Nakedness

I cannot help comparing myself to the group. After seventeen years on hormones, I have beautifully shaped small breasts, but I notice on my age group the breast sags enough to hold a pencil underneath. Mine look improbably youthful, though small breasts sag less. My aureoles are small, and the nipples quite flat, flatter even than the men’s. Even if someone only looked at my breasts, they would see I am a trans woman. But then one notices the whole person, and I don’t feel that is some excluding mark here: we are a diverse group, and I am accepted.

These lady-gardens may be better pruned and groomed than mine. I could at least epilate around my navel, there are a lot less hairs there than there used to be, but there are still a few, and I am self-conscious. I go without my wig. One is not supposed to stare, but sadly I do.

We are an educated and mostly spiritually aware lot. I sit in the sun discussing morality and The Trolley Problem. Having compared my body to others’, mostly I lose my self-consciousness and enjoy the company. One has an all-over tan, he does this a lot, but most of us have white bits.

There is a ten yard long, oval swimming pool, slightly more than waist-deep. In the heat, we bob around in it, chatting. I kneel up on the bottom, swaying as the water moves. We can make it into a whirl-pool by all walking round clockwise, pushing the water ahead of us. Once the water is in motion, we float in it, swirling round, fast enough to bang my head on the steps and bumping into each other like soft dodgem cars.

The other exercise is to be held as we float. The water does most of the work, but two to five people stand around us, supporting us behind the head, back, and legs. If only one person supports, we can use a float under the ankles. I feel my trust in the people and the water, open one eye slightly and see the roof-beams move slowly past. It is delicious. I notice a slight tension in my abdominal muscles and want to relax completely.

I think of Carol, who did shoulder massage years ago, and observed I was not relaxed. Rather, I was co-operating, moving my shoulder or arm along with her but simulating surrender rather than making it. She put her arms around my neck as though to break it, and I was not unduly bothered, trusting her- but I could not relax. Now, I am mostly relaxed but for that abdominal muscle.

In this exercise, which is loving and delightful, I am working: I notice my sensations and thoughts and analyse them. I am analysing all the time. Always I am in the words, in my head. I ask to be supported in the small of my back, and relax more. Deliberately I turn my attention to the feeling of the water moving around me, splashing over my legs as I am held higher or lower, wanting to feel it directly rather than analysed and mediated through words. That is, I am working all the time. How should I be, in the world? How may I be like that?

Then I enjoy supporting. I want to give the person the most delightful experience. I feel five supporters on one person floating are too many: six people are probably enough to have two enjoying floating. We feel no need to discuss what we are doing. Next day D supports me, with a float under my ankles: I feel she does it beautifully, varying my sensations.

We have group sharing sessions, lolling in the pool. Things are coming up for me. It is not just a pleasant weekend under canvas, I am noticing how I am with other people. Other people are so strange! As I get to know myself better, getting beyond conventional understandings I picked up of how a person should be to see how I really am, I see them better. The person next to me shared, and I wanted the group share to go the other way round the circle, so I would not be next. I was silent for some time, wanting to honour and voice my negativity, balancing it but not denying it. I said, “I am Abigail. I could run away cursing and screaming. Instead I choose to throw myself into the Love”- and fell forward under the water. We were open and relaxed; and possibly this helped others be even more open as they shared. People said things I will remember, increasing my wish for their good.

We had to get dressed to walk up to the ridge, looking out to sea and on the other side over the valley inland. Walking through mature woodland was lovely, looking downhill from the path through the luminous dark. I talked of that suicide, and one said, “From another point of view it is the greatest gift anyone can give themselves, to stop their suffering. And, if you were my client I would tell you to think what you strive towards rather than flee- you say ‘I will not do that'”. I want to survive. Is there more from life than that?

We were camping inland, but I wanted to see the sea since I was so close to it. Picked up from the station, I asked to go to the beach first before the site. We paddled, and watched people swim in the sea.

Getting to Yes

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.

– Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

My “No” has been good for me, and it is not enough for a life. Rejecting what is poisonous to me is all very well, but I wish to find and delight in what nourishes me. My No has protected me when I needed to protect myself, but it has also restricted and inhibited me where there is no threat.

So I wish to examine my No, and restrict it to actual threat. Where does it come from? Is it an overreaction? And examine my Yes, and nurture it. I am Yes to life and experience- find where, or where I might be.

In part my No comes from upbringing, the sins of the fathers. It is my oldest habit, older than me. I hide away without any real clue of what I hide from, because that is the default, unthinking mode, and so that is the most useless and damaging part of it, the unexamined reflex no, no to something which I have no reason to suppose is harmful.

Otherwise, No can only come from history. No, trying to be “normal” does not work. Then, finding a way to fit in which seemed sort of acceptable in society also does not work. What is left?

Being completely and uncompromisingly Myself

whatever that might mean
does it not work if it is self-conscious?

comes to mind, and I don’t know what that looks like. That Giacometti quote- the broader I wanted to make them, the narrower they got- could be conscious and unconscious at war, and conscious shellshocked, rather than a “Don’t Question My Art” or a paradox.

Therefore the first part of Yes has to be Yes to unknowing. Plans only look like the past, always include some unknowing as the past does not repeat itself, and, well, make a virtue of that.

I am too beautiful and generous not to share Myself with the world.

Yes to generalising from good experiences. Quakers are mostly, though not all, pleasant people and friendly enough. Then, ooh look, so are the Green Party. And now, the Labour party. Fourteen of us went out for curry on Friday night. The blether was quite fun, though I don’t understand these strange English folk: I think there was a class divide.

Generalise- human beings are mostly OK, not particularly caring about the things I want desperately to hide from them. This goes completely against my Primordial, habitual No, so needs a lot of repetition before it can become habit.

Recognise my Yeses, in the past and as they happen. Every Yes is a win.

My New Age friend said, human consciousness affects ones reality, as shown by the Double Slit experiment. If you imagine a positive future, and experience it with gratitude and joy, you bring it into existence. As you manifest heaven within, you create it without. Well, she was looking for questions, so I took the opportunity of asking.

Bringing to consciousness what I want may be useful too.

In the Moon lodge

Thirty years ago, O said to C., “You look like you would make a good lesbian. Have you tried it?” C had thought herself straight, but they are still together. I met them at the Sacred Arts Camp, where we did Dances of Universal Peace. It was 2010. I was very uptight, but seeking out the hippies.

The Women’s space was the Moon lodge, a teepee in the edge of the camp, and the whole camp took part in the Menarche ceremony, celebrating the onset of menstruation. Girls appeared first in white dresses then in red, whooping and running through the camp. As soon as I heard of the Women’s space I asked F if I could join in. I had thought this a mere courteous formality. The Quaker women’s group had, after my request to one of its members, agreed to admit anyone “who experienced themselves as a woman”. F, however, would need to discuss it with some people.

The next day, she came to me and asked me to meet her in the Moon Lodge the following morning at 9.30. There I found her with her friend W. They talked at me for half an hour, barely allowing me to speak. F explained that she was entirely accepting herself- she lived in Brighton- but some women might not be comfortable with me there. I said that excluding me denied that I am a woman, which offended me, but I would not attend because I did not want to make the women’s activities focus on me and whether I should be admitted. That was not enough for them. They wanted me to admit they were right to exclude me.

Other women got involved. A invited me to dinner in the Welsh circle, and told me it was F, and no other, who was uncomfortable with me in the Moon lodge. B asked me to help decorate the Big Top for the Menarche ceremony, and I went with her into the forest to get foliage. Then F came and got me to help her and a man take down the heavy canvas sides of the Big Top, as it was so hot. I was so hurt by this that I took no part in the Menarche ceremony, even to sit and watch.

Someone told me of D. There had been some difficulty in him attending a men’s group, though we were unsure whether he had been on T at the time, or whether he was binding. I went for a walk with D’s female former partner. The LGBT group was concerned that I had been excluded.

At the final celebration, as we sang

May the road rise with you
May the wind be always at your back
May the Sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And till we meet again
May Love hold you
in the hollow of her hand

F came and hugged me. We had both learned from the experience.

El Greco, Annunciation

Essence Process

Boldini- Seated Lady (The Conversation)Why am I here? Because it gives the illusion of doing something, thereby absolving me from the need to find or do something which would actually be useful. Because it appears good, not to any other person but to the chaotic controlling Parent in my head. That is the blackest way of seeing it. Of course things done for appearance’ sake never even achieve that- on some level I see through myself. So it is utterly pointless, even for such illusory motives, but that part of me grasping at the illusion still blunders on.

Is there a better reason? At the end of the first “process” we settled down to serious mutual affirmation, which feels nice, but is no good even temporarily unless I learn to believe it.

No, I don’t trust these people. The Process has psychological trappings but is an entertainment, manipulating payers through rapidly changing emotions, to extort fees. It has some resemblance to a cult.

Bit scared of it. That’s the kind of phrase where I miss out the words “I am”, and put in the word “bit”. And I am hard on myself: my motives must be bad.

Why be here, really? Can I justify that sort of money? Well, I have the money; it is a few days away from home; the people and the situations we will be placed in could be interesting.

It is ridiculous to hope for a Born-Again experience, and yet I do. This is the kind of thing in which I have previously had such a profound challenge to my world-view that I have changed it.

I fear going into a hiding mode, find the rules and obey them, cringe against the wall, shut down and avoid the challenge, sit it out. Well, I might notice if I did, more quickly than last time.

I hope I will be challenged, and respond to challenge. That I will spontaneously- spontaneity is my desire, yet so rare for me- respond well. I may be outside my comfort zone, and hope I will be open to the experiences, see the people for who they are, hear what they say, notice my feelings at the situations, and come away with greater self-knowledge and self-respect.

Tall order. See what happens. Oops, clipping phrases again: This is a tall order. I will see what happens. No. I know that at every moment from now until Sunday, I will be the best I can be.

Resourcing

Bank of the Oise at Auvers, van GoghI met Laura Fraser once, at a personal growth thing– it was rather good, I contacted my inner wisdom and took away new insight which has made my life better. Here she is on another personal growth technique, called Resourcing.

How do I approach this? First I thought of an NLP technique I learned in the late 90s. Imagine a moment of pure joy and affirmation. Make a physical gesture- mine was putting my right thumb and middle finger tips together; then associate the gesture with the memory. Then, when feeling in need of a boost, make the gesture to recall the memory. This got me thinking of the Joy I chose, and how that particular joy turned to dust for me later.

But that is not it.

Practices of gratitude approach it, perhaps. Every evening, think of three things in that day to be grateful for. Being positive may be part of it, looking for opportunities, seeing all the good there is to see. That is not it either. To try to describe it after one view of the video, it is being aware of all the good in my life and in myself, when I enter any stressful situation. Being aware of my resources. That is not it either, but I don’t want long sessions with this particular guru. Time to watch the video again.

Rupda is unhelpful: “Resourcing regulates our nervous system. When we are in Overwhelm, too much too soon too fast, resourcing is a tool to bring ourselves back into a state of more relaxed, peaceful awareness.” Stop selling, Rupda, “It is brilliant” is not a useful message I think. This is unfair. What I might wish to do with a technique is useful information. I remain suspicious that Rupda has taken bits of others’ Wisdom techniques, and applied her own jargon word to them.

What is the Resource process? What do you do? is the obvious question Laura asks, but Rupda does not answer. I am back to using my own experience to relate to what she says: if I cannot deal with my anxiety and pain from my last stress before the next stress comes, I get more and more stressed. Though that experience was when I was working.

I might ask, what brings you joy? And the person might say I like walking in nature. What is it about nature that you like? What do you notice in your body as you talk about this? … That’s an outer resource.

When stressed, think of Resources- your children, your dog, being in nature. We might also think of people who inspire us… let your mind open to the possibility of being supported by anyone.

Inner resources: where do you feel relaxed and safe in your body? Someone might say their solar plexus feels constricted but their belly feels really warm and expanded or their legs feel strong.

I notice I am deep in my No. My stress is my whole situation, my problem is my own inadequacy, this will be useless. That I can do nothing absolves me from the need to do anything, as trying has been so painful in the past. And- I am seeking to open. I am not merely looking for reasons to reject this.

This post is about me, and not about Resourcing. Watch the video.

Clothing optional

File:Paul Gauguin 001.jpgI extended my performing range on Saturday night: for the first time, I had a props bag. Since you ask, my props were a pot of moisturiser, three bras, a lipstick, a credit card and a bunch of keys. I mixed my physical comedy with observational comedy- moaning about stuff, with only the slightest exaggeration- and had a few laughs. I performed topless before sixteen people.

I had no clear idea of what HAI was before going three years ago, and the “clothing optional” bit would have been too much for me but that I had camped in community with several of the people a week before, and liked and trusted them; and I had committed myself to be positive, having realised how negative I was, in the middle of that camp. We caress each other, and do exercises which you might do in a Tantra workshop or personal growth event. Now I can declare myself “sex positive” though still with a moral sense around sexual matters, and I have a better understanding of myself, my responses and other people. We show each other respect, and do not penetrate or orgasm. The aim is consciousness around sexual matters.

Clothing optional means that it is the individual’s choice, in the moment, and we are in the “Room of Love” mostly naked, with some in underwear or loose clothing. This past weekend, I delighted in the beauty of bodies, and the muscular and skeletal structure under the skin.

File:Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) - Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach.jpgIn one exercise, in groups of three, we took it in turns to ask one of the others if one could perform a particular action: may I hold your breasts? May I spank your bottom? May I kiss your lips? The other responded either yes, no, or “ask me something else”- if the response was “no”, the turn moved on. In another, one of a pair lay supine while the other approached to stroke or touch parts of the body: the one receiving could say yes, no, stop or please, to indicate boundaries: so we practised negotiating boundaries and asking, verbally and non-verbally. Previously, one response has been “maybe”- so we can also test the rules of the game. After, we shared how we felt: I strongly wanted to ask for something but forebore, because I did not want asking that to make me appear a certain way: I could state that in verbal sharing, but not while playing the game.

I have introduced HAI people to Quakers, who found each other lovely, open people, and would like to tell Quakers about HAI. I have told one or two, and not been judged for it, and I have met Quakers at HAI events. The problem is my residual belief in morality as a system of rules, rather than a mature human judgment moment to moment- one of those rules is something like nakedness in large groups must be strictly regulated. I want my judgment trusted, and fear it will not be. When I taste freedom, the benefits seem worth the risks.

Another exercise: having a choice of what to do, I affirmed myself- “I am highly intelligent”, “I am loving”- and after each affirmation three others said “Yes”. Which is a lovely experience. Try it.

It was lovely to spend time with old friends, and get to know people new to me.

In the moment

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Battle_of_Dunsinane_-_John_Martin.jpg

File:Fuseli - Macbeth and the Witches.jpgAs we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

More improvisation games.

Now we pass the energy to each other, across the circle, carrying something. It may be heavy, or wriggly and difficult to hold, or tiny and precious, and It changes for each person. Each mime is a new creative act. Planning ahead, it would be a small furry thing to cuddle, pet and stroke, but when Dick goo-goos at a small fluffy being, caressing it, and passes it to me, I must do something more. I gently put it down on the floor, and blow on it, and mime that it is growing, then I lead it over to someone else to pass it on.

At the start of the day- we sit in a circle, light a candle, and close our eyes, and Claire speaks to us hypnotically. Saturday, I am with it immediately, I feel present and relaxed. Sunday, I am distracted, ruminating, and still not clear what the difference is. That mime feels good. It feels right, and it popped into consciousness seeming full-formed- but I am not sure what else could happen. It seems my conscious mind could only censor it, but possibly the edit/censor process is unconscious too. It only becomes problematic and uncomfortable when the inspiration and the censorship war, with no clear winner.

dsc05130-2And sometimes it feels right with other people, sometimes it does not. Three of us improvise a short scene: one massages my shoulders, the other comes in, there is a veiled confrontation and she starts massaging my shoulders. Of course I enjoyed that. It was lovely. It communicated to the audience, but I think it luck rather than some mystic Inspiration; and inspiration strikes where with practice we learn what works.

Much of our work is on Macbeth. First we think ourselves into these characters: Macbeth, Malcolm, Duncan, Lady Macbeth, Macduff. Then we improvise scenes with them.

File:Macbeth consulting the Vision of the Armed Head.jpgSomeone objected that these are dark, violent characters, but for me my fear of my shadow is the problem: embodying “bad” characters is the way to relax that fear. I have the capacity to act well, and I can relax those inhibitions created in childhood, that there are Bad responses which must not be allowed. As an adult I can create better responses to my reactions than to suppress them. To release the suppression, I have a safe, playful space to be Bad.

We play the scenes. As many of us as wish can play one character: at one point we have three Lady Macbeths surrounding Macbeth and goading him. About half of us play witches: Children and adults can play witches at Hallowe’en, there are places to “let your hair down” and play with darker impulses, other than here.

I also played Macbeth murdering the King. After, I had a toy witch’s broom, and I paced the floor to one side while Macduff and Malcolm plotted against me elsewhere. I shook the broom to symbolise my increasing stress and desperation, until it fell to pieces scattering bristles over the floor. A beautiful symbol I could not have planned. After this, being “killed” by the rebels was a relief.

Quantum healing

GaneshThe phone call changed everything. Should I just go home? But what would I do, there? I might as well carry on as planned- even, it might be better. I left Friends House and took the Tube to Morden. On this mild, windy night, there is a smell of gunpowder and explosions from fireworks, and around Maria’s flat block children take turns to set off rockets, watched by their mother.

Maria’s compact flat is lovely. She is petite, just over 5′, and slim in proportion. She welcomes me, gets tea, introduces me to John her partner(?). I may get completely distracted, this evening, so I tell her my news, and she is extremely sympathetic- for my news gives me a privilege, though some will hunger to give me what seems, to them, to be a gift.

Behind me is a large banner of Ganesh, his nostrils pointing outward to sense me. In front is the circular satin mat on a circular mattress, with a circle of black cushions. There are several Buddhas and candles around. My mobile is not, usually, switched on, so S left a message for me on Thursday. Why she had not emailed or used facebook, I don’t know. I just got the message, which may be a synchronicity.

-This place is the best place for me I could be, right now.
-I’m honoured, honoured, that you would think that, says John.

They are going to the South-west. John, a chef, wants also to grow the food he cooks, and do the whole with conscious spiritual intention. Maria wants to organise retreats based on similar experiences to this evening. “You hug beautifully”, she says, “Have you been to Osho Leela?” Yes, though I learned to hug so well elsewhere.

Ganesh 2Two more arrive, two have cancelled, and we begin. Maria tells us to visualise the Qi (she uses the word “energy”) coming up from the earth and through us. We breathe in, slowly, together, imagining this. Her voice, the breathing together, the slow repetitive music, the candles….. all create the atmosphere. I am filled with energy from Earth and father Sky.

We take it in turns to lie prone for ten minutes, then supine, while the others massage us all over with oil. Before each receives s/he states her boundaries: I have none, though when R says “not inside her yoni” I think, yes, that would be a boundary, Some would particularly like to be touched on the face, and scalp, which is most sensitive. I love it. I love the beauty of the bodies as I caress them, and I love giving the caresses.

At the end we collapse in a cuddly heap together. At one point, Maria, standing while I kneel, hugs my cheek to her abdomen. As J, R and I are staying over, we lie on the mat and Maria puts a duvet over us. I lie in front of R, spooning, her breasts in my back, her arm round my waist. I find it so hard to thole, being aroused by my submissive posture, so far from the control I crave, so inaccessible most of the time- but I enjoy it.

And (this is new) whatever my sex thing I might feel ashamed of it. As with everyone: I can respond in that way occasionally, I have to keep it within bounds almost all the time, and Shame is an extremely efficient way of doing that. This thought liberates me to find space for it: I can pack it away, so at those moments in which I may be sexual it behoves me not to be ashamed.

In the morning after tea and toast I go to the Klee exhibition. In my mind is my news, of my father’s death.

Shamanic Journeying

File:Fawn kelpie.pngHow to access your unconscious.

The speaker said as much, actually, the Underworld is both under our feet and under our conscious minds. He is eclectic: we journeyed for a Spirit animal, which is “Indian”, and took it into a chakra of our choice, which is, well, Indian.

But it is a brilliant way of accessing the unconscious. You lie back and relax, and there is the drum going regularly. I lay down in the tent, under a net with coloured strips hanging from it and woven through it, and he came over and sat by my head.

-I’ll try not to deafen you.
-Do what you must, I said, happily. Loud drumming is fine.

Then there is the story, and the voice giving it, hypnotically. We are in a meadow, and see a tree, with a hole to the Underworld. We go down into a garden, filled with beauties of my choice. I find myself anticipating, and choosing. After, when we talk about what our animals were, and what our experiences were, a woman worries that she is just finding what she imagines, or what she feels she ought to find. How would I know, whether my animal is proper, like, Inspiration, or just my thoughts?

File:Flatcoat retriever 2.jpgWell, I don’t, though by its fruits I may know it. I had a dog, and that may just have been because a woman nearby was talking of her labrador, beforehand. It looks lovely, and knows it, and loves attention from people, asks for it, and always gets it, even when wet, with its big, brown eyes. Talking after, I widened the metaphor, thinking of that dog; a lap dog, which never touches the ground; that terrifying security dog; and working dogs. Dogs are extremely versatile. One woman had a cheetah, the other a badger, which she questioned initially, inwardly, but it stayed a badger. She did not know what to make of it. Perhaps the badger will come to her in dreams, and tell her.

Deep down, in the darkest depths of the Subconscious, dwells-

The SHADOW.

It could be a message from that. Then again, it could just be a useful metaphor. Anything, any magic, any spell to craft and call forth my courage.

Also at Buddhafield: Singing in the big top. A woman divided us into SATB, and gave us four part harmonies to remember, singing each line separately with each group. I alternated between Soprano and Bass, sometimes in the same song. Then we walked round the tent, mingling the voices. Doing this when younger, I could not hold a line, but changed to sing the tune rather than the harmony; now I sing my own line,  Goddess looking gorgeous singing your soul out- you touched my heart wrote a friend.

Encounters at Buddhafield II

figures

figureThe gender binary oppresses everyone. Our enforced ideals of “man” and “woman” limit the expression of both. I said this in the workshop, and after a woman came up, eyes shining, to thank me for it.

-I have read that all LGBT issues are T issues. It is all about gender. And we liberate everyone: first us, who are really oppressed by gender ideals, but also everyone else who can just about rub along with them, and is only a little oppressed.

She nods, agreeing, and we hug. So wonderful to express this, which I find Radical, and be completely understood.

Another woman comes to thank me and agree. I am feeling so affirmed, I want to continue the conversation, and let out some of my feelings. Do you mind if we prolong this encounter? She assents- she is very easy to be with- and I expatiate on the differences between same sex and opposite sex marriage enshrined in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act- just passed last week, amazing and wonderful and yet not quite enough. Pension funds, for example, are protected from not having known that gay couples may officially be couples: for contractual rights for “spouses”, only contributions after 2005 when Civil Partnerships were enacted apply. They are not protected from the fact that in 2005 we were all told there was an end to boom and bust and growth would continue indefinitely, but they are protected from the around 1% of their members who may get a same sex marriage, and whose contributions for perhaps thirty years before do not count towards spouse rights. I go into great detail on medico-legal pathways to transition, and nullity of marriage.

She did not know any of this, and loves to hears what impassions people, because she is a story-teller. She takes people’s stories, and tells them in a folk-tale style with elements of myth. This fascinates me: how do you get gigs? Do you have jokes? No, she involves people in other ways, and she finds it difficult to extol her wonderfulness, as you have to; though she was pleased to have stood up for herself. She applied to lead a workshop in time, but Buddhafield lost her application, and then when she checked the date had passed. So she told them they had lost her application, and they fitted her in.

She is a leading light in the Transition Towns movement, and her workshop told stories of it and then led discussion of how we might meet the challenge of peak oil. I don’t think subsistence agriculture is the answer- even if people had the gifts for it, England is not big enough for us all to be peasants- but she says my belief that technology will provide the answers is a stage people go through before realising transition is the way.

A woman there talks of how Socialist ideals for the liberation of the masses are outdated, and how her parents and grandfather were disheartened by 1989 and 1991, the fall of the Wall and the end of the Union and the socialist experiment. I hope Socialism may inspire new ideas for living together, but am unsure how.