Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our tacky Christmas tree

Merry Christmas all!  

I have been waiting a week to post this, because my internet connection is bonkers and I haven't been able to up-load photos. 
My cousin Rob and his wife Mairead are visiting us from Ireland for Christmas.  They are wonderful cooks and the house is full of yummy, yummy food. Today they made olive tapenade, hummous, and babba ganoush and I am in dip heaven!
 Last week Mairead had the idea of making a Christmas tree using a branch from a gum tree. We grabbed some of my spray-paints and painted the leaves red (yes, they match Mairead's hair!)

Then we we painted the trunk bright green and went into town to buy some tacky lights which we wrapped around the stem and put into the leaves. Here's what it look like up:

It is completely tacky and ridiculous and we LOVE IT! (The rest of the family don't seem so keen but the whole thing cost $10 so we don't care). 

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Alchemy II

Last week I wrote about getting a little custom artwork made for me by a Bulgarian print-maker named Plamena Doycheva.

Because I do portraits on commission I was interested to try out the commission process from the other side, and so far it's been really interesting and enjoyable. 

Plamena saw my portraits and asked if I wanted to incorporate a child into the artwork. This is what she sent me: 

I loved the layout of the piece, but I didn't really like the child. Perhaps I've been doing too many portraits, but the child just reminded me of work (and stress!) 

So, the child was taken out and this was the next sketch, which had a volcano instead of the child.  I loved this.

I was really interested in learning about the print-making process and Plamena wanted to know about making stencils, so we've been exchanging photos.  

Once Plamena has the basic sketch, she uses metal plates (washed with some kind of chemical) and some etching tools to etch the design in. These are some photos of the plates, tools, and her etched design. 

I can't wait to see how it turns out.  I really like the whole feel of the piece, and how the quote is wrapped around the image.  

So, stay tuned - I'll post an image of the final artwork when I get it.  (It's a Christmas present to myself - along with some bikinis.  Yes, I know - where am I going to wear bikinis?? But, they were so cute!)

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am commissioning a small artwork - fun, fun, FUN!  I've been working really hard on my portrait making over the past few weeks, so I've decided that my Christmas present to myself will be a custom artwork.  
I wrote my request on Etsy's Alchemy, which is nifty little part of Etsy where you can request custom items.  I requested a custom artwork which incorportated this quote by George W Bush.  
"Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law."
(Nahhh...just kidding folks.  It's by the Buddha, of course!)
 One of the artists who responded to my request was a print maker from Bulgaria, named Plamena Doycheva.  (I just knew she was going to be good - a Bulgarian print-maker - how exotic!) 
Here are some examples of her work.  

It's so intricate, and with such a soft and  sensitive use of color.   Plamena and I are going to exchange some e-mails and then she'll do some drafts for me.  I'll let you know how the artwork turns out. I can't wait!

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to be @$#%!!!

I've been noticing over the past week how much resistance I have to certain thoughts and feelings that I think are 'wrong.'  Anger is one of the biggies, and I suppose it's like that for a lot of people (particularly women). 

As I was sitting with feelings of anger yesterday and noting my resistance, the title of Toni Bernhard's book How to Be Sick came into my mind.  (I just love that title; it's both clever and poignant). I did a little flip on the title and found myself saying instead -  'How to be angry.  This is how to be angry.'  

I imagined a little alien standing in front of me, newly arrived on earth with no idea how we human beings operate.  'How to be angry?' he asked.

'This is how,' I replied, describing my 'symptoms' for him. 'You screw up the muscles in your stomach, you feel your blood racing, your face looks all pinched, your temperature rises, and you think of a person who did something to hurt you.  That's how you feel angry.'

I watch as the alien practices feeling how I'm feeling; screwing up his face and clenching his fists. 'Yes, you've got it!' I say.  'Hi 5 Alien-creature! That's how to be angry.'

Spontaneous and creative practices like these seem to cut off the blood supply to my resistance.  It's impossible to resist and judge my anger whilst simulaneously teaching an alien life-form how to feel it!  

Throughout the afternoon, as emotions and thoughts arose, I'd use the same technique.  How to be to be to be to be @$ to be to be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Phrases of Self-Compassion

Over the past week or so I've been busy digging a truckload of dung into my garden (metaphorically speaking of course, I don't think I could lift a shovel if I tried). 
As I've been digging I've been developing some phrases of self-compassion and kindness to help me as I face all the crap that surrounds me - grief, despair, helplessness and hopeless. I think of these phrases as my little cheerleading support team. They are 'Team Emma' - waving their pom-poms around and giving me a good old razzed-up cheer when I finish yet another hour of digging through my truckload of crap.
Here are a few of my phrases:
'Oh, this looks like anger.  It's here, but I'm sure I didn't do anything to deserve it. It's not my fault.'
'I don't expect too much of myself today. However I feel is fine.'
'Oh, more anger. It's OK. If I am angry, that's OK.  If I'm not angry, that's OK too.  I don't have too many expectations of how I'll feel - it could go either way.'
And, if I'm sitting with any kind of pain - emotional or physical - I say:  'Pain, yes...this is pain.  I'm so sorry.  I'm so sorry it's here.'
I've just returned from a visit to my doctor. I dragged myself out of bed to go (only realising when I arrived that my jumper didn't completely cover my pyjama top underneath. Oops!)  Anyway, as I was sitting waiting for my appointment I shut my eyes and noticed my physical discomfort.  I had a racing heart, a tight fist of tension in my stomach, and my head and back hurt. 
'Oh, this is pain,' I said to myself, 'I'm sorry.  I'm really sorry it's here.'  And, as I sat waiting the tears started rolling down my cheeks.  It was such a relief to give myself some sympathy and kind attention.  In those moments it didn't matter that other people in the waiting room could see my pyjama top peeking out the top of my jumper, or the tears on my cheeks.  I  just a great relief and sweetness at being able to express some compassion towards myself in my suffering.
The view from my front-yard at dawn.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?

I was just listening to a talk by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Ajahn Brahm.  Ajahn Brahm is a UK-born monk of the Thai Forest tradition who lives in a monastery near Perth, Australia. 

During the talk, Ajahn Brahm told his well-known parable about the truck of dung arriving at your door. I cried when I listened to the story, it resonated with me so strongly. So, I thought I'd transcribe it for you all. Enjoy!

(Warning: there are a few swear words in the story...)

Who ordered this truck-load of dung?

Life is like this.  You’re sitting in your monastery, or you’re sitting at home or in your office, and then someone delivers you a whole truckload of shit.  It’s right in front of your house or office. 

There are two things about this delivery of shit in your life.  The most important thing is, you did not order it.  Life is like that.  ‘Why me?’ you say. You didn’t deserve it, this thing just happened to you.  You didn’t order it and you’re not responsible for it.  

But, the second thing is that no-one saw it coming so you can’t ring up someone and get them to take it away.  You’re stuck with it.  So the first thing is that these things can happen and no-ones to blame.  And the second thing is that you’re stuck with it. 

But, there’s something you can do with the dung. You can find the nearest garden, and dig it in.  It takes a lot of hard work to dig in the suffering, the disappointments, the diseases, the tragedies of life. But you’ve got no choice.  

Actually you have got a choice, because what many people do with the dung of their life is to put it in their pockets.  They put it in their handbag, they shove it up their shirt; they carry it around with them.  You lose a lot of friends if you carry around shit. So, you should dig it in your garden. It’s hard work – maybe you only do half a bucket or one bucket a day, but you dig it in. 

And after a while, we call it the miracle, the miracle of Dhamma (of truth).  The miracle is that after a while the dung has disappeared and in its place you have the most magnificent garden.  It’s the garden of wisdom, of courage, of compassion. Not just the kindness and compassion you get from books – but the kindness and compassion you get by embracing, understanding and digging in your problems.  

This is the garden of the heart. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A place with no preferences

 Tricycle Magazine is a Buddhist magazine with an excellent, interactive website.  In their book club section they are currently hosting a discussion of Toni Bernhard's book 'How to be Sick'.  Pop on over to read excerpts from Toni's book and participate in a very interesting discussion with her.

Yesterday Toni asked, 'Do others think it's possible to come to a place where it's "okay" to be sick -- where we would have "no preferences" (to quote the third Zen patriarch) as to whether we were sick or healthy?'

An interesting question! 

I'm not sure about whether I could come to a place where it's OK to be sick (or, to be more specific, a place with no preferences). I think it's possible, but it's not what I've experienced yet.

What I'm investigating at the moment is whether I can come to a place where I don't have a preference about whether I feel it's OK or not OK to be sick.

Here's what I'm exploring...

If I have a day when I feel miserable, bitter, and very ungrateful about being sick...should I feel a preference that this day not be that way? Should I feel a preference that I feel at ease and peaceful being sick? Or should I have no preferences ?

For me, this exploration is very rich. I'm suddenly allowing all these really difficult feelings to flow through my body - boredom, frustration, anxiety about the future, terror, emptiness, and despair. I know this all sounds really miserable, and not like 'good news' at all, but I have this strong feeling that allowing these feelings to flow is really my path.

At the moment I'm feelings in the depths of despair becuase I am just sitting in the 'soup of my suffering' and experiencing a great helplessness. I'm experiencing what it's like to stop the fight and just allow whatever is happening to happen. This is why I haven't posted on this blog for a while, because I've been feeling an almost crushing sense of despair and depression.

Whilst this feels terrible at the moment somewhere deep inside I know that I just have to keep going. Although my mind tells me that acceptance will lead to an eternal, never-ending despair, I have read enough Buddhist books to have at least an intellectual understanding that I really just have to keep going.

So today, I think my practice will be to lie in bed and not have a preference that I feel one way over another way.

Metta to all on this very difficult journey (called life).

Gili Air - a tiny island just off the coast of Lombok.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Like An Egg

Artwork by Milé Murtanovski

A few years ago I made a long and tiring journey across Australia to be with a close friend who comes from Africa. At the time, he was a refugee in a detention centre on the other side of Australia and couldn't come to visit me. 

After I’d arrived he told me, ‘Your sister rang to say you’d be really tired when you got here. I think she wanted to make sure I would look after you, so I told her not to worry, that I would treat you like an egg.’

‘An egg?’ I said, surprised. 

‘Yes, of course. I will treat you carefully, as though I was holding an egg.’

My friend was born in the Congo, and the idea of treating someone ‘like an egg’ was one that came from his culture. It’s a beautiful image. Imagine cradling a vulnerable egg in your hands, neither squeezing too tightly nor holding too loosely.

The image came to mind today as I was watching feelings rise and dissipate during meditation.  I found that it helped to imagine my hands holding my feelings with the careful attention I would bring to holding an egg. I saw the ‘egg’ being placed into my hands – anger, sadness, peacefulness – and felt my hands around them, not strangling them with a desire to change or cling to them, but not letting them go in aversion or disgust either.  

When the feelings started fading, I would carefully place the egg down, letting it go. Then, the next egg would be placed into my hands, with every egg wanting the same thing – attentive, gentle, care.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Giveaway! 'How to be Sick' by Toni Bernhard

I've got an extra copy of Toni Bernhard's new book 'How to Be Sick - a Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers', to giveaway to one of this blog's lovely readers.

I wrote a review of the book yesterday, and there's more information about it on Toni's website.  It's a beautiful book - wise, warm, and full of encouragement and hope.

I'll send the book anywhere in the world.  So, if you'd like a copy please click here to e-mail me your name and address.  (The e-mail will be private; no-one else will see your details). 

The first person to e-mail gets the book.  And please, don't be shy - if you'd like the book, just e-mail! 

Update: 18 September.  The book has gone to Canada!  Thanks all! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review - How to Be Sick, by Toni Bernhard

Over the years I've collected a small library of books on relating to illness from a spiritual perspective.  There are some gems out there. My favorites are Steven Levine's poetic and profound accounts of his conversations with people living with terminal illness in Meetings At the Edge and from a more secular perspective,  Jon Kabat-Zinn's book The Mindful Way through Depression.

Now I have a new book to add to my favorites.  Toni Bernhard, a former law professor, fell sick in 2001 with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) after a trip to Paris and has never recovered. Despite being mostly bed-bound, she's just published a book with the wonderful title How to Be Sick - a Buddhist-inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers.

Toni writes poignantly of the first months and years of her illness in the first chapters of her book. Her illness blind-sided her, and was only diagnosed as CFS after a battery of tests failed to show anything was wrong with her. She writes, 'I had so much blood drawn that we joked with my primary care doctor that at least we'd proven that blood-letting didn't appear to be a cure'.
The opening chapters were especially resonant for me, because I also fell sick when I was overseas.  Toni writes movingly of the incomprehension and the utter disbelief that can accompany the initial stages of the chronic illness. She writes, 'It's just so hard to, first, truly accept that you're chronically ill and, second, to accept that this illness is going to require you to change your plans for life in ways you never imagined.'

Toni's first task seemed to be one that is deceptively simple - to accept that what was happening, was happening. 'I began to bow down to these facts, to accept them, to be them. And then from there, I looked around to see what life had to offer. And I found a lot.' As she developed a relationship with the suffering and loss in her life, Toni was able to use the Buddha's teachings on compassion and joy to cultivate within her a sense of peace.

 Toni became a Buddhist in the early 1990's and had many years of meditation practice under her belt before getting CFS. Given that the first of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths is that 'suffering (or unsatisfactoriness) exists', it was natural that Toni would turn to Buddhism as a way of navigating the rocky waters of chronic illness. As she explains, 'The feeling that Buddha understood the pain of my life allowed me to start the day-to-day work of accepting that dukkha [unsatisfactoriness] is present for all beings.'
I think the quote above encapsulates the essence of How to Be Sick - Toni isn't offering a magic, cure-all, pill in this book.  She isn't saying, 'Do this and you'll be well' or 'Don't do that or you'll be sick forever.' Instead, she's inviting readers to explore with her the Buddha's teachings as they relate to living with pain, fatigue, loss, and sadness - never forgetting that the basis of the Buddha's teachings is 'how to be happy'. 
Toni's background is as a teacher, and it shows.  Her book is beautifully written, with a wise, warm tone.  It's never overly instructive, but leads the reader around and through different teachings in a way that encourages us to experiment with our own relationship to them. I think it's a book that encourages creativity and exploration in our own journeys with illness. 
Throughout the book, Toni teases out and mulls over a variety of Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings, relating them to her daily life in an intimate, practical, and positive way.  Practices discussed in the book include developing  loving kindness  towards ourselves and others, using the work of secular teacher Byron Katie to question the validity of our thoughts, and reading naughty Zen koans to have a good-belly laugh. 
Toni's book is a also a guide for care-givers, and recognises the upheaval and loss that caregivers face when the person they love is affected by illness. The book includes many practical and spiritual reflections that can be used by care-givers as well as the person suffering from the illness. 
You certainly don't need to be a Buddhist to benefit from this book, nor do you need to have a chronic illness.  I think many of life's difficulties - a divorce, loss of a loved one, an addiction - could be substituted for the word 'chronic illness'. This is a beautiful and unique book.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in cultivating a sense of freedom and joy whilst struggling with life-difficulties. 

For more information: Toni Bernhard has a website, and you can buy her book here. (I will be doing a giveaway of the book in a few days - so stay tuned!)

Toni with her gorgeous grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The two-sentence rule

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am quite the Cheri Huber fan.  Cheri is a Zen teacher and writer who has some very direct and creative teaching techniques. 

Much of the focus in Cheri's teachings is on becoming aware of the voices in our head.  She calls these, 'egocentric karmic conditioning'.  These voices are the 24 hour non-stop news network we run in our minds. Our own private Fox News channels are full of most of the stuff that the actual 'news' broadcasts; gossip, high drama, tragedy upon tragedy (real or imagined), all broken up with infomercials for miracle weight-loss pills.

Whilst I'd like to think my own version of Fox News is more like the News Hour with Jim Lehrer (or if you're in Australia - more SBS World News than Mornings with Mel and Kochie), I have to admit that Rupert Murdoch has complete control over the content of my mind.  The channel in my head isn't erudite, and Paris Hilton gets a lot of airplay. 

Mel and Kochie with some dude in an embroidered shirt.
Cheri Huber's life-work is to encourage us to notice these voices that broadcast continually in our minds and to become aware of the strategies they use to pull us out of the present moment. These strategies often include an element of high-drama and possible tragedy. They encourage us to think that life is divided into two extremes;  it's win or fail, gain or lose, triumph or tragedy, life or death.

My current extreme story is about a new chronic condition that I've developed.  Over the last year, some very mild tinnitus (ringing in the ear) has become worse. Every few weeks it gets louder, and is now at the point where I can't wear earplugs anymore to sleep and it interferes with my resting during the day. 

I have always feared getting any other illness that would impact negatively on my sleep and ability to rest, and now it seems like my worst fears have come true.  Not only do I have tinnitus, but it seems to be getting worse, and in my mind I am not only resisting it in the moment but engaging in fearful and vivid stories about how it will be so bad in a few years that I will not be able to sleep and will commit suicide. 

Now, I try to tell myself that engaging in these thoughts can actually make the tinnitus worse.  But, that doesn't really help, becuase I still feel fearful and  the thought that I 'shouldn't' be fearful just lumps more anxiety and blame on top of the fear. 

This morning I read Cheri Huber's blog, and came across an instruction that I think might be helpful as I go back an forth between fearful projections into the future, and trying to just be present with what I'm feeling in the moment.

"Don’t participate in any internal conversation more than two sentences long."

She goes onto explain this technique: 
Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate keeps the illusion of duality alive in a conversation about what’s wrong, loss, lack, deprivation, fear, urgency, the past, the future, using judgment and comparison as its tools. Its method is conversation, a conversation in the head of a human who is vulnerable to being caught in a dualistic belief system. Without that conversation the illusion of a dualistic reality cannot be maintained.
I feel like this very simple and clear instruction - 'you don't have to listen to anything that goes for more than two sentences' is something that I might be able to follow over the next few days. My internal conversation about this tinnitus and how it is going to destroy me currently runs at a length that would rival War and Peace, so I can see how just adhering to the instruction to drop any discussion that goes for more than 20 words might be helpful. 

I'd be interested to hear of strategies you use to bring yourself back into the here and now. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

A new look

Yay!  My blog has a new look and I love it!  (It's had this look for a few weeks, but I've just been fixing up a few things and now the 'look' is finalised). 

I wanted to write a post to celebrate, but I'm a bit tired.  So, instead, some photos.  On the weekend I went to my first craft market.  It was the Buninyong Makers Market, held in the small town I grew up in. The hall was packed and I hadn't left the house in the 10 days prevously because I'd been so tired, so I was quite overwhelmed by the crowds and the people. I think I met more people in 4 hours than I've met in the past 8 months!

Overall, it was a lot of fun, and it was great to feel some sense of connection with people as they looked at my portraits and asked about my techniques. I shared the table with my sister who makes gorgeous personalised placemats with quirky designs. 

Here's us  at our table - I love how colorful it is.  You can see my sister's placemat designs on the LH side of the photo.

And here's me - swallowed up in a sea of portraits and stencils!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Sweet Feeling

After a month where I felt some stability with my health, my adrenals have spiked and I’m on a roller-coaster ride of exhaustion and adrenalin. So, today I'm not feeling well.

Saying ‘yes’ to the despair, the anger, and the physical pain isn’t cutting through. I still feel totally wedded to the suffering. Lying in bed, just practicing awareness of what's happening, I start repeating a more complicated form of ‘yes’ –

‘I don’t ask of myself that I feel anything different to what I feel in this moment.’

It's  working for me because as I say it I realise that the subtext of every moment I experience is – ‘I ask of myself that I feel this differently.’ I'm  aware that I'm constantly wrestling with the moment, trying to force it to be different than it is. 

So, during the day I repeat my mantra:


‘I don’t ask of myself that I feel anything different to what I feel in this moment.’

A sense of helpless running through my bones.

‘I don’t ask of myself that I sense anything different to what I sense in this moment.’

‘I hate this pain!’

‘I don’t ask of myself that I think anything different to what I think in this moment.’


Just moment after moment, thought after thought, sensation after sensation. And my response is, ‘I don’t demand of myself that I change it.’

Finally, in the evening, I am standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth. I’m being mindful of the way the brush feels against my teeth and I become aware of a feeling.  What is it?  It’s tiredness and heaviness.

‘I don’t ask of myself that I sense anything different to what I sense in this moment.’

Suddenly, amazingly, I feel a sense of warmth and relaxation. Tears well up in my eyes and a voice rises up in my mind – ‘this is what I’ve been waiting to hear all my life’.

I realise in a flash that all my striving, my studying, my piano practice, my trying to be a good meditator, good daughter, good person...all of this was done with the aim of feeling what I feel in this moment. I feel acceptance. It is what I have been striving for my whole life. And I have just given it to myself. 

It's a sweet feeling. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Congratulations Toni!

One of the nicest parts about having this blog is being able to connect with other 'travellers on the journey'.  A few months ago one of these travellers - Toni Bernhard -  contacted me through this blog to say she was about to have a book published. 
Since then, Toni and I have become e-mail buddies and I'd like to send a big 'hurray!' out to her, because her book is now available.
 Toni's book is titled 'How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers.'
I've had the privilege of reading several chapters of the book and highly recommend it.  It's wise, warm, practical - and very down-to-earth.  The chapters are short (so not too overwhelming for people energy problems), and you don't have to be a Buddhist to be able to relate to the topics she writes about.  
Toni has a website, where you can read more about her and the inspirations for her book.  You can buy her book from Amazon or the Book Depository
Congratulations Toni!
(I'm going to be giving away a copy of the book in the next few weeks, and Toni will be dropping in to write a guest post for this blog - so stay tuned!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A morning of contrasts

It's Tuesday morning here in Australia, and I've been awake for about two hours working on a couple of different projects. 
The first is some volunteer work I'm doing for an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She has her asylum hearing in a few days, and I'm doing research into her case to try to support her claim.  My ex-partner is from the Congo, and we have a little charity that raises money for his brother who runs a medical clinic there.  So, the terrible human rights abuses and the absolutely horrific situation there - particularly for females - is not anything new to me. 
But, I'm finding this asylum research so distressing.  I don't want to go into details about it, but it involves almost every brutal element that the war in the DR Congo is known for. The other difficulty is that the asylum seeker in question is someone related to a friend of mine, and we're all very concerned about whether she'll get her refugee claim accepted. 

I am not convinced that her lawyers are going to put effort into researching her case (she is only meeting them for the first time today, and her hearing is on Friday). So, I'm worried that my very amateur volunteer efforts at research will be the only supporting evidence she has.   I'm finding that pressure very stressful.  I know I can only do my best, but I'm worried my best won't be good enough. 
In complete contrast, the other little project I've been working on is a portrait of a couple of boys from rural Queensland (in Australia).  The boys live on a farm, and are real 'farm blokes', so I'm trying to incorporate this part of their personality into the portrait. It's a lot of fun working on something like this, particularly as the boy's mother is a real pleasure to work with. 
Going back and forward between writing about brutalities in the Congo, and drawing wheat fields in the background of a portrait is doing my head in. The contrast between something that is sweet but ultimately not important, and a situation where a person's life may be in the balance, is just too much. 
And, that's all I really have to say.  I just wanted to write a post to say, 'this is doing my head in.' (And, if you are into prayer or sending metta...I wanted to ask if you could please spare a few moments for my Congolese friend.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

At two with nature

I’ve signed up for a daily ‘Peace Quote’ from a group called Living Compassion.  Every evening at around 8pm, a quote about meditation, mindfulness or peace drops into my in-box.
Tonight’s quote:
Barn's burned down, now I can see the moon. - Masahide

Usually I slide my Peace Quotes over into a little folder and save them. Tonight, with a flash of irritation, I immediately hit ‘delete.’

A few seconds later I paused.  I thought of the quote again – ‘barn’s burned down, now I can see the moon.’ What did it mean? Why did I delete it?

Well, I thought the meaning was fairly obvious. The guy was saying that everything material, everything he thought he needed and had built around him – had gone, and now he could...what?  Hear the birds singing in the trees?  Feel the breeze on his face?  See the flippin’ moon?

I started noting and naming my emotions.  ‘I feel angry.  I feel frustrated.’ Then it became clear, I felt pissed off and guilty. My barn had burnt down; my health had gone, fallen away around me leaving me exposed to the world.  There is no job, no husband, no child - just me. 

And, can I see the moon?  Do I pay extra attention to the kookaburra in the tree outside my window? No. I just feel angry and sad at what I’ve lost – and guilty that I can’t report that I’m a ‘better person’ because of it.

I sense that as a sick person I am somehow meant to find delight in the birds, or the way the sun makes dappled patterns on the wall.  I feel an enormous obligation  to report that, ‘I’m not well...but I appreciate the littlest things so much more because of this!’  I feel pressure to have ‘learnt’ from my situation.

And that’s why I felt frustration and anger at the quote.  I am not here to be inspiring to well people. I am here, for the moment, to be angry and sad that I am sick. Tonight, I cannot see the moon. I am, like Woody Allen, ‘At two with nature.’

Me being 'at two' with nature in a mountain 
village near the Thai/Burma border.

(The photo below shows the huts where I was staying.)

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