Possible Dreams

Possible Dreams


On Saturday evening March 23rd my daughter and I went to a concert given by a choir called Possible Dreams International choir. The concert was called Voices for the Voiceless.

They were a very colourfully dressed and vibrant group of performers. The singing was just beautiful and included an operatic quartet performing Nessun Dorma. The dancing was both heartfelt and exuberant.

I had never heard of them until I first read about it in the paper a couple of weeks ago.  A final year medical student from Australia went to Swaziland in 2005 to work in a hospital for the summer. What he found there changed his life.  Dr Maithri Goonatilleke tells the story of being caught in an African downpour one day and from inside a hut he heard the most magnificent singing. He was transfixed.

He himself is a singer and the idea for a choir was born. The choir is composed of young people from the most remote and rural areas of the country.  Some of them are orphans, some of them are HIV-positive, some amputees. They sing songs of hope to a community in the face of adversity.  Whether it is to celebrate the building of a new home or to bring solace and some joy to a person bedridden with AIDS or TB they gather to sing and dance.

Dr Goonatilleke went on and founded Possible Dreams International, an organisation that works with individuals and families living in extreme poverty, malnutrition and endemic disease to create positive and sustainable change in 32 remote Swazi communities.

At the beginning of last year when he heard about the choir from Maithri, his friend suggested bringing them to Australia and so they made that dream possible. They arrived in Melbourne a few weeks ago, performed around Victoria and returned home to Swaziland on March 26th.

Let me give you some context. Swaziland is a small landlocked nation in southern Africa. It has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. It has the highest death rate in the world and the lowest life expectancy. 15% of the country’s population are orphaned children. 41% of pregnant women are infected with HIV/AIDS.

The concert was a combination of the most beautiful singing and a few members, briefly, telling their story. These are poignant, heart breaking and it is easy to feel despair about the state of the world in general and Africa in particular. Yet the strength, the resilience, the caring and the compassion that come from the members of the choirs was palpable. Hope lived within them, despite unspeakable conditions.

Why am I writing about this? Not to ask you to give or donate (though you can if you feel called to), but because I was so moved.

Mairthri’s father (a Baptist minister who immigrated to Australia from Sri Lanka during the civil war) said that humanity was like a spider web. You cannot touch one bit without moving the whole web.

Hope, interconnection and compassion was what I took from it. And the thought that perhaps a random act of kindness each day will affect and may change someone’s life.

An interviewer said to Maithri Goonatilleke that what Maithri was doing was extraordinary. His response” To see what I saw and not do—that would be extraordinary.”

Love & joy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment




I hope you have had a happy and restful holiday season, particularly after the inevitably hectic lead up that seems to be the norm.

In stark contrast to my adventurous summer last year, this year’s break was very restful—just what the doctor ordered for herself.

I have been doing things I love—reading, journalling, walking, café sitting with friends, going to the movies and to the theatre. At home where I sit to read or write I look out onto a small hedge of lavender that is blossoming so abundantly.

A couple of years ago with the combination of intensely dry, hot weather, water restrictions and my very sporadic watering, that part of the garden (exposed to full sun) desiccated to nothing. I then decided that I would plant some small lavender bushes—non gardener that I am. Well, they are full of flowers and now form a beautiful little hedgerow. Pale butterflies and bees constantly hover over the bushes (as I said to my daughter, they must be making some delicious honey somewhere!) I have harvested sprigs for myself and for friends. I have had so much pleasure from this. I have even watered them.

On another note—I have shared this with you before and would like to share it with you again. I frequently read this quote from Joseph Campbell and always in the New Year.

Follow your bliss.

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.  When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid… and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)

Truer words have not been spoken. Isn’t this the most wonderful quote? I just love it!

As the holidays end and life gets busier perhaps you too will read this and find some inspiration. I hope in 2013 you can follow your bliss.

I look forward to sharing the journey with you this year

Love & joy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On The Road* (Feb. 2012)


I hope you have had fun festive season with your loved ones and that 2012 has got off to a wonderful start.

Usually in summer I am quite happy to just relax around home, reading and enjoying self time. This summer, however, I found myself having somewhat more adventurous experiences and I wanted to share a couple with you.

Firstly, my daughter and I went to South Asia over summer, spending the majority of our time in India. I have been there a few times before. India is a (some would say the) land of extremes which overwhelms as it soothes, challenges and confronts as it delights. For this trip we had a car and driver in each of the places we visited. All, bar one driver, were excellent.

I am familiar with the traffic all over Asia from previous experiences. Yet, for some reason, this time it felt very different.

Our first driver, Sanjay, drove out of the airport in New Delhi straddling two lanes. My daughter and I took a deep breath and looked at each other. So it began—horns; four lane roundabouts with traffic turning left from the right lane and turning right from the left lane; cars and buses, auto and bicycle rickshaws, bicycles, scooters all moving at once. Then there were pedestrians thrown in. We clutched the hand rest and breathed very deeply.

Within two days, however, it all felt different again, somehow easier and familiar.  Sanjay was a wonderful driver, calm and confident. The horns were not a sign of aggression but a way of alerting you to their presence, indeed this was a very clear form of communication (although one beyond my comprehension). Vehicles still passed each other leaving a gap of what looked to be a couple centimetres. Pedestrians still randomly crossed major streets. On a main city road you would still regularly encounter a bullock cart. Yet there was order in the chaos.

In the entire time we were there, we only once saw a scooter knock the back of an auto rickshaw. Road traffic accidents abound in India, but we did not see any (thankfully). Nor did we see animal kills on the road — and we covered some distances.

It is quite amazing what you become used to in a very short time.

The second adventure came when I returned to Melbourne. A friend asked if I wanted to be part of an exciting surprise. Exciting? Surprise? The only thing I knew was that I had to wear jeans and boots. I tried to work out what the surprise would be. A boat? But I wouldn”t need boots. Hiking? Certainly not my idea of fun.

When the motorbike first roared up the driveway I did not realise it was for me.

Let me say this—have always loved motorbikes, having my first ride at 18 (interestingly enough, through the streets of India where I was on holiday). Since then, witnessing on the road and during the many hours I have spent working in accident and emergency departments, the dramatic consequences of riding motorbikes had left stark images and replaced the pleasure with fear.

But I had said yes to the surprise. All of these images flashed through my mind as I warred with myself and tried to steady my breathing. Then, dressed appropriately in Kevlar and helmet, I climbed on.

For the first 20 minutes I’m sure I left bruises on my companion as I clung on fearfully all the while sending random prayers heavenward and focusing on my breathing to steady my mind. Then somehow the orange and pink blaze of the setting sun that reflected back in the sea caught my attention. The beauty of riding down Beach Road to Williamstown at sunset and back again at night, took over. My grip relaxed as my mind relaxed.

Foolhardy? Dangerous? Yes, absolutely. And for me a bit daring.

Ultimately despite the fear, it did in fact turn out to be an exciting surprise!

Love & joy

* with apologies to Jack Kerouac.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on On The Road* (Feb. 2012)

Droughts, Floods–Spring Blossoms (Sept. 2010)

The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other.
Arthur Rubinstein (pianist)

After a decade of drought we have floods in northern Victoria. The downpour seems to be a mixed blessing. Many people have sustained damage to their homes and are struggling. Yet it has also brought relief to a parched land and therefore the farming community. I have friends who live in the area and while it causes upheaval when they are evacuated, it is also familiar.

The famed red gums have been distressed and suffering in the long dry spell and this deluge will now give them life again. Droughts and floods are seen as a part of the cycle which is just present in that part of the state

It was a pretty wet and stormy weekend in Melbourne. This week, every time I have driven to my rooms in busy Hampton Street, the beauty of spring that is visible takes my breath away. The whole street on both sides is lined with trees that are full of the most exquisite white blossoms. All winter these trees have been hardly visible in their spindly, bare state particularly in the slanting winter light. I am again reminded of how lucky we are.  Here on a busy suburban shopping strip we have a profusion of trees in blossom.

Winter is a time of hibernation. Things can lie dormant or just be percolating away hidden and with spring comes a new energy and ability to fulfill potential.

I love that Melbourne has definite seasons–even if we don’t get snow. Nature has rhythms and cycles built in. The seasons give us a time and a place for very distinct personal growth and change.

Traditionally, spring is for planting, sowing seeds.
Summer is for blossoming, growing.
Autumn is for harvest.
Winter is for rest and renewal, before the cycle begins anew.

The days of erratic rain and sun do not seem to matter. This is the very thing that promotes germination and growth.

These cycles are so applicable to us. With spring we feel exuberant, energised and expectant. We are inspired to tackle new things and undertake new projects. It is a perfect time to begin. On the 21st of September is the vernal (spring) equinox, where day and night are equal and then we roll in towards summer with the days getting longer and warmer.

Take the time, just now, to relish the blossoms and new growth everywhere. It is the perfect time to begin planting seeds literally or figuratively — in the garden or for projects that you would like to bring to fruition.

Wishing you magical times . . .

Love & joy

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Droughts, Floods–Spring Blossoms (Sept. 2010)

You Are Your Own Doctor (June 2010)


“Every patient carries her or his own doctor inside.”
Albert Schweitzer
French philosopher & physician (1875 – 1965)

In November 2009, I presented at The International Holistic Health conference. I was asked to speak about what I do in my practice — mind body medicine and what that actually means. After the session, I happened to speak to one of the participants. A doctor from Sydney, Jennifer Hunter, told me that what I had spoken about reminded her of an experience she had had as an intern and reaffirmed for her the power we all carry within ourselves to heal. It is a perfect illustration of what I speak about and teach!

I asked her to write it and send it to me so I am just going to include it verbatim:

It was during my first year as a doctor that I began to observe the power we all have to heal thyself. During my trainee rotation I was sent to a hospital for one week. I was asked to insert a nasogastric tube down an old man’s nose that went down into his stomach so liquid food could be given to him. Following surgery to his abdomen a few months ago, the wound had failed to heal and was wide open. The wound was at least 20cm long and 10cm wide. The man looked very sick and underweight. His surgeon said to me that he would not leave hospital and would die. Later that day I was called back to reinsert the tube. Upon further inquiry I found out that he was angry, didn’t want the tube in and kept pulling it out. So before putting the tube back in, I talked to him.

I asked the man why he was pulling the tube out all the time. Since he wasn’t eating and was obviously weak and frail, surely he could see that it was essential that he got food into him otherwise he would fade away and die. I asked him if he wanted to die and reassured him that it was O.K. and I would respect his wishes. The man said he wanted to live. He hated being in hospital for so long and wanted to go home. He hated the tube being down his nose and he didn’t want it put back in. Well then, if the tube wasn’t to be put back in then he must eat! So we eventually found something that he loved to eat: chocolate (of course). He would get his wife to bring in boxes of chocolate and he would eat as much chocolate as he could.

I told the man what his surgeon had said to me. No western medicine or surgery was going to save him and get him back home. His surgeon said he wouldn’t make it. The only option, then, was to heal himself. I explained to him how the body heals. I talked about little cells making protein, like scaffolding for other cells to grow on until eventually the wound closes up. I suggested that instead of lying in bed feeling angry and sorry for himself, wasting away the days watching television, he should start to focus on healing himself. I showed him how to relax and visualise what I had described. I suggested that every minute he was lying there alone he gently focus his attention on imagining his abdomen healing.

Six months later I returned to that hospital. I was in the elevator when a tall handsome elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. “Dr Hunter, remember me. It worked, I am completely healed and well. I’m just here for a check up with my surgeon.” I am forever grateful to this man for affirming the power we all have within ourselves to heal. There is no medicine more powerful than our minds and souls.

Dr Jennifer Hunter, Bondi Junction

YOU are the healer. As a doctor, a therapist, I am not the healer, no one is. A practitioner, a modality, a pill, a potion, a treatment protocol are all important. Everything can help you, support you, but the HEALING comes from you, comes from within.

The body is such an amazing, exquisite design. Everything is so precisely ordered. We have an internal pharmacy that manufactures, stores and delivers chemicals and hormones we require in exactly the right amount, at precisely the right time and place. We have the capacity to defend and protect ourselves from external and internal harm. We have the capacity to heal. Use this capacity. Nurture and nourish the body and apply the wonderful power of your mind to what you want, rather than what you don’t want. To heal – keep your focus on health even as you use different protocols and treatments. Where attention goes, energy flows and result shows. Keep your attention on what you want.

Above all, journey with joy.

Love and radiant health to you,

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on You Are Your Own Doctor (June 2010)