Tag Archives: nurturing the sould

Celebrating Andy

andy paddle boardAndy is a mate, a wild man from Tasmania. I would call his journey style   raw and  experiential . He came along to my soul food workshop, from which came his hairy monster poem. Just sharing some of his stuff with you.

One of his favorite sayings a mate told him about is:-

lay back in the arms of the universe
in an attitude of divine nonchalance
and trust
and your wild dreams will come true

The hairy monster hairy man banksia

hairy monster
He’s the fear that lives inside
dark strange place He lives in
Deep down deep inside
He jumps out and grabs me gizzards
And shakes me all around
And I sit back and reflect on the feeling
And send him love and thanks
Thank him for the reminder
That I have a choice in life
To do my living fully
And show him how it’s done
By this fella in bliss
On the edge
with hairy monster

Buster at night

Jagging in an out breathedog at night
Stolen from the sky
No thoughts or pain just being
Wondering under the stars

Dog as well tags along
Leaves fella to his air
And sort of grins as if to say
Its ok fella do your thing

Pump and jump. Heave and thump
Jag your in and out breaths
In the moment cool that night
Witnessed by the stars

Only feeling remains
Thoughts disappear
Maybe out of body
Dog knows.  Man don’t

Man always gota  know
He’s got to be able to explain
He’s fixed in his cognition
Stuck in his own thoughts

So join me one and all
Jag some in and out breaths
Call them busters if you like
Sucking deep and hard

Cells dance and jingle

The dog smiles
He doesn’t think it through
He just knows fellas happy
And he is happy too

Fuckit

This poems all fucked
And I like it that way
I don’t want no corrections
And I have no fear

Fuckit fuckit fuckit
Feels ok that
Repetitious fuckits
Hard to get bored
When your fucking saying fuckits
All the fucking night
Fucking frigging fuckit
Just one more time
Fuckit

Goodnight

Simple and Profound – put it in your back pack

bhoddi leaf jpgI read it in an old  manuscript, some Buddhist stuff, 20 years ago. I gave it a place in my spirit mind and polish it regularly. Let me tell it as I did in prison. Prisoners often said, ‘Give us Buddhism without the bullshit’

…………..One day Bill was wandering in the forest, it’s where he thought about life. He heard these voices and saw some blokes in a clearing all dressed in orange robes, sitting in a circle around this dude also in orange robes. They were yakking  away  with all this high falutin intellectual shit. Yet he was curious, the main guy seemed to have  something going for him.

So Bill steps in and says ‘ guys I cant understand any of this crap, can you give it to me, simple like in one sentence?’ The main guy turns, smiles, says ‘What a great question, my answer is – If you can learn not to hold on to anything, then you will have learnt all I have to teach’

Bill – ‘Sounds profound, give us an example’

Hmm Ok, says the leader – The old hunters in the forest where I come from used to catch monkeys to eat. They would find a coconut, cut a hole in it, just large enough for a monkey to get a closed hand in. Then they would tie the nut to a small shrub and put  a big  piece of dried fruit into the coconut. The hunter would lie down nearby and wait. Soon a curious monkey would inspect the coconut put his hand in and grab the fruit and try to get it out but his  hand was stuck. He would not let go and pulled and pulled, shaking the shrub and screeching. The hunter  woke up, crept up behind  the monkey and hit him over the head with a stick – took him home and ate him.

monkey-trap 01So we are like the monkey, when we suffer in any way we are usually not letting go of something. If we can understand what it is that we are holding and can let it go, we will lessen our suffering. It is a life times work, just letting go. As we let go, it is like  passing through a new door to a new room and after a while we see more things to let go and pass through more doors or gates into new places. Just remember when you die you let go of everything whether you like it or not.

The catch is working out what to let go off at any time of struggle, because it is not always obvious. This is where learning to be still and becoming  more aware comes in, looking for the causes or awaiting an insight to visit informing us of the cause and so maybe things to let go.

nobutada just buddhaMany use meditation for this. Just sitting still, relaxing the body and watching the breath in the stomach or the nose rise and fall, come in go out. Letting the mind be fully aware of all the aspects and qualities of the breath. Being aware of the thoughts and feelings that distract us from the task and letting them go and moving back into the awareness of the breath.

Not only do we become more and more aware of all the thoughts and feelings that inhabit our body/mind but we learn to inhabit a bigger awareness space, like climbing a mountain, we see more.

Its simple process, become aware, let go where necessary –  Not easy but an important item in your backpack.

Clap Sticks and The Cave

clap sticks over gullyA big part of bush spirit work in Australia is acknowledging and respecting land nature and ancestor spirits. Indigenous Australians have been doing this for around 50,000 years a bit longer than 224 years  white fellas have been here since colonisation began in 1788. Clap sticks ( see image) are an integral part of that acknowledgement and respect ritual.

I got involved with clap sticks in a strange way……………….. ……………………..  about six years ago I was bush bashing in the local forest, its a big place 160000 hectares. I kept pushing my way through the bush, wanting to stop but there was something that kept pushing me. Then I came upon a large sandstone cave, and knew this was where I was meant to be. I visit from time to time, sleep there by a fire, do some meditation and exploring. I had begun my bush spirit journey. It is my sacred place and has very strong energy.

One day a person who claimed great knowledge of indigenous spirituality asked me to take them to my spot. It was a strange and disturbing experience for me as the person seemed somewhat of an imposter and was claiming all sorts of visions which were a bit made up, like a fantasy world. I ended up getting quite disturbed and we left and back at my place I struggled to get her to go. I needed to ground myself in gardening work after the experience.

That night I had a strange and strong dream. In it, there was a man who was going crazy and I felt he was going to kill someone. I went  behind him and killed him with a big stick. The dream disturbed me and I struggled to understand it.

clap sticks anthony 02The next week my lovely neighbour Sarah, who worked in Sydney during the week, said that she had met an Indigenous consultant, Les Bursill (archaeologist and anthropologist )   Sarah knew I did some therapy and group work with Indigenous men both in prison and some mens gatherings in the Northern Territory as a domestic violence consultant. She had told Les about my work and involvement in the local Buddhist monastery. Les expressed a wish to meet me and visit the monastery. So that happened and afterwards over a cup of tea at my place we chatted about our work in prison with indigenous men. As he had been a therapist with Indigenous prisoners for 15 years dealing with  spiritual and cultural issues and I had been a Buddhist prison chaplain for six years often working with indigenous men.

I  asked  him if he minded listening to my experience surrounding the dream and maybe give me some advice. I had mentioned that I and others who had visited that area in the forest had felt that it was a mens business place. Indigenous people have a very strong sense of areas having mens or womens energies. Those who explore the bush and are sensitive to these energies also sense this. Les, after hearing the story and dream, said he had a strong sense  on the meaning of the dream. Hitting with a stick was a very traditional method of punishment and teaching. For example when men were learning ritual dances and got it wrong they were hit with a stick to let them know that.

So his interpretation was that I was being given a very clear message, that this place was for mens business and a place for ritual and to respect it properly and not take women there or boys under 14. I was also told of  a strong ritual that should be used when going into these special places. At the boundary one should sound clap sticks ( or just clap loudly with your hands) and speak to the ancestors and nature spirits explain the purpose of your visit and seek permission after acknowledging your respect. ( Les’s book on the Dharawal people is downloadable free )

red ironbark tree

red ironbark tree

Message was clear, now to make some clap sticks, make, as I am a making kind of guy. I had just the thing. When building my house 12 years ago I got some red iron bark for building the stairs. It was such beautiful timber that I bought some extra, knowing that someday I would have a use for it. It had come from trees in the Batemans Bay area, so it was from Yuin tribe country. My spot was in the Wodi Wodi clan of the Dharawal language group country, on the border with Yuin and Gundungurra tribes.(I would like to acknowledge that the Gundungurra peoples also claim use of the land where this spot is)  So it was of the country and an honouring of the trees, things important in indigenous spirit culture.

As it was one of the most dense timbers in Australia I felt it would sound good as well and they did. So off into the bush with my new iron bark clap sticks and creating my own ritual of asking permission to enter and use. Everything has been pretty smooth since then.

Is it true or real? … whatever that means. I cant answer that, but I can say it works for me and creates a richer and more full relationship with  nature that is present… It works for me and is fun. I have made a few sets of clapsticks now and have given them all away, the last set to Uncle Max ( my next post). So I need to make a few more sets especially for my up and coming soul food mens spirit journey workshop. So I bought a cheap Chinese wood lathe and have just made my first new pair in the picture above, and cut my thumb being stupid. I would like to thank Les Bursill for sharing his knowledge with me.

Eagle – Fire – Truth Sticks – Ethics and Choice

eagle panorama largeSome things are hard and difficult. Choices to be wholesome or avoid harm goes by another name Ethics. Not a comfortable topic. Often I find people dodge and weave or leave the room when it comes up.

Why is that? Maybe it is due to our childhood and current experience of how debased the work ethics and morality has become. We see and hear religious leaders talk about and don’t abide by it. They also say things like no contraception and no masturbation, we know that is crap. We hear them say ‘Act in kindness cause no harm’ and then see them do the opposite.  So we see  much hypocrisy we throw the concept away.

I suggested to a guy advertising life stage training for men that he should include work on ethics. He replied that ‘ we don’t do abstract and intellectual things’. I felt like saying ‘ Well how about an uncle holding down his nine-year old niece and raping her, is that abstract ?’ Sounds over the top, but I work as a counsellor and prison chaplain, and often hear stories like this. It is very real for me and it happens.

So we need the courage of the eagle, the truth of the fire and to stand up straight like the truth sticks. In my work with groups of men and some women around violence prevention ( domestic violence ) I realised that for many some sense of core value or ethics was missing from their life – missing from society in a way. Without an appropriate core value around not doing harm, how could anyone learn to change? So I read and researched and reflected on something useful to use in my work. I came up with the following. It’s not really new or rocket science, perhaps a new way of saying and packaging it.

Chose to be  wholesome as a foundation for living!

  1. I have a choices.
  2. I am responsible for my choices.
  3. I can choose to act in a positive and loving way.
  4. I can choose not to cause harm.
  5. I can choose to be aware of the effect of my thoughts and actions on myself and others.

So this statement became the foundation of my courses on violence prevention. I would present, explain and discuss this, invite questions, first up. A choice would then be offered.

  • If you can accept this, then you can learn something from this course.
  • If you can’t accept this, then you are wasting your time here and may as well leave.

No one ever left and there was some positive learning for us all. So I offer this to you and invite you to always ask me if I am following this in what I do. It applies to small and big things. In particular those wearing religious robes or claiming to teach ways of better living, who can’t follow this, should consider both buying new clothes and changing occupations.

The wedge tail eagles of the Morton National Park, endorse this and it is part of the local dreaming – Lyrebird Dreaming.

Poetry and the sound of one man clapping

Reconstructing Humpty  is my ebook of poems written  between 1988 – 2006. The context of the poems is explained in my spirit journey story

The sound of one man clapping is the name I have given to the story of my first sharing of some of these poems.

clapping handsI gave a few pages of freshly written poems to two  artist friends. A few days later the feedback arrived.  They told me I was just an intellectual wanker with no right to call my writing poetry. It was like putting scribbles on the wall for an art exhibition. I was devastated.

Lying on my bed at home, contemplating the criticism and pain associated with it, I had an insight that was to serve me well on my journey.

“What I had written was just my honest expression of my world, my experience my trying to make sense of it all. It was no more than that, neither good or bad just my truth. I imagined myself on a podium speaking my poems and looking up and seeing myself as the audience and clapping to the man who was just speaking his truth”

The pain gradually subsided. It was my beginning of learning to express and share who I was, learning to face the fear and do it anyway. It gets  easier the more you do it and those that appreciate the intimacy and openness make great friends. I have also found that my poetry is quite good my artists friends were doing a destruct him thing – why? dont know really maybe they felt threatened by them calling to them to examine their own depths. Lift the lid on Pandora’s box. But the result was a gift as it assisted the birth of a wonderful insight.

I found it interesting that when I circulated my Reconstructing Humpty collection, that women seemed to see the story woven through the poems. Men seemed to just say which particular poem they liked.

My favourite response was from a boy of 14 at a dinner party. He said that  he enjoyed the poems and his favourite was the one called ‘Fuck’ . When I asked why, he replied ‘It was so angry”

Honouring – A wonderful gift

Honouring an other – just telling them something that you value about them.  ross river sunsetIt costs nothing and creates such a glow. Its a seed that you can sow. stick it in your intention garden. It was an honouring by Paul that kick started this blog, that little extra grain of sand that tipped the balance. I was giving a meditation at the beginning of a meeting and my friend John was playing soft guitar. Paul came up to me afterwards and said ‘that was gold, can we do that some more’. It was for me an indication to get on with my focus on the spiritual work and to create some resources and inspiration around that. I knew it was a blog, the intention had sat there. Walking in the forest, the name bush spirit came to me and it was born. So thanks Paul. And I need to remember that an honouring is a great blessing and we never know when it is the grain that swings the scale towards the light.

Coffin Sleeping – A great practice??

mask in coffinSleep in a Coffin? i Coffin

We know iPhone and  iPad but what about iCoffin?
Steve Jobs says it, in his speech to Stanford students after his cancer surgery in 2005.

‘Remembering I will be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.’  Where do you get an iCoffin, you make one or get Paddy to make one for you.

Walking with death enables us to get closer to walking fully with life. To take the mask off between us and life. So sleeping in a coffin is a start to casting off fears of death and bringing us closer to life.

coffin table 01Paddy builds simple pine coffins and uses them as coffin tables in his lounge room, storage boxes and off course coffins to sleep in, especially for those attending his courses around soul journey or dancing with the angel of death.

Paddy and many other men have slept for one or two nights in the coffins. He left his coffin at the local Buddhist monastery and his friend Chandra slept in it for six months.

Some of the feedback from men about the benefits of engaging with death are:

‘Confronting death – I began the sometimes difficult process of letting go; not only of my fear of death, but emotions and attachments that interfere with my living now. I felt lighter, happier and infinitely more aware of life as I drove home.’

‘ I have generally been in denial about the inevitability of my own death. I have read about it but never done any real work confronting it.  The dancing with death workshop,  confronted me with the preciousness of life and the need to make the most of every moment that I am alive.  It opened my heart, and helped me more deeply feel the grief of all those who have lost loved ones.  As others will confirm, it has also helped me to be more courageous in expressing my wants and needs, my hopes and fears.  Very unexpected benefits from coffin work. ‘