The passion and courage of women

Repost from an earlier blog, for Mrs Daffodil. The post was written just after the audio tape emerged of Donald Trump talking about grabbing women on the “p—y”.


If Michelle Obama’s speech on the dignity of women wasn’t enough to cleanse the palate of recent events, here’s a tribute to a man who reveres women, the Spanish filmmaker, Pedro Almodovar.

I just saw his latest movie, Julieta, about women, their mothers and daughters, and how grief and guilt, amongst other wounds, is passed down through the generations by the mechanism of well-intentioned silence. It’s as good as Volver, starring the magnificent Penelope Cruz, which he made in 2006.

Following are pics from Volver and Julieta, starring Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte (click on an image to enlarge it). There’s nothing else to add except give yourself a treat and see them.

The basic misunderstanding

People tell me, “You’re so positive”. If I’m on the ball, sometimes I explain that what they’re responding to in me is happiness, not positivity, because the two are worlds apart. I also hear people saying things like “I’m striving to be a better person”. This gives me a pain in my heart for them, and for myself. They don’t realise they are already fundamental goodness, already fundamental soundness and perfection.

Here is Pema Chödrön on the matter of this basic misunderstanding …

“The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness and shut-down-ness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, then we would be happy. This is the innocent, naïve misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.”

~ Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving-Kindness

Image: IAMI by Eugenia Loli


Hiding from pain

This is everywhere in our society, and also in me: the absence of unconditional friendliness towards ourselves

“Some people come to community seeking consolation from the pain of feeling unloved by responding to whatever demands are made of them. Unconsciously there is a thought pattern: ‘If I satisfy your need then you, or the community, or God will be grateful, will appreciate my existence, will love me.’ Ultimately this can never bring true fulfilment or true growth. It is important that we are attentive to this response, so easily disguised by generosity and goodness. We must help each person to live more and more clearly and deeply from an inner confidence of being loved by God just as they are.”

~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p132

Image: Up in the Sky, 1997, Tracey Moffatt

To subscribe to daily thoughts from the publications of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and winner of the Templeton Prize in 2015, go to his website:


The bus driver

This morning I created the intention of waking up in every moment. I was on a bus in the city, the only passenger, when the bus driver started making annoyed comments about pedestrians not crossing the road at the right place, and would-be passengers not signalling him clearly, and so on.

I didn’t make any response but started thinking about him instead and trying to see more clearly what he looked like.

A bit later, I felt OK to ask him a question about how he liked the new bus route. “It’s better for us drivers,” he said, and we chatted for a while. He didn’t quite give up being annoyed at the people we passed, but it lessened. A few minutes later he started talking about his daughter and how she was a teacher, and then out of the blue, he said she’d recently had a nervous breakdown. After that, there was no barrier. He talked about his worries for her, and about he and his wife, and so on. I just listened mostly.

At the end of our trip together, I went up close to him to get off and saw he had the face of a kindly Santa Claus. I realised that if I’d stuck with the initial impression created by his comments about pedestrians, I’d never have seen him at all.


Image: Detail of Berlin Buddha by Zhang Huan, photo from 2014 installation at Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Australia

When practising posing

Some readers will know I’m preparing to enter a bodysculpting competition in September, 2017. This is an insight I received when practising …


I noticed something when practising posing for the comp today. In each case, there’s a movement, a body part, that determines the success of a pose overall. It’s a gesture that unlocks the pose.

Stick it and the pose is guaranteed; miss it and the pose fails. So the task is to uncover this hidden lever.

It’s the same principle featured in this treasured poem about a long-ago Chinese cook:

“Prince Wen Hui’s cook Was cutting up an ox. Out went a hand, Down went a shoulder, He planted a foot, He pressed with a knee, The ox fell apart With a whisper, The bright cleaver murmured Like a gentle wind. Rhythm! Timing! Like a sacred dance, Like ‘The Mulberry Grove,’ Like ancient harmonies!

‘Good work!’ the Prince exclaimed,

‘Your method is faultless!’ ‘Method?’ said the cook Laying aside his cleaver, ‘What I follow is Tao Beyond all methods!

‘When I first began To cut up oxen I would see before me The whole ox All in one mass. After three years I no longer saw this mass. I saw the distinctions.

‘But now I see nothing With the eye. My whole being Apprehends. My senses are idle. The spirit Free to work without plan Follows its own instinct Guided by natural line, By the secret opening, the hidden space, My cleaver finds its own way. I cut through no joint, chop no bone.

‘There are spaces in the joints; The blade is thin and keen: When this thinness Finds that space There is all the room you need! It goes like a breeze! Hence I have this cleaver nineteen years As if newly sharpened!

‘True, there are sometimes Tough joints. I feel them coming, I slow down, I watch closely, Hold back, barely move the blade, And whump! the part falls away Landing like a clod of earth.

‘Then I withdraw the blade, I stand still And let the joy of the work Sink in. I clean the blade And put it away.’

Prince Wen Hui said, ‘This is it! My cook has shown me How I ought to live My own life!’”

~ Chuang Tzu (369-286BC)