What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?


I like reading the advice columns in the Guardian online. What the readers say to the person with the issue (the “OP”, original poster) is fascinating. A few readers play the jerk, but most engage with the issue in good faith and really want to assist the OP. Regularly, people offer profound and generous insights from their own lives.

The following quotation is what one reader said in response to an OP a few months ago. The OP was a woman in her 20s talking about her relationship with her father. The reader’s response is a tour de force. What makes it so good is that he or she has discovered that freedom is a function of responsibility, and love, a function of acceptance.

In one of my relationships, I’ve been through all the places the reader describes. In the last week, I’ve gotten free. From the outside, nothing has changed, on the inside, everything. It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship has ended. What’s ended is the attachment. To celebrate, I offer you these wise words from A Reader.


“What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?
A few things are common …

Somewhere deep down, the person has a strong conviction that in this particular situation, there SHOULD be respect, love, etc …Their conviction is so strong that they hang in there trying to make their belief and conviction come true. And when it doesn’t, there’s huge pain.

(Who on Earth ever taught us and convinced us that “family” automatically meant love or like or respect or acceptance or honesty or friendship or “niceness” or support etc …? Whoever it was, either they didn’t really understand human beings and relationship — or they deliberately lied to us!)

Next, the person has already invested a great deal of their own positive energies into the relationship/family. They’ve probably shown their love, respect, kindness, support, friendship etc … and probably done it over and over and over again.

Wherever (and with whomever) we invest our energies, we all of us, always, are expecting or seeking or hoping for a positive “return” on our investment.

Anyone who ever tells me “No, I’m not!” I say to them “Pardon, but YES you ARE! That’s why you’re heartbroken. That’s why you’re angry and resentful. That’s why it’s all so very painful. You didn’t receive/are not receiving a positive return on your investment.”

Next, “forgiveness” will feature strongly, somewhere and that’s because the person deep down, believes (or has been convinced or been “blamed”) they they are the cause of the lack of love, respect, honesty etc … It’s THEIR FAULT! They are not “good enough”. They are not “lovable”. They are not “deserving” of the relationship/family “goodies”.

Thus, in an attempt to “prove” to the relationship/family that YES – they ARE really good enough/deserving enough/lovable enough/kind enough/nice enough/godly enough/religious enough/spiritual enough/better enough/whatever enough, the person bends over backward to “forgive”. And they hang in there, wishin’, hopin’ and prayin’ for that love and like and respect and kindness and support and honesty etc … which somehow, never seems to come their way in the relationship/family.

So, they continue to “forgive”...

That is, until one day, they stop believing or accepting or being “convinced” that they’re not (fill in the blank space) “enough” and they look with two eyes clear and wide open at the relationship/family as it actually IS – rather than how they believed it SHOULD be or hoped it WOULD be and kept on hopin’ and wishin’ and prayin’ that it might be.

Then, they release and free themselves from all the heavy burdens and pain and struggles of all their false truths and past false beliefs and convictions and they can leave it all.

Then, “forgiveness” is no longer any kind of “issue”… and they stop blaming themselves for not receiving something which in truth, was never ever there in the situation/relationship/family in the first place for them to receive it …

Then it’s ….“Hallelujah LORD and LADY LIBERTY! Free at last…..free at last….free at last….
Thank God Almighty…..I’m free at last ! “……..”


Image: A photo my phone took.

On golden pom-poms

“Richard turned and they plunged into the wild grass and strange bushes, following the stream. By the stream the mimosa was all gold, great gold bushes full of spring fire rising over your head, and the scent of the Australian spring, and the most ethereal of all golden bloom, the plumy, many-balled wattle, and the utter loneliness, the manlessness, the untouched blue sky overhead, the gaunt, lightless gum-trees rearing a little way off, and sound of strange birds, vivid tones of strange, brilliant birds that flit round. Save for that, and for some weird frog-like sound, indescribable, the age-unbroken silence of the Australian bush.


At home, with all the house full of blossom, the fluffy gold wattle-bloom, they sat at tea in the pleasant room, the bright fire burning, eating boiled eggs and toast. And they looked at one another — and Richard uttered the unspoken thought:

“Do you wish you were staying?”

“I— I,” stammered Harriet, “if I had THREE lives, I’d wish to stay. It’s the loveliest thing I’ve EVER known.”

“I know,” he answered, laughing. “If one could live a hundred years. But since one has only a short time —.”

They were both silent. The flowers there in the room were like angel-presences, something out of heaven. The bush! The wonderful Australia.”

~ From Kangaroo by D H Lawrence

Image: An unusual wattle I saw today at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne. There are around 1,000 varieties of wattle (acacia or mimosa) in Australia; the Golden Wattle (acacia pycnantha) is the floral emblem of Australia.

Down the rabbithole


I sat down a few weeks ago and estimated the amount of time I’m spending on social media each week, and it was about 23 hours.

That’s not including writing in this blog.

I was shocked. Maybe there’s nothing intrinsically wrong in this, and I enjoy most of it in an aimless kind of way; all the same, I don’t want to be spending so much of my life on it. Since then, I’ve dropped a few activities and cut back on the time I spend on other activities.

I also saw that I view writing in this blog as being in a different category, and that I really value it.

I may not always have something to say and I treasure the fact I have a place to say it when I do. Furthermore, it’s a place which is free from considerations and calculations. Here, the stats don’t matter and there’s no purpose or agenda, particularly not a marketing agenda which, in other places, can be deafening.

This re-evaluation was prompted by a half-day course on social media I attended. The well-meaning presenter deluged us with lists of do and don’ts, tips and strategies for growing our “social media presence” for business purposes.

After the 100th slide on driving our Twitter followers from 5,000 to 10,000, or the futility of relying on native Facebook (hence, you’d better just pay up and get a Facebook ad), or the new must-do of Periscope, Vine or blah blah blah, my friend leaned over and whispered, “I think I’m going to go live in a cave.”

It was so sweet to escape into the fresh air and run to the nearest cafe to be with people enjoying themselves across the table from each other.

What is the point of all this? It’s insane. We don’t need more noise. We need less.


The gift


I have a friend who is a master listener. Ten minutes in her presence and I feel gotten like no-one has ever gotten me before. To be listened, properly listened, is the highest gift. Years from the moment, one unwraps it and marvels over it like a precious jewel.


“The key to listening to people’s pain, paradoxically, is to be clear that we are not responsible for taking it away. The entire study and practice of Buddhadharma is designed to address the problem of human suffering. With time, we come to understand that simply being present to each other is our most basic moral obligation. There may be occasions when we can lend a helping hand. There may be instances when we are obligated to interfere, but more often than not, simple presence provides a context for others to listen to themselves, and that is the real service.

Letting go of responsibility for other people’s states of mind is fundamentally liberating. When we feel free of pressure, we are happy to listen, so we listen well. In the context of practice, releasing ourselves from this responsibility is to learn—again and yet again—what it feels like to let go.”

~ From Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution by Diane Musho Hamilton, pages 88–89


Image: Another high gift I wouldn’t mind: a house for sale in Cornwall, above Polperro harbour.

Don’t try to be artistic


“The whole philosophy of art is that you don’t try to be artistic but you just approach the objects as they are, and then the message comes automatically. When you look at a painting by a great artist, it doesn’t look like someone actually painted it, but it just seemed to happen by itself. There’s no gap, no cracks at all; it’s one unit, complete.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa


Coffee by Pablo at Bluff Town, Sandringham, Melbourne :)

The Socialist.


Check out Russell’s brilliant art work and commentary. I’ve followed Russell for several years, and in my view, he’s had a major breakthrough in self-expression. This, and his recent works, are sensational. I’ve been experiencing a slump in self-expression, and looking at his work inspires me that something wonderful is just around the corner. Here he is …

Originally posted on drawthepublic:

Corbyn pre-election rant.

Portrait of Labour leadership candidate, Jeremy Corbyn.

The 2015 UK general election was a disaster for the Labour Party, former leader Ed Miliband (dis)gracefully resigned, leaving his situation vacant. The victorious Conservative Party are now implementing their post-election budget, a series of massive public spending cuts aimed at tackling the national debt. Austerity is a swear word on everyone’s lips, and the public are told further austerity is the only way forward—cold comfort when your standing in the queue at a food bank.

Yet, in spite of these hard times there are Conservative backed plans to replace the country’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, to the tune of 130 billion—enough money to run the ailing National Health Service for 40 years. Enter staunch socialist, and CND advocate, Jeremy Corby. An outsider in the Labour leadership election, who is lighting a fire under the seats of the political establishment. This champion of the…

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Ode to Friday

I published this poem once before in 2012. It’s on my mind again tonight. Here’s Derek Walcott, trailing clouds of glory …

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ Love After Love, Derek Walcott (St Lucian, 1930 – )

An ontological view of the Adam Goodes conversation


Here in Australia, an Aboriginal man named Adam Goodes, a star Australian Football player, is at the centre of a raging national conversation about racism. He has been booed by the crowd for the last one to two years, and he has taken leave from playing football this weekend due to the toll the booing, and the national conversation about the booing, is taking on him.

The newspapers, radio and TV are filled with opinions about whether or not it’s racism, and what it all means.

My view is that the conversation is fruitless as long as it remains at the level of content. The place the conversation needs to go is to the ontological level. Here are four points about the situation from an ontological point of view:

  • the incompletions of the past are coming up into view
  • the past cannot be completed while ever blame is present
  • the past cannot be completed until one party takes 100% responsibility for the relationship, which is to say, for the future
  • what’s missing is a possibility – a future to live into – which people can be enrolled in.


On Love

When you’ve said all of the bad things and
all of the good things you haven’t been saying,
you will find what you’ve really been withholding is “I love you”.

On Love by Werner Erhard


Running our race

It was five years ago yesterday that my father died.

When he was 84, he had a heart attack and was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The doctors found he had four major blockages and a leaking heart valve. For a few days, the cardiologist was elusive. Every time my brother or I arrived, he had just left, and I was starting to wonder if he was a figment of my parents’ anxiety. He was the Scarlet Pimpernel of RNS,  or like Major Major of Catch-22, jumping out the window whenever someone knocked on his door.

Eventually, the day arrived when we all happened to be in the room at the same time, and the specialist outlined the situation to Dad and the operation required. Dad asked how long he’d have if he declined the operation. “About two years,” the doctor said. Well, that was that for Dad. He was going to decline the operation, and though he didn’t say it, I could see on his face he thought it a good deal. Not liking to appear rude or ungrateful, and by way of explanation, he said to the doctor, “Mate, I’m running my race.”

That was so Dad. Courageous, true, humble and free. He died three and a half years later.


A Love Supreme


I’m driving and hear an announcer talking about this John Coltrane. “He’s one of those jazz people everybody’s supposed to revere, like in movies when the cool guy starts saying words like Bird or Mingus,” I’m thinking. Then the interviewer starts talking about Coltrane’s spiritual journey and suddenly I’m all ears. Turns out in his short life of just 40 years Coltrane said things like, “I believe in all religions” and “During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.” And best of all …

I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.

I’m with you, John Coltrane. All this and more is possible.

To listen the program, go to the ABC’s Rhythm Divine.




Mighty George


“Hey, Golden Girl. Thank you. I’m happy that you enjoyed her death as much as I did. There is a beauty in death that we often miss because we turn away. Charlie watched his pops sicken and die. He saw his body after death. He listened to Pops talk to him the night before he died. He understands that death is part of life and that there is no fear in death. We talked about my own death and he understood, accepted it, and is not afraid. Children learn what we teach by our behaviors and our attitudes. We must change our avoidance of death and dying. We must stop turning away and hiding. That is the source of much suffering for the dying and for the survivors. We can only do this one family at the time. I am hopeful that our attitudes will eventually become realistic and accepting of the deaths of our elders. And we can celebrate again in the old ways.”

~ The mighty George Weaver, blogger and inspiration to many, in a comment to me regarding the death of a staghorn and the end of her own life which she is facing with courage and love and her trademark chuckle. Love you, George.


Image: Pink Lady by George

Choiceless choice when playing squash

A friend, Leon, made the following point in response to the post on The choiceless choice about how he uses the distinction when playing squash. It’s great.

I hear what you say. I was playing squash and I got present to “Create the game” rather than tense up and do a loose shot in desperation to win. The game became clear when I just relaxed and focused on “creating” the game. I got excited to how this was going to shape my future games. To think is to create. To create is to think. If you’re not creating you’re not thinking. “It” is thinking.


The choiceless choice


Recently, a thunderbolt struck me and I shared it with friends. I saw that when I’m not operating under grace, my actions and results are hard-won, limited and subject to reversal at the earliest opportunity. Under grace, everything turns to gold. There is only ever one thing for me to do: get present to grace. The rest takes care of itself.

This week I’m applying the insight to a business issue that I’ve been ignoring, hoping it would just go away. Now that I’ve decided to look at the issue, I got that instead of trying to force something, as I normally would, I can allow myself to wait for grace to arise. That’s where I am now. I’m committed to letting it take as long as it takes and not engaging in busywork (to cover up the nothingness) in the meantime.

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