Today is Friday. And I am drinking coffee looking out over a rather ugly parking lot. “I’d love to change this” I say to myself. So, I dress quickly and get ready to move one block over. To the wharf, with glorious views of the water, boats and a lighthouse. Not a huge effort, but a big change in perception. The place I stand in has a strong effect on how I think and feel.
I remember my brother David Brown writing about the things that flirt with us at the edge of our awareness and how impactful they can be without us knowing. He writes about sitting in his office which is full of unwashed laundry, old electronic equipment and piles of discarded papers. He cannot work out why he is feeling overloaded and underwhelmed, unable to action anything. Being a scientist among other things, it doesn’t take him long to realise that out of the corner of his eyes the overwhelming messy environment impacts him emotionally, physically and spiritually. So, he starts to rectify it.
In his beautiful book “He Dreamed a Train” (yes, he was generous enough to allow me to copy the title for our play of the same name that had two seasons at Brisbane Powerhouse, 2014 and 2017), he writes about this:
It took him two days to tidy the place, but in the end the clothes were washed, the kitchen was clean, the papers were restrained by bulldogs, all the train books and materials were together, and everything else was put away in the bookshelves. With that out of the way, he started rebuilding the abandoned life. When he found the body slumped, he straightened it. When it was tired, he rested it. When it was hungry, he fed it. When it was thirsty, he gave it water. He walked the body every morning, even when it really just wanted to sit around and read the news on the internet. He walked it down Glebe Point road towards the point, turned right down to the harbour, along past the school, then to the tram station and up the steep stairs to Glebe Point Road. Every day it went faster, without even trying. One morning he found that he was running up the hill without having intended to, and he knew that he was ready for the next step.
Brown, David. He Dreamed a Train (The Way Home Book 1) (Kindle Locations 2185-2191). Kindle Edition.
I love the way he talks about rebuilding his “abandoned life”. If only we all decided to do this. To rebuild the moments so that they can ‘zing’ rather than ‘clunk’ (I borrow these two words from a residential writing intensive I did many years ago with novelist Kate Grenville who talked about phrases that ‘zing’ or words that ‘clunk’). To create an environment of nurture rather than irritation. Of joy rather than ‘same same’.
According to Attwood and Attwood (2014) in their book Your Hidden Riches:
“It is the formal structure of ritual that allows participants to connect with the deepest aspect of their own inner nature” so they become aware of what is happening. With awareness comes change and the more aware we are, the more control we have over our lives, living fully with huge capacity. Attwood and Attwood talk about the mind being like a huge empty warehouse, ready to be filled. They quote Elizabeth Gilbert from her well-known book Eat, Pray, Love whobelieves that rituals “…create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma.” So with ritual, we can begin to fill our warehouse with life affirming things.
So today, I am going to notice. Notice even the smallest step that I can take to move an action into something that enhances my day, rather than just filling it up. That can begin to grow my warehouse full of joy. And it is through ritual that I can do this.
May we find our safe resting place today.