Yet again, it comes back to Connection

Breakthrough to bold

Last Saturday, the amazing Vicki Hodgson and I ran our first Breakthrough to Bold Workshop and it was sensational!

There is nothing more inspiring than spending an afternoon with a group of people who want to learn and grow.  Not only inspiring, but also heart warming that everyone in the room supported each other, shared openly and made sure they had a damn good time.

We are always 100% responsible for our experience, why not make it a great one? This group certainly did!

One of the things I love about workshops is we never know who is going to attend and what value or little gem they will add to the group. This particular session was full of gold and I want to honour our very first group for that.

One of our participants asked a question around disconnection, why in this overly connected world are we so disconnected from each other?

Great question! And there is one answer that springs to the surface above all others and that is FEAR!

Fear of being seen

Fear of being judged

Fear of not being enough

Fear of getting hurt

Fear of being rejected

Fear of not belonging

and so the list goes on…….

The human spirit longs for true and authentic connection but like most things that are valuable, there is either hard work or risk associated with it.

Because we are now able to access so much low quality connection, I am seeing more and more people becoming confused on why they have this lingering sense of discontent and loneliness. I mean, it looks like they are connected, it feels like they have tons of people around them yet there is a void.

From the moment we wake up, we can surround ourselves with low quality connection. The TV goes on and those friendly faces from the morning show appear, you know the ones that you have been spending an hour with every morning for the last five years.

Over your morning cup of tea, you check your social media for your next dose of connection, FB, Insta, Snapchat and so on.  You see your friends from far and wide, you write some comments and like some things and send a bit of love out into the world.

Yet maybe, you have not yet genuinely connected with the person sitting across the breakfast table from you. Yes, there has been a “good morning” and a quick kiss on the cheek, but is that real connection?

Have you looked into their eyes?

Have you hugged them for more than ten seconds?

Have you taken the time to really listen to what they are saying to you?

You leave the house to walk to the bus stop and see your neighbour. No time to stop, they can just have a wave but don’t break your stride, you have to go!

You arrive at work and as always, there is a lot to do.  It is one of your colleagues birthday’s today and a lunch at the local cafe has been organised.  You consider going for a moment but really, you just want to get everything crossed off the task list before you leave at the end of the day.

You get the picture……

Real, authentic connection, open hearted connection takes time and energy.

On top of that, it requires vulnerability.

Back in the village, we would gather at the well and talk while the water was collected. We would take care of each others children and our front doors were always open. We would come together as a community and build houses for each other over the course of a few days. We would have multigenerational gatherings and (I wrote blog on this a few months ago) sing and dance together.

But this is not the world we live in anymore.

The water comes from the tap and the front door is locked.

I lovingly challenge you to take some time out of your day and have a moment of heart felt connection with another human.  Maybe it will be with the lady at the shop or your partner. Maybe it will be with a friend you haven’t chatted to in a while.

Maybe it will be with yourself…

These are the moments that will change the direction of your life.

Love Kate-3

 

What if we are all equal?

 

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There is an Australian and an American sitting on a bench in the park. The Ranger of that park approaches the two men and says: “You on the left, you Aussie, you are alright. You can stay on the bench if you would like to but you, on the right, you have to go. Because you are American, you are worth less and therefore are not allowed to enjoy the same privileges as the man on the left. Get out of my park now”.

There is a man and a woman on a bus. The bus is getting full and people are starting to get hot. The bus driver gets up from his seat, walks down the aisle and points at the woman. “You” he says as he points, “You have to get off this bus. You are taking up a seat that a man could be sitting in and I won’t tolerate that. Leave now by your own doing, or I will drag you off this bus myself”.

There is an adult and a child walking down the road. They are both enjoying the day but get stopped by the mayor of the town. The mayor tells the child: “I am sick of all the problems you children cause, you make a mess, you don’t respect the rules and to be honest, you really do nothing to contribute to our town. As of today, I want you out of my town. You are no longer welcome here”.

There is a gay man and a lesbian in a bar. They happen to be sitting next to one another, both in their own thoughts enjoying a drink. The barman keeps staring at the gay man with a look of aggression in his eyes, he is telling himself a story and it is getting bigger and bigger by the minute. He eventually walks over and says to the man “Leave – I don’t like your sort in here. I think you are disgusting and I never should have served you in the first place”.

There is a dog and a cat in a garden, exploring and smelling the space. The lady who owns that garden comes out of her house and starts shouting at the dog: “Get out of my garden, you filthy animal! You are not welcome here, you make trouble and you are smelly, shoo will you”. She chases the dog out of the gate while continuing to yell abuse at it.

Equality, it’s an interesting conversation….

I wonder what would happen to the world if we were all REALLY equal?

Because currently we are not. These examples may seem harsh or unrealistic but somewhere in the world right now this is happening. People are being judged and discriminated against for their nationality, gender, sexual orientation and so on. People in wars are being saved (or not saved) because of the country they come from. Animals are being treated with regard to profit rather than spirit, and there is a lot of suffering in world because of it.

From the reading I have done around this topic, we have definitely come along way, a very long way!

Especially in regards of gender discrimination. Fiona Paps wrote a great article for the British Council listing the many changes around equality that women across the world have experienced over the last 80 years. I mean, 80 years ago this was a brand new concept!! Times have definitely changed in this area. Everything from women being allowed to vote, to the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern giving birth while in office just last month. And she is unmarried!!

For the animals – especially in the food production industry – there have also been great improvements. Many consumers are no longer okay with animals being treated poorly and living in squalid conditions. Animal Equality in the UK is working hard to get Britain to become Foie Gras free over the next couple of years and the rise of Veganism is feedback that animal equality is definitely on the table. Again, there is still SUCH a long way to go but I am hopeful.

My question for you is: how can we speed up this process of equality?

What would the world be like if we were all equal right now?

Something to think about….

 

Love Kate-3

 

 

 

Braving the Wilderness

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Have you ever read a book that leads you to aha moment after aha moment? A book that is so clear and feels so incredibly right that you just want to ring up the author and invite her over for a cuppa and a damn good chat? Well, Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown is that book for me.

I was in Cairns and I saw that my friend had a copy. Being a book fiend, I asked her if I could flick through it and she suggested I read it as she had just finished it. She had found the book very insightful and – knowing that I was a Brene Brown fan – thought I would enjoy it too.

Enjoy it? I LOVED it! If this book was a chocolate cake I would have devoured it in one sitting!!

Brene Brown PhD, LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston. She has dedicated her working life to studying those emotions that make many of us feel uncomfortable – like courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She did a TED Talk on vulnerability in 2010 and it has been viewed almost 35 million times. This puts it in the top five most watched TED talks ever. This lady understands human emotions on the level of mastery!

Braving the Wilderness is about belonging, in fact it’s about true belonging and yes, there is a distinction. Brene’s definition of true belonging is:

“True belonging is the spiritual practise of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are”.

Wow! True belonging requires you to be who you are! How powerful is that?

In the world where there is constant comparison and many people feeling inadequate, the idea of just being our authentic selves seems like a bold suggestion. Brene’s analogy of that as being in the wilderness is incredibly beautiful.

I mean the wilderness IS beautiful, it can just be damn scary though – especially when you are on your own out there. The wilderness can feel dangerous, there are bears (or in this country snakes and spiders) but the reality is the beauty of the wilderness always wins if we are prepared to just “be” in it.

When I reflect back on the times I have been in the great outdoors, far away from the city lights and enjoying the silence that space like that offers, I feel a profound level of connection. This connection, I had always thought, was connection to something higher, God or the Universe, yet as I read this book, I came to realise that the connection was to myself (who is a part of God and the Universe anyway).

The wilderness is really where freedom lives.

Just like when I have been in the “wilderness” of standing in my beliefs in the face of criticism or ridicule. The times where I have left the relationship that was hurting me even though I was scared. This wilderness can seem far more terrifying yet, like the outdoors wilderness, this is where freedom lives. Freedom to be me and therefore truly and deeply belong to myself and to the greater world simultaneously.

The thing about true belonging though is it is a combination of being in the wilderness, being you – even if it means you are alone out there, as well showing up, participating, sharing yourself and allowing yourself to be seen by the world around you.

My experience is that we don’t really see each other anymore. People fleetingly glance in another person’s eyes but do they truly see them? I don’t think so.

In fact there was a show on SBS called Look Me In The Eye that was about two people in an estranged relationship coming together. All they did was look into each other’s eyes for five minutes and then make the decision of whether or not they wanted to heal the relationship. Most of them did!

People are hard to hate close up, so move in!

Brene talks about the four elements of True Belonging, and this is the first element.

This is exactly what the SBS show was about. It is extremely difficult to look into the eyes of someone you hate/dislike/have anger towards, for five minutes and there not be a shift. We are kinaesthetic beings, we feel other people’s pain if we connect to them.

I am not going to share the other three elements. I want you to read the book. I hope that everyone reads the book, not only so you have a greater understanding of what the human spirit is craving but to appreciate your wholeness, even when you are out there in the wilderness all alone.

 

 

 

Hard core withdrawals from the good stuff…

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I have just had nine glorious days of love, connection and a whole lot of hugging, and jeez man, that stuff is the business!

We all need to be hugging more!!

I have recently gotten home from a Tony Robbins event called Date with Destiny.  It’s a six day event and it really is a life-changing one, not only for the participants but for everyone who is involved in it. The energy of that environment, I believe, really does change people on a cellular level!

There were just under 1700 participants and about another 250 trainers, coaches, leaders and crew which actually makes for a relatively intimate environment – crazy I know!

This time I was there in the capacity of crew member. Being a crew member means that we help: we help move chairs, we help participants get registered, we usher people, greet people, we clean the main room, we run microphones, we dance a lot, but most importantly (I believe) we hug!

I’ve realised that it’s the hugging I love most of all! I am naturally very tactile but so often in life I am moving quickly or trying to get stuff done so I don’t stop and take the time to hug the person in front of me.

This is actually a great tragedy! Our world desperately needs more hugging.

Being back in that beautiful environment, I am reminded of the importance of hugging and just how good it makes me and the people around me feel.

Not only does it feel amazing, it is doing good in my body at the same time.

Just this week, The Evening Standard published an article about the health benefits of hugging.

The article explained that hugs are an amazing provider of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”.  Oxytoxin has been recognised as being of great benefit for several mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, trust, intimacy and bonding. Now that’s the good stuff I am talking about!

Another huge bonus of our friend oxytocin is that it causes us to feel more relaxed, decreasing tension as well as levels of cortisol – the body’s stress hormone. Cortisol plays a key role in increasing blood pressure and heart disease so if we have less cortisol in our system, we are winning!

Not only are the hugs increasing our oxytocin but they give our serotonin levels a boost as well as dopamine. Both of these hormones play a key role in our emotions and how we feel. Again, the more the better!

Date with Destiny really is a marathon event! As crew, we are there for nine days. We spend three days preparing and then on our day four, the participants arrive and the games begin. A normal Date with Destiny day is somewhere between 14 to 18 hours, and normally towards that higher end of that scale. Based on that, it would be easy to expect a whole lot of illness from burning the candle at both ends. I am definitely a “nine hours sleep” a night sort of girl so this event is particularly gruelling in regards to sleep deprivation.

Interestingly enough though, I don’t get sick. Even though my body is exhausted and I feel like I am running on empty over the last few days, I keep going and I keep going with a smile on my face.

It’s because of the hugs!!

In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of perceived social support and getting hugs on the participants’ susceptibility to developing the common cold after being exposed to the virus.

People who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold, and the researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained 32 percent of that beneficial effect.

That is huge!

Interestingly, even those in the group who did get a cold had less severe symptoms. This was directly attributed to more frequent hugging and perceived social support that the hugging gave them.

If you want to feel better about life, if you want to be healthier and if you want more connection in your world, start hugging others. Do it frequently, with presence and enjoy it!

It appears to me that hugging is just another vehicle that our Creator/Universe/ God/Source Energy gave to us to live an even happier and healthier life.

Time to get using it!!

 

 

 

The Tribe has spoken….

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Tribal Rule is alive and well.

I feel confident saying that you would have experienced it in some form or another over the course of the last day, week or month.

Tribes fascinate me and I am always curious to know what tribes people belong to.

“What?” I hear you say, “a tribe? I don’t belong to a tribe, are you kidding me?”.

No, I am not! And yes you are a fully-fledged, card-carrying member of many tribes – even if you don’t know it.

Tribes today come in many forms – families, friendship groups, sporting teams, corporate entities, sex, race, religious and spiritual groups, ethnic groups, professions and so on. Basically, a tribe is any group of people who are connected to each other and have a set of rules and beliefs in how things “should” be.

Without even knowing it, you have been participating in your tribes and adding value to them, as well as enforcing the rules of the group.

The thing about tribes that is particularly interesting is that there has to be some judgement: you’re either in or you are out. You are following the rules the tribe believe in and if you are not, then you are most probably living with some discomfort. The tribe will (eventually) evict you because you aren’t toe-ing the line, making a change or fitting in. If you don’t then it will make life uncomfortable so that you want to leave and find a new tribe anyway.

Here are some examples:

The Vegan Tribe says it’s wrong to eat animal products.

The Environmentalist Tribe say that if we don’t change, the planet will die.

The Catholic Tribe says no sex before marriage.

The Australian Tribe is not very welcoming of refugees.

The American Tribe says they have a right to carry guns regardless of the deaths they cause.

The Apple Tribe believes that their products are superior to any other brand.

The Police Tribe says you must follow the speed limit.

Don’t get me wrong: tribes have many advantages. In fact, the human spirit requires connection and to be a part of something bigger than itself. This is still hardwired into us from our caveman days – we long to belong.

Tribes create social order, promote connection and community, and most importantly, they are good for your health!

A Harvard University study examined the lives of almost 3,000 people and found that those who gather together to go out for dinner, play cards, go on day trips, holiday with friends, go to the movies, attend sporting events, go to church, or engage in other social activities outlive their reclusive and more disconnected peers by an average of two-and-a-half years. Being part of a tribe is not only fun but it can also extend your life.

Plus, how much easier is it to get things done working as a group rather than attempting to do it all alone? I think of the Amish Community building barns together, and the local church down the road from me who holds a yearly busy bee to tidy up the neighbourhood streets. What about Christmas time where each tribe member brings something to the table to share?

Like most things in life, there is a light component and a dark component. We all want to feel included, to belong, to be a part of something, and yes, our tribes give us that. It’s about being with like-minded people who understand you and your language and who support your ideas and beliefs.

Just beware, however, that the tribe will speak when you are not “toe-ing the tribal line”. My dad started a new relationship very quickly after my mum passed away and his friendship tribe was MOST put out! They had a set of rules around how grief should be done and clearly my dad was not doing it the right way.

I had to field a barrage of calls from his social circle, all expressing their unhappiness around his actions. In the end I told them to stop calling. I didn’t care what the Friendship Tribe thought (nor did my dad, mind you), I just cared about what was best for my father and his partner.

In one of my coaching sessions this week my client was telling me about how her new partner (whom she completely adores!) is from a different religious denomination and that her family is extremely unhappy with her. It started as a gentle rumble but has now escalated into a deep roar. They have asked her to make a choice: him or us.

The Tribe has spoken…

 

 

 

 

A Sense of Community

Fiji

I am in Fiji at the moment attending a Tony Robbins event called Life and Wealth Masterywhich is all about creating more health, vitality, wealth and abundance in your life.

Fiji is a beautiful country! Where we are is picture perfect: groves of coconut trees, the Pacific Ocean lapping at the surrounding reef, a zillion stars in the night sky and these super cute little mongooses running around. Admittedly, the first time one ran in front of me I did almost have a heart attack, though to be fair I think so did the mongoose!

We are having the best week and there have been so many magic moments, but one of best was on the first night when the local villagers came up to the conference centre to do a Meke for us. A Meke is a traditional style of Fijian dance and it was to welcome us to their island.

The conference centre is located between two villages, Naidi and Valali, and both villages take turns in welcoming each new conference group. The group that comes up is normally about 40 people and their ages range from very young right through to the 60s and 70s.  The Fijians wear a sulu which is a colourful piece of fabric (a bit like a sarong) that covers their bottom half and then a shirt or t-shirt to go with it.

The group entered the main room singing and clapping and the energy was beautiful. They all assembled in front of us and finished their song before sitting down in a circle to sing. In Fiji a common instrument is the voice, so the circle was set up to provide the music for the rest of the dancing.

The young men in the group stayed standing and then did a spectacular dance that I am guessing was about hunting based on the way they moved. I LOVED seeing these young men (aged 10 -16) dancing and sharing their traditions so proudly with us. There was no embarrassment or shyness, they just totally owned it. I could see that this was something that brought a sense of position and place to them. This was their dance and it was a demonstration of their masculinity and place in their community.

As I watched the Meke – which was about half an hour long – I had a couple of realisations.

Firstly, every age group was represented here – young children right through to grandparents and I realised that we don’t see a lot of that in Australia where I am from.

This was the perfect demonstration of a united and highly connected community.

It wasn’t just the kids dancing or the middle-aged people, it was everyone together. That means that they must practice together. That also means that the traditions are passed down with the love and respect that they deserve. Teenagers teach the little ones, the adults teach the teenagers and the grandparents teach the adults as each group moves into the next phase of their life. This is high quality, soul-drenching, heart-filling connection!

Something that so many people in my country are longing for.

My second realisation was that a community that sings and dances together experiences more happiness than one that doesn’t. The Fijians are happy people and I feel strongly that this custom along with others which promote community and connection plays a huge role in that. Everyone here belongs.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and seeing the Meke with the little kids surrounded by their friends, peers, parents and extended village family, I could really sense that.

The Meke culminated with the Fijians asking all of the participants to get up and join in. For a moment our Western awkwardness was palpable and I could see terror in several peoples’ eyes! However it only took a few minutes before everyone was up and the floor was full of people from all over the world dancing and laughing together.

Community. It is such a powerful medicine for the heart.

The Departure Gate

 

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I love airports. They are the perfect cross-section of humanity.

Everyone is here. From the FIFO worker on his way home, right through to the family who is going on the much anticipated holiday. Work and pleasure, happiness and sadness, lone travellers and huge packs of them.

I am sitting here at Sydney International Airport about to board a flight to Nadi in Fiji and am taking in the people, the movement and the stories. I am continually intrigued about people; they genuinely fascinate me – and airports are a melting pot of stories, journeys and reasons. I love how so many different things have brought all of us here to this moment in time – where my path crosses other peoples’ paths and I get a glimpse into their world. A glimpse I might never see if I didn’t choose this chair, in this airport, on my way to that place.

The man sitting a few seats down from me in the coffee shop has been telling his neighbour that he is heading home to New Zealand to bury his Mum. He hadn’t spoken to her for several years after a family disagreement and I can hear the regret and pain in his voice.

“I had this feeling that something was wrong but I have been ignoring it for the last few months. Anyway, after much discussion, my wife convinced me to check in with everyone at home. I didn’t want to, but sometimes it’s just easier to let the missus win. So the feeling was right. My Mum had a brain tumour – an aggressive one – and it was killing her fast. Dad asked me to come back and see her – you know, fix things up before she dies. I honestly thought I had more time and I really believed I would make it home in time to hug her and say sorry. I have spent the last few weeks imagining the moment where I say sorry. I was such a prick to her the last time we spoke. I am gutted, just so gutted, that I didn’t get back in time”.

I thought I was going to start crying listening to this!

I wasn’t part of the conversation so it would have been incredibly inappropriate for me to start sobbing just a metre away from him but jeez..!

This is a gut-wrenching reason to be at the airport! Where has that family gone who was laughing about their trip to Disneyland??

It took all of my resolve to just listen and manage my own emotions. The pain emanating from this man was palpable – he oozed sadness and my heart just ached for him. Being the empathetic creature that I am, I had to get up and walk away. I couldn’t be so close to this man anymore because I was barely holding it together. I moved to the departure lounge from where my flight was soon leaving and started to write this. I am not even really sure what my point is other than don’t have regrets!

Life is too short to have regrets, yet life is also funnily enough too long to have regrets.

I love airports. They are the perfect cross-section of humanity.

 

 

Angry does not even come close!!

hungry sheep behind the cage in sheep farm.

It is 4.22 on Monday morning and I am awake. I have slept fitfully all night because of my disturbed mind and have officially given up trying to rest.

Whenever I work with a coaching client who is experiencing disturbed sleep one of the strategies I discuss with them is to write down what is going on and get it out of their head. This normally creates some space for their mind to relax more.

This morning I am taking my own advice.

Last night I was at my girlfriend’s place having dinner. 60 Minutes, an Australian current affair show, came on the television and there was a particular segment on the live trade export industry. It was about the horrific conditions on board the giant livestock carrier, Assawi Express, which is loaded in my fair city of Perth.

Australia has for many years been exporting live sheep to the Middle East. For some reason this has been the preferred way to sell the meat – maybe it’s how the buyers want it over there, maybe it’s about maintaining the quality of the meat instead of transporting it already butchered – I don’t know.

As I watched the 13 minute segment, I was overcome with rage and then a sadness so deep that all I could do was cry. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed to be a part of a species that condones the treatment of another sentient being this way.

How on earth is this possible from a country like ours? How on earth can people be okay knowing that these animals are suffering the worst possible death in such appalling conditions?

The footage last night was nothing short of horrific: animals packed into these ships of death without the ability to move freely. They are packed so tightly that some of them struggle to access the food and water that is provided. A week into the voyage, the sheep are standing in ankle deep excrement which is covering the cargo hold floor.

The regulation states that pregnant sheep are not to be loaded but this is ignored. Often the young lambs are crushed to death being so small and they are then just thrown overboard. Their chance of survival (and let’s be honest, death in these conditions is most probably a gift) is so low for these young little beings.

The look in these animals’ eyes says it all. It was the same look that was in the eyes of the prisoners in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany who were on their way to death. It’s a look of fear; it’s a look of panic; it’s a look that once I had seen it, I could not shake from my mind.

It is hopelessness in huge, stomach-wrenching quantities!

The most devastating thing about these ships is they are HOT. After several weeks of sailing the boat arrives in the sweltering conditions of the Persian Gulf where the cargo hold temperatures rise to life-threatening heights. The sheep are effectively boiling to death in the cargo holds of these ships!

On one voyage when the weather in the Gulf was particularly hot, the Assawi Express ship records confirmed more than 880 sheep died in one day from heat stress. That’s one death every two minutes. The next day, 517 more sheep died. This “death zone” heatwave continued for five days.

The footage of these poor beings panting for air and slowly boiling to death is the horrendous image that has kept me awake throughout the night and continues to trouble me.

In Australia, it is unlawful to leave your dog in a car in hot temperatures that could harm them. I have been in carparks and observed Rangers smashing windows to free pets that have carelessly been left in a vehicle. I have then heard people heckling the owner when they return about what a terrible, cruel person they are.

Now, I don’t necessarily think that they are terrible people: thoughtless – yes, and not very smart – yes, but I am sure they love their animal. Yet people are so very quick to stand up and judge.

Well, judge this! The live export industry needs to be judged! The Australian people in support of the Australian farming community need to step up and demand that our animals no longer get treated this way. I can only imagine how distressed our farmers are knowing that this is how their livestock are being treated.

The man who got the story out is a trainee navigator, Faisal Ullah. He was so disturbed at the conditions these animals were being transported in that he secretly filmed footage on his mobile to expose what is happening. He talked about his heartbreak at being a part of this horror, and knew that if people understood the conditions we allowed these animals to be transported in there would be public outcry.

The man at the top of this tree, Graham Daws (the boss of Perth-based Emanuel Exports which owns the Assawi Express) did not, of course, want to face the music about the cruel conditions he is profiting from. Instead he directed the reporter to Simon Westaway, who is the chief executive of the Australian Live Exporters Council.

Simon Westaway argued Australia has the best live export standards worldwide. Now I was officially ropable!! Angry!! Outraged!! Horrified!! And so deeply, deeply saddened that yet again profit is coming before humanity.

Are we really that shallow?

Have we truly not evolved from the days of slavery and vivisection?

If these are the best standards in the world, how are other animals being treated elsewhere??? More importantly: what can we do for them?

Until we realise that every sentient being is of equal value, companies will continue to harm and abuse animals. I believe that my worth as a human being is no more or less than that of my pet dog or a sheep on a cargo ship.

It is 2018 and even though the consciousness of the planet is definitely improving, we need it to do so with way more urgency. The way that happens is we take a stand, we no longer sit idly by and say “Oh that’s terrible, what a shame for those poor animals”.

We talk about it, we write about it and we use our consumer dollar to send a message to companies to treat their animals humanely or they will not be supported.

Enough is enough.

If you feel as deeply saddened as I do, please take some form of action around this.  Here is an RSPCA link if you would like to join the thousands of others petitioning our politicians to make change to this industry. Alternatively, Stop Live Exports regularly organises protests in support of stopping this practise and has tons of great information on their website.

 

 

 

 

Get your Nude on

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When Was The Last Time You Were Naked In Public?

I imagine this question strikes fear into many of your hearts! So many of us aren’t even comfortable being naked in the privacy of our own homes – like in front of our loved ones or a full length mirror.

On Sunday I was in Sydney to take part in the 5th annual “Sydney Skinny”. The Sydney Skinny is a nude race (well more of a splash around than a race!) which is swum in Middle Harbour and raises money for the Charlie Teo Foundation, a brain cancer research charity.

This is the second year I have participated and I must say that there is a lot to be said for getting your kit off and swimming in one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.

It’s liberating.

It’s empowering.

But most profoundly, it’s equalising.

Last year when I swam I was a little daunted at the thought of being naked in front of so many people. I remember as we were walking down to the beach that my heart was beating a bit faster than normal, and I am pretty sure I had a mild “deer in the headlights” look going on!

Within minutes of being in the Harbour and feeling the water on my body (as well as seeing so many people laughing and having fun), all of my fears and concerns were quite literally washed away.

I just focused on how freeing and liberating it felt, and made sure that I took in the spectacular views. I had such a sense of gratitude with that first race – gratitude that I said yes to the opportunity, and that I could support Charlie Teo (he is such a lovely man!) in his life-changing work. Getting to make these wild memories with one of my best friends was also another huge bonus for me.

Back to equalising though. It became apparent very quickly on that first swim that we were all just a bunch of people of all different shapes, sizes, colours, backgrounds, religions, cultures and ages who are doing their best and having some fun.

All the fears I had about being naked in front of strangers stemmed from me comparing myself to what the “ideal” woman looks like and how I am not that woman. I have a bum and thighs and my boobs are on the small side. I have got stretch marks from my teenager growth spurt and the beginnings of bunions on my feet. The media has made it clear that the “ideal” woman has a very different body to the one I have, and as much I have grown through my body image issues there is nothing like the thought of getting naked with a thousand other people to be triggered!

My realisation was that all my discomfort, suffering and fear came from judgment – judgment that I am not the “ideal” shape and that I have blemishes on my body, for example. The fact is though, this vessel has carried me through 42 years of life…of course there are a few dings here and there!

On the beach with all the naked swimmers around me it became clear that there is no “ideal” man or woman. The media has done us such a great disservice and sold us such a terrible story. That story is that we are not enough and that perfection is the only beautiful thing. But what is perfection anyway?? The media’s story prevents us from celebrating the amazing bodies that we have been given, and it further heightens our need to compare.

We are all unique and most importantly – beautiful – in our own way. Instead of comparing ourselves, we should be celebrating ourselves. It is our differences that make us special, not our sameness.

As Osho, the Indian spiritual guru says:

“Whoever told you that the bamboo is more beautiful than the oak, or the oak more valuable than the bamboo?

Do you think the oak wishes it had a hollow trunk like this bamboo?

Does the bamboo feel jealous of the oak because it is bigger and its leaves change colour in the fall?

The very idea of the two trees comparing themselves to each other seems ridiculous, but we humans seem to find this habit very hard to break.”

Returning this year to the Sydney Skinny was even more enjoyable than the first time. This time around I didn’t judge myself and as a result I didn’t feel judged. I was just so excited about getting in the water again and it was the most beautiful day! My friends and I relaxed happily on the beach post-race and even got in to swim the course a second time.

The nudity wasn’t even an issue.

The whole event is really just a celebration of life, connection, humanity and everyone being uniquely themselves. As I lay in bed at the end of the day I thanked my body for all the amazing work she does day in and day out – she deserves so much praise for all that she does – and this weekend reminded me of that.

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We all have a story

City Beach

This morning I was at one of my favourite West Australian beaches, City Beach. This beach has crystal clear water and white sand and is very popular with the locals.

After my swim I parked myself up on the grass and spent the next hour watching the world go by. It was blissful! I was meant to be reviewing some notes that I had brought with me but as often happens I got sucked in to the study of humanity. I just can’t seem to help it!

People-watching has to be one of the greatest ways to appreciate human beings in all their shapes, sizes and colours. The greatest thing about it is that the subjects don’t know they are being studied and therefore behave in a natural and unfiltered way.

It was a long weekend here and there was definitely a holiday feeling in the air – families with little children, teenagers with arms slung around each others’ necks, and single people absorbed in their phones as their feet hit the sand.

The thing that really struck me today as I sat there and watched the comings and goings, was the appreciation that everyone has their story – their own unique (and most probably colourful) story.

Even though there were hundreds upon hundreds of us sharing the same stretch of beach, we all arrived at the beach with our own past experience, our own filters of the world, our own belief systems and value sets, and our very own story about life.

So often we forget that every person is doing the best they can with what they have.

There was a father who was extremely frustrated with his two small children. The kids clearly didn’t want to leave the beach and were putting up a very strong (yet unsuccessful) fight. Dad was not open to negotiation and the air around them was tense. The kids trailed behind him with tears and resistance, yet ultimately they knew they had to comply. They huffed and puffed and occasionally sat on the ground in complete defiance. This prompted their father to get even more stern with them until finally they felt compelled to get up and keep trudging on towards the car.

It made me curious about what they needed to get home to. Maybe there was a mountain of work that the dad had to do before tomorrow. Maybe it was time for the kids to go back to their mum’s for the week if the family was no longer together. Who knows?

What I do know is that the dad has his story, and so do the kids. My only job is to respect and appreciate that.

It would have been so easy for me to judge them because of the all the tension, but instead I made myself stay curious. I mean: I have no idea what their story is, yet I noticed that my mind wanted to go straight to judgment. Staying curious took some energy.

Left in the wake of this energetic storm, I noticed an older gentleman walking up the path with a boy I assumed to be his grandson. They were chatting happily and the older man kept touching the boy’s shoulders in such a loving and thoughtful way. They shared a joke, or something funny and as they came closer to me, I heard them cackling with laughter and slapping each other on the back. They seemed so genuinely taken with each other that the rest of the world paled into insignificance.

It was so beautiful to watch, and again, I started to hypothesise about their story. Maybe they hadn’t seen in other in a long time and were beyond excited to be together again? Maybe this is a weekly ritual? Maybe it is totally unimportant for me to know.

My only job is to appreciate them and respect that they – like you and me – have their story and are doing the best they can.