarely called.”
“I am angry because I spent all those years looking after her and now that she is dead everyone else turns up! I wish they would acknowledge how hard that was for me instead of making excuses.”
“I am afraid. I have never lived alone, I don’t know that I have what it takes.”
I find that just acknowledging this stuff can loosen its grip on me, but I have called a counselling service a few times, when I needed help to work through something. For this reason, I have included links to sites in Australia and New Zealand where you can find information about free services, should you need them.
so, what do you do with all this emotion?
I would use it as a starting point to think about what the person I am going to talk about really means to me. You may get connected to how much the person has contributed to your workplace, to your community and your life. Some of it might make its way into the speech: “Geez, when Mary told me she was leaving, I actually panicked a bit but only because I realised how much she does around this place and I know replacing her will be impossible,” followed by a list of wonderful things Mary contributes to the workplace, of course!
However, the real value of the exercise and connecting to your emotions is that this genuine connection will underpin your speech, making it easier to be real when you are standing up in front of all the people. Please try it and let me know how it goes for you.
This post covered the first of three aspects that I believe you need to consider and integrate to write and deliver a beautiful eulogy or special occasion speech. When I write about the other two aspects: the person you are celebrating; and the people who will receive your speech, I will update this post with the links.
* this is totally my opinion, I am not a counsellor and am not qualified in any healing or therapeutic practices other than sport massage but I don’t tell people about that.
**I would totally recommend Thom’s online course – and a reminder – taking a few courses in nonviolent communication does not make me an expert, or qualified.
counselling: Australia and New Zealand
I’m happy to add more sites, if anyone wants one added, please provide the information in the comments.