I’m Juliet Fay, based in West Wales, UK, a writer and Three Principles Facilitator. Join my list for updates and this free e-booklet, ‘Plagued with doubt? A simple way through’.
Perfectionism has rolled back around into the spotlight. It gets a bad rap and rightly so for it tends to be used against oneself. In discussion, my partner said ‘it’s a kind of violence’. And that really landed for me. It can be violent, where it suffocates creative expression or taking action and invites us into excruciatingly, uncomfortable procrastination.
What even is it all about? Some imagined idea of how something should be? Holding that as the only possible outcome, seeing only how our efforts fall short of that imagined outcome? When we know, it is in taking action that new horizons appear. By letting ideas out, formed into action, new ideas occur. Mis-takes can be seen as opportunities that open up new possibilities
A few years ago, a dear friend told me one of the root meanings of ‘perfect’ is ‘as made’ from the Latin ‘per’ – completely and facere – to make, to do. I love that idea. Something is perfect in the sense, it has come into form, it is perfect simply as an expression of form. When we get to wondering at the miraculous diversity of form constantly showing up, then the word perfect suddenly goes far deeper.
I wonder how that would be to see ourselves too as ‘perfect’ ~ ‘as made’?
You’ll be able to hear me and Carla Royal exploring this topic on our new podcast, Riffing on Realness, launching in the Autumn. We had a blast.
What are you seeing around perfectionism?
© words & illustration Juliet Fay 2020
Reposts welcome, please just tag me and #julietkfay
#photooftheday #monochromeart #instaart #makersmovement
#womenpoets #writingcommunity #writersofinstagram
Juliet is a poet and Three Principles facilitator & mental health educator, living on a small estuary in West Wales UK, follow her Insta-poems and photograph @juliet_k_fay. Get in touch to hire her to facilitate your next poetry workshop.
© 'Sunshine and showers', photograph by Juliet Fay 2020
And suddenly there was more space.
It opened up without warning.
Space to breathe.
Space to explore.
Space to be, not this or that
But both at the same time.
Space to hold either and or,
Not in conflict or with tension
But allowing both to co-exist
And simply wonder
At the juxtaposition.
Space to allow
Something new to emerge,
To adopt one position or
To be happy at lockdown easing;
And frightened at lockdown easing.
To feel love for the world;
And be in judgement of that one person.
To love where you live;
And long to live elsewhere.
To be a loving mother;
And a mother who left.
To be soft and gentle;
And mean and angry.
To love someone;
And not want to stay with them.
To want to change the world;
And feel overwhelmed at the prospect.
To feel the sorrows of the world;
And feel joy bubbling in your heart.
Seeing that both could be true
The one did not need
To negate the other.
The inherent tension
Coming from a
Too narrow view.
We innocently hold
And rush prematurely
But there is no need
As the binary approach
To the realisation of
In each moment,
The false correlations
(Only ever stories)
Fade and there is only
A beautiful freedom
Blossoms in the
Emotional freedom of
The freedom in being able to hold these opposing feelings, statements, facts, perceptions, preferences, desires and stories is like some amazing flavour discovered on a foreign trip. One unimaginable until the moment it dissolves on your tongue and your taste buds explode in a glorious hallelujah of delight.
The photo is one of many taken here on the estuary in West Wales. So often sunshine and showers lead to rainbows!
This began as an article, turned into a prose poem but couldn’t quite let go of the article format, so in the spirit of ‘and…. both’ I give it to you as a hybrid if you will. The discovery captured in this piece came about as a result of an insight. Insight leads to a change of heart and, in this case, an upswell of gratitude. The Three Principles understanding points us to the fact that we are built for insight and as we look in the direction of a deeper dimension of thought, insight changes our relationship with our experience. Find out about getting into conversation with me.
‘We’re all in the same storm but we’re not all in the same boat.’
This quote is a lovely reminder that every person’s experience is unique to them in every moment.
Through the Daily Gathering and other conversations I’m noticing how, whatever the circumstances: very busy, houseful, working from home with adult children returned or young children. Income disappearing or threatened; furloughed; retired; physically unwell; physically fit there is something obvious but easy to overlook: we are all having ups and downs, regardless of our circumstances.
It’s good to notice how, when we feel irked and frustrated then the world looks annoying and difficult (and our stress looks bigger and more important than everyone else’s); when we feel relaxed and content then we tend to have more perspective, humour and tolerance. We don’t tend to focus on the past or future too much and simply go about our day, finding it easier to deal with what comes up or able to wait until a solution occurs.
When we’re out of sorts, we tend to be more reactive and that looks different for different people. Some get spiky, loud and aggressive; some go quiet and hide, some lose focus and get weepy. Some do that to a large degree; others to a lesser degree.
Going in and out of different states of mind is entirely normal and is not a result of this pandemic. It happens anyway, all the time, to everyone.
It may look as though you are more up and down just now and that may seem to be the result of the pandemic but actually it may simply be that things that have always been true are becoming more visible to you.
Things like certainty. You may have feelings of anxiety and panic which look tied to the loss of certainty around eg income, plans or visiting family members.
Yet all our lives we have come up against things that didn’t go to plan. Mostly, after we’ve got over our upset or disappointment, something occurs to us which helps us navigate the new situation. It’s good to remember we have this innate capacity to deal with what arises, once our mind settles down. s
That can lead to noticing that things were never really certain, we just liked to believe they were. In fact, certainty around anything (except death and taxes) is an illusion.
That can be pretty uncomfortable if you’re wellbeing looks tied to your income or your plans or your time with family.
When, however, you get a glimpse of how your experience is constantly fluctuating from relaxation to tension, feelings of hope to feelings of irritation and everything in between, you might begin to wonder how your feeling state could possibly be a measure of your wellbeing, given how arbitrary and changeable it is, regardless of the circumstances.
What if there is something unaffected by any particular state of mind you might be experiencing? What if there is wellbeing at your core that is not subject to your moods or external circumstances?
As we get curious about that, we start to notice when we’re relaxed, curious and open, life feels easier, solutions occur to us, we can find joy in the small and ordinary moments of life.
We get less fascinated by what we might happen to be feeling in any given moment and more interested in what powers this whole thing called human experience.
That exploration can lead to feeling more grounded, more able to experience ups and downs with less suffering, doing less harm to yourself and others and finding unexpected joy and peace in the midst of the most unusual circumstances.
You know this at some level.
When the world looks and feels crazy to you, something is calling you home to a deeper understanding of your essence.
So really this is just to say, give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. We all do and say daft things when we’re agitated and the world looks bleak when we’re down.
But like the weather in the UK, the dark clouds pass and the sun comes out again at some point. Knowing that, can help us weather the ups and downs without getting too stuck into our clouded (distorted) points of view.
Knowing things will look less daunting in time and we’ll suffer less if we can leave our negative thinking alone and just go about our day as best we can.
In the meantime, I love the Irish saying,
Photograph © Juliet Fay San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge 5.30pm Thursday 19 March 2020
Author’s note: I’m now safely back in the UK, and in a period of 14 days of self-isolation, though feeling fine.
As is I sit at Gate 6 tonight waiting to board one of the few flights departing San Francisco, bound for London, the mood is subdued. It’s a ghost town.
The lack of tannoy announcements emphasises just how severe the curtailment of air travel has been in so very few days. A shadow of its former self, the daily commute over San Francisco bridge had melted away.
At the airport, face masks and gloves are common on staff and passengers. A little more distance is offered and sought. The much loved hum of a busy transport hub is eerily absent.
Tears today as I leave my love in California, not knowing when we’ll see each other again. Wanting to stay yet knowing it’s time to go (while it’s still possible).
Feeling such gratitude for all the unseen hands that made this journey possible: the gentle telephone operator at British Airways, the staff at the airport and the crews who are taking so many of us home.
Suddenly so many in the frontline are becoming visible to us all
Yesterday my 16 year old daughter called me, in shock at the announcement of school closure and the sudden cancellation of the summer exams.
Something she, and many like her, sitting milestone exams have focused on for many months. She was in a turmoil, as were her friends. The future they’ve imagined dissolved by the utterance of a few words carried on the airwaves from a distant seat of government, just one of the myriad responses to a threat we cannot see.
It reminded me of when I lost my father suddenly 20 years ago. ‘Your father has died’; four small words whispered into my just waking ear, and my world spun, dissolved and I lost two weeks as my mind tried to catch up with the new reality that didn’t include my Dad.
I’m struck by how we are collectively reeling from loss upon loss, as the world we know transforms before our eyes. And this will continue. We are losing loved ones, mobility, function, jobs, routines, pay packets, income, contracts, goals, freedoms, trips, hugs, closeness, autonomy; we are losing our certainties and the security of our imagined futures.
And this can feel scary, like being in free-fall
And you begin to see that loss is a universal human experience from the seemingly minor; losing keys to what we consider major losses, like redundancy and bereavement. The emotions we feel at times of loss can be heightened, contradictory and obey no rhyme or reason.
Feelings of shock, disbelief, numbness, anger, despair, frustration, black humour, hopelessness and profound, heart wrenching sadness tumble through in no particular order. We catch our breath at the force of the waves of emotion crashing under our ribs.
And I am seeing anew the wisdom of our body mind system in the face of what can feel like a ceaseless battery of loss.
When our minds shut down, it is wisdom gently and beautifully saying ‘enough’ with trying to think your way through this. You can’t.
The body wisdom takes over to give your poor system a much needed breather. When tears fall at the security gate, the body is releasing pent up emotion that wants only to wash through. When the noise of unexpectedly ‘at home’, arguing children feels unbearable and you get propelled outside to breathe the cool night air, that is wisdom nudging you to minimise harm in the moment and give you a mini refresh.
When tempers flare and fights break out over toilet rolls in the aisles, or cereal at breakfast time, that too is a kind of wisdom, the misdirected survival instinct grabbing onto what looks like it would bring some comfort and security in these times of blindly charting the unknown territory ahead. The power surging through our systems, reminding us forcefully that we’re alive and being alive is a precious gift.
In some of the programmes I’ve delivered at a local mental health charity, loss is a recurring theme, but so too is renewal. As we adapt to living without the thing, function, person or imagined future we held so dear (and let’s admit, took for granted often), something gently beckons our attention.
It is the space that holds the loss. As we loosen our grip on the loss, our focal-length changes and the space comes into view. It is the space of the not yet known, the space of possibility, the space of infinite wisdom. The space where something new can flourish and grow.
And something new, always, always begins with a fresh thought
Throughout our lives, we have faced loss after loss and sometimes, without us even noticing that loss is transmuted into something achingly beautiful.
In the stinging freshness of raw loss, like lemon juice in a cut, we can’t conceive how this event could feel anything other than piercingly painful and yet, and yet our minds refresh our perspective again and again sometimes over years until one day, we think of the loss with gratitude and tenderness, as the kaleidoscope of experience is seen from the distance of months or years and its wondrous pattern is revealed.
And too, among the losses we think we cannot bear, we notice losses that leave us lighter of heart. Losing grudges, bitterness, jealousy, resentments, worrying, comparing, judging, criticising, competing, self-importance, fascination with our selves and being constantly offended or outraged. Finding the trivial and petty gently releasing its grip on us. These things lose their importance as the bigger picture comes into sharp relief.
And in their place we discover a new found kindness, compassion, humour, warmth and wonder spontaneously arising at this being human business.
And it gradually dawns on us we never did have control and our futures were never certain, we just told ourselves they were.
And while we have been going about our days, every day, millions have been experiencing loss and renewal over and over again. Because this is the nature of life.
These losses, the gentle falling away of beliefs, concepts and ideas that keep us grasping blindly for certainties that do not exist, these are the treasures. These are gifts. Like scales falling from our eyes, they enable us to feel our shared humanity, our intimate interconnectedness.
As our sense of separation recedes, the world can transform before our eyes
And transforming it is.
As the world’s foot eases back on the accelerator of intense human activity we notice losses we can marvel at: the loss of air pollution letting great swathes of urban populations breathe easier; the loss of noise pollution, as that background cacophony subsides, we notice birdsong and the sigh of wind in the trees; as the waterways of Venice are recovering from years of pollution, stories of sparkling clear water; as the rush of the commute grinds to a halt, couples, families, neighbours and communities are discovering each other, as if for the first time.
And as with any adjustment, at first it may be bumpy, but as we collectively re-set, we may uncover something extraordinarily beautiful in the ordinariness of just being, being alive, loving each other, helping each other, caring for the earth and all its creatures.
We are already seeing things that looked inconceivable just last week (some countries are ahead of others with this, but surely more will follow?): financial support for the vulnerable, sharing of resources more equitably, care for those who are scared, failing, lonely or sick. Businesses turning their resources towards the common good, people offering their skills, time, expertise or funds to help others.
A collective reset on what we value: the carers, the teachers, the healthcare workers, the trash collectors, the childcare providers, the farmers and growers, the volunteers, the millions of helpers who have always been there. And that’s just in the short term.
A volunteer working on our organic veg box scheme in the 1990s, wisely observed (having grown up in Chile):
‘the two most undervalued roles in the Western world are: raising children and growing food; yet they are fundamental to life’.Volunteer Tony
Perhaps that is about to change.
Imagine what this upheaval and loss may open up in the longer term. New ways of working; new types of economies, new ways of caring for ourselves, each other and our planet.
Now at this time of accelerated loss, let’s collectively join hands in virtual solidarity as we open our hearts and eyes wide to the grief yes, but also to the unimaginable vastness of the unknown which has always been before us.
We like to make up certainties because we imagine that way safety lies. Those certainties obscure the fact that your next moment to moment experience is entirely unknown and up for grabs. Not what’s going to happen out there but what your ever changing experience is inside.
And change does not have to take years or be hard.
Innovation is the offspring of chaos
And what initiates innovation? Simply, a new thought that takes you not just to an adjustment but to an as yet unknown reality that can arrive in the mind of a person or a group in the blink of an eye.
And innovation creates its own momentum. Instead of seeing reasons why not, we begin to see possibilities we never imagined.
Now is not the time for timid steps, but for giant leaps of faith
As those certainties dissolve, we may discover in the midst of our grief, something extraordinary and yet so simple. Something we’ve always known.
Certainties are false idols
They do not provide the security we crave. That comes from within. From a deep knowing that we are intimately and intricately connected to all life. A knowing that what arises in us and through us comes from a far greater intelligence than we can comprehend.
A knowing that life is a mystery and that’s what makes it so profoundly awe inspiring. Knowing too that change is the only constant. Experience is life in motion. All the ups and downs, highs and lows, that’s what life is, a wild ride and we are asked simply to surrender to it.
Feeling the pull, following the thread of what our hearts know is true, grounds us into a quiet knowing, a knowing that ‘all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’ (Julian of Norwich) even as we grip the rails for this white knuckle ride. When it neither looks nor feels okay.
As we begin to wonder at what powers us, and all life, we begin to see certainties are nothing more than a figment of our imagination. Let’s face it: sometimes things work out as we planned; mostly they don’t. In the end, there is nothing but this present moment.
The past has gone; the future will never happen. The present is all you can ever lose
As we reel from loss upon loss, take heart dear ones, open your heart to all of it: the outrageous grief, the disbelief, the dismay the howling hysterics as toddlers, teenagers and adults with jangled nerves throw tantrums right, left and centre and let those things course through you like the storms they are.
And as they subside, let your heart overflow with the unbearable tenderness of memories of loved ones, moments of raucous laughter, sunlight falling on the kitchen sink and inappropriate belly laughs that lighten the weight of fear.
And notice, just there, just out of focus is a sense of peace, amid the cacophony of unchained emotion. Look to it.
Know that all this is just the ride, not the essence of what we are. Take your time, be gentle, wrap yourself in love and more love; care for yourself as if you were indeed just getting over ‘the flu’.
As I sit, high above the clouds in an Airbus flying over Greenland, appreciating the magic and the mayhem of air travel (and wondering how the industry may evolve), I recall the lovely story of the Chinese farmer. This is how I remember it….
There was once a poor Chinese farmer who had a horse he used to plough his field. One day, the horse escaped and ran away. The farmers’ neighbours rushed round when they heard the news and said, ‘how terrible!’ The Chinese farmer replied,
The next day, the farmer heard the sound of hooves approaching. His horse had returned bringing with him a wild horse. The farmer opened the gate and in they came. When his neighbour’s heard about this great good fortune, they came rushing round to see the new horse. ‘How wonderful’, they said. The Chinese farmer replied,
The following day, the farmer’s son, excited by the arrival of the wild horse, decided to try and ride it. The horse bolted and the young man was thrown to the ground, breaking his leg in the fall. The neighbours, eager to commiserate at this terrible bad luck, came to visit saying, ‘how awful, what will you do?”. The Chinese farmer replied
The country was at war and the very next day the local recruiting officer arrived to conscript the young men from the village. The Chinese farmer’s son was not fit for duty and so they passed him over. The neighbours heard the news, and were eager to congratulate the farmer on his good fortune. But the Chinese farmer replied, you guessed it,
Wishing you all well at this time.
Afterword: As I opened my front door after 24 hours of travel, I marvelled at how the inspiration to write this came through and occupied me on and off through the long, long journey, away from my love, towards home. The kindness of wisdom can be breathtaking.
It is the way of things
To start at the beginning
And return home
Again and again.
Spirals of unknowing.
Bumping up against
Lost parts of our experience
Like amputated limbs,
Ghostly presences, felt
In the body system
Unable to depart
At times the heart opens
Views the world
Through Love Goggles
Rosier by the day
Now and then the lost part
Cries out for recognition
And Fear Goggles
Turn the lights out.
Plunging the world into
Darkness, full of shadows
Perils at every turn
Waiting to consume us
The spiral turns again
Love rises embracing
The lost limb
Honouring its presence
Feeling its pain and
Howl of terror
Echoing through the night
The limb, the part, the belief
Illuminated for the first time
Shows its magnificence
The knight in shining armour
Always keeping you safe.
And now its work is done
We humbly thank and
Praise its tireless service
The iron grip releases
The lost part dissolves
Returns to source
For a happy retirement
In saying farewell
There is no triumph
Or victory song.
The spiral turns
A phantom emerged
Revealed and released
Who knows what more
Will come as the spiral
Turns and turns again.
© Juliet Fay 2018
While we continue to believe that parts of our experience (emotions) must be excluded, we will experience a painful dichotomy in our experience. It is this belief itself that needs to be loved and held and accepted as being present so that it too can dissolve and fall away.. Be seen for what it is …. a thought oft repeated that has become a belief and has guided and protected us until we no longer needed its guidance and protection. Humbly thank it and wish it farewell as it departs.
On the estuary where I live a rusty old fishing boat sits on the sand. I don’t know when it last went out to sea and yet at the rise of the tide this boat comes to life for a few hours, bobbing on the water.
When I see that boat, I often think of a moment I felt great hope stir in a room of 180 people, two years ago.
At the One Solution conference in Oslo in 2016 George Pransky raised the question:
Why hasn’t this Three Principles understanding spread further?
He responded, something to the effect, maybe the time wasn’t right but now there was a sense of change happening. “All boats rise with the tide,“ he said.
“All boats rise with the tide”
That phrase has stayed with me.
There seem to be more and more people looking towards Truth and I see people waking up to the idea there is an anchor point in their lives they have lost sight of.
It seems certain societies have gone off down a bit of a detour for a generation or two drifting away from home, chasing after shiny stuff and collectively losing sight of our essence and what this Life is all about.
It all seems to be getting less personal. As stuff that doesn’t serve us, falls away, we get lighter. Like a field of sunflowers turning towards the nourishing rays of the sun, beings are waking up everywhere.
And what a show it is.
Who knows, perhaps there have been other movements at other times in history in different parts of the world and I have a sense there are communities where the focus never shifted so far from the source.
It seems to be less about me and mine and more about Life and Love and connection coming into focus.
Why do I say this?
It makes sense.
If my life can be experienced so differently (though it looks much the same on the outside) and so many others I know (and know of) are finding their lives more peaceful, easy and filled with Love, then much as my little self would like to imagine this has something to do with me being a diligent student, I see this can’t really be the case.
Though I love gathering for conversations looking towards Truth and I love to share this understanding and help others share their understanding, to the best of my capacity, I’ve had a suspicion for a while now, that my own and others’ deepening awareness of what we really are is due to a collective rise in consciousness that is gathering pace.
And this is exciting for so many reasons:-
The shift towards an understanding of a universal consciousness beyond our personal sense of self, takes our focus away from the personal and towards the bigger picture where what we have in common is far more compelling than what divides us.
The teaching of this understanding in all its many forms is spreading in rural and urban areas around the world. The ripple effects of sharing this understanding overtly and covertly through our daily dealings with people is accelerating.
The impact of more and more human souls waking up to their True Nature is the great hope for humanity.
This rise in consciousness is being nourished by spiritual teachers and traditions all around the world using many different forms of words.
It seems to me there is a great germination happening and once started awareness seems to unfold in each being at a subconscious level.
So why continue to stay in the conversation?
All through history humankind has been drawn to congregate in a space of quiet reflection, to hear Truth. From storytellers round the fire to preachers in the pulpit, there is a deep desire to rest in the awareness of something greater than our (small) selves.
Just as the old fishing boat cannot help but rise with the tide, I have a sense that consciousness is rising in humanity and nothing can hold that back. Enjoy the ride!
© Juliet Fay 2018
Two years later and we might be asking where is this great swell of hope and rising consciousness? I guess it depends where we are looking from. I see several large scale shifts in awareness underway, around global issues: climate, sexism and systemic racism. It may look as if there is a big mountain to climb but the sea change in attitudes has a momentum that is bringing changes in behaviour. It may not include everyone but once there is some kind of critical mass, old systems and habits begin to give way as the thought patterns that created them lose their power.
Einstein famously said,
‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’
Knowing at some level we have everything we need to create more just and equitable communities, looks to me, to be the first step towards opening the door to the ideas, innovations and actions that will bring that into form.
Being willing to face the fact that our existing, often unconscious, conditioning, ways of inter-relating and foundational beliefs in scarcity and insecurity have led to some profoundly harmful ways of being in the world, looks like a doorway, an invitation to uncover the parts of our humanity that have been obscured.
And yes that might be painful to look squarely in the eye, but it is nothing to the hurt and pain that have been inflicted. But the healing, the treasure on offer for us all, the other side of that reckoning, is beyond what I can currently imagine. I sense it and am drawn towards it but I have a feeling, I may have to give up something (internally and externally) to get even a glimpse of the riches that lie beyond fear and insecurity.
13 July 2020
Photo © Juliet Fay
Three Rivers Estuary, Carmarthenshire Wales, UK
1st November 2017