Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Why are we walking?

I started The Handless Project because I needed to heal (physically from thyroid cancer and emotionally from a lot of other things) and this weird old story about a girl who heals herself was so helpful to me that I wondered whether it would help other people too. The walk is further exploration of what has been story medicine for me. I have no idea what the out come will be, just like the Handless Maiden who leaves home at dawn and wanders through the forest, until something unexpected happens.

We will be walking through Liverpool on 20th May to simply see what walking can do for us. Maybe it will do nothing, or maybe everything will change. It is an experiment built around a fairytale so we are free to believe it or not. We are also free to invest it with the power and meaning of a pilgrimage, a race for life or a trip to see what we can see, for adventure or even to heal a city.

Walk with us.

Here are a few quotations to think about:
"I was coming to America, I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?” She said, “Uhhhhh.” And her father said, “No, ask him or you won’t get anything.” And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” [laughs] Which I thought was a great question about America."

John O'Donohue - OnBeing Interview
"Land is a story place. Land holds the stories of human survival across many generations. Land shapes people, just as people shape their countries."
Judy Atkinson: Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines, the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia
"It is healing for any person to hear the priceless heritage of our stories and find a contemporary translation of their prescriptions applicable to his or her immediate circumstances."
Robert A Johnson: The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden 
Some further reading/listening about walking and landscape:

John O'Donohue OnBeing episode: The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found. Atlantic Books.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Why silence?

To collect stories, you really have to listen and we have collected so many stories over the last several months. Listening is at the heart of the Handless Project.

On the 20th May 2017 myself and two colleagues Vicci Riley and  Joanne Tremarco, will be walking around the city of Liverpool for a whole day. Long stretches of this walk will be conducted without speaking. This means we won't be chatting, pointing out things that we see that we want to share or remarking on a thought we have. I expect this to be difficult.

I usually speak when I am feeling nervous, especially around people I don't know very well. I measure how what I am saying is received and try to keep the conversation, light, upbeat and funny if I can. When I am in that state, I tend to feel incredibly self-conscious and a flood of insecurity rises and overwhelms me.
Joanne on one of our walks

On the 20th May 2017 I invite everyone walking with us to abandon the need to be or say anything that they are not. I invite you all only to listen; to the city, to yourself and see what arises.

A ritual walk has traditionally been an invitation to transformation, whether you are a pilgrim on the road to Santiago or walking the Pacific Crest Trail like Cheryl Strayed, stepping out of your door to wander under your own steam is an invitation to adventure and change.

In the Handless Maiden story our heroine wanders in the forest from sun-up to sun-down. She starts out hoping only to find a place where she is treated with compassion, but ends up being totally transformed both in body and status.

I chose to walk with Vicci and Joanne precisely because they are both excellent deep listeners, both to themselves and to others. This is familiar territory for them both as performers and we will all three be holding space for one another. Holding space is a term I hear used a lot, but to me it means creating an uninterrupted moment of silent attention and allowing someone else to fill it completely, without interrupting, without fixing anything or rushing to a solution or nervously filling the space.

In aboriginal Australian culture they have a word Dadirri.

“Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.”– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder
Despite it's origins as a key part of one of the oldest cultures on the planet, it has found a place in the 21st century treatment of trauma achieving something that Trauma experts say is essential for it's treatment.

"So when people really become very upset, that whole capacity to put things into words in an articulate way disappears. ...if people need to overcome the trauma, we need to also find methods to bypass what they call the tyranny of language." Bessel Van Der Kolk author of The Body Knows the Score 

Further reading:
Judy Atkinson's Trauma Trails: recreating the songlines

Further listening:

Find out more about the project on www.thehandlessproject.com
Eat, sleep and walk with The Handless Project! Book a place via the Unity Theatre's website.