24 Apr 2013

Words and Worlds

Blue-faced Honeyeater. Photo credit: Lip Kee via flickr.com

Hello again.

It’s been a while. Why? Well, for the last five-and-a-bit months I’ve been settling into life in Australia. What does that mean, settling in? All sorts really. On a practical level it has meant feathering the nest in which I live. It has meant walking heel to toe, heel to toe, sometimes barefoot, sometimes not, letting my feet meet the ground of my home-for-now. When you’re new to a neighbourhood it is very important to get your bearings. This ensures you don’t get lost. And so, I have taken time to walk the streets and note landmarks as guideposts. Energetically too, there is a grounding, a connection I feel that occurs when we walk on land that doesn’t happen by simply driving around a new stomping ground. Moving at speed doesn’t serve connection in the same way. The same goes for truly connecting with people, another aspect of settling in.  The importance of community is highlighted when you arrive in an unfamiliar city. Connection and community are also essential to creating extraordinary theatre. It’s uphill work if you try to get a show up by yourself. It’s far more fun to create with others and, by engaging others to use their specialist skills as writer, designer, producer etcetera, community and connections are strengthened, everyone's gifts are valued and given space to bloom. I digress. I’ll come back to communion and community, earth and earthly bodies another day. Now to bodies of feathers and fur...

Crimson Rosella. Photo credit: Arthur Chapman via flickr.com
One of the best parts of settling into this leafy suburb of Brisbane has been getting to know the flora and fauna. It is such a joy and thrill to spot yet another strange and wondrous bird whose feathers are splashed with rainbow-shades: vivid greens, red, yellow and blue. I race to borrow my neighbour’s bird book. I find out this happy creature’s name: a Rainbow Lorikeet. Then there’s the bird with the long and daintily curving beak, the one who wears a light blue mask and looks at me coyly through the fronds of the tree leaves. Oh you Blue-faced Honeyeater, you. At night, out come the bats that chuckle like a jack-in-a-box and the brushtail possums that climb high across the telephone wires perhaps sensing my desire to keep them as pets. It’s the same desire I had as a child, nursing eggs from the fridge in the hope that they would hatch. Oh please, be my pet. There is something in the need to know the name of things in the world around us.  Like signposts that give us a sense of direction, a sense of safety and place and home. I wonder if the English colonisers of 1788 were desperate to name and to own and to find a sense of place and home – did they make up the names of the birds as they wished? I’ve heard that the early European settlers encountered huge flocks of Rosellas in Rose Hill, NSW (now Parramatta according to the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia). The birds became known as ‘Rosehillers’ which was contracted further to Rosellas. They’re quite something to behold with their bold blue and rich red feathers although there are many varieties within the species, each group with their own vibrant plumage. 

When I look at these creatures, I wonder what their Aboriginal name or names are. I say names because there are many Aboriginal languages. According the Creative Spirits, an indigenous knowledge website, there were 250 Aboriginal languages and 600 dialects spoken prior to the invasion of the colonisers. The website states that there are now just 60 Aboriginal languages spoken as mother tongue today. What would be different now if the English settlers had asked the Aborigine people for the names of all they saw? What if the English paused to connect with the land? What if they had chosen to respect and connect with the people who had inhabited it for tens of thousands of years before the English arrived, rather than attempting to subjugate them to British rule? I wonder…

Rainbow Lorikeet. Photo credit: runmonty via flickr.com

The words we use have such power. We can name a bird. Name land or re-name land, use words to claim and label. On a daily basis we humans do this to others, to what we see and also to ourselves. What labels do we carry on our backs that we have burdened ourselves with or let others plaster upon us? And how can we let go of them? I remember British yoga teacher Rowan Cobelli gently offering a path to such freedom during a candle-lit yoga class. As we rested in Child’s Pose Rowan suggested we experiment with letting go the labels upon us. A practice so simple and yet so profound.

Photo Balasana, Child's Pose. Note the variation with arms extended and not by sides. 
Photo credit: minishorts via flickr.com

Here’s an echo, a variation of that practice. Five minutes to forget who ‘you’ are and remember the ever-present peace within:

Child’s Pose, Balasana

Kneel on the floor on a mat or towel. Sit back on the heels, knees hip width apart. Allow the spine spine to lengthen and the torso to slowly fold forward, resting the torso between the thighs, relaxing the forehead towards the floor. Bring the arms by the sides of the body, palms upwards. Inhale deeply, breathing into the torso; expand the breath into the back of the torso [1]. With every breath, have the sense of opening yourself into this restorative pose. Inhale. Exhaling, release the tops of the shoulders towards the floor.  With each exhale, invite the sense of shedding the labels that you might carry with you: man, woman, mother, sister, brother, job title, friend, family member, lover, partner. Observe the body, the mind, the emotions; let thoughts and feelings float gently to floor like leaves from a tree. Rest in the space that is revealed, when the words we surround ourselves with are placed to one side. How does it feel to be in that space?

Words, energy, movement, thought and feeling. A powerful inter-connection. Alchemical process. And we are the creators of our worlds. What words will you use today?

Photo credit: minishorts via flickr.com

[1] Much thanks to YogaJournal.com for their insightful doorways to deepening such a seemingly simple practice. In their ‘Beginner’s Tips’ section they offer this:

"We usually don't breathe consciously and fully into the back of the torso. Balasana provides us with an excellent opportunity to do just that. Imagine that each inhalation is 'doming' the back torso toward the ceiling, lengthening and widening the spine. Then with each exhalation release the torso a little more deeply into the fold." 

I highly recommend reading their thorough exploration of Child’s Pose here.

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