Episode 27 – Heart of Community Connection – My Conversation with Laura Connor

Mark [0:00] Welcome to the Heart of Connection podcast.  I’m your host, Mark Randall and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here at the Torquay Community House, talking to you about the Heart of Connection to self, others, and ‘All That Is.’   Just by way of introduction, which mind giving a brief story, your story as part of the conversation and introduction to yourself please.

Laura Connor – Personal Story

Laura [0:25] Okay, thanks for having me, Mark.  A big part of my story is I have been here coming up for 18 years.  So that is a huge part.   Prior to that, I suppose I had a very checkered past and did many things.  What I like the best about here, is when we talk about Connections is the connection to people and to others.  We have so many opportunities to do exactly that on a multitude of levels.  It has been great to develop the different ways that we can or be part of that development in the ways that we can connect with others.

Mark [1:12] In the development of that connection to others, have you come across a common thread in the various groups that use the community center?

The Heart Is the Point that People Can Be Reached on

Laura [1:23] Yes, I don’t think it really matters, what walk of life or what status or whoever, wherever, you are in life, at the end of the day, we’re all the same.  There is always that point of heart that people have to be reached on.  People also want to be reached on.  It doesn’t matter what they’re doing.  I think that’s really important to everyone and some people camouflage that better than others.  Other people wear their heart on their sleeve.  Whatever they come for, it’s very important to make that connection.   I think that’s something that’s really important to people here at the Community House.  I think that’s what a lot of people value.

The Heart Is the Point that People Can Be Reached on. Click To Tweet

Mark [2:06] How do you experience people letting those masks down?

Laura [2:13] Well, going back to what I just said, some people don’t need to let it down.  It’s there, it’s so obvious and we get people who come here in crises.  So that’s always just below the surface.   We get other people who come here for other reasons, and but underneath it all – It might take some time before you actually identify that.  So I think it’s just different in different people.  Over the years I’ve met so many different people, so many different personalities, not just the people that come in here.   We have had over 1000 volunteers here in the time that I’ve been here.   That is a lot of people and you get used to different personality types, and the way people express themselves, or the way people do things, to get in touch with what’s important to them.

Mark [3:14] How important is a connection to people do you think?

A connection is Vital for our Survival

Laura [3:17] It’s vital, we don’t survive without it.

Connection, it's vital we don't survive without it. Click To Tweet

Mark [3:23] Is that on all realms, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?

Laura [3:26] I believe so.  If we don’t, then we’re out of kilter.   I think that’s where you can run into problems.   All the research shows how important it is to be social.  Even those of us that say, we like our own space, and, like to be loners, and all the rest of it, we can’t survive.  We are social creatures, we are one of a pack.  It is important to connect with that pack.   It is vital that on every level, we do have that connection.

Mark [4:01] In our society today, are we losing that connection?

Laura [4:04] Absolutely. I think we’re very lopsided.

Mark [4:09] Where’s that lopsided come from?  Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?

Our Disconnection via Economy of Materialism

Laura [4:14] I think we’ve become particularly in Australia, very disconnected.  We have become very materialistic, the finances and the economics of everything have become overly important to people.  From this, they have lost that grassroots feeling of community, the caring and watching out for one another.  We are a wealthy country, but we’re focusing more and more on the wealth and not bringing everybody with us.  Wherever there’s wealth is always poverty.

In the past, we were better at making sure those that haven’t got what others have got, were brought along, or cared for, or looked after, or nurtured.   I think we’ve lost that as a society.  I mean, it’s happening all around the world but I think here in Australia with we were the lucky country for a long time.  We have taken that for granted but now we’re not really the lucky country anymore, because we’re missing out on that level.

Mark Randall [5:28] How might we start getting people back to connecting to the Heart of Connection?

New Resonances of Connection in our Community

Laura [5:37] Good question.  I think people just through, for example, with the election that we just had, prior to that election, we had an incident that happened in Bourke Street in Melbourne.  This really hit home to so many people.  The victims were people that everybody knew and everyone had a story to tell.   The government really took an approach of fear and hatred.  I think it backfired on them.   They were using that as a tool to win the election.   What happened, people could see the writing on the wall.  If we went down this path, what are we going to become?  I believe somewhere in there, it stirred everybody up because I thought, hang on, this is not who we are, this is not what we want.  All of a sudden community and everything that we stand for became important and I think that’s what happened.

Mark [6:50] So those are sorts of a community resonance.  It is really interesting that resonance may not necessarily be intellectual, that resonance may be at an energy level?

Laura [7:02] Absolutely. Going back to that incident, people were really emotional about it.  People that generally may not think themselves emotional.   This starts to bubble up, which is not the intellect, that’s something that’s coming from inside of us.   It just comes up and you haven’t really got any control about that.

The Importance of Our Emotional Health in Connections

Mark [7:27] Our emotional health is really important.  My belief is our emotional health is really important in that it underpins our mental health.  If we haven’t got that handle or learning or the ability to sit and process that emotional health and it manifests into mental health.  How do you personally connect to yourself?  Do you have a process,  strategies or techniques to ensure you’re connected to yourself?

Self-Care that takes me beyond my Mind

Laura [8:00] Well, sometimes I’m better than the not and it is a challenge in the work that I do.  I can very easily get out of kilter because I won’t stop in time, perhaps.   For me, I have to basically go and see long horizons and, walk along the beach, or look at the sea, or the stars or something, that type of thing to just come back into check.  To feel something stronger than myself, more powerful than myself.  Of course, there are all the other things you have to do.  For example, dancing or yoga class or whatever it is that we do that we take for granted.   It’s incredibly important to do that and also to have fun.  I think having fun is really important.

Peace of Heart ~ Peace of Mind

Mark [8:56] Does that get you out of your mind and into your body?

Laura [8:58] Yes,

Mark [9:01] Is that a beautiful process?

Laura [9:02] Yes (Laughter) I love to leave my mind behind.

Mark [9:10] Yeah, I love that. Yeah.  Going from ‘peace of heart to peace of mind.’  The hearts in the body, we need to embody in it.  I wonder, what’s it like when you’re do embody into that space?  What happens to your body?  What do you experience in your body?

Love is Embodied in Peace of Heart

Laura [9:33] Well, I think basically, when we feel that, what we’re feeling is love.  Without sounding all hippie and everything, I think the centre of everything is love.

Mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion

When we let go, and we’re in that space, it’s good for everything.  It’s good for everything in your body, for every cell in your body, as well as your mind. So that’s what keeps that equilibrium in our mind, our emotions, our heart, on every level.

Mark [10:08] How much do you radiate that out in this community centre?  Heaps?

Radiating My Connection with the Community

Laura [10:14] Well, you get lots of opportunities (Laughter). There’s probably not a day goes past where you have to embrace that. 

Mark [10:28] Is your energy is radiating through the essence and the themes that the community centre does?

Laura [10:35] Well, collectively, because we’re a team here.   We are sort of a family in its own right here.  The people that work and volunteer here, are very proud to be part of this.  You see the value because you see people’s lives and you see things make a difference.

Providing A Purpose for People In Our Community

Mark [10:55] So they’ve got a purpose?

Laura [10:56] They got a purpose.  We see whether it’s in an instant or in months, someone can walk through the door and literally asked for help and get help.  The moment they get that help can sometimes be overwhelming for everybody.   Generally, everyone to pull together to make it happen and then everyone will have a little moment.

Mark [11:15] They’ve got them.

Laura [11:17] Yeah

Mark [11:17] Energetically they’ve got them.  There is that support that love, that care, that passion that holds that space, beyond intellect.

The Heart of the Community

Laura [11:27] That’s right.  That’s why we’re called the heart of the community. (Laughter).

Mark [11:33] Yeah, that’s right.  The heart of the community. Yeah.  Historically, there’s always been those centres, the heart centres of the community and it is difficult in this day and age to have that.  Maybe that’s what sparked this podcast, is that heart of connection.  We can be intellectually connected but to be connected at a heart level is not an easy thing to do at times.  In that heart is the emotional fragility of all of us and we are all a bit guarded with that maybe, you know in protecting it.  Going past that, there’s a greater space and it sounds like before, when you go for your walks on the beach and connect back into your body, are you hitting that esoteric space (Laughter)

Lovingly Humbled by the Full Moon

Laura [12:33] I always like looking at the stars. The full moon is my favourite it is just is so incredible.  Well, you can’t help but feel humbled when you see a full moon.

Mark [12:46] Where do you go?

Laura [12:47] Out the backyard.

(Laughter) Literally out the backyard?

Mark [12:53] When you’re out the backyard, and you’re standing in that space and the energy of that full moon.  It can really radiate that energy.  Where do you go in your psyche with that?

My Heart’s Bigger Universe

Laura [13:05] Into that place that’s bigger than all of us.   Into that well, inside yourself.  Which I suppose we refer to as our heart.  It’s probably a universe within itself.  It’s where we are all one, if you want, for want of a better analogy.  That is who we are and that part of us is all the same.

Mark [13:31] If we were to connect more to that, what would that energy do for Mother Earth?

Our Healing Mother Earth with Love, Gratitude, and Sensitivity

Laura [13:41] Probably heal it.  Generate a lot more gratitude, sensitivity,

Mark [13:50] More love?

Laura [13:50] More love.  I think that’s probably we’d see a lot of different policies (laughter) being formed in government.  A different direction as I think there’s a real swell as we can see at the moment.  There’s almost like, a battle of good and evil out there.   There is so much violence and anger and cruelty going on.   I was thinking just before about the growing number of women, the Violence Against Women in Australia is absolutely overwhelming!  It is an epidemic proportion.  We do have to do something.  I think a lot of that, as you would well know, with the work you’ve previously done, men, in particular, seem to find it very hard to talk about their emotional wellbeing.

I think a lot of that, has got to do with the violence that we’re seeing against women.  There is a lack of respect.  So, I think we would see a change there if people were to be more in contact with that inner world.

Men’s Conditioning Has Taught to Suppress Emotions

Mark [15:13] Yeah, that inner world it can be a bit esoteric, or a bit woo-hoo from the positive psychology (life coaching genre). From this space, how do we tap the energy coming from there? That’s the essence.  How do we tap the energy of that and action from there?  This takes practice and I think we come back up into our intellectual and analytical mindset.  I don’t know about you, but I have found that the mind and the heart fight each other.  The mind doesn’t like my heart because the hearts got an inner wisdom and an inner energy and the mind’s going, hang on a minute where’s my control gone?

Coming back to the experiences of men’s emotional well-being.  Men were emotional beings until about five years old and then it’s the patriarchal message or whatever that message is, “don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry that boy.”   So men learn to suppress the emotional being and that emotional being is very delicate, it needs to be connected.  That’s the fragile part and all of us like from a psychotherapy you might call that the inner child.  That’s where I think men have, we’ve got a lot of work to connect to that inner soul space or that space you were talking about before.  It would change the world.

Men Learning To Connect to Heart & Soul will bring Change

Laura [16:45] Hmm, definitely.  I definitely think it would.

Mark [16:51] What would happen to the world when that happens?   What could you see, what would you experience?

Loving relationships, self-growth, connection
Loving Relationships are our teachers

Laura [17:01] Well just wouldn’t it be great if we could all work towards saving the world.   I mean it’d be great.  I mean who knows if there’s the time to do that.  Wouldn’t it be because human beings a so resourceful when they put their mind to something?  They come up with incredible solutions to so many problems.  It would be great to see the world united in trying ed to do the best to keep things going.

Mark [17:27] Do you remember the tsunami that hit on Boxing Day?  Do you remember the energy on that day?  I don’t know whether I’m got my heart out on the sleeve here, but for me, it felt like there was so much compassion.  The energy of compassion was just worldwide.   It was just incredible.  Why can’t we have that without crises and without trauma?

The Conditioning Placed on Us Blocks our Connections

Laura [17:53] I don’t know but I think you know, we have so many conditions and conditioning placed upon us.  Like I said before, in the world today, material things have become so important.  It is having status and getting ahead, being achievers and being successful is seen so different way as to how it was many moons ago.

We are Losing Compassion

So I think those things do remind us and almost gives you permission to feel.  Whereas, compassion is almost a dirty word here in Australia.  You know, we see that with the refugees and the asylum seekers.  Those camps, Manus and Nauru you know, we hear about them all the time.  All that warm and fuzzy stuff.  It’s not warm and fuzzy, its basic human rights we’re talking about.   It’s about compassion and humanity and we have lost our moral compass.  I think for many people’s things like that happen and they do see that that could be any one of us in that situation.  It was so powerful and it happened in a place where there are people from all around the world.  So people from every country were there, so it could have been anyone.  I think things like that, Bourke Street, going back to that could have been anyone.   I was in the street that night.  It could have been anyone and I think that brings it home to people, our vulnerability, our fragility.

Mark [19:30] Are we afraid of that vulnerability that fragility?

Laura [19:34] I think so because people are telling us it’s a weakness.   It’s like they are referring to the warm and fuzzy? Or you leftie greenies.   It’s like it’s not the norm but in actual fact it is.  In actual fact we do care for each other, it’s just like in everybody’s individual family, you know, most families.

Acceptance of our Vulnerability

Mark [19:57] Do we need to own and acknowledge our own vulnerability first?

Laura [20:03] Maybe, I don’t know.   I think to me, it’s just a given.  We’re fooling ourselves if we think we don’t have a vulnerability.

Mark [20:12] Is a bit more of an invincibility in Australia, this sort of gun-ho let’s?

Laura [20:18] I think it’s just we take it for granted.  I mean, when you think about Australia, apart from indigenous Australia, we had the war when they landed on Darwin.  We haven’t really seen a war here in our country, apart from the indigenous people, or even depressions.  So we’ve always had, everything’s sort of here. Whereas when you go to other third world countries and things, and you see what happens in other countries, I think it’s easy to take it for granted that, I am alright Jack sort of thing.

Time for Our Human Right Charter

Mark [21:08] Are we afraid of our vulnerability?

Laura [21:13] Maybe, I don’t know.  At the moment, there’s a move to try and get a charter of human rights in Australia, because we don’t have one.  This is incredible for a first world country.  So people in our schools are not being taught about our basic human rights.  If you are not told about them, you don’t get to know what you could lose.  Here in Australia, it is just taken for granted.   That’s not the case in a lot of countries, which have developed their Bill of Rights.   Having a Bill of Rights give people the basis of understanding what their rights are.  Even in third world countries, there were children in schools learn about their rights, and they know what they’re losing.  They know what’s taken away from them.  We don’t have that here and that needs to change.

Australia’s Need for a Bill of Rights

Mark [22:11] If we come back into that heart of connection, to the depth of that heart of connection, do we need a bill of rights or I’m being just too esoteric on that?

Laura [22:22] Yes you are (Laughter). We do.

Mark [22:25] We do because people come out of that space, and they will just hell-bent on having power and control over others?

Laura [22:36] Yeah, and to see the inequality.  To see that women are equal, to see everyone as equal and a Bill of Rights will legislate those rights.  We all equal and we should not have the discrimination that we have in society.

Mark [22:55] Is it because we’ve moved away from the heart that we’ve got that discrimination or is that just a fundamental biological, reptilian brain sort of process?

Laura [23:08] Yes, I think it’s just something that’s just going along unchecked here in Australia.   We’re relatively apart from indigenous Australia, a relatively young country in terms of white people.

Mark [23:27] What’s missing here?

Laura [23:31] A charter of Human Rights because that reminds people that we need to treat everyone equally.

Mark [23:38] Does that speak of the principles of the heart? The morals of the heart?

Laura [23:42] Yeah, absolutely.  Absolutely. Because then you have got a gauge as to what is and isn’t alright.

Mark [23:53] A barometer so to speak.  It’s really interesting, what’s stopping us?  Once we have that Bill of Rights, will that facilitate more self-reflection?   Where are we missing with our self-reflection?   We’ve all got that ability within us, we’ve all got that vulnerability, we’ve all got that heart?  I wonder what’s stopping us from self-reflecting? The insight and awareness I may have overstepped the line there.

Our Disconnection is linked to our Role Models

Laura [24:19] Well, I think.

Mark [24:20] Are we disconnected to that?

Laura [24:24] I think because our role models are so out of line.  Like for anybody like young people.  I mean, like right now so many people are disillusioned by the government by what they’re seeing and the actions.  So if you’re looking right now at what’s going on, it’s pretty disappointing.

Mark [24:51] And I’d also add to being disillusioned with governments.  I also wonder whether social media is creating a disillusionment for young people.  I was joking with someone I said on Instagram, it’s the competition of the best quote.  What are young people seeing? What are young people needing to aspire to, through that social media?   Are we or it could be helping a connection, but it could be helping our disconnection?

Socially Connected but Disconnected

Laura [25:22] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, public transport is a perfect example of that.  I mean, I’ve always gone up to Melbourne, on the train every week, since my grandchildren were born.  My eldest is eleven and I remember when I first started doing that, it would be an hour of chatting to people on the train, and same on the trams and there would be that verbal communication.  Whereas now everybody’s on their iPhones texting away, or got the headphones on and there’s very little communication at all.  So I think in terms of social media is taking us away from real life.

Mark [26:07] And real connection.

Losing the Art of Conversation and Communication

Laura [26:07] Real connection, we’re losing the art of conversation and communication.  So I do think it is there is a lot to be said about it.

Mark [26:20] How do we change it?  Conversations like this?

Laura [26:25] Yeah

Mark [26:27] What can we do in the community, from a community centre to help build that change?

Laura [26:40] Well, I do think we sort of try through social media, ironically, to try and remind people of that.  I think more people are becoming aware of it.   It could be about having time frames or situations where people really say it’s not cool to be on your phone, or texting and that sort of thing.  I think they have to be boundaries there, which I think we can only remind people of those boundaries.

How I Reconnect from my Disconnection

Mark [27:10] What happens to you, when you get disconnected?

Laura [27:16] I probably get not well.  I didn’t say that very well, but yeah, I probably get stressed out, sick, get tired, cranky.

Mark [27:27] And that’s a signpost for you to stop.

Laura [27:30] If I started getting cranky, I think whoops.

Mark [27:33] Okay.  Then there’s a process of have you come back up into your mind to do that? Where have you gone?  Are you more up in your brain, your mind?

Laura [27:43] Definitely.

Mark [27:45] How do you keep a check of that?

Listening to My Body Helps Me Reconnect

Laura [27:49] Well, I do like to meditate, but I don’t do that as often as I used to.  I think it’s pretty easy to identify that you’re not right.  The people around you pretty quickly notice it. So……

Mark [28:12] It’s having the insight and the awareness to?

Laura [28:14] I sort of just feel it in my body, I feel it very physically.  So, genuinely I know it and the problem arises when you’re not in the position to just maybe have the day off. None of us we all can be replaced.   I think that’s a mistake we all make.   That you think, you’ve just got to keep going but at the end of the day, you don’t.  At the end of the day, your health and your family are the most important things.   I think trying to keep that perspective is really important.  The work-life balance is the hardest challenge for all of us.

My Process of Letting Go

Mark [28:59] What happened all that energy, when you’re standing out the back looking at the stars in a full moon?

Laura [29:08] Well, let’s just a process, that’s just a letting go.

Mark [29:12] It dissolves into the oneness of the energy of that full moon?

Laura [29:16] Anything like that will stop you in your tracks.

Taking the Self-care we need for our Well-being

Mark [29:21] Is that something we might need to put in workplaces, into organizations, into policies and procedures somewhere along the line?

Laura [29:29] I mean, I say here to the staff like I mean, all those little things.  You need to get up and walk away from your desk.  You need to get out of the building, you need to have a lunch break.  All those sorts of things are really important.  We see so many young people now there’s so much pressure on people.  Mortgage stress, all sorts of things.   People’s jobs are like they have to work 24/7 and the never turned off.  The mobile phone makes that virtually impossible.  As a society, we have to change them.   It was really interesting, I was lucky enough to go to Geneva two years ago.   They have a very different work ethic. They don’t do over time.  They get to five o’clock and you knock off.  They don’t work on the weekends. Restaurants don’t open on a Saturday night they have big lunches that’s it.  They are not open at all on a Sunday.  Which blew my mind when I first went there. What do you mean? Well, going out on a Saturday night? They cook at home and have shared meals with their friends over and have entertainment in their homes. They are very productive.

Mark [30:42] I’m wondering as you’re sharing about young families, the stresses of mortgages, Torquay’s got a lot of that I would imagine.

Financial Stress impacts on People’s Mental Health & Family Violence

Laura [30:49] Huge mortgage stress.

Mark [30:51] The anxiety that would create, I’m wondering what that’s doing to people’s mental health?

Laura [30:55] Well, that is proven that is a contributing fact to family violence, literally.

Mark [31:06] How do we start that process of helping people to stop.  One of the things about the concept of mindfulness is important.  For me, mindfulness keeps it up in my mind.  To get that mindfulness I need to the discipline of meditation.  I started to use the concept of soul mindfulness because it gets me out of my mind and into my heart into the depth of my heart.   There’s a powerful energy there, an untapped resource.  Our mental health, that’s what’s been coming through on the podcast a lot.  If we can reconnect to that does do a lot of healing towards our mental health.  How can we create this on a broader scale?

Act Local Thinking Global

Bells Beach
Bells Beach – Torquay

Laura [31:58] I think you can only do it from example.  It’s that old thing of you know, clean up your own backyard and an acting locally, thinking globally all those sorts of things.

Mark [32:12] Physician heal thyself?

Laura [32:16] One spark lights another.  I think you can only really do by example and it’s something that I think we all need to as a society work towards trying to achieve a better work-life ratio if we can. It is an enormous ask?

Mark [32:43] I don’t know whether I’m being too esoteric, the thought came to me one day is to, I’d love to have a world heart of connection day.

Laura [32:52] Well why not.  I mean we have all these other days. We have you all right day (RUOK) and all the days.  So they just come from someone having an idea so why not.

Heart of Connection Community Facebook Group

Mark [33:02] We’ve started the Facebook, the Heart of Connection community Facebook group to try and bring awareness, insight, and support around that journey to reconnect to the heart.  There’s so much energy there, there’s such beautiful energy and wish we could have it 24/7.  The more we practice it, my experiences we get better at it.  We will be vulnerable at times and we may not have too much loving-kindness or we might be drained.  We do have a brain, unfortunately (laughter) that mindset that gets us caught up in it.  I am really keen to get gets some stuff moving I don’t know how to do it.   Hopefully, this podcast might be a start and least put the conversations out into the ether.

Laura [33:58] I think we’ve just got to be a little bit kinda

Mark [34:02] The kindness is in our hearts.  In all of our hearts.  I’m wondering what our fear is to show it?  Is it, if we show it,  are we then too weak or does the mind say or the old mindset say oh that’s a weakness or you’ll get walked over?

Remaining Open to Compassion & Love

Laura [34:19] Yeah, I think it’s like you were talking before event little boys get to five.   Then it’s like they’ve got to be tough.   That’s sort of what’s happening on a global level at the moment.   I think we all have to be brave enough to say hey no, I going to remain kind.  I going to remain open and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that compassion is not a dirty word.  We just have to bring it back to being kind to ourselves and being kind to others.

Mark [34:51] We all want to be loved.

Laura [34:52] And we all want to be loved.

Mark [34:54] An essential element of being human is that essence.  Laura, are there any final messages that you’d like to share on to listeners out there if there are any listeners out there (laughter)?

Laura [35:09] I think just what I just said then.  To be kind to yourself and kind to others.  I think that great song, by Dionne Warwick, “What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love”. That’s the only thing that is too little of.

Mark [35:25] Thank you.

Laura [35:26 ]I think that’s what we have to focus on.

Mark [35:28] Thank you for the opportunity to reconnect with you.  The connection goes back a long way.

Laura [35:32] It does.

Mark [35:34] Thank you for being a little bit esoteric in the conversation with me (Laughter).

Laura [35:38] My pleasure.

 

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