Dear friends I was doing some research this morning on cross cultural research in mindfulness. The cross-cultural links – convicts versus pilgrims- I was looking for in relation to my American research somehow led me in a wonderful way right back here, to the inter-cultural space that is between Aboriginal and non – Aboriginal people in Australia.
Firstly thought I wanted to pass on this line from D H Lawrence:
“You feel free in Australia. There is great relief in the atmosphere – a relief from tension, from pressure, an absence of control of will or form. The skies open above you and the areas open around you“.
I somehow went from that to the the Aboriginal concept of ‘dadirri’ (deep listening). I had written about dadirri in a paper published in 2004 on Compassionate Parent teacher communication many years before I was researching mindfulness when I was a project officer working with young people with learning difficulties and their teachers and parents.
Every now and I again I have had the thought I should go back and investigate the concept more deeply and I was very moved to read this morning of how it is being connected now with mindfulness.
In a wonderful interview on you tube
Aboriginal writer and educator Miriam Rose Ungumnerr- Baumann describes deep listening as ‘Dadirri’ which:
is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Daidirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it cals to us. This is the gift Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.
I urge you watch the clip. It presents dadirri in a way that accords with my experience of mindfulness, a kind of slowing down, a presence, a non-conceptual communication.
Miriam is asking that we give Aboriginal people time to catch up. I think she is too polite to ask that we slow down, but is offering us perhaps a gentle hint so that we may meet somewhere in thie (intercultural) space.
Judy Atkinson whose wonderful book Trauma Trails is a resource in my Creating Calmer Classrooms topic writes that dadirri is a ‘non intrusive observation, or quietly aware watching’. I think many of us who have worked with children with disabilities or who have experienced trauma know that kind of empty observation. If we tried to observe in the usual clinical mode, full of thoughts and opinions we would get no-where- we need to suspect that self and become empty, non judgmental, still..
This kind of intercultural spaces as the work of Homi Bhabha in hybridity and the third space avoids binaries, allows and holds difference, is sometimes confronting, ambiguous and uncertain. Doesn’t most human communication have some of this anyway? What is often missing is the ability to sit with that uncertainty, remain in the space as traditional power relations and worldviews are questioned. It is a space of deep potential. Let us bring this space into our classrooms through mindfulness, our own to start with, whether we are working with children or adults.
While its my profession to intellectualise and problematise, as a scholar and practitioner of mindfulness I am delighted to hear Miriam speak with elegance and grace of the simplicity of dadirri, something that everyone has, it is for everyone, not only Aboriginal people…
If you watch her face as she speaks, when her focus is dadirri you can see her go within, the intellect recedes, she goes to that quiet place within. This is echosed in a person story from Associate Professor Dawn Bessarab
Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend time with my elders at place called ‘Gulun’ which is their country near Lombadina on the Dampier Peninsula. Their campsite at Gulun is right on the beach on a high sand hill that faces directly out to sea.I returned to Gulun from a shopping trip at the nearby Djarindjin community to find my two elders sitting side by side and gazing out to sea. In that moment they were not speaking, sitting quietly totally immersed in the landscape. My first impulse was to go up to them announce my presence and ask them what they were doing. But I resisted the impulse and the question, choosing instead to observe from a distance and to try answer the question for myself. After several minutes ofreflection, I realised they were meditating which was a revelation for me as this new piece of knowledge hit my consciousness. When they eventually moved, letting me know that I could approach I went up and greeted them. My Gulu (grandfather) then pointed out to sea and asked me what I saw. I looked and all I could see was a blue flat expanse of ocean that stretched to the horizon. Occasionally a distant wave would reflect the sun’s rays but nothing seemed to break the flat calm. After a while I replied that I couldn’t see anything. He then proceeded to point out wherea Gulil (turtle) was swimming and a dugong diving. He read the patterns of the seato me like a story taken from a familiar and favourite book. I realized at that point,that by sitting quietly meditating on the ocean my Gulu and Golli (grandmother) hadlearnt to read and know the ocean in a way that I could not. That moment wasa huge learning curve for me in realising and knowing that my Elders, past and present, had been practicing mindfulness meditation for thousands of years.
love to all