Widening the Circle of Safety and Support for Women
Like many of us, I have witnessed the recent media treatment of female sexual assault with despair. There are too often too many cases where a woman who has experienced trauma is not given recourse to justice. In many parts of the world, it is still the victim, not the perpetrator, who is discredited, excluded, shamed and faces further violence from society.
What can we do to change these shocking narratives and how can we support women to recover and communities to grow beyond patriarchal systems of gender-based violence and oppression? One action I have taken is to join Annie Lennox’s charity The Circle, which supports projects that do just that. I am also passionate about co-directing Sing for Water fundraisers for WaterAid projects which transform the lives of the women and girls around the world who spend 200 million hours daily walking for water.
As I feel it’s important to keep sharing messages of hope and solidarity, in this blog I want to identify some of the positive stages of recovery, so we can all help widen the circle of support for women.
1. Acknowledging Oppression The first step is acknowledging the situation women face today. Just one of the many statistics included by Annie Lennox in her #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist campaign is that 1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. These statistics are likely to be skewed, as many women are too frightened or in too much danger to speak out.
There are horrific acts of violence happening against women right now – which is why it’s important that those of us able to read this safely on laptops or phones take action in whatever small way we can. Women who have experienced victimisation are not just victims and statistics – they are strong, vibrant, creative human beings with the right to live peacefully and safely on the planet. When we stand up against oppression as individuals, we stand up for all women.
2. Owning, Voicing and Witnessing When a woman who has experienced gender-based trauma is able to own and tell her story, it is crucial that she is given safe, supportive witness. We need to be on the look out for signs that a woman is struggling, even before she feels able to disclose. We can encourage women to safely speak out and access confidential, professional support. As a singer, I feel we need to empower and educate girls to feel they have a voice. A girl who knows the power of her voice can say “no”, can shout for help and can stand up to oppression. Disclosing is only one step in the road to recovery – the #MeToo movement has seen an outpouring of stories which now needs to be met with a commitment to support recovery and social justice.
3. Creating a Circle of Safety and Support When a woman has experienced trauma, it is essential that she can access safe shelter and support for herself and her dependents. A circle of support can be formed – including her trusted friends and the health, employment, childcare or legal services she needs to access. In a caring, encouraging, empowering environment, she can recover and rebuild her life.
There are many inspiring case studies on The Circle website – including women like Bina who left an abusive marriage with the support of counselling and legal support from a woman’s shelter in India, domestic violence survivor Siyandaand her son who received help from the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre, Cape Town, and the many women who receive support at the Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre.
4. Justice The inner process of recovery for women needs to be matched by an outer process of social justice. In a village featured in a film by The Asian Circle, after yet another woman was beaten by her drunken husband, women gathered together and smashed all the liquor pots. In the Samburu region of Kenya, where women are viewed as property, Rebecca Lolosoli spoke out against the rape of an estimated 1400 women in the 1980s and 90s by British soldiers. She was beaten by local men and received no support from her husband. She left her village and formed the Umoji village with 15 rape survivors, which now houses 50 women and 200 children seeking refuge from FGM, child marriage, rape and domestic violence. The women manage their own finances and land and their rape cases are finally being investigated legally.
These stories testify to the immense resilience of women in the face of brutal oppression and the power that becomes available when we join together to say #TimesUp.
5. Liberation With support, solidarity and recourse to justice, a woman can liberate and reclaim herself from the shadow of violent oppression. She can rise up and recreate her life for herself and her loved ones.
As she does, the whole community can be transformed. Men can become allies in this process, such as the members of Uganda’s police force who after 24 women were brutally murdered, went on a walk carrying water pots on their heads and babies on their back to see what it was like ‘to walk in women’s shoes’ and to inspire other men to ‘see the benefits of equality’.
Just as everyone suffers in a world which brutalises women and girls, everyone gains when women are liberated from oppression and violence. We are all part of the change and we can all help widen the circle of safety and support for women.
I warmly invited you to join us at a special Chai Day event on 25thNovember which is International Day to End Violence Against Women, 2-5pm in aid of The Circle at St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood - people of all genders welcome - more info below.
Chai Day - Day to End Violence Against Women Fundraiser for The Circle Church Hall at St John the Evangelist, Sylvan Road, SE19 2RX, Sunday 25th November 2-5pm I'm hosting a Chai Day to help raise awareness and funds for Annie Lennox's Charity to empower women worldwide, The Circle. Featuring inspirational guests: Jackie Morrison -founder of We Stap Esther Austin - inspirational empowerment speaker Gill Manly - local jazz diva Shaniqua Benjamin - poet and founder of Young People Insight Katie Rose - singing for solidarity Bring friends and cake to share and suit your dietary requirements :) We will be collecting donations for the Circle (suggested donation £5) and sanitary products for local Period Poverty Charity We-Stap. Feel free to bring info about Women's organisations/ services to share Click here for a brochure about Chai Day here
Welcoming Creative Bloopers If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something. - Neil Gaiman In Community Choirs we have a saying 'wrong and strong' which is about encouraging singers to sing out, even when they are not feeling confident of a part yet. When we strike out for anything in life there it may involve a few takes until it comes out how we'd like, but we have to be willing to give it a go. Too often the mainstream media culture of blame and shame, celebrity judges and public votes can create a culture of fear about taking the creative risks that are necessary for growth. So here's a little October tonic to help us love, learn and grow from our bloopers.
Recovering from Mistakes via Repetition and Adjustment The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way. - Dale Carnegie When we are children we recover and learn from mistakes via a process of repetition and adjustment. When my baby nephew was learning to walk, I watched him taking the step in his garden time and time again, making slight adjustments every time - up, down, sideways, backwards - until he was confident he had mastered it. He was totally absorbed in this process, with no judgement of any of the inevitable bumps along the way until he'd got it ... and then he’d move onto the next thing – such as banging all the cupboard doors! Choir members are often amazed to find they can sing when they thought they couldn't. What has happened is that they have found a space where they feel safe to repeat the process of singing enough times to feel confident. It’s called practice and every singer of every level needs to do it and will make multitudes of helpful mistakes along the way.
Editing Mistakes Creatively Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. - Scott Adams We all have a natural desire for growth and improvement which too often becomes fused with competition and judgement. We can learn to transform our Inner Critic into our Creative Editor. The Inner Critic sabotages growth with incessant judgement and unhelpful critique. The Creative Editor uses mistakes as signposts and says ‘hmm that’s interesting, the tone of this note was great, but I’d like to go over that one again,’ and gets busy with the process of repeating, refining, learning, growing. When we cultivate this type of creative, curious listening for ourselves, we become resilient in the face of mistakes, judgement and rejection.
Mistakes precede growth Life is all about evolution. What looks like a mistake to others has been a milestone in my life. - Amisha Patel Mistakes are what happens before things get really good. I have made 'mistakes' whilst recording a song that brought in a fresh idea from left field. JK Rowling received 12 rejections before finally getting a yes from a publisher for Harry Potter -"I pinned my 1st rejection letter to my kitchen wall because it gave me something in common with all my fave writers!" she tweeted. We have the companionship of life's courageous doers when we commit to keep singing through the bum notes until we reach that wonderful performance high, when it sounds great and everyone feels fantastic. A natural amnesia kicks in at this point - the song we just wrestled with suddenly becomes the most amazing thing we've ever sung and if we do recall the struggle, we feel that it was all worth it.
Mistakes are funny, endearing and human As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes. - Mel Brooks Celebrity blooper videos and film outtakes get millions of hits because mistakes are a wonderfully entertaining part of being human. Everyone has to go through the process of learning and making mistakes and it's so much more fun if we allow ourselves to love the bloopers along the way.
Wishing you the beautiful bounty of brilliant bloopers this October :)
Welcoming Change The young become the old and mysteries do unfold for that's the way of time no one, and nothing goes unchanged - Everything Must Change - Bernard Igner There is the inkling of Autumn emerging in the air here in London, the feeling of the wheel of the year about to turn. Opening the door to change enables us to flow freely and I've been loving listening to Gill Manly's stunning version ofEverything Must Change to help me roll with the changes.
Welcoming Our Voice It only takes one voice at the right pitch to start an avalanche - Dianna Hardy Our voice is an immensely powerful instrument which, when used with awareness, can change our world. Welcoming our voice enables us to speak, present, sing and communicate with confidence, joy and vibrancy. We can also then empower, inspire and encourage others around us to find their voice - competition transforms to celebration when we remember that everyone's voice is more unique than their finger print! I'm looking forward to an exciting new term of choirs as I know that through the process of singing together we are all liberated in very unique ways.
Welcoming the Harmony of Difference There’s something that’s quite other about singing the harmonies that’s more unifying than singing in unison – P. Peace Makers Choir One of the things I love about choirs is how, through the harmonising of unique voices, we create something bigger than all of us. Around the world this September, people will be raising their voices for #WorldPeaceDay - and we'll be celebrating locally with a Peace Parade at Crystal Palace Food Market. I'm also thrilled to be taking part in Croydon Composers again this year- a project which brings composers across varied cultural and genres to create new music together. It's thrilling to see what happens when musical worlds collide and I can't wait to see what comes out of the musical pot this year.
Welcoming Our Treasures As dyed in blood, the streaming vines appear, While long and low the wind about them grieves; The heart of Autumn must have broken here, And poured its treasure out upon the leaves. - Woodbines in October - Charlotte Fisk Bates
It takes just one falling leaf, a smudge of red, to light up a dull grey pavement. Deep within us is a part of us that longs to pour out our treasure - our unspoken words, unwritten books or unsung songs - to share who we really are with the world. It can feel so huge and overwhelming, like an unscalable mountain - yet every book is written a word at a time. I loved thisblog on marginal gains by James Clear which reminds us that just a 1% improvement can start a whole chain of positive change in our lives. As the seasons change, we can align to our True North with daily actions which share and grow the real treasures of love, joy, peace and fulfilment in life.
Wishing you the a warm, glowing, peaceful September
Making Life Meaningful The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe to it. Being alive is the meaning - Joseph Campbell Having now reached the meaningful age of 42, with gratitude for still being alive, here are some reflections on the meaning of life.
Meaningful Creativity The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away - Picasso Know Thyself - the great inscription at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi - commands us to discover our deepest selves - which includes our unique calling or gift in life. Humans are of course meaning-making machines - adept at adding layers and layers of theory, analysis and mad thinking to complicate life. So to know oneself may require excavation of layers of conditioning to liberate our true selves. The dig is worth it - for at the heart of every person is a treasure trove of creativity that can be channelled into infinitely diverse works, projects, relationships, artistry and the pure joy of simply being alive.
Meaningful Service If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life - Dalai Lama To give away our gift in live enables us to contribute to the lives of others - to share our artistry, love, compassion, empathy, creativity and happiness-bestowing qualities generously with others. In doing so we find that happiness shared is happiness magnified and multiplied exponentially.
Meaningful Harmony Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. - Monty Python, The Meaning of Life The big search for meaningful living is shared by everyone. When we remember this, it is easy to respect that there are as many paths to meaning as there are people. With this understanding, we can then create connections across perceived boundaries of creed and culture and extend warmth and compassion for every person engaged in the journey of life.
Letting It All Go There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory mentioned, which states that this has already happened - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy It's possible that if we did actually know the exact meaning of life was we might a) give up looking, searching and creating it, b) explode because it's too huge to fathom, c) find that what is known rapidly transforms into another layer of unknowingness. As all the great mystics and artists have ever taught us - the great mystery of life cannot be named, cannot be conceptualised - so the attempt to find it is absurd. A glimpse can sometimes just be shared in the peak moments of life, when we find ourselves vibrantly alive in the joy of our truth, connecting with others to create a better world or indeed sharing laughter at the madly beautiful meaningful meaningless of it all... ;)
Just July True peace is not merely the absence of tension it is the presence of justice - Martin Luther King Directing Festival of Peace Croydon has made me acutely aware of the relationship between peace and justice. As Martin Luther King and so many others have taught us - to have a peaceful society we must seek justice and do what we can to support the creation of an inclusive, kind world for all.
Interdependent Inclusion Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. - President Obama Simple daily acts of inclusion quickly restore a joyful sense of community - whether it's taking a moment to smile and chat to the person serving us on our daily shop or offering our seat to a person in need of it on the train. On a larger scale, we can use whatever platforms or influence we have - whether that's via our work, friendship circles, networks or social media - to help include and give a voice to those who are routinely excluded. It was very important to me that our programme at Festival of Peace Croydon included art work by young refugees and artists with learning disabilities and profiled the work of BAME artists. If we have privilege, we must make every attempt to share and include others - by doing so we are enriched by the sharing of diverse experiences and perspectives on life - our circles widen, as do our hearts.
Love is Blind Love is blindness I don't want to see Won't you wrap the night Around me? Oh my love Blindness - U2 Love is Blindness Taken from one of my favourites songs as a teen, these lyrics convey the longing for intense absorption in love. During intensely amazing moments in life, we often close our eyes so we can really feel the love. On a more universal level, to find a deeper level of love, inclusion and connection with our fellow human beings we must practice blinding ourselves to the identity politics which constantly forge divisions between us. My friends of colour tell me they prefer the new passport checks by machines because it results in less prejudice towards them from staff. To really see, as Lady Justice knows, we have to blindfold our conditioned responses and learn to look more deeply.
Sharing Our Wealth A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity - Ralph Nader Our human society across the world is build on centuries of systematic social injustice, hierarchy and inequality. We live in a world where 8.6% of the global population own 85.6% of the global wealth. It would only take a small redistribution of the worlds resources - less than 1% of the wealth of the world's richest countries and just a fraction of the military budget of the US or the UK - to end world poverty. A huge amount of social charity is needed to counterbalance the poverty, crime, displacement, illness and deprivation that results from the unequal sharing of global resources. Here in the UK, it's more and more commonplace to read stories of people campaigning and crowdfunding to save their vital community services. Everyday heroism is increasingly required to make sure that vulnerable members of society are treated with the care which follows when we acknowledge our shared humanity.
Restoring the Balance When strangers start acting like neighbours... communities are reinvigorated - Ralph Nader We may live within systems in which the scales are still unbalanced, but we can start the change by sharing the wealth of our hearts, our talents, our voices, our kindness, our listening, our passions, our friendship, our courage. It's within our grasp and at the end of our fingertips to reach out and form the connections which build resilience and wellbeing. We can tip the scales towards justice, towards love, towards a more peaceful harmonious world.
As Festival Season takes sway, it's time to join forces, heart and voices together in song!
Artwork: Curtis Jere - Flock of Doves 1969
Joining Together in Song This June
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. - Henry Ford
THANK YOU for Staying Together - if you are receiving this it's because you were able to navigate the crazy madness of GDPR and opted-in to stay in touch - thanks so much for staying tuned.
Togetherness is Wellness When "I" is replaced with "we" even illness becomes wellness - Malcolm X The huge explosion in Festivals and events such as The Big Lunch and Jo Cox's memorial initiative The Great Get Together testifies to a need for healthy togetherness in society. Research by The Campaign for Loneliness demonstrates that getting our social vitamins has more impact on our wellbeing that smoking or drinking. Getting Together in healthy ways is good for us.
Loving Shared Weirdness We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness - and call it love—true love. - Robert Fulgham, True Love Mutually satisfying weirdness is not restricted to romantic partnerships. There is a huge growth of awareness that shared, satisfying arts activities can help alleviate mental distress - because creativity gives us a safe vessel for the expression and sharing of our own unique weirdness. We can have a whale of a time splashing red paint around on a canvas in a supportive art class - or belting our our favourite songs in a choir - all in the warm witness of good company. It's such a relieving, joyful experience to discover shared connection through creative expression. The word Weird comes from wyrd meaning 'to be able to control destiny/fate' so it's actually a hugely empowering act to embrace the calling of our own unique pathway through life. And who knows where that might lead - as Hunter S Thompson said "Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why."
Joined Up Thinking Art, freedom and creativity will change the world quicker than Politics - Victor Pinchuk During the Festival of Peace this June we will be celebrating the peaceful musical legacy of Bob Marley - a man whose music has become the anthem for revolutionary movements worldwide and who united warring leaders in Jamaica in a handshake at a 1978 concert. When we think and act creatively, we inevitably are drawn into wider connection and collaboration with others. We think out of the box and can enjoy getting out of our boxes in wonderfully, weird ways which can make a liberating contribution to those around us and our world.
Join the Singing Magic and Help Create More Peace in the World.
Dear <> Happy May Day!!
The Magical Month of May Magic and May spring from the same wordy roots meaning 'to have power' - the name of today's May Day Queen means 'she who is great.' So this May, here's some reflections on how the great magic of singing can help us make more peace in the world.
How Singing Helps Us Makes Peace
1. Bringing Magic to Mental Mayhem As singing requires us to focus on the movement of rhythm, melodies and lyrics, our mind is liberated from unhelpful thoughts, creating space for magic. We may begin with worrying thoughts 'HOW am I going to do this?' but the invitation of singing is simply to DO it - to jump in and have a go. In doing so we become absorbed and relieved of mental pressure by the currents of music washing through us. As our breathing deepens, our toes tap and our voices rise, we feel the great magic of life buzzing in our cells and it feels great!
2. Making Great Connections As we become more peaceful internally, we have space to perceive those around us in a more peaceful way - to register smiling faces, shining eyes and tender feelings around us. As we all take the risk of expressing ourselves together, we gain appreciation and respect for everyone's unique contribution. Through the creative power of making gobsmackingly beautiful harmonies, we become beautified, harmonised and humanised.
3. Peaceful Singing Magic Ripples Across The World Singing goes viral everyday - it moves, shakes, shimmies and invites us to play and bring more magic into our lives. When we allow ourselves this joyful experience, we liberate ourselves from stress and tension. Just one peaceful, uplifted person can move mountains. The sense of support, connection and wellbeing we gain from singing together can be contagious. We can become clear, confident communicators of good vibes in the world.
Inviting You to Join the Anthem For Peace This June I am directing Croydon's first Festival of Peace. The centrepiece of the Festival is the London Mozart Player's Anthem for Peace - which we warmly invite you to come and sing, dance and play with us during the Festival week. There is a full programme of vibrant arts events from 16th-23rd June. Do come and help us create magic! http://festivalofpeacecroydon.org/
This a capella song One More Lifeis a response to Knife Crime in London. I found myself asking how can we help young people value and cherish the preciousness of their lives - to channel their passions into creating lives they love and becoming the leaders of the future.
Throw-Away Lives I find myself witnessing a global de-valuing of life and humanity - a void which produces destruction of ourselves and our environment. Numbed to our true preciousness, we fill our planet full of plastic, our heads full of nonsense, and our bodies full of toxins. In the City, it's so easy to run around like a headless chicken, seduced into throwing away precious moments in hypnotic illusions - worries, stresses, media frenzy - on and on it goes. Just this morning I found myself picking up a bag full of litter in a park I love, saddened by the lack of value those that left it felt for their surroundings.
Precious Spring Rising Yet as the faces of the precious spring flowers break through the earth, it only takes a moment to breathe in their perfume, to savour their colours and reconnect to the essential quick of life. It takes just a little bit of exercise and good nutrition for bodies to feel vibrant. It takes just one hour of singing for people to feel uplifted and connected. It takes just one touch of a lonely hand for someone to feel cared for.
Restoring Preciousness As all the wise folks have reminded us throughout time, change is an inside job - if we learn to value ourselves, we can contribute more value to the lives of others. So I endeavour to take moments of refuge - to remember to breathe deep and get still, listen, reflect and make space for the creative spark of inspiration alive and kicking in every cell. It's right here in our bones and in our feet - the ancient and the new all singing within us with the wisdom of the ageless - the incredible symphony of life wanting to be heard and for us to sing our song within it. When we listen and tune into the song of life, every moment becomes precious every face we pass in the street every flower in the garden every step of our feet every breath of our Precious Life
This is my song and blog for this year's #InternationalWomen'sDay2018 - a tribute to some of the many female activists and suffragists around the world.
1. Honouring Women in the fullest spectrum of gender rainbows
Honouring that 'women' includes those who identify with being assigned female at birth (cis), those who have transitioned (transexuals) and those exploring the full spectrum of expression beyond binary ideas of gender- such as Kate Bornstein, who having transitioned from male to female sees herself as neither, and describes gender 'as a conscious practice, and a playful journey.'
2. Honouring Women in the fullest spectrum of global experience
– Rebecca Lolosoli, Founder of Umoji a women-only village in Kenya
In 1990, Rebecca Lolosoli spoke out against the rape of what is estimated to have been 1400 women in the 1980s & 90s by British soldiers. She was beaten by local men and received no support from her husband. She left her village and formed theUmojii village with 15 rape survivors, which now houses 50 women and 200 children seeking refuge from FGM, child marriage, rape and domestic violence. In the Samburu culture, a woman is seen as property - circumcised child brides are bought by polygamous older men who often desert or infect them with HIV and STDs. In Umoji, the women manage their own land and earn their own money through work such as beading, which has outraged local men. Their rape cases are finally being investigated legally.
I honour the experience of these and many other women facing injustice, degradation and violence across the world. As a white western woman, I am acutely aware that the Western version of 'Herstory' is often whitewashed. I celebrate the centenary of SOME white, propertied women in the UK getting the vote this year. It only happened for black American women in the 1960s and women in Saudi Arabia in 2015 and in too many places is yet to happen.
3. Honouring the fullest possibilities and power of women Women can face and overcome incredible obstacles - such as Serena Williams who faced a barrage of sexist, racist commentary and threats during the course of her extraordinary tennis career. She has however always responded with grace, professionalism and tenacity, determining her own destiny and becoming the winner of the most combined (39) Grand Slam titles.
This month in some of my choirs we will be singing Polly Bolton's song To Grace the Earth, a tribute to environmental and women's rights activist Wangari Maathai who knew that every tree she planted was an act of change. On many occasions she was arrested and injured for doing so. The Green Belt movement she founded in 1977 has since planted 51 million trees and she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She knew that power lies in 'the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.’
4. Honouring Women with Acts of Solidarity
What can I do? - It's easy to feel powerless in the face of enormous issues facing women around the world. But following the example of these women, I can take small daily actions - such as sharing their story with you - to demonstrate my solidarity or Umoji - Unity - with them. Everyday there are daily actions I can take I can donate to Plan International who campaign for an end to child marriage and promote education for all girls and The Circle, Annie Lennox's Charity supporting women and girls facing inequality. I can attend #IWD2018 events to share solidarity with women in my city - including Gill Manly's IWD tea party on 10th March at the Oval Tavern which will include a collection of sanitary products for local campaigners against Period Poverty We-Stap. I can write share the stories of inspirational women such as Mayor of Croydon, Toni Letts who survived domestic violence and went on to lead an amazing career. I can sing songs.
Your Turn - Have Your Say! What are your acts of solidarity this International Women's Day? How will you help pave the way for a brighter future for women and girls everywhere? What we do today can make it a better world for people of all genders. For when women grow, the whole world grows. Share it, tweet it, tell it!
April Call-Out for Your Questions/ Ideas Do you have a question or topic you'd like me to write about for April? It can be as playful or as profound as you wish... drop me a line email@example.com
What I learned from paragliding and a flying start to 2018!
In January, I set off for a weeks R&R, little knowing that a big dream would come true - here's what I learned from jumping off a big volcano in Tenerife....!
1. This Planet is Amazingly Beautiful Vitality and beauty are gifts of nature, for those who live according to its laws - Leonardo da Vinci I hope the video above allows you to enjoy the amazing beauty I witnessed (with thanks to Enminube Paragliding Team for photos and Gregor for his filming.) I felt so alive and connected to the air, the trees, the mountains and the power of life humming through this incredible Planet. I hope in future humans can treat all life with more respect and preserve a legacy of beauty.
2. Courage is Cumulative You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. - Eleanor Roosevelt As the Enminube Paragliding Team van wound its way up hairpin bends to the top of Mt Teide, the third tallest volcano in the world, I found myself thinking - 'If I managed to lead 500 people singing at Sing for Water, I can do this.' The deep breathing exercises which are part of every warm up we do at choir also came in very handy! :) Every time we take even the tiniest step out of our comfort zone, we grow our ability to act on the callings of our hearts, no matter how scary it feels. We can build on each experience to reach new heights we never thought possible.
3. Space liberates clear decision making Decision is power - Anthony Robbins Just like any other human being on the planet I can dither, deliberate, procrastinate and delay major decisions in my life. In the fresh sea air of Tenerife, away from the daily grist of London and to-do lists, I was able to make a very clear, confident decision that I would paraglide and follow through on it. When we give ourselves space to breathe - by going to the gym, meditating, being in nature etc - we are then able to reflect and clearly direct our course in life.
4. Gently held, dreams come true in their own time “Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out It's all about timing.” - Stacy Charter I have always wanted to fly - it's just been there, like a little seed within me that every so often gets activated by watching birds, hot air balloons or hang gliders. To suddenly have it burst into flower amongst the poinsettias of Tenerife was a wonderful surprise and a reminder to trust that all things come along in their own good time and as the runes say 'what's yours will not pass you by.'
5. Human Connectivity builds Resilience “Connection is why we're here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives." - Brene Brown Experienced in flying people through their fears, the Enimube Facebook Pageis full of exhilarated, glowing testimonies to the unique connection they build with those who paraglide with them. We were transformed from a group of strangers from four different countries into a team for an afternoon. Gregor, who kindly allowed me to use his head camera footage in the video, said that the experience of flying was even better when shared. The same bonding process happens in shared creative activities such as singing, where we can be real, take risks and grow together. I'm currently working towards a Community Choir Concert with St Christopher's Hospice Compassionate Neighbours programme which is building a network of volunteers to reduce social isolation by visiting those experiencing chronic, long term and terminal illness. I've also been very honoured to be included in discussions about Social Prescribing initiatives aiming to build hubs of creative and wellbeing activities. We all have our personal volcanoes to face - but when we are connected to others, research shows that we live longer, happier lives and face our challenges with increased resilience. When we connect, we fly.
Wishing you safe and happy flights of creative connection this February