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Keep the SMITTEN momentum going

I can’t wait to read this book: support independent publishing of marginalized voices!

TheFeatheredSleep

Once a book is published it is easy after the first attention-packed week to forget it requires a consistent and steady stream of support. We spend months creating a project and then when it’s for sale, the rally cry can lose steam in the wake of other distractions. But SMITTEN is more than a distraction, it’s a movement, a necessary voice, and we’re asking that all who consider themselves friends of LGBTQ equality, to act in support of SMITTEN by keeping the momentum going.

SMITTEN This Is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by Women for Women is a project of 120 Poets and Artists come together to raise the visibility of women in the LGBTQ movement. Your support of SMITTEN, be it financial or by helping raise awareness, will help ensure projects like this continue.

It may appear LGBTQ has a great deal of publicity but within that larger…

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Want a ‘deep transformation of character’? Sit down & breathe

Glasses, books and meditating are good for me now that I'm over 50

Always trying to learn and improve my wellbeing

During the one hour ‘Blog Mentoring’ session I paid $250 for 3 years ago, I was told I had to find my ‘niche’, and write to it [with all the appropriate hashtags/images/Facebook groups aligned etc etc.]

The ‘niche’ hunt continues. Last week I wrote about bushfires; 6 weeks ago it was a shortlisted Short Story, and next month it will be about a wilderness walk in Tasmania, similar to my Kakadu one (but hopefully without the drama).

We can make space for wise action, wise speech, wise livelihood

Choose kindness. Take a breath. Choose softness #DalaiLama #gratitude #wisdom #empathy @boneAndsilver

Would I be doing better with a timetable of topics, and a calendar? Maybe. Define ‘better’ though? I’m happy, I’m having fun, I feel connected and supported, I enjoy my blogging; there’s my motivation.

And big credit has to go to my increased Meditation practice. It’s not daily [yet], but definitely at least three times a week. Plus one glorious Sunday a month, when I get to sit in a circle with amazing women from all walks of life, and meditate pretty much all day 9.30-3, except for a gloriously chatty lunch hour.

Even the 30 minute morning tea is in silence, as we pay mindful attention to the act of making & drinking tea, including eating homemade orange almond slices or carob bites.

As you can imagine, when lunch is announced, we shoot onto the verandah like hens being let out of their coop in the morning!

Our esteemed facilitator Yoda Carol was away last weekend, so the session flowed differently, but here are the essentials I decanted:

  • Meditation is a gift to ourselves- sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, with lots of tedious moments in between [see my funny post re mind chatter HERE]
  • Usually, we create a virtual world of our experiences and expectations- it becomes a train we travel on before we even realize we are on board
  • By bringing mindfulness of breathing and body sensations to our practice, a “deep transformation of character” becomes available [almost everyone in the room nodded in agreement to this one]
  • Meditation is like fasting for the mind- to slim it and slow it- to be able to choose complete, deliberate rest

“When the mind is quiet, heaven and earth lie open in complete abundance”

Being mindful is good for our wellbeing and mental health over 50

Every act can be a meditation, including sewing or washing dishes. Just Be There, doing what you’re doing #mindfulness #gratitude #wellbeing #joy

Whatever style you practice (and there are many), essentially all meditation is bathing in silence: what emerges is Gratitude, Reverence, and Love.

Try it soon.

There are a million tutorials on YouTube, and articles to research… or you could just sit down, turn your phone off, set the timer for 20 minutes, then just breathe… Here’s a hint: its power triples when you do it with others. Could you find a group?

Good luck! Tell me how you went: it has helped with my anxiety, self-esteem, my inner critic, all relationships including with my lover, and just generalised wellbeing.

Now who doesn’t want more of that, especially if you’re doing the menopause?

In gratitude for the privilege of just sitting and breathing, G xO

 

“We need kilometres of fencing”- repairs after an Australian bushfire Part 2

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss

The texts had reassured us all, anxiously listening for news of our friends’ latest bushfire threat. They dealt with one in February (the height of Summer fire season here in Australia), but this danger so early in Spring was scary…

As I began to tell in Part One, I’m just back from helping with a tiny part of the massive clean-up: they battled all night to save their home, while thousands of acres burnt around them.

Like, literally up to the verandah. I took this photo standing on their front deck:

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss

As you saw in Part One, destroyed sheds and landscape made for eerie surroundings.

Plus the silence.

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange

Until the loud revving of a loaded truck, as an unknown farmer, his wife, and three kids from half an hour away arrived with a load of donated hay.

His wife had even baked a chocolate cake.

Just writing that down makes me cry; we were all fighting back tears as the team gathered to unload the hay and roll it into the [miraculously-saved] shed.

This tough little community doesn’t need second hand clothes or children’s toys. They need the practical: hay to feed the starving cattle, water to quench their thirst (cattle/humans/dogs, in that order), and money for fencing.

Kilometres and kilometres of fencing need to be replaced. Cattle are wandering loose, as well as horses. Farmers are feeding whatever stock they can find, whether they belong to them or not. Dams are low, creeks are drying up, and everywhere is ash-covered.

My friend considers herself lucky that she’s the only one in the small valley who hasn’t had to shoot some of her cattle.

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange 

A neighbour lost his 10 house cows; kangaroos have keeled over with shock and stress so need to be buried.

It’s a shock to really see the damage, and the true challenge of recovery.

So much wildlife habitat lost: old nesting trees burnt through, while shrubs and ground covers perfect for sheltering small birds have also gone. Bees and butterflies- where do they hide from an inferno? Even the tops of trees were alight, with air so hot and black my friends burnt the inside of their lungs and throat, lying flat on the ground while the fire front passed over them.

It was so hot that glass and aluminium melted, while fencing wire just snapped. But that’s also a good thing, as it meant cattle could flee from the fire front.

What can we do to help? Frankly, the whole community just needs money. Money to buy tools and fencing wire, metal posts and chainsaws. Money towards replacement tractors, diesel, and hay. Lots and lots of hay.

There are two options: BlazeAid (a volunteer-based organisation that works with families & individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires & floods) or the specific Ewingar community fundraiser on Facebook, just search for the Ewingar Bushfire Emergency Fund (stoopid Facebook won’t let me attach the direct link).

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss

Thank you so much.

In eternal gratitude for water, and community, G xO

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

“Don’t send clothes”- The aftermath of an Australian bushfire Part 1

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss

Can you imagine seeing a wall of flames heading towards you as you stand on your front porch or driveway, or perhaps the entryway to your apartment block? What if it was coming from the left hand side? Or the rear? What would you do?

This exact scenario has happened to my dear friends TWICE this year already, on their 300-acre beef cattle property, about 2.5 hours from where I live [comfortably] on the coast.

I don’t know how they do it. In the 2002 bushfires, a fireball landed on the place, and they lost everything. Everything. Animals, sheds, machinery, trucks and tractors, fencing, and their home. Completely vanished in an inferno they could do nothing to stop, as they weren’t there.

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

They rebuilt #resilience #Australia #bushfires #gratitude

17 years later, they were at home, and fought the blaze.

‘Fought’ is the correct term too. All night long, they doused with water, directed hoses, ran pumps (only solar and generator electricity available), and finished up emptying buckets by hand as the power failed.

They’re living legends as far as I’m concerned.

So I drove out a few days ago to help with the beginning of the massive cleanup; the country is in drought, so rivers and creeks are nearly empty, cattle are thin from the sparse feed, and the landscape feels parched.

Now it’s black.

My first shock on the drive out was crossing the massive river… a third of its width now. And the trees: burnt to cinders, and simply keeling over. Sure, some of the big ones will survive, but a lot of native vegetation is gone.

Then crossing the creek which runs through my friends’ farm, and taking my 2nd favourite photo of the whole terrible trip:

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

Oh the irony of the flood marker #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss 

Usually, you drive through the farm gate, across undulating green grass, then up gentle slopes to the outbuildings and yard…

All I could smell was smoke and burnt timber. The ground was crispy as I walked, with occasional pops and crashes of dead branches.

It looked like another planet.

Surviving a bushfire in Australia takes courage & preparation #resilience

The Australian landscape is harsh in summer #bushfire #Australia #climatechange #loss

I pulled up beside other cars- various friends come to offer support and physical labour- and we began to dismantle the destroyed stables, trying to save as much roof tin to reuse as possible. The black smudged faces greeted me as a fellow worker, and the action helped me integrate the shock of what I was seeing.

And it wasn’t even my home. I hadn’t made the trek out there for years…

No filter on these photos folks- just snapped on my smartphone. And so much silence- no birds, no bees, no buzz of insects.

Until we heard the sound of a loaded truck crawling up the driveway- who was that, and what did they want? What they brought made us cry- Part Two tomorrow.

In gratitude for water, G xO

 

Final Part Three of my short story ‘Earth’

boneAndsilverBlog_Kakadu6

I love the bush so much #Australia #Kakadu #wild

Weekend reading? Part One and Part Two just a click away (500 words each).

And here’s the third and final, based in Kakadu after my recent incredible off-track bush adventure:

Their palms scraped skin across branches and boulders as they launched into the dark ravine. Down, down, down they slithered, heaving their bags ahead of them, legs protesting at the speed and brutality of the descent. A spiky pandanus drew blood across Kelly’s cheek, and Sam’s ankle twisted hard in the scrabbling, but at last they burst through the scrub to touch the smooth rock edges of the river again.

Kelly’s whole body trembled as she stripped naked and jumped into the creek, gulping mouthfuls of water as she cooled down and almost cried with relief.

‘This is better than any Christmas ever, even as a kid,’ she yelled.

Sam paused, then went on ahead to check the way forward, barely stopping to refill her bottle and guzzle.

She returned with heavy steps.

‘I don’t wanna say this, but there’s another overhang coming up, so we can’t continue. We can either go back up and across, or…’

‘No. Not a chance. I’d rather camp here on these hot rocks for a week than go back up to that stony hell!’

Sam grinned.

‘I thought you’d say that. But you’re not going to like our only other option: to inflate a sleeping mat, unpack both bags, then float everything to the other side and start again over there. Can you handle it?’

The words hung in the air like smoke from the grass fires they’d driven through earlier. They both sighed, as if seeking strength from their bone marrow. Sam watched the other woman, who pulled herself from the stream, water sliding down her battered legs, standing like a witchetty grub against the grey granite. It felt as though the earth was waiting for Kelly’s answer as well. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects, tail streamers reflected in the pristine waters.

‘Let’s do it,’ she said. ‘You swim, I’ll load and unload.’

The eucalypts, rocks, and native shrubs stood sentinel while the women toiled back and forth. They felt the sting go out of the sun as their bodies cooled and shivered. They repacked, gobbled sticky dried bananas, then dragged themselves round the next river bend.

And there they saw it: silver gum trees fringing a white sand beach, gently sloping to a clear blue pool, sheltered by cream sandstone walls, with a natural campsite marked out by flat sitting rocks. Scratched rock paintings showed fat kangaroos and fish. Palm prints outlined in splattered ochre dotted the caves, as if protecting the site. In exhausted silence, they stood before the art, and held hands for a moment. Then they sparked a fire and made billy tea. They took turns adding wood, slumped side by side, staring into the flames, or over at the sharp cliffs they’d just battled.

It had been a close call. They both knew it.

Kelly looked up at the sacred paintings, imagining the ceremonies that had taken place for millennia right where they sat. The land waited again for her to speak. Grass trees leaned in, while Rainbow Bee-eaters swooped and dove for insects.

She slipped to one knee on the dirt, and reached for Sam’s hand.

‘Will you marry me?’ she whispered, ‘Now that we’re allowed at last. Can you handle it?’

Grass trees leaned in. And Country waited once more.

 

THE END (C) GG 2019

 

So what did you think? Kinda cute hey? Obviously the end isn’t real, but everything else  is pretty much exact!

I’d love to get your comments, and thank you so much if you clicked on all 3 parts.

In gratitude for Readers, G x0

Here’s Part Two of shortlisted story ‘Earth’

But did you miss Part One?? Don’t do that! It’s HERE

Part Two:

… Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance.

‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again.’

She frowned at the contour lines on the creased page, telling her a story of steep cliffs and gullies, without revealing the safest route.

‘Sorry honey, but the only way we’ll get past that massive overhang is to tackle the stone country along the top of the ridge. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle up there, which you can never solve. Brace yourself.’

Kelly clenched her jaw for a second.

‘I never knew off-track walking was quite this tough,’ she admitted. ‘Especially for old ladies like us.’

Sam smiled at the familiar joke, but her forehead worried, as they tightened waist straps and headed away from the water without looking back.

Within thirty minutes, thighs screamed with lactic acid as they scrambled over boulders and fallen tree branches, spearing through chest-high spinifex grass. Previous hypothetical worries about snakes were replaced by very real battles with swarming green ants, dropping from their leaf-woven nests to nip at soft skin. The heat lay heavy, while they fought the relentless gravity of their packs on tender hip bones. Squeezing between granite crevasses, trying to keep up with Sam, Kelly soon realized both water bottles were nearly empty, and cursed herself for not re-filling them.

Suddenly she wobbled from one loose rock to another, feeling the weight on her back pitching her sideways; as she fell to her knees with a rush of adrenalin, a newspaper headline staccatoed through her brain:

‘Two women in their fifties died of heat exhaustion bushwalking in Kakadu, within 300 metres of fresh water.’

No! That was not going to happen, she thought, feeling panic surge through her body.

‘Sam, help me up please. I’m scared we’re getting too far from the river. Can we go back down?’

‘No, we’ve no choice. I know this is fucking hard work, but we just have to find a way round…’

Another hour passed, as they crashed, pushed, and flailed against the stone country. The sun blasted them from both sky and rock, while vines tangled their feet, knee flesh was bloodied and scratched, and their cotton shirts grew wet.

‘I almost want to vomit. I need a rest. But we haven’t got any water. This is so stupid Sam!’ Kelly’s voice choked.

Sam licked her lips and wiped sweat from her red face.

‘I’m sorry. But we’re gonna make it. Let’s throw our packs down this ledge, swing off that tree branch, and hope that gully is manageable…’ Her confident voice quietened as they contemplated their fading options.

‘It seems like the bush doesn’t want us here; as if the ancestors are hating our invasion, and we’re being punished. I feel like such a dumb white-fella.’ Kelly began to cry.

‘It’s OK. This is just the first big challenge. We can do it darlin’.’ Sam squeezed her hand, and just for a moment the hum and throb of the tough landscape settled. ‘We are welcome here Kel; we’ve paid our respects, we are treading lightly on the earth, and we’re good people. The spirits don’t want us dead. Now come on: pass me your pack, and let’s get back to that water.’

TO BE CONTINUED…

Part Three to follow soon.

In gratitude for Kakadu, and the wildness within us all, G xO

My story got shortlisted! Here’s Part One

Writing in Australia as an over 50s blogger is fun

My fav place to write is NOT at my desk or table

Wait, I’m not going to launch straight into the story; I want to say Hi first, and set the scene. Remember that 4-day off-track bushwalk in Kakadu I survived? While there, I was struck with inspiration to write about the adventure, and scribbled sentences into my tiny notebook one dreadful evening while being attacked by mosquitos (the only time we were hassled).

I sat down 2 months later to draft 500 words at least, for a short story competition with looming deadline (I can only work under pressure it seems). Again I was grabbed by the muse, and spent all day pouring 1500+ words around the competition theme ‘Earth’ onto my computer (such a good feeling).

Edit, edit, exaggerate, edit etc, and voila: ready just in time. Weeks passed with no word, so I assumed I’d slipped into the discard pile… then last week got an email to say I was shortlisted (another really good feeling).

Pristine waterways in Kakadu

Alas, I heard on the weekend that I didn’t win, but I don’t really care. I don’t care because I already won just by finishing it; I knew myself it was good; and I re-connected with my short story writing muscles (which are definitely different to blogging muscles).

So here it is for you, dear Readers, in 3 parts; please let me know what you think.

In gratitude for the Muse, G xO

 

 ‘EARTH’                                                                               (c) GG 2019

The escarpment snaked beside the 4WD on the remote highway, arching its back as though to strike. Bush fire scent smudged the air, while skinny gum trees and sand palms looked more vulnerable without the usual messy groundcover of grasses and fallen leaves.

‘The turn’s coming up soon on your phone map,’ Kelly said, frowning at the blue pulsing dot. ‘Actually, right now!’

The car shuddered as Sam swung it hard onto a narrow red road, disturbing birds of prey. More blackened eucalypts scattered along both edges of the track, with pops of green grass tufting through the ashes.

‘Look at those kites, Kel, circling for food,’ she said, lowering the electric windows. ‘We can probably hear them whistling… yes… such a Darwin sound, and now you’re hearing it at last, at the ripe old age of fifty-three. Better late to the Top End than never hey?’

They both smiled, then Sam shifted into low gear, as waves of corrugations began to shake every nut, bolt, tent peg and trail snack they had.

Two hours later, bouncing in the passenger seat, Kelly asked, ‘Isn’t there an optimum speed to cross these ruts on? Didn’t I read it somewhere?’

‘Look it up honey, while I just navigate them.’

‘Very funny. You know there’s no more reception, only the emergency beacon if we need it, and we’d better not need…’

Kelly snatched back the rest of her words, as they mounted a dirt rise, swung down the peak like foolhardy surfers, churned through a creek as high as the door bottoms, and bounced out the other side of the trough with water streaming off the car panels as fast as the fine red dust could powder them again.

‘We’re here,’ Sam said, skidding to a halt beside the tenth crocodile warning sign they’d seen. The adjacent Welcome to Country sign announced that they were on Larrakia Land. ‘I want to be hiking in thirty minutes, so let’s cram breakfast as quick as we can; it’s already nearly ten, and that sun’s only getting hotter.’

By noon, with twelve-kilo packs each of camping supplies, toiletries, spare clothes, and dehydrated food, both women were sweating and quiet. Birds complained about their intrusion, darting among shrubs as if warning the earth to brace herself for unfamiliar feet. The river along which the pair travelled was flowing fast through the gorge, as centuries of natural energy carved a path of least resistance.

Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance.

‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again…’

… TO BE CONTINUED

 

Grappling with the spaciousness of uncertainty, by Yoda herself (Part 3)

Glasses, books and meditating are good for me now that I'm over 50

Always trying to learn and improve my wellbeing

Having finished our first 30 minute meditation from Part 2, and admitted any latecomers we’d locked out in a boundary-setting exercise in Part 1, the lesson began.

Uncertainty is one of the 3 main characteristics of human existence,’ Yoda Carol said, sitting her 70+ self on a floor cushion like the rest of us. ‘It’s difficult to endure, so we all cling to certainty. Yet clinging creates further suffering, doesn’t it?’

Well I know I’m clinging to my meditation aspirations as a way to calm anxiety, channel greater creativity, and nurture more peaceful personal relationships, that’s for sure. Is it not going to work?

‘We always want to make the “right decision”, weighing pros and cons, grasping for certainty. But we are just creating more attachment, and more eventual suffering.’

Damn. I thought my pros/cons list-making was a fabulous strategy.

‘There is more ease and wellbeing in letting go, so that we can focus on our actual needs in the situation as it unfolds in real time…’

Would that work for astronauts? Or brain surgeons? What about students in an exam?

‘If we practice our meditation and acceptance of uncertainty, we can create internal resilience for dealing with unpredictable circumstances, like environmental disasters such as bushfires, or divorce.’

Hmm, OK, she could have a point there.

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

‘Buddhist Dharma practice is about respecting a process that is larger and longer than ourselves; we just gather & share wisdom along the way; we NEED each other; we can reduce our stress through community.’

She definitely has a point there.

‘Relationships and connection are so powerful, when we truly show up, and be ourselves- we become transparent, and feel supported.’

Now I’m getting teary: she’s so right. Yet I spent almost 50 years running away and trying to do the opposite…

‘People can dare to rest in Uncertainty when they are in solidarity with one another; we need to lean into relationships, because they cultivate support, even when they’re not easy.’

How did she get so smart?? Almost 40 years of living on a Buddhist community, meditating daily, and sharing group dinner 5 nights a week, that’s how. Plus lots and lots of reading. I’ll never catch up with her, I know, but I can certainly follow her lead.

Or uncertainly, if that’s going to be better for my evolution 🙂

What do you think? Do her wisdoms resonate for you? Are you feeling inspired to meditate more? Readers have told me about different apps available, or even just trying to do it twice a week rather than daily. [Another reader started sidetracking me with tales of slightly-intoxicating brownies, but that’s a whole other post!]

In gratitude for the portal of spacious uncertainty, as named by Yoda Carol, G xO

Can meditation help you set clearer boundaries? Perhaps (Part 2)

“Yes, this is good, let’s begin. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat,” I say to myself. [Where am I? In a yurt on a Sunday with 20 other women, practicing setting boundaries and the discomfort of that in Part 1]

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

I sit cross-legged on my cushion at my Women’s Dharma Meditation circle, while Yoda Carol guards the door and taps the bowl to begin the session.

“I love meditating so much, I’m damn lucky to be here. I wonder how I’ll go today? Hopefully I’ll go deep… breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Ooh, it feels so good already, how great to do it with so many other women… did any of them bring dessert for lunch, or just lots of salad? I’m glad I made my brownies, such a cool recipe, remember that week I made them 3 times for those birthday parties that was fun perhaps I’ll go to that party next weekend… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Welcome back Brain. Shit, it’s easy to stray isn’t it? I wonder how everyone else is going? Some of them have been coming for the whole 10 years, so they’d have to be… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Settle down. Sit quietly. Focus. Thank god for the cushion, it’s pretty comfy, or else my back would ache. Maybe I’ll lie down for the next…

WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

I bet Yoda Carol doesn’t wander like this. She’s such a legend. Imagine if I could be more like her? I could travel the world giving talks and leading meditation circles, that would be cool, apart from all the airplane flights which are so bad for the environment but maybe… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Except clearly I have no will power, or rather, brain power. Perhaps too much brain power?? That’s why it won’t shut up. I need to be more disciplined with it don’t I? Well yes, that’s why I’m meditating…

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Oh man: brain boundaries suck. This is HARD. It must be nearly time to stop? My legs are aching. Do I need to cough? That would be b-a-d. Very disruptive. Like that time in yoga when I tipped over and knocked the person beside me, who knocked the person beside them, remember that, when we lived in Sydney all those years ago, when was it actually, 1995? ’96? Time is flying isn’t it? Can’t believe it’s… WAIT!

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

I am really bad at this.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Ooh, was that the bell?”

In gratitude for determination and prayer bowls, G xO

Does setting boundaries make you uncomfortable? Good: you’re doing it right (Part 1)

Meditation bowls make the practice easier

I brought this back from my trek in Nepal- it makes the loveliest hum

Sunday was my Women’s Buddhist Meditation Day, and the group’s facilitator Yoda Carol began by shutting the door on any latecomers.

‘If you arrive late next time ladies, you will have to wait outside for 45 minutes while we finish our introductions and first Meditation circle,’ she cautioned.

The group of 20 women shifted on their cushions, and glanced round the room, calculating who may be missing.

‘Oh, have I made you uncomfortable? It’s simply too disruptive to admit latecomers; we must each just plan to arrive on time.’

More rustling and looking.

‘We all have families, partners, children, pets, or jobs that may make us run late to Meditation, but that’s not the point. We close the door at 9.30am sharp, and that’s the boundary. I’m setting it, and happy to. If you’re uncomfortable with that, sit with it. Boundaries are not always easy, to set or receive, and especially for women. We are so trained to be ‘nice’, to be ‘good’, to not make a fuss or upset anyone… But boundaries are healthy, so accept the discomfort.’

She grinned her 70+ years grin, and so did I.

I must have missed the memo about boundary-related unease, or perhaps it’s my feisty French socialisation as a child? Whatever I owe it to, I’m incredibly grateful, and by now at the ripe old age of 53, I have no problem in expressing my personal preferred guidelines.

Which includes prompt time-keeping, thank you Yoda Carol.

I’d driven myself home early from the previous night’s party, had resisted any intoxications or even too much sugar, and was primed to dive into our first group meditation: bring it on.

The ring of the Buddhist bowl signalled the start of the session, and my brain began to sink into itself as I focussed on my breath, leaving the chattering of my thoughts behind… for at least 5 seconds anyway.

It’s hard, this meditating business. I want to get better at it, but it’s hard.

So the least we can do is start on time.

Have you ever meditated? Would you like to try? Part 2 follows soon.

In gratitude for sitting cushions and punctuality, G xO