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Japanese Tea Set

Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

Photo by Oriento from Unsplash

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet, who started writings poems at the age of 13. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.

You should know by now that I love poetry. It’s a way of probing at, pointing towards and sometimes even touching that which often seems incomprehensible. In this way, holding our hand as we make sense of and find ourselves in, the complexity of our lives.

👉For more poetry, you can join me on Instagram, Facebook or Spaces Between below.

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Butterfly on a Window

Poetry as Listening (and why this matters during COVID-19)

Photo by Jian Xhin from Unsplash

Like me, and many of us in this time, you’re likely feeling a myriad of familiar and unsettling emotions…

I choose the word ‘familiar,’ as I do believe you’ve been here before. In different ways, to differing degrees. You know this feeling.

Here you are! Which means, you must have made it through – yippeee!

Yet, amidst the storm it feels like the most challenging and gritty time to be alive. We are indeed in some complex, ambiguous and uncertain circumstances.

A collective cocoon.

If I was to relate this to a rites of passage experience, a coming-of-age ritual or a self-initiation ceremony, I would say we are in a collective coming-of-age.

A cocoon. Dismantling and testing all we thought we know and had locked in. Challenging our stability and taken-for-grantedness.

Whether there is a reason beyond our knowing for this global systems-shock, sometimes the ‘leaning in to the skid’ (diving into the discomfort), is actually the most non-resistant approach to sitting in this time.

Resistance, aversion, trying to skip around the puddle will sometime mean we come out the other side unscathed. It also means though we are in constant tension and contraction as we consistently avoid and deny the invitations to grow, to build, to develop.

From a humanistic perspective, all challenges are here to invite us into greater capacity. Challenges surface to invite us into the tension, sitting with the tension until we learn to integrate the parts of ourselves tested. We come out the other side with greater resilience.

What an annoyingly powerful and potent process. Isn’t it just so that most often, our greatest growth happens during the times that test us most?

Our uncomfortable invitation.

Here we are! In this cocoon, our basic needs tested, our sense of community as we know it tested, our loneliness probed.

This is the core of many self-initiation processes. To be sent for a quest into the forest, with nothing more than yourself. To find your way, gather your own faculties, navigate your inner-qualms.

All. by. your. self.

In this process a kind of poetry takes place…

Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn’t know you knew. It is a learned skill to force yourself to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities for the future.

David Whyte

Oh thank you David – you’re always so eloquent and on the pulse.

Initiation processes are generally facilitated at moments of transition; from boy to man, girl to women, young adult to adult, women to mother and so forth.

What takes place during these processes is a kind of ‘contemplative intimacy.’ We become intimately aware of our inner-lives. Yes, our fears, anxieties, self-doubts – all of it.

Through this process, we start to sit with these parts of ourselves, sift (which is the etymology of the word crisis by the way – ‘to sift’) through the stories that don’t serve us anymore and with enough patience, sticking-to-it, and gradual softening into acceptance, a new story emerges.

We might transition from being the man that likes to gift things to others only so he can be the hero, to the man that gifts things to other without expecting anything in return. A man who has stock over his own resources.

As uncomfortable as it is, and as challenging as it may be amidst the ‘need to hurry and scurry to solutions,’ can we sit with ourselves in this way? Can we practice a kind of poetry? Listening. Keenly. Inward.

What might occur on the other side? May we hear ourselves in a new way, may we soften into a part of ourselves we’ve been in resistance to for some time.

May we emerge from this cocoon knowing how to better-serve this time, from a place of grace not greed.

Seeking resources to support you in this time?

👉 If you are seeking resources and support in listening, sitting with yourself and holding yourself in compassion during this time, I am sharing resources regularly on my Instagram page.

👉 You can also join me online at anytime for a guided meditation.

👉 It may also be a perfect opportunity to contemplate and explore your relationship with Being and Doing, as well as how you dance with them both. Join me for my 10-Day course online here.

Please also know that I am in this with you, we all are. Feel free to reach out on my email (al[at]aljeffery[dot]com) if you are ever seeking an ear to be heard by, or a heart to be felt by. I am here 🙏

I’m curious, what resonated for you in this piece? How are you spending this time in isolation?

👉 Feel free to comment below or let me know on Facebook.

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Stillness by the river

Reclaiming Our Worthiness of Stillness (Why It Is So Important and “How To”)

Photo by Yuko Tanaka

You’ll probably feel this one and be able to relate, I imagine…

In the last month, in seeking ways to keep the clarity and grounding I cultivated over my New Years break, I’ve noticed the weight of guilt around taking time out.

Giving myself the ‘you’re totally worth it’ to even take 30 minutes out at night to read my book!

It’s also been very clear that when I do, the spaciousness of mind and openness of heart is remarkably shifted. 

Why stillness is so necessary, in this time.

We’re here, swimming in a cultural narrative as thick as honey, that has us peg our worth against our work, it can be easy to get stuck in Doing. It is inevitable that we feel guilt around taking a breath, a break.

Yet, in this time where we need grace and wisdom, arguably more than power and brute force, how can we reclaim that which allows us grace and wisdom – stillness?

If we are to do the work so necessary in this global predicament, we must slow down. Grace, wisdom, connection, compassion, reverence; these all require such space to cultivate. Beyond cultivate, to integrate.

Our systemic haste and rush supports the system itself. The system influences the ways we Be, the ways we Be reinforces our systems. We have to interject at both the Being and systems level, and maybe what we are most empowered to shift Now (and for the sake of our own wellbeing) is the state of our Being.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Between us and stillness.

Let’s unpack this a little…

S  P  A  C  I  O  U  S  N  E  S  S

Those spaces between the letters are opportunities. Rare opportunities at that. 

They’re opportunities to catch ourselves in patterns that define and reinforce our current state – personally and collectively. 

Without those spaces we might create ‘new’ things, or might even ‘solve’ new challenges, BUT with old thinking and ways of being. 

I’m not saying we necessarily need ‘new’ ways of thinking, in-fact in many cases maybe we need to remember ‘ancient’ ways of thinking. In doing so, we might be able to restore our culture and our ecology to a state that is more-conducive to regenerative life here on planet Earth. 

To access ‘new’ thinking, and definitely to remember ‘ancient’ thinking – at least in the beginning – it takes a great deal of cognitive effort. The all-too-famous m-word (mindfulness 😑) takes incredible amounts of energy to practice in a sustained way.

That’s enough, I’m sure you understand why spaciousness is crucial in this time (for yourself, as much as us).

What’s the narrative that keeps us shackled to productivity, efficiency and working our damn asses off?

I know for me, the narrative is often that “my worth is tied to my work and vocational success. I will only be seen as worthy if I am making material progress. The world needs change and I’d better be working at it!”

With this narrative running often without my noticing, great amounts of guilt and self-worth *stuff* arises when I even consider taking a break, or having a couple of hours solace. 

👉 What would you say the narrative that ties you to productivity is? 

Firstly, let’s re-balance the narrative around worthiness. Your worthiness is NOT negotiable. No matter your work in the world, your worth as a human is NOT any more or less. That is a different metric, that is called productivity, not worth. 

Secondly, let’s remember the above: the change we must usher into being requires space. If we are to be of service in the most integrated and regenerative way, these course-corrections, re-trainings and perspective-pivots need some stillness. 

May you know that you are worthy of stillness and of space. May you make time for this solace for yourself, for listening and honouring what has been waiting for your attention. 

You are enough, as you are, despite your Doing.

I’m curious, what resonated for you in this piece?

👉 This is one of the cultural entanglements I explore in my forthcoming book, that has woven itself into our personal worldview, keeping us at distance to ourselves, each other and our creative potential.

Let me know what feels resonant for you, or not. Al

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