Monday 15 January 2018

Braving the Wilderness

It's not often that I get to the end of a book and feel I want to start it again immediately from the beginning. That is how I feel this morning. I have just finished Brene Brown's 'Braving the Wilderness' and it had a huge impact on me. At first, I thought my eyes were watering from my inability to put this book down, but then realised I was feeling quite emotional soaking in what she had to say. To be honest, I am sure I have only taken in a third of it (hence wanting to begin again).

I am not going to try and summarise the content of Brown's book as I could never do it justice. Get a copy and read it for yourself. However, I will attempt to capture my immediate reactions, as raw and uncalculated as they may be.

1. Brown's talk about polarisation in our world and her use of the wilderness image gave me a new language for trying to make sense of the crazy world in which we are living. Questions about why I get so passionate and angry and then withdraw completely found answers in her eloquent way of describing our need to belong and what that could look like.

2. My own times of experiencing loneliness all of a sudden made sense. My most tangible experience of this was while meditating in the Garden of Gethsemane. A strange combination of the loneliness of the journey, but at the same time feeling completely at home was overwhelming. Reading Brown's description of being wild at heart brought some clarity to that experience and others.

3. It was like holding up a mirror to my life. Although some parts were affirming and encouraging, others were exposing and revealing. The discomfort in realising some of my own patterns and ways of 'creating' belonging was confronting. Brown's way of sharing her own stories and being vulnerable with her readers brought reassurance that it was okay. In all the seriousness that this inner work brings, there is also the space to laugh at our own imperfections and name them as realities of life.

4. The chapter titled 'Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.' was particularly relevant for me in the changes ahead of me this year. This journey seems to have been a constant cycle of doubt and courage. Developing a strong back has been a crucial part of this learning and I am sure will continue to be in the years that follow. According to Brown, perfecting, pleasing, proving and pretending get in the way of a strong back. There is still a lot of work to be done here!!

5. One of the aspects of the book I struggled with throughout was a recurring theme. Here it is in one of its forms.
"When we are willing to risk venturing into the wilderness, and even become the wilderness, we feel the deepest connection to our true self and to what matters the most."
I could grasp the venturing into the wilderness, but what did this becoming the wilderness mean? The answer came in the last sentences of the book.
"There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we'll doubt our abilities to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere will say, 'Don't do it. You don't have what it takes to survive the wilderness.' This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, 'I am the wilderness.'"

There is so much more I could say about 'Braving the Wilderness', but I will leave it for you to discover yourself if you so choose. Let's just say, I am now a believer that sometimes a book finds you at the right time.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Deep Water Dwelling in 2018

Those of you who know me personally, or read my blog regularly, will know that the year ahead holds many changes for me. Deep Water Dwelling began as the name of my personal blog and shortly after was registered as a business name by one of the congregations in which I minister, Margaret River Uniting. Since that time, Deep Water Dwelling has been the umbrella under which many workshops, retreats and other activities in the area of spirituality have sat under.

Since announcing my intention to take a leave of absence from ministry and pursue further study, the congregation has discussed the future of Deep Water Dwelling. Although many people have engaged with the various programs, the focus has gradually shifted towards hosting an annual festival called Deep Listening (check out the Facebook page and website for further information). The church council have decided that they will gift the name Deep Water Dwelling back to me to further as I please. This is something for which I am extremely grateful. To be honest, I have grown quite attached to the name and all it stands for.

So, as of April the 29th, I will finish my placement with Augusta and Margaret River and prepare to commence study and developing Deep Water Dwelling. In the meantime, the year will be quite busy with Lent, Easter, the Deep Listening Festival and preparing for my next adventure. I will continue to write here when I can find the time, but stay tuned for a new logo and more information about what Deep Water Dwelling might have on offer. I hope to offer spiritual direction more widely and have some ideas tucked away for some different workshops and retreats.

I already have my first retreat booked in at the end of May. The Women's Weekend Away will be exploring the theme of Meeting the Mystics: Meeting Me. If you would like to arrange a workshop or a retreat day during 2018, get in contact with me via email. I'd love to hear from you!!

Wednesday 3 January 2018


As a young child, I wasn’t thrilled about my appointed middle name. “Dawn”, for me, was obscure and certainly not as attractive as “Donna”, the name I gave to those who enquired what the “D” stood for. I recall looking up the meaning and finding out it meant “born at the time of dawn”. This seemed lovely until my mum told me I was born in the evening. 

In recent years, I have come to love my middle name. The dawn is a liminal time of day; a time when the mysteries of life seem unusually close. It is a time when people and their dogs seem far more friendly than in the middle of the day. Early morning walkers always have a smile and a greeting. It is a time reserved for those who are forced to, or choose to, see the sun rise. It’s a time I don’t see very often, but when I do it’s a real treat. 

Over the new year, I have been contemplating what my word for 2018 will be (amidst trying to recall what on earth my word for 2017 was or if I even chose one). The word I have landed on is “awaken”. I have a feeling that this year is going to be one of waking up in many different ways. Changes are ahead for me that are both exciting and daunting. I will be letting the sun set on some aspects of my life and awaiting a new dawn, a new awakening that will look quite different. 

As with anything, however, there is the possibility that I will allow my old patterns and habits to continue. New year’s resolutions are often forgotten by the end of January. Vows to break destructive habits are often more difficult in practice. So, although this word “awaken” seems wonderfully romantic and idealised, I know that it will be challenging and disturbing. And so my first task is to find ways to keep this word before me (and not forget it). There will be many dawns during 2018, I am hoping that I will be awake to see those that are important to me and let them change how my day(and year) pans out.