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a deep listening and writing journey

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  Starting on my birthday in early September last year, I set out on a journey of observation and curiosity that has profoundly helped me. The first time I ever did something similar was back in my uni days, when, for two weeks, I recorded everything I did and the time I spent doing it. I was curious to see how I was spending my time and if it reflected the story I told myself about what matters most to me. The point being that sometimes the story we choose to believe about ourselves is not matched by the incontestable data. Even though I didn't broadcast what I was doing, a couple of my mates found out; they thought I was bonkers. What kind of nutjob does such things? This last years year's journey was not about gathering data about something as simple as time. It was something much more difficult. There were two things that happened that provided the incentive and impetus. The first happened at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market in July. We were lucky enough to spend a few months

Cold, dark water and mastery

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  I woke up half an hour before I wanted to get up. Like many early risers I don't have to set an alarm so I get to wake up slowly under the warmth of the doona. This morning I could hear the faint sound of the ocean surf, a little breeze in the trees near our bedroom window, but not too much. Good. The water has been between 9° and 11° this last week. As I lay in my cosy bed, I started to look forward to stripping off and jumping in. I arrived at 19W about 10 minutes before first light. As I often do, I wandered down the short track to 'have a look', something my board riding friends have taught me to do - always. As I took the above snap, I met a few early shift icebergers who had already been in and out. These lockdown days we are staggered out over the hour before sunrise. "'Morning Col. You won't need fins (ie, there's not much surf), and there is lots of thick seaweed (unusual for RAAFs Beach)".  Hmmm. Doesn't sound that pleasant. A lot of pe

You won't be able to run again

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Two years ago I was carrying some groceries home from the IGA when it started to rain. I was only 500m from home so I decided to jog to try to avoid getting wet. Nice try old man! I was dismayed at how, despite other kinds of fitness, I seemed incapable of what seemed like a relatively basic task ...  When my knees started giving me grief about 20 years ago, my GP told me I was not going to be able to run (for exercise) again. I'd never been a good runner, but living close to the Merri Creek Trail meant I had easy access to a good running track. The silver lining of that prognosis was that I started swimming at the local YMCA once a week and swimming has become an important part of my life these days. And I'd given up on the idea of running. Until that day running home in the rain. The difference was that I'd been riding a bike regularly so my leg muscles and those around my knee felt stronger. A few days later I put on my old runners and set off for a lap of the village pa

Tea pots and wabi sabi

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In the mid 1990s I was in Birmingham (England) for work and had supper with a colleague and his family in their home. I had read in my Grade 5 Reader that 'English people like their tea strong, white and sweet', and I'd known since then that 'tea' in England was more culturally significant than it was here in Australia. I can't recall how they drank their tea that evening in Birmingham, but I do remember that the massive metal pot had pride of place in the centre of the table, and was continually being poured from and refilled. It was both the social lubricant and the centring symbol of a sharing community. I remember it wasn't a fancy teapot, rather it was beautiful in its simplicity, plain silver, presumably aluminium with black handles (one at the front too). Sharing a cuppa, has always been an invitation to slow down, retreat from the busyness of life, and chat. I love coffee, and as a Melbournian, am probably a tad snobby about it. But sharing a coffee

Old Woman Island and other things

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This autumn and winer we are spending a lot of time on Gubbi Gubbi country. We had only been in Mudjimba a week or so before the anchoring effect of Mudjimba/Old Woman Island, which sits about two kilometres directly off the coast, started affecting me. We’ve been here in the past and the ‘island off the coast’ was just that. But being in its waters every morning and feeling the land in my body, I have surprised myself with how accustomed I have become to its presence.  It is ridiculous to say this after just two weeks of being here, but I think I will miss it when I’m back in familiar waters. Yes, my journey over recent times has included a greater openness to indigenous ways of knowing and alongside that a personal commitment to live more in my body (rather than just my head) and to acknowledge how much my life and living is part of a much greater whole. But sensing the ‘life’ of an island is not something I have construed to fit an ideology. It has happened within me involuntarily.

We have become obese on privilege and have forgotten what moral fitness looks and feels like.

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  Entitlement: I didn't see it for a long time. Then I saw it and framed it as a part of a status worth aspiring to. Increasingly I sense it as a symptom of moral blindness. It is true that democratic capitalism has facilitated extraordinary social progress and has been the catalyst for hundreds of millions of people escaping the indignity of poverty. But that does not mean that its shadow sides, the cons, the risks associated with it, should be brushed aside, or worse, blamed on the character of those who for no fault of their own find themselves marginalised from the benefits of civil society. Just because it has served us well (arguably) does not mean that as its excesses start to crack the very foundations of the society it has facilitated, we shouldn't turn up the volume on the voices of skepticism so we can begin to build a more equitable community. So ... Let's leap out of the slowing boiling pot for a minute to think about it. Why are we  sooo  incapable of a living

Practicing contentment would be economically catastrophic

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  image from sproutsocial.com The Truman Show  was a scary movie. It wasn't designed to be, but it was for me because one of my recurring dreams as a child was that I was the subject of some elaborate staged reality where everyone else was in on the secret except me. I have an increasing and sometimes overwhelming sense that we (democratic capitalist civilisation) are living in this monumentally stupid reality. It's not a conspiracy theory because the leaders and advocates for this reality are just as blinded as we the citizenry are. (Although it is harder to excuse them because they are accountable and they present as if they are always smart and right when they are not.) We are not only  told  that the health of our society is enhanced if our economy is growing, we continually, relentlessly behave as if spending more is good for us. When have you ever heard a government treasurer deliver a budget designed to enhance the health and wellbeing of citizens? I don't mean by re

Freedom and discipline

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Late this afternoon we drove past a long queue of traffic heading (or at least trying to head) in the opposite direction. We've been out of Victoria for 3½ months, the period during which Melbournians have endured very strict COVID-19 restrictions. I felt like we were being lured into a trap, something like the way a lobster trap works ... easy to get in ... hard to get out. It coincided with having driven 1400 odd kilometres over the last couple of days. There is something about travel that infuses me with feelings of freedom, so the sense of entrapment was perhaps exaggerated by the simultaneous road tripping. It was palpable. I felt my mood shift.  ... and I started thinking again about freedom. People a lot smarter and more articulate than me have already pondered publicly about such matters in the context of COVID-19 so I don't claim to be opening up a new conversation, but it's my turn to muse. I really like what Nick Jaffe wrote recently about physical freedom and i

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