Category Archives: Mind

The Four Fundamental Questions

My friend Maggie asked me if I’d like to go to the Hay House Convention. I’d only heard of two of the speakers, Louise L. Hay, of course, and Neale Donald Walsch. I’ve seen the movie about him and I’ve even read the book, Conversations with God. I said yes and met up with Maggie in Sydney. What a weekend. I kept an open mind and an open heart and learnt a lot.

Neale Donald Walsch was the last speaker and the only speaker to come down from the stage and walk amongst the crowd. It was in keeping with his message which was: don’t believe those who would tell you that you and God are separate. If you believe that, then you will believe you are separate from everybody else, that your society is separate from other societies. You will believe in us and them and it follows that you will feel free to treat them in ways you would never treat yourself.

Neale believes that God is within us, that there is no separation. He also asked us to ask ourselves four questions, every day, three times a day for ninety days:

1. Who am I?

2. Where am I?

3. Why am I where I am?

4. What do I intend to do about that?

Neale’s answers:

1. I am an aspect of divinity.

2. I am in the realm of the physical.

3. Only in the realm of the physical can I express who I am.

4. That’s up to you!

For myself, I do believe I am an infinite being. I believe that that which some call God is within me, and in you. I believe that my reality is shaped by my thoughts, and that I am here to have fun. And as for question four..that changes moment by moment. But I will tell you what I did in one of those moments.

Neale’s talk was the last one at the convention and people began to leave to catch trains, plains and buses. He made jokes about it as they tried to sneak out the door. Two women left from the very front row just as Neale asked if there was anyone else who needed to leave. I turned to Maggie and said, “Let’s go sit in their seats.” As I made my way to the front Neale assumed I was leaving too.

“No way,” I said and sat down in the front row. He came towards me, those big arms of his outstretched with a smile on his face. Neale Donald Walsch was asking me for a hug. What did I intend to do about that?

Let me say for the record – Neale Donald Walsch is one of the best huggers on the planet. Did I feel separate? Absolutely not. Did his whiskers scratch? Not at all.

So, who are you, where are you, why are you where you are, and what do you intend to do about that? And, if given the opportunity, would you hug Neale Donald Walsch?

 

 

Success with Each Step

I used to have a very fixed opinion about success. I knew what it looked like, how it would arrive and, once I obtained it, I knew my life would be perfect. My plan was to become famous. I studied acting and performed on stage and screen. Unfortunately I wasn’t particularly good at it and I didn’t like hanging out with other actors. They were all completely self-absorbed. So instead I decided I would become a famous singer/songwriter. I played in bands, I toured, I wrote songs, I recorded. I was even offered a recording contract. But bands break up and recording contracts disappear. When all was done and dusted I didn’t have the energy or desire to keep going.

Then along came radio. It was the perfect combination of acting and music. After years of banging my head against closed doors, all the doors swung open. It was a miracle. It was meant to be. I landed my dream job. Success at last. And here’s the thing about having a fixed opinion of success; the goal posts shift, life is fluid, everything changes. In other words my dream job turned out to have warts. I did discover, after much resistance and then acceptance, that I could still love it, warts and all, but it no longer fulfilled my definition of success.

Perhaps a successful relationship would do the trick. I achieved the required standard by getting married. But, you guessed it, I found out there is no such thing as the promised happy-ever- after. My job might have had warts but my marriage had bunions. However once again, after much resistance and then acceptance, I learned to love it, bunions and all.

Years ago I started writing. A quiet pursuit, never in the spotlight, unlike my other attempts at fame. Most people wouldn’t think I was a success because I wasn’t published. But my definition of success had changed by the time I took up the pen. Finishing eight drafts of my novel and finally completing my meditation memoir after six years, these were successes to me. I sent them out into the world and they returned with kind suggestions and notes about revisions, most of which I took on board. Each small compliment was another success. I did the work and sent my manuscripts out again. A process of growth and refinement.

And now, success. My meditation memoir will be published by Pan Macmillan next year. A cause for celebration. But I know this is not the end. This is just another step on the journey. A journey where every step, no matter how many warts or bunions, is a cause for celebration, is a success.

***You can also find this post in the latest edition of Holisitic Bliss 

 

 

Paradise

Paradise is a place where the sun always shines and the rocks are red. I know this to be true because I’ve been there. It was my five-year old nephew who led the way.  Elliot had been to paradise before and was keen to show me the beauty he’d discovered. He described a magical, secret place where the grass was green, there was a waterfall and sparkling waves lapped gently on the shore.

I was spending the day on Bruny Island, a smallish isle just off the coast of southeast Tasmania. One of my brothers had a weekender there and it was the perfect place to get away from the hurly burly of mainland Tasmania.  We’d been to the southern most part of the island where the lighthouse stands proudly looking south. The only thing between it and the Antarctic are a couple of small islands that look as though they’re covered in snow but no, it’s guano.

On the way back we headed off the main road, where we’d seen a total of three cars all morning, and veered down a rutted road towards Jetty Beach. It is here that paradise lies. Elliot led the way down to the end of the beach where the ruin of the old jetty leans lazily against the rocks. We had to clamber over difficult terrain and avoid the foul stench of rotting seaweed. Sometimes we came perilously close to slipping and plunging ankle-deep into slimy weed and algae. The road to paradise is never easy. But the result was worth it.

Almost at the end of the point, Elliot stopped and said, “Here it is, this is paradise where the sun always shines and the rocks are red.”

I looked at the muddle of rocks stained red by algae and half covered with slimy
sea grass. I examined the wreck of weathered wood and hand-made nails that was the jetty. I saw the trickle of tannin brown water seeping through the matted undergrowth. And I watched his young face full of joy, taking in the wonder of this little patch of heaven that he’d discovered all on his own.

He was right, it was paradise.

A Laugh of Your Own

I know what it’s like not to know the sound of your own laugh. Some people have distinctive laughs; the snorters, the guffawers, the gigglers but I was never brave enough to have a laugh of my own. I used to try on other people’s laughs to see if they would fit. I’d choose people I admired, copy their laugh and practise it till I got it right.

Sometimes I still hear the echo of a long ago friend or colleague in my laugh.These days it makes me smile but back in those days my own laugh sounded like a cynical shrug. I was too scared to laugh in case I was wrong to think something was funny, or in case a trick was being played on me and I’d look foolish. In such cases cynicism is by far the best attitude to take. But if I copied someones else’s laugh I had no need to feel vulnerable. I could hide behind it.

It seems that I’m not the only one who’s been too scared to express myself in my own unique way. I was listening to an album called Poet, a Tribute to Townes Van Zandt. Townes has been described as a self-destructive hobo saint and the greatest American songwriter of his day. His day ended in 1997 at the age of 52. He was a poet and a drunk, and fully committed to both.  I put the album on and without having to look at the cover I could identify the singers; Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith and Lucinda Williams. All of them with distinctive, individual, brave voices.

What’s happened to brave voices? Where are the Janis Joplins and Van Morrisons of today? Frank Sinatra’s voice was beautiful but it was still distinctly his. Even with the onset of age and toupees he still sounded like Frank. Now there’s just a bunch of wannabes who try to emulate Old Blue Eye’s vocal chords. Why don’t they find their own voice? Too scared or perhaps too cynical, wanting to go where they think the money is.

And what of the endless stream of popstars and idols? Where are their voices? They blend into one homogenous vanilla ice cream soft serve. None of them have enough face or faith to front up and be themselves. Where are the voices that will be remembered, that will travel through time because of their strength and their truth?

Ray Charles tried to sound like every other artist of the time before he found his own voice. It wasn’t until he was brave enough to be himself that he became truly successful.

I can understand that, I can relate to it. When I stopped being scared of what other people thought, I found my own laugh. And funnily enough, I started laughing a lot more.

So you want to be a Radio Star

I was in a radio studio where nothing worked. There were no CDs, no tapes, not even any records. The computer had crashed. Everything I touched fell to pieces. I was on air trying to pretend that everything was ok. I tried to talk but the terror in my throat clenched my vocal chords shut. The station would be off air if I didn’t do something, didn’t say something. I felt as though I was in an aeroplane and the engines had failed. I was going down in a screaming heap except I couldn’t scream.

It was the same or similar nightmare every night. I needed to sleep but I dreaded it. Falling asleep meant plunging into that deep crevasse where terror rushed to meet me. I could feel the adrenalin grabbing at my stomach as soon as I started to doze off. There was no respite. I’d made a horrible mistake and had to live with the consequences.

When I finally got out of bed and crawled off to work I wanted to drive straight past the station and go somewhere else. Anywhere else. I couldn’t bear it.

One day the manager burst into the studio while I was on air and with a look of disgust mimed shooting me in the head. Without a word he turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him. I was left alone, shaking and almost in tears, wondering what dreadful thing I’d done to deserve such treatment. Of course it had to be my fault. I had to continue with my shift. I pretended to be happy and in control when all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and cry.

Each day was worse than the one before. Listeners rang up and abused me. I didn’t read the weather properly. I mispronounced local place names. One woman swore at me and threatened me because her boyfriend listened to me.

I worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week because I was so slow at everything and terrified of doing it all wrong. I forgot to press record on an important interview and had to do it all again with an understandably grumpy interviewee. Everyday was a battle and I was exhausted.

I rang up the Head of Radio at the Australian Film Television and Radio School where I’d studied. I’d been so happy there. I’d felt so safe, so secure. It was nothing like the real world of radio where every day was torture. I told her that I’d made a dreadful mistake. I couldn’t do it. I was hopeless. I had no business being in the radio business. She just laughed and told me to get over it and get on with the job.

So that’s what I did. Within days the nightmares disappeared. Within weeks I was feeling confident and relaxed. Within months the head hunters started calling. Within a couple of years I landed my dream job.

I turned to our new announcer and said, “So I hope that helps you feel better.” It was her first shift on air. She’d been a little nervous and I was trying to cheer her up. From the look on her face I don’t think I should become a motivational speaker. I wouldn’t be the only one suffering from nightmares.

Dreaming

Have you ever watched a dog dreaming? Some say animals don’t have souls. Others say the dog you’re watching while it sleeps could be your great aunt. In which case the dog could be dreaming of knitting tea cosies and baking Spotted Dicks. Souls or no souls I don’t know, I’ll let you know the answer when I get to the other side. But I do know that watching a dog when its dreaming can be a very amusing thing. Feet scampering, nose twitching, is it chasing a cat in its sleep or dreaming of a big juicy steak?

I wonder if ants dream. I don’t even know if they sleep. Do they just keep working till they drop and become fodder for other ants? If an ant dreamed I wonder what it would dream about. Picnics from paradise spread out on a checked table cloth within easy reach of six busy little legs perhaps. Nightmares of big solid soled boots descending from above. Or peaceful slumbers containing kindly Buddhist monks brushing the pathway before walking.

Philip Dick posed the question “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” and his book was turned into the very fine movie, Blade Runner.

I love dreams. I have a lot of them and most of them I remember for a while before they fade like stars in the morning sky. Look too closely and they slip away as fast as you try to cling on to them. A woman had a lot of violent dreams, in her dreams she set about killing just about everyone she knew. She was going through a huge change in her life. Her yoga teacher told her that these were yang dreams and that when she’d resolved the issues in her life she wouldn’t dream at all. She would have no need to dream. She may perhaps have ying dreams but these would leave little impression on her mind and she wouldn’t remember them in the morning.

I know someone who never remembers his dreams. He’s done a lot of personal work, resolved a lot of issues. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that he doesn’t dream or if he does he doesn’t remember them. Being such a big dreamer myself I though there may be something he was repressing that was stopping him from remembering his dreams. Now I know that he’s just more evolved than I am and in fact it’s me that needs the therapy.

But I don’t want to lose my dreams. I love waking up and feeling reality change from the dreaming world to the every day world. I love remembering the places I’ve been in my sleep and the strange things that have happened. I enjoy having that different dimension in my life. I feel tempted to keep some angst and a little unresolved guilt in my life just so I can keep having my adventures in another reality. Not that I want to dream of murder every night, and I very rarely do. Most of my murderous thoughts arise during the day! But in a day to day life where bureaucracy is burgeoning, fear keeps us more and more regimented, and safely cocooning our lives away in front of plasma screens is the thing to aspire to, the wild unpredictability of dreams can be the spark of imagination and daring in a cotton wool world.