Another busy week

At last week’s Women for Peace course, we explored the multiple story narrative.  We started by sitting in four groups of four, all of us writing a fact about ourselves.  Then we had to guess which fact belonged to which person.  When we had more information about another person, it was easier to guess the fact about them, while others were not as easy.  I chose to disclose some information about my spirit animal to show a different narrative to my identity.  I was not sure how the group would react to my fact or if indeed they would take it to be a fact.  Everyone was very matter of fact about it! I wish I had been able to talk about more facts about my life!  I am sure there will be more opportunities for this in the coming weeks.  Then we used a ball of wool to demonstrate how connected we all are, this was done through learning more about each other’s multiple narratives and connecting our feet together. Women for Peace 'ball of string' exercise

Following this, we created a character called Anna and we gave her many different identities/labels.  The idea was to show how a person can have multiple, yet contradictory facets to them, which interact together and shape who they are.  This full information, therefore informs their multiple narratives.  I did not quite enjoy this exercise as it was less structured and the aims of the activity were not clear from the outset.  It was interesting that no one in the group thought about the ‘disabled’ label for Anna (in terms of physical or sensory impairments), and when I suggested Anna having mobility impairment, the group then considered different access barriers and became aware of a new set of dynamics and inequalities. 

Returning to academia, I worked on the second draft for the ‘current issue’ of Disability and Society journal about my experiences of my recent academic trip to Armenia.  While I wanted to write about the disadvantages I faced as an independent researcher during this trip, the editor was more interested in the parallels and contrasts between the Armenian and British education system and recommended some changes accordingly.  Since submitting the first draft I have come across another platform where I can write more fully about my experiences of being an independent academic. Therefore, I decided to dedicate the entire short article for the ‘current issue’ to the exploration of differences and similarities observed in the two countries.  I felt comfortable with this decision knowing that my firsthand experience will be dealt with in more detail in another publication.

On Thursday we were suppose to see a throat singing band from Mongolia in the Harold Assembly Rooms, called Huun Huur Tu.  I was so looking forward to seeing this as we have seen some really good world music gigs in this venue.  Sadly we were informed on the Thursday morning that the concert was cancelled. I was gutted. I love going to the Howard Assembly Room, it is such an incredible venue, it’s hard to believe there are often big musicals going on in the Grand Theatre across the hall! Such a contrast. I have met some wonderful new friends by going to these kind of events. Music can really bring us together, and this was demonstrated even more as part of my healing work.

The healing centre was busy on Friday and we were short of staff.  I do not know where the time went as apart from a 20 minutes break, I was giving healing all afternoon.  I felt confident and happy to make a difference in people’s lives, such a privilege.   Last Saturday I met some students and some full healers for a few hours of healing.  We listened to some healing music from across the globe followed by some time to chat and support.  I felt encouraged and sustained talking to friends.

We finished watching the Human Planet series, truly an amazing and a very interesting program.  It has made me think though whether if we are ever able to live ethically without exploiting or harming our planet or other living creatures including humans? I will certainly live even more mindfully. We also went to see ‘The Post’ last Sunday followed by a Q and A with Granville Williams of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom at the Hyde Park Picture House.  The film highlighted important points about ‘good’ journalism including the publication of the truth and the goals of journalism, which are pertinent to today’s media obsessed world.

I spent the rest of the weekend seeing some old friends, whom I haven’t seen for a very long time.  I wish time and energy weren’t such big barriers in my life, preventing me from doing what I enjoy.

Survival and Fundamental Needs

Last week was not as busy.  Earlier on in the week, I received a rejection email for an abstract I had submitted for a journal article.  While I was disappointed by the rejection news, in retrospect, I was relieved to have more time for my other commitments.

Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs - understanding, affection, leisure, identity, freedom, creativity, protection, subsistence, and participationI attended the second session of the Women for Peace course.  This week, we looked at Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs, which explains the importance of understanding, love and affection, rest and leisure, identity, freedom, creativity, security and protection, subsistence, and participation in equal measures.  According to Max-Neef conflict occurs when one or more of these are lacking.  The chart was thought provoking, and while I liked the principle behind it, I did not feel these needs apply in equal measures across cultures or ages.  Sat in silence, we then made assumptions about one another in pairs.  Looking into each others’ eyes, while making a number of assumptions was a very uncomfortable experience for many of us, myself included.  Culturally we are not conditioned to make direct eye contact for longer than a few seconds. 

The exercise also made us aware of the challenges associated with making assumptions based on the limited information we have of an individual.  We watched Chimamanda Adichi’s Ted Talk on the Dangers of a Single Story narrative to reinforce the negative aspects of last exercise (  Following this, we were asked to write down words/phrases that are associated with the stereotypes of certain groups such as Irish people and refugees, and then have a discussion.  This exercise brought home for me my own Single Story narrative, and the stereotypes and assumptions people make about disabled people such as unfortunate, unemployed, lazy, scrounger, useless, lonely and asexual.  I thought about the damaging effects that these labels leave on me and other disabled people, and the wider implications for the society at large.  

On Thursday I talked about my experiences of employing PAs for over a decade in the Employers Briefing, organised by Leeds CIL, to a group of new and potential employers.  They asked questions about different stages of being an employer from recruitment to management issues.  Although some of the questions were personal and trickier to answer than the other ones, I was only too happy to help as I know how valuable I would have found this kind of session myself, when I started using the Direct Payment scheme with all its overwhelming complications.  Hearing the firsthand experiences of people who employ PAs would have given me clarity and confidence in my new role as an employer.

On Friday I attended the Healing Centre and saw and gave healing to a new client on my own.  I had an audience – two watching as students, and two full healers.  Despite this, I felt confident with the process, something which I would have not found so easy a year ago.  The positive feedback I received from the client gave me further encouragement, knowing that I am on the right path.  I have started reading a book by Barbra Brennan called Light Emerging: The Journey of Personal Healing. I am finding its take on healing and the auric field so very fascinating.  If only I was able to undertake a course in one of the Barbara Brennan Schools of Healing!

I have been watching episodes from the BBC Human Planet series.  It has made me wonder how complacent we in the Western modern civilisations have become, with all our comforts, when comparing our lives with the harsh realities of Inuit and native foresters, and how much we are given, for which we should be grateful and yet often are not.