Self-care during and after challenging times

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Following the British Fascia Symposium, I would like to share with you a summary of the final Advisory Panel, which closed the event on Sunday 22nd May.  The presenters attending the panel were: Robert Schleip, Karen Kirkness, Sneha Krishna, Moushumi Kuvawala, George Roth, Owen Lewis, Ana Barretxeguren and Tracey Mellor.

Questions were initially slow coming in from the delegates – always a sign that the presenters have done a great job explaining things in their lectures/movement teaching sessions!  Therefore, I started the ball rolling with a question to them all: “If  as a community we have been through an experience of the pandemic and the last two years that many have found to be traumatic, both as individuals and as practitioners who receive clients and care for them in their own traumatised state, which I believe is the situation for many, can you tell us what you have done to get through this with some grace yourself and how you have been able to help clients and students?”   

This was just meant to be a quick go-round, but the discussion then continued for 50 minutes!  I am going to summarise the input from each presenter with the aim of passing on what they have shared, to help you in your own journey.

What I felt came over primarily was the clear message that we have all had our struggles; the teachers and presenters do not live in some kind of rarified atmosphere, but have also, on the whole, had to deal with previously unthought of challenges. As self-employed people we have had to think on our feet to keep our businesses going.  However, what was very interesting, but not surprising given the nature of our community, was the unselfish attitudes that focused on sharing and helping others.  I hope you enjoy this discussion……

Owen Lewis replied first, dealing with the challenges of working via the online medium to assess and help clients. From this, once he had got his head around the options, he developed a system that enabled him to do all first assessments, which are normally lengthy, online; this meant that clients could be helped at the time, not wait for those between-lockdown gaps.  He has continued assessing online as this saves clients an in-person visit.

George Roth talked about how he felt the focus had to be on bringing people together in a powerfully divisive situation. A global audience developed, allowing those who could not attend courses in person to receive online training. The importance of finding common ground and reminding people we are a community.  Erwin Schrödinger said “The total number of minds in the universe is one.” “We are all in this together” was the feeling of communities around the world; inclusivity was vital. Not them and us but all of us together.

Ana Barretxeguren agreed that it had been a very challenging time. One of the things she decided to do was to produce three films, which you can view here. As an organisation, Evolve Movement Education felt they wanted to create a sense of oneness, not via courses but something free; the films celebrate our oneness with Nature. Like the fascial matrix, we are all connecting. Isolation, polarisation, me on my own…….no, we are never alone if we connect with Nature……there is only Us.

As a movement teacher, Tracey Mellor made the important point that a class is a gathering of people together, not just a medium for transmitting information, so continuing the classes helped prevent some of the isolation – after the class they would sit and chat online, giving structure to the day and a sense of connection. But there was no choice; difficult as it was, and such a steep learning curve, it gave her something to get up for, creating these online forums for her students.

So far, the theme was one of continuing to help others, regardless of the situation. Also, of enabling and enhancing the sense of connection with each other and with Nature. Nurturing others and ourselves.  Creating a core around which others can gravitate was another role some took on. 

Moushumi Kuvawala used the time to educate herself and immersed herself in the world of fascia. Looking at her work through the lens of fascia developed her work and herself.

This, I noticed from the ongoing Chat, was something that really made a difference to people as they got through the lockdowns; if we felt we had used the time wisely by learning, there was a consciousness that the time had not been wasted.

Robert Schleip shared that he has never been so active and healthy and that in many ways the pandemic was a blessing.  He can’t stay in looking at screens all day, so walking, barefoot trail running and swimming in the river, just to feel alive, were vital for him.  When we look at screens we lose our sense of self, of the date, of the time. Another result of the pandemic is the urge to hug people for no reason, just because you can!  He feels his circle of friends is now a worldwide family.

Sneha Krishna spoke about how human it is to have a sense of connection. It helps us refresh, to be with like-minded people then come back to our practice. Connection online made us a bit saner. Isolation, especially when you are used to being in community, is difficult.  Gratitude for still being here when so many have died, helps get us through.

Karen Kirkness shared that movement classes are her main work and felt that many of us developed a love/hate relationship with Zoom.  Failing to use Zoom properly, in public, forgetting to record meetings, being on mute – we have all been through this and have been forgiving of each other.  The spirit of a presentation or conversation was what was important; it didn’t have to be perfect or polished.  So, we have become a more forgiving community; accepting that “it is what it is”, helped us get through. Another wonderful result of all the online seminars, she feels, is that the distinction between therapists and movement teachers has lessened and there is more of an understanding that movement is therapy.

On the Chat, I could see that the delegates were engaging in the discussion, saying that they had had time to learn, and that the access via online workshops had been so helpful. As strange as this online medium is, it has helped us connect and we have met people we would never have met.

Elizabeth Larkam asked to join the discussion and pointed out that she has read research explaining that when people are in virtual meetings and creating problem-solving ideas, the quality of the creations is lower than when one is in person. This can be traced to: a. virtual lack of spatial variety and stimulation; b. lack of visual variety and stimulation.  She has implemented breaks where people can add that variety in before returning to the screen. Worth thinking of when creating a webinar.

Carol Davis joined in the conversation by saying that thought has a lot to do with our experience and cited “Nothing is either bad or good but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet, William Shakespeare). Carol emphasised the importance of mental hygiene – when feeling negative, get connected; walking in the woods, grounding, and focusing on what we are grateful for. List five things at night of the most positive things that happened that day. In addition to bringing to mind the people you feel closest to. This reconnects us, raises our energy, gratitude and appreciation. We are magnetic and bring to ourselves what we think about.

Meditation – this was mentioned in the chat at this point, and we discussed how so many people started this because we had the time; this then becomes addictive because it changes how our day goes.  There are many free videos on YouTube and low-cost apps such as Buddhify, to start you meditating if you’d like to bring this into your practice.  In the chat also, was the thought that patients have changed during Covid – they have renewed outlook around life, healing and their bodies.

George Roth – crisis equals opportunity.  This is a powerful evolutionary moment. People have dug deeper. It has probably been the biggest event in the last 200 years that has challenged us, created social upheaval, such as the wars; this is one of the biggest, looking at the loss of life and the financial upheaval.  It has given us the chance to look deeper within ourselves and recognise the family relationships.

Fear in students or clients – Moushumi – a variety of emotions in them. Stress and fear of unknown. Falling ill, being admitted and not knowing what the outcome would be, for patient and family. In India the family is always there, all the time, and to be without them in hospital, is highly unusual. She finished by focusing on gratitude that we are here and able to talk about it.

Karen reiterated that we are all coming from a relatively privileged perspective. We can look back on it all and be grateful. She has noticed that people are clinging to ritual and routine.

We discussed that predictability seems to have gone from life. In the UK certainly, and we feel we want to create some stability.  Ana asked whether predictability was ever there. Yes, we have experienced a loss of control – but control was an illusion. Nothing was ever predictable or secure – just an illusion.  The sense of death is always there – always a fact and a reality that we ignore; we focus on the present experience and do not generally discuss death. What we have lived through brought the possibility of death closer. 

George Roth – it’s the only predictable part of our existence and it’s our greatest teacher – creates a passion for life because that can change at any moment. Become adaptable or die. We are a significant expression of life but if we don’t adapt, recognise the value of life, then we are doomed to suffer the consequences – in our mind. Or we celebrate and enjoy life in the moment. 

One of our delegates joined us and talked about what being a therapist has felt like to her. The hardest thing has been the sense of personal and professional responsibility for other people’s lives. I may take that too seriously but with risk assessments, vulnerable clients, difficult decisions. Still adapting, wearing a mask, etc. Is it safe??  At no time have I wanted to stop what I do, but it’s been hard. 

Members of the panel supported her. Tracey Mellor agreed that we’ve all had to go the extra mile to keep ourselves, clients and families safe. People are coming in and displaying completely different reactions to what has happened. As practitioners we have to listen to each one and adapt to their needs/responses/state of being.

Caring for clients when we are still holding the residue of the trauma we all went through, can be extremely tiring.  Recognising it and getting more rest and gentle walks in Nature is key. Self-nurturing is of prime importance, in whatever way we choose.  If we don’t nurture ourselves, how can we care for others?

So many of us are still here when thousands have had to close their businesses. We are still loving, still caring, still giving. I want to acknowledge and honour all of us for continuing to do what we do so well.

My question to all is “Can we see the pandemic as an opportunity to grow, while acknowledging that there were difficult times?” and to remind us that “Whether we think we can or whether we think we can’t, we’re right”.

A fuller version of this article appears in the Members’ Area. Click here for information on membership.

British Fascia Symposium attendees can watch the discussion on the Whova platform during the two months’ post-event access by logging in and going to Videos.

Members will have the recordings uploaded to the Members’ Area six months from the event, in November ’22.

Jan Trewartha

is the founder and director of the British Fascia Symposium and The Fascia Hub. She has been in healthcare since 1979, originally training as a State Registered Nurse in the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC), working with patients on the wards and in the operating theatre; a superb if non-deliberate foundation for her future career. In 1988, being trained by a blind massage therapist to really ‘feel’ the body, led to a lifetime passion for body work. Jan was a massage volunteer at the Auckland Commonwealth Games where she learned from professionals from all modalities. Her work now is the culmination of many years of training and experience in different disciplines. Through her school, Body in Harmony Training, Jan runs a variety of light touch therapy courses, including Sharon Wheeler’s ScarWork for which she was the first accredited tutor in the UK.
To learn more about Jan please click here to visit her website: https://www.bodyinharmony.org.uk/

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