Creative Leanings – maintaining intensity, connection and intimacy

How quickly and easily my perspective can change. One moment things feel vaguely ordered and my eye can wonder over surfaces and observe spacious beauty in a higgledy pigeldy collection of paraphernalia. Stuff appears aesthetically pleasing; a collection of my daughters drawings and paintings accumulated on a mantlepiece, books interspersed with items which randomly found their home on a small ledge at the edge of a shelf. Spaces evolve. Things can be placed with purpose and an eye for how they might appear now or later. To an imagined viewer. I don’t feel comfortable though – placing things. I crave organic processes where items find a home gradually, in their own time – while spaces evolve around them. To place an item with purpose feels too self conscious and to do so to please my eye feels? – well… awkward. 

I sit at the garden table littered with autumnal debris. Both beauty and mess. Is this Wabi Sabi? How can we hold in mind the conditions that spontaneously arise in which beauty can create itself as a possibility, I’m wondering. Helicoptering sycamore seeds. Two cats playing with the breeze. Drinking water from an abandoned plant pot. Ossified elderberries stain a white surface. Onions. Above ground their leaves distinct amidst the weeds and a reminder of the beginnings of lockdown and an attempt with my daughter to grow food. Are there actual onions in that ground? As I peer at the leaves, I want to ask them, How will I even know when you’re ready?

Tomato plants laden with fruit that will soon rot if not picked. I can’t get to grips with why they are still hanging there. Is it because no-one wants to eat them? I don’t know why that is – I’m puzzled. Half hearted plans? No commitment to follow through. Perhaps it was just a ‘nice idea’? There is no urgency to bring it to fruition? I find myself taking a deep breath and in comes the realisation that if I don’t keep up the momentum with these projects – it all stops. Arrested development.

I look around at the dishevelled garden. A wet screwed up j cloth discarded on the decking. A piece of plastic and remnants of tinsel hiding in the corners among the dead bay leaves. A half used packet of aspirin that fell out of a pocket when I was hanging out washing – a week ago. They might end up there all winter. A pink painted caned chair – with golf tees holding an unfinished seat in place. An art object? It used to hang on the wall – in the bedroom. I took it down for some reason, thickly covered in dust, and it found its way into the shed and now has new residency here next to the soon to be rotting tomatoes. 

What’s that word that describes how everything tends towards chaos? Something like torpor. Things and people; disorder and chaos, dying and rotting. Even if they are given attention and love. It’s not enough to halt the movement towards an inevitable end. An illusion of beauty cannot be sustained. It’s too much effort. Renewing and revisiting and moving things, people and perspectives through. Endlessly. Round and round in circles. Imminent activity. And then nothing.

Entropy! that’s the word I am looking for.

Dead heads on sunflowers and their snail eaten, mottled leaves. Plants in pots sitting in water that will soon rot their roots if not emptied. Will I empty them? … It’s another job which I could start, but there will always be more to bring back some semblance of order. The garden is a no go zone in the winter and the decking becomes a slimy ice rink. A death trap! My dad told me once that I could sprinkle something on it that would put the sliminess into abbeyance: a soap powder from the £1 shop. Can I be bothered?

Without the warmth and the sun a rusting table is just that: a rusted dirty object that should rightfully be on route to the dump. It’s all a matter of perspective. A month ago it was a weathered, slightly rustic, French looking delight. A surface on which to place round stones collected on my daily walks along the beach. Sitting between tumbling lavender and a flowering geranium rescued from the roadside and restored to a colourful life – this is indeed wabi sabi isn’t it?

People can be like this. I find myself disliking groups and dinner parties in particular. When a few of them i.e. people are gathered together – It can feel, too quickly, like a race to the lowest common denominator. Conversation becomes mundane, and things are said to fill the silence. Mediocrity! Not communication. There is no contact being made here. No intimacy. What was that thing that mike said ? It was like ‘A nothing will do as well as a something about which nothing can be said’. I take that to mean – if you haven’t got something interesting to say – don’t say anything.

One day there will be a tax on words. Or we’ll be allocated a finite number per day and then we’ll use them sparingly and be clearer in our intentions. Until that time words will always be clogging up the airspace.

When did we start ‘curating’ our lives and friends? When did waiting lists become wait lists. When did starting a sentence with… So – become a thing? and when did I become a cliche? How did this ‘new normal’ slip in under the radar undetected and take up residence proudly like it owned the place, and had always been there. Imperceptible changes and shifts in all of our perspectives are profoundly shaping how we experience the world right now. How can we stay aware enough to feel like we have a choice about what we take in. To notice and pause – before automatically digesting whatever shit is dolled out. Indeed, who’s even in charge of the dolling these days?  

How does one stay on the edge and retain a sense of observing – is that even desirable? and where even is the edge. The edge keeps getting consumed into the middle. The edges are mainstreamed and repackaged as ‘edgy’ and sold back to us at twice the price. Postmodern pastiching. Everything reduced to a reworking and collaging of something that went before. 

I am reminded of an essay I wrote a long time ago about Grunge, a fashion movement that crawled up from the underground in the 90’s. A radical statement against consumer society or a flight into nostalgia to momentarily escape from the present – I had asked? Grunge had started as both a music and fashion scene in Seattle in the late 1980’s among young people. “What may have started out with the potential to parody and distort” – I concluded in my essay – “quickly lost its potential for inversion and subversion as it became cleaned up for the mainstream. Adopted by Haute couture designers and then pushed out as an easily digestible, marketable look and therefore another form of consumerism”. I bloody loved postmodernism, “gazing forever at our suspended moment of flight”…But now it’s all so passé ! I wonder what came after it?

Where is my edge now ? Do I even have one. Well, my body has to end somewhere and another one begins. I don’t want to blend in and that’s why I can’t bare groups. Groups include and I don’t want incorporation. But I do want connection and belonging. Another eureka moment…I want to experience the edge of life as that is where creative connect is – and where the interesting conversation is made. This is where the possibility for occupying a critical stance grows. The place from which to reflect and wonder. Perhaps to resist and disobey? I want to find my way back to the edge and with any luck you’ll meet me there. Yes I like that – cheers to the pink chair, the onions, rotting tomatoes and the damp j cloth and the discarded half empty aspirin packet. Time for coffee.

Yoga on Prescription

P5190053.JPGI have just completed a week long 35hr professional training with Paul Fox and Heather Mason at the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance! I am now part of a national movement bringing yoga into the NHS which is very exciting indeed – for both patients and health professionals. I’m able to offer the Yoga4Health Yoga on Prescription 10-week social prescribing programme to NHS patients. 

There’s significant evidence for yoga as an effective ‘mind-body’ medicine that can both prevent and manage chronic health issues and it also delivers significant cost savings to healthcare providers. Yoga’s ability to help cultivate physical and mental wellbeing is becoming increasingly accepted, and it’s having a tangible impact on health care systems wherever it’s applied.

Thanks to this wealth of credible scientific research, it is now widely accepted that by modifying our behaviour and lifestyle choices through yoga, we can start to prevent the majority of disease related suffering throughout the world.

The advancement in both science and research has also enabled us to understand the underlying mechanisms of yoga, and how physical yoga postures, breath regulation techniques and deep relaxation practices can positively impact our health and wellbeing.

P9140033.JPGThis basic research has indicated that yoga has profound effects on:

  • Physical characteristics such as flexibility, balance and coordination
  • Respiratory characteristics including breath capacities, volumes and gas exchange
  • Mental characteristics including emotion and stress regulation, mood and resilience, and cognitive functioning, and even on deeper quality of life characteristics including life meaning and purpose and spirituality.

These overarching benefits are particularly effective for reducing the risk factors associated with noncommunicable lifestyle diseases, including common disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, mental health conditions, and disorders of elderly cognitive decline, which represent the greatest mortality and burden on the health care system.

If you want to sign up for a 10 week course – or if you wish to offer this course to your patients as part of a Social Prescribing Programme please contact me. Hoping to begin in September 2020 in Brighton.

For more info about this Programme

Details of the Programme



Introducing The Reluctant Yogi

IMG_3656Approaching Arts, Health and Wellbeing (part 1)

It’s safe to say, and those that know me well will heartily agree… that I’m not mad about the physical practice of yoga. There are many times that I have had a really positive experience in a yoga class, and some moments when I liked being on my mat, and yet at other times I have struggled to like it much at all. There are times when I have felt, angry, scared, sad, tearful and totally confused on the yoga mat or in a class. I can recall feelings of humiliation and of striving and feeling a failure, of not belonging and very much wanting to leave a class.

You could say, over time, I have evolved into a Reluctant Yogi! I’m certainly ambivalent about it and I am not someone who finds it at all easy or always desirable to find my way onto a mat. My strong desire these days when I find myself near a yoga mat is to just lie down and stay there. Yet I have attended classes on and off for over 30 years! and I even trained as a yoga teacher in 2016 and I have consistently committed to learning and attending inspiring and intense courses, both short and long… Next year I’m going to begin my Yoga Therapy Training which will take a couple of years! There’s some pull here and yet I have never evolved into that person who is able to say I love yoga! Am I alone in this?

I am slowly becoming more clear about why I feel like this and honestly… it’s a relief. The reasons are complex and I am keen to explore them more fully. For now, it feels important to say that I have often not felt safe enough in a yoga class and I have struggled to find comfort, my place or a sense of belonging. In part, this I think is because there isn’t space or time in most ‘yoga’ classes to acknowledge the sometimes powerful feelings and thoughts that can arise in your body and mind when you engage with yoga practice and breathing practices. My experience is that I was becoming further cut off from my body and mind by not being welcomed or encouraged to make space for these experiences alongside others. 

That is not to say – BTW – that I do not experience positive benefits from physical yoga practices. Yoga has an impact on my body, heart, mind and spirit ongoingly. Yoga philosophy helps me make sense of how I want to move through life and connect with others and the planet. The pull to the practices of yoga is real and strong and consistent over a long period of time. The learning is deep, profound and has only just begun (I’ll reflect more in another post on my experience of ‘yoga’, what it feels like to me, what I get from it and why I’m so committed to learning and sharing). I have started to find my place and sense of belonging over the last 5 years or so within the somatic, embodied and trauma informed community of practitioners. Embracing all of who I am.

I’m convinced now that what I want to offer as a Yoga Facilitator (I’m not comfortable calling myself a yoga teacher one day I hope I will be able to describe myself as a Yoga Therapist) can make a difference to others who like me – aren’t loving yoga! Those of you who would perhaps like to try it but don’t think you’ll be able to do it or that it’s just not for you! Or maybe you have tried yoga but didn’t like it that much (for whatever reasons – and these are valid and important to understand)!

I can only share or teach from what I know and have experienced – it’s the only truthful way to move forward.

ab4I am happy to explore and share my learning and my reservations and hesitations about yoga. I’ll share what I have learnt in particular from trauma informed approaches, yoga therapy, women’s wellbeing and embodied relational yoga which I thoroughly respect and I’m genuinely excited about. Also, my work with teenagers living with ongoing chronic medical conditions and how that informs my approach to working with the body. I’ll tell you more about why I am (despite not loving it) actively committed to finding different ways to make yoga part of my everyday life.

I’d love the chance to share genuinely with you and I hope you’ll find everything you need here to make your mind up as to whether you’d like to work with me one to one or as part of a small group of 4/5 others.

My intention for yoga sessions is that all participants have the chance to develop their own individual felt knowledge of their body and experience of being in a body. You’ll get to know and explore the ‘yoga postures’ and feel comfortable recognising your own experiences in these shapes over time. You will become confident to attend any yoga class with a good knowledge of what feels right for you. You can participate/ or not and feel empowered to own your own experience and make your own choices (not deferring power to a teacher).

In January 2020 I took Yoga and Somatics for Healing and Recovery course: moving beyond stress, trauma, burnout, anxiety, fatigue and post illness through embodied awareness with Charlotte Watts. This was an explorative journey to delve into how a compassionate and subtly attentive relationship with our bodies, practice and teaching can help address these common dis-ease states. I’m looking forward to being able to share this with people I work with.

Last year I completed a second year of Art of Teaching One to One training with Kate Ellis. Drawing on insights and theories within yoga, body psychotherapy and developmental movement, we explored how embodiment impacts our capacity for relationship whilst becoming aware of the innate and profound intelligence of the body. This training deepened my teaching skills to effectively meet the needs of the individual and to work with depth and intimacy. I’m really excited to start exploring how I might combine these approaches and developments in my learning to yoga with art psychotherapy in sessions with clients.

My intention is to offer something nourishing and healing, to support you in finding your way back to your body. Back into feeling and connecting in to the body. Learning to listen in and developing compassion for self. With patience and respect. I also want to explore how art therapy and yoga can be used together to support you to connect with yourself and others.girldancing

Over reliance on talking and thinking rationally is challenged in art therapy which offers an opportunity to more directly connect with one’s inner thoughts and feelings (inner landscape) through using art materials to explore and express; without words and getting stuck in the thinking.

Yoga and Art Therapy are complementary. They can work together in supporting us to develop a stronger sense of ourselves; identity, self awareness, acceptance and compassion for self and others. In yoga and in art therapy we get the chance to become present in our bodies and to notice what comes up (without judgement and criticism).

Yoga and art therapy can both support us to become more aware, responsive and grounded in a stronger sense of our own selves. Becoming also more respectful and kind towards our own (often hidden and well defended) fears and vulnerabilities. This helps us to connect more deeply with other human beings; feeling more understood, supported and less alone!

Key ideas informing my approach (summarised here)

  • Being – Not performing ourselves. Or our bodies

  • Free to be with what is – right now

  • Standing fully in our lives with all our experiences, knowing and wisdom

  • Respecting and honouring our own experiences and insights

  • Noticing, Curious and Compassionate

  • Following our attention, our eye, holding ourselves close, being a friend.

  • Allowing ourselves to be fully present

  • Understanding the context (social, cultural political, economic) the bigger picture, and the dominant narratives of our lives (keep busy, strive for more, strain, achieve, reaching, be good, be kind, proving to self and others and more…).

  • Space to confront and undo programming – rewire

This is all underpinned and rooted in my ongoing interest and developing knowledge of movement and alignment principles, fascia (and the relationship between bone, muscles, fascia, nerves etc. understanding different tissue types and how they affect our sense of embodiment), polyvagal theory and the nervous system, trauma informed approaches and embodied relational therapy principles (contact, information gathering, amplification, integration and how they can be applied to a yoga therapy session).

Art Therapy Group Royal Alex

Art Therapy Group

Wednesdays 4.30-6p.m.

The art therapy group is at the Royal Alex, term time only, 4.30-6p.m. on Wednesdays. A friendly, relaxed space for 12-16 yr olds living with an ongoing medical condition to meet up and make art. Maximum of 6 young people attend the group.

“The group offers emotional and social support and enables young people to tell their story using art materials; and to explore and share experiences and difficulties living with illness” (Saskia, Art Therapist).

Art therapy provides a safe, supportive space to think about feelings and experiences. Sometimes we do that by talking and other times by painting, drawing or using clay etc. You don’t need to be any good at art and you don’t have to use art materials if you don’t feel like it. It’s your choice.

“Making what you want how you want, with what you want”

“Don’t feel as alone – feel like someone understands me”

“We had the same perspective, we could talk about anything”

(young people talk about the benefits of the art therapy group)

Saskia Neary runs the group. She is an Art Psychotherapist with a background in children’s rights and youth participation. You can find out more about her here: http://www.saskianeary.com

If you want to find out more about the art therapy group or have any questions please call or email Saskia: 07787610911 or saskianeary@yahoo.com and she can arrange to meet up with you and have a chat  about the group.

“Letting it out – your mind can run freely”

Yoga for Young People 2019

YOGA GROUP restarts January 2019. Maximum 5 young people. Start time is 10-11a.m.on Tuesdays in the Oasis Room Level 6 at the Royal Alex.

If you are interested in joining this group please let me know. I can meet you one to one first (at the Royal Alex) to have a chat and find out what you might want from the yoga group and answer any of your questions. New classes for young people in the community will begin in March 2019.

Over the last few months I have been running one to one and group yoga sessions to help young people relax, focus and concentrate. These sessions are available at the Royal Alex on a Tuesday and at The Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre as requested. Watch this space *** I am starting a community based yoga group for young people in 2019. Please let me know if you are interested.

Early days following the process

My Creative Leanings 2008-2014

I just re-found this blog site that I started in 2008 when I couldn’t make art work and so I wrote about it instead. Eventually, slowly but surely over months and years I found the ability and confidence to make marks on a page and squeeze clay into shapes. I completed my art foundation, had a baby and then took my MA in Art Psychotherapy. It’s all here. The whole process emerging. Feels right to link these virtual spaces together so my work is in one place. A decade in the making.