22.08.2014 Our Earth

Queen of Hearts

Jeremy Ball meets Aboriginal elder Jenny Thompson, an activist of the heart

There are some strange destinies that you cannot search out; instead they find you when you least expect them.

Last month I found myself driving north along the Pacific Highway to the outer suburbs of Brisbane, with camera crew in tow, on my way to interview Grandmother Jenny Thompson. My friend Andrew Harvey had met Jenny the previous week at the Warburton Harmony Festival and spoke of her in glowing terms. I knew from experience Andrew's nose for diamonds and that Jenny would be one of many carats.

TomTom brought me to a quiet cul de sac and told me I had reached my destination - how right that electronic voice proved to be! Jenny answered the door with a bright smile upon her face. As she hugged me I felt that I was in the arms of a beloved grandmother she made me feel so comfortable and cared for.

Jenny is grandmother to many children, both those souls who have come through her own children and the wider community. As she showed me round her cosy and perfectly kept house, it was obvious that the mother's love extended through her in caring for everyone and everything. The front bedrooms were home to a couple of grandsons complete with their boy's den and the walls of the home were covered with family pictures and fabulous traditional and contemporary Aboriginal artwork.

Jenny and I chatted effortlessly as if we had known each other all our lives and I am sure she creates these feelings in everyone she meets. As we walked around her home Jenny told me about her grandsons and the community school she started and at which she still teaches. I was in the court of a great and humble matriarch, a true queen of hearts.

We sat down to film the interview, which was simply an extension of our conversation. As we waited for the cameraman to set up the equipment, I asked Jenny if she would give me a healing so that I would be able to explain her work from the inside. Without missing a beat, Jenny scanned me with her goldfish bowl of a third eye, observing my body and spirit with radar precision, looking for emotional clues and quickly honing in on exactly what needed "fixing".

Grandmother Jenny is a glorious cocktail of ancestral influences, the main stream of course being indigenous Australian allied with a heavy dose of African ancestry through her father and a good splash of Celtic through an Irish ancestor.

Once she had honed in on the area of my psyche and emotions requiring healing, Jenny called in and acknowledged her ancestors and the spirit of the land. And it was the African strain possibly connecting with my own connections with Africa that came pouring through. The process centred on acknowledging, forgiving and welcoming back into the fold my own ancestors; a reconnecting of the branches to the tree. The sense of peace and support and deeper connection with the Earth that ensued was profound and has continued to grow.

As I sit here typing these words I am touched by how much more supported and joyous I feel and how I now look back along my generations with a sense of family and gentle pride. Jenny is adept at most areas of spiritual and emotional healing, but often in her experience it comes down to strengthening, acknowledging and healing ancestral connections.

As the healing finished, the camera started rolling and Jenny shared her life story and her many, often very challenging, experiences with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. This was a woman who had journeyed to the end of the track and made peace with herself, with God and with everyone in her life. There was no rancour or bitterness for the great sufferings that had been foisted upon her and her people - Jenny and her family experienced the lot in many forms of degradation and abuse. Yet she was at peace with it all, not a faux dreamy eyed peace, but that of someone who had done the hard work of facing her demons but also, I suspect, always with a mind to the higher purpose of things. Here was someone who, having journeyed to the end of the track of her own life's path, was now making the return journey to collect her brothers and sisters and bring them to this same place of peace.

Jenny is a true activist, an activist of the heart, not an angry, ranting or fiery finger pointer (and God we need those to wake us up). Rather, Jenny's modus operandi is of someone in the trenches with you to pull you out, a lover-midwife helping her fellow humans birth ourselves out of the quagmire, a Florence Nightingale of the spiritual dimensions - very strong and occasionally stern but oh so loving.

I would merely pose a question and Jenny would relate enchanting and heartrending tales from her life experiences before concluding the parable with the nuggets of wisdom my questions were seeking. At times during the conversation I was enrapt at what was being communicated; at other times Jenny, her garden, even my chair beneath me and my body around me melted into a pool of gold, myself becoming one with the field that Jenny was so in touch with and birthing into the world. If you have seen the film The Matrix you may remember a woman called The Oracle - an African American woman living the life of a mother and grandmother, baking cakes and saving lives with her deep insight and simple pragmatism. Well, I was sitting with her real life counterpart now.

My mind cast back to experiences in my childhood that were touching on what I was experiencing now - sips of the future and my homecoming to the heart of the mother in this beautiful, uncomplicated and profound woman in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. I knew now why I had made Australia my home.

Jenny started working in Queensland schools as a teaching aide in 1980 and took on various roles, eventually becoming a Community Education Counsellor before starting her own Indigenous Counselling Service and studying Mental Health at Charles Sturt University. On completing her degree in Mental Health, Jenny worked at Mater Hospital in Brisbane as a Child and Youth Mental Health Officer. In 2011, she opened the Hymba Yumba Indigenous School where she is now the Elder in Residence. This school is a model for schools of the future not just for indigenous children but the whole world as we return to our true connection with life.

Jeremy Ball

At 26, following a “shamanic intervention”, Jeremy closed his business and left London to visit sacred sites and elders, later creating Transformational Tours and SacredFire.

When not roaming mother earth, you will find Jeremy at home in Byron Bay's hinterland, playing with his children and planning the next adventure. jeremy@transformationaltours.com.au