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Dadirri – The Deep Inner Spring

Dr Miriam Rose Baumann and Pip Gordon | 13 Jul 2020
“I can’t teach you Dadirri, you must experience it…come and sit on Country with us and we will help you to try to understand.”

Aboriginal Elder Miriam Rose Baumann sits at her kitchen table with a large canvas laid out before her. There are palettes of paint, jars of water, delicate paintbrushes at easy reach. The room is quiet, it is late at night, with only the gentle whirring and ticking sound of the ceiling fan that keeps the thick, humid air moving. It’s the ‘build-up season’ in the remote Northern Territory community of Nauiyu, Daly River. With the grandchildren sleeping, this is Miriam’s time to find her inner peace, which she refers to as Dadirri

Miriam is painting the seasons of the barramundi. 

“When we observe the fish and come to understand the cycles of the seasons in nature, this speaks to Dadirri, this brings healing,” Miriam explains. 

Miriam Rose’s Aboriginal name is Ungunmerr. In 1988, at a conference as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations, Miriam presented a paper entitled Dadirri – Inner Deep Listening and Quiet Still Awareness. This beautifully concise explanation of the spiritual dimension of Aboriginal culture has since been utilised by people working in diverse settings and in private meditations all over the globe. 

Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside of us. Miriam shares that she originally wrote about Dadirri as a recognition of the unique quality of Aboriginal people, and she calls this a ‘Gift to the Nation’. She offers a narrative of reflections and observations, explaining the significance of Dadirri and why it is such an important aspect of Australian spirituality.

In rhythm with the land

In our community, we had a humble priest called Father John Leary. He was genuinely interested in understanding our people. He noticed our connection to land, nature, the universe, and the sense of belonging among the people. He sat down with me and invited me to talk with him. He encouraged me to put into English words the spirituality of this connection and state of being. I did not know then how much these words would be of impact. 

I was born on the bend of the river. The name of our language literally means ‘deep water sounds’. The word ‘Dadirri’ is from the Ngangikurungkurr language and refers to the ‘deep spring within us’, like what you might call quiet, still awareness. It’s an inner silence, listening to the land, being in rhythm with it. There is a depth of connectedness that we know in relation with country, nature, community, family, our ancestors, our own self.

Nature talks 

In Dry Season, the water in the billabongs is low, the barramundi hide under the lily pads, with their head down and their tails up, flapping from side to side to keep them oxygenated. 

This is a time when you must be very still and quiet if you are to catch a fish. It takes great skill and knowledge. We are not afraid of this silence; it makes us whole again, it helps to heal our spirit. All things are interconnected and tell us things when we listen and observe. 

When we’re out hunting, the water birds will fly past to tell us it’s time to go home. 

Trees flower and tell us it’s time to collect bush tucker. 

When the moon changes its phases, we know the living waters of the river will provide for us. We take only enough for what we need and leave the rest for our next generation.

Living in two worlds

I have lived in my cultural way in the bush, and in the mainstream Western way. I understand what it is like to live in two worlds. We learn from both ways. 

The Aboriginal way is much slower, time is not from seconds to minutes. We know how to wait and be patient, we cannot hurry the river. When I grew up in my community, there wasn’t the pressure there is now, to keep up with others and be attached to technology. This is a different challenge.

When we have visitors to our community, we ask them to let go of their idea of time. Some people find this hard to do, while others feel relief. 

When you are in the city or working with others, you can be pulled in different directions. There is an expectation to keep up and keep going. 

A thirst for connection and belonging

I belong to my family, my community, my tribal group, the land. I have a skin name and relationships that are formed through our cultural laws and protocols. I have totems and feel my ancestors who have walked on these lands as I try to follow their wisdom. I know that I will never be alone, and even if I do something wrong, I still belong and I am wanted. I was born enough, not needing my life experiences to prove my worth. This is relationship, this is connection, this is unity.

Dadirri is not an Aboriginal thing; this deep connection I talk about is within everyone, if given the opportunity to find it. A recognition of the deep spring within and a connection and belonging to all things. All people can build a relationship with the country, and I believe that there are many thirsting for this connection. 

Celebrating a perpetual connection

When people come to our community to experience Dadirri on this Country, we take them to the river for a Welcome to Country. 

✣ Water is poured on the head for knowledge. 

✣ On the navel, the water is to awaken the spirit baby within you and return you to the waters from before you were born. 

✣ Your sweat will mix with the water and flow down into the rivers and out to the ocean. And your presence will be known to the ancestors, who will keep you safe. 

You belong and your presence is here forever, it’s a lifelong relationship.

A time to replenish

Miriam returns to her painting. Within the centre of the canvas is a circle; she points to a section where the circle does not join.

“The circle is a life force, life giving, nourishing. For barramundi to have a good season, there needs to be a break in the cycle. A time to replenish, to revitalise. Nature needs to conserve its energy and not be giving out all the time. 

“This is the same for all things,” she explains, and shares some ways of revitalising yourself from that inner spring.

✣ Listen to your soul. Who are you? 

✣ What is your spirit speaking to you? 

✣ What is your uniqueness and how are you replenishing yourself for the gifts you offer? 

✣ Why try to be another person or compare yourself to anyone else? We are all connected. 

“I feel sad for people who do not feel they belong or have become isolated and disconnected,” she says. “This is a time to turn inwards to our deep inner spring. Dadirri is not an Aboriginal spirituality only, it is within everyone,” Miriam explains. “Once we become aware to this and see our sameness, we heal together, in our relationships, with all of nature. This is the deepest form of reconciliation.”

About Dr Miriam Rose Baumann and Pip Gordon

Dr Miriam Rose Baumann (AO) is a renowned artist, teacher, activist and public speaker, and head of the Miriam Rose Foundation, dedicating to empowering Indigenous youth.

Miriam established the Miriam Rose Foundation to continue her work advocating for experiences that support Indigenous youth to ‘walk in two worlds’. This has led to the Dadirri Connection Tours to Nauiyu – which invite groups to come and experience Dadirri, connect to country, culture and be part of true reconciliation and healing in Australia.  

To find out more, contact Cultural Connection Tours to Nauiyu on Facebook or www.miriamrosefoundation.org.au, or email enquiries@miriamrosefoundation.org.au

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