raven song

March 19, 2010

Peace in heart, in mind, to my brother

I am in prison one day a week as a  Buddhist Chaplain. I work with chaplains from many religionsbars 01. We work together and have much in common. One inmate often gets stressed and gets into trouble. The Anglican chaplain said to him:

use your prayer beads, with the first bead say Peace in my heart, next say Peace in my mind, then Peace to my brother and keep going till you feel more calm’ then she said ‘ All religions have beads and we all have that message’

That is thprayer beads in hande simple truth of it and it works.


April 15, 2011

Danny’s New Dreaming

Working with Danny an indigenous inmate in a maximum security prisonclip_image002

Danny (not real name) is about 35 years old and fit good looking guy. He says he was a difficult kid and got kicked out of home at a step dads request when he was 12. Lived on the streets a lot, involved in Juvenile detention, street fights etc. Says he has been stabbed six times. I never accept someone’s statement, ‘I was a difficult kid’ at face value. Indigenous men in particular seem to blame themselves. I remember one indigenous man (not Danny) saying to me ‘at 13 I became hard, cold and independent did not think of others feelings’. I asked, ‘I am curious to know if anything happened before 13 that may have led to what happened in your life before that time’. He replied ‘Well my uncle sexually abused me for five years’. So often there is a story about the young indigenous life that creates more understanding of later dysfunctional behaviour.

Danny’s life picked up when he was given a chance as a dancer in an indigenous dance group. He respected the guy who ran the group saw him as an elder, who had given him a go. He danced before some pretty big audiences signed a lot of cards etc. But then after the adrenaline high of that, he took drugs to cope. He would end up crazy and go to prison.

So one day he turned up in my Buddhist meditation class in prison. He was there at the request of a mate to build up class numbers. I asked what is your tribe and totem. He replied Wodi Wodi tribe part of the Yuin nation and my totem is Emu.

So what does Emu mean to you?

It’s about legs, strong legs and lots of curiosity.

I recalled an emu dream a fella called Darren told me about. We were at an indigenous men’s health conference in the middle of the Northern Territory. He was an indigenous men’s worker in Melbourne and his tribe was from the Murray River, his totem was emu. He had never been among full blood tribal men before and was feeling quite honored and excited by the experience. He told me about a dream he had one night there. He was being chased by an emu and he fell over and was lying on the ground, with small indigenous men in full ceremonial paint standing around him. They were dropping small white pellets into his mouth. For me it sounded like a wonderful dream, his totem herding him to the elders who gave him the pellets of wisdom.

Danny listened to the story with great interest. He said ‘I had a strange dream the other night, can you help me with it?’

Go for it Danny, tell me the dream and I will try and explain it for you.

Well he said. I was flying through the forest, felt the leaves brushing against. I could not control where I was going and I had no legs. I crash landed into a coffin in a hole in the ground. I was lying face down and could not get out. My family and tribe were standing around the hole and coffin, throwing clods of dirt in. Pretty scary stuff!

It’s a strong message dream, what they call a big dream. I can tell you what I think it is about. It is your totem warning you, that you need to use your legs, as the emu does and you need to walk your proper journey, otherwise you will die if not a real death then a spiritual death. You need to walk your walk as a man with respect and good intention; you must fulfill your responsibilities to yourself your family, children and tribe. You must also dance, but not just to entertain white fellas. Dance is strong spirit ceremony for you and your people. So learn more about the meaning of dance and teach your young men dance as ceremony. You might ask, how does he know this? Well we move into intuition here. They say that dreams are the forgotten language of the gods or spirits. Big dreams like this have a purpose. In the end my interpretation of the dream only has to pass one test, is it useful? Does it help the dreamer?

clip_image004So next time a few more indigenous men turned up at my mediation class. I had read book about four years ago, called ‘Bushman Shaman: Awakening the Spirit through Ecstatic Dance’ written by anthropologist and psychotherapist Bradford Keeney. It was about the San people or Kalahari bushmen from the Kalahari desert in Africa, which is in the middle of Southern Africa. They have a history of some 40 000 years and rock art that parallels indigenous Australians somewhat. Their main ceremony is trance dancing in the evening around a fire. It is a fascinating book that had inspired me. In their dancing they often ask the ancient dead ones to come and dance in an outer circle around the fire, and they experience them as being there and communicate with them. Read the book to know more.

So in sitting with Danny and his mates, I used that inspiration. I did a strongly relaxing meditation that can induce a deep relaxation and somewhat trance like state. Then I started a guided journey into a forest to a clearing with strong fire in the center. Seeing the fire, smelling the smoke, hearing the whispering of the trees and the night animal sounds. -Then inviting the ancient ones could be departed fathers or uncles or ancient ones from the tribe. The ancient ones then slowly danced around the men sitting in circle around the fire. They used clap sticks and chanted. I asked each man to choose an ancient one as mentor and healer and to listen to what they said or conveyed by feeling. The meditation was then wound up. The men were in quite a spaced out frame and had enjoyed the experience.

I asked Danny did he experience the ancient ones and did he choose one. He said yes but that the ancient one would not speak to him. I told him that was good but that was his sense of shame that created that, and that he was worthy and that the ancient one did think so as well and wished to help.

A couple of weeks later, we did the same meditation. I asked Danny how it went. He said great there was this ancient one dressed in traditional dress, possum skins etc. and that he was chatting away in a language that he did not understand. I asked ‘did it feel good’ and the answer was a big Yes.

clip_image006The next session I did a trance and guided journey through a long cave with lots of traditional paintings and with ancient artists showing and explaining the work. When we finished I gave them some paper and colored pencils. Danny and the other guy grabbed the paper and started drawing as if eating a great meal. Danny drew the picture shown here, it was a classical rock art painting of Biami the creator. He said that was the painting that he was shown. It is exactly like the rock art drawing in a cave at Newcastle that is quite famous. He had really enjoyed the experience.

This work with men in prison is very sporadic. I go there once a week, but often there are lock downs or closures of educational rooms where classes take place. So plans to do regular sessions on this work are often disrupted. So it’s do what you can when you can.

Danny is due to leave prison soon to return to his home at Nowra on the south coast. In talking with him recently he told me about a new dream. He was walking along with two dingo dogs, he was in full traditional mode, just a loin cloth and carrying two spears. He was standing and walking straight, proud and dignified. He was walking towards a large full ceremonial gathering. Men were painted and dancing, there were clap sticks and didgeridoos. He had in a sense come home and learnt in his deeper self how to walk proper way, on his journey. A new dreaming – woo hoo.

In all this I have been working on my own belief system and theories around what is important for healing of indigenous men in contemporary Australian culture. I am not claiming it is right but it’s what makes sense to me. Let me try and explain it in brief:

For 40,000 years prior to western colonization, indigenous culture made its place in Australia. Men had identity, purpose and spiritual connection (dreaming). The culture was relatively stable over a long period and the sense of identity and purpose was thoroughly ingrained in the psyche of indigenous men. With the advent of white colonization the culture and its place in the land disintegrated. Along with it the identity purpose and spiritual connection for men fell apart. It is very hard to find identity and purpose in this new European culture.

clip_image008So it is important to help facilitate the reconstruction of a useful identity, purpose, function and spiritual connection for indigenous men. This belief is what has guided the experimental work with men like Danny. During this time a new indigenous men’s art workshop was started, with men doing artwork for sale. I built a solid door for my house and got them to paint a Rainbow Serpent Dreaming painting on the door. The door pictured has become a symbol for this work.

I have asked a friend of mine David, now working for an indigenous magazine to continue the work with Danny as he leaves prison, to cove to some extent Danny’s new journey. Dave asked me what questions he might ask Danny. Here are some suggestions:

  • What’s it feel like to be back home?
  • What help and supports have been arranged for you to help you integrate into a new life and not return to prison?
  • What are your goals with education, work and family?
  • What are the old habits that will bring you down?
  • What’s your plan to defeat these old habits and develop more useful ones?
  • Is it important to further develop your spiritual connections, and how do you intend to do that?


February 15, 2011

God bless you said the Muslim cab driver

Filed under: Islam, new dreaming, prison chaplain — Tags: , , , , , , — raven song @ 4:17 pm

harmonic call to unity imagecab driver

I came out of the Sydney recital concert last Saturday night, into a crowd of young people queuing up to attend a night club, the different dances of the city. Hailed a cab. Cabbie asked where have you been. A wonderful  concert, Islamic singers, singing the call to prayer and the Koran, Tasawul band and singer, Sufi dancers, Gregorian chants, medieval music ——– and a wonderful diversity in the audience, Muslim women in head scarves, young men from the Auburn Mosque, Turks, Lebanese and heaps of non Muslims.  Cabbie – sounds great, I am a Lebanese Muslim you don’t often hear about this sort of thing happening, I feel good hearing you talk about it. I went on, I am a Buddhist prison chaplain and work closely with a Muslim chaplain in a maximum security prison. True spirituality should unite everyone, include all there is no excuse not to. I drove up to the concert from the country and was so glad I did. As I got out the cab driver said ‘God bless you’ – made my day – made his as well. So thanks to Islamic realm for organising the concert, the cab driver loved it, even though he was not there.

February 8, 2011

Mercy and prisons a measure of our society

prison barskuan yin 01shakespeare 01 web

A thought kept pinging in my brain space , ‘let the quality of mercy not be constrained’. I was thinking about the need for a public discussion on prison reform during the lead up to the coming state elections in NSW Aust. Our 11,000 prisoners are often the forgotten ones. I wondered whether our seeming inability too look with compassionate and kind eyes on the rehabilitation of prisoners reflect on the quality of mercy in our society. Maybe  prisoners fulfil a psychological need in many to appoint a convenient scapegoat representing the demons responsible for our own suffering. I was talking with a friend about the pinging thought ‘let the quality of mercy not be constrained’ and my knowing it was part of our literary heritage, maybe the bible. Friend said, I think it is Shakespeare maybe Merchant of Venice. Later he emailed the quote:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.”
Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1(lines 181-6)

Shakespeare speaking five hundred years ago, maybe repeating the call 2500 years ago  of the goddess of compassion in Buddhism Avalokitesavara who it is said has the supernatural power of assuming any form required to relieve suffering and  is better known in her later Chinese manifestation as Kuan Yin, she who listens to the sounds of suffering. This call has echoed through the ages from Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and most poets. In contemporary times we have Gandi, Mandela and the lesser known  Maha Ghosanda . Is it yet time to think that we can use this view to look at a more useful, functional and compassionate prison system. I would like to draw our potential new leaders attention to Shakespeare’s quote that mercy ‘becomes the throned monarch better than his crown’  – perhaps join in the call.

February 2, 2011

Approach to blogging

There is so much stuff out there about blogging. I started this blog about 18mths ago, made a few posts then stopped. It wasn’t working for me. I had started another blog just prior called zendancer partly wanting to cash in on the zen thing. But I am Buddhist chaplain and take zen seriously. I stopped because I realised I wanted to write about a range of things. At the same time I was looking at a whole lot of high profile blogs all about being the biggest and greatest, success success and more success. The wholesale capturing of the blogsphere by these types  was a bit sickening. All about climbing to the top of the tree and it involved 24/7 activity posting everywhere etc. But there was my shadow self, also wanting fame and recognition wanting my ego bolstered as well. So it was not working for me until recently. I was building a shade structure for my vege garden, not profound, not A list stuff but I realised that I was doing this sort of stuff all the time because I liked it and I knew lots about it. So I realised that’s what I should blog about and I do heaps of fun things. As a frequent user of the web to find information I also new the much web information was poor and without good step by step explanation and no images. Well I love writing am good at step by step stuff and I love shooting heaps of images with my trusty little canon ixus. I also use one of the most fabulous free programmes on the web Irfan view, the greatest image editing programme out. So my first blog in this genre was about broccoli planting and it was fun. Might not get me to the top of the list, but if you want to know about planting broccoli its all there. I am also committed to being transparent, tell it how it is for me, and this blog is part of that commitment. PS I wrote this using microsofts live writer, also the greatest, check it out. Ho to all. Paddy

February 1, 2011

Wilsons world The little red hen and the lazy dog

Filed under: wilsons world — Tags: , , , , , — raven song @ 11:59 am

little_red_henlazy dog


 Soon after Wilson my Beagle mate arrived home, I realised he had the potential to be a layabout lazy dog. So I had two choices just accept it or read him  the little red hen story I even sat with him while we watched the little red hen video  Basically the story line is that the lazy dog did not help the red hen at any stage making a beautiful meal, lots of strong doggy aromas. That is despite being asked many times by the red hen to help. The consequence was he was not allowed any of the food. What’s more he was told that until he learnt to help he would get no food. Well to a Beagle that is pure hell and the ultimate in suffering. Immediate conversion, he said how can I learn to help, maybe my blood lines as a sniffer, blood hound and all round security dog can be put to good use. So I got a wonderful women friend Karate expert and international security consultant to help. He was transformed into a faithful worker in security and protection, as the evidence in his resume shows.

guru wilson crop llow res

Fetching the soup bone from the butcher and guarding it against soup bone thieves





under car

Using his bomb sniffing skills to detect bombs fastened underneath cars

wilson minding shade cloth

Guarding the shade cloth against theft, using basic body guard skills

wilson sniffing garden

Sniffing for ieds (improvised explosive devices) prior to gardening work commencing

wilson guarding car

Guarding the car using the mastery of deception, which is appearing to be asleep whilst secretly being fully alert. A very advanced technique

January 31, 2011

broccoli planting guide practical and essential advice


Broccoli is one of the super vegetables with great nutritional and health benefits . The best is what your grow, fresh wonderful taste, nutritious, healthy, promotes sustainability andcabbage moth lowers your carbon footprint. Each climate has its own challenges. Mine is cool temperate but hot summers. I dont grow it in summer because of the white cabbage moth, which can chew up all your broccoli, leaving the only option of heaps of spraying or enclosing fully in bird mesh. The wise look for natures solution, which is grow your broccoli for winter cropping. It loves the cold temperatures, tastes sweeter, there are no moths in winter and you can harvest it for three months. But nature has some specifications. You need to sow the broccoli in late summer to get it ready for maturity in winter. Here in Bundanoon, Australia this is later January to early February where we often get heat waves, which dry out seed beds and fry the emerging seedlings, plus you have the moth to deal with. After years of battling I have come up with a working solution, read on. First prepare your soil. My bed had garlic in it before, now stored plaited under the house. I put mature cow manure (sourced from local cattle sale yards for free) and chicken manure from my chooks on the bed and then dug it over and raked it. I have liquid manure on the bubble ready for when the plant is full size. Now we are going to build a simple frame over the bed to cover with shade cloth to protect the seed bed and seedlings form the hot sun ( from35 to 45 C). I live near a huge eucalypt forest, so I collect the fallen sticks with the help of my supervisor Wilson the Beagle.  My design needs 14 sticks, you can use tomatoes stakes from the gardening supply shop. But if you have a Forrest that saves on carbon as well. The frame floor plan is 1.8 metres by 1.6 metres and the height is about 1.7 to top of stake and 1.6 to top of cross bar. It is made that that size to end up with about 12 mature broccoli and high enough to get in and work. cross bars and pad

 Step 1. cut stakes to 2m and hammer in as per above floor plan. Step 2. put up four top bars as shown in the picture, using tying wire to bind them on to the uprights. Or alternatively use a cordless drill to drill holes and then use it for driving in some self tapping phillips head screws. Step 3 finish offshade cloth on the frall sticks upame by fastening two diagonal sticks as shown to stabilise the frame. Step 4.  Then tying on some shade cloth or equivalent. I used 90% cover for the roof and eastern side and then some old open weave synthetic curtain material for the other 3 sides. The trick here is to use a large needle, that can take a thin gardening twine, string or fishing line. Then you just lash/sew the material on using big sowing loops say 75 mil or 3 inches apart, tying the twine of at either end. Step 5  Now fasten 3 sticks to the bottoms of the material as shown roughly sewing on. This stops the material from blowing about and allows you to hold it down with rocks or bricks. Step 6  As the seedlings emerge you will need to fix some thin plastic bird mesh to the front and roughly lash the sides together to protect from the cabbage moth. Note the front is the non sun side which is south here in the southern hemisphere. Step 7  Break up the ground again with a rake and then rake it smooth. Mark out four rows about 400mm apart and about 300mm from the frame sides. I use a small stick either end to mark the rows. Mark out a furrow with a stick. Then using a commercial seedling mix, grab a handful and put a thin layer say five to ten mm on the bottom. Then put your seeds in the furrow about 12mm or half an inch apart.  Cover with layer say ten mm of seedling sowingmix. Gentle firm down mix with your hand and then water with spray from a hose or watering canbottom sticks. Keep the row moist. In hot weather like right now I cover the row with and old cotton sheet and water it. Keep checking to see if seedlings emerge and take off if weather cools down. If you get good germination your will have far more seedlings than you need. Pick out the best for yourself and give or sell the rest, encourage others to grow veges. Keep three times more than you need and thin out as they grow picking the best. When the broccoli head matures cut it off for eating. After that side shoots of broccoli keep growing over the next couple of months.

I am growing four varieties. Shogun winter pick, Ramoso Calabrese, Waltham and Di Cicco Early. My aim is to see which are the best and then let the best plants go to seed and collect the seeds to grow for next season. The ones you keep for side, first grow tall stems and then set yellow flowers which then turn to seed. You let the seed dry on the plant. Then you cut the branches with the seed heads and hold over a bucket. Twist and scrunch the seed heads and they will collect in the bucket. Then store in an air tigh container, keep dark by wrapping container in Aluminium foil. With growing you own seeds you get the seed that is most suited to your soil and climate, can make a huge difference.

Sounds like a lot of work, but heh its fun, grows great broccoli and keeps you mindful and  focussed  on the simple things in life and  away from any doom and gloom life may be presenting . . And the locals may think your nuts but that’s fun too. And remember my old gardening mentor, Bill Allen  many years ago used to lean over the fence and say ‘the only good flower is a cauliflower’. He grew up as a farm worker when times were hard. Kept his own milking cow, chickens, veges and grew a turkey for Xmas. So he knew how to do it he had too.

March 19, 2010

mentor uncle courage creativity

Filed under: counselling, letting go, mentor, new dreaming, new story, psychotherapy, ritual — Tags: , , , , — raven song @ 12:03 pm

An act of courage, compassion and creativity was told to me yesterday. A local man/elder, has a nephew on the edge of goibowlng to prison, too many drugs and violent  behaviour. His father had been continually violent and uncaring all his life so far and he was suffering the consequences of that. His Uncle took him into the forest for a walk. When he got to a clearing he asked his nephew to sit. He lit some incense and stuck it in the ground near him. Then he placed a bowl next to it. He walked a circle around the sitting nephew. He spoke the truth of the fathers violent unloving behaviour and how the nephews response to that with drug taking and bad  behaviour had bought him to this place. He was told quiet firmly that if he continued he would go to prison and what that meant for his future. It was said that his father might not be capable of loving him, but that this Uncle loved him as did the other Uncles and Aunts. The bowl was said to contain the painful past of the father wounding and his drug taking. He was given the choice to stand up take the bowl incense feathers and through it away  and choose to accept the love that was their for him, and to choose to heal his wounds and move towards a more peaceful and healthy relation with life. He got up threw the bowl away and has not looked back. What a magnificent ritual to do.

March 15, 2010

try to be a little kinder

Aldous Huxley, famous author, said at the end of his life “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder”

An important part of new dreaming. Les my next door neighbour sets a great example for this:

– he was driving home at night into the village and came across a large dog on the road. It had just been hit. He stayed with it. I asked was it in pain and what did you do. He replied, it was quietly dying I just patted it and talked kindly to him, I wanted him to experience that as he died.

– he was coming out of a car park at work and a Muslim women with a scarf, flagged him down. She asked him for directions to a place nearby, she was lost and going for a job interview. She was not understanding the directions, so he said follow me, he drove for about ten minutes then stopped at the address, it was a flower shop. She got out and gave him a Muslim blessing and some bread from her shopping basket.

Part of Les’s week. Part of new dreaming, being a little kinder. Share some ‘being a little kinder’ stories with us.

March 10, 2010

Anthony’s new dreamings

Filed under: Uncategorized — raven song @ 1:03 pm

Doug’s comment ‘I Recently came across a blog from Earl Hipp in the USA who befriended a recent refugee from Sudan and his family, having moved to Minnesota in the depths of winter. Earl, after having provided some winter clothes asked what else he could do for him the reply was “Can you teach my son (in this new culture) how to be a man?’  prompted this  interesting response  from Anthony, which I thought would be good to share:

Can I teach my own son to be a man in this culture ? Have I even been able to teach myself to be a man in this "new culture” of ours, and that sometimes seems so foreign to my soul and my soles. So much so quickly, my son can hardly believe me when I tell him, when I was his age, there were no computers, computer games, mobile phones and no Internet. I’m not sure my father knew how to teach me to a man in this new culture , I’m not sure his father knew or his before.

When I begin to think of a New Dreaming, I feel almost frozen in the headlight, I need to feel the dreaming, not think it, dreams come from down under in our sub-conscious, often mysterious and needing interpretation as to real meaning and significance. The earth, our primal mother earth is for me the source the dreaming, my new dreaming calls me to walk the earth bare feet and naked where I can, this is almost the only time I feel really connected.

On the radio yesterday they spoke of a 6 day Christian pilgrimage walk, in Victoria ? A journalist asked what’s in this walking business, and the reply was something like.

“Only when walking in the landscape do we feel our own smallness in the immensity of nature and god ”

On a recent men’s retreat, we walked consciously and very slowly bare foot and naked in the forest, it was primal and old and I really felt myself and I really felt the land.

I read lots of books and have done a lot of self development, and I sit at the feet of masters, however I begin to know that the earth is a real and profound teacher for me, if I slow down enough to connect and to hear what she has to say.

Anthony Ashworth.

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