New short-film: about the Inner Child

This beautiful new film, made by a world-traveling friend: sublimely photographed, with a timely message. (Or you might say: one particular lens on the message….)

In some ways, it seems synchronistic with a part of my book: “Inner Child Journeys”

You might see my cameo-appearance (Magic Dream #6) in this child-like and dreamy film.


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(from quarantine, on the 12th floor, somewhere in Auckland)

The road can be such a clarifying teacher. We’re constantly awakening to new and unfamiliar places. Before our eyes open to let in new light, what greets us first is … the soundscape. I had not fully comprehended just how much that would matter. And how the sound of a morning can set the tone for the day.

Last week, it was all traffic. You can feel the rumble of traffic in your back teeth. Buzzy, yet hollow. Allegro … ma non troppo. Like the sadness you get from eating white bread. Sometimes it takes a minute or two to understand the nature of an empty space, as when a familiar, awaited joy has failed to show up. Where are they?

For years, before we left our home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, we had been sung awake each morning by an ever-changing chorus. A pining lament here, a warbling melody there, some cheeky chatter, some raucous revelry. Every new day announced by riotous, avian acapella. A jam in the canopy. Curious thing; how it takes an absence to know you’ve been happy. The kind of happiness you don’t even notice when it’s there.

The music given freely by our flying friends comforts our souls – though we may not know it. I’m sure if we lay there for a few extra breaths, eyes closed, feeling our chest, we would feel how birdsong plays upon our heart-strings. Easy to miss, what with all the important boxes we have to tick in a day.


How do these sky-concerts affect our sensitive nervous systems? Humans love to set up serious experiments – to show us the obvious things we refuse to see. To find proof of the things we are afraid to believe in. Like the recent German study of thousands of people across 26 different countries, showing increased happiness among those who live near abundant birdlife.  Apparently, you can predict levels of public happiness by the diversity of bird species in the vicinity (I say: ‘wow!’ to that, but … should it have been obvious?). Studies like this one abound; Green is essential for mental health. Remove us from our ecological roots, and we become sad, anxious, gloomy and sick. But the music of Nature is hardly on Medicine’s and Psychology’s radar, at least not yet. How little we know ourselves.

Enter biologist Dan Carlson from the University of Minnesota. He demonstrated how the sounds of birds singing or crickets chirruping – he calls these “green music” – possess frequencies that boost plant growth and yield. A plant’s stomata – pores on the underside of leaves that absorb water and nutrients and expel oxygen – get wider when exposed to the melodies of Nature. Carlson made his point stick with a Guinness World Record-winning Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca), fertilized by birdsong.

There is a quest to know more about how music animates life (tangential musing: was biological life sung into being?). Scientists have called it: ‘plant bioacoustics’: the study of biological transformations triggered by “green music”. Repeatedly they find Nature’s frequencies are beneficial to plant size and yield, healthy leaf formation and the volume of seeds. Plants have an ear for music – “green music” especially has been shown to increase oxygen uptake and polyamine content (key compounds for cell proliferation).

So, if Nature’s music has a vital, chemically recorded impact on plants, how does it affect humans? Does this explain why I am enraptured sometimes, or deeply comforted at other times, when birds serenade from above? Like a plant, I’m made of chemicals and cells. Wouldn’t “green music” play me like a keyboard, and nourish my health just as it does for plants? If these flying balladeers can transform plant chemistry, what do they do for yours and mine?

And here is Side B. Outside Nature’s symphony, we fall out of tune. Dissonance within, discord without. Like I felt waking to those highway sounds: ejected, an alien in my own body. The phenomenon of Nature Deprivation Syndrome is gaining increased attention around the world. Surrounded by concrete, we are fish out of water. Our greatest handicap is our ability to adapt to deprivation until we no longer feel it. We settle into a new normal until we forget to crave what we actually need. Disconnection and anxiety become the baseline; unremarkable and unexamined. Dislocated from our true nature, it’s too easy to be distracted by the easy rush of a purchase, a stimulant, a substance or an ‘entertainment’. Like a starving person who forgot all about food.

In Japan, doctors prescribe ‘forest bathing’. Scottish medics too have begun sending their patients into the wilderness. That makes so much sense to me. I love how quickly the rambunctious cockatoos or the warbling magpies can lift my spirits. Sons and daughters of music, we are instruments and we are meant to be played. The wind strums the canopy like a giant’s harp, and we are lullabied home.

For most of what pains us, we need to come Home. We have overstayed in aircon and concrete, listening to jarring sirens and roaring engines.

If you haven’t done this already, I invite you to try. Next time a bird sings near you, pause everything, even if only for a few seconds. Close your eyes, if you like, and bring your attention to where and how the sounds made by the bird move through your body. Play close attention to your mood-state, notice any shifts. Bring your awareness to sensations, even the most subtle. Notice what happens in and around your heart – it’s a physical thing. Give yourself this time as a gift; the gift of discovering how your body is moved by “Green Music”.

And when you notice the living connection between yourself and the birds you hear, what do you suppose that means about us – about who or what we are, where we begin and end?

Birds are joined by the tunes they make. As the sun sets, how do lorikeets so easily and instantly locate their mates in the bustling cacophony of an over-crowded Norfolk Pine? Can we too find ourselves, through these interconnected webs of sound? Is music what holds the universe together?

We’ve been gone from our place in The Great Orchestral Field for too long. So long that we’ve forgotten why we hurt, why we are sick, why we are angry. But perhaps the birds can help sing us home. If we listen.

I would love to hear about you, what bird songs move you the most? How do they affect you? Do you have a special bird anecdote you’d like to share? What do you understand about birds, and what they teach us? I wonder what we might learn from each other’s bird-tales. I invite you to add your voice, friend and reader, below.

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Leaving Sandstone Country – Part 2: The Healing Power of Awe

We parked the van, hid our valuables, did the prerequisite tucking and preening to prepare for our trek, and charged with anticipation made our way to the lookout at the start of the trail. The promise of a big horizon is always an exhilarant. Coffee for the soul.

Staking our claim at the worn guard rail, we jostled uncomfortably with the multilingual others, for a shot at the view. From undulating valleys our eyes hovered over wooded hills, to naked granite bluffs. A gorgeously quenching cascade washes the boulders way below us. But inside me, there is disquiet, not the usual joy I had come to expect in such a place. My head is abuzz with voices, like a busy subway station. “Nice. But it’s nothing like the sandstone from Home.” “Not as beautiful as my mountains”. “Maybe I’m a sandstone tragic!”.

Triggers and past associations, like insect swarms, relentlessly afflict the mind. Scanning the wide panorama from our clifftop, I’m right back at the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, listening to Bellbirds. Algorithms in my brain run instant comparisons; with Govett’s Leap, Evans Lookout, Wentworth Falls, The Three Sisters. I’m missing the majesty of Blue Gums, the familiar brackens that cushion the slopes, the ruby kiss of Waratahs in spring.

I notice there is a kind of nasal tone to that voice in my head. Like the whine of an old engine, clinging to its past. I also notice I am unable to take-in my surroundings. Vision clouded by regret, insecurity.

Sure, I’m enjoying this place, but at best it’s a luke-warm pleasure. A perfunctory appreciation fit for ticking boxes on a tourist trail. As impressive as these walls are, they are made of granite – granite? bah! charcoal and beige. I can’t seem to find a way to give-in to the foreign aesthetic. I can’t relate to this country! My eyes search in vain for the vivid lichens that adorned every bush-rock – sandstone! – back in what used to be my weekend playground.

Soon, I begin to tire of the griping in my head. But I can’t find the ‘off’ button. The creeping idea of trying to ‘be present’ – damn sanctimonious New Age adage! – just rubs me the wrong way. Now I’ve got the pesky inner voices – and the futile battle to shut them up.

Saints and sages from every civilization have grappled with the human striving to quieten the mind, or to ‘live each moment free from the last’ as Neil and Tim Finn would say. So much has been written on the subject, there is a deluge of the stuff. I don’t know about you, but the usual breathy, auto-suggestive tricks don’t do much for me. I failed Eckart Tolle class. I’m the worst kind of dilettante to the Here-and-Now – particularly when I’m in this febrile rush of homesickness. We try so hard to just stop thinking. Say Om. Get into Shavasana. Stare at the mandala. Sometimes, a satori moment does arrive – but only when unexpected. Never through striving.

But what if our state of mind is not only up to us? Could it be that sometimes there is a little help in our surrounds? As I was to see soon afterwards, Nature weaves a profound magic. She does for us what we find hard to do for ourselves.

We walk on. I give up on tangling with unmoving mood and thought, and let my legs take over, as we work our way down winding paths and bush-steps into the gorge below. My inner screen is soon crowded with new experiences. Watching carefully, not to trip. The warmth and strain of physical effort. Breath comes deeper now. Through the occasional break in the canopy, the sting of summer sun on my arms. A buzzing fly. The eyes want to scan for surprises, searching for the owners of some interesting birdcall. Trying to catch a glimpse of what just slithered among the leaf-litter to our right. Whoa, there he is! An enormous and well-fed monitor lizard, fleeing our company.

Soon, a kind of intoxication begins to waft through me. A blessed relief, as little by little, I forget to think. My immediate surroundings have begun to beguile me, an almost imperceptibly subtle act of seduction. One pixel of my attention at a time. Once we’re in the arms of Nature, She will win every time. She wipes clean our mental slate. Matter over Mind.

We turn a corner, deeper into a ravine. Suddenly, a distant and fleeting  sound hinting of water – downslope. The light dims just a little, our skin revelling in the moister air. There is a hush now. We have entered  a magical fernery, guarded by majestic, elvish-looking strangler figs and rows of palms. I give in. The beauty is too compelling. The silence all-enveloping.

I love that moment, when Nature overwhelms our senses. She cancels the inner chatter, overrides memory, imposes Her presence. I can only think of that alchemical  moment as magic. Inside this forest my body is flooded with the pure, animal pleasure of being. The roots of trees are like writhing snakes frozen in time. Ageless epiphytes weave complex tapestries, kaleidoscopic webs, as if Giants had yarn-bombed the trees.

Walking on, we are lulled into a quiet rapture. Refreshed by the cool air. Soon, the approaching roar of water signals we are nearing our destination. The path ends and we find ourselves clambering over rocks, greeted by glistening pools and rivulets. We rest, waiting for a group of fellow pilgrims to pass. When the time is right, we make our way gingerly over a final boulder, and then … wow! We can only gasp. Hinting to its power, it had been growing louder as we approached, and there it finally stands. The mighty waterfall in its full majesty. An imposing, unscalable granite wall staring down at us. A water course lifted on Atlassian shoulders, shunted skyward by ancient tectonics, forever to pour into a dark pond at the base. Are there words for that thrill that rises, when we’re suddenly face-to-face with the forces of Creation; made so small and ephemeral?

Awe: a timeless and borderless human faculty. What is it? When the thing you witness is beyond your containment, outside your understanding. Awe obliterates the ego. It arrives in an instant, through forces beyond our ken. Worries are suspended, as are regrets.

In awe, we are as children before God. Our circuits overloaded, we cease to cope in our ordinary ways. And yet, somewhere in our depths, we drink from this experience like thirsty travellers. When we witness something we cannot comprehend or grasp, we call it miraculous. But what is outside our minds to grasp is precisely what our soul feeds on. The soul craves awe, it demands that our small-self be periodically struck out in this way.

Awe is not a luxury. I think it’s a necessity. We seek it. And like every thrill, we fear it a little. It is the recognition of the uncontrollable, unmeasurable unknown. The Divine shock that draws a ‘Wow!’ from the pit of our bellies, and then … wide-eyed speechlessness.

Awe gives us a welcome reset. As I sit stupefied before this city of stone, I feel myself emptied of the nostalgia that had earlier plagued me. Glorious newness. I may not be home, but maybe I am in some kind of heaven. I am not among the familiar, but I am in amazement. Perhaps this is the very reason I’d felt the call to leave home behind. In search of awe. In search of renewal. I hope the move proves worth the risk.

Awe is a powerful drug. We find it in Nature. In music. In witnessing the Great Phenomena: cellular division, a child being born, the murmuration of birds, a comet, a starry sky.

We concoct so many substances to alter our brain chemistry, desperate to fiddle our hormones, quell our fears, forget our pain, and lift our moods for a day. But these clever substances soon run out, lose their power, make us ill and drive us mad. Addiction for the many: profits for the few.  Could it be that we are an awe-deprived society? Most of us seem comfortable, well-entertained … but perhaps in awe-deficit. Our attentional daily-bread is super-fast paced. Everything in bullet points, sound-bytes and rapid-edits. Intolerant of space and allergic to time, we reach for our smart phones the moment we sit down. It’s astonishing to consider it: the act of waiting has virtually disappeared! Boredom tolerance is at all-time lows.  How often do we walk outside to stare wordlessly at the stars? How often do we sit with eyes closed and listen to entrancing music? How often do we stop doing – and let ourselves be done to by our surroundings?

Awe moments are medicine. We need to take this medicine. We get stuck in grooves and mood stagnations when we go too long without it. Awe is a necessary experience, I believe it’s integral to human wellbeing and health. We shrivel up, become empty, manic and lost without it. When awe has abandoned us, we become disconnected from our deeper selves, distanced from each other and from the non-human world. Perhaps awe-moments should be prescribed, for those of us who fall into awe-deficiency. In fact there are places that do! I think of the practice of ‘forest bathing’ in Japan. Or the doctors in Scotland who have begun prescribing nature walks.

I believe we need regular doses of witnessing what we cannot language or formulate. The automatic, looping part of the mind needs to be periodically undone, dissolved, gently released without resolution. That is what allows joy through. That’s why surfers crave the thrill of fear, faced with swells larger than comfort size. That’s why astronauts risk their lives to see Earth from outside. That’s why we bathe in music that brings us to tears.

At the edge of awe, watch closely: you’ll notice a moment of fear, a micro-moment of resistance and holding on, and then … a surrender. Our muscles let go, and we are flooded. Awe is climactic, it’s overwhelming – and that is precisely why we crave it. It answers the longing for immersion in something larger than our little selves. For some moments we disappear, our thinking shuts down – and that relief is absolutely sublime. A little death. Delicious annihilation.

Knowing that awe can easily undo my stuck mind brings me great comfort. It cleanses habitual anxieties, dissatisfactions, it reframes my perspective. I sure need to be faithful to this elemental need, and to take myself to awe-provoking places. To remember that I need regularly to expose myself to forces stronger than my habitual mental eddies.

Standing before this glorious cataract, though the place is entirely strange to me, I hear a small, far-away voice. It speaks in feelings, not words. It says: ‘Ah, home’. Not at-home, yet, home. Interesting paradox. I’m ready to keep walking.

To my friends and any folks I care about, I would recommend this: when you are feeling down, stuck in a rut, unable to pull yourself out of a self-defeating mind-loop, take yourself to what awes you. Of course, this is not a panacea, a cure-all, nor by any means the only thing that makes a difference. But there are special times when, if you dare to expose yourself to that experience of awe, it re-organises you. It opens your frame. Shows you new options. Settles your soul, even if your world is troubled. Find a dose of awe, whatever that might be for you, and take it regularly.

So: what brings you awe? Do you take yourself to awe-inspiring experiences from time to time? How are you changed by awe afterwards?  I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and experiences about awe. Jump in!

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Inner Child Journeys come to India!

Parenting Education in ChennaiGreat news! Parent educators from Chennai, India, have asked me to train them in Inner Child Journey work. They recognized, as many do, that obstacles to empathic and intuitive parenting are not merely about a lack of good info – the blocks are inside us, our unattended emotional wounds. We have begun our online training, and the enthusiasm and tenacity of this group never stops amazing me. They have gathered around a Montessori school community, and are trained by the legendary Ruth Beaglehole (from Aotearoa NZ and LA, USA) in Non-Violent Parenting.

The teaching is mutual. I am being schooled in the ways of a culture that is unfamiliar to me. It’s what we do. We make bridges. Our children’s future forces us to find what is common to all of us, at the centre of our wondrous diversities. And different as we are, the striving for empathic society, a harmonious world – this makes allies of all of us.

I am honored beyond expression, to be given this opportunity to share my work in India. And to learn so much as I go.

Thank you, to the team of Parenting Matters, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

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Leaving Sandstone Country – (part 1 of 2)

In times primordial, long before memories and dreams, the Hungry Ocean began to take big bites out of the Land. Each bite would rain a myriad sandy crumbs on the shore, after which he would crunch mightily, churn heartily, gulp deeply and … move along to take the next bite. And along to the next, and along again to the next, like a child chomping a corncob, each bite leaving a perfect smile on the coastline. From one end to the other, Ocean took … oh, I don’t know, maybe 40 or so bites. Then He was satisfied. And that, my friends, is how Sydney was made.

The golden Hawkesbury sandstone that forms the Sydney basin and surrounds was deposited alluvially 200 million years ago – and its grain is ideal for carving. From its quarries generations of masons have chiselled the countless gargoyles, friezes and church spires that charm the city’s skies. At the shoreline the pounding Pacific is the sculptor; carving sandy crescents each book-ended by two formidable headlands; the equals of any cathedral. Gaze long enough at any of these craggy bluffs, or at the indomitable escarpments that guard the city’s west, and you will see faces; aboriginal ancients watching over the city, at times frowning at what has been done.

Howling southerlies and receding estuaries have engraved a riot of honeycombs and marbling everywhere on the rock. No place here is artless. In any of Sydney’s infinite parks, secret gardens and laughing beaches, you can be bewitched by the wild striations and dancing patterns that geology has wrought, fibrous sunsets of blazing orange and swirling wine. Sandstone accepts the forge of time and tide, and leaves you stupefied by its beauty.

Bounded between each pair of cliffs, the beach defines its community. Pick any beach and you will find: one sea-pool where the tribe gathers for its morning laps and trivia. One surf club to mark the team colours and defy the neighbouring beach-tribes in hot competition. Beach gives way to street, bustling with coffee and commerce. And then, perched on hills behind are the labyrinthian suburbs; each named after the beach that birthed it. If you live in Avalon, to Avalon you belong. Your children will wear its emblem and on the sand they’ll bear the flag, each weekend, learning the life of grommets. And then there’s the Bondi Icebergs, the Bra Boys – how many beach-tribes bond in clubs, compete on sand or swell, surfing according to their own break, bar or reef? In Sydney, sandstone borders ordain our identity. A society whose destiny was told in the rock.

But this strikes me as no small historic irony. Just a twinkling of an eye ago colonisers came, filled with the hubris of ‘discovery’, determined to claim mastery over this forbidding land. An unremarkable sandstone (of course) pile casually marks the spot, like an afterthought, where the first unhelpfully dressed and clumsily shod Briton stumbled ashore. His compatriots soon followed in swarms, meaning to tame every hill and plain, to ‘civilise’ and subdivide the land as people of Empire are wont to do. By God’s decree and Royal Seal, they appointed themselves ‘in charge’.

In stark contrast to the first friends of this land; fellows of the ecology who hunted sustainably, who managed fisheries, who raised grains, who fire-tended grass and forest as equal partners in the Great Circle, the newcomers were playing to win. To extract. To dominate and overcome. There is great pride in denuding forests, gouging great pits, overgrazing naked land cut into rectangles. And pathos in renaming everything for nostalgia, with melancholic references to long lost locales in a faraway home. And yet, for all the triumphal claims of dominion, there is no escaping the rule of country. Geology commands sociology. Topography makes the people and wherever we go we will be the children of the land. I wonder how many can see that. Sydneysiders are, at the root, the People of Sandstone.

As one of Sydney’s sons, I may never understand or fully appreciate the relationship of this land that I love to its first people; those who knew they were a part of, not the lords of the soil. But it brings me a smile to reflect that, know it or not, sooner or later the land makes us. There is no escaping it. The land names us, gives us our character – and we were never in charge.

With time, sandstone country came to claim me. I was brought here from South America as a 9 year old boy, and I remember how alien this land seemed to me then. I thought I could never come to love it. Little did I know. I was wooed slowly, while disappearing for entire days among the gums and waterholes of Ku-ring-gai Chase, strolling through the Harbour foreshore parks, photographing weather-beaten churches and shabby old corner stores. I was smitten by the way Sydney’s giant Birra Birra weave their roots around boulders. Enchanted by the quarrelling of fruit bats at dusk. Beguiled by the maze of laneways and stairways, steps worn to coolamons by the tread of ages. No-one can know all of Sydney’s magical nooks, waterways, creeks, mangroves and tributaries. This city harbours too many surprises to catalogue, whispering its stories of struggle and celebration from every blessed stone. In time, I too became one of the Sandstone people.

Growing up in the Harbour City, Sydney just made sense. It was the centre of the world. Of course it had to be rent in two halves, stapled by a giant steel coat-hanger. Of course one went to the beach on weekends – it’s just what you do! Magnificent as this world may be, Sydney is surely its central point of reference. In my brain, Sydney was the Greenwich from where all else is measured. Ground zero for all of Life. Like the Port Jackson Fig’s mighty roots enfolding an outcrop, over decades the synapses in my brain were wrapped around the feel of this city. A cortical map faithfully reflecting Sydney’s disorderly streets and lanes. We grew into each other.

I even grew fond of its wrack and ruin, its rust and decay. I had fallen in love with the untidied leftovers from its ignoble past, the detritus,the myriad stories whispered by ghosts in gutter, eave and peeling paint. Ugly industrial scapes gain such dignity once relieved of their purpose.

When the time came for Linda and I to leave Sandstone Country, a dark hollow appeared in the pit of my belly. The very air smelled of loss, as if a part of me was gone forever. Wherever else I wander seems foreign to me. Leaving sandstone country, we are now passing through a land of granite, where great volcanoes sleep. And I can’t shake a ghostly feeling of being lost. The startling screech of sulphur-crested cockatoos and the annoying wake-up call of kookaburras are absent in this place, where once more I am a stranger. Familiar voices missing from the sky.

I never imagined that losing a land might feel so similar to losing a person. A family. Attachment to place, and the peculiar grief that followed really took me by surprise.

It’s not like I hadn’t heard that this happens to some people. I’ve heard all about it in the many ballads and laments that pine for faraway homelands. I just did not calculate this feeling would happen to me.

And why did I think I would be exempt? Modern life seems hypermobile. Everywhere people are on the move. Every family in diaspora. Interstate at the drop of a pay-rise. Across the seas at a whim. Like cars and undies, our homes and neighbourhoods are disposable. Neighbours are recyclable. How to think about it? Are we the uprooted, the dislocated – or perhaps the planetary-indigenous? At any rate, the Brave New Neoliberal World reads this way: don’t love your land too much, don’t know it too well – it is a temporary convenience, you will trade it in. My culture – Homo Disjunctus – brushes-off the attachment to place as mere sentimentality. Happily, I take no instruction from an eco-phobic culture that thinks nothing of felling the Sacred, that found its ‘success’ through the suppression of emotion, the denial of interconnection, the killing of listening. Aha. Maybe that explains how Australia’s industrious forefathers could tear entire nations screaming from their soul-country, with such icy indifference and conviction. What you don’t feel, you don’t see.

When Linda and I set-off on our journey, we did so willingly. We were not evicted. We have each other, our friends at the push of a button, our comforts. We were not threatened, we don’t seek refuge. For all its pains and pleasures, our trek is an adventure. My grief is not a burden, I value it. Sadness has a sweet centre. I feel blessed to have loved enough to know this bereavement. But this gives me pause: if this is how it pains me, not born of Sydney, of distant ancestry, to be gone from my home town … what manner of emotion must burn in the hearts of those whose ancestral presence remains behind, who witness the rape of their country, who bear the insult and the terror of expulsion? I cannot imagine. Maybe I dare not imagine. I lived and thrived where they once belonged. Today I shudder. Many of my forebears, Mum and Dad included, had to pack and leave in a hurry, pale with fear. I doubt a comparison can be made. All the same, I feel I am being taught a little more today, about what it means to entwine with a place, to trust it, to love it. And, denial notwithstanding, how irrevocably we are creatures of the soil. Truly, madly, deeply.

I learned to love a strange land once before, and I know I will again. Somehow. I suspect that listening deeply and watching quietly may be good recipes for learning to love again. Every land speaks a language, sings its own song. Finding a new home will be its own adventure, unknowable for now.

So, what next? Like all stories, this one unfolds, keeps teaching me new things. So please stay tuned, Part 2 is coming. With a twist, and a turn. Soon.

Meanwhile, how about you? What does home mean to you? Are you there now? Or is there a land you miss? Do you get misty-eyed when you hear a song from your ‘homeland’? Is there a place you feel nostalgic for? I would like to hear your musings. Most of us are migrants, or descendants of – what if that makes us all one tribe, the ‘lost tribe’ perhaps! Or planetary wanderers? Please feel free to share a line or two, your thoughts and feels.

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Greetings from The Road – and what’s next?

Dear Friends

The dust is finally starting to settle on a very big life-change I’ve made, finally giving me a window of time, and peace, so I can share this catch-up with you. 

Here’s the story. I had come to a point in my life in which I’ve needed to change the way I work somehow. Even to change the place where I live. It would take me too long to tell you all the ins and outs of that decision. Suffice to say, it was not made casually or quickly. I felt a growing thirst for a pause, after close to 30 years as a therapist. A time to retreat, to spend more time inside, to listen more deeply. To dare make an empty space, to wait … and let Life tell me how It wants me to refill this space.    

Modern culture is bereft of rituals to mark key rites of passage. I have no guide for this milestone, at least not one that I can clearly recognize. From somewhere deep in the mist of my ancestral past, I hear the word … Sabbatical. I know so little about what that’s meant to signify, but even without ancient ones to show me the steps, I must fumble on and find my own path. Time. Giving-in to the unknown. 

In more specific terms, I have paused my private practice – my principal work as a psychologist – for twelve months. Twelve new moons in which to be remade. To be exact: though I won’t be seeing clients during that time, I will continue to run some of my courses and workshops. To look for better ways to express my ideas and passions in writing. And of course, to play more music. I wasn’t seeking a rest stop, so much as an open field; to let go of the familiar clock, in order to allow more creative muses to come through. And to let Life reshape me, teach me new things and deepen my vision before I return to my practice. To undergo a little death and so to make room for a rebirth. 

I hope to get to know my own creative voice more intimately during this Sabbatical, this venture both sacred and profane, profound and flippant.

“Life, Deeper Self: show me what I need to know next, write Your message more clearly in my mind, so I can reflect You more truly”. 

I’m not sitting cross-legged in a cave, by the way. And as you can see I haven’t chucked my devices in a recycling bin. I’m not shutting out dialogue. I am just changing the way I dialogue, shifting my manner of engagement with you, my tribe.

One of my main quests is to shrug off conditioned, habitual and tired old approaches to the usual mundane tasks, you know, the old ‘chop wood and carry water’. I’m trying to learn how to let driven-ness and compulsion be replaced with Flow. A little more grace, more dance in my way of doing things. How to set aside the ancestral burden of schedules and obligations to make room for a more spontaneous, more organic and more personal way to express, to create, to serve. To reclaim more of the playfulness that is, for all of us, our birthright. The cosmic naughtiness of the spirit. 

I guess I am trying to peel off more layers of my schooling. Little by little. Let’s see how far I can get with that quest!

My practice was not the only thing I’ve let go of. I’ve also left home. Linda and I have sold our family home, where we raised our daughter, made our family and broke bread with neighbours for 24 years. Avalon Beach was perhaps the first place where I felt I belonged – it was our town and we were badged as locals. We are nomads for now, wandering gypsies. One banjo, one guitar – and my best kitchen knives in a leather roll. Unknowing where to settle next, as we begin our long journey to find a new ‘promised land’. Where to set new roots? This feels like such an overwhelming question right now. That’s what the next 12 months are about. And to tell the truth, I’m feeling a little lost. 

Pangs of homesickness and regret rush up sometimes. At night, mostly. A sinking feeling that I can’t easily reach out to my dear neighbourhood friends for a coffee. The horizon is compelling, thrilling – but also lonely. I mourn the close of a beautiful season of family; a gorgeous time growing together as a close-knit trio. Saying goodbye to our eco-house, our majestic Angophora trees, the frog-pond I built with Yaramin when she was three… An old identity dies. If I am not an Avalonian, who am I? Where do I fit in? I’m not used to feeling uprooted, it’s such a strange sensation.

I’ve lived in Sydney since I was 10 years old. Over half a century, Sydney worked its hills, its waterways, its surprising nooks, mysteries and stories around me and right through me.

Uncoupling from my home town is like tearing off a bandage. A part of me screams, startled, wanting to run ‘home’. And yet, the strange beauty of our present encampment is intoxicating. The birdsong and frog calls are so different at each place. We wake to an alien soundscape. 

Our trek prompts me to think about all migrants. The immeasurable challenges and incomparable thrills people have faced since time immemorial. We, our parents, our forebears have always been on the move. Always called to a new horizon, over that ridge, across that sea. Few have remained still for long (for my Spanish-speaking friends, this music video says it so well). I was 9 years old when, flanked by my Mum, Dad and brother Alan, I boarded a French airliner, somewhat shocked by the overwhelming reality of leaving South America for a new world, new people, a foreign tongue. The feelings I could not contain in that small body, I feel more keenly today. The anguish of an irreversible leap, mixed with heady anticipation. What surprises were awaiting us in new lands? I am glad to be facing these emotions more fully today. Paradoxically, though my feet have left home, a part of my inner child is returning home to me. 

Despite the upheaval and turbulence, I’m really glad we have taken this risk. I won’t be left forever wondering what it might have been like. As with every leap, we have entered the unfamiliar, become willingly lost, abandoned what was cosy. With so many references and tethers gone, this moment feels like an earth-tremor – but it feels alive! Liberating. And I wonder: is freedom always the counterpoint to security? I’m curious about your experience: have you felt these things? What does ‘home’ mean to you? Is ‘home’ about place? About people? Is it a sanctuary inside you? What have you learned, from leaving your home behind? Or when you’ve disrobed from an old identity? I would welcome snapshots of your experience.

I’m grateful for modern communications. I can still connect, wherever I am. Today, the feeling of geography and distance is unlike anything in our genetic archives. Distance has morphed into a whole new concept and experience. 

As my partner Linda and I travel about, I want occasionally to share my musings, learnings, ideas and preoccupations with all who wish to listen; perhaps you’ll want to check my posts from time to time – I hope you might. I’m nostalgic and I miss people when I leave. My friends, family and neighbours matter immensely and the people I have worked with remain often in my thoughts.

So here are a few things you could look for, if you are so inclined. I have a few projects in mind that I feel very excited about. I’ll be running a number of online courses, stay tuned. I’ll continue to be posting about empowering and uplifting social-evolutionary news. And here’s my favourite bit: soon, I will begin producing a series of short videos – called: ‘Vox Cordis little films’ – with inspiring ideas, philosophical musings, paradigm-shifting propositions, challenges for personal growth, relationship and parenting tips, news, evolutionary prospects. Sometimes personal, sometimes planetary. Themes will vary according to what’s cooking in my heart at the time. Sometimes, it might just be a review of a book or movie that has moved me, that I think might help our collective striving for a better world. Your comments, questions and suggestions will be welcome. 

If you have read any of my works, listened to any of my podcast interviews or watched any of my videos, you’ll know my deepest driving belief: that as we bring more empathy to childrearing and education, we transform societies for the better. By changing childhood, we evolve into an ecologically harmonious humanity. For me, the personal, the social and the political are inseparable – every interaction is a vote, and peace begins at home. All actions ripple, all voices matter, everyone counts, every love is an activism. 

So please check-in, I would love to hear from you. You can visit this blog, and you can subscribe to receive updates (see the home page). Alternatively, you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram. Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Hasta pronto!

Robin Grille

Posted in Little Films, Uncategorized, Uplifting/Inspiring | 4 Comments

Online practitioner training: ‘Inner Child Journeys’

I’m happy to announce: our third online training group starts soon, October 2020.

Based on my handbook by the same title, this skills-based course is for qualified counsellors, psychotherapists and health practitioners. You will be welcome to join our vibrant and growing international community of inner-child-aware practitioners. For more information and to enroll: click HERE. I look forward to ‘seeing’ you there!

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Seychelles prohibits all corporal punishment of children!

Woo-hoo, Seychelles! Children can never again be smacked there, not by parents, not by anyone – it’s against the law. This is the ninth African nation to prohibit. Such great news! The last bastion of domestic violence is that which we rationalize as ‘discipline’ – and it is directed at the most vulnerable of all human beings. Well, no more of this in 9 African nations, and counting. And what is the Global Countdown? That makes 60 countries now. With 28 more fully committed to reform. Every year, more.

Violence begins at home.

So does Peace.

Posted in Uplifting/Inspiring, World News | Leave a comment

Social and Global Activism – starting from our Inner Child …

I always love podcast conversations with Lisa Reagan from Kindred Media. Here is our latest fireside chat, and once again it gives me great pleasure to share this with you. The real and abiding world-changes begin from way deep inside. A New World begins with … our Inner Child. Why? Well, pour your tea, take a seat … and press ‘play’.

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Inner Child Journeys – Online Training for Practitioners

I’m thrilled to announce the second online training course for practitioners, based on my new book: “Inner Child Journeys”. Join our vibrant and growing community of psychologists, counsellors and coaches and become a Journey Guide. In this evidence-based, practical and experiential course you’ll learn to weave dynamic, healing and uplifting Inner-Child-aware conversations as part of your practice.

To find out more about the course:

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