Thursday, July 31, 2008

spiritual intelligence

Hickman describes how access to the spirit is through stillness, and through experiences in which the mind can be quiet and can make space for the soul - experiences that are similar to meditation. Although we can experience spiritual connectedness through activities such as peace marches or rock concerts, Hickman's notion of access to the spirit is more closely related to becoming 'centred', through experiences such as simply going for a walk, having a quiet 'cuppa' in the back garden, or sitting by the sea - anything where we can give the 'doing' of our normal activites a rest.
(Susan Wright, in Children, meaning-making and the arts, 2003)

Well whenI found this in one of my set texts I discovered the joy APA referencing can bring in a way I'd never before dreamed about! Ok so I still had to use Google (keep up the good work Pete!) but eventually I found the original article by Cynthia Hickman. Now I've no idea if either Susan and/or Cynthia are Quakers or not but they are certainly fellow travellers.

At Yearly Meeting we were challenged to consider just what it was we had to offer - there we were deciding how to celebrate 100yrs of Business Meetings (yeah, yeah, I know...) and we were asked 'we know what Quakers have done historically but but what do we do now?' What do we stand for? If we're going to tell the world (well ok, Aotearoa New Zealand) we're here what do we have to say?

I would like to think that what we offer is a place for people to explore and nurture their individual and collective spiritual intelligence, a gathered community seeking in the stillness food for the soul. As Hickman says

"....people with spiritual 'intelligence' understand that life is precious and therefore sacred and worthy of respect. What counts is the degree to which we can embody spiritual principles here on the material plane. Can we live in balance and harmony, creating generous and loving lives that make a contribution to the whole? Can we express tolerance, courage and dignity as we go about our daily activities? Are we capable of openness and forgiveness?"

Sounds remarkably like 'Advices and Queries' to me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

community building

I was asked some months back to do some 'getting to know you' activites at the Pre-YM Seminar (9-11 July '08).

It's just as well I'm now used to the Kiwi 'she'll be right' way of organising things... although I'm pretty sure we've planned a few Link Group w/e's in a similar manner (memories of me, Ruth and Susie at Glendevon Rd organising an entire event over just one pot of tea... please don't tell Mina, she'd be horrified!). A couple of weeks before the event I tried emailing round to get an idea of what the other sessions were to be about as I discovered from the programme that my slot had transformed into a whole session entitled 'community building'! Having been to various events over the years where the first night has felt like it has had nothing to do with the rest of the event I wanted to tie things in together somehow.

Well the day before I headed south I finally got a reply! So it was a case of trusting the spirit and hoping for the best. What I had managed to find out was some idea as to who might be there, so knowing we'd have one electric wheelchair and one person with walking sticks 'the sun shines on...' went out of the window as an option (I think the weather was coming to a similar conclusion) - no point giving Marilyn & Chris and unfair advantage!!! I wasn't worried about them, more our squashed toes...

What we did, which was fascinating to hear, was a go round where everyone introduced themselves briefly and then said who in the room they'd known the longest and how, and then someone they'd just, or recently, met. We heard an amazing variety of connections including teacher and pupil, 'Miss New Zealand' and an inspired teenager (albeit some years back!), people who'd known each other since babes in arms or as young girls with pigtails (which raised a laugh), connections through the Alternatives to Violence Programme, retreat centres, peace campaigns, Britain YM Treasurers conference, and Yorkshire Friends Holiday School. Margaret who is one of the current Resident Friends in Auckland was staff at Holiday School when I was there as a teenager!

The interconnectedness of our lives and the different sources of these connections, not just Quaker, did manage to thread it's way through the ongoing conversations of the gathering. I was the only participant under 50 but the energy levels were high! It gave an insight into people's worlds that we possibly wouldn't have stumbled across any other way and by the end of that first session we felt like we all knew each other far better. Many delighted exclamations were made at being someone's 'longest known' and those who were visitors to the YM got many mentions for being the most recent aquaintences so we were all well aware of who they were and they felt well and truely welcomed!

Our sense of community was indeed being built on firm foundations.

ps a note to anyone planning to try this who wants to be a bit more organised in advance - it took us at least an hour to get round about 25 people, but I didn't rush anyone and we had plenty time to play with.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


For the third time in four weeks my weekend has been affected by power outages, at least with a woodstove and a gas hob here we’re better off than we were at Yearly Meeting as at least part of the house stays warm and we can still make a cuppa!

On-line studying becomes a whole new challenge once the power goes off. I don’t usually print our weekly task sheets off in the interests of saving paper, ink and power – there has been a nationwide energy saving campaign going for the last 6 weeks or so as the South Island hydro-lakes dropped to scarily low levels, pity we can’t send them our Northland rain… But when faced with the possibility of losing a days study due to not being able to access what I should be doing our poor little printer was going like the clappers once the power resumed (for the second time) today – just in case!

After last weekend I learned my lesson and remembered to fill buckets for toilet flushing, filled the kettle back up straight away after making a cuppa and am saving anything on the computer every couple of sentences! Thankfully the outages have been relatively short so far and from the news it sounds like we’re getting off lightly compared to other parts of the country where serious damage is being done.

Somewhere out there William is on a plane heading back to Kerikeri via Auckland, we’ll be mightily relieved once we hear he’s landed safely where he should be and hasn’t been blown off course to the Chatham Islands, Dunedin or suchlike. I’m not so sure I’d’ve wanted to fly at all. Mind you assuming he gets to Kerikeri he still has to drive home. It was bad enough just going out to feed the chooks (who were ankle deep in muddy puddles until I moved them) and bring in firewood, it’s definitely a ‘don’t go out unless you absolutely have to’ kind of day.

Hmmm, flickering lights again. Better close the computer down before the power goes off this time methinks…

update: William finally got home about 11pm, the flight to Auckland from Brisbane was fine, but the replacement bus to Kerikeri slow and the route from there home badly flooded, it had taken him about 12hrs at least to get home - about twice what it should have.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


For my Arts paper this semester we had to write an introduction that covered our early experiences in the four aspects of arts that we will cover: visual arts, dance, drama and music.

Reading through what I had written and the contributions of many of my classmates I realised just how big an impact on the rest of our lives those early years and school age experiences have had. All it took in some cases was one person/teacher saying that they weren’t good enough and that was it, end of creativity in that field.

Apparently as soon as I could sit up in my pram my mum put a crayon in my hand and I've been drawing ever since, with varying degrees of confidence over the years - even if it was just doodles in the margins of my lecture notes! However doing still life for what felt like an eternity but was probably just a term at High School knocked my confidence for six, I couldn’t produce the photographic representation that seemed to be required. Perhaps this is why photography itself became such an important artistic outlet for me.

At playgroup (probably aged 3yrs old) I went off drama and 35yrs later I've still not got over it - I had to be a shepherd in the nativity play and stand with the boys in a dressing gown with a tea-towel on my head, I couldn't be an angel because I didn't have blond hair and blue eyes. It probably had something to do with my lifelong aversion to all things stereotypically girly too – I wonder would that have been different if I could’ve been an angel? Possibly not, but the fact that it still sticks out for me like a sore thumb shows just how much it affected my perception of myself, it took well into adulthood before I could accept that someone meant it if they said I was pretty because I just didn’t believe them.

I learned the recorder aged 5 (as did our entire class! That must have sounded terrible…), the flute aged 12 and sang in school/college choirs until I went to uni where the all the groups required you to do an audition and I can't sight read. I never properly ‘read’ the music, if I didn't know how it went I couldn't play it, even though I could tell you in theory what the notes were and how long they were supposed to be for. Sadly the aftermath of an arthritic condition in my early 20's has scuppered any instrument playing as I can't play for long enough to get/stay any good! But I still love to sing, when I’ve voice enough…

With dance I'm far happier ceilidh dancing (Scottish, country, folk, whatever) or salsa as then I don't have to decide what to do! I suspect the dreaded ‘Music & Movement’ sessions at primary school put me off any kind of free style/interpretative dance – I just felt silly and didn’t know what to do, being pressured to think of something on the spot has never been a goer for me at anything!

It’s an onerous responsibility to think that anything I might do could influence a child’s perception of their creative talents for life – hopefully at best I can meet the maxim of ‘do no harm’ and hopefully somewhere along the line do some good.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

getting a 'to it'

Well I came back from Auckland with several posts spinning around my head about Yearly Meeting and the seminar, being back at uni and several other things that had been taking up headspace for the last 10 days or so.

Today was to be the day when I caught up on internet related things having spent my time after returning yesterday afternoon unpacking, washing clothes, reorganising my room to fit the stuff extracted from storage and managing to get hold of my parents on skype.

I had my 'to do' list and was all set to start after breakfast (for once eaten at the table and not multi-tasking at the computer) when the radio fizzled out and various applicances expressed their indignation to us. We had a 'brown out'. The power had dropped so low as to be virtually not there, and eventually gave up the ghost altogether. So, to save aforementioned appliances from deciding to go into a terminal sulk, the three of us went around switching off everything at the wall, and I mean everything - freezers, the works. A task involving chairs, ladders, sticks and balancing appliances at angles that certainly don't come recommended in the manufacturers instructions and would give OSH a heart attack.

The weather was having power surges too - on again off again rain meaning bright clear skies one minute and dim grey light you could barely read by the next.

Power outages aren't exactly uncommon round here during or after bad weather and the thunder storm last night was pretty spectacular. Usually power isn't long returning though so the morning trickled by as we found odds and ends of things to do whilst awaiting showers (ha! for once I'd had mine before breakfast!), the internet, water and electricity in general. The downside of tanked water is an electric pump.... how long can you sit cross-legged hoping the power will come back on so you can flush the loo? Needless to say we gave up waiting long before the power resumed 7 hours later!

Well one small task led to another and eventually I gave in - reorganising my filing has been on my 'to do' list since I got back from the UK with the last bits of official paperwork that needed to be kept 'somewhere safe'. I needed to find my UK police check for work and it wasn't where I thought it was.

So several hours later, having recarpeted the sitting room with paper in the meantime I am now the proud possessor of an organised filing system. I even found my police check, altho' sadly not in time for William to JP certify a copy of it before heading off to Brisbane and presumably electricity. It was somewhat theraputic to chuck out (recycle!) a great heap of defunct paperwork and return what was left to some some semblance of order - which has been sorely lacking since I left Edinburgh.

It wasn't quite the to do list I had intended to clear today but I feel much better for it. Maybe we should have power cuts more often..... I will blog the other stuff eventually though, honest!