It’s been an intense few weeks …

I’m so grateful to have had my oil pastels and journal through it all.

Flicking back through the pages this morning, I feel a surge of delight. Celebration even. Maintaining basic creativity was so innate, and it was part of my days so simply and freely. I didn’t worry about colours or compositions – just let it out.

I see recurring motifs, such as the eye. And the deep longing to live with presence, to seek out joy, and to savour that so many of life’s needs are met every moment. Choosing small pleasures, appreciating their precious gifts: a hammock in the garden; a walk to the park to draw at dusk; a wander through the city’s gardens at lunchtime.

During this period, it so happened that I had signed up to do Mary McKenzie’s self empathy course. I am so glad!

These past few weeks, I have longed to be deeply heard for what was happening. However I was unwilling to speak with others because I was so wanting to trust I could be heard without judgement. I didn’t want to go to a stranger either. It felt so vulnerable, a fear of being ‘analysed’. Just wanting rest and acceptance and hope.

With self empathy, I have found that I really do have an unconditional constant presence. Myself. The person I can trust most to hear me, hold me, be with me no matter what, translate anything I say for the beauty of its intention, help me find what I can do in this moment to ease suffering … that person is me. It’s the power to free myself from my own judgements, any time!

I’ve been talking aloud to myself on walks and while driving. I have listened so deeply, long pauses. My tears are safe, my rage, my confusion, my hopes, my celebrations, longings, disappointments and terrors. All held and witnessed with tenderness. I don’t need to get stuck in the demand that I feel better or find the silver lining. And yet, it comes so often anyway. Clarity, relief, empowerment, reassurance. All there inside.

As well as talking myself and listening with kindness, I find that working visually helps me to be seen by myself too. I think it’s like trying to see a star at dusk, or moving close to a finch. Stare directly or step forward, they flicker or flitter from view. Soften the gaze, open my mind and body and hand … see whatever comes out on the page … there my heart is safe to roar, explore and soar.


Mary McKenzie opened her course with an excerpt from the poem “companioning” by Dr Alan Wolfelt.

I loved so much of what he says, especially:

‘Companioning is about being present to another’s pain, it is not about taking away or relieving the pain’

and also

‘Companioning is about walking alongside, it is not about leading or being led’.

It’s been so painful to realise that when I try to ‘fix’ or ‘soothe’, as much as a long to nurture and protect those I love from pain, their heart draws away. I can give myself kindness for that too though, the pain of wanting to help. And the gift of hope – I am learning to be a companion instead.

Wolfelt’s words give me such a sense of freedom and patience and trust. I don’t want to be taught. I do want to learn. Do you feel a difference in those two states too? Empowerment. Choice. Acceptance. Patience. Respect.

So many needs are met for me in appreciating that I am no one’s teacher … not even my own. We are companions, moment to moment. I want to soak that state right into my body, like ink.

Thanks for accompanying me on in this blog, flicking through these past few weeks of journal pages. I experience a sense of celebration and hope, seeing these pictures together in a sequence. And by offering them here, it also meets my need for contribution – hoping that as I am seen and heard, your heart will receive what it needs in this moment for your own joyful healing and growth.

I am so grateful for the closeness that I have experienced with others during an intense time. I was surprised. Normally, I feel so alone and cautious at times like this. This time, I felt rawness and definitely wariness but I also found I was more able to hear and welcome offers of support or words of kindness.

I’m sure this experience of greater closeness with others as we went through a crisis was because I was learning to walk first and continually with myself. Using techniques Mary offered, especially the ‘McKenzie wrap’, I could let my judgements fly in private to discover the beautiful feelings and needs and requests that we’re waiting to emerge.

Through every inner storm, I emerged clearer about what was important and amazed to find how much peace there was available inside even in the throes of fear and shock and confusion.

I’m so thankful for creativity, and for all who have offered there own to the world as companions. Like Mary McKenzie in her course, Wolfelt in his poem, Maleni Parker whose Melbourne course I attended during this time as a precious respite, and friends who shared their own soul moments in unexpectedly rich conversations.

I want to offer you this: the more I know my heart, the easier it is to hear and see others, so I become more comfortable with being alone and yet less lonely when I am! I can always be seen and heard and held – by me. I can reach out to others I deeply trust, however there’s not such a raw longing for them to hear me and reasssure me. That’s an inside job.

This is a poem that popped up as I walked this week, listening to one of the self-empathy sessions from Mary’s course and watching a bird flutter away as I approached.

To be soft of hearing

A heart


will flit from our view.


A heart


will find what is true.


– Naomi Byrnes 2016

Grateful. Hopeful. Amazed.