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Happiness

Happiness
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries 
Nowhere to go, nothing to do 
I don’t need to hurry

Happiness 
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
No longer in a hurry

How wonderful! That by the time we come to the end of the second verse in this simple song, it is such a real possibility!

We live in a time in the world where the footprints of hurry are causing pain to the earth, and to our collective consciousness. Hurry is such a contagious energy; and whilst there is a gentle movement growing to decline the invitation to be ever busy and in a hurry, it can still feel like it takes more discipline to do less than to say yes to all the opportunities that come to us.

When this song was new to me, I distinctly recall thinking “nowhere to go, nothing to do!!?! – what an absurd luxury!”. But really, what is absurd is that such a concept should seem like a luxury, not to mention an absurd one!

I love the Plum Village practice of having a “lazy day” each week; a day where we have a chance to catch up with ourselves in our bodies. At first unspiralling from the habit of having a very full diary was difficult, even uncomfortable for me. Life is so full of so many exciting opportunities to do, learn, see, talk, listen, meet, play… so many verbs, such limited time! 

But what is the quality of our experience when we are so preoccupied with cleverly slotting it all into the schedule, planning our route to the next thing whilst we are at the current thing? How available are we for the people we are with, for ourselves, when we are busily trying to manipulate time? Are we fully present at our appointment with life? Are we able to see that here, now, in the present moment, is the very pureland we are conditioned to be chasing?

I am really seeing a difference, thanks to this song, and the permission I needed to consider a lazy day as a valid thing to schedule; in how I parent a toddler with my youngest child now, compared to her older sister, 13 years ago. What a radical thing, to allow enough space in our day, that we can walk a block at toddler pace, enjoying instead of feeling frustrated and anxious about looking at tiny leaves, patterns in the pavement, shapes in the clouds. There is even enough time to be aware that my tea is there! 

How long does it take a toddler to walk a block? As long as possible!

Right now, my parenting is my teacher, my toddler is my bell of mindfulness. And I feel so grateful that her natural way of doing life waters the seeds of mindfulness that are planted in me from times when I could study the dharma more fully.

I remember standing in a very long queue in a busy Paris train station the day after a delicious week in Plum Village, and humming this song to myself as the queue slowly moved. For me, the songs of practice can act as short cuts to some of the essence of the teachings, and I really appreciate this!

I wonder how it is for you?

Featured

Breathing In

Breathing in
I go back to the island within my heart
There are beautiful trees
Upon the island
There are clear streams of water
There are birds, sunshine, and fresh air
Breathing out I feel safe
I enjoy going back to my island.

This beautiful song is one of my favourites from Plum Village. 

I sing it, and other songs of practice, to my toddler each night at bedtime. Some days, this is the extent of my “formal dharma practice”!

A lecture I heard around the idea of our island, talked about the need to nourish and maintain our island, so that when we really need it, it is a beautiful sanctuary for us.

That we can choose what trees to plant and nourish there. We wouldn’t expect a mango tree to grow from the seed of a lemon, and similarly, if we want our island to be calm, we can mindfully practise feeling calm; so that if there is a tempest in our external world, those trees we have planted on our island are there to shelter us.

In my own life, I really notice the difference between the times that I look after my island, and when I let it slide, and weeds of fear, and anger spring up there. Then, if I am shaken by circumstances, it is harder to find the peace I need within me when I haven’t been looking after my island.

In the same way that we can’t wait til we need our car to learn how to drive it, we cannot expect our island to feel like a safe place without our careful maintenance.

Last night as I sang this song to my 19 month old daughter, she cuddled me and said “Mummy I like this song”. And it was a wonderful motivation for me to do what I can to nurture my island within.

I hope you can find time to plant some lovely trees on your island this week.

Newtown ain’t what it was in the nineties


Walking alongside
the ghosts of adolescent memories
preserved like so many
Pompeii corpses

in back lanes
alley ways
parks
and cemeteries
as though no time has passed.

Holding the hand of the girl
who learned fear and compliance
at the hands
of so many entitled jerks

“It’s ok”
I whisper to her
“I’m here now.”

“Together
we can kick ‘em in the shins
and run

to the underground dance party
where our people
shine
in their white singlets, nipples erect, freak flags flying high…”

My ghosts, they smile,
tears in their young wide eyes
as they squeeze my hand
and nod
with the certainty they always deserved.

The bees

Stored in our bodies

For all this time

As cruelty reigned

Cold and hard

And we knew those soft and warm among us

Were not safe

The bees

Buzzing inside

Out-noising our minds

Keeping us stiff

Alert

Afraid

The bees

Vibrating constantly

So that our jaws may never unclench

The bees

Tying us up from inside

Nervous system overdrive

The bees

So long they resided within us

We forgot that we were not made from them

The bees

Swarming

Storming

Stripped of warning

The bees

Explode from our mouths

As we sigh in relief

At the end of the season

Of harsh tyrrany

The bees

Roaring

Imploring

The noise in our heads

Spills out unchecked

As at last

The women of Australia

Release

The bees

(C) Zoe Xanadu 2022

On the occasion of our historical release from an abusive government.

Summer Hoodie

My daughter runs to me when I pick her up from preschool 
35 degrees Celsius, a stinker of a day
And she is in a hoodie
They have stayed inside all day with the aircon blasting

All those cloth nappies as a solo parent
Two years worth
To save her planet

But now I buy her single wrapped plastic cheese for the convenience

The summer hoodie is my doing too

And so

Late stage capitalism closes in
Sputter stumble grip squeeze…
We heave and try
We trudge and sigh
Bound, and on our knees

Conditioned slaves to a broken system
Acutely self-aware
Of our own pathos
as we participate in the continuation
of our own oppression

How could we make a poem with rhythm
When jolting discomfort is what is now so deeply familiar?
When removal from so much of what is natural and beautiful about the human experience has become our accepted reality…

How has it come to this though?
Our ancestors would not have wished it for us.
The legacy we stand to leave does not look great.
And yet, here we are, rubbing our noses in sea-trash-to-be, as fossil fuels burn on.

Eat shit and die. Could we at least soften it with a comma, or even two, for Oxford?

We fell

The states were closed to one another
As our hearts lit up

A tiny window opened for us
To sip from true love’s cup

We yearn and strive to feel close
With new laws holding us apart

We both stay home so far away
When home is in each other’s heart

I long for you my darling one,
To feel your arms around me

To hear you whisper to my hair
Of all the things that should be

Hold on my love, and I will too
To the truth of our sweet story

This pain we know is compost
For a garden full of glory

(C) Zoë Xanadu 2021