A Commitment

In Spring I began to question. I questioned my ideas: Is this a good idea? Is this useful and helpful right now? My decisions: Someone else will come up with a better decision, right? And my instinctive thoughts: Is this the right thing to do in this moment? Is this the best thing to say? I began to reflect how stopping to question, even if for a moment, was making me miss the moment. An opportunity would float by, a magical moment would fade and a creative idea would be put back in its box. I was working less instinctively and with less confidence and as a result I was blocking my creative ideas.

When I reflected on this I realised it had gradually been building over a few months and when traced back, discovered its beginning coincided with the end of the intergenerational project We Danced. The confidence, connection and trusting of my own instincts which had built during the project (see blog post here) due to weekly contact and exposure with residents in the care homes was thinning. Having regular opportunity to practise being present and in the moment, ready to receive and react to what’s given in the room and making it work (like an episode of Ready Steady Cook: “We’ve got a yellow pepper, a tub of raisins, a tin of corned beef hash and 6 leeks…”) was a dream project. To suddenly stop working in that environment was to no longer practise that way of working. In order to keep fresh and alive all that had been gained, it needed maintaining and practising. And I wasn’t practising. I was also amazed to notice the ripple affect the ending of this project had on other areas of my creative practise.

Flash back 3 years. In July 2016 I was in Mexico City for a family wedding and took myself off into the mountains to attend a 4 day workshop called Theatre as a Personal Rite. The workshop was led by Nicholas Nunez, who in 1975 founded the Taller de Investigación Teatral / Theatre Research Workshop (TRW) at the National University in Mexico City (UNAM) which researched in the fields of both theatre and ritual. Among many insightful and profound sayings Nicholas had were these two which stayed with me:

Animo! = meaning high spirits in Spanish (must be said with high spirit and delivered with an accompanying action of the hands hitting together and one shooting forwards in a direct line). After the workshop I took this back to the wedding and enjoyed saying it with my sister-in- law as there aren’t many words shared confidently between us due to our language barrier.

Swimming in the Source = to me this can be interpreted in numerous ways but ultimately means the same thing: being present, in the zone, zoning in, zoning everything else out, feeling connected to yourself and ‘it’, in the flow, trusting ‘it’ and you, saying YES, going with it and so on. When one is swimming in the source one does not decide to stop but remains immersed until it naturally finds an end. Whether a few minutes, an hour or a day it is being true to your instincts and allowing new discoveries to happen. There will be a mass of writing in existence about this by artists, creatives, academics etc who will article and write in much clearer detail and depth, these are just the reflections and ramblings of one soul. The joy of knowing there is deeper analysis out there is that one day I get to dig, discover and find it.

When I arrived at the workshop I was finishing a book called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A story that follows a young shepherd boy called Santiago, who after having a recurring dream which a fortune teller interprets as a prophecy that he will discover treasure at the Egyptian pyramids, sets off in pursuit to fulfil the prophecy and along the way meets the alchemist. Coelho writes about trusting the elements and if you send good energy into the universe, you will get good energy back; “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” And listening to your heart which the main character Santiago learns and practises throughout his journey:

“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked.
“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure.” 

As a spiritual being and believer in energies and the positive power they house, Coelho’s writing resonated with me, giving me a feeling of connection beyond myself. To say the least I loved the book, which is why my partner gave it as a gift knowing I would enjoy it, it being one of his favourite books. Since then I’ve daydreamed about the story and its messages but only reflected in detail now writing this. I finished reading minutes before our introductory session at the workshop with Nicholas who talked about swimming in the source and feeling connected. The timing felt special. This was my third visit to Mexico but my first solo adventure. I wanted to connect with this place, to feel the embrace and warmth of a home rather than seeing through someone else’s eyes and talking with someone else’s voice. This was the time for me to feel connected in Mexico. In that workshop with the wonderful people I shared my time with. And I was swimming in the source.

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.”

– Paulo Coelho


Back to 2019. In Spring I had begun to swim outside the source, or doggy paddle in it, and I did not feel connected to myself as an artist and creative individual. There were still magical moments and successful sessions (whatever that means) as evident in this piece of reflective writing from a session I delivered at Deda Dance Centre in Derby in March:

“Gorgeous class, everything worked really well. I was swimming in the source, connected in the moment, working instinctively, trusting myself and those around me. The best possible situation to be in”

However in general there was a heaviness that had descended and I could feel I was not being true. Not present. And I decided it needed to change. I identified the areas to work on and wrote myself a contract. Exciting stuff I know! I jotted down ideas, some were instinctive, others I read in books, some I stole from conversations with friends and peers and others I memorised off my yoga studio wall. This commitment will change over time as I continue to grow and develop and place emphasis on different areas, but for now here is my 2019 commitment:

I will…

      • trust my instincts
      • acknowledge my self worth and value that self worth
      • be kind and nurturing of myself and my ideas within a creative process
      • rid myself of my fear of abandonment, fear of failure, fear of being seen and fear of stepping into my full greatness

I will…

      • be open, patient and considerate to new ideas 
      • not place judgement or negativity on a new idea 
      • take action on new ideas either through discussion or physical action 
      • aim to be fully open and swimming in the source 

I will…

      • aim to regularly undertake CPD 
      • continually look for CPD opportunities 
      • aim to regularly network with other artists, practitioners and industry peers 
      • continually look for opportunities to network with other artists, practitioners and industry peers

I will…

      • take fulfillment from my work, projects and all aspects of my life in equal measure
      • not seek all my validation for my identity through my work
      • not worry about money and earnings 

Publishing this blog post has reinforced the commitment to myself. I don’t see me coming back to it regularly but it’s there for if I feel I’m starting to veer off course again. I also decided that since this commitment was necessary from when I stopped delivering in care homes, I should start delivering in care homes again. Working with older adults and adults with dementia is part of my creative identity and I wish to maintain regular contact in this area. In summer I started delivering again, however as a solo artist. Working solo is a new experience which offers different challenges but I’m able to take my experiences from the We Danced project and others, and filter the best bits of learning in order to deliver creative sessions to the best of my ability and knowledge. Solo but stronger.

The advantage to working independently is the removal of fear of judgement. In the run up to leading a session on the We Danced project I might count down the days, flick through my diary checking how many were left for prep and panic time. What a waste of time. And energy. The purpose of team collaboration is the fantastic support provided to one another (I wrote in detail about this on the previous blog post) but unfortunately that worry that my ideas weren’t good enough would loom into and consume my free time and thoughts (of course a session was never affected by this, same as a performance).

Despite the new difficulties delivering solo, I have no nerves prior to a session. I turn the page in my diary to check what’s in store for the week ahead and – ‘oh yes, I’ve got a session in that care home tomorrow, brilliant’. This says a lot about me. If only I was committed to trusting my instincts and believing in myself more? Oh wait, isn’t there a line in my commitment about that? ‘I will: trust my instincts & rid myself of my fear of abandonment & fear of failure’

Guess I needed to check it sooner than I thought. As they say rhythmically on Strictly Come Dancing I’ll Keeeep Practising!..