Imagine a Purple Feather

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“Imagine a purple feather,” I instructed the participants who nestled into the cafe’s old chesterfield lounges; eyes closed, breath slowing.

“What does a purple feather look like?”

It was the first One Good Thing Storytelling Circle, and I was telling the group about my passion for shamanism. I’d started my shamanic training in 2010 when I lived in Manly, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Along my shamanic journey I discovered the works of Hawaiian shaman, Serge Kahili King, and loved his tale of the purple feather.

At one of his weekend workshops, Serge wanted to show his students how easy it is to bend reality. So he asked them all to agree upon an unusual object of focus. The group of 14 chose a purple feather.

“What does a purple feather sounds like?” I asked the group as the other café patrons lowered their voices, listening in to my instructions. The energy of focus and intention expanded the longer our circle of storytellers imagined their purple feather.

As Serge King explained in his tale, he asked his students to imagine and focus on a purple feather for several minutes, reserving any form of judgement or expectation. They were then to simply forget about it and go on with their day. The aim of the exercise was to see how long it would take for each of his students to have a purple feather experience.

“What does a purple feather smell like?” I asked, as the café owner delivered my piping hot coffee, its pleasing aroma gently wafting its way to my nostrils.

The first of Serge’s students had a purple feather experience later that night when they found a purple orchid with feather-shaped petals. Another student discovered purple feathers printed on their hotel bedspread. One student found large purple feathers in a decorative stand on either side of the hotel’s escalator the following day. When she returned home, a fourth student – a feather collector – was given a purple feather as a gift from her daughter. Another student found a purple feather on the floor of her apartment as she stepped through her front door. In just over three days each of Serge’s 14 students had some kind of purple feather experience.

“What does a purple feather taste like?” I asked the circle before sipping the smooth coffee, washing away the spicy sweetness of the ginger beer I’d not long finished.

“And finally, what does a purple feather feel like?” I gave the storytellers a few moments to imagine what a purple feather felt like against their skin before asking them to open their eyes, welcoming them back to ‘reality.’

The storytelling circle wound to a close. I bid the participants farewell, asking them to let me know when they had their purple feather experience. Within an hour, one woman contacted me to say, “I was upstairs in the shopping centre and a woman walked past me wearing a t-shirt with stylised feathers in a vertical pattern across the front of it. I can’t testify under oath that they were purple but they looked it. I was stunned enough to stand and debate chasing her to ask if I could take a picture, but I chickened out. She was walking swiftly and with purpose. I decided surely it couldn’t be that easy…” But it is! Even I found a purple feather in my bathroom when I arrived home that day.

Over the next few days I received photos, stories and videos of the purple feathers that participants had found. I was even contacted by the café owners who’d found purple feathers on a bushwalk, and a friend’s hairdresser – who I’d never met – sent me photos of her purple feather earrings.

If all it takes is a few minutes of relaxed imagining to bend reality and draw a purple feather into your life, what else could you draw in? The possibilities are endless. And with this knowledge, it’s important to now consider any negative thoughts that play like a broken record in your mind day after day. Are they really things that you want to call into your life? As the saying goes, ‘Where focus goes, energy flows.’ So, choose your thoughts wisely, and let me know when you find your purple feather!

~ ~ ~

This story first appeared at The Triple Sifted Word Refinery.

 

Find out how you can share Your Story here.

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Unearthed

Emerson

When the world appears all dark at times, it’s hard to see the light. So I sit and I write and I scratch and I dig until some small treasure is unearthed.

My journal, the pan used to sift through emotions, through thoughts, dreams and nightmares. My stream of consciousness slides through the gaps and onto the page for future reflection, inspiration, enlightenment, and hope.

Each morning I sit on my lounge, easing into my journal. What is it I’ll write about today? When nothing comes I tune in to sounds:

Kookaburras laughing.

Lorikeets screeching.

Cows bellowing.

Vacs blowing.

A car. A laugh. A bark. A hammer.

The sounds carry my hand and my pen across the page. Fast and furious, or long and languid. Or something, somewhere in between. Somewhere where the writing flows like the creek winding down the mountain, carrying messages that need to be told.

Some days the flow dries up: I don’t know what to write. I’m bored. What now?

Some days the flow creates a dam-burst. Words fly faster than pen strokes. Slips of the pen bring spelling mistakes and Freudian revelations.

Then the fast flowing words wash up something that sparkles. Could this be the treasure I seek?

“Saying ‘yes’ to opportunities is a good lesson to embrace. ‘Yes’ opens up many doors that lead you down unexpected paths. Sometimes they’ll be dark paths; sometimes they’ll be light. Either way they’re part of the adventure of life.

And perhaps that’s the way I need to think about that uncomfortable, unknown future. Without it there’s no real adventure. The adventure embraces the unknown. It has a destination it’s reaching for, but the space between Point A and Point B is the unknown, and it’s where the adventure actually happens.

So life is an adventure. Keep taking steps forward. Know that unexpected events are going to happen. Know that forks in the road are going to appear and choices are going to need to be made. And each choice is the right choice because it takes you one step further down the road. It’s when we finally stop that the adventure ends.

It’s fine to take a break and recharge, but when the energy’s back, it’s time to take another step and see what crops up. See who joins you on your journey, and who departs the path. It’s a much nicer way to think about life. Yes, it’s still scary, but that makes all the good bits that much more enjoyable.

Life is an adventure. Get out and have one!”

When the world appears all dark at times, it’s hard to see the light. So I sit and I write and I scratch and I dig until some small treasure is unearthed.

~~~~~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

The Key

The Key

The Key

Sweat ran down the back of my neck as I clicked the padlock closed on the hot storage unit that now housed all my belongings.

“I’ll only be gone for a month,” I’d told my friends, knowing full well the key to this padlock might not be used for eternity.

A week earlier I’d climbed onto the usual E50 bus to North Sydney. The same commuters silently thumbing their iPhones, scowling when someone dared to assault the silence by answering a call. Even a whispered “I’m on the bus, I’ll call you back in forty five,” was dealt a series of eye rolls and snorts.

The miserable commute a preview of the depressing workday ahead. The company I worked for dying a slow and painful death. I wanted it euthanised. But euthanasia meant more than the death of someone else’s business. It meant a loss of purpose and livelihood for many. And in a city where housing prices were skyrocketing, it meant the potential loss of the tiny patch of beachside paradise I’d desperately clutched onto during a series of disasters; the last tiny glimmer of light in the looming darkness.

“There’s no money left,” my wild-eyed boss ran his hands across his bald scalp. “I can’t pay anyone this week.”

For months I’d watched reruns of this scene. When would it end? When would he put the knife in and let the damn business die?

While he held on with white knuckled refusal, so, unfortunately, did I. I wanted it to end, but I didn’t. An end here would be the earthquake that triggered the tsunami of my life.

At lunchtime I walked the same route past the monotonous shops, wearing my now permanent look of despair. My mind racing. Wanting it over. Not wanting the repercussions.

“What do I do? I don’t know what to do. What do I do? I don’t know what to do.”

In tears I phoned my brother. Blubbering the lyrics of the high rotation tape in my head. So many jobs ending in disaster. So many times my life smashed to pieces. The goddess, Kali, on the warpath, was sending the world crashing down around my ears. Again.

“I know you hate asking for help,” he said. “Especially from family. But that’s what we’re here for. Let us be your safety net. Just come up to Coffs.”

“I can’t!” I wailed. “My life is here. My friends are here. I can’t ask for help. It’s not meant to be like this. I’m supposed to do it myself!”

“You keep repeating the same patterns,” he said. “The same jobs, same relationships, same lifestyle. Break the pattern. Do something different. Ask for help.”

Six months on, cold rain ran down the back of my neck as I entered the storage facility. Hands shaking, the padlock clicked open. I knew full well the key to this padlock marked a painful ending, and the spark of a surprising new adventure.

~~~~~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

Image: Efrén Rodríguez Fotografía

Fear and Loathing and the Big Banana

Mint Green EH Holden

The Mint Green EH Holden

“Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent!”

We pulled onto the Great Western Highway as the sounds of You Am I’s Hi-Fi Way filled the interior of the mint green EH Holden. Our great Australian road trip had begun with rubber burning out beneath us.

‘Homebake’ beckoned us three mountain girls with its siren song to Byron Bay. We rode the Pacific Highway with festival dreams in our hearts, surf stops plotted and a campsite awaiting our half-way mark.

The old EH farted its lead-laden exhaust up the highway as I stretched along the caramel vinyl bench seat in the back; the cousins laughing and enjoying the view through the windscreen.

With windows wound down, Hunter S Thompson kept me company in the back seat. His drug-filled tales of fear and loathing painted Daliesque scenes in my mind. Sidewinder’s bass notes thumped from the stereo, and our road trip morphed into Thompson’s Mint 400 off-road race.

Excitement was high as we pulled into legendary Crescent Head. Surfers bobbed on the waves, a community of seal-skinned freedom seekers. We pitched our tent and left the EH standing guard. It’s mint green hue all summery new life. Yet its chunky brick body a sign of heavy things to come.

A peacock called out in the pre-dawn light from behind the EH’s back wheels, annoyed at our hefty intrusion. Our wheels on his turf, he demanded we roll on.

Spiderbait’s Kram slammed sticks against drums as beach breakfasts were downed, and we belched smoke in a northerly direction again. Red lights flashed on the dash as we diverted to Coffs Harbour, home of the Big Banana. Smoke poured from the chest of our mint green steed. A smoking Joe with somewhere to go, but no strength left for our final leg north.

In an unplanned campsite tragic news was delivered: the EH was dead and there was a three day wait for mechanics. Our Homebakey dreams crushed, the heavens opened up in mutual distress, dumping their heavy tears down on our tent and adventure.

We huddled inside as it rained and it rained and it rained even more. Invisible cracks encouraged a deluge into our shelter, our sleeping bags, our skin, and our dreams through the night.

The cousins huddled together keeping warm as I shivered and cried, “I hate this! I’m leaving!” And I peeled back the tent flaps as ducks swam past through the grass.

The EH watched on. Solid and silent. No saviour in sight.

I ran to a phone booth, sobbing for rescue: “Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent! I hate it here. I’m never setting foot in Coffs Harbour again!”

Nineteen years on, I laugh that there are banana plantations flanking my new Coffs Harbour home. Fear and loathing couldn’t stop me from taking another trip north. Only this time it wasn’t in an old mint green EH Holden.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

If Every Day Was a Holiday

Just Chillin' Like a Villain

Just Chillin’ Like a Villain

If every day was a holiday I’d wake up to the sounds of birds singing. I’d slowly roll out of bed, wander into the kitchen then grind up some freshly roasted award winning single origin organic coffee beans. I’d pop those bad boys in a stylish coffee percolator and allow the delicious aroma to wake me up another notch. With the divine brew heating up the perfect hand-warming mug, I’d sit out on the back verandah, gazing at the sun rising over the explosion of flowers in the garden, and welcome in the new day.

If every day was a holiday I’d try new and unusual foods like German Presswurst, Russian garlic, warrigal greens, bush asparagus, wombat berries and bush celery. I’d give it a red hot go, even if it might destroy a mouthful of tastebuds.

 

Octopods to the Rescue!

Octopods to the Rescue!

If every day was a holiday I’d build things I’ve never built before like an octopod for beans to grow up, flexing their tendrils, reaching for the sky. I’d build a barbecue for the best sausage sizzle in town. You know the one I’m talking about: the one where the tastiest sausages explode as you bite into them, dripping sizzling fat down your chin. Pleasure and pain in just one bite.

6pm and only 8,000 pieces to go!

6pm and only 8,000 pieces to go!

If every day was a holiday I’d have big girls’ days out, and buy lip gloss and pat dinosaurs and eat Old Mac Dac Donald’s for lunch. I’d ride (fake) horses, and Sega Rally and shoot animated wildebeest. I’d have my first Sex on the Beach and watch back to back episodes of Naked and Afraid, thankful I’m clothed and safe.

If every day was a holiday I’d learn new things, like post-bloom pig face flowers taste like salty strawberries; like drawing requires a change of perception, and we can all do it – easily; like I can make really good Mojitos and scones (on separate occasions); like there’s an island in the Bellinger river that’s home to a population of flying foxes.

And because every day is a holiday, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. And why I’ve been slacking off on the blog. But it’s a brand new day, the sun is shining over the explosion of flowers in the garden, the birds are singing, the coffee tastes amazing and I thought that you should know. And even though some days aren’t holidays, there’s always sunshine (even if it’s in hiding), there’s always flowers and birdsong. And if you’re going to have an addiction, Amelia Franklin’s specialty fair-trade organic coffee from Bellingen is my addiction of choice.

I hope you’re having a really fantastic day. Make it a holiday. Any way you can!

When All Else Fails, Reboot!

Talk about excess baggage!

At least it’s not the kitchen sink!

What do you do when life just doesn’t go the way you’d planned? When the job folds; the house crumbles; the relationship evaporates? When you reach that age when you should’ve been living a life completely different to the one you’ve woken up in? What do you do? Do you fall into a screaming heap – like I did? Or do you finally shake some sense into yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see it as a grand adventure – like I’m doing?

For most of my life I’ve been terrified of ever becoming jobless and/or homeless. I’ve run like the wind from those nightmare concepts and they’ve finally caught up with me; grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and latched on tight. And you know what I’ve finally realized? They’re actually the dream of freedom that I’ve also been chasing for the same amount of time; they’re the big mamma/papa cat, carrying its kitten to a better place – I hope. Weird huh?!

Yep, so I’m a complete and utter failure. Couldn’t cut the mustard. Couldn’t make it work in the big city (and couldn’t make the big city work for me). Failure = freedom in this case, so I’ve decided to go troppo for a spell. I’ve headed up to Big Banana Land for some much needed R&R. I’m switching off my head, switching gears, and switching channels. I’ve packed my life into storage and a small suitcase and am ticking another achievement off my list: #164 – Go vagabonding!

 

Leg it!

Leg it!

Joseph Campbell said:

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

What was the last crisis that you went through? What was your last failure? Are you able to look back at it and see the positive in it yet? Are you going through a crisis or a free-falling failure right now? If so, can you flip the double-headed coin and see the fear as excitement instead? It’s taken me a bloody long time to get to this point, and I don’t doubt that there will be more potential screaming heaps to fall into, but today I’m turning a shitty situation on its head, and turning a bucket-load of loss into a big-arsed adventure.

Will I see you on the road?

The Wedding Singer

 

Let's get hitched

Your awesomeness just blows me away!

It’s official, you may now start calling me Robbie Hart! Yes, it’s true. Yesterday, I warmed up my vocal chords and sang approximately 12 words at the wedding of the year. My babiest brother, Matt, and his adorable squeeze, Alana tied the knot in the most delightful ceremony ever. Never before have I seen such a wonderful combination of tattoos and flowers and chinos and superheroes. If I ever get married I’m going to be sorely pressed to outdo such a colourful shindig. There was not a dry eye in the house. Nor was there a dry one out of the house. And the tears weren’t due to my pitiful singing ability. They were all thanks to the overwhelming show of love between the gorgeous couple. Thanks team for making me look like a panda before lunch time!

I thought it might be fun to share with you the wedding blessing I wrote for Matt & Lan. It took me weeks of panic and research and typing and deleting, but I got there in the end. I’m pretty sure they liked it. I hope that you do to!

*

The Wedding Blessing for Matty & Lan Lan

When Matt and Alana asked me to write them a wedding blessing, I had a small crisis on the inside.

“What do I know about weddings? And what do I know about blessings? Not a lot.” But what I do know a bit about is gods and goddesses, so I’m going to ask them to give me a hand with this blessing today.

Are you listening up there?!

 

May the goddess Aphrodite bless your marriage with true love.
May the old goddess Fortuna rain good luck from up above.
May fat and happy children be delivered by Kuan Yin.
And Hestia bless your happy home whenever you’re within.

When you need strength may Rollins bring reminders that you’ll grow
Closer tiny dancers, for Elton told him so.
When Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes come may Bowie run to keep your spirits up,
Until Dionysus arrives to refill your wine cup.

May Morpheus, the god of dreams, make all your dreams come true.
May Lionel sing it All Night Long that babe, I’m Stuck on You.
Thank the gods above you found such love, and may you bless each other.
Extra special blessings Lan, for marrying my brother!

 

*

Congratulations Matty & Lan Lan. You guys sure know how to rock an amazing wedding!

A Wheelie Wonderful Wedding

A Wheelie Wonderful Wedding

(When I get my hands on some of the official photos I can whack them up here on the blog if you feel like showing off!)

Climb Every Mountain – Unless it’s a Bridge, then Climb Every Bridge!

Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

I was given a wonderful birthday gift from my brother Matt, and almost-sister-in-law Lan yesterday: the opportunity to tick something off my list of achievements. Together, with the added bonus of Xenia (in disguise as Vicky – her coffee name) we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was cold and rainy and I ended up with jelly legs and it was absolutely AMAZING! We even made it to the summit before The Rock. Take that Dwayne Johnson!

I’ve lived in and around Sydney for most of my life, and the Bridge was there standing strong and steady every single day. I drove over it. I walked over it. I bused over it, and trained over it. And I took for granted how connected it made us all in the sprawling city that is Sydney. Like everyone else I’d get the shits when traffic flowed too slowly, when someone  had an accident and prevented me from getting where I was going on time. I never really gave a thought to the people who built the Bridge. The ones who worked 7 days a week for 4 years to give me easy access to the city. The ones who hammered in the 6 million chunky rivets by hand. The ones who scaled those heights with no safety harness; no PPE. The ones who fell from it and died a terrible death. All so I could get to the city on time to tick something off my list. To all of them I thank you – and I’ll try really hard not to get the shits with the traffic again. If it wasn’t for you, I couldn’t have made a wish of mine come true.

So what about you? Have you been getting out there and ticking things off your list? Is there a mountain out there that you’ve always wanted to climb? What about a bridge? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do that you can do for yourself today? Or even a step you can take towards something that’s going to take a thousand steps to achieve? Go on, what are you waiting for? Permission? OK, I give you permission. Go have some fun!

And while you’re at it, stop in at Jamie’s Italian and do what we did yesterday; follow Flora’s advice and get yourself some cake. The Epic Brownie with salted caramel popcorn is something you should tick off your list.

Thanks again Matt and Lan, Xenia and Sarah for an Epic birthday. Who needs The Rock with friends and family like you?

In case my 8 seconds of fame doesn’t appear in your email, you can check it out here. Thanks “Vicky” for letting me steal the limelight!

Let Them Eat Cake

Carve it up!

Carve it up, sista!

Last night was the final instalment in my Wednesday night excursions to the Art Gallery of NSW for the Vengeful Ghosts, Ghoulish Demons film series. The third film in the supernatural Japanese trilogy was Ring. It was good. The American remake was better.

As I sat down in the back row of the theatre a tiny little lady came and asked if I minded if she sat next to me. She said she’d been looking for some big, strong gentleman to sit next to in case she got scared. But there weren’t any and I looked like a nice alternative. I told her to pull up a seat and I’d happily be her protector for the evening.

The little lady gratefully sat down next to me and told me that her name was Flora. Flora had a very thick accent, which she’d imported all the way from Peru in 1973. She was worried that I wouldn’t understand her. But I understood most of what she said. And what I didn’t understand didn’t matter, because I got the gist from the way she smiled and laughed and patted my arm. Flora was joy in Peruvian packaging. She told me how much she loves Australia; that it has opened the doors to so many great opportunities for her. It allowed her and her Brazilian husband to have a much better life with their three beautiful children than was possible in South America.

She told me that Wednesday night movie nights at the Art Gallery were her treat to herself; that since her husband left and fell in love with an Australian woman, she’d really been living life to the fullest.

“Miss Kylie,” she said, patting my arm again. “You only live once. So make it count. Do what I do, eat cake every day!”

Can't talk... cake...

Can’t talk… cake…

The theatre darkened and the movie rolled. It wasn’t scary and Flora didn’t need protecting.

“It was so nice to meet a lovely person like you, Miss Kylie,” she said as we filed out the door. “Will I see you next week?”

Yes, you will Flora. But it’s my birthday today, and tonight I eat cake. Tonight. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. I’m gonna shovel it in, and make it count. Every. Last. Morsel.

Flora’s right. We don’t need birthdays as an excuse to celebrate our lives. Get some damn cake into ya!

Get Back on the Damn Horse!

Get off your arse!!!

Well, it’s been another one of those weeks. You know the one: The one where you walk out the front door and a bird craps on your jacket. So you go inside, get changed, check for collateral damage, head back out into the thick of it and the little bastard craps on your head. Yeah, that one. It was also the one where you’re desperately groping around in the dark for the exit because some comedian thought it’d be funny to switch off the exit sign. But nobody’s laughing!

Yeah, so I’ve been sick and I’ve been miserable. But it’s a new week, the exit has miraculously appeared and I’m moving onward and upward. Enough about that though, let’s reflect a little on last week’s adventures instead.

Top of the list was my trip to The Art Gallery of NSW for another black and white Japanese flick. This time, it was Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. Now, with a name like Throne of Blood, you’d expect something akin to the wonderful Game of Thrones. Sure, there were supernatural elements, there were sword fights and powerful warriors. But I couldn’t get over the feeling of the uncanny when Toshiro Mifune graced the screen. Could Mifune be the long lost Japanese ancestor of Deadwood’s Al Swearengen?

Mifune

Swedgin!

Al

Cocksucker!

Throne of Blood is a reworking of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which in itself is nothing to feel uncomfortable about. But seeing “Swearengen” in a samurai suit was absolutely off-putting. I kept expecting to hear filthy expletives flying from Mifune’s mouth. But there were no cocksuckers. No whores. No pissing or farting or demands to know who cut the cheese. Not from the actors, anyway.

Calamity Jane wasn’t there to save the day or protect me from the dirty animal sitting in the seat behind me, who burped his way through the entire film. His belching was so bad, I was seriously concerned he was going to vomit all over the back of my head. It was a truly terrifying experience! And to top it all off this supernatural Shakespearean Deadwood samurai tale ended with a Tolkien-inspired Ent attack. Seriously, what was Kurosawa thinking?! It was too much for me to handle, so I raced off into the night, my (thankfully) vomit-free hair flapping in the wind, and made the ferry home with seconds to spare.

But I can’t complain. An adventure is an adventure. As the wise Bill Shakespeare once said:

 There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

And my thoughts on the rest rest of the week are pretty good. There was a trip to Chatswood to overindulge in Yum Cha with my wonderfully funny and highly decorated brother, Matt and his beautiful and forgiving (when it comes to chocolate thievery) bride-to-be, Lan; a healthy dose of multi-tasking as I did the Spit to Manly walk-and-talk (and brunch) with the delightful Sarah; a fabulous farewell to Cambodia-bound Ronan over a much enjoyed mulled wine. And I even had a small lottery win!

So there you go, proof that when life looks tough and you feel stuck in the mud, if you get off your butt and get back on the horse, there’s always another sunset to ride off into.