Trying our Best

We’re doing our best,

Remembering that life is not a test,

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Everyday we try,

And often we cry,

.

If not on the inside,

Then it will surely on the out,

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Sometimes they are tears of joy,

Other times of pain,

.

Whether we see sun or feel the rain,

It really is no shame,

.

For whatever weather passes over you,

Is not a curse, nor is it good nor bad,

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When we learn to be habitually glad,

Seeing the happiness in the sad,

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For in finding this moment is to know what it is to be free,

Seeing what you see, instead of wanting to flee,

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Dreaming what it is to simply be.

.

7-8-2022

Another 24 hours on the emotional rollercoaster of life, and life with a newborn.

Nobody can overstate enough the challenges of having a child, nor the rewards. It’s a complex equation that cannot be solved. Just when you think you are sorted, you have a rhythm or even a plan, it is bound to change.

For me it’s better to use an algorithm that is separate from external events and instead learn to navigate the ebbs and flow of joy, pain, and the dreaded feeling like it’s all falling apart.

Yesterday was one of those days, that started on the back of a poor night’s sleep. Our usual parental team ‘sleep salvage’ system is where I sleep with our newborn (now 2 week old) for the first part of the evening, whilst my partner gets some protected sleep, handing over from 12 midnight to 4 am to myself get some protected sleep. During this time my partner has her sleep interrupted by breast feeding, and when I again a take over at 4am both of us have had a rest, but the mother is exhausted. I take our newborn to help the mother salvage something until the day starts again. We are both up in action (in sync with our toddler daughter) at 7am, or sometimes earlier. So this is the system, for now, and the day before yesterday it somehow came off its hinges. Something happened in the night, perhaps a leaking nappy that needed changing that woke up our newborn daughter, or something else that I cannot accurately recall owing to sleep deprivation.

It is thus hardly surprising that the following morning and day, yesterday, was fraught with problems which largely manifest in the moods and perspectives of both parents, but the brunt of which impacted on the breast feeding mother who is an absolute legend for her efforts and stamina. The caring partner also was there to help whether the emotional storms that ensued, as in a team all are affected, both in the short term and the long. Instagram photos and whats app friends chats can never really capture the details of moment by moment struggle. Images and soundbites of text are great for conveying the joys and the momentary glory but do very little to describe the holistic journey.

Therefore, in a sense, it’s somewhat of a gift to be able to write some of this down. To me it’s hard to answer the question that is often asked “how are you guys doing?”, “how is the mother doing?” for perhaps the representation of truth is always lost in the omitted details. And in a sense perhaps this is not what is sought to be divulged on either side of the question. Like an unwritten code of too much information.

I planned to write down some reflections after our first child, but I kept putting it off until I felt more rested and had more time to do this. That time never arose. Also with the first I was perhaps too anxious about “what next” to even have the headspace to start writing about what has just been!

The time never really does arise to write, because there are too many other things to do, including “sleep when the going is good”. There is a whole lot of ‘opportunity costs’ in the newborn parent’s life. Even whilst attempting to write this post I’ve had to pick up our 2 week old baby and settle her a little, to salvage what seems like a rare break where I’ve prioritised writing than doing the unwieldy list of other task of that continually get put on the back burner. I chose this time to write as it was a rare moment when my partner was having a cat nap in alignment with our toddler first daughters afternoon nap – and even this is bound to end abruptly any moment!

Yesterday the culmination of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and cluster feeding lead to what felt at the time like an existential crisis right at the cusp of the end of world breast feeding week. We are often told and with good evidence, how it is beneficial to breast feed if possible. What is rarely expressed is just how hard this can be particularly when taking into account the range of pitfalls and resultant exhaustion that is heavily loaded upon the mother who is the one who solely breast feeds. It was opportune in a way, that this crisis hit right at the cusp of the end of the world breast feeding week, because there was already some awareness in our worlds about the topic of breast feeding and how hard it can be. A friend shared her own journey of breast feeding, trials and tribulations in a heartfelt facebook post, read earlier in the week. The week it self signifies a beautiful celebration of the non-judgmental choice that women have with breast feeding if they choose, but also helps to raise awareness of the multitudes of supports that exist to support mothers in their choices and how overcome some of the obstacles.  

That night in our family we had the discussion about breast feeding again, and it’s always an emotive one. So many factors. The benefits, versus the challenges including the sheer exhaustion. Whilst the children were asleep we discovered a brilliant online resource recommended to us by two different friends recently, one who wrote the mentioned facebook post, about baby sleep and baby feeding called “Milk and Moon”. It is a great source of information and support. The posts on the website outlines so many of the challenges that many women and parents face with a newborn, including the frequency at which sleeping challenges are experienced, even by parents who have had a child before. The program is run by a passionate GP experienced in maternal care and parental wellbeing. It’s goal is focussed on helping bring to light the latest evidence on the topics discussed. In the quick read I had, I couldn’t say there were any instant “solutions”, however, there was instant reassurance that we were not alone in our struggles with feeding, sleep and the interconnected nature of these two important entities that lead to much parental stress and worry. More practically there was a sense that we were not traversing this journey alone.  

This feeling of isolation is a very common feeling when you have a child, particularly if one doesn’t have family on site, but it is also one that is rarely talk about, at least in my experience. I remember this feeling well when we had our first child. My tendency has been to reach out to trusted friends and our little community – this worked wonders, as it is amazing what happens when you ask. as we had no family around on site until my partners parents arrived when our first child was over 6 weeks old.

They say “it takes a village to raise a child”. What they don’t often highlight that it is perhaps the assemblage of that village that is of paramount importance when we are no longer living in villages, and perhaps it’s importance is maximal at the beginning phase which one will be forgiven as labelling “the survival phase”.

We are so grateful beyond what words can express for all the help and support we have had despite not having a lot of family on site. We have been blessed with good care in the hospital, by our incredible midwife team, and also the friends and our family in Sydney. One friend set up something called “Meal Train” which allows friends to volunteer to drop off food in the first few weeks, which has been a blessing exceeding any the greatest expectations, thank you so much everyone.

Anyway – my break is over, and time to get back to being an active dad. One further thing I wanted to say, is about the feeling of there being “no time”. It is easy to catch myself saying “how on earth is it possible to do it all!?” and at times desperation at times. However, in these times am grateful if I have the presence of mind to take a slow and deep breath in, and out. In this moment I sometimes hear a wiser voice which says, “whilst it may be impossible to do it all, perhaps it is possible to do ‘some of it’ and wouldn’t it be a shame to not give that much a try?”

The beauty of the moment

Walking at 6 am, out in the winter’s cold,

Each step feels bold,

As it is a step away from the warmth of bed,

.

Ideas come to my head,

Do I walk through the town, or paint it red?

.

So many things I want to do,

But so easy to misconstrue,

.

What is important,

And what is desire,

.

What is necessary,

And what is fire,

.

Also we must do is “stop”

In this moment,

.

And “BREATHE”

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For with that you are freed,

To see clearly,

The beauty of the moment,

No matter what it shall bring.

9-7-2022

It’s been a busy and eventful week as always. Becoming a parent has awakened me to how I could become even more challenges in terms of time, responsibility and desired. But it doesn’t matter how much lands on my plate. To me the same algorithm for peace exists. In this moment I have a choice. To breath in and energise with the in-breath, and gentle release (or “let go”) with the out breath.

I also have the choice to stay inside and try to chip away at the countless tasks and that one must do, or take a plunge and walk outside of the house. For me walking outside of the house, and connecting with the earth and nature, is analogous to stepping my consciousness outside of the busy mind-space, and connecting with the body.

Luckily for me it was cold outside, so the elements of nature hit me straight away. If I had more time to spare I would have headed down to the ocean for a winter swim, or a surf. But thats okay, a walk around the block sufficed. In that moment, connecting with the surroundings, I saw the golden hue of the sky, unique in its own way, as the sun was contemplating it’s predicted rise. There was the reflection of the light of the buildings and lawns on my street and beyond. There was a moment of noticing, what otherwise goes unnoticed. Perhaps nothing fantastic or spectacular in itself, but put all together somewhat awe inspiring.

I came back to my indoor spot within half an hour, forever changed but still the same.

The journey of Grit

3 days in the trenches,

My gut wrenches,

Knowing I will soon need some rest,

And still circumstance puts me to the test.

.

How can I move forwards?

Without looking back,

Doing what I do best,

.

Sometimes you feel you have the knack,

But other times you are left lifeless in defeat,

Practicing medicine is no easy feat,

And often we have to retreat.

.

But still we try,

Sometimes we cry,

And most of all

We can never deny,

The value of it all.

.

For to be ignorant of this is to crawl,

At a time when we really need to run,

And perhaps even have some fun,

Looking beyond the edge of pun,

.

To find the play in words,

That will lift us up just that little bit,

.

“Grit”

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This what it feels like,

But struggle is never wasted,

It can be cut and pasted,

Into the narrative of success.

.

For every ounce of effort,

Bakes the cake of understanding,

And whilst it may not be a soft landing,

But it’s a journey that we sometimes are faced to take.

26-6-2022

It’s the journey that counts

Have courage to face the next moment,

For that’s all you have,

.

Take time,

To live in the present,

.

Be prepared,

To jump to the next dimension

.

For life is an expansion,

And it’s the journey that counts.

23-1-22

So how does one get themselves out of a rut? Very simple. Have the courage to move forward. Remembering that life is not always as it has been. Each moment, each second is changing, if you can wake up and look around you.

The birds, the sounds , the smells, the light, before you, is always new. The people around you are different in unique ways that cannot be predicted.

The only thing that can possible stay the same, or fixed, is the midset which one holds, either rigidly, or loosely. This mindset is powerful, because it is the lens through which all perceived reality is viewed.

Having a 2 year old daughter is a gift beyond words. To see how she see the world, experiences things for the first time in her life, repeatedly, sometimes in awe, sometimes in jubilation, sometimes in fear, and other times in terror, is enlightening to my own perspective on the world.

Yesterday she had her first swimming lesson, where I fully dunked her in the water (intentionally, and under careful instruction). It was telling to see how terrified she was after the first plunge, but slightly reassured with the warmth of my underwater hug, whilst at the same time she seemed to be clinging on to me for dear life. The encouraging words of the swimming instructor , “that’s great Ella, do you want to try it again!?” may have also offered some solace, but the resistance to this concept was written in her eyes, so much that it was almost like a banner, reading  “NO WAY!!”. Despite this, around the pool we went and we did it again, and it was slightly better tolerated, this time the grip of her little paws on my neck was slightly easing from almost drawing blood, to a mild clutching scratch. I’m so proud of her for facing the challenge, even though she didn’t really have full choice. Nevertheless she left the lesson with a smile.

But to think about this quantum leap in a different way is to say that “taking the plunge” is perhaps the quintessence of what ‘living the life we were born to live’ is all about. It involves a lot of courage, a little faith, and full embrace of the journey we are all on.

Getting through Hotel Quarantine – Sydney Sept 2021

Extreme gratitude is the attitude that you can take,
By embracing it fully you start to awake,
To the opportunities that lie right in front,
And you avoid bearing the brunt,
Of misfortune that is surely in your way,
That is not to say,
“Be happy” or “forget about loss!”,
But rather to cultivate a Peace,
That lets you be less “cross” at all of these things,
When you look up you find what the stars bring,
Light and love,
A spirit that helps you elevate above,
The misfortune of the mud,
Instead realising the beauty of the flowers,
That are yet to unfold…

12-9-21

So it’s been a very interesting two weeks in Hotel Quarantine. It has been challenging doing this with a toddler who loves the outdoors and a partner who has left the comforts of her home country Sweden, that is currently fully open, to arrive back in Australia when we are in a state of lockdown, hospitals overrun and of course the mandatory 2 weeks in a hotel where you can’t go outside your hotel room door.

But with that said, we have been so extremely fortunate. We were so lucky to be allocated a a nice hotel and being allocated a one bedroom apartment and a small balcony where we can get a little fresh air and space outdoors. How helpful and wonderful, that small balcony was, and a taste of freedom that it allows.

We were terrified of the potential “worst-case” scenarios for international travel and hotel quarantine before leaving Sweden and returning to Australia (and if you can’t be bothered reading this post. These fears included a multitude of things including, our flights being cancelled, and when arriving our toddler going nuts locked in a hotel room, and potentially not eating anything. It also included us, the parents, going crazy looking after a toddler in confinement. However, the whole journey back from Stockholm Sweden to Sydney Australia, which started over two weeks ago now, has been remarkably seamless. Not without crisis, and not without break down, but with perseverance and success, and I would attribute the majority of this to an attitude of extreme gratitude.

It was super tough leaving Sweden this time more than usual. Ella, our 20 month old had 4 months where she had been so comforted by being surrounded by her Swedish family. Of course we had the tragic loss of Sanna’s father accentuated by the inability to travel back during his illness. There were so many difficult things to deal with in this journey. However we will always be eternally grateful for the comfort of being able to spend so long there and it really aided to the grief and the healing period for Sanna and for us as a family. It was such a lovely time in Sweden, and for me personally getting a bit of space, learning the language and experiencing the fabulous and quirky culture again, and mostly getting to spend time with my family and daughter – every day. It was priceless. Truly grateful.

Coming back now to the flight and hotel quarantine;- Qatar airlines were amazing for us, with great staff and in particularly the two airline stewards who really looked after us, and were really welcoming with Ella. We were worried about our flights being cancelled in getting back an decided to upgraded to business class as we had that option, even though it was at great expense. We had never flown business before and had such a good journey. We were greeted by the police and military as part of the hotel quarantine procedure, and were not told information until we were on the bus. This was very confronting, especially for Sanna. This aspect was tough at the same time I appreciated greatly that the staff were really nice about what they were doing, and for us it was clear that they cared and they were doing their best to make our passage as good as it could be given the constraints of the policy, in this very difficult time for all.

We were lucky to have a great hotel, and the staff, including the catering services have been wonderful. The first few days were super hard. Getting our systems together, forming routines, and also getting over jet lag at the same time (which thankfully wasn’t too bad given we slept well on the flight). Initially the food was pretty hard for Ella to tolerate. It was nice enough but not like home cooked food. That was very hard to for Sanna to deal with as she normally provide Ella with top class healthy meals and to have not control over what I daughter had to eat, in addition to her not being able to be outside in the nature she loves, was tough. But again focussing on the positive, she was sleeping okay, and we managed to figure out some good play routines.

The upgrade to business class meant that we could take plenty of toys with us, including the toy Kitchen stove, which flat packed down – you’ve got to love the Swedes for their building ingenuity, even for toys! (It really did feel like we literally travelled with the kitchen sink in our extra suitcase!) The balcony meant that Sanna good get her outdoor time and we figured out that uber eats could offer us a good local coffee -worth the slightly extra cost. Also the TRX like exercise device we bought from the “Stadium” in Sweden prior to leaving was a game changer – as was the HDMI cable that a good friend in Örnsköldsvik had given us was essential to watch on demand TV in the evening (including VPN sorted Swedish TV so we could continue watching Swedish Idol!). Finally the care packages were so amazing – at the top of this list of people to thank was a brother who turned up and dropped off home-made meals made by our sister in law, a bottle of wine, waves from the street, and of course the rented acoustic guitar, and our Yoga instructor friends yoga mat. Then there was a locum agency friend who delivered a care package with chocolates and bath salts and other snacks. A friend who dropped off a special package with a bottle of French Champagne – which was a winner – was so appreciated (I’m sure there were other things, which made a positive difference – so sorry if I forgot to mention, and thank you).

During our first week we seemed to be one of the few people in the hotel, there was nobody to see on the balconies. The two Facebook groups that I was part of “Mandatory 14 day Hotel quarantine chat group”, and “Hotel Quarantine Sydney” was really a lot of support during this time. I managed to connect on messenger with a few other guests even in our hotel who were going through similar challenges (ie those entailed by HQ with young children). Then at the beginning of our second week we had a lovely experience, worth writing about. Our hotel received a large proportion of the Australian ParaOlympic team who had just come back from the Tokyo Olympics. Suddenly the hotel was full and there were people on the balconies, so overnight it went from a ghost town to having the balconies full of activity. On day 1 of the new HQ guests arrival I found myself, whilst on my play-school break from looking after Ella, on the balcony saying “gidday” to one of my new neighbours, who was a friendly lady one floor up and across from me. It was the first real life, non-screen related, conversation that I had been able to have, and loved it. She was such an inspiring lady with a great attitude towards life. We shared stories, had a great yarn, and in the end took pictures on our phones of each other and sent them via messenger. It turned out that she was a ParaOlympics champion, Christie Dawes, who came 8th in the world in the Wheelchair marathon, and has just come back from her 7th Olympic games. There was a radio interview on her on ABC Newcastle the next day and she sent me a message saying – hey guess what – your balcony photo featured in the media!

Physical and mental health is paramount when in confinement. I have to take my hat off to the service we received. The health nurses who called daily to check on our health (including mental health and wellbeing) were so good, nice, professional and caring. We took up their offer of psychology consultations and check ins. It was so helpful to have a caring psychologist to check in on how you were coping with the stress of confinement and other things, every other day. This was all free and organised as part of the hotel quarantine program and it was a real gift and valuable strategy. There is nothing that could be done to address the real issue of being stuck inside, but at least there were practical tips – including the suggestion of watching the Netflix “Headspace Guide to meditation” (that was animated so kids can handle it too) priceless! Ella got sick on day 5, having high fevers and a runny nose (which was thankfully not covid). We believe she got ill largely due to the air conditioning system meant that it was difficult maintaining a natural room temperature at night – ie it was often too hot or too cold. There happened to be a problem with our air-conditioning in the main room, and the maintenance couldn’t really enter the room. These things were hard to deal with at the time, but we made it through. Thankfully Ella got better, but the health nurses caring, and having a medical back up plan really helps soften the blow. The psychologists even sent us a set of teddy bears to thank us for being patient – they got how hard it was – which was super nice.

Finally the support we got from our families overseas and locally, and friends through video skype, and also messages on social media cannot be acknowledged enough. We even found ourselves posting on social media creating a kind of mini-series of our stay over here in Facebook and Instagram (part of our therapy). It’s not something we normally do, but I believe these strange time call for increased creativity and this is exactly what happened. Not to mention that perhaps there was an opportunity for me to play out my ongoing aspirations to be street musician and performer. Ella and I had so many jam sessions, “Tea Parties”. There was so much drawing and dancing. So I guess these are some of the rainbow’s that you can find in the storm.

So with all that – we are looking forward to getting out today, back to our own house.
Thank you

#Love #Gratitude
#hotelquarantine #Sydney

Roger in our Hearts

Yesterday we had the funeral of Sanna’s father, Roger. It was a tragic loss beyond words for Sanna and his wife Cissi, for Ella and myself, and for his greater family and friends. We are all still coming to terms with the shock of the news of Roger’s sudden death earlier this month. The funeral service, and the family gathering at his home afterwards, which was nicely coordinated by Cissi was a beautiful commemoration of the life of a wonderful man whose time had come much too early for anyone to understand. The last few months have been such a tough time for us all especially with Sanna being so far away from home in these restrictive times of the pandemic. We are so fortunate to have been able to make the mission of getting over here, which has been much more difficult than it can seem. We are very grateful for my work colleagues back in Australia, and the family and friends on the ground over there who helped make it possible for us to be back in Sanna’s homeland at this important time. With permission, have shared Sanna’s poem that was read out at the funeral yesterday (original version in Swedish).

Roger you are always in our hearts ❤️

Spring is on its way,

Life begins all over again,

You take your first breath,

You take your last breath,

In April, when winter has passed,

.

The years go by but spring never dies,

Where you walk, traces of tussilago* are left behind,

.

The river Vindelälven rushes past,

By your feet where you stand, at the water’s edge,

The fish jump and play,

Splashes by your toes,

.

It’s spring and you exist,

In every leaf, flower, valley, mountain,

In the earth, in the air, in the snow that melted,

into water that flows down the Ammarnäs mountain,

.

It’s spring and you exist,

always in our hearts,

always in our memories,

A small tussilago* is carefully popping out,

It says: “you live in me and I will never die”

.

22-4-2021

*spring flower (dandelion)

Våren står på glänt

Livet börjar om på nytt

Du tar ditt första andetag

Du tar ditt sista andetag

I april, då vintern har flytt

.

Åren går men våren består

Det lämnas spår av tussilago där du går 

.

Vindelälven rusar friskt förbi

dina fötter där du står, vid vattnets rand

Fiskarna hoppar och leker däri

En eller två sprattlar till vid dina tår

.

Det är vår och du finns till

i varje löv, blomma, dal, berg

I jorden, i luften, i snön som smält

till vatten som rinner nerför Ammarnäs fjäll

.

Det är vår och du finns till

alltid i våra hjärtan, 

alltid i våra minnen

.

En liten tussilago tittar försiktigt ut

Den säger: “du lever i mig, jag kommer aldrig ta slut”

The magic of travel

Travelling again,

A trip almost thwarted by rain,

But certainly not in vain,

For with a journey comes the courage to succeed,

And the realisation that life is not a race,

Nor is it a test,

But rather an experience,

.

Plunging forth in a caravan,

New beginnings,

New ways,

Exploring nature,

Family fun,

And meeting people of like mind and heart,

The travel quest already won,

.

For perhaps it is with the first step we take,

The intention and the courage to try,

That exceeds a life living for next “buy”,

Instead remembering those special ones who mean the most,

Even when they are gone,

Thinking of those people and things we love and then making a toast,

.

A life we experience, and a life where are present,

So why not paddle around that crescent,

And see the sun, the moon and the ocean,

Which is setting and rising both at the same time,

Look within, connect with your divine, and most and no matter what enjoy your day

It will be just fine.

.

31-3-21

Just got back from a lovely caravan holiday, and about to get back to the hustle bustle of regular life. Feeling very grateful for a trip a way with our little family – Sanna, myself and Ella our 14 month old, out in the throes of nature, at Lake Tabourie in NSW, Australia. We had 9 days planned, but couldn’t get away on time, due to torrential rains in NSW. Our house was flooded, thankfully not too badly, but we almost cancelled the whole trip. We also experienced the rapid deterioration and death of a dear friend who had become very unwell with age and illness over the last few months. It was great that we could be there for his wife in small way in this difficult time.

The weather was looking foreboding, especially for us who had never towed a caravan before, or gone on a camping trip with a baby. However, in the end we decided to take the plunge when the weather improved and we do not regret it one bit, for to us “Travel” is an integral part of our lives, one that we have missed so dearly in recent times (like so many in the world during this pandemic).

So with this brief post I wanted to celebrate a little, joys of taking that plunge, and re-entering into the “travel mindset” with a few photos that captured the spirit of what was so special. Time away with family, time spent in nature, doing fun things like playing in the water, surfing, and paddle boarding, seeing sting rays, walking on the coast, cooking outside, meeting other travellers and making new friends, and connecting with old, jamming under the moonlight, and of course the adventure of not knowing or controlling what is going to happen trial and tribulation – and loving both in the same way.

Fear, Hope and Courage – 2021

Here’s to 2021,
The new year that has just begun,
On the journey that need not be won

For each step we take
Is more than “make or break”
It’s about moving beyond the fake

To the truth that we find inside
Looking inwards fear cannot hide

Beyond the courage of our heart ❤️

1-1-21

All the best for the year ahead!

We started in a fortunate way, a day trip out to the top of a lovely waterfall with friends .

The serenity of nature, and the Forrest is healing, as is the power of water, music and friends.

My heart goes out to all those people who are restricted, and don’t have this opportunity right now. We feel your pain, and with you, for we are all connected in one way or another.

Here’s to hope, and here’s to the courage to face what lies ahead 💪🙏💕

Always look for the rainbows, even in the storm (especially in the storm)

This post was also inspired by a video by Jay Shetty- a poetic reflection of the year 2020; powerful words, and deeply insightful ideas.

I wonder if 2020 is the mark of a global nation, and more interesting a shift in humanity towards “The journey inward” ?

2020 Reflections

Equanimity

The time is coming,

For a change in scene,

The beauty of this time is near,

It’s for our hearts to hear,

And our wisdom to know,

That we are all here to “grow”,

 

Like the melting of the snow,

That which we cherish in its solid form,

With the coming of the spring we are torn,

Both by the beauty of what is to come,

And the loss for what has been,

 

For all the magic cannot last,

But still we enjoy the blast that we had,

For it was experienced in the moment,

So, we must love the rain,

As much as we love the wind and the snow,

But the question is how?

And the answer is “it doesn’t have to be now”,

 

For through the intention of your journey,

You can find the direction,

And only through deep introspection,

Can you find the key,

As the quest for love,

Resides within thee,

And at its deepest point we see,

The truth of “Equanimity”.

 

28-12-19 Seeing beauty in all things, all experiences and all states, is the quest for the bold, courageous and sublime. I first came across the concept of “equanimity” when learning about the “Brahma Viharas” from the Buddhist philosophy. In this teaching of the Dhamma I can remember learning about the 4 kinds of love, Mettah (loving friendliness), Karuna (loving kindness), Mudita (joy for the happiness and success of others) and Upeksha (equanimity). “Dhamma” is the Pali word that refers to the “wisdom teachings” about the “true nature of life” as described by the Buddha’s insights, which he encouraged us to find and see for ourselves.

 

“Upeksha” or equanimity has been referred to as the “crown jewel” of love, for it is the hardest to practice, yet the most rewarding in terms of generating peace for oneself.

 

When I did my first 10 day silent meditation retreat in 2009 in Sri Lanka (which was vipassana retreat according to the S N Goenka style), I came again into contact with the concept of “equanimity” for it was practiced daily, and within every sitting meditation session at first laboriously (for it took effort), and then with joy after I got the hang of it.

 

In essence, what we did was recognise that by scanning the body, with our attention, we could detect that there were both pleasant and light sensations in different parts of the body at any given time, and also deep and painful parts (eg the feeling of pain in the hip after sitting in one place for 45 minutes without moving and getting up).

 

The practice was to observe our reaction to both the pleasant and the painful sensations that we were experiencing and challenge ourselves to treat both pleasure and pain with the same greeting. The greeting was that of “letting go”. We acknowledged the sensation by deeply entering into the experience of whatever was there, without prejudice, and then moving on with the body scan. By practicing this state of “non-reactivity”  were able to more clearly observe the principle of “anicca” – ie that all things eventually pass. This was quite liberating, for after one had sat through intense pleasure and pain in a one hour sit (perhaps more of the latter in most of my sits to be honest), then there was a feeling of liberation, right then and there.

 

I remember sitting once for two hours, and this wasn’t that common. I felt as if my legs were on fire. All sorts of thoughts arose, including “I wonder if I will be causing my legs serious and permanent damage by sitting here cross-legged and not moving”. I remember being determined to make it to the two-hour mark, the end of it would be through the chanting that preceded the ending bell and the familiar recorded voice of SN Goenka who told us to “take rest… take rest” after each sitting session. In that particular two hour sit (which was unusual as most of the sits were 1 hour in duration), I felt like I was experiencing an abstraction of “hell”, and yet I was sitting in a peaceful room. It perhaps dwelled upon me that the hell I was experiencing was not “out there” but was deep within me. I also experienced the ability to not react, but to enter deeply into this state, and “let go”.

 

Through the letting go I was practicing equanimity. At some point the pain left me and I was left in a blissful state. Again I remembered (through prompting of the audio recording that we listened to whilst doing sitting meditation) that this blissful state was also something to enter deeply into and “let go”, for attachment to pleasure was perhaps in some way as unhelpful as aversion to pain, and we learned this through our own observations of our own bodies, or at least I did.  In that moment I also “let go” again. In letting go of “my reaction” to both pleasure and pain, I experienced them fully as states passing through me, rather than abstractions of myself, and also realised that “I” (whoever that may have been) was not who I “thought I was”, nor was I limited by my experience. Rather, perhaps I was largely that which observed these things.

 

It’s hard to explain things that were experienced in the moment or can be experienced in every moment for the minute one tries to label something there is an abstraction from the experience itself. However, sometimes poetry and prose can describe these things, and trigger one’s own memories of experiences of different states of consciousness. For me Equanimity was one of the most profound insights, that has helped me so much in my life. Whenever one experiences hardship, I always remember that sitting meditation where I felt like my legs were on fire and noted the power of non-reaction. Also treating pain, the same as pleasure.

 

I was perhaps forced to practice equanimity when I broke my ankle (unbeknownst to me, and my medical friends at the time) whilst 10km into a 40km hike. It was very painful, but I could still walk with a backpack and it seemed like a bad sprain. But still I managed to complete the walk after 2 nights of camping, only to discover about a day later that perhaps it was broken, and indeed it was. The disappointment was intense as it rendered me incapacitated at a time when I needed to be in full flight (right before a clinical exam requiring lots of study and activity). Again, there was an opportunity to practice equanimity, to see things with a clearer perspective, to understand that I was not my experience, but rather an observer of these things. Still there was hardship, but I had the choice of experiencing the apparent tragedy with creativity and choosing my response with what I wanted. It was much like how I choose my response every time I choose my response to the change of state from being dry and warm, before plunging into the ocean that always feels initially cold and wet.

 

If equanimity symbolises a space of “peace”, then perhaps letting go is key. And the easiest way I have found to learn and practice how to let go is to simply take a deep breath in through the nostrils, and exhale slowly through the mouth with slightly pursed lips, noticing the experience of letting go with each out-breath.

 

This can be done once, for one minute or one hour. All can be equivalent in the moment; the most important thing is the “practicing” of it. When that out-breath comes, I am reminded of how simple it is to let go. It is simply, but not “easy”, if that makes sense. The two concepts of simplicity and easy are different things. The more one practices a simple, yet hard to do thing, the easier it gets.

 

“Letting go”, the path to equanimity, and “breathing mindfully”, the path to letting go.

Sunrise at North gong

Serendipity

Sometimes we see the things we need to see,

Other times we just know,

 

Some people let it show,

Others simply grow,

 

No matter how it may seem on the surface,

What really counts hides deep below,

 

For when we trust in the inner glow,

Perhaps this is when we hit “Flow”?

 

12-12-19

I felt inclined to reflect in the serendipitous nature of success. I write this statement in an element of “tongue in cheek”. Let me explain. This morning I started listening to the Audiobook titled “Success is for You” a book written by Dr David Hawkins, with an original manuscript that was initially drafted in 1991, and the Audiobook was recorded for Audible only recently, this year.

 

I was actually alerted to the recent audio version of this old, yet significant piece of writing by a comment made on this blog, to one of my blog posts. I was really chuffed to read the post as it was written by the person who had recorded David Hawkins book titled “Letting Go”. This book had a profound effect on me, beyond that cliché statement may imply. I actually refer to this book, and others, in talks that I give on wellbeing, stating that is wisdom that I have picked up from such text that help me on that path (towards inner wellness).

 

This morning I woke up and went down to the ocean to pay gratitude to mother nature, in more a physical sense rather than a verbal interaction. It felt divine, as it always seems to. I feel quite blessed to live so close to the ocean, for jumping in the water is a beautiful start to the day. I am very aware of the positive elevation of my consciousness, or at least my perception of this happening, as I submerge myself deep into the water and swim out to sea, and then ride the energy of the ocean’s wave back to the shore. The true joy of both catching a wave and missing a wave, in that state are equivalent, and effortless.

 

Jumping forward an hour or so, I start to listen to the new Audiobook I have just downloaded. David Hawkins, MD PhD and psychiatrist (translated through Peter Lownds, PhD) talks in his book “success is for you” about the power of “making it happen”, and the “aha moment”. He relates to concepts that I have been made aware of previously through coaching, and deep reflection. However, he seems to be able to effortlessly illustrate that the most important things in success is are to do with a “state of being”, something that is already within us, rather than “out there”. In this realisation there is an “aha moment” and sense of power, perhaps even an awakening that goes far beyond a desire or intention. I related to this deeply when I heard the words spoken, for it took me back to the moment of submerging myself in the ocean water this moment. In an instant the journey is effortless, and one of effortless joy. I am sure that the beach goers, swimmers, surfers and nature lovers of the world relate to this, although probably not in the same words. For in that moment there is no quest to having things or doing things, for this is already happening automatically by that enhanced state of being.

 

I do not profess to be able to present such simple, yet profound concepts in the insightful and eloquent prose that Dr Hawkin’s book lays out, however, I do feel the inclination to try and translate just a little bit of how an early part of that wisdom integrated effortlessly in to my being (and for this I am very grateful). A guess, the reason for doing so is that I have aspiration to champion “knowledge translation” , a movement I came into contact with when writing up my PhD thesis, some years back, and have thereafter incorporated in my way of being. To this motto I believe that the effective translation of even an ounce of wisdom, is perhaps more helpful, than holding on to a tonne of wisdom that stays buried and dormant within. To this last proposition, I reflect upon what I just read/listened to in the audio book, which talked about the  “aha moment” illustrating true power, the power of realising the greatest part of external wisdom was something we already know inside, and perhaps what we always knew. To me this moment is one of true Serendipity.

sunlight streamingfun in the waterawakened by the surfsuccess is for you