Mindful milestone

Where did the first half of the year go?  I know I was productive but what did I actually do, is harder to quantify.  What is easier to reflect on is the milestones I achieved, mindfully.

To eat fast food is convenient.  It is promoted as such and we come to believe it.  Tired and hungry is where I’m most vulnerable, so dropping my suitcase and heading out for a ‘quick meal in car’, became a place of comfort.  It is more than six months since I last ate a fast food burger, and longer, for the spicy, flame grilled chicken, that I love.  In the last month or more I have changed my habits and take a bag to the supermarket.  So what did I achieve?

Psychologically I’ve achieved a sense of being.  I make choices.  No, I make better choices.  Thoughtful choices.  Choices that matter to me, community and environment.  I am healthier and have more energy.  My use of plastic has reduced drastically.

I’ve become more aware of other issues too.  There are more vegetables and fruits in people’s trolleys.  Young mothers write blogs on how to eat healthy.  As people become more knowledgeable about the food they consume, the marketing ramps up.  Suddenly, there are mini bottles of fizzy drinks for an affordable $2.  There are fast food specials, buy the biggest size for an extra $1.  On the other side, there is a sure but subtle push by health professionals who ‘entertain’ evening viewers, by providing real facts.  The science behind the reward system in the brain is convincing.  And there’s no better feeling than testing it.

First I worked out the moments where I’m most vulnerable.  Coming home from a trip is definitely one of them.  So I’ve made sure I have meals in the freezer and in the taxi ride home I visualise the meal, steaming hot and fragrant, on a beautiful plate.  I quickly freshen up while the meal is warming.  I’m home!  My brain fires up again.  Rewarded!  Yesterday I got lost in a suburb where you don’t want to get lost.  Flustered by the experience it was well past lunch time.  I saw fast food ahead of me and tried to reason with myself.  I won’t eat a burger but a small packet of fries, those hot, crunchy, salty fries would appease the gnawing hunger and reduce the stress I experienced.  I quickly switched my brain into reflecting on a talk I watched on how a particular type of potato is grown, harvested and sold to the public to consume.  I made a choice to bypass the “bouquet” of fries.  I came home and ate a delicious steaming bowl of roasted garlic and cauliflower homemade soup.  Better choice!  Instant multiple rewards embedded in discipline, impulse control, mindful waiting, healthy decision making for body and wallet!

I’ve started keeping my reusable shopping bags in the car and pack one in my suitcase at all times.  If I forget the bags when I enter the supermarket, it’s just a short walk back to the car park to get them.  (Incidental gain in exercise!).  The confined space of the bags limits my impulse shopping.  I buy what I need.  I fill my water bottle at home.  I’ve put my recycle bin out only a few times in the last few months, largely because I have bought very little that needs to be thrown out.  I’ve washed my glass coffee jars to reuse in the pantry.  I didn’t buy a lot of processed foods before anyway, but now, there’s even less.

I recall a time when we had one large plastic bin (that I found so hard to carry to the kerb), and it influenced my shopping habits.  Then came the wheelie bin (convenience) and later the recycle bin (environmentally friendly).  It was easier to consume more and roll my rubbish out.  I bought plastic, it could always be thrown in the recycle bin.  Conscience calmed.  So is this a chicken and egg scenario?

There are some obvious benefits to my health and the environment but how does all this impact community.  The burden that is placed on health care as people get older is a dialogue just starting to become more audible.  The wider cost to community is spelt out in statistics.  Most of the issues that older people present with are lifestyle issues.  But I’ve seen change.  I can recall years ago, it was acceptable to have someone smoking at a desk nearby.  Then people were asked to go outside to designated areas to smoke.  Now, it is rare to find anyone is those areas.  Yes, there is hope, for more change.

I hadn’t really processed this about myself.  I’ve never smoked but I’ve eaten a lot of unhealthy foods over the years.  I did not appreciate the science and biochemistry that makes my body work at optimum.  Yes, knowledge is power.  I used a simple analogy and it changed my thinking.  I wouldn’t stop road side and put sand into my gas tank if it was running low.  I wait to buy the fuel my car needs or I pre-plan what I need for distance driving.  So now I reward my body with the best fuel at the right time and place.

dscn6888Those who know me, know I love the philosophy of Marie Kondo, the Japanese declutter queen.  She says, “People cannot change their tidying habits without changing their thinking”.  This is true.   Change can be achieved, mindfully.  It fits in with three simple words that guide me:  “Think.  Do.  Be”.  There is no wisdom here.  Just the principles that guide the complex science of behaviour modification.dscn6880The results speak for themselves!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

The path taken

I was offered my first job just after I completed my clinical placement at the agency.  I was given permanency and after years of being a ‘struggling single mom’, I thought I would never leave the security.  But, life had other plans for me.

I was tapped on the shoulder by another agency and offered a six month contract.  Having bought a new car a month earlier, I was reluctant to give up my permanent status so I asked my manager if I could take six months leave.  My request was denied on the grounds they did not think I would return.  The new agency paid 20K pa more.  The agency had a point.  But I was furious.  I wanted to extend my skills and saw the refusal as an obstruction to my career development.  I went back the next day and resigned.

At the end of the six month period, there was a job freeze and I started to panic.  I had a mortgage and a car loan!  Plus two little children in tow.  I did what I usually do in times like this, I placed my trust in a higher power.  I started a very limited business, just to ensure there was some income coming in.

In my last week of my contract, I was offered three jobs.  The path I took was not of my choosing.  I worked in an environment where I had to deal with unpredictable people but the pay was excellent and I had more freedom with my hours of work.  Although they were very young, my children recall those days of stress with dread.  But I learnt so much about my profession, people and myself and I developed a degree of resilience I didn’t know I had.

I reduced my work in government over the years and focused on my business.  I looked at templates and did a five year plan.  In three months, my business expanded to cover the whole state of Western Australia.  On reflection, the path I was given, is one I was meant to navigate.

As I come to the end of another financial year.  I’m so grateful for all the opportunities the past year has given me.  I’ve met amazing people, worked with great teams and seen so much more of this beautiful country I call home.

DSCN7486.jpgI’ve criss-crossed the Wheatbelt, a region of some 155,000 sq km.  I’ve been further north east and further east of east, than before.  The resilience of folks in farming communities is something that strikes me each time I visit.  It must be difficult under circumstances where the pastures are green with rain and then 50 kilometres down the down, they are still waiting for it.  People think in terms of community.  What can they do, to make a difference.  They are quick to minimize the role they play, often with a matter of fact, “Well! that’s what one does!”DSCN8710.jpgThen there was the Kimberley region.  Beautiful Kimberley, an area that covers some 422,000 sq km of ruggedness.  Broome, is a favourite town but there’s a special place in my heart for Kununurra, a place I want to visit again on holiday.  I’ve experienced joy in this town in the company of birds and the excitement of spotting my first freshwater crocodile.  There are gorges and ruggedness to explore, and when standing still, blue dragonflies to observe.thumb_IMG_3092_1024.jpgI’ve visited the Midwest more frequently than I have ever done in previous years.  It is larger area than the Kimberley at 472,000 plus square kilometers.  The stunning landscape of the Coral Coast is memorable.thumb_IMG_2342_1024The mining region of the Pilbara, in the heart of Western Australia cover over 500,000 square kilometers.  It is harsh, hot, and humbling country.  Oh! how I love that red dust! Driving across it in summer was a highlight for me.DSCN0757And who can forget the South West, nearly 24,000 sq km of beautiful food, wine, trails, forests and coastline.DSCN9797Last but not least, the Goldfields Esperance region, covers over 770,000 sq km.  Esperance is where I spend three consecutive nights each month, so naturally, it is my home away from home.thumb_IMG_3174_1024.jpg

Life on the road is rugged and unpredictable.  I can stay in a 5 star hotel or, like in the Wheatbelt, in a tiny demountable where I tripped onto the bed as soon as I opened the door.

Someone famously coined the phrase, “Life was not meant to be easy”.  Maybe so, but it can be fun and adventurous.  To navigate, you just have to follow the compass in your heart.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check this out!

DSCN8693.jpgCuriosityDSCN6793.jpgAnxiety Curiosity

My work consists of making sense of what I see and what I hear.  Photography has fine tuned my skills in an unexpected way.  It helps me stay in the moment.  Once uploaded, I reflect.

My style of working with people has evolved and moving more towards what I trained in recently.  I attended a very useful professional development event and took part in an exercise.  The exercise was a simple one for a complex problem.  It resembled something a magician would do where the routine would go, “Think of a number ….” and the magician comes up with the right answer at the end of it.  This had a twist.  One person thought of the problem and the other did not know what it was.  By the end of the routine, through the right line of questioning, the person with the problem had solved it on their own.  That’s the hallmark of a good therapist. 

My father went to university but not my mother.  They did not travel the world.  But they had wisdom that is still relevant.  One of their favourite sayings, “a little bit of knowledge, is a dangerous thing”, is something I find useful every day.  My children’s father had something similar to say during my early years at university, “If you are going to work with people, know your stuff!”  It is advice I pass on to our son.  In a world of information (and misinformation), I always find it useful to ask people, “What do you think is happening?”  It defines the map of their journey taken and the one we will take together.

Unless you are trained in what to look for, looking in is subjective and ill-informed.  Without knowing history, one can misread social cues and behaviour.  As Thomas Szasz puts it, “… there is only biography and autobiography”.

A good listener, knows this.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

Tell me what you see!

Tracy (Reflections of an Untidy Mind) has thrown down a challenge, so I’m putting out my ‘tweet’ as well to see if you can identify this bird!

DSCN6805.jpgI once saw one in the wild.  No, I tell a lie.  It was on the tree right in front of me.  My companion saw it and tried to explain where it was.  After a good half an hour, I pretended like I saw it.  (A moment similar to the one where Rachel in Friends pretends she can see her baby in the sonagram!).  I was too embarrassed to tell him, I. JUST. COULD. NOT. SEE. IT.  (And, I was the one with the zoom!).

I often look at this picture and see perfection.  Tell me if you see it too!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

What is normal?

I was in Kununurra in the far north of Western Australia, walking and talking photographs in my favourite park alongside Lily Creek Lagoon.  It was nearly dusk and, after hours of sheer pleasure, I was headed back to my hotel reluctantly.  Always on the lookout for birds, my gaze is usually, and was, upwards.  But this time, something caught my eye as I neared the grand old boab tree.  It is a icon in this park.  Ancient and large.  Tourists will stop and wrap their arms around it.  Their fingertips never touch.  You would need several people to circle the girth.

The movement of fluttering caught my eye at the base of the tree.  As I neared it, I realised, it was a mother honeyeater desperate to keep me away.  I moved away to ease her distress but could not see what caused her behaviour until I zoomed in.

DSCN7694.jpgAt the base of the massive boab tree was the tiny chick she so desperately tried to protect.  If you look closely you can barely see it at the juncture of the base and the longest root that extends from it (to the left of the screen).DSCN7697.jpgSo young, it still had feathers on the crown and eyes that were barely open.  In a park where dogs and children played with careless abandon, the vulnerability of the chick, fired my up protective instinct too.DSCN7702.jpgThe chick relaxed and stared at me with curiosity.DSCN7696.jpgThe mother did the same, no longer flapping her wings furiously.  She flew away time and again, returning with a morsel each time.  She fed her chick with utmost patience.DSCN7707.jpgI stood guard until the park was nearly empty.  The protective instinct of the mother was memorable.  No longer anxious, the mother and chick relaxed into their respective roles of nurturer and one being nurtured.  The impact of trauma on a developing brain is well documented, especially for learning, emotional regulation and attachment issues.  It came together for me in one fleeting moment.

So my blog this morning is not about pretty pictures.  It is about instinct.  What is normal and not.  I can’t help be shaken by the lack of distinction modern politics promotes.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

Stars

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It is difficult to comprehend it is over a year since my holiday in the north to a remote outback cattle station in the East Kimberley region.  The thought of a very ‘rustic’ environment where crocodiles, lizards and snakes are prolific was easily overcome because I know the landscape.   It is awe inspiring.  I joined a group of writers.  All strangers.  I hadn’t written and shared my work face to face with an audience for over 17 years, following the loss of my writing buddy.  So I didn’t expect to write anything.  Why would I, I reasoned.  The anonymity of blogging was satisfying a deeper need in me.  But I looked forward to the experience of the East Kimberley.  And, I, who flinches at the sight of a tiny gecko, wanted to test my mettle in this harsh environment.

One night I lay in the ‘rustic’ cabin listening to the sounds of the outback.  Something in me came alive.  I allowed the previous days of writing with strangers, now intimate strangers, to flood my senses.  I wrote this after sleeping in a tent in a very remote area, on the banks of the King River, where the eyes of a crocodile glowed at dusk.  The brolgas called in the distance.  I knew they danced under the stars.  My heart heard their music.  The feeling of oneness with strangers in a stranger environment was complete for the city me.  I opened up.

 

As the moon brightened the night,

I walked along the celestial bitumen

I saw stars there, signposts for travellers lost.

I saw stars in other places too, that only I could see.

Have I been lost?  Did you leave them there for me?

As dawn unveiled the granite ridge

I saw a kapok tree, aglow, with yellow flowers on bare, brown branches

And at my door, emu and wallaby.

Child-like I spied on nature

clutching seedpods in my hand

held my breath watching blue dragonflies land

And, while passing travellers warned,

I experienced life at a billabong.

I walked down a dusty path, visible to you, not me

to Mother Boab tree

and at my feet, I found stars twinkling

where light and shadow meet.

I have been on a silent journey

This time, the million steps became one,

when I headed out in someone else’s footsteps

and returned in mine.

My fellow travellers, you were not to know

long ago, yet, like yesterday

Grief silenced me.

But in the barren night, alone, not alone

I found something glowed in the Kimberley

It was the stars

The ones you left for me.

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Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

Antediluvian? Yes that’s me!

On a cold morning I feel the history of my journey.  Every healed broken bone, a vivid memory of an accident years ago.  It is the only time of the year I really slow down.  It would be easy to take a pill and become functional quickly.  Not me!  I give my body what it needs the old fashioned way.  Pain is the body’s dialect to remind one, something is not right.  I take my time getting out of bed (the biggest challenge), sit for a few moments to let my body adjust to a manageable level of pain, then start my day.  It is tempting in those few moments to allow panic to flood me.  There is so much still that I want to do in life.  I’d hate pain to get in the way.

Some people confuse a simple life with an easy life.  This is not true.  There is complexity in simplicity.  It requires a level of discernment as opposed to automation.  Take for example technology … how many children rely on programs to correct their grammar and spelling?  How many refer to a dictionary as a first option?  How many children know how to read a map and do maths, without the use of a calculator?  I was stunned when I asked a teen how they would find a phone number for the local pizza shop and the response I got was, “I can just ask Siri”.

I cannot help but wonder at the potential cognitive changes that may be a result of technology.  Are we becoming less reactive?  Are we changing our own ‘wiring’ and relying more on software?  Are we becoming cognitively ‘lazy’?  I wonder this because I’m buying a new car.  It’s hard to find a model in my budget range without all the bells and whistles that forewarn, and react for me, under the guise of ‘safety package’.  When I drive I want to stay alert.  I want to use my own judgement to keep a safe distance between cars.  I want my brain to think for me.  I want to remember the speed zone.  I want to look over my shoulder and be aware of the blind spot.  I want to enhance my spatial perception, my cognitive reasoning.  I feel there is danger of mind-body disconnection, when we are reliant on external factors to do this for us.

In an increasingly automated world, I find my time with camera is where I make my mind-body connection.  Like watching the Pacific Gull on West Beach in Esperance ….

DSCN7431.jpgThe gull stood still and watched the tide come in.  From the road above, I did the same.DSCN7432.jpgThen the gull then strode out purposefully to meet it.DSCN7433.jpgIt seemed to know where to stop.  DSCN7435It stood still and waited.DSCN7434The tide came in with bounty.  The Pacific Gull knew this.  This was time honoured instinct.  Honed and practiced.  No technology to guide it.  It was a beautiful thing to observe.  A moment of mind-body connection, for gull, and me.

Call my views antediluvian.  I’m okay with that.  I’m one of those who enjoys the challenge of looking up the meaning of new words.  I do it the old fashioned way.  It’s like opening up a wrapped gift.  The excitement of the unknown.

Thank you Ragtag Daily Prompt!  I learned a new word today!  Perhaps, even earned a new label!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird