When Things Happen Through You, Not To You

Each time we endure and survive a difficult time, be it mental, emotional or physical, we learn to a deeper level exactly how much the dross and periphery of living has taken up our time and energy up to that point.
Each time we come through, we can see more clearly what our true self looks like, feels like, wants, understands and believes. And each time, we may realize we are faced with losing something of these, and it will needs be by choice. Is it an inauthentic aspect of self? Is it repeating situation or relationships, or a habit that results in emotional turmoil or drama you’ve simply had enough of? Desires that no longer interest us, which turned out to be distractions from our path? Or beliefs which turned out to be for beliefs sake?

Shadow experiences ask us to shed inauthentic or superfluous aspects of ourselves, perhaps taken up to impress others, to belong, to be left alone, to stay safe, to be saved from sin, to avoid our own thoughts, to avoid death.

When I had cancer, I railed against anyone who implied I’d become a better person because of it. The very idea I might have been presented an opportunity to evolve spiritually by a higher power via cancer understandably pissed me right off. In fact, for me, experiencing a life-threatening illness reinforced exactly how arbitrary these things are. I will never forget what I saw – and who I met – along my cancer journey, and the people I know who live with it now.

Living with shadow, doing the work it presents to us, committing acts of intentional survivorship, creates a breadcrumb trail of courage and hope we can backtrack on when shadows descend again, as they inevitably do. Avoiding shadow times is pointless, denying them, a farce. We will be asked to walk beside the things we fear most many times in our lives. Many of those things we will come to see are not to be battled, resisted or fought against, but treated with compassion. When be we sit with our shadows, no matter how distasteful or terrifying, we see clearly our fears and flaws are made of us, and deserve not our disdain, but our deepest love and healing.

If you stumble often into shadow, as I do, I would have you consider your shadow is also your refuge. Be close to your self in these times, and don’t hold yourself in judgement because you feel weak or vulnerable, or like a failure. Shame will come, but shame is a trained reflex, and not our natural response to finding a soul faced with pain and suffering. That response is quiet. Accepting. Warmth. Peace. Gentleness.
Love.

When I was in the cancer ward, the man in the bed opposite me asked his doctors to stop his treatment. He was elderly, infirm, obviously seriously ill and dying. I panicked, and despite the fact I too was seriously ill and in a cancer ward, felt compelled to find a way to get out of bed and speak to the man and make sure he had made peace with god so he could go to the afterlife I imagined for him. It ripped me up inside for days, because I knew I could not do this thing my “faith” and my fear compelled me to, which I mistook for love, but which was actually fear. I remember crying silently in the shower for ages hating myself for being so useless in that man’s time of spiritual need. But as I later realized, his spiritual need was all in my head. The fear and doom I sensed around his situation belonged to me. I was having a spiritual crisis, not him. I, unlike him, had not faced the reality of being a sick person unto death. I did not know how to be helpless, how to rest, how to surrender, to begin the process of healing. But I did come to learn these things. I learned a lesson there and then about the difference between fear and love.

My surviving cancer and treatment taught me death was close, but was not the enemy, and is to be treated with respect and not fear. I learned I can be alone, and that being surrounded by people can be the loneliest experience. I lived side by side with dying people for two months, while we all shared the shadow, and found such sadness in that place I thought I’d never recover from the grief of it. The best and the worst of people. And I’ll never forget it. It was beautiful. There was no fear there. Most were beyond that, or gathering breadcrumbs back to those things they understood to represent light, and love.

Each time we go through, survive, endure, let go a little more, surrender a little more, have our beliefs or our body or mind broken a little more, something comes away from us that once was part of us. We can grasp it back and cling to it in denial, therefore to carry it forward, unhealed and growing ever heavier until it breaks us again. We can recognize the broken piece as something perhaps that was never part of us at all, and let it go. Perhaps we will hold the broken fragment away from us at arms length, see it for what it is, and then tend to it, deliberately and diligently undertaking the patient process of healing. When experiences happen through you and not to you, it changes everything.

(C) Jo Hilder
22.06.19

Young Australian Parent, Don’t Let Them Scare You Into A No Vote.

Dear young Australian parent,

Here we are, all about to choose yes or no on a legislation which will impact our children’s generation in ways we can only begin to understand. For many of our generation, the idea that a great many of us are gay is still difficult to accept, let alone that our children may be as well. You may have deeply held convictions and beliefs about what homosexuality is and is not, and what ought to be done about it. We enjoy the privilege of living in a nation where we’re are free to have our beliefs, whatever they are. And I’m not going to try and change them, even if I disagree with them.

But as we move towards this plebiscite on marriage equality they say we must have, I feel as an older women and mother of four it’s my responsibility to drop some wisdom I’ve learned. And I’ll cut to the chase. Whatever your beliefs, dear one, your child may not grow up to share them. And if you love them, want them to be healthy and free, you’ll let them believe their own beliefs, and you won’t take it personally or as a sign of failure if they don’t share yours.

Secondly, as much as this may alarm you, a good many of us are parenting children with a sexual identity we may not understand, like or even believe exists. As they grow, their explorations and questions about that sexual identity will confront us in many ways. And many parents whose own beliefs about sexual and gender identity are underpinned by fear or confusion may project this onto their children, and the child becomes just one more source of fear and confusion. And fear makes us do things often we later regret. Anger, denial and rejection are inevitably actions parents regret when directed towards their child, whatever their justification.

Thirdly, your love for your child is irreplaceable. It is everything in your child’s world, and will be always, no matter how flawed or fragile your attempts at it are. If you allow yourself to be forced into a position where you must choose between your beliefs about homosexuality and whether to show your child you love them no matter who they are, no matter what they do, your child learns something about themselves. And it is not a good something.

Any beliefs you hold so to which force you to reject your child, will not fly across the country to hold your hand in your last moments, will not look into your eyes and tell you they love you, will not name their children for you for the sake of your love. Your beliefs will be like empty chasms at the end, and you’ll see the folly of them. All those others with whom you comforted yourself when you put your child away will go away to their own families and homes, and you will be alone with your beliefs. And your child will be motherless, fatherless, but they will go on in the world they created without you, the world you made necessary for them.

Lastly, in the time leading up to this vote, don’t let them make you afraid. Don’t let them tell you a wave of sin and immorality is coming, and it will swamp your child and you won’t be able to save them, to reach them. Don’t let them frighten you with horror stories of sexual depravity passed off as education. You are and have always been your child’s first teacher. So stand confident in that. See your child as they are, and love them as that, and everything will be fine. Nobody is going to make your child gay. Nobody wants to. If they are, they already are. It may be neither of you know it yet. And that may be terrifying to you. But know this.

Whatever comes, you can handle it. You’re amazing at this parenting thing. You’re great, and your child loves and trusts you. They’re watching you. They’re watching for signs you’ll accept them no matter who they are, by seeing how you accept others. They are afraid they will disappoint you, displease you, disgust you. Make sure they know they can’t, no matter who they are. You can. You can do it.

Don’t let them scare you. Don’t let them belittle you into thinking your love isn’t enough. Don’t let them terrify you with stories about your lack of control over all this, over the future. The truth is, you don’t have it. Not over the future, not over your child. None of us did. Your child will be okay. It will all be okay. You can handle whatever comes. Love wins. Remember that. Love always wins.

Jo Hilder

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The Rain Bird

I once lived in a house surrounded on three sides by beautiful Australian bush; silvery eucalyptus trees, wattle with fluffy yellow flower balls, wild redgums, stringy barks and she-oaks. And birds; rainforest varieties mostly, but the ubiquitous magpies and currawongs. Indian mynas, whipbirds and bellbirds too.

One morning, I was drawn outside by an unusual bird call. It sounded like a baby magpie, but something wasn’t quite right. The juvenile maggie is almost as big as the parents, and fully dependent for food until quite grown. As I scoured the treetops for signs of a nest, I could hear the familiar bossy calls of the young bird out there somewhere. But something seemed off. The call was louder than was typical, and way more insistent. Rather than issuing its demands in a phrase, with long pauses, this bird was relentless. Squwark, squwark, squwark it went, on and on and on. It sounded like it was close, and I should’ve been able to see the familiar grey and white head and shoulders peeking above a messy bundle of sticks in a nearby tree. I did find a nest, but all I could see inside it was a huge white bird I didn’t recognise; certainly not the baby I was looking for.

Then, to my surprise, two adult magpies rushed down in a swoop to the nest. I realised the strange creature sitting in the magpie nest was actually issuing the baby magpie sound from it’s big, grey beak. The parents were almost falling over themselves to cram great beakfuls of whatever magpies eat into the throat of this huge thing as fast as they could. The big, greedy, white, non-magpie gulped down the offerings, and immediately started up its squwarking again. And off the two harried parents went, presumably to find more of whatever it is magpies eat to feed the large creature sitting in their next, pretending to be their offspring.

I was horrified. And fascinated. What the hell was going on here? Where was the real baby magpie? What was that big white bird in the nest doing, pretending to be their baby? Was this a thing? Or was I watching some kind of weird evolutionary abomination occurring in my back yard?

I was shaken. And angry. I felt for those magpie parents, clearly tricked into thinking they were obliged to run themselves ragged for this big, fat non-magpie intruder.

I went and did some research, and this is what I found.

Channel-billed cuckoos – or Rain Birds – are what’s know as parasitic birds. Parent cuckoos will actively seek the occupied nests of magpies or currawongs, ejecting any eggs they find there, and laying their own in their stead.

They then fly off and abandon the cuckoo eggs to the unwitting nest owners, who care for them and hatch them as if they were their own. The two currawongs are thusly fooled into believing the Rain Bird is it’s baby. They are instinctively obliged to raise the chick, feeding it and protecting it, slaves to its demands, never ever suspecting their charge, which eventually grows to twice the size of the “parents”, is an imposter.

And all the time it pretends to be a vulnerable youngster, evoking the protective, nurturing instinct deep in the parent, sounding for all the world like a hapless baby. By supplanting the original and rightful occupant of the family nest by force and imposing itself and its constant needs onto it’s unknowing hosts, the Rain Bird gets its needs met, grows and prospers. Without conscience. Without qualms. Until the cycle begins again.
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Do you know a Rain Bird?

I suspect we all may know one. In fact, perhaps you think you are one?

Rain birds are people who are broken just like everyone, but are stronger, more capable and more awesome than they choose to believe, and project themselves to be. They know they’re flawed and imperfect, as we all are, but they tell anyone who will listen they’re more helpless and bereft than anyone else, projecting an especially broken brokenness. They are the most poor, hopeless and badly done by of everyone in their world, they insist. But they are not merely complaining. Their brokenness is a device for attracting favour and support; emotional, certainly, and any other kind you might happen to have on offer as well.

Thing is, Rain Birds are clever and intelligent. They are smart, funny and good at what they love to do. But their gifts are inverted. They use their considerable abilities not to move themselves ahead in the world, but to posture themselves as weak and needy, so others will give them out of pity or compassion what they could easily attain for themselves.

We all have stuff to deal with, and most of us feel less than or too much from time to time. Sharing our stories and our feelings is generally a healthy thing to do. But what makes a Rain Bird’s story-telling unique is their seeking to gain advantage over others via their stories. For them, their brokenness is evidence they deserve to be given concession or advantage. The advantage Rain Birds seek could be success or promotion to a much-wanted position. It could be inclusion in a group or access to a product or service. It could be personal or professional support, or it could simply be care and nurture. Chronic Rain Birds know no other way to get what they want than to plead their sad, hopeless plight, hoping to attract benefit. They will often move from “nest” to “nest” looking to install themselves under the brooding care of a rescuer, teacher or carer who will “understand” them. They easily lose interest in people or groups who do not affirm and support their belief no one is worse off than they are. Their behaviour will often cause interpersonal and group dynamics to become uneven, and just like the unwitting foster parents of the real Rain Bird, they may burn – or burn out – their rescuer, by continually and relentlessly demanding more than they contribute.

It’s safer for the Rain Bird to ask for concession and charity, because if they lose it, they’ve lost nothing of true worth or value, to them anyway. What they gained cost them nothing, so they’ve lost nothing if it doesn’t work, or ceases to be provided. They know there’s plenty more nests where this one came from.

There are many reasons people become Rain Birds. Rain Birds often come from families where the only way to have needs met, or attract attention or affection was to be hurt, injured or sick.  They may be unrealised or oppressed creatives, or tightly budded spiritually or emotionally for a long time. Rain Birds are frequently unhealed victims of abuse. Influences such as addiction can also cloud a Rain Birds insights into just how capable and resources they are. If someone you’ve met, live or work is evoking a sense of pity or compassion in your heart, but with it seems deeply entrenched in self-deprecation, co-dependency or a victim mentality, you can probably assume a Rain Bird is circling in your neighbourhood..

Not giving in to a Rain Bird’s manipulations isn’t about not hearing their story, or  withholding compassion, patience or kindness. There is some truth in all the Rain Bird’s cries for help. But whilst they play from this particular section of the orchestra, they ignore and withhold an equally significant truth. They are a survivor, and they know how to take care of themselves. They often have more resources than you do. If you weren’t around to rescue them, they would be perfectly fine.

The moment you begin to instate boundaries with a Rain Bird, that’ll be the end of that. When you say “that’s enough”, you’re dropped.  And by the time you realise you didn’t help, fix them or make their lives better despite everything you did or offered to do, they’ll have moved on to the next person or place, and because you genuinely believed it was a real relationship, it’ll break your heart.

The way to love a Rain Bird is with you in your nest, and they in theirs. Be their friend, but empower them to live from their own capacity, resources, strengths and wisdom. Support them to take responsibility for their actions, and the impacts they have on you and others. When situations and opportunities arise, remind them about their intrinsic intelligence, courage and insights. Do not be tempted to rescue them, or be positioned into becoming a foster parent or unwitting carer.

The Rain Bird needs constant reinforcement from you their feelings and beliefs of helplessness and hopelessness aren’t special or unique – we all feel too much and not enough at times.  Set firm and clear boundaries between what they say they need, and everything you love and value, because they will have no qualms about eliminating threats from the “nest” in vying for your attention. Don’t allow solving their their problems – real, or imagined – to become a source of self-confidence or ego-building for you. Love a Rain Bird best by speaking consistently to their capacity, reminding them – and yourself – about their track record of survival so far without you.
……….
(c) Jo Hilder 2015

Invisible.

I’ve picked up this peculiar habit lately here on the farm. I’ve become addicted to wandering around the old, abandoned houses and cottages, scouring the paddocks and the sheep ruts, my eyes fixed on the dirt and silvery stubble and grass, looking for – well – stuff.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed a few pieces of broken pottery in the field next to our cottage. Blue and white china, the edge of a smashed plate. And glass; thousands of pieces of broken bottles, glasses and other household sundries. Blue, green, brown, clear, and some the tint of amethyst.

We’ve lived here almost a year, and I’ve never seen it before. But now, I see it everywhere.

Every little fragment speaks to me. They are like treasures. They hold the story of the whole they once were. A piece of plate, once part of a valuable dinner set stacked in a cupboard. Probably saved up for, in pennies and pounds. Carted out in a crate, out back of a horse. Brought out for guests and washed with care, lest it be chipped or broken. Now laying in a million pieces in the dirt. Forgotten.

Invisible.

I shard of broken glass, half an inch thick, the same minty colour of the sea. Once a bottle? Medicine? Wine? Champagne? Some tincture, ointment, perfume? A vessel discarded once the contents were emptied? Or did it spend months, years on a shelf, guarding whatever was once within, keeping it safe, suspended in time? How did the beautiful whole come to be smashed in the grass, it’s fragments frosted by weather and years? How was it shifted from the gaze of a proud owner to the grasp of the slow, reclaiming earth?

Invisible.

Wine glasses for joy, for celebrations. Dinner plates for family reunions and end-of-day meals by fireside. Medicine bottles for fervent prayers at a beside. Liquor vessels and beer bottles for raucousness, ignorance, addictions and violence, sorrow, loss, stoic perseverance, repentance, forgiveness. Scent and cosmetic for luxury. Milk bottles for sustenance. Coffee and teacups for conversation. Sit a while. Pass the cup. Share with me.

They think it’s funny, my family. Whatcha want with all that busted stuff? I brought my treasures home in bags and the apron of my shirt front, and washed them carefully in the kitchen sink. Scrubbed off the dirt and washed out the pond scum. I held each one up to the light and enjoyed it, gave it a story, blessed it, placed it with all the others.

I put them all in bowls and sat them where I can see them. Owned.

No longer invisible.
………..
Went out again yesterday and walked in the pre-twilight across the dirty common where the sheep scour the ground like a shallow plough on their way down to the creek. And there was more again. Bits of plates and bowls and bottles. Every little piece a postage stamp sized snapshot of an era in human taste and fashion. The leaf-shaped scallop of a plate edge. The crazed blue and white brushstrokes on a teacup fragment. The smooth, clear bevel of a bottle base. The story of us, and the story of the ones who lived here. Stories; love, loss, joy, growth, riches, poverty, prosperity, lack, life, death. Owned, they were once. Whole they were once. Like us.

Like me.

Treasures, they are. Treasures to me.

Once invisible. I see, I see.
……….
I lay last night in a half sleep, after two weeks of increasing low, grey skies and cold winds both out there on the farm, and in my head. We haven’t had a summer, and I feel trapped by seasons that refuse to turn, refuse to give. It’s too long we’ve been not knowing. And I’ve felt stuck here; not home, and not travelling, just biding our time in three month increments of wait-and-see. I love the farm, but this is not my home, and may never be. I am ready to move on. I feel like I’m slipping into obscurity here. Like the world is forgetting about me. I write my stories and think my thoughts, and wonder if a person exists of nobody is there to see them, hear them. If a tree falls, and all that. Day after day, out here miles away from anyone, surrounded by a hundred and fifty years of attempts people made not to be forgotten. And yet, here I am, and I know them only by the broken things they’ve left behind.

I shiver.

I closed my eyes and thought about how a thousand years ago all I wanted in this world was to be famous. Known. Seen. I taught myself to sing because people see you when you do that. But I don’t sing any more. I am too honest for that any more. I write instead, which is like drawing a different naked picture of yourself from different angles every day and posting it on a telegraph pole. And yet, even though I get out the paste and post my bill as a habit, I feel unseen, unknown.

I wanted for so long to be free. I did not want to be owned by others, to need to sell what I could do for money and approval. I wanted to be allowed to be broken. Because I was, and I couldn’t help it. And I wanted to tell my story, to anyone, everyone, and not care what they thought.

And I was broken, and was not owned, and told my story. I was free.

And something happened, so slow I didn’t see it. I found out what happens to things that get broken, to things that are disowned and unowned, to things that get themselves lost or misplaces, things that are allowed to fall back into the earth, that have nothing left to prove, that are unfashioned from their utility, allowed to chip, to break, to fall into the ground, to be honest, to be untied from their apportioned function. I felt in me the process of what a piece of earth endures when it stops being a thing of value to people because of it’s use, it’s beauty, it’s colour, it’s use, it’s imbued value, it’s transferable status.

They end up in a thousand pieces in a sheep paddock. Forgotten. Untied. Free.

Invisible.

Then God said something to me.

“Are you willing to be invisible?”

Me? No! Who would want to be invisible?

“Are you willing?”

Is that even a question? Seriously?

“What if this is what it takes for the ones who need you, who need what you are, to find you?

“For you to be hidden?

“For you to be secreted away?

“For you to be needing to be found?

“You go seeking treasures in the field. You want them because they are hidden, unseen, unknown, forgotten, rejected, abandoned, unwanted.

“But you want them.

“Those who need what you have are also seeking a treasure in a field.

“Think on this; they seek what they themselves are, not what they are not.

“Are you willing to allow yourself to be what it is they seek?

“Are you willing to be invisible?

“Are you willing?

“You need only let go. Like those broken pieces in the field, you must yield.

“Yield to the brokenness, to the breaking.

“Yield to the rejection, to being abandoned.

“Yield to being and becoming forgotten.

“Yield to being covered, subject to the seasons, trampled into the ground.

“Yield to rain, to feet, yield to weight, to dirt. Yield to becoming a part of where you fell.

“Yield to anonymity, invisibility.

“Yield to the discovery. Because they will find you.

“If you wish to be treasured, you must be willing to be lost, then discovered.

“Your work is to be the treasure.

“You are already worthy. Worthy is who and what you are.

“The losing is not for you. It’s not because of you, or anything you’ve done. The losing is because seekers need to seek.

“Seekers need the seeking.

“Let it all be broken, lost and forgotten.

“Let it be and become invisible.

“Let the treasure be buried out there in the field.

“Your your treasure be buried in the field.

“Seekers need to seek, and they need to find.”

……………..

I trust you may also find a comfort in the season you’re in at the moment. A rest, and a letting go. God bless.

Selah.

Jo xxxx
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– (c) Jo Hilder 2015

Seeking The Place, whilst The Place seeks us, Part 2

Last night, as I rested my head on Ben’s shoulder, I said, “I am there again.”

“Where again?” he replied.

“You remember about ten years ago, when we were being really pushed in on all sides, and we didn’t know how to move forward, and it was such a huge faith thing, and I said to you I felt like Samwise Gamgee, when he and Frodo first leave The Shire, and when Sam reaches the boundary marking the furthest he’s ever been before, and he stops and says, ‘if I take one more step, I’ll be further than I’ve ever been before out into the world’, or something like that? Remember that? This is that, again. I feel like that, right now.”

We set off a year ago, we thought to go volunteer at a drug and alcohol rehab. We sold or gave away most of our possessions, put the rest in storage. Pulled our son out of school. Ben took a voluntary redundancy from his job. We sold his motorbike and a car. We knew once we got to the rehab, we’d have to trust God and live by faith to survive – no salary. Well, we never got to the rehab. We decided to pull our application just weeks before we were due to move in. We knew it was the right thing to do, but there was no plan B.

So for twelve month, we have been winging it.

We’ve had incredible things happen. Time spent with friends and family. Six months spent caretaking a beautiful 1850’s built mansion and sheep station in Victoria, living in a gorgeous, historic stone cottage with a white picket fence. Travelling thousands of kilometres and seeing things we’d wanted to see for years. Wonderful experiences. But while this has been fun and exciting, this is what most people do for their holidays. Or what they do for a break away from their real life. When this is your real life, when there is nothing to go back to when you run out of money or the fun wears off, it can kind of take the gloss off it a bit.

I romanticised about becoming a gypsy. But this life is far from romantic. Apart from the stresses about money (we still have bills and financial commitments despite having no regular income), the biggest struggle for me has feeling like I don’t belong somewhere. I have this deep longing to be home. To be in my place, the place that’s mine. I don’t even want to go there. I’m over going. I just want to be.

We know we could at any time pull the pin and rent a house, get jobs and put our kid back in school. But you see, we are headed home. There is a place where we belong. And we know we will know it when we see it. We have this dream. We believe there’s a place where we belong, and it isn’t just for us. It’s a place where others can come and stay, a place of refuge and healing and grace. We are listening for that place, for it’s call. It already exists, and it wants us to come home to it, to restore it, to breathe life into it, and to bring all the pilgrims in who are also looking for a place to lose their shit, and get their shit all put back together again.

It’s a big dream, and we don’t know how long the place will have to seek to find us. So we just keep putting ourselves out there, waiting, hoping it will somehow grasp us by the hand, and pull us home into itself. I’m so, so looking forward to that. I feel it searching for us. I imagine myself resting in it, taking care of it, sleeping in the open upon it, unafraid, content and safe. feeding us all from its generous, fertile self. Building it up, girding it around with angels and goodwill and friendship. Holding it lightly, holding it close, as one holds a gift, a treasure, a beam of sunlight.

“If I take one more step, I’ll be further than I’ve ever been from home.”

I don’t know of any other way to get closer to my true home than to keep leaving the familiar, to keep placing distance between me and what I’ve always known, step by step, until at some time, in some place, home and I meet one another on the road.

Home, I am coming to you.

Have a great day,
JO xx

Living in your truth is BRAVE.

Remember when you were small, and pure, when being naked, when dancing in front of people and singing at the top of your lungs was as natural as breathing, and you never wondered if it was any good, because somehow you just knew you were beautiful and so were all the gifts you gave to the world?

Remember when you loved to hear your name in another’s mouth, when it made you feel loved and like you belonged to someone, with someone?

Remember when you trusted what you knew, and knew what you trusted? Remember when you didn’t have to deny who you were to be safe and accepted? You just were?

Remember when you used to go outside without having to do your face first, without having to check your hair, with barely anything on you but a slip of cotton, with your bruised shins and your freckles all out there for the world to see? Remember when you used to get away with just your bather bottoms, and you loved to run your hands down your smooth, flat chest and it made you feel free and you never knew what it meant to be showing too much skin? You never needed to wonder if you ought to be ashamed, to cover yourself?

Remember when you learned you needed to cover yourself? Remember who told you you were naked?

You need to put a top on honey, you can’t go swimming like that.

You need to pull your dress down, sweetie. They can see your underwear.

Put your knees together. That’s not ladylike.

Cover yourself up please. That dress needs about three more inches. And wear your wrap.

Nobody wants to know what you think about that. Just do as you’re told.

Can you keep your voice down? Don’t be so boisterous.

Who told you that? Where do you come up with such things?

Please fix your face. Go tie that mess back. Cross your legs. Come here and let us look at you. That’s better.

And you learned. Your sparkling soul, your small, pure self was embodied within a shell others needed to control. People stopped seeing you as small and pure. They stopped seeing you at all, and started telling you how to cover yourself up – with you.

Once, you were not ashamed. But others helped you understand that shame is simply what we do here. Without even trying, without doing anything, by simply having a body you needed to behave in a way that demonstrated your shame.

And then, there were the things others did that brought you a full, close and intimate understanding of shame.

And you understood to be one of us, to survive, to retain even a semblance of whole ness, you needed to cover yourself.

Your body. Your face. Your soul. Your spirit. Your innocence. Your creativity. Your dreams. Your sexuality. Your intelligence. Your spirituality. Your self.

The truth about you is you are not what others see. The truth is shame about the things you did, the things that were done to you, and the things about you that could not be helped or changed made you cover the naked you so long ago, you’re not sure if you can even trust that part of you any more. You haven’t listened to your gut, to your heart, to your creativity for what seems like centuries. All you’ve done is what you needed to do to survive, to stay safe, to belong.

And then came the startling moment in time when it became clear that staying ashamed in your darkness was going to be more painful than showing your true self ever was.

Place your hands on your smooth, flat chest, my little love. Feel your innocence, your truth beneath your palms. Close your eyes to the prying, lying world. Hear the music. Take off the mask, and let the sun kiss your face once more. Kick away the shackles of shame from your feet, and dance. Dance with your arms out wide and your eyes open. Dance and feel the layers fall away. Open your mouth and taste the truth as it pours from your swollen cheeks. Those are your words, this is your song, my love. That is your story. This, my heart, is who you really are.
……………………….

Do Awesome Broken is my online course for women who wish to grow into a greater appreciation for their own beauty and greatness, and who would like support to build a healthy platform emotionally, socially and spiritually from which to live their purpose and be their most authentic selves.DAB icon

Do Awesome Broken runs over eight weeks and involves –

  • Unique and stimulating course content, vibrant group discussions and a place to share, relax and connect with others.
  • A secret (private), facilitated Facebook group where we view course content, and where course participants can interact with each other in community every day, talking about our discoveries and experiences and sharing our discoveries, thoughts and ideas.
  • Support, both technical and pastoral, individual and collective, in real time (Facebook messenger) or via email, as well as a safe, facilitated space accessible 24/7, and a creative, supportive group culture.

Do Awesome Broken – Season Two is enrolling now for start date early 2015.

For more info, click here.

 

The Day You Learned To Distrust Your Gut

(NOTE – mild trigger warning.)

I bet you could pin that moment down; the day, the hour, the minute, the second. The expression on their face, the tone of their voice. What it was they wanted you to stop doing. What they wanted you to do. How it made you feel to do it.

You remember the point in time when you first betrayed that good gut of yours, don’t you?

It’s taken years and years of work to acknowledge all the places in you that don’t make sense. The dissonance. The disassociation. The distress and the depression. The way your feelings seem to be living their own life independent of you. You see now, don’t you? You got messed up back there. That person who might’ve known better, might’ve behaved better, that one who told you to stay when you wanted to run, to be ashamed when you wanted to sing or paint or fly, who told you you didn’t know what you were talking about, that God doesn’t exist, that you must keep this big, awful secret.

They taught you in that moment, and in all the ones that came after it, to distrust yourself,

To dislike yourself,

To oppress and repress yourself.

To deny your truth.

To hold yourself down,

To change your story.

And you did it.

There’s this scene in The Green Mile, where John Coffee is trying to explain his innocence by describing how it was the crimes he was convicted of were actually able to be committed.

“He killed them with their love.” Coffee says. The innocent complied, was silenced, because she loved.

And you, darling, your intuition, your gut, your instinct and your inner voice? It’s silence was purchased with your love. Things were promised you if you complied. And in this way, little pieces of you became small, and went still. Very still. For a long time.

But not gone.

Let the Breather of Life blow fresh breeze into you, sweetheart. The winter is gone. The buds are on the trees. The dew is on the ground. Life is everywhere. Life is in you.

Yes, it’s in you.

Rise up back to yourself, sweetheart. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to let the sunshine into those dark places, to soothe you and revive you. Time to come and walk with your sisters amongst the living. That’s right – you are not alone. And your good gut? Your intuition? Your sweet, lithe spirit?

She is still alive.

………………………

Like Jo Hilder Writer on Facebook for more spiritual sunshine and to find out more about programs, groups and courses for the brave and beautiful.

How To Recognise A Spiritual Abuser

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone makes promises or threats on behalf of God in order to influence your behaviour or attitude, to gain benefit for themselves or for a movement or organisation they represent.

The key phrase here is “on behalf of God”. The important caveat is “to gain benefit”.

A spiritual abuser will tell you something they want done, and will say God has something wonderful or beneficial in store for you if you do it.

A spiritual abuser uses stories about Gods protection, favour and blessing to coerce your decision making concerning the church, usually the localized organisation they are the leader of.

A spiritual abuser normalizes shame and uses it strategically to control and influence people to do what is needed to keep the organisation running, and their position secure.

A spiritual abuser is obsessed with concepts of submission and obedience. They speak, preach and perhaps even write about their ideas on submission and obedience widely mostly in relation to church membership and activity of members.

A spiritual abuser writes proverbial “merit slips” on behalf of God, rewarding individuals for certain behaviours and actions with position, recognition and approval, and writing “demerit slips” for undesirable behaviours, including but not limited to non- church attendance, non-tithing, dissent, non-submission and non-compliance.

Spiritual abusers use social exclusion (excommunication, asking a person to leave a church, shunning, withdrawal of position, withdrawal of social contact, ending friendships, social coldness and warning people about the person and their ideas) as management method.

Spiritual abusers use the power of “testimonies” of compliant subjects to reinforce their ideas and methods. They love stories of people who have espoused their ideas and made it work to theirs and the churches benefit. To these ones belongs the platform, fame and approval.

Spiritual abusers categorically belittle or minimize the damage they do. Critics or the damaged are belittled with the label “the offended”. Hurt and injury is dismissed, with blame and responsibility placed wholly on the victim.

Spiritual abusers interpret personal and organizational security and power, popularity, financial success, longevity and resilience against criticism as a sign of Gods protection, favour and approval of them and all their actions.

Spiritual abusers prefer the young, the emotionally and mentally vulnerable  because they may be more easily influenced and controlled. The older and more experienced faithful in a spiritually abusive church may find themselves made redundant or transitioned out of leadership in preference for the young and relatively pliable.

Spiritual abusers always act from a position of behaving as if they deeply suspect you are less-than, have wrong or destructive motives, are not capable, cannot handle responsibility, will do the wrong thing if given responsibility, and are power hungry and filled with selfish ambition. They will treat you like this, and make you jump through various hoops to prove you are not, until they are sure you have submitted completely to their way if doing things, without question or qualms.

Spiritual abusers will discourage you from seeking direction, perspectives, permission, advice, support, counsel or insights of someone outside the organisation or pastoral relationship on matters concerning you and your relationship with the church. They will have special terms for these “outside” parties, like “the World”, and will actively set you up to view them as the enemy or “of the devil”, effectively cutting you off from any source of support, objectivity or counsel. This may include family, friends, members of the community, counsellors or health professionals, or persons affiliated with other faiths or denominations.

Spiritual abusers will abandon you if you leave the organisation, or if you call them out on their abuse or demand they answer to criticism, pretending you are the crazy one, and denying they ever said or did any of the things you claim.

If you suspect you have been or are being spiritually abused, please seek out professional help and support from a qualified counsellor, preferably one not affiliated with the organisation or person facilitating the abuse.

And if you or someone you know is suffering verbal, sexual or physical abuse of any kind, please contact the appropriate legal authorities immediately.

A Garden Of Ashes – Growing love in the remains of anger

When anger goes, what is left in it’s place?

I’ve been healing from an anger that was so much a part of me, I did not see it as something I could ever let go of. For years, I fed the fire of anger more and more fuel, trying to keep it alive – memories of abuses, the pain of shame and of humiliation, of loss and of confusion and of being made a fool of. I tended the burning hearth of my anger with the kindling of my past until it all ran out, and I literally had to go in search of more. I feared allowing my fire to go out, feared it would be too much like forgiveness, like making peace, like saying, oh, that’s okay, I don’t feel that way anymore, so don’t change, don’t feel you need to be sorry any longer. It felt like betraying myself, to not be angry any more.

It felt like I would die if I could not feel that burning, that rage. I feared peace. I hated it. I felt nothing could be created out of a peaceful place, a peaceful heart. I stoked myself up and ran away whenever release threatened to hold me down and intervene on me.

But for a while now, the energy I’ve had to expend searching for fuel to feed the anger fire has felt like too much. Just too much. I’ve known it was time to release to peace. In my heart, I know there simply isn’t enough time. It’s going to take too long, cost too much, to stay at that fire, tearing myself up into pieces and throwing myself into it. Anger was overcoming me, little by little, it was taking me over. Too tired to go out looking for firewood, I simply waited for the flames. To take me.

So, I let go.

It didn’t happen one day. It’s been a journey, a day by day getting up from that anger fire and walking away to tend my soul. And there has been a space it left in me, a hole where things were not created, were not brought in, were not accepted, were not held and reassured and put to sleep. There was work undone, growing up not attended to, intelligence and wisdom not grasped and pocketed and stitched in place. I was stunted, am stunted. I have an empty place in me – a pit where the fire once was. A cold, scorched circle. And I stand at the edge and wonder what’s to become of this place. Do I abandon it? Or do I build an altar here?

I’ve been returning every day to the fire circle, to the quiet, cold campsite of my anger. And every day I bring with me something safe, small, and which has secreted inside a little beauty, a little music, a little teardrop, a promise of change. I dig a hole with my fingers and I plant the little seed there in the ashes, blessing it and covering it carefully. And in this way, I am building a garden there in the scorched remains of my anger fire, a garden of ashes, an altar to a part of me that is healing, has healed, is yet to be healed.

I wonder if your anger is ready to die, as mine was? I wonder if you’re ready to let it burn out, I wonder if you’re ready to stand and let the embers grow cold, to risk the encroachment of forgiveness and the pervasive embrace of peace to put itself around you, to weigh you down on the floor, to hold you until you’re ready to let go, ready to walk away?

I wonder if it’s your time too?

You will grieve it, make no mistake. You will cry for it, and you will stand and mourn for it, and it will hurt, because it leaves a space when it’s gone. But things come, I promise, and they fill the space. And the things that come, they are familiar, and they are safe, because they are made of you. The things that come to fill the place your anger used to be are your desire, your creativity, your dreams, your ecstasy, your feelings, your self. And they are strong, they are clear, and they are beautiful, as you are.

Imagine in your heart a garden of ashes, a place where your anger can be healed and made whole. Are you ready? I pray you will be.

Blessings,
Jo xx