T’ai Chi – Treading Softly on Dreams

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The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W. B. Yeats

Finding my feet again

I have always loved my feet – and have depended on them profoundly, for the movement work that I do, as a T’ai Chi and Chi Kung practitioner. So it was quite a shock for me this summer, when I was suddenly stricken with tendonitis of the Achilles, in both legs, and was hobbling around in all manner of soreness, burning pain, and deep unease.

Who knows why these things happen when they do? Except, it feels a strange coincidence that I went down with this ailment – or at least, it flared into full intensity – on the very day that I heard of the death of a dear, far-off friend, from cancer.

She was a dancer, a beautiful dancer. I had trained with her at the Laban Centre, and for me, her movement – powerful, beautiful and clear – embodied the essence of dance itself. Now she was no more. And it was as if my very feet had been cut from under me, along with her.

Still – life exhorts us to move onwards. Amidst the underlying sorrow, there has been much dancing since this moment – and much T’ai Chi and Chi Kung. It is an integral part of my life, after all. And my feet still hurt, but far less so. And the combined wisdoms of acupuncture, osteopathy – and the T’ai Chi itself – are helping to re-connect me to the earth. To hope, resilience and a new future.

Respecting the wisdom of the elders

It is not just my friend who shines the way forward, even after her death, but the wonderful wisdom of my T’ai Chi teachers. One, Andreas Demetriou, whom I trained with over ten years, whilst I lived in London, still lives and practises in South London. He is in his early seventies, and as elegant as ever.

The other one has been dead for some time, but her words and her philosophies, remain as potent as when she still lived and taught. This is Gerda Geddes – the first western woman to learn T’ai Chi in China, and to bring the technique back to the UK, where she pioneered its teaching, at The Place in the 1970s, home of London Contemporary Dance. This is where my own teacher trained with her. It is all about the lineage!

Dancer in the light

A lovely book about Gerda Geddes’ life was written by Frank Woods, called ‘Dancer in the Light’. And one direct quote from Mrs Geddes strikes me as particularly powerful. I refer to it alot in my own teaching, and it remains a lodestar to me, both of present and future endeavour.

Moving gracefully through life

She describes a first meeting with two Chinese T’ai Chi teachers, one 74 years old, and the other 82.

“The two old gentlemen stood up in their long, grey silken gowns, with black skullcaps on their heads, and performed the long Yang form. When I looked at the eighty-two year old man, whom I never met again, I had a sensation that he was transparent, like air, as if there was no barrier for him between this life and another life.

“His balance was perfect, and although he was old and thin, the flow of his movements and the harmony of his body seemed timeless. I have often held him up as an example for myself, of how to live, and of how to grow old.”

Autumn classes coming up

T’ai Chi has seen me through the last thirty years of my life – through loss and sorrow, as well as joy and new beginnings. It is a constant teacher and a comfort. There is nothing quite as eloquent for me, as this quiet meditative movement practise – despite all the other forms of dance and of movement that I have learned along the way.

And if you would like to join me, to tread softly through  your autumn days, I will be running new classes this November and December – and a longer workshop in December too.

You can take a look here for details: CLASSES WITH BARNEY

‘Dancer in the Light: the life of Gerda ‘Pytt’ Geddes/Frank Woods (Psi Books)

In loving memory of Laurie McLeod

Animals and Reiki

FE362B21-0AFA-4BB4-B961-610F3ABDAEBD_1_105_cThis is my Old Dog Muffin, taken in the last few months of her life. Still very photogenic…

In praise of rescue dogs

OUR RESCUE DOG, Muffin, was always an anxious creature. No wonder – given the woeful circumstances of her early life: kept half-starved in a high-rise flat, along with a pack of other desperate, neglected dogs. She cried alot when we first rescued her, via the RSPCA. She was terrified of being left alone, yet did not know how to co-exist, either with humans, or with other dogs. But with time and patience and kindness, Muffin grew to be an intuitive, exuberant, extravagantly loving pal to the whole family. She was the inspiration for the last book I wrote, Old Dog, and, seven years after her death, she remains a lodestar for all that I might wish for, in a canine companion.

Meditation and Miles Davis

The last years of Muffin’s long life were compromised by ill health – heart problems, a stroke, and arthritic hips. But she retained her humour, her greedy appetite – for food and for life – and her love for us, right to the end. During her time in our family, I turned to a serious study of meditation. There was ill health in the household, as my husband Tim was terminally ill with cancer, and I needed help to deal with the pall of death and dying, that hung over all our heads for so long (ten years in all). As well as being a brilliant nurse-companion to Tim – sensitive to his depressive moods and his suffering, and enthusiastic, always, to walk with him through the woods and to play silly games – Muffin turned out to be an expert meditator.

Despite her skittishness, the dog also had a propensity – a deep longing, even – for relaxation and calm. It was not long before she got the hang of it. And better than I, indeed, with my mad-chattering-tormented-human-mind. As soon as the meditation bowl was struck and I sat in contemplation, she would come and lie beside me, drifting into a deeply quiet, almost semi-conscious state. She loved it.  (She was also a great fan of Miles Davis, and the Kind of Blue album would invariably send her into a serene jazz hypnosis within minutes of it starting: but that’s another story.)

Reiki for Animals

I am sad that I was not a Reiki practitioner when Muffin was still alive. (See Reiki In Leeds to find out more about the technique). I wonder if the deep aches and pains she suffered in her dotage, as well as her hyper alert, ‘fight or flight’ personality, hardwired from her deprived early life, would have found some relief, through some warm, hands-on Reiki? Judging by her response to simple meditation, I suspect she would have enjoyed it. For, at its foundation, Reiki is indeed a meditative process: its aim, simply to be quiet, calm and focussed; allowing the natural vitality within and without us, to flow, via the hands, with a kind and restoring intent.

My sense is that many animals, unpolluted by the constant questioning and judging that weighs down human minds, might love Reiki, and benefit greatly from its gentle support and connection. I don’t practise professionally on animals myself – though there are many who do, and who have considerable success in their work.

Donkeys love a moment of relaxation

Dogs and horses seem to feel a particular benefit from Reiki. A practitioner in West Yorkshire, Sue Malcolm, sends through bulletins from time to time, about her work with rescue animals, via Friends of Baxter Animal Care . One charming account – with photographs of donkeys in an animal sanctuary lining up to receive group Reiki, and then spontaneously lying down next to one another, so chilled and relaxed did they become – particularly moved me. Where is the harm in this – however sceptical you might feel about Reiki? To help an abused animal experience some moments of deep calm and comfort, is demonstration of real compassion. It’s a world I want to be part of.

Dogs in the zone

Sometimes, surreptitiously, I lay my hands on friends’ dogs, just to gauge their reaction. I do ask permission, both from owner (verbally) and from dog ( they let me know either way, through simple body language). This happened once at a book group I belong to. The dog of the household is a lovely black labrador, very friendly and gregarious. She was happy to let my hands rest on her – and pretty soon wafted off into a deep and inert state, despite the many people in the room vying for her attention. After a while, she quietly got up, walked away from me, and took herself off to another room, and to her bed. Normally very sociable, this time the Reiki told her something different. Go to sleep. Rest. You are off duty now. The next time I saw her, many weeks later, she came right up to me and sat expectantly by my side, waiting for my hands to rest on her again.

Taking a big breath out

The second dog I approached, was a very different character. He had come to visit us for the afternoon. A big dog – and boisterous – he wears about him a permanent air of good cheer and excitement. He has his own problems – a skin complaint that creates a maddening itch, arthritic ankles, and a tendency to pant restlessly, making relaxation sometimes hard to achieve. There has been shock and bereavement in his household in the past – and his big heart has inevitably taken a hit from that experience.

I hardly expected him to settle when I sat beside him. And for a long time he didn’t. He panted and wriggled and wanted to play. But I left one hand on his back, and one on his flank, and waited. The panting continued. His heart beat fast. His tongue lolled and he thrashed about a bit, as usual. But then – all of a sudden – the panting stopped dead. He took a deep, deep sigh – and lay perfectly still. Some minutes later came another sweet, deep sigh. I moved away from him. He stayed where he was. There was a sense of calm and of peace in his big, shaggy, jovial old body. When it was time to take him home, I had to work to wake him up again. And this I hadn’t expected – that he would take the Reiki so easily and so completely. That he would find such tranquillity.

But in the end, that’s all we’re after really, isn’t it – humans and animals both? A chance to breathe more freely, and to enjoy a few moments peace in a demanding and pressurised world. I don’t think it will be long before I sit beside another dog, and enjoy some of those peaceful moments with them, through the quiet and unobtrusive power of Reiki.

If you would like to book a (human!) Reiki session with me, please go to my Reiki in Leeds page for details.

Kathleen Prasad has written alot about working with animals and Reiki. Visit her website here: https://www.animalreikisource.com

Reflections in a Mirror

IMG_0507Molly (left) and Barney (right) in a salty, windswept, seaside selfie, autumn 2017

The Mother and Daughter Conundrum

PEOPLE SAY my daughter looks like me. I can’t see it myself. Although she is tall and long of limb, as am I, her face is much more symmetrical, more classically beautiful, than mine. We are very different, in character and ambition. Yet still, curiously connected and interdependent. And it’s partly  a numbers game.

Molly is 26 and I am 62. Back to back we stand: both in our age and stage of life. She is climbing up the hill of adult life: I am perched at the top, ready to descend, slowly, on the other side. And every eleven years this strange reversal happens. When Molly was 15, I was 51. At 73, she will be 37. Each time it happens, I take stock. It’s a seismic shift of awareness. Not comfortable – but instructive. Reflections of a life in change. Hers – and mine.

Shock of Midlife

The first shock came in my fifties. Molly, at 15, was entering the mysterious world of puberty. She became a stranger for a while. Meanwhile, I, at 51, was lurching about in the maelstrom of mid life – with no idea who the hell I was any more. (See “I Am Beginning Again”, Guardian article: link here )

I had spent the past decade caring for my husband, who died of a rare cancer at 47.  The disease took almost everything we had. I had no money, no work – no partner – and not much of a social life either.  I became a bit of a recluse. I dug my ragged allotment.I walked the dog.

Then came the menopause, charging down the tracks like an overheated steam train.  I looked in the mirror and saw my mother: hair greying at the temples;  brow furrowed with care. I turned around and saw the face of my daughter –  dewy with youth, the whole world in front of her. That’s it, I thought. I’ve had it.

Tough and turbulent it may be –  but menopause shakes loose the fire in a woman. At least, it did in me. Not for nothing is it called The Change. Slowly, as I emerged from my grief and isolation,  it began to dawn on me. This was no end. It was barely the start.

I  picked  up on things I  had thought lost – published two books, wrote a pile of features, began to dance again, went back to work in theatre – and re-discovered an appetite for travel  and solo adventure.

I learned that life goes in circles, if you live long enough. Things, people, places, passions. So much can be retrieved, if you have the heart  to go looking.

Murky World of Adolescence

But even as I turned my face out to the world, Molly turned hers inwards, to negotiate the murky world of adolescence. It’s a scary time for parent and child. “Just stay alive,” was my silent mantra, all through her teens. She wasn’t one of the risk takers, by any means; still,  those words ran through my mind, like a tormenting refrain. Luckily, stay alive she did.

Never a fan of school, she went through sixth form nonetheless,  and then to university – coming out with a first class degree in film. Losing your dad at 11 – after knowing him ill, for the whole of your young life – is a huge thing to manage. But she is her father’s daughter. Bears herself with dignity and resolve. And she keeps walking forward, into her unfolding life.

Eleven years have passed now,  and mirrored in age we stand again: 26 and 62. Janus-faced, we  look in  opposite directions. But this time it’s her taking off.  And me, coming into land.

Broad Sunny Uplands

After the wild and rackety ride of my 50s, I am more than ready to dial down the noise. The splashy, extrovert world of theatre – the shouty politics of the marketplace – no longer pulls me in, in the same way. The circle has turned,  all over again, and I am happy to embrace the quiet.

When I was tiny, before I could walk or talk, my mother would sit me on a blanket in the back garden, and place a little book in my hands.  Of course I couldn’t read a word, but was  captivated by the object itself. A thing of contemplation. An escape from my noisy older brothers!  And when mum came to scoop me up, some time later, I would be in the same position exactly: perfectly still, perfectly content. I’ve searched for that stillness ever since.

 Maybe only now, entering the “broad sunny uplands of my sixties” – as a friend delightfully put it – am I able to find that little girl again: to remember and to learn from her; to be the person I am really meant to be, beneath the accretions of age and experience.

Lessons of the Body

Sometimes the body forces these lessons on us, too. At 58 – ten years on from my decade of frontline caring – I started to fall apart physically. A B12 anaemia, with fierce attendant infections. Stomach problems. A  broken shoulder. All the years of holding things together finally proved too much: it all fell apart. And I crept through the next few years – trying to figure out how to put myself back together again.

“Your adrenal glands are depleted”, a medical herbalist advised. Too much “fight or flight” in my life, and now: no fight left.

But the body knows what it needs, and mine needed rest. Meditation. Acupuncture. Reiki. Solitude.

Changing Rhythms of Life

When I turned 30, I had taken a swerve in my life, away from my job as a journalist, to study dance and T’ai Chi. First a rehabilitation  for a debilitating illness in my 20s, it  then became a whole new way of life, energetic and joyful. (See “Dancing Feet”)

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T’ai Chi in action… Barney in Bus Ride at The Queens Hotel, Leeds, by the The Performance Ensemble. © Mike Pinches 2018

At 60, illness was to be my guide again. It led me this time to Reiki, a Japanese touch technique, very subtle, miraculously calm. Reiki helped me recover from the broken shoulder and all the debilitations of the previous two years. Eased the pain. Settled my mind. Dialled down the  “Yang” of the outside world. Dialled up the quiet reserves, deep inside. 62 brings me to a much stiller, more contemplative place – writing, and practising Reiki – and I am happy to be here. (See Reiki in Leeds)

Turning Out to the World

At 26, Molly’s challenge is quite different. One’s 20s are such a turbulent decade. Out of the  cocoon of education – into a pushy, competitive market:  where the one who shouts the loudest, too often wins.

 A natural-born introvert, my daughter is never likely to raise her voice (I am the loudest in our house by far, despite my new-found Zen).  But her organisational skills, in both theatre producing and office management, her cool-headed acumen in the workplace, speak louder than words, and will surely lead her where she wants to be.

She came home after university, as is the modern way. But I know that won’t last. Before I blink, she will be gone again, and letting go with grace will be my job then. I am working on it.

 bac7bd90-1fb1-41a4-a73e-4b14d8362366Emma (left) and Molly (right) in Times Square, New York, 2019

After her dad died, Molly developed a phobia of flying. For 15 years she refused point blank to step on a plane. But this year – she booked herself on a flight to New York with her friend Emma. The long impasse was broken. Change is – quite literally –  in the air

Moving On into the Mirror of the Future

The next time we will mirror each other in age, will be in October 2029, when she turns 37, and I will be 73. What will the world look like then? And where will we both be?  I suspect that the silent mantra I used throughout my daughter’s growing up, will be turned towards me at that point, as I go into the uncharted waters of  old age proper. Just stay alive.

 If I am lucky enough to do that – maybe I’ll be ready to spread my wings again, and it will be me on that plane to New York, with Molly, wherever in life she may find herself,  waiting for me to land safely . Both of us ready for another adventure: another reflection in the mirror of our unfolding lives.

This feature was originally written for the Guardian Newspaper. It has remained unpublished – except here and now! The original feature, which sparked the idea for this follow up, was first published in the Guardian in 2008, and then re-published in Femail the same year. Of all the pieces I have written, “I am beginning again” excited the most – and most positive –  responses from readers.

Holding the Circle

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T’ai chi in the Park

T’ai Chi Picnic in the Park, Roundhay, Leeds, on Saturday 3rd August 2019. Here some of my group were “Holding the Circle”: symbolically, gathering the world’s energy into a quiet, shared space. With a wish for stillness in movement – and a deep sense of peace.

Look at the expression on these people’s faces: focussed and quiet and steady. Some have plenty of experience of T’ai Chi and Chi Kung; others, almost none. But it doesn’t take long for the message of calm to translate into minds and bodies.

It is such a privilege to work with this movement form, and to meet so many different people, all drawn to the magic, the secret treasure of T’ai Chi/Chi Kung.

Finding your roots

I began this practise in 1986.  It has kept me company all my adult life – through good times and terrible times. Sometimes I neglected to do it, sometimes I left it for a while to focus more fully on my dance and improvisation work. (Have look at my Dancing Page for a more detailed history).

But it always comes back to me, will never let me go. Because there is a companionship, a quiet wisdom, in this ancient Chinese form, that I know I need. Like a pair of warm hands at my back, slowly urging me forward in life. Reassuring. Challenging. Utterly transcendent.

Timeless harmony of T’ai Chi

My teacher’s teacher was Gerda Geddes, a remarkable pioneer, who brought T’ai Chi over to the West in the 1950s. Here she describes seeing T’ai Chi being performed for her in Hong Kong in 1951:

“The two old gentlemen stood up in their long, gray silken gowns, with black skullcaps on their heads, and performed the long Yang form. When I looked at the 82 year old man, whom I never met again, I had a sensation that he was transparent, like air, as if there was no barrier for him between this life and another life.

“His balance was perfect, and although he was old and thin, the flow of his movements and the harmony of his body seemed timeless. I have often held him up as an example of how to grow old.”

If  you would like to grow old gracefully – whatever age you are now –  and try out some T’ai Chi/Chi Kung, either one -to-one, or in a group, then take a look at my Classes Page, and  be in touch with me via email:

barney.bardsley@icloud.com

Looking for the Golden Needle’ by Gerda Geddes is published by MannaMedia

Wild Goose Flying

48008062427_1e36a1d694_o.jpg(Memoir workshop at the Northern Short Story Festival, 2 June 2019, Leeds. Photo: Izzy Brittle)

Memory and Imagination

I have been sitting at my desk this morning, thinking and writing about 1981. It was the time of the Brixton riots in South London, and I lived right in the heart of Brixton. It was a heady – and dangerous – time. This memory work is part of a new project, a memoir about the body, called Wild Goose Flying. It is just the seeds of an idea. But the process is already fascinating. How can we cast our minds back to events that happened thirty years ago, and write about them in an immediate – and truthful – way? This is the work of memoir: part archeology, part imagination. An evocation, and a very personal one, of a time that may be long gone. A story being told, of a real time, a real place: but mirrored through the subjective. Everything in memoir is deeply individual.

For me, this process is both mental AND physical. I sit and dream myself back. The pictures of a long-ago experience become real, almost tangible in my mind’s eye. Like a film being played against the back of the brain. Time travel. Gathered images. Snatches of conversation. Powerful emotions coming back to the fore. Intense and tiring. But exhilarating too. Writing is an act of the body, as well as the brain.

Writing from Life

Earlier this summer, I ran a workshop for the Northern Short Story Festival on the subject of memoir. How can we write from our own lives, in a way that is skilful and compelling – not just cathartic and emotional?

These were the things we grappled with, and people shared my misgivings about the rise of the ‘misery memoir’: whole shelves in the bookshop stuffed with people bleeding onto the page about their abusive childhoods, their drug addiction, their woeful losses and hardships. Memoir is more than this, much more – and better.

It takes a real story and hones it, until the personal becomes universal, and the story, however difficult, becomes one of human strength and resilience. Memoir, at its best, shines a light into darkness, and helps us understand our own lives better. It illuminates, and points the way forward (See The Power of the Personal for more on this).

48008019198_3f6fcb38eb_o(Workshop in progress at Northern Short Story Festival, photo Izzy Brittle)

The Creative Hive

It did not take much for the group I worked with on this day to get writing, and to produce material that was both original and startling. There was shock – an account of a real-life burglary from the previous week, turned into a wild and provocative short story; emotion – the memory, beautifully evoked, of a son’s birth, and of his first moments in this world; humour – how to make friends with the snails in your garden (!); and quiet, sometimes painful reflections, of difficult childhoods, failed relationships, and of finding – always – a pathway through, back to the true self.

48008014276_aba08e2d01_o.jpg(Where writers are gathered together, humour is never far away. Northern Short Story Festival, photo: Izzy Brittle)

48008084232_fcb362985b_o.jpg(Someone cracked me up for some reason. Northern Short Story Festival. Photo: Izzy Brittle)

Writing sets you free

Writing is never a way out. It is a hard craft. Takes dedication and patience. Endless re-writes. The constant threat of rejection – all your hard work coming to nothing, at the whim of an editor, a newspaper, a publisher, who may have a quite different agenda to your own. Recently I threw away files and files of unpublished material. There it had stood, for years, gathering dust on the shelves. It was never going to see the light of day. And whilst it is prudent to let your work ‘marinate’ for a while – don’t be too quick to criticise or judge – sometimes it is sensible, too, to let it go. Because nothing will be wasted. Like a dancer taking class, not for the sake of a performance, but simply to hone her own body and her own craft, writing is not just about publication. And whilst never a way out –  it is a way through.  A means to understanding your own life’s purpose a little better, and a way of connecting you to the world of imagination, ideas, experience. And sometimes, even, to your own innate wisdom.

You can read more about the Northern Short Story Festival here:

Northern Short Story Festival

Here are links to my two published memoirs:

A Handful of  Earth

Old Dog

 

 

Silence is Golden

IMG_1859(Back Garden at Reiki in Leeds)

“Silence is golden

But my eyes still see”

The Tremeloes

Early in the morning

THIS MORNING I took my wake-up cup of tea out into the back garden with me, and sat, with just the birds for company, in the quiet of the new day. I live on an urban estate in North Leeds, so in the summer, things are rarely completely quiet. There are small children all over the neighbourhood, just raring to kick their footballs into my raspberry bushes at the front. And adolescent boys keen to intimidate, chugging about the roads on their motorised trikes, and revving their souped-up tin-can cars. But peace can always be found somewhere. It settles, in silky meditative layers, in my Reiki Room at the back of the house. And if I sneak out early enough in the day, before everyone is awake, then the entire garden is an oasis of calm. Silence for the ears. Rich colours for the eyes. Just me on my chair – and the birds, flying from tree to tree, unbothered by the somnabulant human, perched in the corner, and dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.

The spaces in-between

Absolute silence, nonetheless, is a rare and precious commodity. Even when alone and tranquil, as I was this morning at 6.30, there were layers of sound all around me – birdsong, the wind, the distant clatter of a kitchen pan; and sounds inside me too – the constant internal narrative of my chattering thoughts, and the high-frequency tones of my pesky tinnitus! But we can, nevertheless, move towards the spaces in between these sounds; and remove ourselves, now and again, from the relentless layers of noise in our high octane contemporary lives. The relief, when we do so, is palpable, and profoundly rejuvenating.

Just like stillness (The Art of Stillness) and solitude ( The Uses of Solitude ), silence is a beautiful resource. A deep well of energy can spring up from within its contours.

IMG_1853(Listening to Penny Greenland speak at #WildConference. Photo Malcolm Johnson)

Alone in a crowd

I have just returned from a wonderful open air Wild Conference organised by the mighty Slung Low theatre company here in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Set in the rolling hills and woodland of the Temple Newsam Estate, the gathering of 450 people – artists, public policy makers, theatre creators and political activists – met, to discuss ideas, to dream of a better future, and to vow to help that happen, to implement change: with the maxim “be useful, be kind” at its root. Everyone wore headphones and moved from tent to tent, gathering inspiration from the many fine speakers. With the headphones switched on, you could tune in to any of the speakers at any given moment, by switching channels as you wished. You were also free to move – away from the crowds, to sit under a distant tree, maybe, or to lie on a cushion and gaze at the sky. All the while listening to a stream of lovely, intelligent talk. Easily overwhelmed by crowds, this was a perfect set up for me. Even better: I got to feel the wind on my face and the sun on my head. Outside, unchained.

img_1857.jpg(T’ai Chi in the wind at #WildConference. Photo Malcolm Johnson)

Moving together – in silence

There was much to put fire in my belly from this fine endeavour – like a mini Glastonbury, without the music (although there was that, too, at the evening cabaret.) Perhaps closest to my heart was the energy of Penny Greenland, founder of JABADEO , speaking passionately about living an embodied life (rather than retreating, as adults so often do, into our minds and our armchairs, or locking ourselves away behind desks.)

But one of my favourite moments, was away from the campfire hubbub, up on a green hill, where I led a morning T’ai Chi session ( See also Classes with Barney ) for anyone who was willing to abandon their croissant, and come up under the trees, to move with me. I suspected no one would come at all. But they did. And the wind blew cool. But we stood firm, performing the ancient Taoist movements – Wild Goose Flying, Separate the Clouds, Pushing the Wave – in exactly the kind of setting from where those movements’ inspiration came: on the green grass, under a blue sky, in nature. Moving silently together. In peace.

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The Silent Eloquence of Touch

T’ai Chi and Chi Kung gain their greatest power when performed in silence – when the instructor’s voice drops away, and it is just a body of people, moving quietly together, in a stream of flowing energy.

Reiki – the other body-based practice I love – seems quite a different activity from T’ai Chi, to the outside eye: one person lying, perfectly still, on the practise table; with the practitioner laying  hands upon her at various places along the body – head, heart, solar plexus, knees, feet – and simply leaving them there, as if planted, for what can seem like an eternity. Time stops still in the Reiki Room. But all the time, an energetic flow is being released – between hands and bodies, between bodies and minds. It is a quiet summons to life itself. A tuning in, to the hum and pulse of our living, breathing bodies. With stillness, movement. An embodied moment.

All of this takes place in silence. Although music may play softly in the background – though often people elect for none – words are rarely exchanged, once the Reiki session has begun. And this time of silence is curiously intimate, touching and profound.

How badly we need to communicate with each other more openly and optimistically, as patterned by the Wild Conference. How crucially important it is – for  our brain health, as well as our whole being – to live Penny Greenland’s “embodied life” of movement. And how golden it is, to be silent from time to time, whether alone or together; whether in the flow of a T’ai chi class, or the deep rest of a Reiki session… Or maybe, just sitting quietly outside – or in a church – or in your own room. Just being. And leaving the world to its own devices, just a for a little while. To quote another fine sixties pop group, The Hollies: “Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe.”  The sound of silence is calling to you now – listen in.

If you would like to book a Reiki session or T’ai Chi/Chi Kung session with me, take a look at Reiki in Leeds  and Classes with Barney for more details. Or drop me a line at barney.bardsley@icloud.com.

The pictures of the Slung Low Wild Conference were taken by Malcom Johnson. Take a look at his website here: https://www.malcijphotography.co.uk