Tag Archives: Emma Kidd

Becoming an Explorer of the World

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‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’

W.B. Yeats

As Yeats so rightly said, the world is full of magic things, yet we usually pass by these amazing things everyday, without so much as a second thought.

Day in, day out, we see people, places, trees, plants, flowers, discarded objects, new buildings, and experience smells, colours, sounds……Life bombards us from all directions, every waking second of our lives.

But the ways in which our human languages name, label, and categorise the world around us, and the ways that our brains limit that world further still by loading assumptions, pre-conceptions, and judgements on top of the languages that we use to define it, usually stop us from seeing these parts of life as amazing.

And, due to this automatic organising and defining that our language and our mind does on our behalf, we end up taking so much of our day-to-day world for granted.

Not only this, but these processes that allow us to ‘quickly’ make sense of our world, actually prevent us from getting to know life in-depth, even when we do choose to study a part of life, or decide to give something more attention.

However, we can change this by becoming explorers of the world, and consciously choosing to stop being just mere ‘passersby’.

To begin exploring the world, here are a few guidelines that we can follow to get ourselves out of our heads and into-the-world. We can use these guidelines to either briefly alter, and deepen, our perception of something, or we can use them to guide us in a longer study of something that intrigues or interests us.

Preparing yourself to explore:

– Approach the world with a child-like sense of wonder.

– Try to see with ‘fresh new eyes’ as though you are seeing everything for the ‘first’ time – or pretend that you are an alien visiting from another world, and that everything here is new to you.

– Hold a positive and friendly attitude throughout your explorations, as though you are meeting a new friend.

Exploring with your senses:

– Touch, smell, feel, gaze, search, explore. Use your senses to look for the tiniest details that you can find.

– Dwell on those details for a while, and the follow them with your fingers or your eyes to see where else they lead you.

– When exploring with your senses consciously try to forget everything that you think you already know (such as names, categories, facts, theories) and instead direct your attention to exactly what it is that your senses are experiencing in the present moment.

– Use curiosity to sustain your attention and to sustain your explorations. By fueling our observations curiosity can help us to constantly search for details that we haven’t yet noticed.

Reflecting:

– Close your eyes for a minute or two and try to recreate your sensory experiences in your mind as exactly as you can, as though you are playing back a DVD of your experience.

– If you notice that you can’t remember things, then use this as a starting point for your next set of observations.

Contemplating:

– Instead of getting up close and using your senses to observe details, spend some time standing or sitting at a slight distance and behold the subject of your exploration from afar.

– Give it your full attention, but in a gentle, non-specific way. Open yourself to just spending quiet time being in its presence.

The end is only a new beginning…

So, now return to the subject of your exploration and start all over again. Keep exploring and returning to it until you are so intimately acquainted that it begins to feel as though you are meeting an old friend, not just another thing-in-the-world.

For a more detailed account on how to become an explorer of the world, then check out my new book –  First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively

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Seeing Our Work As A Gift

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Photo credit: E. Kidd

Sitting at my tiny desk, looking out of the window at my small backyard, I have a rather large question looming before me; now that I have finished taking time out to write my first book, First Steps to Seeing, what should I do with my life? I learnt years ago that working just to earn money is not enough for me. I don’t want a job, I want a life, and a livelihood, that I love. And to complicate matters even further, not only do I want to do what I love, I want my work to contribute towards making a positive difference in the world.

For various reasons, both personal and ethical, I have forgone most of the accoutrements of a modern, western lifestyle, such as owning a car, a house, buying new clothes or gadgets, and going on regular holidays. Instead, I either walk or use public transport, I live with my family, mostly buy second-hand clothes and spend my vacations staying in the homes of my friends.

This change in lifestyle has decoupled me from the common, pressing need to be tied to a ‘9 ‘til 5’ job, or a guaranteed monthly salary, and means that I currently find myself profiting from a resource which is far more valuable, fleeting and finite than money; this resource is time. With my current schedule almost completely clear, I have time in abundance. This time is giving me the space and the opportunity to press the reset button on my life, and in so doing, I am finding that my attention is drawn to the unknown path ahead of me as if it were a fresh, new canvass – completely empty yet bulging with unseen possibilities, daring me to bring forth creations and ways of working that are not only new, but also different.

As I feel my way into the depths of this creative potential I am finding myself confronted with the tension between doing what I love, and doing what I feel would be of most help to the world. These two options, at least initially, seem fundamentally incompatible when held together, yet lacking when considered alone. On the one hand, I am naturally drawn towards ‘helping’ people, but I am also aware of how complex the world is, and the way in which reactive ‘help’ can often be misguided. On the other hand, I am intuitively led towards creative pursuits, such as writing and photography, which allow me to bring beauty into the world and, in return, nourish me during the process.

When I lean back from my immediate environment to contemplate the social, cultural and environmental destruction that is currently occurring throughout the world, the thought that I should be devoting myself to what I love – regardless of what is occurring around me – seems utterly absurd. Even as I write, as we continue push the ecological and ideological boundaries of what is humanly possible, war torn countries, communities and families are being ripped apart and the planet is unmistakably being destroyed.

In the face of this destruction, selflessly abandoning all interest in what brings me to life and devoting myself to a worthy social or environmental cause appears to be ‘the’ answer (and I do have great admiration for those who do so). However, I am very aware  of the way in which this approach can create an inequality between the individual and the world, one which elevates life-above-oneself. I have tried this approach of abandoning the self in favour of the world, and maybe I just wasn’t very good at it, but experience has taught me that I can not fully give myself to the world when I neglect my own needs, whether physical, emotional or mental, no matter how much I believe in the worthiness of the cause.

On the other hand, doing work that I love for no other end than to satisfy and enliven myself just seems to follow our current damaging consumer culture, which elevates the importance of the individual and creates a hierarchy of self-above-all-others. However, I believe a third possibility – or a middle path –  does exist, one which neither excludes nor elevates the importance of self or the world; this third possibility is the approach of seeing our work as a gift.

Successful gift giving is an art form, one which considers the giver and receiver to be on equal terms. The art of giving a gift requires us to notice, to pay attention and to be responsive to the needs and wishes of the receiver. However, it is also a very personal gesture, one which respects our individuality, our wishes and inevitably takes our own needs and capabilities into account. And the actual gift that we give is only part of the process; we also give the receiver the thought, time, love and attention that is necessarily involved in the contemplation, and the giving, of the gift.

In terms of satisfaction, gift giving is a circular (or hermeneutic) process – when we give a gift we offer the receiver something that we hope will be of value and meaning to them, and in the process we derive meaning from giving that which we wish to give.

To approach, to see and to create our work as a gift we must first take time to notice the world around us, to really see life as it is. We must then give the same level of attention to ourselves, to see ourselves as we are, noticing what inner resources we have to give and what kind of engagement we most derive meaning from or feel enlivened by. This information, or these ingredients, can then be mixed together to create our work, our gift. Similarly to a baking a cake or a loaf of bread, when combined these ingredients, which are derived from noticing and being attentive to both ourselves and the world, can come together to create an idea, a project or an organisation that is far more than just the sum of its parts.

Seeing our work as a gift values the self and the world, on equal terms, and aims to meaningfully satisfy both. In taking the time to notice not only what we think the world needs or wants, but also to notice what we would most like to give, or feel most able to give, we are respecting and honoring ourselves and the world.

Therefore, in response to my own question of what to do with my ‘post-book’ life, I will begin from the position of seeing my work as a gift. As the case studies in Chapter 8 of First Steps to Seeing demonstrate – such as The Nature Institute, Hiut Denim Co., the ‘Learning in Depth’ educational initiative, and the economic development work of Manfred Max-Neef – by seeing our work as a gift, and dwelling in the space between the self and the other, we are best placed to work and to act upon our hearts’ desires, with love and integrity, whilst simultaneously answering the call from a world which is unarguably in need of our help.

First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively will be released on the 18th June and is now available to pre-order as an e-book  or in paperback

Workshop @ Schumacher College – 22nd March: “Learning to Sense Life in our everyday lives”

Sensing Life – Wellbeing Workshops

 “Learning to Sense Life in our everyday lives”

Craft Ed.Building, SchumacherCollege, Dartington

Saturday 22nd March 10am-1.30pm £15 (£10 conc.)

Email to book: emmakidd81@gmail.com SONY DSC

How can our sensory focus and attention improve our wellbeing everyday? In offices? In homes? In classrooms?

Aesthetic (sense) experience is when:

– Our senses are operating at their peak

– We are present in the current moment

– We are resonating with the excitement of the thing we are experiencing

We are fully alive!

Educator, writer and researcher Emma Kidd will explore practical ways in which we can improve our wellbeing by becoming more open and alive to the world around us. This will be the first in a series workshops made up of practical indoor and outdoor exercises from her new book: “First Steps to Sensing Life: Practicing a Dynamic Way of Seeing in Everyday Living”.

http://www.sensinglife.net

Small stone no.41: South Dartmoor

“In a large, gently sloping basin the woodland has been cleared away, leaving the closely shaven land with a soft, smooth, supple green face. It has been parceled up into misshapen rectangles of lush grass carpets separated by long, thin stubby hedges. At the lip of the basin lies its woodland beard, bare branches intertwine to form a dens…e protective barrier for the land’s protruding chin. In the distance bonfire smoke work’s its way into the damp, heavy air and the sunlight reveals the beige, barren bareness of the smooth moorland which lines the horizon. Mid-way the rain and the sunlight mix together to form a translucent curtain of fine haze. Giant ash grey clouds float steadily through the sky, outlined by bright wispy illumination, and sheep shelter at the edge of the woodland, huddled together, away from the unforgiving exposure of the open fields. Impossibly narrow lanes dive down steep hills, lined by tall scraggy hedgerows where nobody goes apart from occasional cars and tractors. The distant moors feel wiser than than the soft, supple fields that lie in their shadow. The moors have been weathered and beaten by the elements, shaken to their bare bones. This ferocity is warn by the haggered expressions of the twisted trees and bushes. Allowing my eyes to feel their way across this landscape I have a sense that depth perception is a capacity of the soul rather than of sight. My eyes provide the open doorway but it is my soul that stretches itself outward to meet this world, and revels in the opportunity to join with it in it’s wondrously creative expressions of earthly physical form.”

Small stone no.8: Ideas

Jan 8th – Ideas

 

Our representations are fixed, ‘twixt the real and the imaginary.

They are not real, nor true to life, they are a caged menagerie.

Where life taunts its sorrow, haunts its hollow, denies a morrow.

They are the internal eternal alluding to the present moment,

the unreal ideals which we toy with and lament.

They are dead, made from cement, but this we do not realise,

until we hold them up as expectations and wallow when they don’t materialize.

We squeeze life as it splutters, we throw it in the gutter, without even knowing it.

But little do we know that we do reap what we sew,

so for your own sake, pay attention, and watch life’s show,

be present and be willing to see more than you know.

Small stone no.5 – You and eye

Jan 5th – You and eye

I do believe that we have this all inside out. That you are within, and I am without. For when I gaze into those tiny black holes, what stares back at me, through me, is no less than your soul. Yet when I look out, to the world all around, your insides, your entrails are what fills the ground. The trees are your lungs, the mountains your bones, the rivers your blood, and the winds are your groans. The void we call space is your vast imagination, the circling galaxies are your cosmic circulation. And black holes in space, what are they if not the same, as the ones I look out of to witness this game?

 

Schumacher College Earthtalk – Stories of the Great Turning

In October 2013 I organised an Earthtalk at Schumacher college to promote the book “Stories of the Great Turning”, which I have a chapter published in. This is a video of my contribution, which summarises the story that I wrote for the book. Enjoy! xx