I’m in the process of letting go. I’m moving out of my rented home which I have fully appreciated and loved living in for the last 5 years.

The start of this process was a body symptom which I have been following for almost a year.

I started with really painful sciatica in April 2017 and through lots of holistic treatments, listening to my body, and making some changes, it has lead me to this place. After taking a 3 month sabbatical from all my one-to-one work, it became really clear to me that, for this year 2018, at least, I no longer want to work so hard or carry on with this aspect of my work.

I had built up a very busy one-to-one body psychotherapy (Embodied Relational Therapy) practice over the last 5 years. I loved the work but I also run trainings and workshops and last year I was also co-running a therapy centre as well. Basically I had 3 jobs and spent most of my time working, with little time for pleasure, hobbies, or anything much else actually. No wonder my lower back was speaking loudly!

The thing with following a body symptom is that you have no idea where it will take you. Once I made the decision to take a 3-month sabbatical and to stop co-running the therapy centre the symptom eased. The symptom had done its job and the rest of the process just needed to unfold with time.

I went on an amazing trip to Pakistan in February to run some workshops with a fantastic team of co facilitators, and together the team explored the possibilities of further work there, which is likely to happen next year. Being in a different culture for 2 weeks really helped me ask myself some important questions and to hear the answers from outside my ‘normal’ patterning was so helpful. I really look forward to more work in Pakistan in the future and I’m so grateful to have had this experience and to meet some of the amazing people in these lands.

Karachi is the place we stayed and worked, which is a desert land. Full of noise and hustle and bustle and to me, a country of strange smells and sounds. The chaotic road systems, which somehow seem to function, despite traffic going in whichever direction they choose, especially round a roundabout. All the traffic comes together on one big huddle in the middle and then somehow each finds a small gap and things move – very slowly, but they do move! This reminds me that however much it looks and feels like chaos in my life things are actually moving and eventually I’ll make it off that roundabout!

The class difference hit me hard and it was heart breaking to witness the poverty whilst being driven around in an air conditioned car. To see people begging for food whist delicious and plentiful food was prepared and made for me and appeared without any effort on my part.

It’s a place of extreme contrasts – dusty desert sand and grime of the city streets, with pockets of green and lush parklands, tended and cared for, and used by many in the early mornings and later afternoons. Air conditioned cars travelling alongside motorbikes carrying whole families. I saw one of many small motorbikes with 2 parents and 4 children all riding alongside huge lorries and buses as if this was not a health hazard. Indeed I guess it would be through necessity, rather than being in a privileged position, to be able to consider the consequences. The mother was sitting side saddle with a tiny baby in her arms, one small child clinging on behind her, another 2 between the parents and one even smaller child perched on the handlebars!

Posh air-conditioned restaurants perched close to living quarters, housing many families, in buildings which were crumbling back to desert dust. I’m not saying any of this to be judgemental of any part of these divides, just as a description of what I saw, and the influence and impact it had on me to live for a short time with these massive polarities.

Part of the difficulty was also knowing that the British Empire has also had a huge impact on Pakistan and its people. Only a generation ago families were torn apart, terrible violence ripped through people’s lives, and splitting and dividing of countries through religious belief’s, which caused trauma and deep suffering to many of the people of Pakistan. The neighbouring, and now divided countries of India and Bangladesh were also affected in their own devastating ways. I feel ashamed to be British right now. Not only for the terrible way we treated these people, but for the ‘rights’ we thought we had to take over theirs and other countries back then and we still seem to be at it!

With Brexit talks from our politicians being about cherry picking what we want and expecting Europe to just go along with us – just who do we think we are? Who did we ever think we were? To impose our stiff upper lips and our ‘civilized’ ways onto other cultures and countries! To hold ourselves in such high regard that we feel we have the right to teach others about how to live a life of suffering and misery. As far as I can see a lot of the heritage we carry is about keeping things held together, boxing things in, keeping ‘control’, shaping our politicians though the inhumane and violence of boarding schools! How dare we! Just how dare we have such a position of misled and devastating power over others! These are the destructive consequences of patriarchy.

I am totally disillusioned with living in the UK. I am totally fed up and intolerant of living in a society that believes that working hard is the way forward and something to aspire to. That if you don’t work at least 10 hours a day then you’re treated as a slacker and lazy! All this so that we can spend the money we earn on the best houses, and of course more than 1 house is extra desirable, even if you’re not going to live in it! Whilst, of course, more and more people are homeless and living on the streets.

The messages are clear, “go get your new expensive, fast, sleek cars”. “Throw away your nearly new smartphone in the bin”, (so it can sit in a landfill forever http://cligs.vt.edu), and “go buy the latest smartphone”, (which was made from children digging cobalt out of the earth in foreign lands – places we don’t have to see with our own eyes and can turn a very blinded eye to what goes on – https://news.sky.com/story/meet-dorsen-8-who-mines-cobalt-to-make-your-smartphone-work-10784120). All of this is supposed to be progress, coveted progress, and greedily protected by many.  Something to aspire to according to a society that supports expansion of economics at the cost of human and other than human life! These are the catastrophic consequences of living in a capitalist society.

I can see my own incongruences with taking a long-haul flight to Pakistan and the ecological consequences of this. There were many considerations in making this decision and one of them was that it was more ecological to take 3 trainers out to Pakistan than a whole group of participants flying to the UK regularly for training, which is what was going to happen. I don’t take air travel lightly and it is less than ideal to be using the Earth’s precious resources in this way.

We live in an insane world and I’m part of that. I would rather not contribute to a broken and insane society but there’s no denying that I am.

The definition of insanity according to the Urban Dictionary https://www.urbandictionary.com is “doing the exact same fucking thing over and over again, expecting shit to change”

I don’t want to continue to do the same thing over and over again. I’m making radical changes. I’ve giving up most of my belongings to friends, charity shops, recycling, and some things are going back to nature. I’m a wood, stone and shell collector so a lot of stuff on my shelves will be returned to their rightful places on land and sea. I no longer want to keep hold of a special shell because it reminds me of a time when I walked contentedly along a beach in Scotland. I want instead, to walk along those beaches, and to have more of those feelings everyday, which then don’t need to be kept bound up in a shell, a stone, or a piece of wood.

In order to live the kind of life I want to live I can no longer financially sustain living and paying for my rented home. Because of previous life choices I don’t have any savings as a back up. It might look like lack of financial privilege, which in that channel it is, but actually from a different angle I have a huge privilege in terms of freedom! If I had the money to stay here would I still make the choice to leave? Probably not!

A friend said very wisely to me that there are many kinds of currency and money is just one of them. I have social currency where people have been the centre of my life, which means I have many good friends, who genuinely want to spend time and share their homes with me. I feel moved to tears at this realisation.

Nurturing and giving energy to people has just been a simple matter of priorities to me. That basically people/friends matter more than anything else, but somehow in following my choice of putting friendships 1st I seem to have accumulated massive relational wealth! I know it doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ and that having friends doesn’t equal not having money, but it’s a great realisation to notice where I’ve been banking my energy; without realising what I’ve been doing and without ever having any expectations of cashing that it! I really don’t see my friendships in terms of money, banking or cashing in and the above is just a useful metaphor, as those who know me would hopefully agree.

So I’m leaving my home and setting off for a 7month traveling journey to stay with friends, to house and dog sit for friends, to find places to put up my tent, and sleep on the Earth. To be spontaneous and to follow my deep impulses. Where do I want to be next? Which part of the UK is asking for me to come and visit, to explore and be part of a different land for a while?

Many people have said to me “You are very courageous embarking on this adventure”. I don’t feel courageous – there have been many sleepless nights and much anxiety about such a huge change. It feels much more like an essential life enhancing impulse and calling from my soul, which cannot be ignored. I am making a very conscious choice to let go and find another way.

The trainings I’m co facilitating will hold some of the structure during this time. There are chunks of time where I need to be in Derbyshire, Lancashire, Stroud, South Devon and Bristol. This feels like enough groundedness and familiarity to allow for the open spaces and the spontaneity during the rest of the time.

As I start to move into these spaces the synchronicities and opportunities begin to unfold. As I trust the process life seems to come and meet me. It’s not easy by any means and I’m sure there will be times of grief and loss about this lovely safe, comfortable home I’ve created for myself. I will probably get really fed up of driving around the UK and yearn for a base to land for more than a few weeks. I trust though that the freedom, the sense of spontaneity, and living much more in the here and now will balance out the loss, and offer me a better quality of life than the prison of struggling with ‘working to live’.

Who knows what will happen in terms of opportunities over the next 7 months? I do know I want a base for the Winter and I have a lovely offer already to house share. It’s good to know what feels doable and what doesn’t. Moving around over the Winter doesn’t feel doable and somehow I will be settled somewhere during that time.

Being in Pakistan was a really great belief shatterer. Living and sharing our hosts home with her 2 sons and my 2 colleagues would in the past have had my belief system running for the hills. It used to say something like “I can’t share space with others and still have space for me”. Well I can tell you now that is just not true! I experienced true community, relaxed and engaged living alongside others, and more than that it felt like I was being fed the real stuff of contact and relationship, which in fact meant the opposite happened. I had more than enough space for myself. I no longer craved the alone space in the same way because something else much deeper was being touched and fulfilled.

I was reminded yesterday in a Skype meeting with the 4 of us who worked and lived together in Pakistan, that my working class family background was one of an open front door, where friends and family would pop in unexpectedly and uninvited. This seemed to be an ‘illegal’ and totally absurd notion to my 2 middle class colleagues! Here we have class difference again and ‘the rules’ of engagement are obviously very different depending on your class. I’m sure that this won’t be every working class or middle class person’s experience but when I think about it I know a lot of working class people who have been brought up in this open door environment.

The relaxed atmosphere of the comings and goings in our Pakistan home was not only a familiar but also a distant ‘normality’ for me. I have just made the realisation that I left this behind in my training and practice as a therapist. The emphasis on boundaries, on scheduling, and timetabling clients into slots, which need to be adhered to in order to keep us all ‘safe’, is a very important one, and I’m really glad to have been through that process, and it does work – mostly! What I realise though is that I’ve left behind the ‘open door’ and the welcoming of unexpected friends and family into my space. I have been scheduling in my friends and family as if they are clients. Dividing up my very little and precious space into smaller and smaller chunks! So letting go of my one-to-one client work is far more than working less. It feels like it’s about reclaiming spontaneous and uninvited times with friends and family. It feels very much like it’s about reclaiming spontaneous and uninvited time with myself too!

The parallels between the British Empire dividing and splitting up India, Pakistan and Bangladesh feel like they have resonances for my own splitting up and dividing time between myself and others. The splitting of the UK from Europe, the dividing of other countries with walls and wires, with religious beliefs, and rigid separations are making us smaller and smaller as humans. The capacity we have for compassion and love is boundless and we can be so much bigger than our belief’s and our separateness. What if we were to adopt a more ‘open door’ policy in the world and trust each more? Invite the uninvited and expect the unexpected visitors! Recognise the need for structure and some healthy boundaries yes, but let’s not box each other into tight spaces, where we repeat the same patterns, expect different outcomes, and literally drive each other insane! Let’s hold hands together and jump into the unknown, let go, and a find another way?!

Jayne Johnson

March 2018