Friday, May 31, 2013


Five Minute Fridays with Lisa-Jo Baker. This week's prompt: Imagine. Take five minutes. Write without stopping, editing, backtracking. See what happens.

I was quite taken in by The Secret when it first came out. The whole idea that you change your destiny using ONLY YOUR MIND! I like things like that. You can imagine yourself healthier, fitter, richer, with the partner of your dreams and hey presto the Universe will hand the things you want to you on a plate. How nice is that? Ask and you shall receive. Thoughts become things. Manifest your desires.

What The Secret failed to mention is that you also have to put in the work. It's really nice to think that if you just sat in your lounge and imagined your life as you would like it, the Manifestation Fairy (or, more accurately, according to The Secret, the Manifestation GENIE) would descend from the heavens and grant your three wishes.


Decide what it is you wish to create. Imagine it in detail. Yes, by all means. But also, get off your butt and find a way to make it happen.

My dad was a deeply spiritual Christian and he always said that God helps those who help themselves and who are prepared to meet him halfway. I may be a Buddhist, but I incorporate what he taught me in my Buddhist practice: The Universe helps those who help themselves. Navel gazing, on its on, while nice, will not bring about the realisation of goals.

Om shanti om and all that.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making Peace With Mother (Part Two)

My mom and dad on their wedding day
2 March 1961

I have written in a previous post that I had a desire to make peace with my mother. As part of that exercise, I was determined to find the good things about her and the good things about our relationship. I was trying to remember the love I felt for her as a child, and the love I had hoped she had felt for me too.

For so very long, I have hated (yes, hated, not disliked, not didn't-get-along-with. HATED) my mother. Yes, she's been dead twelve years, but despite that I continued to hate her for twelve bloody years more after she had left this world and her body turns slowly to dust in the coffin beneath my father's at Westpark Cemetary. Good, I thought. It's good that you're dead. I didn't want to look after you in your old age - you would have been impossible. I am glad you went before dad. I am glad you're dead. Now you can't make my life a misery anymore. I am free! Mwahahahaha!

Except, I wasn't really free. Hate is Tartarus. It's a maximum security prison of our own creation where we allow ourselves to be tormented and punished. And the goalposts continuously change. We think we are doing something when we are hating, but in reality, we are not. Nothing constructive anyway.

I have been seeing a spiritual counsellor because of all my anxiety attacks. He suggested that I write an angry letter to my mother listing, in detail, all the times she hurt me and every event and every time she went nuts and did crazy weird shit. I started the exercise and only got one page in. It seemed like a redundant exercise. I didn't feel it was getting me anywhere. "You must release this anger, get it out, or else you will get sick," he told me, "The energy of your anger is already sitting in  your gall bladder. If you don't release it, you'll get gall stones."

It's nothing new to discover that my mother 'galled' me. And, while I am into all this Louise Hay "your body has a spiritual reason for being ill" thing and that the physical, mental and spiritual are all intertwined and all that, something about vomiting out my anger like this didn't resonate completely. Why? Because, in the car, on the drive to my uncle's funeral, I spewed all of this out for four hours of the six hour drive to Tzaneen, after my cousin Melt made the mistake of telling me how "mellow" my mother was.

And suddenly I was empty. But I didn't know I was empty until yesterday.

Absently, I pulled out a bracelet of my mother's that she gave me when I went to live in England. I never wore it, but it has followed me across an entire continent and to several places in the UK and then back again. Just like that, I snapped the bracelet onto my wrist. Surprised, I looked down at the bracelet and felt... nothing. No animosity, no anger, no hatred, no pain. Just the thought that this was a rather nice bracelet and I was pleased I had kept it.

Looking at that, I realise you might be thinking "big fucking deal.". To me it was. Because I was so opposed to anything to do with my mother, I refused to wear the jewellery I inherited or that she gave me. I kept nothing of hers after she died apart from her rosary and the ring she left me. And the bracelet of course. It was as though everything she had touched while alive was tainted and by that same brush I too, would be tarred.

On Monday I was reminded that every relationship, every encounter with anyone in our lives, is a mirror to ourselves. I was angry at the mother for never giving me a chance, for not understanding me, for hating me, for not being compassionate, for hurting me, for not loving me. But, when I looked in the mirror, what I saw was that I never gave her a chance, I didn't understand her, I hated her, I was not being compassionate, I too hurt her and I too did not love her as much as a mother deserved.

This revelation was the point of transformation for me, a place for forgiveness to creep in. Because let's face it, my mother probably doesn't give a shit one way or the other how I feel about her. She's been dead for twelve years. The only person keeping her here is me and I am keeping her here just to yell at her and tell her how shit she is and how she fucked up my life. And these are all things that I accused her of doing.

It's not that I am 'better than that' or that I am 'being the better person' by forgiving her. That's not what it's about and that is not what forgiveness should be about. By 'being the better person' all I am saying is that I am superior to her, and that is not consistent with the spirit of forgiveness.

Forgiveness, I believe, is a letting go. A release. A realisation that all this shit stuff that I believe fucked up my life doesn't actually matter in the here-and-now present moment. In her way, my mother did what she felt was best. I am not saying I agree with what she did, or that it is all suddenly okay and that anyone's mother can treat their kid the way I was treated and it's fine. No. That's not what this is. This is a decision from my side to stop hurting my mother and myself. To let it go. To stop the process of hatred and pain. My mother hated her mother before I hated her. I saw nothing wrong with Ouma, but she did. Just like my nephew adored his Nonna and I hated her. The cycle of hatred for mothers in my family needs to end. It's time.

And I am done. I am done being angry and upset and tired and exhausted. I am done telling the world how crazy - institutionalisably crazy - Yes. I made that word up. And the punctuation that went with it - my mother was.

I am done with blaming you, Mom. I am done with the hurt. I am sorry I hated you so long.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


So. I have reached the milestone of forty. They say that life begins at forty. Two days in and I am still waiting for the drum roll, the angel dust, the fireworks. No angel has descended to hand me a certificate to congratulate me on making it this far. Or to hand me the "Your Life's Instruction Manual" I've been waiting for. Has my midlife transformation transformed? No. Have I achieved enlightenment while sipping wine and sitting under the pepper tree? No. (And if age is an indicator of enlightenment, and Buddha achieved his at 35, then I am long bloody overdue. Maybe it was the wrong tree. Or the wine.)

I was considering sharing tales of my adventures through my thirties (becoming a Buddhist, returning to South Africa, marrying my lovely wife), but I am done looking back.  I could share some pieces of advice I've received over the years, which have always stood me in good stead (always take a breath mint when it is offered), but people rarely follow the advice of others. I did think about sharing some wisdom (everyone is a reflection, we are all Buddhas), but frankly, I can't be arsed right now to sit and type out all that stuff about What It All Means. Besides, not every slice of wisdom is for everyone and not everything I may consider to be wise, is. After all, I do believe in flying saucers and space aliens and the existence of the chupacabra. And the yeti. And a whole host of other things.

I thought I'd go all Oprah instead and tell you what I know to be true:


Friday, May 24, 2013


This week's five minute Friday prompt is VIEW. Take a look at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for details, do your own five minutes, post it and leave a comment so I can go take a look at yours.

" ...the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?" - Nichiren Shonin from The Writings of Nichiren Shonin

In Nichiren Buddhism there is a concept known as Ichinen Sanzen, meaning that each moment of each day contains three thousand possibilities, containing each of the ten worlds. or ten lifestates (These are Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity, Heaven, Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood).

Coco choosing her view
from the apricot tree
Our view of our lives is coloured by which ever world/lifestate we are standing in at any given moment. Each world is interlinked and exists within the other. We can be in a state of anger, yet we can also find Buddhahood in there. And Hunger, and Learning and Bodhisattva and all the rest. We could be in a state of Heaven (also known as Rapture) and still experience the lifestate of Hell simultaneously.

The good news is that we can shift our lifestate. We can choose how we view each moment of each day.

Richard Causton, in his book, Buddha in Daily Life, tells a story of how he and a friend are driving together on a gray, cloudy day. Richard thinks the landscape and the sky is beautfiul, his friend thinks it's depressing and terrible. Why? They are looking at the same scenery. How should it be different?

It's not the view that changes, it's the viewer. And the viewer changes according to the lifestate we choose to view things from. And the keyword here is CHOOSE. You choose your view.


This is my favourite photo of me. I was 28. It was taken at a time in my life that was in terrible turmoil and I was experiencing a great deal of emotional pain, and, for some reason, this small portrait from a difficult time is so very beautiful.

It serves, sometimes, as a reminder, that even in the face of the greatest adversity, there are small moments of beauty, which are worth acknowledging. I wasn't a Buddhist then, but as a Buddhist now, it makes sense as there is Buddhahood in every moment - even the awful ones. We just need to go find it. And often, we only get to see it in retrospect

When I got to thirty, I had already been married, divorced, lived in four different countries, had my dream job, lost my dream job, survived an abusive relationship and came out of the closet.

I had realised that none of what I believed to be true for my life was  true. I walked away from the Catholic Church and was spiritually drifting. Still a little shell shocked from the experiences I had had, I was cautious in the world, yet determined to reclaim every single ounce of my power and to rediscover who I was.

I lived in a little village called Greetham in rural England. It was idyllic and calming and just the thing to help me calm down and return to myself after a rather eventful decade.

I realised that I knew nothing about life and the world and that was okay. The smug Catholic I once was, who thought that all the answers were found in the Bible, was gone. I had a clean slate. I could become anyone I wanted to be, and still make mistakes and still know nothing, but it would all be okay.

I had an eccentric group of new friends. I was reading books on spirituality and finding one's purpose and getting past trauma. Even though the years leading up to thirty were harrowing, thirty itself was a good year to just take stock of my life and the direction I wanted it to go. I still had no idea what that was, though. I still don't, even now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


 I was outted in karate class when I was 19 by a 14 year old kid named Matthias. We were sparring with each other, and the conversation went a bit like this:

punch-block-punch: "So, T, there's a rumour going around that you're gay. Is it true are you a lesbian?"

kick-block-punch: "Yes. It's true. I am indeed a lesbian."

Despite my spontaneous admission, so bravely made to a teenager, I still went on to date (and later marry) a guy named Tim.

I began wrestling with my sexuality at 13, shortly after discovering what girls and boys were supposed to do together. My solution? Become an ultra-devout Catholic. Which is why my admission surprised both Matthias and me.

I was grateful for my exit from my teens. My mother was completely nuts (I am sure she had several undiagnosed psychological disorders) and I yearned for freedom. My mother dictated everything in my life: the clothes I wore, what I studied, which friends she never wanted me to see again, my curfew, which was set at a very ridiculous 9pm. I had hoped that twenty would mean my mother's grasp on me would loosen a little, but instead, it tightened to a choke hold.

By the time I reached 20, I had gone through Hepatitis A, German Measles, adrenal burnout, two bouts of clincal depression and I had broken both wrists (on two separate occasions, not all at once.) I was hopeful that things would still work out they way I wanted them too. I felt very grown up and I needed an adventure. Desperately.

I felt that the world was there, waiting for me, and I was trapped in a glass box, looking out at everyone being alive and I was stuck there, with no hope of ever being free.

I had no friends. I lost touch with some of them from High School and my mother forbade me from hanging out with one of my closest friends, Dori, because she believed she was a bad influence and a Satanic lesbian to boot. I didn't bother wasting time making friends at college. I was never going to be allowed to hang out with them. I was a very sad and lonely person. I read a lot of Stephen King, which my mother blamed for my depression a few years earlier, resulting in me having to give my entire collection away. I started reading David Eddings and other fantasy novels instead.

The only respite I had from my mother was at karate (my sister and I both attended all the classes - including the ones for kids - from 4pm to 8pm each Tuesday and Thursday) and church.

If there is anything I want to bring with me from twenty, it's that sense of adventure and the belief that something magical is waiting just around the corner. I seem to have lost that a bit.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Me, aged 9, ready for a 'hobo' party.
I liked the tie and jacket a little too much.
I turn 40 on 26 May. That's in less than a week. And as the birthday approaches, I've been thinking more and more of other decade birthdays and who I was back then.

I like the ten year old me most of all. The me now, too, but the ten year old me was fucken awesome.

I had some odd interests. I loved reading The Unexplained magazine. Even though it was 1983 and we had a TV since 1981*, I still listened to Springbok Radio, waiting patiently for Jet Jungle and the Chappie Chipmunk Show. Back then there was such a thing called a 'radio play' and you'd listen to the stories unfold each day or in some cases, each week

I read about meditation in The Unexplained. So I tried it. One break time at school, instead of going to the field, I sat outside the classroom, cross-legged, trying to meditate. I liked it so I tried it some more. My mother freaked out when I told her I was trying to meditate when she asked me what I was doing in my room, so quiet, just sitting there with my eyes closed. After that I tried to meditate in private.

I also read about telekinesis in The Unexplained. I then proceeded to try to bend spoons like Uri Geller, and to move pencils across the coffee table in the lounge. USING ONLY MY MIND! These experiments were less successful than the meditation.

I spent a lot of time lying on my back in the grass trying to see shapes in the clouds, (officially) but I was looking for flying saucers (the real reason). To this day, day or night, I still look up at the sky... for flying saucers. I also spent a lot of time indoors writing short stories. (I've been writing short stories since I knew how to write a sentence. I was 6 years old at the time.)

My favourite TV programme was "I am Joe's heart/liver/lungs/whatever". Which both my parents thought was a little grim, but allowed me that one indulgence because I had been telling them I was going to become a doctor when I grew up. (I was also going to be a ufologist, a writer, a singer, a cartoonist, a parapsychologist, ghost hunter. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.) And there was Magnum PI and once in a while my sister would let me sneak into her room to watch Dallas.

My friends were a group of boys. I was the only girl. I didn't like any of the girls in my class. They were... 'ew - girls'. Little princesses who only played dolls and had no interest in playing cards or making weird shit out of tin foil. The only girl I liked was Cheryl C, who was a brainy kid and had cool toys like Operation. And her parents were doctors. (Turns out that both Cheryl and I are gay. Interesting.)

The books I took out from the library were mostly L Frank Baum and the Oz stories. And, interestingly, our school library had a stash of UFO books. Those came home with me several times a year.

Ten was also the time the migraines started. And I had the bitch-cunt teacher for Std 3 (Lauren Saldzman nee Stone. Yes you. Google your name and find this. I dare you.). Miss Stone destroyed my confidence. I hated her. We did a presentation on what we wanted to do when we left school. I did the cartoonest-writer-doctor-ufologist shpiel. As I stood there, in front of everyone, she yelled at me (yes, yelled) that I was stupid and would amount to nothing in my life. Yup. I still carry the scars.

I was still a cool kid, though. And there's a lot of that curiosity and anything-is-possible attitude that I would like to import into my second childhood (which starts now). Because if I ever did have a chance of having a kid, I would have been proud to have had a kid like me.

* TV only came to South Africa in 1976. The government of the time believed it to be the work of the devil.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Five Minute Friday - go over to Lisa-Jo Baker's blog and check out this week's prompt. Write for 5 minutes - only. Free form. Stream of consciousness. Whatever comes. Leave a comment so I can go read yours.

I've heard the term "soul song" before. It's a vibration, a rhythm, a melody that is uniquely yours as you move through the world. The universe is vibration and frequency and we, as beings living in this universe, are vibration and frequency.

There is something wonderful about singing your own life into being. The Australian aborigines believe that a supernatural being sang the world into being, singing the names of all the rocks, plants, animals - everything in the world. When most people think of sacred song, they think of Christian hymns and choirs in cathedrals.

I prefer the notion of someone singing a song and out pops planet earth and everything on it. It appeals to me. And I think that we can do the same.

I did six years of classical vocal training privately and part time. I understand the power of the voice, the power of a song and how music, words, melodies, chants and mantras have the power of creation. Recently, I spent some time with a friend recording mantras and it was a beautiful, deeply sacred thing.

Sacred songs are not just available in churches and temples. Sacred songs live in our souls. We just don't realise we have the ability to sing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I have nothing that can accurately describe the cold terror that accompanies a full blown anxiety attack. It started with chest pains, then difficulty breathing and then then a no-holds barred full-on-full-fat-serious-motherfucking panic attack.

I have no idea what triggered it this morning. There was that idiot in the traffic. The realisation that I didn't have keys to open the office with. The receptionist/admin assistant who is off sick yet again (she fears she has finger cancer) and I have to do both my work and hers.

It was very dramatic. A lady from an adjoining office popped in to say hello and found me red faced, bent double and gasping while clutching my chest.

I hate this thing. I though I was handling things okay. Just the other day I congratulated myself on how well I appeared to be doing and that perhaps the last anxiety attack I had was, in fact, THE last.

Sitting here with the cold wet cloth pressed to my face, I feel like a complete fool. I popped the little magic pill I got from the doctor at the hospital from my last histrionic attack, and I feel like an utter fool. I have calmed down. The chest pains are gone and I have absolutely no idea whatsoever to make of what has just happened.

What I have done is disrupted several people's days. My wife raced back from Johannesburg city, my friend Joe in the opposite office block was summoned to sit with me.  And now, here I am, alone, and reasonably okay, but I have no real answer as to why this has happened. Again.

And mostly, I feel like a fool.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Warning. Caution. Invitation.

I was once in an abusive relationship. It was a long time ago. At least, it feels like a long time ago. It certainly changed me as a person and had a massive impact on my life. If I refer to that period of my life at all, I call it my time in Hiroshima shortly after the bomb dropped. Because that is what if felt like to me.

I was treated for post traumatic stress disorder. I'm okay now. I laugh. I cry. I live. What I find difficult to watch is someone walking into the mouth of the devil that is the abusive relationship. So I wrote this article, and sent it to Women24.


Five Minute Friday (done on a Monday) from Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. This is an awesome way to shake the cobwebs out and write. You have five minutes to write on the topic selected. GO!


You never really know you have it in you to be brave until that moment arrives when brave is really the only option. Courage is much the same.

I've been told how brave I am for having come through what I have come through in my life, but really, I did what had to be done in order to move my life forward. There was a moment in each of those instances when I could have chosen to keep the status quo, but instead, chose the only realistic option for me: be brave.

During those days, when I lived in darkness, the very act of getting up out of bed and facing the day was, to me, an act of great courage. You don't have to already have brave as a default setting in order to be brave. Brave is what happens in the moment you need it.

I wouldn't call myself brave. And other women, like Julie who ended up tetraplegic and abandoned by her boyfriend after a motorcycle accident, won't call themselves brave either. It's as though the truly brave women I know keep silent about their courage. And we are all silently courageous. We don't realise it or admit it, but it is there. Every day.

STOP. Your turn.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Simple Woman's Day Book

I thought I would give this a shot. Sounds interesting. It comes from a blog called The Simple Woman's Day Book: 


Outside my window... I have no window. I work in a windowless office.

I am thinking... it would be nice to have a large decaf cappuccino right now.

I am thankful... that I spoke to my cousin for a long while last night and we both managed to release some grief

In the kitchen... the kettle is boiling

I am wearing... my favourite African shirt with jeans

I am creating... documents to be sent out for a law firm

I am my cousin Linsay for dinner tonight

I am my wife's day is going

I am reading... The Gabriel Method

I am hoping...that someone will offer to make tea soon

I am looking forward to...the one week holiday we have planned for June

I am learning to be more mindful

Around the house...I am certain the cats are wandering

I am pondering...what the next chapter in my life will reveal.
A favorite quote for today... "Life is too short for bullshit"
One of my favorite things... cuddling with the dogs and cats. Especially in winter.

A few plans for the rest of the week: making music with Justin and catching up with Dori

A peek into my day...
I was in the office at twenty to eight this morning. Working flat out since. I could use a power nap around about now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Law of Karma

When we think of Buddhism, we think of Karma. When we think of Karma, we often link it to the old adage, "What goes around comes around", and for most people, that is precisely what they believe Karma is.

Karma, however, is more than a cosmic justice system or a reason to feel bad about one's life ("I've got such bad karma, no wonder these bad things keep happening..."). It's also not the feel-good fix-all that you can throw out to make yourself feel better about someone else's misfortune either ("I knew that karma would bite them in the arse eventually).

Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning "action" or "deed". Karma is the action that sets in motion the wheels of cause and effect, and was originally a tennet of the Hindu faith. (It's also a common idea shared in Jainism, Sikhism and even the Falun Gong. Although, if you are familiar with anything new-agey, you'll be familiar with karma too.)

Tied in with Karma is the concept of reincarnation* and the idea that our past actions - stretching back over many life times - all have some sort of impact on the life we are living right now. There are some schools of thought that one has to reincarnate many times in order to transform one's karma and reach Nirvana. There are other schools, like Nichiren Buddhism, who believe that one can transform karma right now, in this very lifetime.


Karma is created through cause and effect. We create causes all day long, we just don't pay much attention to it. An easy example to illustrate this would be my dad. My dad smoked 60 cigarettes a day for most of his life. (The Cause) He died as a result of complications arising from emphysema, a direct result of smoking 60 cigarettes a day for most of his life (The Effect). We can create helpful causes (quitting smoking or not smoking at all) or unhelpful causes (smoking 60 cigarettes a day). These produce helpful effects (better health) or unhelpful effects (slow, painful illness culminating in death by heart attack or stroke). We get to choose.

Every moment of every day provides us with an opportunity to create helpful or unhelpful karma.**  I can choose to donate money to the homeless guy in the street or not. If I choose to donate, I may want to examine my intentions: donating so I can boast to my friends how generous I am (less helpful) or donating because the poor guy looked hungry and could do with a plate of food (more helpful).


1. First of all, take a look at your less helpful behaviours. This is not an easy or comfortable task, but it will assist you in finding some of the 'biggies' (and some of the biggies, when examined, are actually not that big). For example, mine include a bit of swearing at taxi drivers and getting stressed out and frustrated with people, some jealousy, some poor self esteem.

2. Live mindfully. Be aware of how your actions and words will influence the people around you. Are you saying or doing something out of revenge or spite or are you doing it because you truly are working towards finding the justice in a situation?

3.  Gratitude is fantastic. Being grateful for what we have in the moment brings us back to the ever popular and sometimes elusive "now". Even the now is temporary and will change. Gratitude is a great way of releasing anger, frustration and jealousy.

4.  Nichiren Buddhists believe that chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo helps to polish one's karma. Meditation works on the same level.

5.  Remember it's not all about you. And it is all about you. Your perception of the world is purely that: YOUR perception. To someone else you may seem like the bossy client, but to you, you may seem like someone who knows what she wants and the service providor may appear to be an idiot. Which of these is true? Both. And neither. It's all about how YOU perceive a given situation.

6. Karma isn't a bitch. Your own actions - cause and effect - created the situation you're in. Accept responsibility for your part in your psychodrama and realistically set about rectifying or improving on it.

Your karma is your own responsibility. It's not something that happens to you. It's not a punishment from God, Buddha or the Great Cosmic Joker. Karma holds YOU accountable for your thoughts and actions within your own life. There's no blaming the bunny, or the devil. The only one doing the living in your life is you.

The idea of Karma being my own responsibility is both liberating and sobering. How I treat others and myself will determine my Karma. I am not interested in transforming the karmic backlog of however many lifetimes. I am certain that some things have already been dealt with, or have manifested in this current life to be dealt with now. I only have this moment to polish the mirror in which my karma is reflected. So do you.

*Incidentally, early Christians believed in the concept of reincarnation too, but the idea was one of those that got ditched at the first Vatican Council. The Gnostics and Cathars, however, continued preaching reincarnation until they were all summarily murdered by the Church as heretics and witches

 ** I prefer the terms 'helpful' and 'unhelpful' when it comes to describing karma, as 'good' and 'bad' don't seem to include our own accountability and responsibility.