Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Growing wilder

It's been ages since I wrote anything here, poor neglected blog!

Well with good reason - I have been one busy mama, and have been off adventuring!

First up, HESFES. Possibly the hottest I have ever been in my whole life. Once I had set up camp on my own with my four bambinos all wanting to be anywhere but helping me put up the bell-tent, it was time for bed. The next day I met up with my friend Claire who introduced me properly to the Groovy Movie Solar Cinema guys, and I got to meet some other really great folks, who gave me lots of material to write up for Juno article. This year I felt like I actually got to chat to people a bit more, especially once my friend and helper Nicole arrived to take some of the pressure off me doing it all on my own, freeing me up to be able to do a few wee interviews with people for my Juno article. Last year, I was really happy just hanging out with our gang of families and was so busy keeping up with my little loonies running here there and everywhere who showed very little interest in any of the workshops, so this time it was nice to actually talk properly to those running the really great workshops, the festival organisers etc. I loved spending time hanging out with Claire and her boys and an old friend from home ed group who I hadn't seen for two years who was there, so that was really great. Claire and I shared a little late night Tequila by her tent which was a magic moment in the middle of all the craziness of the festival.

I had as good a time as you can have with really weird tingling headaches and feeling sunstrokey. Alf had a few public and very embarassing meltdowns which were completely OTT and one of those moments when you want the ground to swallow you up - over pink milk. I won't lie to you, from that angle, HESFES was haaaaaard work. I struggled. I wanted to be all confident and ooze professionalism, but actually felt rather amateurish and unconfident. I know I will write a great piece about it but it wasn't an easy few days - free tickets or not. I have a total appreciation of just how much work goes into HESFES and how committed the organisers and helpers are - it's not an easy thing to pull off and they managed to cope with crazy weather conditions and pull together a really great fezzie. My own patheticness aside - the festival was brilliant, the workshops were run by really passionate and brilliant people, and I am really grateful for what those guys do every year!

Next year I hope to feel less stressy and enjoy more of the wonderful things on offer, and am hoping that Alf being a year older will help with the not feeling so frazzledness!!! I won't go into any more detail about specific workshops or people I met there - you'll have to wait to read all about it in Juno!

Here's a few pics for you though:

Alf with Andrea, creator of Vapoosh!
One night at my folks for a quick stop after HESFES, and then we were off again! This time to Staffordshire, for a Family Bushcraft Weekend. Two tyre changes and trip to the doctors later, we were all good to go, and set off for some time in the wild.

After the business of a festival it was really lovely to unwind at the Bushcraft weekend, run by the fabulous Naomi and Dan from outback2basics.co.uk

We build a den to sleep in for the night.....

The view from our den - looking out onto a lake! Beautiful.

It was a beautiful place of frogs and dragonflies. We walked through meadows sampling plants, digging up roots, picking plums to eat off the trees. We made fires. We played. We ate good food, cooked on the fire. We whittled knives out of wood, played team-building games. Talked about different trees, about shelter, about camouflage, about what we actually need to live. We breathed in the beauty of the place and made new friends. And we slept in our den, which was surprisingly toasty, and came home feeling re-charged. I hadn't realised how much I actually know about plants, it was really lovely to be with people who understood and respected nature and it felt like a really healing place to be for me. Every time I hang out in woodlands and meadows I feel more me, more myself, more alive.

And so back home. Back to my own little patch of tamed wilderness and actual wilderness. The part of our garden nearest to the house is looking very cultivated and cottage gardeny and pretty but if i want to feel the wild i need only go down the meadow at the end of the garden where everything is overgrown, the the appl tree is running riot, where I can lay in the grass and get lost......

I think there's going to be much more of that going on round here. This summer I appreciate the wild places more than any other in recent years, and I love it. My aim in life is moving more and more towards finding wild places and exploring them, coming home to myself after a crazy few years of working and earning in a rat-racey way.

Mamas got a new bike, and my wings are spreading, on so many levels.

Going wild is the way for me!

What wild things have you readers been up to?


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Letting go...... again and again!

I have realised some really important, life-changing truths today, which I wanted to talk about here.

I truly do not have to do anything I don't want to, just because I once wanted it.

It's ok to change my mind.

It's ok to outgrow a situation, and move on.

It's ok to outgrow an idea, and move on.

It's ok to outgrow a feeling and move on.

It's ok to outgrow a behaviour and move on.

It will all be ok if I let go.

I've been playing around with a few ideas and beating myself up that my original vision has proven somehow to not fit quite right, to feel wrong, to feel like a pressure and a weight.

My original vision of an arty, coffee table type pregnancy and birth book is one such idea that has evolved in my heart and mind from its first conception. I had wanted to write the kind of book that would be an artsy mish-mash of styles, colourific, magazine like, with beat poetry and beautiful artwork. The reality of putting together such a book is that whilst it would look very pretty, it is hard to collect and collate such photography and artwork. Unless I took a year out and travelled, photographed and networked like crazy, it's not going to happen. Besides which....... I can write. Writing is what I am good at. I enjoy it, others enjoy it. I am not a photographer. I also have a deep desire to truly help women and this is a more driving force for putting a book out there, than making something that looks cool. If I can pull off a book that looks good then great but that is no longer my starting point. It doesn't matter when it gets published. It'll come when it's ready. And when it does it'll be better than I first imagined, even if it no longer resembles my first spec.

I am also realising that my idea of running a women's retreat next year is not really where I am at at the moment. I do not know where I will be next year, on so many different levels, so this idea may have to go on the backburner. I am making my peace with feeling disappointed with myself for coming up with yet another whacky idea that I realised I didn't want to do, on closer deeper reflection.

After a major wobble in the last week about my ability to be a good Doula, I see myself in a new light. I see that I am learning and that this is ok. I don't need to be perfect. I may not have 20 or 30 years experience under my belt but that doesn't mean I don't have any. I accept that I am human and that it won't be the end of the world if I make mistakes. I'll learn from my mistakes, and then I'll move on. And I'll become better at listening, feeling, judging where things are really at. It will come with practise, reflection and through mentoring from my amazing, warm and generous Doula and soul sisters. I'm not an island but part of a strong caring community who help one another. I am truly blessed!

Do you see a common thread running through my thinking here?

I'm moving on, and moving on, and moving on. Closer towards the writer, doula, friend, wife and mother I would like to be, ditching the one I don't. It's all ok.

It's hard - no-one can force can force a butterfly out of its chrysalis, it comes from within, it happens messily and painfully, but how else can we be propelled into new states, new concepts, new phases of our life?

The birthing and rebirthing of our body, mind and soul has a rhythmn and timing all its own!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

You can learn a lot of things from the flowers

I am not generally a big Disney fan, but this song spoke so beautifully to me today, in spite of Alice's rather annoying high pitched accompaniment!

No matter how clever us humans are, I think of nature as the ultimate teacher, healer, and guide. 

It encompasses both the harmony and chaos of the universe. 

The Buddha is quoted to have said

"If we could see the miracle of a single flower, our whole life would change "

I see it. 

I am changed.

When we get so busy we don't have time to look at flowers, don't make time to marvel at them, when we take them for granted, live in isolation from them, or think of them as pretty but pointless, I think really we lose something precious.

Nothing we humans could ever manufacture will ever be as beautiful, perfect or powerful, as a single flower.

They really know how to live!

These formidable and amazing things can bust their way through concrete, grow without soil halfway up a building, and grow all the better for having poo thrown on them! 

Flowers support one another in a garden, sharing and exchanging nutrients by their root systems, sustaining life for visiting insects, butterflies, birds.

They follow the seasons, obey the laws of night and day, opening and closing according to the sun and moon.

Animals intuitively know which flowers to eat, which will help with indigestion, with sickness, which will give them a high.

Flowers are given in friendship. They are given in love.

Essential oils, flower essences, concoctions, balms and creams can soothe us when we are irritable, working to relax our entire nervous system from the inside out or the outside in. They work their magic on bruises, sores, injuries and sickness.

They became the symbol for the peace movement, because of the lessons they could teach the world.

Christmas, Easter, and so many other celebrations have their most ancient roots in nature, in fertility, an acknowledgement of the circle of life and death in an endless cycle and many of the symbolic flowers remain, although their meaning is hidden.

The power and beauty of a single flower is beyond amazing!


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Motherfunker writes for Juno

I was really delighted to get an email a few weeks ago from Saffia at Juno magazine, asking if I'd like to write a before and after piece on HESFES, the Home Educators festival which is now in its 15th year.  

You can read all about the festival and our lead up to it at  http://www.junomagazine.com/
My piece is the on the top left hand corner of the page (HESFES 2012 by Paula Cleary)

To see pictures from last years festival,  do go and take a look at my blogposts from last summer  Hesfes Part 1 and Hesfes Part 2 

Any of you readers going? Would be great to catch up!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Walking the labyrinth

Today has been a waddling about kind of day. Having a really sore back forces you to be in the present, there's no dashing about or doing anything extraneous. In a weird way, and in spite of the pain, I am grateful to have had that kind of day today. Quietly padding. Sitting quietly. Thinking.

I've been listening to some mp3's sent to me as preparation for my Birthing from Within course in April.     I confess my mind is thoroughly blown!

Everything I though my role in birth should be is turned on its head - I have been so busy filling my head with knowledge that I missed a really crucial point. I know I have had the arrogance only a 'learned' person can have.

Honestly and truly my role is to help women however their birth unfolds, not to project a goal of the dream birth and try my damndest to make sure it happens just like that.  It's that simple. I need reminding of this every day..... and it will be a hard lesson to really truly internally learn this truth. It goes against conventional theories of learning - that part of me that is not a conventional learner or teacher will have to speak up louder against my traditional western educational mindset - that learners are empty vessels becoming filled up with knowledge slowly slowly with each new morsel of information. No - if anything I need to empty my cup, clear the space, sweep away all traces of what I think I know. On one level I have always known this and felt it, yet I persist in filling myself up with birthing wisdom from those who teach their own magic formulas for birth.. There are many truths, but they are harder to find, hard to realise, can take a lifetime to truly understand. No-one can write those truths for you. They are yours alone. I am a slow learner.

I finally get it. Truly!

My role, plain and simple, is to listen and really hear the birthing mamas fears, dreams, and where she is really at - moment-to-moment, throughout her pregnancy, at birth and beyond.

My role is not to be a heroine, saving the day, but rather to work in the present with that one particular mama helping her by ditching expectations, pre-judgements, and agendas other than going with the flow, as it flows, and giving her the space to be her most authentic self. She is the heroine of her own story.

My Doula name Go-with-the-flow is a mantra as much for myself as anything else. It's a reminder to surrender, for maybe it is here that lies true power and strength? I need to keep smashing up my own sense of rightness, of pre-judgement, of ego, of truth, of a singular concept of a perfect birth.

This evening I am struck by the realisation that no matter how many books I read, how I birthed my babies, how many videos I watch, how much information I try to pass on to mamas who will be in my care, I cannot birth that baby myself for them, I cannot influence or decide the outcome or change the fates that are written in the spheres. The universe will swirl and do what it wants. I guess we can either dance in step or out of step with it. I cannot take any credit or blame for how things unfold. I can only be there to help mama from my innermost highest self to hers. All I can do is be there fully and joyfully,  radiating love and helping set the scene for the magic to flow by way of acceptance and positivity.

I am remembering today with equal fondness the births of all my children and in my heart, my hospital birth with Finn was truly not as awful as it could have been. My instincts and love endured in spite of the bizarre surroundings. In spite of being drugged, I loved him fiercely, I bonded with him and recognised him in an instant, I was every bit a natural mama in that environment as I was with the others at home. He fed beautifully and I felt total connection, barely noticing the surroundings as I was really only there for about 18 hours in total. I was high as a kite on oxytocin and love. It was a shame that Pete couldn't be there for those few hours overnight - but maybe it helped me to truly bond with my baby boy - being thrown into that hospital environment together, with no other responsibilities or distractions?

Also, had I not had my hospital experience I perhaps wouldn't have appreciated my home births as much.

Perhaps if I hadn't felt like I had to fight to get the birth I wanted with my last baby boy Alf, it would never have led me to train as a Doula.

Perhaps we have the births that we and our babies need - emotionally and spiritually - even if at the time we think it sucked!

This is truly a journey of twists and turns, revelations, understanding, and misunderstanding. Learning and unlearning and learning anew. It's certainly a spiral with no way back - on and up, ever forwards!

Friday, 6 July 2012

The path of learning and unlearning

Today I am smiling at myself with the realisation that my role as teacher involves constant unlearning, re-learning, unlearning, re-learning. Building up ideas, knocking them down again. Building up truths, having them smashed up. I guess I am no different from the rest of society. Entire civilizations, empires and nations, rise up, and decline, simoultaneously and in replacement of each other, echoing along the pulsating, gyrating umbilical cord of time in which we all live!

My heart, head, and soul become full, and swell, and are poured back out. Like the moon, I wax and wane. Appear to be full and empty. The moon is but a black rock floating in space, and without the light of the sun shining upon it, we forget the whole moon is always there - constant!

Every time I think I have something licked, that I have mastered myself, triumphed over myself, that I am illuminated, that I understand, I stand at the other side of the shore and recognise that I am an amateur, a charlatan, a sham, a fool, blind in the dark. Walking around the circle of things I see myself grand and magnificent, overflowing with wise words and thoughts and at the other side, gibbering, foolish, uncertain, wrong.

Maybe the true path to wisdom is to recognise ourselves as learners and unlearners? And for those of us who teach - teachers and unteachers. To recognise the illusion of truth? The illusion of knowing. Of certainty.

Maybe the only way to be is an eternal beginner? 

To wake every day with the attitude of a child - always glad and bouncy to be alive, with a fresh perspective?

To realise that we know less than nothing?

Life can only ever be a wonder, a mystery and surprise, when we recognise how little we really know.

That idea makes me smile a big goofy grin!

My name is Paula, and I officially know less than nothing!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Magic in the Wild

We have been spending so so many magical days out in wild places these last few weeks, and I feel more deeply connected to the earth than I have done in ages. 

We have spent many a day messing about in magical woodlands with friends, getting lost in their beauty, ancient secrets whispered from every tree, plant and bird. We have sat and chattered, jumped, climbed, wheeled and spun... lost in tall grasses, fields of flowers, hung out up close and personal with bugs and birds and butterflies. I seem to be covered in bug bites, but a small price to pay!

Sea lavender & Indie

We have visited enchanting fairy glades, made daisy chains, found secret places. Squished and patted and played with the earth in our hands, and squooshed and sloshed in it as mud on our feet. We have stood on hilltops. Played in the sea. 

We have felt the ocean breeze dance all around us till it went dark, with fire-flames licking into the dark, with laughter and whoops of freedom ringing in the air. 

The heady scent of honeysuckle in the evenings has woven its magical way in the ether and perfumed the air all around us.

Life feels good for our family right now. Being closer to the wild feels delicious. I am feeling intoxicated from the magic of these wild places, and I want more, more, more!

Tell me about your wild days, dear readers