Last week I went to watch an interactive theatre session for one of my clients, the Regenda Group, www.regenda.org.uk, delivered by Aftathought, http://www.aftathought.co.uk, over in Liverpool. I’ve known about their work for quite a while but not had the pleasure or privilege to experience a session. The topic was Customer Focus, which is a core value for Regenda and one the company wanted to bring to life, using actors to play out real life customer experience. It was very moving, powerful, funny, thought-provoking and gave me, personally, a reality check at a deep and fundamental level.
When I finished university, I did a six month piece of voluntary work for a very small charity called Women and Children in Temporary Accommodation (WITA) in Coventry. WITA was run by an amazing, and slightly crazy, ex-nun called Mary who was deeply concerned about the impact on children and women, living in hostels and B & B’s, usually because they were fleeing domestic violence. I supported Mary by researching family experiences, interviewing dozens of women in short and longer stay accommodation. It was enlightening, frightening and certainly set me on a career path of cementing my desire to work in social housing. It wasn’t even called social housing at the time but it was a deeply formative experience. One of the most memorable interviews I did was with a woman who had had a life full of many ups and downs, lots of downs. She’d lost her kids due to her drug and alcohol problems and was back in a hostel, trying to dry out, after a period on the streets. One of the things she said to me that really stuck with me was “At least in here people look at you and say hello. On the streets, I could go all day and no-one even noticed me.”
Twenty five years later, a whole career behind me in terms of working in social housing, and an almost identical line from an actor playing the part of a homeless man, Woody, accessing services provided by Petrus, a homelessness support charity who have just joined the Regenda Group. He said something like “no-one sees me, you can all ignore me” and what I realised later is that triggered a memory of the interview in the hostel, and I was moved to tears. The actor’s skill in portraying the character was so accurate, so close to the many, many people I have worked with over the years who have lived on the streets, experienced all sorts of physical, emotional and mental health issues and yet somehow have survived.
Later that day I had to walk through Manchester after a meeting to get back to my car. I’d stopped and bought some punnets of strawberries to take home, two for a pound and the woman must have liked me as she gave me 4 for a pound! It was busy, it was hot, town was full of German football fans who’d come for a match against City. I had a load of stuff to take care of when I got home and I wanted to avoid the massive rainstorm I could feel was brewing.
But it took me over an hour to walk the length of Deansgate and get back to my car. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must be like to be sitting on the street, begging, or selling the Big Issue or just sitting and have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people each day walk by and ignore you. Look the other way, pretend not to see you. Imagine that, imagine being ignored day in, day out, when your life is in a place that most of us wouldn’t be able to cope with and you are in the middle of a wealthy, vibrant, busy city.
So I stopped and spoke to every homeless person I saw. I gave away all the strawberries. I gave all my money. But more importantly for me, and what I wanted to give, was my time, my energy, my attention. I asked each person about themselves, their name, where they were sleeping, were they getting some help. Every person I spoke to, male and female, had a tale that makes me despair for our system. And every person was deeply grateful, and expressed it, that I bothered to stop and talk. I didn’t want their gratitude but it made me realise how much eye contact, a smile, a friendly voice, matters when people are struggling to even survive. Homelessness is a complex issue, I get that, many people have complex needs and lifestyles we would find chaotic. There appears not to be a simple solution in so many cases but just acknowledging someone would seem to make a difference.
My reality check was this . . . there are many, many, many times when I have walked through town, any large city and I haven’t stopped. I have ignored. I have looked away. I have crossed over. I have gone to find another cashpoint. Because I didn’t know what to do, how to interact, how to care. Because I felt overwhelmed with sadness that we leave people to live like this. Because I was in a hurry. Because I was on the phone. Because I had enough money to pay for the car park and no more. Because because because I can make up excuses all day to avoid someone who is sleeping rough.
Not any more. I can’t forget Woody, in the way I forgot the woman I interviewed 25 years ago. Today I walked through town again and I came prepared, with money, I bought drinks and food for people, I stopped and chatted, I made the time. I planned to walk home and that my route would take me down Deansgate, where every hundred yards or so there is someone sitting in a doorway, begging, trying to sleep, just doing what they can to survive. I don’t judge what they spend the money I give them on. I kind of get why you would want to dull the pain with drugs or drink living like that. Who am I to judge that?
I do judge my own intention and behaviour though and I can make a small, small difference to someone by seeing them, acknowledging them, even just with a smile and a hello. It’s fundamental human stuff, to want to be seen, to be noticed. We don’t do well when we feel that we don’t exist or matter to anyone. We can cease to matter to ourselves and that is a hard place to come back from, especially when all the evidence around us would seem to suggest that this is true.
So it matters to me to show that people matter to me. I’m thankful I can, I’m thankful I can choose, I’m thankful I have a home, a job, an income, a safe place to sleep, I’m never cold or hungry or at risk sleeping rough. I’m thankful for the reality check on my own behaviour and I’m thankful I can choose to address that.
Mindfulness Monday, 19 September 2017
I’m going to see how this goes and I’ll review as I wish or need to, but my plan is to take one value each week, something that has resonance for me as a core value or is showing up currently as being important for me, and write about that from a mindfulness perspective. My focus for this Monday is health and during the retreat on Friday / Saturday last week, I found myself focusing a lot on the link between mind and body, emotions and physiology. In the blog last Monday, I referred to nutrition being an important topic for me right now, so this week I’m going to write a little more about this.
My realisation for myself over the weekend, and thanks to the newly-released unicorns for supporting conversations around this, is that I’m revisiting Health, which is a Level 1 value in the 7 Levels of Consciousness model, from a more evolved perspective than I have done previously.
I had some formative experiences with exercise at school that I think really shaped my views around this as an adult. I went to both a highly academic and highly sporty school and I was definitely in the camp of those who were better with books! I was rarely picked for teams, I didn’t enjoy most sports we did. I was actually terrified of rounders having seen Lucy Meeks get her eye smashed in by a rounders ball aged about 12. Hockey to me was just a way to incur ankle injuries. Hurdles were impossible. The long jump wasn’t long when I did it. I had my gran’s old solid wood and cat gut tennis racquet which was far too big heavy for an 11 year old girl to manage to even hold properly, let alone wield effectively.
And netball . . . my school was good at netball. I once got picked for the A team (desperate times, I’m thinking there must have been a bout of flu or something going around to have had this happen in the first place). We went to play Bridlington Girls School, who were renowned for being tough and aggressive. I was, quite frankly, frightened. And at 5’2”, which I have been since the age of 14, I knew that pretty much every other girl on that netball court had at least 4 inches in height advantage. This matters in netball. Before half time I was taken off the court and told that my standard of play was suitable for D team reserves. My netball career was over. Let’s be honest, it never started. I felt humiliated.
This formed a very strong view about sport and team sports in particular. I still hate playing sports in a team environment! Well the idea of it. I don’t do it at all, never had. Even chucking a Frisbee around in the park with my friends when I was a student was something I would avoid.
When I got fit, I mean properly fit, the first time at 36, yes, it took that long for me to engage AT ALL with any form of exercise other than yoga, swimming (badly) or the odd aerobics class, I did it very thoroughly. I can see now that I did it at Level 3, which is self-esteem. It did it to the best level of excellence I could. I needed to do it for my own self esteem as my mum was getting married and I realised that wedding photos would be up in their house from now until the end of eternity and no way was I going to look the way I did at the time, fat, frumpy and lumpy, in those photos. So in 9 months, I went from quite literally a sitting (on the sofa, at my desk, in the car) start to running a half marathon in less than 2 hours (13 seconds less to be precise. I worked so, so, so hard in the gym, I ran miles and miles and miles every week. I radically altered to my diet to a very low calorie intake and stuck with it, month after month, no deviation at all. And I look great on my mum’s wedding photos. I was also exhausted.
I went out to Thailand the following year and trained in a muay thai camp for a month and got even fitter. Hardest and most bonkers thing I have ever done (other than going and doing it again a few years later!) but I loved it, it was extremely challenging mentally and physically and I did it to the best of my ability. I was all about the numbers, measurements, competing against myself.
Of course life happened and fitness at that level wasn’t sustainable without giving up work and finding a way to exist on oxygen and water alone. The inevitable happened and the fitness dropped off, the weight creeps on. Two years later, back to the gym, a year later a back injury, blah blah blah. So the story goes on.
So here I am again, now aged 45, not 35. I can’t run anywhere near the distance I used to. The weight has definitely reached a number I am not comfortable with again although I am choosing not to weigh myself this time. I’ve had in the last two years alone problems with my neck, shoulders, mid back, lower back, hips and knees. I have at times felt exhausted and worn out and wondered whether my body is going to make it!
In the last few months, I have done some powerful work around this through constellations and family dynamics which has healed some deep emotional stuff and confusion that I realise now meant I had swung from a pattern of loyalty to my mum (working very hard at being fit, eating very little) to my dad (giving up on being fit and eating what I wanted). I don’t wish to do either pattern any more.
Now I am finding my own way, which brings together and integrates the best of the patterns from each of my parents and creates a sustainable lifestyle for me in which I eat nourishing, healthy and delicious food to nurture my body rather than drain it with sugar and rubbish. This is creating a much better base from which I can then start to up the ante with exercise again and focus in on building balance and enjoying getting fitter. I’m not totally out of shape, I’m in the gym these days at least one a week with my personal trainer and running in the park or working out by myself a couple of times too. I’m strong but not as cardio fit as I want to be.
So Health as a value is up there at number one right now. I don’t think I have ever chosen it in a personal values assessment before. I can sense that my perspective on it is from a Level 5 awareness, which is to create sustainable health, free from old patterns that had run me for years. I don’t want to beat myself up in the gym every day irrespective of how I feel. I don’t want to starve myself. I don’t want to crave sweet things any more so I binge eat. I don’t want to wake up thinking about food and go to bed doing the same.
What I want and what I’m doing is going back to basics, eating a great variety of organic meat, fish, fruit and veg. No gluten as that doesn’t suit me. No sugar for now. I am loving cooking from scratch and relishing creating delicious meals for myself. Who knew rice cakes and almond butter is a totally fantastic snack?!
<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-257" src="http://findyourinnerunicorn impuissance viagra.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/09/Screen-Shot-2016-09-19-at-09.29.45.png” alt=”healthy heart” width=”1″ height=”1″ />I don’t want a quick fix either. I’m happy that this takes some time, that I can be gentle with myself. I’m writing this on Sunday and I’ve been on my feet with the retreat for the last 2 days. Today I want to rest. A walk in the park is as much as I wish to do today and that’s enough. Eating like this, caring for my health and finding a new, profound love for the body that carries me around is truly transformational. I recognise that in itself can be both exhilarating and tiring. Today is for rest. Tomorrow I have a session booked with my personal trainer and I’ll look forward to whatever he has in store for me!
I am writing this on a Saturday afternoon, after a realisation during the week that has created some clarity a few days ago and then a burst of energy to write this today viagra en vente libre en espagne. I have been backwards and forwards with social media for Find Your Inner Unicorn since setting it up last autumn. I got all involved and engaged about 10 months ago, and then felt a bit baffled by how to be effective and not feel overwhelmed, so my activity level tapered off.
I went to some great social media training, run by the brilliant Jo Booth from Social Media Makes Sense (www.socialmediamakeseense.co.uk) and thanks to Hayley Hulme for coming with me. I had a 1-2-1 session with Jo a few months later. She was fab, really energised me, explained a load of stuff I didn’t understand and helped me create a strategy and an action plan that I was sure would work for me. I was back on track! I was ready to go! Yay!
Then I was away for almost all of June and had pretty much no wifi connection for a month and the whole thing came to a grinding halt again.
So all summer I’ve been procrastinating, telling myself that “there’s no point starting this again until the website is updated and the video testimonials are on there as I don’t want to direct people to the site unless it’s the best it can be for the moment”. Great excuse huh?! Sounds entirely plausible!
We filmed the testimonials a couple of weeks ago, and I must say a huge thanks so much to those of you who came and those of you who couldn’t but offered a written one. Having got some feedback that evening bout the idea of The Blessing, I had this realisation . . . I feel attachment and belonging to those who have been through the retreats, in a way I just don’t when I use social media more generally and can’t connect to strangers. I haven’t known who I belong to when I post stuff on Facebook or use Twitter. In creating The Blessing I get to belong and now I can feel a new energy for writing, posting, blogging and tweeting.
You know me, my unicorn friends, you know most of “my stuff” is Level 2, about belonging, and experiencing a lack of that and how that has shaped my beliefs my whole life to want to create connections, nurture relationships and feel that I belong. What wasn’t working for me with social media is that I didn’t know who I was connecting to or meant to belong to when I wrote blogs and posts. I didn’t know “who for” and so it felt faceless, nameless and so quickly became meaningless. And so of course I just stopped doing it. Because that’s what happens when we are not living in our values or purpose, we don’t prioritise stuff. I have a core value around connection and this is a new expression of that for me.
Now I know how to keep my motivation levels up . . . I draw on my value of connection and write for you, our blessing of unicorns, because I feel a sense of belonging with you. I can write authentically, with integrity, as “just me” because my purpose in writing blogs and using social media is to nurture our relationships and sustain the power of the amazing friendships and support that has formed already through the Unicorn retreats.
I can write for you, tweet to you, put posts on Facebook and find pictures, quotes and inspirational sayings to share with you all day long, because I know you, I love you all and I want to be of service to you.
I want these blogs to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I’ve come up with a schedule of blogs, posts and tweets that I hope will be interesting and useful for you. From now on, please watch out for Mindful Mondays, Wellbeing Wednesdays, Thankful Thursdays and Celebration Saturdays. I hope these themes will resonate with you. I’m going to have Fun on Fridays with Unicorn of the Week and any contributions of unicorns seen / posted anywhere that can be shared would be fabulous. All comments, thoughts and responses received with gratitude.
So thank you to all of you in The Blessing, whether you wish to be an active member or not, whether you choose to go for one of the paid membership options or not, whether you ever read this or not, I know you’re out there and that makes the world of difference to me.
This is the design I ended up choosing for the logo . . . it represents outward-facing connection whilst having each others backs. And looks much less like the European Union flag than the other design I came up with!