• helene su

I have been trying to write a blog for a few weeks now, but have felt paralysed from the pain, compassion, anger, shock and incredulousness of the news of George Floyd. I am not one for getting into political conversations, but when the very issue of one’s skin colour is a political statement, it is rather difficult to sit on the fence. Absolutely black lives matter, and all lives matter.

My own racial trauma from childhood experience feels very small in comparison to the suffering of Afro-Americans, Indigenous tribes, Ethnic Minorities and all races who have been and still are persecuted, but it affectedly me deeply for many years. For a long time growing up I experienced constant bullying for being Chinese, and I became afraid to enter into new environments for fear of not being accepted. It felt difficult to trust. At some points it made me question my very self-worth.

And I still get it today. Except today it is more insidious and subtle; when I experience the icy hostility of someone I first meet who does not know me and where it makes no sense, yet there is a clear knowing in my body for the reason, which makes my flesh singe. Fortunately it has been rare, but all the more stark when it does appear.

More recently my parents had been afraid to leave their home, not for fear of contracting Covid-19 but rather fearing the racist attitude from passers by. Nevermind that they have lived in the UK for over 50 years and have not been back to China for more than 5, none the less they are Chinese - where the disease “appeared”. When the virus first broke out it was reported in some French press as a second wave of the ‘yellow peril’.

And then there has been the racism experienced by English friends who managed to leave India just before flights stopped during their lockdown. They had already been there for several months but restaurants were refusing to serve them. After all, the virus was prolific in Europe by then.

Yes there is racial trauma in the collective human psyche, conscious or otherwise. Yet if we could simply take a pause before we think, speak and act in any given moment, there is the potential for situations to change form and transform.

When we pause and cultivate awareness this allows for regulation of our nervous system. Our bodies create a biological response that can alter the frequency of our brain waves, and thus our conditioned thoughts. When we take time to pause and reflect we really have time to make changes. Gosh my life could have taken many different trajectories had I have embraced this realisation in my youth, although of course everything that happens is a great lesson!

When the very ground beneath us feels shaky, then our bodies are all that we have. On this earthly level our bodies are our foundation and scaffolding, our home and hearth, our fire of inspiration and action and our refuge. However if we cannot feel comfortable in our own skin, then how can we trust our bodies to help us move forward in the world and be proactive? And we may despise our bodies for other reasons not skin colour related - too fat, too thin, too stiff, too weak..the list is endless.

By finding our inner anchor, the inner compass within our bodies that give us physical and spiritual connection; and also by making peace with our history and our ancestors, perhaps we can find healing and even celebrate our diversity. It has taken the best part of half a century for me to be proud of my roots and my heritage. But loud and proud I am.

#️⃣racialtrauma #️⃣blacklivesmatter #️⃣chinese #️⃣nervoussystem #️⃣connection

Updated: Jun 16


photo by Domenico Gentile Unsplash


How poignant that right now in the midst of the Covid 19 world pandemic it is Mental Health Awareness Week, which highlights more than ever how we have to choose carefully both where we put our focus (in this case I am covertly referring to ‘the media’) and how we interpret it, to maintain not only our mental stability but downright sanity.

We live in a world of science and statistics; figures on how many new casualities there are, fatalities, millions pledged here, millions lost there, how many speculative weeks and months to the new ‘miracle’ vaccine. .

Our world is traditionally dominated by achievement - aims, objectives, grades, sales funnels and GNP. However, it may now be appropriate to find new goals that are not dependant on the world returning quite to its former self. A time to remember that other world that feeds our Souls – the poetic world of dreams, hopes, aspirations and intentions. Perhaps more than ever before we can find solace in our favourite music, movies and artforms and the creative aspects of our lives. When we open to creativity in our lives we have to employ a different set of skills that traditional education systems deprioritise. Being creative means being open, thinking outside the box, challenging and having new perspective.

There is an old Zen saying:

‘In the beginners mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.’

Having a beginners mind means that we approach things with openness, curiosity and interest. There the alluring ingredient of possibility is thrown into the mix

The Taoists believe in ‘direct knowing’ taking precedence over ‘intellectual knowing’. This means that we listen to all of our five senses and more. Our bodies have a receptivity, sensitivity and intelligence that bypasses our high level cognitive functioning. By listening in deeply to the felt sensations of our bodies we can find a depth of truth and beauty in the present moment, be it the sun smiling on us and warming our bodies, or the sound of the birds singing above us. That is not to say that we should rely solely on our heart and guts to direct our lives; there is a very practical aspect to living from logic but we can embrace both intellectual and intuitive knowing to illuminate our paths.

If you have never tried it, keeping a gratitude journal can bring great rewards. Research shows consistently that practicising gratitude makes one more pro social, have better self esteem, release negativity and experience much higher levels of happiness. [1]

We can shift what feels challenging and difficult into opportunity and adventure, and the shifts can be small and incremental. There is always for example, something to feel grateful for with each waking day, whether it is the fact that you had a warm comfortable bed to wake up in, or you are fully abled enough to be able to physically arise from it.

Sometimes when things are simplified, and external distractions stripped away what is really important in your life become crystal clear and the things that no longer serve you will be released. Pain is very often a catalyst for change.

As we pare down and strip back our lives, it also gives us the opportunity to notice our own outdated beliefs and attitudes. As one friend has described of this pandemic, ‘it is a turning point for the human race.’

Our modern world can make us quite inward looking, and now we have a clear choice to see the world with new eyes and with a bigger lens. No longer focussed solely on our personal needs we are effectively losing some of the importance of our personal self, our ego [2]. I have familiarity with that place of ‘depression’ as so many of us have, and it can be incredibly myopic. Sure we need to maintain daily and regular routines to stabilise the unsteady ground beneath our feet, have focus, stay courageous and orientate towards future goals and growth; but we also have to let go and surrender to the great mystery of life. Rather than only seeking immediate answers we need to look to the bigger questions that are out there.

I will conclude this piece with a quote from one of my personal teachers who turns 100 this year, the amazing Anna Halprin one of the great pioneers to officially recognise dance as a healing art:

‘I've always been an artist. But I'd never connected art closely to life experience until I was stricken with cancer in 1972. That was a big shift for me, because I began to ask all kinds of questions: What am I doing? Who am I doing this for? Why am I dancing? What difference does it make anyway?

Up until that time I essentially used my life to create my art; and then, by asking all those various questions ……I began to shift to using art to create my life.

Making that shift required a lot of different questions and searching for new answers’ [3]

If like Halprin we approach this current world climate with artful curiosity,

what then are the real questions we need to be asking?

Ref

1 https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

2 Nb Definition of ‘ego’ not being psychoanalytic theory specific.

3 Halprin, A. (2002). Interview by T Amorok. Video recording, February 4th, Mountain Home Studio, Kentfield, CA.

c/o Schlitz, Vieten, Amorok (2007), Living Deeply, New Harbinger Publ, CA.



#️mentalhealth #️creativity #️depression #️gratitude #️dance



Updated: Jun 16

#️humanconnection #️mentalhealth #️oxytocin #️quantum

In this last month the unthinkable has become a reality, as around the world we are being confined to spend most of our time in our homes, unable to go about our normal daily lives with the threat of the Covid-19.

As our fast paced yang lifestyle in the western world has been stymied, we have had to become more yin. We have had to stop and take pause, breathe and slow down to reassess what is important in our lives. Life is full of polarities. We have experienced to extreme both the yin and the yang of life.

For those of you who have never be drawn to meditation, in some way it may have found itself uninvited at your door these past weeks, now we have this extended time of confinement. A kind of ‘moving around the house meditation’.

No one said meditation is an easy route. Ask anyone who has done a Vipassana Meditation – a 10 day silent retreat, where you primarily focus on your in and out breath, and reflect on the equanimity of all things. A simple concept, but in practice, possibly one of the hardest things you might ever do.

Once you get ‘used to’ the many hours of sitting a day (personally my body was screaming to move, in this case definitely not mind over matter), there is then the accepted possibility for first timers that halfway through on about day 4 or 5 you will be tearing down the walls, inwardly screaming to get out. This peak then subsides, and in a few days if you are lucky you may have offloaded a few kilos of emotional baggage, to be left feeling lighter and calmer - fairly impressive for 10 days. I did a Vipassana retreat around twenty years ago outside of Bangkok, in a turbulent time of my life, and I have to confess that ten days was not quite long enough for me..

Luckily we are not quite that physically restricted right now. Instead, we have different challenges, dealing with a deep sense of the unknown on many levels with no pre-defined cut off date. However, just like with Vipassana Meditation, the biggest struggle of all is the struggle in our minds, and having to adapt. Rather than place a value judgement on the situation ie of it being good or bad (whilst not wanting to dismiss all the terrible suffering that many have experienced), one could argue simply that our situation is now different. People all over the world suffer terribly on a daily basis, but many of those suffering are often in poorer countries, and their plight is generally given scant attention in the press.

And in this time of social confinement we are realising more than ever the simple things in life that matter, such as the importance of real human connection. Messaging on social media is a valuable but incomparable substitute for human interaction. My sixteen year old has been suffering terribly from the lack of regular face to face social contact (not to mention the prospect of growing up in such an unpredictable world). On the flip side, and there always is one, he has started to take an interest in the garden, noting when is refuse day and developing his culinary skills.

It would be too easy to spiral into negativity and despair about the current situation but our human spirit is much stronger than that. I trust that there are some of you out there who are hopefully and quietly optimistic that a new paradigm is being created that is going to shift humanity’s self-serving and narrow viewpoints. When looking at cancer survivors, Bernie Seigel, a Yale University surgeon started writing about hope as a powerful force for healing and of unconditional love as being the most powerful stimulant of the immune system [1].

Beneath the surface of this lockdown period, there have been many silver linings so far – planet regeneration, unprecedented human kindness, bravery, strength and stoicism – and there may be more miracles to happen yet.

Whilst some of us in total isolation may crave real physical contact, we are not living in a single cell with no light, only being passed bread and water through a hole in the door. The power of the video call means that we can still look into each other’s eyes, the windows of our soul when we speak and raise our levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. In these online connections, we can still share smiles, empathy, listening and support, in short random acts of kindness, which further boost oxytocin levels and release serotonin and dopamine, which calm us, and give us pleasure and happiness [2].

Kindness and compassion in effect create the opposite of stress in our bodies. It promotes growth in the left hand side of our brain and the production of oxytocin plays a role in the wound healing process. Oxytocin also reduces blood pressure and repairs the lining of the blood vessels, which counteracts the micro tears in our arteries that can be caused by chronic stress. In addition practicing compassion tones our vagus nerve, the main nerve in our parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ nervous system [3].

From the quantum perspective the universe is one indivisible, dynamic whole; a complex system of interdependent physical parts and energy fields that communicate with each other, in a sophisticated holistic network [4]. Thus our frequencies can travel far and wide, and as some of us reconnect with old friends and colleagues living far away across the air waves, and connect more with loved ones abroad, we are on some level creating a worldwide distant healing. In my recent zoom dance classes, we have been able to share experiences, frustrations, our hopes and our joy. Physically we may be apart, but energetically we are very much in contact.

And whilst we can’t physically touch, we can still be touched metaphorically. More than ever right now we may feel emotionally touched by the words of a writer, a piece of beautiful music, a performance we see online. If we have access to nearby nature, we can connect with the living plants and trees, put our feet on the ground, and make contact with the earth itself. Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day and I listened to a beautiful meditation that took me to sparkling lakes, snow capped mountains, majestic trees and singing birds. As my heart opened and reached out to honour this beautiful, sacred earth that we need to take care of, my heart field extended far and beyond the boundaries of my small garden where I was sitting and my spirit soared. I did indeed feel a deep sense of connection that travelled far beyond the confines of my body and home.

….

References

1 Dispenza, J, Breaking the Habit of being Yourself, (2012), Hay House, UK

2 www.randomactsofkindness.org

https://www.aifc.com.au/positive-kindness-mental-health/

3 Notes from a talk by Dr David Hamilton, How Your Mind can Heal Your Body, The Isbourne, Cheltenham, 2019.

4 Lipton, B, The Biology of Belief, (2005), Hay House, UK

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