Coming home to the alive world:

Kinship, Embodiment and Belonging




Deep connection with ourselves, our bodies, our earth and our communities is the heart of poetics and the hope of any politics we might evolve. Experiencing the aliveness of this world and our kinship with all beings is medicine, balm for disconnection, the profound gift of the journey of reconciliation.

Acknowledging Country

Surrendering to the Grief of our Origins

‘Maya Ward is responding to those who seek to come back into the spirit of place in rigorous and respectful ways that are not in extractive relation, not overstepping or appropriating. It is a space of nuance and intense discomfort and danger, but it is generative.’

                        ~ Tyson Yunkaporta

“We cry for you because you haven’t got the meaning of this country. We have a gift we want to give you. And it’s the gift of pattern thinking. It’s the culture which is the blood of this country, of Aboriginal groups, of the ecology, of the land itself.” – David Mowaljarlai, Ngarinyin elder

As a person of settler descent, I have created this workshop for those who wish to respond more deeply to the work that First Nations people have asked us to do – Acknowledge Country. I have done so with the support and encouragement of Aboriginal people. They have asked settlers to share the emotional burden that Aboriginal people have been forced to carry, and do the work of sitting with the discomfort of our history.

This work suggests ways to come into right relationship with First Nations people and with Country through honesty, care and deep listening. Only by resting on ethical foundations can spiritual depths be revealed, and co-creative flourishing unfurl.

Maya’s workshop was a rare and rich opportunity to engage with those parts of ourselves that usually linger timidly in the shadows. It was a safe place for all to take some brave steps on the path to accepting our legacy as settler-culture Australians. I am very grateful to Maya and my co-participants for undertaking this challenging and essential collective soul-work.

                     ~ Sean Kavanagh

‘The workshop was fabulous; enlightening, deep, playful, engaging, and profound. I really appreciated your knowledge and facilitation skills, and the finding of like-hearted people.’

                      ~Laurel Freeland

About Maya

Maya has worked for over 30 years to deepen belonging and connection to place through writing, moving, designing, planting and teaching. Her PhD in Creative Writing explored the embodied experience of the alive world, otherwise known as the archetypal or imaginal realm. Her research ranged across neuroscience, somatics, psychology and shamanistic metaphysics.

She has studied internationally with Jungian psychologists Arnold and Amy Mindell, writers David Abram and Bill Plotkin, and is a longtime student of The Work that Reconnects. She is profoundly grateful to have learned from Indigenous elders including Dulumunmun (Uncle Max Harrison) and Uncle Ian Hunter. As a scholar, she is a student of the works of many wise thinkers, but acknowledges Martin Prechtel, Ursula le Guin and Alan Garner as her greatest influences.

Her memoir The Comfort of Water: A River Pilgrimage, published by Transit Lounge, is an account of her 21-day journey from the sea to the source of the Yarra River, following the length of a Wurundjeri Songline. This book has been on the curriculum in universities around Australia, and was shortlisted by the State Library for the 2012 Year of Reading Award. Her writing has also been featured in a variety of publications, including a chapter in the book series Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations, edited by Robin Wall Kimmerer and others.

Maya has a Masters in Education (Social Ecology) with undergraduate studies in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. She has worked as an urban designer, permaculture teacher, bushland revegetator and as the founding placemaker at Village Well, one of Australia’s leading placemaking firms. Work in the community arts sector has included festival directing, and as a musician and composer in Lothlorien.

Currently she lives on the banks of the Yarra in the mountain village of Warburton, in the beautiful Country of the Wurundjeri people. In this place she continues her learning as a pilgrim, walking the forest and river paths, and negotiates with the birds for a share of the food forest she plants and tends.

Acknowledging Country

The Acknowledging Country Writing Workshop aims to facilitate opportunities for profound connection to place and history with which to ground your words, enrich your understanding, and to grow your ongoing connections to Country.

The focus is an exploration of the new Australian ritual of Acknowledging Country that for the last decade has taken place at the start of public gatherings. This ritual has emerged at a vital cultural moment, with the growing awareness and acceptance of Australia’s violent conquest history, and greater understanding of the ongoing impacts of colonial culture on both Aboriginal and settler cultures.

“Country” is an Aboriginal English word meaning both the visible and invisible world around us; people, plants, animals, landforms, weather systems, the animate spirit that infuses us all, the stories and the web of relationships between us. To acknowledge Country, then, is to acknowledge an alive, sensing world. The implications of this are enormous, with the potential to disrupt the de-animated worldview that underpins the colonial paradigm. How might we fruitfully and respectfully engage with this other way of knowing, and learn the responsibilities and connections of deep belonging?

This work is grounded in learning from Aboriginal and Indigenous people, including inspiration and encouragement from Tyson Yunkaporta, Yin Paradies, Jack Mitchell, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ian Hunter, Joy Murphy Wandin and Dave Wandin.

This course pays the rent.

The workshop in more detail:

This workshop has emerged after a long slow percolation of two things said to me, more than once, by Aboriginal people. The first, a question – what happened to you that you would do this to us? The second, a statement – we’re ok, it’s you lot that have the problems – go and work on yourselves.

I have felt the importance and truth of these words, and have sought to create a space where we can, in groups, sincerely and deeply investigate them. We do this through the help and guidance of the eldership of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous thinkers whose work I have collated.

This work is not instead of, or meaning to supplant, the wisdom and guidance of local Aboriginal people – that is an irreplaceable and essential part of our learning, and a gift to honour. My work is offered in the hope that, through deepening our historical and contextual understanding and emotionally processing the grief of our history, we have more space to allow new learning. That we may better understand the greatness of the gift that is a Welcome to Country, so as to offer a more heartfelt Acknowledgement of the gift.

What, also, does it mean to feel we have a deep spiritual connection with land that has been stolen? How do we reconcile with this moral confusion? These are some of the questions that we let ourselves be guided by, on the way to a more just and compassionate Australian culture.

We cover:

Returning to the Roots: The European tradition: including Goethe, Jung, and the deep and hidden history of faerie, otherwise known as nature connection.

Re-enchantment: tradition and the power of the spoken word.

Rooting in Ancient Earth: The Aboriginal tradition. The Gift, the meaning of Country, Dreaming and Dadirri, (Deep Listening).

Speaking your words: a whole group sharing of experiences and acknowledgements.

This course was first developed for the Jung Society of Melbourne, and so the thinking of Carl Jung underpins the approach. As both therapist and cultural agent Jung held space for difficult questions and saw the deeply personal as necessary for cultural and political transformation. He brought awareness of the archetypal realm (pattern thinking) and of Anima Mundi – the soulfulness and animacy of earth.

In the spirit of Jungian processes, the investigation will take a depth psychological approach to researching and creating your own Acknowledgement of Country. We will be using a tool Jung developed, Active Imagination, to sense and dialogue with the idea of Country. You will be invited to deeply, personally, and somatically engage in the practice of Acknowledging Country through invocation – speaking aloud to animate Country, and listening for words that feel true and real.

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