Author Archives: Fiftypluskiwi

I’m feeling ALL my feels about ‘ageing.’

It all seems so unfair. All my life, I have desired straight hair. I was born with, not totally curly, and not totally wavy, hair. Most of the time it is an unruly mess, a mix of curl and wave sticking out all over the place. But now I do have straight hair. The only problem is, it’s coming out my chin!  

Somehow, I know without knowing how I know, this is part of the ageing process. And as I allow myself to think about this, a prickle of fear ripples around my heart space. My mortality taunts and I feel frightened. I grab the tweezers and furiously work to safeguard my permanence on the planet.

On the inside, I still feel all the ages I have been. My ‘wild child’ roars as much today as it did over sixty years ago. Probably more so. But not many people see the ‘wild’ these days. What they see is more of a thesaurus – wearing out, crumbling, declining, fading, waning, deteriorating -. just a few of the synonyms describing ageing on Thesaurus.com. On the outside, I have been reduced to a synonym. On the inside I want to ‘go a-wandering, with a knapsack on my back’, middle finger raised.

A few years have disappeared since I noticed my first chin hair, but my anxiety and dread around ageing still heckles. I am someone who has spent a long time learning to love my ‘true self’. But now I find myself surreptitiously stalking Google for information regarding face-lifts and eyelid lifting surgery.

 ‘A clean nude nail polish gives a more youthful appearance’, says one description. It takes a ton of willpower to stop myself hurtling out the door to the nearest supplier.

Feelings are for feeling,’ says Glennon Doyle in her latest book, Untamed.

“Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones.”

Simple but powerful words. And I’ve been working on this lately – trying to feel ALL my feels, enter into them, embrace them and express them truthfully. Especially my fears and feelings around becoming old and dying. My list of worries looks something like this:

  • Friends dying
  • Family dying
  • Me dying
  • Fear of faculties going and becoming infirm
  • Being a drag on family
  • Vanity – my body and looks deteriorating
  • Losing my usefulness in society
  • Regrets and guilts
  • A certain amount of angst over not realising how short life is and having wasted much of it living to society and patriarchal agendas.

 Last week I met up with a girlfriend for coffee. When she asked me how I was, I decided to take the plunge and reply truthfully. Instead of giving my standard stock reply of, ‘I’m good thanks,’ I said,

“I feel I am quickly passing my ‘use-by’ date and this scares the hell out of me,” I spent the next few minutes unloading feelings, some of which I didn’t know I had until I started speaking them out loud. 

 At the end, my friend said, “Oh my goodness, me too, that’s exactly how I am feeling.”

The anxiety and dread that accompanies ageing isn’t openly discussed very often, especially among women. Plenty of tips about ageing well regarding looks and activity, but deep conversations, what it feels like on the inside, are sadly lacking. Being able to speak my deepest fears felt liberating. I was learning a valuable lesson about my true-self. True self-love, says tinybuddah.com, is valid at any age; there’s no expiration date to that.

 Getting older does not magically make you wiser. The old adage, ‘Age begets wisdom’ is a little misleading. There is more truth to ‘Age begets wrinkles’ than any sort of wisdom. However, getting older does allow for more life experiences, hence opportunities, for acquiring understanding. I would like to think I am using some of this wisdom as I traverse my ageing process.   I read somewhere that if f you want to grow old happily, it’s better to face fears of ageing sooner, not later. This doesn’t mean going into battle with them; embrace them rather than battle them. I find myself doing this often. It makes them a hell of a lot less scary and anxiety-ridden. 

To some people, I may be just a synonym, but my truth is, I am more than just my body. My noisy unfettered spirit refuses to be put in a box, tamed or labelled. So for now, and for as long as I can, I’m off a-wandering, middle finger raised. 

Farewell letter to Kirsty

Kia ora, e hoa!
Hello my friend

No reprieve, no remission, no cure and…. no miraculous healing.

Three years from diagnosis, you die from Motor Neurone Disease (MND). If there is a bright side to your suffering this monstrous illness, it is you outlived your six-month prognosis. As selfish as this sounds, given the vicious nature of MND, I am grateful for the extra couple of years of having you this side of my life.

Unlike me, you were never troubled by God. This both irked and inspired me. When I think of you now Kirsty, it is your faith that drenches my thought. Your absolute, firm, and unwavering belief in a loving God. And I must admit I was, at times, annoyed at your unshakeable faith. I expected you to rant and rave at this supposedly loving God who seemed to be standing by and doing nothing as you endured the agonising steps of MND. Compared to you, my faith resembled the life of a gnat the way it jumped all over the place – I long to rest in the absolute sureness of God’s love, and I envy your ability to completely accept His fiery love for you..  

Why does God answer yes to some prayers and no to others? Why does God miraculously heal some people and not others? You will know the answer to this now Kirsty – but I don’t know. God tells us to ask, and it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7). But God did not physically heal you Kirsty even though we asked. There was no miraculous physical healing despite the hundreds of prayers and rituals, held nationally and internationally by obedient Christians, for this very purpose. You did not leap from the bed dancing, whirling, and twirling, around the room. In all my years of spiritual journeying, I have never witnessed a physical healing. Although there was a part of me that desperately hoped you would be healed, I did not believe it would really happen.

Religious gospel advocates will raise an eyebrow in an, ‘Oh ye of little faith,’ kind of way at my disbelief. They will say lack of faith is the reason God did not answer my prayers. I need to ‘do’ this and ‘be’ that. Try a little harder. I am not good enough. Subtle messaging of this nature is incredibly bruising to the spirit. Nothing loving about this. There are many of us out there with bruised and damaged souls tainted by religion. And you understood this Kirsty. We discussed how important it was for the church to re-think the messaging around God.

Love has been ‘trodden down under religious mores’, you said, and I laughed at your phrasing. But yes, God and religion are difficult to untangle because when we merge God with religion, we are in danger of extinguishing the real message of God – the message of love. The message you longed for everyone to know – love is the by-product of God, not theology. That there is nothing, we need to do, or be, to experience God’s love. God’s pure unadulterated, unfettered, untamed love is free for everyone.

“Living or dying, being spared or being tortured, being delivered in this life or the next is not an indicator of God’s love for us or the measure of our faith. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and our future is determined by what he knows is best for us (Romans 8:28, 35–39).

Watching you struggle with your illness was a stark reminder that God’s love is not a magic potion exempting us from adversity. Fear, despair, helplessness, powerlessness, pain, and loneliness – you experienced every single one of these feelings and emotions. I am reading the words you wrote, and my heart bleeds a little at the agony in your words.

“I know what it is to feel so scared and kicked in the gut that you don’t know how to go on. There is nothing left in the tank—just fear and disappointment. I live with the shadow of overwhelming dread every moment of every day. It is trying to cut off my air supply.

I do not really HAVE to take him at his word when life is rosy. I have excess resources to cope with life’s bumps and bruises then. But right now I am in absolute deficit. Motor Neurone Disease does that to its victims.

But it is now Jesus invites me to take him at his word.

As the offerings of life became slim pickings, you nestled into words of love, of Gods promises, wrapping them around you, protecting yourself from the brutality of your inevitable outcome. Body riddled and decimated, your eyes would light up, and you would get that ‘glow’. There is no mistaking real joy. Faked joy looks manic. True joy is stillness, is light and It shines. God’s love radiated through you Kirsty. How could you be so ill, yet look so alive, we all asked ourselves.

What a waste of an evangelical heart where you are now Kirsty. Talk about ‘preaching to the converted’!
I remember in one of our conversations you told me about how you stood on street corners in Rotorua speaking about Jesus. You invited those who listened to open their hearts to His love. I was aghast you would do this, and a little envious. I remembered a time, many moons ago, when this too was my passion. You talked with such passion about the longing and hopelessness in the eyes of lost young people. How no one had ever told them the love story of God.

We cannot find refuge from pain and remain filled with hope anywhere else than in the presence of God. The hope God gives us is powerful and effective. Everything man comes up with, just can’t go the distance you told me.

“His hope keeps my head up and my smile shining in the middle of a death sentence. Do you realise how valuable this is? Do you realise how desperately the world needs to hear about this? In an age of epidemic anxiety, skyrocketing suicides and unprecedented environmental instability, hope is what is needed. And we know where to find it.”

I don’t have your courage, but I do want to honour your soul one last time. So here is a personal invitation to each of you who are reading this piece.

What does it take to know and receive God’s love, to be in a personal relationship with God? Are you curious about God? If you are feeling unloved, unworthy, dirty, hopeless, worthless, or insignificant – then this invitation is for you. If you are feeling successful, accomplished, confident and well-liked – then this invitation is also for you. I invite you to ask God into your life. You don’t need fancy words. There is no right or wrong way of asking. God’s love is not curtailed by language, culture, or religion. Just ask, Seek Him.

Haere rā e hoa
Farewell my friend



The sacred space of ‘unknowing’

Photo of Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi,

The more I grow, the less I know. When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot more than I do now. Life disturbs you in this way – teaches you what you do not know. It is very much a holy and humbling disturbance.

Before I set out to find answers for my baffling longings, I was dying a slow death. The longings were my silent noise – a penetrating ache in my soul, groaning from the depths crying out for attention. Louder and louder, until I knew if I did not pay attention, I would have to accept my life as it was. And that felt like I was being smothered, that life was being sucked from me.

Author Sue Monk-Kidd describes her longings as “orphaned voices”. A whole chorus of orphaned voices that seemed to speak for all the unlived parts her.

“They came with a force and dazzle that I couldn’t contain. They seemed to explode the boundaries of my existence. I know now that they were the clamor of a new self-struggling to be born.”

My heart still does flip flops when I read her words as they gave my inner groanings a vital and valid space.

So much of my journey thus far has been a dismantling process. Only recently did I see I was, in fact, unknowing everything that was my reality.  Pulling apart old spiritual perceptions, delving into my psychological shadows. Ripping to pieces the old faded decorations of child, woman, mother, worker, feminist, and wife to uncover the true self.

Photo of Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi,
Pondering and wandering the banks of the Ohinemuri River. – Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, Paeroa to Waihi, NZ

I did not, however, fully understand, or honour, the ‘divine’ part of the process at first. Thankfully, God embraced the agony in my heart and not my cavalier attitude towards, what I see now, is a holy and transformative journey. A journey of the heart space, not the headspace. A journey into the unknown. We lose sight of the fact our soul beckons us. That the soul has a voice.

In his essay “Stages of Life,” C. G. Jung divided life into two phases, ‘morning’ and ‘afternoon’. The first stage, the morning, is taken up with relating to, and adapting to, the outer world. We do this by developing the ego. The second stage, the afternoon phase, happens around 35 -40 years of age and is for adapting to the inner world by developing the full and true self. Shedding the ego as we move through the first stage of life. Unknowing everything.

“But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”

Imagine you are standing on top of the universe. You dive off, not knowing where you will land, or if you will land. You cannot see what is in front of you. There are no recognisable landmarks. No promise of safety, no assurance of a happy ever after. You take nothing with you, and no-one notices you are gone. All you have is a fragile trust in the one who calls you. You take the risk and dive off; it’s a reluctant choice of last resort, but you do it anyway.  Nothing but silence and … nothingness. This is what unknowing feels like.

Slowly, ever so slowly, my true self is emerging …. I think.  But just when I feel sure of my new ‘knowing’, I am reminded again of the place of ‘unknowing’. A place is not found in the past or future, but in the present beyond the thundering glut of what life is throwing at us. 

Mystic poet Rumi describes where the place of unknowing is, as the gap between our ideas of “rightdoing” and “wrongdoing”.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about”.

When I first launched myself off my symbolic universe, it was with eyes tightly shut. I saw myself going down, down, down. These days I trust in the arms that beckon. This is Divine territory, in the gap between rightdoing and wrongdoing, where true self and love seek each other out.

The inner movement from knowing to unknowing is a life lesson and a divine truth. Always ongoing. The place of unknowing beckons us all because, the only true wisdom, says Greek philosopher Socrates, is in knowing you know nothing.  

Marriage and walking away

Nothing placed my marriage under the spotlight more than when I stood on the trembling ground of my mid-life crisis. When the question, ‘Can a woman remain true to herself in a committed relationship?’ fiercely fought for my attention.

One of the frequent adverts on our television screens shows an actor running around with a bottle of spray cleaner. He energetically rushes from one surface to another spraying the contents of the bottle while excitedly yelling, ‘Spray and walk away’, and miraculously, the surface cleans itself – no effort required. If only it were that easy to remove the overlooked dirt and grime that squeezes through the gaps in long term relationships – I would have bought bucket loads of the stuff. But the advert does remind me that the life-changing lessons learned throughout my marriage have indeed required me to ‘walk away’.

In my last blog I wrote how commitment and love are intrinsically woven, yet individually apart. The commitment part is a journey of togetherness, and love is a journey of self. To walk together and to walk alone. Remaining true to yourself in a long-term relationship belongs to the journey of self. It belongs to love – self-love. Without self-love, all other relationships, are fractured versions of what is possible in love. To heal my many fractures, I began, what was for me, a very noisy process of walking away.

Walking away from imageries belonging to parents and society, walking away from perceived ideas, allocated by myself and others, of how a wife should behave in her role of ‘wife’, and walking away from the expectations of how love should behave. Walking away from all, as author Sue Monk Kidd describes, that blisters my spirit and muzzles the voice of my soul.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t as easy as the, ‘Spray and walk away’ advert. Years of dismantling old mask and patterns lay in front of me before I could meet, and love, my True Self. And to be honest, the ‘walking away’ is still ongoing.

When the truth hits, it hits hard.  In her book, The Real Boy, Author Anne Ursu describes this moment of truth beautifully. She says, “There is a way the truth hits you, both hard and gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder. During some of my lowest moments, when the urge to literally walk away and not look back beckoned, I felt that loving arm around my shoulder.

The first loving arm reminded me that love is not something that can be found on the outside. It is not fashioned out of rules and roles to comfort our egos. The thing is, love is already in you, so it can only come out of you. The whole spiritual journey, the experience of life, is about unearthing this love within us. I know I mention this a lot in my blogs, but in my defence, this revelation was life-changing for me. I stopped feeling a failure at not being able to love according to my perceptions. And I stopped expecting to be loved according to my expectations. It lifted a burden I was unaware of and was instrumental to me letting go of the boxed-up notions of love I held. It showed me a glimpse of Divine love.

The second loving arm, and a much-needed practical piece of advice, was the understanding I am not responsible for my partner’s happiness or unhappiness.  I can be concerned, but I am not responsible – he is. Nor is he responsible for mine – I am. It is so easy in a long-term relationship to shift the burden of our unhappiness onto our partner. This is where many marriages end. My sister reminded me the other day it was not our role to stop the landslide. We must allow the landslide to fall, regardless of what happens. This is how we grow.

If only I knew then what I know now. I am quite sure I would never have jumped into marriage with the cavalier attitude and naïve expectations that I did, but I read somewhere that you cannot separate living from learning. Every experience is another lesson learned. Every lesson learned requires an element of walking away from an old way, and into a new way of living.

Author Sue Monk Kidd says, “Walking an isle can be a marvellous thing, as long as we acknowledge that the isle doesn’t end at the alter but goes on winding through life”.

It is through these life lessons that we discover a woman can remain true to herself in a long-term relationship.  Yes, I believe it is possible, but first, she must unearth, and love, the person she was created to be. This has nothing to do with commitment but everything to do with love. And if we are to explore the question fully, we will, without a doubt, walk into Divine territory. And this by itself, makes the walk worth walking.

When you get that tap on the shoulder

Acrylic montage of human shapes floating in space. Freedom feels like floating in space - falling, rising, and discovering - free to be you.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that to each one of us there comes in their lifetime a special moment when you are, figuratively speaking, tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to your talents.

If I could pinpoint the time I first recognised my ‘tap on the shoulder’, it was when I was invited to speak at a wedding.  My relationship with the engaged couple was through the mother of the bride, and I assumed I would be sharing a few prosperous wishes to cheer them on their future journey. I was astounded, when my friend said, “I want you to talk about love.”. Tap, tap.

Onto my second marriage, I was hardly a shining example of marital success. Nothing has thrown me more curveballs and challenges than the issue of love, or one of love’s many threads, marriage.

Weeks of worry preceded my putting pen to paper What was I going to say?  What could I tell this couple about love that might break through the glorious fizz-pop mix of youth, success, lust, and the feeling of being in-love when my own track record seemed so dismal?  My inner critic had a field day. ‘Hypocrite’, ‘Charlatan’, ‘Phoney’, it screamed. Tap, tap!

So, I did what is now a familiar pattern in my life when life gets tricky – prayed, read, journaled, and reflected.  Technically I was researching for my wedding speech, but in hindsight, the seeking belonged to my own heart as well.

During my research, I was struck by how, when we talk about marriage or long-term relationships, we use the words ‘love and commitment’ as though both words have the same or similar meaning, when in fact they are completely different. They have surely got to be one of life’s greatest contradictions. Little or no thought is given to the paradox that occurs between the two.

Whether a civil union, a de facto relationship, or marriage, everything about commitment suggests togetherness – a partnership, a binding of two people who commit to a relationship. Commitment is where plans and decisions are made that best serve the relationship – the doing part of the relationship; a conscious choice, the ‘outside-in’ framework. And when you feel deeply ‘in-love’, commitment can feel remarkably, albeit mistakenly, like love.

Now here’s the paradox. While commitment has everything to do with togetherness, love, is about letting one another go. Committed to being together while at the same time, as German Psychoanalyst, Eric Fromm says, “preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality”. The ‘being’ part of the relationship.

Acrylic montage of human shapes floating in space. Freedom feels like floating in space - falling, rising, and discovering - free to be you.
Falling, rising, and discovering – free to be you. Artist: Louise Taiaroa

Traveling with Pomegranates is a lovely story where mother and daughter authors, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor chronicle their evolving relationship on a trip to Greece.

Ann, soon to be married, recalls a recent event when her mother gifted her a small box – a wedding gift. Inside the box lay three linked pieces of chain with a card that read,

“Years ago, your father and I adopted this piece of chain as a symbol for our marriage. The two outer links represent each of our lives, and the center link, our marriage. It reminds us that we have independent lives, dreams, and journeys, but at the same time, we are joined in a center space where our lives are one.”

And that was the message I delivered to the young couple on their wedding day. Commitment and love – intrinsically woven, yet individually apart. To walk together and to walk alone. One a journey of togetherness the other a journey of self. I stood that day and hoped that what I shared would be as liberating for them as it was for me.  What I did not know at the time was just how tough ‘liberation’, is to attain.

Which brings me to my next question(s). Can a woman remain true to herself when she is in a committed relationship?  The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. But how do we live independent lives, dreams, and journeys? How do we walk alone, the journey of the self, amongst the committed togetherness of a long-term relationship? How do we stay single, AND be married? Tap, tap.

Tough questions I hope to explore in my next few blogs.

Doing nothing is scary stuff

Photo of Margaret Cunningham and 'Dixie' on Papamoa Beach

Day 6 of lockdown (at time of writing), and to be honest, my personal panic button is on high alert.

I have exercised madly, or should I say, madly exercised – both would be correct – I have cleaned, re cleaned, and re re-cleaned my house, baked and test trialed new recipes to the point my family is clearly becoming suspicious in a ‘we want you to take the first bite’, kind of way. And today the dog hid from me when I mentioned the ‘walk’ word.  Clearly I am not doing lockdown well.

My panic is completely irrational. Our household bubble of three adults, no parenting required, is comfortable. We have everything we need. What a great time to relax. To read a book. Be creative. To write. To be still. Instead I find myself being busy, in a super-human way, completing an array of inane, and completely unnecessary tasks.

It’s not the lockdown I’m terrified of. Nor is it relaxation. It’s the opportunity that scares me, the opportunity to be still – to do absolutely nothing.  I’m frightened of what may be discovered in the ‘nothing’ of doing nothing. I’m avoiding the ‘truth’ that may reveal itself in the stillness and quiet.

I’m not surprised I have this panic tussle going on – taking time out to be still, which was a big part of my life, has taken a back seat to a self-imposed busyness. And deep down I’ve felt what I call, ‘a spiritual nudging’ over this; a brief nudge, before I quickly brush it away.

I think we all become habitually busy. The hustle and bustle of the outside world touches everyone. Men, women and children – we’re always on, always connected, talking, always doing. There is little space left for stillness. There’s just so much going on and being still is not what we’re used to.

I have always had a reflective personality and treasured my moments of stillness. It has set the mood for some magical moments of insight and wonder.  But the noise of ‘busy’ somehow snuck in and filled the space I used to sit quite comfortably in. And even though I’ve been doing this reflective thing for a while, even though I know the beauty that lies within it, it still amazes me how much I still avoid, or put off, taking time out for stillness. This conflict is quite a mystery to me.

Stillness is not the same as relaxing – the two are quite different. Relaxation can be quite busy. For some people lockdown is an opportunity to relax and be creative, start/finish a project, read a book or learn something new. But they all require an element of ‘doing’. Stillness, on the other hand, requires doing absolutely nothing. It’s not what you bring to the table – not meditation, or prayer, or brainstorming, or problem-solving. Just you – simply being.

What happens in the ‘stillness’ is beyond my control? I think that’s why I’ve been avoiding it so much. Busy helps me feel in control. And sometimes my own space on the inside is a very vulnerable, exposing place to be. Who am I without my busyness? A question that can only be answered in the silence and stillness within my own soul.

Anything that denies the human spirit of refreshment is ‘busy,’ and the busier you are the more important it is to be still. I’ve been racing about the place as though my energy is endless. If I’m not doing something then it feels like I’m not being productive. To do nothing is often thought of as being lazy or weak, but the reality is, we all need moments of ‘stillness’ or ‘nothing’ in our life. I read somewhere that doing nothing with be the most productive activity you will ever undertake. How did I forget this?

We are all searching for that one thing. It’s what drives our busyness.
Today, as the panic recedes and I reconnect again with my ‘one thing’, I am reminded of a Mother Theresa quote,

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.

The monster myth and domestic abuse.

A face, yellow in colour with huge eyes

When I was a kid there was always a moment of fear before I looked under my bed. It was only fleeting, but it was there. Could there be a monster under my bed? My imagination conjured up images of a growling beast with large incisors protruding from the upper lip. This monster was ready to pounce.

It would take a heart of steel not to be disturbed by recent news of an Australian mother and her three young children senselessly and horrifically murdered – incinerated inside their car while going to school. An act carried out by the estranged husband and father.

I’m not sure why I feel so perturbed by this case. But I find myself with a stomach clenched.  Perhaps it’s because the perpetrator is, like me, a New Zealander, or perhaps it’s because my maiden name is the same as the perpetrator’s. Thankfully no relation, but here’s the thing, he could be. And he could be in yours. He could be walking around in each of our families.

The perpetrator has been labelled a ‘monster’, described as ‘evil in our midst’. But we need to drop the labels and see it for what it is. MONSTERS DON’T HURT PEOPLE, PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘monster’ or the word ‘evil’? Does a large, ugly, drooling, growling, horned creature, like my childhood monster, come to mind? Thinking only monsters abuse, hit, molest and rape silences victims and removes responsibility of those who know it is happening. If the perpetrator doesn’t fit the idea of a monster (and let’s face it, very few perpetrators do), there’s less of a chance victims will be believed when they break their silence.

Let’s ditch the monster myth and call out the perps for what they are. A person who commits any sort of violence or abuse is a human being. He could be partner, ex-partner, family member, flatmate, friend, or carer. Admitting that abusers are human doesn’t lessen their cruelty – on the contrary – it underlines it, says writer/speaker/advocate Thordis Elva

“They choose to be abusive in spite of their humanity. The sooner we understand this, the more lives we can save.”

Monsters don’t walk on this planet.  People who commit monstrous acts do. And sitting at the top of the perpetrator list is, MEN.  Human-being men. Yes, I know perpetrators of domestic abuse may be either men or women. However, violence by men is often the most serious and lethal type of family violence in New Zealand, the victims are predominantly women and children. www.whiteribbon.org.nz And have always been. And at the risk of sounding like climate change advocate, Greta Thunburg, I say to you men – husbands, partners, fathers, brothers, uncles, – HOW DARE YOU.

I guess you can say I am angry, and I am. This whole case has unsettled me. This could have been me, and it could have been my children. I well remember running down the road trying to escape an angry ex-husband trying to run me over to ‘teach me a lesson’. Did he look like a monster? Oh no, like this latest perpetrator, he was one of the good guys. Well respected in his work community, he was a ‘regular Mt Nice Guy.’ People liked him. There were no horns of evil protruding from his head. Nor did he look like the ‘monster’ from my childhood. He was just a regular person.

I was one of the lucky victims of domestic abuse … I escaped. This was over forty years ago, but the aftermath still lingers today, especially with my children. There were 133,022 ‘family harm’ investigations by NZ Police in 2018 (NZ Police, 2019), however, there is an estimated 76% to 87% of family or intimate partner violence not reported to Police. This is alarming.

Let’s get angry about this. Let’s talk about this. Remember, domestic abuse is not just about getting, ‘the bash’. If there is someone in your family that you need to ‘tip-toe’ around to keep the ‘peace’, this is also abuse. Tell someone. Talk to someone. Deep down, as women, we know when something feels not right. It’s a feeling in the heart. Listen to this. There is help available. Don’t let your life and that of your children be shrouded in fear.

Monsters don’t walk this earth harming our women and children. Ordinary people do. Human beings do. Family members do. Let me say it again, HOW DARE YOU!

What’s in a name? We have all been complicit in bastardising the word ‘God’

It’s a name I love, and it’s a name others love to hate. We have all been complicit in some way, whether misguidedly or deliberately, of bastardising the word ‘God’.  Since the beginning of time, the word, or the name, has been fraught with tension and conflict.  No other name, in all of history has been as misused, misapplied or mishandled, as has the name, God.  The word has become empty of meaning says spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.  And he is right. But I am hoping it’s a misunderstanding that will eventually be rectified.

It was a life altering moment for me when I realised everything, I perceived God to be was a lie.  After what seemed like years of unproductive spiritual searching, I made the decision to dump God for good.  I was spiritually battered and tired of trying. No more, I thought.

My spiritual journey - the way I see it.

Through my eyes. (Painting by Louise Taiaroa)

But sometimes life has different plans.  My spiritual journey was not over.  At the precise moment of my dumping God I was struck by a thought I was, at the time, incapable of thinking.  A question.  Loud and clear.  “What if everything you perceive me to be is a lie?”  And it was.  A big damned lie.  The God I had created, was indeed, a figment of my imagination.  A crutch I had been clutching for most of my life.  I let that God go, a huge relief to do so.  But although the God I thought I loved turned out to be a lie, it was also the beginning of a new happening.  An awakening.  Ten years later I am still discovering new things about this awakening.

Like me, I wonder how many of you, look at God with eyes tainted by the imagery and experiences of your past, and of the past of others.  When you create God based on personal, cultural and life experiences, it is little wonder the name God has become outdated.  Eckhart Tolle says the word God has become a closed concept.

“The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a white beard but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.”

Which brings me to religion. Throughout history, the name of God has suffered a great injustice at the hands of those who claim to be the closest to God.  Mention God and people start talking religion.  Mention religion and people say, ‘Oh, I don’t believe in God’.

Like a taut, tight, woven cobweb, God and religion are difficult to untangle. But in order to reclaim the name of God we must untangle God from religion. Seeking God and identifying with a religion are totally different experiences.

Religions are human institutions.  They are an outside experience between you and other people; full of interpretation, theories and opinions. But God, experiencing God, is an ‘inside-out’ experience just between you and God, or whatever name you best identify this feeling with. A feeling in your chest – it’s a matter of the heart.  Your mind is not involved. God happens when you allow yourself to wander through the chasms, abysses and crevasses of your own heart and pay attention to what is happening. Religion is not necessary for this.

After I became aware everything I believed God to be was a lie I experimented with new names to replace the word God. A name to fit the source of sheer wonder happening inside of me. At the time the name ‘God’ felt too small and limiting. I tried using names such as Universe, Designer, Creator, and Mother God. In his book, The Power of Now, Tolle uses the name ‘Being’ to describe the source within you. He says it is an open concept, impossible to bring a mental image to the word. But as the shackles of my fabricated God gradually fall away, I find I am returning to using the name God. But that’s just my preference because as Tolle says,

“Neither God nor Being can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points…”

What’s in a name?  Well, quite a bit if your name is God.  A name shackled and controlled by human interference and perception; a name shrouded in lies. From the avid believer, to the ardent atheist, we are good at telling our self lies about God to justify our actions, beliefs or non-beliefs.  But we can become equally as good at restoring the name of God.. The decision sits inside each one of us. Take a moment and ask the question – what if everything I perceive God to be is not true? Then let that God go…. and wait.

Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung describes what can happen in this inside waiting space beautifully.

‘Who looks outside dreams.

Who looks inside, awakens.’

What matters most, are matters of the …

Always, as a year ends, my reflective nature hurtles into melancholic overdrive. 2019 was no different. But this time the melancholy felt stronger; a touch of disappointment, a niggle flirted the fringes of my spiritual quest. Have you ever been told a joke that everyone else gets but you don’t? That’s what my niggle felt like. Something I should know but didn’t. The yearning and longing still taunted my spiritual life.

I sat in my room flipping through pages of my old journals. Thirty-six years of journal writing; pages filled with words and pictures articulating my dreams, desires and heartaches. I couldn’t help but notice my first entry, in what was my first attempt at journal writing. Dated 6 July 1983, it reads:

‘My pen will be a mouthpiece for my unspoken thoughts – let it write what my heart begs to share about you, but what my tongue fails to do.’

What a journey it has been. There’s some wisdom in the saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Yes, these words still dance their dance in my heart with a passion. Perhaps more than they did all those years ago.  But am I the same person? No! Definitely not! Those words were written by someone who had absolutely no idea about life – life in the body, mind or spirit. Someone who thought they knew all the answers, someone who knew exactly how ‘God’ thought, what everyone should believe, and how everyone should behave.  When, in fact, I knew absolutely NOTHING! I was too wrapped up in me, my and mine – the ego.

Feeling fed up with my melancholy, I headed outdoors for a run. But I couldn’t quite shake off what was bothering me. I stopped running to focus on some yoga breathing. As my breathing quietened it occurred to me not once had I been alert to the present moment – my beautiful coastal surroundings, the birds, the waves, dogs playing, people laughing, the breeze on my skin, the freedom of movement, had escaped me. I had been too busy wallowing. I stood and breathed in the stillness of the moment – allowing myself to just be. I felt an immense overpowering sense of gratitude. Thankful for all I could see, all I could do, and thankful for who I was. I somehow just knew everything was as it should be.

When I made that first journal entry all those years ago, I gave no thought to the possibility of an answer, but I can tell you this; I went to places I never planned or knew existed –both exquisitely beautiful and exquisitely painful places.  But somehow, along the way, I found answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking. As I moved out of the head and into the heart, I discovered that every breath I breathe, every happy, sad, shameful, hurtful, loving, painful moment experienced, and will continue to experience, every single step was, and is, meant to be.  All are forerunners to discovering what matters most.

A few days later I received notification from our local library. A book I had put on hold some time ago was now ready for collection. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, had been recommended to me by a friend. I don’t believe in coincidences because I don’t believe that positive and life-altering moments happen through chance or luck. Let me tell you, A New Earth is full of life-altering moments. Among his many whispers of wisdom Tolle writes:

‘You are a human being. What does that mean? Mastery of life is not a question of control, but of finding a balance between human and Being. Mother, father, husband, wife, young, old, the roles you play, the functions you fulfill, whatever you do – all that belongs in the human dimension. It has its place and needs to be honoured, but in itself, it is not enough for a fulfilled, truly meaningful relationship or life. Human alone is never enough, no matter how hard you try or what you achieve. Then there is Being. It is found in the still, alert presence of Consciousness itself, the Consciousness that you are. Human is form. Being is formless. Human and Being are not separate but interwoven.’

I stared at the words. Read, reread, wrote them down. When I opened myself up to the conscious present moment a few days earlier on my run, something happened to prepare me to understand the second event. I understood then that my yearning was something that belonged to the past or a wanting for something in the future, in the Human dimension. But the present moment is all there is, not past or future.  That is where Being is found – in the stillness of NOW. Can you feel it?

The niggle, the ‘something I should know but I didn’t’ fell into place. The dots connected. It literally felt like the cogs of an ancient machine had slipped into place. The yearning faded away.
We spend a lot of time planning, thinking, sorting, fixing what our mind is telling us to do, but Tolle says the joy of Being can only be felt when you get out of your head.

‘Being can’t be thought, it can only be felt,’ he says.

And that, my friends, is a matter for the heart.
Yes! I think what matters most, are matters of the heart.
Happy New Year.

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