Monday, May 31, 2010

Black hat thinking...

This black hat in the photo was on a pile of dirt at a local train station recently (on the other side of the tracks).
Has it been lost? Dumped? Tossed out the window?
Who knows? But it’s not on the head of its owner.

Dr Edward de Bono (who I recently saw speaking at the Happiness and its Causes conference) has a theory about black hats. In fact, he came up with a whole system of six ‘thinking hats’, each one a different colour for different aspects of our thought processes.

For de Bono, the black one is about critical thinking. When we don this hat, we’re coming up with the reasons not to do something. We’re seeing the potential problems and pitfalls in a situation. We’re raining on the parade.

Yet de Bono sees this hat as being just as valid as any other. It has its own gifts to give.

So when I saw this black hat abandoned by the railway, I started wondering…

What might it mean to throw out the so-called ‘negative’ part of our thinking? To lose our black hat, relentlessly ‘look on the bright side’, try never to experience the darker thoughts in life (and have no room left for the hard stuff)?
Sometimes it seems tempting to try, but is it even possible? Would we really want to?

And what about all the other kinds of ‘blackness’ that seep into our lives – the heartbreak, the sadness, depression, grief? Might it be possible that these things hold their own unique learnings along with their darkness, too? Might they also have something important to share with us?

If so, then what might the darkness in your life be saying to you?

Could it be hinting that something is missing, or not quite right for you yet?
Could it be pointing to a value that’s important for you to live by?
Could it be whispering about change or adaptation?
Might it help you identify what you need to do to look after yourself or your loved ones right now?
Or maybe it's showing you who, and how, you love?

If your pain or darkness could talk about the things that matter for you, what might they speak about?

What might you say in return?

And how might it be to embrace some of these learnings?
To really build them into your life?

(and not just keep them under your hat…)
(c) Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar 2010

PS if the thoughts ever get really dark, and they feel just too much to handle, you can call Lifeline any time of the day or night to talk them over and get some help... just call 13 11 14

Sunday, May 23, 2010


You don’t have to travel far to start hearing spin. Between politics and advertising, we’re pretty much surrounded by it.

In fact, often, you don’t even have to leave your own headspace to find it. For many of us have our very own favourite ‘broken records’ spinning on high rotation in our minds. Soundtracks to our very lives.

Sometimes these can be so commonplace that it’s hard to actually hear them. They just meld into the background, camouflaged, a bit like the ‘muzak’ in shopping centres that starts out sounding kitschy and ends up unnoticed. But they can subtly affect your whole shopping – and living – experience.

So which ‘records’ have you often got on inside your mind? (And what spin have they spun?)
Are there any tracks that just keep repeating and repeating? What do their lyrics say?
Are they making you question your worth?
Or telling you that you don’t matter?
Or that you should know better than this?
Or that you’ll never amount to much?
See if you can catch what they’re actually on about.

When did that stuff first get on the turntable? Was there an event that might have caused you to originally pick up these thoughts? Or are they family favourites that got handed down to you?

Have you ever had the chance to question whether this particular spin is still relevant to your life today – does it still hold true for you? (And was it ever completely true?)

If you could update your repertoire and maybe add something a little more uplifting to your play list, how might you expand your collection? What other tracks might your life benefit from? What kind of soundtrack might you more consciously create?

(And what lyrics might actually be truer than the automatic spin?)
(c) Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar 2010
PS. The vinyl record in the photo relates to a local art exhibition, ‘Medium: Vinyl’

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get well soon...

This ad stands on a busy intersection, silently sending its well-wishes into peak hour traffic and the hundreds of people that scurry past on foot. It almost seems to be commenting on the kind of mad rush we’ve built into our society. Wishing us well collectively.

Usually, though, ‘get well soon’ applies to one person at a time.
And usually when they’re obviously sick.
(And usually to someone else).

Which got me wondering…

What exactly does wellness look like to you?
Is it just an absence of obvious illness or pain? Or is there something more to it?
(Something about flourishing or thriving perhaps?)

What might the markers and measures of wellness be for you?
How could you tell if you were feeling it? What would the signs be?
(And where might that put you on your scale of wellness at the moment?)

What about the ‘get’ part of ‘get well soon’? How might you ‘get’ this sense of wellness or invite more of it into your life?

If you’re feeling a long way from well, what might you write on your own ‘prescription’?
Maybe you’d prescribe more of the things that enliven you.
Or less of something that drains you.
Maybe just ‘take one quiet cup of tea, twice daily.’
Perhaps you’d let more spontaneity in (‘take a course of anti-robotics’).
Maybe it’d be about healing your relationships.
Or asking for support.

Whatever it is for you, I wonder what it might feel like to take some steps towards it?
To get closer to your wellness soon.

(And how often might you want to do an internal ‘check-up’ to monitor its progress in your life?)
(c) Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fill-in the blank...

It was just after attending a workshop with Naomi Wolf at the ‘Happiness & its Causes’ conference, that this blank ad-space caught my eye, as it lit up the evening.

The day had been spent investigating the big, often secret dreams we might hold within us and perhaps hide from the world (and even from our selves) under piles of doubt and anxiety. Dreams about family, about finding fulfilling work, about ways we might vibrantly contribute to this planet and the places we call home.

The idea was to get to know our own dream a little better. To get in touch with what a passion or so-called “mission” of ours might be – something that makes the “joy levels ratchet-up,” as Naomi put it – and then to project forward five years and imagine what it could look like by then (assuming that all things are possible).
To visualise yourself engaged in that dream.
In 2015.
Living it.

Ultimately, it was about getting as clear as possible about all of the details of the dream, and then finding a way of “setting an intention” about it. Packaging the dream in a way that made it clear to ourselves, and in a way that we could share it with others if we wanted to.
(Which is all so different than the endless, futile ‘wishing’ in the previous blog post, because this stuff was connected to action. To taking your dream, and therefore yourself, seriously).

And this is where the blank ad seems to come in…

If you think about a dream of your own – whether it be about the kind of family relationships you’d like to nurture, the kind of meaningful work you’d like to be engaged in, or other creative ways of living you’d like to explore – how might you represent it?
(Both to yourself and to others?)

What would it look like?
What colours and textures and images might you use to capture it?
How could you describe it?

And what support might you need for it? (relational, educational, financial?)
How might you ask for what you need to help get your dream off the ground? (Maybe some cooperation from others; maybe permission from yourself?)

If you were to design a billboard celebrating your dream, what sorts of things would you include? Are there any aspects of your current life that you might leave out?

In fact, if this blank, glowing ad in the photo above was yours to inhabit – to project your dream into the evening light – what might you put on it?

And what would that tell you about the next step you might take towards that dream?

And which parts of you might that light-up?
(c) Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010


Once upon a time…
Isn’t that often how stories about wishes start?

I was thinking about the nature of wishing, especially the idea of wishing things were different (and what that might mean), when I noticed this ad further along the train station platform:


The trains sped past it, but the figure on the billboard (of course) stayed stationary. She and her wish stood separate from the action, as a procession of opportunities and destinations slid by.

Perhaps if wishing is attached to a sense of intention or motivation, it can provide a kind of springboard for change or growth.
But somehow, just the wishing on its own – all that ‘if only’ stuff about wishing that circumstances were different or that people would change or that relationships were ‘better’ – seems quite a bind.

For only seeing how things might be can sometimes blind us to how things are.

And, at some level, yearning for a situation other than the one we’re in seems to mean wishing our current life away…
And where might that leave us?

So what about you? Do you find yourself longing for things to magically change somehow? Wishing that a relationship would heal? Wishing things would ‘go back to normal’?

What might it be like to consider stopping for a moment? Maybe taking a look around and finding out how things actually are in your life? (not just where you might wish they'd be).
Perhaps it might be painful. Possibly even unbearable. But maybe strangely liberating, too.

For perhaps when we see where we’re actually standing, then the next step might become clearer, too. And the one after that.

And maybe that way we could gradually move a little closer to where we’d like to be, rather than be stuck always wishing from afar…
(c) Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar 2010
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