Last week (the first week of May) was Maternal Mental Health week. My social media newsfeed was full of all kinds of things raising awareness and offering support. I’ve had a picture in my head for a while now about my own journey to motherhood, and it finally popped onto the page.
⭐ my motherhood journey⭐
It’s not that I thought it would be easy, and it’s a terrible cliche to say that nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent… but I think whatever your route to parenthood, it changes you in ways you cannot imagine.
And maybe in ways we’ll never understand.
Being pregnant in itself is such a transformation and perhaps I thought once Tris was born I’d go back to who I was before…
But I haven’t, and I can’t.
Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.
– Ram Dass
My brother introduced me to Ram Dass a few years ago.
My brother Adam is amazing – he’s 6ft 4 and all smile. He’s someone I really look up to (in all senses of the word) and has been an incredible source of support, particularly over the last year. He’s a musician with a massive spiritual streak, and collects quotes, podcasts, YouTube videos to show his friends to blow their minds, and to sample in his music. You can find out more about his psytrance music here.
Ram Dass has so many amazing words and quotes it’s hard to choose favourites. Since being introduced to him and finding him on Facebook, his teachings have helped me to think and be in new ways on almost a daily basis.
When I was creating Dive Down, I pulled back from my support network of friends and family a bit to try and really feel into what had lead me to make the decisions I’d made in my life so far, look at where I had perhaps done things based on fear, and see if I could find different ways of navigating in the future.
Ram Dass was a great source of inspiration during that challenging time.
He doesn’t hold his punches. His words are written (or spoken) with love, but they aren’t always easy to read.
If somebody is a problem for you, it’s not that they should change, it’s that you need to change. If they’re a problem for themselves that’s their karma, if they’re causing you trouble that’s your problem…
– Ram Dass from A Heavy Curriculum
I think that’s one of the things that I find most helpful about Ram Dass actually, the challenge that he often presents. The way he asks me to look at myself before anyone else, to work on myself before presuming that I can change anything else in the world. To see my own power in the work that I do when I work on myself.
In a lovely bit of circular connection, I picked Adam up from the airport on Thursday after he’d been travelling. He ended his adventures in Hawaii, where he was fortunate enough to spend some time with Ram Dass (now in his nineties) in person. By all accounts they had an awesome time, with a lot of just smiling and sitting in each others company. And, Adam gave him a copy of Dive Down, so I can add a pin to Hawaii in my map of where the books have flown to….
The Ram Dass Foundation Love Serve Remember website is brilliant, and has articles, quotes, podcasts, webcasts and films packed with inspiration. You can find it here: www.ramdass.org
You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it…. Imagine that being in this love is like relaxing endlessly into a warm bath that surrounds and supports your every movement, so that every thought and feeling is permeated by it.
– Ram Dass from The Entrance to Oneness
It’s 2001, I think. I’m in one of the few nightclubs in Falmouth, where I am at uni. Friends have brought me here, slightly under protest.
I don’t dance.
I’m in my early twenties at this point, and apart from the occasional wiggle or headbang, I haven’t really danced and meant it since the school disco at primary school. I am way too self conscious; I simply don’t know what to do and worry about looking like a fool.
My friends seem to be having fun though, and I feel reasonably happy watching them.
Then, Paul breaks away from dancing with his girlfriend Cathy and our friend Jodie to where I am lurking at the edge of the dance floor. I wish I could remember what track was playing. With a glint in his eye and a huge smile, he dances like a complete weirdo in front of me. There are a lot of pelvic thrusts, hip wiggles, and terrible moves. Just terrible. He is relentless, completely silly, has no care for how cool he looks and I am laughing my head off. He leads me onto the floor to come and join my friends, and something in me changed forever. I found my dance!
I am forever grateful to Paul for helping me break free of worrying what I look like when I dance.
I don’t dance for you. I don’t do it for anyone who might be watching. I do it because it feels really fun and once the music catches me, I can’t help it. It’s purely about me being in my body.
One of the incredibly therapeutic practices I’ve discovered in this last year whilst creating Dive Down takes that liberated feeling to a whole other level. Five Rhythms Dancing is a movement started by Gabrielle Roth, and she’s written a book about it, the title of which sums up the idea perfectly: Sweat Your Prayers. You can find out more at the Five Rhythms website here. There’s a reference to dancing at the end of the Dive Down story – it’s a key tool in my de-stressing toolbox.
Five Rhythm groups operate all over the place, and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. It’s terrifying, fun, liberating, therapeutic moving meditation. There is no right or wrong, and you are gently guided through five ‘waves’ of different types of movement, building up to a crescendo of complete letting go in the middle and calming back down again. In my experience, the other people in the room are incredibly sympathetic and kind, especially to new faces.
Not only has going to the sessions been amazing, I’ve had quite a few of my own moments at home, dancing around like a loon to release stress, anger, sadness, self doubt… all kinds of less than positive feelings that I’ve been able to kick into touch by moving my body. Nights out that involve dancing have also become little therapy sessions; a chance to let go.
I am so, so grateful to you Paul, and to everyone who has danced with me since.
The seals in the Dive Down story appear at a point when inspiration started to find me…
Along with an amazing book called When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön and a range of music that helped me to get up in the morning (which can be found on the Spotify playlist to accompany the book here) there were lots of other people and organisations who helped me to navigate my way in the depths. A lot of them can be found in the Further Reading list in the back of the book, and on the Dive Down website here.
This week has been really lovely as I have been writing thank you letters and packaging up copies of Dive Down to send some of those people as a thank you.
I sent and gave the first batch of books to friends and family who were part of my safety net, and now I’ve reached out to some of the people who have been part of my life without realising.
I wanted to complete the loop and let them know that they had touched and helped me.
So some of my favourite writers, musicians, philosophers and organisations will be getting little parcels. It’s probably not that big a deal to them – I hope that they get letters and things like that all the time. But it was a very therapeutic thing to do, to put into words why and how their work or words had changed my life.
The map of where the books have gone is looking really exciting at the moment, and includes some of the awesome organisations I have sent copies to. You can find the map here.
Letting other people know about the people, music and organisations that I found when creating Dive Down is an important part of the sharing – I want to sign post as many people to the brilliant resources that exist to help us all find our way as we swim through our own journeys and adventures.
Please do share any of your own favourites and I can add them to the Further Reading list 🙂 Why not drop me an email?
Last Friday, I was in a tutu on the Tube in London. It’s not something I ever really expected to be doing, I will confess, and I can’t *quite* remember why I thought it was a good idea…
But I decided to dress up as the version of myself in Dive Down and go to some of my favourite places in London to leave some of the 100 free copies of the book. You can find a map of where the free books have found homes so far here.
There was a moment in a loo in Camden when I’d just put the tutu on and I thought I might take it straight back off again and go home…
BUT the good thing about starting in Camden was knowing that far more weird and wonderful things have happened there than me getting a bit dressed up. And I also remembered that I have done far scarier things that that, which is what the book is all about. So, I took a deep breath and opened the door and stepped out…
And I swiftly realised that the only person who gave two hoots about what I was wearing was me.
I also had a passing thought that everything we wear is a costume, and wearing a tutu for a day is no weirder really than wearing anything else. What we dress ourselves in on a daily basis can have a big impact on how we feel, and after the nerves wore off, I felt awesome and sprightly in my silly outfit. I sat on the South Bank sketching in the sunshine (thank goodness for the weather last Friday!), and a little boy told me he loved my drawing and my shoes. It made my day.
This has helped me feel much braver about what I choose to wear, and I may be popping off to the shops in my top hat and tails later… I thoroughly recommend a little trip outside the comfort zone every now and then.
A big thank you to friends Ian and Nathalie for meeting me in my tutu, and to Nathalie for the photo of me above and the ones below 🙂
I’d love to hear from anyone that finds or receives a book. You can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
I could really do with expanding my vocabulary… I am seriously over using the word ‘exciting’ at the moment. I am writing this with the help of a thesaurus…because things are just so blooming exciting! So…. *ahem* …
I am delighted to share with you some exhilarating news about the next phase of Dive Down.
This inspiring journey started with me drawing my way through a difficult time in my life, and led to the creation of an illustrated story called Dive Down.
It’s an autobiographical fairy tale. A self-help graphic novel. An illustrated memoir.
It’s lots of different things, and now is also:
And 100 pocket sized books that are being given away and left in different locations, which you can see starting to head off into the world on a map here.
Sharing the images on social media to begin with made me feel very vulnerable – I’ve never done such personal work before, and opening myself up like that was pretty scary. But it was also thrilling.
Because I was helped by all kinds of creative, compassionate people and resources at the time I did the drawings, sharing my story and spreading the word about the help that is out there feels really important and empowering. There is a list of the resources in the back of the book and which you can also find here.
As the story heads off into new hands and lives, I feel incredibly excited. More excited than I think I have ever been. So excited I need to find some new words to express myself…
I’ve set up a new website specifically to host all of the Dive Down goodies at www.divedownthebook.com
One of the most moving bits of the process has been asking people for quotes to help spread the word and encourage others to download and read the story. Here are some amazing words from some of the amazing people brave enough to share them with me:
I’m an animal lover, but I have to admit that I am a bit of a speciesist – I adore seals, and am just about getting over a phobia of sharks.
I know that its unfair to the sharks to be more drawn to their fluffy mammal equivalents with the big sad eyes. Sharks are having a horribly hard time and their numbers are dropping, and I really hope that conservation efforts come together to keep them in our oceans. But I can’t help but be anthropomorphic, seeing something so familiar in the faces of seals and their mannerisms; I am another mammal after all…
Seals and sharks both appear in Dive Down, and as I share the images from this autobiographical fairy tale, I’m reflecting on my personal growth in the last year and why water is a recurring theme in my illustrations. I think it’s partly about me facing my fears.
I used to be really scared of swimming. My irrational fear of sharks spread to certain shades of blue, swimming in the sea (anywhere), ponds and even some swimming pools. The Jaws films certainly have a lot to answer for – when I was little and these fears first came up, it was directed towards any big fish-y type creature, including whales. As I grew up, whales and sharks were represented so differently that the fear became very focussed on sharks.
Last July, I took a big leap. My lovely childhood friend had a gorgeous country wedding near a big pond. The night before, a group of friends went wild swimming there. I was quite scared and sat on the edge, watching…
And then I felt so silly, letting my fear hold me back and not joining in with everyone having an awesome time, that I grabbed a friend’s hand and we jumped in together. The water was warm and delicious. I could feel the squishy mud under my toes. The sky was deep and dark above us and it was beautiful… I felt really connected with everyone else who was in the water too sharing the experience. Having overcome a barrier in order to be there with them added an extra thrill.
That inspired this little series of drawings, which is about taking the plunge. This could be literally, like me jumping into that pond, but could also a metaphor for relationships, friendships, work, learning or travelling… I’ve learned that going deeper is pretty much always a good thing to try.
The whole theme of Dive Down is going deeper, and not being afraid of what you find down there. I created the illustrations during a time of meditating on my fears and problems, trying to get to the bottom of them and understand why I was doing and feeling certain things.
The seals in the story appear at the point that I started to find some really useful, positive and helpful resources to guide my exploration, and they act as mentors or guides in the story – encouraging the illustrated version of me to keep going deeper and deeper, and see the beauty that is hidden there.
A couple of sharks swim through, but as I become more comfortable with the darker depths, I recognise that they are beautiful too, in their own way…
Happy summer solstice! I’m launching a new project that I am really excited about…
Dive Down: Drawings from the Deep is a very personal story. I drew my way out of a difficult time and the drawings evolved into a book, which I am sharing to help and inspire others.
Today I start serialising the story via social media, with exciting plans coming up for other ways to share the book in physical and digital form.
You can find out more on the Dive Down project page here.
Based partly on Buddhist principles, Dive Down is a story about deep sea diving into the internal sea of our fears and anxieties – somewhere we tend to not want to look. Through reading lots of books and meditating, I noticed where I was trying to move away from things that hurt me – distracting myself, hoping for something to make me feel better, when really it was that endless searching was the causing me the most pain.
The project became a collaboration between two Sams – Sam Attenborough, a mentor and co-founder of Birdsong Charity Consulting added the words after the visual story was complete.
With a list of resources for further support included at the end of the tale and an inspiring Spotify playlist to accompany the book, we intend for Dive Down to be enjoyed by a range of people and shared further, to encourage other deep sea divers find their courage, take a deep breath, and dive into their own oceans to find calmness.
Follow me on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook or Google+ and watch out for a picture a day, followed by some special announcements and news about where the project is going next and how you can get involved.