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Humbling

Oh how humbling it is

To have a body

Ever at the whim of seasonal changes

Internal

External

And that thing that exists both in and out

The breath

So susceptible.

It can be taken away by an awe-inspiring sight.

Shortened by excitement, fear, frenzied activity.

Also, the eyeballs.

Fucking hell!

What sensitive, open freaks of brain extension they are.

Mine are sensitive.

my breath, and my eyeballs.

The joy of poo blur

The household toddler has had a visit from gastro this week. That meant being woken every two hours for two nights in a row by a fevering child, living in a blur of repetition of toilet checking, bottom wiping, hand washing, administering water and offering dry foods, and surrendering to dropping all plans. It has meant losing wages whilst still paying for unused daycare, and having the tv on way more than usual.


On the back of all this, yesterday I sat 2 adult naplan exams, complete with overcoming the stress of the power point not charging my lap top, my mouse stopping working, and the remote proctor not being able to access my camera, resulting in a 45 minute delay to my exam start time. Somehow managed to get a delicious evening meal on the table, and little one is on the mend today.


Yet the biggest challenge for me was helping her to put on the tiny gardening gloves that she was insisting on wearing for our walk this morning.
She also brought a cushion “in case I fall over”.
So of course one block into our walk, I’m carrying a pair of gloves rolled up, a cushion, a hand full of lillipillis, a few flowers, a bagged dog poo, and the lead of our 40kg old man. All in one hand to keep the other hand free to hold hands with little to cross the road.


A young woman jogging freely in the other direction with both hands free and ponytail swinging, smiled at us.
I thought, maybe she looks at us and wishes she could have this moment.

I am having this moment. This is what life has given me right now. What a joy.

Body and the landscape…

  The Old Mendicant

Being rock, being gas, being Mind,
being the mesons traveling among the galaxies
at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.
And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.
You say that on your way here
you have gone through many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into fire storms in outer space.
You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single celled beings,
and as chrysanthemums.
But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.
Your smile invites me into the game whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.

O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body 
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew 
last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born 
this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and
so deep?
O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out
each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be felt in your
tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.
The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset.

Guatama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbra flower blooms
only once every 3,000 years?

The sound of the rising tide - you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.


Thich Nhat Hanh
(In Love Letter to the Earth, Parallax Press, 2013).

~~~~~
Breathing in I contemplate this poem and all it contains

Breathing out I am grateful for our dear Teacher
~~~~~

“Suns, moons, and stars flow out each time I exhale”!!! 

“Carrying with you that smile which is so silent and so deep”

“Innumerable times you have been transformedinto fire storms in outer space.”

As I enjoy this wonderful poem, I am humbled by the power of language as a tool to support the making of meaning, and our understanding of it.


This week in my life, I have had the great fortune to be part of an immersive dance-theatre practice-strengthening retreat on the theme ‘body and the landscape’.

Within this, we have practised mindful walking; enjoyed wonderful poetry and the discussion of philosophical concepts around our body and the land, and the ‘I’ in art-making and the role of staying open to the present moment in allowing art to happen through us. 

We have given great attention to the depth possible of really truly acknowledging country, feeling into the reverence for the land we are on and embodying respect for all the ancestors and knowledge-holders who have come before us, and the caretakers emerging and yet to come.


In this, I have been nourished by the knowledge that nobody here has been able to take this week out of our lives because we happened to have a whole week free, just sitting there, available, empty. 

Each of us has worked in countless ways to make this appointment with our creative, spiritual selves, and each other, to honour the human necessity to bask in contemplation, exploration, play.  


The theme of ‘body and the landscape’ ties in so beautifully with Thay’s teachings in Love Letter to The Earth that I have been studying recently, I am touched by the overlap between my spiritual and creative practices, and am feeling humbly excited by the synthesis that is being allowed time and space to become illuminated and articulated.


In this, all of the other busy things that usually fill my hours, the things that invite me, sometimes insistently, to forget about the peace of choosing not to hurry, have receded.  And I find myself wondering how different our world could be if all of us had more time to remember that “in the ultimate I dwell”.  


Could Thay have written this deeply rich poem within this wonderfully practical and clear book (one of so many!), had he not chosen monastic life?


As we are called by our planet to firmly shift our relationship to the mindless consumption that props up over-production of disposable, low quality, planet-harming objects that have been produced under the energies of distress and exploitation, can we all possibly be moving ever so slightly towards a more mindful existence?


Can less time in shops and more time in nature bring us closer to having more space to be open to the eloquence available to us that our dear Teacher demonstrates with such gracious poise? 
I invite you to take the space to enjoy this poem again:

 

Being rock, being gas, being Mind,
being the mesons traveling among the galaxies
at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.
And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.
You say that on your way here
you have gone through many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into fire storms in outer space.
You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single celled beings,
and as chrysanthemums.
But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.
Your smile invites me into the game whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.

O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body 
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew 
last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born 
this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and
so deep?
O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out
each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be felt in your
tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.
The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset.

Guatama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbra flower blooms
only once every 3,000 years?

The sound of the rising tide - you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.


The illness and some cures

I’m sick of people referring to their kids as little terrors or monsters. Of expecting their 6 month old babies to self soothe. Of asking for advice on how to be able to get their kids used to less human connection.

I’m sick of seeing babies in prams with screens in front of them. I’m sick of hearing parents use power-over and fear tactics with their children. I’m sick of crappy gender stereotyping through clothes and toys.

I’m sick of parents asking on parenting groups about what “stuff” to buy for their kids.

I’m sick of the chilling impact on the early years of human life that capitalism and ecological terrorism is having. I’m sick of the pressure that keeping on top of basic living costs is putting on parents.

I want to see a world where parenting is regarded as THE most important job. Where the people doing it are supported financially and by community to do it to their best ability. Where everything we know about secure attachment, neuropsychology, and our deepest needs for love and belonging, informs the core motivation of how we raise our children.

I want to see extreme overhauls of our education systems so that teachers are upheld to support the biologically wired, natural and beautiful blossoming of innately intelligent, good, active humans.

I want to see a medical system that supports families to have great nutrition, sleep, and spiritual support before labels and prescriptions.

I want to see a world where we understand the value of unstructured time together. The value of parents having time to breathe, alone with themselves. The value of free play.

I want to live in a world where we know that we’re all in this together.

Not a big ask. And I know I’m not alone in this wish.

“Mum, would you like to smile?”

These are the first words I heard this morning.

Followed by “there you go Mama, so lovely”.

I say ‘this morning’ in reference to the time after birds had started.

All the talking in wake and sleep that happened between 2:00 am and the birds shall be known as night talking. Night talking is not to be encouraged, as cute as some of the stuff is (Mummy I draw a beautiful pitcha on your aaaaaaaaarm); and shall not be spoken of again.

But that morning invitation to smile. Oh!

Thay makes the same invitation in the morning prayer:

Waking up this morning I smile

Twenty four brand new hours are before me

I vow to live mindfully in each moment

And to look at all beings with eyes of compassion

The beautiful hand made poster of this recitation that I used to have stuck beside the bed was long ago removed by a curious baby. Some days I remember to start the day with a smile to this poem, many days I’m swept up with the earliest demands.

Today they synthesised and my smile was so big, my presence in the moment so true; my gratitude for the life I have so visceral. Whatever the day brings, it started with a smile, and a smile to the invitation to smile.

Being awake since 2:00 is going to be ok…

Maths is hard for girls

This is a forum post I wrote for uni after collecting data on gender bias in the classroom. Mr Andrews is a fictitious teacher, but his unconscious bias demonstrated for learning purposes in the video stirred me up.

Based on data collected using the duration recording technique, I measured that overall Mr Andrews spent more than twice as much time talking to boys than girls during the maths lesson.

He also interacted with boys twice as many times as he did with girls.

He only ever addressed the class as a whole as ‘guys’, called the boys by their names often but called girls ‘darling’, gave twice as much positive feedback, to boys, with multiple repetitions of ‘excellent, well done, good boy’ for correct answers, and even a whole-class round of applause for one boy; where girls giving correct answers were often responded to with a neutral ‘ok’. Mr Andrews offered boys extra vocab and very close help, including holding the protractor for them, giving physical examples of angles, pointing to the page, giving them the answer then praising them for getting it right, even writing the answer in for one boy. When it was time to move on to text book work, he walked the boy over to the books and gave a detailed explanation, and for a girl he just gave a short verbal instruction. At least three times, girls with their hands up were ignored, and even when a boy gave a wrong answer but had the first letter right, Mr Andrews said ‘it starts with R, that’s exactly right’. He allowed boys to talk over girls, and when didn’t give girls anywhere near the same level of scaffolded prompting he gave to boys. He also made much closer physical contact with the boys.

Overall, he seemed to convey that he believed it was important for the boys to get it, and that they at least needed to believe in their right to believe in their own abilities.  Sadly for the girls in the class, their understanding doesn’t seem to be as highly valued.  This is likely to set them up to believe that it doesn’t matter if they don’t get it, that they’re not expected to get it as well as the boys, and that they don’t deserve the same airspace as they boys in class.  Obviously this narrows their options in terms of career paths and course choices in university if they have been taught reduced self efficacy in STEM subjects.  Being patronised for wanting to engage in their learning, whilst boys are being given so much extra support increases the disparity.  This is so unhealthy for the classroom ecology, not just for the girls, but for the boys as well.  Male privilege is unearned and harmful to society, so having it normalised within an educational setting during childhood makes it a bigger job for these children to undo as their agency increases in life.  Grooming young males to believe in their own entitlement as being a higher priority than that of females underpins domestic and sexual violence, as well as disparity in workplaces and governments.  So I believe it is imperative that teachers are working to redress this consciously and fairly in our approach to the students in our classrooms.