On place and creating a life you no longer wish to escape

  • By Jo Murphy
  • 04 Oct, 2015
It’s a wonder I even know which time zone I’m in right now. In the past week I’ve been to Bali then Singapore and now I’m typing this jetlagged in Rome. I’ve not been on European soil for three months and I’m feeling a little displaced...

So this called me to write about place and how much of our personal context we draw from it.

It could be any place, yours or mine. Wherever it is you’ll be having a personal relationship with it – and it’s that relationship which throws light on your place in the world.

Put it this way, on recent adventures around Asia I’ve felt great tidal waves of joy in certain locations, while others have made me turn on my heel and run for the hills. And it’s not always immediately apparent why.

You see travel is not all sunsets, mountains and enlightenment. It brings lows along with the terrific highs, yet it’s in these contrasting experiences of place that we learn something of our own context.

When you step out without a map (my preferred MO), you have to rely so much more on your inner compass, on how it feels to be in that place so you might get to know it better. Inevitably you get to know yourself better too – winging it means I’ve been subject to a few scrapes and surprises, but they generally add to the experience rather than take away.

But then I arrived in Singapore. And I needed that map. If not to negotiate the streets, but the state of confusion the place aroused in me. Having mostly avoided towns, or at the very least chosen those where the buildings maxed out at three storeys, I was suddenly at the mercy of a high-rise, high-gloss metropolis.

Many had enthused about Singapore’s safety and easy navigation. Uh-uh, I found it more overwhelming than any low-rise, low-gloss place I’d been lost in before.

For the most part I felt it lacked soul, populated by super-polished worker bees gliding from one air-conditioned unit to another. It all seemed a little impersonal. Work, eat, shop, sleep; repeat. Clearly the quality of life is high, with the bees working hard for their shiny rewards.

But then how we measure quality of life is relative to your culture, values and all the things you’ve come to learn from living in that place you call home.

Most of us in the West (and, slowly but surely, swathes of the East) have learnt that high-rise shininess equates to high quality of life. But, take away the gadgets and the gloss, and does the quality remain? Does it still feel like home?

Singapore called to mind Dubai where I’d spent a few days last year – a place where the single unifying social factor is money. Where were the indigenous communities and the temples and the shared histories? All the things that give people an identity relative to a place; all the things that make a place relative to us, as people, not worker bees. So let’s get back to how your personal relationship with a place can throw light on your place in the world... 

The more we cover up our context with high-rise development, the more we lose sight of ourselves. Sometimes we need to step right out of everything that has become habitual to wake up and see things as they really are.

I’ve sure as hell had a few awakenings. Mostly wondering where I am, why the window is on the wrong side of the room and who moved the light switch. I’ve had many moments of anxiety and groundlessness, of feeling totally out on a limb and vulnerable. Every day surrounded by purposeful people in pursuit of their daily bread (those bees), while I’m wide eyed, looking for something I recognise, namely a defining purpose within that place.

It’s no great stretch of the imagination to say I’ve been looking for home.

So I’m naturally hyper curious about other people and their domestic choices. These worker bees, for example, were they happy? And what about my fellow travellers, would they be content to return from whence they came? Did they come for the experience or to escape? Maybe they are one and the same thing. As holidaying humans, we seek out the opposite experience of our habitual lives so that we might understand more about them, and, indeed, ourselves.

While the cultures we are born into shape us, and all that we know, that doesn’t mean we have to stay within those boundaries.

Naturally we like to nest, to feel safe in the knowledge that we have sanctuary. But sometimes our inner compass is telling us otherwise, that perhaps there’s something else or somewhere else. And it’s often not until we step out of our habitual context that we actually start to question it. And we begin to understand that, sanctuary or not, it is not exempt from change.

In fact, nothing is. Life really is groundless, wherever you are. Our roots can be uprooted in the blink of an eye .

And the beauty of this is that because life is so changeable, we don’t have to suffer lives we don’t like, in places we don’t like. Instead we can live from moment to moment, from experience to experience, and treat this concept of home as a moveable feast.

Indeed I’ve felt very much at home in many of the places I’ve visited. A recent favourite was a fishing village on the east coast of Bali. In the two weeks that I spent there I felt more present, more content and more in context than I have for years. And while those two weeks came to an end, the memory and energy of that place remains. Being there literally opened my heart and my mind in new and wonderful ways, which is how I want to feel every day in every place.

Naturally the ocean graced me with perspective and calm. And during those two weeks of reflection I began to acknowledge how sensitive I am to both people and place; and to understand how cities can therefore overarouse and confuse (oh, hello Singapore) – laughable that I know this now having lived in a city for 18 years before hitting the road.

So I now know what I like because I went looking for the opposite of what I don’t like.

I turned the tables on the habitual and came to understand that I no longer accept my life as it was, but I am fully empowered to create my life as it is – untethered by location. I truly believe that travel, or simply a change of scenery, awakens us. It shows us that a different life is available to us.

We can use the overriding emotional memory of a place to literally change our lives. The joy of a holiday can be carried forth into your every day. But while your surroundings remain the same, you hold onto everything you associate with them, which keeps you in an emotional and behavioural holding pattern. Of course we need those annual holidays, but we also desperately need to integrate regular breaks into our ‘routine’.

We need to step out of our daily context to put our lives into context. Place is a matter of perspective.

So, where do you go to get yours? Is there somewhere you go to daydream? Somewhere that lifts your soul, where you can breathe in possibility? Whatever magnetises you to that place will mirror whatever you feel is lacking in your life. Use this time to redress the balance. We focus so much on our next weekend or summer escape that we forget we have the power to create a life from which we no longer wish to escape.

So, on that note, let me tell you about the waterfalls at Iguassu on the border between Argentina and Brazil. I spent a long weekend there six years ago, solo and so happy. Such was the magic of that place it changed (and saved) my life. And that’s because it planted the seed of an idea...

I have the power to create a life from which I no longer wish to escape.

I knew that once I returned to my daily grind, nobody would turn the taps off – the water would keep on flowing with or without me. Just as life goes on with or without anybody. And so that seed of an idea blossomed. Why should I toil away on things I don’t care about to pay a mortgage on a flat that doesn’t feel like home?

If I make drastic changes, life will go on, just like that waterfall.

And so Iguassu triggered something irreversible inside of me. It’s where I felt, for the first time, connected to something divine, something so much bigger than the life I knew in London. And while, on the surface, it initiated my search for home, deep down it kick-started my quest to seek out the divine in every place. Or to find those places that touched the divine in me (fishing village, east Bali, tick).

Unpacking your relationship with place unravels your relationship with self, life, love and home. Home isn’t where the heart is, it’s who you are in any given moment. Home is inside your heart and you carry it wherever you go.

That’s your sanctuary.

But, if you happen upon a place that somehow opens the door and lets out the joy, then stay a while. And let it inspire you to live a life from which you no longer wish to escape.

By Jo Murphy 03 Aug, 2017
We exist in the space between who we were and who we want to be.

But boy, do we fight it, this ‘here and now’ stuff. We want to be thinner, richer, smarter, never truly settling in the skin we’re in, always seeking more or less of some aspect of mind or body. And, once we are thinner, richer and smarter, we set our sights on the next new horizon. And then the next…

Eyes ever forward.

And yet, the way we move between where we’re coming from and where we’re going to, is the way we weave the very fabric of our lives. Like the thread that passes from one side of the loom to the other, nothing can take form without this rhythmic backwards and forwards motion.

As much as we want to be out with the old and in with the new, we must find a way to happily exist between the two.

But there’s often a snag in the thread, some obstacle that prevents the smooth transition between what was, what is and what could be. For you it might be a job or a relationship. For me it’s place, since wherever I find myself physically is where I also find myself emotionally and mentally.

Location changes everything on account of my sensitivity. I can get lost to who I become while I’m there. Which is why I’ve written at length of late about context and the relationships we have with (and because of) it.

Whatever we see outside of ourselves is what we have called into existence through our experience of that place.

Or job or relationship…

And the onus is always on us to bring the love and the beauty wherever possible, but what if that place or that job or that relationship is blocking our ability to do so? Holidays bring reprieve , of course, but a holiday has to end. And we have to return to the life we’d briefly turned away from.

Our homecoming may reveal that we’ve changed in some way. A shift may have taken place. And so we’re faced with a critical decision. Do we turn once again towards this life and pick up where we left off? Or do we turn towards our experience of this life and begin to unpick the snags?

When we explore ourselves in different contexts, we get to know different aspects of ourselves, we awaken to new ideas that propel us forward . But exploring ourselves in our current context is where we unravel the threads of our reality, and awaken to the old ideas holding us back .

Let me explain.

I’ve been living in a place not of my choosing for two years now. After everything went to shit in India , I returned to the family fold feeling sheepish, childish even. I’d leapt feet first and landed on my face. So I figured I had to make do and make a life with the few pieces that were left.

I spent months sorting through them, looking each over, assessing which parts could be salvaged. But this analysis was so loaded with melancholy that I soon changed tactic and started prematurely planning my exit strategy instead.

I disallowed myself from having any real relationships in, or with, this place. I refused myself any real experience or exploration of this particular void. I simply couldn’t accept where I was; or that this would become anything more than a brief suspension before my next overseas adventure.

I buried myself in my writing, my deep inquiry into where I’d been and where I wanted to go, and my deep rebuttal of where I actually was.

And this is what I learnt.

When we live divided from ourselves, from the truth of our present experience, we suffer a form of personal, physical and emotional destruction. We enter into denial . We grow ill or anxious or angry or isolated.

This is our wake up call.

But when we live undivided from ourselves, from the truth of our present experience, we undergo a form of personal deconstruction. We dismantle the old ideas we have about ourselves, the things we do (and keep doing) that hurt us and hold us back, and we decide that these things are no longer acceptable.

With this comes new insight. We understand that the perceived limitations of a place (or a job or a relationship) are not our own. And with this comes new freedom. We can walk towards ourselves without actually walking away from anyone or anything or any place until we’re truly ready.

Yes, we have to move through the mulch before we can move on, but if we make everything about the past, things get stale pretty quickly. Equally, when we become fixated on a future desire, all we experience is the unfulfillment of that desire, and things get depressing just as fast.

And yet, if we move between the two without getting attached, taking what we need and leaving what we don’t, we can weave the threads of the here and now, of the lived experience, which is all we have.

And that is why a change of context can be so fundamental to proceedings – be that a holiday or a breakup – since these are the things that awaken us to the snags. When we physically step away we get the meta-view, the perspective we need to decipher the essential threads from the inconsequential.

And if we keep one eye on this bigger picture, we’re better able to live inside just one part of it. More than that, we know that whatever our lived experience is right now, it is only one part of the overall piece.

If we lose sight of it, however, we too get lost. We get mired in the minutiae, muddling through without making sense of it all. We obsess over the inconsequential, forgetting that the small things only really matter if they become the threads weaving the bigger tapestry.

And we can never know what the finished piece will look like since it will doubtless never be complete. But this is not our concern. Finishing is not the point; contributing is . Our sole purpose here is to keep weaving these lives.

Your personal threads are sacred, my friends. Weave them carefully.

Walk away from what’s not working. Grieve the loss, yes, but only as long as is necessary to harvest the seeds of something better. And don’t fret that quitting calls your ability to commit into question. Think of it as a deeper commitment to the overall tapestry, a way to tend carefully to each thread that weaves into it.

And make those threads your own. Give up pursuit of things you think you should want, but don’t really. Stop striving for social and cultural ideals that don’t belong to you. Discover what makes you come alive. Uncover your values. Honour them. And honour yourself.

Know that whatever you’re ending and whatever you’re beginning, there’s a whole world that must be experienced between the two. Immerse yourself in this space, in the in-between, and you’ll gain full liberation from the past, full access to the future, full appreciation of the ways in which the two intertwine.

This is where we collapse time.

It took at least a year for me to understand this – to move through my pride and acknowledge that the family fold was exactly where I needed to be. I eventually stopped fighting the truth of where I found myself, and set the intention to stay for as long as I needed to come to terms with it all – to de-snag .

And, over time, I’ve made my peace with this particular place – with the girl I was when I arrived and the woman I’ve become because I stayed. I’ve strengthened and refined my threads. But I also know that if I stay much longer , these threads may well run out. My work here is done.

This is good news.

The time has come for me to extend my work on this tapestry. A new void needs filling. I simply need to make the necessary adjustments that permit me to keep coming alive, to keep weaving. And, if I move physically, I can move mentally and emotionally too.

Perhaps you’re also ready?

If so, I hope my coming clean helps, since I’m weaving this life with you. And I would not be able to share what I now share had I not been here, for two years, in this place. My stories are considered, deliberate, and intended to reveal how my threads intertwine with yours, if you’ll let them .

We all share this universal tapestry, and we each have a responsibility to honour the individual contribution we make. Our social and cultural parameters have not, on the whole, allowed for the creativity, exploration and expression that are essential to self-discovery. We must buck the trend.

If we never discover ourselves, how can we ever hope to discover each other?

If we give ourselves the gift of presence we can extend the same kindness to each other. If we know ourselves better, and improve the relationship we have with our real-time experiences, this can only nourish the relationships we have with everyone else sharing that experience. And beyond.

When we turn towards ourselves, we actually turn towards each other – our shared tapestry, our humanity. Together we can weave the fabric that fills the void between you and me, now and then, here and there.

Together we can weave something new.

By Jo Murphy 17 Jul, 2017
Love doesn’t exist. Love calls everything into existence.

Quite the declaration, isn’t it? Love doesn’t exist . So, how does that work? Think of it this way. Love is not an object that stands outside of us – even though we think it is, as we hunt it down like starved animals. We’re hungry for it, for sure, but we forget that both our appetite and the ability to satiate it are found in the same place. Ourselves .

We are the subjects doing the loving. We call everything into existence.

But it’s not always easy, is it? Deadlines need to be met and dinners need to be cooked, and so we call forth mundanity, stress and exhaustion. Believe me, I know. Having written a harsh review of humanity last time, I was acutely aware of the lack of love in my own life.

Beneath that flowery pinny my heart had been breaking.

Everything felt so restrained, so strained. But whatever I was experiencing, I was the one calling it into existence. I was literally starving myself of love, like so many of us, through the ways we do or do not relate to our lives, to others, to ourselves; the risks we are willing to take or not take; the way we colour our canvas inside or outside the lines .

Consider, for a moment, the restraints you impose on your life with daily routines and regimens and diets and goodness knows what else drains the colour from your days. It’s all so risk adverse. But we get rewarded for these things, for being good , for being seen to be the same as everyone else.

That’s how the lines give us context. They promise to deliver personal progression within a particular situation or circumstance. But these lines also become limitations. They isolate, encourage competition, inspiring us to call forth resentment, jealousy, fear, pride – all the gremlins – but none of these things exist either .

We call them into existence.

If we breach the lines, however, we call forth a new experience, something different, something more . But ‘more’ isn’t your next promotion. It isn’t your new conservatory. It isn’t an accolade or an object. These things are nice, very nice, but ‘more’ means joy, aliveness, relationship .

It means creating a world that’s more compassionate and inclusive  where we remember to look up and see each other. Yes, we want to be the same as everyone else, but we’ve forgotten how we’re the same as everyone else. Our humanity is the thing that binds and unites us. Conformity inhibits it. Diversity informs it.

Everything hinges on relationship. But relationship brings risk .

It brings exposure to whatever or whoever is outside the lines. And so we choose instead to meet each other (and ourselves) only as far as our current limitations allow – like me in that tearoom. We play it safe and continue to starve.

Wow, heavy, right? How on earth do we carry on?

Holidays, that’s how. We get on planes and trains and get the hell out of here so we can colour outside the lines for two weeks out of every fifty-two. We go forth and put ourselves in the way of beauty so we can feel beautiful.

We get away from our lives in order to remember them. We get away from each other for the same reason.

As our external environment shifts, we notice our internal environment differently. As our internal environment shifts, we notice our external environment differently.

Breaking from routine throws us into the unknown and demands that we tune into ourselves (and each other) on a deeper level. When unfamiliar objects and people surround us, we must pay more attention to our subjective experience of it all. We are no longer going through the motions. We can no longer numb out. So we begin to ask, who’s colouring this canvas? How have I not seen all of this before?

Trust me friends, this happened to me last week. After months and months of misery I hung up my pinny, got on a plane and got the hell out of here. And I fell in love with humanity all over again. I began to relate all over again . Everywhere I looked compassion kept catching me right at the back of the throat.

Christ, I thought, we’re hilarious and gorgeous and daft and beautiful.

I noted how different we are on holiday. We drop the pretence and the posturing. Our excitement catches us off guard. Our vulnerability is heightened by the risk of it all. New horizons become new lines for us to cross and we do the crossing together . There’s no push-shove , and, if there is a queue, it’s an opportunity to make friends. Have you been here before? Where do you come from?

Small talk takes on new resonance as we cross the lines between self and other . A shift takes place. We take interest in each other’s difference. We delight in it. We begin to see each other all over again. More than that, we allow ourselves to be seen . A shared joke, a random kindness, forging connections makes the adventure seem less risky. The lines become blurred .

We call forth more.

I certainly did. And all it took was one week for me to replenish my love reserves. Truly. My craving for travel had been bone deep for months and months. It has historically been a form of escape for me – a way to run away from everyone and everything – but I knew it would be different this time. It would allow me to run towards everyone and everything.

I needed to get away from my life in order to remember it. I needed to create physical distance to cover the emotional distance.

A change of context is always a gift since it gives us context, but not in the way we imagine. While we want it to separate us from the pain, it actually brings us closer to the love. Yes, the place may be different, but our humanity remains a constant . We are always there, with each other, wherever we go. And whatever our relationship with a particular place may be, it’s merely a reflection of the relationship we have entered into with each other, with ourselves, at that time.

Sunsets, mountains and oceans, we believe, are the elixir we desire, objects that exist outside of us. But it is us who calls forth their magic. If we let our crayons wander, we also begin to wonder, what if life could always be like this? We feel insignificant and significant all at the same time. We’re overcome by a sense that the world is so much bigger than we’d remembered. But we’re also reminded that we have a place in it.

We belong to it. We belong to each other.

Okay, you say, it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy watching the sun dance on the waves, but how the hell do we call forth the love when the holiday ends?

We remember that the daily parameters we place on ourselves and our lives are not compulsory. We are free to break the ‘rules’ a little, to colour outside the lines at any time. And if this feels risky then know that the disruption of risk is only ever temporary . And it always liberates us in the end.

Whatever we see outside of ourselves, whatever we experience, is simply something that we have called into existence by loving or not loving ourselves, each other, our lives, in that moment.

We are free to look up and see the world with new eyes at any time, wherever we are. We wield the crayons that colour the canvas, so we can call forth a world with lines or no lines, love or no love. Either way, our future depends on it.

By Jo Murphy 03 Jul, 2017
Few (if any) of you know that I’ve been wearing a flowery pinny and making frothy coffee three days a week, every week for the past 15 months. I’d voted to keep myself in pocket money while I polished the book proposal, but while this ‘little job’ was my safety net, it often felt like a shameful secret.

And my pride often got the better of me.

Pride, the dictionary tells us, is the belief that you’re better or ‘more than’ anyone else. I beg to differ. Pride is a defence mechanism born of the fear that we really are much ‘less than’ everyone else. It makes you haughty and secretive, and ashamed of having a bridge job.

But really, who cares ?

We do what we have to do in order to get where we want to go. Which is where humility comes in. This, the dictionary tells us, is the quality of having a modest view of one’s importance; free from pride or arrogance.

Importantly, however, this doesn’t mean seeing ourselves as unimportant – it means knowing and valuing ourselves enough to not need pride or arrogance. But we fight humility. We fear it, believing that being humble means admitting we’re not enough. Pride seems like the safer option.

The customers certainly knew this, but not all of them, since I must acknowledge a handful of regulars with a deep bow of gratitude. Every day they came with ready smiles, bringing joy to an otherwise humdrum exchange. As for the others, well, people generally treat each other like shit, don’t they?

On a busy day it became the norm to be barked at, patronised or dismissed as a second rate citizen simply for serving up cake. At first I thought it was the pinny. Do we see people earning minimum wage as having minimum status, I wondered, the cleaners and cooks and caretakers?

Or maybe it had something to do with my gender? No, it wasn’t that. The female customers could be as abhorrent as the male. Was it because I couldn’t make seven drinks with two hands in less than five minutes? Or maybe it had nothing to do with me at all and was all about them ?

So I paid attention and began taking field notes.

On a daily basis I witnessed the pain of people acting out their insecurities, protecting their most private selves with public shows of one-upmanship . Skipping the queue. Questioning the prices. Complaining about everything .

People wielded their impatience like a weapon with which they could intimidate me. But, you see, impatience is a crucial part of the fight against humility. It says I will not wait for my slice of the pie. I am deserving of it right now .

But fighting for first place serves no one. There’s a space in the queue for all of us and we all get to the front in the end. Until then, we do what we have to do to get where we want to go.

At least this is what I kept telling myself as I dug deep to find my compassion in the face of all this bad behaviour. I wanted to understand why so many of us are so deeply committed to hurting ourselves (and each other). I watched those who were clearly oblivious to anything outside of their own sphere of existence.

Humans have a knack of being totally self-absorbed and yet totally self-unaware. It’s all push-shove, sod the queue and sod you.

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s also fair. We’re all caught up in life’s fundamental paradox of self and other . While we mostly think only of ourselves, we do so primarily through the lens of how we’re perceived by others – aka whether you think I’m important or not . And while we’ve learnt to compete, to exclude, to separate, we desperately crave acceptance and inclusion.

And this is precisely why we push and shove, so we don’t get forgotten or left out. This ‘them and us’ mentality is all consuming. We’re so engrossed in the business of self-defence (and getting to the front of the queue) that we imagine attack where there is none. And when we make enemies out of everyone, we undermine our shared experience .

Really, you say, all this from a tearoom ?

Oh yes. I watched and listened and learned. We need that queue so we have a place alongside everyone else. And we need each other to know ourselves. Our point of difference is our point of recognition – and this doesn’t make us any less important or any less worthy as individuals. Pride, you see, is vastly overrated.

We need to get over ourselves and get to know ourselves instead, to become both aware and self-aware.

Trust me, I learned a thing or two about myself while frothing that milk. After months of scrutinising the customers, I let them become my mirrors, my teachers. As I watched them, I witnessed my own pride and my own impatience – more than that, my fear of being left at the back of the queue for the book deal.

With every flat white (which is what, exactly, a coffee with milk?) I had to move through my pride (not swallow it) to remember that we are always in transition – that we do what we have to do to get where we want to go, but it need not be a struggle. And this is another of life’s precious paradoxes.

Every day we walk the line between what we really want to happen (book deal, swift service) and what needs to happen first (write the book, wait in the queue).

If we get too mired in either extreme, we get stuck in a place where we could never be happy. If we always get what we want, we’ll always be hankering for more. If we’re always hankering for more, we’ll never get what we want. There has to be a balance, a middle path that we can happily walk between the two.

While pride wants everything now, humility is much more chill. It sees the setbacks and queues and delays simply as lived experience. Nothing is wasted . Humility doesn’t do defeat, defence or attack. It tells us life can be two things at once (self and other). It tells us we can be two things at once (pinny wearer and writer). This can be as enriching as it is painful.

It’s also as empowering as it is humbling.

So now that the book proposal’s finished and I’ve hung up my pinny, both have changed me (arguably) for the better. It all counts. Everything counts . Remember this, my friends, and embrace the paradox wherever you are in the queue.

There’s no shame in it.

By Jo Murphy 18 Jun, 2017
My friend's four-year-old daughter told me with all sincerity the other day that girls “can’t be in charge”. But boys can.

Oh shit, I thought, how can I show her otherwise?  

We’d been watching a cartoon about a team of male undersea explorers led by a male captain. Its aim, I’m sure, was to educate young minds about the wonders of nature. Only it’d been teaching this darling girl something quite different.

The men are in charge.

This cartoon is no exception to the rule. I’ve been paying close attention to the media available to young minds and the messages they convey. And the main takeaway, unsurprisingly, is the importance of traditional heterosexual ideals. In other words, boys will be boys while the girls vie for their approval. And this hurts all children , male and female.

Yes, quality parenting can expound equality, but we cannot control everything that children are exposed to. Nor should we hide them from the world. Instead we can change it for them.

We do so by deconstructing patriarchy. I know, I know, I can hear you sigh. Patriarchy has become a catchall phrase for the blame mongers, a punch bag for those who feel hard done by. But attacking it does not serve our cause here simply because patriarchy isn’t outside us. It’s inside .

It's a mindset. It’s the values, ideals and beliefs that have taken root in our collective psyche as human evolution has favoured the powerful – not just men, but the privileged and strong. We don’t just worship men and deride women, you see, we deride all weakness and difference.

Patriarchy isn’t just about male domination, but all forms of domination.

Take a look around. Within any relationship, personal and professional, there will be both a dominant and a submissive party – black, white, gay, straight, male, female. And the stronger party will inevitably be the (straight, white) male simply because the world is set up in a way that supports his (superficial) empowerment.

Okay, let’s take a breath. How did we get all the way over here from that cartoon? Simple. Patriarchy begins with something as innocent as a cartoon or a throwaway comment. This is how we plant the roots .

I’ll give you another example.

While strolling through the park this week I overheard a conversation between two teenage girls and a teenage boy. One of the girls said to the boy, jokingly , “are you watching porn already?” Cue much hilarity. Oh, how they laughed, like it was a fact of life that boys watch porn and girls accept it . I mean, WTF?

I don’t know if women watch porn because they like it or because they want to be cool. But I do know that women have been raised alongside the idea that the female body, the female person, is an object to be owned and oppressed.

But wait, you say, oppression is a word that can come off a little heavy; surely we’re all too progressive for that kind of thing? I’m afraid not. We’re way more regressive than we realise, merrily maintaining this system of oppression through our patriarchal relationships.

And we take our cues from the likes of pornography and children’s cartoons – apparent extremes – because they’re not only teaching us how to be male and female, but also how to interact as males and females. And they perpetuate patriarchal dualism that says the world is understood through binary categories – there is always an inferior and a superior, a strong and a weak.

Think about any relationship in which one person gives and the other gains. The heterosexual ideal tells us women do the giving because females are wired to nurture others , right? And yet, if we’re programmed to submit to and care for others, how is it that we don’t know how to do these things for ourselves?

Girls, it seems, are growing up with the belief that someone else will lead them, decide for them, and validate their existence. And we women were once those girls, which is why I see so many of us relinquishing our agency, our power of self-definition, in the name of relationship.

We constantly seek approval from whomever we believe holds the power – so that would be the men since we live in a world of (male) domination. But patriarchy hurts the boys too because it defines masculinity in such narrow terms. It asks them to step up even if they don’t want to.

Talk about pressure.

This oppressor / oppressed paradigm is hurting everyone . So how do we kick it into touch? Whatever is manifesting in our outer lives is simply a projection of the inner life. Okay, let’s start there. Even better, let’s start with the inner child.

There’s a part of us that just wants to be loved . But we simply won’t allow for it because humans can be silly like that, believing it to be a sign of weakness, neediness. So the inner child becomes the submissive, we become both the oppressor and the oppressed, and the relationships we have with ourselves become as patriarchal as any other.

We’re constantly critiquing and bullying ourselves, serving ultimatums and denying our inner child’s full development and expression. But love can never take root in a relationship based on domination and coercion, which is why we have such a hard time walking the long road from self-loathing to self-loving.

But we will never truly grow up into self-identified adults until we walk that road and tend to that child within – until we stop projecting our inner pain onto our outer lives, protecting our most private selves with public shows of one-upmanship.

This, my friends, is why we have a responsibility to be kinder to each other, to look after each other better, by first being kinder to ourselves. Mutually beneficial relationships may be built on mutual respect for the individual, but respect for the individual begins with the individual.

So take a look at the ways you relate to yourself and answer me this, when was the last time you did something kind for yourself? When was the last time you spoke kind words to yourself? When was the last time you were gentle with yourself? Oh my, why is this self-love stuff so hard ?

All I know is that it’s not impossible. In a recent moment of panic and pain I made the bold decision to mute my inner bitch and ask myself, what would I want mum to say to me right now? Even better, what would I say to her in her moment of panic and pain?

And then I let the kind words flow.

My recovery was quick. All it had taken was that moment of acknowledgement and gentleness. There was no right or wrong, weak or strong, no binary categorisation, just a parent loving and caring for her child.

So maybe we all need to become our own mothers and big sisters and aunties. Maybe we need to raise ourselves to become the female leaders, the female role models we crave. The ones who can change the world. And we do this through mutuality, not domination. Only then will the cartoons (and the porn) tell a different story.

By Jo Murphy 02 Jun, 2017
I once followed a man half way around the world because I thought it would please him. I followed him all the way to the top of a mountain where it actually pleased him to try to end his life. He survived. So we parted ways and I came home to deal with a life-threatening issue of my own.

It’s called co-dependency.

The nuts and bolts of this particular relationship were complex to say the least, but my main takeaway was crystal clear. I was addicted to pleasing people, not just the men in my life, but everyone. And my addiction had been life long. I didn’t have the first clue how to please myself, and any attempt to do so was followed by self-recrimination for being, you know, selfish .

So what about the nuts and bolts of co-dependency? Does it make us selfless ? The experts tell us it’s an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner who needs a lot of support. Typically this partner will have an addiction. And so the co-dependent is addicted to pleasing the addict. More than that, they gain a sense of worth and identity from being wanted and needed.

Fine, you say, but what’s this got to do with me? Well, my friends, I fear that co-dependency is becoming a modern epidemic. Consider this. It’s often not that far of a leap from being easy going, the cool girl , to being downright passive.

And there’s a fine line between accommodating and over-accommodating.

But being co-dependent isn’t all about boy meets girl; girl dotes on boy. The vast majority of us are fixing for it. Yes, society is certainly set up to support female submissiveness – it has been for centuries – but the truth is we’re all being conditioned to indulge in mutual co-dependency. While the experts tell us it’s a learned behaviour passed on by parents, it’s not the parents doing the passing.

We’re all teaching each other day in, day out to have an excessive emotional and psychological reliance on a sociocultural system that requires conformity above all else.

Take a look around. Notice the ways in which we consciously behave. These are also the ways that make us self-conscious – as if we were looking at ourselves from the outside in. We want to know that we’re doing it right, saying it right and wearing it well. And this pull of conformity impacts every choice we make from relationships to jobs to, well, life in general .

Our very real, very human need to be accepted and liked means we’re always trying to please someone somewhere. We want to be wanted. And so our conformity is tantamount to co-dependency.

We want to belong, of course we do, but here’s the rub: we must belong to ourselves first and foremost.

Let me explain.

Imagine life as a sliding scale. On the one side you have the individual experience. On the other side you have the shared experience. Ideally we move up and down that scale, compensating as necessary  without overcompensating . But co-dependency, and the pull of conformity, prevents us from doing so. It’s like a barricade.

If you depend on something outside of yourself – a person, a system – for your sense of identity and worth, then your dependence builds the barrier. You’re asking this person, this system, to deliver something they cannot. And when they don’t deliver you can neither connect with them nor yourself.

While we look to others, to our peers, to our social feeds for inspiration, we will never know what is uniquely ours to bring to the world. While we may actually want to live in the service of others, we cannot give of ourselves until we know who or what it is that we’re giving.

And so it follows that we can know nothing of the shared experience until we get up close and personal with the individual. Great, you say, now how do we dismantle the barriers we’ve built between the two?

We do it from the inside out. We dig them up by the roots . We burn our allegiance to a culture, a system that tells us who and how to be. And we start making those decisions ourselves.

We become independent.

Now, our independence is something that we can cultivate in each moment. And each moment is an opportunity to choose differently, to see things differently. We simply use the contrast between what’s going on outside of us and what’s going on inside of us to craft the pertinent questions.

Why do I spend time with these people? How do they make me feel? How do I want to feel? What do I want from this relationship, this situation? Where is it taking me? Where do I want to go? What can I do to change this?

Whatever the situation or circumstance of your life, it provides fertile ground for self-discovery. This doesn’t mean hours of naval gazing, it simply requires that we become conscious in new and different ways. That we become self-conscious in new and different ways. We start looking at things from the inside out.

This is how we build the foundations of lasting and mutually satisfying relationships. This is how we marry the individual experience with the shared. When we remove the barriers of dependence, we can interact with each other in new and different ways. In fact, we begin to see each other’s difference as a gift.

Conformity, be damned.

Our contrast becomes our point of reference. It’s how we know who we are. And so the point at which we separate ourselves is also the point at which we identify ourselves. Therefore the point of identification also becomes the point of reconciliation – it’s where we meet on that sliding scale.

When we build relationships upon mutual respect for the individual, we can build wider networks based on the same. This is how we create a whole new culture, a whole new system that cannot exist without all its parts – even if each of those parts is separate and unique.

So slide away my friends, up and down that scale. And remember that whatever the situation or circumstance of your life, you are both a part and apart .

And that’s okay.

By Jo Murphy 12 May, 2017
I’m in a taxi bound for the station. A train waits to take me to Rome. The sky is grey and Mika plays on the radio. I have a flashback to another taxi ride two years ago. I’m headed to Colombo airport, bound for Delhi. The sky is blue and Mika plays on the radio.

Time has collapsed.

These experiences may be years and miles apart, but the feeling they incite is the same. I know it intimately, this sense of simultaneous excitement and disquiet. Change is coming and it’s unsettling, yes, but it’s also deeply regenerative.

The greatest disparity between these two pictures, however, is me.

There’s a chasm between the girl I was and the woman I’ve become. Sometimes I look back at that girl and admire her tenacity, but I also knew her pain. And I know it’s her chaotic journey to womanhood that’s taught me to love this in-between space where both departure and arrival are imminent.

We’re always in transition physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, but travel intensifies this sense of momentum, of endless new beginnings. It’s a process of growing up. So my nostalgia affords me a reminder that without life’s flux we’d atrophy physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

As the taxi moves through the traffic, I consider the way I left London three years ago. I knew what I was turning away from, but hadn’t a clue what I was turning towards. While it was prime circumstance to turn towards myself, I was far too preoccupied with running away.

While I’d happily leapt, I didn’t want to land.

More than that, part of me fought like fury to resist all that was changing, recklessly grasping at passing relationships as a grounding mechanism, relying on others to lead the way, doing most anything to shirk responsibility for my journey.

I’d not yet truly departed from my former life, which meant that anything new I desired was little more than a pipe dream. The irony was that I’d unknowingly catapulted myself into a highly unstable, but highly creative space, which I now know to be chaos – a word (and concept) that makes us twitchy.

If we trace its etymology back to classical Greek we discover the origins of chaos in ‘chasm’ or ‘void’. Better still, Hellenistic mythology tells us that chaos was a primeval state of existence, the blank canvas upon which the universe was painted. So if chaos refers to something that’s not yet formed, it grants us great opportunities for creation as well as destruction.

Chaos is pure potential.

Yet still we fear it. Anything without defining parameters confuses us. We’ve no means of measuring, classifying, ranking, of knowing a thing without form. Just like that girl gallivanting across Asia didn’t know herself.

I was simultaneously running from and craving all that was measurable, definable and knowable. I was falling unconsciously into chaos, resisting the process, which led to knee-jerk planning and overspending as overcompensation for all I could not control.

Fast-forward to today, however, and I now thrive on the chaos, choosing to fall into it consciously . I’ve learnt to recognise when it’s time to leave , and to properly grieve whatever is passing, before painting new beginnings with very broad brushstrokes. I have faith in the process of destruction before (re)creation.

So what changed? How did I get from that place to this one? How did something highly reactive metamorphose into something deeply creative? It did so when I finally understood how the relationship between that girl and this woman was rooted in chaos.

Chaos was the bridge.

And so it goes. However much we want to move from one place to another we simply can’t if we bypass the bridge. And since we worship continuity, bypassing anything that threatens it is the easy choice. We expect change to be preassembled and delivered next day. But life doesn’t work like that.

Chaos is the natural order of things.

Whatever you’re ending and whatever you wish to begin, know there’s a world of mess that needs to be experienced between the two. Consider it your wintertime , the necessary pause before creation springs forth from the mulch.

Full immersion in chaos is what grants us full liberation from the past and full access to the future. It’s where we collapse time. It’s where we learn to love whatever we’re leaving behind ( like I learnt to love that girl ) and harvest it for the seeds of something better.

And this is why travel for me is no longer about escaping but decontextualizing . It’s an essential deconstruction of any routine that breeds dependence on continuity. It’s a way of strengthening my change muscles. But you don’t have to travel to do the same. The chaos metaphor stands wherever you are since life has a way of throwing curveballs whenever you get too comfortable.

So while you may tell me you’re happy as you are and you’ve no desire to change, take care not to atrophy, my friends. If you’re not moving forwards, you’re most certainly drifting backwards.

But if you are ready to leap, know that chaos will always catch you.

By Jo Murphy 21 Apr, 2017
I’m sitting on a marble bench. In front of me stands the Taj Mahal, magnificent, symmetrical. The serenity of the place astounds despite how many of us clamour for the money shot, the memory.

But this moment, and the memory I’m making, has been interrupted.

Next to me sits my ‘guide’, a man with verbal diarrhoea. I’m not sure if he’s visited the Taj so often it’s old news to him. I’m not even sure if he’s aware of his trespass. I am certain, however, that he doesn’t care.

Nevermind the magnificence in front of me, this man insists on talking about himself . Nonstop. And then out come the photos of his wife and daughter. He’s also sitting a little closer than is necessary, breathing his lunch all over me.

I nod, smile and feign interest – my learned co-dependency allows me to coo at the picture, to let him know that I’m okay with his intrusion. But I’m not okay with it, really not okay at all . Beneath the benign smile my fury simmers. Yet my enduring silence grants him permission to continue. I consider filing a complaint after the event .

If I were a man, I wonder, would he encroach on me in this way? Would he pour his narcissism all over me? Would he be so comfortable stealing this memory I’m making, which should be mine and mine alone?

But I don’t have answers to these questions since there’s too much cultural disparity at play. Instead I reach the conclusion that I have led this man on with my niceness, with my need to please. My lack of objection or resistance has signalled to him that I’m okay with this situation. Ergo the situation is my fault .

And there it is.

What do I expect as a white woman travelling solo? It’s my first trip to India, after all, and I’m just learning the do’s and don’t’s. I’m deposited daily at my hotel and told not to leave until a chaperone returns. I wait for hours, obediently, watching others come and go at whim. This is no adventure .

But nobody is holding me prisoner other than myself. I may have taken this trip as an act of a rebellion against the stuffy old prejudices I’d grown up with, but somehow I’m still being the good girl . Despite my efforts to reject beliefs that don’t belong to me, a system I don’t buy into, I’ve dragged it 5,000 miles across the globe with me.

And so it goes.

No matter how badly we want to change a thing, or a belief, we can’t until we burn our allegiance to it. Simply denouncing something just won’t do. Instead we have to dig it up by the roots, to excavate whatever exists at a subconscious level. Likely it’s a belief system we’ve grown up within, which means it’s also grown up inside of us.

So why tell you this story?

Because, in hindsight, I see how this was one of many events that seeded my coming out. One of many happenings over the course of my 30 plus years – both large and small – that finally broke my allegiance to the old system.

This coming out I speak of wasn’t so much an event but an evolution, an emerging clarity. It was something that I’d not been able to articulate for a long time, until I could: I am a feminist .

And there it is.

So what, you say. Here’s what. Feminism burns beliefs – it burns barriers to fairness, respect and empathy – not bras. It’s the complete opposite of the masculine system currently holding us in place – one that’s built on apathy, fear and prejudice.

It’s not about putting women first, or any minority above the majority, but pitching everyone at the same level. It’s about redressing the balance all around. And so feminism strikes a chord with me as a women and a human .

For me it’s not academic or angry, it’s a response to my accumulated experience, my ongoing observation of the ways in which we hurt ourselves. It’s a feeling that’s been with me for a long time, but I’ve only just discovered its name. And, being human, I like to label things.

Ironic how it took a label to help me look beneath all the other labels.

Feminism has helped me to understand what I misunderstood about myself – to put my puzzle together , to understand where, why and how I didn’t fit in. It’s allowed me to dismantle difficult and self-destructive beliefs, to make sense of personal dilemmas, as well as the bigger picture stuff.

Most of all, feminism helps me understand how and why change is both necessary and possible.

Take that day at the Taj, for example, where I sat festering and fuming. I was nigh on terrified of that man’s disapproval. Nevermind that he displeased me, I couldn’t bare not to please him because I (like so many of us) had internalised our world's need for co-dependence and conformity.

If we don’t play by the rules of the system we imagine all kinds of rejection, which is why we act in ways that protect ourselves. We’re so engrossed in the business of self-defence that we imagine attack where there is none.

And when we make enemies out of everyone, we undermine our shared experience, expression and growth as both men and women.

That’s why feminism doesn’t just address women’s problems, but human problems. It’s as diverse as the diversity it asks us to embrace.

Which brings us back to India, a country I’ve visited many times, alone and un-chaperoned, since that day at the Taj. It’s the place that opened my heart and mind in ways I could not have foreseen. It’s the place that finally broke my allegiance to the system (and broke me, but that’s another story for another day).

Once broken, however, I could rebuild something different, but not necessarily new. It’s not that feminism is old news so much as the majority understanding of it is. The f word is still too out there for many, but this resistance tells me it has something of value to offer.

Anything that makes us uncomfortable, that challenges the norm, also enhances our shared experience, expression and growth as both men and women.

I’m told repeatedly that gender is irrelevant in today’s post-feminist world. Does that mean race and colour are also a non-issue, or sexual and religious preference? Feminism says no, fuck the rulebook, and asks us instead to embrace the necessity and beauty of difference and diversity.

I’ve been a long-time advocate for self-expression, for encouraging people to find the freedom within themselves to be themselves, but this takes it to a new level. It’s a rally cry, really, change doesn’t just get delivered alongside your organic veggie box. Yep, I’m gonna say it folks, we have to be it .

Let’s do this. Who's with me? 

By Jo Murphy 07 Apr, 2017
In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act…

Self-helping was my religion for a long while. I didn’t read a work of fiction for many years (odd for a writer, no?). But I’d been mainlining mind, body, spirit… books on mindful living, goal setting, desire mapping, tapping, how to get everything you want, how to want nothing at all…

Self- mastery.

Then, one day, I stopped. And the penny dropped. I hadn’t been self-helping so much as self-doubting. Yes, I’d evolved along with the reading list, but for the most part I’d been seeking help I didn’t actually need.

I’d consumed one book after another, barely pausing to digest each new discovery. My books had become an FMCG. The more I consumed, the more I thought I needed…

Sound familiar?

When we behave like this we’re fixing to be fixed. We’re actively looking for evidence that part of us is broken or missing. And so self-help becomes another big stick we can beat ourselves with. It is, to some degree, a perfectionist’s poison.

And yet perfectionism is one of the greatest oppressors of our time, as Brené  writes: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgement and shame.”


No wonder self-help can devolve into self-doubt. Life-optimization demands that we leave no stone unturned. Am I doing it right, we wonder, am I doing it wrong? But the better question to ask is what’s your motivation?

Why do you think you need help?

In the same way the beauty and diet industries reinforce our insecurities, so the wrong kind of self-help can do the same. Diets fix our bodies. Miracle creams fix our faces. But what’s our worth without the products that promise to perfect us from the outside in?

We have to wake up to this toxic drip feed that tells us we’re not enough.

No matter the product for sale, we’re fed the lie that happiness only comes when we’re fixed, when we’ve found the missing piece. It’s the mass marketing machine at play, offering the solution to our pain points. But what if the machine itself were the point of pain?

I’ve noticed how mention of self-help causes people to recoil in the same way mention of feminism does. Both inspire a desire to get away from the socially awkward or angry. We don’t want to be around people who ask difficult questions, who challenge the status quo, who object to the machine.

But this is the purest form of self-help.

Andrea Dworkin  says: “Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”

Ouch once again…

And since I’m framing this as a cautionary tale of self-help, the term ‘misogyny’ can be replaced with any ism or phobia that criminalizes those (man or woman) who challenge our cultural or social 'ideals'. It’s this brutality that’s making us all a little socially awkward and angry. It's causing the pain.

But pointing the finger of blame is not the solution here (or anywhere). Instead we have to understand the part we have played in fuelling the machine. We have to ask ourselves if, when and how we have bought wholesale into this vital lie? And what could we believe instead?

You’re not broken. You’re not a problem that needs a solution. You’re simply a puzzle. And all the pieces fit.

More than that, none of them are missing. But to understand this we must first see where our personal puzzles do and do not fit into the bigger one. It’s the only way we’ll see the cultural conditioning at play. How we’ve internalized ideas and ideals that don’t belong to us. How we’ve placed value on things that don’t really matter.

The beauty myth has become the inner beauty myth.

We need to be more discerning. To have greater awareness of the environment in which we’re trying to fix ourselves or find our missing piece. We need to wise up to the cultural puzzle we’re trying to fit into. At first it seems like the odds are stacked against us. But on closer inspection we realise that the power lies in the hands of the consumer. It lies with us.

Cultural awareness brings self-awareness, the very essence of self-help.

When you separate the personal self from the cultural self – the person you really are as opposed to the person you think you should be – you’re free to choose how you help yourself. You’re free to put your puzzle together any which way you like.

You begin to understand how the pieces got so mixed up. You begin to understand how you’ve been deceived. You begin to understand how you’ve been deceiving yourself.

When we’re all free from the cultural lie of inadequacy we can make better decisions, individually and collectively. We can see that our own puzzles don’t need fixing, but the bigger one does. We’re the pieces that will make it right.

And so self-help becomes the collective act that allows us all to profit from our rebellion... 
By Jo Murphy 19 Mar, 2017
Sometimes you have to break down before you can break through.

If something breaks down – a system or relationship for example – it’s simply a signal that the system or relationship in question is no longer working.

Okay, no problem. If something’s broken you can always fix it.

Or you can build something completely new in its place. This is often the better option (in my experience) since the more you try to fix things that don’t want fixing the more they break.

Now let’s look at the nature of the breakdown.

We assume it’s nervous, tight with depression or anxiety. This isn’t so. Breakdowns are as diverse as we are. They’re designed to serve a specific person in a specific set of circumstances. They’re designed to show you a way out of those circumstances. Which is why they’re always temporary.

Martha  tells us, “for anything new to be born, the existing arrangement of particles and situations must die.”

By ‘die’ she means ‘break down’. And yet it all sounds so melodramatic. What if you don’t want something new? What if you’re A-Okay? But what if you’re not and you just don’t know it?

Like me.

One month ago I was going at life, hard. I’d declared this the easiest year yet and pushed on with no thought for anything but work, until I worked myself right into the arms of a nasty virus.

Goddess bless the wisdom of our bodies.

While my head was saying go, my gut was saying stop. I was out there in the world, teaching women to do the very thing I wasn’t doing. And in them I saw myself over and over again, as they tried to circumvent themselves by keeping busy.

More than that, in my enthusiasm to do the good work I’d let my beloved book project stall. That didn’t matter, I told myself, there was a world to change, one woman at a time. Yet the foundation of this work is in the writing, since that’s how I come home to myself. And I hadn’t been there in a while.

When I write, whatever needs to move through me moves… ideas, emotions, life… but I wasn’t writing, so nothing was moving. Things got stuck and started to stagnate, morphing into that nasty virus.

It was killing off and recreating my existing arrangement of particles.

So I made more space in my diary for the things that make space in my soul. And I made a new website (nice, isn't it?). We like neat, tidy, tangible solutions. But my body knew it ran deeper. Call it intuition, call it an inner compass, we all have one. But few of us follow it.

It’s that ol’ double bind of the mind.

Masculine (ego, action man, thinks thinking is best, but doing is even better, likes consistency, loves control) meets feminine (liminal, a little woo, has an issue with authority, intuits a lot, doesn’t do logic, feels her way).

Bur our bullyboy egos don’t just dominate our minds. We also live in a world – an arrangement of particles and situations – that supports his domination. What’s going on in our heads is simply an internalised version of what’s happening around us.

We struggle to give the feminine the floor because we still associate her with passivity.

We’re still working to recondition the conditioning passed on by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents – the generations upon generations in which we told woman she was secondary, submissive, subservient.

Feminine energy is receptive and flowing, for sure, but not without her own power. Her passivity, when misunderstood, becomes an impasse. But her passivity, when understood, becomes the breakthrough.

It doesn’t mean submit to the outside world, to the falsehoods of following others. Instead she calls for submission to our inner world, where we find, feel and follow our own truth. It’s simply a question of non-resistance.

Don’t fight who you are.

Think of it this way. We’ve insisted for so long that the feminine (aka our inner and emotional worlds) keeps quiet, it’s no wonder she occasionally blows her top. But we can’t handle all that Freudian hysteria; it’s just too messy.

And it’s only going to get messier.

A human being can only take so much oppression before they bite back. And we’re the ones subjecting ourselves to self-oppression . We think we’ve better things to do than emote.

Because, you know, emoting is women’s work and while we’re all striving for equality (to be like men), we’d best not let the side down by crying.

By not permitting the full expression of the feminine – men and women – we’re actually denying ourselves full expression of our humanity. She’s within us all, this wild and wise woman. She’s the one steering our compass. She’s the full driving force behind any breakdown. And that’s why a breakthrough will inevitably follow.

When you allow her to speak, feminine passivity becomes plasticity. Like nature we learn to evolve , to kill off what’s no longer needed.

So let your feelings become a source of forward motion rather than fear. And know that however these passions unfold, they are all atoned by compassion.

“Com” means togetherness. It’s like one big continuum. She’s at one end and he’s at the other. We feel at one end and think at the other. Everything in between is an expression of the strength of their relationship. It’s a meeting of mind, body and soul, of masculine and feminine, of man and woman… this continuum is your full range.

And if all passions are atoned by compassion then all difference is atoned by the same.

Now let’s get back to that breakdown and that woman on the verge... 

She’s actually the one who can save us all since she lives within us all. So, next time you have a wobble, know that it’s worth investigating. Follow her lead… if we all keep breaking down our existing arrangement of particles and situations we can create something new.

We can break through together.

By Jo Murphy 18 Jan, 2017
I'm calling a timeout on 2017.

Truth be known, the year hasn't really got going for me yet. I'm sliding slowly and intentionally into it. 

Easy does it.

Yes, we may be careering through this first month, but stress not my dears, we have 11 more to come. So, ditch the diet, I say, and scrap the goals. Put your feet up instead and read on…

Rest is part of our natural cycle and right now is a time for recalibration and revaluation. That means we’re not necessarily preparing for what’s to come, but we’re looking more closely at what’s already here.

You see, this go-slow isn’t just about doing less, but becoming more intentional about what we actually do. It’s not about conserving energy, but investing it better.

It’s not all about motivation, but inspiration.

When gleaned from the outside, motivation becomes obligation, an echo of somebody else’s standards. But when it comes from within, it’s inspired, an echo of your deepest desires – it tells of your inner compass, which is needed now more than ever, since these are precarious times.

The urgency of the New Year can pull us out of ourselves. At best, it calls us to explore our desires. At worst, it leads to feelings of anxiety and insecurity. And that’s why I’m asking you to go against the grain.

You don’t need to step up your game, you need to step into yourself. Go on, give up those resolutions and give in to yourself instead.

I see so many of us forcing our way through January by being good , most likely comparing and despairing en route. While envy can be advantageous , comparison is devastatingly destructive, especially for those who remain loyal to the heavily masculine way of things (men and women alike).

We’re living in a world dominated by patriarchal energy. Its masculine structures rely on promotion, goal setting, key performance indicators, more, better, faster, year upon year. He’s externally motivated, competitive and often unforgiving.

He’s all push, no pull.

If, however, we countered this with a more feminine way of things, we’d invest in (self) compassion rather than comparison. We’d learn how to be more forgiving and flexible. She teaches us that life ebbs and life flows, that we don’t all have to be alpha players.

She tells us more isn’t always better and we only reap what we sow.

I only started listening to her the year before last, when I finally decided to retreat from it all. I knew I needed a digital detox, I knew I needed to remove all external noise, and I knew I needed to recalibrate my own compass, to pull rather than push . So I did.

Initially I fell into a fugue state, surprised by the depth of my exhaustion. It was only in slowing down that I finally understood how hard I’d been pushing all year. Had I achieved a lot? Hell, yes. But I’d also made productivity God.

This had left me empty, not that I’d known it. I just kept going and going… until I couldn’t any more. I know I’m not alone in this story.

We invest so much time in being seen that we rarely see ourselves. We give so much airtime to other’s words that we barely hear our own, until, at the end of the day (or year), something has to give.

So now it’s my deepest desire that you hold fast to your desires. It’s my wish that you truly get to know your wishes, because who wants to commit to something outside of themselves in order to feel good? Who wants to rely on restrictions or rules? Who wants to be beholden to tough targets?

Goals can actually help us to hate ourselves. They tell us we’re not good enough and we must try harder. And they create conditions for our joy and happiness.

But the real aim here is to find joy and happiness within, regardless of condition.

Often we replace our destructive habits with equally destructive goals, substituting one distraction with another. But what is it you wish to be distracted from?

Say, for example, you declare your commitment to a new diet, what are you covering up? Do you really know why you eat in ways that hurt you? What does restricting your calorie intake promise to give you?

This is a promise that’s rarely delivered. When you starve yourself, you experience the complete opposite of what you desire. And yet this contrast sharpens your focus on what you really wanted in the first place – freedom around food, joy in eating, appreciation for your health, love and respect for the body that faithfully carries you through life.

Diets aren’t generally founded in freedom and joy and self-love. They’re motivated by self-loathing. They make us dour and dark and serious. We believe we’re not allowed to taste the good stuff, to have any fun, until we’ve hit this target or crossed that milestone.

But truthfully, whatever your desire, it’s likely to come into your life much quicker if you ditch the goal and start having fun instead. You only reap what you sow.

So, whatever your goals for 2017, how do they make you feel?

Are you trying too hard?

Are you pushing when you could be pulling?

If we allow ourselves to relax a little, to find happiness without all the conditions, we can experience ourselves, as we are – hell, we can even enjoy ourselves, as we are.

Rather than clawing for ways to make things better, we can simply allow them to be better.

So let’s run with the diet analogy some more…

Say you’re unhappy with your body, rather than trying to change it, rather than rejecting it, why not work with it? Get into your skin. Find ways to move that make you feel good. Dance in your living room. Take a walk somewhere beautiful.
Savour that early morning stretch. Discover how often your body brings you joy every day.

Instead of trying to become someone you’re not, find ways to celebrate who you already are.

Take the easy way out, literally. Goals, be damned. Achieve less and become more. More you, more joyful, more free, more empowered, more inspired, more motivated.

2017 will be all that you want it to be, truly, so long as you become the committed caretaker or your own joy, your own desire, your own self – without condition.

Everything worth having comes easy, because everything worth having comes from the inside.

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