‘Does it enhance connection?
In a world in which companies like Monsanto can successfully sue farmers because seed from a neighbouring farm was carried by wind or bees into their crop so they are deemed to have ‘stolen’ Monsanto’s copyrighted property, the whole notion of connection is under serious threat.
Cross pollination, a natural connection, has been re-languaged as intellectual property infringement (in a feat of Kafka-esque logic that outstrips anything Orwell could have foreseen as ‘newspeak’. How useful to corrupt corporate power that they can sue individual farmers simply because bees fly and the wind blows.
In this same world, herbalists (in several countries) can be jailed for sharing wisdom that allows people to take more control of their own wellness. Our connections to food and health, to the bodies we are, are also strained by global threats—zoonotic viruses like Covid 19 will continue to arise in a world that is being stripped of natural habitats and eco-systems.
In a world in which the connections we need to value are being trampled only to be replaced with connections that disempower—
- Monsanto’s control of more and more of the food seed stock of the world;
- the glossy connections of social media that promote a sense of ‘fear of missing out’ or make others compare their lives as failing;
- a diminishing knowledge of how to support our own wellness within the imperfect bodies we each have in the face of so much noise about diets and miracle cures…
—how do we enhance connection?
None of us can save the world, but all of us has some agency over the narratives we live by and the ethics that inform our stories. Wherever there is radical generosity and compassion, wherever we take the time to pay deep attention to our inner landscape, to our bodies, and to those around us, human and non-human, something shifts.
I’m convinced that this is particularly important for those who make art, at whatever level and of whatever kind, because it is a way of living an alternate story that does not give in to fragmentation. The raison d’être of kith is to be a small space for writers to linger, listen and connect, knowing it could be enough in this crazy but wonderful world.
We linger because refusing to always live at a frenetic pace is:about finding ways of living that allow for attentiveness, permit moments to be savoured and make space for solacing pauses and time to simply be.
When we pause, new thoughts, new perspectives, new vision has the chance to enter our lives. When I slow down I come back to myself, to my humanity, to my ability to listen and connect.
This ability to listen, to pay attention – to our creativity, to our intuition and heart, to our bodies and to those around us, human, non-human and the earth … changes us. In a stressed society we spend so much of our time with half our mind doing a shopping list, thinking about the 101 tasks waiting to be completed or wondering what to cook for dinner when we should be listening attentively to the person talking to us or listening to our body or listening to the trees and river as we walk.
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present,
wrote Camus. The present can seem harsh, but we need to stay with it if we are to have any hope of transforming it, in even the smallest of ways. Together we hold the story of future humanity in our souls and imaginations, but only if we take the time to listen to the story that needs healing.
Listening, deeply and attentively, to what is within us and to what we are hearing in the world, makes sacred whatever we show that attention to. It is transformative and it enables us to connect; to live in fragments no longer.
Connection is what enables us to act from empathy and with compassion. It is what helps us to get out of our own way, setting ego aside so that we can both enter the wonderful flow states of writing and imagine what it is to have another skin.
Exploring the many layers of connection in our lives is vital to the artist’s practice because it moves us out of the fixed self-image that we may zealously guard in daily life, but which can prove more of a prison than a liberation when we want to soar with imagination and write from body and soul. We are who we are becoming, and this is an endless narrative with leaky boundaries.
To linger, listen and connect is a life’s work. To have the courage and integrity to write is vital in a world crying out for new stories. But we can only do so if we are not driving ourselves wayward with constant thoughts that we are not ‘enough’.
As long as we stay feeling ‘not enough’ and ‘unworthy’, we stay prey to being no more than passive consumers of life, buying into the next product or lifestyle trend that will convince us once again that we’re not quite… Instead we can assert not that we are perfect but that we are enough – human, flawed, always becoming a different story, but enough – each of us and together, as kith.
How do you want to feel?
Living on emotions can be a recipe for rampant egoism and blury, sentimental thinking. And yet, in one of those paradoxes of the human condition, not to understand ourselves, not to be reflective, can leave us even more prey to the emotional roller-coaster. People who loathe themselves or who have no sense of themselves find radical compassion and restorative kindness much harder to give. To be able to unself, to get out of our own way, can take a lot of self-honesty that is hopefully also arrived at with compassion.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we show radical kindness to ourselves since starting a course as a herbal practitioner. So often wellness is seen as being about curing of all that ails us. Sometimes with an endless list of ills to be ticked off.
But wellness can be so much richer than this—not about having a perfect body free from all ill, but about how we nurture the flawed body with compassion and dignity, whether we happen to be incredibly fit or negotiating serious illness. As a herbal practitioner in training I’m learning that the urge to fix people needs to be replaced by the compassion to walk besides others as they work with the plants on their own journeys.
This is also a good model for mentoring—someone we call in to be a companion alongside us, offering their own experience and wisdom whilst encouraging us to nurture our own. Asking ‘how do you want to feel?’ not as a provocation for emotional drama, but as a question about how we want to think, create and live with a sense of deepening self knowledge and connection to the world.
This is my question for a new project—Triskelewell, which is a developing space to integrate the work I already do as a writing mentor helping writers connect to their artistic processes with work as a yoga nidrā teacher and a trainee herbal practitioner . Story; mediation, spiritual practice (in the sense of how we live our stories and make meaning) and healing (particularly working with the bereaved) have been consistent threads in my life and work. So I hope Triskelewell will be a place to weave those threads and provide resources of
- inspiration—through story, poetry, journalling and creativity, through a variety of artistic practices
- intuition—through deep rest, through listening to dreams, listening to land we live on, listening to the body
- invocation—as we call in the help we need for the next cycle in the journey and begin to find the next story…
When we are feeling our way to our own sense of wellness and meaning-making, we are more able to get out of our own way enough to connect deeply with others and with the planet we inhabit.
I’d like both Kith and Triskelewell to be small offerings in this process. Kith has evolved a great deal over the last decade and I hope you will find something here to nurture your own story. The blog will always remain free and accessible and this year I’m inviting people to take part in the kith community (with fortnightly writing prompts, a writers’ forum, 5 online workshops and a weekend festival of writing) by paying what they can afford. The 2023 programme starts at the beginning of February so take a look here
And I’d also like to invite you to send new writing for the second issue of Kith Review. It’s produced as a gorgeous flipbook to read online as well as in large format hard copy in full colour. Kith Review is open for submissions (poetry, essay, fiction, memoir prose, land writing, explorations of creative practice…) on the theme of ’embodiment’. The closing date for submissions is March 6 2023 and Kith Review welcomes submissions to our themed issues from poets, story-writers, essayists, ecologists, slow food advocates, environmental activists, herbalists, utopian thinkers, musicians, trail walkers, artists, artisan makers and writers across a multitude of disciplines contributing stories of connection to people, communities, animals, plants, trees and the planet.
Here’s to all the ways we can find to linger, listen and connect, knowing that we don’t have to do it all to make a different story.