Mindfulness

I Am A Tree // Jamie Wood

I Am a Tree is not a return to nature as much as a reassertion that the separation between humans and other living things is not absolute, that the human body and its processes are as natural in their rhythms as the growth of a tree or the migrations of birds. It is a memory and a eulogy, to nomadism and to mortality and the fallibility of living things. Jamie Wood greets the audience by listening to their hearts, laying his head on their chests and expelling their worries like a cresting whale.

The show loosely follows the progress of Wood’s journey by foot from Coventry to South Wales, leaving his young baby and partner at home in order to reconnect to the wild. The story meanders like its protagonist, but like any journey the progress is more important than the destination. His walk is a peculiar kind of mindfulness exercise, a mental health time-out in a relentless period of change. Wood’s life at home haunts the piece, never really spoken of in detail but always lurking beyond the next hill. Questions of responsibility vie with a commitment to self-realisation. The comedy in his journey too is always on the verge of tipping into abstraction and doubt. Wood’s clowning and slapstick blurs into meditative tasks, an unlooping of bootlaces slowly moving from Chaplin to Mona Hatoum.

I Am a Tree also asks that the audience use their own bodies in service of the story, whether using a blowdart to pop the ‘weight of death’ that hangs above Wood’s head during a speech about his grandfather, or asking several spectators to move on stage as animals whilst he cradles another. Participants are gifted a vegetable reward for their efforts, hacked from a broccoli tree. A plant-based replacement for the energy they expel. These actions are measured by a slow drip of water from a red bladder that marks the duration of the show. These images remain, half remembered and fleeting, like moments from a walk.

-       Lewis Church

This diagnosis is based on a preview performance at Ovalhouse, London. I Am a Tree runs in Edinburgh at Assembly George Square from the 14-27th of August.

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Jamie Wood – I Am a Tree

What is Walking Meditation?Wild Mind

Humans Need to Reconnect with NatureTree Hugger

Walking and Grief The Globe and Mail

Parental Burnout – NYMag 

Charlie Chaplin Eat His Shoes - From The Gold Rush (1925)

Mona Hatoum – Performance Still (1985/1995)

What Is the City But the People?

Manchester

Madchester

Womanchester

It has a good few names. Quite succinctly it is goosebumps. A frisson of fashion and fascination. Shudders of connectors and receptors. Born from changes and hormones.

Piccadilly Gardens grew a limb for MIF's opening ceremony. It was strong, white yellow and black, a suspended scaffolded catwalk bookended with gargantuan screens. Forcing us to face elevated people of hairs and muscles we wouldn't necessarily notice but need. 

Outcasts can find homes here and be heard. Happiness happens. Ageing graffiti is persistent proof on decayed tooth buildings. In love longing and loss, the people present made the same marks of defiance and delighted in difference. 

The community of Manchester is multicultural, multidimensional and multi-layered. Overhead city birds flew through bringing beats of Graham Massey, familiar yet distant and path-promising. The music drove the spirit. Instrumental expressions inspired individuality in absolute purity. Each person offered a preserved presence and prominent pride. Some were meditative and mindful. Moving with the same precision, simplicity, honesty and dignity of a Japanese Tea Ceremony. 

This misplaced MIF limb shone an examination light on the pulse of Manchester, linking lives and the humbling cure of courage people can bring. That's how the city sings its sounds. They echo against minimalist movement in a microcosm magnified. 

We are all blood cells moving through concrete capillaries, veins and arteries. The buildings house pains and electric brains. Without our power our city's complexion would wither to the wan of winter.  There would be no ideas. A computer not operated, not invented even.

We consider a baby's first breath. Nature and inherent beauty. A mother's love and another mother's duty.

Beautifully beaming brothers burst out. One romancing with adrenaline fuelled break-dancing. We all feel it. It happens again. We smile. We are related in bird skin. We rub our arms but we are not cold. In that collective moment we're reminding each other of our fragile mortality through silent screened stories and broken open emotion. Undoubtedly, those of us who were not elevated, were raised in other ways.  

A counterbalance of contemplation and cognition came curling round cogs of memory, giving mind to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A medical tool based in subjectivity and judgement, stuck in me from my nursing history. The individuals we saw seemed to present in Maslow’s self-actualisation. It gave a great faith for fruitful futures in friendship. We surely shouldn't take our time or significant others for granted. That is a given. Each moment is a gift into learning about ourselves and others. Promoting our purpose. But entrenched medical models are archaic and here in Manchester we face forward. Or at least we try to. 

Ahead on my own path I look to a person lying on the floor. Amongst bags and cans and covers. Somewhere else on the scale of self-actualisation. I judge. I do not want to but I do. I've already assigned him a gender. I wonder about this life story. How he see's the city. How he saw the runway? I imagine his goosebumps are from other places. I hand him some money from a guilt-lined purse. 

- Clare McNulty

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Womanchester Poem - Ella Otomewo

Why Do We Get Goosebumps?

808 State – Pacific State

Baby Delivered Inside Amniotic Sac Takes First Breath

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Simply Psychology

Dr Gemma Beckley // Mindfulness

Mindfulness was a three day event led by Dr. Gemma Beckley (clinical psychologist and teacher of mindfulness and Transcendental Meditation) and her father, Colin (a recovering addict and founder of the TM trust). Throughout the weekend they gave brief synopses of mindfulness and T.M, and their positive effects on the brain and general mental wellbeing. MRI scans have shown that regular meditation increases the frontal cortex of the brain; this is the area that contains most of the dopamine sensitive neurons, controlling things like personality, decision making, planning and speech.

We are encouraged to visualise meditation as an ocean. Mindfulness is likened to surfing the waves, learning to cope with the swells of chaos and adversity. Mindfulness is one of the tools used to access TM. TM is like diving down into calm, still waters. We are given a raisin and guided through the process of mindful eating by first examining the fruit using all the senses. In doing so we are able to feast and feel sated by that single piece of fruit. I could see that having a mindful approach to eating might have a positive effect on dieting and obesity. Then we are taught mindful breathing - just breathing in and out, clearing our minds of all other thoughts. It is only about the breath, if the mind gets distracted then you bring it back to the breath. To end our session, we practise some simple yawning and stretching. We are reminded how babies stretch after long periods of sleep, as do animals, and see that this is the body’s way to connect with and reinvigorate the self.

Cynics might have us believe that meditation is ‘wacky’ and possibly dangerous. Only today in the I newspaper Richard Vaughan suggests it ‘can cause damage to children who have existing problems, while the focus on happiness can “pathologise” normal emotions like sadness’. However, during periods of extreme anxiety it is hard to see how focusing on the breath, calmly breathing in and out, clearing the mind of all but the breath, can have a detrimental effect. (SE)

- Sandra Elkins

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

The Brain Made Simple - http://brainmadesimple.com

NHS Mindfulness - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx

Mindfulness at the Mental Health Foundation - https://bemindful.co.uk

Transcendental Meditation - http://uk.tm.org/