“From Stress to Zest” – Life Coaching @ Varndean College

by on January 1, 2014
in Life, NLP, Practices

Smiling-SunI am teaching a really interesting course at Varndean College from Jan 15th. Maybe you know someone who would enjoy and benefit from it?

It is called “Life Coaching” however this is slightly misleading as it actually takes you on a transformative journey from feeling stressed with life to feeling positive and motivated about what is most important to you.

I use an unusual blend of approaches to being at our best including: some contemporary mind-body exercises; traditional coaching methods; a focus on how we eat and sleep; and some neat one-off techniques to change how you feel.

I taught it last term and one student described it as “a quite fabulous course”. Some made quite significant changes in their lives and on the last session everyone reflected about how much more positive they felt about life.

It’s £107 for the ten weeks (and it is me teaching it not Mary Cornell as suggested on the Varndean site).

Here’s a link with more info and booking.

https://www.varndean.ac.uk/?q=adult_ed_course_info&ID=70

Do message me if you’d like to find out more.

Come walking through Butcher’s Wood and up Wolstenbury Hill … geopoetically!

by on May 15, 2013
in General

wolstonbury_hillI am leading a woodland – downland walk near Hassocks on Sunday 2nd June  and it would be great to have you join us. The walk is happening under the banner of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics (Southern branch!) however no knowledge or even interest in Geopoetics is required! It will just be a great walk starting at Hassocks station (east car park) at 10:30 and finishing around 3:30pm. Do click on the flyer below to find the details

The walk will take us through a rich and varied landscape, pausing to pay attention to what ever wonders of human or natural interest capture our attention. I will lead two simple activities – one, where we will experiment playing with some of our filters of perception and maybe experience the wood in a richer way, and two, up on Wolstenbury where we will consider the millenia of interaction between humans and landscape, downland and forest.

As Geopoetics provides the context for the walk, a little explanation! It is a field of cultural engagement with the earth mapped out by the Scottish poet Kenneth White. A short but delightfully intriguing definition of it might be:

Geopoetics seeks a new or renewed sense of world … which is experienced both intellectually, by developing our knowledge, and sensitively, using all our senses to become attuned to the world, and requires both serious study and a certain amount of de-conditioning of ourselves by working on the body-mind.

South Downs Geopoetics Walk border green

It also seeks to express that sensitive and intelligent contact with the world by means of a poetics i.e. a language drawn from a way of being which attempts to express reality in different ways e.g. oral expression, writing, visual arts, music, and in combinations of different art forms.

Do join us …. to have a great day out and to develop our knowledge of a wonderful landscape and use our senses to attune ourselves to the land in interesting ways.

Do comment or email one of the contact email addresses on the flyer if you plan to join us.

Brighton Fringe Festival – Journey to the Core

by on May 4, 2012
in Life, Practices

UPDATE: Due to conditions at the site due to the recent weather this event has been postponed until Saturday 26th May. Do go along I am sure it will be fascinating but I will be out of the country and not be contributing. Gutted about this but c’est la vie!

Just a quick post to draw attention to a Brighton Fringe Festival event that I am involved in where I will be leading a short walking workshop in some of the practices mentioned in recent posts.

I am involved in Brighton Biosphere Project’s ‘Journey to the Core’ on Sat 12th at 1pm, 4pm and 8pm. Catch a Big Lemon bus out to Castle Hill for an introduction to one of the Downs richest ancient grasslands and to Brighton’s bid for recognition as the first UNESCO City Biosphere.

Click the picture for a bigger poster.

I am one of the ‘experts’ contributing a short walk where you get to play with some easy but enriching techniques for experiencing the world through our embodied senses and a ‘know-nothing’ mind – a walk in the country will never be the same.

You can book a ticket here – would love to see you there:

http://boxoffice.brightonfringe.org/event.aspx?evID=4123

I will be using some of the practices that will be explored much more fully in a full day ‘Sensory Earth’ workshop that I am plan to run in July. Watch this space.

Reciprocity – touching body, animal, plant, stone

by on November 29, 2011
in Life, Philosophy, Practices

Take a moment to consciously touch your hands together, alive to the tactile experience. Explore the roughness, smoothness, warmth, coolness, dryness, moisture, folds and bumps. This is not a one-way experience – left hand touches right, feels it, yet simultaneously, in reciprocity, the right experiences the left. Yet they are the same body, the same sense system. Who is touching who? Who is feeling what?

Move on to touch (or imagine touching) another person’s hand – you feel them, in the same way as you did your own. You experience all the contours and textures of their skin and bone, even as they, though this time as another person, experience yours. and they feel you … are consciously and unconsciously aware of you in the same moment.

Touch an animal – feel their warmth, the texture of their hair, the movement of the breathing, their rapid heartbeat. They move, maybe imperceptibly towards you, they feel you, they experience you as you touch them.

Touch a leaf or tree trunk – you feel it, its rough texture, its waxy surface, its coolness. You experience it in your body and in some way it feels you – some plants demonstrate this, leaves curl, they move to respond to the changing light. So different from the animal yet they are part of the tactile world.

Touch a stone, or a hill or mountain- you feel it, its coldness, its chalky crumbly texture, its granite roughness, its stillness. Does it in some ways reciprocate the touch? As you walk barefoot across rocks – imagine the press upwards that greats your every step.

And then play the same game – with sight, with hearing, with smell. Our moist, bright, light-reflecting eyes, can be seen as well as see, they participate in the domain of light, of sight, and not just as external observers. And each breath, is a co-mingling, a participation in an exchange, we draw in the air, with its scents left by other entities, its cargo of chemicals and we change them, absorbing some, adding others, before releasing the breath outwards to be taken up by another person, animal or plant.

I am not for one instant proposing that plants, stones and mountains have a consciousness like we do. But I am at least throwing out the thought for consideration, or atleast as a game to play with, that consciousness is a reciprocity, that the world is a sensuous exchange between all its beings – a gestalt (a system where any action in one part of it effects and changes all other parts) as French philosopher Mearleau-Ponty would say.

David Abrams remarks:

We sense the world around us only because we are entirely a part of this world, because – by virtue of our own carnal density and dynamism – we are wholly embedded in the depths of the earthly sensuous. We can feel the tangible textures, sounds, and shapes of the biosphere because we are tangible, resonant, audible shapes in our own right. … There are ways of speaking … that encourage and enhance the reciprocity between the human animal and the more-than-human land. Yet there are also ways of speech that implicitly deny this conviviality, styles of speech that stifle the spontanteous participation and exchange between our senses and sensuous topography

This is an idea we have scarcely begun to explore. The idea that consciousness is not just what happens in our cognitive mind or even within the somatic mind – in our bodies. It is the idea that consciousness is distributed and that we lose out (so does the earth) and in some way we are less than fully human, if we don’t take time to develop conscious and unconscious practices that reconnect us to the sensuous circuits of reciprocity with the world that have been muted by modern living.

Have a play and comment back what you find …. and there’s more detailed explorations to come!

The Language of Trees

by on August 31, 2011
in Philosophy

I have a degree in Botany …. You can’t even do a degree in Botany now I don’t think. And that education has come to represent the exact opposite of some of the things that are important to me now. I hardly saw a living thing on the course but I learnt how to mash things up and work out how they functioned, and I could write computer programs to simulate gene pool fluctuations in small populations. It taught me little about how to distinguish a rowan from an ash. But much more importantly, it taught me nothing about the whole  immersive sensuous world of sound, smell, mood, change that you experience as you move through the landscape.

For instance, as you approach a stand of tall riverside poplars, their thin branches shimmering, almost like tin-foil in the breeze, sunlight shattered in their lemon-yellow, grey-green, silver leaves, their very presence affects you as you near, they cast their presence over everything for some distance around. And how different to the dark ancient silence around five Scots Pines, grown rugged against the elements on some rocky knoll, somehow you sense, in their presence the resonances of a rich primordial past. Or the line of London Planes planted on London’s South Bank that define the bank of the Thames at that point, setting themselves off against the huge concrete architecture of art and commerce nearby and soothing the movements and conversations of the people beneath them.

Science has almost nothing to say about this lived sensuous world which surrounds us. Not that science isn’t a good thing! It’s not its strengths that I am questioning but its unnoticed limitations and the unseen blindness it introduces in us. And I would argue philosophy. theology and technology work the same way. We become unfamiliar and unskilled in a rich, primary sensuous experience of the world around us and come to treat the abstracted, logical world given to us by our cognitive knowledge, our technologies, even our language as the primary source of reliable information.

The sculptor, Antony Gormley, remarks:

For the past twenty years we have turned from communion with the elements to a fascination with the world of language culminating in the formulation that ‘the definition of the real is that it is possible to provide an equivalent representation’ (Baudrillard). We have fallen into our own reflection into the world of signs which mirror the intellect; for some this is the new nature.

The antidote to this trend must surely be a renewed direct, sensuous engagement with the places we live, and particularly natural places, so that we might once again learn the language of trees, of rivers, of the sea but also of buildings, city squares and old roads.

(This is a short extract from my Greenbelt 2011 talk – which is available for download here)

The Holy Place – Greenbelt 2011 Talk

by on August 15, 2011
in Life, Philosophy

 

I am giving a talk at Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival for the first time this year. Entitled ‘The Holy Place’, it questions, not so much “what we think” but “how we think” and aims to explore some poetic and sensuous thinking that might offer up new resources for us in working out how to live in the current age.

Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers of the last 100 years, argued just after the Second World War, that the three greatest sicknesses facing humanity at that time were:

  • a deep sense of homelessness
  • the loss of God(s) to guide and shape our societies
  • a violence towards the earth inherent in the essence of modern technology

Maybe nothing much has changed … yet rather remarkably Heidegger’s diagnosis of the root of these problems was that we no longer know how to think!

I will open up what he meant by this and then push far beyond it, exploring ways of perception and thinking that might let us experience the world and our place in it in more resourceful ways, wandering far from the motorway of western culture to some lesser know paths of thinking. Most know Nietzche announced ‘that we have killed God’ (and indeed, brought an end to metaphysical sources of meaning and value) but he also cried out, ‘Brothers, remain close to the earth’ as the way forward.

Along the road I will be arguing that:

  • Science doesn’t think, and nor does theology or philosophy
  • Our technology driven world doesn’t give us information overload as much as it hides the fact that we have too little
  • God is not the source of the holy but the experience of the holy might make possible the thought of God
  • Truth is a shimmering moment of encounter with the world – places, things, people, creatures around us – that conceals as much as it reveals
  • One early step to redressing man’s devastating disconnection from the earth may lie more in our senses – sight, touch, smell and hearing – than in our cognitive minds
  • Moomin-pappa was one of the most profound thinkers of the last century

In these days of civil unrest, political bankruptcy, financial crisis, simultaneous religious indifference and fanaticism, environmental destruction, … we have a crying need for quick answers, and yes, we must move swiftly on many fronts. However, I am convinced that there is an equally urgent need to explore less certain roads that may ultimately open up a more grounded sense of homecoming and the holy in the places and communities where we dwell.

If you happen to be at Greenbelt this year – do come along – the talk is in Workshop 2 at 11am on the Monday - I won’t expect you to agree with everything I say, but if I don’t get lynched and can offer up a few resources and avenues for further thought – I will be happy!

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