How I found my hippy boundaries…

Sorry for no post last week! How you all doing? Ok? Work has been a bit mental and I wanted to wait until I’d done something worth writing about… and I was pretty sure that a tribal gathering was going to be it!

Run by the London Spirituality Group, the meeting was to bring together ‘the tribe of many colours,’ ‘of soul brothers and sisters’ to celebrate and heal through scared songs and dance and a Shamanic water ceremony.  I was pretty excited – after all, I’m a pretty pro-bongo player now and can dance in a drumming circle with the best of them! I reckoned that if anything, this was just going to be a culmination of all I’d done so far. I’d never done anything Shamanic before but I was totally down with learning about something new.

I dragged along my friend Kerri – one of my dear Laughter Yoga lovelies – and together we headed to East London.  As we followed the directions to the meet I realised that I’d been in the same area for a few weeks before for a rave… as we went downstairs into the basement of the building I realised that it was literally the same warehouse! What are the chances?! (I’m now pretty sure that there’s just one warehouse in East London being used for underground events.) It was pretty weird to think that where there was now incense, Peruvian drummers and people quietly meditating, only a few weeks before had been filled with sweaty, wasted clubbers. Trying not to let the memory taint the atmosphere, I sat on my cushion and assessed the group – there were almost 100 people there,  a mixture of old and young but perhaps the most stereotypically hippy looking crowd I’ve been to.  We were all given a blind fold and a song sheet.  (Yes, warning bells did ring a little bit)

The introduction was led by a beautiful women, about my age, called Akasha Wacha. Wearing feathers in her hair she explained a bit about Shamanism and the belief in the spirit and how cities remove us from our surroundings, nature and each other. Akasha has spent the last 12 years training as a spiritual practitioner and has worked intensively in the Amazon to learn indigenous South American shaman medicine. (So far, I am so sold. This woman spends half her life in the jungle, that’s pretty cool.)

The meeting started with a water blessing – Akasha put drops of ‘blessed water’ gathered from thousands of ‘sacred sites’ into several jugs in the centre of the room. (Not going to lie, I was pretty suspect of the hygienic consequence of the ‘sacred water’ but reckoned the small amount wasn’t going to kill me and if all was to be believed it might even cure a few things!) Akasha began to chant and we all joined in, creating a moving circle around the water which was being surrounded by about five closed eyed women holding hands. The drummers joined in and there was a pretty good energy in the room.

After 5 minutes Akasha brought the group back together, the now blessed water was taken away for later, and she told us that it was now time to ‘release ourselves’ in some tribal dancing. We were all asked to put on our blind folds and just let ourselves go. ‘It got pretty freaky in here last time – so let’s see what happens this time!’ (Alarm bells ringing pretty loudly.)

I thought that I was pretty open to most things – but turns out that being blind folded in a room full of people dancing to Amazonian drumming… and screaming (not just ‘woo yeh’ kinda screaming, I mean, like AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, screaming) is where my limit lies. I wanted to pull off the blindfold just to see what everyone was doing but I understood that the whole point is a collective but individual moment. I opened my eyes and through the thin black material could make out the guy in front of me jumping around in a crouch position while a women next to me pogo-ed about. I thought that my collegues jokes of groping were becoming a reality when someone brushed past me.

I tried to get into the moment and let myself go… I even let out a little woop! But to be honest, I missed having interaction with other people and spent most of the time (about 10 minutes?!) just worried someone was going to touch me.  Whether I was the only one thinking this I’m not sure.  I found Kerri she told me she had LOVED it and had totally let herself go, perhaps it says something about me that I couldn’t.

After the excitement of the tribal dance I was all ready for some chanting, song and the sacred water!  Instead we all got back on our cushions to listen to a couple of musicians. The songs were nice and the couple’s harmonies were beautiful. I was enjoying the chilled out atmosphere, the guy freestyle dancing to the harp and guitar at the back of the room and the general randomness of the evening… until the girls in front of me began to massage each other…and then a third joined in! Talk about distracting! I’m no prude, believe me, but collective massage was not what I signed up for… and if it was, please can I have some of the Amazonian medicine to kick it all off?!

The night was drawing on… the flyer said 7pm till 9pm but it was already 9.30pm and there was still no sign of any chanting or sacred water! The energy began to dip and slowly people were starting to slip out. When the next part of the night was a Peruvian guy who had come to represent the struggling Shipibo tribe I admit, I had reached my limit. It’s actually a really good cause but when the traditional pan pipe type instrument came out, me and Kerri got the serious giggles and I knew it was time to go home.  I didn’t want to be disrespectful to this lovely guy but I was just sick of sitting on a cushion in a warehouse watching 3 girls get freaky in front of me.

So we waited until the songs had finished, left out donation and quietly slipped back into ‘normality.’

No sacred songs, no chanting and No SACRED WATER!  BOO!

I was genuinely disappointed to leave early but it was only Tuesday and the incense and the harp music had clearly taken its toll.

I would like to go to something else run by Akasha, I think what she does is really interesting. As for my first tribal gathering? Definitely the most surreal thing I’ve ever done.

Sorry for no post last week! Work has been a bit mental and I wanted to wait until I’d done something worth writing about… and I was pretty sure that a tribal gathering was going to be it!

Run by the London Spirituality Group, the meeting was to bring together ‘the tribe of many colours,’ ‘of soul brothers and sisters’ to celebrate and heal through scared songs and dance and a Shamanic water ceremony.  I was pretty excited – after all, I’m a pretty pro-bongo player now and can dance in a drumming circle with the best of them! I reckoned that if anything, this was just going to be a culmination of all I’d done so far. I’d never done anything Shamanic before but I was totally down with learning about something new.

I dragged along my friend Kerri – one of my dear Laughter Yoga lovelies – and together we headed to East London.  As we followed the directions to the meet I realised that I’d been in the same area for a few weeks before for a rave… as we went downstairs into the basement of the building I realised that it was literally the same warehouse! What are the chances?! (I’m now pretty sure that there’s just one warehouse in East London being used for underground events.) It was pretty weird to think that where there was now incense, Peruvian drummers and people quietly meditating, only a few weeks before had been filled with sweaty, wasted clubbers. Trying not to let the memory taint the atmosphere, I sat on my cushion and assessed the group – there were almost 100 people there,  a mixture of old and young but perhaps the most stereotypically hippy looking crowd I’ve been to.  We were all given a blind fold and a song sheet.  (Yes, warning bells did ring a little bit)

The introduction was led by a beautiful women, about my age, called Akasha Wacha. Wearing feathers in her hair she explained a bit about Shamanism and the belief in the spirit and how cities remove us from our surroundings, nature and each other. Akasha has spent the last 12 years training as a spiritual practitioner and has worked intensively in the Amazon to learn indigenous South American shaman medicine. (So far, I am so sold. This woman spends half her life in the jungle, that’s pretty cool.)

The meeting started with a water blessing – Akasha put drops of ‘blessed water’ gathered from thousands of ‘sacred sites’ into several jugs in the centre of the room. (Not going to lie, I was pretty suspect of the hygienic consequence of the ‘sacred water’ but reckoned the small amount wasn’t going to kill me and if all was to be believed it might even cure a few things!) Akasha began to chant and we all joined in, creating a moving circle around the water which was being surrounded by about five closed eyed women holding hands. The drummers joined in and there was a pretty good energy in the room.

After 5 minutes Akasha brought the group back together, the now blessed water was taken away for later, and she told us that it was now time to ‘release ourselves’ in some tribal dancing. We were all asked to put on our blind folds and just let ourselves go. ‘It got pretty freaky in here last time – so let’s see what happens this time!’ (Alarm bells ringing pretty loudly.)

I thought that I was pretty open to most things – but turns out that being blind folded in a room full of people dancing to Amazonian drumming… and screaming (not just ‘woo yeh’ kinda screaming, I mean, like AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, screaming) is where my limit lies. I wanted to pull off the blindfold just to see what everyone was doing but I understood that the whole point is a collective but individual moment. I opened my eyes and through the thin black material could make out the guy in front of me jumping around in a crouch position while a women next to me pogo-ed about. I thought that my collegues jokes of groping were becoming a reality when someone brushed past me.

I tried to get into the moment and let myself go… I even let out a little woop! But to be honest, I missed having interaction with other people and spent most of the time (about 10 minutes?!) just worried someone was going to touch me.  Whether I was the only one thinking this I’m not sure.  I found Kerri she told me she had LOVED it and had totally let herself go, perhaps it says something about me that I couldn’t.

After the excitement of the tribal dance I was all ready for some chanting, song and the sacred water!  Instead we all got back on our cushions to listen to a couple of musicians. The songs were nice and the couple’s harmonies were beautiful. I was enjoying the chilled out atmosphere, the guy freestyle dancing to the harp and guitar at the back of the room and the general randomness of the evening… until the girls in front of me began to massage each other…and then a third joined in! Talk about distracting! I’m no prude, believe me, but collective massage was not what I signed up for… and if it was, please can I have some of the Amazonian medicine to kick it all off?!

The night was drawing on… the flyer said 7pm till 9pm but it was already 9.30pm and there was still no sign of any chanting or sacred water! The energy began to dip and slowly people were starting to slip out. When the next part of the night was a Peruvian guy who had come to represent the struggling Shipibo tribe I admit, I had reached my limit. It’s actually a really good cause but when the traditional pan pipe type instrument came out, me and Kerri got the serious giggles and I knew it was time to go home.  I didn’t want to be disrespectful to this lovely guy but I was just sick of sitting on a cushion in a warehouse watching 3 girls get freaky in front of me.

So we waited until the songs had finished, left out donation and quietly slipped back into ‘normality.’

No sacred songs, no chanting and No SACRED WATER!  BOO!

I was genuinely disappointed to leave early but it was only Tuesday and the incense and the harp music had clearly taken its toll.

I would like to go to something else run by Akasha, I think what she does is really interesting. As for my first tribal gathering? Definitely the most surreal thing I’ve ever done.

More soon. Next time, something just good ol’ plain fun.

Peace

x

To read more about Shamanism click here

To read more about London Spirituality Movement click here

To read about the Shipibo tribe click here

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How to be kind – An introduction.

I’m a bit behind with my blog entries at the moment eek! Sorry Readers. I went to this great event by Action for Happiness a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been meaning to tell you all about…

It was called ‘Kindness Behaviour Training (KBT) – How to live a more meaningful life’ (an interesting title from the off) and it was a lecture by Dr Paramabandhu Groves who is not only the founder of the technique but an experienced NHS consultant psychiatrist and mindfulness teacher.

KBT uses ancient Buddhist principals (fundamental practices in Buddhism are the development of mindfulness and the cultivation of kindness (also known as metta bhavana)) with practical modern science and evidence based techniques. As far as I was concerned, this mild mannered man at the front of the room was more than your average yogi offering – this is a man of Science.

(I felt it was apt that the stage he was on had the words ‘to thine own self be true’ written in gold calligraphy above it. No better stage for a bit of self- discovery then.)  

According to the literature – ‘Mindfulness and kindness have been practised by millions of people for over two and half millennia to create states of well-being, emotional resilience and inner freedom.’ I frequently lack any sort of emotional resilience so for that alone I was willing to give it a bash.

So what is Kindness Behaviour Training? (Sounds like it belongs in a Nintendo?!)

Although the basis of the technique is far deeper than what I learnt in the seminar – usually the course takes 8 weeks – the most basic principal is that all human beings (in fact all warm blooded animals) have the ability to care – it’s evolutionary. (Some animals eat their young, we are programmed to love, nurture and provide.) With this noted it is safe to say that everyone has the genetic ‘kit for kindness’ – we all have the ability to care for another being. KBT reinforces this ability/behaviour and builds it into all areas of your life.  

But what exactly is ‘kindness’? When I went along to this event I didn’t realise that it was such a loaded word for so many people – and that there are lots of negative connotations as well as positives such as pity, sentimentality and weakness which go along with it.

True kindness, we were taught that true kindness comes in three forms:

  1. Emotional kindness – shown through sympathy, (different from sentimentality which is often the rights noises without true depth of feeling or action) and empathy.  
  2. Wisdom – kindness does not mean blindly being nice to everyone or being a doormat and saying yes to everything. It’s about intelligently understanding what is going on and have the courage to act on that understanding.
  3. Action – this includes concern for our own and others well-being – It’s not about being a martyr. More though, it’s a willingness to act on the concern for ourselves and others – if you can make a positive action you should.

Yes I know it’s all very well and good knowing we should be kinder to our fellow man… but it’s different when you’re pressed up against said fellow man on your daily commute – or listening to your fellow women whinge on and on in a meeting. Putting kindness into action takes work. It ain’t called training for nothing – it takes practice.

Part of this practice comes through meditation – we did a couple of exercises together in the room – imagining breathing out kindness is harder than you think! But choosing a friend and sending kindness to them was a genuinely lovely experience which made me appreciate the people in my life. (The poor guy sitting next to me fell totally asleep though and woke up just as we were told to share our feelings with the person you were sitting next to. We had a giggle as his main experience was ‘that is was very relaxing’)

So, the big question. How do we start putting kindness into action?

  • Practice being content in your life. (This is one I should probably practice the most!)
  • Take a genuine interest – when was the last time you were on the phone ‘listening’ to your friend while actually watching TV or being online? Or your colleague is telling you about their weekend when all you can think about is what you’re going to have for lunch. We’re all guilty of it.
  • Put kindness into what you say – were you actually a bit harsh in that last email?
  • Be less judgemental – We all have stuff going on in our lives. Even that guy at work who tried to make every day more annoying than the last. Or that young chap on the bus who likes to play his music out his phone (ooo, that’s a tough one not to want to punch isn’t it?!) We were told to imagine that most people are doing the best they can. Try to remember this.
  • Do a kind act. Dr. Groves made us all think of something we could do after the talk and the audience fed back. People’s answered ranged from buying flowers for their wife, buying a sandwich for a homeless person – but the biggest round of applause went to the girl who said she’d take out the wet washing for which ever housemate had left it in the machine in her shared house. See, it’s the small things in life!

If we cultivate this kindness then the effects are enviable: self- acceptance, positive empathy for others, having a kinder internal voice (ladies, this is particularly for you as we are often our own worst enemy) and an increased interest for others.

What it comes down to is the idea that if we are ‘kinder’ then we become less rigid in our expectations of others and have a wider perspective of people. We appreciate our universality. In each person there is so much more than what we see. (Yes probably even that guy on the bus) And by taking this outlook – it makes life easier!

Who doesn’t want an easier life?!

After the lecture I text my friend Lydia to say I’d dedicated my meditation to her because she was one of my dearest friends…. and she text back saying I had made her day. It took 5 seconds to send that text and I had made someone else feel good.

What could you do today or this week in an act of kindness?

Try it and let me know how it goes!

More soon! (Last night I went to an awesome drumming circle which I can’t wait to tell you about!)

Peace

Pinkbananashoes.

x

To learn more about Kindness Behaviour Training at Breathing Space (a centre which teaches Mindfulness Based Approaches to help people look after their mental health) – click here

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