I am listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Kimmerer is an indigenous American woman who, as a botanist and ecologist, fuses traditional indigenous knowledge with science to create a powerful perspective.

The book tells stories of her life – and her deep connection with the natural world – with a dual voice. It’s in no hurry. So, its relaxing, while delivering a very potent message.

This is epitomised in the Thanksgiving Address, which she recites and discusses.

The Address

This is from the website –

The Thanksgiving Address (the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. The Haudenosaunee open and close every social and religious meeting with the Thanksgiving Address. 

It is also said as a daily sunrise prayer, and is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

In her book, Kimmerer affirms that the Haudenosaunee intended that the address be shared widely. The above link takes you to the full Address – but I had added it to the end of this essay as well.

To me, sharing it also means adapting it to suit the symbols and images of place and culture. I am sensitive to cultural appropriation – the mere adoption of the product of a culture and the imitation of it. It’s what people do when they imagine that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The Address is a gift to be shared. It is from the heart. It is the raw material of wisdom and connection partly worked to a good form, but not perfected for all recipients.

The Need to Recreate

Recently there was a story of a Catholic priest who said, “We baptise” and not “I baptise” in baptismal ceremonies over many years. Church authorities have, apparently, declared that the failure to say the words exactly as prescribed renders all the ceremonies invalid, null. While a faith certainly has the freedom to set rules about how ceremonies are performed, I feel obliged to observe that such an invalidation is effective only in the context of faith rules, not in any spiritual sense.

A baptism has questionable value to a child on any rational level. But it matters greatly to parents, god parents and the priest. The Church’s insistence on “I baptise” suggests the priest alone possesses an authority to perform the ceremony. Again, while it is the right of a faith to believe, and assert this, it is simply not true that the priest alone has that ability.

In this case, the love of the parents for the child carries a far greater energy to perform such a ceremony. The priest is merely an agent acting on the parent’s behalf. The errant priest is right. “We baptise” is not only truer; it is more potent.

A quick note. Being ordained as a priest or minister is an administrative act. So is being ‘initiated’ into an occult group or a wiccan coven – for the most part. In many indigenous traditions a ‘shaman’ or priest is ‘chosen by spirit’ – and any act or ordaining or initiating involving humans is a cooperative affair.

Being ordained or initiated, of itself, means nothing beyond the belief system’s culture and traditions. But it becomes a conceit for the many who imagine it has transformed them in some fundamental way. There is no magical transference of power or authority outside that culture and tradition. Power comes from spirit, and it is given, or shared, regardless of human belief.

Why is This Important?

The Thanksgiving Address is a gift from the Haudenosaunee to us all. But it is of diminished value if all we do is recite it as if its power lies in its words alone. 

We must decide whether the gift is the form, or the quality of the spirit the words carry from the speaker’s lips, and the hearers’ hearts. Are the words the gift wrapping or the gift?

If the Thanksgiving Address moves you as it is, imagine how much more potent it would be if those ideas are framed in images and symbols that resonate deeply with you – with your culture, with the place where you live.


The Thanksgiving Address is an intimate expression. It must be personal. It must come from inside, as it does for the Haudenosaunee, who crafted it according to their ways. If you accept the gift, to honour it, you must make it your own.

That will take time, and deep reflection. I will be making it my own in the coming weeks. I am not impatient. I must prepare, and the time must be right.

Braiding Sweetgrass is a book of immense beauty and power. It’s in ebook and audiobook formats, so there’s no excuse for not finding what works best for you.

Because we are impatient and linear beings, I have included the whole of the Thanksgiving Address below.

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give our greetings and our thanks to one another as people.


We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send our greetings and our thanks.


We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the spirit of Water.


We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and our thanks.


Now we turn toward the Plants. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give our thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life continue for many generations to come.


With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them our greetings and our thanks.


Now we turn to all the Medicine plants of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind we send our greetings and our thanks to the Medicines, and to the keepers of the Medicines.


We gather our minds together to send our greetings and our thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we pray that this will always be so.


We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Tree life.


We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds — from the smallest to the largest — we send our joyful greetings and our thanks.


We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Four Winds.


Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunders live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunders.


We now send our greetings and our thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Brother, the Sun.


We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.


We give our thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewels. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send our greetings and our thanks for the Stars.


We gather our minds together to consider the Wisdom Keepers who have come to help the people throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to these caring teachers.


Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator, Shonkwaia’tîson, and send our greetings and our thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.


We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it is not our intention to leave anything out. If something has been forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send their greetings and their thanks in their own way.



The Spirit of Place


Less than 5 minutes drive from where I live is a park I have gone to in the early mornings for a few years. It has a parking area that faces north, and the eastern end has been my go-to place. There’s something about that area that entrances me.

There’s nothing spectacular or obvious. In fact, one morning the rising sun filtered through mist to create an affect that let me create one of my favourite photos. To take it on my iPhone I had to wait for a guy with a flash camera – a digital SLR – to move out of the way. What he saw, I do not know, but it clearly wasn’t what I saw. He moved on without raising his camera.

A foggy forest with trees

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Developing soft eyes

I have had a passion for photography since my teens, but I never took the straight path that delighted in crisp and technically perfected images. I loved the effect of light, and I developed a kind of painterly passion – expressionistic – rather than a love of the technical potential of the device. For a long time, I relied upon a basic point and shoot Kodak, and commercial processing. I couldn’t crop images until digital came a long, so I had to learn to see the finished image in my crappy little camera.

I bought a Canon SLR in the mid 1990s. It was my second. The first, a Minolta SRT 101, I bought in 1968, and it was stolen a few years later. So, the Canon was an act of indulgence, as modest as it was.

In 1999 I enrolled in a Social Ecology course through the University of Western Sydney. One of the units was A Sense of Place. This involved selecting a place and returning to it for at least an hour for each day for a week or two. I have forgotten the details now. I had to keep a diary and deliver 5,000-word report. With the permission of course convenor I produced a 30,000-word report and a portfolio of poems and photos.

My place was Broadwater Beach, north of Evans Head on the far north coast of New South Wales. The beach stretched south to Evans Head. It was not an area that was safe for swimming, so mostly fishers went there. It had a quality of wildness that domesticated beaches lacked. I went there often to fish. On the rare occasions I could see another person I felt crowded.

I picked an area of around 100 metres to limit any temptation to roam too far. My intent was to make a photographic diary, but 2 things happened. The first was that I got bored quickly, and the second was that a beach and sand dunes do not make for good photographs. I began to rue my choice of place. But, I chose to stick it out – even if my report would be about being bored and not able to take interesting photos. I had to be loyal to my original intent and see it through.

Broadwater Beach is home to what is called ‘coffee rock’. It’s a mixture of mineral sands and organic matter which produces a hard but friable feature that looks like compacted coffee grounds. Portions of the area I had selected featured areas of this ‘coffee rock’ eroded by wave action. I decided to photograph detail in the desperate hope of producing some images that were interesting. Apart from a few possibles, it was a forlorn expectation. 

But what it did do was transformative. It shifted my gaze from the beachscape to particular features and, quite suddenly, I was seeing extraordinary things under my feet. What was a visual desert became a bounty of the extraordinary. I changed the pattern of my visits – arriving just before sun up, and at the last few hours of daylight. 

Ground water seeped through the dunes and created wet areas that intersected wave cut sand structures. In the mornings the reflected light was golden, and in the late afternoons it was silver. 

What was supposed to be a few weeks of visits stretched to several months. I was captivated by the changes in the sands, and the variety of what could be seen. I ended up with over 70 images that I kept. What was beneath my feet and so carelessly walked over was a gallery of stunning beauty.

That experience transformed the way I see things. I had developed soft eyes.

The vision of complexity

What I see and esteem is not something that excites everybody. I couldn’t make an art form of how I see things and expect it would be popular. Back in the late 1960s I took a photo of a fallen log with a background of tea trees. It held a fascination for me that was incomprehensible to others. Where they saw ‘just bush’ I saw elegant complexity. I have recent similar images that fill me with delight, while my arty siblings offer compensatory comments about colours. They do not see what I see.

If bushland is just a chaos of plants, leaves, and branches it has no inherent meaning. A biologist or a botanist will see the same scene differently, but in a particularistic way.

As a coherent complexity, it ‘speaks’. This is something I grew up knowing; but had no frame of reference to articulate it – until Broadwater Beach. That experience took me consciously, step by step, into seeing beneath the habituated surface. Broadwater Beach triggered a flood of animistic poems, though at the time I had no language for that. Animism was an idea I would encounter for the first time a few years down the track.

Broadwater Beach image

The above image is from Broadwater Beach

Places have spirits

In the 1960s I walked in the Tasmanian wilderness as if it were already known to me. I was guided by something in ways that gave me an unwelcome reputation among my walking companions, even in my mid to late teens. My stepfather much later told me I had become known as somebody who could not get lost. 

The not getting lost bit was far more complex than I could let on, but I was also ‘guided’ by soft voices that whispered to me, or triggered visions of what was up ahead. Sometimes a direction simply felt right. I felt at home in the Tasmanian bush. It seemed to embrace and welcome me.

There were some places I was not welcome, perhaps the others were not welcome either, but they did not sense it. I could ‘see’ these places as I approached. They seemed discordant. Staying was not an option. If I tried, the best I could do was drop my pack and walk restlessly around. I’d find an excuse to wander off with my mug of tea in hand and come back only when the others were ready to move on.

On one memorable trip the group decided to camp by a group of granite boulders, but I could not pitch my tent until I had moved away quite some distance. I was chastised until I lied and said I snored badly, and I didn’t want to disturb others. In the morning virtually all those who had camped near the boulders reported nightmares, broken sleep and aches and pains on waking. I had slept soundly and was refreshed.

Sensing and vision

I think now there is a link between seeing complexity, rather than chaos when looking at the bush, and sensing the spirit of a place. Seeing something that seems to have meaning rather than being just a meaningless tangle of stuff creates an opportunity for meaning to emerge – as a sensation or feeling or thought.

The needed ‘soft eyes’ can be developed through intentional practice. When I moved to Katoomba, I saw the sandstone cliffs in geological terms for years. It was actually hard to stop taking photographs that were depicting the normal specific images. In fact, it was almost decade. During that time, I was in head mode – hyper rational and busy. Outside of work I was focused on study and working on the house. I had lost my ‘soft eyes’.

It was contracting Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in April 2008 that changed me totally. The GBS conferred sudden paralysis, and after 3 months in an ICU, I was transferred to a rehab ward. I spent the first 9 months of 2009 doing physiotherapy to get my body working as well as it could, the last 6 months at home. My outside world was confined to the back verandah, which became a daily sense of place venue through autumn, winter and into spring.

Once I my ability to move was coherent enough to use Canadian crutches, I was able to get outside and get away from the house with a camera. But I discovered I needed to sit or lean to take photos. And not every opportunity accommodated itself to that need. Leaning was perilous in many places, and places to sit were scarce. Once again, I had to learn how to see differently.

Going bush was out of the question, so I learned to value the open gardens of Mt Wilson, which is about 45 minutes drive away. Sefton Cottage was my favourite. It was not the most spectacular, nor the largest, but it had the gentlest and calmest spirit. It was a bit wilder than other gardens – maybe that’s why it felt more at ease. It’s no longer open.

My first photo after recovery - Sefton Cottage Garden at Mt Wilson, NSW

Above is the first photo I took away from home after my recovery. It’s taken at Sefton Cottage garden at Mt Wilson, NSW.


We are mostly moving and thinking, and even when we stop and look around it is easy to be distracted by our chattering ‘monkey mind’. And when we do get quiet and look, we rarely see, because we are still telling ourselves what we are looking at. Part of the trick to developing soft eyes is to change what we tell ourselves about what we see. We can presume a complex order of lives constituting a community, and an entity, and shift our vision to ‘see’ that – and leave ourselves open to an engagement with what we see – daring to imagine it may be two-way. 

A Reflection at Black Mother Gully

Written on my birthday – 22 Jan – and got buried in my ‘to edit’ list. 

The chooks are making a racket and the breakfasting ducks pause and align their gaze. A passing shower obliges me to close my window. Another wet day. 

I have been listening to Don Watson’s Watsonia – a survey of his writing life. His sense of Australian landscape and culture reminded me of my jobs that were dominated by landscape – in northern and western NSW and on the Tasman Peninsula. 

That all stopped in mid 2006 when I began commuting eastward to Parramatta and Penrith.  Even so, I had the mountains at the beginning, and the end. In 2018 I commuted to Lithgow. It was mountains all the way. 

Watson’s evocative images, and extraordinary mastery of the language, reminded me how strongly we can split our awareness between the natural and human domains. On my commute east, once train passed Lapstone, and before it got to Emu Plains, the view from my window shifted from bush to the intensely and relentlessly human. 

I pause as the bird symphony is intruded by the sound of a jet overhead. My plane finder app tells me it’s a Qantas flight out of Sydney bound for Adelaide and it’s at 5,338 metres.  The human invades everywhere. 

The human is complex. Our senses are attuned to that complexity. Our eyes and ears are conditioned to interpret input that keeps us safe and helps us achieve our objectives. 

The natural world is complex. We know this rationally. Few of us have our senses finely tuned to it. At best we might engage with it as a respite from the relentlessly human. But rarely are such experiences immersive, or for long enough for us to need retuning to the human on our return. 

These days I avoid the inner city as much as I can, which is a lot. The sensory overload is exhausting and unpleasant. In contrast, when city dwelling family folk come to stay, they find the quietness almost unbearable. It can cause sleeplessness, apparently. 

The bush and the city are mutually incomprehensible, and maybe intolerable, to those senses and sensibilities are deeply attuned to the other.  This is as it should be. Fish do not walk on land, and I do not wander submerged. 

But we must not mistake a simple vision of a strange thing for a representation of what is. The absence of intimate familiarity is no sin, but neither is it a foundation upon which to presume an estimation of value or nature. 

We need to develop a dual nature that endows us with an ability to anticipate the presence of complexity of nature and behaviour of whatever we encounter – in the city or the bush. This is not a difficult task, but it a demanding one. It requires patience, stillness, to tune our senses. It requires the acquisition of knowledge that obliges us to reframe what and how we think. We don’t have to remember that knowledge, so long as it helps us unthink what we do think. As we unthink and tune our senses, we expose ourselves to things that may have been previously preposterous. 

A lot of opportunities to experience the paranormal are denied because we assume something ridiculous cannot be so.  Sometimes that lost opportunity is known only in hindsight. Some now long time ago, I was leaving home in a hurry. I had thrown my keys into a briefcase.  As I rushed to get out, I had a nagging thought to check that my keys were there. Ridiculous. I had tossed them in the briefcase mere moments ago and I had no time for a worry wort check.  I got to the car and ….no keys. Great. I was locked out of car and home. I was very late. When I managed to get back inside, I found the keys on the floor, right where my brief case had been. Had I heeded that hint, none of this would have happened. There was a lesson to be learned. I am less stupid these days, and nowhere near perfect – but now I listen to, and heed, the soft thoughts way more often than I ignore or dismiss them.

I hate flying. In the early 70s I was flying out of Adelaide to Melbourne and I was about to learn a valuable lesson. As I was about to board, I was overcome with an anticipation of drama and risk. I was unsettled scared by its force, and I needed to calm down. Was the plane going to crash? I sat down, composed myself and ‘felt into’ the journey. It would be okay. On approach at Melbourne, we were advised the was a problem with the undercarriage and the plane was going fly around a bit to get rid of fuel – just in case. We landed just fine. 

Not every ‘bad’ feeling has an adverse outcome. But I had to dare believe, and that, at that moment at the Adelaide airport, was a difficult choice until I calmed down and tuned in. I was on my way back to Tasmania – and I was driven to get there. As it turned out the plane’s passengers were right out of a Hollywood movie. There was a guy in handcuffs with 2 plain clothes cops as escorts, 2 nuns, a priest, a young couple with a newborn child. There was no way it would have been okay if we had crashed and burned.

I had adopted the habit of ‘feeling into’ a trip. Sometimes I did not go as intended, because it didn’t feel right. Mostly, there no evidence that was a good move. But one time, outside The Place cafe in Kings Cross, Sydney, I sat on the back of a motorbike and instantly felt bad. As good as the rider was, he was also inclined to push things to the edge. I got off, giving a weak excuse about feeling crook, so as to not offend him. I knew, if I had been truthful, he would have laughed at me. I was replaced by a shorter guy. He had his knee grazed in a close shave with a car that had moved out of a lane without seeing the bike. 

I don’t know if I was seeing what did happen or whether I dodged a more serious injury. It’s not possible to know. Not every thought that comes into our minds is uncontested. We habitually evaluate and edit notions that seem irrational or preposterous. We have a conceit that we are smart enough to know enough to make a judgement on a sudden, unbidden, thought – usually reflexively and with no careful consideration. We aren’t. The trouble is that averting a problem means you have no evidence that your intuition was good. Hindsight is, unfortunately, a good teacher – but sometimes it’s too late. 

Around 1992 I was driving for work between Grafton and Armidale on the NSW mid north coast. As I approached the crest of a hill sitting on around 100 kph I suddenly snapped into a strange hyper alert state. As I hit the crest, I saw a car insanely attempting to overtake a slow log truck on my side of the 2 lane road. I recall flicking left onto the verge, which was fortunately free of series debris, and back onto the road. As I drove on, I was in a state of shock. My heart was pounding and I was in a very strange headspace. I recall debating whether to pull over and chill or not. I decided that if I pulled over, I would probably fall apart and not be able to drive. I didn’t want that, so I kept going. I was fully conscious that the sudden hyper alert state saved me from a full-on head-on.

A few months later I was driving from Lismore to Moree. I was over the speed limit to the point where I might have been booked, had I been caught. It was a nice straight road, conducive to going over the speed limit. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a blue light in my rear vision mirror. I cursed and slowed down, expecting a police car to loom up. Only it didn’t happen. There was no police car behind me. But there was in front. I slowed down just before a bend and went through it at about 80kph – and there, previously out of sight, was a police car and a cop with a speed gun. 

Even when my envisioning of my journey left me feeling confident it was to be a safe journey that did not mean everything was uneventful – just that I would get to my destinate safely – though maybe scared half to death. In a way, feeling into the journey developed a habit of ‘seeing ahead’ that certainly saved me from speeding fines. My colleagues and managers were all regional roles, and I think I was the only one, over 18 months, not to pinged for speeding. Several colleagues were down to the last points on their licenses – and their jobs were at risk.

You can fall prey to what are fears, and anxieties, that intrude. Not all ‘intuitions’ are that. But rather than dismiss awareness of them as folly, it is far better to learn to distinguish between fears and intuitions. That requires practice. Pause, on becoming conscious of an odd notion, and interrogate it – intuition or anxiety?

There’s a two-way conversation between the rational conscious domain of our mind and the unconscious intuitive realms. But mostly we edit and filter it out so, that, at best, it is a fleeting notion that offends against our immediate dominant habit of rational thinking (or so we fondly think it is), and is dismissed. There is so much ‘monkey mind’ chatter the subtle thoughts are missed or dismissed. Our normal states of mind are unfriendly places for intuitions. We can make them better.

Writing can be a useful tool to learn to discern those subtle thoughts and intuitions from the storm of emotions – once we have mastered the art of getting beyond our ego and conceit – and into an authentic voice. Here I don’t mean writing something for publication or sharing – just a private practice – a journal perhaps. This won’t help with idiot errors that get you locked out of car and home, but it can develop a softer ear to one’s inner voice.

If we write badly it’s because we were never taught to write well. If we can learn to write ‘from the heart’, we can tap into a deeper level of awareness and insight. We usually start off in a pretentious way – ineptly aping how we imagine good writing should be. It can take time to drill down beneath the BS to find our hearts. Mind, some souls are blessed with the ability to get there quickly.

In late 1996 I was coming back on a ferry from Calais to Dover. I had been on a non-lander return trip to buy duty free wine and cigarettes. I was sitting with a pint of bitter, reading, I have forgotten what. Suddenly I was struck with the idea that I would be a writer. It was a forceful and sharp notion that startled and rattled me. When I got home, I went to bed and bawled for close on 24 hours. I had no idea why, but I could not stop.

I had been writing in various ways for years, but I was not ‘a writer’. I did not take the idea to mean I would become a published author. Rather, writing would be something I did intentionally, as a practice – as a hobby perhaps. 

I still do not understand what happened on the ferry, nor afterwards. Now it seems like the purging of long pent-up emotion, some buried grief that had to be released, maybe.

In 1998, back in Australia, I joined the Far North Coast Regional chapter of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW). I took to the meetings and workshops with a passion. In 1999 I entered the local chapter’s annual literary competition with 7 pieces. Like all such competitions, it was open for entries around the country and overseas. I was stunned to receive 5 awards – a First Place, 2 Highly Commended, 1 Commended, and Worthy of Mention in short story, article essay and poetry categories.

That was a brief blaze of glory. No other contestant had won as many awards in a single competition in the 12 years it had been running. I didn’t continue to enter literary competitions – though I did later enter a couple of pieces and one award a couple of years later. I stopped writing short stories and poetry after a few years because of my focus on my tertiary studies. It seems as if the experience was about getting me writing – and nothing else. I have put that newly developed skill to good use in my subsequent academic studies and professional work. But privately I have continued to write notes and explore ideas associated with my primary passion – some of which is expressed in this blog.

The point of this story is that a sudden and powerful experience was allowed full expression and realization. After bawling for 24 hours – and I mean this literally, not figuratively – I used a chunk of my meagre resources to buy a word-processing typewriter and started writing like crazy. Writing became my main medium of contact with a deeper sense of awareness – a kind of in between state of consciousness that was neither fully rational nor a reverie or trance.

But writing to tap deeper layers of awareness was a perilous business at first. Getting beyond ego and conceit was not easy. It took a lot of practice. I was told by a spiritual teacher some years back that what I had written was largely useless as a source of insight and ideas. It had too much ‘me’ (ego) in it. I couldn’t get out of my own way to let my deeper nature speak onto the page. 

It’s still a work in progress.