The Vine and Branches has made a big difference to my life. I felt isolated and stuck and believed that I had to accept my fate as there was much about it that I did not have any power over; my obligations to my children, my insecurity in employment, accommodation and finances and my lack of family support. Stuck. These external limitations, though, proved not to be the determining factors that I believed them to be. I came to discover that my inability to see any possibilities came from internal hindrances too and this has made all the difference.
I also work in the business world – the construction industry and farming. But my greatest passion, and aliveness, comes when groups of people are really present for themselves and others. When they can speak their truth in an emotional and inducting way, the air for me becomes crystallised in their presence. I have a feeling of being humble and privileged, and very trusted when people explore their humanity at such a deep level.
People become mirrors for one other. They become supportive. They can identify with similar situations, and it is in the above spaces that changes can take place. Psychologically, sexually and spiritually. Here they can discover just how much energy is available to them; I enjoy their journey, and my journey with them in this environment.
I work with Lorraine Edwards and have been working with the Vine and Branches, and her, for twenty nine years. We have co-lead these groups together, have had similar training, and bring a unique aliveness and understanding to our fears and our stories that have governed us all our lives.
My first experience of the Vine and Branches Personal Growth and Education Centre was way back in 1981. As the mother of three young active and challenging sons and the wife of an extremely dedicated university lecturer, I found myself struggling to cope with not only these everyday demands but wanting to understand a deep need inside myself to mature and address a hunger for which I had no answers.
Rae Cock held 6 weekly workshops “Discover your hidden potential” and “What really matters?”. This invitation spoke to me. After attending such programmes for around 12 months, I was invited to join a core-group which supported Rae with her work. Rae died suddenly in 1986 and the core-group continued with the task of bringing “what really matters” to others. Nervously but with conviction I knew that this work that brought so much to my life and the lives of others, had to go on. I have continued to share on a voluntary basis at the Vine and Branches for some 31 years.
Along with other courses in personal development and travelling to America many times to study with a teacher of conscious living called Richard Moss, I achieved a post graduate diploma in counselling at Swinburne University.
It is impossible to express my gratitude for finding the Vine and Branches so long ago. The only way I believe possible is to give back, and as I do this I continue to receive.
There have been many troughs and peaks in my life and from each of these I become a stronger, more loving and compassionate human being. To be with a group of people wanting to live a more passionate life, to grow and find that inner self, is a wonderful privilege and I hope to continue on singing, laughing, crying, listening and sharing at the Vine and Branches for as long as I have breath.
Although I had good family and friends (bless them) loving and caring for me unconditionally, I was not healing, not moving forward or living life to the full.
Here, in this place, I have exposed my stories and learnt how ‘stuck’ they have made me.
It is here that I have learnt to widen my ‘tram tracks’ in thought and action; to entertain new possibilities and experience doing things differently.
I have learnt about choices. Choices I have made in reaction to life’s unpleasantness, have sometimes been unconscious. Now I am awakened and realise I have the power to choose my reactions. With this knowledge comes a responsibility to myself to no longer blame others for my unhappiness; I am free from playing “the victim”.
It is here that the movement of uncomfortableness or sadness in my mind and body will pass, that I can sit and stay until they do, with the faith that they will.
I learn about living in the moment and truly being present for myself and others and to recognise the chatter of stories in my mind that prevent me from doing so.
I have finally had answered, the lifelong question of “Who am I?” I am whoever and whatever I am feeling in this one present moment when the question is asked. I am no longer burdened or confused by the fact that I am so many different things in so many different circumstances. I am “Me”
Here at the Vine and Branches there is straight talk, yet I am unable to predict how an evening will unfold for me. I can no longer work something out by thinking and must surrender to vulnerability.
Here…still…I have all the unconditional love and care and encouragement, but it comes with a gentle nudge or at times an uncomfortable shove, to live my life!
There are so many things I would not have come to me had I not been directed to The Vine and Branches Growing Centre, by a council volunteer after the death of my husband several years ago.
I would not have been able to ‘come home’ once a week to an accepting and supportive group.
I would have missed:
A ‘laboratory’ for experimenting with new notions and behaviours
Learning a way of seeing things which does not rest on judging people and their adaptions, but on observing these compassionately and objectively
Experiencing changes in mood and energy after changing what I do physically
Learning how to come back to myself in the middle of my distress when life delivers a blow
Growing in confidence
Being able to question my own fear
Being able to see many options and possibilities instead of being limited by my own fear and insecurity
Learning so much from people I have come to cherish. When we speak honestly and share ourselves, we can be a mirror for others to learn about themselves
Being able to connect with other people through my vulnerability
The wisdom, generosity, creativity, skills and empathy of the group’s leaders.