Bellbunya Community …. my visit.

Dear Girls

While Burnsie was in NZ,  I went to a Intentional Community (Bellbunya) to volunteer for the week end. It is near Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast just off the Kenilworth Road. I helped clean their kitchen, and dig their vege gardens. Along the way I engaged with some wonderful wise women who had taken the time to decide how to tread on the earth. We shared food, and chattered continuously about ‘things that matter’. One of these girls, Peggy is a masseur. … so after dinner I engaged her services. How great to be pampered with calming hands then stroll off to bed. It also felt good to leave my $$$ in their community.

On Sunday, a lady arrived at the community, who mistakenly came on the wrong day. Her name was Gabriele. She mesmerized us with her stories and energies. After a chat around lunch … the week end below was created. This invitation will only float the boats of those of you who feel your journey starting and know it is the right time. Most will only be eager to consider these opportunities when time allows and their hearts tell them to.

See their website
Below is an opportunity. I’m going.

Susie x

December 2011

Saturday 10th December, 9.30 am to 5 pm

Healing and Energy Balancing ~ with Gabriele Engstrom

Gabriele’s love for wholistic health, science and spirituality has made her a unique healer & energy worker. Through meditation, gentle movement and biofeedback Gabriele will assist you to get in touch with your passion and release energy blockages that hinder you in your growth.

Relax and energise for the holiday season. Connect with your passion in preparation for 2012!

This nurturing day begins at 9.30 am with the 1st session and finishes after the 3rd, at 4.30 or 5 pm. You will be in a group of 5 for your session. While others are in session, you will be able to enjoy the relaxing and healing atmosphere of Bellbunya, as well as delicious morning and afternoon teas and nourishing lunch. To give the greatest benefit, this special day is open to a very limited numbers. (5 x 3 sessions)

When: Saturday 10th December, 9.30 to 5 pm

Where: Bellbunya

Cost: $80 (includes session with Gabriele and a personal programmed crystal, morning and afternoon tea, lunch, introduction to Bellbunya)

Enquiries and Booking: Joan or Peggy 5447 0181 or email

Consider making your visit to Bellbunya a weekend away – Stay overnight in our comfortable ensuited rooms. Join us for our community dinner and shared breakfast. After that you may choose to simply relax or attend the free Feng shui workshop (please book) with Master George Bennis from 11 to 5 on Sunday. Cost for accommodation and meals – $65. Bookings as for Healing and Energy Balancing.

Susie, a recent visitor to Bellbunya said, “For me, my 24 hours at Bellbunya was day away from the everyday. A breathing space to connect with myself, to feel nurtured by generous souls, and feel the love and joy of doing for others and receiving from others. Only those who hear a whisper coming from their hearts should choose this harmonious pause from their lives. All others need not bother to visit! To arrive as a guest and not be treated like a paying customer, to be immersed into a gentle community without the need to attempt to be anything but our collective selves was part of the magic.”

Sunday 11th December, 11 am to 5 pm

FREE Feng Shui Workshop

Master George Bennis invites to participate in the transformation of the  Bellbunya Community through a Feng Shui Design Process.

During this fascinating free workshop series a number of the community buildings in  Bellbunya will undergo a Classical Feng Shui assessment and renovation process.

The energy patterns in buildings have a profound impact on the experience of the people in that space. You will be encouraged to actively participate in the renovation and design process, through a series of  hands-on, energy-shifting practicum, to be held after the initial assessment. In this way you will be able  experience and feel the transformation of the buildings.

 •    How to map the energy patterns in buildings
•    The importance of time and space in building design
•    The role of male and female energies in  a home
•    How to design, decorate and renovate with feng shui
•    How to  sense the chi pattern in a building
•    Know how the energy pattern affects people lives
•    What role the environment plays 

When: Sunday 11 December 2011, 11am to 5pm

Where: Restaurant, Bellbunya, 114 Browns Rd, Belli Park

Cost: Free. Please bring lunch to share

Bookings: Karyn on 07 5447 0181,


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Dream Weavers ……

The Journey continues ….

I have always wanted to learn to weave baskets. I have borrowed books and admired finished articles in galleries and museums. In September I signed up for a 3 x Friday course at Mullumbimby and put out an invitation for others to learn something new. I realize it wasn’t handy for some and not possible for others, but hopefully it allowed a contemplation/ investigation to explore what was local, floated individual boats and worked with life/ work balance.

The Byron College has some fun courses, as do many other places. By reading through classes on offer, something may flutter your heart, encourage an exploration ……and initiate some thinking about ‘Infinite Possibilities’ for yourself. If you can gather others to share this journey of discovery …….. that’s a true bonus.

I have thought of every valid reason why I DO NOT have time to join you for this ‘basket’ adventure, combined with the fact that I DO NOT really need any woven baskets………..…..and so my answer is YES

Week 1 …

This was the intro ……….. Learn how to create beautiful baskets using natural fibres from plants that grow around us. You will learn how to recognise, gather and prepare local plants for weaving then be shown basic weaving techniques. This is a great way for women to come together and share their creative ideas. It’s fun and very relaxing, but be warned, it’s addictive! …
            More photos to come

Week 2 ..

First gather your palm fruit branches. Thanks Burnsie!


then lay 7-8 branches out flat beside each other and begin to weave them together randomly. Circle the edges together and build the sides of containment. Send the tops across to opposite sides. As Ella (our secret women’s business  teacher) would say … ‘let your brain tell you what to do. It is just under and over with no rules!” ………..  ‘Noice’

          Ella with Gina’s complicated zigzag branches. Who Knew!!!                                                 Dell’s ‘replacement’ … Jano
Trish and Julie with their emerging masterpieces.
Denise and her finished basket.                                                                                       Susie beavering away


Jano’s and Gina’s D.W.B (Dream weaver’s baskets)

Everyone limped home with more to do on their baskets and overworked fingers that had laboured from 9.30am to 2.30pm (with a quick bite of lunch). We all agreed that our confident start last week and quick result had not prepared us for the demands of this style of weaving. Unfortunately, the window of supple natural fibre is short, so it took immense fortitude to front up to more finger rasping at home. By the next day, nature had done it’s best to begin the drying process of returning the living back to the earth. The nodules from the berries that create the lovely texture had hardened and morphed into ‘barbed wire’.

Jano and I spent the next day plying heavy-duty recovery cream to our red and swollen fingers. The other weavers have generously not called in fear of what they might potentially blurt out. Anguish is hard to hide if my level of complaining is universal. ‘No pain … no gain’ was thinly murmured during class, but that positive spin would have been lost on those who soldiered on to finish their baskets at home. Well done us. Susie X

Week 3..

Our final formal class was transferred to Brunswick Heads along the estuary under one hundred year old trees. Delightful. A perfect day in the warm spring sunshine. Thanks to Ella and Kim for their words of wisdom and experienced fingers. Anyone can join Ella and her merry group on Thursdays 10.30 – 2.30pm (not school holidays) $25.00 at Brunswick Park across from the Pub!

Just ring so she knows you are going 0451274 187   or email

Pictorial story ….. P.s Sorry I blurred Trish’s action photo.



                       Susie’s and Gina’s D.W.B (Dream Weaver’s baskets)           Dell’s masterpiece … and waiting for more pics!

Jano’s awesome D>W<B
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Happiness in my garden …



My ‘Garden Happiness’ images were inspired by a project displayed at The Happiness Conference in Brisbane. A stay at home mum took snap shots each day for a year to reinforce that her monotonous life had moments to rejoice if she took the time to consider them. Her collection displayed the captured joy in the simple things. It reminded me to fold back ‘the busy’ to uncover the thankfulness we can enjoy with what we already have and fail to celebrate.



I love my garden. It’s my happy place…… Susie x

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The midlife parenting trap

The midlife parenting trap

I have just finished reading Robyn’s Vickers-Willis book on ‘Navigating the Empty Nest: redefining relationships” It makes for contemplative reading for ‘we of a certain age’ with adult children. I found this article (copied from The Age) that introduces the book. The article was written as a Father’s day piece and it is refreshing to consider the Dad position. I have the book in my ‘library’ for sharing.

 HERE is an important connection between a parent’s development at midlife and their children’s development. As renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said: “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” The stage of re-creating relationships with young adult children comes after parents have had the opportunity to navigate midlife transition, a time when our psyche encourages us to reclaim unlived aspects of our self and our life.

When I studied psychology in the 1970s, we never examined the huge upheavals that take place in a family as children become young adults, and parents find themselves forced to renegotiate these primary relationships, often unprepared. I started to explore them for myself when I experienced an unexpected roller-coaster of emotions as I acknowledged that one day soon my role as a hands-on mum would come to an end.

My mother died when I was 17 and I wondered whether this had contributed to the strength of my feelings and the depth of my uncertainty about how to navigate this transition. While still wondering, I was invited to Channel Seven’s Sunrise program to talk about this stage in family life, and to New Zealand to run workshops on the subject. As I listened to parents talk, it became clear that mine wasn’t a solitary experience. Other parents felt strong emotions while questioning how to re-create their relationships with their young adult children.

What struck me particularly was how difficult the transition was for many of the fathers I spoke with.

At midlife we — women and men — yearn to bring into our life what we haven’t given time to in the first half of life. If parents pay attention to this transition — a stage lasting from seven to 10 years, somewhere between the ages of 35 to 55 — they can develop many of the self-awareness skills necessary to reclaim more of their unlived life as they move on from a hands-on parenting role. These skills enable them also to re-create their relationships with their young adult children in a way that encourages their children to move out into the world in an empowered way.

For women, this can mean embracing the freedoms that this stage of life brings. A woman at midlife can feel swamped by relationships. So, as well as grieving over the end of her hands-on role as mother, she can rejoice in her liberation from the daily demands of caring for the physical and emotional needs of children.

In contrast, many baby-boomer fathers neglected relationships in the first half of their lives as they were busy competing and achieving. Many of these fathers desire at midlife to forge closer connections with their loved ones, and are now eager to clear their diaries to make room for their young adult children. There can be a deep sense of lost opportunity as a father realises his children are no longer as easily available.

For normal development, Jung said that in the first half of life we create a lifestyle and an understanding of who we are based on what our parents, other significant adults, peers, partners and society in general expect of us. Through this conditioning we learn that parts of us are unacceptable and these parts we repress in our unconscious. Jung went on to say that for healthy development in the second half of life, we need to create a life based on who we truly are, and to do this we need to complete two main developmental tasks for midlife transition.

First, we need to find ways to go within to discover more about our own true nature, including reclaiming parts of ourselves repressed when young. And second, we need to create a lifestyle based on this understanding of who we truly are.

These understandings of Jung’s about midlife development are supported by research quoted by American writer Gail Sheehy. In her acclaimed book New Passages, she notes the principal findings from longitudinal studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Men and women who emerge psychologically healthiest at 50 are those who, as their goals and expectations change with age, shape a ‘new self ‘ that calls on qualities that were dormant earlier. This ‘new self’ then fits in to a new life structure appropriate to the second half of adulthood.”

In a recent interview, a journalist asked me: “Which is easier when re-creating relationships with young adult children? To be a single parent or a couple? To sell the family home or re-create relationships with children while in the family home? Or to have children move out and then perhaps move back in again?”

I responded: “Whatever the family living situation, the crucial aspect is for parents to be conscious of what is happening within them and in their outer behaviour as they engage with their children. It is this self-awareness that will guide them to re-create their relationships with their children in a way that serves everybody’s development.”

I learnt this through my own experience. It was through acknowledging and processing my gut-wrenching grief as I considered the prospect of relinquishing my role as hands-on mum, that I freed myself to imagine and subsequently create new ways of relating to my young adult children while celebrating the new-found space I had for my own life after 25 years of family living.

But for many boomer fathers, conditioned — and often expected — to put work before family relationships, this sort of realisation can come painfully late.

Ian, 56, recently retired after successful senior roles in companies involving extended periods away from home, could be seen as typical of this group of fathers. Recently separated, and with a daughter aged 28 and a son 26, both now living away from home, he told me: “When you first asked me about my relationship with my children I immediately felt sad and a sense of loss because my mind takes me back to the time when I’ve been apart from my children — not at home for long lengths of time when they were young and at home — and at times the underlying sense of quite overwhelming grief at this feeling of loss that is created within me, the sense of them moving on to the next stage in their life when I haven’t shared enough of the time at home and I haven’t shared enough of the home while they’ve been there.”

Many baby-boomer fathers were conditioned when young to not connect to their own emotional world, and can easily feel overwhelmed and isolated in this sense of loss. If they are to develop the level of self-awareness necessary to create healthy relationships with their adult children they need to find support to work through this grief.

During midlife we can learn to define ourselves beyond the roles that have given our life meaning in the first half of life. Many baby-boomer fathers embraced the stereotypical attitude in our society of defining their role of father as “provider”. As a result, their sense of self and personal meaning in the first half of life is tied up with meeting their children’s material needs. Without this awareness, a father can easily sabotage his children’s development by continuing to provide beyond when it is appropriate. Unconsciously he is drawn to do this to continue to give his own life meaning while maintaining the “money supply” connection with his children.

John, 28, related to me how he had to ask his father several times to not put money in his bank account. He could not keep track of what he had earned and what his father had contributed, and this bothered him. This young man was more conscious of his developmental needs than was his father. He knew the relationship with his father needed to be re-created. He wanted to feel empowered and secure by knowing he could provide for himself.

Some fathers are aware of the need for change in their own lives as they navigate midlife transition. Their challenge can be developing skills that enable them to stick up for their own needs while experiencing resistance, both imagined and otherwise, from family members.

JACOB, 53, a successful businessman, married with three sons aged 30, 28 and 26, explained to me how resentment built up in him as he reconnected with a love of painting, something he had enjoyed at school but had then set aside. As he yearned to create space in his life for this “lost love”, he was dominated by the thought that his wife and sons took for granted his financial support yet didn’t seem to appreciate all that he gave up to do this. Paradoxically, he also knew this was something he wanted to continue to honour.

After a couple of months he set up a studio at home, using the space created since his middle son had left home after finally completing his second degree. “Despite this being the only room in the house that suited my needs, as it was the one with the right natural light,” he told me, “there was much resistance from my wife for me to use it, despite there being other rooms that were really now spare bedrooms. My wife said my son’s bedroom should be left as it was, just in case. I found it so difficult to stand up for my own needs and to not see them as selfish.”

It is vital for parents to develop a variety of navigational tools if they are to have the level of self-awareness and self-expression skills necessary to support their children’s healthy development into the adult world while supporting their own developmental needs. As an example, one morning several years ago one of my sons offered to cook breakfast, and I noticed I wanted to interfere. My role as “doing” mother was so hard-wired that I had to leave the kitchen, go into the garden, and give myself a good talking to, which went something like this: “You have wanted your children to act in a more adult way. Don’t sabotage it. Celebrate it.” After saying this to myself several times I was able to go back into the kitchen with increased self-awareness and enjoy a breakfast cooked by my 22-year-old son.

Another time I realised there was a possibility my children might treat my new home on the coast as a holiday house where they could bring their friends at weekends. I spent much time unravelling my feelings before I could clearly acknowledge I had entered a new stage in life and that my new home was not a family home. I would love to see them and their partners but, just as I wouldn’t assume I could go into their share houses with my friends, I didn’t want them to assume they could bring theirs to mine. The thought of expressing this truth raised such anxiety in me that I considered selling my newly renovated home.

To be able to express these new personal boundaries, I first had to challenge thoughts such as, “A good mother wouldn’t express this to her children; a good mother would enjoy having her children’s friends as well.” By noticing, and then challenging, these thoughts I accepted that although these thoughts may have been appropriate when my children were younger, they no longer served me. It was important for me to continue to claim my own life and to create new personal boundaries, as I supported them to do the same.

All fathers are unique, so each will find his own way to navigate this stage in family life. If he feels adrift and bereft, these feelings are the wind in his sails pushing him towards the consciousness necessary to let go of his hands-on fathering role. It is important that he does not snap the moorings too quickly; nor does he want to hold on for too long. As he re-creates his relationship with his children, he learns that it is never too late to enjoy a rich relationship with a loved one, nor is it ever too late to reclaim unlived aspects of one’s own life. To choose not to do so can haunt a father for the rest of his life.

Names in this story have been changed. Robyn Vickers-Willis is a psychologist and writer. Her latest book is Navigating the Empty Nest: re-creating relationships, by Wayfinder Publishing.

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Retreating …. who knew??

Early June and there were frantic scenes as I gathered resources, filled baskets, shuffled paper and hurried off to a destination that my GPS failed to know. With my synchronicity machine humming, I impulsively took a leap of faith, sent an email to a sustainable community that a friend mentioned (because of their hemp buildings), and arrived a few days later at Billen Cliffs, Sundara Retreat. Their meditation, vegetarian meals, and sustainable community were the lure of this adventure. I hoped to write and learn how to meditate. Lofty ideals really!

My 5 day journal …..By choosing the road less traveled, the dangers of missing sign posts becomes a greater possibility. If the vision outside is comfortable, it often reinforces that we know the path. It may not be as interesting but it is familiar. Today I ventured off the beaten track through winding hills, dirt roads, and previously unexplored terrain. Sundara Retreat was a tranquil sounding place, buried within a community removed from all others and functioning as a refuge for people who want a different kind of existence for themselves and their families. It began some 30 years ago away from the rainbow town of Nimbin, yet close enough to share their colours.

My navigational aids refused to register the locality and discussions with 4 folk on the road failed to send me with expediency to my destination. What did this mean? I created stories about why no one speaks its name …so only the ‘enlightened ones’ pass through the gates? By sheer process of elimination, unit 25 came into view. A narrow track wrapped in vegetation welcomed me to my 5 day retreat. Initially the ‘visitors only’ sign sounded a touch aggressive, but a private road with no exit needs rules I decided in its defense. My little car was the perfect arrival vehicle, anything else would have bulldozed the delicate overhang that cocooned the driveway. Peace flags that were once a colourful welcome now flew with aged bleaching. It was comforting that they had been doing their job, years before my visit.

Govinda extended his cold gardening hands in welcome. His beanie warmed his ears but his eyes needed so such accessory. His german accent was soft and unhurried in its delivery. Together we explored my home for 5 days, turning knobs and switches, lighting the gas with explanation of the ‘lie of the land’. Before the day light went to some other place, we wandered the garden, visited their Hindu Temple and discovered the house that Govinda had built with his own hands more than 20 years ago.

With the car unpacked and my simple provision stowed, the little gas heater blazed in the corner, its safety compliance a mere technicality overlooked! I consciously kept the door unlocked ready for an escape hatch. In reality a bomb is hard to run from. Leaving the door ajar for leaking gas was not instigated in 8 degree temperatures either. My ‘Gypsy Girl’ tea, nuts, fruit and rice crackers seemed a suitably simple dinner. The heater glowed and complimented my ugg boots, down jacket and fleecy everything else. Govinda popped in a couple of times. His courteous gentle knocks were barely audible over my soft music and reading intensity. Our discussion centred around me knowing that my consciousness had been awakened, but I couldn’t make sense of the rest. I wanted time to unlock the mystery of a secret, to discover my unconscious self. I struggled to explain to Govinda the overwhelming emotion of feeling incredibly ungrateful that my wonderful life was still lacking something.

Govinda returned, pleased with his selection of a book for me from his library. ‘A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose’ by Eckhart Tolle. (The cover was familiar. We have it at home, still unread to the end). His kind eyes searched mine while he talked. He waited like a practiced psychologist for me to move the conversation on. We decided on an 11 o’clock meeting in the temple, when it was warmer. To meditate with a slowed  heart apparently encourages icicles to form.

I loaded the bed with pillows, peeled off my day clothes and replaced them with night layers. Two woolen blankets, a doona and a spare quilt coat my bed. Socks and down jacket gave me confidence of a warm slumber. As is the case with most night reads, the end came quickly. I promised to avoid my watch, but habit intervened, and a glance announced  9 o’clock. As I pulled the heavy layers of bedding up to my chin, I thought … toughen up!

Snuggled with my dreams, a resident possum decided to scratch on the roof as though it was his dinner delight. Without street lights the darkness was complete. Instinctively I shone my head torch up to the ceiling to pinpoint the disturbance. Possum boy was unperturbed. His antics reminded me of Bella preparing a comfy bed on the hard marble by scratching a nest for herself. A wander outside confirmed the noise was overhead, genius, and that was was still 8 degrees. Freezing in terms of a body dressed in light pj’s. Awake again after 15 minutes of calling the day quits. Who wrote ‘everything is an opportunity’! With head torch blazing and ol’ mate clawing his way through the roof tiles, (his idea not mine) I reopened my reading assignment and continued. What serendipity  to be given another 2 hours of useful moments of clarity to write up the first day of this unexplored passage of my life.

Early day 2, and the darkness of the night was only visible when you’re awake. A trip to the outside loo was more tedious than usual. The drop toilet was a tinker-less invention, what a revelation at 3 am. Beside the sliding door is the thermometer, the constant reminder of the chill. Finally light ushered in the day. I determined that the bird life was frozen and their  muffled songs were from some brave frost resistant varieties. How can feet stay like ice blocks under socks, blankets plural, and 3 layers of folded quilt. My departing message to Burnsie was ‘keep the home fires burning, and I’ll be back to warm my feet’ … I had no inkling that my extremities would struggle as  a result of this sentiment. A little hammer of a thought to wrap my toes in my down vest was not instigated.

Outside the day was so still, the banana leaf sails were completely lifeless. The garden sat like it was in a staring competition and it knew it would win. Nothing stirred. It was like a time warp here. No hustle and bustle introduced the day, just calm and inactivity. Time to be.

Over my pj’s I layered fleecy everything, and shared my tea with the heater. My toes toasted in front of the gas burner, pure luxury as a result of childhood admonishment when the practice was band. My homework from Govinda was his book, our book actually. We both own one. My gem of enlightenment sleeps on my desk at home. A faint flicker of familiarity ensured I did open the front cover. This morning was like camping in a valley. You know the day will be beautiful when the sun eventually gets into your shadow. A canopy of forest veiled the blue sky that spread above. 9am and 4 degrees. My forest home enveloped me in a microcosm of arctic.

Porridge with brown sugar sprinklings, served from the pot. It felt deliriously ‘against the rules’, and tasted significantly hotter than if I hadn’t.  Making the bed with only half disturbed was quite a lonely moment. No gay abandonment and luxuriating in total bed greed. I blamed the cold and ignored the conditioning of marriage. By 11 am I had climbed the steep road to the nature reserve, and enjoyed the call of the whip birds, a visit from a wallaby and sighting of a kookaburra. Lantana had spread its feral self all through the valley below and beyond. The land felt neglected.

Would you like to do a Re-birthing … uuummmm … What time?

Govinda waited at our prearranged time. He welcomed me into his Hindu temple with great reverence. After the candles were lit, he delivered a most harmonic, guttural, vibrating chant and instructed me to summons the ‘wise one’ to hear our hopes. I rang the hand bell with self-conscious vigor. Its chime was hard to ignore. Waking the dead came to mind!!

In the coldness of this sparse space, I lay down on a mat with blankets covering my still body. The machine that helps balance the body’s chi, acted under my ankles to motion my feet to rock and relax. I wondered if my sister, Jano knew her identical machine had ‘special powers’….. we had simply enjoyed its rhythmic sway that encouraged body calm. What follows was my ‘re birthing’ experience, written without judgment, understanding or consideration. It was just this.

Relaxing, letting go, submitting. Balancing chi and me concentrating on my breath. My command was to witness the breath as it flowed in and out. Drawing energy ‘in’ and releasing unwanted things ‘out’. Wanderings of my attention just demanded that I come back to my breath.  A focal point, a position of neutrality, the beginning and end point. It was a challenge to follow Govinda’s directions with a busy brain. With drumming and chanting, singing and music, an old tape recorder delivered an interplay of moods. My conscious mind was wondering if the bumbling cassette changes and aged tracks would inhibit ‘the event’.

It is hard to give this experience words that others could hear with the intended meaning. As my body relaxed, there was a tingling presence of awareness of my arms, legs, torso and head. Much like a controlled yoga relaxation class. Govinda radiated words of light and brilliance entering through my feet and shining through my spine. A lotus flower with a million lights illuminating my head, brain and all the pathways. I imagined his words. This sensation was powerfully strengthening.

My mind was struggling for an escape hatch. It was goading me, challenging and mocking in equal proportions. My concentration was reducing my thoughts to wander elsewhere but seriously nothing arrived …. maybe less brain banter but no inspiration! Govinda had said go with your thoughts. Mine were just articulating ‘shut up and stay focused’. My head voice was wondering if anyone would ‘show up’. Then came this overwhelming experience. I saw myself in colours of vivid purples and bright fuchsia, veiled with gold adornment, nothing particular but doubtless in my mind, a goddess. I sat with crossed legs and understood that my purpose here was to be given great gifts of ultimate knowledge from elders generations old. Their wisdom was being passed on to me with tremendous emotional gratitude. Tears rolled into my ears, my humbleness tightened my throat. I was truly overwhelmed with this extraordinary trust of being this chosen girl. My body shook and trembled uncontrollably. There was no sense of fear, just privilege and incredible personal strength. I felt the passing of all that they knew to me.

I could hear myself saying, ‘what’s all this … and who sent this television series to me’. But the story continued. Once this feeling of transformation finished, I was illuminated in whiteness, with doves of peace, and a knowing that I had received this gift. I sat with reverence, not for myself. It wasn’t about me personally. It felt larger than self. I know this is sounding B grade movie, but I walked with steps of a person entrusted with a secret. I knew other who needed me would recognize this gift and ask for it. It mattered not that all people understood this. There was no ego. No vision of doing good or saving souls. My bestowed wisdom was simply available when it was ready to be heard, and then it would be significant and serve ‘God’ …. I don’t know why I picked this word. I imagined my wise ones were eastern gurus, draped in red and yellow, faceless maybe Buddhist. I walked with spiritual grace, high in my own sense of being (whatever that means) Regal, proud, confident and humble.

Once the ceremony was finished, I danced like a whirling belly dancer, whimsical in movement with soft chiffon floating through my heaven lifted arms. Gentle folds of lustrous costume told the story of a celebration. It was spiritual, joyous yet controlled. The radiance in my heart was for everyone.

There were 3 times that my chest heaved and tears flowed. The specifics are lost. I knew that I had done enough and the last few sessions of music, chants, and mood were ignored. My mind was trying to make sense of the huge emotion generated. My body was layered with multiple blankets, yet my body shook with chill. There were shudders in my chest as though I had jumped into a cold shower, but my feet and hands were cosy. The sensation was like a movie scene that seems to affect your core and freezes your heart.

When I opened my eyes, I felt I had been on a journey. It had all the drama and paragraphs of a thrilling book. Govinda simply said … ‘quite a journey hey?’ All I could do was nod. He left me with an empty circle on a piece of paper and instructed me to draw without thinking. What emerged was a goddess with bestowed wisdom and gratitude. So what to make of this ….? After I relayed my experience to Govinda he nodded in his quiet way and said …’ trust your inner voice’.

By session end, I was ready for a cuppa tea and a fridge full of food. Journeying is hungry work. ! Nearly 2 hours of my non refundable life time had wandered past ‘without’ a blink. After a visit to their library, I grabbed nuts and fruit, strapped on my walking shoes and retraced my car drive to the main entrance. Along the way was an invitation to Saturday’s coffee club, and another for the community Bush Dance, both posted on chalk boards.

The incomplete hall reflected a money drought in the community. It was an imposing structure in size. I reasoned that less may have been finished. Bundles of size specific firewood was scattered orderly across the grassed area ready for the social event of the year. By chance I arrived at the bus shelter as the children tumbled out of the bus. 3 different buses transport some of the 60 children living in this community (of 115 plots of 2 acres each). All this was gleaned from a dad I met waiting for his children. He suggested that the community works well for kids: multiple mums to oversee them, play mates on tap, support for young families, a quick phone call for help, dinner or school collection. In the last 5-6 years young families have proliferated and the community fabric alters as a result of the cycle of life.

Back home and 4 pm felt like day’s end. As the sun left and the night chill seeped into the valley, my down jacket was zipped neck high. Within moments, I had abandoned my verandah writing and lit the gas heater. The door was quickly closed to thwart the bush turkey and retain the warmth. Dinner of Pumpkin soup, sour dough toast followed by a good borrowed book. ‘Noice’

Day 3 arrived and I woke with the luxurious feeling of being snug. How delicious.!

My eyes scanned the day. Grey, not too early and really still. For the first time I noticed the kitchen: salmon pink, neat business like. Just the basics, no frills and no need. Lots of plans for the day were vacillating. Should I consider ‘doing’ stuff, or just ‘being’. Like all hard decisions, I simply started the day and waited for inspiration. Heater and tea in that order with rambling pages of sustainable community reflection for company. Porridge and mandarins for breakfast. Not exactly tantalizing but happy enough. Initially I thought my humble food gathering looked a little sparse, but I won’t starve and shall probably take some home…. the ‘loaves and fishes’ story.

The dreaded shower loomed. Great hot water, but a challenge to regulate and precious. Was that the rain water … or me? Housework was ticked off, and the morning refused to kick start with any solar warming. With puffy down jacket zipped, I wondered how the monks in the monasteries float around in cotton robes of nothing much. I decided to work on my meditation time in the temple. The incense reminded me of my visit yesterday.

Religion is a weird thing. Today, I again found myself in a foreign domain. Alter gifts, idols, symbolic paintings, flowers and candles. I was in no mans land, somewhere between self and others. People talk of the spiritual presence in places of worship. It captures me when I go to church and become inexplicably chocked as I attempt to sing hymns.  The well of tears and tightness in my throat was here again. I have never properly contemplated the reason. This kingdom belongs to someone else, yet I find its sacredness emotional.

I appropriately thanked the ones who listen to good intentions. I asked (whoever was available for listening … probably just me) ‘what I needed to know’ for myself. Sitting on the beautifully laid out cushions looked more comfortable than my knees thought it would be so I decided to lie down. This usually signaled quieter mind time. I unfolded my body flat with my head resting on the hard matting. I bound my feet with a rug and when there was nothing else to adjust, I committed to time listening to my breathing. It was like wanting to pick up sounds in the darkness, so you just fabricate it. Interestingly, I seemed to be tuned into the ‘chatter station’, possibly on short 15 second jingles. The only rescue remedy was “returning my attention to the breath” … Govinda’s mantra to me.

With closed eyes and attention diverted away from my cold feet, it was immediately obvious that my mind was in gymnastic mode. Huge exhalations released the air that was caught behind my clenched teeth. From yesterday’s class I revisited the washing of the imaginary waves over my body, then I watched my unwanted baggage tumble back into the sea. My exhale saw an art work of objects roll away under the outgoing tide. The wave pattern aligned with my rate of breathing. The in-breath began as lifeful bubbly foam and then morphed into a snug blanket being tenderly tucked right up under my chin. I was taken my the cosy-ness and security. Tight and tidy. I felt cocooned. Then the most amazing moment began. My grandma, Gar, bent down and and kissed my forehead, like she did when we were little. I got misty relating this, but my eyes filled with tears as an immediate reaction to the memory. The radiance of love was as if she had hugged me close to her bosom. This was my grandmother who had the wisdom to share quality time with us; with bubble baths, powder puffs, canasta card games, family dinners, corn beef sandwiches and school lunch pies on rainy days. I had asked for wisdom and Gar arrived! At that moment I believed she was my guardian angel. She smiled at me as though she had revealed her true identity to me. An old soul doing her work. I cried almost for the ignorance of not knowing her. She was an undercover agent! Shamefully I said to myself, no wonder she always seemed to win the raffle, she was psychic! With this explosion of emotion, my meditation time was completely ambushed.

The day continued with ice-blocks attached to the clouds. It was too unpleasant in the shadowy valley, so I decided to visit the permaculture garden at Nimbin. Nimbin never fails to surprise me and I knew what to expect. Shop fronts with 70’s bill boards, heritage listed, looked faded and jaded just like the faces that peak from colourful human head gear. The cold brought fashion statements of colourful varieties of winter apparel. My overwhelming vision was grey hair, a lost ‘war’, disappointment and no zest. Sparks from the young and the visiting brightened the street. A modern cafe served organic food piled high.

My lunch was a fantasy of colourful rainbows intertwined through my salad and vegetable lasagna. Without a hint of self consciousness, I flashed my lunch with my camera. It appeared that the chef knew my cabin rations were a little inadequate.

As coincidence would have it, I rang Govinda to find him 20 metres away. We greeted and slapped each others backs like old friends. His turban hat, stripped shirt, comfy pants, choker and gypsy belt was a costume perfect for the street. Together we visited the Nimbin permaculture garden. Today was their open day:

Food, fire, ecological and sustainability talks, a band of 2, a ferret, a pet bird. Tidy permaculture vegetable beds, happy ducks, glamorous chooks, ugly and not so white pigs, stands of bamboo and mud. It had everything! Permaculture students had prepared the day, presenting their work with obvious pride. My orderly brain was hushed over weeds, piles of ‘you never know it might be useful’ junk, wonky fences, and the long list of more to do. Maybe I can never be on the land!

Home from Nimbin, via Stoney Shute Road. Another new route. It was like snakes and ladders when you consulted a road map here. Mountains and rocky escarpments conquer and divide communities.There seemed to be secret roads with no destination marked. The drive through curvaceous bends and hilly farmland was picturesque in the falling daylight. Darkness arrived as we parked. First job, the gas heater, second the fleecy pants and third, ugg boots. The rain began to bucket down. The community bush dance might have issues with lighting their gigantic bonfire. The rain had invited the clouds to blanket the earth. Dinner was pear and cheese, walnuts and mandarin. Not exactly a hearty meal, but suitable just the same. My dismissive daydream about buying chocolate turned out to be a nightmare mistake.

Day 4 Sunday 12 June 2011. The rain began some time after dark the night before. Its falling muffled all outside noise, like a cone of silence. The Bush Dance happened without us. Julie had mentioned drugs, drinks and them not going in the same breath. I followed suit. Sometime during bed sleep, I woke to talk my bladder down and opened my eyes to complete darkness. To avoid waking myself up, I usually refuse to let the light hit my eyes as it seems to be the ignition switch to my brain. I remembered thinking how crazy that open or closed eyes produced the same outcome. Black!

My morning visit to Julie allowed me to see her cosy house with potbelly stove,  walls stacked with books and tapes, stained glass windows and jars of produce lining the kitchen. We chattered about the community and the challenges associated with it. Issued endemic to all societies are alive and well here too: frustration, expectation, judgment, annoyance, thoughtlessness and selfish behaviour. I felt a little shattered to be honest. Somehow I envisaged a more harmonious life, free of pettiness and trivial disquiet. Oh well. It is hopeful to be idealistic that others have found a better way to live. In reality it is just different.

Julie explained the meditative processes, and there are many: from breath awareness, candle visualization, music, chants, tapes of guiding words and walking. She took me through a directed meditation sitting on a chair. This avoided crossing my inflexible legs on a pillow or lying downs. A horizontal position often begins with good intentions but usually results in slumber! How did she know? My bobbing head signaled meditation failure. I felt that I had been ‘away’ (possibly asleep) as opposed to enjoying a mystical carpet ride. My body felt calm and heavy, similar to an afternoon snooze  … oopps!

Next was meditative walking, thoughtful feet placement in slow considered motion, using kimono wearing size steps. Taking your awareness to the floor and noticing it relationship to your body weight was surprisingly enjoyable. Was it the balancing challenge that created interest and produced motivation? In a spiritual blink, 3 hours had past. Life could be fleeting with all this inward attention. The rain continued to drizzle down. Monstrous leaves acted like drum kits with collective water droplets poring off tree leaves and beating their arrival below. In this sanctuary, the world sits apart from here and me.

All afternoon, Louie’s Hays’ book, ‘The Power is Within You‘, told its story to me. My writing pad filled with scratchings of shared clarity, and wisdom worth remembering. Cups of tea, baked beans, avocado and nuts fueled the body and the heater warmed the cottage to a comfortable temperature. At 6pm, buttered mushrooms called my name. Darkness descended early and my watch was quite irrelevant for my schedule. The little music box pumped out happy tunes in the enclosed space and it felt like real company . A silent retreat with music smuggled in is a good compromise.

Day 4 Monday and murky light greeted my eyes. Had the rain stopped at all last night? 7am and my morning unfolded with the thrill of lighting the gas burner, boiling the pot and layering my body with clothes. The next fun was a visit to the tinker-less toilet and then to my writing chair. My enthusiasm to get on with the piles of book to review was proportional to the window of retreat time that was quickly closing. I can’t imagine maintaining my focus elsewhere, hence the positive urgency. 

Comfort food arrived in the form of porridge, and eggs followed when a reward was required and there was no cake. By 11 am I have mastered the speed shower, reviewed another book and trundled up to the temple to meet Julie. Her offer of healing hands sounded intriguing. We agreed to a 2pm date.

With umbrella in hand, I ignored all my rain gear and headed off to circumnavigate the ring road. Within minutes my socks are squelched. A big black umbrella completely co-ordinates my attire…. black everything, including the weather. The community signs have numbers and colours to assist in unraveling the labyrinth of paths. Sadly, my intuition failed me and my main road ended at someone’s front door. Pockets of homes, paddocks of ponies, ponds, and wilderness are dotted along my path and behind private lane ways. Solar panels, water tanks and creative homemade architecture keep my interest between puddle jumps. Living in this community is about a road less traveled, and one rarely paved.







After 2 hours I had returned to home base, pleased that I had arrived to shake out the ‘brollie’ and position my wet feet in front of the gas. My 4 days of vegetarianism ended with tuna salad.

My time with Julie was not very informative, but her meditative words created a relaxed hour or 2. Soft healing hands, aromatherapy, heated room, all good. The rain continued to fall. I wondered if I would be hemmed in with flooded culverts. Tonight I had to review 2 books, listen to a yoga tape, and read about a yogi master. How was that going to work without coffee, sugar or chocolate? In a moment of clarity, I realized I had the raw ingredients for glazed sugar almonds. What a magician … or was it desperate cabin fever behaviour!

My tuna  & avocado dip straight out of the can was a mish-mash of delicacies, but I have long thrown away my chef’s cap in this secret kitchen. The book, Saving our Adolescents, was a sobering reminder of the enormity of raising well adjusted children. I cry as words resonate with me as a parent and a teacher of adolescent students. Some tears for intuitive success but the most for heart felt words that remind me of my human frailties. My ignorance , my unknowing, my immature wisdom that created a bumpy road for the ones I love the most. I now acknowledge my inner motive to collaborate stories from others about parenting. I feel a greater knowing will come for myself and I want to share it with others who need to know these truths. I go to bed with my head swimming with good intentions. To finish off the day’s reading, I complete The Slippery Years, a laughable tale of a mum and her 9 year old son, whose closeness pounds my heart

The final day 5 Tuesday arrived after a fitful night’s sleep. For the first time, I quickly closed the door after a loo visit, to keep out the darkness that now scared me. I ponder my distressed state and ruminate about the benefit of contemplation! Finally I heard the  birds call to announce the rain had stopped and the day had begun. I felt grateful that the veil of grey had been removed and today was like a fresh start. I stripped my bed, but intentionally left my personal packing to avoid the signal of completion. There was a letter to write to our children.

Dear Alex, Jarrah, Mitchell

Earlier in the month I found myself sitting in a Hindu Temple on the last day of a 5 day retreat. The sun was streaming in after many days constant rain. I decided to write a letter to you while I was zen-ed! It has taken 2 weeks to type it up!

To my little darlings …

This temple sits in a sustainable community outside … Nimbin!! It has an enormous cross section of folk both spiritual, environmental, conscious thinkers, and brain damaged pot heads. From the stories that I heard from the community, it made me appreciate that all of us are living our lives as best we can. To notice in ourselves our good fortune, our limiting personal beliefs and tapping into our emotions for guidance is a great skill in a world of pace, gadgetry and pressure to be ‘doing’.

Sitting still gives answers to things that feel out of reach in our busy lives. It can give a compass to what we really want and helps aligns us with the core belief of ourselves. I came here to find time to write and research a book idea about Parenting Adult Children, more of a collection of wisdom from others… and to learn to meditate. I knew when I left there I would loose some clarity and reconnect with the frenetic mental gymnastics that we all do plotting our next moves.

The wisdom I share is about ‘presence’. Feeling the moments that pass and taking time to know the happiness, pride, joy, thrills that wrap around you…. and identify the sadness,hurt, confusion, disappointment, resentment, disillusionment too. By listening to your inner self, the outer will respond. Be the people your hearts know you are and the rest will unfold in the way synchronicity occurs. Be open to opportunity and go with your instinct and nurture your intuition. If it feels too hard, too wrong, too uncomfortable look somewhere else. Your life’s path should be effortless when you find your passion.

All our journeys are created to teach us things about ourselves. Some are harder to learn than others. To ignore the lesson sometimes involves repeating the failure. No experience is truly bad, it’s just something to take wisdom from in the future. To question … what did I have to learn by going through this? builds awareness and a new path forward. To get a different outcome, you have to do something different.

I want to find the words to say how fabulous you are, each in your own unique way.  Know that you are well loved and respected as the fine adults you have become. Take care to nurture yourselves and guard against powerful personalities and hectic living that can derail your authentic self.

Love Mum xxx

P.S I haven’t danced off with the fairies or changed my name to ‘Ashanti’ … but I could!

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Parenting Adult Children… please share your wisdom :)

The article in Thursday’s GC Bulletin 9 June 2011 ……

My toddler taming books have definitely past their used by date. Those early years of parenting were filled with sleepless nights, physical exhaustion, 24/7 surveillance, and on- demand attention. The awe of human development, the sheer delight of witnessing news skills, and strong emotional attachment maintained my selfless parental engagement.

When my job felt overwhelming and the rigor encompassing, a wise owl of a mother (with young adult children) cooed in my ear …”you think littlies are hard, just you wait!” It was inconceivable at the time to imagine that the demands of parenting could be notched higher in later years. I remember quietly exclaiming to myself ‘you’ve got to be joking!’

Our 3 darling adult children have taught us much. I now better understanding the too much/ not enough equation involving ingredients such as care, love, understanding, empathy, demand, choice, direction, expectation, power, money and dependence.

It is comforting hearing stories from parent warriors who have come before, and done their very best at the time. The voice of wisdom gained through tears and despair can be priceless words to those who need to hear them. The jewel in the conversation comes from what would we have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. Lessons hardest learnt often resonate the loudest. So if you have had moments of clarity in parenting adult children, please share them. Email

Each contribution of wisdom assists us all to grow wise together. Consider penning your stories about adult children described as revolving door, jobless, dateless, vacillators, late bloomers, behaviour extremists, divorcees, and single parents…. Ones who struggle with job disillusionment, life disappointment, mental illness, physical injury, addiction and money troubles. The challenges are endless, but the anecdotes soften the blows, normalize the experience and hopefully create insight, support and empathy. Truth in humour often works best!

(Susie Burns (dip teach, B.Ed, M.Ed) is a retired teacher with 3 adult children. She is keenly interested in building ‘community’ and sharing wisdom. Her book on Shared Wisdom ..Parenting Adult Children will be published next year.)






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Finding your true Self

from the book Navigating Midlife…

‘Our own answers are within each of us. Our inner voice speaks to us from our unconscious through images, metaphors and symbols. If we show a friendly and accepting manner to them, they will guide us on our way. When we go within through creative pursuits, meditation, dreams, writing, or simply being still, we do find answers that help us find our true Self’.

                                                                                 Robyn Vickers-Willis

When we are alone and quiet we are afraid that something will be whispered in our ear, so we hate the silence and drug ourselves with social life.

Friedrich Nietzsch

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Navigating Midlife …..

The story started for me when our ‘old soul’, Jarrah sent me an email with 15 anxiety characteristics. I could tick everyone. I was micro-managing her life with a parent hand that should have been waving her off. She said, “I’m ok … work on yourself”.

After a few false starts, I have investigated my perimenopausal stage with blood tests, HRT, and sort life counseling to help me work out why I felt so ‘lack lusted’. It became obvious that I was at a turning point in my life’s road. I needed to develop a vision for a good life, one lived with passion and purpose…. and free my suppressed authentic self.

I have read widely, looked outside my old self and refreshed the idea of new possibilities. Today I came across a psychologist and writer, Robyn Vickers-Willis. Her book is available on line to read …. FYI              Susie x

Use link below …

Midlife Matters :Robyn took part in a serial feature called Midlife Matters, for Radio Nationals Life Matters program.

link to radio conversation of topics below

Week 1: Why the focus on midlife and why it matters

Week 2: The Benefits

Week 3: Relationships

Week 4: Difficult Feelings

Week 5: Assertiveness

Week 6: intimate Relationships

Week 7: Work

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Monica & Tim’s Fresh Lunch Sunday

Sunday 29th May … a diary date to share beautiful food from Barker’s garden. The duck and skippy were imported items, while most other ingredients were sourced from home.


We arrived, we ate … we sipped champagne and we continued to eat …. all afternoon!




The Kitchen and deck chefs ……..




The Feasting ………



The desert plate from the fruit garden, lime tarts and  pumpkin ice cream … who knew?


The tip toe through the vegetable garden with the irrigation pump dial selected to ‘rain’.


Our merry band of bloated tasters rolled home with much happiness in our hearts….. and bellies! Thank you to Tim and Monica for sharing their garden goodies with a pinch of quality community life sprinkled liberally. We loved today. xx


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Permaculture Day: Mullumbimby Community Garden

      Lemon Grass  The Mullumbimby Community Garden, Stuart St .

Permaculture Design Principles:

  • Observe & interact … beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • Catch & store … make hay while the sun shines
  • Obtain a yield … you can’t work on an empty stomach
  • Apply self regulation … The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the 7th generation
  • Use and value renewable resources and services … let nature take its course
  • Produce no waste … a stitch in time saves 9. Waste not, want not
  • Design from patterns to details … Can’t see the woods for the trees.
  • Integrate rather than segregate … many hands make light work.
  • use small & slow solutions … the bigger they are the harder they fall. Slow & steady wins the race
  • Use & value diversity … don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • Use edges and value the marginals … don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well beaten path.
  • Creatively use & respond to change … vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.



Ideas for garden beds ……..


Non dig garden: gypsum, manure, wet paper, green material (yarrow, canna, comphrey) dry, brown material. Repeat layers and plant into holes filled with soil. Water well.

          Sharing of root plants and organic seedlings


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