THE PEACEFUL WAY
I have had the strongest feeling to write down what I have just experienced and send it to my friends for Christmas.
I very seldom write about my clown experiences but today was wonderful. I clowned at Maribyrnong Detention Centre. Those who know of my life know that things seem to happen to me. I don't set out with plans, just follow my heart. I want to tell this story because I feel so inspired by my experiences.
I was staying with my friend Reta. For those who don't know, at this point in time I don't have a home. Yes, technically homeless. Just to fill you in. I have decided to live the values I teach. I choose not to go onto Centrelink because I will not be lying to employers about wanting jobs. My work is world peace. I wish to be truthful. So I now have to live on what money I receive through my work or good fortune. Which comes in intermittently. I can't pay for rent at this time and have been staying with friends for short periods. I am now housesitting for 6 weeks. So my journey has been amazing so far. The moving around has deepened some wonderful friendships and created opportunities. That is another story.
Back to the main story. My beautiful friend Reta is a peace activist. She protests outside the US Embassy and the Shrine of Remembrance. She is a person who feels very strongly about the injustice she sees in the world. She only became an activist after September 11. She is truly motivated by compassion for the suffering of others. Reta and I have different approaches but same heart. I resonate strongly with Gandhi and believe in nonviolence. Similar to Gandhi, within myself I am working on removing all violence in thought, word and action. I also experiencing a spiritual life within. I believe I must be peaceful in order to create peace in the world. I have still a long way to go but this is my inner feeling. Anyway, Reta was telling me about a refugee protest in the city. I felt I didn't want to go because I thought what's the point. It has to be effective. People will just hear the noise and switch off. Later on, we talked again and I felt inspired and told her what I would do if it was up to me. She asked me 'what?'. I said 'I would make big Christmas cards and deliver them to Maribyrnong and the United Nations'. I explained to Reta my reasons. I feel to inspire people for peace, to build a bridge, to actually create peace. The Christmas card idea is to get ordinary people to think and write down wishes for peace for the United Nations card. Not necessarily endorsing the U.N. but giving positive wishes for the type of peace people want to see. I would not encourage venting or negative comments. I believe it is through positive thought that positive action follows. I wish to work in harmony with others. The card to the staff and refugees at Maribyrnong is to give people a sense that others care for them, that they are not so alone. It is to make them feel good about themselves. It is to build a bridge between staff and detainees also. It also makes those writing the comments feel good. So in a sense, it activates people to do something, even if symbolically. We have to start somewhere. To me any act of kindness is an act of peace. So Reta said 'let's do it, I have some card'. She told me she had a meeting with Women for Peace and I should talk about it then. So I did, but didn't feel the women were that interested perhaps busy with Christmas and other matters. However, after talking with a friend, I made a decision to do it anyway.
I interviewed Basil Varghese on my radio program on the Thursday. He is the Education Officer and Ambassador at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Our subject was poverty and homelessness. He and I have become friends. I talked to him about my life. I think he was surprised. I read a poem about homelessness on radio and Basil felt inspired by it. After the program he tentatively approached me and said 'do you take money for your REAL HOPE program from the Brotherhood'. I said 'yes for the program' then he reached over and handed me $50. I said 'no, not for myself'. But I accepted it, because I believe when someone wishes to give, you must respect that, allow it. So I took it but assured him it would go into the Christmas card project. As I don't have a lot of funds that is precisely what I did. I was so touched by his generosity. He is an incredible person.
I went shopping. I managed to get large cardboard ¾ of my size. I bought paints, glitter, paper for messages, paint brushes, tape etc. etc. I photocopied brochures to explain to people what we were trying to do. I also wrote a Christmas poem to encourage giving love to each other at Christmas. I also added Professor Camilleri's comments from the Social Forum, to encourage people to talk at Christmas about what peace means. So I did that too. I had a day to do the cards. I was unsure but found some clown pictures the children had done for me up at Gippsland and used them on the large cards. I managed to have them painted and ready within 5 hours. It was easier to do by myself. They were so big they just fitted into my Mitsubishi Colt (folded somewhat).
The Women for Peace came to support my initiative. I dressed as Peacefull the Clown and off to Bourke Street Mall we went. We parked our table and Christmas cards outside the Myer Windows. Not a Melbourne person myself, it was interesting to watch people line up for a moving image of Christmas. There was an irony here. Here we were asking people to write down their wishes for peace and to send love to those in detention as a Christmas wish and we found them quite unresponsive. I remember watching the people with the backs to me and looking into the window trying to get a feeling of Christmas. I felt if they turned around they would see the living message. Metaphorically distracted by instant gratification, turning their backs on the world. I watched people rush around for Christmas presents and could see so clearly how the true sense of Christmas was clouded by commercialism. Filling people's expectations and stockings, rather then their hearts. I was unperturbed by this. Very little phases me. I just go with the flow. So I spoke with people as they passed and asked if they wanted to sign my Christmas cards. Many walked by stiffly hardly looking and feeling that I may want something. Others smiled and politely refused. I asked them 'in the spirit of Christmas?' still no response by many. It was interesting. They didn't realize I did this for them. No ulterior motive. Some of course stopped and were really happy to fill out little notes and I stuck them up on the cards. In a sense I am trying to empower the public to do something, even if small. Also there is no money involved, this is simply to spread love. It was interesting to see the spark in children's eyes and mother's pull them away. I thought this is the moment you teach children how important it is to spread love. 'People don't teach peace', I thought. I could see how important my work is. I managed to get messages for the cards but not nearly as many as I thought. So it meant I had to come back again. There was no way I was going to Maribyrnong with a half filled card, what message would that send.
I have to tell you…. As I was walking back from my car I started chatting with a nice elderly gentleman. It turns out he owns a car yard. I have been wanting a Peace Bus/vehicle for ages. My car is on its last legs and I have no way to buy a vehicle. So I said to him 'I hope you don't mind I am going to be bold and ask you if you want to donate a Peace Bus'. He says he doesn't donate but he will help me with a presentation to get one. He gives me his details. I ring his secretary and it turns out he knows everyone in the car business. So who know's maybe providence will get me a vehicle. I want to take it around rural areas and also the cities with information about peace, nonviolence and anti-bullying. I want to make peace visible and practical.
I clowned with Hairy Potter, Uncle Rad, Lee Lee and a new clown at the Royal Talbot on the Sunday and had an incredible time. I can't tell you how incredible it is when we clown in hospitals. What stood out for me there was one of the staff wrote us a Christmas card and told us she looks forward to seeing us and missed us when we weren't there. We went into one room and had a sing along, we had one man honking like a piggy, another - a cow and the third - a horse. It was so funny, grown business men playing on the farm. It was great too. Then one of them grabbed me and hugged me. I think he liked me. They all loved it. We hugged everyone and chatted to them. I juggled and joked as I do. We then went into the ward with amputees. One remembered us, she had her second leg off. In the space of clowning I tend to observe and see funny in everything. So we joke with people, it is a light atmosphere we create. You have to; if you get serious then it changes things. It was later on that I sat quietly and thought about the many ladies I saw with no legs and how life would be for them. One said to me she wished she had done more in her life, that she was always worried about what others thought. She said 'then I got sick and now I realize I should have done what I wanted'. I also met another old lady as her and family came out of the lift. The daughter was in a wheelchair, we made a fuss of her. I always try to touch all people not just the person hospitalized. I got speaking with the grandmother and she said she always wanted to be a clown. I said 'come with us'. She said I am too old. I pointed to Hairy Potter (the elder of the troupe) and said 'never too old'. I meant it. People give up too quick. It was an incredible day and wherever we went people smiled and waved. We even went for coffee in Fairfield and chatted with people going passed. I juggled on the street and got some toots. Some kids came up on bikes, one wanted to water bomb me, I started running for the shop and he missed. I laughed at him and then asked if I could ride his friend's skateboard. They watched amazed as I started to do tricks on the board. They didn't know I used to be the first woman skater, I rode on half pipes. I still enjoy it. My clown buddies were surprised and said they wouldn't have thought a woman my age could do it. I just laughed. I don't believe in limits. I am getting over societal norms.
Anyway - back to the Christmas cards. My friend Jon (Hairy Potter) agreed to come clowning in the city to finish the Christmas cards. He is such a beautiful person. He drove all the way from Oakley to Eltham to transport the cards. They are very big. I am staying in the most amazing house overlooking a forest (thought: am I poor or am I living?). Gave him the tour then we left. He drove me which gave me a break. He dropped me first and parked. I set up and started to clown around with people. I said 'write your thoughts for world peace, now is your chance', 'send good wishes to people who are in detention'. I got one negative comment about refugees. I asked her playfully why she thought that way. She said 'they are locked away for a long time, they are not honest', she seemed to equate that with crime. It was interesting the messages of illegal, immoral, terrorism seeps into the public mind. I told her she was welcome to her view, I said 'do you want to write something for those that are honest', she was steadfast. So I didn't push it and encouraged her to write to the U.N. I do respect people's opinions and realize that the media has demonized refugees, so we must be patient with some responses. Others were quite responsive. An Age reporter came up and questioned Jon about what we were doing. She wrote a note, which in part condemned the Australian government. I kept those messages towards the bottom, I didn't want to restrict any opinion but was aware that we didn't want the card being refused at Maribyrnong. I also met a Vietnam Vet who was an alcoholic. He was saying 'they train us to kill…do you get that…' he was very upset. He felt very negative about the world and started to cry. I tapped him on the shoulder. I told him 'by sending positive messages, if we all be positive things can change. Perhaps we should train people on how to love'. He was very touched and left waving, looking back. He really felt connected. People let us in to their hearts. Some Greek people wrote notes, Chinese, French and various other people. All shapes and sizes. One grandmother refused but I told her to be an example for the grandchildren. Many older people stop participating, I feel we are all responsible. I even wrote the note for her in her words. She was happy. It is all empowerment. It changes the world, our world, and the person's world. The power of action cannot be underestimated. We handed out lots of brochures. I see it as ripples in the ocean. You never know how people are affected. Gandhi was one man who influenced 400 million.
I feel an affinity with children, there is a special connection. It doesn't take me long to reach them and often they look deeply into my eyes as they walk off with a balloon or a smile, waving. I know it changes them. This particular day was much better. I felt it is important to be visible. People are always watching. Often I have people that recognize me and come up to say hello and give a hug. To me clowning is peace in action. I like getting in touch with the people and making contact. I feel too many people keep their distance from the public. It is my wish to empower them and give them a voice. The cards are one way, but I will do more as time goes on. I believe in the people and I don't blame them for their current perception of the world, most of it is fed through the media and a fearful government. I do know that change will only come through the second superpower, public opinion.
Poor 'ol Jon got a parking ticket as we left. He was so gracious about it, I felt bad because I delayed him. Funnily enough when he got home he found out he won money which covered the ticket. Yes!
Well today (Wednesday) we went to Maribyrnong. This happened because I impulsively sent an email to a visitor and said 'if you want clowns sometime call me'. To my surprise I had a return email inviting me on Wednesday to the Christmas party. I didn't feel perturbed at all. Tom warmed me that it is confronting going into Maribyrnong because of the high walls and barbed wire. But I have been in a prison in Queensland transcribing a meeting with Corrective Services. For me the door banging and locking behind me felt strange, claustrophobic and I felt sorry for the inmates. Anyway, Tom also said don't expect them to be happy, some don't speak English, different customs etc. Jon said 'just be yourself'. I knew I would. I know in my heart I can reach them. I also can reach the staff. We have been doing this a long time now and I am used to all kinds of reactions or non reactions. I never take it personally. It always reflects the emotional space of the person. I try not to judge anyone, just be gentle and play. Anyway we all met at Maribyrnong. Tom and I walked up to the huge gates and a Scottish man let us in. I asked him how long he had had his accent. 'All my life' he says, we had a laugh together as I passed. Ann our contact had arranged for us to be on the list.. How was the timing, I wanted to deliver the Christmas card on this day and whalla, I get an invite. Straight in. I could personally deliver it to the people. Had I not been on the list the card would have been taken but shelved.
Anyway, Tom and I go to the visitors area which is like immigration. It is a Commonwealth facility but the operators are private. They have us sign a document and all our keys, phones, weapons of mass destruction must go into the locker. Tom and I start playing around with the staff and stirring them. They had a great sense of humour. I whipped out my orgasmatron and they were tentative at first, then lined up. I told them it was good for hair growth. To others I whispered 'increases IQ', and laughed. Tom started going through the application and making jokes. He was so funny. We wondered where we had put our weapons of mass destruction, or I quipped weapons of mass destraction. When Jon arrived we had to go out and get the Christmas card. The guards tell us to pull when it is really push. Ha ha comedians, I said we were from the school of the intellectually gifted. It was nice. Bridge built there. So we grabbed the giant card with all these beautiful messages from the people of Melbourne, stuck all over it. Finally they let us in. We went around to the Christmas party that was in the lawns out the back. The guards opened the gate and the boys stood back. I launched in front of them towards a crowd of 65 people. I started to tell them 'we have brought you a Christmas card from the people of Melbourne…we love you'. I then started to juggle and pulled out some scarfs and juggled those. The children immediately lept on me. I blew bubbles on them. I put my peace hat on one of the fellows and blew kisses to them. I shook hands with every single person as I went around the group and said 'welcome to Australia, you are welcome'. There were Vietnamese, Tongans, Afghans, Indians, Pakistani's, Iranians, Bulgarians, Cambodians and one token American (to my surprise). They were all to be deported. They were beautiful people. I massaged them and brought out the orgasmatron, they were a bit unsure then got into when they saw the looks of happiness on people's faces. I have a happy bag, I pulled that out, squeezed it and it starts to laugh. I held it up to people's ears. They smiled. I played soccer and volley ball, ran from the children, threw balls with detainees and didn't stop for 2 hours. I kept on connecting to bring joy into their lives. It was definitely a prison setting. Many were sad I could see. I told them that 'life is a journey, try to stay positive, smile'. I wasn't being contrite I feel that is the only way you can face difficulties, try to remain positive no matter what. I wrote messages on the Christmas card to give them hope. They were just ordinary people like you and me. My heart was very heavy when I left. A maximum security jail for ordinary people. I am with the New Zealanders, let them roam around freely. It is cruel to lock them up. One had been there for 4 years. Another showed me his photo's of his girlfriend. He was from Fiji. He said 'it is o.k. for me to go back to Fiji, it is a nice place but some of these people have to go back to bad places, its not good'. I thought about the classes of those 'we choose to let in and those we don't'. I thought about the business people having free passage around the world. They have economic value, but ordinary people are not free to move between borders. They have to be controlled. Everything at the Detention Centre is controlled. I was pleased to meet the volunteers there. The International Red Cross gives out free phone cards, so the people can call home. Very hard in Afghanistan, no phones, but nonetheless a great thing to do. There was a sister there that has worked for years. I gave her a massage. Another who was my new contact said 'the world is insane'. She felt very sad about their plight. I have to say I had an insight the other day One woman signing my card said there was a team of American's that were in detention for a few days and then got visas. She reinforced the racial nature of this. Of course I only saw one whitey, an American woman, the rest were from third world countries and many of these countries either poor or war torn. Wasn't the 1951 Refugee Convention about helping people to find refuge? I absolutely believe this should include economic/environmental migrants. Now some would say we will get flooded. Most people that I have spoken to from Afghanistan said they want to stay at home but it is impossible with the violence. Many are forced to leave. Hunger is violence as well. Until the world sees itself as one, and the plight of another as its own, we will behave in ways less than humanitarian. To me, a true civilization, acts civilly and with respect for all human rights. Not on the basis of economic value.
I massaged everyone, guards included. It was interesting to observe the guards and detainees were physically separate at the party. I feel they didn't really know how to connect, I guess jailor, power issues under the surface. I also massaged them because I wanted to re-humanise them in front of detainees, and visa versa. To see people laughing creates a bridge. One confided in me and said it was very hard. I could understand. He said I just have to have faith in the system. But I knew in his eyes that he felt it was wrong, he was a kind man. They can see these are ordinary people. They would know the stories, they would see the trauma, especially when they are deported. I massaged them and made my comments how important it is that we feel compassion for others. It is what we can do in the situation that is important. That there are lots of sides to the stories.
So silently the refugees went through the prison door and returned to the inside. I didn't realize they were slipping away. I wanted to say goodbye at the very least. I always do when people leave my space. I wanted them to know they are important. I wondered why they had to go in. Why can't they be free to spend the afternoon with us. They can't go out of the prison at all. So sad. What is their crime, feeling so sad that they had to leave their homes. We Australian's have no idea about the rest of the world. But we will find out. We have a government that is moving us in a direction that will awaken us. Trust me on that.
Outside the gates in the garden, I encouraged the guards, the volunteers and us clowns to have a group hug. Yes, a group hug. We did this in Russia a lot. I also demonstrated the 'kissing machine'. This is when you put one person in the middle and kiss them on the head. But no takers, chickens. I did it myself and they just smiled. But I said a few words about the importance of giving love to people and my wish for Christmas for them all. It was a great moment. We made some friends this day.
After our prison experience we headed to the Salvation Army to thank them for the wonderful toys they give us to take to hospitals. To see the faces. We chatted, joked, hugged and received gifts as well from them. I was given a peace teddy.
We then headed to the UN Association in Fitzroy to deliver their Christmas card. It had lots of great messages. I had a gorgeous picture done by the children in Gippsland about Responsibility. The children depicted a boy saying 'get my ball' and the other said 'no'. I tell the children not to give their power away. I pointed out to the staff at the U.N. that this was the same as the U.S. and the U.N. It is time for the U.N. to say no, which it did in Iraq. We are seeing the bullying and retributive tactics of the U.S. administration to-date. It is very important that all countries learn to stand up as one voice. Particularly in the times we are moving into, otherwise there will be chaos. It is very important that international law is respected, adhered to and enforced. So there will be many lessons to be learned if we are going to create peace. The reality is that we must empower individuals to take responsibility. It is only through the collective efforts of all of us that peace can be achieved. Of this I have no doubt. It means facing fears.
I read an interesting story. It describes a forest that is unknown; it is a deep forest untouched. There is a small blade of grass, it is so insignificant that it cannot affect the universe; it is just a blade of grass. Now a flicker of light filters through the canopy and casts a shadow of the blade of grass onto a rock. The shadow is our fear. Most people identify with the shadow not themselves, the blade of grass. It is so important that individuals learn to remove the fear. Most of it is imagined but what it does is direct consciousness in a certain direction. Fear is a destructive emotion that creates division and pain in others. It is what is destroying the earth. I never see people as an enemy only fear and guilt; these are the true enemies of humankind. The true person is actually born loving. People naturally feel love but suppress it. These are heavily conditioned responses. I know this, particularly as I clown, I step out of social conditioning and can observe clearly the heavy conditioning and imprisonment. To be honest I see people as more imprisoned in the Bourke Street Mall than the refugees. They are trapped in a system that pressures them to buy presents, keep working, and pay bills in an endless cycle. They live in constant fear. We see this manifest in stress, road rage, cancer and other illnesses. I can see the fear when people don't respond to me. I know they don't know what to do. I feel compassion for them. I also see they won't take responsibility. That is also conscious. So what I am saying is that peace can only come when we shift our thinking, our consciousness to love, to trust in others. I am doing that slowly through my clowning and consciously practicing it. I am also learning to not judge. Even as aware as I am, I still catch myself concluding on others and feeling fear too. But I am trying to change it. Clowning is a wonderful teacher because I see such beauty in people. They constantly smile at me and hug me. Even when I am driving, you wouldn't believe the feeling. I give them permission to show love. So I get to see the reality that is often hidden in others. I feel very privileged. You will never catch me negative for long. I snap out of it pretty quick.
Just one more thing. In Fitzroy we went for coffee and cake. We were starving. We didn't eat anything at Maribyrnong. So we sat outside saying hi to people as they passed. Uncle Rad decides to ask people if they sing. He gets this woman to stop. She is Flemish and sings happy birthday in Flemish. Very good it twas. Then he asks others they say no and smile. Then another women is walking on the street with a book on her head. Yes, someone we can relate to. Both clowns jumped up. I laughed at them. Turns out she is a clown too, does face painting etc. She spent ages with us. We danced on the street. Then this other guy stops, he is a fiddler. Brings out the fiddle and the party gets started. There we are doing strip the willow, jumping around. It was such fun. The Ron Kintock (is that right), he is the one that does the sleepmaker ads, you know. He comes over and I orgasmatron him, we tell him about Maribynong. He is a supporter of the refugees. It was really nice. I told him about my work teaching peace. Then off he goes. It was fantastic. To get people involved, Tom has a talent there. To break the monotony of this life and engage people in connecting. Fantastic feeling. We were all exhausted after that. What a day. We were amazed at the joy we all felt.
So to conclude this story. What I want to share with you is when you form an intention to do good in the world. You are supported. People donated to me without my asking, others gave me lifts (saved me petrol), others offered to pay my photocopying, others directed me to Maribyrnong, some buy me coffees. I can't believe the amount of love that comes my way. I am also putting it out there because I genuinely feel it. To me this is the real life. I don't have much of what others have, but I feel so incredibly happy. To give love is the most beautiful feeling. It opens up a reality which is full of promise. Once you start you can't stop. It makes me think of Shindler (Shindlers List) where he wished he had helped the Jews earlier. He felt the satisfaction of helping them. That is what I feel everytime I step out of my comfort zone and meet with the people. I realize how incredible people are. I feel only love for them. It adds light to the world. There is a lightness, you could say en-lighten-ment.
So I wish you joy and love. I ask you to consider to follow your heart in this life. I guarantee you, you will never look back. Just make sure it is your dream, your heart not imagination or some else's dream. To follow the crowd may bring a sense of security but the life is over before you know it. Live it fully. You will grow and change so quickly. When you hold back and repeat old patterns, you never change. You miss out on the jewel which is only revealed when you seek to look.
I love you all. If you got this far. Then maybe I have touched your heart. Maybe you will follow your heart too.
My wish for you is peace and love and a life that fulfills your every dream.
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