In nakedness I gleam A steaming hot glass Pulled from scolding water Suds glimmer Sunshines kiss Her firey rays Ignite me Bubbles for eyes Glimpsing the blip Of my brief time And their reflection Tells of our orb in the sky Absorption A transient womb Our colourful ball sustains us Earth To above The air sweet With our deepest affinity Our most magnificent dreams Tethering Temporary Fleeting End.
I sit in a smoky, crowded room 4800m high in the Nepal Himalayas. In my headphones, Ludovico Einaudi plays like honey to my ears. In the background, the voices of Nepalese, Spanish, Israeli and English intermingle. I am a witness to life. People gather around the cylindrical fireplace, equal faces of happiness and exhaustion. Some here because they are paid to be, some for adventure, reprieve or healing. I have walked through the mountains for a week and tomorrow we pass Thorung La, at nearly 5416m. I have crossed rivers and with altitude, traversed many different terrains with a rainbow of flora and fauna. I’ve been very uncomfortable, in body and mind. I’ve also found more acceptance, appreciation and patience for myself and the world around me.
This is meagre excerpt of the deep reverence I have always had for nature, increased by my time in the mountains. Before I came, I set a trajectory here to fertilize some soul soil. To challenge my sense of self. To be okay with being alone in one of the most remote places in the world. To help solidify the mastery of my own mind and emotions; where I will always be a sojourner in a foreign land. I envisaged nourishing my soul with mental and physical challenges, in an ever-evolving endeavour for growth. What was a physically taxing journey was all the more mental for me. My muscles were nothing compared to the storm raging inside my mind.
In nature, you find more than you ever thought you were looking for.
With infinite love for this beautiful world.
I have a thirsty soul
Quenched by the colours of the world
(Satiated by love)
In its many faces
Eyes speaking stories of universal human experience
Relative are our experiences
But no less valid
Suffering and happiness
Yin and yang
Chaos and order
On this plane we meet
Where souls recognize one another
An unavoidable dichotomy
The ebb and flow of our existence
My soul yearns –
For the gradual awakening of a deep night sky
A slow dialled gradient
Where first light glints
Or beams over mountain tops
I have a thirsty soul!
A heart that dreams
Of snow dusted mountains
Mottled stone walls
Staggered and sheer
Protruding from their icy encasement
Pine trees perched on pinnacles
Exposed cliff edges
Rivers that churn and rage
Creeks that trickle
Water as the lifeblood of seed
Seed to flower
Flower to fruit
Mother Earths sheer totality
Air fire earth and water
Together they mould
And balance our everchanging Earth
I dream of underwater worlds
Myriads of coral cities
And creatures of the deep
Of desert landscapes
Harsh and arid
Where nature is most cruel and unforgiving
My soul pleads for diversity
For every creature to flourish
For coexistence with the natural world
A soul that yearns and a heart that dreams
But in nature
Mind body and soul
Under a labrynthine lush canopy
Where light filters in between carefully crafted leaves
Where soft wind whispers through trees
Fingers of the universe sounding carefully selected piano notes of natural wonder
Warm light endows each leaf
Exhibiting each fragile vein in their perfect creation
Here you behold life
In all its glory.
“I hate getting up early, especially now. There’s nothing to get up for.”
Well fuck me Linda, you sad sack of shit.
(Today, I agree)
I overheard this lady at the local dog park. It’s on a beautiful inlet in the heart of Sydney’s Northern Beaches where there’s a median house price of a cool $2.2 million. No doubt, she resides in one of them. Currently, so do I (yet I’m no closer to affording one of them than I am likely to go to Mars, although the latter seems much more appealing).
It struck me as quite a depressing thing to say to someone you’ve just met at a dog park. I feel sorry for her, but I also feel like punching her in the face, and delivering her by hand into Yemen, Syria or Afghanistan just to see the reality dawn on her face.
At the time, I just let the words float around my head and today they returned to me with a weight that I’ve felt before but never welcome back. I feel like drowning in the sheets of my bed and never being found again. Disappearing into the Himalayas only to resurface a few years later with a shaved head and orange robes to see who actually came to my funeral. Who said all of the things they wish they’d said to me in person before I died.
I hate funerals.
Not because the person is dead. That often happened days if not weeks before the funeral and the grieving simply goes on. Funerals are for the living. I hate them because people stand up and pour their hearts out to a person that can’t hear them. They sweat, tremble and cry as they recall beautiful memories, lament time wasted and speak into the void. Call it closure, but I call it regret. I don’t believe in leaving words unsaid.
I prefaced this by adding the median house prices around the area. Not because I give a shit, but because I was alluding to the fact that surely, this person is in the top 1 or 2% of the entire global population. Privilege embodied. Yet, all suffering is relative. The pitfalls of mental (or other) ill-health don’t discriminate. Maybe she had a pet die, or a loved one, or she found out she had cancer. Or maybe, she just felt the collective pain we all feel at the moment. When we turn on the news and see faces of small, sweet, innocent children sentenced to perilous lives in conflict ridden areas, or people clinging to the side of planes trying to escape their own country. Maybe she woke up and broke her TV off its hinges and flung it across the room and took to it with a baseball bat, cursing it for the images she wished she hadn’t seen. Maybe she’d feel better if she donated all of her disposable cash to charities. Maybe she already does. Who knows.
But today, all judgement aside, I understood.
It’s not all days that you wake up with the willingness to proceed in this so often torturous existence. It’s a wonder we do really. Somehow, most days, we manage not to flee and take physical and emotional shelter from the impending responsibilities or obligations that a new day demands. Most days, we find the smile of a stranger, or a kind gesture from a friend carry us through whatever our inner turmoil digs up for us. Maybe we watch the sunrise, or set and feel accomplished. Sometimes that is enough. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we fail spectacularly. We feel the visceral anguish of lost love. We fear our looming mortality. We feel.
But there is also a time for perseverance. For committing oneself to a higher value thinking, then doing, then being. Despite it all, there is more than you to get up for. To be the stranger that offers the smile, or the friend that offers the kind gesture.
And please, for the sake of you and those who mean most, don’t be that person gulping in breaths of air between your tears of regret at a funeral. Acknowledge that looming mortality as the most urgent of reminders to relish every moment, and to love others so fervently that you couldn’t have hoped to love them any more than you did.
Have the courage to not leave words unsaid, deeds undone.
Once apon a time a little Elle worked at @countryroad , @myer and @davidjonesstore . All places where aesthetic is everything. I bought into it. I wore make up everyday, went out of my way to buy lots of products and most regrettably, wasted so much of my TIME doing it. While wearing the newest or ‘nicest’ clothes never really bothered me, walking into a workplace where polished faces and hairdos frowned down upon the lesser tended to or vain folk; one truth resounded. This is a TOXIC expectation. On a day when I was running late, my bare face was ashamed to look at customers. How did I get here?! I was embarrassed to show people my face. My real face. Not the one under the bullshit facade.
So, I embarked on a month completely make-up free. I embraced the purge, both mentally and physically with my skin adjusting. I discarded the self-conscious talk and stood up straight, confident in not giving a fuck what the people looking at me thought. I’ve genuinely never looked back or felt as confident as I do now.
But you know the worst part and the reason that I’ve tagged these businesses? It was (and I would bet still is) A PART OF THE CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION TO WEAR MAKE UP TO WORK!!! How insane is that?! I fully understand one must present themselves to a certain standard. However, how damaging and twisted is that focus on ‘beauty’ that is being spoonfed to the people that not only work for these groups (and many others) but also the people who stream through their doors!
I genuinely believe this is completely unnecessary. It doesn’t impede one’s ability to sell a product. Unless you’re shit at actually selling stuff, which is pretty hard. This post is intended to urge those of you who feel any form of attachment, reliance or comfort in make-up/cosmetics/the aesthetic world to recognize, detatch and reflect on the deep-seated reasons as to WHY. None of those things are YOU. They mask you. Maybe sometimes they enhance you. Either way, they’re impermanent. Is it truly contributing to your positive sense of self, after your ego defends it as harmless, because you’re scared of the true reason why you do these things?
I’ve been 99% cosmetic free for years now, only wearing it for special occasions. My hair might get coloured every now and again (which I’m keen to stop) but it rests in its state upon awakening. Toward the path of radical acceptance. My skin isn’t perfect, my eyes are always red (to the point where I’ve lost count how many times people have asked me if I’m wearing red eyeliner) and a myriad of other bits and bobs that we all identify about ourselves that somehow isn’t enough. We must choose to nourish and worship the body that we have and the garden of the mind that needs equal tending. I only hope for everyone reading this to muster enough unconditional love for self to do the same.
Love, a younger Elle that believes you are beautiful – exactly. as. you. are.
In a time where I was struggling mentally to cope with general abysmal life related events – I would train hard, and vividly imagine myself on a mountainside in Nepal. I was naked but I couldn’t feel the cold. I was tired but relentless in my steps. Mindset sharp; plowing forth into a new body, prying myself from the carcass of an old self that was no longer serving me. I would climb the stair machine into rocky terrain and beyond, above to the snowy abyss. A few months later, there I was. Blooming. Presently, the inner visual landscape has changed but the motivation is renewed – complacency breeds weakness and idleness brings no growth. The penrose steps of growth morph once more. Keep climbing.
If you don’t know what it is, you should.
Essentially, effective altruism is the act of creating the greatest good, for the greatest number of people. We can use research that effectively determines how much it is to save a life, and donate our money accordingly to charities that will save the most amount of people they can with the money they have. How to be an altruist, effectively.
It’s a utilitarian viewpoint, one underpinned with research in order to establish exactly how the money you donate can be used to save the most amount of lives and therefore, morally, make the greatest difference. You might be surprised to learn that giving to an organisation that protects people from Malaria is one of the best ways to do this. According to givewell.org, the Malaria Consortium is the top listed charity, followed by Against Malaria and Helen Keller International.
Based on a book by Peter Singer in 1971 regarding global ethics, the concept of allocating a percentage (and according to Singer, a very large one) to the global poor is a moral obligation of anyone in a position to do so. If you have dispensable income, anything above what you need is to be allocated to a charity like those aforementioned. If you’re reading this, you almost certainly fall into that category.
His philosophy is thus:
‘If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, then we ought, morally, to do it’. For example, it is of no comparable moral significance for someone to go without a luxurious new piece of clothing, provided they have a set of clothes to wear already, in favour of donating such funds to save people of starvation. Yet, this mild version of his proposition leaves room for error on the grounds of subjectivity, where any person deems what is or is not morally significant for themselves. Singer then strengthens his argument by explaining that we should go far beyond this to provide as much help as possible, to the point of ‘marginal utility’. That is, to the point where it would then begin to impinge on our basic needs. His argument may seem extreme, however Singer attributes this reaction to a lack of significant moral reform amongst Western society, and entrenched views of what it means to be charitable and generous rather than fulfilling a duty of what we morally ought to do. Rather, donating a significant proportion of our income to the global poor is an act to uphold justice and the acceptance of human rights to fulfil our duty to the impoverished. It is not to be mistaken for an act of charity, which would be a supererogatory act (one that is above the accepted call of duty). Instead, it is a duty that we ought to perform and a right that the impoverished of the world have to receive.
For a little perspective…
For more wholesomeness from the man himself, check out this video.
Some useful websites to explore:
 P. Singer, ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 1, no. 3, 1972, p. 6, < https://d2l.deakin.edu.au/d2l/le/content/913448/viewContent/5086497/View>, accessed 3 September 2020.
 Singer, op. cit., p.5.
“All my friends left me when I got sick.”
These words have been echoing in my head recently. For privacy purposes, let us call this person T.
T was a client who attended a mental health recovery camp where I was doing outdoor education. He is a tall greek guy with kind hazel eyes, a bulbous belly and lots of dark hair all over his body. His toenails were long and he promised me he would get his mum to trim them when he got home. I joked that he shouldn’t dare put her through that and we giggled about it. He was nearly 40. He slept in, but when I asked for his help, he’d be there. T got sick a few years ago. I don’t know the full story, but he had a nervous breakdown and hasn’t fully recovered or become a functioning (whatever that means) member of society again since. Unlike some who do function in society, he is kind, helpful, considerate, humble and selfless. Things are just a bit more difficult for him.
His dad lets him work in the family business. By the sound of things, his family is his only support network. He’s luckier than others in that respect. But, he is lonely. Sorely lonely. My heart aches for him. I remember him looking at me with childlike innocence, telling me how much he loved coming to the camp to feel connected but how he knew it was only temporary. It’s hard to enjoy the sweet moments when you’re already grieving over them.
Over the week he only participated in one or two of the activities, but I knew he wasn’t there for them. Some of these clients have come to this camp over ten times. They’ve done the activities over and over. They’re there for the people – the connection. For the teary eyed conversations they’ve been needing. The understanding that can only come from those who had been, or are in a similar situation. They come for the guidance of a nurse or counsellor outside white walls or the emergency room. It is a powerful chance for people suffering mental health issues to dictate to health professionals on how best to address them, rather than the other way around. While it is a beautiful, transformative, healing, happy high point… it follows by a crash landing in the pit of contrast that is real life. Human connection can be incredibly difficult, especially for someone who is mentally ill.
With an open, honest heart and gentle treading, some people will unravel themselves to you within a week. Sometimes within a day. Surrendering to ones own emotional vulnerability encourages others to do the same. Now is the time to put that vulnerability into practice; if not with your best interests at heart, then with someone else’s.
In isolation, I have this enormous surplus of time. Fuck I’m grateful for it. Time for personal rest and revel. I sign up for a free online course on the science of well-being (highly recommend). I take comfort in neuroplasticity and make more effort to create conscious actions toward enhancing my wellbeing, eventually entrenching them into habit. I get to check in with the people I love and spend time with family that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I feel their warmth in the form of overloaded affection, honest conversations and Mum shoving her love language of food down my throat.
I’ve moved to a quiet coastal town with the man I love. We’re not working. We wake when we please, drink coffee in dressing gowns and spend the days however we choose. A taste of retired life. We explore the coastline with the pup in tow. It’s bliss. We have uncomfortable conversations, the ones that highlight all our differences. Strangely, they’re my favourite conversations to have. And hey, we’ve got the time. He teaches me things. I don’t always like the things I learn. Vice versa. Then I learn that that’s okay and that it doesn’t mean our relationship is doomed. He shows me the space in between black and white. He helps me on my path of growth, even if it’s just correcting me on weird mannerisms I didn’t know I had. He is patient and understanding of my bouts of anxiety. With his gentle coaxing of my dubious heart, I’m learning that it’s okay to sometimes take refuge in another. At a time like this, I’m more grateful than ever for him and all his dad jokes.
I savour the connection I have with my friends. I don’t have many, but those I do have, I cherish. Even a two hour online catch up with a
friend sister, who I’ve known since I was 4 years old. She’s honest, kind and supportive. Not to mention hilarious. She’s the kind of person you’d drop everything for if they needed you and you know they’d do the same in return.
I love taking time to reflect and be grateful for my life.
My thoughts sober and I think about T and his lack of friends. At times I really resonate with his loneliness. I think of the friends that have abandoned me in times of need or that have been lost in the throws of life. The hurt part of me hates them for it and begs for reasons. But it’s just life. It’s painful. I don’t understand their actions, but I forgive them.
Sometimes closure never comes, so you have to surrender to the unknown.
Alongside all this love I’m experiencing in a bizarre time, there is this terrible agony. I worry about people who don’t have this kind of support or love in their lives. People who are elderly, homeless, live alone or are mentally struggling. The ones who don’t reach out. How can I/we help them? I sign up for volunteering positions. It’s not enough. It remains a thought to be revisited. For us all to revisit, I hope.
For people like T, who are already isolated and alone in everyday, pre-covid life, this really could be a taste of hell.
With him in mind, find a way to show kindness to the people around you. Go out of your way for a chat and probe people to see how they are coping. Remember that while you’re feeling lonely, there are people out there that are a whole lot more emotionally isolated than you are. Maybe you can lessen that loneliness together.
From isolation, with love.
This is what I have set my phone to ask me, every night at 8pm.
Realistically, I’ve had a minimum of 12 hours to conjure up an answer to this question. My phone doesn’t care if I answer and obviously neither does anyone else. But I do. It’s a small way that I can keep accountable to myself in a way that is positive and constructive.
I suppose now more than usual, this kind of mental proactivity is useful in keeping our brains open and flexible to new information, no matter how minimal. It forces you to seek out all kinds of bizarre knowledge that you never knew you needed to know.
Small goals help create small habits. When compiled, these small habits lead to consistent behaviours.
Every person you meet knows something that you don’t.
That thought changed my interactions with people. It helped me give otherwise vexatious people the time and space to expose themselves more to me than I probably would have otherwise let them. Be it younger or older, more or less travelled, educated, whatever… the same principle applies: everyone knows something that you don’t.
So then, you may as well make what you know a little interesting. Get creative in acquiring your knowledge. Read books, listen to podcasts, learn a new word everyday, trawl through google or pluck up the courage to ASK SOMEONE – ANYONE – A QUESTION!
For you reading this, what interesting thing did you learn today?
I restlessly throw my body around in bed while candles flicker and frogs croak. Camomile and honey trickle down my throat. Lavender floats around me in a cloud. It feels like even the frogs have more conviction than I do. I can barely muster a squeak.
There is an aching in my soul that I’m unsure of how to soothe. A hurt that this time, I do not know how to mend. I’m good at this, I think. I can step back and assess myself, criticize the reason for my emotions and analyse my motives. Stab and slice away at my ego, threatening it to stir and face me.
Most of the time, I can strategize a way out. A way up. Not this time. I’m snowed under with a weight it feels I cannot bear. In this place, it feels like there are no hands to help me. I’m not sure I’ll reach for any either.
I remind myself; my needs are met. In fact, they are beyond met in many ways. Mostly, I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want. A true luxury that I try not to undervalue. How dare I feel anxious or depressed?!
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is something that I often draw back to. It resonates with me that a human has a myriad of elements to keep in fine balance before one can feel self-fulfilling (which ironically coalesces, or more accurately, actually depends on the intimate support network around the individual).
Tonight the acknowledgement of these base needs being met are not serving to comfort me.
- Insert reality check: they are NOT a given and should be ALWAYS appreciated as a comfort – perspective is key.
- Insert secondary reality check: the vicious ‘how dare you’ mindset is reinforced – stay wary of negative self-talk masquerading as the helpful critic.
I am deeply grateful to have loved and been loved by some special souls in my life. In the occasional absence of this loving presence, I am sometimes unexpectedly cast into a chasm of emotion with myself playing damsel and hero simultaneously. Usually I’m not shy of this confrontation of self, but this seemingly unending emotional fragility has me trading faces.
I fumble around with this uncomfortability, trying to understand it in any way I can. Feel it wash through my body and take root in the centre of my torso. Find consciousness in my breath and attempt to loosen the knots in my chest.
Thus far, uncomfortability has been my most brutal, but honest teacher. Oh, and maybe heartbreak. At this point I’d label them interchangeably. I’m not sure I’ll ever revel in uncomfortability but my appreciation for what is unveiled in its wake is constantly multiplying.
In the midst of this inner turmoil, a gentle voice enters and begs for both time and space for forgiveness. The harsh critic is silenced. I’ve visited this place before. In it is a garden. A sacred garden with a plethora of possibilities. Here, the seeds are most difficult to sow. Upon discovery, the landscape is barren and the soil unrelenting. Weeds entrenched and overgrown. Colours mute. With diligence and mindful care, slowly the soil softens. Richness re-enters to allow small, hopeful sprouts. With further tending, these saplings will flower, but their flowers are stubborn and slow to bloom. They demand boundless amounts of conscientious tenderness. However, once given their fill and in full spectrum light; this garden and its flowers provide the deepest healing.
Tend relentlessly to your garden.
Dear soul, I hear you in there whispering gentle truths. Directing my eyes on an upward trajectory.
Dear soul, my heart quakes with the vibrations of your deafening bellows; demanding to stay aligned with my journey.
Yet sometimes, I do not listen. I avert my gaze. I wander. I get lost. I betray myself. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice, sometimes it’s not.
Then I find my way back.
Do you ever blink with wonder at how you got to where to you are? The air around you stills and sound leaks from your ears. Maybe you aren’t who you wanted to be. Maybe you’re more that you ever thought you could be. If you aren’t where you know you should be, on that upwards trajectory, you’ve hushed that voice for much too long. The sound of the soul inside you that tugs at the bottom of your shirt like a kid begging to be pushed on the swing or bought chocolate at the check out of the grocery store. You swat it away with annoyance, even contempt.
We justify our aversions with half-hearted conviction. A squirming of uncertainty alerts us that we aren’t living in accordance with our highest truth. But, we won’t fail if we never try. Onwards our feet feebly lead us. We drown in earthly expectations. Succumb to dramatic social demise. Feeding our ego its tantalising sustenance, soon our soul grows weary of its constant dismissal. Faith in yourself dwindles and so too does your once clear vision for life. For your journey. Your spirit.
Often, we live according to the narrative that we (and society) have etched for our lives – one we torturingly expect ourselves to not only live up to – but exceed. Is it in accordance with our truest self? You better hope that it is. After all, you’re the one that spent all this time getting yourself here.
strive to consciously create
We take ourselves by the hand then swing ourselves over cliffs of self-construed personal destruction. There’s that voice again. The tugging on your shirt. We stray from our path. Then we blame and curse; those around us, our upbringing, the world. While we perish at the hands of our own self-sabotage, we deflect responsibility. To admit fault would be to threaten our beliefs. Beliefs that over time, have morphed into deeply set values. Values that convincingly masquerade as our identity. Maybe some are. Or maybe you’ve just told yourself that. Where did they come from anyway? These values are often bolstered by ignorance, threatened by change and the challenge of growth. Ideologies are hard to kill, but when they do die, they die hard. Let us not forget how malleable our identity is to the world around us.
To undermine ones value system would surely test the fibres of ones soul. Just how far have you wandered?
Visualise the greatest version of yourself. Start making conscious choices that are in alignment with that version of you. Be more afraid of fear holding you back from experiencing life than the fear itself. Confront hard truths. Be a sensation seeker.
Dear soul, I promise to listen. To live aligned to my truths. To speak words of honesty, with love. To love from the depths of my being, without limitation or expectation. To leave the world a little (or a lot) better than I found it.
Who are you, if you’re not living in consistency with what your soul is saying?