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Things That Make You Go OM

Things That Make You Go OM

As the dusty and crater filled road sweeps around, edged with thick green forest an outcrop of buildings emerges, opening to a carpark with an OM symbol on a signpost.

GlassWindowPonderings Kangaroos laze like families on vacation, noses twitching, passing the time. A kookaburra starts laughing. Burning wood and the warm scent of oranges drift to meet the nose. A plate of orange peels sits on the wood-fired heater. Shoes are removed and the next wave of smells drifts in– spices, cumin, herbaceous and welcoming. A faint waft of incense is in the air. However, it is not strong. It is an element. We are greeted warmly. The kitchen to our left is a bustle of activity. Not noisy. There is a busyness, but I observe this is a quiet calm busyness. There is no hurry. No eye contact.

Clean, crisp, worn and trusted, are the words that bubble up in my mind.

Mysticism. AshramRocklynVictoria It is raining this day. Gently, then heavily. While we wait for our host, we sit in a mud brick temple, glass hobbit like windows peeking at the greenery outside. Beads and ancient symbols decorate the walls, and the rain falls down like a soothing pitter-patter-  Why is rain so soothing?

We go for a walk amongst the abundant market garden, a destination for global specialists, botanists, and horticulturalists.

Every section planted and plotted as it has been done for thousands of years continents away. A gardening hut sits at the entry of the garden. Inside are saved tins containing harvested seeds, 50 years worth. Heirloom seeds. A trove full of jewels. Do these seeds capture the genetics of lost nutrition? A lost nurturing of the passionate gardener and gatherer of goods? Ponderings Ashram Story Seeds

It feels tribal here.

Why am I here? A dear friend and mentor recommended the Ashram to me at a time of turmoil 2 years ago. My experience is this is a place outside the hurry curry of the world. A beautiful bubble where you can sleep, you can rest and learn. Learn so much… How not to rely on the feedback from people. How to be on your own in your own thoughts in a space where it is perfectly acceptable not to interact on any level other than- where do I wash my dish? No pressure. Acceptance from that which comes from within whispers.

Some people welcome it, some brave it, some reject it.

Sometimes our inner noise is confounding and deafening, we need the hectic of life to fill the void, so we don’t need to have a conversation with ourselves. Those convos can be deep. Too deep. Life changing deep. Or it can be a gentle getaway for those seeking quiet. Temple at Rocklyn Ashram Every time I go there if it is for morning tea and a meditation session or a 3-day stint- something of incredible value is gleaned. Unpacked gently and quietly in the comfort of beautiful nature. You will not find cappuccinos or fancy yoga gear. Comfort, ease, and lack of adornment are at the face level of this special place.

Today I get to sit and palaver by a fire with Swami Atmamuktananda, lovingly named Atma by those that know her.

She has returned this year from the Camino, a 330 km, trek – 20 km a day.  A pilgrimage thousands of people from across the globe take each year to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. Camino Information Click HERE

The mantra she spoke every day was for peace and wellbeing.

So how did this delightful human become a Swami?

After traveling the world as a young woman for 7 years across continents and oceans, Atma returned to Australia looking for something different. 10 months into running a vegetarian restaurant in Perth a Yoga person came to visit. Life was never the same again. Atma was seeking completeness that she could not find in the Western World.  She traveled to India and stayed for 10 years. Her journey leads her in 1976 to become the caretaker of the Rocklyn Ashram. India’s sister Ashram in Daylesford Victoria. 42 years later here we are. In India the positive impact Ashram life has on its local community is immeasurable. Tonnes of rice and vegetables are provided for locals, children can come and eat whenever they like, distribution of medical supplies and blankets as well as building houses and shelter are just some of the services provided by the Ashram. The wageless life of a Yogic Life is filled with gifts says Atma. She is looked after by having a roof over her head, warmth, access to good food, and fulfillment. There is no superannuation, no medical but there is contentedness. The Ashram is self-sufficient and relies on the caretaking of its inhabitants and visitors to make it available for the general public to enjoy. Calendula at Rocklyn VIC Ashram So what is a Yogic lifestyle? Is it sweating it out in our Lorna Janes, bending ourselves into pretzels and stretching those muscles? Well, this is a western interpretation of the original lifestyle practice made up of many facets that began thousands of years ago, but to give you the very simplified version-

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is primarily concerned with bodily purification practices which tranquilize the mind and discipline the body, based on the principle that one can become aware of higher states of consciousness by manipulating the different forces and systems in the physical body. Hatha Yoga considers the body as the temple of the soul and as such should be kept in excellent condition.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra is chanting or repetition of sounds which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness of man. This is a powerful way of approaching meditational states, for the mind is rendered calm and at the same time concentrated on the mantra.

Karma Yoga

This is the yoga of dynamic meditation or action performed with meditative awareness. Karma Yoga is doing work with complete awareness but without attachment to the fruits or outcome of the work. The work is not the means to attaining some reward, payment, etc. It is selfless work. It is work in which one loses identity with one’s ego. One merely becomes an instrument. When visiting the Ashram, it might be gardening, preparing vegetables, folding blankets or sweeping the paths. Think Mr. Miagi wipe on, wipe off. lamp at Rocklyn It goes on from there with various practices, but for the beginner, these are the daily practices at the Ashram. As a Christian woman I have never felt my beliefs have been at threat when visiting the Ashram and in fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. I ask Swami Atmamuktananda why this is so.
“Yoga is not a religion, and it need not be a threat to any belief system, because it is a science of the body-mind lifestyle. It is science, not religion. People become stressed and need a place to stay, a place with a structure and simplicity, a place where personal reflection can be heightened when there is no life clutter. There is nothing personal at the Ashram, it is open and unobtrusive. There is a level of comfort where all is provided, a nurturing comfort zone if you can allow yourself to let go and accept the environment for what it is- you can experience Ashram life and the gift it has to offer.”
“This offers stability and routine each day, there is a regularity to daily life, of re-establishment we all need. There’s no having to rush, everything is there for you. These practices and this environment allows you to enhance whoever you are.” The simplicity of the Rocklyn Ashram is no accident. There are no televisions, radios, and phones are respectfully asked to be left switched off. rocklyn vic ashram “Not having the senses so wildly exaggerated as they are in the outside world helps to see within. Externalisation makes people stressed and confused, the outside world bombards people with all of the noise, this is not natural to our state of being. So we are honored to provide this space in Victoria for people of all denominations and walks of life to come and practice Yogic living to help rebalance and harmonize themselves. People tend to seek acquirement instead of peace, and this can be a very lopsided journey. A Yoga lifestyle helps to restore and rebalance this,” says Atma. The Rocklyn Ashram attracts schools, VCE students, Backpackers, CEOS, Doctors, Nurses, Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents and Retirees, every walk of human has passed through those doors from around the world.

I ask Swami over all of the years what is the biggest issue facing people right now in 2018.

Financial status and image, we find it very difficult to detach from these things. Never before have I seen such an attachment to physical appearance, an impermanent state.” It has been my understanding of the philosophies of Buddhism and some Hindu practices that we need to “not attach” and practice detachment to gain insight and enlightenment. Garden at YogavicAshram Atma says “we cannot avoid attachment, we are human beings and it is is in our nature to attach, and there is nothing wrong with this. We get into trouble when detachment comes into being. We don’t know how to detach. The detachment of external factors can cause problems in paradise. We attach ourselves to things of impermanence- knowing very little about our realness, and it is when these things disappear, it leaves us in trouble. We don’t understand where our central self is and we depend on that impermanence.”

I consider this. It is easy to fall in love, but not always easy to detach from it.

We love life, but we find grief and dying a problematic concept. I took up smoking easily as a teenager but found quitting difficult. My eyesight was expected, something I took for granted but losing it was detaching from this natural expectation that I should be able to see. My life is mine to keep…Hmmm. What is the funniest thing to witness at the Ashram I ask Atma because for me it was the abundance of porridge and fruit that made people fart in Yoga class-torture for me to not burst into idiotic giggles over?   “Sometimes the Mantra process can really bring joy up in people, or they have experiences where joy, grins, and laughter may erupt or anger. People can become quite funny when they get cross. It is funny the expectations people sometimes have, their interpretation of things can cause a reaction which can at times be amusing.”

So is there life after death Swami?

She smiles warmly, “There are pointers to indicate a continuation, there are thoughts and beliefs that there is a proposed system of continuance. Don’t you ever get the feeling you are picking up where you left off Kirsten?”

Yes, I do Swami, yes I do.

Rocklyn Ashram Details: The Ashram offers a range of retreats to cater for everyone’s circumstances, from: day visits to weekend or midweek courses, personal time out stays and retreats of one week, one month, three months or one year. Visitors require no prior experience in yoga and are encouraged to participate in the general daily program with the Ashram residents. The program includes a morning yoga class, Karma Yoga (a practice of awareness), Yoga Nidra (a deep relaxation practice), evening meditation and varied evening programs. From Glam tenting at $25 a night to full ensuite stays at $105 per night, all inclusive of meals and accommodation. The Ashram has affordability options for everyone. My favorite is the morning tea, meditation session and delicious lunch for $20 held daily if you are visiting the region it is a beautiful day visit to get acquainted.

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The Case of The Exploding Brain

The Case of The Exploding Brain

What will it feel like?

It will be like nothing you have ever felt.

How will I know?

Oh, you will know! It will be the worst pain you could experience in your life. You will either be dead or wish you were.

Good to know.

Social Skills may not have been in his repertoire but hard facts certainly were.

When someone tells you this, you don’t forget it.

I forget my pin number and my sunglasses. But never this.

Then it happens. The Thunderclap headache. Standing in the kitchen having a conversation, perfectly normal. No build up. No symptoms, no warning. Instant projectile vomit and what feels like someone shooting me in the brain from across the room. Shock. Trauma. Ouch. Not in that given order.

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The pain. Today, some six months later I can’t believe I could be in that much physical pain and not be dead.

The ambulance came quickly that night.

Then the sirens. My name, over and over again. Kirsten, can you hear us?

She’s not breathing; BP is dropping. I answer. Why can no one hear me? They can, someone is screaming. I think it’s me. Don’t leave me.

The rolling vomit, the wave after wave of nausea surges through my body, like nothing I have known. The entire contents of my body feel like they are pouring out of my mouth. A tsunami I have no control over, and my whole body shakes and shudders from the violence of it.

By the time we got the hospital I was passed out, pupils dilated, and I was in trouble. A suspected brain bleed. 25% of bleeds cannot be picked up on an MRI; they require a lumbar puncture. I had one of those once. Never again. When one’s spinal chord is impaled with a thick needle by an intern with shaky hands, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I awoke in time in between vomiting to say No thanks. They were not happy with me.

By Friday I was washing the dishes and planning dinner. At my kitchen sink, with what felt like a hangover but no other symptoms. How? How is this possible?

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Gratitude, wonder and then Uh Oh set in. Then “everything is fine today, so let’s move forward, nothing to see here” set in. Its the survivor in me. Thinks she’s a cross between Charles Bronson and a Williams sister. No one likes a martyr. The grief counselor reassured me this sweet denial was a path to potential disaster. It happened. It happened to me, it happened to Lothario, my children, my brother and a lovely friend we had visiting at the time of the “Incident.”

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So I went to Magnetic Island with my youngest son and Mamma bear for a month. I wrote it off, played with him, had adventures, explored my second home some more in all of its pre Summer glory. I enjoyed the company of my island friends. I walked the beaches alone and cried out my fear, my panic. Papa G and I had many conversations on that beach. He was helping me mourn.

What was I mourning?

Well, it’s more than easy, in fact it is downright intoxicating to forget you are unwell when your symptoms do not stop you. You are invigorated by the hypnosis of a fulfilling life and do not want to subscribe to fear. EVER.

But then there is being emotionally truthful. The fact is unless someone comes up with a solution, I am not going to hold my grandchildren. I will not get to be old and grey with my boy. I will very possibly die from one of the most physically painful experiences you can have. Or I could end up a vegetable sucking bacon and eggs through a straw and getting Sunday visits. Sound depressing? It is! Bring on the Tropical Island and a few well deserved Margheritas. 

Rule: don’t ever talk about this to people. They will stop you immediately with: Well I Just Know You Are Going to Be Okay, I Can Feel It. Or No Kirsten, Don’t Say That, YOU WILL BE FINE. IMG_6679


Here’s the thing, I am really glad you can feel it.

I know that the love we have for people makes us want to make them feel better again. For those reading this that have said that to me, I love you for caring enough to say it. I am invested in believing that I am going to be fine too, 365 days of the year which is 825 days longer that they expected me to live. BUT sometimes shit gets real.

Sometimes it JUST IS. Left with the facts you then rely on your faith to surge through again, creating an equilibrium that is a force to be reconned with. In the meantime? There are moments of emotional truth. Good or Bad. Pretty or Ugly. They just are. But this can be distressing to others. So I don’t do that. I take it to God. I take all of those “thoughts” and talk to God about it. We are sitting in a kitchen eating pancakes and discussing matters of the universe. Like what on earth is She going to do with Stephen Hawking now? Whoa. That’s a big one.

Leaderboard Ponderings 3

There are people out there who walk around with some disease inside them, not of their own making. Someone operated on me and made a mess of my brain. The entire contents of my cerebrum, my grey matter, the old think tank and noggin is being held together with a microscopic thing called a FRED which isn’t doing it’s job very well, because it has slipped and has created a high volume bomb ticking in my head. Sneezes- dangerous. Flying – Dangerous. Humidity and the Common Cold ain’t great.

Constipation now holds a genuine concern. Vomiting? Forget it. Anxiety, Stress, and a raised heart rate are the worst. But head knocks? I can take those. I have titanium in there. One unfortunate head butt from my husband getting out of the car almost knocked him out, and I didn’t feel a thing. It was quite amusing.

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As much as I love Louise Hay, I did not manifest this. I am human. Therefore I can break. I did not have unresolved anger issues, but thanks and no Frankincense oil under my tongue each night won’t cure me or special drops made from a rainforests Monkey’s toenail clippings, as delicious as that sounds.

Ponderings Leaderboard

There is a process involved, and it has taken me places I never dreamed possible.

So is it a dis-ease? Or is it a blessing of the most peculiar kind? Depends on the day. Everyone lives and everyone dies, why does dying have to be the worst thing that happens to us in the Western world? Why can’t it be a celebration of how we lived and then the next journey begins? Like saying “Wow, you lucky thing, you are off to Hawaii now! Good luck and see you soon!” “She’s gone to walk with Jesus, lucky bugger.”

Because time is relative don’t you know? A word of advice- religion is not just a safety net for the emotionally weak. I am strong. I did my research. I believe in Physics. I believe in science. I also do not believe in chaos, but design. Conclusively. I do not believe in some Zeus like Gandalf in the sky. Please with a cherry on top, do not spruik your disbelief about the existence of a universal architect to the possibly dying. It is unkind. It’s just a shitty thing to do.

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This journey is upsetting at times. Especially times like “the Great Vomiting incident.” If I can change that fear, that sadness I will. Purely because the vibration is heavy and it doesn’t feel very nice. Good one Captain Obvious.

But it is life.

It is. None of us get out of it unscathed or without learning, so why pretend we do or can? For me, its the faith I foster through it and the learning it presents me that creates joy within the crisis, as I have mentioned before, the alchemy of it all is the light that changes any darkness.

Think of it like walking in a deep dark cave, you know you need to turn on the light, so you do. You find yourself looking at a cave filled with magnificent, luminous waterfalls, diamond-lined walls, and beauty. But you are still in a cave. You have stumbled over sharp rocks, trying to find your way in a cold and hard place, and everyone else is standing in the sunshine. You are in a cave. No denying. There’s the emotional truth bomb. It’s what you DO with it that counts.

spelunker-resting-in-a-cave-PMS8WWE

Sometimes the message is clear for me to write about this path I walk.

Other times I don’t think it’s a great idea. I enjoy writing other things more. I enjoy writing for others more. But I am reminded. It’s not just about me.

I reminded that there are 1 in 50 aneurysms out there. I am reminded that there are people out there in Australia who have a Used By Date that just keeps going. There are people out there that every time they cringe with a tiny pain, their child looks at them with fear and they must wrangle with the conversation “no sweety, I don’t plan on dying today, did you put your uniform in the wash?

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There are people out there who are losing friends and family because the journey they walk is too painful for others to bear, so they walk away. Sometimes it’s time. It takes too much time. Seriously? You keep going on about dying, but you are still here.

Sometimes some desperate people feel it would be easier to bring that final journey closer because then it’s in their control. That’s a scary one. Researchers at Baylor University Medical Center believe depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts affect up to 77 percent of people with a terminal illness. Would you like an after dinner mint with your taboo topic?

There are people out there who have been told they are going to die and it feels like someone took your arse and shoved it through your nose and out your ears.

Then you have to get back to being “normal.” You have to make sure it doesn’t ruin you, consume you or turn you into a victim. Becoming a victim to me is like denying the existence of a JEDI, somewhere a light saber just dropped dead. It’s just not cricket. (I was only joking about the Light Saber thing if you doubt my cred about the whole God thing.)

You are out there. Hopefully, you are reading. Hopefully, you feel a sense of connection that says I am not alone.

I see you. You are not alone.

PS- I know Mr. Hawking was an Atheist, but at the same time I wonder if he is having maple syrup with those pancakes?

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Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au LIFELINE: https://www.lifeline.org.au BRAIN FOUNDATION: http://brainfoundation.org.au    

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Little Shape Changer

Little Shape Changer

By Kirsten Macdonald  She was sure she heard someone call her name. The voice had a feminine lilt with gentle humor etched on the edges. She opened her eyes, dry from the flight and the voice bearer was not near. What did the sleep doctor call it? Hypnagogic state. A foggy place. The peripheral.  This reminded her of when she was tiny, sleeping in the bunk of the truck cabin. The scent of leather cleaner and dust was familiar and warm. She was left there to sleep in the locked metal hulk while he went in the roadhouse. She could not remember why or where she was there, six-year-olds are not concerned about locations. But the girl was snug in her travel space.  Leaderboard Ponderings 3 The veil between dreams and here lifted slowly, and a pale light drew her eyes over to the driver’s seat. Her ankles squeezed as did her little heart.  A striking tall illuminated shape, something like a person, transparent radiant blue, like a human firefly sat there.  She could not see a face but sensed a watchfulness. A sentry, a nutcracker soldier, guarding.   Fear was not there, but wonder filled the girl with a particular type of awe like the time she first saw a rollercoaster. Struck with an intense wonder she stayed very still.  The girl blinked, and blinked and then it was just gone. As she woke, the wonder disappeared like a popped bubble. Who was her visitor? Her human firefly was from that moment tucked under the file called ‘To Be Explained.’ She did not mention it to the busy and faded grown-ups.  Leaderboard Ponderings 2 During the day she was tucked into her world titled The Bunk. 180-degree views through the elevated truck cabin around her made her feel like she was floating above the world,  a princess being carried on her throne.  Occasionally she was fed small packets of potato chips and bananas, golden with brown splotches, ripe from the heat. Dried banana chips were the best, the squeak they made when you bit down was bliss.  She remembers her fear of bones, after reading Jack and The Beanstalk, the fierce roar of the Giant grinding Jack’s bones to make his bread. When they got Chinese food, she licked a Prawn Cracker, and it latched onto her tongue, she bit down and wondered if this was what Jack’s bones felt like. She retched. Sometimes she felt like Giants drove trucks too and she was the stolen harp.  Ponderings Leaderboard A tin of hard-boiled lollies warm to the touch was empty when he wasn’t watching she opened the lid. The small popping noise of the lid made her smile; she would lick her finger and dip into the little crystally shards of leftover pieces sitting in the powdery sugar. Like sweet little pieces of glass, they would sit on her tongue, and she would feel them dissolve and time how long it took them to disappear. She did this all with very quiet joy. She was already learning; she had to be careful not to upset him. Princesses were only princesses when they were quiet.  The crackle of the CB exploded with male conversations, gravelly like sandpaper and littered with swear words and laughter beyond her understanding.  They had a magic to them, messages floating through the air from truck to truck that the little people driving their cars did not know about. They knew where the coppers were, and did you see that Sheila in the blue Datsun? She had no idea who Sheila was, but apparently, the menfolk liked her a lot everywhere they went.  The hills rolled by, carpeted with green grass then within kilometers were replaced with paddocks, crisp dry clumps of grass and sheep that were skinny after their haircuts. She imagined the lives she had lived here once before where many little animals could speak and be friends. There were no grown-up people there, just grown up animals. Wise and strong Aslan types who laughed hearty laughs and gave hugs that did not hurt but made you feel all wrapped up.   In the here -now- life the little one knew that animals could bite. Like the spider at school. All black fur and spiky legs, she wanted to look closer but was scared of being eaten. Some creatures bit, not because they were nasty but to protect themselves. How she wished she could communicate that she was different. To the others.  She did not know why she just was. The mean just didn’t live in her. She wanted more than anything to brush the hair of a lion, to ride on the back of a bear, to be piggybacked through the jungle by a gorilla.  She once had a butterfly land on her finger. She believed with her whole body it was because she had asked nicely from a gentle heart.  It would take many decades for her to learn her same feeling for human friendships. Biting happened frequently.  She created the stories; she lived on that hill where flowers sang her name and tales of Briah Fox were true. Very tall trees were an escape to another world.  A tree striking up like an old man alone in the dusk challenged her to remember its shape. She held up her hands up like a camera and took a photo with her mind; then it went into a file cabinet in her head. It was a faded green color like the one in Pa’s office. So many files in her cabinet tucked away for later.  As a grown woman she cannot recall what she was saving them for. Perhaps it was for right now, right at this moment as she sat on an airplane high above the ground remembering the age of six. The plane is nearly empty, and she looks over the next aisle. He is watching her. He is her Aslan. Sometimes his wildness scares her, his distant self when he needs to walk alone can make her feel like she’s vulnerable. Her fierce woman fury rises from the depths of survival when this happens; her eyebrow raises in haughtiness challenging everything that might bring her undone. He has taught her that men can be good. She is safe and does not need to draw her sword.  She touched the gold cross that sits on her chest. The full, rounded aching now in sweet and sour waves that is 2018.  Author’s Note: certain things happen to us on the fringe of life, at the tips of our memory, the edge of awake and asleep that echo of a story. Like a haze above the hot road and the magic of a firefly, if you look directly, it peaks out of view. Peripheral wonder. To remember we were all children once, that wanted to shine, not from attention but for want of harmony and joy is timely.  The wildness of joy may scare people, but your tribe will arrive. You might even stumble across a human firefly together.  For John xxx

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Independent Media is critical; it means no large media giant is pulling our strings or dictating what we write. Ponderings provides an alternative to networked media, producing stories about issues of social justice and humanity; that might not otherwise be told. Some you will need no introduction and some you will be uplifted to find out about and be inspired by. This year, in particular, our lineup is going to delight and surprise you.

 

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Ponderings Turns A Page

It is difficult to be caught up in a tangle of survival. Its very essence can stir you around like a bottle in the ocean.

I imagine myself hanging on to that bottle for dear life. It is dear. Life. So dear.

It isn’t until I look up out of the lurching rolling waves that I see a hand reach out for mine. I see a boat, and I reach out, grabbing, swinging a leg over the side and up into the timber nest I slide, gasping for air and feeling relief.

I get really scared every now and again. My biggest concern is that I don’t do enough. I worry about wasting time. Wasting dear life. I don’t like mundane activities very much, but mundane also has a place in life and without it, the profound could lose its meaning. There’s the whol inoperable brain situation and there’s life really. Life. What a word.

You see, there are a whole lot of “I’s in that paragraph, and it seems to me when the focus is all on the “I,” it can become intense and all consuming. The heart and soul can feel fuller, lighter and more profound in other ways.

Perhaps one of the aspects worth lots of introspection is spiritual health and attention. I think this starts with the bigger questions or the deeper ones that don’t echo with the emptiness of a needy and fearful “I” but instead make the ground shift and mountains move with the resounding “I AM, followed by “We Are.”

When I speak the word, spirituality-I do not speak about religion. I have nothing against religion personally. I am talking about the Human Spirit and its interaction with the mystery and marvel, the magnificent dance with the greater good. The relationship between resilience, the human condition, faith, wellness of heart, wellness of mind and a satellite view of “US”. Such is the riddle of anthropology and faith. But I will warn you: I am a Christian, and I am not afraid to say it. My best friends are atheists, Jewish folk, Buddhist and my secret favorites; Hindus. There are even some Catholics in the mix, more than a few Muslims and a collective of Agnostics. But we are all humans, and we all ponder. There are many of us here in the mix. Good humans that believe in something more.

Dr. Scott Peck of The Road Less Travelled says “We need not be afraid. But we still are. Faith does not come easily. I still run scared. There is this that I can say, however. As a result of my minuscule faith, I run a little less scared than I used to. Thank God.”

Wisdom is forged from the mindful contemplation of “the US” and all that is around us. When the deeper stirrings are attended to and when the quickening of the brain has calmed to a docile lion instead of a mischievous monkey we are all the better for it.

When we shake off the manipulations of those in power that seek to bind us.

When we realise that our body is indeed a temple and should be nourished naturally with the good food and substance the earth has for us when we care for it. When we can look out at the world around us from within and smile because it is good regardless of the all hurt, we have won.

You can improve that which disgruntles you. You can coax it into the light and infuse it with love and illumination, or you can continue to critique it’s existence and quibble at its failures and fissures, or you can deny it’s existence entirely marching on into the mundane, safe trap of habit. There is a choice to be made.

In my travels this year, I interviewed some of the most astounding Ponderers. Humans who made the choices for a greater good, a small act of kindness, a passion for overcoming that which ails us in. From children to grown ups and the grown ups that refuse to conform. They have welcomed my questions and have allowed my pen and keyboard to bounce at a rhythm faster than lightning, melded with that special “something” that gives you goosebumps and reminds you that there is something bigger than us. They might have cornflake dandruff, wear their clothes on inside out or perhaps they ability to burp the alphabet whilst they wrangle with saving the planet, who knows?

My journey has allowed me to grow a digital media business so big I have had to scale it back and evolve it to something different, a sharing of knowledge to those seeking to step into that space of awesome without having to worry about mistrust or integrity of those providing a service hindered by messy technology. In this journey, I have learned how to present information, how to produce content, podcasts, and platforms in new and enjoyable ways.

So I find myself turning a page to a new chapter. It came to me one night, and the entire picture was written down in the space of 20 minutes. I would love to say my epiphanies fall gently on my shoulder like a downy white angel feather.

They do not. They hit me in the forehead like a semi trailer packed with dynamite. So the “I” is going to become “Us”, Ponderings of Kirsten is going to lose the name Kirsten in its title and become Ponderings. A free online place where you will witness stories of the human spirit, laced with gutsy, real life, with the sprinkle of dark humor and laughter, with maybe a few tears. But a whole lot of Ponderings, in the form of interviews, Ponderings Radio and guest writers. There will be featured artists, musicians, painters, poets, and activists.

While the hundreds of emails that hit the Ponderings inbox with gratitude and thanks for sharing warts and all accounts of a possibly dying but mostly living girl, my world has filled to the brim with those with even more than this. So much more to fill your cup with and drink. It is my legacy now to pull you into the boat with the new guests of Ponderings and me while we ride out this boat ride together. We will play music, tell tales, inspire you and unlace the knots with you, but most of all we will smile, and we will laugh. By God, we will laugh. We will have heartsmiles by the dozen and disrupt this good earth into oblivion!

My motto that came to me in a moment when I pondered my intention-

Be of the eye that seeks to improve with love and be the lantern that brings light to the dark corner.

Watch this space beautiful humans. x Kirsten

 

Wherefore Art Thou Jana?

Wherefore Art Thou Jana?

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1987 was the year of Dirty Dancing, Lost boys and Nightmare on Elm Street, it was the year Robin Williams screamed Good Morning Vietnam and the term bunny boiler was coined from Fatal Attraction.

87 was the year Ben Mendelson debuted in The Year my Voice Broke and when Scott and Charlene were married to the serenade of Angry Anderson singing Suddenly.

How I looked at Ramsay Street with unadulterated envy.

My street was nothing like that. I’m not sure that everybody needed a neighbor in our little stretch. Just a friendly wave each morning, helps to make a better day, next door is only a footstep away. Are you humming it yet?

Only a footstep away was the old mate over the road I had to bypass to get to the shops. That man could spit at least a meter or even two.

When I was a kid, Mum would give me all of the 1 and 2 cent coins in the house in a little bag to go down and get things from the corner shop. It wasn’t far. Just at the end of my street, but it was the adventure of a lifetime every time. Walking past the scary old guy on the corner was freaky, he would just sit there staring into nothingness, but his ability to urinate into the garden and spit meaner than a pissed off donkey was impressive. I often wondered what he was looking at and I am not going to lie, his wiry white hair and grunting made me nervous. You just couldn’t trust a grown-up who could spit like that; it wasn’t natural.

The next stretch was the empty block with very long grass.

Now if you grew up in the Australian countryside, a block with long grass on a hot summer day could spell trouble. A small rustling sound in the dry husks could signify an early demise, for surely it was a brown snake or a red belly black ready to have a feed and snuff you out. Thankfully I was skin and bone, not much to eat. Too bony and crunchy for the likes of a Joe Blake. Even so, I could recall how quickly the adults jumped during Friday night drinks when one slithered in under the bar stools. You could understand my nervous hesitation.

Melting bitumen was the order of the day, the stuff that made your thongs tacky (melting rubber), with heat hovering over it like an invisible man hologram. Man that was hot potato, do you remember going to the local pool and having to hot step it with wet feet on hot concrete? Yeah, exactly. Ouch.

Then there were the hoons. Young men amped up with testosterone and P-plates, armed with their dole money chucking laps in their Toranas or Datsuns with White Snake pumping out of the cassette decks like an audio bomb. This was no Bose finesse doof doof folks. This was Uncle Mick’s old Clarion tape deck with second hand Alpine speakers, wires gaffa taped to the carpet. Rockin soul right there.

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They would yell things out, awful things I didn’t know what they meant. Later I did and they should have had their mouths washed out. Uncouth Youth of the other side of the tracks.

The ticker ticker of front lawns sprinklers with garden gnomes standing sentry would guard my path.

Eventually, I worked out that I needed a distraction.

I found myself impersonating my idol, the mentor of my life and the keeper of my dreams and ambitions Jana Wendt. Good grief the woman was a shitstorm in a teacup. Nicknamed the perfumed steamroller by her male counterparts I had never seen anything like her. She was so smart, she had an excellent vocabulary and got to interview lots of interesting people. Her curly questions to men were the best bits. Kids watched He-man, I watched Jana. During the Fitgerald inquiry, her ability to break down to the facts and cut through BS were dynamite. I had no idea what the Fitgerald inquiry was about, the only Fitzgerald’s I knew was Fitzys, the local supermarket. But she was better than scrunchies and Debra Harry, she was smart and she got to ask cool questions.

So I would copy her mannerisms, tilt my head in a certain way, practise my voice pitch, my look of serious contemplation and oh yesses, yes of courses, and I understand, and interview the world’s greatest. One time I was interviewing Muhammad Ali about the San Diego bust up, and I would often have fascinating in-depth discussions with Michael Jackson and his opinion about Jacques Chirac’s deal to open a new Disney in France. MJ was the expert on amusement parks. I longed to meet his chimp and get the moonwalk- slight- heel turn spot on. This was the icing on the cake for a future author/ballerina/news anchor.

There was one time the year before, and my then step-father gave my cousin of awesomeness and me the task of going to the tuckshop to get supplies of some nature.

All he could find was a one dollar note. This cousin of mine was the Joan of Arc to my Jana. Fearless and mighty she could give sass to a grown up at 200 paces. Now kids, back in those days a one dollar note was 100 of those 1 cent coins, and a 1 cent coin could buy a lolly. We entered with the clang of the shop bell, the sugary hot chip and newspaper scent greeting us. A slight glint of the sun outside illuminated the glass case to our right. Heaven descended upon us, a case filled with treasures of musk sticks, bananas, caramel drops and sherbert bombs, milky bottles and Big Boss cigars. imgres-3

Three things happened simultaneously so fast it was breathtaking, my cousin Kelly reminded me of our secret cousin nod, that we possessed the ability at that moment to purchase ONE HUNDRED OF THEM, the shopkeeper asked “ What do you kids want?” like a Scooby Doo classic, and my mouth watered. It was a trinity of circumstance out of my control.

All thoughts for fulfilling our quest for my step-father’s goodies evaporated quicker than you could say chocolate freckle. We bought a paper bag so large we could barely hold it. I cannot remember if I ever got into trouble, the memories must have been overcome with Jube Hallucinations. The rebellious joy of it was almost too much to handle.

The joy of the one cent coin never appealed to the shopkeepers, and I could never work out why.

On my interview walks by myself, carrying the big heavy bag of treasure, bypassing hoons and snake infested paddocks I would cross2819a41b7f78b5c07b4ab59c364c5c0f the last path of fear. Jumping the cracks in the footpath and ignoring the Magpies as they sharpened their beaks on the branches like Samurais sharpening lethal swords, then there was the house with THE DOG. A big brown fence was the only thing keeping me away from a Rottweiler the size of Kong. He didn’t care that I was an 11-year-old bag of bones, he wanted to eat me. You could literally hear his foamy spit. Have you heard spit before? Between old mate over the road and the Rottweiller, it was a freakin spit parade. So I would pretend he was Joh Bjelke Petterson and I would give him a Jana -what for’ as I ran a stick across the fence.

On arrival to the shop, the shop people would look at me funny. It was a ‘here comes one of them again’ look. I would hand over my bulging bag of 1 and 2 cents to buy milk, or bread or some such thing for mum and they looked at me like I had dropped a poo in their palm.

One lady would look at me and smile with an “oh poor love” look. She must have recognized my frustration at being a Pulitzer prize winner in an 11-year old’s body stuck in the Bronx.

Flash-forward 30 years later, and childhood is a vast haze a whole dimension away from conscious thought.

When I was asked to be an editor for a woman’s magazine it was like being handed the keys to the Kingdom. A branch was gently pulled away, and there was the entry to Terabithia in all its awesome glory. What joy! The joy I felt was that of a child, so excited and very hard to be professionally cool and suave about it. Then yesterday happened.

Yesterday I was sitting in my office and doing a phone interview with Prof. Fiona Wood. I was interviewing this terrifically skilled human who not only saves lives but is the Marie Curie of scar technology in the world. The world! Gosh moment I can tell you.

About ¾ of the way through, Fiona told me something incredibly witty and funny, and it must have been the tilt of my head with a aha-combo and a ‘yes I see” response that caused it. I am not entirely sure, but suddenly I was transported back into the moment of crack-jumping, snake avoiding, Jana interviewing Thug Life. My apprenticeship worked, it happened. I realized that at that moment, I was holding in my hands a dream realized and it was bloody amazing. That night I told my sister, who and said I should write a blog about it.

Our dinner table conversation last night was stellar. Jana Wendt if you are out there somewhere: you are my hero and rescuer from White Snake ballads and $2.50 worth of hot chips in 1 cent pieces.

For my darling cousin Kelly- today I am buying a big bag of lollies while I write this, and every one of them will remind me of my adoration of you and your terrific ability to be Joan of Arc in a child’s body, ready to protect and teach me to be brave and mighty. You made my childhood awesome x

Crazy Jetlagged Taurean Seeks Adventure

Crazy Jetlagged Taurean Seeks Adventure

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Pre warning: I am jetlagged, I am excited to the point of manic and this whole blog just popped into my head as I was trying to go to sleep.

I can feel a ramble coming on. I am going to write whatever comes into my crazy head, uninterrupted.

The reason? It isn’t very profound. It is really just so I can actually sleep, and because when an entire blog pops into ones head, one does not ignore it. They put it on the internet like any self respecting self indulgent Gen X child would do, with a dash of a hashtag and the dot of a full stop, sprinkled with wordy words and too many verbs.

I sit here on the balcony listening to the waves on Waikiki beach, breathing in the Hawaiian night air. My children are all sleeping jet lagged and exhausted from all of the excitement. You see, I am ticking off an item of my bucket list. I am creating amazing memories with my little tribe. Life is coursing through my veins more vibrant and intense than the blood that keeps pumping. I wagered with my brother and my husband 2 years ago that if I was still alive I would take my children to Hawaii, a place I have felt a connection to for so long now. So you got that right? It happened. I am sitting here in Hawaii, on Waikiki beach, listening to waves. So full of wowness and can’t-believe-it-actually-happened + a bit of: oh shit this sort of excitement isn’t good for me and a teensy bit of Wow-again. This is basically my mindset at 2.00 am.

So this is my message in a bottle to the person sitting in a lab somewhere right now, drinking coffee to stay awake, grappling with the missing code  just on the edge of their brain, they are within a moment’s reach of that discovery, the discovery that could save thousands of lives, please hurry.

I am so grateful to you for being smart enough and doing the hard yards to do medicine, to dedicate hundreds if not thousands of hours of study into something so technical.

For the parent or mentor that inspired you or urged you to get that education, thank you so much. But hurry. Because I am in love with my life and as much as I am not frightened of my next grand adventure, I have so fallen in love with this life, I have discovered what it is to be fearless and have even more faith than I thought possible, and am feeling the benefit and reward for that now. SOS: NOT READY TO LEAVE, POST HASTE.

This wee bit of faith popping up across many parts of my existence right now, feels like a great investment I accidentally put deposits into when all I was trying to do was survive. The accidental investor, how weird is that? It is paying back into my life ten fold and then one thousand times over again. I feel like all I was asked to do is take a step under the water and breathe in deeply. I was frightened at first, but then once my lungs filled and I discovered I could breathe, I got down into the depths, there were hidden kingdoms and caverns with bright lights and treasures beyond imagining.

I am still here to argue with my children and guide them through their teenage years.

I can reach forward in the aeroplane and plait her hair. I can grab him even though he is too cool for mother affection now and give him what resembles a head lock and a kiss. I can discuss the universal argument with my eleven year old about who reigns superior? Batman or Superman? Was Atari REALLY that good? Retro Mario is actually fairly superior.

I am still here to pat my dogs and look into their big brown eyes, knowing on some other level and some other place there are words they can speak that say: I know, I get you.

I am still here to kiss my best friend and ask him how his day was, cracking jokes between us until we can barely breathe, sitting up until the late hours hoping together and saying wow, 20 years, has it really been THAT long? How lucky are we? He still thinks my farts are funny and he isn’t sick of me yet, how on earth can that be? He still looks at me with lovesick eyes, and he puts up with all my mess. Look to be honest, it is most likely conjunctivitis and he may have a nervous twitch with my messiness but you know I really am THAT good at denial now. Art-form, seriously. AND I am sitting in Hawaii, did I mention that?

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Don’t get me wrong I have had my emotional upheavals, actually they are more shit creek-ish than upheaval-ish, an upheaval to me now seems more like a shopping trolley in a headwind on pension day. Denial- how good it can be. The sweet nectar of forgetting for a moment or three gently sipped three times daily with a straw.

No one I meet needs to know, I can pretend to be normal. Aneurysm or not, feeling normal has been really hard you know?

Normal doesn’t come easy to me, it never has. I guess the moment I came out of the womb missing body parts it was safe to say it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. It took most of my twenties to overcome the first 13 year of my life. I gripped onto whatever fragments of joy I could find, in what felt like a very hostile, alien world, in which I never really felt part of. I am not the only one either. I listen to people telling me this all the time. Isn’t that interesting?

People shocked me every other day, and I never really knew what was coming, or could never predict people’s actions. I was constantly fed the confusing perception that I was either completely naive, too sweet, too trusting, too smart, knew too much, too funny, too skinny, too fat, too impulsive, too exciteable, too positive, too deep, too this and too that. Like sand-paper and bubbles they just don’t go together do they?

In my travels I have found, when you rely on the messages other humans give you, to define who you think you might be, well…it’s all just too confusing.

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I was very often in a state of hurt and bewilderment and belief that the world is a harsh and horrible place, a place i just have to get through, keeping the rest of the world at a safe and manageable distance, so it wasnt “too close.” How times have changed.

What does it look like now? Now I don’t rely on anyone to validate who I am. I know who I am. God knows who I am. My Friends know exactly who I am. Yes I used a capital letter for the word Friend. The good ones deserve it. Most of my family know who I am (most lol). My husband knows who I am, and I really care about the opinions of  two certain mentors in regard to my grammar use and writing, if I am totally honest. These are the only opinions that sit with any weight in my heart. Anything else isn’t worth thinking about, as it is a vast investment in pointless negative self indulgence, getting in the way of getting the shit done, that you are here to get done.

A use-by date has that affect on you.

A treasure box has been presented to me this last year, helping others in a new business that sparks my mind in beautiful ways every single day. To the point of obsession, I take this weird device called a pen and make marks on a page. People pay me to do it. How crazy cool is that? I get to genuinely help other people in a impacting and positive way, it’s too self-indulgent to even say out loud really.

I know I get hyped up about it, call it delayed career discovery, or mental mum goes back into the workforce as a distraction from possibly dying and found it to be more enjoyable, and fulfilling than she thought possible. Fulfilling, how overused is that word? Can we come up with a new one? What about the word icecream? I am serious. Unexpected success is like the shock of biting into an icecream and the cold hits your teeth, but when it’s your favorite flavour, you can’t stop. You get used to the shock of the cold and get on with the business of Icecream. We could walk around saying “OMG I am so like, totally feeling Iceacream right now.”

I am being paid to write. My grade 6 teacher told me I would be a well paid writer one day, that I would have books published because I was a natural. Well Mr. Wegmann, it only took me another 29 years to step up to the plate, but I got there eventually. If you are out there somewhere I send you love and think of you every time I have a moment of doubting my ability to write. I remember your words and think that maybe this writing thing is meant to be. I remember a friend of mine called John who writes seriously good shit and when he told me I could write it was one of the happiest dats of my life. It was like DaVinci telling you, you’ve got a good head for encryption, or Van Gogh telling you that you aren’t too shabby with a paintbrush. I think of my two beautiful uncles who after the second brain surgery urged me to get serious and no more mucking about, ‘you are here to write, get on with it.’

Des Lardner

From the time I was old enough to form words into sentences I have been told I can write. Whether I am any good or not is really none of my business. It’s all I have ever wanted to do, and it’s what I have always been lead to do. I just got myself all tied up in the ego of ‘not good enough’ for the first few decades. Only a species like a human would create a snobby egocentric elitism attachment to making marks on a page with ink. Truth is, something whispers in my heart like an old friend that writing is the thing I promised I would do this time round before I got here. Told you I was crazy. Batshit. Jetlag sucks.

Planet Spectrum

Now I am just trying to get some sleep before I completely embarass myself and so I can get ready for the days to come. What does one do when they have amazing children with wicked imaginations, and an ongoing curiosity about palaeontology mixed in with a very real Steven Spielberg love affair? You go on a Jurassic park horse riding trail into the heart of the Hawaiian jungle of course. We are going on a dino hunt. The eleven year old keeps breaking out in the soundtrack, so cute.

I wonder if somewhere right now on the other side of the planet there is a researcher sitting in a lab formulating the cell depth required for non-rupture of a traumatic fusiform aneurysm, that just starting humming the sound track to Jurassic park , but they aren’t sure where the urge came from. #extinctmyass #sidestepping

 

PS- My favorite is Salted Caramel if anyone was guessing.

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