Tag Archives: mindfulness

My Lissome Soul

Lissome – Word of the Day

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Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919 – 1991) a truly graceful ballerina. James Monahan (Fonteyn, A Study Of The Ballerina In Her Setting) referred to her as delicate and feline. She had an illustrious career dancing with the Royal Ballet. Sir Robert Helpman and Rudolf Nureyev were two of her outstanding dance partners, Nureyev became her sole (indeed, her soul) partner for most of her latter career, and they became very close friends. In a PBS documentary (1990) Nureyev commented that he and Fonteyn danced with “one body, one soul.”

I never saw Fonteyn live, that would have been amazing, but I was at least able to see her recorded performances. She moved with grace and soul and, at times (as in Swan Lake), her movement is itself a meditation, mesmerising.

O to move through life the same, that with the dance of life I might move mindfully and gracefully and with outstanding journey friends of one body, one soul. That my soul be lissome, albeit unburdened, unshackled and free, a meditation.

in my lissome soul
I danced life's curves
like floating blossom

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under creativity, dance, Haiku, quote

SAD

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The last days of autumn, and the beauty of river and cloud along the Blackwood.

The days are shorter now as autumn gives way to winter. I am grateful for the change in season even though I don’t like the cold, somehow nature needs this, I tell my self, but I know deep down that I need it too.  But there is an impact that the seasonal change makes known as SAD (an auspicious aconym) or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As winter progresses it is quite normal to feel tired and unmotivated, it is a form of the ‘blues’ but it now has a name – SAD. I think it’s probably an ancient hibernation process we are fighting, but that’s just a witsful guess, perhaps a latent desire to sleep in and ignore the cold air. However, exercise, dietary changes, sleep, meditation and a change in habit can recharge and motivate us. To do something different rather than force a summer routine into a winter context might be truly barking up the wrong tree. I note that several local young men are still clinging to shorts, t-shirt and thongs, and even though this week it has dropped to 3 degrees overnight, they are hanging on to summer as if to say, nature won’t force me to change. Yeah, right! It will.

SAD is best embraced and refocussed, a reframing of inner thought and responding energy, and to make friends with the season, and to live into it mindfully.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under beach, bush walking, life, mindfulness, nature, seasons

Tides

via Daily Prompt: Tide

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The tide coming in at the Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia.

Rachel Carson, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for her tireless work in advocating for the protection of nature, once said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities … If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Tides.” An autobiographical  poem that speaks of despair (the loss of his wife) and the rediscovery of joy (the tide upbore – lifted him up) as the tide lifts him from despair.

"The Tides" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land
The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love,laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.

But none ever so bleak as Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach.” A poem that is thought to be four very loosely connected sonnets about change. The third stanza tells how the tide is representative of the institution of the Chrisitan Church, that it is fading lifke the receding tide.

From "Dover Beach" Matthew Arnold, stanza three:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and rounded earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Arnold would have been a contemporary of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote “God is dead.” (“The Gay Science” 1882) The way I read Nietzsche, is the way I read Arnold, they are simply pointing out that the institution of religion was dying, and the idea of God (the Medieval, the Christendom, God) was dying. For me that has been a positive, the old had to die for the new to come to life. Just as the tide goes out, it also, with equal regularity comes in again. this is its natural rhythm. Religion as a political power elite has been receding for some time, thankfully, and spirituality and mindfulness have entered that space. The absurd God of tribalism and petty moral values has died, thankfully, and a new sense of the divine has enetered, a more communal and relational divine.

So, in the end, I really resonate with Longfellow’s last line from “The Tides” –  “And in a tumult of delight, and strong as youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.”  The tides of Arnold and Nietzche simply wash away the dross of what ails religion, while the tide of Longfellow indicates hope in a season of loss and grief in an uplifting tumult of delight.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under beach, Country, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, poetry, quote, religion

A Vague Thought

Vague

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‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, ‘La Vague d’Hokusai’ or ‘The Wave’ – by Katushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) an artist and printmaker of the Edo or classical period. Hokusai was a prolific artist, and his paintings were popular in his lifetime, and in Europe and have become world famous since. It has been said that Monet was deeply influenced by Hokusai. He originated Hokusai Manga (manga = random drawings, so no connection with the modern usage of manga), a body of reference for other artists (some fifteen volumes).

In this painting, the waves have claws and are menacing, the humans in tiny boats are, by comparison, vulnerable and at the mercy of nature. Mt. Fuji in the background also dominates, the only natural thing not threatened by the water.

The connection to vague is of course the French translation = a wave of panic swept over me. So, in French the title implies what the painting is showing, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen.

Hokusai was concerned for the decline of society and was also seeing the end of the classical period. The painting shows judgement, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen and the community was a judgement on the people. I would retitle it – Nature Strikes Back.

The perspective of Hokusai is striking, because he is commnicating that the way Japanese society was behaving – it could not, should not continue.

But that is more real for us today because we have intervened in nature, with chemicals, polution, clearing, salinity, depletion of species, nature can strike back as a result of the changes it faces. Researchers have long been saying that weather patterns are changing, rainfall has changed, the earth’s atmosphere is warming. The positive is that there are many who are working hard to get our attention and change that.

In a more personal sense the painting speaks of consequences, if we don’t care for ourselves, if we don’t check our excesses, if we don’t care for others, then there are consequences that will affect us. Without reflective time, without some quiet within the daily, without healthy diet and exercise, without love and loving, without the capacity to listen and to share, to be creative, we are at risk of life sweeping over us with claws waiting to consume us. Mindfulness is not a mystery, it simply learning to to put our ego drive away and focus on the real self and its potential and relations. to use a cliche – stop and smell the roses.

But unlike the fishermen in the painting we are not at the mercy of such things, we can (we must) stop and take time, and we can work together on the crises that seem to surround us. And not in the least to begin to challenge the work ethic which will consume us first if we don’t.

Nature rises up
the claws of consequence
time to paint

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under art, history, life, mindfulness, nature

Go Minimal – Simplify

via Daily Prompt: Simplify

By way of mindful living, simplicity and minimalism have become bywords of a groundswell across the world to downsize and jettison clutter and unused material things. It seems to me that we are creatures of acquisition, we have to have stuff, but in the end it becomes dissatisfying, and we feel an urge to get rid of stuff, to downsize, simplify, minimalise.

In the 1970s came the BBC TV series ‘The Good Life’ a rollicking comedy, but with a serious undertone, that captivated many, and has inspired several generations to attempt a little of what they modelled. It’s a great story about Tom and Babara Good – Tom quits what he experiences as a meaningless job, and they put their middle class life behind them to live self sufficiently. It fed into permaculture, backyard farming and whole range of styles.

In the 90s Sarah Ban Breathnach published the beginning of a series of books called simple abundance. It was part of a worldwide movement at the time to downsize and take time. It wasn’t so much about self sufficiency as simplifying life. The movement was criticised as being popular among the wealthy who could afford to buy land in rural areas and drop out part time. For some, ironically,  it proved to be expensive to live simply.

In more recent years there has been a plethora of movements and leaders in the art of simplifying life.

The Minimalist Guys (https://www.theminimalists.com/game/ )  would be well known I’m sure. Their trademark is the the 30 Day Challenge. It’s game of throwing out (well giving away, donating, selling, etc.) what you are not using. The number items you throw out corresponds to the numerical value of the days in the month. So, Day one, throw out one item, Day two, throw out two items. By the time you get to Day thirty – thirty items (some friends of mine chose make that the day to toss out old mugs and cups), so a real challenge. There are many others now advocating the simple life, and with refreshing ideas on how to do it, like Lorilee Lippincott at https://lovingsimpleliving.com or the collective at www.anunclutteredlife.com .

Another way is the Small or Tiny House movement across several nations.

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It is very slowly catching on in some shires in Australia, but some shires are resisting or refusing to engage with this. Ironically, one of the issues is the cost in scaling down products for a small home. Some are on wheels, which gets around some regulations in various shires, as these are deemed moveable and impermanent. Local government can be weird about progress (but I’ll leave that for a rant later).

For many, these movements can be about gaining perspective, order, peace, and a mindful lifestyle. To undertake any of these simplifying ways helps the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, and the sheer materiality of our lives. Simplifying is a body, mind, soul, nature experience. I can’t argue with it, I believe we’re over-sized on every level as it is. It’s very hard to let go of stuff, but let go we must for the sake of ourselves, each other, and nature too.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under environment, life, mindfulness, minimalism, nature, permaculture, Spirituality

Tend

via Daily Prompt: Tend

In the world around me the feedback loop is consistent: “I’m stressed, I’m frazzled, I’m bogged down in work, I can’t see a way through, I’m worried.” Anxiety, according to a multiplicity of studies across the western nations, is on the rise, and across age groups. I have friends who are afraid to take time off work for legitimate reasons lest they lose their job (which is unlikely), while other friends are reluctant to address work issues – they don’t want to rock the boat, they don’t want to risk their reputation, they don’t even stand up for themselves let alone other people. It’s almost like we’ve become servile, frightened people. In looking at it from a different perspective, people are overloaded and weighed down by work, responsibilities, and relationship difficulties.

Perhaps I sound simplistic, but my concern is that we don’t tend ourselves enough! Or, perhaps more accurately, we don’t tend to ourselves appropriately. We read about mindfulness, contemplative lifestyles, minimal living, self-care, but when do we actually put it into practice? My concern is that mindfulness is currently the most written about topic and yet is the least practiced way. Sure, we might go to yoga now and again, take the odd walk, meditate periodically, take the occasional break, but we are inconsistent, and lacking commitment to go the distance (which in fact equates to lack of commitment to self). And we suffer for it, we live in an imbalance.

Without mindfulness we are more vulnerable to the ills we read about, depression, anxiety, lack of self-worth and so on. Mindfulness is not a cure all, but if approached and lived in conjunction with healthy living and a balanced diet, then it is going to make a positive contribution to our overall health. Which is a reminder that there is no one way or silver bullet solution, we need a balanced life to survive.

Tending self is about taking breaks, going on holidays, exercising, spending quality time with family and friends, meditating, reflecting, and just getting down to being. Tending self is not about a singualr focus on the self, it is really a focus on relationships (which means a relationship with nature too) and health. Is it selfish to tend to self – well yes, but in a positive way. The word selfish has had some really bad press over the years, but to be selfish is to really look after oneself, not to exclusively self-indulge, but to care for oneself as one has need. If we are to flourish we need to nurture ourselves. Sometimes I think we need to be a little more selfish and tend to self, only then can we tend to others and the world.

A Senryu

Toast while driving
narrowly missing the turn
late for mindfulness

©Paul

pvcann.com

 

 

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Filed under community, life, meditation, mindfulness, nature, Senryu, Spirituality

Meditation: the static life

via Daily Prompt: Static

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I really like and need meditation, I like its many forms too. Static mediation, sitting and focussing on breathing and being faithful to my mantra is my main form, and brings me joy. But another way of mediation I love is, as I have written before, is the use of the labyrinth, which can take any form or way you like. But no matter the form, the walking clearly isn’t static, and yet, the movement of the body acts like a mantra, it enables focus through rhythm. And so stasis, or the slowing of the inner self is possible. For me it is one of the greatest forms of prayer. It is mentioned in all the great traditions, and not least non-religion, and including Christianity, which surprises some, and is a point of dialogue and connection across beliefs. For me it is a greater connection with being and spirit, a sense of wholeness. It is said that meditation is a form of maturity in prayer, it is the setting aside of agendas and attending to awareness.

In the christian tradition, the antecendents of modern meditation are found in the lives of the desert fathers and mothers, those who formed commnities in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Syria. Their emphasis was on silnece, and contemplative prayer forms. I love the following quote from one abba Arsenius: “Why, words, did I let you get out? I have often been sorry that I have spoken, never that I have been silent.” which reminds me of Monty Python and a scene from the Holy Grail where God rails against the noise of “all those miserable psalms.” The point being that endless repetition without mindfulness dulls us.

I’m not sure where you’re at, or what you think of meditation, but what I do know is that the world could do with a bit more silence each day, a little more thought for the other, a little more engagement with becoming rather than just doing. A little more stasis would be good all round.

Paul,

pvcann.com

24 Comments

Filed under Alt-Religion, community, kayaking, labyrinth, meditation, Spirituality

Our Kingdom for a … For a what?

Political praxis is never clean or simple. There are few examples of a golden age anywhere, or for very long where it is perceived. It seems to be a business of cut and thrust, a very dirty game to play in. It has been no dirtier than with the fall of PM Julia Gillard to third time challenger and former PM Kevin Rudd.

On the one hand I don’t want to lionise Gillard as suffering victim, nor on the other vilify Rudd as vexatious usurper. Politics is, apparently, like this.

Of course it has left some opining for those golden good old days. And there were some hopeful moments as when Whitlam brought us into the modern world, or when Don Chipp founded the Australian Democrats to keep the two main parties honest! When Hawke and Keating commanded real international respect (as opposed to the sycophantic Menzies or the weakness of Howard). Or when Bob Brown and the Greens had some leverage that mattered. But if you were looking for great moments in integrity and really fine leadership you’d be sorely pressed to find it.

What the current leadership wrangle demonstrates to me is the complexity of how unhealthy ego and party machinations towards survival dominate the process of actual leadership and government. Rudd has challenged three times. Those challenges in themselves have surely been debilitating, they take time, energy and focus. Both sides have also spent time in manoeuvring for factional and public support, surely this too is leadership sapping and distracting.

In the midst of it all where is the leadership? Where are the policies?

We are living in a time when our agricultural sector is in deep trouble, not just because of perennial or local weather issues, not just because of global warming, but because there are depressed markets, debt and financial\structural issues, competition and trade problems, labour supply and more. But who in Canberra is bothered?

For me the response to refugees has been devoid of compassion, but this has been lost in inter-party and intra-party wrangling. Refugees were both a factional Labor as well as Liberal casualty. People’s lives have been diminished by party ego taking centre stage and determining the tenor of debate, defence and strut.

Mining is currently sexy, but there is yet no policy for the future of mining, will it eventually suffer like agriculture?

Education is another sector. The Gonski reforms are at the very least an attempt to get beyond the the oh so clever petty State games of playing off the Commonwealth and at the same time moving towards a real national standard. The states opine, but look at the standards in some states! The public have begun to be seduced into thinking ill of it, and lately because it is attached to Gillard’s leadership.

The reforms that Gillard spearheaded were not sexy and have surely been a factor in her downfall, voters don’t like cod liver oil no matter how good it is for them. The mining tax would be an example, after all the corporate whinging about it few miners paid any substantial monies out of their hefty profits, which I would point out are derived from crown land (and therefore belonging to the government and therefore the people).

But in the end Gillard herself has suffered only what she herself brought upon Rudd when she challenged earlier. However, what is very different has been the spiteful narking about gender, it was never been overt, but it was there and it was subtly nurtured in the public. No male politician has been demeaned because of their gender, and no PM has been so harassed as Julia Gillard.

When leadership issues dominate ego clearly drives, but in politics it rarely seems to be healthy ego drive. There is little room for integrity, and there is little room for an attending to real public needs. Generosity and compassion are junked for toughness and testosterone.

Somewhere I\we have a responsibility in all of this, because we vote and so we do have some say. Yet as I look out on the political landscape in Australia (and indeed across the world) I feel less hopeful, for me there seem to be no real contenders worth my vote in the things that really matter.

My political fantasy is one where leadership draws from mindfulness and awareness, and holds the praxis of compassion to be the highest, and where all people matter. What would it cost to have an emotionally intelligent leader?

Perhaps when we cross the Rubicon (but never the Styx).

Paul

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