Sunday Everyday

Celebrating the Birth of the Homeless, Oppressed and Marginalised

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox;

that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
-G.K. Chesterton –

If we had to paint a picture of the Christ that many of us celebrate at Christmas, what would our portrait look like? If the sound bytes that accost us on social media tell us anything, we may get the idea that Christ is a bit like a Texan Ranger, ready to destroy the ‘enemy’ because obviously, God is on his side. The luxury hummer he drives would proudly display the number plate ‘blessed-to-be-a-blessing,’ and all his tweets would have #blessed at the end of it. He would healthy, wealthy and covered in gold dust, as according to the gospel of some, this is the way we are meant to live.

Welcome to the idea of Christ, painted by a dominant, privileged consumer culture.

The history and backdrop that informs modern Christianity are complex. Over the centuries every generation has wrestled with what it means to follow in the steps of this Jewish rabbi, and every generation had authoritative voices claim they have found the way to absolute ‘truth’. Maybe we lost so much of Christ in the Constantine era? Or in the many ‘holy’ wars fought with great gusto amongst the factional faithful? Or by preferencing the voice of Augustine? Or the Reformers? Or the fiery depictions of Dante’s interpretation of hell?

Today, the misplacing of the Messiah is often evidenced by everything that popular Christianity is against, and fear seems to be the flag flown high from the castles of so many of Christ’s representatives. So perhaps our true depiction of Christ should be this diminutive little person, hiding behind a giant wall in case ‘others’ invade and pollute the tightly held ideas of morality and godliness? Maybe this shrunken little figure sounds more like the shrieking seagulls of ‘Finding Nemo’ – ‘Mine, Mine, Mine, MINE!’

Perhaps if we stop all the noise, engage in some critical deconstruction of current Christian discourse, and spend time reflecting, we come to a sobering recognition – we have ‘sanitised’ Christ into our liking and our image.

This safe, disfigured Icon seems to join us in hating all the people we despise, justifying all our violence, agreeing with all our exclusions, shaming all those we shame … we have made Christ and Christmas into us – like a Christmas bauble that has our face on it. No wonder we lose our shit when people don’t want to say “Merry Christmas,” ultimately their resistance to our precious ideas confronts in us a form of deity-narcissism, carefully disguised in persecution and conspiracy theories.

The figure of Christ that walks through the pages of the Gospels seems very unperturbed about whether people are putting the right messages on cards and coffee cups! That doesn’t seem to rile this Incarnate One. Instead, he seems to get a lot more exasperated at, well, at the sectarian shenanigans that really have not evolved over the centuries. Things like religious institutions that have become money-peddling spaces of greed (John 2:13-17), pious power puffs who have become so inflated with a zealotry messiah-complex that they shut the doors of the kingdom to anyone who is not like them (Matthew 23:13), and the continual microscopic dogma examination whilst neglecting the weightier things of God – like love, mercy and justice (Matthew 23:23).

I don’t think this Christ person was about making any of our enshrined political-religious traditions great again. He seems far more focused on describing a different way to his followers … where the last shall be first, where devotion is not bound up in what we think about hell or heaven, or whether we ‘sense’ God and have goosebumps – but whether we are feeding the hungry, providing for the destitute, welcoming the stranger, identifying with those on the margins, making the world a safer place for minority groups … When I read the gospels it seems this Christ of Christmas has a message for us all and it’s relatively simple: Don’t be an asshole! This cardinal contemplative notion seems to underscore the words we have of Christ that are in print today.

So, dear readers, as Christmas approaches may it be filled with joy and a good dose of uncomfortable reality. As I write this, I feel uncomfortable for I recognise that I am part and parcel of this dominant consumer culture, rejecting it and then falling right back into its traps! I question my pictures of Christ. What have we done to this child in a manger that could find no human shelter, but was welcomed into a shack by God’s fur children? This child that would grow and challenge the powers of his day that oppressed the poor, the homeless, the refugee? The child that would turn his back on kings and kneel in the dirt with the woman who had become the target of patriarchal, misogynistic scape-goating? The child who would be murdered, not because some wrathful ‘god’ needed a sacrifice, but to demonstrate precisely how radical love really is. We seem to have lost so much of this Christ child in the mayhem of our political-religious pontification. I pray this Christmas we consider resurrecting him … because the message he holds makes this season truly ‘jolly’.

Merry Christmas.

What God requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humility – Micah –

Not All Wounds are Visible – Surviving Being Triggered

Not all wounds are visible – Surviving Being Triggered

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The last few months have for me have been quite difficult in regard to my mental health.   One side effect of trauma is silence.  You get verbal vertigo.  You lose your voice.  I have spent the last 19 years walking out of and through trauma.  Learning to find my voice.  However, there are still many times when I trigger.  Sometimes worse than others.  The death of my father set off a cyclone of events and emotions.   In the aftermath I found that once again I had lost my voice.

It wasn’t so much the death of my father.  At 89 he had led a long life.  Grief in itself is inescapable, normal and has a place in our lives.  It was the lead up to his death, the arrangements for the funeral and the conversations that took place afterward that knocked my backward.

Judith Lewis says it this way: “Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom.

But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.

She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom…a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”

In the last two decades I have learned to build boundaries and cages to protect myself.  I never learned how to build proper boundaries as a child so I have had to do the learning and unlearning as an adult.

Children can be taught at a very young age to build shark cages and this will help them identify as well as keep off predators in life. Some develop strong, impenetrable cages that allow them to live healthy, happy lives. Others are not so fortunate. These unfortunate ones may never build up enough bars to keep them safe from “sharks” or along the way, may lose bars when danger has presented itself (Hettwar).

Think of each bar of the shark cage as a boundary or a basic human right.  It we are taught that its not acceptable for people to shout at us or call us names, that is one bar in the shark cage..if we are taught that its not acceptable for people to hit us, then thats another bar in the shark cage (Ursula Benstead).  (see article on The Shark Cage).

I have learned that it is okay not to put myself in the way of harm.  In the past duty rated higher than safety.   This means that now I know that  I DO NOT have to spend time with toxic family members, friends or institutions.  I do not have to put myself in harms way.   It is difficult to separate yourself from ‘duty’, ‘obligation’, ‘loyalty’, to family members and friends who are not healthy and who trigger you.

If there is one event that is difficult to escape, it is a family funeral.  This means you are thrown ‘into’ harms way.   You can apply the skills that you have learned in therapy.  You can stand up for yourself when you have to.  You can use the voice that you have recently found.  Sometimes though it is all too much and too many memories and harrowing emotions are triggered and the tsunami engulfs you.

“Persons in dysfunctional families characteristically do not feel because they learned from a young age that not feeling is necessary for psychic survival. Family members generally learn it is too painful to feel the hurt or to experience the fear that comes from feelings of rage, abandonment, moments of terror, and memories of horror.”
Kathleen Heide

For me harrowing emotions lead to silence.  Shhh stay small, stay quiet, hide, don’t draw any notice to yourself.  Hide your true self.  Your true self is not applauded anyway so stay small, stay quiet.  Hide on the roof of the house or in the dark musty dirt underneath the house.  You have no voice, do what you are told, go where you are told. If you hide no-one can find you, the chaos cannot find you.

What does it mean to trigger?

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback (source).  A trigger is a reminder of a past trauma. This reminder can cause a person to feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or panic. It may also cause someone to have flashbacks. A flashback is a vivid, often negative memory that may appear without warning. It can cause someone to lose track of their surroundings and “relive” a traumatic event.   Triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk (source).

Published on Jul 30, 2017

There are certain psychological triggers that when activated, are so powerful, that not only does it force someone to ignore other sensory information, it actually also forces them to behave in ways that you would consider totally irrational. Listen to this to get a better understanding of your triggers. #psychology #psychologicaltriggers

 

You can see in this clip how the abused can easily end up in co dependant relationships with the abuser which in turn often disables and destroys other relationships.  Breaking this cycle is incredibly hard.   When I came out of a fundamental religious cult  in 2000, I started attending a large pentecostal church.  This space ‘seemed safe’ but eventually ended up being another instrument of torture.  I did not recognise the danger.  Like the pole cat with the inserted cheeping sound bite.  The danger sounded familiar and safe so I allowed it into my life.   Fed it and nurtured it to the detriment of my own family.

Triggers follow me into deep sleep.  I have recurring lucid dreaming where all sorts of nightmares are played over and over during the night.  This means that I wake tired and triggered before the day has even begun.  This cycle take a long time to break and is very exhausting.  Normal activities become overwhelming.  The demands of  every day life  feel like climbing Mount Everest.  Demands of friends and family drain you and there is little relief.  I would explain it this way.  You have no margins.  There is no extra safe space to absorb the inevitable ups and downs of daily life.  Just answering a phone call can take all the energy you have left.

HOW ARE TRIGGERS FORMED?

‘When a person is in a threatening situation, they may engage in a fight or flight response. The body goes on high alert, prioritizing all its resources to react to the situation. Functions that aren’t necessary for survival, such as digestion, are put on hold.

One of the functions neglected during a fight or flight situation is short-term memory formation. In some cases, a person’s brain may misfile the traumatic event in its memory storage. Rather than being stored as a past event, the situation is labeled as a still-present threat. When a person is reminded of the trauma, their body acts as if the event is happening, returning to fight or flight mode’ (source).

Very few people understand the aftermath of trauma or what it is to live constantly with PTSD.  You look normal, you sound normal so why can’t you be normal?  You are funny, you are entertaining so why can’t you just get over it.   “Let’s just talk about positive things they say”.    I find these types of demands from friends the most draining.  It is in the nature of people to shy away from ugliness and disturbances.  They  may have heard a little about your weird life or you weird family but do you have to keep going on about it?  They have zero comprehension of the effort it takes day after day after day, nor the hailstrom of fire something like a family funeral throw’s at you.

Thank you readers for allowing me to navigate these feelings.  For listening to my voice.  I have found it impossible to write over the last few months.  Maybe I am starting to recover.  Coinciding with this season I am doing a small amount of narrative therapy.  So many other layers of my childhood are being revealed, restored and understood.

Healing is a long and laborious effort but it has great rewards.  I have taken refuge in creativity and beauty and have been blessed to work in an environment where my job partners with my healing. Thank you to my friends and family who do understand and who walk alongside me every step of the way.  Especially my children who sometimes seem to know me better than I know myself.  I am grateful for their love and support and I learn so much from them every single day.

 

 

Welcoming but not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth

“As a survivor of the gay conversion movement, it feels amazing to know that our experiences are being heard nationally and that there is finally research that confirms the prevalence and damage of the gay conversion movement in Australia… The messaging of the movement that told me that I was “broken” has caused long-term damage to me” – Chris Csabs, survivor.

This article is written by Nathan Despott.

As a gay person raised in a Catholic home, but who spent his late teens and 20s in Melbourne’s evangelical community, the image of a large church with arms open to welcome LGBTIQA+ people is familiar but foreboding. Most of my experience in the ex-gay or “conversion” movement was through long-term involvement in loving and warm local Christian communities that, rather than condemn my sexuality, lovingly intimated that I was “broken”. My ten-year quest for healing was all-consuming and overwhelming.

Since leaving the movement in 2010, it has been morbidly fascinating to watch most formal ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion programs shut their doors, often replaced by celibacy movements and a new wave of churches that call themselves “welcoming but not affirming”.

“Welcoming”, a paradoxical halfway between “condemning” and “affirming”, is the point whereby a church shifts from viewing LGBTIQA+ people as utterly intolerable, instead viewing them as “broken” and in need of gracious support. LGBTIQA+ members often experience close fellowship here, but cannot usually hold positions of leadership or, in some cases, work with young people and children. Researcher Mark Jennings found that most of the Pentecostal/charismatic religious leaders he spoke to held a “welcoming” position.

The recent Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice report (Human Rights Law Centre/La Trobe University, Melbourne) indicates that “while the ‘welcoming but not affirming’ posture appears less hostile than overt opposition to LGBT rights, when its ‘not affirming’ aspects are withheld or disguised… it can be deeply harmful.

“Welcoming” churches and the conversion movement share a view of sexual orientation and gender as being distinct from their expression (or “practice”). However, this distinction is relatively recent. It is certainly anachronistic to read scripture in this light. The word “homosexual” did not appear in bible translations until the mid-20th century. Modern “homosexuality” was demarcated by early psychoanalysts in late 19th century Europe, viewed as simultaneously intriguing and problematic for roughly a hundred years, then removed from the DSM in 1973.

The Preventing Harm report traces the development of the conversion movement and its ideology of “brokenness” from this point to the present day, where it has become virtually the mainstream lens through which evangelical communities – whether focused on orientation change or celibacy – engage LGBTIQA+ people.

The SOCE Survivor Statement, released by an Australian coalition of affirming organisations in September, outlined the core pseudo-scientific tenets of the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement. While prime minister Scott Morrison responded by declaring that “conversion therapy is not an issue for me”, so central to the faith of a small number of “purity” groups (read: celibacy for queer people) was the “brokenness” ideology that they saw the Statement as an attack on their religious freedom.

Preventing Harm and the SOCE Survivor Statement present the conversion movement not merely as a type of therapy but as a broad movement that invests significant resources and energy in transmitting an ideology of “brokenness” through myriad channels and activities. Both reports recommend legislative interventions, tighter educational controls, regulatory measures for practice, improved media and broadcast standards, and support for survivors.

“Affirming” is distinct from welcoming. Responding to pastors who considered their churches to be “affirming” following a shift from condemnation to support, survivor support and advocacy group Brave Network Melbourne developed a model statement of affirmation. Could pastors and their leadership teams (and their online communications) readily state “We believe LGBTIQA+ people are a loved and essential part of God’s intended human diversity”? Many could not.

Do not misunderstand me. For some of these churches, their forward movement is honourable. Theologically and personally, their journey has been significant – particularly if their welcoming stance has led to rejection from conservative brethren. However, for LGBTIQA+ people of faith, the safety line lies between “welcoming” and “affirming”.

While welcoming churches may have opened their arms to LGBTIQA+ people or even actively shunned the conversion movement in favour of celibacy, only affirming churches have completely rejected the “brokenness” ideology and made the theological and pastoral shift to full equality – and therefore safety – for LGBTIQA+ people.

Cherished LGBTIQA+ allies such as leading evangelical ethicist Dr David Gushee, evangelical sociologist Dr Tony Campolo, mega-church leader Nicole Conner , and out-and-proud Christian pin-up Vicky Beeching have all paid a high price for their affirming stance.

Brave Network and similar organisations have openly called on churches to explicitly declare their theological stance regarding LGBTIQA+ people rather than engaging in ambiguities such as “welcoming but not affirming”, which is widely seen as code for “you’re broken but we still love you”.

This would prevent people of faith spending years ensconced in communities that slowly erode their mental health. This is because, as LGBT Christian blogger Kevin Garcia states, “welcoming but not affirming is not welcoming at all”.

To learn more about LGBTIQA+ affirmation and the church, check out Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by celebrated ally Kathy Baldock, Changing our Mind by Dr David Gushee, and Undivided by Vicky Beeching. If you are in need of safe affirming organisations, check out One Body One Faith, Affirm or Two:23 in the UK, Equal Voices or Brave Network in Australia, Q Christian Fellowship or the Reformation Project in the US.

There is a growing number of affirming churches – from progressive to evangelical and every denomination in between – across the world. LGBTIQA+ Christians visiting an “affirming” community for the first time can use a statement like the Brave Network statement of affirmation above as a litmus test.

(Nathan Despott is a co-leader of Brave Network Melbourne and works as a research and development manager in the intellectual disability sector in Australia. He thanks Australian LGBTIQA+ advocates and allies Chris Csabs, Nicole Conner and Michelle Eastwood for their contributions to this piece.)

 

The Greater the Love, the Deeper the Grief

The most fundamental truth of grief is this: we grieve because we love. Love and grief are inextricably linked. If we did not love, our hearts would not be broken by death. The greater our love, the deeper and more profound our grief.

Grief is the most equal-opportunity experience in all of life. It is the great leveler of emotions, place, and time. For at some age, at some time, everyone will know the sorrow and pain of grief. Grief is indifferent to our race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We’re not emotionally insulated from grief because of where we live, how educated we are, or how much money we have or don’t have. Grief doesn’t care whether we’re dressed in a business suit, a blue uniform, a hoodie, a tee shirt or a clergy robe.

The love of grief is passionate — we cherish and memorialize the one lost to us in death. We remember, and will never forget. The love of grief is compassionate — it reaches out, reconciles, restores and builds up. This love is why we endure the suffering of loss and persevere in hope. Despite every evidence to the contrary, love never fails.

When the reality of senseless violence and tragedy overwhelm our individual and collective hearts, grief leaves us reeling, especially as we struggle with the “why?” We want to make sense of it all, yet there are no real answers. What we experience instead is grief, the intuitive response of our mind, our body and our spirit to the death of one we love. And often we find within the love of our grief the best response to life’s worst tragedies. Without fully understanding the “why,” we seek some redemptive value, so that death will not have been in vain. We harness our grief-born love first to change our own heart, then slowly the world. And if not the whole world all at once, we start where we are to influence for good, trusting that our small ripple of love shared with others will one day become an exponential sea change.

If we scrutinize the faces of survivors, friends, colleagues, and loved ones photographed at their moment of most intense grief, we see clearly the inestimable shock and sorrow of personal, individual grief. When we read beyond the headlines, we’re reminded that each life has its own unique story and that the lives of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people — neighbors, school friends, church communities — are unalterably affected by the untimely death of one they know and love.

We are forever changed by death. Our experience of grief may leave us disillusioned, fearful, and hate-filled. Or grief may leave us convinced of the goodness of life with a greater capacity for love despite the certainty that evil is present in the world.

In the face of intentional violence and death, those of us who are helpless bystanders are forced to stretch, to think and feel beyond ourselves. And so we join hands and hearts with reverence for life and spiritual respect for the mystery of death to grieve in unison each individual soul — the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands and all other relationships of spirit and bond that connect us to one another as divinely created human beings.

Julie Yarbrough is the author of Beyond the Broken Heart, a grief ministry program, Grief Light, and other grief resources. Website: www.beyondthebrokenheart.com 

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

A Dummies Guide to the Bible

1 THE BIBLE

Every writing which is written by The Spirit is profitable for teaching, for correction, for direction and for a course in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16 Aramaic Bible in Plain English

Bible reading is at the heart of this Way of Life Community of Aidan and Hilda Way of Life

Traveller        I am drawn to this way of life but new to it. Why should it include daily Bible reading? I thought the Bible was an out-date book.

Guide             Because the Bible is a collection of writings which have passed the test of constant use, and which, although they lay bare the worst things human nature is capable of, they give glimpses of ways in which God speaks, inspires, challenges and unfolds divine purposes.

Traveller        Tell me about the Bible. What is it?

Guide             It is the most published book in the world and vast numbers of commentaries have been written about it. I am not an expert. There are experts in Hebrew and Greek (the original languages of the Bible), the cultures of Bible lands, brilliant theologians and profound mystics who can help us.

Traveller        OK, but please will you give me a Dummies Guide to start me off.

Guide             All branches of the Christian Church agree that at least sixty-six ‘books’ comprise ‘the canon’ (agreed list) of Scripture. These sacred writings written over two millennia gradually gained recognition as having innate authority. In 367 Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, stated that the list of 27 books that we call the New Testament was ‘canonised’, that is, that a ruling had been given by senior church leaders as to their inspired authority.

Traveller       What’s the difference between the New Testament and the other books?

Guide             The others are about The Old Covenant (or Testament) God made with one people. The last twenty-seven are about the New Covenant (or Testament) God made through Jesus Christ with all people.

Traveller        So Timothy, in today’s Scripture verse, meant that these writings before the New Testament were inspired?

Guide             Yes, but we believe that the same applies to the New Testament.

Reflection

The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal… Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last. Bishop Ambrose in a letter to Constantius 379.

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What is Wellbeing?

What is Wellbeing?  This article is an edited extract from The Art Of Wellbeing by Meredith Gaston,

A joyous and fulfilling life is built on a foundation of health, self-care and living in line with nature, writes Meredith Gaston, in her new book, The Art of Wellbeing.

What is wellbeing?

I would describe wellbeing as the holistic experience of feeling energised, comfortable, connected and inspired. Our personal wellbeing is cultivated by all the unconditionally kind, wise and compassionate choices we make to nurture our health and happiness. These choices encompass our thoughts and our actions, our self-talk and our speech, the foods we eat, the ways we care for our bodies, and the support we provide for ourselves and each other.

What we choose to do with our time sculpts our wellness and matters greatly. When we invite the simple and relaxing practices of gratitude and mindfulness into our daily lives, we begin to sense the willingness of our minds and bodies to collaborate fully with us in the most positive, transformative ways.

By living intentionally, actively choosing love, peace and joy for ourselves and each other in every moment, we come to know a deep sense of wellbeing that creates a simple, unfailing foundation for truly joyous living.

Our thoughts create our worlds by inspiring our attitudes and our moods, our daily choices, self-talk and actions. It is truly empowering to realise that our thoughts are inherently flexible. Even if we have learnt patterns in the past that no longer serve us, it is completely within our power to let them go.

When we live as part of nature, our wellbeing blossoms. Cultivating wellbeing in daily life is a truly joyous and fulfilling commitment. When we nourish our inner gardens each day, we are able to embody and experience the limitless comfort, joy and inspiration we seek.

10 tips for cultivating wellbeing

#1 Choose Joy

Each one of us can actively choose to think thoughts that uplift us, speak words that spread joy, and explore ideas that help us grow. We can choose joy when we do work we love, and do it lovingly. We can choose exercise we enjoy doing, relax in ways that revitalise us, and choose people in our lives whose love and support empower us. When we build our daily lives around choosing joy, we may truly experience radiant wellbeing. We simply make consistently positive, life-affirming choices that light us up from the inside out.

When we choose joy, we see that life is not about sacrifice and deprivation, it is about celebration. When we forgo gruelling exercise regimes, unnecessarily hectic agendas and punishing diets, we may love our way to wellness. Wellbeing is not maintained by punishment or suffering, it is supported by unconditional self-love, passion and positive thinking.

Choosing joy also serves us exceptionally well during any challenging experience. We all have the power to learn and change for the better, growing our compassion, wisdom and gratitude through our personal life experiences. Not only does joy strengthen us to handle stress and adversity as our best selves, it always illuminates the swiftest path back to perspective and composure.

#2 Love the Earth

Our wellbeing is also shaped by the health of our natural environment: the air we breathe, the soil in which our foods are grown, the quality of our water, the health of our oceans, rivers and forests, and the countless magnificent species with whom we share this earth.

In order to connect to the earth, we need to spend more time in nature. Go outside. Put your feet in the sand, the soil, the grass. We live amongst the most varied and magnificent flora and fauna, spectacular mountain ranges, coral reefs, vivid fields of flowers, constellations of stars, creatures great and small. It is a privilege to be here experiencing life on our planet.

Connecting with our Earth is essential. We are part of nature, and her seasons, moods, beauty, uniqueness and splendour mirror our very own. The Sufi poet Rumi reminds us that the entire universe is inside us – how profound this is.

Also, it’s important for us to respect Earth. Recycle, upcycle, compost, walk or ride a bike, take short showers, enjoy candlelight, share tools and helping hands with neighbours, friends and family, grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetables, and mend and make do where possible.

img_4103resize-1140x500#3 Eat real food

Each day, we also have the chance to tune into the immense power of our food choices. Food is sacred, energetic and vibrational. The food we eat has a story, a source and an impact. It also plays a determining role in shaping our health, our energy levels and our moods. Eating mindfully is beneficial and healing for ourselves and our planet. When we eat mindfully we optimise our vitality, contribute to the prevention and reversal of disease, live in harmony with our Earth, and celebrate life.

The magnificent rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables we have to choose from exemplify the beauty and generosity of Mother Nature’s pantry. Aim for a plant-strong diet that is full of colour and rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Choose organic, seasonal and, ideally, local or homegrown produce wherever possible, and you’ll never have to squint again reading fine print.

Develop a positively loving relationship with food as nourishment. Food is your primary form of medicine, an essential way of healing. It is also an extremely fun, joyous and colourful part of a natural, healthy lifestyle.

Benefits of eating real food include increased energy, sustained vitality, a healthy glow, improved concentration, healthy weight maintenance, stress reduction, decreased inflammation, real satiety, stable blood sugar levels, and balanced hormones and mood.

#4 Simplify

We need a lot less than we realise to be happy. Oftentimes when we accumulate more, we are simply on the search for the feeling of newness, worthiness or happiness that our purchases bring. By taking the time to know ourselves and love ourselves more deeply, we fill the voids we seek to fill in a much less fleeting way and on a far deeper level. Happiness is an inside job.

Living with less allows us to appreciate and value those things we mindfully choose to possess, and focus on the parts of our lives that matter most – our relationships, our experiences, and our natural environment. Opting for minimalism in every respect, we free up precious time, space and energy to use in creative and fulfilling ways each day.

#5 Prioritise self-care 

Self-care is about attending lovingly to our own various needs on a daily basis. In caring for ourselves, we are much better equipped to care for and support others. Self-care includes all the daily ground covered in these 10 tips, including eating regular, nutritious meals each day, drinking plenty of clean water, and creating a routine for the best sleep possible. Exercising, practising relaxation, and taking time to rest and be gentle with ourselves is also essential to daily self-care. When we look after our thoughts, making sure they are supportive, peaceful and uplifting assets for us, we practise the ultimate form of, self-care.

If you are looking for kindness, be kind to yourself as well as others. If you are looking for understanding from others, be compassionate and open minded towards yourself first. If you are looking for peace, be peaceful and bring peace to others. We invite  the relationships, environments and circumstances into our worlds that grow and fulfill us soulfully, and we transform our entire lives for the better.

#6 Rest

Rest and relaxation are essential to our wellbeing. Ensure you experience the best sleep possible by creating a calm and nurturing space in which to rest. Reserve your sleeping space as a tranquil, restful sanctuary. Keep a sleeping routine, aiming to tuck in and rise at the same times each day. We all have unique needs, but eight hours of sleep per night is a healthy, recommended quota for energised living.

Some people find it particularly hard to switch off at the end of the day. Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom and ensure you have as quiet and dark an atmosphere in which to sleep as possible. If you are unable to fall asleep, you might like to follow your breathing or enjoy listening to some quiet and relaxing music. You may also find comfort in a light-hearted audiobook or meditation tape. When restless, write in your journal. Jot down your worries and hurries, and support yourself without fear or impatience to gently and fully switch off.

Quality sleep recharges our batteries for life, healing, protecting and supporting our minds and bodies. If daytime naps or siestas are required, take these lovingly as part of your self-care routine and reap the refreshing benefits. We live in a fast-paced world that too often favours productivity at the expense of rest. Yet when we are rested, we experience greater productivity, mental clarity and performance on every level.

#7 Relax

The study of epigenetics demonstrates how the causes of disease are not solely genetic, and that disease can manifest due to the dietary and lifestyle choices we make. When it comes to the insidious effects of stress on our health, there is an antidote: relaxation. Relaxation is not only a practice but a choice we can all make in any moment. This may sound very simplistic, but it is true. Our lives are composed of a series of choices we make that shape our worlds and experiences. By choosing relaxation, we bring ease and flow to our lives.

Relaxation may be something we need to learn or relearn. Thankfully, there are so many pleasurable and fulfilling ways to walk this path. Practising visualisation and meditations creates a wonderful, simple practice for relaxation in daily life.

Other great ways to embrace relaxation include practising yoga or tai chi, going on gentle walks in nature, lighting candles, enjoying a bath or a massage, listening to relaxing music or enjoying light films, music or books. Creating a relaxing atmosphere around you at home and at work in which you are as comfortable as possible is also key. Our outer worlds should reflect the inner world we seek to create.

#8 Move your body

Love your body into health and fitness by stretching and moving each day. Find a balance of physical activity that suits you while challenging you and keeping you fit, vital and strong.

Exercise provides energy, is essential for our mental health, develops our coordination and fitness, shapes and tones our bodies, detoxifies our systems, improves the quality of our sleep, can be fun and sociable, is a natural antidepressant, and feels really great. Our bodies were designed to move in different ways each day, and it is essential that we honour our bodies’ needs for physical activity. Mixing up your exercise routine circumvents boredom and ensures that your whole body is strengthened and acknowledged.

#9 Hydrate

Many health issues people experience can be traced back to chronic dehydration and remedied simply by drinking ample water. More than half of your body is made of water, and you need to keep replenishing yourself to remain vital. Wake to a tall glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon, or a dash of apple cider vinegar. Your liver and digestive system love this, and you’ll be hydrating yourself necessarily following your overnight fast. Hydrate steadily throughout the day with good, clean water. Add slices of citrus fruit or cucumber for a little excitement. Intersperse with herbal teas and coldpressed fresh juices if desired. Water your inner garden and blossom!

shutterstock_96206660#10 Connect

While some of us are more extroverted and outgoing than others, we are naturally social beings with a need for connection and relationships. Relationships are the web of our lives, and healthy relationships are necessary for our overall wellbeing. These include bonds between friends, family, colleagues, and lovers, teachers, children, grandchildren and beyond.

Relationships teach us so much by providing spaces in which we can love and be loved, give and receive support, learn and grow. Making a concerted effort to connect with others in our community and world with kindness, compassion and joy contributes to our feelings of belonging and greatly enhances our wellbeing. Our world would be a dramatically different place if we all chose to exercise loving kindness in our relationships and connections with others. Change starts with us. Let us be here for one another to build up, not put down.

Let us take joy in each others’ successes and comfort one another through our hardships. Let us focus on our togetherness rather than our differences. Let us find peace in our connections with one another so that we may all experience love and wellbeing and this life.

This article is an edited extract from The Art Of Wellbeing by Meredith Gaston, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $29.99 and is available in stores nationally.

The Rise of Rich Face

Have a look at this picture.  Have a good hard look.  What do you see?

old lady guadalajjara 2

I see a woman who has lived a full and rich life hiding behind a mask of youth.

Is this mask demanded of us?  Do we place it upon ourselves?  Are we so ashamed and afraid of getting older that we hide behind false youth and cosmetic procedures.

I took this photo recently whilst on a trip to Mexico.  It was hanging in the Cultural Institute of Cabanas in Guadalajara.  Undoubtedly the finest place for art in Jalisco.  Once a home for orphaned children it is now home to several art galleries.   Unfortunately I forgot to take down the name of the artist and I wish I knew the year that this was painted.

Once upon a time,  growing old was seen as honourable.  The elderly were revered and held positions of honour in the community.

Today Growing old gracefully is increasingly seen as a failure to make the best of yourself – and even shows a lack of respect for the self and or for others. Some might say that you have “let yourself go”.

One day when I was walking arm in arm with an Aunt, I would have been about 22.  I can clearly remember thinking, “I cant wait to get old…. I will be wise… I will be able to help people… I will be respected and revered”.

Now getting old is seen as a fate worse than death.  For the first time in human history, 

“The young have become a model of emulation for the older population, rather than the other way around,” Richard Harrison

The problem does not stop here.

It is not enough any more just to have youth on your side.  We don’t just worship youth,  we worship the youth of the medias imagination.   Now the pressure is on us to be a ‘perfect youth’.   One that hopefully looks a lot like Jenna Kardashian or Barbie.

Recent studies, have revealed how much this is affecting people – particularly girls of a young age. The Girls’ Attitudes survey has shown how body image worries affect many aspects of young girls lives – stopping them wearing the clothes they like, having their pictures taken, taking part in sport and speaking up in class.

The survey reports that 47% of girls aged 11 to 21 say the way they look “holds them back”, while 69% of girls age seven to 11 feel like they are not good enough.

A recent pilot study has found girls as young as 11 are seeking cosmetic surgery for their genitals. What’s going on?  Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne

When I was 11 I was obsessed with wanting to be Heidi and living on a mountain with goats, eating cheese and hard bread.  I vaguely recall thinking I had two bottoms but that was the end of it.  I certainly would not have know what a labia was.  

This new pilot study is aimed at understanding why a growing number of Australian girls, as young as 11, are seeking cosmetic surgery on their otherwise normal genitals.

University of Melbourne health researcher Emma Barnard says: “Pictures in textbooks and magazines are stylised or airbrushed, and there is a real lack of understanding about the real range of genital diversity.”

I am sorry, I must live under a rock, but how are tween girls getting access to stylised or airbrushed pictures of their genitals?  

The desire to look picture perfect in today’s camera culture fuels this over-the-top approach to grooming and has extended to our genitals.  The rise in pornography has also given rise to the desire for highly sexualised body shapes and images.

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 “The selfie has turned an extreme aesthetic that wouldn’t normally be acceptable into something people want on a daily basis,” explains Melissa Gibson, a senior artist for M.A.C Cosmetics. “It doesn’t appear very natural outside of a photograph, but for some women, that synthetic look is now part of the appeal.” Some choose to make their exaggerated features more permanent with the help of injectables.

A recent study by the University of Macquarie has linked the time women spend on Instagram per day with the level of body dissatisfaction they experience. Women are also likely to experience more body image issues when they use social media to compare themselves to celebrity.

These cosmetic procedures have produced the term Rich Face.  This is where women and girls are proud to wear their over exaggerated features as a badge of wealth.  Much like wearing or showing off $500.00 bag or shoes.  It is now a status symbol.

The most common cosmetic procedures sought out by teens:

If teens are facing this pressure,  imagine the pressure on the ancient 30 plus year olds.  

Did you know that Australia has leapt ahead of America regarding cosmetic surgery.  Australians love plastic surgery. That’s $1bn-worth of  love.

Roughly 500,000 cosmetic procedures were carried out last year. That includes 20,000 boob jobs, 8000 breast argumentations , 30,000 liposuction procedures and $350m dollars’ worth of Botox injections. (Reference)

The fastest growing area of cosmetic work is in non-surgical enhancements. In Australia we know that procedures like dermal fillers for cheeks and lips, or anti-wrinkle injections such as Botox, are fast becoming the most popular choice for people looking to enhance their appearance.

In 2015, Australians spent over $1billion on non-surgical cosmetic procedures  – up from $773 million in 2012. (Reference)

The top five most popular procedures are anti-wrinkle injection, fillers, laser and IPL, breast augmentation and reduction and liposuction.  At the same time the cosmetic surgery industry is booming, eating disorders are the number one killer of any mental health disease in Australia. (Reference)

I am exhausted just writing this article.  The pressure to keep up, look better, look younger is horrific.

Don’t get me wrong,  I indulge in beauty procedures.  I have my eyebrows tinted, my hair dyed, my body and facial hair plucked and waxed.   I spend money on cosmetics and moisturizer.  But how far is too far?  When are we able to feel happy and safe in our own spotty, wrinkled skin.

What happened to the days when wrinkles and flabby skin were a sign of wisdom and respect.  Why are we repulsed by the road map of life etched upon the faces of our elderly? I used to love sitting on my nanas knee and playing with her flappy skin and looking for the red lights on her arms.

Red lights which I now have.

Red lights called cherry angiomas or senile angiomas.  Senile... that is a very strong word.  I will continue to call them red lights.

What happened to loving fresh faces and clean skin?

In 1970 – this was the face of cover girl.

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Move into the 1980’s and 1990’s – clean and fresh becoming replaced by sophisticated party looks.

2000 fresh skin is still looking good……..

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Fast Forward to 2016 and Cover Girl has its first guy as a spokesperson and we begin to see the shift to contouring and shape changing in makeup.

2018 and Cover Girl is now full into face shaping, contouring and  full features.

What am I trying to say?  

Fashion always comes, goes and turns around.  However, what was once used to enhance the features you were born with, is now being used to distort and stylise your features into those that resemble cosmetic procedures.  Actually into those that resemble a mask.  None of this is bad in itself, as long as you have a good grasp of who you are and actually like who you are.

Returning the original photo.  What happens to the woman under the mask?

old lady guadalajjara 2

What happens to her at the end of the day when the makeup comes off, when the procedures expire.  Is she happy with the person underneath?

Thus comes the saying. BE happy in your own skin.  

I have become a person obsessed with being happy in my own skin.  I am not sad about getting old.  I have worked bloody hard to get old and have the stripes and scars inside and out to prove it.  I feel like a warrior.

I also at times feel insecure and flabby and bumpy.  But I want to enjoy my later years and find joy in who I am within and without.  I want my daughters and my grand daughters to feel safe and happy in their own skins.  To know that they are beautiful because of the light that shines out of them and the brains and thoughts in their heads not the makeup on their faces.  I want them to know that kindness and grace and mercy are worth more than youth and good looks.

Beauty truly is only skin deep.  Like a flower, the beauty  of our youth will fade.  But it will be replaced with many stunning sunsets,  reflected in our wisdom, humour and grace.  The joy of being perfectly at peace and safe in our own skin.  Of rocking grand babies and holding family close and being able to say,  “Its okay,  this will pass.  I know for I have been there”.  You are safe and you are beautiful.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Are you an Empath? 4 Special Traits.

Are you an Empath.  An empath is the ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.  I am an empath and it has both advantages and disadvantages.  If not recognised and managed it can exhaust you.

People who are empaths have these 4 special traits.

Woman with a personality that is too real

Empaths have a unique ability to tune into the way others are feeling and understand people on a level most of us can only dream of.

Many empaths are aware that they are different from other people, and sometimes their powers of perception make them feel uncomfortable around others.

The truth is, being able to read someone isn’t a curse, it’s a special ability that should be held in the highest regard.

After all, people are hard to understand, so if you have a leg up on the rest of the population, go ahead and work your magic.

If you are an empath, you’re probably hiding these 4 super powers, and you might not even know you have them.

1) You Have a Big Advantage Over Others

When you have empathic abilities, your brain is hardwired to make you the way you are. People aren’t comfortable with confronting emotion and so many empaths will ignore the feelings they get when they encounter people.

But for those of you who embrace your special powers, you will always have the advantage in conversation, relationships, work and more because you are tuned into what you are feeling and what those around you are feeling as well.

Many people walk around on a daily basis and don’t know what they are feeling, thinking, wishing for, wanting, and empaths know exactly what they desire, need, and feel.

This makes them more focused and aware of what will make them happy and and what will make them miserable.

empath traits quote

2) You Experience Ups and Downs

Because empathic people are very tuned into their feelings, this means that they experience emotion on a much higher level than most people do.

When other people are having a bad day, they usually feel down or sad for a while, but when empaths are having a bad day, it consumes their world.

They feel intensely, both good and bad.

But when they are having a good day, they let the light shine out of them like it was meant to, and that is something many people wish they could do more often and in an easier way.

3) You Can Read People’s Bullshit

One advantage of having an empathic personality is that you can tell when people are lying. Whether they are embellishing about their lunch or their income, you can sense the nuances that most people have when they are cooking up a story, and you don’t tolerate it.

This is a great ability to have because whether we like to admit it or not, a lot of people are full of it, and it can help when you can read a person to determine how trustworthy they may be.

empath traits quote

4) Your Creativity Shines

Empathic people are much more creative than the average person. You probably rely on your emotions to help you express yourself, but you might also express yourself through art or song.

What’s more, your creativity goes beyond a paintbrush and canvas: you are good at problem solving, seeing the positive in negative situations and can tolerate being uncomfortable for a while to earn the payoff in the end.

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