Writing this part of my website seems difficult and I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps it's the vulnerability of sharing more of myself. I have led a diverse life and this site reflects that diversity. My wish is to introduce you to some of the amazing people, places, books, ideas and art that have helped me on my way while sharing with you my spiritual journey, writing and photography. We are all on a unique path and our diversity weaves the rich fabric of life and it's endless mystery.
If a natural disaster were to strike this very moment and you and I were thrown together having lost everything, I am sure we wouldn't really care what was on one another's C.V. We would, I imagine, want to know about one another on a more personal level. So here I share my journey with you.
I grew up in a typical Jewish/Catholic/Australian/Italian/Polish/Hungarian/Czech/Anglo Saxon/Middle Class/Working Class neighbourhood in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia. My childhood impressions were centred around Catholic Rituals, the sacraments, the beach, the harbour and memories of my neighbours' wrist tattooed with serial numbers received in Auschwitz.
After the second world war and later with the Soviet invasions of Hungary, in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1967, many refugees made Bondi their home and the diversity of culture, language, cuisine and religion enhanced us all. From an early age I knew there was suffering in the world but growing up near the ocean and harbour I also knew the exaltation of nature. The sea was my haven, where I would spend hours each day swimming, walking and dreaming. It gave me solace.
I also connected with my spiritual life and constantly looked for answers and meaning in everything. I loved the rituals of the Mass and the sacraments and the symbolism of transubstantiation and communion.
The concept of the Holy Trinity captivated me and made sense in my young mind. Of course there was the "God" out there, the son on earth and the Spirit that inspired us all. I loved churches and the sacred quiet they offered. A place to "talk to" God. I remember also having long chats with my 'Guardian Angel' as we would walk home together from primary school.
When I was twelve I remember sitting in the bus home from high school one day and looking around at the faces of everyone on that bus and I was filled with an overwelming feeling of joy and connection. It was as if a voice had told me a huge secret - "You are all connected. You are all one." I felt so happy I wanted to tell the whole bus so they would all feel as good as me...I didn't... but it was one of the most memorable moments in my life.
At the age of eight I knew I wanted to surf and arrived home with a 10 foot surfboard that Mark, my neighbour's son and I had 'borrowed' from a shop behind Valla's milk bar at Bondi Beach. I had assumed if no one was riding it they wouldn't mind if I did. My parents explained that this 'borrowing' was actually 'stealing' and we had to haul the board all the way back to the beach. This didn't deter me from my passion and by the time I was eleven I was surfing and good at it. I competed, did well in local, state and national surfing contests, and was excited when invited to compete in my first professional contest.
Women/girls surfing in Australia in the late sixties and early seventies was not as accepted as it is today but I was too young (and determined) to care. After Bruce Brown's film 'Endless Summer' things began to change and surfing was not seen so much as a form of anti social behaviour. Still the nuns believed that I would get caught in the Bondi drug scene (many older friends did) and came to visit my parents. Too late! My parents had already laid down the law about drugs and trusted that I simply wanted to surf...and they were right.
Although only in my very early teens I was exposed to the good side of surfing. I loved the music of Dylan, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Savoy Brown, Aretha Franklin, Joan Baez, James Taylor and Jackson Brown and learnt about what was happening in Vietnam and of the winds of social change in North America. Many fellows who surfed who were older than me did go off the rails with drugs and equally as many were becoming aware of yoga, eastern religions and vegetarianism. It was an interesting time to be part of the new counter culture and enjoy it for the surfing, the sea and a simple way of being.
The only thing that wasn't great for me during this time was the awareness that I lived In a very "wounded male" centred culture. A lot of the kids I grew up with at Bondi came from broken homes and the post war culture of Australia was not particularly sensitive to the "female" side of life. The surfing culture in particular, for all it's "freedom" did not really embrace the feminine. Women were often seen as "the carers" of male needs. There was a lot of addiction and dysfunction and the "escapism" was often fuelled by a need to hide and avoid a world that many of these young men were not equipped to meet, emotionally, financially or educationally. Many young men and women never made it past this era. I was lucky that I was too young to be caught up in the partying...my addiction was the sea.
My world was filled with sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, changing ocean moods and I felt at one with them all. I would be on the beach at 5am before school and in the water as the dawn began to break. I also enjoyed studying and had dreams of being a writer, photographer, psychologist, theologian, lawyer and world traveler. Everything felt possible.
LEAVING MY WORLD
My life changed dramatically when, at the age of fourteen, the advertising company my father worked for closed. My older sister Lynne had just got married, my other sister Robyn was overseas and there was only myself and my sister Judy and brother Matthew at home. My beloved dog and companion Sam had just died and a For Sale sign appeared on the front lawn of our home.
We left Sydney and my world changed overnight. My parents bought a small hotel in a marginal, run down, country town and we were all given a quick introduction into small, country town living. It was an introduction for me into a side of Australia I had not known. I saw real poverty within the white and black population and felt the disenfranchaisement of the Aboriginal community. I realised racism was very much a reality in Australia.
My parents were overwhelmed by the long, hard hours of running a hotel and the vast difference in lifestyle put an immense strain on their marriage. Sydney had felt safe and secure and now everything seemed precarious and transient. These were not happy years for me and again my refuge became the ocean. I would travel two hours in a bus with my surfboard to get to the closest beach. Fortunately for me it was Yamba, with Angourie Point a mere four mile walk along the backbeach. For anyone who surfs there is no better wave than Angourie Point when conditions are right and the swell is six feet or bigger. Nature once again was my saviour. It was the early seventies and I felt the possibilities and also saw the "other" side of Australia where mysogynism was acceptable l and where racism and elitism was alive and thriving.
I wanted to finish school early and study photography and travel the world but my mother encouraged me to finish and then make up my mind. I was fortunate to attend a good school where I met wonderful friends and was privileged to have very gifted teachers and mentors. I found my next haven in learning. At fifteen I stayed in boarding school when my parents sold the hotel. In my final year I rented a room at the bottom of a friend's parent's place. Boarding school was too restrictive for me and I was happier having my own place and study schedule. It was at this time I had my second profound revelation. I was studying very hard for my final exams and I had put great pressure on myself because of the marks I needed to get for the courses I wanted to attend at university.
I was standing near my desk and my head felt as though it would explode, I felt overwhelmed and completely alone and afraid I was going insane. I closed my eyes and all I could see was a universe filled with darkness and I felt that I would never return from this darkness. Suddenly there was a strong and powerful arm radiating light reaching for me in that darkness. At this point I was sobbing and I wasn't sure what to do. A voice inside me said "reach for me, there is light, choose the light." It was one of those rare and beautiful moments where I chose to surrender and trust. I reached for this luminous, powerful forearm and held on tight. In my greatest darkness I knew there was a benevolent force who truly did exist.
After high school and being accepted to study law I commenced a Communications Degree with the dream of entering the world of communications and writing but after one year I deferred. In my heart I simply wanted to travel and gain my own wisdom and experience. I also had a passion to pursue a spiritual path. From the age of fifteen I had studied yoga, comparative religions, Catholic and Orthodox Mysticism and was captivated by poetry and the existentialists. I could see the flaws in Catholicism and most organised religion and I more and more believed that God was not 'out there'. But I didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater as I still loved the rituals and deeper mysteries that the Catholic Church had offered me as I grew up.
I started working to save money to go overseas and I remember one day in a movie theatre having my third epiphany. I wept as I heard a voice in my head say, "You need to contribute something. Study things that embrace your soul and spirit." I was impulsive and the only course I thought would honour this call was to study to become a teacher - something I thought I would never do. I enrolled in a teaching programme and studied English, History and Religious Education. I now realize that what I needed was to be taught by people who I felt had some kind of spiritual drive in their life, not merely an intellectual, secular drive.
I took time during my studies to go overseas and immediately knew this was what I longed for. It was 1980, I was in my early twenties and I was so happy. Travelling and the freedom it gave me were essential to my soul. This peace was overwhelming.
My travels were mainly through France, Spain, Southern Europe, Greece and the Middle East. I remember being on the remote island of Gomera in the Canary Islands and tracing a map for my pilgrimage across Europe to the Middle East and Israel. I had a small backpack, determination and enthusiasm.
I have never been a group person and I travelled alone, meeting up with wonderful people as I went. I was not a party animal either so my time was spent walking, writing, travelling and meditating on the experiences of the places I felt drawn to. Europe captured my soul and I instictively enjoyed the feminine qualities of this land and it's innate beauty and grace. I enjoyed the snow, the dark, the museums and architecture. I have always preferred to be in Europe in spring and winter when the mood is more reflective and there are fewer crowds at the places I love.
I was intent on travelling to Israel and spent a very spiritual and powerful time in that wonderful land. Most of my time was in the north at the Sea of Galilee, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Jaffa (the old section of Tel Aviv) and in the Sinai Desert at a place called Sharm El Sheikh. In those days Sharm El Sheikh was quiet - there was one youth hostel and a few shops. The desert met the Red Sea and I was in heaven. I spent my nights under the skies and felt incorporated into this vast expanse and sensed the powerful dreaming of the Bedouin consciousness. By day I swam in the crystal clear ocean, I wrote and I slept.
The Old City in Jerusalem was a favourite place for me. I loved the diversity of the four quarters: Arab, Christian, Jewish and Armenian. I spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane and felt the peace of this historic place. The Dome of the Rock (the third most important Muslim Mosque) is a glorious testament to
Islamic Architecture, culture and religion. Such beauty in the heart of a city that has seen such bloodshed and division for over thirty centuries.
My experiences in Israel were powerful. I walked, prayed and meditated in places that meant so much to me having grown up a Catholic and also having a deep respect for the Jewish tradition. I was also a student of history and I witnessed so much of the ambiguities of this country and the injustices endured by the Palestinian people. I learnt at a young age that repeating what was done to you is not the way for healing, freedom or peace. It is something we as individuals, communities and nations need to address if we are ever going to truly evolve and grow. Alice Miller's "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware " is a booK we could all learn from. It documents historically how we perpetrate what was done to us if we fail to heal our own wounds and take responsibility for them.
My travels could make a book and I am sure someday they will. Mostly though, my travels have left a deep sense of awe and wonder in my soul. Places, sites, art and people have etched their way into my being and these are the experiences I can only feebly attempt to capture in words. Returning to Australia was not easy for me. I completed my studies and spent two years teaching English, History and Religious Education at a boys high school. I am sure it was karmic as I had never seen myself as a teacher (and institutions are not the most joyous of places for me).
In this short period of time I came to truly love my students and became friends with three important people in my life. One would bring me into the surreal world of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Aids epidemic. One would become my business partner and lifelong friend and one would simply and graciously be one of my greatest supporters as I made huge changes and upheavals in my life over the next twenty years.
My dear friend John, whom I taught with, contracted Aids in the mid eighties and it was through his illness and death I was drawn into the mysterious, joy-filled, heart wrenching, world of working with people who are dying. This is when I came to know and study the works of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Stevine Levine, Ram Dass and was the introduction to my first Tibetan Teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche.
I decided I needed to work for my self and left teaching. With no experience in the field but much enthusiasm I bought a small fitness center/gym with Vivien, my good friend from teaching. I think we would both agree that the first two years of our business were some of the happiest times of our life. We worked with very talented instructors who had dance backgrounds and were creative and fun. We loved all our clients and it was more like a club than a gym. Vivien and I became incredibly fit without being consumed by the gym scene. I think that it was this environment and the people we were working with, as well as my work with Aids clients that made me feel the most at ease and at peace.
I was with an amazing man at this time yet knew in my heart there was something else I needed to pursue. I thought it was more study but as it turned out I was facing the reality that I was questioning my sexuality. I decided I still wanted to study and travel and I left the gym. (Vivien and her husband Michael continued with the business for the next fifteen years). I started flying internationally with Qantas as a flight attendant so I could make money, have plenty of time off and travel again.
My trips overseas in those days were long, sometimes up to 16 days and it was fantastic to have long stays in Rome, Athens, Los Angeles, Tahiti, Frankfurt, London, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, Africa and other parts of the world. As flight crew we stayed at first class hotels and once I arrived at my hotel room my time was my own. I would normally leave the hotel on our longer stays and go traveling with a small back pack and arrive back just in time to get ready for the next flight. There was plenty of time to wander, write and be and I loved meeting all the people who came into my life unexpectedly; cabin crew, passengers, people at airports, hotels and on the road.
REDISCOVERING MY SEXUALITY
Flying worked for me even though I knew it was short term and that I would need to decide what to do with my life. After nearly two years I decided to leave Qantas. I left my work, my partner, sold my house and went to live in a cabin on the north coast so I could write and simply "be".
It was here I fell in love with a woman and came to realise it was this part of me I had been denying. It was the most wondrous and gut wrenching year of my life. This relationship didn't last yet I am so grateful for all that I learned. I was finally getting honest with myself and it felt scary and real and I trusted that what I needed to do next would be revealed to me. I think this was the first time in my life I allowed myself to really love another person and this I believed happened because I was starting to really love myself. Everything again felt filled with possibility.
SOMATIC PSYCHOTHERAPY / TIBETAN BUDDHISM
I returned to Sydney with very little money but full of optimism. I wanted to study again and find a niche for myself in a healing profession. I also knew I needed to study something that made the connection between our mind, body and spirit. I wasn't sure which course in Australia would accomodate this need but I was prepared to trust and follow the signs.
I remember running on Bondi Beach and a friend I used to fly with asked me what I was doing. I told him and he suggested I apply to Qantas again and it would be a way of paying for my studies. It was and I spent the next seven years flying and studying to become a Somatic Psychotherapist. I was able to bid for the trips I wanted and organized my schedule around my study commitments.
The course was intense and my trips afforded me the time to digest what I was learning and to study in the quiet solitude of a hotel room. I love the predawn and this is when I would wander through the streets and take in the feeling of the cities I was visiting. I would hire cars, take buses or ferries and explore places that interested me or held special meaning for me. In Athens I would always head down to the harbour at Piraeus and take a ferry out to the island of Hydra or head out of town and visit Delphi in the mountains, or Sounion Temple at Cape Sounion overlooking the Aegean Sea. If I was staying in town I had a predawn ritual of walking to the Acropolis and watching the sun rise on the eastern horizon. At this time of day the air and the earth speak to me and I feel filled with the beauty of their whispering. There is a natural intelligence that is buried once a city becomes busy as the sun rises.
Bangkok, Singapore, Taipei, London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Frankfurt,Meinz, Berlin, Bahrain , Zimbabwee, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Mumbai, Tahiti, Honolulu, Bali, Tokyo, Nagoya and Fiji all felt like home to me. Travelling at 36,000 feet always gave me perspective. I would look out over the night sky and below see the lights of small villages across the globe as well as the huge cities. I knew we were a small planet but one rich in diversity of land, people, nature and culture. I was contantly reminded by the voice deep within me that we were indeed "All One".
It was in this time I studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism with Sogyal Rinpoche and Gyalsay Tulku Rinpoche. Both these teachers have had an enormous impact on my life and way of seeing the world. Sogyal is the author of 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying', which has brought solace to so many who are facing their own death or the death of loved ones. His teachings are filled with so much beauty and grace and he constantly reminds me that there is peace and joy to be found everywhere.
I have been blessed with wonderful teachers in my life. My teachers in Somatic Psychotherapy were some of the most compassionate, intelligent and creative people you could ever wish to have as mentors. It was in this environment that I was drawn to the work of Gerda Boyesen, David Boadella, Wilhelm Reich, Alexander Lowen, Stanley Kellerman and Carl Jung.
During my training I was in my own personal therapy and these were perhaps the most exquisite and heart breaking years of my life. Facing my own Self and my own Shadow and history cracked open my heart. Yet I was never given more than I could handle. When your heart breaks open in truth this is the place where you can truly begin to love yourself. My journey with Somatic Psychotherapy lasted eleven years, six of which I practiced as a therapist, while at the same time continuing to write my poetry, two screen plays and a short film. I also completed a photojournalist and freelance journalist course.
What I have learned as a Somatic Psychotherapist will stand by me for all my life and influences me on a daily basis. The body and emotions are not separate, we hold every experience on a cellular level and they will influence us unconsciously unless we consciously and lovingly release them. I like the title of Alexander Lowen's book. 'The Body Never Lies'.
ALL THAT JAZZ
Throughout these years of study I was in relationship with a New Yorker who was on her own spiritual and emotional journey and we spent 12 years together studying and growing. Pamela was an excellent and accomplished jazz singer and while we were together she sang, arranged and produced three jazz albums.
At the beginning of 2001 Pamela returned to New York. I decided to once again dismantle my life and with very little money I left Sydney and continued my spiritual studies with a woman named Lyn Pearce. Lyn had been my teacher for several years and introduced me to the 13 Original Clan Mothers (written by Jamie Sams) and encouraged me to expand my wisdom of and affiliation with the Native American Indians, Shamanism and the Ascended Masters.
ANOTHER JOURNEY BEGINS
My journey the led me to take a full year and live in solitude on the far south coast and study, write and meditate on the Native American Indian Clan Mothers. Surrounded by nature, Mt. Gulaga and the sea, I was reconnected with the part of my own consciousness that needed time for it's own dreaming and healing. The space to be with the mystery and majesty of life that can only be found in silence and uninterrupted time. The place where I am brought to my knees and my heart opens to the immeasurable love and grace that abides alongside my more secular 'doing'.
The time since I have left Sydney has been filled with wonder and grace. There have been financially precarious times but I have been looked after by the Universe and my needs have always been met. In surrendering to a more Spirit informed existence I have come to trust myself and the infinite wisdom of nature and the unseen intelligence of this sacred existence on earth. The heart is a merciful companion and a resilient friend. I have had my heart opened constantly and now, instead of being fearful of the opening, I welcome it.
I recently lost my sister who died of breast cancer and lovingly invited me back into the wondrous world of caring for the people who are about to die (as are we all). It has been a heartbreaking year as I watched Lynne dying and the grieving process has been an amazing journey. There are no words to describe losing someone you love, someone you treasure and who makes your world shine. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one be so very gentle with yourself and take the time you need to let your broken heart mend. There is such great beauty in death, such special moments and connections and for me Lynne and her death reminded me of our wondrous capacity to love and to feel. All the defences fall away and our hearts are layed bare.
I have called on all the special teachings and experiences in my life to assist me in my grief. I can only say that if you ask you do receive. When Lynne was dying I felt all the angels, saints and masters present. The practices I had learnt with my Tibetan teacers assisted me and assisted Lynne in her passing. I realise that all the different masters, teachers and saints reflect one face, it is the face of unconditional love. When I am truly present I see and feel it everywhere.
I miss Lynne everyday and everyday I am reminded of a love that has no end.
My childhood, my travels, my studies, my time in nature, my Tibetan Teachers, my clients, relationships ,family and experiences all have woven together a common thread - "There is infinite wisdom in our universe and God, as we know (him/her/it) is everywhere.". Since leaving Sydney I have lived simply, often in isolation for months at a time. Nature has been my witness and my friend and teacher. I have come to know that everything is a sacred site and that seeing the 'Thou' in every creature and object is my Truth. I have met my life partner and am happier than I could ever have imagined.
The journey as always is beginning again. My partner Sonia and I want to travel and continue to write and photograph our heart and soul's connections. We will travel together, we will travel with friends and family and we will travel with you via this website.
I still swim in the ocean everyday and am fortunate to live within walking distance of a long, deserted stretch of beach where I can do my morning meditation and be reminded of the wonder of nature. I have a special connection with the birds that gather and fly there; eagles, crows, galahs, kookaburras and seagulls. Most days I see dolphins and between June and November whales migrate North just off the coast. My best four legged friend 'Ubud' accompanies me and although I no longer ride a surfboard I love to body surf. There is a special exhileration in taking off on a wave and with nothing but your own body, riding it to shore. Just like the dolphins!
I will grow and change and the mysteries will continue to be revealed. Things are more simple now as I realise life is the journey and it's mysteries are not meant to be resolved. They are meant to be lived. I do believe in the power of peace and the power of love. I have surrendered to my heart's wisdom and when I remain in that space magic does happen in my life. I believe there is a loving intelligence that informs all creation and we are all part of that intelligence. Grace, mercy and kindness are the true ingredients for my happiness and my joy. I feel we live in wondrously transformative times and that there has never been a greater opportunity for us all to really move towards our true hearts desire and to assist the earth in her
May your travels be gentle, may they be daring also and filled with adventure, may they lead you through still waters and tumultuous seas, may they beckon you to be all of who you are, and may they break open your heart so you can feel the infiniteness of your love and the vastness of your being.
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."