Our thoughtful massage therapist Erika Zettervall considers our impact on the planet through our life choices and whether an awareness and gratitude for the intricacies we take for granted can help us to tread a little lighter and perhaps learn to leave less trace.
The festive season is upon us as the year of 2021 is rapidly drawing to an end. Again a new covid variant threatens to upset and thwart carefully made plans of festivities. Remembering last years sudden disruption to celebrations and disappointments is perhaps not what we had in mind gearing up to Christmas. But being prompted to look back into the year we have just had is good in order to see where time has gone. Revisiting good moments reinforces the feelings of joy/wonder/love in life and fills our source of strength. Equally, acknowledging difficulties and hardship and persevering in this crazy unpredictable thing called life develops this source of strength. Reflection can also help in seeing what direction we are traveling and becomes an opportunity to adjust direction.
We need moments to rejoice, to experience abundance and generosity. Connect, congregate and break bread together. Nurturing our seeds of happiness. The true spirit of Christmas contains all that. The trouble is we easily slip into excess, stressing out and inadvertently creating the opposite. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.
Reflecting on questions such as ‘where does it all come from?’ and ‘where does it all go?’ might bring connection to our impact on our planet and maybe bring more of a sense of being part of our environment. It might also be a bit uncomfortable.
This year we have become reminded what complex logistical network we live in and how fragile the chains of distributions are.
The mind boggles thinking of all the parts that comes together in order to create a simple plate of food. From pretty straight forward seeds that have been watered, nurtured into a plant and then harvested, to animals that have had their food grown and harvested to be feed them then their life taken and turned into cuts. The tools and cutlery we use was made somewhere by someone and ended up in our kitchen. Resources we use for cooking, cleverly arranged so we only switch on the hob. The person who shopped and cooked the food. You quickly create endless complex webs and chains of all that came together to create one meal. It is quite remarkable what we are capable of and how interconnected we are.
Before digging in to your plate of food, pause and give thought and thanks and gratitude towards all that had to come together for the meal to manifest. Some say grace before a meal and thank God. I was brought up in an atheist environment and particularly my father thought it ludicrous to thank God as it was his hard work that paid for the food. My mother who did the cooking and shopping probably wanted to be thanked for that. I think they missed the point. Saying grace is a way of thanking all that came together for the meal to be there, regardless of belief in God or not. Pausing and express gratitude before feasting heightens the sense of wonder and respect.
Where does it go? What do we leave behind?
Definitely less pleasant to think about but non the less necessary - the food becomes energy for our bodies and waste. The waste bit we generally don’t like to give that much thought to: go to the loo, flush, gone. But where does it go? (We have been reminded this year that more often then we like to think it gets dumped in our rivers). We have our rubbish collected as a part of our council tax payments so we pay to not have to worry about it and - when it works - it’s very efficient and convenient.
Currently there is an exhibition at the Design Museum in London titled Waste Age. It’s focus is on solutions. I have not yet seen it but read about it in this article. It sounds optimistic and interesting. Generally, I despair about the state of waste in the world and particularly attitude to littering in this country. (The writer and comedian David Sedaris explored this topic years ago and I will refrain from going into a rant, but it is very noticeable when returning here from abroad.)
I believe there is a natural desire in us to make a mark or leave a trace that we have existed. Cave paintings contain handprints likened to a signature. Carvings in stones and tree trunks leave a mark of our presence to posterity as graffiti paintings do. Monuments and graves are, to some extent, also markings that we have been here. Perhaps we fear being forgotten, that our life’s were insignificant and unremarkable and that feeling drives a need to mark our existence and create a memorial. But I doubt anybody likes the notion that we will be known in history as the era of waste so this flame of desire might not need more encouragement and instead some temperance.
I thought of wild camping. Not so much as a venture but the ethos of it. Leave no trace. You set up your camp discreetly, bring all you need with you and leave nothing behind. If you need a poo you carefully select a spot to not contaminate water, dig a hole and cover it. You don’t scare the ground with fires but take your stove and fuel with you. Visiting a place without engraving your presence on it.
“If you see the suffering in the world but you haven’t changed your way of living yet, it means the awakening isn’t strong enough” – Thich Nhat Hanh
When we live many together as we do, almost everywhere in the world we have found support for our existence by providing infrastructure for amenities. But we may have lost the connection to the impact this has on our Earth. By considering how interwoven we are and what impact we have we might be led to tread more lightly while still celebrating life and so begin to change the course from becoming the age of waste.
Some ideas for Christmas stocking fillers: litter-picker, ticket to Design Museum, Thich Nhat Hahn book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her challenging experience in attempting a plastic free month and some helpful suggestions as to how to reduce your plastic consumption when it is ubiquitous. Prepare to be challenged!
July is ‘Plastic free month’. Its purpose is to raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their plastic waste. Sounds like a great idea and it might just be the reminder and call to action that some of us need to make a change in our plastic consumption and subsequent waste. But how easy is it?
Not so easy. I challenged myself to not buy any new plastic in the month of June. Using plastic products that I already had was okay, I just couldn’t buy any new plastic for a month...I lasted a week. Which in hindsight is quite impressive. I hadn’t realised before I set myself the challenge just how much plastic is EVERYWHERE. Not to mention that in the month of June I was having work done on my kitchen so my only food options were ready made meals or takeout: cue the plastic.
Kitchen work aside, I still thought that if I made the conscious decision to avoid buying plastic, I could. For that first week I deliberately bought take out food from places that I knew used cardboard boxes or, even better, compostable packaging. Another relatively easy choice, which I’ve already been making for several years, is taking my own cloth bags to go shopping. I also buy dry goods and toiletries such as hand soap and shampoo from a zero waste refill shop - more on that later.
All of the above aside, it is quite literally impossible to buy milk (dairy or alternative) without plastic and oat milk is something I consume daily. The only alternative there would be to make my own, and quite frankly I just don’t have the time! The other thing that is impossible to avoid is tags on clothing. I am an avid charity shop goer and I feel that reusing clothes that otherwise would be thrown out is a great waste saver, but you can’t avoid the plastic price tag! It’s in the little details that I got caught out (and those are just a couple of examples) and if I wasn’t doing the challenge I probably wouldn’t even notice them. It has really opened my eyes to just how much plastic is used. We don’t even realise our consumption of it on a daily basis.
If we can’t cut it out completely, thankfully, there are ways that we can REDUCE our plastic consumption and waste. Starting with zero waste refill shops. You bring your own container and fill it with ingredients or products that the shop buys in bulk, therefore reducing plastic packaging needs. Granted, there are some in London that only stock very expensive organic products and ingredients and charge extortionate amounts for them. However there are a few gems in and around West Norwood:
Sustenance - West Norwood (pop up at Portico Kitchen)
Healthier without - Streatham → apparently they now have their own oat milk dispenser!
BYO - Tooting market
Some other great ways to reduce are:
Where you do need to purchase plastic containers see if you can reuse them before recycling them. If you have kids, plastic containers can become all sorts of arty creations! If you are a keen gardener, plastic bottles or lids can become germination pots and plastic bags or sheets can become cloches. Paying a little bit of attention and being more conscious of your decisions in regard to plastic consumption and waste can make a big difference.
Start small and build habits. Good luck!
This week we have a guest post from our dear friend Yinka who used to work with us as an osteopath and yoga teacher and with whom we maintain a strong and respectful relationship. Here Yinka muses on the benefits of her allotment to her wellbeing in honour of 'National Growing for Wellbeing' week 7-13th June 2021.
4 years ago, my name finally came to the top of the allotment waiting list. It was a mess of cooch grass, weeds and dumped bits and pieces. I feel in love with it straight away, and it quickly be-came my happy place. It has been hard work, frustrating at times and mud under the fingernails and osteopathy are not an ideal combination. As we went into the first lockdown of 2020 it really kept me going and became a place that was essential for my wellbeing. I had more time on my hands than I have had in many years but no seedlings or plants and no option to by any. I decided that it was time to put the small propagator that I had bought 2 years ago into operation. I bought a selection of seeds online and set to work. Choosing the seeds was a combination of things I like to grow, what was available and wishful thinking.
Seeds were sown and I waited, I have a very small but much appreciated garden and really en-joyed using the space for sowing seeds potting on, and “designing” what was going where. It was a place of calm and when the world felt chaotic and uncertain. Having the time to think about the layout of beds helped to keep me focused and grounded, digging and weeding took on a new zeal as it was time out of the house when there was very little opportunity to do much else apart from work. In years gone when time was short; I have bought what I can get my hands from garden centres and shops to plant out so quite haphazard about things. Last year I thought more about colour, variety and protecting my seedlings and plants from foe like foxes, slugs, snails, and pigeons (more on that later). Checking my plants became a daily relaxing ritual. Go-ing to the allotment most days became my regular exercise, quietly whiling away the hour(s) out-doors and feeling relaxed whilst forgetting albeit temporarily about the pandemic was blissful. Our allotment is not pretty, it’s my higgledy piggledy happy place and its design is ever changing and forces me to accept what I cannot change (the elements, pests, dud seeds) and keep trying new things.
Yinka runs her osteopathic clinic from her home in Brixton and online yoga classes. Visit her website at https://www.holmewoodosteopathicpractice.co.uk/ and find her on instagram @theosteopathyogi
WNT founder Jennie Duck shares some thoughts in time for Small Business Saturday about shopping local this festive season, how much we have to celebrate on our doorsteps and how important it is to support our communities.
We are all relieved to be back to work again now that the mini-lockdown has ended – hurrah! We find it hard knowing we can help and not be allowed to do so.
As the owner of WNT and the person with whom the buck stops it is a relief too to be able to feel confident our business can continue to trade. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday which celebrates and champions small businesses and it feels particularly important this year to recognise the value and the merit in small businesses.
Recently I heard a snippet on the radio* about how well Amazon have done out of lockdown, their (already huge) profits are soaring. They had feedback from a couple of workers who’s hours had become ridiculous – overnight shifts from 6pm-8am – that’s 14hours – where they are in a little cubicle packing up orders that little robots bring to them. I forget the number of packages they did in an hour but it was phenomenal and I do remember that they average 1minute labour per item end to end. 1 minute! What can you do in 1 minute?! The suspicion is that this is building toward doing away with the human input altogether, making these processes so un-personal that a machine can easily take the persons place.
I’ve seen memes that say “every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little dance”. At WNT we might not dance every time you book, but we certainly smile and I’ve been known to jump up and shake some booty when I see a full diary. This isn’t just because we are getting income, it is because we are fulfilling our purpose – this is what we want to do, this is what we care about, this is how we know we can add value. We are lucky enough to work in a vocation where we get an income for doing what we care about and believe in.
A couple of weeks back I was involved in a brilliant Instagram live session organised by Poppy from Pop, the hairdresser across the road from WNT. She had invited a few local businesses to come and chat about how we were affected by lockdown and share a bit about our business and anything we have on the horizon for Christmas. It was so lovely to see the faces of West Norwood high street and be reminded the richness of what we have outside on our doorstep. There is so much run by lovely people – you can see it here.
In all of these businesses we are real people who are invested deeply in what we do, the services we offer and things we sell. At WNT each of us is a person who has relationships with their clients and who is part of a team, we all know the names of each other’s children, we know when someone is having a challenging time, we know we can call each other when we need some support ourselves. We spend time talking about the experience of working where we do and how to make our environment better for you as clients. We care about all aspects of what we do.
Our society has been damaged by lockdown, this pandemic has sent fear through our communities and made us wary of interaction and physical contact. We need to remember how important society is, how it matters what we do with our lives and how we treat people and are treated ourselves. If we keep investing in companies that treat people like faceless commodities then those companies will gain more and more power. If we can look around us, recognise that the real people working to make us things and offer us services are our neighbours, our friends, the communities for our children and we need to invest in them if we want to hold onto that and continue to have this richness on our doorsteps.
For some great local shopping showing some of this richness, West Norwood Feast is on this Sunday 6th December https://westnorwoodfeast.com/sunday-6-december/
I wish you a happy festive season full of thoughtful shopping and under-overindulging ;-)
* unfortunately no idea what it was other than something on radio 4 so cannot give more context or reference
West Norwood Therapies is in it’s 6th year and with each year has come a different phase in our lifetime. As it’s founder I’ve learned to let it evolve rather than try to control that evolution too much and no phase was less planned than this one! Not much about 2020 was expected and these extraordinary circumstances led us to contract rather than expand and we are now a team of 6 (plus me as a 7th managing things from Scotland) down from the 12 we were at the start of the year. This was a sad transistion and we have all grieved the loss of the team that was and the second lovely studio room we had to let go.
In my experience, if you can stay with the clouds awhile they gradually part to show the sunshine and I feel encouraged and satisfied that this new phase is a sunny one. In these covid-determined times we are feeling how important it is to connect and that emphasises the values that are at the heart of WNT. We are all part of this collaborative collective because we want to work with other skilled professionals, to have a supportive team around us and to be able to work with our clients in a meaningful way.
We had paused on our normal blog sharing, social media posts and promotions as we adjusted to working in an adapted way and we feel like it would be good to start to share our story of how we are now which we will do over the coming months. We will look at what WNT is, who the team are and then explore some of the ways we work using the 5 aspects of wellness Laura explored in her recent blog – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social.
So we hope you will enjoy following us and getting to know us better either on Instagram or Facebook and we’ll include what we can in our monthly newsletter.
WNT founder Jennie Duck reflects on what it takes to create a therapeutic environment and her pride in a team that has rallied to make the most of a challenging situation - we are so excited to be working again!
Just before lock down I was getting ready to start a massage practice up where I live in Scotland. I was looking forward to getting back to something I love and feel is valuable. Part of what I love to offer is the practical, physical aspect of massage itself – the warmth of touch, the kneading and cajoling to find release in tense muscles, the relaxation that can be found even in strenuous massage.
But there’s far more to it than that.
There’s the space and the environment that we as therapists invite our clients into, the fact of creating this ‘womb’ as a friend of mine calls it where you feel safe, welcome and accepted before we get into much treatment even. The warmth and lighting matters, the space and air matters, the cleanliness matters, the energy we’re giving out matters – there are a lot of things that go on ‘behind the scenes’ to create this environment at West Norwood Therapies.
Then there is our interaction before we actually meet in person – any calls or emails beforehand and then our initial consultation and initial chat for follow up appointments. This is when you get an opportunity to glimpse us a bit, to understand how capable we are of listening and hearing you and tuning into what you are looking for in your visit. This is important as it lays the foundations of trust which will determine how much you relax into the treatment and how our intuition feels its way as we work which can together greatly enhance the effect and value of treatment.
And then the treatment itself – in my case a massage treatment. Here you are literally in my hands! You are trusting me to work on your body and in some instances to really get stuck into areas of long held tensions and stresses that are potentially part of a self-protective armour, while keeping you comfortable and suitably covered. It requires me to be sensitive to this and to trust your body’s responses and my instincts to work where is needed but not beyond that. A lot of trust on a conscious and subconscious level as well as some intimacy in a practitioner-client relationship.
Fast forward 5 months and here we are opening West Norwood Therapies in a different light. We have had to look at our space, carrying out risk assessments and removing a lot of the fabrics and knickknacks that we had put in to make it homely and warm. As we first started to look at things I wondered how on earth we were going to retain the essence of treating people as I’ve described above. How can we make the environment inviting without an electric blanket? How can we create a bond of trust when we’re masked and you can’t see our smiles and more nuanced facial expressions? How can you feel safe enough to relax and let the therapeutic work really happen when there’s a global pandemic around?
Well, I am humbled and impressed at how my colleagues have rallied and worked to make all of this feasible and proud of what we have achieved. We have been open for almost a fortnight and the feedback has been positive both from clients and from practitioners. It is a different way of working, particularly wearing PPE and having to be careful which surfaces are touched and to dutifully clean and disinfect everything between clients, to have an air filter working and take time to air out the room. But the essence of the care, warmth and skill that they are all sharing with you as clients and the connection that they make with you is all there.
I am excited and reassured that we at WNT (minus me in Scotland and the practitioners who sadly couldn’t return due to closure of the studio space) are able to open again and be able to offer our valuable services to the same high standard as before. We know that there have been ripples of trauma touching people in all sorts of ways the past few months and hope that we can be of service to you now.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.