Reclaiming anger

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It is 10.30 on a Saturday morning and I am sitting on the floor in front of a woman with a rolled up towel laid out in front of me like a samurai sword. I bow over the towel and take seven deep breaths then I lift it over my head and yell “Ha!” as I whack it onto the floor in front of me. Continue reading

The Weekly Service

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Last night I couldn’t sleep, lay awake for an hour and then woke before dawn still crackling with energy. It’s as though I am carrying the collective healing of a whole group of people and I can barely contain it, barely open my heart to let it in, it is so joyful. Who would have thought such a reaction would come from talking about grief?

Yesterday I gave a sermon at The Weekly Service. It’s a group that’s been on my radar for over a year, a church for nonreligious people, an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with like-hearted community, something I’ve been dying to check out. So when co-founder, Cam Elliot saw me at The Moth in Melbourne last month and invited me to share my story at the Service I jumped at the chance.

The story I told was not about the more-than-human or my relationship with it and it was not about violence against women. It was about my mother and about grief, a deeply personal story about one of the most significant and precious moments of my life. I called it “We don’t do grief in our family: a healing tale” and a crowd of almost 50 people turned up to hear it.

Beforehand I was a bundle of nerves. Several audience members were mentors and heroes of mine, not one, not two, SEVERAL. Plus my family were there and my cousin. I had to go and stand in the lane way under the peppercorn tree just to keep myself from dissolving into a puddle of fear. When it came time to speak, the nerves faded into the background, I sang one of my songs about presence and surrender and following the ‘quiet whispers of joy’ and was very grateful that my quivering hands managed to keep forming the chords.

Then I took a deep breath and told the story. It’s one I’ve told a couple of times before but I badly wanted it to be alive for this group. The Weekly Service has gathered a precious community of seekers and truth speakers, the first time I sat among them I wept with the feeling of safety and welcome, all my petals unfurled. Now, sitting in front of them, I wanted to honour them by offering all of myself, my presence, my rawness, my truth.  I wanted to let myself be seen.

I have no idea what it was like for them, I can barely remember what I said or how it went. I remember the reactions though, remember my joy at hearing people’s reflections and connections, at having my story given back to me fresh and new from all these different perspectives. They saw things in it that I had no idea were there and took beautiful things beyond my imagining to apply to their lives. Wow.

A new culture is coalescing. A new way of being in the world. We are sick of complaining about late industrial capitalism and we are rolling up our sleeves and making something new. Long have I admired the people at the forefront of this creative task, yesterday I felt like I was taking my place among them. I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds, communities like this make life worth living.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

Queer nature

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My girlfriend has been doing a learning journey called Right Relations in Rites of Passage. She just made me watch the seminar ‘Archetypes of Gender and Sexuality Beyond the Binary’ and it has blown my mind.

When I came out as lesbian in my mid twenties it surprised exactly no-one. My Dad’s older sister came out as lesbian when I was a small child and my parents were big supporters of her and her partner. I grew up believing that it was normal to be gay and when I came out it felt like it wasn’t a big deal, no-one cared, it was a personal decision and it didn’t matter.

The queer community has never been a big part of my life, my home and family are ‘safe spaces’ so I didn’t feel like I needed it as much as some. I don’t drink alcohol so although I have sometimes enjoyed dancing at bars and clubs, I never really felt at home there. My professional life has been in the community sector working towards gender equality and preventing violence against women and there have always been other queer women around. I have close friends who are queer and feel like those relationships are important but never felt the need to seek out people who were ‘like me.’

On my spiritual journey (via new age meditation circles and goddess retreats), and my Earth connection journey (via deep ecology and vision quests), queerness never appeared. I was often the only openly queer person in the room and my queerness was viewed as irrelevant – everyone said I was welcome and I felt welcome, I would pass the information received through the lens of my queerness but that was a personal process, rarely shared with the group.

The seminar I just watched changes everything. The facilitators argued that queerness is part of the ecosystem, that sexual diversity is a normal part of nature and that queer people in human cultures have often occupied a celebrated role as edge walkers, cultural guardians and stewards. They associated the gender binary as we now know it with processes of colonisation and imperialism that attacked and oppressed third gender folk in order to take away their power as they subdued indigenous cultures.

Without being consciously aware of it I had imbibed the notion that being queer is unnatural. I had reasoned that the Earth loves diversity so surely I am loved in my queerness but now I can see that in telling myself that my queerness ‘doesn’t matter’ I have been unconsciously devaluing an important part of myself. The seminar argues not only that my queerness is natural but that it is powerful and important. My queerness is a gift I have to offer the world.

I can’t tell you what it’s like to have these crucial parts of myself brought together – my queer identity, my Earth love and my spiritual journey. I feel a deep sense of belonging that I hadn’t realised was missing. I feel empowered to inhabit my queerness within the rewilding and Earth connection communities as an offering rather than a meaningless aside like the fact that I am tall and have brown hair.

A whole lot of recent thoughts and ideas have suddenly become clear and slotted into place. Ru Paul talking about how straight people have always appropriated queer culture, an article for the New York Times where Krista Burton describes how ‘hipsters broke my gaydar‘ and the realisation that two of the three asian quest protectors that trained with me last year were lesbian. All started me musing on the notion that queer folk are culture makers because once you transgress one boundary it’s easy to just keep going.

Being queer means being an edge walker, it means taking a journey led by the body and the heart away from the dominant society’s notion of how we should be and who we should love. Being queer gives us the power to write our own rules, to speak truth to power, and to align ourselves with our innate nature. Being queer is a service to nature, to the ecosystem and to human communities.

Massive gratitude to Pinar and So from Queer Nature and to Clementine for researching and putting the seminar together and for being the powerful edge walkers you are.

Subjugation

Subjugation

There is a force that has gripped the planet for hundreds of years. It is the force behind every marching army, every man who raises a hand against his wife, every school yard bully, every iron-fisted leader. It is the force behind slavery, behind colonisation, behind prejudice. Let’s call it… subjugation. Continue reading

Questing

Questing

There were a bunch of things that came out of my last vision quest but I’m wary of trying to capture them. Some seem like elegant nuggets, they can be named and shared, there is a temptation and a danger in reducing the experience to these.

Other things happened that have a felt impact on me but their meaning is elusive, they have an archetypal resonance that ripples out into my life. Every time I see a skink I think of the skinks on my quest and wonder about the relationship between then and now. I don’t want to reduce the magnificent being of the skink to some kind of lame ‘message’ for me but when I see them it makes me pause, drops me into the deep listening place, shifts the way I am reading my context in that moment.

There is a third category of happening that seemed insignificant at the time but later became intensely meaningful. I wove a crown of lomandra on the first day that represented my relationship with personal power. I initially hung it on a hollowed tree that served as an impromptu altar space but when it started to rain I placed it within the hollow around some banksia cones I had been playing with. Several days later I was describing to my girlfriend how the banksia cones represented the people in my family and how I had tried and failed to find one that represented me. As I was telling her this I suddenly realised that the crown represented me and that placing the crown around the banksia cones was symbolic of my family being cradled by my empowered self. An impulse driven by practicality upon further reflection turned into a symbolic act.

The fourth category is the great mystery itself, things that happened that may well have some kind of meaning that will never be unpacked, never be recognised or known with the conscious mind. Much of the time I was out in the bush I felt bored or sleepy or frustrated, much of the time it felt like nothing was happening, I often hear others describe their quests as largely uneventful. When I walked out of my quest site I cried, when I left the property I cried again, I can’t say why. My body had its own experience, its own mysterious journey, the experience shifted me on a fundamental level and I cannot begin to explain it.

Each of my quests has been a powerful ritual of surrender, to my Self, to the Earth, to the great mystery of which we are all a part. Each quest has seemed to send ripples of experience out in both directions, the things that happen before and after are as important as the time spent in the quest itself.

This last quest was very much about creativity, I suppose it’s obvious from my recent posts that I am quite preoccupied by this at the moment. The Echo of the Shadow was the week before my quest and the Teatro delos Sentidos workshop was the week after. I had powerful dreams of making music, sharing the stage with musical/spiritual heroes of mine. That’s not all it was about but I guess that’s the bit that I’m most interested in. Tonight I take a small step in that direction, I’m playing a gig at my house for a small group of friends to share, for the first time, some songs I’ve written.

The echo of the shadow

The echo of the shadow

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There is a thread that runs through my heart, through the heart of the Earth and through the heart of the universe. I can’t say where it begins or ends, can’t say which part belongs to which, it is one, long, sinuous line.

This is not something I know with my mind. It is not something I can prove or measure but I feel it to be true. I feel it in the dance of creativity, I feel it in my silent dialogue with nature, I feel it in those overwhelming moments just after everything seems lost.

When I think about ‘nature connection’ I think about it in terms of this line. It’s not confined to making humans go out into the bush and realise the awesome beauty of the ‘natural world’ (as noble and wondrous as that is). It can be any activity that draws people to feel that numinous thread, in themselves, in the world, in the universe. Anything that draws us to realise we are intimately connected to a great mystery.

Late last year this realisation was brought home to me again by a multi-sensory theatre experience “The echo of the shadow” by Teatro de los Sentidos. The ‘performance’ was a labyrinth, taking up the whole basement exhibition space at ACMI. Participants entered the space one at a time, at five minute intervals and wandered through dark, curtained corridors, into various encounters with archetypal characters.

It was surreal.

I felt that I had fallen into Pan’s Labyrinth, a movie set that was still live, a dream made real and tangible.

The experience of being the lone audience member was slightly nerve wracking. As I entered the first room I was acutely aware of the audience’s responsibility, usually diffused among a crowd, now resting heavily on my shoulders. The anxiety left as I was received by the first inhabitant though, replaced with a humble delight – “all this? for me?” I threw myself into the gift they offered with characteristic gusto and was rewarded with one of the most profound experiences of my life.

The labyrinth led me to long repressed parts of myself. Half-way through, an encounter left me so deeply shaken that I cried all the way to the end. This is not to say the experience was harrowing, my tears are sacred and I welcomed the opportunity to release them. The descent was a gentle invitation, there was room to find one’s own meaning in the work and only go as far as one was ready to go. After the nadir were a series of lighter experiences and rituals that didn’t erase the emotion but held space to feel it safely.

It was beautiful. I would do the whole thing again in a heart beat and no doubt encounter whole other reaches of my internal landscape.

There is a kind of magic that I occasionally stumble upon in my creative work, that what is most personal is most universal. The moments when I am able to draw art from my most private, intimate self, generate the pieces that get the strongest response from my audience, touch that universal thread of connection. It seems to me that Teatro de los Sentidos has brought together a group of artists with that shared aim – to express their deepest selves through the creation of a physical metaphorical landscape and so draw out the inner landscape of the participant. The work breaks down the space between creator and audience, thereby troubling the concept of a discrete self and opening the participant to the great mystery.

A few weeks later I had the great fortune to find out a little about the inner workings of Teatro de los Sentidos through a day-long workshop. I was not disappointed at what I found behind the curtain…