Tag Archive: listening


IMG_7633

The Oratory glows golden for a moment. Lit by wintery midday sun. Behind the lids of my prayerfully closed eyes it seems the light filling the room is the same light filling me and I turn my face to Your warmth.

We light candles. Mine is a confession.

IMG_7531

IMG_6398

Rubem Alves tells a story of a spider, safe and happy over empty space – building her house – no hesitation and with precision. Fragile yet perfect, symmetrical, beautiful, fit to its purpose.     “…I did not see her first move, the move which was the beginning of the web, the leap into the void…” (p.3)

What the spider needs to fulfil her intention is within her body. “Her body knows, her body remembers. But we have forgotten it.” (p.4)

Rubem Alves tells a story of a boy who found the body of a dead man
washed up on the edge of a seaside village.

There is only one thing to do with the dead: they must be buried.

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial,
so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral.
As they did, the women began to talk and
ponder about the dead stranger.

He was tall… and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses.
His voice… was it like a whisper or like thunder.
His hands… they were big. Did they play with children
or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman’s body.

The women laughed
“and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection:
a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead,
returning… their bodies alive again”. (p.24)

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening,
became jealous of the drowned man
as they realised he had power which they did not have.

And they thought about the dreams they had never had…

Alves ends this part of the story by telling that they finally buried the dead man.
But the village was never the same again.

“The dead man did not say one single word.
He was full of silence.
And his silence was the space of remembrance.
His dead body was full of their lost memories…” (p.31)

“Hoc est corpus meum. This is the bit of my flesh which became alive again by the power of the silence of this dead man…

What are we without the help of that which does not exist? – Valerie”  (p.35)

Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

(NRSV)

Reading 1: (Read through twice) What word or passage touches/speaks to you?

Reading 2: How does this word/passage touch your life/experience?

Reading 3: How are we called into being/doing by this word/passage?

 

IMG_4684

Panel: Nayuka Gorrie, Areej Nur, Meelee Soorkia, Namila Benson

 

I wrote a book. It brought together other women like me.
I was not ‘other’ anymore.

Meelee Sorkia

Those pink pussy beanies at the Women’s March,
as a black, trans, feminist – what is my “in”?
White women can assume they’re your ally
but I might identify with other labels more.

Nayuka Gorrie

There is such silencing and erasure of women of colour.
Constantly thinking about ‘how do I put myself forward’ in a space?

Namila Benson

There a tenets of of feminism that are important.  Living that and being active in it is really important. We need paid opportunities, spaces that are ‘ours’ to help others out – support, build up, encourage other women of colour. Building and supporting other women in my community is my priority. I’m not interested in helping white women.

Areej Nur

Do the work.  What role do you have?
What opportunities do you have that other women don’t?
Please be self aware.

Meelee Sorkia

Just listening instead of defensive, derailing, silencing. Take up the generous labour of being in the space. Take advantage of the chance to learn something. Know your place. That’s it: Listening and give space. It’s fatiguing [to keep explaining].

Namila Benson

IMG_4655

 

There is a disconnection within me between who I am and who I feel called to be but it doesn’t feel like a change I can effect in any way on my own although I recognise all the ways I seek to control such things and be the change I want to see. Does it count if you go through the motions of being something in the hopes that you become it?

Come down from the tree Zacchaeus. It does no good to ask the experts anymore.  Get your feet dusty and your hands dirty, keep asking the same questions… The disciples were always asking questions. Being a disciple isn’t “knowing”. It’s being committed to going and picking up what you can along the Way from whomsoever you meet – your family, your friends, your neighbours, your teachers, your priests, your politicians, your encounters with random strangers… all hold a line of the story.  What story do you want to hear? You must seek those people out.

Jesus meets all these different people, perhaps only once. What story can you tell? What can you communicate in one conversation with a person that might change the course of their life? Jesus was something of an epiphany-dealer: what is right? what is clean? what is sin? You can’t yield the principle of the argument. It’s not enough to heal your body if I do not address the system that harms you.  It’s not enough to mend your madness if I do not address the systems that drive you insane. It’s not enough to touch you if I don’t address the systems that label you untouchable.  It’s not enough to include you if I do not also address the systems that have no place for you.

He touches them and they are healed, he hears their whole truth and they are healed again. It’s not only Jesus who hears, not only the healed, but disciples and crowds gathered round… what power is there in a story to effect change? Whose stories are we telling? Whose stories are we listening to?

I am telling my own story. That is the story that I know.

Who am I to try and tell anyone elses story?

Let me tell the story of the time You healed my body, let me tell the story of the time You healed my mind, let me tell the story of the time You took me in and I found belonging.

I listen for a Voice

IMAG0777

I listen for a Voice
and hear the words
of my heart’s yearning
echoes back
from others
who have been lost
and found
along the Way

Talitha Fraser

IMG_4282

With words I try
to describe the shape
of silence
a sonar cry
of what is
into what isn’t
and learn
the shape of
myself.

Talitha Fraser

img_3578

Panellists Rosie Kilvert, Léuli Eshraghi, Paola Balla,  Kamahi King
and Miliwanga Wurrben in conversation

 

Sovereignty is my inalienable right.
It cannot be taken away from me.
– Paola Balla

I try to stay strong within myself. Decolonising for myself.
I am a Wemba-Wemba and Gunditjmara woman, not “aboriginal”.
– Rosie Kilvert

 

I know where I come from – that gives me strength.
Concertina Bush stands for my people.
She only speaks Kriol, people have to understand it.
She is my Voice for the expression of my Gurindji sovereignty.
– Kamahi King

Grew up in the bush. My freedom. My school. Everything I was taught given by mothers, aunties, grandmothers – bound together by respect and as indigenous women.  I was illiterate. Taught by a missionary-lady at a community school.  Such patience teaching us Western ways.

Broke so many protocol. First, I had a male teacher. We’re not allowed to look at/make eye contact with men. “Look at me! Look at me in the eyes when I am speaking to you!” This was one of my first experiences at school. I could not understand what I had done but it must have been something more than I could imagine – I thought of my mother, aunties, cousins… what would they say when they heard this? My sovereignty is as an indigenous person, it’s in my culture, with my people. I found balance… took a very, very long time. Didn’t take away what I had, it’s still in me.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Where you are uninvited you have to make sure you
have first relationships… there is no treaty here.
You have to locate yourself in relationship.

…Every structure is illegal that
doesn’t have treaty/relationship.
– Léuli Eshraghi

Beauty was always very sacred for our women. Scarves, paint… essence, dignity, respect… beauty is the essence of that love. Love yourself for who you are – that is one of our protocols. “Too fat! Eat more!” we have none of that. There is a beauty and grace of being an indigenous woman.  Those who come to work in the clinic and court – they can’t wear short shorts, jeans, tight singlets. We dress in a way that respects the other women. If one doesn’t have those things, we can’t have it either. The young girls like and wear makeup but not when they come home. Nakedness is part of us.  Scarring and painted body.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Q: What will you do on January 26th?
(note: I’ve deliberately chosen not to attribute these quotes as I feel, although they spoke in their own voice, the panelists also spoke as one Voice and I want to express that if I can)

Don’t celebrate either way. I do nothing to give it energy. Day we lost all hope really. I wish that the stamp duty of from the sale of every house would go to local Aboriginal people. To my own mob. This is an example of how we could get past “eating out of the white man’s hand”. I mourn.

Refuse to call it that [Australia Day]. It’s celebrating genocide. I pay thanks to the ancestors and their resilience. Put out a reminder: We’re still here. Surviving and thriving.

I might go to Share the Spirit or a protest. Send prayers to those who have passed and shouldn’t have.

img_3248

 

We can sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads in our life – this job or that, this community or that, this city/country or that… these times can be terribly isolating as we wear well-worn tracks in our own minds going over what we know (again and again) but not knowing how best to move forward.

A Quaker Discernment Circle can be a good way to move forward through any liminal space. These circles hold space for deep listening to your own heart and wisdom and God’s call. This space doesn’t critique and is not intended to be intellectually analysing or deconstructing but hearing spiritually.

Invite as many people as you would like – but it’s easier if it’s not unwieldy and you can all fit around a common table or lounge room floor. This might be 6-10 people say. Good qualities are: people you trust, people who know you well, people that ask good questions, people that are invested in you, friends/mentors/elders…

Quaker expressions  use a lot of silence. Silence is active worship.You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.

In our silence we are together and connected to others present. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…) take a thought as it comes, dwell on it as you need to – it may or may not become ‘ministry’ (you might merely hold or pray it silently without expressing it aloud), someone else might say it, it may not need to be said.  In this listening silence there is no veil(s) between you and God and these intentional spaces can provide ministry that is uncanny to what’s on your heart and mind.

While someone might ask a question aloud…  They do not give “answers”.  Only you have your own answers to deepen your spiritual life.

A loose framework for a Discernment Circle might look something like the following:

Introduction – A facilitator/host says what the space is for and gives and overview of the circle

[silence as we become present to the person
and the purpose of the circle]

Presentation – when they’re ready, the person who is discerning takes as much time as they need to describe what the choices are that lie before them and any/all the ways that is conflicted in their heart/mind/body/spirit.

[silence – the voice of the discerner is held
without judgement or interruption]

Open and Honest Questions – those present may ask questions, they may not. The discerner may elect to answer aloud, they may not. The purpose of the questions isn’t to seek answers (resolve/close) but to open new channels of thought for consideration (broaden/open) thus the questions should be framed an open-ended queries rather than being binary.

[silence – explores the possibilities that may have been opened,
what might this mean for what was first shared]

Mirroring – those present may repeat words or phrases from the discerners presentation that have stood out/echoed/resonated and feel significant.  Sometimes when we are trying to make a choice we can lose sight of what is most important but as we talk there are often clues in our tone, emotion and vocabulary. In this space our community can echo these back to us and help us hear our own deepest yearning. n.b. don’t critique or explain, let the discerners own discernment speak for itself.

[silence – this time of holding the discerner at the center,
their fears and longings, can create a lot of vulnerability.
We are yet “holding”, what can be encouraged and strengthened
as we send this person out?]

Affirmations and Celebrations – it is likely that the discerner has shared a breadth of what they feel called to and responsible for, this is a space for those present to share encouragement that builds up and resources this person as they continue along their Way. What can be affirmed about their passion? What have they shown deep caring for and commitment to? What qualities are demonstrated in the desire to discern well and deeply in whatever choice is being made?

Note: some people might like to have pens and paper on hand for prompts or pictures and it’s sometimes nice to give these to the discerner at the end of the circle.

Walking home one night, I came across what looked like a torn up dictionary outside the McDonalds on Ballarat Rd.  I’m into a bit of upcycling and paper craft – it makes sense to use books/paper that are being thrown out anyway and this has little illustrations… No cover, torn in sections, mouldy and weathered, unwanted… except for me who’s picking up rubbish thinking “Cute.” and “Score!”

Looking more closely once I got my prize home, I realise it’s not a dictionary but rather some sort of encyclopaedia and it’s old. Really old. Old enough that it’s quite offensive – mostly for its omissions rather than what it explicitly says, for example in a section called “Australia’s History: Chief events in chronological order…”spanning 1788-1939, I can see only one reference made regarding an aboriginal person or place and that was “1876 Death of Truganini, last of Tasmanian aborigines”.  I look her up online to know her story.

A visitor on country myself, I have not (and continue) not to know very much about what right relationship looks like between people and the land. Not having the right words and being afraid of saying the wrong ones, I try and stay silent. To listen and to learn. I have heard people talk about their family members, homes, and culture being lost through colonisation. I have heard them talk about losing language and here am I finding some lying by the side of the road. I find myself wishing I could give it back to who it belongs to.

 

img_3592img_3593img_3595