Cloud animals and meditation

Meditation

With gentle practice

Stampeding elephants

Are becoming cloud creatures

that shape shift

                                and unravel

                                                         and quietly

                                                                               drift

                                                                                                      away… 

Image

I have a new thing. Meditation. I really love it. Among the benefits I find it helps me to get into a good headspace for writing when I feel a bit disconnected.

I discovered meditation by accident. Oscar has started school this year and he’s getting really tired but still has trouble going to sleep on time – so we started meditating together most days after school or before bed as a nice way of settling down after a busy day. (Meditation was a regular part of his kinder program last year so I guess that’s where the inspiration came from).

We use a free web and app-based program called Smiling Mind, a wonderful resource teaching mindfulness meditation to children and young people. I recommend the Smiling Mind children’s meditations as they are calming and imaginative as well as easy and fun for children to follow. The meditation programs are tailored for different age groups and although age 7-11 is the youngest category, even my nearly-three-year-old enjoys joining in.

Through meditating with my children I discovered that my mind is crazy busy and doesn’t want to be still for more than a few seconds. I also discovered that the same old nuisance thoughts want to penetrate again and again! I noticed that in spite of the intrusive thoughts I felt calmer and more energised after I had finished meditating. The positive experience of meditating with my children encouraged me to try some meditation for grownups using various free apps to help me learn.

A few minutes of meditation is like a magic tonic when I feel too tired or distracted to create. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this amazing energy and clarity booster all my life!  I’m still a total novice but I’m going to keep exploring meditation and will let you know where the journey takes me…

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The Compassion Tree

The Compassion Tree for Reza BeratiA poem of hope for all refugees currently held in offshore detention centres:

The Compassion Tree
By Claire Weigall

Once upon a time, on an island girt by sea
A man sat in his lounge room with his daughter on his knee

The TV told a story, he’d heard it all before
A story of a leaky boat, too easy to ignore

But this time it was different…something made him pause
What if my child was imprisoned, without limit, hope or cause?

Daring to imagine this he hugged his little girl
And a tear spilled from his eye, like a round and rolling pearl

It rolled across the carpet, down the steps and through the weeds
It rolled across the garden ‘til it found a tiny seed

The tiny seed awakened, unfurled a hopeful sprout
Could this be the breaking of the long compassion drought?

It plunged new roots into the earth and waited for the rain
But it wilted as it waited, not daring to complain

Eventually it felt it – a soft and gentle shower
And the seed became a sapling growing taller by the hour

Soon it towered above the city; it spread its branches wide
And became a place of refuge for freedom birds to hide

But the tree was scarred forever where “Reza” had been carved
By night a million candles filled its branches just like stars

By day a throng of people came and gathered in its shade
We bowed our heads and talked about the mess that had been made

But then there came a notice (very late on Saturday)
The tree was quite illegal and it had to go away

They took to it with chainsaws- our inconvenient tree
But their blades were quickly blunted as we sang and danced with glee

So they filled it up with poison, but it still refused to die
It bloomed with vibrant flowers by way of a reply

They wrapped it up in razor wire, again to no avail
It was hope, it was compassion and it could not be curtailed

When they finally tried to ringbark it, its steadfastness was clear
Its wounds bled lively rainbows and the crowd began to cheer

And so we kept our vigil for the children kept confined
And talked about the kind of world we want to leave behind

A child looked out her window, saw a giant etched with scars
By night a million candles filled the branches just like stars

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Normal life has resumed!

Selfie by Claire Weigall charcoal on paper My SerenityMy baby is four months old.  (Here’s a piece I wrote about her birth). She doesn’t have that squishy newborn face anymore and I’ve finally packed away all her tiny newborn clothes. If I’m lucky she sleeps all night.

Summer is over and it’s time to declare that normal life has resumed!

So here I am, back again. Back in the swing of things.

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The Big Issue Fiction Edition 2013 – Make Me Smile

Make me smile balloon girl imageThe Big Issue Fiction Edition 2013 is a collection of thirteen short stories on the theme “Make Me Smile.” As a contributor myself I was fascinated to discover how others had responded to the theme, and I was struck by the diversity of approaches.

Many of the stories made me laugh out loud… Pirates Don’t Need To by Max Atwood is the hilarious story of a young man named Steven with the seemingly self-destructive goal of becoming a pirate (a pirate pirate, not a Somali pirate, he is quick to point out.)

Other stories took me to dark places. Waterloo Smiles by Jane Downing shows us death heaped high and juxtaposes the stench of wasted lives with the delicate portrayal of a child. The beautifully drawn character of Pip is desensitised by her daily struggle for survival, yet a sense of childhood innocence still resonates about her. Swim by Mia Wotherspoon masterfully layers the subtle rhythms of emotional abuse and control to paint a melancholy picture of a powerless woman.  The thinly veiled violence inflicted on the protagonist, Lana, is so real it hurts and the ending is unexpectedly true to the reality of how hard it can be to leave.

While clearly not all of the stories made me smile, every story gave me food for thought.

The one I wish I wrote  – Travisty by Jude Bridge. Sadly I know I will never come close to writing anything like this funny and eccentric yet heartfelt tale. I love to laugh, but humour is not part of my writing repertoire. I will leave it to Jude to explain the background to this beauty of a story-  after all, she knows a Travis in real life.

My personal favourite Swimming Lessons by Maree Spratt. I adore Maree Spratt’s  sensitive story telling that shows more than it tells. This story had me at the opening line “I don’t own a doorbell.” You see, you already know so much about the protagonist, a widower who prefers to keep to himself…or does he? From the beautiful writing (“His boxer shorts puffed above his belt loop like a mushroom cloud”) to the strangely endearing characters (“Laurelle, Dare and Derek: only the dog had a sensible name”) there is so much to love about this story.

The most memorable storyThe Dead Man’s Cake by Jenny Ackland is a story that lingers on the mind the way all good stories should. This story is so vivid I feel like I was actually at the picnic (in my mind it took place in the Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy North and the overpriced, hipster olives stuffed with almonds and cream cheese were purchased from the deli in Piedemontes Supermarket). And then there’s the ending like a slap in the face. In fact The Dead Man’s Cake may be my equal favourite.

The story that everyone can relate toThe Allen Key to Happiness by Alan Cornell. Who hasn’t lost a  perfectly good Saturday in IKEA only to come home with a “stjuddent lammp that bends five ways” instead of a desk?

The story that Baz Luhrmann should definitely make into a movieA Haiku a Day by Claire Weigall. (Biased much?)

The Big Issue is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that develops solutions to help homeless, disadvantaged and marginalised people to positively change their lives. The Big Issue magazine is published fortnightly and sold on the streets by vendors who purchase copies for $3 and sell them for $6, keeping the difference. The annual Fiction Edition is out now. It’s a great read at a bargain price…but you only have until Friday to buy it. So hit the streets and see if you can find one! And while you’re at it please buy me a few more copies. I’m compulsively hoarding them as evidence that I am now a published writer.

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The elevating experience of being published

image

When I was eight, my dad bought me an old-school typewriter to muck around on and I felt really quite professional at the whole writing thing.

When I was eight, one of my poems was published in a collection called “Celery Noise and Quiet Cheese.”

When I was eight I was going to be a writer when I grew up.

When I was eight it was all very simple.

Somewhere along the way I stopped feeling very professional at the whole writing thing. Writing, or rather, choosing writing, stopped feeling simple.

A week ago  I saw my writing in print again and a little piece of my identity felt all puffed up and happy.

I wonder whatever happened to my old typewriter…I might be needing it now that I’ve grown up and become a writer.🙂

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Thoughts on perfection

perfection is the enemy of good flower imageYou may have noticed this space has been very quiet for a while now – you could say for a trimester or two! Pregnancy has proven to be the antidote to my night-owlish ways. I also adopted a beautiful and very energetic dog, Zola and took on a new part-time day job (I have once again dusted off my legal practising certificate). A pregnancy, a dog and a new job. All really good things, but as a result I’ve been getting less stuff done.

I’ve come to the realisation that under the present circumstances, the best person I can be writes regularly, but doesn’t stay up half the night to do it.

The best person I can be appreciates that my two-year-old soon-to-be-middle child is blossoming and needs plenty of attention as she blossoms.

The best person I can be remembers my children won’t be little forever. Being there for them is more meaningful than locking myself away to fiddle around with words on a page.

…and it didn’t take me long to realise the sky doesn’t fall in if I don’t blog regularly. Not one of you has complained! Phew!

One day soon I’ll enjoy a more creative life.

For now, I don’t have the stamina required to write a novel, but writing morning pages and disgorging the occasional short story can help fill the creative void. (The multitalented Romy Sai Zunde also blogged this week on creativity, motherhood and cultivating energy, and mentioned morning pages as an investment in the sense that “they pay off in better concentration and more calm.”)

I need to get stuff done FAST. I need to be flexible about what stuff I get done. Perfection is my enemy.

In spite of having skinny prospects of achieving any of the writerly goals I set for myself before I returned to work and became pregnant, I’m happy with the way things are right now. My current state of surrender is working for me… As a result of running off on a tangent to write a short story on the theme “Make Me Smile” I have just experienced the thrill of being published! My short story “A Haiku a Day” was selected for inclusion in The Big Issue Fiction Edition, which is out now. (The story was inspired by another blog post by Romy, which you can read here).

the big issue a haiku a day photo

That story was one of the fastest things I’ve ever written. I scribbled it in a notebook in one sitting and later I typed it up in a hurry and stuffed it into a yellow express envelope to be sure of meeting the submission deadline.

I’m not a perfectionist in my daily life. I don’t mind if I bake a lopsided birthday cake and my bra and undies never match. I mostly grow weeds in my garden and more often than not I put my clothes away on my floordrobe. I’m not one for routines and I’m not strict enough about my kids’ bedtime.  But my writing is different. Usually I labour over every sentence, redraft and rearrange, edit and censor. I frantically chop and change until the thing I finish up with is completely different from the thing I started out with. I now wonder whether perhaps I’ve been killing my darlings a bit too comprehensively.

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” -Salvador Dali

So now I’m going to try writing faster and more spontaneously. I’m going to make a point of laughing in the face of perfection. I’m going to get stuff done without killing myself in the process and without missing out on precious moments with the people, big and small, who matter to me most.

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Hot chocolate and serendipity

image strawberry milkshake and hot chocolate

On Sunday morning I snuck out all by myself and enjoyed a wander around the Shirt and Skirt Market at the Abbotsford Convent. This was my chosen artist’s date for the week (as prescribed by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). You see, my inner artist is rather fond of markety-type places and needs to be indulged every so often.

In spite of the autumn sunshine it was a crisp morning and it turns out my inner artist is also rather fond of hot chocolate, so I headed for the nearby Farm Cafe (it was heartening to see so many people at the Convent appreciating and buying handmade, but the cafes there were overflowing).

The key to the artist’s date concept is that you’re supposed to do it by yourself. With only yourself for company you are free to chose the week’s adventure without having to justify its validity. Free to move at your own pace and isolated from external critiques you become more observant and better able to draw authentic creative inspiration from your chosen experience.

Planning my artist’s dates has led me to realise that there are a lot of things I would prefer not to do solo, so running into my brother and his girlfriend outside The Farm Cafe made my weekend. Thanks lovelies! That wasn’t cheating was it?

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Heart face dreamy thoughts: the world post-BHB

heart face dreamy thoughtsI last posted in anticipation of the Big Hearted Business Conference. The conference delivered everything I had hoped for and much more. In fact, I was so overwhelmingly thrilled and inspired by it that my inner censor wouldn’t let me post about it. I was pretty sure my thoughts would come out as a raving babble and whatever I wrote on the topic would read as though I’d gone a little crazy and joined the cult of Clare Bowditch, as opposed to having attended her very practical and empowering conference.

As the weeks have passed I’ve been processing it all, following “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron,  standing up to my inner censor and becoming a better writer. The conference heightened my awareness of the intrinsic value of creative acts in my daily life. A key message was that those around me benefit from me making time to write, because being creative makes me feel more fulfilled and happy; and in the words of Kemi Nekvapil, if my cup is full, I have more to give. With this in mind I’ve been putting pen to paper more often.

There was a lot more I took from the BHB Conference, but that’s enough for tonight. Now that my brain has just about finished percolating I’m sure I’ll be back with more very soon.

Claire x

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Clare Bowditch presents the Big Hearted Business Conference

gathering of happy hearts

I recently read this article on The Design Files about Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business and the BHB Conference, “a once-off skill-building weekend for anyone seeking the creative inspiration and practical small-business skills to make their living doing the things they love.”

I immediately knew I had to be there.

Clare Bowditch is an Australian singer/songwriter, sometimes actor and always amazing woman with a generous heart. The Big Hearted Business Conference is about helping people like me write a bigger story for themselves.

when the student is ready the teacher will appear

My birthday is coming up in April. This is my early birthday present. When I registered I received an email from Clare Bowditch:

“Thank you SO MUCH for being part of the very first Big Hearted Business Conference!

 And sincere congratulations on stepping-up and taking yourself and your creative business seriously. It takes guts, so bravo. We hope you’ll remember this as one of the smartest things you ever did.”

 

Lucky, lucky me.

Posted in Big Hearted Business, Creative mentors, Creative people who inspire me, Dream big, Life changing experiences, Musicians, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Creative people # 2 – Gurrumul

On a sunny Sunday in February I went to The Garden Party, a small, outdoor music festival held in a vacant lot. It was a lovely afternoon with good friends.

pink flamingo in the pink sunshine

We were there to see Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, an Indigenous Australian singer from Elcho Island in Arnhem Land.  He captivated us from first note to standing ovation.

It has been said many times that Gurrumul’s voice is one of transcendental beauty. It throbs with longing as he sings (mostly in the Yolngu language) of his connection to the land, animals and family. His sublime musicality and beautiful soul combine to create music that truly inspires.

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