Thursday, 3 April 2014

Birdcage Religion

A beautiful song from "Sleeping at Last" that reflects where I have been and are, and that has become my prayer these last couple of weeks. May it mean something to you as well. And may it ever remind us all that we might just have to be the broken record that helps somebody find themselves again. 

So slowly I'm losing who I've sworn to be. 
A promise in pencil, that years have made so hard to read. 
I've spent my life building walls - brick by brick and bruise by bruise... 
a birdcage religion that whispered me to sleep. 

But time is spinning silk that coils ruthlessly; 
with the devil's patience, it binds my hands so quietly 
that soon it becomes a part of me. 

So soften these edges and straighten out my tie. 
And help me remember the hope that I have compromised. 

Please be a broken record for me.

Friday, 7 March 2014

This so-called life

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced." - Soren Kierkegaard

The past couple of weeks have been really difficult - so difficult in fact that I found myself, at some or other time every day, just staring at this blog and thinking that I have to write something - time (and followers) indeed wait for no blogger. But then also being overwhelmed by the feeling that a) I've got way too much to say, while at the same time b) that there are no words to type...nothing at all...

All of this chosen and given silence is a hard task master, leaving me so full of thoughts and yet so empty at the same time. And then, of course, enters all the drama you never asked for - whether it be of the familial or personal variety (or both at the same time for some extra fun!) - and deflation and a strong desire to never get out of bed again set in. This frame of mind, all the things happening around and within me, (of course) got me thinking. And here's what I've come up with thus far...

People often talk about the two natures to be found in each of us - whether they are called our better or lesser selves; our angels or demons; or the two wolves - and how life is about that battle for control between the different parts of ourselves; about who it is we allow the win; about what that says about us as people. That this is the purpose of our existence - to allow the better parts of ourselves to become ever stronger. And, based on who we allow to win this inner struggle, we are grouped and we are handled, lots of times unfairly.

But, in these past few weeks, I have come to realise there is a far bigger and more serious battle waging when it comes to our being in the world - and that battle is between us as individuals (with our good and bad) and the hard, sharp and rocky cliffs that are REALITY. 
For no matter who we dream of being or what we aspire to do with this little slice of life we get to call our own; reality mostly functions as the (massive) spanner in the works. As the hard reminder that we are not as special as we had hoped (or been told); that our talents, our finely honed skills and our input are not as unique or as valuable as we thought; that the path to the meaningful life we have always dreamed of looks much different than we imagined...heck, mostly it doesn't even lead in the direction we thought it would...

"Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead.  We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." - Sigmund Freud

Now, though at this point of the struggle I would love nothing more than to be able to disappear, since I can only describe myself as immensely tired of this world and how it works, I am much too practical minded to try anything silly - damn it! 
And so I have to soldier on, and try to find that place where reality at its harshest and the dregs of myself I know to be the essential truth can possibly meet. It's not as romantic or perfect or wonderful as I always imagined; but then again, neither am I. Yet it can and must do. It is the most painful thing I have ever attempted, and it leaves me feeling like my insides have been ripped out most of the time, but on and through I must go. After all, there is nothing else for it.      
"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." - Lao Tzu

Face reality as it is.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

If a tree falls...

THE most difficult part of this journey so far? Losing my voice...
Now, I'm not talking about losing my voice because of illness or a sudden lack of confidence, what I'm referring to is losing my voice in the realisation that it isn't being heard. Even more - that it isn't needed.

See, as we talked about yesterday, one of the most important things on the journey to the "real me" is a process of constant evaluation of my reasons for doing things. And one of those things is talking. So I am trying to remember to always ask myself: When I talk, what am I hoping to achieve? Why do I feel it is important for me to speak? What does my input add to the situation?
Combine that with a present where a lot of the most important people in my life are literally not giving me a chance to speak, or not listening to me when I do manage to get a word in, and you can (hopefully?) see my dilemma...

In the dark of night, when the truth in all its ugliness can no longer be avoided, I have come to realise that I mostly speak because I am afraid of disappearing. Yes, my words might be uplifting or wise or encouraging, and they are probably said with the best of intentions and coming from the most loving part of me...but when it boils right down to it I am speaking because I want to be heard...for then my existence feels recognised (and in that, justified)...
Only once my thoughts and ideas have been heard do I feel like I've meant something; that I am somebody; that my existence matters. But now I have no more words, no more influence. Does that mean I no longer exist? Is "not talking" equal to "dying"? To me it certainly feels that way! For if I am not in constant communication with the world and the people around me - if my voice is not heard and validated - do I even really exist? 

But is that what existing is all about? Is that the only and best way? Or is this time of silence forcing me to find what truly existing means? As I often do in times like these, I turned to the wisdom of the ages to see what there is to find...
"Language...has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone." - Paul Tillich
"At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self." - Brendan Francis not first and foremost about talking and/or being heard. It's not about the people around me and what they think of me (or even IF they think of me!) Because talking is actually still performing - it is about focusing on the people around me, what I project to them, and what they think of me. Clearly this keeps the locus of control and my identity outside of myself and in the hands of others. Not talking means there is only me left...the me I lost...and the God that created me. And in that there is glory to be experienced.

"The purpose of life, after all, is to live it - to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience." - Eleanor Roosevelt
My life, my heart, are to be found in silence and solitude, and in opening myself up to living life as it comes my way (without the involvement of other people).
So, in between bouts of calm and panic about disappearing, it is back to silence I go. And quiet times of being in God's presence. "Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better." - Henry Rollins 

Eeek...and aaah...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Hard to find!

The definition of "ouch" and reasons to berate yourself = logging into this blog to write the latest mulling around in me, only to see that a whole 24 days have passed. What?! But then I realise that even this is part of what my process has been the last few weeks...and so in we go...

You might remember that my first post - and New Year's resolution - was to start removing any and all forms of clutter, making time for silent reflection, in order to be able to get at the me at the heart of it all. In these past few weeks I have discovered two things surrounding this process. Maybe you have experienced the same? Maybe we can help each other through?

1) The heart is (damn) hard to find!
Yep. It's just so amazing and ironic how - just when I decide to quiet down - my entire life suddenly becomes this noisy, chaotic thing with a life of its own. Everything that can go wrong does, almost all the people in my life suddenly have urgent needs etc. The noise of life, the power pulling me away from my heart, becomes so loud it's almost overwhelming! So now, when a moment or two announce themselves, I rather stare at the wall than try and scratch a little deeper into myself, because the energy just isn't there. It's like the universe is conspiring to keep me as far away from my truth and strength as possible, and it's SO frustrating! But then, in a conversation with my spiritual mentor, I am (metaphorically) slapped across the face with the truth of the situation, which leads us to...

2) You never find yourself where you're looking (in fact, where you find yourself is somewhere you never thought needed closer investigation!)
Even though life turns into chaos when we seek quiet, my mentor forced me to ask myself - how much of that craziness was happening because of me? Because of the way I have always seen myself, the way I have always thought I needed to be and act in the world? How much of the chaos surrounding me was because of my own ego trying to feed itself? Double ouch! Probably because it is so true that I feel a little sick just writing this.

So, finding my heart - the "me" God made me - actually involves breaking through the "me" I have created; the "me" I have spent all my life building up; the "me" I expend so much effort on presenting to the world. It's not just about cancelling out other unnecessary influences and voices, it's about cancelling out my ego and all the little voices it creates. Because so little of what I think is my heart, actually has anything to do with my heart. What a blind spot that was?! 

Does that mean I am no longer making an effort to get in some quiet "sitting with God"? No, for that process has become more important than ever. It does mean that I try to keep a hold of the bit of distance created in those quiet times when I move into the rest of the day - a bit of distance that allows me to look at the things I feel and say and do, and ask myself the hard questions: Why this? Why now? The answers are difficult indeed...but they are the only way I will find true value, and in that - the peace that transcends all possible chaos.
Every day is "Day One", because then complacency does not become an option. Join me? 

Friday, 3 January 2014


I have been away from this baby of mine for such a long time that it feels almost strange to be back here. And, when I glance through previous posts, though I hear myself and the journey I'm on, it becomes difficult to imagine what putting these ramblings out there into the ether could mean. But, when I risk looking at the statistics, it seems that - even though new content has been scarcer than the truth about Nkandla - some of you are still coming back to this neck of the internet for a read. I am amazed and humbled by the thought.
And so I have decided to make a concerted effort to ramble on here more often, about wherever the road is leading me. My hope (my dream!) is that those little bits of my life's path, and what it does to the inside of my head, may mean something to you on your way this year.

Since it is only the second of January, a good place to start would be with New Year's resolutions. Now, some say that you are setting yourself up for failure by even thinking in that direction; while newer studies suggest that a New Year's resolution or two might just be the thing that keeps you more motivated and your success rate higher - especially when shared. And so I'm coming clean about mine...

I want to daily delve deeper into the peace that comes from setting apart time to sit with God and just be. To create spaces every day where I focus on God's character, his heart. Spaces where I dare to jump into silence, allowing myself to float on my endless stream of thoughts instead of being sucked in by them. Spaces where I practice getting used to the idea of me alone. Spaces where I stop talking, or listening to those surrounding me, and give God the opportunity to speak into me...not necessarily with words...

For it is only then that I will be able to truly live in the moment, aware of the wonder always surrounding me; that I will be able to find true confidence and be at peace with who and where I am; that I will be able to stop listening to the world outside of me as gospel, but rather be focused on the still, small voice ever-present in my being; that I will be able to face every part of me and not be afraid, but thankful.

I need to peel off all the layers I have pulled up around myself to try and protect me, for all they actually do is constrict me. I no longer want to suffocate because I am afraid - of myself and my potential, of what others might think of me, of feeling the depth and the breadth of life - I want to live!

What are your plans for this newly-hatched year?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Ground Zero/Day One

How I have come to hate the idea of "Day 1" - whether it be Day 1 of a diet, a study programme, an exercise regime or some needed psychological/spiritual sprucing up work. Now, I would love nothing more than to be able to say it's because of what Hollywood has made it...but in actual fact Hollywood has just helped us to visualise our innermost desire when it comes to big change. See, the recognition is still there...the penny still drops...that painful moment where we have to face whatever demons hide inside and recognise them for what they are. This moment is so powerful that we cannot stay the same, we have to start moving in some direction, whether it be up or down.

This, of course, is where Hollywood and our deepest desire comes in - yes, we want and need the moment of truly seeing the things holding us back in fluorescent light. The shock, the horror, the disappointment, or whatever emotion your demons awake within you. But then we get the hard fade to black with fitting powerful musical sting, only to fade into the new you already comfortably living more than the you you imagined for yourself. Or maybe a pan down to something like your shoes running (emotive music a given, of course) and a pan back up to the new and improved you - that way there is at least a hint at the work that had to go into you. Perhaps it might even be as elaborate as a fast-paced move through the next few months/years, with us watching as you change - almost like one of those flowers shot over time and then sped up in viewing to get to the blossoming quicker. Point: all the hard work happens, without you having to sweat through every second.

O, how wonderful that would be! But instead, in the real world I live in, deciding it's "Day 1" does nothing of the above - it just makes you more painfully aware of the 86400 seconds that the day is filled with. Seconds that count up to so much time, and yet feel like the blink of an eye when you start to think of all the things that need to happen for you to get from where you are now to where you need to get to. And of course that goal can feel so unreachable that it might just be better to crawl up into a ball on the bed until the world doesn't notice that it's passing you by. Because tomorrow and the day after that contain even more thousands of seconds in which you can fail - you've pictured all the possible scenarios already from every angle.

And so "Day 1" comes...and goes...and comes again...and stomps out...

Standing on the eve of another "Day 1" is scarier than any scary horror movie I have ever experienced - for I stand here knowing without a doubt that it is only myself I am hurting...poisoning...and then as a reaction to people and events that are not worth any response...never mind my self-destruction. I wish my poison of choice had rather been drugs or alcohol - at least then you always stay skinny. But my addiction makes me grab anything I can and stuff my face with it. And so now it's even more impossible to hide my illness...for here I largely stand...

It - I - cannot stay the same! In anyway, if we're honest - then staying the same is just another way of saying you're going down without fighting. Yet the idea of all that has to happen - second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour - overwhelms me, sticks in my throat and makes it hard to swallow...hard to speak...hard to lift a finger...and then I start to drown again...

And yet, staying here surely isn't safe. It's definitely not wonderful. And so I will step into "Day 1" and try to take it second by excruciating second. And see where each one of those seconds take me. Wish me luck. Better yet, join me. And always remember to breathe...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Invitation

We had the privilege of being at an old friend's wedding yesterday afternoon, and as part of the ceremony the following was read. It is truly beautiful and inspiring, and so I want to share it with all of you.   

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments."
Oriah Mountain Dreamer