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.

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

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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Small and Pure – an interview with Jo Hilder

Ahem. A quick interview with myself about Small and Pure, off the cuff. Just a chat with author-me so you can get to know my littlest protagonist a little better.

Q) Jo, how did the story of Small and Pure come about?

A) Thanks for asking me about that, Jo. One day, when we were living on the farm in Victoria about eighteen months ago, I was daydreaming as I worked around the house, and felt an urge to write a short story about a little person – a small, pure someone – in fact, it was her short-life story.

So I sat at my desk – it was an easy desk to write at, as we were at that time living inside the 1850’s built mansion/homestead on the Victorian-era property, filled as it was with the shadows and ghosts who resided there, and my desk faced a nine foot tall window which looked out through the bluestone walls across the croquet lawns towards the creek lined with agapanthus and pepper trees – and the story just seemed to tumble out of me. It was almost as if a small, pure person had climbed into my lap, and was telling me what to write.

And I looked, and behold, there she was.

She told me her name was Small and Pure, so I started with that, and just allowed her to guide the pen with her words. As we worked together, she snuggled into my belly, and I noticed her hair was wild and tangled, and her toes were crusted with dirt, and her arms were smudged with muddy streaks. Her clothes were frayed and her hair smelt like pine needles and honeycomb. All the time we were together that morning, she sat in my lap as if we hadn’t just met, but had known each other for many, many years.

I think we have.

So I wrote. I did as I was told. After all, wild things don’t climb into your lap and ask you to write down their story very often, do they?

That’s how the story of Small and Pure came. It literally came. I wish it was always that easy to write stuff.

Q) What, in a few words, is the book of Small and Pure about?

A) It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about the Small and Pure self who resides with all of us. It’s about the truest, most essential part of our spirit and soul and self. Small and Pure is like us – she is us. But something happens to her in the book, and it’s something I think we will all relate deeply to.

Q) What happens?

A) I can’t tell you. That would be giving it away. 🙂

Q) Where is Small and Pure now?

A) She will never leave me, but as to where she is now, I don’t know. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I smell pine-needles and honeycomb, and I know she’s close by. I feel her. She is safe, and she is well – I know this, and it gives me great joy to know it. But she’s a wild thing. It’s her work to remain elusive to me, and my work to seek her. I wouldn’t have it any other way, by the way. 🙂

Q) What message does Small and Pure have for the readers of your book?

A) Ah, people will have to wait and read the book. But I will tell you she wants those who will listen to know their own stories matter, and need to be told, as hers does, and will be.

Q) Thanks Jo!
A) Hey – no problem!

Small and Pure – A Cautionary Tale is due for release on June 1st 2016.

Pre-order your copy now.

View the book trailer here

The Wound.

Dear one, I want to ask you a few things. May I?

Do you feel innately and deeply attuned to perceptions others have about you? Is your consciousness pockmarked and pitted with little, unidentifiable fears?

Are you smattered with poorly healed, puckered emotional and spiritual scars you rue, but which cannot be tied to any specific incident? Do you believe you are filled with sin so grievous it could never be forgiven? Do you believe all the wrongs committed by you, and those committed against you, have their origins in your intrinsic badness and unworthiness?

Do you use the word “deserve” a lot, either in the negative or the affirmative? Do you find yourself doubting your own judgement on everything? Do you accept blame for mistakes, crimes, misdeeds, shortcomings and faults others point out to you, never exploring the possibility these may not be wrongdoings at all but are perhaps the real-world results of your intrinsic strength, wisdom, beauty and goodness? Is it easy for others to change your mood, and your mind? Are you, my darling, an unwilling, unwitting carrier of shame?

If so, it’s because you’ve learned to be.

For many of us, our welfare and survival depended on it, unless we were fortunate enough to be born into a situation where the goodness, wholeness, and purity of children and the vulnerable are considered holy things never to be interfered with.

Shame is endemic. And it is toxic for humans, and everything we touch.

As we mature, many of us arrive at a kind of resignation about the state of the world, feeling it is somehow different from the way it seemed when we were very young. We feel often the fault for this perception lies with us, and not with something that happened to us, despite our being the beneficiary of a great body of evidence to suggest otherwise. This is just how the world is, we lament, and it’s not a better place now. This is not a great epiphany, sweet heart – it’s a kind of misunderstanding. The world is not an awful place. And you are not a fool. Something happened back there. Something that caused a deep hurt in you, and made you change the way you saw things. You had to do this to survive, and survive you have.

But it has not been without a price. You have a wound, a scar. It isn’t healed, and the pain of it has made you jaded. You’ve been carrying something for these many years, a gritty thorn that’s worked its way to the surface, and beloved, it’s time to deal with it, for good. You have a wound there. Let me see.

Ah, yes, it’s as I thought. It’s shame.

There now, lay still and let the sting subside. Lay still, and let me sing to you. Let me sing these words over you, and you simply be still, and breath. There is nothing for you to do. Be still, and I will sing.

You are good. You are good. You are good.

This is not your fault.

This is not your fault.

Mama Muse, and the Orphans in the Creativity Minivan.

When it comes to where I spend my time and energy artistically, I love to just take to the road.

I got this old minivan, see? I’m behind the wheel, driving, and beside me sits my trusty navigator, Creativity.

We are not alone. We have this bunch of feelings, thoughts and emotions who always want to come along too.

But we don’t let them up front with us. All those fears, resistance and ego must take a back seat.

After a while, like clockwork, the complaints and whining start up back there. In fact, no matter where Creativity leads us, and I drive us, they always start up.

Whatcha doin’ that for?

Why do ya wanna do that weird thing?

Dontcha know people will think you’re crazy?

Who do you think you are?

I don’t wanna do this!

I wanna do something familiar! Something people will like! I wanna do something I know how to do!

I wanna GO HOME!

And when this happens – and it always happens – I pull the minivan to the side of the road, I get back there amongst the fit-pitchin’ and the whining’, and I give them all a hug and tell them everything is perfectly okay.

Shhhhh, now, little babies. Everything is going to be all right.

Then, I get back behind the wheel, strap myself in, and pull my minivan back on the road.

I give Creativity a wink, and then I floor it.

Come on, you bunch of wildlings, let’s go!

As my amazing friend Jo and I were discussing just this morning, fears and resistance make interesting back seat passengers, but lousy navigators.

Give them your most tender compassion and reassurance, but when it comes to setting your course, listen to Creativity. You’ll be scared out of your wits mostly. But she’s braver, smarter, and knows how to have a lot more fun.

Get to it!

Have a great weekend, lovelies.
Jo xxx

Come home to your body.

The body conversation.

Self-acceptance or other-acceptance?

Self-acceptance is the one kind you don’t have to bargain for.

The body conversation which is asks, “Why do consumers only want *those* kinds of bodies? Why can’t they want my body too?” is a misguided conversation.

It doesn’t matter if “they” like or accept or love or want your body.

It only matters if you do.

The better conversation about bodies is the one where we address exactly who it is we imagine has to approve of, desire, view and dictate to us about our bodies. It’s the conversation about body consumption, not body image or appearance.

If you put your “real” woman’s body out on show, next to the “other” woman’s body, and argue about perfection, ideals and who is the real woman, you’ve taken the side of those who see bodies as a commodity. You’ve taken a side against other women and their bodies. You’ve become the viewer of your body, rather than the owner and inhabitant.

Don’t let the market and the marketeers dictate the body conversation.

We with women’s bodies dictate it.

You dictate that conversation.

Don’t take your beautiful, strong, fragile, perfect body out on the battleground or the marketplace and allow it to be hustled, argued over, scorned, or lauded as if it were you.

Your body is a temple. Make it a place of serenity, respect and contemplation. Make it a place of joy, not war.

Your body is a sacred space, a place of peace. It is not to be bought or sold. It is not for judging or fighting over. It’s the place on earth where the eternal makes its home.

Your body is not your brave, not your cause, not your weapon. It’s your safe place. Your home.

You don’t worship the temple. You worship in the temple.

Come home to your body. It waits for you to come home.

A Sombre Warning for Wild Women.

There are, when you look and even when you don’t, a great many people out there encouraging us to get free, be brave, go wild, live out our dreams and become our true selves.

Wild women everywhere, if they had their way, and rightly so, I think. I am one such encourager.

But what does it mean, this courage, braveness, wildness? Everyone is telling us we must do it, be it, but nobody is explaining what that looks like.

I am one who believes if a belief system has no practical application, it’s not useful to us. It’s one thing to have a philosophy, but if we don’t know how to bring that philosophy into the living out of our everyday lives, it’s just an escape, isn’t it?

This exhortation for us to be wild and free as women sounds like something so many of us want. But what does that mean? What does it look like?

Because if I encourage a woman to be brave and to step outside of the life that she feels ensnares her, into wildness and freedom, and that woman leaves her family or abandons her relationship, or throws her job away, or walks away from her life, then has she been helped to do anything perhaps other than self-sabotage?

For many women, courage absolutely means breaking ties with toxic people and making boundaries, it will mean leaving abusive relationships and codependent situations and oppressive regimes. For many of us, leaving a church or a marriage or a home town or a job that’s killing us will absolutely do us good, and open the door to greater freedoms and opportunities.

But for some, those actions will be in themselves a form of escape, a kind of relinquishing of responsibility, a way of leaving life, rather than coming home to it.

Bravery is not abandonment. Bravery is standing up in the life you chose, and choosing forwards toward healing, reconciliation and peace with self, with others, and with our God.

Courage is not cursing our circumstances and relinquishing responsibility for them. Courage means giving up resentment, blame, unforgiveness, victim thinking and inaction as ways of coping and escaping. Courage means plumbing our own deep wells of wisdom and knowledge and truth and choosing from those places, rather than ascribing responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs and conscience to others. Courage means looking in the mirror and asking the person we see there what is best for us, rather than allowing our power to be taken from us. And courage often means staying and dealing, not running and beginning the same mess over again.

Wildness is not permission to be unfettered, vulgar or rebellious. Wildness is not refusal to belong, to settle or to sit peacefully with others. It’s not wanton disagreement or arbitrary opposition to organisation or authority. Wildness is belonging to yourself first. It’s being able to sit for hours in your own company and not become angry, afraid or frustrated. Wildness is acknowledging you must, and can, nourish, feed, support and protect yourself. Wildness is choosing your own teacher, mentor, master and tribe. Wildness is pulling fear apart, yours and others, and examining it’s entrails, allowing them to speak to you about the past and the future. Wildness is sitting quietly when others try to lead you and teach you, knowing always they are human just like you, and God sees them as your equal in every way, and thus, so can you.

Wildness does not mean running away. It does not mean permission for violence, anger, retribution or abandonment. It does not mean you belong to no one. Wildness simply mean you do not call the institutions and the safe places others cling to your home. Wildness means you trust your own resources and skills and ability to learn, as well as your capacity to survive, thrive, teach and defend what you love.

Wildness often means staying when it would be easier for everyone if you did not, simply because there is unfinished business, and only you have the courage to finish it.

Don’t blindly follow your attraction to rebels and outsiders, simply because you are hungry for change and power. To learn what you need to know, you seek teachers, mothers, sisters, not misfits and runaways who will one day need to return and rebuild their own bridges.

The braveness, courage and wilds you seek may not necessarily be found by breaking away from everything you have built, bred or belonged to, or reinventing yourself as someone those in your past life won’t recognise. If you are looking to become someone else, or like someone else, or trying to leave rather than come home to, be cautious. Anger is not courage. Bitterness is not bravery. The wasteland of desertion and self-imposed isolation is not the wilds you seek. All you have left, if you have ever left anything, is within you. The journey home is a path that leads closer to you and all you love, not away from them. Whilst you may need to take a physical journey to become more who you truly are, be careful you do not sabotage all God has given you to show you both who He is, and who you are, along the way.

Brave one, all you seek is within you. You need only have the courage to look there.

Love you,
Jo xx

The Book Of The Brave. You Don’t Need Permission.

You don’t need permission.

You don’t need permission to leave the tribe. Any more than you needed permission to go there in the first place.

You don’t need permission to stay home, or to go out.

You don’t need permission to start a book, a relationship, a church, a retreat, a family, or all kinds of trouble.

No permission required to have coffee with two friends and call it church, or family, or trouble…with a capital T.

No permission required to invite some people around to your house for some company, a bible study, a BBQ, or to break bread.

No permission required to not participate or subscribe to their ideas, or their issues.

You don’t need anyone’s okay to read what you want, anyway you want you want to read it.
You don’t need to ask permission to not read what you don’t want to read. Ever. At all.

You don’t need permission to live a big life, to do a heap of stuff, or achieve a great deal. You don’t need anyone’s blessing to make a lot of money, or give your money away.

You don’t need to ask anyone if it’s okay to life a quiet life and do not much, be public and say God is in it, or be invisible and say God is in that. Just do whatever the hell you like about that, my friend.

You don’t need to ask permission to hang out with people who are not part of the tribe, to go to their places, or be involved in their gatherings. Just do it.

Here’s some more stuff you don’t need permission for. Writing. Speaking. Sharing. Singing. Selling things. Buying things. Promoting things. Creating things. No permission required. No blessing or benediction. If it’s in you, get it the hell out.

Publish your stuff, show it, teach it, share it in a public place for all to see of you want to. Don’t feel you need to check with anyone first, especially people from the tribe.

You don’t need permission to read certain books. You don’t need anyone’s okay to read books about spiritual things and spiritual ideas that are not tribe dogma or doctrine.

Don’t seek their permission to buy a house, or move out of the area. Don’t ask their permission to have a kid, or to not get married and not have any kids. Don’t seek permission to be involved in stuff that moves your heart. Especially don’t ask permission to study or learn.

You don’t need permission to live with someone, have sex with them, and not marry them. You don’t need permission to date, get engaged, or break up.

You don’t need permission to leave a person who is abusing you.

You don’t need permission to get a job which means you have to work on Sundays.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to do these things. You’re not free from the consequences of any of them, but you’re totally free to choose any of these, and a hell of a lot more, without checking with anyone from your tribe, an invisible man in the sky, a monster under the bed, or anyone else.

You don’t need permission.

– From the upcoming The Book Of The Brave, by Jo Hilder

To subscribe to email updates like this post and info about the project, use the sign up form at the right of this page, or visit johilder.com

The Book Of the Brave. The Lie.

So what is the lie?

What is the deep untruth that began with the shaming of your body, the quelling of your curiosity and creativity, and the undermining of your courage?12187868_10206872968599477_5065331810149870299_n

What really happened when they convinced you shame was more appropriate for you than freedom and courage and authenticity?

What occurred in those moments when you were convinced you were both too much and not enough?

What is the essential lie that conceived your darkest fear, a fear you confront even now as you stand at the threshold of change, growth, healing and wholeness?

The lie goes like this.

“You don’t know.”
“You don’t know so many things.”
“You don’t know who you are.”
“You don’t know or understand anything, or anyone.”
“You can’t be trusted to know or see things or others as they really are.”
“You need us to tell you and show you.”
“You need us to teach you what to do.”
“You need us to lead you.”
“You need us to tell you about yourself, and the way things are.”
“You have no power. Come and bargain for it.”

– From the upcoming The Book Of The Brave, by Jo Hilder

To subscribe to email updates like this post and info about the project, use the sign up form at the right of this page, or visit johilder.com