Times of Transition

The aftermath of a long stint at Bentley has me thinking about the challenges of transition times in our lives, particularly those that take reserves of patience and perseverance. Some situations seemingly drag on and on: relationship breakups, recovery from illness, living arrangements, elderly care… situations with landlords or neighbours, bullying and abuse, property boundaries. Like these sorts of ongoing situations, just as we hang up the towel on Bentley, we start to hear news that the suspension may soon be lifted and that they are coming back any day now to do earthworks. We can’t relax just yet!

The challenge can be huge to manage the ongoing stress and aggravation that can accompany these circumstances. There are the ripple effects that can be compounded when children are in the picture, financial entanglements, change of residences, lack of employment and so forth.

We think we have almost resolved a situation and yet on it goes; it can be very difficult to find a good stable balance once again. Sometimes, just as we leave one stressful situation, we find ourselves in another. Just as we are getting over that relationship breakup, or the move to a new property, a new challenge pops up – illness, financial hardship, family problems…or Metgasco standing up in the ring once again with its latest boxing gloves on and ready!

This can be very disheartening indeed. An individual can feel that she is being tested by the circumstances in her life. He may bemoan, “Can it get any worse than this?”

In Louise Hay style, we can look at how we play a role in the situation we are in. In my work as a therapist, I work with clients to identify recurring patterns such as an ongoing feeling of being betrayed by one’s friends. Perhaps this pattern relates to something in the past and upon seeing this more clearly, the individual can begin to try out new behaviours that break the old habits.

Perhaps in looking at our role in the energy crisis that we are facing, the danger of having the Northern Rivers (and all of Australia) turned into an industrialised gasfield, we can see our habitual dependence upon fossil fuels and we can look towards lessening our own personal footprint. This is difficult indeed as we are so deeply embedded and were born into an industrial machine that literally feeds off of environmental destruction. This global multi-generational trauma has taken a huge toll on indigenous nations worldwide as well as the precious ecosystems of this era.

It can help to reflect on the past and how it impacts the present as we humans do learn from our errors, albeit sometimes not until they knock us over the head! Looking backwards can sometimes help us to understand our current behaviours both personal as well as cultural and social.

However, more importantly perhaps, I work with clients – and in my own life – to be relaxed in the current situation no matter how difficult it is. This requires an acceptance of the feelings that arise – anger, frustration, grief, despair – and noticing the thoughts that accompany these feelings as well as the body sensations: a tightness in the throat, a gripping feeling in the stomach, a fast beating heart. We work to just be with whatever is there, aware of the feelings in the body. Not working to shift them. Aware of the thoughts that arise and then fall again like waves and noticing the moments between that are clear and calm. And then back to the sensations in the body, the tightness in the chest or jaw, the warmth or the ache in the heart, the tingling in the palms and feet. Not judging this. Just being with what is.

It can be difficult to take the time to relax and be with our feeling, sensations and thoughts about the breakup of our marriage, the accident we could have avoided, our dismal financial situation or the gasfields spreading across Australia, the rampant destruction of the Earth and so on. Yet, this is how it is now and the more we can be with how things are and feel our feelings, the more we will be clear headed and be able to move forwards connected to our hearts, our hands and our heads.

These transition times are difficult and sure, some run to India and seek spiritual teaching. Others jump directly into another relationship or the next job. But as we all know, you simply cannot run away from yourself. If we can drop into the time of change, tired as we may be or perhaps lacking in direction, this can be a time of self-care, grounding and renewal, perhaps even sweet relief from the previous difficult situation.

This is a time to let go of that which has not been working well for us. It is a time to put in place better structures in our personal lives. In our campaign work, it is a time to evaluate and reflect and begin to implement improved ways of working together. It is a time to strengthen vision and continue to build the movement to heights that it has never before reached.

It is a great fortune that we share a strong vision as a community, a vision of clean water, fertile land and a future for our children that we can be proud of. This vision has a palpable force that unites us and gives us a momentum. It is a love of life, a love of the Earth and as Che Guevara once said, “Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” It is these strong feelings that will guide us through these difficult times, that will guide us forwards. All we must do is trust in our inner voice. As John Lennon said, “All you need is love.”

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.”
Look what happens with a Love like that, It lights the whole sky.
                           – Hafiz –



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Managing Persistent Unwanted Thought (PUT) Patterns

Managing Persistent Unwanted Thought (PUT) Patterns

Ever struggle with repetitive thought patterns?

Some repetitive thoughts have their place. It might be that it isn’t until the 20thtime through that a new solution arises.

On the other hand, perhaps there is nothing to be done for the situation at the moment, perhaps I just need a break from the thought. Persistent Unwanted Thought patterns or PUTs often create the conditions for stress, anxiety, grief and other difficult feelings.

The PUT may be negative in its content or it may be more neutral such as in the case when we are trying to force a decision about something when we are not yet ready. We may have done our research, weighed it out many times and yet we still haven’t reached a conclusion about how to act. The thought may bat through our mind a hundred times a day, “should I quit or not?” or “Should I go or not go?”

First ask yourself “Is this thinking pattern helping me?” If not, here’s a method to manage PUTs:

1)    Notice the thought. “Ah, there’s that thought, the one that’s not helpful.” Sometime we can be lost in the thought pattern for several minutes at a time, even more, until we become aware that we are again thinking about that relationship problem, the broken refrigerator, our ill health or whatever other matter is spinning around in our mind. So to begin, we step out of the thought and notice it from the perspective of an observer. “There’s that thought. Aha!” Pleased at our discovery.

2)    Bring your attention to the present moment, ie. mindfulness “I’m washing the dishes right now.”. Or you might focus on the breath but I usually find that if I look at what I am doing right now and make a sentence about this, it shifts my focus away from the PUT.

It is important to keep the tone gentle towards the PUT. Think of the thoughts in a similar fashion as you would a puppy dog that you are training to sit still. You tell it to stay and it does for a moment and then it runs away. Rather than scolding the dog, you go and bring it back to it’s place and repeat “Stay”. Similarly, you notice that the thoughts are again running around your mind and you bring your mind back to the present moment, with compassion for yourself. “Silly mind, you’ve gone and run off again!”

3)    Notice roughly how long it has been since the last PUT arose. Perhaps when you first begin the technique, it has only been 30 seconds or a minute since the last. Perhaps the thought then goes away and arises 3 minutes later. And then 10. And so on. This becomes an intrinsic reward system and puts you in the place of the Observer, a much more pleasant place to be rather than feeling victim to the PUT patterns. “Ah, it’s working; the thoughts are abating.” We notice the relief and bring our attention to the space between the thoughts, the moments when we were absorbed in life without the PUT.

Additional Tips

4)    If it feels right, you can nurture a sense of gratitude for the present moment, that you are safe right now, that the flowers are beautiful, that you are grateful for the food on the table etc. This one might not work for everyone and I don’t usually mention this when I am telephone counselling someone – might be a bit too spiritual or new age — but when a counsellor suggested this to me, I tried it out and found that it creates a warm soothing feeling in the heart.

5)    If you wish, when you turn your mind to the present moment, to the here and now, you can turn your thoughts to affirmations such as “I am fine.” Or soothing thoughts such as “Everything is okay.” Or of course there’s the Louise Hayes’ style “I love myself…”

6)    Reframe or turn the PUT inside out. Sometimes the thought can be reframed positively or changed in some way that defuses the pattern. For example, a woman has just broken up with her boyfriend and keeps replaying scenes when they were madly in love. She longs for him and keeps thinking “if only….and maybe if….then we could have worked it out.” To reframe this, she instead recalls “I decided not to be with Joe because we really don’t get along and I don’t feel I can get my needs met in this relationship.” Or in the case of making a decision, we might say to ourself, “I don’t know whether to do A or B yet; I have weighed it up and now I am waiting until I know. Thinking repeatedly about this matter will not help speed it up; in fact, it only distresses me.

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Weeding the Garden

10 February 2014

There is an area of my garden that is filled with weeds, mostly farmers friend (bidens pilosa), but there are also a few newcomers I noticed this morning. I weeded this area just a few months ago and replaced the weeds with pumpkins that now cover the area and yet still the farmers friend have returned.

As I pulled the weeds up in the early hours of the morning, I reflected on the many lessons that can be learned from these weeds.

From a psycho-emotional standpoint, we all have certain dynamics and patterns that can inhibit the growth of the more positive and healthy behaviours. Old traumas and emotional wounds crop up like weeds and give us the opportunity to learn something as we heal from these injuries.

Like the farmers friend, our attitude towards the weed/injury is important. Do we find ourselves filled with hatred and frustration at these persistent events or can we be mindful and nurture a curiosity about what these patterns have to offer us?

A while back I thought I had really mastered this area in the backyard. I was in fact, somewhat surprised to find that the farmers friend have returned. While I have planted some new perennial flowering bushes to cover some of the area, these are still in their infancy and the pumpkins leave plenty of room for the farmers friend to push through.

This reminds me of how a pattern in our life can reappear unexpectedly. The seeds of this pattern can lie in wait until the right circumstances appear for it to be nourished once again into activity. The farmers friend seeds lay in the ground and recently they came to life with the rain and the sun and the warmth, in great abundance. Alas, I must not let them go to seed this time or walking through my garden will leave me covered with seeds sticking to my clothing.

Here’s an example of how this parallels our lives. Let’s say a young woman, Maggie feels enmeshed with her mother; it is difficult for her to make decisions on her own and to know what she is feeling without it being about what her mother is feeling. In psycho-lingo, Maggie has attachment issues with her mother and in our work together, Maggie works to individuate or differentiate herself so that she can feel more autonomous and have a stronger sense of self-identity outside of the relationship with her mother. Perhaps after some months or even years sometimes, Maggie feels a strong sense of her own identity and our work is done. She feels that she can make her own decisions, gets married and has children. But then, perhaps like the rain and the sun and the warmth that nurture to life the farmers friend plants, Maggie’s life conditions change and she and her husband Paul separate from each other some years later. This is a difficult time and Maggie’s mother steps in to help Maggie make the transition and to help with childcare. However, one year later Maggie finds herself angry with her mother and once again having a difficult time thinking for herself and making important life decisions. Her confidence in herself has waned as her self-esteem wavers and once again she comes in to work on these issues.

Now looking back at the garden, if the weeds were removed quite thoroughly and repetitively in the first cycle or cycles, then the return of the weeds can be much easier to manage. Perhaps I have better tools now. I know not to tug too much or my back will ache. I have mulch to put down in their place.

Similarly because Maggie worked hard the first time around and reached a depth of understanding about her situation with her parents, our work progresses quickly as Maggie reconnects with herself more deeply and realises that she needs to allow herself to feel her grief over the loss of the relationship. Maggie again works to stand on her two feet solidly and to nurture herself well with self-care. This time around it is more like a chiropractic adjustment when the body knows how it feels to be aligned.

After pulling out weeds for a while this morning, I could feel myself beginning to tire, so I harvested some seeding mustard plants from a nearby bed, ran my hand over the seed pods and scattered seeds everywhere. Then I shook the plants as well to rain seeds on any bare patches. In fact, as I was weeding I could see tiny sprouts of various greens that had similarly broadcast as seeds over the years.

As we understand and face the dysfunctions in our life, we start to put in place new behaviours. We have the opportunity to water new seeds, new sprouting beliefs and ways of being in the world. Some think that we don’t have much free will in life but that there is a window of opportunity there for us to choose which seeds of consciousness we wish to water and which we allow to go dry. 

As Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist writer and teacher says,

“Your mind is like a piece of land planted with many different kinds of seeds: seeds of joy, peace, mindfulness, understanding, and love; seeds of craving, anger, fear, hate, and forgetfulness. These wholesome and unwholesome seeds are always there, sleeping in the soil of your mind. The quality of your life depends on the seeds you water. If you plant tomato seeds in your gardens, tomatoes will grow. Just so, if you water a seed of peace in your mind, peace will grow. When the seeds of happiness in you are watered, you will become happy. When the seed of anger in you is watered, you will become angry. The seeds that are watered frequently are those that will grow strong.”[1]

This afternoon, the Japanese family who live on our community dropped by for a visit. The father came down with the three children 1, 5 and 7 years of age. Together we ate small red salvia flowers that have a happy feel to them and everybody giggled together as we shared our love for the plants around us and for each other.


[1] Thich Nhat Hanh in Anh-Huong & Hanh, 2006, 22


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Go Forth Gently (Reflections on the Aftermath of Bentley)

bentley_dawnWell thanks all around, to the Traditional Owners of this land, to Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, to Knitting Nannas, to mom and dads and children, locals and travellers, farmers, business people, hippies and ferals, freaks and queers, gay and straight, young, old, all the individuals who showed up in common cause. To simmos and buddies who spent hours on the frontline in rainy weather and hot dry afternoons, to police liaisons and traffic, safety/security and first aid, to kitchen that cooked with love, to the coordinators, the infrastructure people, black wallabies, to info desk and meet and greet….and then beyond us to the local police who showed us some care and showed that they care, and to any politicians out there that actually listened and took a stand (before the decision was made lol).

And then to Metgasco and the politicians who approved the Rosella Exploration project. We thank you for creating such a grave situation, a true crisis for the Northern Rivers that gave us the opportunity and impetus to join together, heads and hearts and hands, to stand up for our rights, to stand up for clean water and to protect country. The seriousness of the threat that you have posed to our region brought us out into new territory, taking time out from our jobs and our families, spending time on the land away from the comfort of showers and computers, TVs, gardens and kitchens.

And now victorious, it is time to leave dear sweet Bentley. This incredible experience of community comes to an end much like the end of a great festival or party; yet no, those words cannot adequately describe what happened here. What happened here was a beautiful dream come true as a plethora of people came together in common cause and loved each other as best we could as we worked together to protect the land, the water, the region for our children and our children’s children’s children’s future. As Antoine de Saint Exupery said in the Little Prince, “love consists of gazing outward together in the same direction.’ And this we did well. We hunkered down at Bentley. We put aside our lives outside of here, we squeezed them as much as possible into a manageable box and somehow we found the time and energy to create an inspiring engaged presence that grew from one day to the next.

We leave here now filled through and through with joy, relief and gratitude. Still, we may find ourselves experiencing a range of other emotions including sadness and anger, loss and pain. We may find ourselves experiencing a range of emotions in the days to come. Many of us are depleted energetically, we have been hyper alert, hyper vigilant, for many days on end, awaiting a potentially traumatic event to take place. Were the police going to ambush us from this gate or that, in the middle of the night or the wee hours of a rainy morning? Many of us have been in fight-or-flight mode for many days, weeks and even months on end. This has an impact on our adrenal glands, on our emotional and psychological well-being as we were amped up without the time to slow down and to truly relax in the comfort of knowing that our home is protected. We may find that our dreams are still filled with anxiety or that we are a bit more easily startled or upset than usual. We may feel a bit flat or directionless. We may find that we are again facing problems that had faded away during the course of our strong and passionate activism.

So it is important that we take some time for self care now, be that sleep, reading, gardening, friends, cuppas at the café, videos, walks in nature, the beach, surfing, sport….time with children and family and so on. We must go gently gently from Bentley in the next few days, gently forth, gentle with ourselves, with a curiousity about what comes next. It can be a bit of a bumpy ride to integrate back into our family lives, our homes, our jobs. Perhaps we are going home to people who were not there to share in our experience and we must bridge to them, be patient as we work to reconnect with loved ones. For we are no longer the same and we will never be the same.

We have begun to get to know each other and now we know what we can do together; the power of people is enlivening. As Martin Luther King stated, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community”. So we will continue to meet and many of us will continue to work together as much work still remains to be done both here in the Northern Rivers where we will not stop until the Northern Rivers is declared gasfield free and we will continue to work to halt this destructive industry in the Pilliga and Gloucester, throughout NSW and even then we will not stop until we have no further unconventional gas drilling projects being developed in Australia. Must we wait 10 or 15 years to see the true impacts of these practices? No, we will work together and we will know that this gives us the great opportunity to continue to forge the gorgeous social tapestry that was woven during our days at Bentley. We will continue to meet up with each other, with that glimmer of recognition in our eyes. When I see you in the street and you see me, let us continue to give each other a hug as we have done here so many times in days gone by. Let us continue to chat about our work together and to smile together as we reminisce and scheme, strategise for how to keep country well protected and keep water clean and work for the wellbeing of all people and all species.

We showed up. We showed up at Bentley. And it feels darn good. I am deeply grateful to one and all.

Much gratitude to the local custodians who stood with us and helped us to find our way.






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rr_thumb2Ruth Rosenhek
Compassionate Therapy and Support

* Support clients through life transitions, spiritual emergence, world grief and self-renewal

* Work with people who experience anxiety, depression, trauma and issues related to body image, eating disorders, menopause and gender

* Nurture self-renewal, broadening of identity and paradigm shift, self realisation

* Work with queer and LGBTI friendly. I am interested to support alternative and marginalised people

I offer in-person counselling in Lismore, NSW. This includes coaching, support, mentorship, counselling and psychotherapy as well as debriefs and support on challenging meetings or group dynamics. The fee is sliding scale based on your ability to pay.

I work with the here-and-now in a relational manner. This means we work with what is in the room. I am influenced by Gestalt and Existential therapies, Mindfulness, Somatic (body-centred) awareness and Ecopsychology.

for the Earth

Ruth Rosenhek
Masters of Applied Social Sciences (Counselling)
Master of Science Organisational Management
Cert IV Telephone Counselling,
Bachelor of Arts Psychology

CAPA Registered

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