Finding peace within the expansion and contraction

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ~ Rumi

Embracing all the colours, all the flavours, all the delicious variety of life means also recognising that both expansion AND contraction are important and healthy parts of being human.

I spent the most incredible weekend guiding a group of women on a 3 day Cacao Yin retreat. Together we journeyed into what it felt like to come home to ourselves, to feel safe and connected, to show up in our truth and share with each other. It was powerful, deep, joyful at times and incredibly touching to watch these beautiful women dare to bump up against their edges, gently, with compassion, with love for themselves and each other and to soften into the tender places in their wombs and hearts.

After a weekend like this, immersed in nature and flying high with the sweetness of ceremonial cacao I should feel amazing yes? Well actually when I arrived home I was tired and tender. In amongst the sweetness, the resting and the nurturing a lot of energy moved, a lot of tender places were touched, a lot of edges massaged and a lot of wounds given space to heal. It’s not so crazy then to understand space around this process might be needed to allow full integration.

We all process and integrate differently and some need more time for the body to catch up. I’m one of these people. After periods of real transformation I really value a little bit of time alone to let the wisdom of the experience anchor into my body and beliefs.

For me this is when the real work begins…we all love to have the big bang, high of a retreat experience (it was wisely pointed out to me last year that I’d become a bit of an experience junkie so trust me I do know how great these highs are). But after the retreat finishes what happens now? After the expansion – what then?

Can I integrate the insights and wisdom that come through during retreat?

Can I rest in this new moment where nothing is happening and not start grasping for the next step?

Can I trust the things that fall away, fall away for a reason?

And what happens when the next contraction comes?

Can I accept not only the expansive high joyful part of me but also the parts I deem to be slightly less than shiny – the contracted, tired, tender and a little raw?

Hence the purpose of this blog post 🙂 For me retreats are an opportunity to let the daily routines fall away and offer a little space for the magic, the mystical and the intuitive to be deeply felt and embodied. It’s an invitation to peel back another layer of an old outdated mask and when we no longer have the mask to hide behind it can feel vulnerable. Without vulnerability true intimacy is never possible and without intimacy there is no real connection so vulnerability for me is a sign I’m growing and living life fully.

There’s no magic pill, no one path suits all solution to unravelling years (or lifetimes) of tension, over-thinking, self judgement, low self worth or whatever it is that you’ve been holding against yourself. But for me the real magic seems to unveil when I can let feelings just be feelings. To watch them as sensations in the body moving through. They come they go, expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction – just like the breath, let them come, let them go. Can we drop the judgement, drop the expectation, drop the labelling of right and wrong and let the feelings just be feeling.

Tiredness is just tiredness, grief is just grief, tenderness is just tenderness – they’re not a sign I’ve done something wrong. They’re not a sign that you’ve done something wrong. Can you receive their gifts as readily as you receive laughter and joy? How can we exercise this muscle of expansion (physically, mentally, emotionally and in consciousness) if there were no contraction to begin with?

Could it really be as simple as Being gentle. Being kind. Just BEing.

Simplicity of Beauty

white-shell-blue-sky

The Prophet  by Kahlil Gibran
And a poet said, speak to us of Beauty:
And he answered:
Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
The aggrieved and injured say, ‘Beauty is kind and gentle.
‘Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us’
And the passionate said, ‘Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
‘Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.’
The tired and weary say, ‘Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
‘Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.’
But the restless say, ‘We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
‘And with her cries came the sounds of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.’
At night the watchmen of the city say, ‘Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east’
And at noontide the toilers and wayfarers say, ‘We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.’
In winter say the snow-bound, ‘She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.’
And in the summer heat the reapers say, ‘We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair’
All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears,
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw.
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
People of Orpahelese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

It’s a new dawn…it’s a new day…it’s a new year…

IMG_1291
Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia 1 January 2016

Watching the first sun rise of 2016 over Perth city this morning it occurred to me what a gift it is to be human and to experience this thing called life. Not just to be sitting there with my eyes watching the sun come up, but to really be experiencing it. Feeling it from the inside out…appreciating the magic of life unfolding.

The reality is I’ve been incredibly blessed the past 3 new years to have been on the stunning Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, where I would spend the first few hours of the new year completely alone and in awe of mother nature, blissing out & reflecting on the reflections of the sun on the lake….contemplating the sheer wonder of life. But this year I was back in my hometown, Perth…and instead of crawling out of my treehouse to watch the sunrise I had to get in the car…

And as I did this I noticed a little hesitation…was it really worth getting out of bed in the dark to watch the sunrise… in Perth?? Don’t get me wrong as far as cities goes I think Perth is incredibly beautiful…it’s just that I’ve had a bit of a resistance to city living these past years so I wondered if it might suck just a little bit to have to incorporate people and buildings into ‘my’ new year ritual….but thankfully I did it anyway.

IMG_1296

Because guess what…different does not = bad. Watching the sunrise over the city I grew up in did not suck at all, not even the tiniest bit!

I wondered why I hadn’t done this a million times before…but mostly I realised what an incredible gift it was to be right here, right now,  watching this with fresh eyes.

 

As I sat on the edge of an incredible park with more trees than I could even begin to count, surrounded by dozens of others sitting in quiet appreciation of these first rays of sun for 2016 I began to feel a familiar sensation inside of me, the one of the sun rising – not outside of me but from within me…and I was confronted with the very very real realisation that this was a particularly extraordinary moment that was also really very ordinary…as in it happens every single day and I wasn’t alone in my experiencing it!

IMG_1293And just to help make sure the message really came home for me…I looked up and saw these words in the wall
May you find serenity in this sacred place”

A huge smile spread across my face…for me the sign didn’t mean…this place as in Kings Park…to me it signified THIS place inside of the heart…that is where I am, where you are…these places, WHEREVER they are. ALL of these places are sacred, it’s just our ideas that like to make one more sacred than another.

The truth is we don’t need to travel the world to search for extraordinary moments, all we need do is open our hearts to life as it is, right here and right now…and allow ourselves to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Really what does sacred mean anyway…to make holy…and holy in its simplest form is to be whole..complete.

So to all of you extraordinarily ordinary..or is that ordinarily extraordinary…human beings out there…may we open our hearts in 2016 more and more and more because it is HERE and only here that we will find the serenity in ALL places. And if not now when? And if not you…who?

Happy new day  ❤