Sharing Skills and Building Friendships
As well as organising our latest skills auction, raising £2,100 for the Centre, our fundraiser Sal Newby is also sampling quite a few skills herself . . .
I love organising the skills auction – where people in the Sangha offer their skills and the rest of us bid for them. This time we had some old favourites and some great new offers. I personally binged a bit, bidding for four things, and was also gifted a present from my partner – a wonderful performance of Gypsy at the Royal Exchange theatre.
So far I’ve attended an Alexander Technique workshop with Mokshajyoti and a flamenco dance lesson with Robin Ellis. Next up is an acting workshop, then an art workshop. I’m really enjoying learning new skills in a warm and creative environment. Here’s how the first two went:
Mokshajyoti always generously offers a workshop at our auctions, to introduce people to the Alexander Technique. This year, quite a few people who had never been to the Centre before, booked a place online. Checking in, it was clear that many of us were there due to low levels of pain, with reports of the misery of sitting at desks for seven hours a day, five days a week. Some of us were struggling with the physical aches and challenges of menopause. We all wanted a better understanding of how we might get relief from these struggles, and have more energy and better posture.
Mokshajyoti, in his skeleton T-shirt, expertly talked us through the workings of the human body, passing around a rucksack weighing the same as the human skull. We were flabbergasted at how heavy it was, and why it’s so important to have our neck and chin at the correct angle to be able to carry that weight. We did some really interesting exercises – What does it feel like to walk around like a Masaai warrior? How does it feel to walk around feeling sad? This showed us how our thoughts and moods affect our posture and interaction with the world. We were shown a laying down exercise that re-energises the cerebral-spinal flow and helps reboot a flagging body. We went away with tips and handouts and the energy in the room was completely different to when we arrived. A big thank you to Mokshajyoti.
I haven’t danced much in my life, a source of some regret. My mother loves dancing and it’s her go-to activity to relieve sadness or low mood and to connect joyously with other human beings. So when Robin offered a 90 minute flamenco lesson with two others, my ears pricked up. I love watching flamenco – the passion, the precision, the sensuality. It gets my imagination going. I’ve even had thoughts of being lifted up high and twirled round by some bulging-muscled Spanish man. Not the way my fantasy world often goes.
I had some doubts leading up to the day, when Robin suggested we wear heels and a skirt, as I have neither in my wardrobe, but I went with the flow and borrowed both. I was delighted that my old friend Barbara Matthews also bid for a place, as had Peter Tristram’s wife Claire. Robin began with a bit of history. Originally from India, flamenco migrated towards Spain in the 17th Century. We learnt about some of the simple and complicated rhythms of the dancers, singers and musicians, and we practised some basic clapping and tapping exercises to see if we could get a feel for it.
Robin has a room with tap mat and mirrored walls, so when it came to practising our first steps, there was no hiding place. Bit by bit, the basic moves started falling into place. Some movements and rhythms I mastered with relative ease. Others I stood there metaphorically scratching my head, waiting for my body to catch up with the instructions.
There was a lovely energy building up with the teacher as we surrendered to the energy and put our hearts into performing a short two minute dance at the end. My inhibitions had melted quite quickly, and it was wonderful seeing Barbara and Claire twirling, tapping and clapping. To finish off, Robin treated us to a dance demonstration. I marvelled at her facial expressions, precision and sensuality. The whole experience was a real treat. A big thank you to Robin for her generosity.