Back to Natural

Back to Natural

I was about fifteen when I first started to fool my body and brain into a new way of thinking. Thinking that it was actually enjoyable to put burning cigarettes in my mouth and suck the smoke from them deep down into my lungs. It wasn’t easy to do though, to overcome the natural response to this unnatural act. To ignore nausea in my stomach, the severe coughing as my lungs tried to reject the incoming, overwhelming clouds of toxic smoke. But with perseverance, the ingestion of nicotine that got through the natural defences of my body into my system worked its magic completely and convinced my brain that it was, in fact, essential to my continued well-being. Continue reading

Just Alive To Alive In The Blues

Just Alive To Alive In The Blues

 

This has not been an easy decision but a decision it is, I have decided to “retire” from doing the weekly AFL sports segment as part of the Alive 90.5 fm radio show “Sunday Sports Roundup”. I have arrived at this so that I can focus fully on the blues scene interviews which I am enjoying immensely and also improving my writing skills through the blog.

I first started doing the AFL segment on Alive 90.5fm, very nervously, way back in 2012 thanks to the never-failing positive encouragement from the show’s founder Gordon Allen, or El Supremo as he became affectionately known to the team. Continue reading

Stringy and Neil

Stringy and Neil

 

I made a comment when posting to Facebook about my Stringy Bark McDowell podcast that Stringy could be Australia’s equivalent of singer/songwriter Neil Young. As this elicited some feedback I thought it might be worthwhile explaining how I came up with such an idea.

Firstly let me say, yes Stringy is that good!  I became so impressed with Stringy, the man, and the musician, during our chat. Continue reading

Meditation Direction

Meditation Direction

All of us who meditate regularly develop our own little quirks and idiosyncrasies in our practice. I haven’t tested this personal theory but here is an example of one of mine and I would appreciate any comments you might have about your practice.

As I have stated before, I do open eye meditation from the Zen school of Buddhism. That is, I keep my eyes open throughout the meditation and keep my gaze fixed on a single spot in front of me, usually an image in my iPhone meditation timer which I place in front of me. However, most people in our Western communities learn meditation in the traditional method with eyes closed. This choice to use the open eye method is however not one of my individual idiosyncrasies. But it does lead into one that I do have and that is, that I usually like to face east when I have a choice of direction, at least at home. Continue reading

Sweet confusion

Sweet confusion

Routines, routines, we all have them don’t we and I can be attached to the very point of distraction with mine at times. Over the last few years, I have come to realise that I am not always best served by adhering so rigidly to the routines I have constructed. Constructed is the key that I have come to realise, that these routines I have created are just mine, my own creations, and not set in stone. There is a soaring sense of freedom at times when I decide to break away from a routine, either because I have other things I want to do, or that I notice that one or more aspects of the routine aren’t really useful, or simply just because. Just because a realignment can bring a whole new outlook, a freshness, to an aspect of my daily life.

I had recently changed my “day starter” routine to get back to including doing my journal, my “morning pages” as Julia Cameron calls it, a heads-down non-stop non-edit writing practice for twenty minutes; done as soon as you awake to develop the writing muscles as surely as a calisthenics routine might do for the body muscles.  According to Julia Cameron, it needs to be done first thing in the morning, as soon as possible after you awaken; possibly before the brain has time to realise what is going on. So I get up, shower, dress and get straight on to the computer to write for twenty minutes before I do anything else. However, the lure of unread emails and social media is irresistible as soon as I sit at the computer and my journal resolve dissipates as I decide to deal with these first. This leads to conversations with my wife about some of the matters raised by emails which in turn leads to Rosie, who is impatiently waiting for us downstairs, becoming aware that I am up and starts to bark for me to come downstairs. Her repeated entreaty becomes difficult to resist so I go downstairs, leaving my morning pages undone.

Continue reading

It’s the Battle of the Bridge!

It’s the Battle of the Bridge!

I see that the Sydney Swans are calling their AFL game this weekend the “Sydney Derby IX”. What has happened to the more colourful, evocative description, “Battle of the Bridge”? Or perhaps “Battle of the Bridge IX” if we must number them? I think the GWS Giants coined the term for this game and which it has been for the past couple of years. The two Sydney-based teams usually meet twice every AFL season. Continue reading

Meeting Maximus

Meeting Maximus

MaximusmnfThe tedium of waiting for the right turn traffic light to change at the intersection of our street is broken by a blurry white image coming toward the intersection. The image becomes clearer and I can make out that it is a small white dog running determinedly along the haven of the median strip separating the four lanes of the busy highway. My heart skips a beat at the danger this poor soul is in and my concern increases as he closes in on the end of the median strip at the intersection. Are you going to stop little dog? But no, as if sensing the traffic light change, he barrels on and into the intersection as the north/south traffic stops.
I leap out of the car and being cautious of not spooking him I head slowly towards him, looking all around for traffic that may need to be stopped to protect him. He stops and looks at me with a tail wag as if to say “Oh hello, what are you doing out here?”. I can now see that he is firstly a male, and secondly, a poodle cross breed like our two cavoodles at home. For a second I wonder if I should just escort him off the road and avoid being bitten but if he is half a softy as our dogs he is going to let me pick him up and so he does. I scoop him up and rush him to the safety of my car before the lights change again. He happily sits up in the passenger seat and surveys all of the outside world like a king from his throne, with a familiarity as if born to the situation.

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Not only Daisy

Not only Daisy

NotOnlyDaisyI found this image included on a Facebook post by Tara Brach today and it reminded me of a blog I wrote sometime ago called “Daisy’s Kiss”. Tara included the following Dalai Lama quote:

“There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples. My philosophy is kindness.”
— The Dalai Lama

Take a look at my blog post and you will see what I mean.

Look out folks, I am in the writing vibe again and a new year seems like a good time to really get down and commit to getting stuff out of the head and down on “paper”!  Well virtual paper anyway. Stay tuned.

 

 

Coolabah Tree Cafe

Coolabah Tree Cafe

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Travel advisory 😜 We had intended to make our first stop on our trip to Maldon this morning at Pheasant Nest, just out of Sydney, for breakfast. Big disappointment folks 😡 No cooked meals just reheated toast sandwiches and make your own coffee out of a machine, bleh!! So be warned, keep going for about 15 mins to the next stop at the Exeter/Bundanoon exit and the Coolabah Tree Cafe. Shell petrol as well and if you are really desperate and have no qualms about eating crap there is also a Maccas 😤

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My Liebster Award, wow!

My Liebster Award, wow!

Well thank you KE Garland for nominating me for the Liebster Award. With this award go three requirements I have deduced, namely:

1. Answer a series of questions from KE Garland

2. Nominate another group of bloggers who you feel deserve this award

3. Ask your nominees a series of questions to explore more about the nominee

Firstly my apologies for taking some time to finally getting around to both acknowledging this honour and to answering the questions which I did find very interesting and challenging but here goes. Continue reading

Away with the bird

Away with the bird

Check-in-queueI need to take a one day trip from Sydney to Melbourne to attend to some family business and I have booked a 10am flight down and a 6pm flight back thinking this will give me about an hour and a half to complete the business required in Castlemaine. Not too early that will force me to drag the old body out of bed any earlier than usual and not too late at night getting home. My dear wife is going to drive me to and from the airport and we will need to leave about 7:30am to give us a little extra time to cope with any peak hour blockages. We wake up to a steady soaking rain which being Sydney means that traffic is going to be even more chaotic than usual.  Continue reading

Millie arrives

The little brown cardboard pet carrier box sat in the middle of our lounge. My wife has returned from the pound with a little eight-week-old kitten. It is not the one that she had picked out online but another who had won her over. This sudden interest in getting a kitten by my wife had taken me by surprise and I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was a good idea. We already had our little cavoodle dogs, Daisy and Rosie, and did we really need a kitten? I love cats however and have had one sharing my life for most of it. The last two had both been pedigrees, a Burmese then a Tonkinese, and my theory then was that only pedigrees have character.  This theory was about to be tested. Continue reading

Ho Hum

Ho Hum

Mum & Me 2

I have lost many people, pets, clothing, little treasures of all sorts over the period of my life to date and I dare say I will lose many more in what is still to be lived. The most recent significant one of these was about two months ago when my dear old aunt, the last of what I call “my grownups”, passed away peacefully. I cried a lot during the writing and reading of her eulogy but in amidst this grieving there was a great sense of relief for her, a joy that there was now an end to her physical suffering. Continue reading

The three most important songs in my life

The three most important songs in my life

The challenge was to write about the three most important songs in my life. How to define just three and how to define important? I thought about it for a while and have narrowed the vast number of songs that I have connected with over the years down to just three that have left a lasting impression and who came to mind quickest. Continue reading

Youghal do

Youghal do

Youghal windowDublin or Paris, Paris or Dublin? For me, not such a dilemma, the choice was clear, a chance to visit Ireland at last, the country of my not so distant ancestors won hands down. Not so for my partner. The lure of that mystical shopper’s paradise, Paris, with its famous sites, landmarks, the sound of French spoken in the air, oo la la, and oh, did I mention shopping? No contest for her. Our airfare package included a side trip to any European destination from London so hence the debate. We were visiting my partner’s daughter in London and the girls just assumed Paris would be the only option. Not for me, I just couldn’t miss this opportunity to visit Ireland and for once the little rebel stuck to his guns so the girls are off to Paris and I’m off to Dublin. Continue reading

Life, and more life?

Life, and more life?

YinYangWBJumbled words are probably going to pour out of this exercise, which I am approaching with some trepidation. I am someone who plans their life, who feels the need to control what is happening and I haven’t got a plan on what I am going to write about here, but here goes.

Life and death have been in my thoughts a lot lately, partly because the last of my grownups as I think of them passed away in the last month, and it would have been her 95th birthday on the 4th, two days ago. Continue reading

Coral’s Eulogy

Coral’s Eulogy

Coral-O'Hara-TT-photoSadly, we interred my dear old aunt, Coral O’Hara, today, Friday 20th February 2015.  Here is the eulogy I gave as part of the funeral service.

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Michael Stacey and I am proud to be Coral’s nephew. I would like to say a few words to farewell Coral and to honour her life.

For me, Coral was one of the five most important people in my childhood. They were my grandparents, Frank and Vi Stacey, who raised me from about the age of two, and their three children, Max, Coral and Reg, my father. I was Frank and Vi’s only grandchild and Coral looked out for me from the very start. Continue reading

Meditation for me

Meditation for me

meditation-postWhat qigong does for my body, meditation does for my mind.

Meditation calms the racing energy of my mind and gets it flowing in a single focussed stream. With regular practice of meditation I am able to get some control over the “monkey mind” that challenges us all, where the mind flits from thought to thought constantly, incessantly.  It has often been said meditation is the simplest and yet the most difficult thing to do.

After all, how hard can it be to simply sit and focus on your own breathing? Continue reading

Duggy’s lesson

Duggy’s lesson

attachment2Why? Why am I paying a barber to cut my hair with a clipper on #2 setting when there is hardly any hair left on top? Why am I bothering? What is the difference between #2 and #0 I thought? Not much I thought. Why not just start shaving it off and save myself the barbers fee? So I did, I shaved it all off that weekend, secure in the knowledge that I could always let it grow back if I didn’t like it. But little did I know that my biggest lesson in how attachment works was to be found in that seemingly simple rational decision.

I was just starting to read a lot of books on Buddhism at this time, Continue reading

Arfa

Arfa

isIt was a memorable prank. I was working as a programmer in the early 1980’s on a project designed to run on an IBM S/34, a big metal “cupboard” on wheels that sat in the corner and churned away. I worked on the project with one of the guys from the company, a nice little guy I will call Arfa because he was probably born within the sound of the Bow Bells. We had set him up with a database on the S/34 to manage his passion, breeding budgerigars. Arfa was one of those pet owners who some would say bore a resemblance to his pets with a beaky little nose and a cheeky and curious personality.

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Turncoat?

Turncoat?

Screenshot 2014-03-16 13.49.51My dear old grandfather might have called me a turncoat in 1986 when I returned to Australia and started following the Sydney Swans. He had raised me in a small house in Maldon which had a nameplate “Hawthorn” and I never did find out which came first, his support of the Hawthorn football team or the naming of the house, but support Hawthorn we did. And I still do, it is just part of my history. But when I finally arrived back in Australia after 22 years in NZ and PNG I returned to a job in Sydney and joined my first AFL club as a member, the Sydney Swans.

Why the Swans? I had strong memories of growing up in Victoria during the 1950’s where there was a common sense of bewilderment that the northern states of New South Wales and Queensland didn’t really play Australian Rules football. Continue reading

Just an old cap

Just an old cap

The-old-capIt was just an old Sydney Swans cap, bought at a stand outside the SCG sometime in the 1990’s, where I was attending a Sydney Swans game. I liked it because it had a sort of vintage feel to it, a canvas fabric look rather than the bright red and white caps supplied by the Swans as part of the membership pack. It was also in the days when I was regularly buying Swans kit like shirts and jackets. My need to be identified by this paraphernalia has long gone, the attachment broken, in a process I have written about elsewhere.

The cap had become my cap of choice when I started walking for exercise around the time when I first met Molly in the early 2000’s. Molly’s two daughters were still living at home although there were plans for them to be moving in the near future to Queensland to attend university. Each of the girls had a dog and they had decided that Mum should also have a dog to keep her company when they left home. There was Astro Boy, a beautiful large Border Collie dog; Jack, a Maltese Shih Tzu cross dog and Dolly, a small long haired Chihuahua-Terrier cross bitch, ostensibly Molly’s pet. That’s right, Dolly, Molly, get it? Continue reading

Daisy’s Kiss

Daisy’s Kiss

Daisy-kissI am always joined for meditation at home by our two cavoodle dogs, Daisy and Rosie. They seem to love it and are always keen to sit on the mat and then the zabuton and then the zafu as I put them down and I have to chide them out of the way so that I can get them all setup for my meditation practice. I sit and as soon as the gong goes on my timer to start, both dogs settle down on the smaller zabuton I set for them in front of me and mostly just go to sleep. Or what appears to be sleep. Their presence is not as you might think a distraction but provides me with a number of lessons.

Dogs I think are permanently in the “here and now” that we humans strive for in just periods of meditation. I don’t think dogs spend much time, if any, thinking about the bones they might have got in the past, or planning for what they might do later in the day, or week, or month. They are just living for what happens now. They have conditioning that comes into play but no regrets and no planning, it is just what is happening now that matters. Even in the midst of what appears to be deep sleep the dogs will immediately react to any noise that might need to be attended to or indicate a threat.  Continue reading

Blackberry Ripe

Blackberry Ripe

Blackerry-ripeningWe are currently going through a heatwave and I need to give our plants a good drink every day. One of the joys of this task though is regularly finding another blackberry fruit that has reached full ripeness and which is promptly consumed, imparting that delicious blackberry flavour. Incomparable!

But not today.

However the fruit in this photo is nearly there and I thought it worth sharing as  another example of how wonderful nature is. Notice how the fruit is actually made up of separate segments, like globules, and these all have their own life cycle, ripening at their own pace, but all combining together to make up the complete fruit.

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Walking Again

Walking Again

Cavoodles-sittingHurrah! Hallelujah! I have started my daily walk again after a four month layoff waiting for the wound on my foot to heal enough to allow it. And are my faithful walking companions, Daisy and Rosie our beautiful cavoodle dogs, ecstatic about it as well? You bet they are. The mere mention of the word “walk” accompanied by me putting my sneakers on is enough to drive Daisy in to a high alert state and she follows me anywhere I might go as if connected by some string to my heels.

They both take to the walk quite differently. For Daisy I use an extending reel lead which allows her to bounce out in front as far as the lead will allow, then stop to sniff some important treasure that presents itself until the lead reaches its limit again behind us and then she bounces past us again to as far in front as she can go and the pattern repeats itself. I say “bounce” because that is the best way I can describe her “run” with two front feet together and her large cavalier ears flapping up and down. And the whole effect just exudes such pure joy that it brings a tear of deep pleasure to me when recalling it. Sometime Daisy stops and looks back at me and I swear she has a look on her little face that can only be a big happy smile.

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The Barnes Boys

The Barnes Boys

This is a very rare picture of my mother’s four sons. Her name was Bettine Barnes, hence the title. Bettine married twice, firstly to my to-be dad Reg Stacey who she met and married while he was serving in the UK during the Second World War as a RAAF bomber pilot. Her second marriage was to Stewart Bainbridge in New Zealand and with whom she had three sons, Sean, Adam and Nigel.

The picture shows, from left to right, back row, Michael and Sean, front row, Adam and Nigel. Coincidentally that also happens to be the order of birth as well which is a little strange to say given we are all over fifty. Continue reading

The Gary Knight lesson

The Gary Knight lesson

GaryKnightHe was raised on the dairy farm that he was destined to one day inherit and raise his own family. But Gary Knight was a New Zealand dairy farmer who found his one great talent in life was to play rugby union as a front row forward. His earlier sporting prowess as a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in wrestling served only as a preparation for his later fame, not as a goal in itself. Rugby Union became his passion which was fuelled by his selection for the provincial rugby side Manawatu and then the famous All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby side who serve as, dare I say, almost religious icons for their country’s men, women and children. Continue reading

How would I spend $8,000,000?

How would I spend $8,000,000?

EightMillionNow before you all flood me with smart business ventures, donations and begging letters, I don’t actually have $8million to spend. But the Federal government has and it has decided to spend it on supporting the formation of a professional soccer team to be based in Greater Western Sydney. Does this make Greater Western Sydney the new hub of the sporting world in Australia? Maybe. It already has four professional rugby league clubs, a new AFL team and a myriad of other sporting clubs covering the gamut of sport played in Australia. And do any of these other clubs get any form of government assistance? None that I am aware of. What is so under-privileged about soccer that the Federal government considers them such a special case for financial assistance?  All players in this new club will be professional. The minimum salary, just the minimum, for A-League players 21 years and older is $47,094, for younger players $38,020. I dare say the number of players on the minimum would be in the minority within a club. Therefore it could be argued that the Federal government is subsidising the payment of professional football players in just one club. Why?  How does the government even try to justify this oddly skewed subsidy? Continue reading

A New Path

A New Path

I awoke naturally, rested and calm about 6:15 am.  Snug and warm in my sleeping bag, revelling in waking without the alarm.  Eager to get up and go for a walk but given the darkness outside reading a little of Lama Surya Das’s “Awakening the Buddha Within” seems the better option.  As is becoming usual his words lift my spirits and keep the course processes rolling.  Pale dawn light starts to lift the darkness through the window so out of the cocoon, into warm clothes and off for my walk.  It has been some time since I have been able to indulge in the pleasure of an early morning winter walk and I have been looking forward to this.

But which way?  Our service team leader had warned us about staying on the bush tracks, of the dangers of cliffs, and the extra time it takes to walk back uphill.  Therefore I figure that I need to head downhill on a bush track to get the views I long for.  I also sensed that the tracks were on the other side of the main building so set off in that direction.  The trail to the right of a fork looked interesting.  I passed an outdoor campfire site on my left, complete with strategically placed logs around it as seating.  A piece of branch, ideal for a walking stick, presented itself on the track and on I tramped now aided by my new found friend the branch.  Ah, the beautiful fresh air, the birds singing, the fresh smells of the bush are all enervating and I revel in it.  My joy is dampened a little by the sight of the same campsite appearing on my left again.  I am going round in a circle!  And there was the main building again.

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