Daring Connection

For a few months now the idea of connection has been spinning. A few concepts have been attempting ascendency. Their want – to remain as consistent lenses for viewing the world through. These lenses tinted by the topics of: Shame, Open hearted state, Vulnerability, Listening, Attention and Intimacy. Merging together they have made a mind soup. Appealing in colour. Rich in flavour. Texture silky with some identifiable and unknown contents awaiting discovery therein. It’s the after taste of umami, that has my head to the side – questioning…

Vulnerability – Intimacy
A counselling conversation recently, wandered close to the cliff edge of danger, curiosity and discovery. Most do. My hope with the below is that I can summarise and offer some of what was covered. Many of the counselling engagements I have throughout my working week pull and stretch understanding along a range of different paths. We were observing vulnerability as a component of being with others/another. That being amongst a space of vulnerability, is ultimately a goal often ventured but not soon realised. My mind turbo charged – whispered ‘but what of intimacy?’

Attention Deficit
I shared my understanding of the world’s lurch toward certainty and attention with the client. When the opposite of attention, offers just as many outcomes and rewards. As likely to resolve a few human wants. I’ll share my basic understanding. We have a world focused on assessing and evaluating what can be made use of. What can be managed safely. If there is profit or gain. What can be left, lost or discarded. Veering wildly away from risk. Presenting the unknown unknown as problematic, unchartered and dangerous.
In Narcissus is Us, I wrote about the draw of hiding behind a mobile device that offers the promise of connecting with others, but increasing a feeling of separation and loneliness. Our detriment. By venturing an unknown, new learnings, experiences and appreciations can be gathered. Are these encounters not as valuable as the ones we know and expect?

Switch Tracking
Attention can be useful. By becoming aware of global issues, we can ask ourselves and others difficult questions and be willing to listen for answers. Humanity is curious by nature. Often we want to find reasons for things working the way that they do, or not. We can then find possible solutions. Alternatively flicking between a number of sources, to entertain ourselves is often the outcome of our attention being used. I wonder at what cost?
Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’, offered a useful interpretation of where our global attention is affixed. Our ‘seeing’ a range of images, stories, videos, links to sales and profit for an elite few. Attention is a way of being used to support financial reward for companies globally – not us, the user.

Capturing Hope

Pause for Cause
My interest here is what are we losing, or have already lost? Could our attention deficit cause disconnection? Would we be aware of this trend? The CoViD19 pandemic, the global racial reckoning after the public murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the rise in technological dependency and entertainment, potentially may have instigated a turning away from trusting relationships with each other and specifically within ourselves.
Use of telecommunication devices such as: Google Meet, MS Teams, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp Video Call, Apple’s FaceTime, offer a semblance of remaining in contact with and a newer way of connecting with others. I wonder if “the being with” is the same? Is there an unknown component being lost? In my case, living on a different continent to those I support. I am dependent on mobile communication and working agilely. Does convenience increase or decrease contact?

Vulnerability
I will use Brené Brown’s counsellor’s words to begin this part of the discussion. Vulnerability is both *exfoliatingly excruciating and **excitingly exquisite. Vulnerability is similar to walking a tightrope across a canyon. There is both risk and beauty to be had in both. To know that there could be pain attached to being vulnerable, can make us less willing to share much of ourselves.
There could also be a wonderful sense of release, relief and resuscitation with letting go – the armour and shield.
When we are in a place that we feel is safe enough. That the company we keep can bear witness to our vulnerability. We can get to the next more pleasing experience of being with, with less distance, less fear more empathy and a sense of being held.

Nurturing Touch

Opening
In last years post On Shame I placed emphasis on how to use shame to support growth. Both Hilary Jacobs Hendel and Brené Brown in their books, and interviews, share what living in an open-hearted way, looks and feels like. Another perspective of what learning arrives once Brown’s and Jacobs Hendel’s work takes root. We become engaged with the possibility of daring greatly, being compassionately congruent, and living within the scope of intimacy.
The idea of engaging consistently in an open-hearted way, presents challenge. Would we be able to, with the world sliding towards the solipsistic? I wonder what do we gain from the pretense? That a me-centric view of the planet has us on course to irreparably damage ourselves and the biosphere we inhabit. A rise in mental illness could illustrate that the construct of the world we are living in, is unhealthy. Perhaps there are other ways to be in the world?

Dive
Of late my concerns are about the bare-naked truth of limited interaction with others. Telecommunication has limits. Hearing and seeing, can be experienced from afar. But what of the sense of felt presence of being in the same space/room with another, with others? What happens to the intimacy of non-verbal communication? The hand gesture that is not seen as a result of the glitchy nature of WiFi, or the LAN cable disconnect, power outage?
My client wondered if vulnerability was similar to a person going for a swim at their local swimming pool. Bathing suit on. Walking out carefully along the mid level diving board. Bouncing up and down. In full view of everyone else, but not piking and diving into the pool. Vulnerable yes. Intimate not yet.

Clay Hands

Listening
To experience unity and no degree of separation, the pool into which we dive is to be receptive. We were vulnerable bouncing up and down on the diving board. We move from vulnerability to intimacy when we leap forward into the pool. The water, willing and able to embrace us well. With the capacity to support if we were poor swimmers. The want to be intimate and vulnerable with others is linked to the spaces and people with whom we could share our tenderness and theirs.
If the listening environment is primed and ready to accept, hear, understand, sharing will be an easier happening between those in the room/space.
A few examples of altered listening were provided whilst I was training to become a counsellor/psychotherapist. We were asked to share a story with another student sitting opposite us. Who showed obvious signs that they were not paying any attention to what the storyteller was saying. Yawning, feigning sleep, mouthing the words this is so boring. I witnessed one student, stand and walk off! The vibe of these encounters felt uncomfortable for both the teller and the listener. A listening environment, in time becomes as valuable to a personal exchange as the “what” is shared in those spaces.

Unity
Intimacy being the submersion. The hitting the water. Pushing up from the bottom of the pool. Bubbles. Breaking the surface. Gasping. Ejecting water from the mouth. Treading water. Feeling the cool. Spreading fingers and swishing the water in full play. Swimming the full length of the pool.
Intimacy then, is bringing oneself into an experience of being with. Recognising self as separate from and yet being willing to fully commit, engage and be for however long enmeshed and inside of. Willingly being embraced and held by that other. Looked after by many trusted others. And you them. Intimacy is an act of trust. An act of faith that they, you, can exist as a oneness. Separation the umami taste of the soup. Within an intimate encounter, an ingredient that aims to dissolve union. Or possibly to enhance it.

Pixel Balance

Algorithm
To move from distrust to intimacy, I wonder what the way of growth would be? Distrust, Dislike, Disappointment, Ambivalence, a positive experience, many positive experiences, Questioning throughout, Acceptance of what is, Testing self, Testing others, Failure and willingness to starting again – many times, Independence, Pauses, Building Resilience, Empathy, Compassion, Disciplined hope, Trust, Vulnerability, Intimacy…?

Event Horizon
The path I propose to intimacy would likely be non-linear. My guess would be that the journey would be with a number of restarts from various positions listed above. I believe at our core, we seek connection and are excited by the prospect of being intimate (honest, open, collaborative, risking vulnerability) with others. 2020 was a beginning of a different way of living for many on the planet, perhaps there is another pull, daring us towards –  

Resources
The Anthropocene and all that is to be discovered in an ever changing human/non human landscape are subjects that Ayana and Dr. Bayo sit down to discuss. Dr. Bayo conjures in discussion with Ayana, a plethora of viewpoints through which to learn, question and revisit our understanding of spaceship earth.
Masterpieces and Messes with Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds observes the up and down nature of discovery, loss, heartbreak and getting suspended from school for doing the right thing! A wonderful dance to listen to.
Mistakenly Seeking Solitude uncovers a long-held myth. Being by oneself, holding oneself in abeyance does not make us happier, talking to strangers does. Dr. Laurie Santos with guests explain.
Maya Shankar uses this podcast to investigate how significant events in hers and her guests lives leads to break through’s discoveries and successes. Failing can lead to break down and break through and intimate connection.
For the Wild podcast with Ayana Young and Dr. Bayo Akomolafe
Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds
The Happiness Lab – Mistakenly Seeking Solitude with Dr. Laurie Santos
A Slight Change of Plans – Meet Maya Shankar in Conversation with Michael Lewis

Images
Inspired by Connection
Cover Photo Light rays by Federico Beccari on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo Hands on Trees by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
BW greeting Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Fist bump Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash
Potters Wheel Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Face Photo by Paulius Andriekus on Unsplash

*Exfoliatingly (Excoriatingly works too) was not used. It is an addition.
**Excitingly also was also not said by Brené Brown’s counsellor. This too is an addition.

Slowing

I have already begun thinking ahead to what the year to follow will be about for me and the blog. From 2018 -2021 a commitment was made to write regularly. My lightning quick imaginings and hard to capture thoughts have been ensconced in lengthy word paper and bubble wrap.

Then ‘ta da’ – presented.

To you.

Snow Laden Roads – Go Slow


The past few years have been eventful. Police killings, an uncontainable pandemic, sporting events mislabeled 2020 even though they they were held in 2021. The statement then – mild.

Horses
For me there has been a mix of enjoyment at being able to work with a lot of energy to write a blog a week. There has also been a degree of anxiety and low mood. I too was surprised by the low mood. November’s Willfully Unseen series of shorts – a challenge to embrace fully. When given time to explore topics at length, the risk is to be emotionally pulled along. The writer left to make an unwelcome decision, either chase after the horse or lead the charge.

Tonnage
At times sitting down to write, has felt like a significant weight to lift or pull. There has been no request placed upon me to pen away without tiring. The awareness for me has been of not wanting to disappoint by not show up for readers of this blog. Some topics this year have caused an internal struggle. Others were a joy. The mini projects and tasks set for myself, mostly complete.

Proclamation
For 2022 I will be writing at least one new piece a month rather than once a week. I have a few other projects on the boil that require attention and incessantly tap on my shoulders, as they too also need completing. I won’t detail them all here but a big one – transition my UK qualifications to an equivalency to be able to provide counselling/psychotherapy in Ontario Canada.

With over 200 pieces written since 2014 I also want to spend time re-editing and re-writing a few blogs as I feel some are in need of updating or refreshing. These too I will repost.

Winter’s Web

Tilt
The New Year often brings with it a sense of agency, urgency and enthusiasm to have things completed as quickly as possible. Inevitably we lose sight of both. The goals and our sense of energy. Turning good will, into a vessel waning and listing in hope.

Plod
Perhaps in 2022, we (you and I) can go slower, purposefully. The aim to safely arrive to where we are headed. CoViD19 as much as we would like the disease gone, may continue to affect ‘normality’ for a few more years yet. Maybe by slowing we notice more and reflect on what is important for us to invest our time, finally.

Thank you for journeying with me and for showing interest in my musings. I have appreciated the comments and feedback offered.

Resources
There are a number of reasons that we should at times slow down and think again, in the article attached of Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores the benefits of slow thinking.
In the Revisionist History podcast below, I enjoyed Malcolm making sense of his reactions to decision making. He has an uncanny way of surprising the listener causing laughter in this episode.
The conversation between Brené Brown and Adam Grant is another to invite introspective thought on what we think we know and what we understand of our world. Thinking again is possibly a new approach to life in this millennium.
Daniel Kahneman is interviewed by Shankar Vedantam on NPRs Hidden Brain, where Fast and Slow thinking are reviewed for our overall health and wellbeing.
Hidden Brain Slow Down
Revisionist History – Hamlet Was Wrong
Dare To Lead The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know
Hidden Brain Think Fast

Images
Cover photo Amber by Giulio Del Prete on Unsplash
S Bend photo by Victor Ene on Unsplash
Spider web photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Nomadland: A Review

This Blog is a review of the above named movie. There is a piece of writing that I am currently struggling to thoroughly unravel and find the blog’s tap root. I offer the review of Nomadland as a way to break ground. The aim, find a way to engage with an idea that adds to the psychological plethora I have been toiling with for the past few weeks. I say this as much to myself as I do to you, I will get there!

Dawn Dance
I was not enthused to watch Nomadland. Asked by my brother-in-law KW to attend a weekend afternoon’s showing at The Westdale a small independent Cinema in Hamilton, Ontario. I held misgivings about what I was invited to see. I felt confused as I watched Fern (Frances McDormand) travel North America in her van. We join her, at the start of the film, in a packing plant for Amazon. Fern’s life does not resemble mine in many ways. Single, White, no dependents, a retiree, a home on the road, no family or discernible sense of belonging. Fern dances a line. Watching her ‘slow shoe shuffle’ is what begins to draw me in.

Slow Ride
I spent a few moments discussing the movie with my friend Anne Willoughby. Who helped me fashion a few of my thoughts that this piece of writing springs from. The movie feels like a meditation on modern living. Asking questions about the pasts we have forgotten or sailed past. Chasing after the next big shiny offering. Pretending to give us chance to step outside of the speed of time passing so quickly. I often take a look around me whilst watching a movie. To note art’s impact on others. Fern’s demographic looked on, unaware of my watching of them, watching her.

Sense From This
Nomadland is beautifully shot. The sense of space, peace, human loss, tragedy and connection are all minced together within an unfamiliar story arc. The movie invites us to imagine a life on the road. What would it be like meeting people in chance encounters and wondering about them and about ourselves. The sparseness of Fern’s experience with the landscape, appears cold, beyond touch, are somehow vaguely familiar. A reminder of the distance we also have traversed with the pandemic. Just like us, Fern is not finding a happy median in which to settle down inside of and curl up and go to sleep. No, life is much more complex and rich when shaken as hers has been. As ours continually are being. When I think about Nomadland a little more, I relate to a life outside of the ordinary. The movie does not offer us a resolve of the wanderlust or the need to settle and peer bond. There is only the vastness of space, a pressing need to experience life and make some sense out of existence.

Nearly
What Anne helped me realise is that we are all in many ways struggling with self concepts given to us from family, life scripts that we discern are either worth having or spilling away from, and societal ideas of how we ought to behave. With Fern, she has found a way to live her own life, in as honest and as complex a way as she finds fitting. One moment of the film shreds my understanding. The unquestioning of what I have held up as a life goal. That of settling. Finding a place, a person, an experience that one calls mine, ours and is home. Fern veers near experiences that could have been capable of containing, constraining or holding her. Her Sister, the friend, her old home with the distant hills. Yet all were of naught compared to the unknown of the open road and the next experience.

Mountainous

Fluid
If we could remain continually aware or open to the experience of the unknown, being unstuck, unsettled, often with a beginners outlook on life, forgetful of life’s bitterness and disappointments, we would have the potential to be as flexible, as released as Fern. The sense of freedom could be fear provoking. Stalling many from peering over the horizon to what is to happen in the beyond. Fern was willing to make what she could out of her experience of life on the road. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and The Famished Road by Ben Okri, offer a loose frame for me to unpack Fern’s opening up to the encounters a Nomadic life bring.

Memories
I appreciate the movie’s sparseness. The harsh reality of not knowing what tomorrow may deliver, the random encounters the land showers her with, and the friends and acquaintances that are hewn from the occasional meetings and separations travel can present a lone nomad with. I initially thought the movie was going to be a total waste of time. I am glad that my initial ideas were thoroughly uprooted and tossed! I sat engaged with a simple premise yet challenging perspective to fully appreciate. Nothing is pre-determined. We are all making it up as we go along and very little can be controlled. Nomadland will be a film that stays lodged in my memory as a gentle reminder of firsts – A courageous move to Canada during a Pandemic by my family and I, connecting with a vibrant community of Black Mental Health practitioners in Ontario, Canada, experiencing snow fall, like I was lost in the mountains. To be experienced next for us is, a North American Halloween, Winter, Thanks Giving, and New Years.

An Open Road: Fall

Everywhere
The last line of the movie the one that haunts me still, is an interpretation of Maya Angelou’s famous quote ‘If you are from no where you belong everywhere’. It is the truth, the honesty and the realness of the quote, Maya’s wisdom, Fern’s onwards journey and the road we are all now on. With ever present threats of new world crises. All that we are, ultimately, are our experiences…

Resources
Jason Wilson speaks at length with Joe Rogan on his podcast about growing up. Learning how to be a man who is able to express and talk about his feelings and not cower from them no matter how frightening or terrific they may be. Jason talks about his new book Battle Cry and the journey within, we all could take.
The Trailer for Nomadland offers a brief window into Fern’s simple and yet complicated life.
Sharing Brené Brown’s interviews with her guests is a wonderful interpretive experience for me. Both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us provide chance to listen to leaders who engage in thought that shapes and change worlds. Amy Cuddy coined the phrase Pandemic Flux Syndrome which I feel fits with some of what Nomadland explodes.
I read Ryan Holiday’s ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ a few years ago. I was facing an ongoing set of challenges both professionally and personally. Listening to Tim Ferris go in deep with Ryan on his podcast, I picked up on the strongly suggested idea that I read his work on living stoically. The Book has helped to make meaning from misadventure.
Joe Rogan Experience with Jason Wilson Battle Cry
Nomadland Trailer
Brené Brown with Amy Cuddy on Dare to Lead Podcast
Ryan Holiday 4000 mile Road Trip

Images
Cover photo City by Night by Abdullah Konte on Unsplash
Open Road photo by Marcelo Quinan on Unsplash
Road and Mountains photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash
Fall leaves photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

The 1st Man Talk

7 men on stage all talking about their individual experiences of life loss and mental illness.
The men included
Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician Dulwich Dons,
Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone,
Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach,
Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor
and Leon ‘Sweets’ Lewis @SweetsLewis

When I found out about the event, thank you Eddie, I was at first intrigued. I knew little of the people who were going to be speaking at The Man Talk. But this did not derail my interest.

Finding a queue outside Brixton Ritzy mostly with men from the Diaspora standing, waiting, talking amongst themselves, greeting each other, shaking hands, fist bumping, head nodding and laughing was a welcome sight to behold. I usually see something similar of this relaxed nature at one of the prisons I support as the men travel to or from their activities to their wings.

Here though there were no prison officers. Patrolling, expectant, ready, making small talk with themselves or with some of the men housed at this prison. The scene was light and celebratory not couched for things to go off or tense.

I looked on and waited. Hoping to get a seat soon. My 6’2” frame groaning for respite leaning on my adjustable cane, we stood and waited for close to an hour. Eventually the doors were loosed and patiently the assembled group of men ambled with reverie into the cinema.

I found a seat near to the end of a row. Most had come with friends or people they knew. If Ade was still here I would have gone with him. The evening began with a welcome and a brief greeting with people sat beside me, in front and behind that added to the sense of camaraderie amongst the audience. The Man Talk began with Leon Sweets Lewis introducing what we the audience were in store for. His informal beginning allowed the assembled panelists to introduce themselves and their reasons for why they felt The Man Talk was important.

Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Spoke about the soon arrival of his first child, being sent to prison for a period and wanting to get to a train platform… Terrol became more impassioned the more he spoke about his mission that almost never was. The train platform experience was a moment that he came close to bringing his life to a premature end.

Inside Brixton Ritzy at the Man Talk

Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Talked about not finding his purpose and being lost and close to being broken. Finding his path with personal training and getting fit and supporting others to do the same.

Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician, Dulwich Dons talked about his known and unknown personal stories, encountering loss, finding himself between a number of different worlds that include Music Football and his community. Wanting both to succeed and support family and friends.

Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone held nothing back. Paul introduced himself with the story of losing his father to suicide. A pin drop moment for me. It brought the audience and me to the edge of our seats. From Paul’s conversation the TALK became REAL and the objective of why we all were sat, listening and witnessing was made evident. The Campaign Against Living Miserably  

Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach, the elder statesman of the room shared aspects of his story. He is a voice coach, singing mentor and has supported numerous X-FACTOR contestants to perform well. Xavier discussed becoming a life coach after sharing his insights with friends and putting his skills coaching singers and performers to shine. XTLC was launched as a new concept for him from that point going forward. Xavier also shared about the death of his mother which completely caused him to shut down and function. When he returned home he cried for his sense of loss. Xavier mentioned that his loss was profound because of his connection with her.

Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor story was different. He began by sharing with the crowd that he was a Ghanian and his dream of becoming an American citizen was upended by 2 things. 1st his financial organisation changing their hiring policy of foreign nationals and America’s new immigration policy. The dream he had built up in his mind was over and he had to rethink his goals and dream fast.

I felt inspired by what I witnessed at The Man Talk and want to start a Men of the Diaspora therapy group. The feeling is that something positive that tackles toxic masculinity has started. Potentially men talking about shame pain being hurt and loving is essential for how men process and see themselves. With a fresh perspective and with new imaginings. Not with the tropes of old that states that men are 2 dimensional, simple, unemotional monoliths inflexible immature and bullish.

All panelists were humorous, honest and humble.

All of the men on stage presented a good argument, a representation for men to talk, listen and to be seen in similar ways with others. The Man Talk was a window into vulnerability and honesty. What would that be like for family and friends to experience? To See?

The 2nd talk is scheduled for June 19th and I am not able to attend. What I am confident about are a number of outcomes.

There will be other ‘The Man Talks’ and the ripples will affect how men relate to themselves, and the communities they move amongst.

Other groups will begin holding other men focused talking experiences.

Some already do.

Something important has begun and I am excited by what more is to follow.
Resource
Dope Black Dads Podcast https://soundcloud.com/dopeblackdads/episode-4-co-parenting

I am interested in knowing what you all think about my blogs/writing, when you can, can you complete this survey monkey questionnaire https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.