What if being fully human is enough?

I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday. We have been out of touch for a long time, and reconnecting after years was sweet and surprising. We realized that we are both – though of course the same – also very very different today. It is like something quite fundamental has shifted, and something quite elemental is going on inside us. A deepening, an awakening, a quickening. I don’t know what words to put on it. It is an experience of a fuller, a more vibrant and yet also quiet experience of life all at once. Perhaps it is simply – getting to know ourselves more fully – in connection with all of life.  Not in isolation.

It seems that many of those around us are in similar places, with similar experiences. They are not all sweet. Some are painful, of waking up to being well and truly lost. But to be found, we must first be lost. So it is a good place to be. To be healed, the alcoholic must first acknowledge that he has a problem. To wake, requires to realize and acknowledge we were fast asleep. How many problems in this world would shift if more of us would wake to the possibility that we are lost. That we don’t know the way home.

As I write I can feel the sun on my face as it is entering my office, from across the fields, through the trees, the window, and onto my cheek. Caressing me, this morning. How can I not feel loved in a moment like this?

We wondered together, yesterday in our conversation, about our work in the world. We shared in particular moments of vitality and flow, those moments where we experience how it is when everything is in flow, when life is in harmony. When the mundane falls away – although for someone looking in, what we are up to might look mundane. Moments of play with the children, or deep connection as a group of friends jam together, song, dance, instruments, spirit all mingle to create pure magic. “This is it – this is the real thing!” we find ourselves thinking with surprise and excitement. And then everything else that our lives are made up of lands on top of it, and clutters, and gets in the way of staying open to this moment, and the flow that is and exists all around and through us; the flow that we shut off from, more often than not in our busy pre-occupied lives.

It was our sense that during this time, more of the people we know are accessing those experiences. And as I sit here this morning, and as I went to bed last night, and looked up at the starry skies, I realized that in a way my present experience is one of being called. And let us not worry so much about who is doing the calling. Sometimes as we try to be pragmatic about these things, we kill them, and shut them down.

So without going into too much analysis I can simply say that in the last few months I have been called into being more of who I am. I am being called into being me. It is quite a glorious place to be. At home in myself. At least for moments – and more and more of them.

I know what it is like to not be able to be myself. To have landed in a place where I feel that who I am is not appropriate. And then to begin to censor myself….. It is a lonely and painful place to be. So what a joy to begin to notice this beckoning to become more of me, and to dare to follow it.

I am being called into the forest. Quite literally through a longing and desire to spend more time with the trees, just as I am being called to work with the land, to put my hands in the soil, and to be part of nature as together we grow something here, in my garden.

I am being called to move my body – to dance! To play with meditative movement.

I am called back to sit on my cushion each morning, after years of young children distracting me from that basic practice.

I am called to write.

And to connect to people from that place of knowing that each one of us is a miracle to be discovered. In that perhaps we can remind each other of this, as we so often forget it. Many of us have never believed it. How then can we live our lives as though this were true?

I recognize how incredible my life will be if I learn to heed my calls. Not easy, not comfortable, not problem-free. No. But it will be Incredible. Joyful. Challenging. Gritty. Magical.

Being called and responding to the call are of course two different things.

If we never show up – our call will diminish, and eventually we won’t hear it anymore. I speak again from experience.

But if we begin to heed it, tentatively at first (you want me to leave my job?), increasingly more courageously, and then it becomes an intuitive muscle, that we hear much more clearly, and can begin to follow much more easily.

Perhaps I am no longer speaking entirely from experience, although I do have a sense that my listening, my intuitive sense of what I need, is growing stronger. It has not yet become easy to simply follow it. Old habits, and past lives get in the way. Time. Ideas about what I should be doing with my time, keep me from walking into the forest when I feel the need. I know deep down that good things would come from being out there more. From listening to what my deeper self knows to be good and true and nourishing – whatever that might be.

The more nourished, and clear and alive I am – the more I can offer my light and joy to others.

We wondered in our call yesterday, whether it is enough, at this time, to practice simply being more fully human? Whether it is enough, in the words of my friend, to bring to every encounter our full presence and balance? What if that alone were enough?

We recognized that one of the deeper shifts that has occurred between now and ten years ago is that we no longer believe that at an essential level we are going to change anything. It’s not like we are going to fundamentally change the world :). That doesn’t mean we don’t work for the kinds of changes we long for in our world.  We do, every day we do. But we don’t work fuelled by a need for outcomes. Suffering and challenge is a part of the human condition. We may solve one challenge and bring on another. Or we may not even solve one, and still bring on another. Of course the possibility exists, that we may rise to another level of consciousness and have a much different global order, in which much of what is today will no longer be acceptable, and yet even in that, we will have other challenges. So – it is not to say let us not strive for our dreams, especially those that come knocking through the window of our soul. By all means – But let us not become so caught by them that we kill ourselves in the process.

The world we are looking for, begins right here, with us. It is not a fixed destination that we are driving towards. In line with the work of Christopher Alexander, the quality of each step that we take today, will determine what actually unfolds. His work through the physical realm, has uncovered the basic building blocks of what he calls Wholeness, which holds a quality of aliveness inherent in it. Wholeness – and thus aliveness – must be present in each step of the design and process of forward movement, for it to be present in the final product (or building as is the work of Alexander). Wholeness cannot be in what we create, if it is not in the process of creation. Thus the future is not divorced from the present, the end cannot justify the means, if it is not carried out in the same spirit of that which we are seeking. As we dive whole-heartedly into our change initiatives, many of them are characterized by an absence of wholeness, an absence of balance, and an absence of sustainable vibrant aliveness. How then can we create that which we long for – if we are not learning to live it today?

Learning to live it today.

Fundamental building blocks – in my words now, not Alexander’s – are how we show up in our world, our presence; the quality of our engagement with others, and out of that the quality of what we can create with them.

In this I recognize that time in the forest, and in the garden, in making or enjoying music, or playing with my children, must be an integral part of the journey – for that is a part of the world I long for. One in which all of me can show up. I can no longer wait for the rest of my world or context to live and breathe this way. I can begin now in how I allow myself to  inhabit my world . And thankfully there is a part of me, a wild and wonderful part, that knows this intrinsically, and is beckoning, calling, drawing me into a richer world. A fuller world. A fuller me.

May you join me. May you join us.

Tending to Myself

Or:  Putting Relationships in their Rightful Place

This piece is inspired by a reading I did in 2011 with Angela Deutschmann,

and the journey that has followed since.


I just came back from a wonderful week in Europe, attending and co-facilitating the ALIA Europe Leadership Programme. If I am to be honest, as I was leaving Zimbabwe, it felt like a bit of a distraction to leave everything that was going on here, at home in Kufunda, but it turned out to be a week of deep connections, with others and myself. It was a sort of coming home away from home. Much of what I have been working on during the last weeks and months came into clearer perspective, being in a rich community of friends and fellow travelers on the journey of becoming more fully human, more fully me.

I returned home, after ALIA, to a house full of people, my family and friends who were visiting from South Africa with their kids. It was lovely to return home to a sense of community: Children running free and wild, dogs excited to see me, other kids visiting from the farm, and the trees, that are increasingly becoming a part of my felt sense of family and community, standing in their deep stillness as an anchor for me. They were calling me to come and greet them in the forest. It took a few days before I heeded the call, and yet it was only after this that I felt that I had truly returned home.

And so as I reflect on my last few days, I see that I have lived through – in a microcosm – the challenging balance that I am learning my way into in a bigger way. On paper it sounds simple and perhaps even quite easy. In reality I am finding it incredibly difficult.

It is this: To not forget myself in my relationships – to not devote more energy and attention to my relationships, than I devote to myself.

I realize I am writing in the negative. So let me turn it around. I am in a process of learning to honour my relationship with myself, and to nourish this. It includes my conversations with Life, my musings and ponderings, my connection with God, with the Trees, with the quiet voice inside me. It is tapping into and following my Joy, my Me.

I know that taking time to stay connected with myself makes me a much more interesting and wholesome person to hang out with, and yet – and yet when it comes down to it, I struggle to prioritise this most important relationship in my life – being a mother, a partner, a colleague, a friend seem to distract from my essential relationship with self. In the midst of the busyness of life it often feels a little selfish to attend to Marianne. And this was my experience this week of returning. Of wanting to go and spend a little time just with me, to touch in, to integrate – and yet initially not finding the clarity to simply claim it – even though I know that no-one would have resented it.

In a reading I did last year, this came up as a strong theme: Learning to put relationships in their rightful place. It appears that this is a area that girls more so than boys grow up struggling with. As we grow up we put on masks (all of us do) to fit more fully into the world. And many girls, it seems, pick a role that has at its essence (in its many different manifestations) to make relationships the point of life. We learn the art of pleasing, of making mom and dad happy, siblings, teachers. We learn to sense into what is wanted, needed, required of us, and we offer it happily, because it gives us a sense of belonging (and perhaps also to an extent because of a nurturing instinct). Most of us are very good at it, and yet, it is for many of us, or at least for me, also a defence mechanism. Instead of my true, full, wondrous (and sometimes wounded) self showing up – it is more often the self that has learnt the way of earning its worth and place in the world that is actively present. I show up geared towards making you happy. And that is not to say it is being manipulative. Until the reading I was not particularly conscious of this pattern of focusing on other, over myself.

However  the point of my life is not the quality of my relationships, at any point in time. Nor is it yours. This may seem somewhat startling, but let’s take it a little further. My message was simply this: If the quality of my relationships comes at a cost of my expressing my authentic self, then it is not worth it. My relationships cannot be more important than my joy, the longing of my heart, my freedom, my inner life and so on. If my relationships override these, they will come with a hint of resentment, of subtle strings attached (a need to be thanked and acknowledged for everything I am giving, because I give it instead of tending to myself).

And whilst this can be turned to seem profoundly selfish, the beautiful paradox that I know to be deeply true is that:

“When you put your relationships in their rightful place, they in fact get better. People can feel, even if they can’t articulate it, even if they can’t process it cognitively, even if it is subconscious, people can feel the weight of your expectations or hopes on what their relationship with you is meant to deliver.  It is a service to your loved ones to allow those relationships to be valuable, but not to dominate your life.  The quality of your relating with your loved ones will improve when they are not the most important part of existence to you.”

What a liberating invitation this is. And a little terrifying :). And how incredibly difficult to step into.

So here it is, I can choose to claim my full freedom, and in that be a richer member of my family and community. I have made this choice for myself, and in it I am learning each day just how difficult it is to let go of years of conditioning that have taught me that to be a ‘good girl’ I should put others first, even if I do so reluctantly and resentfully. I am learning the balance and the peace and the grace that comes from following my soul’s desire, even if I don’t do it all the time :). I am learning ever so slowly to cease to do from a place of should. To show up strong and clear and beautiful, because I am tending to myself. And sometimes I show up messy and confused (I am human after all), but at least with a sense of being in the right place for me – being on my journey, not yours.

It is like the oxygen masks on the plane – we must put them on ourselves first, and our children second. Not because we are selfish, but because we know that this is the way to care for others: To make sure we are okay first.

So this is the journey I am on. And I experienced this last week, having come home from a strong and important learning journey to Europe, to a house full of people, how hard it was for me to leave the wonderful madness of my family, and go out into the forest on my own. To listen to the needs of my soul. I figured it out eventually, but it took a good few days, of not really arriving because the choice for Me seemed like a radical one to make when I was surrounded by others.

It is early Sunday evening as I complete this. I am feeling gratitude for this journey that I am on; that many of us are on. I am beginning to have more and more lived experiences of the wisdom of tending to me.

It is when there is a fundamental imbalance between my soul’s priorities and my intellects’ (my shoulds for example) that I feel the stretch and tension. And it is when I am not tending to myself that I lose touch with the voice of my soul. “You will not really feel any difference between self, work, marriage, children when you are in deep connection with your Divine voice.” It feels a little like a new relationship, with an incredibly interesting, wise, witty person who I had no idea existed inside me. What an honour it is to be getting to know myself – My divine voice even :). We each have one.

How much time do we spend getting to know it? And to follow its wisdom for our life? Dare I follow my wisdom for my life? The release is in beginning to recognize that if I listen I can find my way.