Tag Archives: openness

Inhale, exhale, improvise

You know those conversations, the enthusiastic rants you have with interesting people, often performed over a few drinks in a pub? And the following day, the slow dawn of realisation that you have wholeheartedly agreed to take part in some project or another?

I love those conversations.

Great discussions are often initiated and accelerated by impulse and instinct. They can generate interesting creative collaborations that be simple short-lived sparks or long-lasting affairs. A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation that lead me to take part in an improvised music performance with the PAST collective as part of the May you Live in Interesting Times festival.

I used to sing a lot when I was younger, in indie bands and in plays as part of my theatre activities. Since coming to Britain I haven’t sung much and I had almost forgotten what singing really means to me and what it feels like. I came across a quote, on the Facebook page of the German Krautrockers Popol Vuh, which describes this feeling well:

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

The singing I did for the performance was the first time I used my voice as more of an instrument amongst others. Creating rhythms, simple melodies, whispers of breathing which were looped and layered into the fabric of sound we were improvising together. It was very liberating, the improvisation, and being able to embrace the individual processes of each of the rehearsal sessions we had.

To be able to improvise is to be able to welcome uncertainty and discomfort and allow them to open up new creative pathways. With singing this approach is physical, both raw and delicate at times. This tingling exploration is to be found in other creative pursuits too, but I think it takes more practice for me to find it and apply it to them. The environment has a big impact on thisĀ  – the often hectic surroundings do not offer me the almost meditative qualities needed for a fluid and experimental mindset. So next for me it’s about practicing achieving this mindset in everyday life and creative practice and letting it run its course.

Myth vs. fact

The title of this blog post refers to posters I saw at the Harlow Town Show in September. They were displayed at the local NHS stand and grabbed my attention straight away.

I thought this was such a good example of simple messaging and design. It stops people in their tracks – we all have people with mental health problems in our circle of friends and acquaintances even if we are not aware of this.

I have a personal stance in talking openly about mental health problems after witnessing too many occasions when they have been brushed under the carpet or they have cause feelings of shame, despair or even guilt in people close to me. My stance is strong also because there is really hardly any honest publicity about raising awareness of these issues. In social situations, it’s not “appropriate” to admit to one’s weaknesses, especially if those feelings of weakness are in one’s head. Mention therapy or the thought of getting help, things get awkward.

So here it goes: I have been to therapy to see a counselor on a regular basis. No, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown nor did I have a scary sounding mental condition that would make me feel like I couldn’t cope. There are so many states of anxiety and depression that get a grip on people these days – and is it really a surprise? Having had a fairly open-minded attitude towards getting help for mental health concerns, even I found it hard to cross that threshold to contact someone to get help.

And you know, counseling is great. I think everyone should get some at times just to get a fresh look at where it’s at. It’s easy to loose sight of things in your life, whatever they may be. It’s defeatist to deny the need for an objective outside opinion, which you can’t always get from your family or friends.

Openness – it is the key to many things. I wish it could be embraced better in public – after all, we are not machines but human beings with imperfections and faults which make us all the bit better for it. Say yes to that.