A New Start…

Starting this new blog, I came across a draft, unpublished blog from July 2019. It was for ‘Salt Act,’ a project inspired by Gandhi’s Salt March of 1930, which was eventually supported by Arts Council England through a Project Grant in 2020, with additional support from Metal Liverpool through their Time & Space Residency, also receiving some funding from the Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust.

I never published that research blog, I’m unsure why. But out of the main project, which explored ideas of colonialism, independence, performance and protest through walking, dialogues, deep listening and yoga, and which ended up being documented through Instagram, I’ve reached this point, where I’m exploring the transformational potential of deep listening.

The development research which follows, had it have been successful in capturing the imagination of ACE through the DYCP grant and/or through the recent Liverpool Biennial / a-n commission call-out, would be starting this week, tomorrow in fact. However, the idea wasn’t successful in getting funding through either of those streams (as revealed a few weeks ago for the Biennial and just a few days ago for the DYCP fund), so I’ve decided to continue to build upon my research and see where it takes me.

In essence, the project explores the connection between the practice of deep listening and kombucha brewing, and how this relates to colonialism and decolonisation, all of which will, I anticipate symbolise a progression and shift in my practice.

I feel that, perhaps not getting those pots of funding is a benefit, because now I have more freedom and time to explore and experiment with this and take it at my own pace. And I’m going to be more open minded about it and possibly eschew all the preconceived ideas I had and just literally experiment, to understand and formulate a tighter body of work.

I’ll still bring into the mix all the other disciplines I love as part of this self-funded, self-directed ‘residency’ – sound, moving image, photography etc – and I’m still hoping to form some innovative partnerships around the science of both deep listening and kombucha brewing.

One thing that’s certain, is the joy of taking this process at my own pace (maybe that’s the biggest thing I will learn throughout this process that will create the biggest shift in my practice?), and although I still have the ‘activity plan’ from my DYCP application, in a first for me, somehow I’m a day ahead of myself!

I’ve already booked on a 2 day deep listening essentials course on the 8th and 9th May (more explanation to come) and I’ve been checking out kombucha brewing kits today. I’ve decided, in line with my original plan, that I want to grow my own SCOBY or mother culture from which to brew kombucha – from scratch, so today I bought a few bits of kit; 2 litre mason jar, stick on thermometer, muslin cloth, organic green tea, paddle stirrer, funnel set and I’m trying to find unrefined cane sugar and unpasteurised, unflavoured, raw kombucha starter tea to grow my own SCOBY from.

I’ll talk about the background to all of this, explain what I’m on about and why I can see a connection between all of the things I’m experimenting with and what my interest in them is another time. For now, I just wanted to say hello and announce that I’ve made a new start, that I’m extremely excited – personally and professionally – about where this is going to take me/my practice and that I hope whoever is reading this finds it of interest and can see its metaphorical merit.

I’m looking forward to what I’m going to learn and taking you on this journey with me, and the unlimited possibilities of creating and opening up whole load of new worlds.

To be continued…

 

 


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Day Two, Awareness Centred Deep Listening Online Course…another amazing day full of absolute gems of information. So much, that I need to rest even further to be able to digest everything.

All I can say at this point is always trust your gut. A huge body of work could potentially come out of this. So I need to be recharged and rested to consider everything. But I have, yet again, experienced an opening practice that has such great potential in applying it to my life and my work.

I have learnt so much.

I have left both days of the course on a high.

There is lots of work to do.

I am tired, but happy.

But all is well.


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So, my aim is to grow my own SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacterial yeast – aka the ‘Mother’) to brew my own kombucha, in order to start the journey of measuring the impact of embodying a pure, mind-body connection on my listening…and understand the impact this has on people identifying as unheard, then to see what creative work comes out of that. That was the original plan at least!

Kombucha is a fermented tea like brew, which contains loads of natural probiotics – apparently good for the gut and for achieving a sound mind-body connection. Originating in Northeast China in 220 BC, it allegedly has great healing properties. I first tasted it in New Zealand almost 20 years ago, and remember it to be a very acquired taste, fizzy and a bit bohemian – sold in stores with that natural food smell, if you get me? Fast forward, and in recent years it’s become the latest health fad, currently championed by Gwyneth Paltrow and the like, as well as brewing hobbyists across the globe.

I’m also interested in how it transforms and purifies the gut, but when you’re aiming to grow your own scoby, no-one tells you how difficult it is to get raw, unpasteurised kombucha starter liquid or organic, raw cane sugar to do it with!

So I haven’t got very far on the growing/brewing bit because, just like the transformational process of improving one’s gut, its a process, and I don’t want to rush it. Because that’s how I’ll transform my own way of working. By taking the process slowly. Everything in its own time.

So while the kombucha aspect of the project is brewin’ in my head…I started on the other part of the project:

The Deep Listening.

What type of listener are you? How do you listen? These were just some of the questions posed on the first day of the two day, online Awareness Centred Listening course today, which has left me feeling excited, ecstatic and extremely energised. I’d done a taster session a few months ago and this intensive course run by the Centre Voor Mindfulness in Amsterdam and facilitated by Rosamund Oliver, really gave me the clarity I’d wished for at the first session this morning.

I was one of 15 women on the course – mostly from the Netherlands. As an artist interested in creating positive social change through my work,  I’ve developed an interest in deep listening since my project ‘Salt Act’ last year. I just feel as though if we listened to understand more (and that includes me!), wouldn’t that help us all to connect better? Would the unheard feel cared for and understood? Would we all feel more cared for and understood? Would we learn to understand better and breakdown divisions? Would we have more awareness and time to offer to listen and put well being at the centre of everyone’s lives?

I’m experimenting with this in relation to my own listening capacity and capability, first and foremost, to put all of these questions to the test, so it was really, really interesting to go deeper into what it means to practice ‘pure listening’.

There were practical exercises in the process of ’embodying’ and choosing a listening centre – somewhere in the body to ‘listen’ to the speaker and ‘be present’ from and listen within, techniques in ‘accompanying’ or following the speaker, and exploring ‘awareness’ of ourself in relation to the speaker.

Should we ask questions when listening? Should I nod and make non verbal gestures such as smiling to encourage the speaker in our break-out room exercises? There was so much covered and I was glad of the two hour lunch break that gave me a chance to rest and reflect before the afternoon session on this dull, rainy afternoon, but by the end of the day I did feel it impacted and improved my ability to be there, and be more present when listening – which I really want to make a daily practice, although I am bewildered as to why these kind of communication techniques aren’t taught in schools from a very early age!

There’s way too much to go into here, at this present moment, but there were so many great meditation techniques, insights, concepts and observations about deep listening in todays course that have already sparked joy, further clarity and additional inspiration around ideas for the development of this little self-directed residency of mine – and for current sessions I’m already running, for people who need this type of space to talk and be listened to, so maybe this was the reason the project wasn’t ready for commissioning a few weeks ago?

I’ll write a more detailed account of my thoughts and feedback following tomorrow’s sessions, but sufficed to say I’m very, very grateful and happy that I got to do this course at this time. All that talking and listening is of course, exhausting, but I think this is also a great personal insight of knowing when to take rest (which I don’t always do), when I’m giving time to listening or to workshop sessions. That rest could be transformational for me personally, and for improving my listening so that others benefit, and my relationships with others benefits, to generally feel more connected to people I’m with – both on a personal and professional level.

I ended the final session today telling people in the final break out room exercise of the day that, although I was tired and hungry, I was aware mostly of joy, happiness and gratitude in my body at the present moment. And people listened with genuine intent. And that made me feel cared for. That’s what I’m aiming to achieve with my listening, for myself and others.

So, after gladdening my mind in an end of day meditation, I’ll rest and reflect again now, and look forward to more listening and learning tomorrow.


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