Flowing: momentum and the present moment.

A mindful pause.

I have been sitting with my own patterns, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs. I realise I experience suffering when not in flow.  When my motivation and energy and focus are not aligned, I become anxious and at times, depressed.

For years and years I found flow in academic pursuits,  the study of yoga and Buddhism, and also in teaching. These periods of flow could last months, and as I look back there are times when it may have been years. I have used these times well, I have helped others, I have had new experiences and learned new things, and I’ve grown as a human in the process.

I sit here, in this present moment, in one of those uncomfortable in between times, the periods of liminality, of having let go but not yet landed, still free falling, hoping for a safe place to ground. My feet unsure of what they will find, my mind unable to perceive anything more than a sense of direction, my heart allowing the feelings of uncertainty.

I am unsure.

Unsure of what the future will bring.

Unsure of which direction the world will head as we sit at this historic juncture.

Unsure which catastrophe is more likely to play out.

Unsure of how we will untangle  ourselves from crisis and chaos.

Unsure of the order that will eventually ensue…compassion or control?

The tension between compassion and control is almost perceptible among the collective. Is this an open, inclusive space or a closed, exclusive place?

Open or closed.

Inclusive or exclusive.

Friendly or hostile…?

Safe or not?

People are being led by one of two things right now – hope or fear. In Australia we are about to vote for the next federal government. The topics distract us from the real question we are being asked.

The blue team are pushing security, a strong economy, a tight boarder, doubling down on defense and strategic political alliances. A stronger now, we can’t afford to think about the future –  a vote for fear and status quo.

Try not to worry. Trust the people who understand these complicated things and you get on with your productive life and your favourite sport.

The red team are peddling universal health care, dignity in poverty, compassion in despair, an acknowledgement that suffering is likely to increase and spread, a collective response to the challenges ahead. A better future, we’ll all have to do it tough to get there – a vote for hope and transformation.

An acknowledgment of the complexity and the need to work together as this unfolds. We don’t know what the future will bring but we’ll face it together.

There’s also a green team, but the media are hoping we all forget about that. The media themselves, so sports oriented that they can’t compute that more than one team is playing this game. They portray a narrative that there can only be one of two winners, a grand final to be battled out in the thorny arena of press conferences and photo opportunities. Perpetuating the insanity of a system and rituals no longer fit for purpose.

The truth is, we need the blue to turn red and the red to turn green and the green to turn to deep blue…sky blue, ocean blue, the kind of blue you see on a world globe. A swirl of different blues that blend so beautifully with the greens and browns, the greys and reds, the colours of nature; at least those we can perceive.

We need to come back together, to shape a shared understanding of the now and collective vision of the future. We need strong, trustworthy leadership with a sense of direction and penchant for collaboration.  We need leaders who are willing to explore different visions of the future, wonder about what is possible, who are willing to dream a little as they lead.

I sigh.

I am not left wondering why I cannot slip easily into flow.

The energy of the world is chaotic right now. Disorder and neuroticism are the rulers of the day. Those who seek to control are grabbing at power with both hands, those that seek to help are overwhelmed by their own compassion, and the sight of so much despair. Where do I direct my energy? Who can I help when the bombs are still dropping?

As I continue my practice, an imperfect one at that, I remind myself that this is all I have. The time to allow myself to just be, to do the things that need to be done – chop wood, carry water – rest and be ready.

I will be needed again soon enough.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be free from suffering.


S x

Being shot by an other

The next set of photos I share (next post) will be those I very first shared online with a community of naturists (and some others…). As I share the various albums I have created for this project, I will toggle back and forth between reflection on now and then. I will share where I was at in my journey when the photo was taken, what I saw in the image at the time, and if anything has changed. As well, I will check in regularly with a mindful pause, an update of where things are at with the project real time and a few new pics as the opportunities to collaborate with more experienced artists emerge and unfold.

As an activist, I am finding my voice and I recently had the opportunity to use it. I hope I was heard, but if ultimately there is no action, that just provides me with more information about the leadership culture at play in this situation. So far, they are not naked in their truth, do not allow themselves to be seen, their authentic voice heard. I believe leaders, particularly those in public institutions, should be expected to demonstrate their integrity (alignment between espoused and enacted values) in every situation, to show that they are able to learn as they go, and accept full responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions, particularly those that detract value from others in some way.

As I share openly, who I am and what I stand for, I hope to role model some of what I believe should be the norm among world leaders. A willingness to be both strong and soft, connected and open with the people you are striving to represent, to serve. I hope to be someone who is able to hold a signpost for those on the path; ‘Right way keep going’, ‘Road widens ahead’, ‘Welcome, merging traffic’.


S’BF x

For the first few months of this project I only took my own photos and had never had a nude photo taken of my by anyone else before, ever.

The original idea had been to find someone who would be interested in using me as a nude model for a landscape type shoot (ie. I would be off in the distance) or a life drawing session (where in any perceived imperfections could be accounted for by the interpretation of the artist rather than my own inadequacies…)

Instead I found myself, day after day,  taking photos of myself, for myself.

Coming across the online community for nudists gave me a way to share the photos and receive feedback.

I grappled with the sexual nature of social nudism but, with a little time, found a way to present my profile, and the images I shared, that seems to ward off a lot of the sexual harassment type communication. And with the few that still get through, I get to practice setting boundaries and ‘using my words’. Particularly that really hard one, ‘no’.

This virtual experience helped prepare me for my first actual photoshoot with an actual photographer. I’ll share more about the shoot itself in a later post together with a few of the images from the shoot.  What I would like to reflect on here is the opportunity this lovely, calm, slow first shoot provided me.

I quickly discovered that the practices of yoga and meditation are excellent training for life as a model. To be able to slip into a light meditative state and focus on breath while holding a pose, and be supported by good core strength, an understanding of concepts like base of support, centre of gravity, range of movement. Knowing how to use the bandhas, intentional muscle locks, and the energetic scaffolding of our bodies.

Being in this state, you notice different things, your awareness is altered. I noticed the things I had given up, the things that the other photographer now had control over. when the shutter opened and closed, how the light reflected off my curves and body parts, which photos would be examined and edited…

This was something I had not reckoned on grappling with. Noticing the tension within myself created, not by being nude in a room with a clothed stranger (though that was slightly awkward the first time…), but the giving over of control of the way my essence is seen, captured and interpreted.

With this new understanding and awareness of control primed in my mind, I began seeing the invitations for collaboration in a different light. I tested the boundaries again, reflected, contemplated, reset them.

I started to see myself in a different light, I started to ask more difficult questions. I still have more to learn. But I can see now how women are conditioned to say yes to men and men are conditioned to pushing at women’s boundaries until they do. And a woman that says ‘no’ is difficult, rude, brattish, out of control, hormonal and/or a raging lesbian. Or just a source of more frustration, a hassle, a burden.

I don’t mind any of those terms. I now know where I start and finish and how to notice when other people’s baggage has become mixed up with mine. I see now, how you put your bag down a little too close. How your small request becomes a larger one, how you negotiate your way to yes, sometimes with charm, sometimes with military precision. You are on a mission to fulfil your goal, achieve your outcome.

You trample all over my boundaries in your big clumsy boots.

You are used to me bending to your will.

You nudge me again.

I smile politely (fuck I did it again).

You relax, back on track. I notice the tension leave your face. Your words less anxious.

Your dominance, at ease, at the wait.

I am also now ‘at the wait’. That shit now gets no closer than the first time I say no. I did the experiment and turns out I am right the first time, and if I’m wrong, we’ll both learn something. If you push, if you keep at it, if you try to win me over or even if you throw a fucking tantrum, cut the conversation short, stop communicating or threaten to leave me altogether? Ok.

Your trauma is not mine.

This has been such a crucial realisation for my project. A project about women’s sovereignty in the midst of global upheaval.

Men are being displaced, women are finding their voices, children, teenagers, young adults, sick from being treated like an inconvenient necessity, are experiencing a collective mental health crisis.

This, what is happening in the world, affects everyone. However, if you only feel your pain without seeing the places that it is coming from, it is hard to keep it contained and refrain from misfiring. It is hard to disentangle the threads in your mind, trauma loops and new information, confused and confounded. Your psychology unknown to you. Your focus is only on the outcome of your pursuit.

Psychology affects the way I am seen by a male photographer and thus the way they set up, capture and interpret the images. A dominant, trauma-laden male will see something very different in a nude female model, will take a very different photo of me, than someone who understands and respects individual sovereignty. Who is looking for a unique artistic angle as opposed to soft warm curves (or perhaps as well as…more on this). Someone who understands how to hold a space for the experience of freedom and courageous vulnerability in exposing yourself, not just your physical body, but your soul, the energy flowing through and around you. To really let someone else see, the authentic you.

When I am in this state of openness I need to be in a safe place.

If you are always putting your needs before mine, I can’t be sure I’m safe with you.

If you can’t hear me say no to the little things, I can’t be sure I’m safe with you.

If you see my openness and think it is an opening, I’m not safe with you.

If you see the warm softness in me and come after it…

I see you now. I know how you see me.

And now, with my own eyes, I see myself.

Now I will show you.

I pause.

I’m not finished. I wasn’t sure why. But then a conversation in a driveway occurred. A man sharing with a woman, two humans caught up in it all, his grief, his devotion. He shared with me why.

His why, my why. We have both been shot by an other, made out to be the other. Our identities cast by the trauma of others.

Being male doesn’t protect you from harm and being female doesn’t preclude me being the predator.  The generational trauma of living inauthentic lives plays out in and around each of us in various ways. Sometimes you are the lead, sometimes you are backstage. Sometimes you sit in the stalls and pretend that none of it is yours.

But there is no way to freedom without walking through the door of self-realisation, of realising you are both self and Self; both player and audience. Playing a role, one with a script that you know. Taking you down a path with no end. A path that keeps you holding on, yet, without letting go  you cannot move on.

Let go, and as you cross the threshold from unknowing to becoming aware, you realise.

It happens.

In that space in between.

Reconciling my desire to give with my need for safety I reset my boundaries.

My heart filled with compassion for us both.

A brief overview of the journey thus far...

A vision of feathers everywhere

So to what end do I write and share? What does the wild woman crave?

I write, I share

To nudge and awaken those who are just opening their eyes.

To encourage and inspire those who are walking their own path.

To step into the arena.

To be courageous enough to show people that most of what you think you have to fear is, quite simply, not real.

I’m here to help reveal what is possible.

I’m here to serve the efforts of change, to enable greater human and planetary prosperity; not for some but for all.

I am here to reduce and minimise suffering.

My vision, my hope, my dream, is that we gather enough momentum as a people to change the current system in ways that create a world that is just and fair whenever possible. Where our default is to pause, without judgment, to assist one another, to add value to each other’s lives.

Where we have workplaces free of management, free of control and coercion and all managers are taught instead how to nurture culture and create a safe space for collaboration and emergent value creation; no  more managers, every one replaced by cultural facilitators, enablers who help people grow and thrive.  Regardless of the industry, the sector, the size or the type of business or organisation, it is time for a new paradigm in the way we generate value in our societies.

And here lies the stumbling block. First people must be willing to learn to recognise and acknowledge the problem, its root cause and the complexity of its current state. This is not a few leadership development programs and a couple of coaching sessions. This is about installing a new operating system. A transition to a completely new way of being with and relating to each other; and meeting each other’s needs.

Paradigms provide maps of what the world is believed to be like. They constitute guidelines for getting about and for identifying and solving problems. Above all, paradigms provide the framework of meaning within which ‘facts’ and experiences acquire significance and can be interpreted.

Paradigms are not only beliefs about what the world is like and guides to action, they also serve the purpose of legitimating or justifying courses of action. That is to say, they function as ideologies. Hence, conflicts over what constitutes the paradigm by which action should be guided and judged to be reasonable is itself a part of the political process. The struggle to universalise a paradigm is part of a struggle for power.

A paradigm is dominant not in the statistical sense of being held by most people, but in the sense that it is the paradigm held by dominant groups in industrial societies and in the sense that it serves to legitimate and justify the institutions and practices of a market economy. It is the taken-for-granted commonsensical view which usually determines the outcome of debates on [issues such as…] environmental issues.

(Milbrath, 1986, pp. 100-101)

Generally speaking, people don’t go to work with the intention to cause others suffering. They think they are doing what it takes to get stuff done and moving in the ‘right direction’; others turn up and do their best despite challenging or even oppressive conditions. But why have we collectively accepted the notion that work must encompass a form of suffering or it’s not work?

Why don’t more of us play for a living?

Why do we scoff at the artists, the musicians, the poets, the writers, the dreamers, the tinkerers?

Because they haven’t made a million dollars from their idea yet?

What if they never intended to? What if they just wanted to create a thing of beauty? And that somehow, through this, they were able to sustain a lifestyle of their own making and to their own satisfaction.

What if we talked about ways we could all contribute value to our communities and societies? What strengths and passions we bring and offer one another in service of what needs to be done to meet our collective needs?

What if we weren’t so busy buying solutions to problems we never had that we noticed how many of those problems aren’t really ours? What if they never were?

My vision is to live in a world where people in meetings talk about ways to serve people in their ‘community of value’; not attract more market-share from consumers.

My vision is to live in a world where social categories are fuzzy and we have opened our minds and our hearts to what is the same in us all, embracing difference with compassion and curiosity, and a desire to share and learn.

The current world operates on categories and gatekeeping and digital transformation in its current form is only set to make this worse. 

Emerging leaders must be expected to make decisions in the interest of the many and be held accountable to employees, customers and other external stakeholders alike. Neither society nor the environment can sustain continued abuse of power and freedom that has accompanied corporate leadership since the industrial revolution. Widespread human-focused, ethical and value-based change is absolutely necessary if we, as a society, are ever to address the wicked problems we currently face. In this sense, we must disrupt leadership.

Imagine a global strike of everyone who thinks it’s time for a major system update at the very least? There are more of us than there are of them.

It is a matter of re-imagining what is possible. Of starting new conversations about new ways. Not just doing doing different things, but doing things differently. With a new mindset, a renewed sense of purpose and mission.

My mission is to share this message.

My purpose is to nudge those nearest to me.

My vision is one of love and kindness.

And to this end I write and I share.

Simone B’Free # nudeforchange

A noticing (and a mindful pause).

As the role identity, Dr Shari Read, the ambitious, young, female academic, continues to fragment, I notice her strengths, her character, her conviction, being re-assigned to new or newly dominant aspects of self.

The activist has encountered her first hostile. The walls of a virtual corporate cult slammed down in her face. A castle full of empty promises and duplicitous messaging. Where polite professionals feast upon each other’s cleverness at being part of an exclusive club for members wishing to promote ‘economic opportunity’ for each other. Although, I suspect most of the revelers do not know on what they feast. What gets them drunk at the expense of so many. I didn’t.

What an interesting first discovery, one that others had known all along of course…

I notice as I encounter the tension created, the discomfort my voice might bring to others.

The wild woman loves the keen mind, the crafting of words, the understanding of evidence, and influence of nuance on the minds of many. She is watching as the story unfolds. Creeping with anticipation, steady, grounded in her conviction and determined in her love, in her devotion to service.

She does not flinch.

#nudeforchange ~ Image by Rocketpixs

The crone breathes deeply and smiles, her own smile………..

Her path has been laid before her, she has always known.

#nudeforchange ~ Image by Rocketpixs

The child and the maiden look into each others’ eyes, and grin. They turn, holding hands, this is not for them. They are saved, they heal, it is time for them to play.

I breathe into the knowledge that my triggers are only triggers, they do not control me. They remind me of my path, the strength I have gained on my way here, the lessons I have learned.

I am ready.

Turns out, I did come to fight.

#nudeforchange ~ Image by Rocketpixs

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I’m ready.

Are you?

What it is to be a wild woman

I fucking hate toxic positivity.

“Keep it above the line…”, I was told.

“Let people speak for themselves”.

“Your problem is you care”.

“Not everyone feels like you”.

We don’t want to hear anything bad about ourselves or what we’re doing. No-one else is brave enough to speak up, and that’s the way we like it. We don’t understand your suggestions or concerns, you’re looking at it all wrong. We have lulled the others into a false sense of security and you are threatening the status quo.

I could be a team player, I could play between the lines when it made sense, I could even smile on cue. But I couldn’t fucking tolerate pretending everything was fine when it fucking wasn’t. I was done with that.

For me, stepping over, fully, from good girl to wild woman, was the moment I completely rejected the notion that I had to be right and liked and approved of by most of the people most of the time. Fuck it. Fuck them. Fuck everyone.

Whatever. I went the distance, I stepped up, I stepped in and it still wasn’t good enough???  I am done settling.I’m done taking orders from people who wont step into the arena.

I bring my best. I learn, I grow.

I have had enough feedback in my life, in so many different forms, to understand well enough  now how I am seen, in all the roles I have played. Role identity is not always a helpful concept, another tool for categorising and fragmenting our selves. But being able to assign feedback to a certain role is useful. If the time comes that feedback suggests this role is no longer serving you, having the ability to release yourself from that identity, by ‘retiring’ the role, is a freedom many forget they have.

When you can step away from (or out of) the norms and expectations of certain role identities you have adopted, you can start to see where there is good fit and where there may be potential dissonance. This is hard. It is very confronting and, if you really acknowledge what you learn, you can’t then ignore what you’ve seen.

Quite a few years ago now, I did a leadership identity exercise as part of a course and had to ask  the people who knew me best at the time, when they believed I was at my best. They all said pretty much the same thing. The people around me see me at  my best when I am helping other people be at their best.

I fucking hated that.

The tantrum was real.

I didn’t want to be always using my energy to help others. When did I get to finally help myself? When was it my turn to love me?

It took me a long time to fully realise two things:

  • Loving others is loving yourself; and
  • I could choose to start loving me any time, whenever I wanted.

But the thing about keeping it ‘above the line’ is that you never talk about the stuff that needs to be talked about. You never get to demonstrate your ability to love and accept unconditionally, or to experience unconditional love. And you don’t get all the feedback about yourself that you need to learn and grown as a human being.

Toxic positivity and a culture of ‘politeness’, usually masks an underlying culture of blame.

Just keep smiling and do your job.

I’m just going to keep tolerating you because that’s the polite thing to do.

As a woman I have had to learn the hardest of ways, that it is not safe to be polite. Setting boundaries, saying ‘no’, and asking to have your needs met can’t always be done with a courteous ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  Particularly in a society where the social norm, is for women to serve men.

I get your dinner.

I wash your clothes.

I let you think you’re right.

And now look at the fucking mess we’re in.

And so now I’m mad. Now the wild woman surfaces.

The crone doesn’t mind if you think she’s crazy. The maiden has been set free. The child is safe and happy. And the wild woman dances with glee.

The wild woman dances with glee ~ Simone B’Free

The wild woman knows that it is no longer safe to keep it ‘above the line’, it’s time for the difficult conversations, and that it’s time for us to acknowledge that ‘polite’, ‘and professional’ are just sanitised, construed, inauthentic half-versions of ourselves.

To keep the peace, to not rock the boat; it’s simply enabling the bullshit to go on.

To be a wild woman is to speak your mind, to use your voice, your power, to serve and protect what you love, to stand your ground or move into another space, whatever sets you free.

Wild women, be free ~ Simone B’Free

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SB’F x

Shifting what is stuck

To be oneself, simply oneself, is so amazing and utterly unique an experience that it’s hard to convince oneself so singular a thing happens to everybody.

~ Simone de Beauvoir

Discovering nudism and coming out as a nudist resolved a tension in me I hadn’t realised I was carrying but that I had been feeling for my entire adult life.

So many people can relate to the idea that I felt my ‘spacesuit’ was not good enough and something to be ashamed of. But the more I inquired into this, the more I realised something more limiting than the fear of my perceived weaknesses, was the fear of my own strengths. And how this was keeping me stuck.

Freedom exists only as a concept that defines the bounds of the mind with regard to what it perceives as possible.

It is a concept that can only be understood through contrast, from the context of oppression, enslavement, imprisonment or submission.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl

Freedom is the source from which all significations and all values spring. It is the original condition of all justification of existence.” – Simone de Beauvoir

“For me, there is no happiness without freedom, and freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

“Freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness.” – Carl Jung

My awkward stumbling upon naturism landed me smack centre stage of my own comedic release from something I’d imprisoned myself with my entire life. The shackles of body shame that had been instilled as a means to keep me from flying the coup. A way of clipping my wings, to keep me producing for the farmer, so to speak.

Yet, my adventurous nature eventually led me to the somewhat exhilarating experience of social nudity, and I discovered something more…

When we are nude together the conditions are more conducive to growth:

  • We develop an awareness of what we’d been hiding for so long and realise that we had never consciously chosen to hide those things, we just did as we were told.
  • We start to notice sensations on our skin (all of it), the warm sun, the cool breeze, the damp fog. We experience the world in a new way, more fully.
  • We notice different things about people and set aside things that we usually use as shortcuts for categorising and judging . 
  • We chat to people we wouldn’t otherwise have spoken to and learn new ways of being and seeing the world, insights we couldn’t realise in our own worlds.
  • We develop empathy for being other and experience an awakening to being one.

I was so caught up in these experiences and noticing my response to being seen, that I had only observed in passing that, in my photographic explorations, the expressions on my face were almost exclusively serious and stern. Until I received a very gentle and respectful suggestion about my photos, ‘maybe try smiling a bit more?’.

While I had noticed that I wasn’t smiling in my photos I hadn’t wondered why or even tried to correct it. I was in the midst of a project, I was exploring my feelings and emotions, my sense of self and other, and how I was reconnecting to mission and purpose. But in doing so, I had not yet started smiling for the audience again; I’ll explain…

The suggestion that I smile in the photos was far more confronting than I would ever have guessed; it surfaced a network of memories, experiences, associations and unmet needs.

It is a smile that has hidden so much, led to so much, been used, ‘leveraged’, traded off… I’d somewhat disconnected from it. Somehow, I’d locked myself up in my own smile. It was like a straight jacket for my identity.

It started at a very young age, growing up in small towns, newspapers always looking for a photo opportunity. School events, sports carnivals, community events, I was in the newspaper so many times as a child I lost count. But the last time I smiled for the camera like that, I was 15. I had just finished year 10. Our school leavers’ dinner.  A lot of people in the community knew me from serving behind the counter of my parents’ shop for so many years.

He called my grandmother first. He said he was my friend.
She gave him our number, maybe he could come and see me sometime?
He’d seen me in the paper. Said he liked my smile.

He watched me when I worked, he told me on the phone.
He watched me walk home. My parents still at work.
He wasn’t’ the only one. I’m not the only one.
Moving from that town freed me from that smile. So I had thought.

It wasn’t until many years later when I started teaching, that I really started to smile again, for real. This time it lead to entirely different  outcomes, or were they exactly the same? Patterns of trauma and unprocessed feelings. Was this now of my own volition?

I had thought that I had discovered a form of power, but it was one that could be used so easily against me in a system that had practiced since its inception, to deftly turn a feminine smile into something of value to others. So many times, in so many ways a woman’s smile is harvested by another, rarely left for her to enjoy as her own.

So as I wandered, almost accidentally, into an online nudist community, already naked and exposed, I had thought I was reclaiming my body, my whole self, all the bits I love, all the bits I don’t, but also do, I had thought I was finally freeing myself of the baggage of my body not being good enough. And I was; but buried beneath, something previously unknown to me began to surface, a form of self loathing I hadn’t recognised before.

A fear of my own sexuality, and the smile that advertised it to the world.

I have learnt it is not possible for my smile to be just my own. Like the reader lifts a writers’ words from the page, a smile is often perceived without further explanation, without any sought. And if I place my attention, the focus of my mind, on the place where my smile is taken from me by the other, I am free only up to that point. A restriction that tightens as the pleaser gets to work.

But if I chose my own moment, my own angle, my own reason. If I let the wild woman be seen, her essence, her strength. Her power and intention. I let go and I smile, for me. Beyond what you see in it, beyond what you want it to mean.

For so long I was stuck between smiles, the one that had betrayed me, and the one that truly radiates joy. I couldn’t differentiate, couldn’t use them on purpose. It was like they weren’t really mine.

And so, this self indulgent process, this aesthetic analysis, the sharing, reflecting, and surfacing, the feedback, and the processing….this is experiential learning.  To observe and experience the self, to study the self, is to learn about and understand your self. 

And perhaps one might even develop some level of mastery of one’s self; smile and all.

Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.

~ Simone de Beauvoir

Self-consciousness is not knowledge but a story one tells about oneself

~ Simone de Beauvoir

…her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly

~ Simone de Beauvoir

To close a chapter.

Before moving on to the real narrative, I’ll share this final piece that completes the story of arrival. How I came to a point of crossing over.

I once had to report to a man. One who still believes that ‘corporate education’ is about taking the expertise of academics to the marketplace to help the non-experts in industry, work out how to make more money, “to solve their bottom line business issues“.

I don’t like the smell of that.

It tastes like dry, stale, old bread.

I also don’t believe in corporate education. If you are employed by a large organisation, corporate education (as described above) is the last thing you need. You’ve already been socialised around that thinking. You are much more likely to require ‘human’ education. Besides, focusing on ways to make more money, is not going to make you more money in this next era of economic history.

And, rarely is corporate education actually education, it’s just training. It is skills based, it is not designed for real growth, it is designed to teach non-experts how to go back and control people and processes more effectively in order to make or save more money than they currently are. And even if that is not your intention as an individual or even a team, that is the underlying assumption of the system you are in. Economists assume we are all ‘rational’ in that way.

In much the same manner as you were taught at school, a corporate classroom will have you sitting at desks, listening to a so-called expert (more to come the topic of expertise), trying desperately to remember what you are being told or, you’re completely checked out and catching up on emails…

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

~ John Dewey

There are many excellent educators in business schools and many more outside of them, who provide engaging, interactive, real-time learning experiences (shout out to those I’ve worked with and those I continue to work with). But I could not continue to work in this setting under the proviso that I was there simply to translate other people’s research into ways for people (my ‘students’) to make money for more other people who love money (and who don’t look after the people – my students – making the money….). And at the same time, this is how I was being ‘managed’ as well, on the assumption that I was there to be a ‘good girl’; a young diligent, female corporate citizen who knows her place.

Others who experienced this would not criticize me for exaggerating if I were to say; It is a trauma loop that is emanating noxious waves throughout the business and perpetuating cycles of coercive control and toxic masculinity. To a greater or lesser degree this is happening throughout our organisations, everywhere.

Perpetrated and perpetuated by people who think their job is about control.

And control of what? Personally, I will no longer work in an environment where the leaders don’t understand that money isn’t real (we made it up, just like we’ve seen the birth of crypto). I don’t worship false gods. I’m not giving up 40,50, 60+ hours a week of my life to run on the financial treadmill they have so expertly lured us all on to. That is the whole point of economics and politics, as we’ve seen them play out in Australia for decades.

I didn’t get an education so I could get up everyday to play a make believe, yet ruthless game of ‘chase the buck’ (or even ‘save a buck’).

And then go home to my ‘actual life’…? (The one they talk about when referring to work/life balance??)

We even tell people to leave their baggage at home, their work stress at work. We expect people to compartmentalize and pack up without processing.

Education is about growth. It is about exploring what it is to be human and wonder at what is possible if we developed our strengths and talents, work collaboratively with others, and imagine a future in which we have made a positive difference to the world.

Education is not about developing an aspect of yourself that is separate to the rest of you. The idea of a professional identity distinct from a personal identity is a dangerous one, and one key to my thesis: the current global leadership crisis is a crisis of collective identity, both within the toxic circle of leaders themselves, and within the disenfranchised and intelligent citizens of the world.

We have categorised and chunked ourselves into separate identities that don’t require consistency. Our unethical behaviour at work doesn’t need to affect our status as a great dad, a community-minded neighbour, wonderful husband, successful son. We have separated the human side of ourselves from the work side. We even tell people to leave their baggage at home, their work stress at work….Global leaders are in no way immune to this experience; they probably haven’t had a human education either.

A social norm; integrity and authenticity are not required for the job.

An expectation; you will be ‘professional’ at work and in all matters pertaining to work.

And so back to the bottom line; which is love. And that’s not something that we have come to expect from our work. We don’t expect it from teachers and staff at school. And universities, as institutions, have very little expertise in the matter to share or ‘assist’ you with.

Imagine if our global leaders had received human education, the world would be….

Education helps us grow into what we can be. To explore what is possible when we apply effort and energy. This doesn’t happen in a corporate or military style classroom. It happens in a classroom in which the teacher cares about her students. It happens in homes where parents pay attention to their children and each other. It happens during play when we get in flow. It happens when we sit quietly and notice the world around us.

Education is quite possibly not what most people think it is.

It is not going into the same building day in and day out, despite being tired and uninspired, despite feeling worthless and defeated, trying your ‘best’, being told if you are right or wrong and then doing it all some more. Where is the growth? The exploration of potential? The creative, imaginative wondering and delight?

Yet. Where are our children? Almost 40 weeks of every year of their childhood.
They are in the same place I was in.

A place that robs you of the things you love. That takes your curiosity and turns it into compliance, your delight into the need for approval, and your talents and strengths into irrelevant hobbies (unless they fit into one of the existing boxes….usually related to making a buck, or fitting in with those that do).


The trauma loop is real. I loved school. I was a pleaser. I learned what they needed from me, kept my head down and stuck to the rules. I could do this because I was trained by generational trauma to do just that.

Now I am a cycle breaker, and I can see how desperate our children are. And I believe that those who don’t experience crisis during school, will be in a world of trouble once they get to the workplace and discover the world they have been prepared for, no longer exists. Automation and digital transformation will be developed rapidly now, and once corporates see themselves through the worst of this wave of the pandemic, the technology will be deployed as a matter of urgency. As a way to ‘future-proof’ production and distribution and other aspects of the supply chain. Control. The ripple effect and unintended consequences never made transparent, just left for the rot to creep as it will.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” 

~ John Dewey

If we, as the current generation of leaders and decision makers at the societal level, don’t start working together on a narrative of a sustainable future, we also rob our children of today. They are experiencing an existential crisis far greater than us.

Our children don’t know who they are. The crisis is one of collective identity, in the context of volatility and uncertainty. The mental health system is collapsing under the pressure and parents are desperate. Some fill their kids with experimental drugs, wait months to consult experts, all so they can get them back to school, get back to work, and back to the job of making someone else’s bottom line as pretty as it can be. What about your bottom line? What about love?

To our children the corporate ‘bottom line’ is so much more than a corporate mantra, a meaningless phrase. It is the reason their parents are tired, distracted, absent, irritable or downright mean. It is the reason they are sent to school despite it being so damaging to their mental health, restrictive of their growth and disruptive of their play.

You know how you check out and catch up on your emails during corporate training workshops? That’s how so many kids feel at school everyday. Is this what you want for your children? For anyone’s children? For our future?

You think that’s air you’re breathing now? Hmm. – Morpheous

You think that’s an education they’re getting?

So let’s take another look at that old manager’s thinking…

He believes that education is about taking what the ‘experts’ say and using that to help the ‘non-experts’ to work out how to make more money (or waste less) from what they are doing (and we’ll get to the bit about what an ‘expert’ actually is…); apply this thinking to our children’s school setting and we get something like this:

Education is about taking the expertise within the curriculum into the classroom and assisting children to become good citizens who will one day help organisations with their bottom line issues…

Children are intelligent, before we educate it out of them. They don’t want to help some stranger make money. They want to know who they are and what is possible in a world where anything could be possible.

Schools, universities and corporations, a series of institutions that have ‘evolved’ to be somewhat aligned to create a simple, linear progression from kindergarten to C-Suite. All within budget, all with a respectable nod to a healthy ‘bottom line’. Our education institutions have become corporations. An assembly line for good democratic and/or corporate citizens.

And this is why there is little love to be found in executive suites (or suits). It has been ‘educated’ and ‘assembled’ out of them.

If you have followed the straight line from school to work, the one they laid out so clearly and conveniently for you, then you are probably arguing with me in your head right now, or talking to your screen, “of course money is real’, ‘I love my corporate job and the people I work with’, ‘yeah, well do you have a better idea?’.

And if you got rejected from the system, told the path was not for you, you may still be carrying a sense of failure, or perhaps you experienced the relief of shedding a a burden that need not be yours. The norms and the expectations haunt you nonetheless.

Money is a social construct. We forget. If you don’t value them, those little coins and notes are worthless. Just try using hard currency from one country in another. First you have to turn it into something the people you want to trade with value, most likely their own currency.

People are starting to joke about trading toilet paper for a ‘RAT’ (covid at home test).
People are buying houses with cryptocurrency.
Neighbours are trading home grown vegetables and eggs from their backyard chooks; as they always have.

There is no real value in money per se. The value is simply in what you can trade for. Money makes it easy for people with nothing else to trade, to get what they need. Money is nothing more than an ‘in-game’ token. And our kids know this better than us because our beautiful, not so little anymore, digital natives have been trading in-game tokens almost since birth.

They get it. They see the game that has been built up around us and they are making up their own games with new rules. And they are leaving us out.

I believe we (the working, decision making  adults) need to re-educate ourselves. We need human-education. We need to be reminded what it is to be human. To notice and explore our impulses, our intrinsic desire to know something, do something, be something. Something more than a slave to someone else’s false bottom line. Someone free, connected and open, someone who is compassionate and works in service of others…

To do this we first need to disassemble the corporate citizen we have been trained to be, and then reassemble the human that was born for love. Our schools and institutions need to be reimagined as institutions that help us explore what it is to be human. And then our organisations can be rebuilt to be fit for the humans that work there. The ones needed to create the value that other humans are wiling to trade for.

I share all this with you because, just like everyone else in our society, my family has been caught in this trauma loop. We have been scarred by the ‘system’. In believing that we were doing ‘all the right things’, and in our attempts to continue doing so, we forgot to prioritise love.

And so we transitioned and transformed ourselves. We we home educate our teenagers. They both pursue their passions, practice their craft (their strengths and talents) and talk of a future where work is about passion and play, where it is something you do with people you love. A future in which gender is irrelevant, money is just a tool, and love is the bottom line we work on.

And so I say, to all the managers, the controllers who’s minds are still filled with old, stale bread:

We’ve decided to take things in a different direction.

It is time to transcend.

With metta


Simone B’Free – Shedding old norms and expectations for a better world.

Hippie in the business school, a new perspective.

Once upon a time, five years ago to be loosely exact,  I wrote a LinkedIn article titled ‘Hippie in the Business School‘.  I wanted to share my approach in the classroom and the success I was having with it. What I was doing was in no way unique to the world, but at the time, it was relatively unique to the world I was in.

That first article was about my process at the time, this one is about the identity.

Identifying as a yogi and a bit of a hippie while working as an academic in the ‘disciplines’ of management and leadership, really had me feeling like Neo going back into the Matrix after being physically extracted.  I was confused and frustrated by a system that is contrived and convoluted, and there were potential agents everywhere.  I just wanted to help students develop their minds and grow as people. Instead I spent hours navigating bureaucracy and strategising politically. Eventually, the yogi got bored and the hippie got cranky and those identities checked out and left me with the ‘ambitious young female academic’ identity.

QUT - Get your team future fit. Fast
Dr Shari Read – the face of ‘courses designed by experts’ , QUT.

More damaging than drowning in a demoralising  sea of bureaucracy, is death by corporate culture, where blame and control are used like sniper rifles. A silent shot from a loaded smile and, once you’re in their sights, the outcome is the same

I was one of the first to go in my area. It wasn’t until months later that I learned of the ‘great resignation’ and all the other people around the world who decided ‘fuck that shit‘. Life is too short to be looking over your shoulder all day at work, wondering when the next hit will take place and who it will be.
I wrote an article about coercive control in the workplace. It struck a chord. As it does when we speak our truth. The one few are able to tell.

There are very few places in our society where people feel safe enough to be truly seen and heard. To speak out against the prevailing norms or established expectations is to question the collective identity we all share, and in the case of work, the professional or organisational identity you have adopted as part of your role. Many of us even help shape the identity of the organisation or the role, seeking a sense of control over how it is enacted or perceived, but ultimately, social identities are collective, and to criticize or question is to declare yourself as, at least potentially,  ‘other’.

But my spirit is strong and being other has never been the thing that held me back ( it was my attempts at being the same that did that).

The only freedom that is of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment, exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while. The commonest mistake made about freedom is, I think, to identify it with freedom of movement, or, with the external or physical side of activity.”

― John Dewey

And so, just as the light of the yogi and the hippie identities had faded and become less salient in my professional life, the ill-fitting university academic identity started to flicker and burnout.

During my time at the various universities I worked at (five in all), my work ethic could not be faulted. I worked really freakin’ hard as an academic. Long hours, complex environment, ego-rich, emotionally barren and so, so addictive. The whole industry has been gamified, as have they all, but for a bunch of intellectuals, the game of peer reviewed publishing is so tantalizing, they have built their entire playground around this one aspect of the game.

The competition and the scarcity.

The reputation and grandeur.

To know more.

To be more.

To be the one.

The one that knows.

The secret that everyone wants to know the answer to…

But do they know the question?

Do they look beyond the rules?

Have they played the other games?

Do they remember who they are?

The world and its people.

The desperation and despair.

To see more.

To do more.

To be a one.

One of many who care.

The feeling that everyone wants to feel.

To be loved.

I believe in love.

I believe in love. And I believe there is very little love to be found in executive suits…*suites; maybe I also meant suits?

I believe that if we each learned to love ourselves a little more and be open to remembering who we are under the suit, the label, the uniform, the work gear, or any other work armour that you cover yourself with, that we would take a little more of that love with us into our work environments, physical and virtual.

In discovering nudism, and social nudism in particular, I discovered a new form of self love and one that translates into a level of comfort being around other humans that I didn’t realise I wasn’t experiencing.

Consider this, I am not afraid to be seen naked. It is not my worst nightmare for the whole world to see me naked. I would stand in front of you all and give a lecture naked if asked, for the right cause (and maybe some cash depending on the cause).

The point is, this means that in any given social situation, I am free of that existential fear that is silently there with almost everyone else I interact with. Only other nudists understand the freedom I am describing here.  For the rest, underlying that fear you feel, once you can surface it, is a profound sense of self reliance. A sense that you can stand up in the world, just as you are, seen completely by others, and still feel strong and loved (not weak and alone). That’s powerful.

As I learned to be seen and heard in a world that wanted me to keep my head down and play by the rules, I paid more attention to the dissonance, when it was triggered, when it was strongest; and I looked for the things that I loved.

And then I realised what they had taken from me; so many of the things that I loved. I had lost my playfulness, my sense of curiosity, wonder and delight. I lost my smile and my excitement at each new day. On my last day in the office people commented that now they remembered what I had looked like on the first…In essence they took my story and my authentic identity, and for a while I participated in giving it up. 

Women, indigenous people, the LGBTQIA+ community, the neurodiverse, immigrants and so, so many ‘others’; they know, better than me what it feels like, to have your authentic identity stripped away. Sometimes ripped off, and other times peeled back one layer at a time.

I turned away from my career to claim back what I love. Because what you love is part of who you are. And if you aren’t living a life that is built around what (and who) you love, then what sort of life are you living? And who do you become?

I didn’t like who I had become.

I walked away from an ill-fitting career to make space for love.

The hippie is back; and now she’s mad as a mamma bear protecting her cubs.

It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.

~ Wonder Woman
“The only way to abolish war is to make peace seem heroic.”
~ John Dewey

A mindful pause

Some of you reading this blog will be familiar with my mindful pauses from class. I will use them throughout this project to indicate a moment of reflection. As I explore the different aspects of my identity and share the story with you, I am receiving feedback of various sorts. It is essential that I take the time to reflect on this feedback, assess it in terms of relevance and  importance, consider the lesson, and then integrate and update my approach …..it has taken long time to develop a practice to support this reflexive cycle happening fairly naturally now.

A mindful pause can be as long as a deep breath, 5 seconds, 2 minutes…
3 months…

I would argue that it is an essential practice for mindful leaders, leaders of innovation, leaders of transformation, leaders who are trying to lead through this ambiguous, complex, uncertain, volatile world.

Step 1. Take time to think, simple yet radical.
Not ruminate. Not plan. Not worry. Not rehash or replay or regret….
Just sit and think. Walk and think. Stand and think.
Just allow the thoughts, watch them, notice, be curious. Let them go.
Space out for a bit….
And then, after that sitting, you might find there has been a sort of sifting of the mind. A settling perhaps. And you can go over the bigger pieces remaining, to see what is left to examine and explore.

And so here I reflect on the first days of this journey being public, the words of support, the tokens and symbols of solitude and shared conviction; and with curiosity I watch the little sprinkling of self-doubt flutter over me. We all know it, when we’ve stepped over the edge, outside our comfort zone, a scary place of risk and growth. The little voice that would like to remind you of all the reasons why you shouldn’t.

The volume at which my negative self-talk voice is at  these days is a 0-2/10, depending on the day. This is down from I’d say about a screaming, ALL CAPS 10/10 during my adolescence.

But still I hold dear, the words of love from my sisters and brothers in transformation, each word a feather in our collective wings. 

Already I can see the network of networks beginning to form. My inner circle, people I haven’t communicated with directly in years, people who have only known me in passing, people who know people who know me….

The theory underlying the famous Diffusion of Innovation Curve (Rogers, 1962), reminds us that momentum is built slowly and that effort is required in the early days to ensure the innovation, the new idea or technology, continues to spread. Transformation requires many new ideas, and arguably, a reimagined approach to leadership and management is a whole new technology.

Integrated with an understanding of social structures from Social Network Analysis, you can start to piece together a multi-dimensional understanding of how your innovation is spreading through your core network and into your peripheral networks.

Likewise, with insight into the social cognition of groups and the psychology underlying Social Identity Theory, you can start to appreciate who the innovators are around you and who the early adopters (and influencers) are likely to be, and in what ways they identify with you and your message. And as you are reading this you are either thinking you’d like to know more or you’re wondering if you’ve been manipulated….I’ll share more, and I’m not manipulating you. But I am appealing to the parts of you that are the same or similar to parts of me.

And for some, the parts of you that are different but maybe a little bit similar to me (think Venn diagram), are the ones starting to make you feel a little uncomfortable.  Perhaps you’ve distanced yourself from my ‘little project’ in some way, maybe you’ve made a joke about it to a colleague, but here you are, back reading this again. Perhaps, you are ready to explore or resolve the dissonance you feel.

So, upon reflection, I am grateful for every word of support and love that has been shared with me, I feel the energy of them. I am aware that some discomfort is arising and I remind myself that it always does, this is how change happens. First we have to feel uncomfortable enough with how things are to motivate ourselves to make them better…..sometimes we fight and deny this before we realise, it is the struggle that causes our suffering. The fear that holds us back.

This has always been the process. In the classroom, on the mat, in the yoga studio, in the dojo, in therapy, and now, in our jobs and our organisations.

It is time to surrender to the need for radical change.

To transform our mindsets and transcend old paradigms.

And to remember that sometimes it’s those who are crazy enough to think they can, that do.

May you be happy,

May you be healthy,

May you know freedom from suffering.


p.s. For those who recognise pieces of conversation, concepts, words, phrases… please know I am thinking of you as I write and send my gratitude for your influence on my thoughts and in my life.

Simone B’Free reflects on her first days …

An open letter to my friends

May the new year bring you a renewed sense of hope and faith in human kindness.

Dear Friends,

It has been another difficult and challenging year, and there are more ahead. There is so much to be done to help restore balance and harmony.

An open letter seemed the best way to introduce the transition I am going to undertake in 2022. Some of you have been witness to the enormous changes that I and my family have experienced the past few years. We are now stronger than ever, not because we are resilient, but because we were able to surrender to the transformations that needed to take place. We let go of the old and re-imagined what could be, allowing the new to emerge and unfold; and it continues to do so.

I have enthusiastically pursued and now walked away from a career that others envied and that I myself loved, not without pain, but also having grown more than I could have anticipated. Everything I have learned and everything I have become in the process has led me to a point of crossing over. Of stepping outside of the lines, letting go of old norms and expectations, and re-imagining how I can be, and be of service to the world.

I am going to share the story of this journey with you all, openly and publicly, as it unfolds. I hope that some of you will join me in the journey and be part of the story. However, I know that this journey is not for everyone. Some will be interested enough to watch it unfold, others will check in from time to time and others still will not understand, will deem my actions radical or inappropriate or unnecessary even, and that’s ok. Maybe this is where our journey together ends and we go our separate ways – ’til we meet again.

For those still with me here, I am embarking on a new adventure as a social activist. I will continue my work as an educator and coach, with a focus on positive, human-centered transformation, and I will be developing a brand around women’s sovereignty, through radical authenticity and radical freedom, and in doing so will embrace a few radical behaviours of my own.

In service of helping to shift the existing dominant paradigm around leadership, I will be facilitating development of the type of radically authentic leadership that is required to lead the social and cultural transformation needed to rebuild our society in the wake of a global pandemic and going into the height of the climate revolution – system-wide transformation. In doing so, I will be sharing aspects of myself that will deliberately and possibly shockingly, surface assumptions about women, gender and leadership in our society. 

I will be deliberately provocative and political and radical, and not everyone will agree or get it, and that’s ok. I hope those of you that do get it reach out, and maybe join me in some way in actively and intentionally helping to shape our future.

May all beings be well

May all beings know happiness,

May all beings be free from suffering.

With metta (loving kindness),


We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Shari Read PhD