Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Ages ago I signed myself up to do the Future Learn online course 'Radical Spirituality: the early history of the Quakers' which Ben Pink Dandelion is leading in conjunction with Lancaster Uni & Woodbrooke. It starts on 3rd Oct, so there's still time to sign up, and it's free!

It is an opportunity to explore the early days of Quakerism and the happenings of 1652. But I think what excites me more is the opportunity to be part of an international study group that includes Friends I've known from all the MMs I've been part of in my life and from many events I've been at around the world. There are also a lot of interested others who aren't Quakers (yet?) who have signed up from an interest in history, the area, or religion, and a large number of genealogists who have found Quaker ancestors in their family tree and want to know more.

As you can choose to 'follow' others on the course has they chip in (or not) to the online discussions you can create something akin to your own study group. Sadly I live too far away from the Friends at Mt Eden meeting who are planning to meet up kanoi ki te kanoi (face to face) to work through it, but as it is an online course that shouldn't matter.

I was fortunate to learn a lot of the history around 1652 on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage in 1987. Thirty two of us from the USA and Europe spent four weeks together and our first week week was based in Yealand Conyers in the heart of  the '1652 Country'. We were privileged then to meet Elfrida Vipont Foulds, and Duncan and Katharine Woods, although it was some years before it really sunk in how much of a privilege that had been. But being able to tell numerous small children decades later that I'd once met the lady who wrote 'The Elephant and the Bad Baby' wasn't quite how I ever envisioned that event being most often recalled! Her storytelling about George Fox was as compelling as the elephant going rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta down the road and the bad baby never once saying please, has been for generations. Ben PD has a lot to live up to! Luckily for him, and why I signed up in the first place, my memory of the facts is now a little hazy, and I also really enjoy his style of presenting/writing. So I'm really looking forward to this new international 'pilgrimage' with f/Friends old and new.

I'll be down in Wellington catching up with f/Friends and whānau when the course starts, so it'll take me a few days to catch up when I get home. But being kanoi ki te kanoi with one lot of Friends is a pretty good reason for not being virtually present with another. No matter how good virtual connections may be they cannot fully replicate the experience of being and sharing together.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

same journey, many paths

Many have returned home from Yearly Meeting enthused and invigorated by the move to spend the coming months focusing on Spiritual Nurture and Outreach. We have much to offer that is different from other churches. Rather than having a set creed we see ourselves as on a journey, seeking as did those early Friends, a spiritual path, together. But that doesn't mean it is the same path for all—often it feels more like a scribble than a linear progression. With the nurturing fellowship of other Friends to hold us in the Light as we worship together we find our way forward.

Our social testimonies’ was a common response when Friends were asked what is it they want people to associate with the word Quaker. One of those testimonies is sustainability. As with our faith, our journeys vary considerably, we have no creed here either.

That we need to act is not in doubt, and we need to act to the best of our abilities, in whatever form that may take. For some that may be avoiding non-recyclable plastics or air travel, only buying secondhand clothes or locally sourced food.

There is no one size fits all answer, what is important is that we are on the journey, supporting each other and celebrating our progress as we work together towards a common goal.

In this time of spiritual nurture, I hope we can remember the words of Isaac Penington: Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.”

Editorial for Aotearoa New Zealand Friends Newsletter, Sept 2016

I normally have to have my arm twisted rather hard to write the editorial for the Newsletter, but this time I volunteered. I was getting rather fed up of the tone of various articles we'd received over the last year or so that were busy telling Friends what they 'ought' to be doing to tackle climate change. Maybe it is because of the work I'd been doing getting unrealistic/irrational 'oughts' out of my own life that it hit a nerve so strongly, but also if there's one thing that has been guaranteed to put my back up for decades it is being told how I 'should' live my life.

I obviously wasn't alone in feeling somewhat put out either, and to me there's something very wrong when Friends feel vilified for not buying in to someone else's pet 'cure' when it is glaringly obvious that there isn't a magical panacea that will solve all the problems and each of the solutions creates or exacerbates other issues which may in some cases prove to be more problematic down the line.

If we required all our members (and presumably attenders too) to adhere to every one of the 'solutions' put forward we might as well give up now on restructuring our Yearly Meeting as there'll be no-one left. Not even the most ardent campaigners, as none of them can incorporate all of the lifestyle 'requirements' being pedaled, well not and continue to live comfortable lives connected to the rest of the outside world and I've yet to see any evidence of anyone giving that up to such an extent. 

I'm pretty sure we don't want to revert to the days when Friends got disowned for breaking certain expectations, and we'd be hard pushed to find anyone with enough moral high ground to stand on to enforce such if we did. There are enough things in the world aimed at guilt tripping us into striving for unachievable, and often undesirable 'ideals', most of which are fairly superficial in the greater scheme of things. Dealing with climate change is a much bigger issue than fashion, body shape, the latest game craze etc, so don't put people off engaging with doing what they can by setting it out in the same way as a list of things the cool kids are doing and if you don't you are substandard, lacking, or unworthy... 

Surely it would be better to foster a supportive environment where folk feel encouraged to question, query and explore the issues and possible solutions together. We can share stories of our successes, and failures, in a way that inspires others to follow and try to reduce their own environmental impact, rather than leave them feeling inadequate and chastised. Make it manageable, like the 'Less Stuff' Facebook group I'm in that encourages people to tackle the clutter in their lives 5 things, and/or 5 minutes at a time. Lisa has a great website with all the prompts and worksheets on, but it is being part of a sharing virtual community that is willing to be vulnerable and share our 'before' photos as well as our 'after' ones, and acknowledge to ourselves and remind each other that we each have different factors limiting our capacities to be 'perfect' (whatever that might be!) that keeps many of us chipping away at the task. As someone said recently it's nice to have the warmth and support of the group when no-one around them would appreciate their efforts!

In the Quaker Lecture at Yearly Meeting this year Marion Hobbs spoke of wanting to start a blog for sharing the successful peacebuilding stories as so often what we hear about are the conflicts rather than the solutions. We need that encouragement that things are possible to keep going, we need to feel it is achievable, it is within our grasp and capacity to create change. We can all keep chipping away at things in our own lives even if we can't all stop international conflicts, but we need to feel empowered to do what we can, not criticized for the things we aren't doing. 

So please do continue to share your ideas, your challenges, your journeys, I've learned so much from reading many a blog post and journal article. But please remember to be mindful that the journeys of others may take a different route, and that is okay. I'm sure several of those whose articles have caused hurt would be mortified to know that was the case, and I'm certainly not accusing them of doing it deliberately. Meanwhile I'll keep trying to cut back on the plastic in my life and try not to feel uncomfortably guilty when I get on a plane from Auckland to Wellington to save myself 11hrs of road travel on top of around 8hrs I'll have already done to get to the airport.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

happiness is....

... a new rotary cutter blade!

It's amazing how much easier cutting patchwork pieces is with a sharp blade. But each time the blade gets nicked, and/or starts to dull I end up persevering with it long past the point that makes sense. Especially when I still have a spare in the cupboard!

Getting hold of replacement blades hasn't always been easy though I have to say. When I first emigrated here I discovered that the brand I have wasn't available here, and the nearest equivalent had a different shaped hole in the middle so couldn't be substituted. So I eeked out the blades I had with me for as long as possible and stocked up on return trips to the UK. Finding new ones is now much easier, not only can you buy just about anything online these days, but the brand I have is now imported. Sure I can't get the ones I want here in Kaitaia, but I go to the main cities often enough to be able to stock up if I don't want to pay postage (and it gives me a good excuse to visit the quilting shops!). But still that mentality of having to make do with a dull blade is a hard one to break (it never once occurred to me to buy another rotary cutter of the brand that was readily available!).

I've read a few articles and listened to an essential oils conference podcast recently that have mentioned inherited emotional DNA, and how emotional trauma is passed on down generations who can find themselves with a seemingly irrational fear of something, or habits like hoarding. The expression 'the fruit never falls far from the tree' has long been used to describe such hereditary traits that science is only just starting to be able to explain. The endless debate of nature vs nurture has developed an additional twist. Is my squeezing every last drop of usefulness out of something even to my own disadvantage due to my many experiences of living within a tight budget? or some deeper ancestral experience of living with a scarcity of resources? With Scottish and Yorkshire ancestry (amongst others) it is perhaps unsurprising that there might be an element of 'short arms and deep pockets' in me; but perhaps those traits are due in turn not to simply being 'tight wi' tha brass' but from a past of shortage, after all both populations are also known for their friendliness and looking after their own which doesn't really stack up with the image of being penny pinching.

A friend of mine has recently been posting on Facebook about her DNA test results which include all manner of health indicators, and as I type my Mum is waiting to get her DNA results which hopefully will tell us more than we already know about our ancestry. So it probably isn't surprising that my mind managed to make the jump between dull blades and DNA! But it also fits in with some work I've been doing on counteracting thinking errors (primarily shoulds/oughts and mind reading!), and this too was echoed in another of the conference podcasts I listened to, often the ability to name an issue goes a long way to being able to deal with it. It is much easier to break a habit that appears to make no sense when you can identify why you do it that way in the first place, once you've identified the thinking error/issue behind it you can start finding a positive way forward instead.

So when my currently nice sharp rotary cutter blade starts to dull I need to remember to tell myself it's more important to change to a sharp one that won't stress me out when trying to use it, rather than dwell on that fact that I didn't used to be able to get a new one easily and so I ought to 'make it last'! Now if I could just get a round blade sharpened I'd be even happier....