And This Too Shall Pass
In 1956 my father left all he’d known in Hungary and began his journey as a refugee in Australia. A year or so later he met and married my mother, a Kiwi, and she took him back to her family in NZ. Then, in 1970 my parents packed up our family and moved from New Zealand to Australia, with four pre-teen children, our pregnant British Blue cat, Sitsa, and all they owned, packed into an HR Holden Station Wagon.
Their story gives me courage in the face of uncertainty. What type of parents pack up their lives, travel across an ocean and then drive across the world’s driest continent, with no job, no home and only barely enough cash to survive more than a few months? The type of people who can not only tolerate uncertainty, but who embrace it as a creative opportunity.
They followed their call to adventure with hearts full of hopes and dreams. In the end, some of their dreams came true, and others didn’t, but their lives taught me that change is certain, not simply to be feared, and can most definitely be a good thing.
The idea that our own very personal experiences, insights and responses to what’s happening in the world do matter is fundamental to the way we aspire to live at Springfield. It’s not always easy, we are far from perfect, and we often get messy and fail. We doubt, question, sometimes argue and occasionally lose it! We are certain, however, that there’s always someone there to catch us when it’s our turn to stumble. We simply do what we can, with what we have to deal with each day.
Some days it feels like I’ve done ok, and then there are the days when my head hits the pillow and the best I can do is be grateful that I have another chance tomorrow.
Oscillating between fear, uncertainty, and confusion has been challenging, and responding to the complexity confronting us is demanding, so I often find myself seeking solace in forests and gardens. Walking in the garden or in nearby forests is like a cleansing tonic. Having my hands in the dirt is even better. Pulling weeds can be simply delightful! There is a moment when the roots let go and are released by the soil that never ceases to work magic on me. It’s as if in that same nano-second I experience a release and the burden on my soul of the problems of the world peel off, one weed at a time.
More than ever in these unpredictable, complex and baffling fast times I’m reminded that change is the only constant in life. The forest at Fitzroy Falls is blooming with wildflowers. Plants that I barely noticed until now are bright with flowers that I've never seen before.
In our own gardens at Springfield we are surrounded by constant change. The frost, sleet and hail from a few short weeks ago seem to have been blown away by warm September winds. We’re peeling off our woollies (still leaving them close by) and exposing our pale wintery skins. The cool light and bare tree limbs have receded to make room for warmer hues, blossoms and green spring leaves. Last year we were parched with drought and now the BOM has alerted a 70% likelihood of summer rain with an approaching La Niña season!
So, yes, it helps me to be reminded by the seasons that change is a natural part of life, but honestly, at times anxiety does creep in, taking me by surprise and then, suddenly it's all too much. That’s when I pull out that ragged old bag of tricks, my tried and true tools for simply dealing with stress.
Often this starts with some favourite old sayings that soothe me, starting with that old Hippy motto, Go with the flow, before moving on to And this too shall pass and then dutifully reciting my version of the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
The origin of this prayer is usually attributed to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who was thought to have composed it in the 1930’s, but it might have much earlier, ancient roots. The Greek Stoic Epictetus, for example:
"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us."
Accepting change, according to Plato, was the source of happiness, which depends on our ability to detach what can be taken away from us. Attachment to the physical world, he thought, was the source of unhappiness.
The Buddha taught that no physical or mental object is permanent, and that attachment, therefore causes suffering.
The I Ching too reminds us:
“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such occurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.”
Those of you who have experienced Inner Landscaping will remember my enthusiasm for this ancient wisdom. Inner Landscaping encourages us to accept change as not only the reality of life, but as something of a super-power, as it gives us permission to constantly and creatively imagine a new and better future - and we all know how important that is right now.
No one will deny the gravity of what 2020 has dealt us, but whilst the big picture can be overwhelming and seem out of control, there are changes, more human in scale, that can give a little peace. I find comfort in creating new daily and weekly rituals, like walking through the gardens with Farmer Pete and the dogs at sunset, dusting off my meditation practice, going to bed and waking earlier, leaving my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed, writing every morning, eating fresh from the garden every day and celebrating each week by volunteering on Thursdays, sunset drinks at the fire-pit every Friday and luxurious baths every weekend.
Connecting more deeply to the place I've chosen to call home has released me from the family tradition we call doing a geographical. Instead of moving to seemingly greener pastures when the here and now become too challenging I seek solace in the familiarity and comfort of these simple self-care rituals. Walking, writing, weeding, and welcoming guests in nurturing spiral patterns that connect my days, weeks and seasons.
Self care is a practice that can open our eyes to the need to care about the world we live in. Caring about our food, nutrition, fresh air and clean water lead us to Springfield. This lesson has been a long road for me, and is no doubt one reason why I love retreats! Self-care doesn't always come easy, especially when we need it the most, and I'm always amazed by how much time this self-care caper can consume. Experience has proven, however, again and again, that self-care is a practice that benefits all those within my personal ecosystem, and certainly makes my world a better place. As one of the Marigolds reminded me this week, “put your own oxygen mask on first”.
x Kinchem Hegedus