Monthly Archives: February 2014

Trying to see through the methodological fog

Steps in the process… all of them matter, not just the initial direct experience of being with country. A chain of performances of story, a transmutation of experiences of being with through stories and their performances and re-performances, as actors appear, disappear and re-appear with other new and old actors. The stories do different work, they don’t just have a singular purpose or a singular audience or meaning. We become inscribed in stories and are ‘made’ through or emerge from stories. Our connections are articulated and are there on the ‘outside’ for us to see. It is a process of making things visible (and maybe other things invisible).

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Enduring myths

ImageJean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Oedipus and Sphinx. 1808. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.

A friend sent me a link to a podcast titled Climate change and the psyche from ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind program. British climate scientist Mike Hulme and anthropologist Jonathan Marshall speak about the enduring myths and symbols that give us meaning and set templates for living. They talk about the way in which mythic frameworks underlie scientific viewpoints and are foundational to our beliefs about the world and in particular, the changing climate. One pertinent question which they pose is, how do we animate material realities? Rather than seeing the world around us and the changing climate as mechanistic, what are the stories we have created to make meaning of these changing realities?

I took a screen grab of a comment that was made by ‘Wendy’ in response to listening to the interview [see below].


I like that Wendy identifies discourse and narrative as fertile ground for debate, after all, these stories are a reflection of the truths that we live by and use to construct our reality. The statement that I like most in Wendy’s post is:

‘… we need to be prepared to engage in relationships in different ways…’

We need to engage in new ways of being… in my view this was the central thread that wove through the statements being made by Hulme and Marshall. Our society’s approach to a changing climate is inextricably tied to the way in which we conceptualize and perform our relationships with other species, the biosphere, lithosphere and atmosphere.

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Intention, resonance and sacred places

“In this lecture at Schumacher College (29/1/14), Rupert Sheldrake shows how the “scientific worldview” is moribund; the sciences are being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. But science itself is now transcending the materialist philosophy, and pointing toward a new sense of a living world. The cosmos is no longer like a machine running down; it is more like a developing organism with an inherent memory, and so is our planet, Gaia. These new paradigm shifts in the sciences shed a new light on spiritual practices like pilgrimage, ritual, prayer and meditation.” Darlington TV

There were many moments whilst watching this talk by Sheldrake that I was jumping up and down in my chair at the parallels between his research and my own. I am not a scientist and feel very challenged by materialist views of ‘reality’, particularly when there is little or no space to acknowledge things that lack a materiality, like life force. Things that Sheldrake spoke about which resonated most deeply with me relate to intention, resonance and sacred places.

With regard to intention, he speaks about our minds reaching out and touching that which we are paying attention to. He uses his research with pet dogs and their owners and other experiments between friends calling each other randomly, to try and demonstrate telepathic and intentional connections that exist between beings (humans and inter-species). Each of these experiments was small, contained and replicated many times. I have my own questions around intentions and what influence they might have in shaping our own and collective realities. Though the stuff of my research is not so much isolated to pet dogs, their owners and telephones – the scope feels a lot bigger! So how do I write about the individual and collective intentions that are expressed on country by people who are sharing their stories? How are these intentions being manifested on a physical plane?

The existence and making of sacred places, whether they be trees or constructions (e.g. churches, obelisques, temples), was another topic which Sheldrake dwelt upon. He spoke about the potential for tall structures to create conduits between the cosmos and the earth, mainly through their ability to channel lightning. I was very interested in Sheldrake’s dialogue on this, but it was his next discussion topic, morphic resonance, which shed more light on the meaning of sacred places for me.

For the last few weeks I have been wondering about the collective walking of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail and whether this has ritualistic or ceremonial qualities. This country has been walked for a very long time (if we want to look at time as something linear) and is inscribed with meaning through Bugarregarra (dreaming, creation); and then countless other meanings since colonisation and in the new emerging ways that people are relating to that country. But when people collectively walk the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, particularly if there is an intention to connect with Indigenous custodians,  are we re-enacting a creation story/Bugarregarra? Sheldrake introduces his theory of morphic resonance (memory in nature/place) to suggest that in the practice of rituals, ‘… the present participants will resonate with morphic resonance with those who’ve done the ritual before.’ A community of people who practice a ritual extends beyond the here and now and includes ancestors: ‘… a literal collapse of time of presence and the past, connecting those performing the ritual with those who’ve done it in the past.’

Perhaps the ‘memory’ in a place, which may have been created through repeated ritual practice in that place, acts like an intention of how beings should interact with place and each other in situ. Maybe morphic resonance is like an affordance of place [James J. Gibson described affordance as all “action possibilities” latent in the environment (Gibson, J.J. (1977), The Theory of Affordances. In Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing, [Ed] Shaw, R. and Bransford, J.)]. When I am camping at Murdudun north of Quandong Point, I always feel like I should rest there. It is a very nurturing place in country which resonates with a strong female presence/energy. Yet each place in country feels different; Goolarabooloo people might say that each place has its own liyan (feeling… but this translation of liyan is completely inadequate as there is so much which is sensed that cannot easily be articulated into language).

I see words like intention, dreaming/creation, liyan, morphic resonance, sacred and ritual swirling around above me in a figure of 8, their connections between one another and their meanings slowly becoming more solid, more visible.


February 12, 2014 · 2:36 am

The Otherside

Last week I went to a screening of Warwick Thorton’s new film The Darkside. This film is an assemblage of true stories from people who have encountered spirits. Each story is a performance of a transcript that was generated through an interview between Thornton and the storyteller. Some stories are performed by actors, others by the storytellers themselves. The Darkside forms part of a bigger storytelling project The Otherside, and is open to contributions from the public. Whilst scanning the stories I came across Whale Dreaming by Jenny Symonds. Jenny’s story holds resonance for me as she too is an Australian woman of Western heritage and has had encounters with spirits in place. In her words, “It was almost like the land was revealing a little bit here and there…”

Her story about Whale Dreaming reminds me of the Rainbow Serpent in the sky story I shared a while back (speaking of which I have been doing some poking around into other blogs and found this post about a Rainbow Feather Cloud – that’s what it looked like… except snakier).

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sensing, presencing in


Shaping perception.

A shield;

Creating the reality or facade of ‘other’,

protection from the outside?

And what is inside?


What flows in-between?

Peeling, cracking,


like the earth. Textured like the earth.

Mirror or seamless continuation?


Allowing sensitivities to be touched.







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“There are patterns and connections in our lives that elude us: resonances, fields of force, which go unknown until we tune our minds to the world beyond ourselves. Often it seems to me that life’s surface and the links of cause and effect we imagine ruling us are deceptive, and that deeper systems and symmetries lurk just out of sight: patterns that yearn for us to find them, and align ourselves with them. I believe it is the task of the writer not only to trace the hidden links between places, and between people, but to live in such a way that those links become clearer, and the hidden geometries around us confess themselves”

Rothwell in Wings of a Kite-Hawk (2003, p. xxi)

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