An interview with Dharma
The following is a transcript of an interview that occurred a month or so ago. I was asked if I would be happy to participate in a project called “Turning Point Stories”. You can follow the stories here at https://www.facebook.com/turningpointsstories
To begin I was asked where I would like for the interview to occur, I smiled and indicated towards the bush…. and so, here is what followed. This is a personal account of my way with some turning points in my life, not all, just some of the ones that really hit home deeply!
Sofan: Rachel, what is your Occupation?
Rachel: hmmm, Being myself. Mostly in nature. Cultural educator from an indigenous lens. Engaging people in natural environments and nature based activities.
Everyday is different really,I kinda roll with it. Sometimes I bump into people, take them on a nature adventure! hehe I also work with
people who are looking for a change in their life. Maybe engaging them in nature activities can help. Sometimes I work in the bush with people with special abilities (disabilities) to support them in arriving to themselves throuhg using their body. I do so many different things, its kind of hard to answer. So that is why I say, my occupation is ‘being myself’…. yeah so every moment is an opportunity to be myself. It could involve music, art, bush craft, public speaking, performance, meditative kinda stuff, conversation, animal care, or some therapeutic practice to support people in freeing themselves.
Sofan: In life we have lots of turning points to face something from a different perspective. What is your
Rachel: Throughout, what is a big turning point in my life is when someone in my world dies. This has always created turning points in my life. When my grandmother died, there was a turning point. When I was 19 and my boyfriend died, that was a major turning point in my life. It just stopped me in my tracks. It was a personal reality check for me that doesn’t involve anyone else.
No ones opinions, no beliefs, ideas, no books, I literally stop and go very deep in myself and I notice that in those moments I make big changes in myself which change my perception. Somehow a metamorphis may occur and with the death of that
person, also I arrive at a death in myself where that person lived inside me. It triggered a kind of death in myself and I would wake up in another world.
A lot the things that support me in my reality have
literally died. I felt it very deeply. And, I’ve changed my life and shifted myself to other ways of being,other possibilities, but it’s not necessarily that the other people in my life change.
Its like another world. I end up engaging with all different types of people. that’s been a theme in my life. When someone has
died, my entire world has change. So funnily enough when I was 10 years old, 19, 29 they have been major turning points in that regard for me. It is a big reality check and I just stop and go deep inside
myself, really listen deeply and something comes from a deep place within me, or (i’m not sure how to word it) but it emerges from within.
Sofan: you mentioned that many deaths wake you up to turn things around. So can you talk about your dharma practise, your truth practise and knowledge you use to handle the death, grief, loss. How do you
handle this and turn the grief and loss around?
Rachel: I look it in the face. The first time (with my grandmother’s death) I didn’t have the opportunity since I was a child of 8 years old and my mother didnt allow me to go along to the funeral. I didn’t have the opportunity to look at the physical thing in the face, the person who died. With every death, I’ve looked it in the face, touched it and felt it. In that place, I got to see that the body isn’t the person and it fascinated me. So while there was some sense of grief on a human level because its what you are supposed to feel is grief, but something bigger was talking to me beyond that. I was fascinated by this perfect body that was no longer animated.
When I was 19 my boyfriend died and I had to go and
identify his body. His brothers couldn’t do it, because it was too big and painful for them so I had to go and do it. And, I got to see something; like there were policemen there, it was in a morgue, but something else spoke to me. It didn’t look like him, he had a car accident, he was all bloated. I had to look past all that and in doing that, I don’t know what happened, but something kind of fascinating occurred where another reality started to speak to me. It wasn’t coming from the other people.
So I had to go and see his body again once all the fluids had been drained and he was now in the funeral home where they dress him. So now he looked like the character I knew. I was fascinated by how perfect the creation of the body looked, It was still there, and it was interesting. But I could sense something that wasn’t in the body, in the room. Even then I could sense something beyond all of that, beyond what I identified as him and as me, his girlfriend.
I dunno, maybe I cracked. Instead of the grief holding on to
me. Maybe the grief cracked me open. So in that way I wasn’t bound by the grief, it left an impact on me, some sort of trauma which I had to clear up over the years when I might engage with another person in an intimate way. There was a fear there. But it never controlled me. I simply asked more questions of myself.
When you are standing on the edge of a cliff, you take caution. Then you say oh well I know how to use ropes, I know how to look at the lay of the land, maybe I can climb down. Maybe that growing up in nature,
having to figure things out for myself, maybe never having other people around to always to show you the way, maybe that is where I draw from. That is what I call an indigenous lens, because it is from the
So maybe I have been applying that in other ways when I have been struck by a deep emotional experience. It’s the same kind of thing. I am fascinated by what creation comes up with. The physical world; I am fascinated by the perfection of that. But I am also fascinated by the unseen.
I just somehow have this knowing that by communicating to myself in a non tangible way I can also gain some sort of insight; that may take me a little while to comprehend. But it’s not like its a dead end. it’s not like
the path is finished. Its not a dead end road, its not a one way street. Somehow it keeps going, revealing and opening, revealing and opening, somehow.
Sofan: so you mean your truth practise, dharma practise and the knowledge that you gather is mostly
from being in nature, but being resilient and finding your way around and find your way to do different things in an organic way, that serve you to face what we think is adversity; death, grief, loss things like
Rachel: The continuum that is expressed in nature, like a tree that falls down, It can still put shoots out. Or, an oil spill in the ocean, the ocean seems to do something to balance the chemicals out. Or, when a cyclone comes through, but I guess that continuum comes through. It is inside my body too, because my body is made of the same stuff, so if I can draw on that. Even if I don’t fully understand that with my mind I definitely access it. So, ‘yes’ is definitely the answer.
Sofan: So the dharma knowledge, the truth knowledge. what do you think they were from. How did you access that? What type are they and where were they coming from? Experience being in the bush and
what types of knowledge that you gather around you to serve you and support you to go through your turning point, the grief and loss, going through that?
Rachel: Maybe I could say gravity. Gravity is my friend. You know when you drop something, it can’t go any further. You know that saying, you can’t fall any further since you have hit the ground. I guess gravity, knowing that law of gravity, well what do you do now? You just have to stand up, you can’t go any further down.
Its kind of good, because I’m on the ground, the earth is holding me. Something has caught me, gravity is my friend, it is not a limitation. I know if I fall what will be there. The earth will always be there!
Sofan: So the earth is supporting us through any kind of loss, grief and trauma because of that?
Rachel: Yeah, I’d have to say so, because it is! When I peel it back, it is supporting me, I can eat, I can drink, I can even escape if I want to. Away from the other world, from expectations in society. Or, I can just be. Whatever way it is just here (in nature). I can go for a swim. I can go for a walk, lay on the rock, climb a mountain. It doesn’t matter, it will never disappear. So, it always is here. How I use it is my own choice. But it doesn’t go anywhere. Not unless I disappear, into that transition (death), I don’t know.
Sofan: How do you practise, your dharma practise, connection with the earth, the environment. How do you do your dharma practice in the daily basis?
Rachel: Acknowledgment. It is a continual acknowledgement. I am present with that, you know. I don’t just do it on a Sunday so to speak. I am present with the fact that I am supported, with water, clothes, everything, from the petrol in the boat, to the car. That acknowledgement.
Some people may say gratitude, but I don’t think it is even gratitude. It is a continual conversation. In continual presence with what is supporting, what is there as a nourishment, what is there as a challenge. Whether it is a weather challenge, or whatever. It is
thank you. I’m saying thank you for lack of better words. But, I just don’t take the moments for granted, im always in acknowledgement of the moment, aware of every moment.
And if something has come from deep inside, using the language of being ‘triggered’. Just the breath, (breathes deeply) so the earth again from the earth (pointing at the tree’s), just breath. It is a continual thing, it is not stationary. It is always moving and its not just when I need it. It is even when I don’t need it. It is a continual conversation, continuing
Even in the city, all the concrete, the rock, everything in the city is still from its original place in the earth. So I’m able to even acknowledge that now and not forget that everything has… like having to identify the dead body as a person.. its like in the city, I can identify that thing still had an origin. It may be not what it was, but I can still be in presence with it as I can be in relation to it. It doesn’t have to be disturbing at all. And, it has come to a place where I am actually aware of myself more, and I can hold that awareness innately in any given environment. And even if my mind is having a little spaz attack, something is tripping out. That’s the opportunity in that moment, to be in presence with that deeper
thing that is informing me. That never went anywhere.
Sofan: So is that how you worked with adversity, big or small in the daily life. Keep yourself in presence with the bigger picture?
Rachel: Yeah, keep my self in presence and stay with that remembering. Sometimes its a funny conversation inside, the tiny little moment of the mind, or ego, I don’t know what it is. It’s like a little tantrum. And, then I just laugh at myself and breathe and go ‘hey, expand your perception Rachel’. So I’m my own best friend in that regard. And say ‘hey, that’s not the opportunity here. there is another opportunity. open you perception and you might just see it. It might just show itself to you”. It’s really fun actually.
Sofan: So you put to work your indigenous knowledge? How would you label it?
Rachel: It’s a creative force. I would just say. I would relate it back to that simplicity of indigenous perception. We are sitting on a rock right now; there are a couple of plants out from us just now. That plant and the possibilities are with that plant, you can use it to help make a spear, can use it as a fire stick, use some of that material for weaving. So there are three (and more) possibilities from that one plant. So that is why I say, an indigenous lens, because it sees possibilities, whereas seemingly it is just a plant. That is how I understand it.
Example, my mum would be out bush. She didn’t grow up on the land with her family, but when we lived in the bush it all came forward. She could see possibilities in the materials, the landscape around
us. And I do the same thing. When I needed to move my cupboard and keep the doors closed, there was a plastic bag there, I turned it into a rope. I didn’t need an actual rope to achieve the goal and I didn’t hesitate! It is seeing possibility. so that is the flavour of every other moment.
There is more possible than meets the eye of the educated mind, I guess. yes, there is so much more possible, just attune your eyes to “let me see it” and then ‘pow’ you start seeing it. And its fun, you don’t need 20 cents for the lolly machine, you just breathe. Its actually free.
A big thank you to Sofan Chan for the invitation to be interviewed! I always love having to answer on the spur of the moment and hearing what is inside by having to respond!
Check out the link to read other Turning Point Stories!