NON-ESSENTIAL ME

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My thoughts have focussed quite intently on this word ESSENTIAL over the last while. When lockdown closed in on all of us we were constantly reminded of what is essential and what is non-essential. As countries recover from the alleged waves of the pandemic, the lockdown severity is decreased in accordance with the essential nature of services.
(Some would consider that very debatable but that is another matter.)

Prior to the lockdown in South Africa, I was in hospital for surgery and had first hand experience to remind me of the vital role of medical staff. Whenever I heard about frontline staff I thought about the many traumatic sights and sounds I experienced during those eventful five days in hospital. A week after I was discharged the lockdown began. My admiration for medical service providers during my personal experience was reinforced in the context of the covid-19 pandemic.

There was however a shadow side to all this admiration. I began to feel less and less “essential”. I could not save lives. I could not even cook a pot of food for myself let alone contribute to relief efforts struggling to cope with a hunger crisis resulting “from no, work no pay”. My non-essential existence was reinforced with every message that only essential services are required. Childhood experiences have tuned my psychic antenna to search for messages of worthlessness. These had become vital cues to my survival. Many people share those experiences and for those who don’t, there are sufficient messages from modern society fear-mongering us to question our worth. We spend a lifetime trying to prove that our existence matters. Most of that effort is to prove our worth to ourselves. We hope that our skills, money, status will save us from the doom of being worthless.

As I sunk further into feelings of worthlessness, my efforts to validate my existence included thoughts of learning some essential skill at least. These thoughts were involuntary and intrusive. They arose from the unconscious processes over which I have no control. They found their way into my dreams demanding attention. I had a series of such dreams one night in which there were various scenes from the pandemic. In all these scenes there was a common thread – I could not make a contribution no matter how hard I tried. In one scene I was unable to wash the dishes. If I shared these thoughts with friends they will shower me with ideas and reminders that I matter and that I have some contribution to make. I could write an essay on all the wonderful things I have done in the world to argue my worth. I could also write an essay deliberating on what essential really means in a given context. I am not going to do any of that. Instead of dressing up an old wound to make myself feel better, I am going to walk toward this dreaded mirror and face the fear-feeding boggarts like Potter did.

I am going spend time embracing a part of myself I have rejected my entire life. I am going to welcome the part of me that I have fought so hard to banish. I am going to spend this lockdown period with my non-essential self who can’t save lives or cook a pot of food right now. I am going to ask her to forgive me for a lifetime of exile. I am going to forgive her for the silent ways in which she tormented me. I suspect fibromyalgia was one such way given its ruthless way of triggering thoughts of worthlessness. She and I will share stories and find a way to bring the fragments together and form a whole.

I will eventually cook a pot of food for a relief effort and I will sew face masks again. I will use all the skills I have gained over the last 50 years. When I do these things, my non-essential self and I will work together. We will have times when we are of great and admirable service and we will have times when we have nothing to offer anyone. In the productive times she will not be a rejected part of myself. In the idol times she will guide me. Instead of the harsh judgement and questions of self-worth, there will be gifts of wisdom from a part of myself I will have access to. This is what is meant by the Jungian term of integration and wholeness.

I am non-essential as much as I am essential. As the outer-world continues to remind me of my non-essential part, I accept the invitation and pull up a chair at the great mirror. I know this part of myself and now it is time to bring her home from the exile. Though she is not me, she is part of me and without her I cannot be whole.

Michelene Dianne Benson

Sophia and the Chalice

april scs symbols

Clear blue skies and ancient mountain slopes

Despairing I search them tapping on elusive windows of hope

Another doctor, another hospital another encounter with fear and fate

Anxiety and trepidation mount in another waiting room

 

A tower rises boldly above the maze of medical buildings

In plain sight guiding like a beacon and I hear it speak

I know my journey will end there

But there are mountains to cross and miles to cover

In the dark of night I see the tower and the clear blue skies

Wearily I consider the mountains and the miles

Those that are behind me and those that are yet before me

Helplessly, I surrender to this journey

 

Searching for solace, my hands begin to craft

A full moon is rising in this dark night of the soul

Sacred Sanskrit symbols burning into the wood grain

Burning, scarring,  gaining meaning and significance

 

The windows of hope fly open and grace finds me longing

I pass by the tower reverently  lifting up mine eyes to this hill again

I see her – The Lady with the Lamp

Her voice that guided me over mountains and across many miles

 

Her lamp shines bright even amidst the clear blue skies

A solitary guidance through that Dark Night of The Soul

Sophia!

Endless, timeless holy, fount of wisdom – Sophia!

 

Sophia I called out

Sophia I learned to trust

In her bosom I rested my weary being

Sophia, her voice channelled, “You are here now!”

 

Chalice Divine, I call thee Blessed!

Chalice of life, sacred source of my blood, vessel of creation

Life and death danced harmoniously within your walls

Mother moon directing our seasons of living  and our seasons dying

 

Blessed are you Sophia

Blessed are the sacred words of the wise ones

Blessed are you chalice of creation

Blessed are you in your living and in your dying

 

Divine you must be for in your dying there is great living

Creativity flows again, a life blood through my being

The ancient one who guards the cross roads welcomes me mischievously

Adventure awaits, new mountains and new miles

 

She, who leaves gift offerings to remind me she is my companion

She, who changes form and is not confined

The one who is creation herself

This is the new season of my becoming

 

I am the creation

I am  life in all my changing forms

I am the mountains and the blue skies

I am the tower that beckons

I am the blood

I am the divine  chalice

I am the sacred words of the wise ones

I am beloved Sophia

I am the lamp that shines brightly

I am the formless ancient one at the crossroads

I am the roads and I am the traveller

The Stages of Isolation – a relative experience

emotions getty

Are you noticing how your reaction to self-quarantine and lockdown restrictions shifts as the weeks roll by?

Perhaps you have had highs and lows but not really understood the reasons for the changes in your endorphin levels? Perhaps you thought other people were being even more difficult than their normally difficult selves?  Some may even have considered getting over-the-counter hormone therapy.

I searched the internet for information and did not find very much. Here and there an article – some by mental health practitioners and some by economists. The latter obviously trying to predict when profit margins will begin to recover. The psychology articles I did find were not very useful. Many of them tried to force-fit the isolation process into the five stages of grief. To the extent that we have lost income, jobs and opportunities, the grief cycle would definitely apply. There is however something seriously different about the isolation caused by a pandemic and trying to collapse it with the grief cycle seems silly.

Unfortunately, the articles were all written by white academics who speak to the stages for the privileged losing a few pleasures and selectively-protected rights. In a reality where some lives are more equal than others, even the right to safety is selectively protected. We are certainly seeing that in South Africa with our surfer dudes and promenade joggers equating their needs with those in 3km queues for food. For those who have to choose between infection and starvation, the stages of lockdown is not remotely a consideration. Those of us who spent decades of our lives denied access to the beaches that were “reserved for whites” and now “reserved for the non-poor” really don’t have any sympathy for people moaning about their human right to surf.

Furthermore, the articles I read were based on observations in the USA and Australia: countries which are birthed from genocide, nourished by super-sized fries and sustained by branded propaganda will have a very different reality to Africa and war-torn countries. How the stages of isolation calibrate for you is entirely related to your level of privilege. Your experience will be determined according to how stuffed your backpack of rights was at the beginning of lockdown. At best, we can design stages within the levels of privilege.

I read a few articles about the impact of isolation on people doing doctorates and astronauts floating around in space for weeks or months. You may have heard the term “Third Quarter of Isolation” mentioned on Australian news networks recently. This term comes from studies conducted with astronauts. The third quarter refers to stage three of the four stage process.

In simple terms, the middle-class’ four stages of lockdown could look something like this:

Stage One – Confusion and Panic
This is when the news of the Covid-19 hit home and we realised it was not far, far away. Our hospitals began to shut down planned surgeries and grocery items disappeared as panic buyers freaked out. Rumours and fake news filled our WhatsApp feeds daily. Conversations were restricted to matters of the virus. We began to calculate how many hospital beds were needed per province. Finally, the lockdown was announced and another wave of panic buying began. Last visits and medication collections were our main activities. The first week or two of the lockdown created relationship challenges as we were suddenly quarantined with family members we normally could escape when they began to irritate us.

Stage Two – Settling in Honeymoon
In this phase we found ways to deal with the annoyances of our new reality – that is assuming you are not a victim of abuse in which case you would definitely not have honeymoon joy. Assuming you were in a home and had food to eat, you may even have started enjoying your new easy-living lifestyle. Suddenly there is no morning rush, traffic jam and school drop-off. If you were fortunate to have an income you may have welcomed the work-from home flexibility and stress-free salary. Baking, cooking and crafty activities may have provided a creative outlet and suddenly you are realising how good this pandemic is for your spiritual health. You even consider the idea that home-schooling will be good for your free-spirited child. You begin a gratitude journal. You release your control, breathe out and let it go! The lockdown is about to end and we wait for the president and his crazy mask.

Stage Three – “The Third Quarter”
What? The end is nowhere in sight. Five phases of lockdown and my career will only operate at phase two or phase one. My savings won’t last that long. I have no savings. Unemployment is going to take ages to pay out. I am working from home and earning a salary but I am missing my colleagues. It’s been two months since I saw the people in my life. I am at the end of my tether but the virus is only now beginning to spread in South Africa. The social distance queue outside every store is just too much so now I must do without things I am dependent on. I am not even collecting my medication anymore. Paying school fees while you are teaching your own child suddenly seems like legal robbery but you don’t know what to do. Is the virus even real?

This is only phase four of lockdown and we could go back to phase five. So maybe this will continue for the whole year. I can’t do this for a whole year! I am too depressed, irritated, frustrated, angry to speak to anyone. I don’t do the calls anymore. I am tired of the baking, cooking and crafting. I need to just be free to go wherever I want and connect with people without feeling like I am breaking the law.

Stage Four – Future is in sight
There is some hope that the heavy restrictions will be lifted. We have things we can look forward to and anxiety is abating slowly. We know what our losses are and we know what we can salvage from the lockdown wreckage. At least we can start to plan a way forward in the new normal which is becoming clearer. Even in this recession, at least we will be able to see family and friends without being arrested. We can finally begin to get our lives back on track beyond covid-19. We survived the virus! Our energy is focused on a future of some sort and we are no longer in limbo.

Depending on your personal context of course, you may or may not be able to identify with the stages. The third-quarter may or may not help you to understand why you have suddenly hit a low after doing so extremely well in the creative, mindful and pseudo-evolved state of stage two.

Given our social conditioning about planning, succeeding, achieving and control, homo sapiens are incredibly focused on the future. We don’t know how to be present in the now and we hate not knowing: stage three pins us down in the not-knowing. It rattles the cages of our conditioning.

South Africa has a phased approach to lockdown with phase five having the most severe restrictions and phase one the most lenient.  We are currently in phase four and phase one is very far away! With the numbers rising and services closing daily due to infections, phase five is scarily close. So the limbo of the third-quarter remains because we actually have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

In the context of social inequality, the stages of lockdown are entirely subjective. When your existence has been criminalized in the past you will relate to the restrictions differently. A right by its definition is inalienable. When a human right can be granted or withheld it is revealed as a privilege. While we are all affected by the lockdown, it will express itself differently in these disparate environments.

Pains of initiation and pains of dis-ease

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Being a chronic Pisces (lunar Cancer & Cancer Rising) does not make for an easy life but when I get ready for Alchemy and Magick then I love my stars with all my dust. The descent into the dreamworld is as easy as taking a breath and when preparing to facilitate a process, I have a valid excuse to be there so it is free fall. Our personal genius, our truest calling, our dharma is a precious precious gift!!!
It is fascinating to me that in my most authentic state, my (fibromyalgia) pain is in fact at its worst. It challenges the myth that when we do what we love we have spontaneous remission. Sometimes or for some of us the archetypal warrior imagery is more apt. The more the warrior is closer to victory, the greater the pain of the gaping wounds inflicted along the journey. The ego will do many “stranger things” to prevent you from manifesting your deepest calling – your dharma.
Know thyself is a critical armour to understand the difference of the pains that emanate from dis-ease of inauthentic living and the pains of initiation into your highest calling,
Beloved Know Thyself!

Somewhere between Denial and Depression

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Fibromyalgia awareness 2018
My lifelong experience with fibromyalgia has seen me slide up and down this continuum. My energy is often spent trying desperately to avoid these two extremes.

At times I find myself trying desperately to remain positive and focus on what I can do. I walk around repeating Hawking’s words do not look at your feet look up at the stars. I avoid the fibromyalgia groups like the plague for fear that they will bring me down. I mumble releasing mantras and try to let go of things like grief and fear. I focus my attention on all those many blessings that I am so deeply grateful for.

If all goes well it works and I come very close to that elusive place called normal. Inevitably though I cross the invisible line of denial. When I end up in that place I make less intelligent decisions regarding my physical strength and capacity. The hype of believing in oneself and that all things are possible lead you to push yourself beyond reason. In the process I hurt something, reinjure something and successfully manage to bring on a fibro flare which feels like my body is taking revenge on me.

At other times and often when I am remembering what I was capable of, I remind myself that this condition is real and if not managed it becomes debilitating. I notice how I move around like a 70 year old. I feel despondent with all my half projects and all the things that I never got started. To cope with the disappointment and sense of failure, I remind myself of the nature of this condition and what it can do. In some ways I find comfort in others’ stories knowing I am not alone and many people have this battle too. It remains however a very dangerous place to be because crossing the fine line that leads to depression happens so quickly. In that place life seems unfair and cruel and punitive. All the things that I have had to give up and all my plans that I have to pack away impact the psyche in an altogether negative way and you spiral down into a very gloomy place. It is a battle to get out of this place but over the years one develops the muscle for it and you somehow manage to make it out.

Managing the psyche takes as much effort if not more than managing the body. Navigating the perils of denying your condition on the one hand and being overcome by your condition on the other requires energy. Harmony has always been my sacred word. Harmony with self, others and the earth is a life goal. Sliding up and down between denial and depression is one aspect of the up and down nature of fibromyalgia. On the 12th of May is fibromyalgia awareness day. On that day I may be up or I may be down or I may be sliding somewhere between denial and depression. In this moment of slight stability I am recording my awareness day post.

#fibromyalgia #depression #denial #awarenessday #invisible #cfs

Cape Town Drought Diary Post 16

equinox 21 march 2018

WELCOMING AUTUMN – 21 March 2018

The equinox is upon us and many of us are deeply relieved at the coming autumn. The marking of the change of seasons is an ancient practice observed by indigenous peoples around the world. Our busy lives and our separation from nature has led us to forget these powerful practices.

In Cape Town South Africa a harsh summer and a severe drought has left most of us depleted. In the last season we saw nonchalance quickly replaced by pandemonium, anxiety replaced by remarkable creativity, celebration and disappointment as well as loads of politics.

The drought is predicted to last for quite a while yet. The cool of autumn and whatever rains winter may bring are finally in sight. It is unlikely that the crisis with our dams will change in the short term. The change will mostly be noted in ordinary citizens practicing new skills and attitudes regarding water use.

Traditionally, the equinox is a time to pause, reflect, offer thanks and setting intentions for the new season. This particular equinox in the southern hemisphere marks the coming of autumn which we generally understand to be a time of harvest.
I am trusting and I am praying that the people of Cape Town will harvest the benefit of their newfound awareness of the value of water. The awakening that we have had as a community will have far-reaching benefit for the next generation. May the hard lessons that we learnt in the summer bring a harvest of wisdom and mindfulness.

As the sun retreats behind leaves of red and gold a little bit of a respite draws near. It is a good time to pause and give thanks and to call forth help and resources for the coming months.

A year ago the idea of harvesting rainwater was only a practice of eco fanatics and green folk. Now the idea of rainwater being wasted is foolishness at best. A year ago grey water was not a topic. Now the topic of greywater occupies a huge part of our conversation as we continuously seek better ways to reuse water. A year ago most of us never calculated kiloliters or gave it a second thought. Now every litre is carefully considered. A year ago leaking pipes went unnoticed by most. Now a leaking pipe is managed by community taking responsibility and harvesting run off. These are some of my thanksgivings at this time of pause and reflection.

May we continue to grow as a water wise community. Politicians will continue to do what politicians do. Meanwhile ordinary people are making a difference in big ways and small ways.

Cape Town Drought Diary Post 15

ct drought dairy post 16

DISAPPOINTMENT DESCENDS – 3 March 2017


The new water tariffs have been implemented and along with it came grave disappointment. The roughly 600% increase in water effectively skyrocketed the water bill for everyone. There are many who would argue that R4,00 for a kilolitre of water was no cost at all. They would even argue that the new rate of R26,25 is still a nominal amount per kilo litre of drinking water. In a world in which everything is relative it follows that we would experience the tariff increase very differently in our very different homes.


The intention behind the new tariff is in itself a dispute. Some say it is to enrich coffers and others believe that it is the only way to enforce the saving of our dwindling supply of water and preventing the deleterious impact thereof.  This week I felt for all the water warriors of Cape Town. The lengths and extremes to which residents have gone to save water is both admirable and inspirational. These great efforts are a reward in itself. It is however the inevitable desire of the human psyche to see immediate and tangible rewards for hard effort. Most folks expected this immediate and tangible reward to be in the form of a reduced water bill. Reducing water usage by the kilo litre takes hard work that impacts the body and the general functioning of the home.


Technically, any saving of water will result in a financial reward. Every kilolitre not used is R26.25 saved. However, the jump from a R20 bill to a R120.00 bill makes that very difficult to see. The jump from R100 to R600 will lead to more than disappointed. The idea of paying so much more when you are using so much less does not make sense or sit well. Some even see it as a punishment for all their hard work and sacrifice.
We have no idea whether the new tariff is permanent and how things will turn out. What ever is communicated now can also change.


The anxiety around using water has increased exponentially. As challenging as it now seems, we have to go to the next level of reducing our usage. I have no doubt that we will get there. I have no doubt that we will, along with other countries facing drought, break new ground in preserving this valuable resource we call water.


The disappointment is real. The challenge is to get beyond it and dig deeper into our creativity and tenacity.


#Watercrisis #ctdroughtonlinediary #capetown

Cape Town Drought Diary Post 14

ct drought dairy post 14

DESPERATE TIMES DESPERATE MEASURES BEAUTIFUL OUTCOMES

– 24 February 2018


Yesterday a first real rain arrived. For the first time in forever I could hear water dripping from rooftops. For a moment I stood still and stilled my soul to just take it in. The dripping eventually became quite a
flow. A damaged gutter in my neighbour’s yard produced a significant and steady stream of water.

Creativity and ingenuity is now second nature to most Capetonians. We run with buckets, grab any device and re-purpose any tool for harvesting and redirecting water. These desperate times have activated our lateral thinking and unless you have experienced drought you would think us crazy.
A discarded piece of down pipe, an empty drum and a desperate heart conspired to make sure the water no longer flowed onto cement and into drains.


This morning with great excitement my little neighbour arrived to bottle the water harvested from the broken gutter. In their garden he tends a beautiful wild bird sanctuary. I am fortunate to benefit from it and often do my writing at the window facing his bird sanctuary. The water we harvested and bottled will be used for the bird sanctuary this week.


He has a new story for show and tell at school this week. I have no doubt that show and tell will bring awareness to his friends and eventually to their homes. And so the activism will continue.


Indeed, I looked pretty desperate with my down pipe and my drenched dress and my obsession to salvage rainwater. The joy of bottling the rainwater harvest with my adorable little neighbour was a beautiful reward. In these desperate times we do resort to desperate measures and it is these very measures that bring the best of stories and beautiful creations. I will enjoy his wild bird sanctuary this week with even more tenderness.

#ctdroughtonlinediary #watercrisis #capetown

Cape Town Drought Diary Post 13

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THE NIGHT WATER TURNED TO GOLD IN CAPE TOWN – 10 February 2018

I am incredibly emotional as I write this diary entry. My heart overflows with a gratitude that no words could ever explain. Social media is flooded this morning with the most incredible pictures of the water that was saved last night.

As the first drizzles fell in my garden, I blew the shofar as in the days of old. As grateful as I was for the rain, there was an even greater and inexplicable joy welling up in my soul. All over Cape Town, ordinary men, women and children were running with buckets or standing expectantly at the end of a down pipe they had connected to all manner of drums and catchment containers. Some with extravagant harvesting operations and others with ingenious DIY ideas all immersed in hope. I pressed my ear against my rain tank and as expected, when the first drop echoed in the tank and the hollowed place of desire in my soul, my tears flowed. I wept there for a while as gentle rain fell upon my back.


The 9th of February 2018, was the night that water turned to gold in Cape Town. Every little bucket and every massive rain tank and every swimming pool now re-purposed as a reservoir was a treasure to behold. My tears are flowing even as I write this.
Last year, during the Cape storm in June, I was obsessed with harvesting rainwater. I reached points of depression when my activism fell on deaf ears. But I remembered and held onto a pearl of wisdom which says that if you desire a thing enough, it will eventually manifest. Only 8 months later, the picture that seemed impossible then, is now a way of life for the people of Cape Town.

Eight months ago a bucket of water was just that. Last night …. a bucket of water became a bucket of gold! In the ancient practice of alchemy, magicians spend a lifetime trying to perfect the art of turning base metals into gold. Last night the water we have taken for granted and once considered a base resource turned to gold before our eyes. Magic never happens without adversity. All the tales in all the books of all the heroes consistently speak of adversity. The adversity is eventually understood by the hero and becomes a Philosopher’s Stone. The drought has become for many of us a Philosopher’s Stone and enabled us to turn water into gold.

Water is the elixir of life and we have learned that through this drought in Cape Town. I often post about magick and people often don’t understand. The conscious will understand the depth of the great magick taking place in Cape Town. In time we will tell our children and our children’s children of the night the water turned to gold in the city of Cape Town.

Once upon a time in a city where the dams were dry …
#watercrisis #CapeTown #Alchemy #ctdroughtonlinediary

Cape Town Drought Diary Post 12

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the power of intention


THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE INTENTION – 9 February 2018

We are hanging onto our phones desperately trying to connect with other hopefuls. The grey clouds have come and gone and are now returning. From the conversations in the social media groups it is clear despair has started to grab hold of many. They found themselves here before waiting for rain only to be disappointed time after time. Every time the little icon predicting rain changes on the weather app to a bright yellow sun our hearts sink. We know it is summer, we know there is a drought, we know nature must run its course but we are desperate in a parched and thirsty land.

Disappointment is beginning to manifest as irritation and anger. Our emotions of hope and disappointment are all completely valid in these desperate days as much as we want others to feel what we feel.

While thick grey rain clouds may not be coming together as much as we would like, we are as a community building desire. A collective desire and with it a unity of intention. With every cold front that approaches and misses our shores, that intention and desire strengthens.

Not only is our desire building as a collective but we are without even knowing, connecting to nature in a much deeper way. In watching the clouds and listening to the wind we are building a connection of a different kind. A connection to the Earth we have long since lost. Some of us have even started to notice the difference in the songs of chirping birds. This growing awareness, this listening is healing in a way we don’t quite understand.

#watercrisis #ctdroughtonlinediary #capetown