What is flourishing in your life?

If you pay attention to something it will flourish. Plants grow if they are tended and nourished, as do children. But attention doesn’t discriminate between good and bad. Pay attention to a naughty child, focus on their tantrums and bad behaviour, and the naughtiness and the tantrums will also increase. As Deepak Chopra said, “Attention energises, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate, and disappear.

These days, when I watch the news or read social media, it feels as if the world has gone mad. News stories are focused on the ills in this world; wars, unrest, crime, worsening economies, unemployment, climate change, not to mention the political fear and hatred of anything or anyone different to ourselves. Social media is quick to pick up on these stories and spread them, together with divided personal opinions, faster than the news itself. As we pay more attention to the evils around us, we are caught in this whirlwind of negativity, which seemingly grows with unstoppable power, feeding on our awareness. So, fearfully this time, we continue to watch the news and read social media, to justify our fear and so the madness continues to grow as we maintain the attention.

Yet, I also do not feel we can hide our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine with the world. There are certain things we should know to make informed decisions. We need to know which politicians really care for us and our world so we can vote for them. We need to know how the climate is affected by the choices we make. We need to be empathetic to people who are dealing with issues we have no knowledge of. As Chopra also said, “There is just no getting around that turning bad things into good things is up to you.”

So, what can we do to start turning the bad things into good things? I wish I had the answers. However, I believe we can choose to individually pay more attention to the things which make us happy, satisfy us and help to make us feel more positive. We can focus on our families, our pets, our plants and we can look after ourselves, making sure we get the nourishment – physically, mentally and emotionally – which we need. We can eat healthily, go for a walk, read a book, spend time with our family and friends, garden, play music, be creative, do a good deed or two, laugh more, and bring energy into our own lives.

This morning, instead of watching the news, I meditated, did some yoga and watched a comedy. This afternoon, as I type this post, I sit in silence, even the hum of the cars on the road outside is so distant I can hardly hear it. I don’t do silence very often and perhaps I should. This evening I will cook a healthy meal and read one of the books on my “to read” list. Maybe tomorrow I’ll watch the news, maybe I won’t. If I do, I will try to counteract the negative with something positive, something good.

I am Woman – thank you Helen Reddy

Whenever I face challenges, or hard times, or stressful situations, I often turn to music to restore, soothe and lift me up again. The song I listen to the most, especially when I feel literally trampled on, is Helen Reddy’s “I am Womanhttps://youtu.be/NUvmPfgVTGQ

It is a song which not only energises me but also heals and motivates me to greater strength. As I listen to the lyrics, “I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore,” I remember I am one small part of a much larger whole, most of whom are supportive and understanding and sympathetic. Some of us are lucky enough to cruise through life easily, a large percentage of us struggle to survive for whatever reason. Most of us have had at least one hurdle to jump in life. “Yes, I am wise, but its wisdom born of pain,” and so many of us know that pain, have lived through that pain and are still coping with that pain.

We only have to look at history to remind us of those women who fought for their beliefs to make this world a better place for us. The suffragettes for example. Without them women would not have been given the right to vote in so many countries around the world. Right now, women are making history changing their world for the better and giving so many other women hope and courage.

I was twelve when Reddy’s I am Woman was released. I have always listened to lyrics rather than music and it was her lyrics which caught my attention and stayed with me over so many years and through several troubled times. I’ve sung it loudly while striding the streets, or scrubbing floors, and I’ve sung it softly to myself in dark corners.

But songs, even those which are uplifting, can only bring one so far out of any hole. Actions will always trump words, and my actions – our actions – as women in this world go a long way to showing how strong we are, how capable we are and how determined we are to continue to rise in the face of challenging times. There truly is power in numbers. Especially in times of uncertainty and unrest, if we stick together, if we hold each other up and stand by each other – no matter our colour, religion, or ethnicity – we really “can do anything.”


Dream or Nightmare

I finally picked up a copy of Geoff Dyer’s “Out of Sheer Rage”, spurred along by Lee Kofman’s article http://bit.ly/GeoffDyer, on which I commented last month. It was a book I had wanted to read ever since I saw Geoff Dyer speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. In fact, watching him speak made me want to read all his books, which demonstrates his ability to captivate an audience. But if I was going to choose one to begin with, “Out of Sheer Rage” seemed to be the one. Especially after reading Kofman’s review. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I laughed in all the right places, empathised with many of Dyer’s descriptions and will no doubt read it again, unlike many of the books permanently mounted within their individual dusty borders on my shelves.

But, out of the entire book, the line which jumped out and flung itself at me, demanding to be read and remembered, was not one of Dyer’s but a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, used by Dyer to illustrate his regrets at moving to Oxford:

“We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up.”

The lines Dyer quoted are from the poem “Requiem for a Friend”, written by Rilke, as a tribute to his close friend Paula Modersohn-Becker, who died a few days after giving birth to her first child. Interestingly enough, Rilke was a favourite of a young German girl who met and corresponded with my father during and after WW2. Her letters, peppered with quotes from German authors and poets, some of whom were banned by the Nazis, were beautiful and poignant and sparked my curiosity into their story, which I wrote about in my yet to be published manuscript.

But I digress. When I read those lines, on page 132 of the copy of “Out of Sheer Rage” which I was reading at the time, I had no idea they were written in praise of a dead woman. In fact, given the context of Dyer’s regrets at moving to Oxford, or Dullford as he terms it, I thought the words had more to do with life and the way we live it.  But it is the great thing about poetry, writing and words in general. The reader can pull a few random lines off a page and paste them into their own lives to make sense of whatever they happen to be going through at the time.

Which is exactly what I did. I took Dyer’s lines, which he had acquired from Rilke, and I recycled them, refashioning them into something meaningful for me right here and right now. Although in refashioning them I have, in my mind, substituted “dream” for “nightmare”, because dreams to me are pleasant, unlike nightmares where we are more likely to feel trapped, especially when we are talking about “a life we never wanted”. Which is pretty much where I am now. Except Rilke’s words, courtesy of Dyer, have woken me up.