Staying in the Hot Seat

November 24, 2014 at 4:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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“We cannot respond to this call without improving our individual and collective skills to listen and talk in very different ways. We need new conversations that don’t get lost in rhetoric, good intentions and feel good statements. We need the very conversations we often don’t dare to have, and are too fearful to start.” – Page 12, Introduction, Lost Conversations

Last Thursday night I was fortunate enough to be at the launch of the book ‘Lost Conversations’ at the Sydney Opera House. I had received information about the event through the Benevolent Society’s Social Leadership Australia eNews and am so glad I made the time to be apart of the wise, honest, empowering and purposeful discussions that took place on the night. Each of the authors, coming from within various spheres of influence as Indigenous and Non Indigenous Australians, shared the stage with moderators Tanya and Tim (Joint Campaign Directors from Recognise). They opened up about the process of engaging in a journey that was dreamt up a few years ago from a ‘why’, a necessity for new ways of engaging, conversing and leading together, then let the ‘how’ unfold through individual and collective commitment, courage, respect, passion, vulnerability and ongoing learning.

“We’re not always going to agree. Conflict is always going to happen. But we need each other to do the work.” – Comment from Mark Yettica – Paulson on the night

The quotes I’ll use throughout this post come from various authors of ‘Lost Conversations’ last Thursday night. Each have resonated with me deeply and caused much reflection and discussion with friends over the past few days. Many of the authors spoke frankly about the complexities, challenges and frustrations they experienced over the past few years within this group process. But as is conveyed in this first quote, each individual showing up authentically and being willing to stretch, grow and contribute is what resulted in not only the book itself but a deepening of connection to self, others and the world around them and an ever increasing ability to make a difference in their own and others lives. The Donald H. McGannon quote, ‘Leadership is action, not position’, reminds us that ‘the work’ is what we are here to do as individuals and within shared leadership opportunities.

“Sitting in the hot seat for long enough, longer than you normally would, to realise the bigger dream.” – Comment from Grant Paulson on the night

The quote above really moved me as I reflected on this theme of lost conversations, whether it be in this cross cultural space as explored in the book or within other areas of our own journeys of potential. How often do we as individuals and groups leave the metaphorical table or space, shutting down or turning away from the uncomfortable in our lives? Each interaction we have is indeed an opportunity to explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically, but within the complexity of our humanness or as Grant commented on the night not recognising our ‘mutual brokenness’, we can move on too quickly and neglect the bigger dreams we have for ourselves, others and the global village in which we live. I have written before about connection as the glue that holds our humanness together. Staying in the hot seat means the glue has time to set instead of constantly ripping it away to ‘prove’ it wasn’t there in the first place or it just won’t work. In other words connection needs time to be deepened, processed and most effectively utilised as we foster empowered individual and collective thoughts, words and actions.

“We were doing rapid judgement and making ourselves righteous, but if we can hold back, we can progress.” – Comment from Mark Yettica – Paulson on the night

Judgement can be very easy to slip into, especially as we navigate a culture that promotes fear, scarcity, comparison and distraction. Whether it be of ourselves or others, a particular situation or challenge, one individual or a whole group, feelings of righteousness can emerge as we attempt to justify the judgments we throw around. But when we drill down into this theme, while growing our awareness, appreciation and courage to engage in the lost conversations within our lives, we can compassionately remember that “We have a country that is in its bicultural infancy, and we have the opportunity to shape that” – comment from Kim Robertson on the night. Each of us have the power to be agents of change through our daily thoughts, words and actions, transcending and challenging any perceived cultural stories, stereotypes, norms or pressures that may exist. As many of the authors commented on the night, change begins with ‘the man (or woman) in the mirror’.

“There’s too much at stake to leave the conversation.” – Comment from Grant Paulson on the night

What lost conversations can you identify within your own individual or our shared journeys of potential, whether it be in this cross cultural space or another area of your life? What new ways of engaging, conversing and leading together can you envision for communities of ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals who believe deeply in their own and others potential’?

I highly recommend downloading a free copy of ‘Lost Conversations’ at www.lostconversations.org.au

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Have faith Bonnie, have faith!

November 17, 2014 at 6:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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A couple of weekends ago I watched the movie ‘Camp’. I saw the trailer for it a couple of weeks before that and was intrigued as to what it would be like. As you may know if you’ve been following this blog, my professional background involves both teaching and outdoor education positions here in Australia, as well as in the UK, America and East Africa. My first taste of working at camp though came in 2003 in Bear Mountain, NY, an experience (along with the other two summers I spent at that camp) that will stay with me forever.

“Campers: Nature’s way of feeding mosquitoes.” – Author Unknown

Going to camp or camping in general definitely isn’t everyones first choice for a holiday but for me camping was something we always did growing up and remains a big part of what I have done right throughout my life. For me, there is really nothing like being under the stars, sitting around a fire, connecting with others through stories, games and of course marshmallows. I consider myself very lucky that I found outdoor education along my professional journey. It was a perfect way to spend more time at camp once I got back to Australia.

“I swear there are about a million rocks underneath me,” [Dylan] said grouchily.
Think of it as therapeutic. Like a shiatsu massage.” (Sadie)
You obviously have a much better imagination than me,” he said.”
– Sarah Mayberry, Take on Me

The title of this post is a quote from the movie ‘Camp’ that I watched. It jumped out at me as some of the Counsellors were discussing the particular campers coming in for their first day and the concerns over potential behaviours because of certain lived experiences. I can very much relate to the types of discussions that took place in the movie and also the mixture of feelings like excitement and apprehension at the very same time as you hope that the camp experience will provide a space for each participant to have fun, try new things, make new friends, feel safe and comfortable and so much more, all within the complex web of lives that include connections and contexts that you may never fully find out about or be able to fully comprehend.

“‘Saturday Night Live’ was actually started with a show that Lorne Michaels and I did at a summer camp called Timberlane in Ontario when we were 14 and 15. We would do an improvisational show with music, comedy and acting.”
– Howard Shore

Camp for me has always been a collection of experiences that foster feelings of hope and faith. Even in the toughest of times, the tiredest of times, the times when frustration or fear creep in, someone or something, big or small, commonplace or exceptional, reminds you of what is most important, at our core, why you do what you do or just what letting go and embracing joy looks, sounds and feels like. Here are just a few of my thoughts that I have been reminded of through my time at camp;

  • That there is a child inside all of us that just wants to play.
  • If you grease up a watermelon and throw it into a pool it can provide for so much fun.
  • That the rain doesn’t have to mean you move indoors, it just means you may get wet.
  • Any activity or chore can be enjoyable, if you choose to see it that way and all pitch in.
  • That the only thing stopping someone joining in or getting involved is them.
  • Celebrating near misses can be as much fun as celebrating successes.
  • TEAM really does = Together Everyone Achieves More.

“The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another.  It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.”  – Henry David Thoreau 

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Identifying with the Dolphin

November 3, 2014 at 4:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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“What I know for sure is that it’s only when you make the process your goal that your big dream will follow.” – Oprah

Over the weekend I had the chance to catch up with one of my oldest friends. It is always such a fun and connection filled time whenever we have the chance to get together. To me, she has always embodied energy, joy, wonder, openness, gratitude and presence, while navigating the many successes and challenges that life can bring. Many funny stories from over the years came flooding back through my mind after our conversation but above all it was those qualities that I have listed above that have had me thinking.

After the conversation with my friend I started reflecting on a powerful experience I had last year during the Stanford University Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) in Sydney. During the three days we took part in many compassion cultivation practices but one in particular provided a strong metaphor for a particular way of being. The facilitator prompted us to bring into our minds an animal that resonated with the guided meditation we were exploring. For me, the dolphin playfully jumped in and out of the waves as the facilitator spoke.

“What I know for sure is that you feel real JOY in direct proportion to how connected you are to living your truth.” – Oprah

All throughout my life I have experienced wonder and awe when witnessing dolphins at different times in the water at our local beach. As a child I can vividly remember experiences like body surfing and hoping it really was a dolphin and not a shark that shared the same wave. During the meditation at CCT I had the chance to really reflect on why the dolphin provided such a strong metaphor for me as a way of being in the world. This animal, like so many other natural world reminders, provided important connections for me to discover.

“Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” – Oprah

My connections on that day were numerous and varied. The dolphin epitomises for me the ‘strong back, soft front’ way of being. Within a vast and changing ocean, sharing the space and time with fearsome predators such as sharks, they remain true to their social and playful nature. Their ability to use the interconnectedness of the pod as a way to care for sick and injured dolphins, also provides protection and defence if necessary from their would be predators.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah

Anyone who has witnessed dolphins in the water would definitely remark about their playful nature. It seems that they are choosing to express themselves fully by embracing their natural propensity for curiosity, wonder and enthusiasm. This way of being guides the behaviours of the individuals and the pod, maybe having something to do with what most would describe as a happy and joyful demeanour.

“I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.” – Oprah

Finally, I am in awe of the way dolphins use echolocation to navigate their environment. By tuning into and really listening to the echoes that are created around them, dolphins are able to sense which direction to go, what shares their space in the water, communicate effectively and avoid unnecessary encounters with predators.

“Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.” – Oprah

What connections could you make with a particular animal as a way of being in our world? What qualities do you most admire in a family member or friend that enables them to effectively navigate the successes and challenges that life presents? How is joy expressed and experienced in your own life?

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