Poetry slam

Winter nights sees me pretty much grounded for their duration, and with each year that passes the need to get active after them, becomes ever more apparent. Getting out and about keeps me physically and emotionally better, and attending the Headingley Literature Festival each March is often one of my first Spring evening jaunts.

LS6 always seems to buzz but the festival gives it that extra vibe. The programme of events is always extensive and varied, many events are free, of those that aren’t, they’re reasonably priced. This year’s theme was ‘Something Else’, and concludes on April 2nd  with, ‘Own Your Words’ …advertised as a poetry slam, see details here.

So far I’ve only managed to attend one of this year’s events, this too was also billed as a poetry slam, and named, ’One City – Many Voices’. For an entrance fee of £4 we were entertained by the internationally renowned poet, Lemn Sissay.Lemn Sissay

I’m not sure when the slang use of the word ‘cool’ became so commonplace. I don’t recall it being used in ‘my day’, and don’t feel comfortable saying it, BUT writing it occasionally seems expressive?,,,,Lemn and his performance were….. cool!

The word slam in ‘poetry slam’ is also slang, but this too I find expressive. It was used initially to describe a competitive poetry event, and was coined by Bob Holman. ‘a poetry activist and…slammaster’ who called the movement “the democratization of verse”…..he also said

The spoken word revolution is led a lot by women and by poets of color. It gives a depth to the nation’s dialogue that you don’t hear on the floor of Congress

The ‘One City – Many Voices’ poetry slam wasn’t competitive, but those who performed alongside Lemn were a group of talented wordsmiths from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They were pupils of Leeds City Academy and Ralph Thoresby High School.  The flair and conviction of their words was astoundingly good. The young people had been coached by local writer and poet Michelle Scally Clarke.

Michelle told us how when younger, she’d struggled academically because of her troubled life, but she liked writing poetry and after sending some to Lemn, he’d encouraged her to continue. Ms Scally Clarkes’s performance, and presence were impressive. The Academy’s, Head of English, was an equally animated and motivational speaker, he spoke of the personal hurdles he’d overcome to be so. The teacher told us of his difficulties with a speech impairment and shyness when young, and then when older in a southern University, he’d faced ‘teasing’ for his Northern accent. I’m sure his and Michelle’s commitment and mentoring skills were a huge factor in the pupils finding their words and voice.

Most of the young performers displayed a confidence, beyond their years, they recited forthrightly, the young compere was dynamic and as an introduction demonstrated his moonwalking. The focus of the students poetry topics revealed many difficulties in their personal lives, they were angry at injustices they’d faced, but this seemed to spark the passion to expose it.

Though I like performance poetry, my preferred way of ‘hearing’ poetry is to read it silently to myself. Poets performing their own work however are most likely best able to add the nuance, or inflection which conveys their intended message. Lemn is a charismatic performer and he described writing poetry as ‘playing with the spirits’, that point alone inspired me to write about the poetry slam. Hopefully we who only listen to or read it, get to commune with them too.

Of the poems Lemn read, the following one stayed with me, as it spoke of the rejection he’d suffered. The poem also illustrates how when we’re a child, what it’s like to live in the land of ‘giants’ who sometimes get perplexingly angry. It was clear Lemn wrote the poem from experience but it wasn’t until after the event I found out just how difficult his childhood was. I also discovered that he’s an MBE, and whereas I claim letters before or after someone’s name mean little to me, I might have felt a little shyer inviting him to a World Poetry event elsewhere, or about his fee! Lemn, as the cliche goes, appeared to have ‘no edge’ and graciously, whilst not exactly accepting the invite, managed to appear not to rule it out.

Though childhood rejection wasn’t an obvious contributory factor in my angsty youth, it’s something many experience at some time, either as children or adults. Making it easy perhaps to identify with the boy in the poem who was misunderstood, and imputed with wrong motives.  It is only as an adult, and lately, that I’ve come to recognise the insidious ways certain groups are marginalised. If we find ourselves amongst them, choosing to re-frame the experience, see it as an advantageous place from which to act, gives the freedom to draw up inspiration from ‘that wellspring of creativity’.¹

Suitcases and Muddy Parks by Lemn Sissay

You say I am a lying child I say I’m not you say there you go again

You say I am a rebellious child I say no I’m not you say there you go again

Quite frankly mum I’ve never seen a rebellious child before and when my mates said jump in that puddle and race you through the park (y’know, the muddy one) I didn’t think about the mud.

When you said why you are dirty! I could feel the anger in your voice I still don’t know why. I said I raced my mates through the park. You said it was deliberate. I said I didn’t I mean I did but it wasn’t. You said I was lying, I said no I am not. You said there you go again.

Later in the dawn of adolescence it was time for my leave

I with my suitcase, social worker,

you with your husband, walked our sliced ways.

Sometimes I run back to you like a child through a muddy park, adult achievements tucked under each arm, I explain them with a child-like twinkle, thinking any mother would be proud…

Your eyes, desperately trying hard to be wise and unrevealing, reveal all.

Still you fall back into the heart of the same rocking chair saying

There you go again.

And I did.

And I have.

,Sue Margaret

1. Bob Dylan in interview.

Silence at Ampleforth Monastery – doing something out of the ordinary!

I recently did something quite out of the ordinary. I packed my bags and went off to stay in a Monastery to experience two days of silence!  It was a weekend of Mindful Meditation at Ampleforth Monastery in North Yorkshire.

‘Two days of silence, why would you want to do that..?’ some of my friends asked me, quite bemused at the idea.   ‘…because i can feel my head going on overdrive!’

A few year ago I took up Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to be more present in my life, less anxious, to come out of auto-pilot and have more control over how I respond and react to things and basically to help manage my depression at the time.  It helped. However my practice had since lapsed, and like many of us who have learnt to spot the early warning signs of a dip, I knew it was time to do something about this.  The retreat came at a time when I needed it.   It provided a chance for a change of scenery, a break from my usual routine, an adventure and some meditation – hopefully these things would help give me the lift I was looking for.

When I arrived I was taken aback at the beauty of the Monastery and its surrounding grounds. The monastery filled me with awe as it has such presence. It grandly overlooks a  valley, which contains rugby grounds, trees, nice walks and green hills in the distance. Rumour has it that  ‘Hogwarts,’ the castle in Harry Potter was inspired by Ampleforth, which is also a public school as well as a monastery.  After having a quick look around  I felt absolutely giddy with excitement that this would be my home for the next few days.

Ampleforth

The retreat was both relaxing and challenging. My mind wandered to places I really didn’t want it to!  But hey, that’s what minds do – right?  Part of the practice involves noticing this and bringing the attention back to the focus of the meditation.   I tried to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, observing them without getting too attached to them, like clouds passing through the sky.  The theory is that this then becomes easier in daily life, and it does help me.

I experienced some beautiful moments whilst at the retreat. In the evening I would look up at the sky and see so many stars twinkling back down at me.  I marvelled at the constellation of Orion, which I rarely see from my home in Leeds. The starry sky was so clear and bright and reminded me of stargazing in India which I had done many years previously when I felt much more carefree. It was a nice reminder.

The monks were very hospitable and welcomed us to drop into their worship, which is open to members of the public and I highly recommend!   Their singing is enchanting, mesmerizing and moving. It was like being on the front row of a free concert!

…and while I was there I felt time stand still just for a little while…a pause

Anyone can visit Ampleforth Monastery (As long as it’s not a special day.)  Members of the public can eat at the tearooms, stroll around the grounds, observe and take part in the worship (you don’t have to be religious – I’m not! ) and buy nice gifts at the shop  – it’s a beautiful place to go!

Volunteering

“…Volunteer”

This is a word that nowadays carries as much prestige on a CV, as the word “Chartered” does before Accountant. In this current economic and financial climate, this is hardly surprising.

So what exactly are the benefits, of having a voluntary role?
– Before I start I’d like to say that a voluntary role is not for everyone.
Indeed it can be like Marmite: you either love it and find the idea of volunteering truly exciting, or you alternatively find the prospect uninspiring.

For those of us in our 20s-30s trying desperately to find our way in the world, volunteering as a great way of showing interest in a certain area or profession – for future employers. Indeed whether you’d like to be an airline pilot, work with a specific social group, be a waitress, or an artist of some description, volunteering these days can set you apart from the rest of the candidates. This is demonstrated well I think, in a sketch by Monty Python:

(Michael Palin’s character wants to be a Lion Tamer, John Cleese is the Careers Adviser)
John Cleese : Do you have any qualifications?
Michael Palin: Yes I’ve got a hat
John Cleese: A hat?
Michael Palin: A lion taming hat, with Lion Tamer on it..
John Cleese: The snag is that if I now call (the contacts name) and say to him look here, I’ve got a 45 year old Chartered Accountant with me who wants to become a Lion Tamer, his first question is not going to be “does he have his own hat?”. He’s going to ask what sort experience you’ve had with lions….

In short then: experience is the evidence of your enthusiasm, that will encourage an employer to eagerly eye your CV.

Of course however, a person might not be looking to move into a career through volunteering. In these cases other benefits of volunteering will be equally important. Indeed a weekly voluntary role could have hugely significant benefits for a person’s health, psychologically and physically.
There are certain volunteering roles which would allow someone to become more active: I’m thinking here for example of gardening-based roles, roles that involve working with children and other social groups etc., or positions that involve organising and putting-on various events.
Whatever the role a volunteer has, there are inevitably going to be other people at these organisations who they can build up a great and long-lasting rapport with. This is turn will have significant and positive effects on a person’s mental health. Firstly, since getting out and meeting new people is always a positive thing to be doing – if people feel they would like to. Secondly some volunteers get a sense of accomplishment, have the gratifying feeling of participating towards a good cause, or enjoy their role because they feel they are doing something productive. These are the feelings that some people have about their volunteering roles, and it is for this reason that they find such work to be so motivating.

A last benefit of volunteering is one which is perhaps less obvious, though no less important. It is something that happens far more gradually. As I write this I have the words of a politician in my head: ‘education, education, education’. This mantra perfectly sums up the personal developments and subconscious changes, that result from volunteering. Simply put, “you’ll learn a lot”. For example I currently have a role volunteering with people, in a fast-paced environment where no two days are the same. I find that in the short time since I started, I have learnt a large amount about the industry I’m in. In addition, and this has been happening so slowly that I haven’t noticed, but doing it has allowed my confidence to greatly improve.

To close I would just like to “shout-out” to everyone I’ve met in my various volunteering roles; I really appreciate what they’ve done for me, and the opportunities I’ve had because of them. Indeed each of the roles I’ve done has ultimately helped me to grow, in unforeseen  and positive ways, into the person I am today.

To the audience: if you feel like you can, and would like to volunteer, then I encourage you to try it. Indeed as I hope I’ve shown: there’s not much to lose from volunteering, but instead a vast amount to gain :).

By Amanda Lynsdale

 

Resilience

Resilience is something of a constant on-off meditation. I’ve had to think about what resilience means? Being resilient makes me happy: I said recently to a friend:

“There is no such thing as adversity.”

Yes, I live from that more and more, a very resilient thought creating joy for me and others?

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”

The Dalai Lama.

We have to be very mindful, because there is no belief system of absoluteness, in mindfulness, or Buddhism. If you have the neigbours from hell then move; conditions are important, but only as important as you make them.

I was a ‘depressive’/ ‘despairive’/despairer’, although I do not now have disabling or clinical depression, as I have basically recovered, my friends will be relieved to know. This recovery took me many years. In those years I despaired of ever healing and recovering. However apart from good friends, two things really helped me change my life, ‘gainst the ground-hog days we all suffer indeed:

Buddhist practices including meditation; there is contemplation to induce the practice of wisdom-compassion in your life, but at least 5 other practices. However.meditation alone will not change your life.

Therapy and counselling. I count them as the same difference as unlike certain therapist and counsellors, they argue over very little and the prime focus should be the clients needs to heal, not professional intellectual differences!

And my acquaintances too:  I mustn’t forget the latter for a very simple reason: every source of support is necessary to overcome the low self esteem behind mania and depression, or any other form of self-defined distress. Both are Jungian overcompensations for something denied and that something is low self esteem or more graphically self hatred.

I will say again one needs a massive support system to overcome even mild depression, moderate despair or the worst manic and suicidal despair depression.

We need to be extremely mindful, aware and kind to ourselves, and others in order to overcome the worst in ourselves and make the best of the rest of our lives. The only point about being mindfullly-aware is to develop the insights for you to be compassionate yourselves, and to others.

Despair depression and other mental ‘illnesses’ are deeply ground into being-karma, so the medicine must be strong, varied and penetrate to our unconscious depths. This allows integration of horrible and repressed demons, our worst fears and doubts and to overcome the fear of freedom from neurosis. But as I once discovered if we don’t watch it it can kill us. Neurosis and psychosis killed my dad and brother many years ago, and deep mental pain, anguish can make life not worth living. If we fully recognise these realities and talk to our friends, nurture friends who earn trust, then slowly we can recover with consistent practice of recovery techniques, invented or not, over time.

Mindfulness (being in the mo-ment, enjoying life, being efficient, being joyful, but not driven, etc.) also makes one very aware in ones home garden, bus or wherever of one body in a relaxed yoga like fashion. In fact just taking 5 percent reduction of my high speed mania, helped, or adding 5 per cent to lift myself from despair pits worked. Tis the middle way, not foolish ground-hog day overcompensation.

I cannot value therapy/counselling, Buddhist practices, or friends over and above one another. In a sense the telling thing is they are all friends, OK a professional listener was paid by me as an exception, but if you feel it is merely about the money, then be firm with your counsellor or therapist (search this website for more on talking listening treatments counselling and psychotherapy).

The Buddha said ”Do the wholesome. Do the wholesome always.”

Conclusions:  For people with disabling despair, depression anxiety-neurosis, psychosis, or people with distress,  it is important to look after yourself by asking for help (there’s a future blog of this title coming soon), by nurturing self insight/ self help, asking friends and therapists for help, but don’t be exploited by any unethical ‘friends’ or therapists .

Stick with the bad-weather friends, and genuine people – those who will stick by you in thick and thin. And who love you even for your faults, which they see as amusing and delightful and charming. Those who nurture you and love you.

You can recover. Indeed. It is totally true – even the worst cases can transform their lives to contentment happiness and a greater kindness.
You can change.
But you need self insight and to ask for help so sharing, and halving your problems.
You need to stop the Ground-hog Days of unconscious addictive karmas, and if you fall back into despair anxiety and mistakes; that’s OK there’s no such thing as failure only feedback.
Create a massive support network
Be happy,  that’s the only point of living after all, without harming others through anger, drugs, battles, resentments, verbal darts – in fact cultivate the opposite of these weeds of the mind. Please cultivate the lotuses and sunflowers of our lives. For the rest of our lives.

If you want to learn mindfulness for resilience, more humour and more joy and wisdom in your life, please leave a message on this post, or e-mail us at Leeds Wellbeing Web.

or google leeds buddhist centre or mindfulness or buddhist centres leeds u.k.

Enjoy your life, I lick the lid of life.

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Counselling and Therapy

counselling pic

Not everyone finds it useful, desirable or easy to talk about past or present distress, but if you do need someone to talk to, who might it be? A friend, a relative or a professional counselor/therapist,…. all four? If worrying thoughts overwhelm you it may take a combination to help you manage your distress.

The support of friends or family can be immeasurable, but many are not so fortunate, and for some it’s these relationships which are contributing factors in their distress. Having a wide circle of friends or acquaintances is no guarantee that there will be someone among them with the capacity to listen adequately.

What can a counsellor or therapist offer that a friend or acquaintance may not? It is the assurance of their commitment to create a confidential space, and for an ongoing ‘contract’ in which skillful listening and interjection can take place.

Does counselling differ from therapy? What types are there? What guidelines and safeguards can you be assured of, should you decide it’s something that will help? These may seem like a lot of questions but they are important because like it or not we are a generation who have come to accept talking therapy as the norm.

The Counselling Directory goes some way to offering advice about where you might start in ensuring the best experience, see the information here. Unless you are in acute crisis, the most important advice in the directory is that of taking time to get well informed about what counselling and therapy entails,

find… out as much as you can about counselling and psychotherapy,

read-up on the issue you are considering seeking help for, and

browse the therapy types so you can start to get a feel of what it is you want to achieve from the counselling process.”

The directory is a list of  private therapists and explains why they provide the service they do,

“In 2005 we watched a close friend struggle to find the information they were looking for…emotional support… we realised there was a need for a service bringing together the information required to help individuals find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in their local area.

The Counselling Directory contains information on many different types of distress, as well as articles, news, and events”

 

Members who are listed in the directory have complied with the organisations verification requirements. As private practitioners members will charge for their services,  of this the directory says,

You can find out …charges by having a look at the ‘Fees’ section on their individual profile page. Fees often depend on the location … and the experience of the counsellor/psychotherapist.

On average, expect to pay about £35 – £45 per 50 minute session.

Some counselors and psychotherapists may offer initial sessions free or reductions for the unemployed or those on a low income, so it’s always worth asking

At times GP, school and charitable organisations have counselling and therapy services free or at low cost, alternatively a donation may be acceptable. If you are referred via a G.P. or other agency to some private practioners, sessions may be free of charge, but you will need to check this with them.


Here follows some useful links of services in Leeds which are free or low cost.

Mental Health Directory Leeds Mind

Dial House Information

Survivor Led Crisis Service Dial HouseSantuary/Support/Connect Helpline

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (I.A.P.T.)

Guest blogger Toby post wrote here on Leeds Wellbeing Web in 2013.about what to expect of .I.A.P.T.  A choice of short or longer contract, group or one-to-one work is available with waiting lists varying accordingly, months rather than weeks for the latter. Current trends show  an increased availability of short over long term contracts, this might not be a trend to be welcomed for long standing issues of distress may benefit from longer term therapy.

If Counselling and Therapy  are something to which you are drawn it’s good to remember that seeking talking therapy is not a sign of inadequacy, or necessarily that you don’t have anyone else to talk to. Being able to share with friends when troubled is a great comfort, and hopefully friends are willing to listen to any insights you glean in therapy. Attending Counselling or Therapy requires stamina, dedication and commitment in confronting your disquieting thoughts. Facing your ‘self’ may be scary so it’s also brave to be willing to do it, for over time and in order to defend our ego, we may have chosen only to perceive ourselves as altruistic. The outcome of counselling and therapy therefore may surprise you and others with an investment in that ‘old’ idealised you, but that is the subject of another blog post!

Sue Margaret

Image from You Tube    Andria’s Counselling Session

Appreciate Nature

Originally posted on We Listen To Mary Magdalene:

DSC_9216

Mary’s message today deals with connecting with Nature. When you are in Nature really appreciate the things around you.  Don’t just walk on a trail but really connect to the sights, the sounds, the smells   as you walk. You are an invited guest into someone else’s home.  Use that visit to really connect with Nature and appreciate all it has to offer.

And this is According To Mary!

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