“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Gloria (a dream)

I do love you, he says. We are holding each other tight. His touch is Peace. I am held, and safe and utterly at home. 

He kisses me. But... you're gay. And married! I say

What does that have to do with Love? He smiles.  

And I know, as the scene shifts and moves around us -  as is the way in dreams -  that I am being held, not in the arms of the man, but in the arms of Love itself.  And Love is holding us both, and everyone else in this space. All these people who are bustling around with pots of tea and plates of biscuits.

Somehow I know this in the dream, that this is symbolism and I file it away for when I am awake. For when I can apply the kind of mental processing that I will do, not because it is needed, but because I am human. 

A red haired woman scowls at me from the corner.

Look at you! She says, you think you have such a special relationship with Him?  Who do you think you are?  Why do you get to take up all of his time? What about the rest of us?

And although that in my meta dreaming state, I know that She is Me, I feel the familiar sense of being judged for being the me that is Me. The Me that is loved by Love itself. I am frightened  of her. She knows I don't belong. 

A church. The bustling tea makers disappear and the space moves and expands. There are seats and seats and seats and people in hats, and choirs. I see my Beloved put on his jacket and leave. I start to move after Him, but I am grabbed by the wrist. The red haired one, and several others are leading me to a gallery high up above the nave. I worry that  I have forgotten  I should be up there with the choirs. Robed, and singing the Gloria? 

In Excelsis Deo!

But  this is not the Gloria... They are singing songs I don't know. I try and join in but a man in front - who is in charge because he is wearing a special hat - turns round and hisses, NO, YOU DON'T SING! JUST LISTEN!

I want to leave. They are singing songs I don't understand.
I want to leave and as I move to leave, they close in on me. They want me to stay. But there is no Love in this place. Only songs I don't understand, and scowling people who don't want me to sing. 

And I want more that anything to sing!

Et in Terra Pax.




Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Fool's Truth

"It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak." ~ Neil Gaiman 

My last post - £5 - had 5466 views!

In the wake of my jokes about me writing a blog nobody reads!

In choosing to tell a truth about the economics of my industry, It seems I  struck one hell of a chord.  And many people  responded with words of agreement and encouragement. People (including my own senior teachers) have shared it. And all I did was tell the truth. So, I have been busy thinking over the past week or so about the idea of the writer  as Truth-Teller. A role which  which may also be represented by the archetype of the Fool. The one who will say the thing nobody else can, or is willing, to say, because of fear, or shame or shyness or status.

Autistic people, generally very clever and observant whilst being equally uninhibited by social standards they don't understand, will also often say the thing that nobody else will say. They are the small child in the Emperor's New Clothes. The one who doesn't understand the lie, or the consequences of not playing along with it. I have found myself truly baffled by some things that are utterly obvious (to me) that everyone else just seems to sort of...not notice. Often the thing will later reveal its hidden truth, and everyone else will look at the autistic person slightly sideways. As if we possess some kind of magic. I suspect that many of those wise women and men of the middle ages, the seers and herbalists and knowers of things (you know, the ones they burned alive?) were probably on the spectrum. 

Sometimes, when I point the thing out, people will say, "oh, yeah!" and applaud my courage and I think: I am not brave, I am just observant and mouthy and see things differently. Through a different lens, if you like. I am a bit like a Jester. When Jesters (another example of the fool) were a thing in the medieval courts of Europe,  people could be executed for saying the things that the fool got away with ( the things that the wise people did not) Because the fool is funny and wears a jingly hat, and speaks in riddles,  he can say the most subversive things.  And the same is true today of the writers and comedians and artists. Partly because - oh well they're an ARTIST- but also because often  they are simply more motivated by doing their art than by what people think.

Of course,  it is not uncommon for the sharers of difficult ideas to face a modern-day execution-by- Facebook.  One puts a difficult truth out into the ether at personal risk of being "called out!"  But the good thing about  the Truth-Tellers is that they don't care about your call-outs. And even if they do, are compelled by a strange pathology to Say The Thing anyway. My particular thing is to gather the truths that others are fearful of saying, and say it for them. This is a peculiar trait, that I have owned since I was very young. I often had difficultly speaking out for myself, but would gladly and vociferously speak in defence of another (person, animal, just cause) until people were sick of listening to me. 

plus ├ža change!

So, is there a truth you would like me to tell?

Jingle jingle. 

Friday, 6 October 2017

£5!


Where do (or did) you imagine yourself at fifty?

There was a time, in my early twenties, when I thought I might be enjoying early retirement. Yes, I can laugh at that now. I will be lucky to retire at 67 on the basic state pension, if it even exists by then.

But at that time, that is what many of my baby-boomer parents' peers were doing. They were all paying off mortgages on houses, had generous pensions or relatively comfortable jobs. Those who were facing redundancy - from whatever local industry was closing down -  did not suffer in the way their younger colleagues did, and with their redundancy money, bought their council houses, urged on by a conservative government keen to privatise whatever wasn't nailed down. 


In my area of the West of Scotland, the "redundancy door" was a sign that someone had bought their council home with their severance pay. The door being a more gentrified wooden replacement for the standard red "cooncil" door. It was a sign that one had stepped one rung up on the social ladder. But it came at a price . Those who were of an age to benefit, did, but their Gen X children were not so well off. We emerged into a precarious economy and record unemployment. And no social housing.

Things could only get better.

I had an arts degree, which would have been useless had I not benefited from a feast of funding for arts projects designed to engage with some of the social deprivation of this post-industrial economy. And when the arse fell out of that funding I was astute enough to gather skills and qualifications and ride the wave of popular developments and into regular employment. And for a while I held onto a "proper" job alongside my yoga teaching, until I made the leap some years ago to teaching yoga and offering therapies full time. And although I was never well off, I did OK. Partly because I had a wide range of skills to offer, I ran a yoga studio which gave a small income, and my are of specialty - yoga for cancer -  offered me a degree of kudos in my field, and work on the back of that.



That was before the veritable tsunami of yoga teachers started emerging onto the market. The reasons for this read like some bizarre Karmic Ponzi scheme. More yoga teachers appear, so the existing teachers decide to do teacher trainings in order to earn enough money, which creates more yoga teachers, which continues to saturate the market... continue ad infinitum. It doesn't take much deep consideration to realise the unsustainability of this as an economic pattern.

Add into the mix an economic culture and a yoga "industry" that is continually evolving to be more consumer focused, and subsequently less focused on depth, less valuing of seniority and experience, and less inclined to invest time and money in trainings which offer these things. Ever ready to ride a new wave, I have already redesigned my yoga for cancer training for an online platform, and two years in, I am having to change the format into a more bite size modular format which engages both the attention span and willingness to pay of the consumer yogi. Even at that, I am aware I am not moving with the wave fast enough any more. I keep it going because I believe in it, but it doesn't earn me very much money. And committed as I am to the work, I struggle to keep my heart in the marketing of it.

I did recently contemplate getting a mainstream job. But it has been so long now that I couldn't move back into the job market, even if I wanted to. Nobody would have me. I began training to be a secondary school teacher, and realised very swiftly what I ridiculous mistake I was making. As a senior practitioner in my field, I shouldn't have to do any of these things. But I simply can't earn enough to survive on. I am taking a Masters degree in the hope of moving into academic teaching but I feel intensely vulnerable. At forty-nine, with next summer's entry into my sixth decade, I find myself earning significantly less than I was twenty years ago. I rent a room in someone else's house, because I can't afford a flat, and, because I am self employed, I receive no government assistance.

I am not alone. A brief poll of fellow freelancers reveals that many of us are in the same position. Supposedly at the height of our earning potential, many senior colleagues are instead struggling to pull in enough money to pay the bills. I am talking about some seriously qualified people. Yoga teachers and teacher trainers, therapists, psychotherapists and body-workers. All practitioners with 20,30,40 years experience. All are having to juggle various different jobs and money making schemes, including renting out rooms in their homes, in order to make ends meet. On top of jobs which require a huge amount of energy in holding therapeutic space for others, this comes at a price. Burnout is always a looming threat. And when we don't work, we don't eat. It is that simple.

One fellow teacher, a highly qualified multi disciplinary practitioner says "I'm now 54 – presumably at the 'peak' of my earning power and still worrying every week about whether I'll be able to afford to pay basic bills and eat."

Worrying about whether you are going to eat or not is not something that someone with a PhD and thirty years experience should have to experience. Someone who has spent years, and thousands of pounds of their hard earned money on training and who has specialist knowledge that no-one else in the industry can offer at that level. Someone who is, essentially, at the top of their game! What we have is a saturated, social media driven market where image has more pulling power that experience, and cost has more influence than value.

A business coach might counsel that we need to do more marketing, that we need to create a niche, that we need to confidently charge more for our offerings (address our "money shadow") and get on Instagram. But I am fully aware that my fifty year old abs are no competition for the Instagram generation yogis and experience may be impressive, but it 'aint sexy. Handstands are sexy. And I am tired. *

And yet, people do want and need what we offer. Just the other day, I taught a yoga class. It was a wonderful, nourishing, healing yoga class, both for me and for the participants. I have a gift for teaching and holding ritual space that draws on a depth of experience and knowledge that only a mature practice can offer. And it shows. People know when they get something more from a teacher. But when all the costs were calculated, and all the money saving schemes and discounts taken into account, I made a fiver from that class. £5. Minimum wage is £7.20/hr.

I did muse on the thought of talking to my students about it. Actually asking them "How much do you think this is worth? If I told you I was only earning a fiver from this class how would you feel?" But British people don't like to talk about money, and yoga practitioners less so. And we are all so bound up in the systems and discount schemes that it probably wouldn't make any difference. They value it, but not enough to pay for it. Because in truth, many of them are skint too. In an Uber culture, nobody pays for a taxi.

I have no answers to this right now, and yet, despite my despairing moments, I refuse to despair. Hope is at the heart of my practice, and my belief is that there there is much more sustainable way of living. I am resourceful and can always find ways of making enough that I don't actually starve. I might hate it, but I won't die.

What people get when they come into a room with a seasoned authentic yogi is akin to church. They receive a depth of wisdom, knowledge, healing and held space that can't be bought. Ideally, like church, it should be free, and the senior yogis, and all the artists, dancers, musicians and healers whose craft benefits communities, should be funded by their communities. If we got paid enough to live on, we would gladly show up and offer what we do. It may sound idealistic, but it is not pie in the sky. There are trials going on in several places of a Universal Basic Income that is shown to be both economically and socially beneficial. And whilst it has its opponents, as anything that deals with economic inequalities generally does, if we are to move towards a system that is socially just and sustainable, it would seem like the progressive move.

The alternative, for many of us, is poverty.


* 09/10/17 -  I have had several conversations since this post was published - all on the subject of marketing. As predicted I was advised that I needed to do more of it (or any at all) or to spend more money on training myself on marketing skills, or any number of "learn how to sell yourself" coaching pieces.  Personally, I am fed up being peddled a huge lie. One of the greatest myths of Capitalism is that hard work produces financial success. And we are so absorbed in this culture that  we believe it, even if we are intellectually bought into another paradigm. The truth is vastly different. The whole system survives on some people being well off, and some people being poor. We can't all be doing OK unless something fundamentally shifts. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

New Yoga Classes with Jude in Brighton

Dear friends I shall be teaching EARLY MORNING  Hatha Yoga classes at About Balance starting on 27th Sept.

Every Wednesday and Thursday  7:30 – 8:30 am
About Balance, 22 Gloucester Place, Brighton.

Drop in. All welcome!
£8 (£5 with Karma Card)

Friday, 18 August 2017

Yoga of Sleeping - Workshop

(Into the arms of Morpheus)

Sunday 27th August 2017

11 am - 5 pm

@"Trees" Bodhi Garden, near Uckfield, East Sussex


(optional overnight camping into Bank holiday Monday with early session)
2nd in a series of Sunday Sessions during the Summer of 2017

This day invites participants to slow down and listen deeply, feel the body and enter states of conscious sleeping through body awareness, sound and Yoga Nidra (sleep of the Yogis), into the sleep of night; the surrender to unconsciousness. Hosted and facilitated by Richard Harding (Richard Harding SatBodhi Yoga) and Jude Murray (Ceibhfhion) at Trees Bodhi Garden, near Uckfield, East Sussex.

Join us for a day (and night) of rest, relaxation and meditation and Yoga Nidra in the peaceful and natural surroundings of the Forest Garden. The day will leave you feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and nourished with tools for deeper relaxation and meditation. The day will also incorporate sound bathing with Himalayan singing bowls and other instruments of love. Body, sound, Yoga, sleep.

In ‘daily life’ we rush, organise, do everything as ‘conveniently’ as possible with scant regard to the rhythms of body and nature. We put shoes on, eat on the move, travel at speed. We neglect to appreciate that the illusion of time is running the show and that the present moment is squeezed by memory and projection; sometimes we live daily life as if sleeping and unaware of the ‘now’. Invite yourself to slow the pace; feel the body’s inner wisdom, listen deeply and rest the mind. Step in time with time and sleep in the cradle of presence.

In ‘sleep’ the brain-body is alive. Healing itself, growing, processing, and present only to itself. As consciousness changes and the body is given full reign to slow down and reconfigure. In this altered-state the brain processes the tangle of sensorial information, we learn, remember (reconstruct) and evolve. Allow us to guide you into ‘conscious sleep’, a state where you may access the flow state and the space of healing.

Yoga and movement practice and teaching is influenced by Scaravelli and the experience of a Butoh trained dancer and will be an invitation to go slow and deep with body awareness, breathing and postures. Some partner work is envisaged as well as personal investigation. There will be meditation accompanied by Himalayan singing bowls and native American flute. The afternoon will be devoted to sounding, chanting and Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is a practice which guides the participant on a journey through the body toward a place of conscious sleep using image and imagination. The language of the body is after all metaphor. In this state brain wave activity is shifted from beta or alpha (30Hz- 7.5Hz) to theta (7.5Hz-3.25Hz) and potentially delta waves (3.25z-0.5Hz). These frequencies represent the states of consciousness from wakefulness and the alert, focussed (at high-beta, stressed and in the fight, flight or freeze mode) mind to that of meditation, REM sleep, deep sleep; the the possibly of moving into delta wave activity which can facilitate the transcendental or healing experience. The state of alpha-theta (7.8 Hz) is a place called ‘flow’. This flow state is the experience of the ‘now’. It is also the pulse of nature and Earth herself; the Schumann Resonance. If we can access this state we are one, one with Earth and nature; the illusion of time falls away as the brain-body comes into presence. Creativity, spontaneity and the beauty of Being shines.


Please bring

• Your yoga mat (and any bolsters, blocks, blankets that you enjoy using)
• Comfortable clothing to practice in. Movement sessions will either be in the yoga studio or in nature (weather permitting), so you might want to dress in layers. A warm garment if you wish to sit for a while by the fire for music, chant and conversation
• Bring lunch to share. A healthy smoothie and tea/coffee/water are offered as refreshments.
•tent (small preferably unless multiple occupancy), bedding, torch etc for camping.

Location directions supplied on booking confirmation.

Contact directly through Messenger or via email at:
Richard Harding SatBodhi Yoga (Facebook)
Or email: satbodhiyoga@gmail.com

•Investment: £70 (limited to 10 participants). A sliding scale operates…don’t let finance hinder experience.

•A discretionary donation to cover cost of dinner and breakfast if camping into Monday.


Richard is a Yoga and Movement facilitator (RYT200, member of Yoga Alliance) and bodyworker standing for healing; an artist, musician and gardener. He is passionate about consciousness, the body, its anatomy and ecology. His journey traverses the arts and sciences and ranges from dance training and performance, BA Hons Fine Art Painting, to medicine working as a Paramedic Practitioner in the NHS, (BSc Healthcare practice- Paramedic Practitioner). In 2001, he lived and trained in with Min Tanaka (Butoh artist/farmer) at Bodyweather Farm, and DAnce Resources on Earth, Japan. He has also trained with other notable Butoh dance-artists. His Yoga, teaching and caring practices span 25 years The Yoga has been influenced by the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli. He has recently become interested in Yoga Nidra, a practice that addresses the practitioner directly, and with scientific evidence, to the neurophysiology of consciousness. Through these practices, we can access various altered-states recordable as ‘brain waves’ that can, in turn illuminate and invite space for healing.


Jude is a yoga teacher and therapist, healer, body worker and Anam Cara, with some twenty five years’ experience as a teacher, trainer, group facilitator and celebrant. Jude's heart offering is Celtic Yoga a seasonally aligned practice informed by her personal practice of Celtic Druidry. She also specialises in Yoga for Cancer, integrative care and palliative care, and has been course director on Healing Space – Yoga for People Living with Cancer - since 2011. She is an IYN Yoga elder, Yoga Alliance Professionals Senior Teacher, a senior teacher of Embodied Yoga Principles and Anatomy and Physiology teacher on Shanticentre’s Yoga & Spiritual Development Teacher Training Programme. She is a Scot based in Brighton and teaches here, across the UK, and internationally.


'Trees' Bodhi Garden is a long-term project encompassing agroforestry (Forest Gardening), creativity and sustainable options for living, growing and cultivating. The vision evolves and grows in its fundamental desire to provide a discreet space for healing, retreat and community. The time has come to start a process of planning and organizing to see where the next step can take us. As such, the proceeds from any activities and events will go directly to the fund to let the vision evolve and grow.
The yoga studio is 90 square meters of spruce ply inside a poly-tunnel. Temperature fluctuations are a natural response to the structure’s design and, as such, provide an environment more in tune with the nature outside.
I am always happy to show visitors around and talk about forest, nature, holistic gardening, and the ecology of being.

SPACE FOR HEALING

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Compassion and Righteousness

I am scared.

It  has - unusually  - taken me a while to really notice and feel into  this. It is my body's familiar and oh so deeply patterned response to... well... just to the world.

But decades of somatic learning, embodied practice, therapy, medication and many dark nights of the soul have allowed me to notice and understand and self regulate to the extent that I am seen, by myself and others as a calm voice of reason, a mediator, a measured awareness amidst reactions. I have no idea how I got here, but the cap seems to  fit, and I wear it with grace (mostly) I am flawed, I am weird, but I seem to do this well. 

I have stepped into that role of late, as I see hate played out around me. The visceral reactions of those who feel the fear and trauma of the death throes of an old paradigm, indeed multiple layered paradigms of victimhood and oppression, of prejudice, injustice, mistrust and plain old hate. We are all feeling it. It is being played out  on the world stage and in the echo-chambered bear pits of social media. The language of hate abounds. The perpetrators don't even know that is what they are extolling because our own personal brand of hatred is always more justified than the enemy's.  Always. Righteousness is blind to the realities of others. Sometimes to Reality itself. 

And nothing hurts more than the truth.

Simultaneously we see the rise of the voices of alt:right, MRA and SJW. Conveniently labelled and acronymed metaphors for  those who are desperately clinging to their trusted ways of seeing the world, themselves and their relationships. Even if the trusted ways are deep with pain and mistrust, they are known. And letting go is hard. These are the voices of pain and trauma.  Centuries of oppression and suppression have lain deep grooves of woundedness in the collective consciousness. And there doesn't seem to be much space in there right now for love. 

And yet, naive as it may sound, love is what is required. Notice how I feel I have to justify my use of the word?

Yes. Love.

Love enough to listen. Love enough to see beyond the voice an into the humanity of the person behind it. The voices silently but loudly screaming:

"I am scared" 
"I am scared of you" 
"I don't want to be a victim any more"
"I don't know how not to be a victim"
"I am angry"
"I don't know how not to be angry"
"I don't want to lose my power."
"I don't want to be at war."
"War is all I know"


As I write, I feel the fear rising because I know to speak to this, to put this out into the public domain may well court some of the viciousness I have witnessed. I have already been considered naive, I have be told that if I was more  educated, I would understand. (on this note, it is always worth checking out the background of the person you are arguing with!)  I have been told to read some books (!!!) I have been accused of sleeping with the enemy. I am not a good enough feminist because I actively listen to the wounded  and angry voices of men. I am a Feminazi because I speak out about the ongoing oppression of women. I am not a good enough socialist because I am prepared to have conversations with conservatives. I am dismissed as a leftie because I am vocal about social justice.  

I have been called ugly and stupid. I have been labelled as a victim. I have had others step into defend me when it wasn't asked for, and I have had others abandon me when I called for back up. Rape threats are omnipresent for women who say intelligent things on the internet: only yesterday I was told I obviously wasn't getting enough cock. Because I had an opinion. (This person REALLY doesn't know me - lol ) But still I could see into the sadness of the man who said it. He was angry and mourning the perceived loss of his power. It is hard. I know. It is hard. For all of us. 

 I have - thankfully - never received a death threat.  I am way too love and light and clearly not dangerous enough for that. But you never know. In this current hyped climate of scared and angry voices it seems enough just to think a thing for someone to want to bring you to justice. I have just witnessed the attempted public take-down of a friend for simply voicing thoughts. Yes, they were difficult-to-hear, angry thoughts but just thoughts. Thoughts brought into the public domain willingly to court a reaction, but also to seek opinions, and most importantly, to engage with other thoughts. He may be controversial and at times, maybe he can be a bit of an arse, but he will always listen. 

And I feel the fear now of saying things.  As a creative person this self censorship  is stifling. Because it is often from the angry, disturbed places that the art emerges. If thoughts were crimes, many of us would be fucked.  And many (most) books would be burned. Let's be clear, "unacceptable" thoughts are now being policed. Reputations and careers are sometimes in the balance. And this is not OK. Ruining careers because you don't like what somebody says is not a right thinking, progressive, compassionate way of engaging. Righteousness is ugly, whatever side of the socially correct fence you believe yourself to be on.

And as the wearer of the cap I want to say:

Listen. Love. Be prepared to lose your victimhood. Be prepared to re-examine your power. Be prepared to be wrong. Be prepared to hear things that will change your world-view. Hold your boundaries. Be compassionate. Speak out. Take a stand. Challenge. 

But love. And listen. 
   



Monday, 26 June 2017

Non Verbal

I have nothing to say.

It makes no sense to me 
to try and place the language of words
around the language of the body.

My body knows, 
but my words 
are either missing 
or completely inadequate 
to describe the depth and subtlety 
of what my body just knows.

I lie and listen 
to my body's rhythm. 
I tune into the pulsing
beating
surging
rocking. 

The touch: 
wanted; unwanted; maybe wanted ( I don't know) 

The nearness 
the distance
the air 
and breath 

And the movement. 
The movement
Ahhhhh
The delicious flow into relationship 
with space 
and gravity 
and other. 

I can trust this wisdom.

More than the words I hear. 

More than the words I hear
spewing forth from my mouth 
and from the mouths of others. 
Pretty Ugly symbols 
to describe something utterly utterly beyond.
Beyond their power to even begin to make sense of. 

We are so fond of words. 
So fond of words 
to describe 
and categorise
and provoke 
and hurt  
and seduce
and silence. 

Here am I in my irony. 

Here am I 
in the inadequacy of my words.