Archive for the ‘workshops’ Category

Today was going to be an unremarkable day. It’s Tuesday, cold out, grey skies, lots on at work. My team were out in the morning and they came back in around lunch, each carrying a little green book that they’d been given as part of the course they’d all attended this morning. There was an energy about them that made me curious and excited as I powered down my computer and wrapped up warm to head out to attend the same course, but this being the afternoon session, the one for managers.

How to Change Absolutely EverythingThis “course” was actually named the “Change Cafe” and it was all about Leading Change within our organisation. Run by Damian Hughes, who is Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at Manchester Met, we spend just under 3 hours being entertained, challenged, and reflecting on our approaches and attitudes to change.

This was one of the best courses I’ve been on in a while, and I’ve been on quite a few recently. In fact I feel that I’m starting to get course-fatigue (in the same way that you get temple-fatigue when travelling in SE Asia…), but this one was different. Damian spent a lot of time “presenting” but it was in a really informal way, almost like you were watching a one man show. But we did participate, being allowed to scribble with felt tipped pens and permanent markers all over a paper table cloth, contemplating ideas, working in pairs, responding to questions, but never having the pressure of “sharing” with the group.

Just a few minutes into Damien’s presentation, the topic of Left Brain, Right Brain came to the fore (and stayed there throughout the whole session).

This is the second time in as many weeks that I’ve been enchanted by the topic of Left Brain Right Brain. I’ve read about it several times in the past, but I think right now, at this point in my life (and work), it’s really resonating.

Around this time last week, a link found its way to me on email (and I do believe that things find their way) to an incredible lady, Jill Bolte Taylor, presenting yet another fabulous TED talk. This made me nearly cry at work. Her talk provides an extremely personal, moving and special account of her stroke and a unique insight and explanation of the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

I was completely bowled over my Jill’s talk and felt like giving her my own standing ovation from my desk in my office, I was SO moved. What an incredible speaker, story-teller, inspiration and human being. In addition to the sheer awe I felt on listening to her I started to recognise my own right brain (and left brain, but that’s easy!) behaviours. I have experienced complete euphoria and love of life before, in fact many times. For no real reason. I’ve always thought of it as almost anti-depression. It’s so strange but amazing, and I know I’m extremely lucky to be able to tap into this. It’s my right brain knocking.

I also know that I actively balance my life with dancing and drumming and hula hooping and dressing up. Childish things, perhaps, but actually they’re right-brained activities and they bring harmony and happiness into my world.

It’s all starting to make sense.

A pink lotus flower and lily pads with saturated colorSo back to the course, as time progressed, our table cloth was getting full of doodles, we were energetically chatting to our table-mates about what our Perfect Day looked like at work, what successes our teams would be having. Thinking about the good things, asking the right questions. I could literally feel my mind opening up like a lotus flower on a lilly pad. My left brain was quieting and my right brain was yawning, stretching and waking up.

And it felt fantastic.

I think there’s a small window when you’re taking part in activities like these, you have this space when you are engaged, inspired, and want to take action. In fact Damien himself said that only 20% of us would act on the things we learnt on our course today. As the course came to and end, I packed my post it notes into my little green book, put it in my handbag and walked out of the college where the event was held.

Turn left to go back to work, turn right to walk into town.

I turned right. I wasn’t ready to go back to the meetings, overflowing inbox, left-brained world. I needed some time to “compost” those thoughts. More than that I wanted to sit in my feelings for a while. I was high on the possibilities for me, my team, for others in my life.

post it notesDamien warned us of three things that will try to stop us taking action – being too busy – being too comfortable – procrastinating. He asked that we just do one small thing, if nothing else, when leaving at the end of today.

I intend to read his book (it will be on my bedside table with the other 4 books I’m reading at the moment). I intend to focus on the items I subconsciously scrawled on my post-it notes, presuming that they must be important for me to write them down on the post-it, to keep, rather than the table cloth, to leave. But most importantly I will exercise my right brain. I will continue to feed it with creative pursuits, I will try and listen to it in challenging situations of change, for it could well offer all the answers, experience and hope that I ever need.

Turns out Tuesday was pretty remarkable after all…


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I’ve having an exceptionally busy week. Which is what I ordered (perhaps cosmicly), after my desire to act more and think less, my prayers were answered with a trip to church.

EnlightenmintIt wasn’t just any church, or any congregation. I had to mission it all the way into London during a rush hour on a Monday evening for a start. The church of choice was Union Chapel in North London and the event was The School of Life (TSOL) live London. The eager congregation sat down to listen to six fabulous speakers (including Alan de B himself, founder of TSOL) talk on all the big subjects we worry the most about – Work, Money, Technology, Sanity, Sex, and Changing the World.

Of course, there is a lot of blog-fodder therein, and my navel-gazing gal-pal Lara and I were furiously taking notes whilst crunching dutifully through our Enlightenmints…

20 questionsApart from being inspiring and moving and funny and full of lots of ooohs and ahh moments, it was a great way to spend a Monday evening. At the interval we were encouraged to escape to the bar (OK then) and take with us our programme, which, on the back had 20 questions that we had to ask random strangers.

Well, it took about 15 of the 20 minutes of interval to pop to the loo and get a glass of wine, so Lara and I spent the rest drinking the wine and deciding to do the questions later, perhaps as a blog post.

It would have been nice to spend the time asking probing questions to handsome strangers, but we’ll save that for another time.

The twenty questions… and my responses

1. Does your work draw out your best abilities and qualities of character? If not, how big a problem is this for you?

It certainly goes some way, in terms of both abilities and qualities. I would say enough to satisfy the work part of my life. Other qualities and abilities are used in my “play” life!

2. Have you ever received genuinely helpful career advice?

I once went to a career’s advisor who asked me whether I would still love my job if all my colleagues were replaced by different people. I realised then that people are 70-80% of what make me happy at work

3. Is the idea of having a successful career important to you?


4. How should you work out how much money you really need?

This is a toughy but I would say avoid spreadsheets, they kill any fun in planning your money (if it could ever be fun). *I’m avoiding this one…*

5. Are you the author of your own economic success (or woes)?

Yes, with the help of my money tree!

6. What is your own experience of the link between money and personal happiness?

This is a whole therapy session, but I would say that when I grew up my parents always told me that you don’t need money to be happy, and I still believe it.

7. Is there a particular person who looms large in your mind when you think about the meaning of success? Why that person?

Kate Humble. Cirque de Soleil performers. David Attenborough. All doing what I want to be doing. Travelling, diving, working with nature, performing, learning…

8. What is most important for you to do in your “unplugged” time?

That I can recharge my batteries – whether by relaxing or stimulating – and get away from work!

9. What are the best/worst traits that technology amplifies in you?

Best – it lets me write naturally. Worst – encourages lack of attention to detail

10. Could technology evolve to make our lives more serene?

Of course. Just. Need. An. Off. Button.

11. What techniques do you have for keeping calm?

My boss once commented that people like to make dramas of things. I try to ignore the drama, life’s much easier that way.

12. Do you live more in your body or in your head?

Head, but I’m working on moving into my body!

13. What keeps you going when you feel like giving up?

Future gazing, I’ll get through it.

14. What makes someone attractive to you?

Height and a smile.

15.Is long-term sexual compatibility between two people a realistic hope?

Yes. Optimistic, but still realistic.

16. What is the most helpful lesson you have learned about relationships?

Don’t loose yourself in a relationship, you can become dizzy with love, but right yourself before embarking on the long-haul

17. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Delete the hate.

18. Is there a gap between your ideals and your actions?

Yes, I’m sure of the gap, not sure I know my ideals. Must investigate.

19. Do you feel genuinely responsible for future generations, or do you merely feel obliged to say so?

Weirdly, I feel more responsibility for the planet than I do the people on it.

20. What is the most surprising converstaion you have ever had and why?

Conversations with strangers at parties when I discover I have unusual things in common. They suprise me because often I think I’m alone with those experiences.

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Hula hoopingYesterday evening we had the proper Friday feeling as Emma, aka Henna Hoops from Hooping Mad came to town with her big white van stacked full of sparkly hoops! Hurrah! That can only mean one thing – it’s hula hoop time.

I invited Emma to Oxford a year ago, after getting the taste of hooping action from my London pal Eva who introduced me to the hoop at a foray to the Secret Garden Party. I looked around and found no one in the area hooping and so decided to seek out a hoopstress who could come to our fair country and roll out the hoops to the masses. So Emma came last year and we had a successful couple of workshops. Straight off the back of that my friend Aimee and I set up a Facebook page “Oxford Hoopers” to try to unite fellow funsters to come and join us in a nearby park during sunny times. We’ve had a fair amount of interest, so I persevered and once more invited Emma along to the ‘Ford.

This time we had three hour long workshops – a back to basics, learning to hoop on the hip, off body work (flinging a hoop around your hand, behind your back, under your leg, etc) – then a hooping on the knees workshop (my fav – and YES, now I can do it!!), then learning to wriggle it up and down your body, flick it up from the floor, and neck-hooping.


My new, beautiful hoop

It was a fast and furious tour through all manner of hooping tricks and flourishes – completely exhausting but a lot of fun. There were hoops flying and clattering everywhere, followed by spontaneous bursts of laughter and apologies as one went zipping by your face. Every now and then someone would have a breakthrough – keeping the hoop up for more than 5 spins, or being able to keep it spinning as you sit down and get back up again, or moving it up your body, or being able to spin it round your knees. Small victories, big smiles. It’s just amazing having the freedom to play and feel young again and not care about anyone else. All done to groovy pumping music – dancing and hooping and spinning and dropping and having another go – no such thing as a wrong move – fabulous! As a celebration to mark the occasion I bought another(!) beautiful sparkly hoop – this time polypropelene, and taped up in gold and silver holographic tape – made to order. LOVE IT.

Emma is awesome, currently living out of her amazing white van, on tour, on the road, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Oxford. Meeting interesting people, doing what she loves, and leaving a trail of glittery gorgeous hoops and a lot of smiles and bruised knees behind her. She’s off to the US next week for a 2 month tour, and then back to Poland. All over the world, just her and her hoops, a free spirit, out there adventuring. If you see her, say hello!

I definitely think that everyone needs a hoop in their lives. I’m thinking of starting up an Oxford based business making these beautiful creatures to order – who wouldn’t want one? They’re pretty, they’re cheap, hooping is creative, good for you, fun, and free (you just need space). Gym membership suddenly looks a little inspiring.

So my advice is, shake off your grown-up frown, put down your ego, pick up a hoop and give it a whirl (in a private corner of your park, if you’re feeling a little shy) – after 20 seconds you’ll be laughing and calorie burning and bring a little more happiness into your world.

P.s. If you’re near Oxford, come to the park on a sunny Sunday and you may see us at the bottom – come along and have a go – don’t be shy!!!

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After years of longing for an “Advanced” bellydance course to come to Oxford – one has arrived! After a little gentle persuasion, the wonderful Gwen a.k.a. Minnie Cerise has brought her wonderful “Advance your Dance” series of monthly workshops to a little studio in a far flung corner of Oxford. Yay!

I’ve been looking forward to this class for AGES and Gwen, aka Minnie, did not disappoint. The sold out class assembled on Sunday and did a wonderful long warm up, reacquainting ourselves with our muscle groups, including some suspiciously aerobic reminiscent side leg raises, stomach crunches, and the hilarious, but difficult, buttock squeeze exercise. Yes, it was hard work, but as we were told – one difference between Advanced dancing and just having done it for ages, is the ability to add muscle quality movements into the dance – not just waggling your skeleton around (eee…).

Minnie Cerise Bellydancing and BurlesqueMinnie was hilarious, helping us get to grips with concepts with numerous side splitting analogies, such as “through the serving hatch” and “stirring with the wooden spoon”… I leave the translation into moves to your imagination! Brilliant. Much laughing, face pulling, ab crunching, rib isolating and shoulder blade sinching later, we were all well-worked and smiling and hungry for more!
What a great couple of hours – spent in good company, all working on our wonky flexibility, wobbly balance on toes, and crazy claw hands when concentrating (or maybe that was just me). I really feel it’s precious to have the time to focus on the basic technique again, but really focusing on specifics- challenging, informative and fun (and plenty to work on ahead of next class, next month!)

Now we just need to persuade Minnie to make this a regular gig 😉

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Artists and Entourage wristbandWow, so this summer has been BUSY and it has zipped by and I now seem to be staring down the barrel towards autumn – what happened?!?! Hmmm work me feels. BUT I haven’t let that get in the way of a creative summer, continuing on from Cowley Carnival exploits to attend our first FESTIVAL!!Getting ready in the portaloo
We were lucky enough to be invited onto stage at the cabaret tent at Truck festival for 3 acts HURRAH. And all of us fully-fledged owners of our spangly wristbands with “Artists and Entourage” emblazened across it. Oh, the glamour!!

Roustabout at Truck as steam punk gypsiesWe paraded as pirates, with our Pirates of the Caribbean entrance, followed by my pirate version of Spell on you – dancing around my skull stick (don’t ask), then a quick prowl around the site to locate some tasty festival food, and back for a change in the port-a-loos 🙂 We made our sencond entrance shimmying as steam punk gypsies, and then for a final change to lord as leopards, with an adapted version of Ooo La La, in our new exciting leopard print outfits with our owl masks whooooo! It was brilliant – and the later it got, the more the crowd responded (hmmm), as we walked around the festival site in our outfits, we got loads of fab attention 😀 nice!

Leopards oo la laSo, what else, I started a zills class in London with the wonderful Galit Mersand – someone who I have been desperate to have teach me for ages, and after two false starts (being in Slovenia and then avoiding London because of the riots…) I FINALLY got to class last week to bang those finger symbols together – it’s SO MUCH FUN. Although I’m pretty intimidated – despite dancing for over 12 years, I never really learnt how to use the zills – and you are supposed to learn from the start so it’s easy to dance and clang at the same time! Yikes… still, I’m getting there, and thanks to my zill-muffs, not driving the other half to complete distraction yet. Well, the zills are still on the table and not thrown out the window… yet!

Hula hoopingSo my final news is today’s exicting activity – hula hooping! I have been dying to get to a hooping class for the past 2 years – ever since my London lass Eva introduced me to the hoop at Secret Garden Party a few years back, but of course, nothing cool like that comes to Oxford (everywhere else, it seems), so I bit the bullet, found a wonderful teacher online (Emma Kerr of Hooping Mad) and invited her to Oxford YAY. We got good numbers and learnt some fab tricks and moves, spinning the hoops round our bodies, in all directions, jumping, flicking, rolling. Have a few minor bumps and bruises from all the over excited hoop throwing, but LOVED IT of course. So now… starting up a Oxford Hooping group – to all those lost souls who are hooping in their back gardens – come out and play!! Now, just gotta work out some kind of bellydancing, zill clanging, hula hooping fusion, and all in the leopard print outfits – PERFECT. Next stop, Goa.(please)…

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Maria D'SilvaLast weekend saw the annual Bellydance Bonanza held at the Oxford Community School on Glanville Road. I was up bright and breezy (considering the accidental bottle of Rose I was seen sinking the night before with my old boss on the Cowley Road…) for a 9.30 workshop with the fabulous Maria D’Silva… I have seen Maria dancing before and have always been mesmerised by her cheeky bouncey moves, and this was the first opportunity that I’ve had to learn from such a master. So it was worth the early rising! Maria is SUCH a lot of fun, bouncey and bubbly and all before the first cup of coffee. Maria walked us through a wonderful lively warmup and eased us into some groovy combos straight out of Cairo! Bit by bit we pieced together a really fun and lively choreography, complete with moves I’ve never experienced before – so stretching the brain muscles as well as the body.
We packed a lot into the hour and a half workshop and worked up a very fun and cheeky 80 beats to start a stylish modern Cairo piece – LOVED it! Came away feeling energised. So much so that I bounced right into the souk and purchased my very first set of fan veils and a bright red hip belt with multi-coloured sequins. Oops!

I had to leave promptly, as I had a date with my mum, travelling all the way up from Essex, but what a way to start the day (only a further 4 punishing hours of walking round the shops to go!). I was sad to say adieu to the Bonanza, as my day was cut short, but I hear it continued through to be another great success- roll on next year!

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It’s that time of year again – Bellydance Bonanza time!! Time to dust off your sequins, flex those achey joints and get off your sofa and down to join the crew at Nikki Livermore’s annual celebration of all things “bellydance” and stretch, shake and snake your body into some rather fabulous dance moves. Nikki has been running this Oxford based event for many years now (maybe 5 or 6, I was at the first, but missed a couple in the middle..) and it’s a wonderful day to meet all the movers and shakers on the Oxford bellydance scene, learn some fab tricks and moves, watch some wonderful performances, shop a little, have some tea and cake and generally chill out with a bunch of lovely bellydancers!
If it’s your first time bellydancing, it’s not a problem, come and join in the fun, and if you’re an old pro, there’s always something new and exciting to try out 🙂
This year’s schedule is packed with exciting things with which to dabble – promising “bumper size hot combos”, “swish, swoop and flutter those beautiful props”, “spicing up your bellydancing with salsa hot moves”, how can you not be tempted – from double-veil technique, to a belly-boa (feather, not constrictor), to steam-punk sirens, to sword dancing, to Haiwaiin, there is NO WAY you could have a more dynamic and exotic Saturday in your diary!

Select your weapon of choice for the Bellydance Bonanza...

So full details can be found on Nikki’s website – and places are, I believe, still available. Even if you aren’t up for dancing, it’s a wonderful place to relax, watch some dancing and purchase a few sparkly garments… I’m signed up for a 9.30 class, so see you there!!!

Oh, and you can read about the 2009 event here!

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