Back in July I was invited to go along to the Emergence Foundation weekend event called Regenerating Culture: What are the Drivers of Change? This weekend of co-creation in the beautiful Kent countryside was set to explore, reflect and engage in regenerating culture through mind, body and soul, at a time of global crisis.
The two-day event consisted of many presentations by invited speakers, group discussions, embodied movement, and grantee-led workshops. There was also time for networking, nature walks, and wild swimming. I could write about many of the inspiring people I met, or the wonderful presentations or the people who run the Emergence Foundation however something emerged for me personally so I thought I would share this rather than attempt to provide a blog on what was a very full and rich two days.
I have been taught about and am aware of the importance of self care so I organised everything I needed. There was an option to book a glamping tent, all I needed to do was arrive and there would be a bed and a tent ready. I took great care to pack what I needed and set off in plenty of time to miss the rush hour traffic. All was well in the world. I had taken great care of myself.
Saturday. the weather shifted from warm and dry to cold and wet. After a long day I finally returned to my glamping tent to find it sides sagging but nothing that a few pulls on the guide ropes would not fix! Or so I thought!
Sunday. Having survived a collapsing tent, thanks in no small part to the organisers who found me a warm room I went on with the plans to attend what was to be the event of the weekend – a joint Akido and Dance Workshop. I observed others moving their bodies, taking up space whilst my body begged me to go and sit down. It had been a long night. But I am not one for sitting down when everyone else is standing. I had planned to be at this workshop and I was not about to leave. The workshop ended, the weekend ended. It was time to go home.
It had been an amazing weekend full of so many inspiring talks and workshops and shared stories and yet I was feeling dreadful, tired, exhausted, in pain, and frustrated. I had tried to take great care of myself.
As I sat there in the corner of the large dimly lit barn, a small quiet voice, one which I had been unaware of before, emerged: “Do not make a fuss…” “Do not stand out…” “Do not be loud…” “Do not take up space…” “Do not ask for help…” “Do not have needs…” “Do not upset the flow…” “Do not attract attention…” The voice went on and on, each admonition prefaced by the words ‘Do Not’.
A voice emerged that weekend, a voice I can now hear if I listen carefully. Rather than ignore it, I now take care to listen to what it has to say. I am listening small and not so quiet voice…let’s have some conversations…
Change: Doing it or letting it happen with Ivo Mencsh on Saturday, 22 July 2023 (Emergence Foundation Summer Event)
After an introduction and a few slides Ivo Mencsh* asked us what our goal was. I found this question difficult and had an automatic negative response to it, thinking, I don’t have a specific goal I want to reach in terms of achieving something in life, I just want to know inner freedom. At the time I couldn’t see that this is a goal. We were then asked to pair up and ask each other two different questions repeatedly for seven minutes, paying attention to images, sensations and emotions.
The first question was: what are you doing or not doing that keeps you from going where you want to be? I found my resistance to this was quite strong; I was tired, it was the end of the day, I really didn’t want to do this. So I told my workshop partner how I was feeling instead of following my default behaviour of ‘let’s pretend all is well and feign enthusiasm’! Her response seemed to be relief and it felt like her ‘let’s pretend’ barrier fell away too. As a result of my honesty and of just being how I was, regardless of my perceived expectations, I found that I was able to connect more with myself and with my partner. She kept asking me that same question: “What are you doing or not doing that keeps you from where you want to be?” and I found that my mind was coming up with all sorts of reasons; fear, negativity, hiding, distracting myself, so on and so on for 7 minutes. Towards the end of the exercise I found that my mind was running out of reasons why, to the point that my answer was, I don’t know, and my body felt more at ease and my overall demeanour was more relaxed.
We all came back together and gave feedback on our experiences before being given a second question: 'What’s good about being just where you are?' As question one had helped my mind come to an end of itself, I felt very connected to my body, very chilled out and calm. My responses reflected this connection and I was very accepting and content about being just where I was. There was no frustration of not being where I wanted to be, no thoughts or beliefs blocking me or holding me back, I was in fact experiencing my ‘goal’ of inner freedom, which then led me to realise that perhaps inner freedom is always there, it’s just a case of quietening the mind, going deeper and connecting with it, connecting with me, connecting with what is.
If I had listened to my mind I wouldn’t have gone to the workshop: I’m too tired. I could have done as it suggested and opted out of the work in pairs: that’s asking too much. I could have pretended I was fine: I’m supposed to have energy and enthusiasm. Thankfully I listened to a deeper internal yearning, a freer part of me that is quite frankly sick and tired of playing the game of let’s pretend I’m feeling something I’m not because I believe it’s more acceptable. I love the connection this honesty brought me, between my partner and me, to myself, and to something deeper.
* Ivo Memsch, Associate Director of Emergence and Insight at Perspectiva
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