Patterns of transition – part 1

PART I

**Beware! Dramatic overtones woven throughout.

A hushed silence befalls the theatre. She walks back on stage, lights dimmed. As if a fog had settled around her.

A coatigan of shadows.

She begins.**


Oh! To craft your own fall from grace, a plot you share with few, and fully with none.

A strategy borne in response to an outside attempt to bring your reputation into question. Disrepute.

To cut you off. To suffocate you.

One who denies any wrongdoing,

Who shames the other,

Who discredits the other,

Who lies about their actions,

Who acts enraged when called out for their inappropriate behaviour.


**She gestures wildly.**


I’d already learnt you can’t beat a narcissist playing by the rules that they are master at manipulating. So I stopped playing the game.

I’d had enough. I was done. The decision made, I gathered everything I had into a ball of energy, ignited and alight,  and I used it as a weapon against them.

I threw it with everything I had.

A catapult of words and images, laden with reputation and status. The weight coming from the heaviness of expectation landing back at the source. A cannon ball of personal power and all of the ego that went with it. Thrown with the intent of ruin.

I took him down as I went. Blind-sighted by his own delusions of grandeur, he would never admit it was me. And nor was I alone, but sacrifice I did.

Letting go, no! Throwing away an identity that I traded so much to build, was both easy and incredibly difficult. I poured heart, soul and passion, so much energy and effort into the work I have done over the years.

Still.

It was never meant to be.


**She moves gracefully to centre stage.**


The ego grieves its own death.

The heart celebrates the suffering that has come to an end.

The mind surveys what remains.

The damage, smoking rubble.

What is left of me?

The gift to my self, in sacrificing the ego in this way, is surely the answer to this question?

If I am not this identity I crafted so well, if I am not all that I have trained and studied and practiced to be, then what am I?

What remains of me to love?


**The spotlight dims.

She stands alone, deep in thought, her mind captured by the past.

What becomes of she who emancipates her self?

One free of expectations of roles carried past.

Free of the fear of breaking norms and attracting criticism.

Free of the shackles that had been around her mind.

And what has become of him? She imagines him playing golf and mowing the lawn. One of life’s pedestrians. Chasing the belief that if he can just keep things looking good, and land that hole in one, he’ll finally be good enough….a karmic mouse wheel. She spares a thought for his wife, and hopes she has a hobby that gets her out of the house.

At that she smiles. And as she leaves the stage, the costume slips away. Beneath it, her feathers, old and new, shimmer in the dim lighting of the theatre, soft sparkles glimmer, like raindrops on the silken thread of a woven web. A gasp and a sigh as the roof of the theatre lifts. Focus shifting.

Scarlett and gold.

Strength and courage.

Threads that weave a tale.

Onwards and upwards, towards the open sky.

The luminescence of transformation.

The liminality of transition.

A flight of faith and hope.

On wings she finally knows how to fly.**


What becomes of she who emancipates her self? ~ Simone B’Free

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Under your own microscope

Conceptualizing this project as ‘identity work’ is just one way of sharing a narrative, an interpretation, my experience, of knowing and participating in this process of growth and personal evolution.

To me, the notion of ‘identity work’ shares two important understandings at once:

  1. This is about who you are and how you show up; and
  2. It takes energy and effort.

This is from my personal point of view (POV) as the person undertaking the process of growth and development. This is the first person perspective.

From a methodological perspective, the auto-ethnographic nature of the project is the reflective, interpretive, critical voice that observes and witnesses and tries to understand in hindsight, with reference to the social and political context I exist within. This perspective, some would argue, is a blurring of first and second person perspectives, however, relative to the processes of identity work, an auto-ethnography is in the voice of the second person, the self witnessing and commenting on the ego as well as noticing its self.

I notice both of these perspectives most when my personal experience of life runs up against norms and expectations, rules and regulations. When how I am is not who I’m expected to be. And who I am no longer has any intention of conforming, or believing simply because I am told.

This is most of the time… lol.

To scrutinise yourself in this way, to develop the self, to be intentional with the ego, to observe and witness your own emotions, thoughts and actions on such a constant basis can be exhausting. And without self love, without compassionate understanding, generosity of spirit and the courage to forgive yourself on a daily basis, it would likely consume you and lead to further neurosis.

This is because the tension between self and expectations is a relational thing. This is me face to face with the third perspective; what you think of me. And if I can’t back myself, if I can’t look at my self in the mirror and like what I see, I won’t be able to hold my head high as I walk away when you laugh or sneer, or criticize or deny. I choose not to lose any sleep over your opinion of me.

This work is not for the faint hearted. For those not ready to be vulnerable and exposed.

To do it publicly as I am….

To be honest, the more public this looks, the more private it becomes. Let me explain the paradox. One that people who identify as neuro-divergent, gender non-conforming or who have other non-conforming ways of identifying, might be able to relate to.

When your identity constantly brings you attention on a regular basis, not because you are trying to gain attention but because you arrived on this planet in a space suit that operates a bit differently to others, you get to a point in your life when you realize that attention is yours whether you want it or not. And this realization offers you a choice. Use your differences as a strength, a super power, or hide them and let them eat away at you as you live an inauthentic life, conforming and holding yourself back and in as best you can….

The point is, your identity as a weirdo is public anyway. Anyone who knows you, already knows you’re a bit of a nut or unusual or a bit out there….when you fully own that it takes away the sting of others noticing your differences and replaces it with a courage and confidence.

And now, take look around at all the other weirdos who are working out how to brand their uniqueness, craft a resume or a business around their personal value proposition, and you might see an opportunity for your self. A way to transcend the bullying, the manipulation, the feelings of being held back, restricted or simply ignored, brushed off as irrelevant. No more.

It is those of us who think different, who dare to be different, that make change happen.

Maybe not today, who knows? (*Simone, you’re getting off track…*)

Anyway, the point is, as you become aware of the parts of your identity that are on show by default, you also become more aware of your inner world,  and the more of your relational identity (the parts of you other people can interact with) you share, the more experience you have to reflect on, the richer your inner world becomes.

With more inner content, more reflections, thoughts and feelings, there is more of yourself that you come to know, more of ‘you’ that is private and un-shared, even though to the rest of the world it seems as though you have put literally everything on display!


With regard to self awareness, there are four ‘awareness windows’ to notice and reflect on (a sense making framework based on Johari Window):

  • What I know about my self and share with you (known, knowns)
  • What I know about my self and don’t share with you (the known, unknowns – this is what I’ve been talking about)
  • What I don’t know about myself but you know about me (e.g. your experience of me) (unknown, knowns)
  • What I don’t know about myself and you have not observed either (unknown, unknowns).

I show you what I show you, to learn about me.

To see who I am when I show up in this sovereign state. On my own terms.

A mantra, my reminder, it is not your microscope I am under, but my own.

May you be happy,

may you be healthy,

may you be free from suffering.

Namaste,

S x

Identity work in a complex world

I continue through this process, murky and hazardous, yet emergent and directional.

As difficult as it is to wade through the swamp of your own neuroses, to become immersed in your deepest anxieties yet again.

The relief of breaking free of yet another entanglement of the mind.

Liberation, presupposes oppression, the suffering of being restrained.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I can’t not do it. It is just the way my mind works, grabbing at loose threads, tugging them further, examining the ties.

What usually breaks it for me is uncovering the link to a deeper core belief. An aspect of my narrative, the story I tell myself about who I am and why I am the way I am. Once I follow my thoughts, my reactions, the patterns in the things that are triggering me, setting me off, I stay with the thoughts and feelings, watching as my sub-conscious surfaces the connections. Until the construction of the story becomes clear. I learn about the author and the narrator, the characters and what I thought they wanted from me.

Like a silent photographer waiting for wildlife to emerge from the bush. My awareness sits waiting for my thoughts. However, I myself (my ego that is) am the bait, that the photographer didn’t set or see, getting hooked and struggling to break free many times over before being able to step far enough away to see the source of the trap. The image, an understanding.

A practice.

Training the mind to notice its own patterns.

Noticing where your thoughts and feelings are coming from, the story that they form.

Noticing the ego wanting to hold on to hurt and pain.

Noticing the desire to be free of the pain.

Realising the ego is the only thing causing your self this suffering.

Again.

Again I learn this lesson but this time it fuels me back into action, back to the work of knowing who I am, of exploring my freedom in this world that is struggling to know itself. A planet pushing back on the industrialisation of the so called ‘developed’ world. To be free of the arrogant tyranny of paternalistic colonialism and capitalism. The bullish, foolish nature of toxic masculinity, control, money, power…

And again.

I have hope. And faith. I believe in our young people. While many older folk criticise the young for being unwilling to do a hard days work, for being too soft and arrogant and entitled, we forget that it is us that created the environment that brought our interpretation of this collective attitude into being. Our generation, caught up in the swinging hips and pouting lips of the 70’s, the bright lights and neon tights of the 80’s, we are the ones who want to just keep partying like it is still 1999.

Work hard, party hard. Right?

What many are unwilling to do though, is the difficult identity work that our young people are now working through. Adolescents willing to go to therapy and understand their emerging neuroses, as they are developing, as they are playing out, patterns repeating for the first time or maybe the second, but without decades of conditioning layered over  shadows already forming.

Kids transitioning, transforming and transcending, both understanding and seeing beyond the notions of social constructivism,  the made up nature of the world around them. The injustice, the inequality, the brutality of a made up system they don’t agree with and don’t wish to be part of. They can see that they have a choice.

Yet still the media and politicians scratch their heads. Ignoring the obvious.

The great resignation is just a side effect, as millions of parents and others, conscious, thinking people look around and realize, they can’t be themselves in this system. Collective identity work. We can’t follow our dreams and explore our passions in a world that narrows our attention to exam results and KPIs, unemployment rates and the national budget.

Do you feel it, as you read? As I write these words I feel my mind constrict, my awareness narrowing, my triggers igniting, the rant arising…..

Instead I switch my focus, to the wonders of creative technology, the connected world of our youth online, to the innovation and ingenuity of the ‘inexperienced’, the idealism of the ‘naive’, those without the knowledge of what ‘can’t’ be done or isn’t ‘real’. While there are many challenges yet to navigate, the internet and the digital world are already part of our future. And adapting to a world of increasing complexity is something the young are typically far better at than the old, those who’s minds have ‘reached a certain age’, and have ‘trouble letting go’ ( ~ Morpheous, The Matrix, 1999).

But our youth are doing the work needed. They are facing the demons we couldn’t bare to see. They are breaking generational patterns, working through trauma and the accumulation of dysfunction and toxic conditioning. Collectively, they are letting go. Freeing themselves of a system not fit for purpose, free to explore their potential and become their authentic selves.

Looking around at the macro patterns in society, I believe two new worlds are emerging, essentially characterized by the online community, and those moving off-the-grid. And for some, our identities already straddle these worlds. We are learning to harness the possibilities of technology and the virtual world, while being grounded and nourished by the sustaining rhythms of our planet Earth.

Together, technology and ecology, wisdom and love, can remind us of who we really are and how beautiful life can be when we all show up with peaceful, ethical and collaborative intentions toward each other.

The wisdom of the ages and the passion that drives creation, the forces that will help us shape a better world.

Identity work reconnecting us, one by one, to the authentic energy and light within.

“I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”

~ Neo, The Matrix.
The wisdom of the ages and the passion that drives creation, the forces that will help us shape a better world. ~ Simone B’Free
Freedom comes from the confidence gained from truly loving one’s self.
Not through the lens of the ego, but the compassionate understanding of the heart and soul. Unconditional, ego-less, self love
. ~Simone B’Free

Allowing for emergence and embracing one’s own complexity

Something I have observed about my experience of sovereignty is that the feeling of it comes and goes.

As if my conditioning were a landslide of mud and debris, I become entangled and triggered,  scrabbling and alert, lashing out and fighting back at everything coming in my direction.

As I imagine it, what it would be like to go back into the Matrix after being extracted, knowing that anyone you interact with could turn out to be an agent. It is not my usual MO. Until recently I have always assumed the best in people, to my own detriment many times. One of my living spirit guides once told me, ‘they’re not your friends’.  For so long I wanted to believe this wasn’t true, then for just as long I grieved at the loss of perceived trust and my naive sense of safety in the world. But then I realised how my own narrative still held me in place, deep within, the story I still told my self was that if I was just good enough…

So despite my understanding of sovereignty, and fresh memories of how it feels, my mind is still so full of hooks and potholes, I get caught up and trip over myself time and time again. I am a sovereign being with a conditioned mind, the accumulation of small traumas leaving craters on my heart, imprints on my soul.

I am observing that to be free we have to transcend our selves, our ego. As Viktor Frankl noted, freedom lies in choosing our responses, but in order to have access to all of the possible responses we must be able to transcend our own conditioning, to see when the only thing preventing our freedom, is us and the limits and restrictions we place on our selves.

This applies both collectively and individually of course. Such a salient theme as history plays out before us in this present time. Norms and expectations being questioned. Identity politics, left and right, right and wrong, black and white….

So many voices, of theorists, thinkers and contemplatives, flooding our awareness, like a meteor shower to the collective conscious, voices from the past, hearts and minds, planet and people.

A plea, for a revolution so desperately needed.

A cry from the Earth her self, the roar of a mother protecting her young.

As a sovereign being, I choose to rise above my anxiety, my fears, and turn towards my hope. I choose to harness my strengths, gather my gifts and continue in the direction of faith, in human kind and our collective evolution. It is hard work. Some days it flows, other days I have no energy for the fight, but every day I believe in what I stand for, I strive to be intentional in my actions, I think big, I aim high. But am I free in doing so?

With a certain level of cognitive maturity it becomes possible to  continually rewrite and updates one’s own narrative, not to delude or omit, but to evolve and develop. To grow. A type of complex adaptive reasoning, that experiences identity as pliable, like modelling clay. You only have one particular lump of clay to work with, but you get to craft, shape and mold it.

The trick seems to be in nuanced, intentional crafting – gently, subtly altering your relational self to help others be at their best, to be free from suffering, to enable, facilitate, and navigate complexity.  The complexity in the world around us, the complexities that arise between us and those we carry within.

I’m starting to believe that understanding  and being able to intentionally ‘drive’ or manage your own complexity is the ultimate secret to navigating the world around us. To embrace all that you are, the shadows, the paradoxes, the reactive, hurt child. The saint and the sinner, the Madonna and the whore.

Women’s sovereignty in particular is attached to the social norms and expectations around the division of labour. If a woman is expected to raise children, prepare food, clean the house, the clothes, how does she find time to pursue grand ideas? In this way, her ideas are kept small by her circumstances.

(In much the same way, corporate roles and reputations keep people from ever knowing who they really are).

Just as Virginia Wolfe exposes in A Room Of One’s Own, not only does one need physical space to think, write, and create, but one also needs the mental space to allow for emergence, to wonder, to experiment, to meditate and contemplate and be inspired by the world around.

But with this physical space then comes the freedom to explore other things, to wonder about other aspects of one’s identity, other interests or passions, desires not yet explored….imagine a world where all women everywhere were liberated in their sexuality, felt free to dress and express themselves authentically, with no concern about shape or size, or fear of men’s interpretations, perceptions and reactions, or the sneers and snide remarks of other women.

Just the freedom that comes from the confidence gained from truly loving one’s self. Not through the lens of the ego, but the compassionate understanding of the heart and soul. Unconditional, ego-less, self love.

In my mind, the path to sovereignty is paved by love.

Learning to love your self unconditionally is the work.

The work is the continual process of knowing and re-learning everyday, who you are. Identity work develops deep self awareness and requires us to be willing to acknowledge both the light and the dark, learning to harness each as they are needed, to respond intelligently, with both wisdom and compassion, to the world you find yourself in.

In this lies freedom.

Here you will find sovereignty.

“I am not one and simple, I am complex and many”

~ Virginia Woolf

Ontogeny.

[a mindful pause]


Shaking with uncertainty,

a leaf almost ready to fall,

trembling in the breeze,

a delicate hanging,

a fragile attachment,

those last moments of things being as they are.

Menacing volatility,

the ground beneath unknown,

hardening from the cold,

rumbling vibrations,

danger lurking,

the terrain that must be traversed.

Distressed by ambiguity,

a bird with nowhere to land,

gliding on tired wings,

a tenuous lift,

a  disrupted flow,

longing for sanctuary to rest.

Embracing complexity,

a tree breathes out fully,

branches reaching out,

weathered bark,

budding blossoms,

re-awakening the potential within. 



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Namaste,

SB’F x

Album #2 – Transcending

Namaste Friends, I hope this finds you well and using your energy to find all the ways you can, to thrive in this rapidly changing world.


This album (2 of 12 to date) reflects the realization that I could use my body to express myself through images, and that nudity enhanced or expanded what i could say, as did new photographic skills, accessorizing, and better equipment, my storytelling tools.

This is me coming home, and re-discovering a sense of confidence in my own skin. This is when I realized my body was beautiful, and not the horrid, defective, source of betrayal I had come to regard it as being. I had tried to make myself believe it before, with some success, however this is me capturing a newfound love of my whole self, my image, my body, my ability to capture what I was feeling; and my courage for trying to do so.

This is me realizing I could be whoever I wanted to be, that I didn’t have to be who I’d been told I was; too loud and smart to be ignored but too young and pretty to be taken seriously. Thighs and butt too big and lumpy to be sexy, but a face and smile to draw a crowd. A body not good enough for commercial purposes, a mind too quick to be contained. I am grateful they dared suggest my irrelevance, the slap in the face woke me up. This is me realising they don’t get to sideline me in my own life.

This is my story to tell.

I felt alive, free, playful, and exuberant. I was breathing in the world as it turned its monolithic head, and glanced at me. A nod , a sign post to indicate I was heading in the right direction.

There was a sense of something coming out and showing itself to the world, I was overcoming beliefs about my body that  I learned in my formative years, comparisons made, unhelpful, critical comments, sexist inappropriate, unnecessary remarks. I see now how they made their insecurities mine.

Well fuck them.

I am taking back my body.

My right to live as I please.

I take back my sovereignty and the right to write my own story, to reject their criticisms and their perspectives of me. I will not doubt myself like that again.

This gallery is a reflection of the moments in which I started to really see my self.

This gallery is a reflection of the moments in which I started to really believe in myself.

In these moments I started to fully love myself again, and through this process I began to transcend.

To a place more peaceful than where I had been.

A place where I could lay the pieces of myself out and see them in a way they’d never been seen.

In these moments of deep reflection, I started to make sense of my self, for myself.

Walk and touch peace every moment.

Walk and touch happiness every moment.

Each step brings a fresh breeze.

Each step makes a flower bloom.

Kiss the Earth with your feet.

Bring the Earth your love and happiness.

The Earth will be safe

when we feel safe in ourselves.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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May you be happy, healthy and free from suffering.

Namaste.

The Photographic Journey to here

Namaste Friends,

Thank you for your patience, my processes paused as I noticed my reaction to world events. More disruption all over our planet: shifting political power, weaponized economics, ongoing pandemic, severe weather events due to climate change, and civil unrest in so many parts of the world… my heart has been heavy, my thoughts have been with those who are suffering.

However, in honour of those who do not currently have the freedom to continue to do the things that need to be done, and who instead must get on with the most important work of survival, I shall get on with the tasks before me…

Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.

Zen Buddhist proverb.

“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself”

Simone de Beauvoir

I started looking for myself in places where I knew I’d seen me before. I thought perhaps there would be clues left behind, or perhaps I’d get lucky and find I was still there.

In yoga. I saw my shape, my body, the crafting of age telling a story of it’s own.

In the garden I saw the crone, smiling as she welcomed me home. The witch standing close behind, ever sultry and full of sass, came first from private moments and then out into the world to play.

She reminded me of the desperate attempts the maiden had made to keep herself relevant, to hold on. To find good in the mistakes she and the child had made, instead finding grace in the lessons she learned, from all the times she fell.

I started to see more than the context and form. I started to see the way the different settings inspired me to hold my body or angle my head. I started to notice the different types of energy that flowed through me as I felt the sun on my naked skin, warmth in places that had never been warmed, changing the colours of my body, the tone of my hair.

I started seeing myself in the conversations that came from sharing the images. The therapist, the teacher, the coach, the nurturer, the healer.

I had lost myself in the trauma, not just my own, in fact by then my own had retracted and retreated to the peripheral of my mind, perspective taking hold. Now the storm had passed, I had rested and I started feeling ready.

This was me creeping back out into the sun to play. After too many years of turmoil, after spending far too long dwelling in the shadow of social expectations and dominant gender norms. After realising that I needed to choose to live ‘my best life’, that I needed to wake up and do the thing I want to do, the things that bring joy and love to me, my family and the world.

The images show a clear release and outward expression, the energy and playfulness abundant in moments of total liberation, uninhibited in my experimentation. Both joyful and irreverent in this moment of re-claiming and re-awakening the sovereign being within.

In these moments I was breaking trauma bonds with people central to my narrative and my identity. I was reclaiming the story of my body, what it means to me, how others saw it,  how I see it, the stories I tell myself about size and shape, colour and texture. I was ignoring expectations for how a woman of my age and professional standing should behave and enjoying every moment, embracing the abundant freedom of being as authentic in my anger as I was in the exhilaration of the release.

Crazy cat lady.

Cranky old hippie.

Crackpot yogi.

Oddball. Weirdo….I’ll take them all.

The first album of this project, some might say, ‘somewhat like the first pancake’, exposes my naivety and ignorance, as a model and photographer, and also as a woman who brings beginner’s mind to the things she does, willing to fail, make mistakes, be ‘good enough’ to make a start and learn and grow in the process of becoming rather than waiting to share perfection, which she may never attain.

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. 

John Dewey

Through the process of taking nude selfies and sharing them online with other people who identify as nudists and/or naturists I stumbled, very awkwardly, into a safe space for identity work. And found a community of people asking similar questions to myself, ‘why is society so hung up about nudity, with people seeing them?’. And as I experimented with different styles of photos, imitating others, coming up with my own crazy ideas, seeking inspiration from my environment, I started to see the different things that make up my identity the different parts of myself; and the things I have never shared before.

While I looked very outward facing in the photos, this was a time of deep introspection. I’ve always been comfortable alone. And this time and space I have given myself for this project has been like a retreat for my soul. A practice, a journey and a reflection, integrated into a process of un-learning and re-emerging.

The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.

Simone de Beauvoir

May all beings everywhere know freedom from suffering,

Namaste.


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’.

Namaste

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...


In love’s shadow, anger is a powerful ally

A new energy is washing through and taking with it the raw edges of anger.

Standing with strength, forged like the steel in a sharpened blade.

Ready for battle, yet wanting not for blood but for peace.

I want to rest and play, knowing the world is safe, that my daughters are welcomed in their community and my sisters are treated with respect.

And while I wish for nothing more than my mother’s freedom, some journeys aren’t about us.

My grandmothers are speaking to me now. One showed up in an artist’s drawing. My face, her reflection. A still life sitting, the crone at ease in her pose.

She looks back over the many images that have each formed a stepping stone, out into the lake of acceptance and love.

The soft light a spectacular reflection of the inner glow that comes from acknowledging the source, the essence, life.

Still life drawing by artist Brett Poulsen

Over the course of the next series of posts I will share the journey of images that have acted as pavers on this yellow brick road.

A road that has been at times dark and lonely, bright and busy, and now joyful and liberating.

The practice of self awareness, self study, is referred to by yogis as Svadhyaya.

“Knowing ourself is the path to freedom. The fact that seven sages etched it into a temple in Ancient Greece is one clue in thousands. It’s written in every scripture, it falls off the tongues of poets. It has driven mankind across the world and into outer space in search of answers: Who are we? Who are you? Who am I? ” – The practice is explained beautifully here: https://wanderlust.com/journal/svadhyaya-getting-to-know-your-true-self/

Svadhyaya, the fourth Niyama on the path of the Yoga Sutras asks us to have faith. To trust that our true nature is what we are seeking, and to make a commitment to finding it.

The big existential questions addressed by yogis and other contemplatives overlap with the curiosities of philosophers and great minds throughout time. Why are we here? Why do I seek a sense of meaning and purpose? What is this experience I am having?

In the galleries that I will share in the coming posts, I will expose, with as much grace and courage as I can, the way self-study liberated me from many years and layering of conditioning, from the fear of being too much, the fear of rejection, and the fear of being alone.

How it uncovered a burning rage deep within, one that has burned for generations, one that motivates me to act as a cycle breaker, an agent of change.

And how it released my voice, opened my mind, and reminded my heart that passion comes in many forms; and that anger that arises from love, is the most powerful force in the universe to those you act to protect.

Strong and soft…

May all beings everywhere know freedom from suffering,

Namaste

SB’F x

Please subscribe if you’d like to follow along. Namaste, SB’F x

Sitting with an angry shadow

As I look around I see sisters in transformation rising up. Women’s issues in the workplace, particularly around sexual harassment and the way women navigate their way through these difficult conversations, is a very hot topic in Australia right now.

Recently, Grace Tame, 2021 Australian of the Year, refused to smile in a meeting with the Australian Prime Minister, it has raised a national conversation about the role of angry women as drivers of change.

I am hearing it in my own conversations about change with others who are dedicated to helping bring about systemic transformation, but are still coming to terms with the nuances of the changes needed to re-imagine our places of work and trade as inclusive and consensual .

People are noticing that women are speaking up more. That we are demanding that they listen more than speak. But they are not yet sure how to hear what she is saying.

While you spent  lunchtime yesterday listening to her angry outburst, she has lived the experience her whole long life. Can you hear her? She is my colleague, she is my friend, she is my sister and she is me.

She will not be my daughter.

I will not dampen my anger, I will not sit until I am calm. Sitting enrages me further, sitting allows me to see.

I see the way that want us all to stay smaller, to smile and be polite. Diplomatic. Aren’t I supposed to be some peace loving hippie? Why aren’t you happy all the time?

As I shed the norms of the good girl daughter and the pleaser wife, my expectations of myself fell to the floor with my clothes. Why would I stand against those I love but fall at the feet of those who have used me? Those who keep others small and contained everyday.

What once was designed to harness the energy of the non-land owning workforce continues with a tantalising promise of your own home. They realised they had to modify the game to keep you playing. Come work for us,  work for a while and then banks will loan you money, then keep working for the next 30 or so years and you can have this token of our appreciation, we’ll let you keep the house, probably.  And maybe you get clever and level up, and get a bigger house and a nicer car and go on longer holidays…..but you are still their slave. Your slavery has just been made more comfortable with built in rewards and that ever-present threat of punishment, the fear of losing it all.

Faced with an army of passive establishment soldiers, themselves enslaved by the delusion of freedom, the workers march on. But not I.

And not, so, so many others. For every person reading this blog there are many thousands of others thinking these thoughts too. Women and men who are tired of having their minds raped, their ideas pimped, their smiles sold; all for the privilege of paying off a mortgage on a house they couldn’t afford. We are done.

And so I will not dampen my anger, instead I sit with her in mutual rage. We sit together and wonder about what we should do with our time. How to show our daughters where to find the cracks in the system, to pries them open and expose the rot inside.

My anger loves me and my daughters just as much as I.

Simone B’Free – Identity work leads to shadow integration.

Shadow integration is essential for transcendence. The system relies on your continued passivity, your diplomacy, your ability to keep it above the fucking line.

There is strength in your shadow. She moves within in you with purpose, with meaning, with conviction and passion. Hold her back at your own remorse. Regret for things not done, for all those times you didn’t take a stand, didn’t say what you felt, didn’t act to change the way they assume that things should be done.

While we can take a non-violent path, one infused with empathy, with compassion, with lovingkindness for all; we must also have integrity in presenting what and who we are. If we are angry, it is fair and honest to let others know, I am angry. If I am frustrated, it is fair and honest to let people know my resentment is growing. Do I instead pretend that all is ok, enable you and allow you to continue to cause me pain and suffering, all the while my fear and/or hatred for you growing? Who does that serve?

Should people in positions of power, those with privilege and dominance and control, be allowed to continue in their efforts to enslave simply because they are polite and diplomatic about it? But the tearful, angry, emotional woman they have betrayed needs to go and calm down and get herself under control…???

Control.

Get yourself under control woman.

Can’t you control your woman?

Can’t you control your kids?

My father asked me this once. Screamed it at me from across the room. “CAN’T YOU CONTROL YOUR BLOODY KIDS?”. He sat at the dining table, expecting his quiet pre-dinner beer, his cheese and crackers, the dips and bread. But instead he was faced with the usual pre-dinner riot of pre-school children fighting for their right to keep partying…. children he didn’t know, didn’t ever lift a finger to help raise, didn’t accept their divergence. Didn’t know how to love.

And the answer is no. I can’t control my kids. I’ve never really tried.

My kids have been taught to think freely. To be themselves even when it hurts. My kids have taught me to be free. To be myself, even when it hurts.

And it does hurt.

So when you worry that my anger will make him uncomfortable, when you get concerned that he will be offended or maybe confused at my request to try something different, to see me differently, to respond to me, not his expectation of what I will be, your worry is not for him, but for yourself.

You are worried that you are also causing this hurt and this pain.

And you are angry that your wife and daughters, your sisters and mother, they’ve all suffered for this and for more.

And now you can hear the pain in her voice,

And you can sit with her anger and with her.

Now you see, it was keeping you small as well. If she is held back, you are held back, her potential is our potential, what is possible can be in service of us all.

Free your mind, your body and your soul, let your angry shadow strengthen your voice  and give you the energy to stand, to step up and step in.

Claim your life, your sovereignty.

Allow all of your self to be.

Simone B’Free – Allow all of your self to be.

From my desk, to yours… thank you for subscribing 🙂 Namaste