Part of my practice is an an approach which I call Dynamic Dementia. It is an approach which, like all of my work, seeks to be situated in the now. The process of being in the now is both simple and complex, easy and problematic and as I am finding can ruffle a few feathers.
Ownership and acknowledgement of knowledge by people living with dementia is a fundamental part of Curiosity Café a Dry Water initiative which I helped to set up and co-facilitate.
Our most recent project has focused on walking, on being and in a profound sense letting go. Letting go of labels, of feeling that we have to do something.
I have found the process incredibly instructive and it has reminded me again of the radical act of choosing to do very little, to be with what is and to let that guide you.
It is so easy, so tempting to formulate an idea, an activity, to find something to do with people living with dementia, ways in which to 'occupy them', to some how brush over/ignore the particularities of the condition by filling time. And it's not just people living with dementia. Our society is wracked by an angst that fears silence and spacious moments, we feel the need to fill any empty or ambiguous realm with a something....a doing sort of thing.
People even talk about the pressing need to meditate and how that stresses them! At a workshop recently so many people berated themselves for not having the time to meditate, for not having factored it in to their schedule....they seem to miss the point. You can choose to be present right now.
These attitudes can make their way into how programmes for people living with dementia are constructed. The need to make or do something can be a means of controlling and covering the real issues. Many of the participants at Curiosity Cafe tell us that they are depressed by having activities overly organised, programmes that are prescribed weeks in advance without any sense of who is in the group, having to do things that are "good"for them.
So at Curiosity Cafe we continue to invite, respond and to trust that our group is able to find the ways and the means for sessions to flow and to be comfortable with being with how things are. The fact we are walking and talking lends itself to an overall rambling sort of vibe which can be scary for time watchers but delightful for those who enjoy the feeling of making time open up rather than chase us down. In doing so we dismiss the instrumental drive to do something for a specific purpose and dare to be purposeless. Busily doing nothing, saying hello to the adventure of that moment.
" This is magical" "I can see birds" " Different ways of seeing" "It's unbelievable" " I am impressed by the science of it"
Giving time and space is so important. We do not have to fill every moment nor do we always have to speak to make ourselves known or to demonstrate our understanding
We ended our session today contemplating the slow beauty of a slug, its “beautiful red skirt, the 'Princess of slugs'. We watched and appreciated its undulating form, delighting in the moment when its horns came out.
And the slug left us its trace, it’s memory as all slugs like to….trailing behind it the shared moment .