Friday, September 11, 2009

Saying Yes to No

I’m going through the terrible two’s. Not my child, me. I am learning to say ‘no’, and say it with ease and dignity. Some kind of essential differentiation is arising within me to facilitate this ‘no’—a clarity of where I start and stop, of who I am and what I want and don’t want. Something that perhaps was never permitted when I was myself two years old. Perhaps it was too inconvenient for my mother and father, or too confronting or inappropriate. I was supposed to be a good girl after all, and two’s are terrible, and girls must not be that. And so now, at 45, I’m finally learning what I should have learned 43 years ago.

Nothing like returning to one’s family of origin to provoke inner shifts. I recently spent time with my father’s family back in New Mexico. My father was celebrating his 85th birthday—his wife, my step mother, putting on a grand extravaganza, complete with aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, students and worldly colleagues. Many of us coming from far away, it was to be the reunion of reunions. I looked forward to the event, imagining and hoping for—as I have since as long as I can remember—the possibility of heartfelt connections, sincere conversation and a sense of homecoming. The idea of family and belonging had worked itself into mythic proportions in my mind over the years, something that happens when such dreams are ever unrequited.

Something about the shear number of family members must have created a kind of tipping point, a veritable ‘perfect storm’ for my painful awakening to the reality of my family dynamics. My denial before then had been thick. Even my spiritual precepts had become tools to uphold the veil—compassion, love, seeing things from another’s perspective, loving what is, openness and nonjudgement. All these practices kept away a very painful truth about the people I loved, their habits of disrespect and covert hostility, and the way they treated me. As an adult, I just simply didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to experience the pain, despair and loneliness of it, and preferred over the years to scapegoat myself instead. It hurt to do this to myself, but it hurt less than feeling the real deal.

During my father’s birthday that evening, and after a series of rather confronting events, some inner clock ticked over—like the child of one year, 11 months and 30 days, when the lock tumblers line up and something just goes ‘click’. Fortunately I was in the good company of my beloved partner Wayne who honestly reflected the situation in a way that I could finally see it, in spite of how resistant I was at first. After some struggle, suddenly the spell broke. I saw, and said, ‘no’. No, I won’t be treated like this. No, I do not want to be in this family’s company. No, I don’t want to pretend I’m having fun. No, I’m tired of bending over, and making myself different in order to be loved. No, I no longer believe in the myth. I packed up my bags, and the bags of my children, and drove away.

Now to some, this may have looked on the outside, like a very immature thing to do. A two-year-old thing to do. But to someone who doesn’t say ‘no’ easily, being two is a sign of growing up. It’s a sign that some kind of differentiation is happening, and for many of us, women in particular, differentiation is a good thing. It’s a spiritual thing. An essential thing. That day, as I drove away from my father’s house, I drove down a new road, one that opened to an appreciation of the spiritual practice of saying ‘no’.

Many of us who have spent years living within some kind of spiritual understanding have tried to abide by certain codes that bring us back to centre, or sense of love and wholeness. We honour and try to live by concepts around openness, surrender and compassion. Suffering, we are told, is the result of our attachments and our desire to have it our way. The key to liberation is in letting go. The trouble is, these are concepts. And as what often happens with concepts, we live them through our own limited understanding. Often our unconscious takes the keys to our spiritual life, and drives it straight to hell.

For women this can be particularly true. Because so much of our collective psyche has been shaped around wounding of dominance and compliance, we tend to have confusion around the concepts that religion and spirituality espouse. Many of us have learned to leave our bodies through sexual trauma, and so the patriarchal spiritual concepts of transcendence is an easy place for us to reside. We forgo the wisdom of our bodies for some kind of disembodied ‘enlightenment’. We become push-overs for any kind of flimsy ideas…including the new age varieties of ‘being flexible’, ‘not creating dramas’, ‘letting go’, and ‘no resistance’. But in truth, often our ‘openness’ is just our masked fear of residing within our own skin, and claiming who we are. There is an existential aloneness to this. And for many of us, it can be terrifying.

If, for example, I have never learned about proper boundaries, as a girl and later as a woman (as so many of us have not), then when I try to live my spiritual idea of surrender, I will use it to continue my habit of personal disregard and lack of self definition. I might become involved with a sexually dysfunctional spiritual teacher (concepts of surrender are a real boon for those types), or continue a tedious career with an aggressive boss, over-function as a volunteer, or remain in energy-depleting friendships.

For women, I feel, our most rigorous spiritual work is in coming back into the body, in our incarnation, in feeling the boundaries and inclinations that come along with this body and beholding that they are inherently good and trustworthy. In this kind of work, other kinds of ideas are brought in to play: boundaries, exclusion, resistance, discernment and ... No.

Mary Caroline Richards, author of the seminal book Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, a contemplative questioning regarding the nature of art, wholeness, and our place in the cosmos, asserts the importance of antipathy. She acknowledges that for many years the importance of No evaded her. While the act of centring (either at the potter’s wheel or in life) is about bringing in, about saying ‘yes’ to all of existence, she says, there must also be a role for saying ‘no’. Centring with just a ‘yes’ makes for a one-sided act, an imbalanced pot. One also has to bring in the forces of resistance. ‘It would be the severest discipline for me to integrate the No, to reject, to judge. What was to become of love then, how about loving the enemy and doing good to those who revile us?’ she asks. ‘I “love” the tiger, but I do not put my head in its mouth. The hardest and most rewarding lesson has been to learn to experience antipathy objectively, with warmth.’

Culture loves a Yes man, and especially a Yes woman. Remember The Stepford Wives? People who please make for great slaves in the economic machine. People who are self-accountable are dangerous to the system, and scary for us personally. We don’t like to hear No. But if we’re honest, we feel safer with people who can say it. The costs of a Yes culture are many, from extinguishing our vital resources, to running us into the ground with exhaustion. Our inability to say No is also making us sick. In When The Body Says No, Dr Gabor Maté reveals clear links between serious, often terminal illnesses, and the psychological state of sufferers.

‘In over two decades of family medicine, including seven years of palliative care work, I was struck by how consistently the lives of people with chronic illness are characterised by emotional shut-down.’ Those suffering from chronic illness are incapable of considering their own emotional needs and driven by a compulsive sense of responsibility for the needs of others.’ Put simply these individuals all had difficulty saying no.

Besides being unhealthy, unspiritual and unpleasant to uphold, our inability to say No keeps us from meeting others with any real authenticity or kindness. Wayne Muller, in his soon to be released book A Life of Being, Having, Doing Enough (Crown / Random House) points out our habit of what he calls dishonest kindness. 'There are two kinds of compassion and care,' he writes. 'One is honest kindness, and the other, dishonest kindnewss. How many times have we promised, or pretended to be avialable, to listen, to care, when, in that moment , we honestly had no such capacity? And do we imagine that dishonest kindness actually brings healing and ease to another--or do we seed unintended suffering?'

We have to some how pull back in, listen to our genuine authentic inner voice, and determine where we start and stop, who we are in any given moment, what our boundaries are. Just as spiritual traditions honour certain precepts, laws or commandments that guide us about how to live, says Muller, so must we gain clarity about our own ‘inner constitution’, those inner beliefs and principles, that guide us in each moment, what we are and are not willing to do.

How many times to we say ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’? What kind of permission do we need to give ourselves in order to start being more real with our No? How would our days begin to shape themselves if we said ‘no’ more often? And how rich and present might our kindness become, if it were more honest?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Having it all costs too much

Uncle Bob and I sat quietly together huddled over our coffees at the Sydney domestic airport awaiting his 7 a.m. flight. Not one to leave too little time for departure, he made sure we arrived by five. The airport was practically deserted in that early hour, and we had the café to ourselves. We’d just finished two days working together, recording his story of being stolen from his mothers, aunties and uncles at Angus Downs Station when he was just a boy.

But for Uncle Bob, a traditional elder, every moment was a chance to share more stories and this morning was no exception. I’ll not forget the effect his stories had on me, how the heart turned childlike, so the soul of the story could enter, without obstruction from a jaded adult mind. He spoke of many things: of death, and trees, of rocks, of ceremony, of Kuniya the carpet snake, and grannies, his cheeks wet with tears.

Something strange happened to me then. Something irreversible. His words, and the spaces in between, broke open the construct of my world, shattered by the light of another, deeper, truer way of living. A sudden profound sadness overcame me, about my culture, about all the busy people rushing past, oblivious to the prison they were in. I began to cry, and the cries turned into sobs. We sat there together for some time, weeping softly, our arms around each otheran island in the centre of the awakening bustling stream of commuters. ‘Are you crying for my people,’ he asked after some time. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I’m crying for mine.’ He nodded slowly. He knew what I meant.

I’ve recounted this story so many times in the last ten months, but never am I fully able to articulate what happened for me that morning. Somehow in Uncle Bob’s company there emerged a glimpse into another possibility for being humanone absent of endless striving and pressure. It was a permission to live full-statured, sovereign and divine, without any need to prove, perform or attain. There existed a simple mutuality of respect and responsibility, that held us in a circle of being on this earth together, and that was enough.

I recently read Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, an important and poignant novel, that reaches into the fraught edges between Australian colonists and the country’s first peoples. Towards the end of the book, I read something that echoed my experience with Uncle Bob. The story’s main character, Thornhill, notices the relentless struggle of his life, and recognises a confronting paradox: the Aboriginals around his land did not seem to have to work hard to be happy, free, proud and thriving.

‘They spent time every day filling their dishes and catching the creatures that hung from their belts. But afterwards they seemed to have plenty of time left for sitting by their fires talking and laughing and stroking the chubby limbs of their babies.’ He contrasted this with how hard he and his family toiled, from sun up to sun down, ‘Only when the sun slipped down behind the ridge did they take their ease, and by then no one seemed to feel much like fun and games. Certainly no one seemed to have energy to spare for making a baby laugh.’

At some point Thornhill recognised something powerful, ‘Even more than that, they [the Aboriginals] were like gentry. They spent little time each day on their business, but the rest was their own to enjoy.’ The difference was, Thornhill saw, that in their universe there was no call for a lower class to wait on them. ‘In the world of these naked savages, it seemed everyone was gentry.’

Everyone was gentry.

In Uncle Bob’s company I glimpsed the insanity of modern life that leaves us--of all things--poverty stricken. We’ve moved so very far away from the simplicity of just being human, of just being alive and sharing in this aliveness with others. Instead we are mercilessly measured through various economical, cultural and spiritual ideals. Ideals that have no bearing on the truth of who we are, or the lives we were meant to live. And worse, our value as human beings is constantly weighed against the survival of the system. In an age when we have everything a king could want, our gentry, it seems, is always just out of reach.

But we are like fish who cannot see the water around us, ignorant of how these forces destroy our lives, and keep us feeling so impoverished. We swim in this matrix of performance, hierarchy, power and individualism and don’t see it’s hold on ushow it traps our souls and ensnares our true authentic expression. And so we swim, with our iPods, our iPhones, our four-wheel-drives and our personal Pilates trainers. Filling our lives with busyness and more stuff, all the while feeling more empty.

And more exhausted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Speed of the Heart

It’s 8 pm on a Wednesday evening, the sun is setting, the horizon turning bright orange over the Jemez Mountains. The eastern sky turns purple and pink in response. The mountains of New Mexico have begun to have their way with me. It’s always like this when I return home—a place that breaks my stride, causes me to stop, breathe, look and listen.

Taking time away from the usual pace of my life and spending time in the cradle of the Sangre de Cristo range has allowed me to follow a different tempo, one informed by inspiration, whimsy, and intuition. My two children are here with me also, spending time together post-divorce, to discover who we are, just us three. Our days are simple, we awaken and just follow the thread of the next right thing — the thread of the heart. Sometimes it’s breakfast, then a hike, then we might follow the thread to an unplanned adventure to a hot springs, arriving home late for dinner, and finally just eating French toast for our late night meal (there’s plenty of time for vegetables on other days). Or, we might lay around until two in the afternoon, play a game of cards and hang out some more until evening. This holiday, it seems, wants to be lead by being rather than doing.

So often holidays become just another relentlessness to add to our already relentless lives. We have to pack in all the good things: sight seeing, shopping, visiting of friends and relatives, as many wonderful memorable experiences as possible. Then we return home feeling exhausted, facing piles of mail and a list of tasks that have stacked up in our absence. We’ve never actually stopped, pulled in, become dormant and regenerated.

By some grace, this holiday is turning out differently. My son even came down with the flu lasting for days, grounding us deeper into yet an even slower pace. Even the hikes were too much. Now it’s conversation, lingering cuddles in bed and thousand-piece puzzles, and sometimes even, yes, hours in front of video games.

Such an experience has revealed an important rhythm and speed, one guided by the heart, rather than the mind. Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest distinguishes between two kinds of time, ‘mind’ and ‘heart’. The mind can process thoughts and images at lightning speed. The heart, however, takes much longer to process the emotional information that comes along. Just try shifting from sadness to happiness in the same time it takes to think of a pink elephant and then a blue one. ‘Unfortunately for our hearts,’ he says, ‘our culture has designed our technologies to move at the speed of the mind.’

So the heart is constantly trying to catch up, and process all the new information and circumstances brought about by our daily goals. More importantly, in following the constant pull and ambition of the mind (and succumbing to the culturally imposed pace that does the same), we miss the heart’s most vital wisdom to inform our lives. ‘But to relentlessly push and push…the thoughtful reflection of the human heart to conform to the ridiculous, impossible, inhuman speed of the world, is to cause violence to our most precious and valuable treasure,’ says Muller. ‘The necessary guidance of the human heart.’

I know the consequences of following the speed of the mind in my own life. iPhones, Skype, MSN, email and wireless Internet has facilitated a blinding daily pace, one shaped by mental agenda and the lightening-quick ability to change plans on a dime, or fit in an extra task or two within a five-minute window. It’s not that this capacity is inherently bad, it’s just that it’s becoming the whole game. Each day I can get more done, however, each day becomes less fulfilling.

The other day, I was taking a hike with the kids and some friends. One of the women travelling with us brought her cell-phone. On the way down, she mentioned that we had made such good time and she didn’t expect that we’d finish the hike as early as we had. There was now an additional half hour available. She would therefore call her daughter re-coordinate their day. The next 15 minutes was spent calling, recalling, re-coordinating and rescheduling. All this while we were walking through some of the most spectacular country in the world. And she missed every moment of it.

In slowing down my heart has finally caught up. And it has much to tell me, and much to explore. An opportunity arises to follow its lead, its tempo and direction, rather than the agenda of the future-projecting, time-strategising mind. My actions begin to feel more authentic, and my ability to stand by those actions, more firm. The mind becomes servant, and therefore quieted. Everything becomes technicolour.

Without the need to fill every minute efficiently, and in leaving my own cell-phone at home most days, the gaps and unexpected changes of plan that can’t be reconstructed by calling someone up and ‘keeping things on track’ result in serendipity, coincidence and grace. Some things are created by whimsy, and can only happen in the soil of the spaciously unplanned. In living this way, one gets a strong sense that Something Else is in control, and has much bigger and more beautiful plans for you than you could ever dream.

Gerald May, author of Getting the Love You Need, writes extensively about love verses efficiency. Say for example, you want to spend the day at the park with your children (love), and to get there you need to have breakfast by 9 a.m. and be in the car by 10 (efficiency). But the kids are lingering over breakfast, enjoying your company. Somehow things just aren’t moving along, because the thread seems to be leading elsewhere. In these moments it’s so easy to forsake our original intention of love, for our mental plan to get in the car by ten. So we start pushing the kids to get moving, and before we know it, we’re stressed and resentful and no one is having any fun. Sound familiar? I’ve had millions of these moments with my children.

However, if we had followed the thread of love, we might have settled into a different kind of day; perhaps we might have all ended up on the living room floor telling stories, or opted to take a stroll around the block. And perhaps, something magical might have happened between us. Such is the way of love. Efficiency is meant to be the servant of love, not the other way around.

Is it possible to lead a functional professional and family life, while allowing love and the heart to lead with their own tempo, or at least while allowing them to have equal merit to mind and efficiency? I don’t know, but I intend to spend some time exploring the possibility

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kindred in Print

Many people have asked what / how / if there is any way to read Kindred in print format. And we've certainly been thinking along those lines in formatting our new site.

Firstly and most simply (and simple is good), you can do what I do online. For whatever it’s worth, I never read articles or important material online. I download it, print it on recycled paper. It gets recycled again as drawing paper for my children, then used as mulch for my garden. I take my reading to my favourite reading varandah with my dog Pablo and a cup of chai.

You can do this with material on most all websites, including our current one. However our new website, the one launching on the spring solstice, will make it easier to print by featuring downloadable, printable pdfs for all of our articles. This will make them cleaner looking, and easy on the eye.

Secondly, and this really excites me, we'll be partnering with values-shared organisations to produce special print features (for example, we might do a print feature on baby-wearing) that will have a collection of articles, with photos, etc. These will be available to underprivileged groups as well, in Third World countries...people who cannot access the Internet, let alone a glossy magazine, and who need to be affirmed in their way of parenting (ie, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping). So many of these people are already parenting in a way that is natural, but pressure from 'living more like Westerners' makes them turn to baby formula and the like.

And this just came in from Cas McCullough, spokesperson for the Cesarean Awareness Network:
Keep in mind too that in a few years time, Kindle will be gaining in popularity. Kindle is an electronic sheet that people carry and read different books and documents on. (kinda like on Startrek). I am hanging out for the price to go down so I can get one. Also, people need to keep in mind that they can print PDFs themselves to breastfeed under a tree if they really need to. But I do understand and appreciate the tactile niceties of reading a glossy beautiful magazine spread.
Our monthly newsletter brings new articles every month, all of them available for print. Think of it as a print-on-demand option that works for everyone (except we miss the gorgeous photos). That way 8,000 unsold magazines don’t get mulched at the newsagent distributors (which is what happened with every unsold edition of Kindred, and you can't even imagine the numbers with larger magazines).

Ultimately, however, the best tree-saving option is to read online...this just has to be continually mentioned.

So, next time you receive a Kindred newsletter, scroll through the articles you want to read, print them, make yourself a cup of chai (extra cinnamon sprinkled on top is good), grab the dog and a shawl, or the baby, or your beloved, curl up and enjoy. Oh, and before I forget.....I do the same with poetry, and the Internet opens all the doors into the realm of whimsy. I now have a 'poetry pile' by my bed. Here's one to get you started:

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting
their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do
determined to save

the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~
(Dream Work)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Handless Maiden

I'm about to leave town...going back to the US for many reasons. The main reason is to spend time in my beautiful high-desert homeland in New Mexico with family. My father turns 85 and his amazing wife is throwing him the party of all parties. Every friend, every relative will be there. For me, it's been a huge year. In the last six months I've gotten a divorce, moved house, produced / edited a book with Finch publishing (released in November, called 'Stories of Belonging'), taken on sole directorship of Kindred (I used to run Kindred with my ex-husband Alok) and completely restrustructured the business. In fact, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my miscarriage (see my editorial) and, well, let's just say I could really use the time to stop, rest, reflect, renew.

From one perspective, you could say life seems tough right now. But actually, I've never felt more clear, more certain and more centred. I feel as if I am emerging from 15 years of exile...a period of time where I learned some very tough lessons the only way worth learning--the hard way. If you have any grasp of the fairy tale The Handless Maiden, well, that's me. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about the tale:

'Though we hate to admit it, over and over again the poorest bargain of our lives is the one we make when we forfeit our deep knowing life for one that is far more frail; when we give up our teeth, our claws, our sense, our scent; when we surrender our wilder natures for a promise of something that seems rich but turns out hollow instead.'

Yep, that was me...toothless, clawless, far far away from my own sovereignty. The trick to the story is in realising that there is a time in our lives when we must make the bargain, when we must give ourselves away, in order to incite our own essential rite of passage--one that results in hard-won road-tested wisdom. So the last year, as hard as it was, has actually been my emergence from such a time, where the changes that have occurred have simply reflected my own becoming, my landing deep within myself with confidence and uncompromising clarity.

When I look around, I see many of my friends are going through a similar metamorphisis. Something seems to be happening. There is a quickening that is forging our becoming. For what, I do not know. But I can smell something on the wind, and I'm excited. I see Kindred going through the same thing...needing to shapeshift in order to work within a new paradigm. It is all very good news.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sophie's Choice

On Tuesday morning, June 9th, I hit the send email to thousands of people to let them know that the print version of Kindred magazine would no longer be available, in the wake of our decision to move all our content online. Though the decision was sound, informed through days and weeks of analysis, soul searching and radical self-reflection, it was not without some heaviness of heart.

What happened that afternoon, that night and for the rest of this week astonished me. Emails came pouring in, of support, love, enthusiasm and applause. This was something I did not expect. I expected the opposite (and completely understood why), and was prepared for the worst. I must say that I'm humbled by the words and generosity that have come my way, and have been surprised at how deeply these words moved me. Not so much because they were so positive, which was of course wonderful, but because suddenly I was part of a two way conversation.

For eight years I've been sitting in my office publishing material that I hoped was useful and meaningful, but for the most part it was a one-way conversation. And it was, in many ways, a bit lonely. It's not that I didn't hear from readers, I did, and of course I received and published many 'letters to the editor'...But this is different. Suddenly, on the heels of this announcement, a stream of emails came that spoke heartfully, directly, to me. And I was just so proud to be a part of this growing, blossoming, amazing family. So deeply proud, honoured and touched.

Many of our family members are writers, visionaries, professionals and leaders in their own right and so many offered their work, their blogs, their ideas and information....all so that Kindred can become more diverse, more creative, more potent. So for everyone who emailed with ideas, offers, connections and collaborations...thank you.

And of course there were many sad emails as well, and of course some very angry emails. People have been genuinely disappointed--some even wrote 'devastated' and 'outraged'--readers who have counted on the print version of Kindred to follow them into the fray of quiet moments lying on the couch breastfeeding, in the park while the kids play, in a stolen quiet moment on the couch. These places, they rightly protest, are not the place to prop up a laptop. Putting Kindred material online simply makes it less accessible, not more, they said.

And, they are right. This is why I called this blog post Sophie's Choice. Because for me, literally, this choice has been extremely difficult, and not black and white.

While I had been working on the online project for nearly two years, it was always my intention to run the print alongside the web...I’ve always loved print, and being a tactile person (and a little old fashioned), loved to touch, hold, and feel something that I am reading. I used to grab the latest edition off of the printer and just smell it. Let's face it, lingering over a magazine with gorgeous photos in a quiet moment to ourselves is nourishing. Plus, I resisted, and continue to resist, technology. It's the bane of my parenting with my kids, and I resent it's 'creep' into our lives. Arrrg, don't even get me started on that roll...

And, how it is positively impacting society also cannot be ignored. Social networking is making so much possible, and while it is up to each of us to decide just how we play within it in a balanced manner, it's capacity to interconnect, foster dialog and debate, and put the conversation in the hands of the 'ordinary person' rather than the media power-elite is undeniable.

Anyway, as I was saying, our intention was for Kindred magazine and Kindred online to run side by side. But, in the last three months, I had to take a radically honest look at what it would take from me personally to edit both a word: impossible. The reason behind closing the print version was not financial, but personal and professional. Both projects require extremely strong editorship, and the print was taking 2/3 of my time, leaving little time for the web.

I knew this decision would not be supported or popular with some of my readers (all of whom I value), but I had to hold to one very important and key point: Kindred's role has always been to be the sane voice heard above the hypnotised, compromised media masses. And it's voice is not useful to humanity unless heard by as many as possible, as broadly as possible, as efficiently and as responsively as possible, freely as possible. This is about universal access. Remaining in print compromised--no crippled--this potential.

The increasing speed, scope and importance of the new information that was coming to me was making it necessary to respond much more quickly than a quarterly magazine could allow. Take for example the latest homebirth issue (possible becoming illegal in Australia), the swine flu dramas, etc...Holding everything aside in order for the print to be created, was defeating the purpose. Let alone the time both projects threatened to take from me with my family (the whole reason for doing this). I simply had to choose, and choose on the basis of what best served the whole.

So, beloved readers--happy celebrating ones, sad grieving ones, even the angry ones-- I'm so happy I heard from all of you. And we're working to try and meet as many needs a possible...from producing printer-friendly articles (all of them), to creating a site that is inviting and 'grandmother / technophobe friendly'. Please let me hear from you through this blog post so that your voice can continue to shape and inform what Kindred becomes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kindred Magazine's New Future

It was March 2002 when Kindred (then byronchild) first hit the newsagent stands. The challenge of midwifing a courageous and uncompromising magazine amidst the noise of mainstream media has been its own hero’s journey. It has required that I not only bend and transform with external changes, but yield to internal pulls of spirit and intuition as well. In the span of nearly 8 years, the world has changed dramatically—and the Kindred readership along with it. In that same time span, I have become even more resolutely committed to the vision Kindred represents, which has in turn, changed me.

The scope and speed of the global changes, both in play and required, make it apparent that in order for Kindred to be effective and responsive, it must remain nimble. Further, we must be exemplary in our commitment to our core principles, most significantly that of sustainability (leaders lead, after all). Knowing this has required that I deeply examine what sustainability really means, and how its three tenets—social, financial, and environmental—need to be ever more deeply investigated and implemented within this project.

It has become apparent, upon reflection, that Kindred is, at this moment in our shared history, poised and ready to make powerful, innovative revisions in the way we think about, and manifest, the greatest possible impact, for the greatest possible good in each of these three in the ways. Given this remarkable opportunity, we realise we must, if we are going to make a real difference – and be the very change we want to see – act boldly, decisively, and without delay.


Kindred will not truly be all it can be as long as its content remains channelled exclusively through media and methods accessible only to the relatively affluent. A by-sale-or-subscription magazine, combined with a website, draw a very clear socio-economic line between those we reach, and those we don’t.

For Kindred to make a difference, its information needs to be available to all...freely. In addition, Kindred readers are no longer satisfied to just read articles; they want to engage with the content, share it, upload their own ideas and stories, collaborate around them, make change happen through them, and deeply participate not only with the content, but with each other.

The traditional ‘top down’ approach to the sharing of information is no longer viable as the most vital and nourishing way to grow our Kindred community, and seed its message in the soil of a new generation.

Environmentally, the costs are patently obvious. Printing and distributing a magazine comes at a huge cost to the planet, involving vast investments of paper, water, and other printing costs, including fossil fuels. No matter how clean the stock, or green the printing process—and regardless of how many carbon credits we purchase to offset the damage of this activity—when examined through the lens of our carbon footprint per reader, this way of reaching our readership seems unnecessarily wasteful.

Financially, Kindred needs to consider its social and environmental responsibilities and outcomes and determine if there is a better way to meet them that is more financially responsible to the publisher, advertisers, and readers. As an enterprise, Kindred has been operating in a very traditional model that has required a level of infrastructure restrictive to its flexibility and profitability.

As much as this enquiry into sustainability is centred on Kindred, it has been of equal importance for me to consider the social, environmental and financial consequences that Kindred’s operational model has had on myself and my family

From Print to Web
In response to the changes I see happening in how people engage with information, as well as in response to the need for Kindred to be truly sustainable, I have spent the last two years developing an ambitious multi-platform web project. Our new website is a collaborative, community learning, community supported site, where discussion forums, blogs, expert columns, link-journalism and community-generated content are harnessed to support the worldwide imperative that we begin to live differently.

In the wake of this new online project, Kindred Magazine will no longer be available in a print magazine format. All of our future material will be available freely online. Additionally, printed versions of content will be made available to underprivileged populations that have no access to Internet, through values-shared charities and organisations. In this way Kindred can transcend any socio-economic limitations imposed by any barriers to Internet access.

For some, this may feel disappointing (and of course, sudden), but from where I am looking, I have never felt so clear about the direction of Kindred. I have seen—just through our previous very conservative website—the immense capacity of the online medium to be able to move, shift, collaborate, and be efficiently current. It is also the main medium of the new generation of parents, and increasingly a source of information and inspiration to grandparents (who, as we know, are returning to a more consistent role in children’s lives). Our new, soon-to-be-launched site—combined with a renewed leadership—positions the material Kindred has become so recognised for, to become more empowered and effective. Most importantly, it harnesses the real strength of the sustainable living and natural parenting movement—Kindred’s readers.

For an interesting read about the need for magazines to shift read this article.

The Future of Kindred and You
The new web project will enter pre-launch about three months from now, with the project going live approximately one month after that. Between now and then, I invite you to let me know about any projects, individuals, or initiatives that might be included in it. If you have any feedback, ideas, or concerns, I would also be pleased to hear from you. Below you will find a variety of ways, some familiar, others exciting and new – that you can use to stay in touch with how things are progressing, and offer several avenues for your much-appreciated feedback.

Prior to launch, you’ll be receiving updates on the project’s developments, and then a countdown. When we’re finally live, we’ll celebrate by diving in and exploring its many capacities. What this means for you is that Kindred will be able to provide, finally, a platform for hundreds of thousands of readers, and the potential that all of our voices, collectively, to be heard.

Where to now?
Now is an important time, not only for Kindred but for all of us. And I encourage you to stay in touch with us via the following methods if you haven’t already. This is not only so we can share with you the adventure of our transformation, but also so that you can give us your ideas and feedback, to help us shape shift in collaboration with you:
  • Newsletter – Our free monthly e-newsletter is filled with excellent articles, links, news, ideas and inspiration. Sign on now and don't miss a single issue.
  • Kali’s blog – Sign on to receive my blog that will not only enlighten you about the huge transformative process happening at Kindred, but allow you to share your thoughts and ideas as well.
  • Twitter - have you tried Twitter yet? It’s heaps of fun, and following Kindred lets you get all the inside scoop, as well as leads to great articles, links, ideas and amazing initiatives. Go on, give it a go and check out Kindred's Twitter!
  • Facebook – Become a fan of Kindred on Facebook.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Kindred - our work, our vision, and our community. You have been, and I sincerely hope you will continue to be, an inspiration to me, to the team at Kindred and to our growing community of contributors, and helped shape what Kindred is becoming.

Kindest regards,

Kali Wendorf
Publisher & Editor