A personal epiphany that began 8 years ago ...
My relationship with Catherine began when she attended my weekly dance-movement class. What a great class it was too! Both men and women lapping up that liberating feeling that moving freely to music gives you.
Catherine arrived without expectations.
Since she’d never done any dance-movement improvisation or expressive art before, she anticipated Moving with Mindfulness would open her up to new experiences and she was ready to bring them on.
After these classes she came along to make a Vision Board with me.
Then she joined me for two Soul Alive Retreats in a row.
More recently she returned to the studio for a Moving with Mindfulness workshop.
“My creativity has snow-balled," she says.
And finally Catherine is now embracing Feng Shui & Decluttering as a valuable mainstay for living an authentic life. As a person inclined to hold on than let go, she would never have believed she'd find herself getting into that at the outset!
I remember Catherine in her first class. She had a big smile on her face throughout the movement section. But when it came to capturing on paper what was alive and moving through her in that moment, she declared that she might skip this because she had trouble drawing anything beyond matchstick men. I gently told her it was not about being artistic but giving her inner creativity a voice .... and so she continued to draw.
Reflecting back on this 8 years later, she recognises the limiting beliefs operating and had been in place since her childhood. But working with expressive creativity over time has helped her to salve these wounds – not that this was visibly top of her agenda at the outset because she wasn’t aware she was holding those beliefs.
As the only child growing up in the early 50s, her mother worked in the home while her father was the breadwinner. She remembers with fondness her mother encouraging her to cut out images from greetings cards and sticking them into scrapbooks. Colouring in was also very popular and she enjoyed that too. She cannot remember being encouraged to do any freestyle drawing. “You simply weren’t allowed to unless you evidently had a talent for it.” How curious is it that artistic talent is expected to descend on us from the heavens without any cultivation while other subjects like Maths, say, don't carry this expectation.
When it came to writing, the pressure for Catherine to get it right, "i-dotting and t-crossing" she recalls, removed any joy for her and burdened the task with perfection. This was before the days of computers; writing was long-hand - and in pencil - and you were only allowed a rubber if you were lucky. In using a typewriter, any mistake required you to rip out the paper and start all over again.
Hardly surprising Catherine developed a creative block – a fear of committing pen to paper in case she got it wrong and was reprimanded. Coupled with the fact that she was the youngest in her year group, resulted in her repeatedly finding herself near the bottom of the class which was tough on her self-esteem.
She remembers her mother as the grounding force in her life, consistently encouraging Catherine in all her extra-curricula developments including amateur dramatics and Scottish dancing. Then suddenly age 10, her mother died.
Catherine’s first thought as she watched her mother being wheeled into an ambulance from an upstairs window was: “Oh no, there’s going to be lots of letter-writing now!”
Catherine was left alone with her father and dog. After 10 months of being shunted between relatives, Catherine arrived at a Royal Masonic boarding school at the other end of the country. To her horror she’s learned that she would be required to write home every week. From school she went to catering college and from there took a job as an au-pair girl in the South of France. Returning to the UK for a holiday, she stayed with a friend in High Wycombe and has lived and worked there for 40 years since - and still thinks of herself as a Lancashire lass at heart!
"I am convinced that the creative journey enabled me to become fully myself for the first time ever." What a profound realisation! Catherine believes that by eradicating her fear of not needing to be perfect restored her confidence in herself. And with my encouragement, she came to realise it was more than ok to just do it – move, write, draw, make – and not have to worry for one moment about the end result because the transformational power was in the process itself.
"It could be make-believe, abstract, representational – whatever. My creative expression didn’t need to be anything in particular. I came to trust that it was only and always about me being authentic with whatever I was feeling, sensing or imagining at the time. This enabled me to become unstuck from my old story, which was most liberating.
Her journaling and freehand drawing has continued in spurts. Over time Catherine has clearly observed themes emerging in her writing as she reflected on issues she was working through at the time.
“Journaling slowed me down and allowed me to look over my own shoulder so I became much more self-aware. In the beginning, the theme of 'time' was very evident in my creative work, particularly during the first retreat; what I was doing and how I was spending my days preoccupied me.
I’ve now moved into a ‘sifting and sorting’ mode that comes out in my journalling too. It also compels me to condense, clear and clarify all my belongings and this focuses my mind and body in the home. It's highly creative and productive work yet demands a lot of my energy so I can only get stuck-in on my days off.”
With only 12 months to go before retirement, Catherine’s creativity is clearly preparing her for this major life transition and will guide her in deciding “what next?” The sorting helps her prioritise what is truly important and how best to arrange her life for easy access to this – and to ditch the rest.
“What began as an exercise in ordering my material things has turned out to be all about sorting me out - and it’s very satisfying.” "I am now very clear what my life is about and what I truly enjoy. As a young woman I needed to be accommodating in order to survive. I've now released the need to do so and I only accommodate what is right for me."
"I can see how the creative process opens doors to different people in different ways depending on where they are in their life. For me it’s been all about my giving myself permission to be authentically me.”
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