I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on creativity where she talks about fear, courage and their relationship to creativity.
It got me to thinking about fear and courage in my own life.
The most fearful – and the most courageous – step I think I’ve ever taken is when I quit the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in 1996. I had been a member for eighteen years and Vice-Chair for eight years. I knew when I quit that I would lose the respect and friendship of people I valued. I knew people in the Party would consider I’d stepped onto the bourgeois path and been infected with bourgeois ideology, and I would be an outcast.
I also knew that I had a drinking problem, due to the stress of the pressures I was putting on myself as well as trying to live up to expectations in the Party, and also knew that one person who was aware of this would use that to denigrate me and trash my name.
I still went ahead and quit.
I felt a huge surge of relief – that I’d finally had the courage to be me, and not the political activist straitjacket I’d forced myself into because it was the only way I could see to express my deeply held social justice beliefs.
I stepped right out of the comfort zone communism had occupied in my life but it took a lot of courage to take the path less travelled than stay on the path of least resistance. I’m proud of my decision and actions which led, eventually, to a far richer, creative and inspired life.
Of course, the next scariest thing is to admit that you were once a communist – a real party pooper. Some people may leave my life, I hope they don’t, but I need to be true to myself, not cower behind cold war poison. And what can I say? I quit the party for a number of reasons: because I’m an individualist, not a team player; because I didn’t like the games people play in politics, even in the Communist Party; I’m an idealist; because I believe – from personal experience – in life after death; because I wasn’t a practical person and trying to pretend to be one was – literally – driving me to drink; and because basically I will not allow my ideas and thoughts to be dictated to by any organisation or political party.
In fact, it was the role of alcohol in my life which started opening doors to a spiritual life and a creative life for someone who had never seen herself as creative in the slightest.
I had to quit my union job in the mid-’80s due to repetitive strain injury and was flailing around a bit trying to decide what direction to take. I came across astrology quite by chance and was drawn to get a reading. I’ve mentioned it previously but the first comment from the astrologer was: “Please don’t get upset, but do you do drugs?”. I was quite taken aback by this insight from a complete stranger, and said no, I did alcohol!
It sparked an interest in astrology and metaphysical beliefs which, I think, had been quietly brewing and, finally, in 1996 burst through the mental and very logical blocks I’d put up to anything but scientific thinking. In February that year I did a mandala workshop where suddenly my artistic skills emerged, I saw myself as a creative, artistic being and I realised my artistic forte is symbols rather than real life images. Then I connected with the Tarot and crystals.
You would say it was 360 deg. turnaround in my life. But in many senses it wasn’t. I was always interested in people, individuals rather than mass movements. I loved listening to people’s stories and experiences. In art, Tarot and crystals I was able to expand that interest into service through mandala art – by creating healing art for people and teaching mandala art to people, through advising people with Tarot readings, and teaching people how to tune into crystals and work with their healing energies.
I am quite sure that many would expect me to denounce the Communist party and beat my chest in attrition at my life as a commo. But sorry, that’s no going to happen. I learned a lot of skills and developed self-confidence. I met terrific (and yes, less than terrific people) in the Party for whom I have utmost respect. They see a life of service through political activism which is entirely right for them because each of us, as I’ve come to realise over the years, is an individual with personal beliefs unique to each person. It was I who changed direction, who understood – finally – that I am too anarchist, individual and eccentric to fit into an organisation with a structured framework, a scientific approach to society, and a belief that the minority is bound by the majority view.
I don’t see myself as a Pied Piper for the world and it’s a huge relief to dump this self-imposed responsibility. I believe in magic, happenstance, synchronicity and a mystical life. I am more often than not off with the fairies although my husband kindly catches my feet as I waft away and brings me back down to earth. I’m happy now to occupy my niche which is to create art and writing which, I hope, helps lift people’s spirits, inspires their creativity and makes the world a better place in some small way.
I still believe in social justice, in equality of all people, in redistribution of wealth to ensure that billionaire corporations don’t behave with complete immorality in gorging on wealth why they screw good, honest working people into the ground. I do my bit with support for social action groups, donating to activist organisations but knowing that they are the practical people and I’m not. Such a relief!
Returning to astrology: it not only tripped my inner lights, it also offered to me an insight into how we, as creative human beings, live on earth. In Australia, I came across the Aboriginal concept of songlines. For European people, this idea is quite puzzling, out of our comfort zone but nevertheless it resonates for me in a quite different way.
Aboriginal people can track Country through songlines – relating earth maps, if you like, through the form of song. I once watched an elderly Aboriginal artist, in the series “art & soul” by Hetti Perkins, an art curator, writer and activist, look at a painting by another artist and start singing the songlines of the art. It was quite extraordinary and, of course, quite outside the norms of Western culture.
But it struck me, watching this programme and reading about songlines, that we human beings have astral songlines – soul songlines, if you wish. We incarnate here on earth, but resonate with the starstuff of the Universe and, by understanding our individual make-up, our heritage, our DNA, we can get a good idea of what our heart and soul yearns for in this life on earth of ours.
One thing I’ve realised is that, by learning to understand my own natal chart, my calling is to explain my beliefs to people through my own personal experiences and to show how you can track your own soul songlines. So in the next few posts I’m going to explain how astrology works, in fairly simple terms, through the main aspects of my own astrological chart and that of my husband, and how that’s worked out in my life until now.
much of it wasted on wrong turns,
back roads riddled by ruts.
I had adventures
I never would have known
if I proceeded as the crow flies.
Super highways are so sure
of where they are going:
they arrive too soon. A straight line isn’t always
the shortest distance
between two people.
Sometimes I act as though
I’m heading somewhere else
I narrow the gap between you and me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever
know the right way, but I don’t mind
getting lost now and then.
Maps don’t know everything.
I was reading an interview today with the director of the new movie Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron, and right at the end he said:
“I was unhappy, trying to fit the mould (of Hollywood). And I was desperate because I needed the money. I had my son back in Mexico and it took me a couple of years to realise that I have to do what I have to do, what I am. The funny thing is, when I started doing that, it’s when so many good things started happening for me!”
I spent a lot of my life being what I thought was acceptable to people and being deeply unhappy within myself without really realising why. When I finally dumped Ms Goodie-Two-Shoes for real in 1996 , I felt a sense of lightness and giddiness as if a big boulder had fallen off my back. As I’ve said, I started working with crystals, art, took up teaching, and dabbled a bit in astrology.
But it’s here in North Cyprus that the crystals and art have coalesced in surreal, digital art and I can now really understand what I’m supposed to be doing and what I have to do because the genie’s out of the bottle.
When I first met my husband, Bryan, he used to rave about Cyprus and the great time he’d had here as an army brat while his father served in North Africa, and when he himself served in the British Army in his late ‘teens. In Queensland, Bryan had a dream about Cyprus where he was walking in the streets of Famagusta with a white dove on his shoulder BUT the streets weren’t those of the Famagusta of his childhood, they were the streets of today. When I told my friend, Yvonne, about his dream, she reckoned my husband had left a piece of his spirit on this island, and I do believe that.
Quite frankly, at times I could quite cheerfully have nuked the island after listening to Bryan rave about it over the decades. So I couldn’t believe it, when we were discussing the idea of leaving Australia, when “Cyprus” popped out of my mouth and Bryan immediately said yes!
Here I have felt not a skerrick of artistic longing for conventional paint until canvas, which felt really odd, but I was quite bereft of any inspiration. Then I was fiddling with Photoshop and came across a great little gizmo called “liquefy”. You activate this and then you drag your mouse over photos and it swirls and melds the colours into a cauldron of flowing shapes and rainbows. Until then I’d only used Photoshop to tweak photos I’d taken of scenery, rocks, family, and so on. But with the discovery of the “liquefy” function the medium of digital art opened up for me which I’d always considered, well, not quite art. Not quite art, that is, until I realised that all the gizmos available for working with digital art allowed me to get all the images out of my head which had been whirling around and going nowhere fast.
Then I started working with the photos of crystals in my care and it all came together. The spirit energy I can sense in crystals, rocks and stones could be coaxed out with digital art. This past week too I’ve been doing a course on surreal art, learning to layer photos to create quite complex images. And I’m off and running. I can suddenly understand that everything I’ve experienced, all the places I’ve been have all been leading up to this time in my life when the surreal art which has been lurking within me can be released.
A while back the Merit Hotel, which is a bit to the right of us on the coast (we’re slightly set back from the sea) held fireworks displays on two successive nights. I stood and took photo after photo as the brilliant display lit the sky in front of us as we had a free, box seat for these displays. I’ve worked with the photos since, using Photoshop, but now I’ve learned to combine images to create a completely new one. This photo combines work I did on another piece of Munjina Rock in my crystal collection with a photo I took of a firework exploding during one of the Merit’s fireworks displays.
It’s an amazing feeling, huge bursts of creativity are pouring out from within me, as if a cork has been released from a champagne bottle and all the surreal bubbles are exploding into being.
While this is my story, I’d like to to take the time – in winding up – to urge you to walk on the creative wild side however it works for you. Creativity doesn’t need to mean art, music, but really what lights your heart and what your practice in your daily life which is you and no-one else.
I’ve just heard today that Lou Reed, who wrote the iconic song “Walk on the Wild Side” had died. And it strikes me that one of the problems we’re faced with today is that we’re always being encouraged to live in fear, to be confined by straitjackets, to forget our own wild nature. It’s never too late, as I’m proving. Don’t live a little life!
Here’s a link to Lou Reed and Walk on the Wild Side:
I veered off onto different areas for a while, basically because the various topics of recent posts seemed to pop up and need to be written at that time. So now I want to return to the way crystals, rocks and stones have stayed stuck to me, despite moving from Queensland to the UK in 2002, returning to Australia in 2004, moving four times thereafter, and then moving to North Cyprus in February 2012.
Just prior to leaving Boonah, Queensland, where we lived for eight years, I decided my time with crystals was pretty much over so sold quite a few to a friend. Alas and alack, however, the crystals had a different idea. I lived in Scotland for six months and made the mistake of visiting a mind, body, spirit fair in Aberdeen. And up popped the crystals again!
Just prior to our trip to the city from the small village where we were living near my step-daughter’s house, I had a dream about a crystal which was either indicolite or iolite. At one of the first stalls I visited, I asked if they had any indicolite – I’d found it on-line and it’s quite a rare, expensive stone. Lo and behold, the stall-holder had just one piece she hadn’t put out yet, and I bought it straight away, a small, beautifully-shaped polished stone. Indicolite is a rare, indigo-coloured form of tourmaline. It’s a beautiful colour and this stone has travelled with me back to Australia, to the three States where we lived – Western Australia, New South Wales (twice) and Victoria – and finally to North Cyprus.
I wandered further around the exhibition, turned a corner and there was a large, raw quartz natural wand almost flashing a light at me. When I held it, it fitted into my hand like a glove, it felt like I’d received an electric shock and I couldn’t put it down. That too is still in my crystal collection.
When we moved from Scotland to northern England, Nelson, to be precise, I finally got a computer and an internet connection. And THEN I discovered eBay and I was off and running with crystals again.
I found a lovely Iolite gemstone as a tiny pendant on the auction site, won it and have worn it on and off ever since. When we arrived in North Cyprus, I couldn’t find it anywhere and was really upset it was lost. Then I woke up in the middle of the night, suddenly thought to look for it, opened my jewelry case and there it was, right on top, looking at me, and I had been through that jewellery so many times before! I find when I wear this it really bumps up my psychic ability, but I wear it only when I feel it calls me.
Now of course, most normal people would think that talking of a crystal “calling me” is quite off the planet and, I have to be honest, I do wonder about this myself. I would think of a crystal, look on eBay and there would be just what I’d been thinking of, I’d enter the auction and win it. And I had an ethical way of working with crystal purchases on eBay. As long as there were no bids, I’d put in an offer. But if someone else had already bid, it was theirs. It has worked out well over the years as I’ve won crystals and rocks which were rare and at rock-bottom prices.
My husband got fed up with packages of rocks and crystals turning up regularly from eBay in the UK and the US, but it was on eBay in America that I really got more cluey about a huge range of rocks and crystals I’d never come across before. I did get ripped off once by someone who claimed to be selling special rocks from Africa which were basically a very common (and cheap!) mineral. One guy tried to gouge on postal prices so I told him to keep the polished quartz sphere I’d won, rather than fork out exorbitant postal costs. But mostly I was lucky in dealing with ethical eBay sellers.
And then I came across a crystal site on Yahoo Groups, run by a guy called Fabeku Fatunmise, which seemed like heaven to me. He wrote at length about the metaphysical qualities of rocks, stones and crystals. He gave a perspective of stones as spirits or earth elders, he offered a wide range of crystals which opened my eyes to rocks and stones I never knew existed, and it was right up my alley. I have never been interested in the composition of stones, only in how they communicate to me and attract me. Someone may come to visit, mention they’d like a stone, I get an image of the stone in my collection, and in most instances it’s the one the visitor needs or connects with. It quite often narks me that a favourite stone might appear in my mind and be the right one for that person, but I’ve learned to accept that I don’t own crystals, I caretake them, and they have their own view of who they wish to reside with.
Sometimes a stone may step forward which doesn’t fit the normal descriptions you get in the various crystal books circulating. I personally don’t like saying “what a crystal is for”. It’s far better for someone to browse, pick the stone that attracts them, and then tune in to see how they feel when they’re holding that stone elder. I teach intuitive crystal healing by getting workshop participants to work with energy in very simple exercises, then get them to hold stones with their eyes shut and see how they feel, then move on to choosing stones for others, with no regard to colours, chakras or whatever. It’s what you need on the day that counts, not what’s in a book with so-called hard and fast rules and regulations, as far as I’m concerned.
When we returned to Australia, with a far larger rock collection than when I left, nothing much happened as far as any new entries into my collection went, until we moved to Woodenbong, in far north New South Wales, on the border with Queensland. There I came across the joys of rock fairs where “rock hounds” – fossickers – turned up with all the stones they’d fossicked around the traps at really low prices. I was in seventh heaven at these fairs.
I added to my collection in Traralgon, Victoria, and also in Bowraville, New South Wales, so that quite a few boxes of crystals, rocks and stones were in our luggage when it shipped out to North Cyprus. I looked around my study recently and decided that not too many people have as many rocks, crystals and stones in their homes as I do.
In my next post, I intend to describe how I’ve come full circle – bringing my photography, art and crystal spirits together in a fusion of digital art. Enormous fun!
I was stuck up Mt French with my leg in a cast for six weeks, as the broken bones were slow to heal, much to my disgust. I wanted my leg to be healed YESTERDAY! I used to phone my friend in Perth and she said she could hear my impatience burning down the wires. Unfortunately, impatience didn’t get me anywhere except feeling extremely frustrated.
When I had the cast off and put my weight on my right foot for the first time, it felt like I was walking on glass. It took quite a while before I could abandon the crutches altogether but I still had trouble with a recurring infection around the cut where my leg had been set and a metal plate put in place. I was not in good shape, got tired easily, my foot would swell in the evenings, and I had to rest a lot.
So I kept drawing mandalas. I used the technique taught at the workshop in Brisbane which was based on creating shaded white symbols on black cardboard, and then a layer of colours over the white, the idea being that you could show light shining through each symbol in the mandala.
As I got more mobile, I also started teaching mandala workshops in small groups. I have to say, looking back, that I jumped in the deep end with teaching. Prior to teaching mandalas, I had started practising Reiki and reflexology in Yvonne’s clinic, as she had bought a house with an area attached she was able to use as a clinic. But learning Reiki 3 really opened the door to my expanding the courses I taught.
A friend was going to attend a Reiki 3 course but it fell through for her so I phoned the Reiki Master to see if I could take her place. I told her I had no money and would pay her when I could and she immediately agreed. Another miracle and step forward in my life. I had an absolutely wonderful weekend, very intensive but very rewarding.
There were only two of us so we had very personal and intense instruction. On the second day we were taught an advanced healing technique where we looked inside people and worked with whatever we saw or felt. It was a form of psychic healing where you tuned into the emotional and spiritual energies of a person to sense what was required at those levels for healing to happen. It’s not an everyday occurrence. You would only do this form of healing with someone’s permission and when they had themselves done enough work on themselves to be able to participate in the whole process. So it’s not for complete beginners.
We were to be intuitive in our approach, our Reiki Master said. I was instantly alarmed – intuitive? Me? But something amazing happened. I saw exactly what needed to be done – it was quite different from acting as a channel in Reiki healing, more interventionist but at a psychic, spiritual level as I’ve described above. And for me it involved symbols which of course flowed for me as I love symbolic work. I remember describing the images to the other person doing the course with me, and knowing that I had to stop at a particular stage because he had to do the rest of the work.
And then out of nowhere came all sorts of knowledge flooding in which I passed on and now have no idea what I said. Of course I wouldn’t repeat it, if I could, as it’s private and personal to the person concerned. But I do know I felt stunned and he looked stunned. He stared at me for a moment, then stomped off to the bathroom and shut himself in. I really thought I’d blown it, but my Reiki Master looked amused and reassured me that I’d tuned in correctly and that I’d done the right thing in the whole healing process. It was a heck of a relief, I can tell you!
I’ve gone through a process of pooh-poohing Reiki a bit over they years, but now I’ve come full circle because I’ve seen it lead to miracles. For some it relates to spiritual, mental, emotional or physical healing. For others, it opens pathways to personal growth and heading in completely different directions. For me, it opened up the whole process of teaching. While we were still living up Mt French, I had opened a healing centre in Yvonne’s clinic premises when she bought a new house and started working from home. I started off doing Reiki and reflexology, something I’d learned back in Perth. But one day I thought I’d like to start teaching a course in colour, energies and healing.
I have no idea where this proposition came from but, as they say, it seemed a good idea at the time. I set up a billboard in the main street of Boonah, but then nearly had a nervous breakdown when someone appeared to say they wanted to attend. I must have looked like a headless chicken running around when the guy signed up, but it must have been meant to be because I met another lady shortly afterwards who also wanted to take part. I found I really enjoyed teaching. I was a good communicator and was able to sort out my ideas and get them through to people.
I also find it interesting that, if you’re heading in a direction which meets your life purpose, you’ll get help along the way. I started off with two people in my first class and I continued to do the odd class on chakras and creative visualisation with just two people but it expanded when we moved down off the mountain to the centre of Boonah.
One day I got hold of a book about focusing on your goals, and happened to mention it to a friend that I’d like to teach it. She said she’d like to take part, spread the world and, lo and behold, within a matter of weeks a group of seven had got together to work our way through the book. With me as the teacher.
I must admit that the first time I looked up and saw six faces looking back at me waiting for me to take the lead I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I felt quite inadequate, but took a deep breath and ploughed on. We had a ball and I discovered that I had a knack for creative visualisation and tuning into people as they described what they’d seen, heard or sensed.
We all have different ways of using our senses so some might find creative visualisation very easy and images popping up without difficulty. I know the first time I was able to visualise very clearly during a guided visualisation I felt my self-confidence go sky-high. I never realised I had that ability. My visual sense is very important for me. I can see parking spaces, or notice little details very easily. If I visualise, I can do so with no difficulty whatsoever.
Just don’t mention auditory ability to me. It’s pretty much low on my list. Bryan, my husband, on the other hand has perfect pitch, can listen to music and distinguish all the instruments and the nuances of singers, drummers and other performers. Whereas to me, it’s a nice noise, I’m not too bothered about the lyrics, I just like the overall, end result. I’m also tone-deaf which causes my husband to wince if I do sing as he can hear when I’m off-key and I can’t.
Other people sense or feel things. They might get a feeling of unease about something, or sense happiness, or smell scent or something like that. Then you find that some people can work well with more than one sense. There is no right or wrong, it just depends on each person’s particular focus.
I became aware of my ability to do creative visualisations when I was doing a mandala workshop with one of my friends while the rest were complete strangers. Up until that point, I’d run workshops but used the text of a book on mandalas word for word in guiding people into creating mandala art. On this occasion, however, I was particularly concerned about one participant. He created amazingly straight lines, so straight, in fact, I thought he’d got a ruler stashed away. But I gradually came to realise that he couldn’t access his creative side, and was working with his intellect all the time.
In creating mandalas you need to access your intuitive, sensing ability which arises in the right side of your brain and affects your left side. As I mentioned earlier, the left side of your brain, which relates to intellect, reasoning and logic, crosses over to your right side. You could say that your right side is your “doing” side and your left side is your “receptive” side, if that makes things clearer. The idea of contacting your intuitive side is that you sideline your intellectual side so that you can access your emotions, your feelings and your inner wisdom. So while this particular guy was creating beautiful mandalas, they had no emotional depth to them.
I was lying awake that night, pondering on this problem, when a voice said: “Take them into a creative visualisation and work with Mother Mary.” I nearly levitated. “I don’t believe in Mother Mary, I don’t do that sort of religious stuff.” The voice persisted: “Work with Mother Mary.” I sighed, rolled over and went to sleep quite quickly after this little exchange.
But the words remained in my head so I decided to take a punt. I sidelined the written material I’d been using, someone else’s text, in other words, and embarked on my very first creative visualisation. As I let go and trusted the flow, the words poured out as I started: “Mother Mary ……”. It worked a treat. The logical guy created a mandala which veered between emotional, intuitive images on one side and logical images on the other side. It was quite amazing to see the difference and at the end of this particular session, he walked outside, burst into tears and had a good, hearty cry. Ever after that, I simply asked for the right creative words to flow when I was doing creative visualisations, and it’s worked like a dream.
This is what I extended into my workshops in our new home. The numbers were small as I only had a limited space but I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
I was then asked to take part in other events and one of those led me to holding my Live Your Dream course at a nearby health centre. It was a big jump as I had between 10-16 women at these courses. Once again, I looked at all the faces gazing back expectantly at me, took a deep breath and jumped in the deep end.
This is what I mean by the Universe leading me gently by the hand, expanding my work slowly but surely so that I got confidence in handling larger and larger groups. It was a wonderful process and I loved my work.
The first course I held at the Women’s Centre was brilliant. The women were bright, courageous, willing to be open and honest, and very supportive of each other. I really remain honoured by their presence at that course as they were willing to jump into the unknown, face their challenges and take action to change their lives if they felt it appropriate. I say “appropriate” because through the course some people got a better handle on their personal situations and were able to take action to stay in that situation but work with it in different ways which made life a lot easier for them.
The first “Live Your Dream” course was repeated a few times and it also led on to courses in “Understanding Dreams”. I also incorporated mandala work in some of the courses because it’s interesting how focusing on the voice within and accessing intuitive images can open the way for deeper understanding in a self-development context.
As my confidence in art work grew, I contacted a new age magazine in Brisbane and asked if they’d be interested in my contributing an article on mandalas. I created my first bespoke mandala for the editor which was the first time I created images outside the inner circle.
I advertised in the magazine and ended up getting regular orders for personalised mandalas. In the beginning, I really enjoyed creating atwork for individual people. It amazed me that I could get such different images for each person. But gradually I found that I was on a treadmill and the joy of creativity began to fade until one night I walked out and showed Bryan the latest mandala I’d drawn. He looked at it and said: “It’s mechanical, Mo, it’s got no heart to it. It’s nothing like the mandalas you’ve created previously.”
I knew he was right and had put into words what I was feeling inside – that I was forcing myself to drum up images whereas previously the whole process had flowed for me. So I tore up that mandala, left it for a while and eventually found my inspiration returned to finalise what I decided would be my last bespoke mandala.
The relief I felt was enormous and a sure sign I’d come to the end of the road with that path.