Inner Geography - finding home at the core - a curious combo of physical/human geography and yoga

I am by nature a bit of a wanderer and I hope a connector of people , places and experiences. The underlying desire of my Leverhulme residency is that spaces,places and people in and around the university might connect a little more, beyond the more usual often controlled ways ways of interacting . It is for this reason I invite different groups to come visit Newcastle University and create happening events in different spaces and different departments.

In my meanderings and chatterings ( non academic parlance, often characterized by a sense of ease and mutual understanding) I happened upon Clare Vaughan who within Uni speak is a PGR ( Post Graduate Researcher).We found we had similar interests and approaches toward creative interactions. The principle underpinning Clare's research is a desire to change how things are. Clare says

 "My research in Sociology stems primarily from a paucity of young homeless women and girls in academic discussions and research. The young people I work with are incredible in so many ways, but poverty and our welfare system hold them back at every stage. This, along with the violence they are subject to, keeps them stuck in cycles of homelessness. Through my research I collect life stories and facilitate auto-photography, with young women taking photographs of significant things, places and items for their story. In doing this, they explore various outlets for narratives and creativity - having fun along the way! The findings will be used to make recommendations to youth homeless services in how best to support young women, and counteract an increasingly brutal austerity."

 As a result of our chats and co-mingling of ideas / practices, I went to meet some of the people Clare works with at De Paul  a charity that offers help to people who are "homeless vulnerable and disadvantaged "

 I know that for some people blogging is a matter of shouting out loud with gobbits of eye catching text sent out into the  media hinterland but for me context is important as is the circuitous and meandering ways in which connections are made. This is part of "inner geography", the social maps and connections made between humans that help shape our actions and experiences, and I am above all things a people person!  

Being with a group of people in a new place, aware of labels, theirs and mine, aware of my position and how I might look in this  particular circumstance  as a "yoga teacher/dancer ". These things heighten our collective awareness, it is palpable, we feel it and we know it in our guts and in our bones. How do we make these exchanges between people as yet unknown to us, what is it that I want to share and why and what do they want to share and why?

Richard Sennett talks of the value of opening up "indeterminate mutual spaces" in which "strangers can dwell with one another" order  to oil the social engine. Perhaps it is this which underpins my desire to find ways to bring people together, to allow people to notice each other and to be at home to the sensations which arise and not to be removed from these sensations by  which we  label "other" or "not like me /us". I have no idea what it is like to be homeless, to be forced to the periphery of societal space and so I wanted to share a way of finding inner space, curating as sense of embodied belonging of  finding a way to find common ground.

I found the whole experience challenging and  affirming but above all I did feel connected and involved in an exchange.... a "something" happening that was tangible and real and mutually responsive.

Below is my reflection on the experience, written at the time and unedited as this is part of my process of better knowing, feeling what it is I am directly experiencing

A church like building , many willing volunteers....too many?

A woman all rolling and grinning, all surfaces and motion, gabbing, trilling enters with the declaration " I'm not staying, nah, no I'm not staying"

Newness, me-ness an affront, a barrier, a new territory laid out between us, a room transformed, another change in her shifting universe.

She is smiling but scared, lying now propped on a mat , a restless energy, a coiled spring watching me but still she smiles.

We begin and for a few moments the edges soften, mine and hers and then a shift as she re routes, re directs her very self toward her phone, her sanctuary, her place of connection and familiarity.

He enters, capped , tense, bristling all angles. Language flows from him in a torrent, a language of yearning, of effort, of desperation  of "give me a fucking chance man".

On and on he talks, he declares , he shouts. His sense of injustice is truly present as is his willingness and his utter conviction in what might be, in how it could be. He touches me , his passion moves me.

He is brittle, snap like, yet jocular, with typical male posturing he lies down on a yoga mat throws a few  male groin-centric moves then imitates giving birth.

Bit by bit the room settles. I gently coach , coax , negotiate my way in uncharted waters, I try to connect ,to share some ideas some approaches. I am so aware of my language, the potential for yoga bla bla, for somatic trance woo woo. How do I make myself known?

Amazingly something shifts, something transmutes , something transforms.

Brittleness melts, he says he is "cosy" and removes his cap, he sighs, he stills himself, cutting through the surface resistance to a source within. He relaxes, I relax we found a way, a common yet uncommon language , we came home together"

 A few days  later I found myself on a  field trip to Blencathra where a student commented everything filters down here.  I remember being stood there in all that space and beauty , remembering a connection, a  feeling carried with me from a room in a church hall in Whitley Bay with people I did not know,  a certain something I  carried with me from the group at De Paul to the vastness of Blencathra.

Is it the same process? An inner physical geography inviting us to come home to a source , to a sense of grounding and belonging. Experiencing the core of who we are by delving through the layers we build up to protect and defend ourselves, letting go of, excavating through the layers of experience to find the core of connection between us....?

Below are some examples of participants feedback to me.