If you’ve ever had the experience of your path crossing over and over with a like-minded stranger, and that stranger becoming a friend over time, then you’ll understand how I met Narelle. Only we’ve only ever crossed paths in the virtual world. Soon after we realized that we were bumping into each other in the same online communities in early 2014, we caught up over the phone and have been talking on a fairly frequent basis ever since. Narelle is based in Australia and for a time lived not too far away from where I grew up in Sydney. We share a love of the land. We also have many interests in common. As a result, there’s always plenty to talk about when we chat on the phone. Recently we were talking about the launch of my site and the notion of one’s calling. It sparked a really interesting discussion and I invited Narelle to share her life-long exploration of this topic with the Inner Bliss and Outer Radiance community.
Where It All Started
Since I was small I’ve struggled with questions from others, about my experience of myself. A grown up would ask; “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. A preposterous question, really, since it assumes I won’t transform and change continuously along the way, and, that where I Am already, isn’t quite ‘there’ yet. I also smelt that it assumed some kind of structure, or agenda. It made me squirm and gave me performance anxiety, that question.
Nevertheless; what I wanted, was to be a Nun, a Dancer and a Neurosurgeon.
I knew the “Nun” piece wasn’t quite on. What I really wanted was a potent, right-on-the-edge-of-creation relationship with Source (which I kept hearing referred to as “God”). What I wanted, was urgent and imperative, a take-you-by-the-collar and look you in the eye, immediacy of joy. What I wanted, was the accountability of “so, what are you doing here? What are you really doing here?”. For real. In case there’s any confusion on that.
When I first heard of “money” I felt shock. Dismay and rage. How I roared at Source, “you’ve bloody well sent me to the wrong address, they’re still playing with money – how on earth can I do what I came here to do, now?!” For real. I was two years old.
I thought I’d find a doorway at Sunday School, and begged my Mum to take me there. My Mum insisted that first I must learn to tell the time, to the minute. On an analogue clock. It was the early 60’s. It took me a week. I was four. Did I find the promised land? Nope. What was my Mum teaching me? How to interface with physicality (space and time) 101. I did, however, sing a little song on the stage at Christmas. Because I had a “voice”. Indeed, I did.
Around the same time, both my parents would always try to prise me away from the lounge room floor, cajoling me to play outside with all the other (normal) kids in the street. There I’d be, in parsva eka pada rajakapotasana. Except it didn’t have a name to me. It was movement and it was pure sensation. It was electrifying and it was joy. My body, a laboratory. “If I bend my ankle this way it changes the sensation in my hip”. Wow! And, more importantly, “Why!?” Around and around in my head this type of question went; walking to the change rooms at the swimming pool, in the water. Why the pool? Because Mum, wise woman, insisted I learnt to swim before I learnt to dance. The daughter of a surf lifesaver (Dad), living by the water’s edge in Sydney. The pool. It anchored my integration of water based developmental movement patterns, like navel radiation. Useful for dance and yoga. Useful when you’re going to develop a scoliosis. Wink!
But what did I really want in all this lounge room and dance shenanigens? Here’s the burning question, my searing enquiry, at four and five, minus the languaging that I didn’t have: “how is it, that ‘I’, you know, the bit that’s really me, gets to be here, in a body. In this body?” Enter anatomy. And, enter the brain. At five years old, I figured this connection, this interface, must be in the brain, (which I now know is not the whole story at all). Soooo, my answer to the sing-song, “And what do YOU want to be when you grow up, little girl”, groped its way to an attempt to articulate this: consciousness in a body. “Oh”, said someone one day, “you want to be a neurosurgeon”. At the time, it felt like a lifeline. And in a world of not fitting in, I latched onto it like jackie.
At Christmas time, in the local department store, I’d sit on the big red guy’s knee and I’d ask Santa for anatomy models. You know, the ones where you push a button to set the circulation a-coursing. He be worried, shooting a panicked look to my apologetically shrugging parents. I got Barbie dolls. Harder to dissect.
“I Love A Sunburnt Country…”
When I was a kid my Dad was always asking me, ‘wanna go for a bush walk’. No sirree. I didn’t. Too sweaty, too dirty, too prickly; too ….uncomfortable. Too bloody….physical! Dancers, my dear Dad, don’t bushwhack, they glide, in studios. Eventually, however, I did go on those bushwalks; I lived for close on a decade, with my own young family, in the upper Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
The bush. Our house on over two acres of it. Giant trees in screaming winds, huge shoulders of escarpment sandstone-skin rocks, gushing streams and falls, and penetrating mist. Smell of peppermint and eucalyptus, crimson rosellas calling hello. These experiences permeated my work, as gemstone jewellery designer, then, infiltrated my teaching with the body-land and dance-and-yoga.
During my time in the mountains, I met a woman, who worked with vibrational essences – flower and gem. She trained me. She sought permission from her family in the Northern Territory and initiated me. Into ‘the land’. Into permissioned aspects of connection with Indigenous wisdom. Seeping into my tissues, into my consciousness, over time….over decades.
The Journey Of A Lifetime
Sooooo. What do I “do” now? The grown up question to “what do you want to be when you grow up”. Which still makes me cringe. Even with all my “business” training.
I don’t “do” anything. I don’t have to. I Am.
I’m a Transformer. Yes. That’s an actual service. One I trained and long apprenticed in since 1992. A Spiritual Service (complete with the capitals). I see this word around so much now, and it makes me gag. Sorry, time for honesty. Actually, it make me mad and it makes me sad. A word, currency. What is Transformation? Well……remember the kid grabbing you by the scruff of your neck and piercing you square and centre in the eye and asking you “what do you really want?” (looooong before it became a fashionable question with a catch word?). Yep. That’s “what I do”. It’s WHO I AM. And it underpins and interthreads everything I do! Watch out!
I practice and I teach yoga. As consciousness incarnate. Oh, and while we’re at it, that’d be an ongoing travelling consciousness. Never fixed. With a scoliosis. Not because I think it’s a goroovy niche market, but, because that’s the terrain I inhabit. That’s my own particular physicality. It’s my practice.
And I take pictures. I make photographs of the living breathing body of the land. Part of our greater ecology. Home.
At 55 and a Grand Mother, I’m also an Elder now. A little ‘early’ perhaps, but Elderhood is not bestowed from outside, it shifts and turns within you, like molten rock; the body re-carved. An axis shifts. You’ll know it when it happens…
The Nun, the dancer and the neurosurgeon. And the bushie. With a voice.
So much Love, and Joy,
Narelle Carter-Quinlan, is a global leading exponent on yoga for scoliosis and embodied spinal anatomy, having taught in the United States, Europe, the UK, New Zealand, and of course, in her native Australia. An anatomist by academic and experiential training, her unique body of work integrates the practice of yoga with the embodiment of your anatomy and embryology.
Narelle embodies the Body-Land. Most deep, is Narelle’s ongoing signature enquiry of the body as felt, known, poetic space; consciousness within our interior terrain. Her Embodied Ecology Photography© juxtaposes aspects of our inner body and the the experience of the living, breathing Land. Her work is a benediction of communion; our inner and outer terrain. She has self published a photo book, Australian Skin, which launched in May 2012 in New York City at Yoga Union Backcare, at her digital exhibition and movement-sound performance by the same name. Narelle’s digital photobook, Kakadu is also available.
You can find more information on Narelle and her perspective on Embodiment, Yoga & Scoliosis, and Transformation on her site, Embodied Terrain. She has several events scheduled, both live and online.