Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

PETE'S BLOG

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A room full of old friends

It's a lovely Spring morning. Out there the sun shines, birds sing and our dog suns itself on the lawn, too groggy with ambience to even jump up and chase the wrens that will be gathering. The yard smells of new growth. But for me, it's an 'in here' day: in the corner of our home that's crammed with books—people really. Some of them are still alive but many have left this world.

These dead writers and thinkers (and some still alive) have been like wise old ghosts sitting on my shelves and giving me gifts every day. No, we're not talking seances here, this is about words on pages gradually illuminated by years of life in the same way an archeologist's brush might gradually reveal the shape, colour and texture of a magnificent piece of pottery or an ancient skull. I do have a skull in here actually, one that belonged to a a bore pig I once shot, but that's another story.

As I've read the writings of these men and women and pored and prayed over their words, years have passed: Christmases have come and gone, I've married a stunning princess; we've had lots of children and I've made plenty of mistakes. And hell and heaven have made their presence felt—in our delicate bodies of flesh—in no uncertain terms. Laughter, singing and loud sobs of anguish have been heard. Meanwhile, in the background, these writers have become part of our joy and sorrow, sharing their music with me, my family and friends, and opening entire new worlds of fact and fiction to our minds and imaginations. The gift of their words has brought wisdom, healing, grace and energy—and they keep giving and giving. How lucky I am to have such friends!

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Heroes

It's one of those late night chill-out times in our lounge room, a candle burns on the table and the glass of port feels good in the hand and on the throat. #3 son has just gotten home from work and we're talking over the day. He tells me about a dumb job they gave him cause he's new. He explains how he was fully aware that he was being taken advantage of and that they were probably laughing at him but he did it anyway because, as he explained—in their defence—'they were desperate to impress the owners and wanted to make their shop look good, I suppose, an inspection was coming up after all'.

According to one way of thinking he should have quit. 'No one should put up with being treated like that' our world says. If it's unfair it's bad, if it hurts it's wrong. Call the 'whoever it is' and they will fix it for you.

But what if this story isn't about that? What if the real world is much more like a mysterious mythology in which heroes are not winners, survivors and celebrities but warriors who are learning to master their pride and see themselves as on a quest in which everything that comes their way has some significance. And rather than asking 'Is it fair?' 'Does it hurt?' we should be asking, 'Is this a temptation or a gift? An opportunity to serve or to grow in grace?'

Thanks to such mythologies entering our imaginations, life becomes much more than a quest for survival, and instead inspires us to expect a thing we might call a 'River of Life', which might enable us to become givers of hope and life and grace. Richard Rohr in his book Falling Upward says that in all the mythologies a deep(and mysterious) wounding is a necessary part of becoming what we are created to be and our refusal to ever allow for anything good in that wounding imperils the possibility of us 'falling down' into the deep and healing magic that was there before time began.

We are crippled in this journey when we adopt our society's one dimensional posture of being outraged at anything that is unfair or hurts. But that posture is all that a materialist/secular culture has to offer—witness the string of dummy-spitting obscenities that flow on FB when something hurtful or unfair happens to someone. Imagine the main characters doing that in the Odyssey or the Aeneid or Genesis.

Yes, they hedge, they try to outwit the gods and the monsters and they make excuses but they also face the battle like men, as it tells us in the Odyssey when Odysseus tries to win sympathy from Polyphemos, the Cyclops: 'We are Achaians coming from Troy, beaten off our true course by winds from every direction across the great gulf of the open sea, making for home, by the wrong way, on the wrong courses. So we have come. So it has pleased Zeus to arrange it.'1 Having failed to get sympathy, they plan to fix the problem: ' ... I told the rest of the men to cast lots, to find out which of them must endure with me to take up the great beam and spin it in the Cyclops' eye when sweet sleep had come over him.'2 Rather than sit around and feel sorry for himself, Odysseus got on with the business at hand.

The big spiritual secret is that we don't have to 'maintain the rage' at pain. Yes, let the hurt out, face the monsters, face our sin, make our confessions but then open our hand and our heart and let go: put our sense of 'being shafted' to the sword and quietly allow these inspired myths to go to work in our imagination.

If we refuse we will live our entire life with our hand (and our heart) fiercely closed, like Lilith3—in the fantasy novel of George MacDonald—and like Lilith, have no idea of the families, oceans, cities and even nations we might be locking up inside that closed hand all because of our demand that things be fair and non-painful.

 


1 Odysseus in the Odyssey 9.259-262
2 Odysseus in the Odyssey 9.331-335
3 MacDonald G. Lilith (a mythopoeic fantasy novel)

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Being Present and Silent

‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid: the same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing ... At other time it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.’1

‘When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle touch and tender hand.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.’2


 

1 Lewis CS 1968, A Grief Observed, Faber, p.7

2 Nouwen H.