What the rock told me...

What the rock told me...

 When we moved back to New Zealand from New York in 2009 two fantails made their nest in the sycamore tree at the end of our driveway. We delighted in watching the playful birds construct their nest, and then guard the eggs diligently until four fluffy little birds poked their heads out of the nest...beaks asking for food on a clear bright spring day.

I knew that in Maoritanga the fantail or piwakawaka was thought to be a symbol of death, or a herald of a message from the spirit world. This seemed fitting as the sudden death of my uncle one of the reasons for our move back home.

Little did I know that within a couple of years of the nesting piwakawaka, Mark would lose his father suddenly and I would then lose my beloved mother to cancer only a few months later.

Looking back, the piwakawaka heralded the arrival of a five year period that taught our family more than we wanted to know about death and grief.

But it taught us about healing too.

When I was weighed down by the loss of my mother and the heaviness of my father, whose depression seemed immoveable, I made my way to the end of Karitane beach.

Just before the beach turns to cliff tops there is a cluster of large volcanic stones that early Maori called the Rainbow Rocks. Apparently each one of them has a particular name that I would love to know, but the ancient maps have disappeared and like most sacred knowledge the answers are hard won, and I have not yet been able to find the answer.

It is said that in the old days, tohunga (Maori healers) took people down from the Pa to the Rainbow Rocks for healing, and that there the ancestors would gather and bring the solutions to many problems.

I had no knowledge of this at the time that I made one of these rocks my best friend during the roughest period of my grieving journey.

My rock is known by locals as the wishing rock as it is pockmarked at the base with holes just big enough to fit a smooth round beach rock. Locals choose a stone and a prayer and place these wishes with their rock into the small holes.

The rock was not only great for wishes but also a comfortable place to rest. Unlike the other rocks which were steep and inhospitable to humans, this rock had a flat top which had collected soil over the years and had eventually grown a soft crop of grass and clover that made the it the perfect spot for contemplation.

I first visited the rock with my parents who had found it on long walks after us children had left home. They shared their discovery with me one day when I was a grown woman and about to be a mother myself. Mum and I visited the rock many times on our beach walks. We meditated up there together as often as we could, (which wasn't that often with a young family and a business to run).

I remember so clearly the last day we visited the rocks together. Mum was tired and in treatment and couldn't make it up to the top.

"Don't worry," I said, "We'll climb up next time."

But there was no next time as she declined more quickly than anyone could believe.

So when I was all alone I sought the company of the wishing rock again, and I felt the relief of silence, along with the magic and presence of my own ancestors, and of many Maori ancestors, the guardians of that sacred place, who wrapped me in their arms, and helped me find my way back to the land of the living. 

For two years I counted my rock as my closest friend and confidant. I sat there and thought and cried and meditated and prayed through all fours seasons - twice. I listened to the silence and I listened to the words of comfort whispered by the wind, and the the waves and by those who had gone before, and I made space for the new person that was emerging inside me.

And so at this sacred time of Matariki (Maori New Year) I give thanks to the kaitiaki (Maori guardians of this land and sea), I give thanks to nature, and to the wisdom and richness which is given to us so unconditionally when we make time to sit in silence on the earth.

I know that there are changes brewing, that there are strange and miraculous times to come. I know that there is guidance and nurture for all of us, even in the worst of times. And I know that our ancestors, and the kaitiaki of Aotearoa are always present, and their wisdom is only a silent breath away.

Nature makes me kinder

Nature makes me kinder

This week has not been one of my best. I have been overloaded, overwhelmed and overburdened...plugging away at my never ending "to do" list , snapping at the kids and fighting with my husband about every little thing.

I think the guys have been tip toeing around me, as if I'm a volcano that is about to erupt with sky high lava flows...and to be honest that's how I've been feeling a lot of the time. 

I lost perspective somewhere in amongst the obligations of the week, and I started taking things too seriously. I doggedly found time for my meditation, but there was no joy in it, as it became just another thing to tick off my list.

I find that when life gets like this I feel something within me harden. Somehow I stop living from the heart, and trusting the flow of life, and become convinced that I am very important and have so many things to do, and that without me, the world would just stop turning.

And I make decisions based on this wrong information. Coming from an overload of obligation, and a lack of time and space in which to process all the "doing" that my life requires, I get confused about when to say "Yes" and when to say "No".

From this contracted place, things don't look as clear. I can't see myself or the people around me as they really are, and I live life as if it is something to be either managed or conquered.

And I know that none of this is true, but when I'm operating from my mind, rather than my heart I can convince myself of many falsehoods, with the righteous belief that I most certainly know best.

But I don' heart does to be able to drop back into the heart is the only way to end this tiresome cycle.

I woke this morning to a beautiful day, and after I had caught up on some neglected family chores I made my way down to the vastness of a deserted Muriwai beach for my first walk in a week. 

As soon as I got down on the sand I started to unwind. The constricting feeling around my heart loosened its hold a little and by the time I had made it to the sacred spot where the river meets the sea I felt myself sinking slowly back into my body.

I climbed up a sandhill and lay down on the warm black sand and breathed deeply until I relaxed a little more. I felt something biting me and sat up to discover a nest of dashing ants in the tussock right beside my feet. 

I watched them for a while and marvelled at their team work. I remembered that in the Native American tradition the symbol of the ant teaches us about patience, about being mindful of others, and about letting things unfold.

I smiled to myself a little at this point as patience is a constant struggle for me, and I never seem to properly learn the lesson. And that's probably the exact point.

By this time my phone had run out of batteries so I was unable to check emails or social media any longer. What a relief.

The tide was high and the sun had gone as I made my way slowly home, being soaked several times by rogue waves that seemed to come from nowhere. 

I found a huge blue plastic container that had washed up on the beach. Luckily it was empty and I carried it for ages, finally handing it over to the DOC rangers who were happy to dispose of it for me and thanked me for picking it.

I know, it sounds pretty boring, but each one of my little interactions with nature gave me back to myself a little more fully.

By the time I climbed through the native forest and greeted my favourite tree I was feeling almost human again...comfortable with home.

And so all I can do is thank nature again and again for all she gives me, naturally and unconditionally. I want to give back to her by being kind to myself and my family, and by keeping my heart open and my mind in service to that open heart.

It's a big ask, but nature helps me to balance my life, and my world. And even though I am prone to forgetting, and leading myself off track, I know that a grounded and balanced perspective is only a long beach walk away.

I just need to stay humble and know that the lesson is never fully learned. Life is merry dance of getting lost and eventually finding my way back home.






All that you have is your soul...

All that you have is your soul...

I have been listening to Tracy Chapman a lot lately and this song has been going round in my head for days...

Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Not that I'm complaining. It's a really good reminder, and especially timely as I am in the midst of launching and publicising my book Beloved while at the same time getting another one ready for print and helping to run the business that pays the bills.

It's all a bit of an ego trap...and I've been starting to take it all a bit too seriously. This song is a great reminder about what really matters...and its not how many books you sell...I know that much for a fact.

The soul is kind and infinitely patient and it doesn't need any outside validation. The soul waits silently inside for us to come back to ourselves, for us to breathe deeply and to be in the moment.

And this sounds so easy...but we know that it is anything but.

If I can laugh at myself, I know my soul is getting the upper hand...and if I start thinking of all I have to do, and how well I (or badly) I am doing, and how I compare with others, I know it is not the soul, and so not really important.

I have to trust more and more deeply that things are unfolding as they will and as they must and that although I must do my work in the world I must ultimately be able to surrender my control to the greater good, and the higher will and accept what comes.

It's not an easy balance to strike...but I'm trying.

Oh my mama told me
'Cause she say she learned the hard way
Say she want to spare the children
She say don't give or sell your soul away
'Cause all that you have is your soul