Pain, Promise, Party & the Potential Paradox of Perpetuating war...
This land, dense with people like a box of stuffed vine leaves, each grain of rice a human life, rich with pain, instilled with survival... has been ready or not willing to die for their freedom for a very long time. Whilst the world watches this tiny bit of land on their television screens, witnessing sensationalised firing lines, and political poisons, life here goes on. People struggle to pay bills, whilst the young go off to protect the borders, and religious holidays permeate the days of the year.... like pollen falling from trees, and life goes on in this holy land of war and wine. Life goes in as the plastic cups fly away in the breeze into the seas, the pipelines of gaseous chemicals are fitted too close to shorelines and the post traumatic stress becomes an underlying part of this nationalal Consciousness. Life goes on as families gather every week for the sabbath, and friends sing in circle to the words of ancient sacred prayers, and warm winds return to sandy summers... Life goes on as bank accounts continue in minus until the end of people’s lives, life goes on as Druze, Muslim, Jewish, Christian all practice their holy days and live side by side... How does this work? It is easy to wonder and I have often marvelled and struggled with the incredulousness of it all. Having lived in this land on and off for the last 11 years, I have come to notice one of the most significant days of the year that make it possible for life to go on as it does. This day is today.
Today is Yom Hazikaron Remembrance Day and the eve of Yom Haatzamaut Independence Day. it is indeed a day like no other I have witnessed and experienced anywhere else in the world. Every time I am here on this day, I am struck by the poignancy of it all. A day where devastating sorrow turns to exhilarating celebration on a national level within hours. This setup occurs every year as an uncompromisable, institutionalised set of events that has become a deeply ingrained part of the Israeli people’s consciousness and culture… The social construction of this day forms an entirely unique emotional experience that is intended to serve to protect the people and the country, and yet I cannot help but wonder whether indeed there is an aspect of this day that paradoxically perpetuates the cycles of war, anguish and trauma, as a point of maintaining identity.
Many have died. My family have lost dear loved ones to this country, for the safety of our people. And, many have died on every side for thousands of years. The children go to war, they stand on the frontline and in doing their duty, experience a kind of ‘life and death’ fear very early on. A kind of fear that has no choice but to fight even when it wants to take flight, a reality that defines the human spirit in such a way that is impossible for many who live in the West, to even imagine. The people of this country learn what it means to be comrades in their most formative young adult lives, and the lines of love run deep. At times they lose their friends in the plight. At times they see them killed in front of their faces, memories etched into their minds eye forever. As soldiers, at times, they are required to scare people and in the extreme moments of war, it can come about that they find themselves having killed. This they have to live with for the rest of their lives. All of this happens to maintain safety of the people of Israel; Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Bahai who struggle to live in peace upon this tiny piece of earth over the last 70 years, the last 5779 and probably beyond.
This land is fitted with sirens that soar their terrible song through every house and heart when chaos strikes. Almost every house, and every singe village, has a bomb shelter to run to. In the unfortunate moments when missiles are launched, people run to safety and most of the time, they get there before the missiles fall. Sometimes they dont.
I have a Druze friend who was alone at home when a missile hit is home in Peki’in. He was miraculously unscathed. Not everyone is that lucky - a man mowing his lawn in Kfar Aza heard the sirens and urged his wife inside as he continued to go about his day… he was not so lucky.
On this day, sirens ring throughout the country to commemorate the fallen. The entire country stops for these moments, stopping their cars in the middle of highways, getting out of their cars, heads bowed, eyes closes, and at times tears defy the incessant israeli narrative, to “be strong”. Our hearts beat alongside memories of anguish and fear that have been and many who suffer trauma are indeed returned to their nightmares, once more. There is no escape from the sensation of fear, sadness and imminence of death that reverberates though the people of Israel, when the sirens ring. Missiles or not. In my heart of hearts, I wonder, how the people are ever meant to move on into a new way of life, with such blatant reminders of war present year after year? Yes it is undeniable, that this story has long to go, as Gaza continues its vicious attacks - but I sincerely doubt whether this country would ever alter the setup of this day, and therefore, find it impossible to see the end of the struggle, the end of the trauma, and the end of history repeating itself. Ceremonies take place and songs are sung as history is redrawn into the present moments. Commemorating is a part of human dialogue. A part of what it means to be strong, to never forget. In this way, we reignite our pain bodies and allow the past to become our present once more. We will not be defeated even though they will try… and we will always be ready to fight and to die. This is the song of this day.
The radio blares with words from a new song, created especially for this year… it plays over and over as the weeks lead up to the day. I must have heard it 5 times yesterday, a sure way to wake up with the words circling in our heads, tune humming upon on my lips as I was first thing this morning..
Here is home, here is heart
And you I will not leave
Our ancestors, our roots
We are the flowers, the melodies
A tribe of brothers and sisters
The people of Israel form a long daisy chain of pain and promise.. and there are few words that could encapsulate the depth of emotion that pulses within each grain of human life here.
As soon as the ceremonies are over, the preparations for the celebrations begin. We move on as the day directs, wiping tears and waving flags. Celebrations are fuelled with the energy of the narrative ‘We have fought for freedom and we have won, and here we are home at last’. The familiar blue and white national flag multiplies into waves of patriotism that sway in the wind, from the cars, the houses, the hands of young religious boys who sell them at every traffic light. Parties are set up in every corner of every town and city, people organise their outfits, travel to festivals, and gather with friends and families. It is indeed the structure of this day, that follows only a week after Yom Hashoah, Holocaust day, that keeps the the people of this country ‘strong, righteous, and ready’. The ignites both passion and pain and above all, makes present, the inevitable prevalence and strength of spirit that will ensure the survival of its people.
I ask myself, and speak aloud... What kind of identity would Israeli’s and arguably Jews have if we didnt have struggle to survive? Would we still need to awake the pain and trauma of the people by sounding war sirens? How can peace of the people come about if the sounds of war continue to be relished and glorified year after year, and are they not in fact triggering people into a state of insecurity? Does this state of sadness and fear behave as an emotional prop up for the instant Independence Day after party? Are there not more conversations to have on this day, regarding the unfortunate ways in which Arabs had to be shifted and relocated to pave way for the massive amount of jewish refugees relocated to these lands 70 years ago? Should this land talk more of the pain of ALL its people, for surely its an outdated illogical ideology to still think that one kind of human is more important than another? Do the activities and structure of this day allow for the complexities of healing to take place so that history does not repeat itself…? Would we know who we are anymore, if these siren’s ceased to ring…?
I give thanks for the courage I was born with to rock the apple cart. May my commentary, commemoration and enquiry encourage all people to think and ask and check and check again that the ways of the systems we follow are feeding the insatiable appetite of the wolf that matches our intentions.
“It is No Measure of Health to Be Well Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick Society” Krishnamurti
I think one of the biggest problems is that people are using the supposed normalcy of society as a a yard stick to impose judgement upon those who are struggling to find their way, their place, their footing in this world. Why is it so hard to see the inherent normalcy in the struggle? The fact that stability isn’t always preferable to truth, when you feel like the living dead? The obviousness of wanting to escape from feeling stuck between a wall and hard place? The painful injustice that festers in ones heart when they realise that the people who told them what was what growing up had vested interests in controlling them. Why is it so unreasonable to understand the individual who supposedly has it all, who can turn around and say “fuck it” to the world, whilst wandering into the unknown because thats the only way that they can feel alive before they actually die. Why is it so hard to realise the rationality behind the words of the person who is in pain day in and day out, deciding that they would rather end their life than continue to live like that? Why don’t we question the one’s who made us assume that this was wrong in the first place?
Or is it simply that these years of humanity, are truly our first opportunity to break it all down and start thinking for ourselves?
As the generations roll on faster and faster, there’s no stopping the extent of our ability to question status quo and what has been assumed of us. We are all part of a big story, cogs in a machine that are creating something far from what we ever had a chance to choose. In one way or another, we have all been manipulated for reasons beyond us, because well, we were born into a world where the powers vested in whoever the fuck they are supposedly vested in are calling shitty shots for humanity. For sure comfort and security play a huge part in our wilful submission to be moulded and even our conscious effort to conform - and no doubt there are so many of us that agree with the need for law and order, that believe that democracy i.e. the will of the majority, is obviously a great thing! There are endless discussions about whether that is indeed the best we can hope to achieve for our sapien selves, knowing very well that the majority is more than often fearful if not ‘wicked’ and oh so easily manipulated. Combine the illusion of free will with the rhetoric of democracy and you get a game that is playing us as the empowered when really we are still just pawns in a much bigger, much greasier, gassed up oily machine that is chugging away at the earth’s resources.
Today, there are a growing number of us that feel not only do we have nothing to lose by speaking up, that the very essence of our soul depends upon our courage to say STOP. NO. WHAT THE FUCK. THAT’S WRONG. I’LL DECIDE FOR MYSELF. I have personally spent my whole life being like that, it came completely naturally to me and I had no inkling that there was something unusual about it - much to the dismay of most of the world around me, and most definitely much to my discomfort. When I was 10 I decided to take the negative position on the primary school debating team that argued the phrase “Dont upset the apple cart’ and had a deep affinity with all the amazing beings like Gallileo, Socrates and Rosa Parks. I knew which side I was on from then on. I was a dissenter and proud of it! What I didn’t realise, as a young outspoken-come-angry little girl, was how my rage was being experienced through the lens of society. That despite the somewhat changing way’s of our world, I was essentially compromising my femininity and simultaneously challenging the authority of masculinity - and that this was quite possibly one of the greatest causes for ostracism that had ever existed. So much so, that completely different communities, who don’t necessarily agree on anything at all and have even fought and killed each other for eons. can bond over women’s oppression and subsequent ostracism. Women have been the bottom of the human chain for a long long time, and being born into a supposedly FREE world has often left us bewildered and confused as to our identities. The foundations that built us, though covered with the waters of Western uprising, are still the pillars of our society, the underpinnings of our assumptions, judgements and experiences. Until we recognise where we have come from, we have no ability to see ourselves for what we have become. Take the Hasidic community for example. It never existed in this way before World War II. It is one of the tightest, most exclusive, righteous and ostracising communities in the world, that defends its ways through the armour of protecting that which was almost destroyed in WWII. Ironically I see this way of behaving as a key factor in perpetuating the unfortunate cycle of anti semitic persecution, and without a doubt, as another institutionalised justification for the systematic oppression of women.
Where have our beliefs lead us and what does it take to wake up and chose for ourselves?
For some people, choosing to explore life in order to be able to make educated decisions is simply not possible. Many of us have been robbed of time, money and independence and to take a leap of faith out of our communities is just another way of committing suicide. So many poor parents being sold on shelter and food in exchange for the souls of their young muslim children’s Jihad education has already lead us into territory that is more dangerous than we can even imagine. There are so many people out there who simply cannot speak up, cannot choose another way, cannot say STOP. We must first acknowledge the inherent struggle that exists inside humanity to think for ourselves, in order to realise what we are - players in a game full of rules that we didn’t make up.
Through each and every generation there have been people who have broken the rules, who have spoken up, who have risked their lives, compelled by some strange unafraid force, to stay integral and true. Today there are more of us than ever before and this includes the ones who are still unable to find their voice but know that if they could just do it, if they could just speak up, they would tear the fucking place down. Pain has a voice. Suffering has a voice. Oppression has a voice. Ordinary fucking depression has a voice. These are the voices that make up the song of change, the most empowered beautiful song that this world has ever heard, and its time for this chorus to find its way to the airwaves.. and bring the house down. Its time to break down the walls they built around us and build ourselves a huge open air amphitheatre!
I often wonder what I’m here for. What’s the cause that calls me, there are so many.. do I have to choose? What’s my purpose, why am I here? Sometimes I get flashes of possibilities - like now. Decidedly, I’m here to hold space for the masses to speak up. I am here to say that YES, we can go out on a limb by ourselves and survive, we can educate ourselves beyond our schools and universities. We can explore life outside the bubble of our communities, outside the safety of our homelands, outside the comfort of our personal beliefs. Im here to say that at some point we must risk our very selves to speak up today before the window of opportunity is gone. We go on assuming that change is slow and freedom is forever… but we have no reason to think this way. Everything can and will change. Nothing is a given! This is it, we are on schedule and maybe just in time… Born with voices to booooooom - not a second too late.
Worlds within worlds!
Flowing in every which direction with no idea of where we are going.
Our path a myriad of happenings, layers of interactions and intersections.
Our direction dependant on the exact tilt of the flipped cup that makes us US, all before we reach the age of 7, the foundations of our being already set in motion before we are even 4 years old, at the first moments of amnesia, when we have forgotten why we chose the colours we chose to manifest as we have.... when we are at the start of a new flow of being formed.
A puff of air, breath of the wind, creating spaces in between the masses of colour that becomes our 'pattern', our personality, our. way of being in the world...
At times our eyes focus on a particular space, a corner of our being, and cease to see the incredulous possibility that exists in the full picture.
Fractals of cells, joining and separating, becoming whole as they split apart, blissful moments when we fail to distinguish our bodies from another, we are one when we are all that is, in time and space.. until the paint starts to dry and we solidify our perspectives of our lives, when the stories inside our patterns reveal air bubbles and stray drips, when we have forgotten that all it takes to recreate ourselves is another full cup of paint, filled to the brim with whatever colours we choose to spill, for us to begin another chapter of our lives, another masterpiece just waiting to happen, unknown, mysterious, divine and infinitely perfect every time.
Is to be caught between a rock and many hard places
This essay is depicting an experience of being a woman like ME which is almost entirely personal but to which I have asserted particular generalisations. I would like to note that these generalisations are not meant to be depictive of ALL woman’s experiences. I acknowledge that not all women ache to procreate and that this does not make them any less woman than another. To be a woman is to be creation itself in all its infinite forms. Enjoy.
Perched at the precipice of an era, a first in human experience; to be an educated free woman, is both liberating and like being caught between a rock and many hard unyielding places. On the one hand, we have the ability to seek greater expansive perspectives of the world, enabling us to see patterns of life, from where we have come from to where we are going. At the outset this is an amazing opportunity fo us to develop knowledge and perhaps even wisdom. However, upon this deep inspection the discover more and more about about the big picture, which has this inevitable effect of leaving us feeling hopeless, wretched, full of with self loathing and doubt about our future. With an educated eye it is easy to see, that humanity, aka ‘US’, have created a situation of carnage and consumption. On the way towards this almighty sapien hold up of the world, humans have become dependant upon a certain way of life that feeds the beast. One of the most obvious and powerful components of being a woman is that of being able to bring the new life into the world. This usually exciting prospect, today, is understandably fraught with anxiety for those of us who know and who dare to think about the state of the world and the future of humanity. To bring new life into this world, we accept the fact that we are essentially condemning the greatest loves of our lives to finding their way through this maze of escalating chaos. And yet on the other hand, the ancient biology of a a woman’s body still yearns to to do what it has been literally bleeding to do since the tender age of 11 years…
As with all great dilemmas there are many sides the story. One may easily claim that having a child with the intention of bringing up an educated moral and ethical being is exactly what this world needs! Some may go so far as asserting that one would be selfish not to follow this path. But of course, we only have so much say on how a child will grow into an adult, and there is no guarantee that the little person will want to become an environmental earth warrior, activist or conscientious objector. On top of that, unless strong measures are taken, the sad reality is that our children may be swept up in the roaring frenzy of technological uprising and capitalistic normalcy and join the unconscious masses. And then what? Just another mouth to feed? Am I to sacrifice myself for the possibility that my child will outlive me and go on to serve humanity? And what’s with consciously choosing to bring a new life into in a world that I have endless issues with… environmentally, politically, emotionally….?! A world where the state’s imposition of authority over our autonomy has become acceptable and normal, where the general flow of society is to follow the orders imposed upon them. Where our freedom is conditional upon us being owned in some way shape or form and where war is the way of the future… why would I choose to do that? I have looked after zillions of children and am aunty to so many. I wonder what part of me is grieving to not have them myself, and whether this feeling is more about me fulfilling a role I was supposedly made to fill, as a woman.
Where is the ‘right’ choice inside all of this?
The answers to this heart wrenching dilemma, are truly no where to be found. Choice is in constant flux with the waxing and waning between knowledge and biological callings. It seems we can either accept ourselves as part of a human species, and multiply forth as we have done since the beginning of time, or we can put a stop to this incessant consumption of the earth, by taking a stand in not having a baby and use every second of our own lives to stand up for change on this planet.
Birthing new life has become (or perhaps always was) a double edged sword. On the one hand, modern technology is destroying the next generation’s interpersonal skills and on the other hand, technology allows me the freedom as a single woman, to choose to have a child without a man. But, to devote every waking hour to childcare and financial accumulation for the purposes of maintaining the care of the child, and potentially compromise aspects of my own life, at least to the extent of what I can do with it, seems like a crazy choice down a difficult road without a solid reason - and yet, to argue with the wanting, wishing and resounding will of the womb is based on rationality and doesn’t stand a chance against emotionality of a hormonally charged woman. The truth is there really is no right answer; and this is only the beginning of what it means to be caught between a rock and many hard places!
The issue of being a woman today, and dealing with the above predicament, is steeped in many hundreds of thousands of years of social history, and yet essentially, we have all been learning from the generation directly before us about what is right wrong standard and acceptable. For this reason, unless we are educated, we have very little context to understanding why we think the way we do. For example, born in the 80’s, sex was already an everyday word, and by the 90’s the issue of contraception bombarded our lives from a very young age. Pregnancy was ultimately to be avoided at all costs. We didn’t really ask why, or even when might be a reasonably time for the motherhood ban to be lifted… We ate the daily contraceptive pills we were given and were left to fend for ourselves as we tended to our own sex education. In other words, completely and utterly blind and alone. It came naturally to think that being able to have sex whenever we wanted with whoever we wanted equated ‘sexual liberation’. It so a particular undertone followed, that a woman’s right to be promiscuous was in fact her instating her power over being controlled. And though this might all make some sense, there were other consequences of meeting sexual suppression with the same aggression that man had imposed on women for so many years. Young sexual women suddenly ripe to explore, who had not been taught the sanctity of our bodies or the importance of sensing and knowing our boundaries, collided with a social assertion that being sexually active was analogous to being empowered. And away we went, raring to learn about men, sex, ourselves and life, the hard way. As can be imagined, this combination equated nothing short of disaster for many women. During this time, the internet came to life. Porn became a key player in our education of what was sexy and what was expected of us. We were taught to perform in certain ways instead of listen to the feelings inside our bodies. As a young woman, expectations were imbued with servitude and surrender, whilst men were taught to take without asking, pound without concern for whether the woman being pummelled was actually enjoying it at all. Sadly, he was given very little to no guidance as to women’s sexual nature, and often had absolutely no regard for whether she had reached climax or even been enjoying herself at all. Standard.
What? a woman enjoys sex - wait, she can also reach climax?! For many boys and men, this was and still is a) unknown, b) a trivial possibility and c) not entirely relevant or his problem. As young developing adults, we continued to deny the significance of having been taken without asked, whilst we were drunk, asleep or simply too shy to speak up. Trauma built up over time, until we began to understand what had happened to us. Until our bodies started to react in ways we suddenly needed to listen to. And only then, did we start to question the system that lead us down the illusory plank of ‘sexual empowerment’. Surely feeding ourselves to the wolves was not the most empowering way of owning our sexuality, but the path that IS a woman’s empowerment is long and bumpy. It is within her willingness to walk the path at all, that the requirement for empowerment is met; to meet oneself every step of the way, this is what it means to be empowered. To explore, to discover, to learn, to grow and to teach. Contextually, my generation had very little idea of the history of women; that women have never been allowed to speak up before, let alone vote or be educated. We were effectively the first generation to take these rights for granted, and therefore, have been unable to sense or feel that this deep historical oppression still lies underneath our progressive story of empowerment.
Fast forward, I, alike many of other intelligent, beautiful and independent 30 something year old women, have not met my match yet, or become pregnant along the way. In fact, by this stage of life, its feels as if the generic relationship between man and woman has almost reached a climax of collision. Women finally finding their voice, and their freedom to speak up and out for the first time, and men completely unequipped to deal with the emotional entourage they have been fuelling for the last hundreds of thousands of years. Additionally, once we reach our 30’s most of us have loved and lost. And it fucking hurt. We gave our innocent selves away and got whipped in the process. Now, whilst women hear the tick tock of their womb clock and see the looming end of the line, men start to realise that they have much more time then they had initially given themselves space for and get married to the ultimate non-committal social movement: Polyamory! Its like a tug of love; she pulls too hard and he lets go altogether. She goes flying into a pile of other fed up women and he goes off to fuck the younger ones on their polyglamorous path to empowerment! The dirty 30’s are so much dirtier than we ever imagined them to be.
Meanwhile, I return to the central question and find myself faced with the urgency of whether I am going to choose to make a family, On My Own. To choose to go out on a limb and become a single mum, like so many of my friends have ended up. I was never 100% sure or determined to be anything in particular… but there was one thing I thought I “knew” for sure, and this was that I would be a mother one day. Today, as a single woman, I am forced to think hard about whether making a baby by myself is the most integral choice for me my life and the journey of humanity at large - and what life could be like if I decided to choose otherwise. That I could choose a childless path despite the the agony I have gone through every month for the last 24 years, despite the fact that body is literally bleeding to reproduce and that my breasts were definitely designed for suckling… and that perhaps choosing NOT to have a baby, is what it means to be empowered as a woman in my position today. Such interrogations of the issue lead me to recognise and acknowledge that myself and other women like me, are indeed mothers of humanity, regardless of whether our body produces babies or not and that no matter what happens, we are the results of hundreds of thousands of years of formation, of giving ourselves and our lives to the big picture of life. The only difference is that NOW, we have a voice and are ready to use it - we are in the labour of a story that has been in the gestation of humanities womb for a long, long time and like all births, this one is messy, painful, complicated and bound to be astonishingly beautiful.
Every woman has her own story to tell about the ebbs and flows of her menstrual cycle. Some suffer less, some suffer more than words could propose to express. For me well, i fall into the latter as many people in my life will already know. I’m going to try to describe what it feels like…There is an edge to everything. Soft sounds can ring harsh and easy tasks exasperate me. I misjudge corners and stub my toes. My mind becomes foggy and frazzled. I sound hostile. Patience levels start to plummet, eventually falling to somewhere below the zero line. I was never particularly patient with men, but the week before my period, if he interrupts me whilst I’m speaking, I will tell him how I am feeling very clearly. If he argues, clear becomes more assertive and if he gets defensive, well, he has just asked for the full expression of telling-it-like-it-is. Thats just the way it goes. I have tried to contain myself at these awkward moments, to avoid the ignorant male who cant see past his own reflection, but when a surging of fury born from multitudes of generations of silenced women comes beaming forth at the speed of light… I seem to be at the mercy of raging hormones.
Sadly, obviously, and at no fault of their own, most men (though I have never had a man turn to me with compassion and say, sorry for interrupting, I can see you are suffering right now maybe you are at that shitty stage of your cycle) have no conception of what it means to be a women. Hey, us women weren’t even taught about our cycles, and neither are the little girls being educated TODAY. There is zero education about The 4 Stage Cycle running through her body every single month, until menopause when the entire hormonal story changes into another extreme hormonal reality altogether. Needless to say, it is a hormonally hardcore situation to be a woman. My question is, why is it so easy to see, that nothing is for free in business, in life generally, but when it comes to gestating and rearing a human civilisation, this is supposedly a one sided offering? No guys, its not. It takes a lot of inner workings, chemical reactions and hormones to do this magical creation thing, and it costs us our sanity at times, can be agonisingly painful, and emotionally exhausting. On top of that, women are still expected to do everything men do to take care of ourselves and our lives and of course, the babies and children we have pushed out of our vaginas. We have 24hours of child care giving ON TOP of the bleeding, the shitty moods and it’s hard for most men to understand why a woman who gets frustrated, angry or assertive sometimes.
What are we going to do about this? Feels like we really need to rethink education. Firstly, I, as a woman, was never taught about my 4 stages in my cycle. When i started to bleed it was not really an event that we celebrated… it was hushed to save me from embarrassment as far as I can remember. Today I think that’s a bit sad and wish we had had a party.... I think boys should be taken aside at school when they are very young and taught exactly what's what, including the fact that women are super special because of all the hard work their bodies, mind and spirit does for this species, i.e. creating us from the inside out! That the most basic law of nature is that boys and men must respect them as if they are gods because that IS basically what they are.
For the last forever-as-we-know-it, women have been dealing with servitude, oppression, persecution, tyranny, endless abuse, imbalance of power, exploitation, subjugation, repression, suppression, enslavement, rape and murder the list goes on and this is the first time in history that we have the ability to actually BE ANGRY OUT LOUD. Halefuckingluja. Surprise! No, dont be surprised if we express ourselves loudly at times, because Its about time. To the men who still interrupt when she is expressing how she feels - please, Listen. There is so much to learn from women, and not only do we deserve your respect, but you owe it to the divine who is gracing you with expression of how she feels, for what you could never ever fully understand but only imagine, to hold your tongue and hold space. I know this all comes as a shock and feels like a knock to your 'masculinity' but there has been some confusion. Listening and holding space for a woman IS your masculinity in action. Dont even do it for yourself, do it for humanity.
We have a long way to go to bridge this gap between men and women. Yesterday I listened to a podcast about the times not so long ago when Dr’s aka men were trying to discover what the strange little knob above the vagina hole was, they where so confused as it clearly had nothing to do with making babies so why was it there? At one point they decided that the clitoris was an abnormal growth and some women where made to have it cut off! Then they started to explore why women would get so upset at time... Angry upset women were labelled as ‘hysterical’ and treatments where usually a ‘pelvic massage’ that resulted in an orgasm. No doubt this helped somewhat, but at no point in this exploration is there a record of men asking women how they where feeling... having so many demands placed on them and not being able to say how they felt... How did it get the the stage that men thought of women as unintelligent and incapable? After many years of thought, I have come to propose a theory that the general case of men hold an inherent insecurity that lies at the core of their oppressive behaviour - And how did that happen? There are very few things that are cross culturally relevant - and there are also a lot of layers of cellular memory and societal teachings to take into consideration - but most essentially, the thing that binds us all together in common, is that all women make the babies and bring them up as young children. This is a universal thing about humanity. And therefore, one specific thing has occurred for all men and it is this: at the point at which a baby boy realises it is separate from its mother, it is not simply another being like a baby girl is, who is a continuation of her mother who will (typically) automatically become a woman when she starts to bleed. For a boy, at the same time he realises he is seperate, he also realises that he is a completely different thing to his mother. The depth of his ‘what am i?” is mostly unconscious and results in the little boy needing much more guidance as to his role and place in the world. Traditionally this was always the way things played out with boys being guided and initiated into manhood via very specific rights of passage. Today, and historically in the west, this guidance and initiation into manhood has almost all but been eroded into the everyday plight of making money to buy things to live. Yes there are bar mitzvahs, but I would argue that the teachings of becoming a man are grossly lacking in reference to the necessary reverence for woman that is required to wholeheartedly realise that the mother EARTH and all the women on her is the ultimate gift he has been given to take care of. (Which means listening and learning from her wisdom!). I can see that such a deep rooted insecurity has both intensified and become hidden over the years, to the point where men today (not all but generally), have no idea why they are the way that they are. Threatened by the creator, the mother, because they are entirely confused about who they are and what their purpose is in this world. The more they oppress her the more confused they have become, and they have forgotten the reason behind this confusion: which is ultimately fear of the power of pure creation itself. When a woman expresses herself, when she roars, when she is angry, when she says, writes, or yells how she is feeling - this is the power of pure creation itself, and apparently its the most threatening thing in the world. Just as Llith was when she said “No, I will not lie beneath you” and was consequently banished from the garden of Eden - * Alphabet of ben Sirach (c. 700–1000 CE)
In my wildest imagination, an appropriate and effective ceremony for boys when they have come of age would be to be guided into a large multi layered circle of women from the community, to stand in a small circle mapped out for him in the very centre of all the layers of women, young old and in between, as they slowly walk in a circle, allowing him to see all of their faces and feel all of their strong sacred energy. No smiles of comfort given, no looks of judgement. Only pure love from their hearts met with what I can only imagine would be pure fear of a young boy, would be the magic of this initiation. A lesson of reverence, about what it means to be with the grace of a woman, to know how powerful women are is what it takes for a man to truly know what he IS as a man. A sacred protector in reverent service. For if he knows this in every cell of his body, over time, I think that the rage would begin to quell, and the healing would be profound.
Truthfully, If I could do exactly what is best for me the week before my period, (yes - The whole fucking week). I would stock up on food, lock myself up in my house (or a red tent), turn off my phone, cut the internet connection, and paint, write, do yoga and meditate all day every day. This would be best for me and quite possibly the whole world. Inshallah that is exactly what I am creating... in the meantime I apologise to anyone who has found themselves in the line of fire this week! PMS and grief is a deadly combo...! Forgiving myself, and getting ready for my monthly ritual of shedding releasing and surrendering to the flow of pain and pleasure and all that IS.
There comes a time in life where we realise that This Is It. Such a thought comes in waves… at times a gentle caressing reminder, and at others, a total ass whipping. This is it. And though it may be that we are born again and again and again, from a deathbed to delivery bed, out one story and into another, the fact of the matter is, we still only ever have this moment to experience ourselves as a living breathing self conscious human. ‘This is it’ is a NOW thing. An absolute all encompassing realisation that what has been and what will be has absolutely nothing to do with anything anymore because life is swooping by and our momentum to realise what we are is but a crawl… Time, whatever that actually is, isn’t waiting for us to figure this out. Instead of grabbing our own shoulders and shaking the shit out of our fearful bewildered bodily beings, we find ourselves seized by paralysis , making a million reasons why life didn’t go the way it should have. The way we wanted it to. We pick up yet another self help book that declares the ways to grow and conquer - we read half of it, feel demeaned by the authors seeming greatness, skip to a TEDx talk on how to get on with life, get distracted by an ad that reminds us of something else we need in order to be whole - and then feel hungry again. Hungry for another fix, to ease the pain of not being able to feel ourselves, our bodies, our lives, right now in the here and now. A cigarette will do - Or maybe a meditation. We all have our own ways of escaping. We are all holding on in our own ways, to our stories, our sadness, our rightness, our methods.. Those of us without children desperately trying to find meaning for our existence before we die. Demanding a legacy of ourselves so that we can feel we contributed to humanity somehow, because, wasn’t that the point? Or is it simply our ego challenging us to be still? As we spend our lives trying to be remembered after we die, we simultaneously ignore the reality of our mortality as we meander down the path of life’s everydayness. Trivial worries and concerns guide us down the path yesterdays tomorrow - leading us nowhere but closer to the inevitable moment of loss - when we least expect it, the people we love most in the world, will die, and we will be faced with a whole new entourage of This. Is. It.
Sometimes the urgency of this realisation lifts us up, and sometimes it breaks us down. Seeking the point only leads one down the rabbit hole, and living a life for no particular reason at all etches question marks upon all ‘worthy’ endeavours, despite the fact that the gift of life is already staring us down the barrel of existence. We are alive NOW. What to do? where to go? when to change it up, and what does it matter if everything will simply turn to dust? If it weren’t for the depth of lessons and bridges of being that lead our species on in the quest for meaning, we could pretty much skip life altogether - and yet here we are. Making our way through as we have for millions of years, trying to understand the rhyme and reason for our existence. Comparing grandiosity with presence, balancing survival with a life well lived. Women torn in two, whether giving birth, or childless; for the yearning of the body to give birth is met with a painful reality, a questioning of whether it is even the right thing to do to bring another human into this deeply fuct up world. Torn, when body meets mind and tries to make sense of it all - tries to understand what is the best, right, and true way to live this one and only life that we get to experience right now until we die. Hidden behind banners and mottos of positivity and power is a deep seated fear of life’s inevitable tragedy - presence disguised by pretty parades of people speaking up for their rights, the same people who so easily deny their authentic selves during the most intimate conversations with trusted companions - What is real in this game of life?
Sometimes life sweeps you off your feet and it seems like all the decisions of what to do and where to go have been obvious, and sometimes we are left standing at the fork, fighting the indecision of which way to go and what to create. Sometimes we feel lucky and sometimes we feel cursed. Mostly it just depends on how we look at it . Always best to take responsibility for the weird and wacky random synchronicity of divine timing. In other words, it really doesn’t matter - seize the day and choose a way. OR, just take on the challenge and sit in stillness until the waters part and the path is revealed. When in doubt do nothing, close your eyes, sense the body that houses the answers, and wait… wait for the dust of millions of lives lived to settle upon the yellow brick road of destiny, let us be walked home to ourselves, to our lives right here right now. Back to the inevitable realisation that there is no where to go, nothing to be. Because This. Is. it. To BE the infinite expanse of time is to LIVE, because life ain't waiting for us to figure it out. Breath, Choose, release. Breath. Choose release. This is the game. There is no right. Just here and now, choices made and choices to make, this is a life lived. And then we fly on… every time. Death awaits us, in every friend that we meet, in every heart we hear beat and in every love shared - death beckons us to live in ways we never dreamt of. To live as if we are alive, for only a very short time. Because really - thats all there is.
There comes a time in life when we hear the sound of our story being wound up inside our heart, like a music box, the handle starts to turn slower and we can hear each and every note.. and if we choose, we can hum along in our broken beautiful scratchy worn and weary voice. This is the moment when we hear the beat of our own heart, because we have finally realised that one day, this pumping organ will stop and we wont have ears to listen anymore. This is a game of forgetting who we are, to remember who we are. The game is on, and there are no winners. Death awaits us and THIS IS IT The rules to the game? Grab your shoulders like they are dice and throw yourself off the abyss of creation! let go, love and play with all your heart because there really is nothing to lose. Before we know it, this game is over and another round will be beginning, again as a tiny unknowing dependant baby screaming for that which has all but been forgotten....
How strange and ironic it is, that the one thing we are all going to have to face in our lives at some point of another, is the one thing we avoid until it happens… this experience that changes who we are forever, is something that we are simply unable to appreciate or empathise with, until the day we experience it for ourselves. Yes, I am talking about Death. The inevitable ‘loss’ of our loved ones.
The end of the two way physical realm relationships.
The ultimate goodbye.
They say it is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all - to be spared from the experience of loss is to have missed one of the fundamental highlights of life. Love. And not only is it impossible for us to prepare for this goodbye, it remains one of the vital and most significant aspects of our human lives. They say, that the way we deal with loss and grief, plays a crucial role in who we are to become. Whether we cling, and get stuck in regret, emptiness and sadness; or whether we let go and allow a new sense of wholeness to be born; the turning of a this new chapter propels us into our lives once and for all, urging us closer to our own inevitable death. And yet - this process of healing is long and infinite with no single passage to the other side.
I recall the times before, hearing of people, friends and even extended family, losing loved ones. I remember having felt the general pain of loss, on the surface of my being and knowing that i was somehow unable to feel further than my own experience.. In retrospect, my ability to empathise was extremely limited. Now, i can see, that I was so so far from understanding the true pain of loss. My imagination unable to comprehend such an emotion; humanities survival mechanism perhaps, for to know of the inevitable grief that comes with life and love could indeed jeopardise the way we experience life at all. I always knew that nothing would prepare me for the devastation I would feel one day, when someone dear and important to my sense of being and identity would disappear forever. I dreaded this inevitable moment. I tried to prepare myself by facing the reality of it - and yet, sudden loss is merciless. And here I am. Unprepared as ever, raw and devastated - In the thick of grief, a seemingly never ending ocean of heart palpitations, tears, waves of numbness, and disbelief. Utter disbelief that the main hero in my story, is gone.
The mind wanders to strange places and I find myself asking whether the degree to which we have expressed our loved, measures the depth of our grief.. or whether one’s pain is heightened due to love that was held back in a case of too-little-too-late? I wonder how many ways a person can be thrown into the desperate sorrow of never seeing someone they loved again. Does grief ever end? As this nightmarish reality seeps into my being, and I wake in fright from bizarre dreams that feed my nights, the weeks pass by, and the pain merely intensifies. I still have no idea how life will shine again. I feel like i’m swimming in the dark, with no shore in sight, as the world continues to spin and life goes on around me. I look around at people living life, people who have lost and people who will lose…. I try to understand how they can go on despite this seeming thievery, the gaping holes that are left in place of significant others. And I am left with nothing but a distance form of trust - if they can do it, so can I? i wonder. Sometimes, It feels like so few people understand this pain… and yet, most people must? this is LIFE after all - and life means Death. How is it that we dont talk about this? How is it that people rush onwards without pause? The strange things people can say in response to the sad news of death, like, “Many people dying lately” and “you must be hurting so much, but guess what i have a new boyfriend!” are comments that catapult me into the abyss of solitude.. I’m sorry - what? i just lost my father. my hero. my saviour. my friend…
I find myself Seized by desperate desire to know where he went…
Does he know he died? Does he miss us? Can he see us, feel us, help us…? Anxiety grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me but i cant move.. time is flying by and all feel is the paralysis of sadness. I am spent - another day passes and my heart is still in pieces. Time oh blessed time, my friend, my enemy, my mirror to the other side. I pray for healing. For understanding. For forgiveness. For the rhythm of life’s receded waves to become an outpouring of love, abundance and creative flow… that the death of a loved one could bring me deeper into the realisation of who i am, during this brief stint of living, is my wish.
Death bring me closer to living. Loss, leave me with a wholeness undreamt of. Love, leave me with unfathomable trust. Emptiness, bring me richness of spirit. Broken heart, reveal the pain of others so that compassion flows bountifully upon everyone I meet… pain, teach me gratitude for all that life is and all that it isn’t. Darkness, help me to see the light so that I can see the path to another beautiful day - That my willingness to feel, wonder, cry and question shall eventually deliver me into a new space of peace, ease and grace... I pray.
Last week I emerged from the womb of Goenka’s 10 day Vipassana Retreat, my second in seven years At that time, I had just left Israel where I had been living for three years, having walked away from a love story and a whole community of friends, I was back on the road in a familiar solo adventure. I remember vaguely making a promise to myself that i would return to the program every year… I remembered that it was challenging, I remembered how much I had wanted to leave on the fourth day, I remembered the compassion of the manager who had supported me in having my own room so that I could have the peace of privacy to stay on until the end, I remembered walking round and round on the walking trail, with exasperation and frustration, confronted by overwhelming sense of anger, that had no place to go but sit within me, my mind, my body. And I remembered eventually finding stillness, calmness, peace and a sense of completion within my heart which had given me a huge sense of my own BEINGness, beyond my identity, and the happenings of my life. I remember walking out of the centre, back to my room in Bagshu India, feeling happy. Simply happy. The course had spoken to me strongly.
Now, seven years later, I could barely remember what it was all about. Life had taken over, and my dreams, visions, desires and discomforts were running the show. I had applied to other centres twice within the last 7 years and both times had cancelled in place of another luring irresistible adventure. Third time ‘lucky’, now, I was not only available to participate, I was literally aching for the stillness… for the quiet. For 10 days to not have to think about My Next Moves. I was over ripe with a need to integrate the wild, nonstop twists and turns of my last adventurous 7 years. I wondered if 10 days would be enough.
After missing two buses, I finally arrived at Beit Deganya Vipassana centre, sitting between the Jordan River and the sea of Galilee, overlooking the expansive mountainous region of the Golan Heights. Sitting in the meditation hall again seven years later I felt like I was in the right place. Hearing Goenka’s voice chanting the songs of Gautama Buddha, a sense of peace and nostalgia for my India days came flooding back to me. A lot of time had passed in between and I was definitely not the same person I was seven years ago. It was time to shave it all back to its origins again, and remember why I had returned.
There is nothing quite like the voice of the late Goenka Gi, a Burmese-Indian visionary business man and one of the great teachers of Vipassana Meditation who lead thousands of people over the years of his life. His recordings are used in 170 centres around the world. Vipassana means to ‘see things as they are’ and is a process of observing our automatic responses to all our sensations by perceiving them rather than reacting to them. Continuing the original ancient 2500 year old teachings of Gautama Buddha, Vipassana (which means to see things as they are) is a non-sectarian process discovered to liberate human beings from suffering. Regardless of religion or creed, this practice is a way to self transformation through self-observation. The process consists of three aspects; Sila - morality (a seemingly simple yet highly contentious concept), Samadhi - strength of mind (exploring the hidden powers that we humans have that differentiate us from other animals); and Pania - practise of Vipassana meditation (self observation, annapanna breathing and the experience of the body as a mass of evanescent molecules).
This meditation technique is a process of scanning the physical body continuously from head to toes and toes to head and so forth, tapping into all the sensations starting from those upon the skin, under the skin and throughout the entire body. By this process of becoming aware of ‘sensations’ one can experience the molecular phenomena that everything is always changing and therefore impermanent. That becoming attached to any sensation, good or bad, doesn’t make sense and is short sighted. This is known as the law of impermanence and is the foundation of this path towards ‘enlightenment’. The logic is that misery is derived from becoming attached. Attached both to what you like and what you don’t like. It is the nature of attachment itself that binds us to misery. That craving for what we want and averting from what we don’t want is the recipe for human suffering. The process of Vipassana along side the ten parmis’ (generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort, tolerance, truth, strong determination, selfless love, and last but most importantly equanimity) promises to lead people out of misery, into enlightenment, slowly but surely. ‘Enlightenment’ as a final goal, is the attainment of nirvana, the dissolution of desire, and the end of a soul’s incarnation as a human on earth. Sounds dramatic, but according to Gautama Buddha, Goenka Gi and the buddhist philosophy generally, that’s the point of this whole ‘game’ called life. To reach the final destination and not incarnate anymore.
Goenka is a charismatic storyteller and a wordsmith, as well as a business man and a passionate devotee.. and the style of his teachings are tinted with incontrovertible truth. As I sat there throughout the course 7 years ago, I remembered that by the 6th day, his presentations of the process had become insistently ‘non-dogmatic’. Again, on the 6th day, I felt my intellectual mind awaken to the slight over simplification and potential hypocrisy that his discourses reveal. Goenka repeats the significance of Vipassana being a non-sectarian many times and therefore not a doctrine or a belief. This is true. Ironically, however, as he repeats the need to have perfect Sila (morality), Samahdi (mind control) and Pania (practice) in order to ‘succeed’ - it does tend to sound a bit dogmatic after all. Indeed, It makes perfect sense, in a perfect world, to maintain one’s sense of morality by acting only in ways that do not harm others. But nearly everything, from driving petrol guzzling cars, to wearing sweat shop branded clothing, to living in a country that needs to fight to defend itself in order to exist peacefully - is somewhat harmful and layered with . In Goenka’s course, Sila, Morality, is presented two dimensionally without availability of discussion; to act in a way that serves to support, protect and help, and not act in any way that can harm another creature. Sitting in Israel, listening to these discourses, there was something surreal and perhaps unreal about this simplification. Clearly, here on planet earth, one single act can be both harmful and helpful at the same time and its struck me as over simplistic and unrealistic to put our actions into boxes such as that. I tried to understand what it was the separated his argument from reality today, and realised that our micro existence which is that which relates to our personal lives and the macro existence which is that which relates to humanity and planet earth at large, are two very difference things and yet necessarily interrelated. Perhaps the question of how we integrate our micro spheres with the macro sphere in a moral way, is more relevant today than it was in the time of Buddha 2500 years ago, but surely morality has never been a simple concept in a world full of complexity?
Back to the micro sphere of this intense 10 day course, our days are action packed with 12 hours of silent Vipassana meditation. That’s 12 hours of silent stillness for 10 days! Despite the amount of people who say “wow sounds very relaxing and wonderful”, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that sitting still for so long, day after day after day, is extremely hard and very painful. One of the ideas of allowing oneself to experience and explore pain is to be able to sense the sensations of the pain without attaching to the experience. After we come out of stillness back in physical movement, the feelings in the body change also. Pain comes and goes, as does pleasure. The idea is to feel the sensations move through the body, to feel the molecular significance of our physical realities, to pierce through the seemingly solid forms so as to recognise the potential of change and the peace that comes from being beyond natural human attachment. Again, this is an act or ‘retraining’ ourselves, that goes beyond our innate human patterns. Philosophically one could discuss whether our progress comes through accepting our nature or reprogramming it altogether and likely this is as complex a discuss as the integration of daily micro spheres with the situation of our macro world. Generally speaking, parallel to the concept of equanimity, I think we need to find the balance within everything and acceptance of our humanity, full of pleasure AND misery, is an important part of our experience here on earth.
So….Obviously, I had a lot of time to think! To ask myself whether this Enlightenment thing was my goal - or any goal to be taken too seriously at all. (and whether we humans even have enough time to reincarnate as many times as needed for enlightenment before the earth swallows us up?). From a simple perspective, to be free of suffering sounds wonderful, but to give up my passions in life, to give up that delicious craving for chocolate and sushi, to give up ENJOYING anything and everything in the name of being free of suffering..? Im not so sure I’m really ready for such a bargain. However, I love and appreciate the idea of remaining equanimous, middle grounded, realistic. I know people who are naturally like that… and admire their cool and calm. Myself, I have been more on the extreme side of emotions, happy is very happy, sad is very sad… and it can be exhausting for sure. I resonate deeply with the truth that nothing is forever and everything is constantly changing, so why get so excited…? why get so down? The moment is alive and thats all that matters. Hypothetically. But the Aliveness inside sadness and grief, and the Aliveness inside passion and enthusiasm is also very real.. and very beautiful. Can we appreciate the beauty of humanity as an observer and remain equanimous in the face of disaster and celebration? To really delve into the possibility of enlightenment from this perspective is to beg the question: How attached are we to this life on earth? Are we here to continually be reborn into an inherently selfish domain of personal experience or are we here to realise ourselves as part of a wholeness, beyond the personal, beyond the ego, and renounce our attachments for the sake of liberation?
There are many rules in a Vipassana centre and as one might imagine, the road to enlightenment follows a strict regime including the exclusive practice of Vipassana meditation, no yoga, no food after 12pm, no sexual activity, no talking, no writing, no reading, no eye contact with other participants, no distracting others (which included not sitting in trees apparently), no moving during the three one hour group meditations… and many others. And yet, for anyone who has read Siddharta, you will already know that Gautama was an explorer of consciousness and needed to walk his own path, learning from the people and ways around him, and formulating his own discoveries through experience. Yes there is huge value to learning from those who have walked this Earth before us, but ultimately, as Goenka would often say, life is not an intellectual game of learning the theoretics - its a real LIVING experience whereby one must learn from their own practice.
As an explorer, I have spent the greater part of my life venturing into unknown territory wrestling with the meaning of life. I have ventured deep into the Amazon to sit in shamanic medicine circles and travel dimensions, I have sat with many a Sadhu in India to learn the existential ways of BEING without ambition, I have felt the flurry of sacred prayer in the holy city of Jerusalem and I have gone walkabout with Indigenous Australians to grow the ears needed to hear the whisperings of the ancient land down under. I have rolled in hedonism and dabbled in asceticism and I have met the kinds of people that one cannot imagine exists! From all walks of life, all manners of perceiving. And I have observed that there are many ways to live, many ways to understand.
In accordance with his spirit and many other revolutionaries, even when it comes to Vipassana, I too, find my own way. I am the first to admit that I have never been much for following rules for rules sake. The system I was born into continually imposed rules, discouraging any trace or inkling of initiative or creative exploration to develop, and left me vehemently opposed to being told what to do. These days I am able to cooperate with rules because I understand that they exist for the sake of order and harm management. I realise now that most societal rules reflect the need to manage from the bottom up, pertaining to the lowest common denominator.. but most importantly I honour the need for initiative, self regulation and respect the freedom of choice within the spectrum of not harming another. Thought I will never follow rules blindly, I will always enquire into their origins and necessities and I will feel into the truth of my own intuition and body to know what it good for me in any particular moment. Health has been at the forefront of my life for some time now, so looking after myself in this process was important. During the first 6 days of the course I was in chronic pain, with my deep psoas muscles tightening by the minute and my lower back feeling like it wouldn’t carry me further. Pain all day, pain all night. I felt that my body required love and care - so I did some yogaic stretches on my mat in my room, I helped myself to fruit after 12pm with the new students. I did not feel bad, I felt whole.
With so much time to BE, I would sit and watch the beetles, little red beetles with lovely black designs on their back wings. There were thousands of them, climbing on dry grass, crawling over cracked earth. One could see many joined together from their butts, one pulling in one direction and the other pulling in another… one always more dominant (assumedly the male) dragging the other around as it inseminated her. At times little ones matched with big ones, no rhythm or reason for how they paired. I thought “arent they lovely, and what a lovely simple life they have..”. Then I noticed many of them in huddles and wondered what these little meetings were all about… upon leaning further in, I saw the other side to ‘lovely’, nature in action, as they feasted upon a dead one of their own. The ‘Sila’ of a bugs life in question…? As I pondered the expansiveness of nature I saw a couple of these red beetles running and tumbling over each other, and upon closer inspection noticed that they were flighting for little pieces of grain, the kind of grain that was in abundance all around them. These two were scrambling on top of each other to take it from the other, at some point one would take it and run, then the other would grab it. Whether they were playing, or fighting, the reality of a somewhat active and reasonably complex consciousness existed - and these guys would have no problem with eating each other at the end of it all. And though it may seem inconsistent to compare bugs with humans, I have studied many a strange reality within humanity to know that morality can be a double edged sword.
The different kinds of pain that I experienced:
Sitting in the meditation hall, I wasn’t sure what was more agonising: the pain I was feeling in the body or the pain of the cringe that came with listening to the squelching mouth noises of my neighbours. I find it hard to actually find the words to describe these sounds in words, but I know that you all know what I am talking about. If you don’t, simply open and close your mouth without words, and you will decipher the subtle squelch that I am referring to. I am not bothered by the sneezes nor the coughs and not even the gurgles of hungry stomachs - but when mouth sounds reverberate in my ears, I really have to work hard to stay focused. It got so bad that I found myself actually disliking people I don’t even know, just because they kept gurgling spit in my ear! My neighbour, a woman who would take her mouth plate out and put it on the Vipassana pillow every session was my nemesis. I was so grossed out that it actually took the focus off the pain in my body.
Hour after hour, breathing through discomfort, scanning the body, allowing my body to melt into a vibrating molecular lump of atoms, thoughts racing by, deep in meditation only to find my mind wrapping olives in pastrami and pinning them with toothpicks, back in the room, sudden bouts of peace and silence, return to the amplified mouth gurgling sounds that distracted me from the growing numbness in my legs as I clenched by butt so to protect my lower back from snapping. Hour after hour after hour. Day after day. After the first 6 days of physical torture I asked for a chair to sit on, and discovered that the only place I could sustain a relatively comfortable unmoving mediation was literally perched upon the edge of my seat. Sitting on the edge of my seat. Not one bit surprising considering that the place I feel calmest is sitting on the edge of a cliff. I am already friends with Suspense. At times I feel forever suspended in the unknown… And the metaphors that reveal themselves bring the meaning into the forefront and reveal that which is not easily understood. So there I perched, and as the pain subsided into a simple sensation, uncertainty remained the only reliable truth. Success. Momentary, yet momentous.
Nature’s Perfect Ending
The days were hot. We went from one air conditioned space to the steamy outdoors, over and over and over again. On the 8th day the blue sky finally filled with puffy white clouds and offered an opportunity to for creativity. As I lay there on the grass, letting my eyes see visions in the sky, I was filled with appreciation for the constant state of change that we are all a part of here on Earth - seeing the clouds move, warp, distort, form, evaporate and disappear. Everything always in a state of flux, nothing to hold on to, visions coming and going. Anicce, anicce, anicce. A dragon fly came to play, darting back and forth, circling me then sitting still. So fast, so still. Realising that symbolically I was playing with illusion I reflected on how alive I felt in the magic of what is evanescent.
On the 9th day the rains finally came, and along with natures blessings were shrieks of joy, tears, dance.. Washing the earth, washing the mind, for the seeds of stillness that had been planted were thirsty and our souls were hungry to connect. By the evening, walking back to the hall, two low flying fighter jets zoomed above. We stopped and stared into the sky, for what we didnt know of the outside worlds happenings. We had been in a blissfully disconnected bubble, in the middle of a land fraught with troubles. The ‘real world’ out there roared with possibilities, and we were only a day from our great reunion. Our hearts where already in sync and we could taste the anticipation of our release. Forty beautiful women, connected and filled with compassion. Life’s insanity, juxtaposed with truth love and power.
Reflection with the Mountains
Blessed with a room to myself that faced the mountains and had two windows instead of one, I gazed outside. The background full of rolling mountainous hills, the foreground a mass of shrubbery and small trees. My eyes caught upon a small tree, still growing, not yet strong enough to hold itself up. It was supported by two sticks on either side, tied in the middle loosely to each. Technically it was being pulled in two directions so to grow straight and strong, and I couldnt help but see the reflection of myself in its essence, pulled in two directions, Australia and Israel. Perhaps, perhaps, this tension of having roots in two lands is something that makes me stronger, something that helps me to grow straight and strong. I liked the idea. Somewhere between the land of Oz and the Land of Is…. is a path to humility that embraces the unknown and welcomes diversity. There is so much space in between these worlds that the yellow brick road is often hidden by the hills and dips of life - but at that moment, where I sat upon the land known as Israel, I felt supported and love by people I had never even spoken to, people who mirrored my soul, and I couldn’t deny that this felt like home. A familiar sadness washed over me, knowing that I would not live near the family I grew up with… that the yellow brick that started in the land of Oz has lead me back to the Land of Is.
The doors to our voices were opened on the morning of the 11th day. It was exciting, and tentative and somewhat miraculous. Women who had been in deep process for 10 days together suddenly able to look into each others eye and connect. New friendships formed to last a lifetime. Joy. Suddenly a desire emerged, how to hold on to this peace? This Joy? And revelation upon revelation, in the moment of trying to hold on to what is, all is lost. Though enlightenment is the goal, the path is long and so ultimately, this lifetime, we are devoted to process and practice, on a continual journey of being, releasing and surrendering. At times we shall rile in our worry until we remember that all is simply passing by… we are alive and we are dying… the moment is full of breath and being. Everything, coming and going, coming and going.
And so it was that forty women and forty men walked on into the next stages of our lives to practice what we had learnt and find our own way forth, together.
bhavatu sabba mangalam
May all beings be happy and peaceful.
Here in Israel, two months has almost passed and I am again caught in a bind; hesitant to make plans to leave, yet aware of the insanity of staying. Its hard to put my finger on what it is in the air here that makes me feel ‘at home’, It would be easy to say its the Jewish thing, after all, I am surrounded with remnants and reminders of my history and my culture. But I don’t feel an affinity with organised religion - so that isn’t it. Besides, there are about 150 Arab villages here, predominantly muslim but also christian, that line most roads here in Israel ,(not including any of the villages in the Palestinian Territories) and for sure I have never lived in such close proximity to large muslim communities before now! The feeling of home comes as much from the unknown as from the known. I am passionately interested in the history of the people and the land here… able to be active and involved in life as it plays out around me. Here I have a feeling of being welcomed, wanted and witnessed. I am part of a big family, a big web of people who care to connect, and create. Perhaps feel like my gifts can offer much to the people and the land, that I will be looked after and that I will never be alone. Perhaps this is what it means to be home - but I guess it’s so much more.
Since i arrived here two months ago I have spent time exploring friends, family, history and the personal and political perspectives of Jews and Arab Israelis/Palestinians. Even as I type the words the complexity of this issue shows itself… both through the reaction I feel rearing in YOU, my listeners - and my own learnings.. as I recount the diversity of perspectives I have come to hear within the words ‘Palestinian’ and ‘Arab’. From Mohammed of Hebron telling me that his people are Caananites and not Arabs, to my Arab Israeli friend, Rabea, saying they he does not identify as Palestinan, to my friend Hiba who identifies as Palestinian but who doe not have Palestinian citizenship because she was born in Jerusalem - one of the most contested places on Earth! As I wandered through the old city I met Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, who also do not eat pig, I saw many a robed men, with a few variations that revealed their religious affiliations, and amidst the religious structures, a flurry of tourists from all over the world, all colours, all races, united in either fascination or prayer and probably both. To say that this situation is complicated is an understatement - the more you know about the stories of this land, past and present - the more complex one realises it is. Here in Israel, the people diverge perspectives within their own supposed groups, and there is infinite variety of accounts, situations and realities that exist, live, thrive and suffer here, side by side. Yes there are patterns, and narratives and stories. Injustices lined up next to defiant courage and cross-cultural camaraderie. The only REAL certainly is that anyone who from the outside aligning with a side, is stupendously ignorant. From the inside, its impossible to judge. People have been through so much pain, so much injustice…. there is no right answer, but gentle reminders to recognise our own humanity when we look in the mirror, so we can see it reflected in the eyes of our neighbours.
As most of you know all my painting equipment was stolen a month ago and I have been fundraiser in preparation to replace everything when I know where I am staying.. I have recently repurchased the basics needed for Merges (hooray!) so I am now officially able to do that again - in case the need or want arises. Everything in Israel is twice as expensive so the value of my lost equipment is double what I thought it was… Such is life. Here is the link if you wish to donate, https://www.gofundme.com/supportorlyfayareplaceherkit you are welcome to and I thank you with all my heart - to everyone who donated already, gems! Love you very much. May blessings shower one and all.
In the meantime I have begun writing my book ‘Painting People into the World”, chapter one almost complete and it was cathartic and wonderful to write. I look forward to more quiet time in a little house somewhere somehow, to get this story out and into the world.
I am about to catch a bus to Tiberias where I will be picked up to go to my Vipassana course. It has been 7 years since I last sat in silence for 10 days and I am so ready for another round. May clarity, purpose and presence be met in the silent hours with myself.
See you on the other side!
Peace, Salam, Shalom
Israel Israel Israel! I feel a sense of belonging that I have missed out on during my times in Australia. No its not the Jewish thing, its not the food thing and its not really the earth itself. My connection to this land is cultural. At last I can speak and express myself with vigour without feeling like I am ‘too much’, able to get into deep confronting conversations without fear of losing friends; able to take what I need without needing to ask or say please all the time. Knowing that the people around me will ask and take what they need also. Here in the land, its normal for cars to make U turns onto pavements and park in the middle of the street. People yell to one another across the street and speak effusively wherever they are, on buses, in malls and at home. Supermarkets overflow with too many options, and restaurants are open all night, with people flooding out of bars into the streets to celebrate the moment. Arabs and Jews and many others live side by side and there are many opportunities to come together, if they choose, both professionally and recreationally. Busy is taken to new heights where it is normal for people to have to active mobile phones and four jobs to support their families. The pace here is fast, the rules are loose and the community is tight.
Of course nothing is one sided and here in Israel, life is not all peaches obviously.
Sirens sound on this day, the offical memorial day known as Yom Hazikaron, to commemorate all the lives that have been lost along the way. Friends and family go to ceremonies and cemeteries to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. Wars, divisions and hate have caused this land to be fraught with post traumatic stress and the innate loss of innocences that comes with teenagers going to the army. I sit with young people on the buzzing strip of tel aviv’s beaches, and they share their army experiences with me, how they were taught to die for their country, only to discover years later their actions destroyed a part of their soul that they can never redeem. On the other side of it, they also express the depth and beauty of comradery and friendship that could only be born our of such circumstances. Here in this land, people are part of community all their lives, friends and family form the basis of their existence. And life goes on.
When the clock turns over to 6pm, the entire energy of this country shifts into celebration, as the eve of Israeli Independence day booms from speakers across the land. Celebrating freedom, belonging and the existence of a Jewish homeland. Tears of sadness are transformed into tears of joy as the people come together to break bread, drink wine and celebrate LIFE with the gusto of a people who have suffered and survived. At the same time, the people in Gaza, suffer the loss of their homes, their freedom and their lives as they knew them. At the same time, Arab Israelis are torn between; living comfortably in a very accessible and innovative country, with friends and families on the other side of a painful wall in between. The emotions that are felt and expressed over these 48 hours in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are extreme and cover a depth of human experience known by many others around the world. The refugees, the disenfranchised, and the persecuted will all be able to relate. And yet, this story is specific to this land and these people, and reveals a complexity of history, people and emotion that I can only describe, imagine and share in my limited way.
This land is worth visiting. If you haven’t yet, put it on your bucket list. Life is BIG and there is much to learn.
17 years world traveller, internationally recognised award winning body painter with a background in Anthropology, Orly delves deep into the enquiry of what it means to be a human being and ceaselessly expresses her art whilst following her heart. , Specialising in mimitism (camouflage), Orly's current expressions are a moving living creative and expansive entity that represents her passion for re-merging humanity with the earth from which we came, sustainable conscious living, healing the sacred feminine as we learn to respect our mother earth and advocacy for balancing commercial gain with global and local contributions.