The Feel Institute

permission

  • The Naked Photoshoot

    Naked again

    Anyone who has known me, in particular settings, over the last few years, may have seen me naked. It has been a thing I have been doing more and more.

    Earlier this year, I’d stumbled across a post for a project called ‘Age cannot wither her’, a set of 16 women in their glory, in their ‘birthday suits’, looking regal, exotic, confident, shy, soft, fierce and so much more. ‘Wow’, I thought.

    I left a comment below the post, saying I’d love to have been part of something like this. It was met with a sharp reply encouraging me to contact the photographer.

    Did I get naked?

    Long story short…..I did. The date of the shoot was booked. The photos were taken. The final image picked.

    Yesterday I finally plucked up the courage to write the words to go support this version of me and now, today, it is live. Eeeeeek!

    Here it goes. I will now be able to answer, in confidence, the question, ‘Is there a naked photo of you on the net?’

    Yes. There. Is.

    Seriously, following this link will show me naked

    Using my naked body to speak up

    These are the words that supported my mask removal:

    When I turned 40, everything changed.

    Suddenly, I had a voice. It seemed as though I was able to speak up and, more importantly, speak out. There is a permission that comes with age, a credibility.

    Now that I am nearer 50 than 40, I realise this decade, for me, is all about transformation.

    I started the decade as a consultant in the city, unsatisfied with life and love, and failing to adhere to the gendered, patriarchal societal expectations around me. My curly hair wasn’t neat enough. I wouldn’t wear the obligatory heels as the arthritis in my feet was too painful. I wasn’t small or quiet enough and no matter how good I was at my work, I didn’t fit the mould.

    Making the change

    I am hardly recognisable as the deeply in love, ethically non-monogamous, pansexual, freelance problem solver, soon to be a certified sexological bodyworker, skyclad howling, dancing, shamanic goddess, little girl, queen, mama wolf, strong, fragile, human I am today. Hallelujah!

    This is my first photoshoot, never mind my first naked one. The excitement of being part of something this important, hid the process that was about to unfold. I have been getting more and more naked these last few years. I find it liberating and can often be found in some festival dancing scenario getting my kit off and encouraging others to do the same. We were born this way.

    Societal expectations

    Despite all that, as soon as I agreed to the shoot, my inner critic, judge and jury, went to town, subtly at first, although the town was where they were heading, make no mistake!

    I wanted to look good. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I wanted to be a better version of me. My serious significant chocolate addiction was tempered at first. I got on my bike a bit more. I told myself that this was a good thing, and, to certain degree it was, however, at the same time why couldn’t I show up as I was?

    Predictably, the 10 days running up to the photoshoot, involved a foreign trip, more than typical booze consumption, a chocolate mountain, lack of sleep, a dodgy tummy and, wait for it, slashing the sole of my foot open, on an acrylic table, whilst trying to see the moon out of my window, less than 9 hours before the shoot. You couldn’t make it up.

    What do I see when I look at this photo?

    I see a girl with a woman’s body. Strong, hard-working legs, a tummy that holds lots of emotion and feels delicious to the touch. A Predator. A fragility. Certainty. A pride at getting this far alive. Sadness that I trimmed my beautifully wild pubic hair right down, just a week previously, in a moment of self-doubt because I wanted to fit into someone else’s ideal of what a woman should look like …… a lover, an artist, a sister, friend, confidante. An activist. An aspiring life model?

    Most of all, I see a woman in the prime of her life, with hopes and dreams.

    I have so much more to do, to learn, to be.

  • Permission and Pain

    Pain and 5Rhythms

    In the last couple of days, I have tapped into something new in relation to my constant, and ever-present, pain.

    For the very first time, I was given permission to feel it.

    I mean, really feel it.

    It would be so easy to assume that the permission was granted by another, and, that was partly true.

    The permission I am talking about is darker and lurking in the tightest corner of my psyche. Let me explain…..

    pain – A Deeper Acceptance

    On Friday, I was on the door for those arriving at ‘A Deeper Acceptance: moving with chronic illness’, a 5Rhythms movement meditation practice led by Richard Wiltshire as part of the Rhythm Village Festival.

    In my head, I was there as an advocate.

    In my head, it’s not really happening to me.

    In my head, I do not have a chronic illness.

    5Rhythms is often explored via a wave of Flowing — Staccato — Chaos — Lyrical — Stillness. Each state has a quality, a tone, and we move through them silently, typically to music.

    The session started simply enough.

    Dancing a wave with our hands, only using our hands, whilst sitting on chairs.

    So simple, so stunning, so new. I’ve got this I thought. This is going to be nice.

    Nice.

    Nice is not a word that sits solo with this work.

    When it’s pleasing, agreeable and delightful so early on there is usually some new territory to be explored.

    Dancing with the Shadow

    When Rich mentioned that we were going to then dance the shadow of the first 2 of the 5Rhythms, my ears pricked up. I got hot. Right up the back of my shoulders and neck.

    It is often really difficult to do this in a busy, fast-moving class when you are carrying an illness or pain, or both, in the same way, it’s difficult to go to a keep fit class with a pulled muscle.

    As dancers, we still want to move, we still want to be in the community, we still want to belong, regardless of what else we are carrying.

    Integrity

    How do we keep the integrity of the dance, the wave, yet include chronic illness and pain?

    In other words, how do we belong and stay true to ourselves?

    Flowing can be heavy. Heavy as in the full weight of the often invisible illness and pain we hold in our beautiful bodies. The lethargy that comes with the starting so far from the starting line, with no energy, no magic wand and the full weight of reality. The, ‘I have all these things to do and I just want to stay in bed and rest’.

    Staccato can be frustrating. The irritability. The clenched fists. The fucking unfairness of the situation. The not being able to do what you want to do. The rage. The unheard screams. The barrel of tears. The, ‘why is this happening to me?’. The, ‘I don’t know how I am going to get through the next 10 minutes, never mind the next 10 hours’.

    …and this is where the game changer of permission revealed itself.

    The Power of Witnessing

    We paired up for this, and when it came to Staccato there was one song each. One person moving and the other person witnessing.

    I closed my eyes and there I was, stood in the beautiful church I had danced in countless times before, with space and permission to be in pain.

    I could feel the resistance, the desire to trivialise, the desire to push through. I didn’t need to push through. I could be really fucking frustrated. I could hurt. I could express the grief.

    The pain of having permission, both within and in my surroundings, far eclipsed the physical pain I feel in my body.

    The emotional toll and loss of self are thick, horrific and abhorrent.

    To be seen in this state, with no solutions, no remedies, no apologies, no abating others for the comfort of the collective. That, there, is a deeper understanding.

    The searing pain, the frustration of the inability. To not be able to do what your heart wants, what your soul needs. To participate. It’s a fight I don’t even want to be in the running for.

    Acceptance that the body cannot follow your desires.

    Sometimes, I wonder why I even show up.

    And yet, I do. I show up, we all do. Even in our absence.

  • Chronic Pain – My Dirty Secret

    pain – a Dirty secret

    I have been a secret chronic pain sufferer for over 2 decades. This is a post I made on Sunday 11th February 2018 on Facebook. It was at the tail end of another brutal winter of pain….this declaration was a game-changer…

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The thought of putting a declaration on Fakebook about it jars with me.

    pain and Judgement

    I judge people who put ‘notices’ on here.

    Who do they think they are?

    Why do you need to share this?

    What is wrong with you?

    Don’t you have any ‘real’ friends you can talk to?

    Have some self-respect.

    Contain it saddo.

    Changing the subject

    See. I am doing what I always do. Distracting you (me) from the real truth.

    I show you my courage and bravery. My vulnerability. My discovery.

    What you don’t see is that I am hiding something.

    The mistress of illusion.

    I don’t even tell myself the truth so how can I possibly tell you.

    I just did it again.

    Did you notice?

    I don’t know how to say it.

    FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK!

    Trying again

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The tears, rage and despair and leaking from my body.

    For 2 decades I have been in pain. Physical, excruciating pain.

    It’s my feet.

    I’m trying to make this sound pretty and whimsical.

    Fuck it

    Pain

    I can contain it in bullet points. Let’s do bullet points:

    • ‘Moderately severe osteoarthritis’ is the large toe joints of both feet
    • Haven’t been able to move my big toes for years
    • I wake up from the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • The undercurrent of pain makes me edgy and bitter sometimes
    • I can’t get to sleep because of the pain (often in the winter)
    • Sometimes the pain is so bad that any non-soft touch on the rest of my body feels like an attack
    • On the really bad days, it feels like a sharp, hot tip of a kitchen knife is burrowing into the middle of my big toe joint
    • My arches scream to be released
    • The spasms up my toe to the nail gnarls at my nerves
    • My calf muscles are really tight. Ask to feel them. I might let you.
    • Sometimes, there are moments when I don’t feel it
    • Sometimes I want to cut my toes off (yes I know, I know)
    • Maybe, you can ask me more when you are drawn to

    Now what?

    Why am I writing all this down? Good question.

    Many of you know me from dancing.

    I bring it. I bring energy.

    The pounding. The fierceness, all that.

    Can’t let the side down.

    Can’t admit it hurts even when I am in agony.

    Why?

    It’s exhausting. Or maybe I am exhausted?

    I’ve exhausted my container that’s for sure.

    I am boring myself with this. That’s how unattached I am to my feelings about this thing that I don’t want to be true.

    I’m telling you all this, in the most ungraceful of ways so you will be mirrors, reminders, confidantes, advocates, allies, soldiers, catalysts, teachers and so much more.

    Most of all, I AM SICK OF THIS CRIPPLING PAIN BEING THE CLOSEST THING TO ME!

    Support

    My dirty secret is out with the help of some patient, challenging and loving people. Rob LondonStainsby, Judith Antell, Carrie Gow, Nikki Ashley, Anthony de Sigley, Sam Wells to name but a few. You know who you are.

    I am not sure what is supposed to happen now and I am a bit scared, embarrassed, hopeful and angry.

    On the one hand, I don’t want you to treat me differently.

    On the other, I do want you to treat me differently.

    There’s that rub again.

    There are a lot more tears to come.

    Sometimes I don’t know I need to slow down. Often I don’t know how much pain I am actually in. Sometimes I need to lie down. Others I need a chair. Sometimes I really need to dance through it, over it and under it.

    a request

    I want to keep dancing. I just started! Can the amazing space holders, guides, mentors and students continue or start to have a couple of chairs available on the dance floor in the movement practices?

    I’m naming Sue Rickards, Nikki Ashley, Ruth Hirst, Christian de Sousa, Bodhi Nick Hunt, Liz Baron Cohen, Sarah Davies, Killian Strong, Becca Parkinson, Jane Belshaw, Alex Svoboda. Please consider it.

    It means we can participate.

    Some of you do this already. Some of you know this.

    It means we can belong. I want to belong. To just need to get off my feet sometimes. I would dearly like to be on the same/similar level to my fellow movers.

    Maybe the truth can heal after all.