On the Couch – Freud Style

There is no shrink, just sleep

I make it awkward

In my dream I struggle with my adversary

Tumbling, hurting

Until surrender

No more tangle

Softness, embrace

Good Wishes & Time in Between

Every time I made a wish on a birthday cake, a dandelion husk or any other wish-inducing childhood phenomena, I predominantly wished for my Mum to be happier. I wanted her to stop being angry and seemingly the biggest source of family upset. I wanted it bad and I did not only wish her death on her, which whilst salient in my mind’s eye, was reserved for her least forgivable moments. It was easy to imagine her dead, but I did not know what her being happy would look like. There appeared to be too many things wrong.

This time right now I have left wide open. I am taking time. I am in therapy and it’s kicking in. I am inbetween projects/events and I am holding off commitments for now as I want to feel my own rhythm to find out where I am next putting my feet down. I am listening and reconnecting. I am life modelling and just that, no frills. There is space for emotions to come up, and I feel a bit vulnerable sometimes because I don’t have much that is fun and cool going on to talk about. It’s ok; I love the simplicity and time with friends.

@ the anger: unfinished business is all. An awareness of energies/programming which I want to bring to the table. Some of us were brought up thinking that we deserve the best and maybe more. Others, that we don’t; so we don’t expect so much or tend to get it. I have realised which camp I have been in for the most part so I want to reprogramme, and in the case of some friendships/relationships, it is time to reveal old patterns which aren’t benefitting everyone.

In writing I can express myself more freely; some friendships feel like family, and face to face is hard to say (all) the truth. Especially when in close quarters for too long, confrontation seemed an awkward imposition on someone else’s space. I don’t always shy from direct verbal, but there is a time and a place.

I recently spent a week like this at the Slade

Project Unbreakable, & Walking the Walk

Today I visited Sylvie who modelled at our recent event. She has described how participating has lined up with her own journey of transformation (http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/02/12/little-pieces-of-me-by-sylvie-rouhani/) with regard to healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. She recently started her own blog for her art and poetry, and felt inspired when through the world of blogging she came across ‘Project Unbreakable’. Started by Grace Brown in the US, it is for survivors of sexual abuse to come out perhaps, by means of being photographed with a sign stating a quote of their abuser.

Sylvie’s powerful idea is to take part in the next Spirited Bodies – on 21st March at Telegraph Hill Festival – and make such a sign for herself for the occasion. When nude she will pose with the sign at least for a photograph to send to Grace to join the thousands that Grace receives. We don’t know if anyone has done this nude before, but it seems to make a lot of sense, since such difficult experiences can affect the way we feel about our bodies in a huge way. It may be quite subtle, yet highly destructive, making someone ashamed of themselves somehow. To confront this issue any which way how is surely empowering for any soul. In some pictures the person is not identifiable, the face not visible, but it is the act which demonstrates strength, and solidarity since many others are participating.

I am getting a sense that our upcoming event is about healing the heart. I felt upset when following the joy of the last event, an issue about photographs possibly spoilt some people’s experience. I never want that to happen again; it goes against the whole ethos of Spirited Bodies. In future if there is photography I will communicate much more clearly with every model about that in advance, and take pains to stage any photos taken so that no one is upset.

There was a flip-side to the mishap, in that some models who had not been so keen on being seen in a photo, once they saw the results, did change their minds remarkably, especially in the light of the unexpected levels of joy they experienced when participating. The photograph was a happy memory. But for any who trusted us less afterwards, I am sorry. Overall it was a valuable lesson.

One of Alex B's images from 'The Drawing Theatre', Spirited Bodies

Living and learning must be key. And fate gave me a suitable nod shortly after the photograph debacle. Having been body painted by my friend Caroline Young for the Paradise Jam in Broxbourne on 16th February, with one particular glitter tattoo on my back, I then had occasion to model nude on a catwalk in London Fashion Week for a hat designer on the 21st. The tattoo still intact, press photographers snapped my bottom avidly which was highlighted by the glitter. It, minus the hat, made it to page 3 of the Metro the next day much to my and Caroline’s delight!

Robyn Coles, the designer, fared better with her other models for her campaign, who served her purpose better from the front. A pregnant glamour model glowed sensationally, and Alex B strutted regally, amongst our number.

Backstage at the show I did not feel a big sense of belonging. I was not uncomfortable about my body, in fact the opposite. We had been told ‘basic make-up’, and I wore none. I think it is that I struggle to get excited about fashion and that showed. I did enjoy the catwalking however, which was to the tune of Lana Del Rey‘s ‘Born to Die’. Reckon body painting is more my thing!

I enjoyed posing with Caroline Young's body paint - photo by Alex Eve

Back in Drama School, at Rose Bruford 8 years ago I made a piece of theatre about facing demons of the past. I asked an old friend to take part as his story was powerful and had moved me. He portrayed in some theatrical form his tale of childhood sexual abuse. He said it was cathartic to stand up and perform this painful part of his past. To come out and say it, and actually be real on stage, in front of strangers. The audience were young and they laughed at first, but in the end we felt victorious for doing the performance project our way. In a way that felt most meaningful.

He said recently that he has gotten much reward over the years from connecting with other survivors who have had similar experiences. Once they have reached a certain stage in processing the damage, there is something about them which resonates clearly as they lack a more usual layer of bullshit apparent in so many people. They appreciate the value of things, life, better perhaps. And processing one’s struggle with others is part of what stops the damage from being heavily internalised. The easiest way, he points out, for the abuse cycle to continue and be passed on by one who has been abused becoming an abuser him/herself, is to not truly connect with others about the matter.

What I find becoming apparent is, 20 odd years ago there seemed to be a minority of victims, but now a growing awareness suggests  more likely a majority. So by joining up with Project Unbreakable for example, there is a strength in numbers. A knowledge of being far from alone. A power to let potential and actual aggressors know that they may be outflanked.

The next Spirited Bodies will welcome survivors and those who want to support them. Life modelling in a group can be healing in various capacities, and I will focus on this aspect of the event to drive it forwards.

Meeting With Freedom

When the doctor calls in the middle of the night, come to the hospital, this could be it. We don’t know if she’ll make it, but we need to know from you what you would like us to do if – if the life in her is not worth – if when she opens her eyes there is nothing there. They have the power and they need to know, have you thought about it? Yes because it happens each time – different doctors, sometimes different hospital, but each time she is under they have to ask.

Sometimes my instincts check in advance, they are not feeling adrenaline, I am sure this time will pass. Often I am pulled in to the brink on the edge of the rollercoaster seat. By the bedside crying, and appreciating time in the relatives’ suite, because that is the most meaningful conversations the rest of the family ever has with Dad. The family drama; and when the doctor calls, I know now that he is hoping. This time could be his meeting with freedom. He has discussed her wishes with her and the answer is to switch off from a life not worth the trouble. Meanwhile they continue, we keep on.

At the front of The Royal Festival Hall, Lucy and I find a table and furnish it with my large painted Spirited Bodies sign. We discuss the press release, skirting over our brushings with mental health. I was supposed to prepare the meeting we are about to have with our brand new SB models. We’ll wing it; well it’s not like we haven’t done it before. The hardest thing I find is putting myself in the position of someone new to the whole business. Remembering what it was like before nudity was normal, and even then it wasn’t that new to me. And tuning myself to a sensitive mode that is ready for newbies both anxious and nervous, as well as those in it for the craic, or because they just love what we’re doing. I’m a tiny bit nervous but it’s going to be fun.

They arrive one by one, with warm hand shakes and smiles, chairs gradually accumulated from across the room. They find me familiar, I have been emailing them individually, and it’s like we know each other, except now they’re all here I don’t know who each one is. It’s ok. We have important informations to impart and light-hearted anecdotes of bodily fluids and anti-sexual encounters. We – Lucy and I – are on familiar territory, and we pick up after each other. I try to feel what the interested faces are hoping to glean, and they ask about the photographs (for London Drawing) and how to choose poses. It goes well and I am high and full of love afterwards. That’s why we do it, because of them (and us). I love it when they are happy. The artists make another level of content, but for me it’s for the models first. They make me feel both humble and worthy. They are on edge with excitement to meet themselves in a space that is about just being, and being drawn. And they will be together, as in a drama, complimenting and interacting with each other, creating a story where there are bodies. We will be guiding them, but now already these that we have met, know more what to expect. Their minds will imagine and start to build the scene of the next event. The seeds are gestating in time for a rich bloom.

Feeling the Love

I have been running on empty but I feel the love

While I stand before the people drawing me, the warmth inside of me just reaches out

All I feel is love, I am the love

I wish them every clarity of co-ordination and fulfilment as they connect eye to hand to paper

I send my being out towards them and give them all I am

Pure happiness is in me, around me, we feel it together

There is no worry, and I am not my body

I may be in it now, but I am love and light

I return to being my essence and that is what they feel whether they know it or not

In my place of comfort my body informs me how to move and what to express, it just does it

Because that’s what makes me feel the love

The Art of Magic

Chaosphere; symbol of chaos magic

The first step to a magical state of mind, according to a Chaos magician’s handbook, is to still the body. It suggests finding a comfortable position and at first attempting motionlessness for 5 minutes, which is not easy when executed completely. One is then to build up gradually to half hour periods of stillness, practising daily. Should any unexpected occasions for stillness arise in one’s day to day life, then it is advisable to take advantage, if you want to maximise your potential as a chaos magician.

The joker in me thinks chaos magic people could do a recruitment drive among life models; most of us have definitely mastered step 1, and are probably well into the next levels too, although not being conscious of this might make a difference.

Breathing has to slow right down and get really deep. Tick.

Not-thinking: this is what I understand meditation to be; regarding one’s tempest of a mind and hauling it in, not wandering off with the pull of any divergent tangent. When successful this leads to trance, and you know you’ve risen above it all when you feel the glow in your third eye and in the crown of your head. It’s a warm tingle, very pleasant, and the lightness and euphoria I get enable me to transcend discomfort of the pose, because unlike chaos magicians, I’ve cut off my circulation, got a crick in my neck and all my weight is on my right heal. Do I get extra points? No, I’m way behind on the theory!

Also when in a trance, thoughts do still come up, but they all seem to make me laugh, except usually it just induces a smile. Occasionally I do crack up in hysterics much to the artists’ bewilderment; generally I can’t explain the joke or it’s just too dirty… I mean I like my job, and just them knowing that what my comical mind has yielded is off the menu says enough.

There is another state of hyper sensation I get; stronger emotions but with an extra awareness of them, like I’m watching them. So I might get on a sad one, may even draw a tear, but it’s like it’s from so deep inside, there’s an awesome release, so that the sadness is accompanied by elation.

That brings me to another of the chaos magic themes: emotions and their opposites. Apparently the root of every emotion is in its opposite, and a wheel is drawn: sex and death, love and hate, fear and desire (to begin with, it gets more complex too.)

Object concentration, as part of achieving a magical state of mind (from which who knows what is possible) means the fixed gaze during motionlessness. In my work this is most common and necessary whilst modelling for portrait. A fixed point in one’s vision must be picked, and held for hours, days, weeks on end. It is hard to stop the mind from distorting what one sees, but after a while, I have found, of looking thus in the same direction, everything looks different anyway, like you are seeing all that you could have missed with a more casual look. I practise this too when life modelling as it is part of what brings about the high I enjoy. All my worries vanish – what to do with that guy who pretends he doesn’t want to date me but when we meet that’s what it feels like… will other people apart from my boyfriend like my new script, do my friends still like me after I didn’t turn up to… is my brother mad at me!

During half term I didn’t have a lot of work and Aaron asked if my powers would diminish with hardly anyone worshipping me! I have been thinking this is a great way to think of my job, and love that Aaron sees it this way. Instead of thinking, ‘Oh no I’ve got to get up for work’, I’m like ‘Gonna go to the temple to be worshipped’!

Can’t buy love

Megan Morgan follows me as we cycle over the bridge to the Mall, I want to show her where it is. I tell her what it’s like to model naked all the time and why I love it. How the artists, some of them, know a part of me neither friends nor family do. How it’s a performance of self expression in the moment, and while you could get self absorbed, you also get beyond the self, and beneath layers. It may be hard sometimes, but when you enjoy it, it’s a pleasure to be drawn. After a difficult spell in another part of my life, modelling can take me back to a happier place in myself, what a treasure. I love sharing this knowledge with someone who wants to take it on too. Feels like something I ought to do.

Glyn Howard makes me look cooler than Top Cat!

Glyn's groovy cartoon style, i dig it