Other Reasons to Dance…

Coming from my previously-declared position of wounded-healer, I have always had a sense of moral duty and fairness.  I identify with the ‘underdog’.  As such, my work history has led me to support people with learning disabilities, and dementia who in my opinion make up some of the most vulnerable groups of people.

It’s not possible to have a life without risk.  It’s not healthy to have a life without trust. It’s how we learn.  We all have the right to make unwise decisions, the LAW says so.  We learn from experience, and we are all vulnerable at different times of our lives.  I would never take some of the risks that I took when I was younger in some instances, and in others, I’m STILL taking those same risks because they are worth it.

There were times when I was a child that I did need protecting though. When I did not have the capacity or experience to fully understand what was happening around me.  Perhaps this is where my sense of justice and protection of vulnerable people comes from?

When you (I/one) train(s) to be a professional, right back at the beginning.  It’s pure passion and conviction. For me, I had an untrained, unboundaried moral compass. In some ways, years of being a ‘professional’ has removed that raw and fearless passion.  In other ways, it has helped me to realise my own projections and co-dependency, and to be more mindful and open-minded when responding to complexity.

Complex indeed is ‘safeguarding‘. The legal process by which we recognise and respond to abuse and neglect of children and ‘vulnerable’ people and it’s EMOTIONAL.  We often hear of children who have died by the hand of their caregivers, of people in positions of authority or trust who have abused that power, but we hear less about the adults who are at risk of abuse and neglect every single day.  We hear less about the people who are working in these complex situations except for some social worker bashing when people are looking for someone to blame and that has led to a lot of fear amongst professionals trying to do the ‘right’ thing.  Serious Case Reviews and Safeguarding Adult Reviews must take place when someone has been seriously hurt or died.  I have read failings within services for having ‘high thresholds’ for intervention points, or ‘low expectations’ of parents as in the case of Baby P.  It is right that we learn from these reviews of course. However, today I read two papers (one of them is linked below) about situations where the service response was disproportionate to the concern, or could not tolerate uncertainty around diagnosis and treatment.  Another important part of the safeguarding agenda is ‘Making Safeguarding Personal’. This is the other side of safeguarding. One that seeks to use the safeguarding process WITH the person, and not DO to them in a paternalistic way.  It has valuable partnership principles at its heart.  The two sides of this remind me of the two parts of myself.  Hot moral passion, and considered, informed response…

I could write and write about this, but the trigger point is that I have been training the topic a lot recently, and writing a chapter about it, and watching distressing videos and talking heads about specific issues of abuse and neglect.  I have had two people (professionals) disclose their own abuse in a training session, and I have heard passionate, dedicated staff grapple with the individual lives within which they are engaged.   It takes it’s toll.  It can be done badly. It is a huge responsibility.  I am often in tears before 11 am reading case histories about Female Genital Mutilation, or torture, Mate Crime, modern slavery, child sexual exploitation… yet I MUST pursue it.  It feels so important to me that we get it RIGHT.  That we are awake, and aware, and diligent.

I realise that my stomach churns, my heart aches, my throat closes, my brow wrinkles, my eyes cry, my mind races and wanders. My imagination playing those distressing scenes over and over.  So I dance…

I dance because I don’t want to become weary or numb or burnt out in the NHS.  I dance because my body HOLDS that shit.  It resonates with my stuff, but it’s NOT my stuff.  I feel the pain and the shame and the horror and the rage IN MY BODY.  So I dance…

I dance because it’s the only thing I know how to do to actually MOVE stuff on.  It’s not something that can be out-thought. It’s not a cognisant thing, its a visceral thing. So I dance…

I dance because as I sweat, and pant, and swirl and stomp, I am not only releasing that stuff, but I am bringing in some new energy.  That as I lose myself in the music I am holding some balance, out-and-in.  Breath rising and falling.  Eyes-closed.  No one is watching.

This has become a practice. Can you see how essential and important it is?  It’s such an underestimation to call it ‘Dance Meditation’. Some days its essential self-care.

So I’m off for a dance!

If you want to join my next session it’s on 19th October at Lydney Town Hall 

via Case study (Baby H) – Improving practice in safeguarding at the interface between hospital services and children’s social care: a mixed-methods case study – NCBI Bookshelf

Not exactly Glastonbury but…

A festival once-upon-time would’ve seen me limping around today having peaked too early last night. Hiding behind a large bottle of rum, I would’ve hedonistically staggered around making friends with strangers and enjoying the freedom of being totally smashed. 

When we heard that we were bringing the Wild Chocolate Club to the Om and Bass festival in Oxfordshire I was ecstatic (Heh heh!). However, my boy had to work a night shift on the first night so this meant coming for one night only to cover childcare as I couldn’t leave my kid alone whilst I was dancing. 

Last night I started to falter… What’s the point of all that hassle for one night? I don’t want to do my back in… I have so much to do… as I began to question all this stalling I realised it was deeper than this… “I’ll be the fattest woman there”… bingo… shame… I spotted you. 

Rather than stopping there,  I realised this is an old story.  A cover up. 

Deeper still…

“I don’t belong there, I’m not (insert any word of doubt or fear here) enough”

I suppose by now you must have seen some of these viral videos about accomplished fat dancers or Yogis?  Brave women (often) who won’t let either their own or others’ fat shaming stop them being seen. I realised that my discomfort was about making this public appearance without my old friend alcohol at a festival and about fearing that I am not enough without making myself into the cliche larger than life. 

So, this is a bit like entering the Dance for the first time. Turning up at the Wild Chocolate Club to dance sober. 

I’m writing from the festival car park look…

But I’m going to go in… to be exactly as I am and trust that it’s more than enough. Because I refuse to let fear and shame run my life and that is the old story…

Dance with me? Until then I will dance for ALL of us because I believe that dancing sets us free..

The Wild Chocolate Club is closing the Om and Bass Festie tomorrow at 5pm


DANCE OF TRUTH – 22nd FEB 2017

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I find myself faltering with this ‘blog’ thing. Why the hell be SO personal and put this stuff out there in the public domain where everyone will find out about the struggles and imperfections – and possibly then question my professional abilities?  my competence? my health-y-ness?

It’s hard being honest, integrated and public, but when I started @bigbeatsdance it was for that exact reason.  Part of my own growth and integration is stopping the fear that I will ‘lose’ something if I stand up in any way less than perfect and as I have said in another post – perfectionism is a slippery slope.

For me…It ALL happens on the dance floor!!!!

this-is-my-church

At the Wild Chocolate Club this week, I was so excited.  I was hoping to escape into music, rhythm, movement and breath as always; to ‘fly away’ in my mind to some lost and lovely dance, but this time, even before the dance part – I was faced with my own actual body.  No journeying off for me today.  Just me, my body and 28 other people whooping and joyful around me.

How do you ‘do’ shame…disappointment…self-loathing in a dance form?  WTF?  This form of dance practice asks nothing of the dancer but to be total.  As in, whatever comes up, just move it.  Put it into the dance.  Anything – thoughts, feelings, inner visions, colours, memories – anything – just move it… and so there was I.

I am aware as I said in my last post, of avoiding so many feelings from times in my life where things were difficult, traumatic, painful. I am a bit disappointed though to find them so deeply seated in my body in this way, and to feel that sting of shame again.  How did I let myself get SO FAT?  and this obsession being such a red-herring…

Matt Khan says ‘Whatever Arises, Love That’, and this has been my attempted mantra since 2015 when I did my dance teacher training.  So frozen to the spot, tears streaming down my face I tried to send love.  ‘I honour this past’ I said to myself. ‘Fuck this past and it’s endless misery’ answered despair. ‘I love that despite this past you have remained so open-hearted and lovable’, said ‘me’.  ‘LOVABLE????’ spat my fifteen year old ‘Are you BLIND?’.  ‘Lovable’…said I,  ‘And brave, and honest to keep coming back to heal this stuff because it is your story but not your definition’… To receive the ultimate kindness and compassion from the very one who keeps bashing me and keeping me small moved my shame and despair into grief.  One hand on heart, one hand on belly, just slowly, gently rocking, there was just this moment or two of integration. How I wished that the music would keep playing forever – that I did not need to get myself back together for the end of the dance.

When I (anyone actually?) am that vulnerable – the hardest thing in the world is to be around other people and my instinct was to run. Instead I shuffled myself back to a wall, partly obscured by a curtain and found that I couldn’t stop weeping.  A familiar panic started up. ‘Got to get my shit together before the lights come on’ and ‘Don’t be a drama queen, don’t attract attention’.  A dear friend had realised I was wobbling and just came to sit.  She knows some of the issues that come up for me when I am not being Mrs Competent. She sat, just seeing me, just honouring where I was at, and you know?  It felt good not to be alone, but I was embarrassed, and the kindness made me feel that I could weep forever, so I told her to leave me be – just so I could get myself together enough to drive everyone home!

This Wild Chocolate Club coincided with the last day of the Ecstatic Awakening Dance Teacher Training and so around me, blooming like beacons were the new teachers who had been on retreat for 5 days.  They had laughed, and cried, and danced, and shed layers and opened and transformed and were an energy all of their own.  One of them came to me and gently, sweetly said ‘Do you know that you are a big reason why I did the training?’.  Imagine my shock. ‘Me?’…’Yes you – because you showed me that I didn’t have to be perfect, or sorted, I just had to be me and that was good enough’…

Isn’t life clever?

when-loved-myself-enough1

Back in Flow 23rd January 2017

It’s my girl’s sixth birthday today.  Somehow, out of all the shonky past turmoil and paths that could have led straight to disaster – I managed to birth a smart, kind, generous, savvy young woman.  She was born into water having been receiving Reiki from myself and my friend through a very straightforward and lovely labour.  I feel very proud and very blessed.

See, these type of things are easier to connect with for gratitude when it is the very DAY that things happened.  I often NEED these landmarks to allow a moment for pause and to realise that it is so easy to sit stupefied in a head of absolutes without realising the progress. ” I NEVER”,  “things ALWAYS”… A busy head that is always striving and trying and driving can be exhausting.  For a long time I have realised that I am just trying too hard. Against some impossible standards.  It’s a really good intention to be the best person you can be.  What’s wrong with that? But I’m also trying to realise and work with how this striving can lay me open to the perfectionism problem.  Perfectionism is really very damaging.  There is no place for reward, celebration, relaxation, acceptance, joy, rest or peace when I am striving and trying too hard.  Trying to craft and sculpt and control and drive everything and never getting ‘there’; the punitive commentary running the show always with a demeaning, scathing, cruel, fearful script replaying endlessly.

Usually, I run for solace to food, drink, spending, screen addiction – you name it – if it’s bad for me, I’ll do it – to escape.  Sometimes because it’s respite (getting drunk/spending money) and sometimes because I’m angry or afraid or ashamed or grieving (food).  The result of course is that I just make everything worse.  In my desperation to get away from my feelings, my critical voice gets bigger and stronger and the self-loathing gathers momentum, my weight spirals, compounds the guilt and loathing blah blah blah.  On it goes.

So what does this have to do with dancing?  This is a dancing blog isn’t it?

Of course, just like so many overweight people – it’s NOT ABOUT FOOD – it’s about feelings.  Depression = Rage.  Anxiety = Grief –  just for me – I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I’m learning it is for me.  I’ll do ANYTHING to avoid feeling hurty-feelings, but cumulatively, this has got me into a pattern that is no longer OK.  I know that this is an inside job.

Dancing – what has this got to do with dancing~?

Dancing is the place that without words, without having to look someone in the eye, without someone else trying to fix or solve me I can not only FEEL my feelings in the moment, but I can actually MOVE THEM ON.

With loud music all around and everyone dancing with their eyes closed, as is the method with Ecstatic Awakening Dance, if I need to stomp out my rage – no one gets hurt. If I need to cry, I am not alone sobbing into my pillow with the floor falling away beneath me, no-one can hear me – I can’t hear me! And then, instead of days and weeks and months of flatline low mood and hopelessness – it’s gone.  I’m clear.

I suppose this is what ‘normal’ people do? Feel-Express-Release-Move on?

Recently I went to the Wild Chocolate Club. I just love this.  The tunes are bigger, the session is longer, there are lights and raw cacao and a general buzz as it’s a sober version of going OUT out.  We dress up (even though no-one’s actually looking at anyone LOL) put on our best dancing feet and get stuck in.

As this has developed more into what I suppose you could call a ‘practice’ and as I have got more used to sober dancing as both a Punter, and as an Ecstatic Awakening Dance Teacher, my imagination, or inner visions, or journeying or whatever you want to call it have become more profound.

This is my testament to how when I ‘Feel-Express-Release-Move on’, life actually stops being so sad and hard, and starts being joyful.  THIS is when I can genuinely be in my space of gratitude and abundance.  It’s not fluffy though, never really is for me.  I have not, as yet, chosen for things to be easy.

The last Wild Chocolate Club unexpectedly produced in my mind’s eye the image of a noose.  Take a breath now – a heavy moment approaches!!

This ‘noose’ has hung over my head from the age of about 13.    However, THIS DANCE on THIS DAY presented this symbolic noose to me, but it was like a fantasy image – I was pretty scared thinking that maybe this was it, finally I was losing it and going mad.  It came with a really powerful memory of my over eating  and how it had a grip on me in adolescence in a different, but intensely damaging way.

The noose represented a choice. It was time to decide to leave, or stay. No more allowing my head to play with old adolescent scripts.  It was time to realise (or maybe to commit to?) that the only way to stay balanced and happy was to promise to go with ALL my feelings and be KIND to myself about feeling them REGARDLESS of how unjustified, selfish, greedy, frightening, unbearable, lonely, overwhelming they might be.  But I knew I had to MEAN IT.

It was super hard.  It meant maturing. Taking responsibility. Not being a victim any more. Not calling myself ‘damaged’ or ‘broken’.  I realised that my dysfunctional story had in itself because a comfortable place even in it’s anguish.

Symbolically, I felt that I had to take my necklace off, and dissolve this noose along with my adolescent self in order to embrace me NOW and not stuck in the past. So I sobbed, and my fear and sense of stupidity rose up and I let it go into the ground stomping with the music playing loud in my ears and people stomping all around me.  And I was not alone.  And I was strong. And I was whole. But I felt like someone had died.  I was left with a sense of loss and I wasn’t so sure what to do with the quieter me.

Since then, I find this ‘quiet’ little connection with myself exquisite.  Just a little more tuned in to the ‘quiet’ me.  Perhaps this is what peace feels like?  Just ‘quiet’ – not judging and criticising and flailing around? Of course, life doesn’t change, and it will take a while to unburden myself of the 100 MPH life that I have created to allow no opportunities to be still and feel anything.  It’s not all ‘healed’ now, all better, move on.  No orchestra or crescendo. Just a gentle willingness to be kind to my self as I learn not to panic whenever I FEEL something.

So yesterday – I thought it’s time to release some more from the past. To focus on me, here and now, and what I can offer in servitude from all this grace and compassion.

I decided to start offering dance classes here in the Forest of Dean where I live. I have concentrated everything in Oxford, because that’s where my friends are, that’s where  I work, where I was born, that’s where I understand the networks and know where the rooms are.  But it’s not where I live.  I moved here to be more in Nature .  To allow myself to mature and develop spiritually, but what I have created is an intensely stressful double-life.

I am an exceptionally well-trained and experienced therapist aren’t I?? So what’s holding me back?  I bravely posted in three Facebook groups that I have been following quietly within the alternative communities here.  I asked for advice about location, interest and room hire and I had responses IMMEDIATELY from loads of people excited about a class in the Forest.

I am so happy to think that my future is open, exciting, possible.  So glad to share this insanely transformational dance practice with people.  I’m really looking forward to holding a space where we can be wild and feel all those feelings without having to explain, justify, intellectualise, fix or solve them.

‘Feel-Express-Release-Move on’ = DANCE.  Just dance…

Dance with me?

Authentic? 3rd November 2016

I am caught between two worlds.  I am a qualified Occupational Therapist (OT) since 1998, and I trained for six years in total to be a Psychodynamic Therapist before deciding 30-clinical-hours shy of registering with UKCP that I was not meant to ‘be’ a Psychotherapist. Something about sitting in the clinical/medical world has always been uncomfortable for me.  Taking the role of ‘expert’ and holding back my own working class family dysfunction made me feel a fraud. Contorting myself to fit into various professional personas and the professional socialisation and language that comes alongside this made me feel incongruent, dishonest, and I became fragmented in my quest to try to be genuine and authentic. To be INTEGRATED. Yet I have worked in the caring profession since 1991, when I was just 19 years old, and it is as much a part of my identity as any other part of me.

I am also a Reiki Master-Teacher, and an Ecstatic Awakening Dance (EAD) teacher.  I’m a deeply spiritual woman who loves ritual as a residual leftover of a Roman Catholic childhood. Even though I am not religious in any way now, one would expect therefore that my dilemmas and discomfort would be eased by practicing in this more spiritual world?

When I was training in very ‘pure’ psychotherapy – I felt that my spirituality needed to remain private; that my belief in signs, omens, nature, cycles and co-incidences, in a greater-good, in seeing a meaning to everything would be called ‘magical or supernatural thinking’; that my inexplicable visions and experiences when doing Reiki with people in a way that transcended language would mean that I was seen as a heretic.  Of course now I know more.  There are so many different means and methods for people to train in counselling/therapy without this ‘pure’ idea of how that should be done.  The Karuna Institute, Psychosynthesis, Jungian, transcendent, integrative, transpersonal, body work, wild therapy – the list goes on. As we evolve and change, so do the means and models of offering support to people who are living in emotional turmoil and navigating intensely difficult personal and existential crises.

It is usually, in my experience, people who have navigated a certain amount of distress themselves who are called to reach out and offer support to other people in pain. Thus it is common practice in ALL psychotherapeutic trainings to expect the trainee to engage in their own therapy to be aware of, and skilled in managing, the boundaries and potential transferences and projections between analysee and analysand.

In the neo-spirituality world of shamans, energy and light-workers, healers and ‘alternative’ practices there is less uniformity and regulation.  Being an eternal cynic, I have witnessed a fair amount of what I would call Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome.  I have seen leaders with significantly untreated mental health needs.  I have idealised leaders myself in the need to believe in an ‘answer’ outside of myself.  I have seen untrained facilitators struggle to manage boundaries safely or effectively. I have been tangled in hellish group dynamics on retreats, and seen and heard, questioned and participated in the thin veil between myth, hysteria, vision-like experiences, epiphany, breakthrough, transformation, sisterhood, grief, loss, joy and all manner of very deep, very personal, very painful moments and transitions.  But then, I have seen and experienced this in the Psychotherapy world too.  In the sensitivity/experiential groups so integral to many trainings.  In ‘facilitated’ team meetings within mental health services.  In the world of the psyche – who knows what ‘truth’ is?  There in the shadows and the light? Who knows what is good and what is bad?

And so entangled in this Klienian split, I find myself time after time asking which ‘me’ is the real, integrated, mature and steady person/practitioner?  Am I one of those practitioners with a wonky-base? A past that still comes back and takes me by surprise? Untreated mental health needs?  Idealised by others in a bad case of Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome? Wildly projecting all over the place unable to hold steady in messy group dynamics?

Or am I a wise woman embracing with relief leaving my twenties and thirties behind me? Is the reason that I have found it so hard to allow all these parts of me to integrate because I have still believed that there is a right way, and a wrong way?   Is my own eclectic style and honesty about my own brokenness and ongoing ‘seeking’ NOT a lack of boundaries or professional poise as I once thought, but my TRUTH in offering my support to other people in pain and distress in a GENUINE and AUTHENTIC way?  Does a spiritual/alternative therapy permit this transparency more than a medicalised or clinical qualification where I have been lost in my efforts towards neutrality, science, method, evidence, and cure?

It has been one year since I completed my dance training  in an active meditation process called Ecstatic Awakening Dance (EAD).

EAD is an energy experience using rhythm, movement, breath and music to:-

  • Release stress and energize the body;
  • Free from emotional baggage by moving stuck energy;
  • Transcend the chatter of small mind and bring us into the Presence of Now;
  • Awaken to self-acceptance and self-love;
  • Connect to the Divine Oneness of our true nature and All That Is. (School of Ecstatic Movement)

EAD follows a five stage process;

  1. Preparation – The warm-up
  2. Awakening Life force – The ‘shake’
  3. Let-Go – Breath of fire dance
  4. Stillness
  5. Grounding – Heaven and earth meditation

It’s been a struggle starting a new business.  With an already demanding job, a long commute and a five-year-old, my plans to spend one day a week on my new business ‘Big Beats Dance’ have often gone awry.  As is to be expected, in my first year – I made a loss.

Two phrases have been going round in my head… “You’ve got to speculate to accumulate” and “Build it and they will come” and being immersed in the world of ne0-pagan spirituality, quantum physics, and the social-media-enabled insurgence of our collective consciousness – there is a certain pressure to visualise well.  More than this actually…to ATTRACT, MANIFEST and any failure to do so is a personal blight – a blockage, non-purity in thought or intention. So in the Psychotherapy days, I had to watch out for this magical or superstitious thinking.   I had NOT to be afraid of my own negative thoughts, doubts and questions because they were just that…thoughts…doubts….questions…and I was encouraged to use judgement, and critical thought; certainly to study effectively; to be discerning.  Now every life coach going wants to tell me how to unblock my thoughts and manifest money, customers, premises, land – all manner of things can be conjured or destroyed – just by the power of my own ability to embrace gratitude, be positive and think big.  Well do you know? That just PISSES ME OFF… Perhaps because I haven’t yet learned how to do this with ease, with grace, and without trying too hard, or letting my ‘ego’ drive my thoughts – but sometimes, it feels like this in itself is another pressure – or way to stop ourselves processing the shadow side…Just. Think. Positive.   Tell that to anyone with anxiety, or depression – just another personal failure of thought or deed or intention if you can’t –  Just. Think. Positive.    My inner ‘doubting Thomas‘ is my guide just as much as my inner Pollyanna, it means I KNOW when the Emporer’s New Clothes are not in fact real. Just a group of people scared to NOT be able to see something.  Scared of being stupid, or left out.  Scared to say ‘I CAN’T SEE’!  or ‘I’m NOT FEELIN’ IT’.

The socialisation in this world is different. But the issues are the same. For me at least, this is a continuation of a journey towards health, well-being and integration.  A desire to help others to heal their pain and reach their full potential by sharing my learning and my skills. I will not have the government and health service tell me how to do that.  I will not have motivational speakers and would-be Gurus tell me how to do that anymore because since 1991, I have been trying to be the ‘right’ kind of OT, or Psychotherapist, or Reiki practitioner, or Dance teacher according to different doctrines, dogmas and sometimes, just plain old strong personalities. But it doesn’t mean that I am not appreciative of how much happier my life is when I DO see that the glass is more than half full, that I am blessed in so many ways.  I look at other people who have similar stories, but whose paths took them to even darker, sadder places than mine – and I am grateful to have been scooped up by good friends, and shaped by my professions.  It does not mean that I do not think big.  I DO have a vision, and a passion and a belief. But I do doubt and question it too.

The Dance practice that I have learned is a deep and profound process.  It takes many people by surprise at what comes up when we give permission to ourselves to express through the body with our eyes closed and using no words.  Using NO WORDS and NO THOUGHTS.  Oh my life, what a breath of fresh air that is given ALL the above.

I really do believe inherent in all of us is wisdom. I do believe the Rogerian view of self-actualisation and that the right conditions enable us to ‘become’ whole. If we can just steady the fear and create some space and safety to let ourselves express freely, without ‘conditions’, we can find it ALL.  Maybe those conditions are enabled internally simply by engaging in The Dance? Who knew?  Well, lots of people so it would seem. Across all cultures, religions and ages forever there has been dancing. The recognition of this inseparable connection is not new either – in either medical or spiritual terms, body-mind-soul; bio-psycho-social.

I’m sure that in another five years, I will be able to write eloquently and knowledgeably about Dance. However, I am keen to capture my sweet ignorance in THIS moment, whilst it is all fresh for me.  It seems that since the 1960’s  the power of The Dance has been merging our spiritual, healthcare and psychological therapy systems, body and soul;  5rhythmns, Ecstatic Awakening Dance, Nia technique, biodanza, dancemeditation, spiral dance, kundalini work, trance dance, movement medicine, dance for Parkinson’s and and and – we know that The Dance connects us to a place deep within.

So when I signed up to train in EAD it was an ‘accident’.  I didn’t quite know what I was about to integrate.  I didn’t know about all these dance practices. The classic wounded healer, I have had an eating disorder since I was about 12.  It has morphed over the years – but the main presenting problem physically now that I am in my forties is morbid obesity.  I was definitely having a relapse in my ability to cope; more than just a little chink in my armour. As a ‘patient’ now, I was facing some serious challenges to my physical and emotional health. I knew I was going to need to get my body moving, but looking at the ‘exercise on prescription’ routes, and Green Gyms and other initiatives, brilliant as they are, just filled me with dread. Pilates, yoga, Gym membership, Zumba – just sucked my life-force and made me feel sad, and fat and inadequate and immobile due to a chronic long-term back problem.  I knew that whatever health choice I made, I would only be able to make a commitment and stick to it if I was RUNNING it.  So again, I found myself entering through the doorway of another ‘training’.  This time though, it felt as though I was coming out! When I launched bigbeats.org I was slightly terrified of people knowing me and seeing me.  I am flawed. I am imperfect.  I am self-disclosing in a big way.  Big Beats is a movement Movement.  My voice, my story and my late entry into the game of being present for myself in my life without apologising for not being ‘enough’, or for being ‘too much’. Without hiding in a professional persona.

During the 10 day retreat of the teacher training, I saw the best of myself, and the worst of myself.  I revisited the depths of my losses and traumas. I connected to my unique, brave, amazing body both with compassion and grief. It was one of the first times that I had engaged with dancing since my twenties outside of clubs and festivals where usually there would be alcohol involved. Every day I met myself in The Dance and witnessed other people in the same deeply profound process. Through those 5 stages practised regularly – I began to reclaim all these fragmented parts of myself.  Simply through breathing and moving to repetitive polyrhythmic music, all my buried emotions began to surface.  Instead of having to process and talk and work in direct relationship with someone through this, I simply began to learn to let it be.  To greet it all without deciding what was an acceptable and what was an unacceptable feeling.  Just to be kind to whatever came up, and to dance it.  Dance through it, dance it out.

My back pain began to reduce as I allowed myself to stop fighting my feelings.  My self-image began to improve as I got used to connecting with my hips and shaking my body. My anxiety floored me less as I began to speak more kindly to those fearful thoughts, and I lost weight as my muscles grew stronger. Yes, it needs a skillful facilitator. Yes it needs someone who can hold a group space well. But it does not need an expert. It is neither right, nor wrong.  It is personal and private, yet shared in parallel with other people diving deep and returning with their own pearls, at their own pace in their own way.

I decided not to be a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor because maybe I was just trying to make people ‘better’ to feel better myself. I didn’t want to be blank and neutral to enable transference.  I didn’t want to be the ‘bad guy’ in everyone’s story.  It felt murky, and dishonest and uncomfortable.  I felt like a hypocrite.

So now I have TS-Elliot-style, entered through the same gate again, as if for the first time, but this time I have my awareness, compassion and intentions more centred.  Of COURSE I am trying to make it better for myself.  Of COURSE being part of other peoples’ healing journeys is bolstering the point of my own existence. YES, I want to feel less self-loathing and more self-love, and to enable others to do the same, because otherwise, how do we reach our full potential?

Standing in my room to run my dance class on a Monday evening, I feel honest. Big Beats Dance is about offering a totally truthful me in service to the world. It’s clever too.  A total integration of ALL my skills and ALL my training and ALL of my experiences to date.  Just little old imperfect me offering a safe inclusive space, and inviting you to dance.

And guess what?  The only room free for me to run my class on a Monday night in Oxford was a church…and I do love a ritual 😉

May 2016 – Reclaim Your Body

image(images from www.wildchocolateclub.com)

So, I trained in November – and one exercise ‘the story of the body’ dance destroyed me.  It had been the first time that I had ever started at my feet and invited my body to tell me its story.  I was in instant tears of grief. My feet had, allegedly, been with me from birth.  They had played French skipping with elastic in the playground, once in my 20s they had cleverly Flamenco-ed me home from a party when I felt too drunk to walk straight and in my 30s they had spontaneously and without warning walked me out of a house and onto a train away from a relationship. Now, in my 40s they were dancing…sober…

As I travelled in my mind’s eye up to my ankles, shins, calves, knees, thighs, groin, crotch, womb – my grief began to overwhelm me, and my lack of ability to feel or think kindly towards it, or myself began to traumatise me.  I felt an all-too-familiar sense of falling endlessly into despair, spinning out into space, uncontained and lost. I didn’t know any more about my body, because I was no longer in it.  Suddenly, I felt warmth on my back in the middle of my shoulders and realised that Rebecca one of the facilitators had come to me. It reminded me that I was in a body, in a room,  with 7 other women that I did not not know, all deep in their own version of this process, and I was embarrassed – but mainly grateful. I still could not bring my own hand to touch my womb or abdomen.  My repulsion so deep – even though I had grown and water-birthed my beautiful daughter from there – my trauma, whatever that may be, so deep and lodged in this part of me.  People who talk in chakra language would say that these two lower chakras represent the actual ME, physically BEING here, and my sexuality, creativity and sense of self.  I am a living contradiction…a strong creative Aries woman, and a jelly-wreck, scared to be too much, too big, too ANYTHING.

Rebecca put her other hand on my womb – more sobbing – and eventually, I was able to put my hand on top of hers over my own body.  It reminded me of when my parents died – they had died within 5 days (not linked) and so in the funeral directors they were laid out together, and my brave big sister put a hand on each, which I just could not do until she urged me to put my hand on top of hers. What was I so afraid of? A corpse? the sense that the people had gone, and all that was left was a corpse?  Is that how I feel about my own body and my inability to stay in it?

Well, you can imagine why one wouldn’t want to revisit THAT shit again, so when Rebecca and Zoe announced they were running ‘RECLAIM YOUR BODY‘, you can see why I was keen to find out if this was going to happen to me again.

Reclaim my body?? from where? who has it then? do I want it back anyway?

Because I have been running my Big Beats classes now, I have been having to be IN my body – AND standing leading the class.  ME?  So there is no way that I could NOT go to this workshop.  I knew that I would face the same stuff again, and I was afraid. Since this pivotal moment in November, life has been changing. That sort of grief, trauma and panic is impossible to ignore any more, and it would explain my eating disorder, and my mood and anxiety.  So getting closer to it rather than avoiding and ignoring it is painful, and quite rightly bringing up a lot of strong feelings.

I laughed so hard to myself two days before RECLAIM YOUR BODY because I saw Rebecca, my Petrol-head-shaman (click her name for more info) for a consultation in the morning, and drove wildly to get to my appointment with a Psychologist from the weightloss service in the afternoon.  All bases covered!!!

It came to Saturday, and I was READY…to go through this portal again, but this time I was going to GRASP THAT NETTLE, and I was going to LOVE IT – even if it killed me.  With Rose Quartz and a handkerchief in one side of my bra, Labrodorite in the other, I WAS READY…

So we get to this exercise, and the music is exactly the same as before, and I’m a little more acquainted and friendly with my feet, after all – they’ve got me out of the shit? Even my hips have become more fun to know, but try to bring that focus central – to my womanhood in any way, and I begin to heat up and sweat..I can feel it rising again. Rose Quartz surely?  it’s pink innit? I take out my crystals and try and find something soft and kind in myself through the delicate pink of the quartz, and I silently plead with and beseech generations of ancestors and women before me to help me through the incandescence and solidity of the Labrodorite, and I mop my tears with the handkerchief.  And I am beaten…

Just as before, Rebecca appears, I guess she’s ready for this too – and invites me to sit down with her.  I am sweating, crying, ashamed and afraid.  She asks me to sit in front of her, she is sort of, cradling me from behind – and I cannot let go.  She says ” I got ya – it’s safe”, but it is NOT safe. I become fixated on holding my weight off her. Scared that if I relax, my huge body will crush her little body, and she, I and the back-jack will fly backwards across the floor.  I am shaking – now because my core muscles are holding my body in an awkward position somewhere between sitting up and leaning back. And it is poignant… I have waited possibly my whole life for this moment. For someone to see the distress, the grief, the trauma, and not just leave me there in it, all by myself.  For someone little to imagine that they could get their arms around someone big like me and hold that big mess that has no name or title… and when that moment came – I could not take the very thing that I longed for.

It is not that I do not deserve it, but I am afraid of receiving in a straight forward way. I have learned to curb my Eeyore-like statements, and my self-depreciative comments over time. Not because I have stopped thinking or feeling them, but because they make people feel uncomfortable and they are ‘manipulative’ ways of seeking reassurance, support and LOVE. So this whole damn gig about being ‘TOO’something was absorbed early in my life, and I have spent the rest of my years trying to get, strong, funny, competent, self-reliant to make sure that I never need TOO MUCH from anyone. Because why?

I don’t know…I guess I’ll have to keep dancing to find out.

Dance with me?

 

 

 

December 2015 – Shards

6th December 2015

Today I took another step on my journey to letting go…we found a Christmas tree at a car boot sale…and so when home we unpacked the decorations from the loft – and I made a decision that given my 4-year-old’s need to be independent, and who finds it hard to wait, or listen when excited; that it would be unwise to unpack the antique glass,and even more precious – family glass baubles…my sister and I split them when my Mum and Dad died, each choosing one or two of our childhood favourites and then splitting the rest to pass on to our own children eventually.

As she was ensconced in putting lights on the tree, I took myself to the kitchen to re-pack the baubles as I had found their proper and more protective original boxes, but suddenly needed to run upstairs to get the box and go quickly to the loo…

‘You idiot’ I thought as I sat on the loo – you have just left all the baubles on the side,and if she breaks them – it will be your fault for leaving them out. It is too much to expect to a child to leave them alone if she sees them…there was one bauble in particular that I did not want to lose. Then I found myself having thoughts about being too attached to things, things being too symbolic and about the loss and pain of family in all senses.

I came back down and they were safe where I left them, and so I set about bubble-wrapping. So worried about this one special one was I, that I took it to re-pack even MORE safely, and then watched in slow motion as it rolled off the side, bounced once, and then smashed before my eyes…

The floodgates open as I sobbed and sobbed…Christmas, death, loss, money, stories of the past, childhood, family, expectations,pressure, nostalgia, not being able to make anyone’s life better, grief, sorrow…the lot, from FOREVER…and as I sobbed, I heard my voice tell my Love that I had made that happen – I had set it up for myself – sitting on the toilet -to learn – and it hurt…so I let my witchy wild self out – I burned my sage over the broken glass, and I cried, and I let it go – then I cut the ties – and set myself free..again…and I suppose this will happen over and over…but the past is just that…the time is NOW

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November 2015 – Measuring Worth?

26th November

I measure that? The scales…as I delightedly dashed out of bed naked this morning to get my daughter some milk, the real reason was to get on the scales and see more weight loss. After all…look how GOOD I’ve been. I felt uncomfortable as she suddenly followed me, but so strong was my urge to see evidence of how GOOD how HEALTHY how REFORMED , that I got on the scales (feeling shit for allowing her to see me even do this and TERRIFIED of giving her an eating disorder) anyway. To see NO loss…no gain but no loss. And in that moment I was shattered. I had jumped up awake and happy in this new sense of my own health and vitality. Then I tried to quantify it…evidence it. And instead of allowing myself to be free of the scales and just enjoy the spirit of my new life…here I am back in the old behaviours.

So what have I learnt? What can I do now? Now that I am shattered, and fragile and sad? Send love I guess…to the girl who still thinks her success is measured in this way. Who is scared to allow herself to trust her own feelings. Who is still so very very new to doing this differently. ..

And to dance…tomorrow I will attend a dance class as a punter and I will dance the joy back in and dance the grief and fear until I feel reconnected…

The Birth of my movement Movement

New Years Eve 2014 I sat with my dear friend and fellow pilgrim for another round of sense-making and existential/spiritual locating of self and purpose…

Having recently sent her an email with my ‘story of fat’, which I had never really charted before, I was in a tender and sad place with myself following years and years of dieting and gaining weight. I was totally at a loss but what became clear to us was that we couldn’t just keep trying to cut bits of ourselves off…stop…give up…more discipline…try harder…

All that was happening was that we were suppressing ourselves and passions and desires to be more, feel better, live more authentically in the world as ourselves and FEAR was the gatekeeper (and shame for me).

We decided that instead of giving up or cutting out, we should ADD. Add the people or activities that made us feel more whole. More happy. More authentic and true. I vowed that I would save up to do something dedicated to my own body/self love that I could then spread and share with others.

I thought that I was going to do some amazing I-rest training with my dear friend and teacher at http://www.restful.being.com, but as it got closer it began to feel wrong and a chance conversation with another friend about hiring a hall to just DANCE would not leave my head. I stumbled across the School of Ecstatic Movement http://www.ecstatictrancedance.co.uk/teacher_training.html (which sounded completely out-there to me at the time) and just two email exchanges with the director Rebecca Hanscombe, who was so reassuring and containing, convinced me that this was the way forward. To finally face my body. To get into it rather than try and constantly ignore, hate, and escape it.

It was as if my ‘spirit’ knew that this was the way and I began to feel like a passenger in a dynamic and resolute course of actions that followed. Before I knew it and before even doing the course, I had registered as self-employed, booked a room, developed a Facebook page, booked someone to develop a Web page,  bought a domain name and scheduled classes to start the DAY AFTER the training finished.

This blog is dedicated to my journey and to all the people I aim to meet and share it with along the way.

If Big Beats Dance does what I wish for it to, then other people big or otherwise will have the opportunity like me, to open to door to self-acceptance, true connectedness and freedom from shame and fear.

Dance with me?

Until then – I will dance for all of us because I believe that dancing sets us free ☆