17 October 2012

Ten days: dix jours

Ça fait déjà dix jours que je suis arrivée en France. J'écris ce blog en français comme mon prof à Canberra m'a demandé!

Quels dix jours fantastiques! Je me suis bien intégrée dans mon école. Chaque matin, je marche (ou prends le métro) de mon appartement Rue de la Paix à Rue Montmartre. J'ai rencontré d'autres étudiantes dans ma classe qui sont devenues des amies.

Je suis allée à l'opéra et à un concert de musique classique. En plus, j'ai rencontré des amies australiennes et j'ai visité de bonnes expositions. Je vais vous expliquer pourquoi une de ces expos m'a touché et m'a évoqué un sentiment de familiarité. Elle s'appelle ''Bohèmes - le roman de la liberté". Selon la conservatrice de cette expo "les mythes forgés par ces mots (bohèmes, Bohémiens) font, en effet, partie de notre identité collective, de notre rapport à l'altérité, de nos imaginaires."

L'expo retrace l'histoire de la vie bohémienne de jadis jusqu'à de nos jours. Il y a un thème qui se répète dans toute l'expo: la route, le parcours, toujours l'idée du mouvement. Voici un poème de l'expo (par Saban Iliaz), qui j'ai trouvé très émouvant.


Nous avons pris une route dans la nuit
Sans savoir où elle pouvait mener
Laissant derrière nous un grand pays
Nous avons commencé notre parcours de peine.

Nous nous sommes égarés sur des sentiers
Pourtant nos lourdes charges
Nous avons enterré nos morts le long de la route
Dans les fôrets nos pères ont vielli.

Au milieu de l'endroit le plus sombre
Nous nous sommes posés pour souffler
Arrêtés pour reprendre les esprits
Assis là, nous nous sommes endormis.

Ni pain à manger, ni eau à boire
Aucune croûte n'a touché nos lèvres
Au petit matin nous nous sommes relevés
Pour reprendre la longue route.

In English then to finish this post. Having taken the concept of journeys, of travel, of search as the theme for my blog, it was fascinating to see exactly the same theme repeated throughout the ages. For those who take to the road, it's not an easy decision, nor one taken lightly. It's not always about escaping from something horrible, but knowing that the easy way is not always the most meaningful.

I've always been attracted to the "romance" of the bohemian way of life. With a little more hindsight, there is certainly an allure, a fascination, an obsession with living somewhat outside the strict rules and disciplines of mainstream society. But romantic, soft and fluffy? Not really.

In closing, let me quote Vincent Van Gogh (pourquoi pas?)  ". . . it always seems to me that I'm a traveller who's going somewhere and to a destination. If I say to myself, the somewhere, the destination does not exist at all, that seems well-argued and truthful to me." Well said, Vincent.

05 October 2012

Picking myself up, dusting myself off

Just 24 hours until I fly out of Australia for France. Not Jordan as I've been planning for most of the year. Finally, I'm in a good place and looking forward to being in one of the most beautiful cities and countries in the world.

Flights, accommodation, French school are all booked. The domestic things are almost under control. I've changed my hair, well the colour at least. Isn't that what we do when things get tough?

Some time ago I read a fascinating book titled 'If you meet the buddha on the road, kill him!' Certainly a rather dramatic and provocative title that seems at odds with the peaceful nature of the buddhist religion.

Written by psychotherapist, Sheldon B Kopp, the book is about the spiritual journeys, the personal quests, the pilgrimages we make through life. It's about what drives us to make these journeys and what we seek: enlightenment, peace, joy, or something that we're not even sure about.

In every journey, there is a desire to do, to learn. And, the author explains, in our wishing to learn, we often confuse being taught, with learning. In doing so, we seek out helpers, healers, guides and teachers. We want to become their disciples, their students.

Kopp goes onto say that crises marked by anxiety, doubt and despair have always been those periods of personal unrest that occur at the times when we are sufficiently unsettled to have an opportunity for personal growth. In feeling uneasy, this is our chance to make a growth choice, rather than a fear choice. Nicely put.

But what about the buddha? Well, this is where the idea of the religious pilgrimages has its counterpoint in modern spiritual or personal growth journeys. Once one accepts that to learn means to let go of dependance on others to teach us; to recognise that our power comes from within, not from others; and that to be a grown-up, means not being a disciple or an acolyte - then we start to truly grow from within. Too often we seek out our modern pilgrimages, whether literal or metaphorical, from a starting point of pain and turmoil. How tempting to seek the support of a 'guru', a buddha if you like to 'make everything better again'. Someone to depend on, rather than taking personal responsibility. So, if you encounter such a buddha along the way . . . well, you know what you have to do.

Hopefully my physical and emotional journeys in the coming weeks will be 'buddha-free'. Not easy, perhaps difficult, often exhausting. Another beginning, and perhaps many more beginnings to come. Let me just get started.

01 October 2012

A change in plans

Tonight I decided to change my travel plans. No longer will I be going to Jordan. For reasons I still can't quite fathom myself, and despite all of the things I wanted to do there, I've cancelled my visit. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me it was.

I know I've made the right decision for me. But that doesn't explain why it's so damned hard and why I feel like a piece of me has been lost.

No doubt others are confused or hurt by my decision. I can only say I'm deeply sorry to have let you down at such short notice. But it would have been much, much worse to have kept going, feeling that I was doing the wrong thing by me.

Others, my friends, my family are more than supportive. They believe I've done the right thing. I will now rebuild my holiday plans. As one person said to me today "Who knows . . . there may be a good reason for this happening . . . something special is waiting for you out there . . ."

Now, that's worth believing in. And believing in myself. 

27 September 2012

Parallel journeys: parallel lives

In just nine days from now I travel to Jordan (before heading on to France) where I will spend three weeks as a beginner student of Arabic. I'm really just starting to come to grips with the challenge I've set myself. Learning (yet) another language is something I've wanted to do for ages, and now that my French has reached a level of useful competence, the time is right.

Or at least so I thought!

While I’ve written for some time now about my real-world journeys and experiences, it was while talking to my Arabic teacher this afternoon that I was able to crystallise the parallel pathway I’ve been travelling for the last three years. From fear to—well maybe not fearless—but something approaching that.

It’s not a question of multiple personality. Or unconnected journeys. But rather like a mirror that continually reflects from my physical travels to those of my psyche.

In the 21st century, there is little we don’t know about our earth, the world we inhabit. Even if we haven’t been somewhere before, it’s so easy to follow the crowd, check into the next hip and happening place. You can even visit your destination in cyberspace—street view, live cam, travel ratings from like minded others—before you even leave the country.

I’ve viewed my seat on the plane, checked out the local restaurants and street appeal of my accommodation. I know when and from where my trains go. I have apps on my mobile that will help me find fun and happening things to see and do. And of course, I have mobile maps to make sure I don’t get lost.
And what this all adds up to is my ability to control my fear, to control the risk I see in travelling, usually alone, as a single woman. So I wonder if the real journey is still to come; the journey to the “centre of my mind” where fear and old reactions may still reside.

Going to Jordan is making me confront those issues, for all sorts of reasons. Physically, I’m going to be well taken care of. It’s the other journey, the one we might call “growth”, that is proving so difficult to travel. Because only if there is the possibility of growth, a potential for new discoveries, new relationships, new connections, does life remain valuable. The moment one stops growing, one starts dying.
The point really has to be to recognise that the amount of time available is necessarily limited, accept it, and not let those limitations stop us from just getting out there and doing whatever it is that moves you. It’s about being responsible for your own life. 

There’s a word that I like to describe this inner journey. Mindsight. It’s used in psych to describe how we perceive our own mind and others. It’s a kind of focused way to help us see the internal workings of our own minds and to get off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses. It lets us “name and tame” the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them. So, I've named my fears. I have no doubt that like other real-word travels that I've done in the last three years, there will be moments in this trip that challenge me again and again.

And when words desert me, I’m comforted that others before me have managed to condense these grand fears and hopes into heart-wrenching lines of beauty:

Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life;
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Andrew Marvel, To His Coy Mistress

17 September 2012

Every moment counts

Bucket lists are not for dreaming about - at least in my opinion. But the hardest things to find the time to do are those closest to home.

It was exactly this point I discussed with another visitor to Uluru while dining under the stars during our visit at Easter time.

A mining executive from Canada based in Perth for a few years, he and his wife are putting us Aussies to shame in getting to every corner of our amazing country.

The other mistake I've made in the past is to go somewhere amazing and then not make the most of every moment, whether from tiredness, or being careful with the budget, or just not taking the time to see what's on offer.

As I start working on my bucket list - whether adding to the amazing things and places I want to do and see, or ticking something off the existing list - I'm making sure I do everything I possibly can in the time available.

So, visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta and just lounge around the resort? No indeed. We take our eighty-something mother for her first ever helicopter ride. I think the look says it all. Priceless.

In just under three weeks' time I head off to Jordan and France. Three weeks in Jordan to see if I can get my mind around the complexities of the Arabic language. To learn and to discover another culture that we know so little about here in Australia.

Then three weeks in my home away from home - France - to celebrate a 'milestone' birthday. Of which, more, much more, in the coming weeks.