Pushing the “publish” button, then and now


It’s coming up to seven years since I started blogging here and it occurred to me how much has changed in my relationship to blogging. When I started, and for quite a long time after, I was terrified most times I pushed the “Publish” button.

I was scared I was going to be attacked, ridiculed, mocked, heckled. In Australia, we have a well-worn trope called the “tall poppy syndrome” which says that someone sticking their head above the parapet – ie, standing out from the crowd in any way – will have it lopped off. And here I was talking about overtly intellectual stuff in a country that prides itself on its anti-intellectualism.

One of the things I was most scared of was using “big words” and there were many times I battled myself to retain a “big word” rather than switching to something more familiar. Another fear was that people in my professional life could easily google my name and discover who I was in my personal life. I was like George Constanza, one compartment couldn’t collide with another :)

It wasn’t till later that I realised my country no longer mattered so much on the internet. Most readers were from the US anyway and this was one reason why what I feared didn’t eventuate. Another was the size of audience; I had a tiny, perfectly formed audience.

What made the biggest difference was what I discovered after a little while. I discovered that authenticity provides its own protection (I’m going to switch to using the word “transparency” for “authenticity” because people give lots of meanings to the latter).

The more transparent I became, the more solid the ground beneath my feet. I learnt that one is unshakeable, unmessable-with, once there is nothing being withheld. If there is even the tiniest skerrick remaining in the Unsaid, one’s footing is precarious and one can be messed with.

Nowadays, there is no fear. There is joy, especially on those happy occasions when I say something to myself in such a way that it vanishes in the saying. It completes itself, sinking back into that whence it came such that five minutes later I can scarcely remember the topic. And there is curiosity, community and love.

I’m grateful to be living at this time when blogging has become available to all. It is a gift to me and my life.



Dustiness is who we are


“When we forget our dustiness, our mortality, our human nature, we begin practicing our piety, our life, before others; hoping to be seen, recognised, and praised.”

~ Father Mike on remembering we are human beings, that dust is our source and completion, and dustiness, who we are. Read him here: Welcome to the human race.



Fear into Love


The public conversation in Australia at present is truly poisonous. Come hither Thich Nhat Hanh and speak to me of love.¹

“We have a great, habitual fear inside ourselves. We’re afraid of many things – of our own death, of losing our loved ones, of change, of being alone … Sorrow, fear and depression are like a kind of garbage. But these bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. We can practice so as to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. We should not throw anything out. All we have to do is learn the art of composting, of transforming our garbage into flowers …

A mantra is a kind of magic formula that, once uttered, can entirely change a situation … I share these four mantras as supports for … releasing fear, cultivating true love and restoring communication. These mantras can be very effective for watering the seeds of happiness in yourself and your beloved and for transforming fear, suffering and loneliness.

Mantra for offering your presence

The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence. So the first mantra is very simple: ‘Dear one, I am here for you’ … When you love someone, the best thing you can offer that person is your presence. How can you love if you are not there? Come back to yourself, look into his eyes, and say, ‘Darling, you know something? I’m here for you.’

Mantra for recognising your beloved

The second mantra is, ‘Darling, I know you are there, and I am so happy.’ To be there is the first step, and recognising the presence of the other person is the second step. Because you are fully there, you recognise the presence of your beloved is something very precious. You embrace your beloved with mindfulness, and he or she will bloom like a flower …

Mantra for relieving suffering

The third mantra is what you practice when your beloved is suffering: ‘Darling, I know you’re suffering. That’s why I am here for you.’ Even before you do anything to help, your wholehearted presence already brings some relief, because when we suffer, we have great need for the presence of the person we love … Your presence is a miracle, your understanding of his or her pain is a miracle, and you are able to offer this aspect of your love immediately …

Mantra for reaching out to ask for help

The fourth mantra is a little bit more difficult: ‘Dear one, I am suffering; please help.’ This mantra is for when you are suffering and you believe that your beloved has caused your suffering … this is the person you love the most, so you suffer deeply, and the last thing you feel like doing is to ask that person for help. You prefer to go to your room, lock the door, and cry there all alone. So now it is your pride that is the obstacle to reconciliation and healing … When you are suffering like this, you must go to the person you love and ask for his or her help. That is true love …

Begin [to practice the mantras] with yourself …”


1. Thich Nhat Hanh, Fear

Image: My father’s favourite rose, the glorious Papa Meilland


writtenafterwards: Future Beauty at QAGOMA

WrittenAfterwards-SS-2013-Collection-Bye-BuyThe Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion exhibition has recently concluded at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, and I was in Brisbane to see it a couple of weeks ago.

In the 80s, Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe of Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and others launched a fashion aesthetic the like of which the West had never seen. They presented a radically

Continue reading

This shall be

He was upset, speaking about the missing years, his brothers cut off from their children, his father and grandfather cut off from their grandchildren, his brothers cut off from each other. Every way he looked there was distance and division. His eyes filled with the speaking of it, and then he was afraid of not being “strong”. Do you know how beautiful you are at this moment, I asked.

Continue reading

Listening as the radical, intransitive act

Listening When I first started my training and development with Landmark Worldwide, I was entranced by the way language was used in the programs I attended, and in the conversations about the programs.

The language was highly rigorous, and featured unusual phrasing and an absence of modifiers such as adjectives, adverbs and superlatives.

I was getting all these breakthroughs in my personal life and relationships, and then there was this wonderful bonus: the language. For a language nut like me, Continue reading

The possibility of possibility

A Sentimental Journey, 1971This post is dedicated to Amal.

Like many people, I find myself in situations and circumstances in which it appears only one way is possible, and it’s the way that’s hard, undesirable or requires loss. Recently, I heard three people speak about what they’ve been facing in the last eight weeks, and I was reminded there is never only one way. Even in the worst of situations something else is always possible and frequently it’s the miraculous. In listening to their stories I was also reminded that we rarely know what people are really dealing with, even those closest to us, in fact, maybe especially those people.

Continue reading

“we encounter a pitiless machismo…”


Nine months ago, I met a man in immigration detention in a camp in the middle of prosperous, comfortable Melbourne who’d been held there for over five years. He had committed no crime, been given no comprehensible reason for his detention, had no access to defending himself by law against the unspecified charge. What had brought him to that place was the action of seeking asylum in Australia.

Continue reading

“You’re in trouble”


Where was I? I’ve just crawled out of the bog of social media for business purposes, a terribly determined place.

It’s customary to say if I’d known what it takes to start a business from scratch, I wouldn’t have done it. Only I would have done it nonetheless, because I’m stubborn and bonkers, and because working as an employee I was often bored out of my brain. Very late in my so-called “career”, I cracked the secret of being satisfied and happy at work, and as soon as I got that I was done. Nothing more to prove!

Continue reading

Freedom of speech, debate, having the right to be a bigot: A conversation

Greg (in US)

I know of no place where it rules absolute, regardless of language. Exceptions! Many exceptions…

Me (in Australia)

Exactly. Even where it’s legislated, it’s not usually the bottom line. Cannot be, for good reason. However, the public conversation discusses it as if it were the bottom line. It’s as if people are trying to erect an ethic, a morality, on this tiny platform.


Hard to debate with people who don’t sweat details!


Debate. Another spurious concept. “We have to debate in order to arrive at the truth.” Yeh, right. Debate=fastest way to move further away from the truth.


Really? What’s your sure path to truth?


A path to truth is real conversation, ie, deep listening and compassionate speaking. Debate is predicated on scoring points, winning, being right (and when we’re being right, someone else is being made wrong).

We are fully stocked with debate and then some. Debate is not what’s missing. What’s missing is deep listening and compassionate speaking.

“The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.” ~ Martin Heidegger


Ah. I have a broader notion of debate, I suppose. Real interactions are certainly best, and the best sort of argument involves just that: conversation, and listening.

Mrs D (in Canada)

I guess the danger comes when individuals can be beaten up, jailed, sent to concentration camps or even killed for making even the mildest criticism of those in authority. I hear what you’re saying about deep listening and compassionate speaking, but on another level I am deeply concerned about the loss of civil and human rights brought about by the “war on terror”.


I get your concern about the loss of civil and human rights. Our concern and fear can only grow while ever we fail to generate solid ground on which to stand.

Mr B (in US)

There are generally three recognized limits to free speech – and their respective slippery slopes, at least here in the US:

1) Public Safety – you cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and call it free speech. The slippery slope can lead to not-quite-so-direct matters of affecting public safety, but this is the first category.

2) Slander / Libel – you cannot make untrue statements that discredit a person’s character. Public figures seem to be somewhat exempted from this, but not entirely.

3) Obscenity – not covered by free speech. Again, like the other two categories, the interpretation of what this is – is up for debate and court rulings.


Thanks for outlining the situation in the US. Have they ever discussed adding an exception for something like “inciting hatred”? Just curious. Or maybe that would come under the “obscenity” ground?

Australian lawmakers have tried (maybe even succeeded?) from time to time in “reading in” to the Constitution a prohibition on inciting hatred (or similar).

My concern at present is that the US conversation for freedom of speech is being imported wholesale into Australia without close thought or attention to detail or context. It concerns me because, looking in from the outside, it seems the conversation doesn’t always serve the US. I get my view is limited and you may have a different view.

A few months ago, the Aust Attorney General proposed changing the constitution with some “free speech” clause. He proudly stated that everyone “should be entitled to be a bigot.” This is the depth to which our parliament has sunk. This nonsense was entertained for some months.

Me (later)

There’s been discussion in Australia in the last day about whether the Charlie Hebdo cartoons would have been able to be published here. Various legal experts have said “no” or “highly unlikely” based on section 18(c) of the Racial Discrimination Act (not the Constitution as I implied) which states:

“It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.”

It is this section which the Australian Attorney General was previously trying to water down in light of the proposition that people “had the right to be a bigot”. Incredibly, since the Paris massacre, one or two members of the Government have revived their calls to water down the clause. They see the massacre as a reason to loosen limits on free speech. This shocks me.


Vanishing evocations


The finest piece of writing I know on music, creativity, life and the whole damn thing by James Baldwin. “Listen, Creole seemed to be saying, listen. Now these are Sonny’s blues. He made the little black man on the drums know it, and the bright, brown man on the horn. Creole wasn’t trying any longer to get Sonny in the water. He was wishing him Godspeed. Then he stepped back, very slowly, filling the air with the immense suggestion that Sonny speak for himself.”

Originally posted on Solid gold creativity:

“All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air …

I just watched Sonny’s face.  His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn’t with it.  And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along. But as I began to watch Creole, I realised that it was Creole who held them all back. He had them on a short rein. Up there, keeping the beat with his whole body, wailing…

View original 692 more words

Freedom of speech

When did freedom of speech become the highest value a country can aspire to?

So essential is it that here in Australia we don’t have it as an explicit right. It’s absent from the Australian Constitution and we have no Bill of Rights. This fact doesn’t stop hundreds of thousands of Australians on social media talking about rights they don’t actually have.

And even if it were enshrined in Australian legislation, and in every country in the world, and were enforced to the letter (which is also questionable), so what? Is that all there is? The freedom to say whatever one likes?

Freedom of speech as an aspiration is spurious, paltry, a diversion from the main game.

It’s too small an aspiration for human being, and provides no ground on which to stand.

Generosity. Peace. Understanding. Love. Compassion. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Mercy. Courage.

There’s ground.


This action matters and this and this …

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

― Mahatma Gandhi, courtesy of Madeleine Lobsey


Image: River of Fundament, Matthew Barney (US, 1967 – ), now showing Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Australia

Continuous beginning


“When the context of your life shifts from becoming satisfied to being satisfied, an essential shift has occurred. You no longer seek satisfaction – you are satisfied. You no longer seek completion – you are complete. You shift from chasing satisfaction and completeness to expressing or manifesting satisfaction and completeness.

Life shifts from a process of becoming complete to a process of being complete. The process of life doesn’t stop, or end, or finish. Life goes on. And, from the space of completion, instead of life seeking itself, life begins to give of itself. It shares itself. It causes life. It brings satisfaction to life. It creates life and shares the ‘experience’ of life.

In that sense, transformation reveals itself as a continuous beginning. Each experience is a fresh beginning and a complete ending, because it expresses satisfaction.”

~ Werner Erhard (founder of est, forerunner of the Landmark Forum)


Image: The Island Bird by Ernesto Neto (Brazil, 1964 – ), now showing NGV, Melbourne

Watering the other’s flower: How to begin a high-stakes email


Following is a re-post from my business website that you might enjoy …


A participant in a workshop talked about emailing the local branch of a national retailer to request financial support for her employer, a not-for-profit engaged in assisting people in need.

It had been a few weeks and she hadn’t received a response.

With her permission, we looked at what might have been missing from the email. She outlined the email, and after some discussion, we determined she had launched into her request without first acknowledging the reader.

Acknowledging the reader

Acknowledging the reader means finding something to say about the reader which is real for you.

You might acknowledge the contribution the reader makes to the community. Or you might talk about something the reader has done that has meant something to you personally. Or, as it was a retailer in this case, you might talk about something you appreciate in their shops.

When beginning a high-stakes email, it’s important you spend the first few sentences acknowledging the reader; then, and only then, move into your request or whatever it is you’re writing about.

Watering the flowers

I was thinking of this recently when I read a description by a Zen Buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh.

He talked about a practice called “watering the flowers” which occurs when one member of his community needs to restore communication with another member, perhaps following a disagreement or misunderstanding.

As part of the process of restoring communication, the person begins by “watering the other’s flower”, meaning he acknowledges the other person for his special gifts, talents or contribution. Only after he has sufficiently watered the other person’s flower can he proceed to talk about what has upset him.

Beginning your email by acknowledging the reader serves the same purpose as the monks’ flower watering. It opens up the lines of communication. Without it, the recipient cannot hear your communication.


During the workshop, the participant undertook to write to the retailer a second time and to begin her email using acknowledgment.

A few weeks after the workshop, I saw the participant again. She had indeed emailed again using acknowledgment, and the retailer had responded and agreed to donate funds.

Start your business year with a new level of power and effectiveness in the area of communication

Contact Narelle on 0412 616 076 to arrange your inhouse coaching program or short session.