"By going out of your mind once a day you come to your senses." -Alan Watts

Embody your body and reap the rewards

  Unless you're a floating head, you have a body and its communicating to you all the time, yet we rarely spend time consciously tuning into it. If we are really scared of something, perhaps a presentation we have to do at work, or a confrontation of some kind; our tummies soon let us know and that's because our guts have trillions of neurones communicating with our brains constantly. They are picking up on the things our brain rationalises and makes ok- but have you ever experienced feeling very uneasy in your body, your centre when everything seems to be just fine on the outside? Your brain and mind work overtime trying to show you all the evidence that everything is ok, but your stomach is still in knots? That's because you haven't gone there, you haven't gone to your body for the answer, but have dashed frantically around the walls of your mind for safety. We are still living with Decartes "I think therefore I am," and with this philosophy looming over our civilized heads, is it any wonder we keep looking to our minds for the answer. Your thoughts have been proven to change your bodies reactions, but it works the other way around as well, and this is why yoga has been practised for thousands of years: it prepares the body and the mind, the connected self, for meditation. To be truly in ones mind, you must be in your body too and to be truly with your mind, you must feel embodied.   Unfortunately today, unlike our ancestors, many of us spend time siting down on our way to work, and continuing to sit when we arrive at our destination. Young children can squat easily with feet planted flat on the floor, but as adults in the western world many of us have lost this ability because we begin to sit on chairs from a young age, losing the elestacity in our claves and ankles. This has an affect on our overall health, even down to how future generations may enter the world, as women in many other parts of the world are able to squat to give birth, with gravity and balance on their side to do so.               To feel embodied means to consciously check in with your body, become aware of its presence and every single part of you, to be completely in your body is such a freeing feeling and enables you to trust yourself, love yourself and respond to your needs. A dance or movement class can shake out blocked creativity and provide a safe space in which to 'practise' being spontaneous, so that you might be in other areas of your life whichmay have become stagnated. Not only does being embodied support you by creating an awareness of yourself, it is also communicating to others. Through Amy Cuddy's research we now know that our body language can be affecting how well we are received by future employers, partners and friends, and that practising "Power poses" can alter our very thinking.   Communication can be one of the pitfalls of humanity, trying to communicate how we feel to a colleague, a friend or a partner can seemingly feel so difficult sometimes and the feeling of not being heard or repeatedly misunderstood can feel undermining, lonely and frustrating. It can lead to the break down of business partnerships, jobs and therefore careers, and most importantly it can lead to the break down of relationships and marriages. One of the first times I learned how powerful experiential learning and embodiment is was at a workshop led by a member of the theatre company "Improbable" we played variations of one game throughout the whole day and reflected back as a group as to how we felt at certain moments. Tis particular game took away 1 of our key senses, sight, and so nudged us firmly into more of an awareness of our feelings. Through this experiential day each one of us began to understand how the other felt, although degrees of emotions varied for each individual, generally joy, betrayal, frustration, fear, anxiety and hope were universal in this room. At the end of the day the facilitator said "If you can feel how I feel and I can feel how you feel, then there are no problems in the world." 'Bit grandiose' I thought, but over the years these word have often whispered in my ear when I am trying to 'win' and argument or if I am feeling anxious about work,. Words can become tangled and the very job they are supposed to do becomes redundant as they are handed back to us, spoken over or ignored, because as Saussure noted decades ago "Words only ever lead to other words, never to what the words represent." And so words can often fail us when we are speaking about emotions; emotions need to be felt to be understood. And we all have emotions, and they are often screaming out to be heard. Conscious embodiment leaves no ambiguity. Once in a workshop we were asked to get into pairs and for someone else to 'scultp' the word 'betrayal' onto their partner. This involved one person moving the arms and legs, or asking the person to take up a position that felt to them like a picture of betrayal. There is no hiding here and things are felt on a visceral level. I was then sculpted by another person into their picture of betrayal and it hit me right in the liver. I felt how they felt, and also how I unconsciously felt about betrayal. A picture speaks a thousand words and embodiment crafts the human body into picture.

 

Unless you're a floating head, you have a body and its communicating to you all the time, yet we rarely spend time consciously tuning into it. If we are really scared of something, perhaps a presentation we have to do at work, or a confrontation of some kind; our tummies soon let us know and that's because our guts have trillions of neurones communicating with our brains constantly. They are picking up on the things our brain rationalises and makes ok- but have you ever experienced feeling very uneasy in your body, your centre when everything seems to be just fine on the outside? Your brain and mind work overtime trying to show you all the evidence that everything is ok, but your stomach is still in knots?

That's because you haven't gone there, you haven't gone to your body for the answer, but have dashed frantically around the walls of your mind for safety. We are still living with Decartes "I think therefore I am," and with this philosophy looming over our civilized heads, is it any wonder we keep looking to our minds for the answer. Your thoughts have been proven to change your bodies reactions, but it works the other way around as well, and this is why yoga has been practised for thousands of years: it prepares the body and the mind, the connected self, for meditation. To be truly in ones mind, you must be in your body too and to be truly with your mind, you must feel embodied.  

Unfortunately today, unlike our ancestors, many of us spend time siting down on our way to work, and continuing to sit when we arrive at our destination. Young children can squat easily with feet planted flat on the floor, but as adults in the western world many of us have lost this ability because we begin to sit on chairs from a young age, losing the elestacity in our claves and ankles. This has an affect on our overall health, even down to how future generations may enter the world, as women in many other parts of the world are able to squat to give birth, with gravity and balance on their side to do so.

 

            To feel embodied means to consciously check in with your body, become aware of its presence and every single part of you, to be completely in your body is such a freeing feeling and enables you to trust yourself, love yourself and respond to your needs. A dance or movement class can shake out blocked creativity and provide a safe space in which to 'practise' being spontaneous, so that you might be in other areas of your life whichmay have become stagnated. Not only does being embodied support you by creating an awareness of yourself, it is also communicating to others. Through Amy Cuddy's research we now know that our body language can be affecting how well we are received by future employers, partners and friends, and that practising "Power poses" can alter our very thinking.

 

Communication can be one of the pitfalls of humanity, trying to communicate how we feel to a colleague, a friend or a partner can seemingly feel so difficult sometimes and the feeling of not being heard or repeatedly misunderstood can feel undermining, lonely and frustrating. It can lead to the break down of business partnerships, jobs and therefore careers, and most importantly it can lead to the break down of relationships and marriages.

One of the first times I learned how powerful experiential learning and embodiment is was at a workshop led by a member of the theatre company "Improbable" we played variations of one game throughout the whole day and reflected back as a group as to how we felt at certain moments. Tis particular game took away 1 of our key senses, sight, and so nudged us firmly into more of an awareness of our feelings. Through this experiential day each one of us began to understand how the other felt, although degrees of emotions varied for each individual, generally joy, betrayal, frustration, fear, anxiety and hope were universal in this room. At the end of the day the facilitator said "If you can feel how I feel and I can feel how you feel, then there are no problems in the world."

'Bit grandiose' I thought, but over the years these word have often whispered in my ear when I am trying to 'win' and argument or if I am feeling anxious about work,. Words can become tangled and the very job they are supposed to do becomes redundant as they are handed back to us, spoken over or ignored, because as Saussure noted decades ago "Words only ever lead to other words, never to what the words represent." And so words can often fail us when we are speaking about emotions; emotions need to be felt to be understood. And we all have emotions, and they are often screaming out to be heard.

Conscious embodiment leaves no ambiguity. Once in a workshop we were asked to get into pairs and for someone else to 'scultp' the word 'betrayal' onto their partner. This involved one person moving the arms and legs, or asking the person to take up a position that felt to them like a picture of betrayal. There is no hiding here and things are felt on a visceral level. I was then sculpted by another person into their picture of betrayal and it hit me right in the liver. I felt how they felt, and also how I unconsciously felt about betrayal. A picture speaks a thousand words and embodiment crafts the human body into picture.

The Delights Of Daydreaming

Is daydreaming a worthwhile use of our time?

I love a long journey. First of all I daydream about all the work I will do on the coach or train, how many chapters of my novel I'll write and how many fantastic ideas will pop into my head, which will all ultimately make the world a better place and make me rich and famous and adored by all. Then I get onto the train or coach and continue to day dream until I reach my destination. Ideas will pop into my head, which will all ultimately make the world a better place and make me rich and famous and adored by all. Then I get onto the train or coach and continue to day dream until I reach my destination. I usually then berate myself for tragically wasting time staring out of a window, or more recently staring at a wall for 45 minutes without having accomplished a single thing. Or thats what I thought until recently.

I have been reading a fascinating book by Jonha Lehrer called Imagine: How Creativity Works. In his study of the human mind he reveals how inventions such as masking tape and the post it note all came about via a seemingly unsolvable problem and day dreaming. 3M  a huge inventing machine of a company have for many years (many years before Goggle began to copy them) encouraged their employees to take strolls in the grounds of their campus during the day, to re-focus the mind by having a day dream. It seems that day dreams, those daydreams we have when we feel relaxed allow alpha waves (which govern moments of insight and can actually be recorded on an EEG monitor) to flow through the brain, and we are more likely to to direct the spot light of our attention inwards, towards the flow of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. By stark contrast when we are focused, our attention seems to be directed outward, towards the detail that we are trying to solve. So whilst we might be trying to solve the problem by focusing on it analytically, too much focus can actually prevent us from uncovering the connections that lead to insights, and idea's that might actually solve the problem.

And thus my lazy day dreams have been justified, I'm being creative, not lazy. I'm having insights, not not working. Annoyingly Lehrer goes on to throw me off my hammock in the sunshine by revealing in the next chapter that day dreaming alone is not enough, and that focus and hard work are a necessity in order to get anything done.

Containing creativity is how it can leave us and become something meaningful in the world, and not simply leave us whining that we had that idea once and somebody else stole it and ran with it. Writers often speak of their rituals and routines which help them to contain and manage the overflow of ideas that pour into them daily, its a work getting what may be coming through us out onto the pages.

 

 

 

 

  •  

 

 

 

The red rag to this bull! A piece about a Tampax advert.

There was a time when menstruating women were considered so pure they went into the Red tent together and supported one another through this period of time when their bodies were more open, sensitive and vulnerable. Once a girl began her period she would be invited into the Red Tent to be with the other women, and I imagine that this would feel like such an honour, such a coming of age moment, to feel connected to the feminine knowing that your body was now too, becoming a woman. They said that every time a woman bleeds the world changes forever; a statement so profoundly powerful it makes me simultaneously want to sit with it forever, and also shiver it off- for I am still reaquainting myself with my power as a woman.

        

 

    I compare this to my own experience of beginning my periods at Military boarding school which had been all male until the year 1994, my first year there, when I was 11 and they decided that girls could come to the school as well. I was in year 8 and excused myself to go to the loo during chemistry, nothing felt out of the ordinary to me, and I even stopped at the corridor to peep at Lucy Dever being told off on the floor above by Mr Belcher. When I saw my knickers moments later I sat in shock. I knew what this was but for a few moments of worrying that I had pooed myself; and then realising completely that this was in fact my first ever menstruation I began to shake- I didn't have any sanitary wear with me and didn't really know what I would do with it anyway, and so I pulled my knickers and tights back up and went into class. Thankfully, or so I though, I had a female chemistry teacher, I approached her and whispered, "Miss I have just started my period." I looked at her for her wisdom, her knowing, some sense of initiation into the clan of women. "Ok" She mustered, "Do you want to go and sit back down."

I sloped off unsure of what to do now, my hands were still shaking, I sat with the girls at my table and told them.

"Go back and tell her that you've started them for the first time ever." One said- and I did, and the teacher let me go back to the boarding house. I just wanted to hug my mum. I felt strange and emotional and sad and happy all at the same time, this felt like it should be a celebration, or a mourning, or both. I called my mum after the cleaning lady told me that her periods had finished forever now. I could tell mum was happy and sad as well, for lots of reasons I expect but I am sure a big one was because she wasn't with me, and wouldn't be seeing me at the end of the day to hug me and I wouldn't be seeing her for weeks anyway and by that point it would have been just something I had now, periods.

 

I look at this new advert on the television, its a Tampax advert and it shows a young lady being massaged on a beach, mother nature is portrayed as an overly made up, screechy voiced, plastic overbearing drunk aunt at a wedding. At the end someone kicks a football at her head and the young lady retorts: "Not very popular, are you?"

I wonder how this affects our young women just starting their periods, whether it so happily feeds into the hatred, disgust and contempt so many young girls already feel for their wondeful bodies; merrily supported by media and advertising campaigns, and of course patriarchy. For when reading that every time we bleed, we women change the world forever it can make me feel so powerful and patriarchy doesn't want that. If we women united and stood together in our power, our beauty and our unshakable knowledge that our bodies, our selves and our minds must and should be honoured for we have the room inside of us to grow and birth life, no one, not even our own ego's could make us feel small and powerless again.

            This is not a piece about blaming men for the system we live in which tries to make women feel shame about their bodies, it is about women reclaiming without cringing and wincing away from honouring ourselves and our bodies. In a time where huge organizations are appreciating the minds of women so much that they are asking if they could freeze their eggs, this reclaiming of our bodies needs to come from us, from women. The model of work can and is changing, our glorious life giving nurturing bodies don't need to, for they are already perfect!

 

http://feministing.com/2008/11/25/tampax_outsmart_mother_nature/

 

 

Having a baby is a full time job.....who knew?

Apparently everyone who has ever had a baby knew that it is all consuming and exhausting; and yet whilst I was pregnant I took absolutely no notice, because why would I? I already felt tired and sure I had been exhausted before (I now roll my eyes at my old self who once merrily banded that word about without a clue to what it actually meant) Yet still I planned to go back to work when she was 3 months old, just one day a week of course; I secretly imagined finishing my novel as she slept whilst I rocked her with my foot, the sound of inspiration and tapping keys weaving a wonderful dream bubble for her. Hah! My beautiful little girl turned 9 months last week and needless to say I didn't go back to work one day a week and my novel still hides in what is left of my brain. 

So at 9 months I am still catching up on sleep but I feel strangely contented. I am someone who loves to sleep, I enjoy rest and the comforts in life; one of my favourite places to be is in bed- it used to be on the beach as well, but since that now mostly comes with chasing a little human around a mat whilst scraping sand out of her lovely little mouth, it ceases to be quite so relaxing. Having a baby has and is really teaching me the joy to be found outside of comfort and is proving to be an invaluable life lesson for me. Everyone who goes onto to have children begin to live outside of their comfort zones- we often talk of moving to your edges, or living outside of your comfort zone as the key to getting what you really want, becoming who you really are. I have completed a Masters, applying for this , getting onto the course and completing it were all outside of my easy zone and continue to teach me, but nothing has pushed me as much as having a baby. 

I didn't have to think about having a baby, my body just got on with it- incredibly in our age of thought and "I think therefore I am"- although I would totally quibble that statement, it is nothing short of miraculous that my conscious brain didn't have to, at any point, step in and go "Right, I best take over because we're coming onto making this little things heart now, and there's ventricles and chambers, and you really wanna get that stuff right, right?" My body, and brain got on with it and made a beautiful child without me really noticing, until my belly expanded pretty hugely. 

But now taking care of a baby is a different thing, instincts, intuition, organisation, physical, emotional, attachments, hormones- it all kicks off pretty quickly....and it doesn't go away; it is ever changing and relentless. Your child is always growing and becoming who they are, as you are constantly changing and reworking who you are and who you are becoming. You are creating a relationship with one another that will always be changing within the solid structure that unconditional love provides. I don't believe that a baby is a blank sheet, and I believe in nurturing your child's nature, but as a parent I have a unique responsibility in helping that tiny person become who they are happiest becoming, who they really are- and I want to help and support her on that journey. 

The thing about full time jobs is that they are usually 37.5 hours per week, and of course a baby doesn't work to that schedule, we work to theirs. I am on my babies time, and I work around her and what interests me about this is that I know people who have full time jobs to pay their rent or mortgages and who continue their creative projects after hours, and that takes dedication; and I suppose is why people often refer to their creative projects and business as their babies, the attachment is that strong. I once read that Samuel Beckett described writing as a way of breathing; at the time I thought this was the kind of pretentious comment only someone that acclaimed and famous could get away with; but I am starting to understand. Self expression is an incredibly important part of being a human and being alive, living an authentic life. The dedication people give to their human babies is akin to what some give to their creative projects, waking up to write or paint all times of night- I don't have that demand tugging at me, for me it is only a human baby that will rouse me from my bed at night, to feed and keep her alive and happy. Having a baby isn't an opportunity for me to express myself through her, she is not like a creative project in that sense, but I, with all my ancestoral patterns, my genetic predisposition, my mind, my love and my energy will contribute to the shaping of her; and this I am learning requires constantly being conscious of my own behaviour, being open to learn from her and what she needs, when, how and what. And this is the most full time job I have ever and will ever have. 

The need for a broader choice of psychology for all

Those Who Look Outwards Dream, Those Who Look Inwards Awaken- Carl Jung

Molly Tasman Napurrurla, Warlpiri, 2003, Marrkirdi Jukurrpa, ('Wild Bush Plum Dreaming'), on Magnani Pescia paper, image size 490x320 mm.

Molly Tasman Napurrurla, Warlpiri, 2003, Marrkirdi Jukurrpa, ('Wild Bush Plum Dreaming'), on Magnani Pescia paper, image size 490x320 mm.

 

I spoke with a friend of mine who work in the NHS and who is also a mindfulness coach, she is employed to run CBT sessions for individuals, and although CBT works well for some people, like a lot in life, it doesn't work for everyone. She manages to weave in her mindfulness techniques to help those who connect with it, and it seems to really really help many who see her, however, because of her employment she must write in her notes only the CBT techniques that she used in sessions.

So what does this do to the research, the statistics and the cultural understanding? Put very simply, it makes CBT seem to be the best approach for everyone. The truth is that we are, whether we try to deny it or not, multifaceted, complex beings. We live in a society in which schools grade us from very early in our lives and often tell us that we are "good" or "bad" at something- even if over the last 50 years the language has softened, the message is the same.

We also contend with the idea that there are important subjects to study, and less important subjects to study, and in this way we are being conditioned to be industrialised at an early age. Arts are often considered to be "soft" studies, without having much of a way to earn an income, unless you are one of the few to be called "excellent" and hailed as special.

I believe that every single human being on the planet is creative, in that we are a created being, and we go on creating throughout our lives, whether we are cooking a meal, baking a cake, making and birthing a baby, having a conversation, creating a new relationship; creativity isn't just an act of painting or writing, we all do it, multiple times a day. Every thought is a creation that may become an action, and this action could change the world.

We now live better than we have ever lived in terms of food availability and health care, and yet depression, drug and alcohol dependancy and mental health issues are on the rise. Much of this is passed onto the NHS as a medical problem, however it is a social, family and  community problem, and what I am gearing up to stating is that the denial of ourselves as creative beings, who see the symbolic in all that we are, and the Earth that we live on, is adding greatly to our collective problem, because we repress and deny a huge part of ourselves. See my article on the Spritiual and the symbolic. And worse than this, many of us wouldn't dare to write, draw, paint, dance or even sing which was once a huge part of the collective and self expression, for our fear of failing, or it not being "Good."

Then, confusingly, famous modern artists produce something that many of my mothers generation consider to be "rubbish" and they are told that actually, you have it wrong, Tracy Emmin's bed is symbolic and actually very very clever. You clearly then are not clever. Shame on you.

It comes with huge consequences when we try to deny the true self, when we only live to achieve, to produce or to be admired by people we don't know or care about. When we live a false life and are inauthentic with ourselves it can become  painful to be alive. I know of people who have attempted suicide because of this, and yet, outwardly they are the very vision of success and achievement our society promotes. But to go inwards, to really examine and explore the beauty and wonder that is you can be frightening, and it take bravery, and so let us do away with the attitude to keep pushing outwards, keep looking out there because there's too much of this naval gazing stuff going on.

We are still evolving as a species, as a group and perhaps this is the next great conquest, to begin to look inwards, to reconnect with us and what our values are, and how creative we all are. Because this work is not a whimsy, not a self indulgent act but one of the utmost importance, because we are, we ALL are beings creating every day, with a responsibility to one another and our world, and in our glorious creations we can decide whether to create a happy, beautiful environment for us all to thrive in; or not. It is our choice, and we can begin to consciously create our reality and therefore others, right now.