I’m unnerved. I’m a visual learner and I’ve left my notebook and pen in my room. Oh, to be an auditory learner: to switch my brain to ‘record’, then ‘playback’ later. I feel my throat tighten, my palms’ sweat and my heart races. Breathe, just breathe. My anxiety levels rise. Ravyn Stanfield is casting circle with a call and response chant. It is beautiful: ‘I awaken in my body … ”
Ravyn speaks about the learning styles of adults and children: adults like to experience then debrief, children like an explanation and then ‘to try it’. Against all logic, I’m panicking. I must leave or implode. The room is wobbling. As calmly as I can, I walk towards the exit and out into the sheeting rain: it will rain the most it does at camp today: 30mm.
I head down a flight of stairs and am confronted by a group of people sitting on the stairs. My egress is blocked. I’m trapped. My temper flares: hot and unwanted it slices through me: disproportionate to the situation. I know with my rational mind this Path is ‘experiencing their environment’ and have a right to be there. Anger deflates to annoyance. I’m briefly clueless for the reason behind my flaring emotion. Then, I remember: I flashback to years of being a teacher, powerless to do anything about students’ discomfort during inappropriate ‘wet weather procedures’. So many irrational rules that with ‘power of position’ I was obliged to enforce.
I collect my notebook, breathe for awhile and return to Path. Ravyn says: ‘if we are in an emotionally reactive state then we find it difficult to work in community. The more we are in contact with our own reactivity (reactive state) the more we can ask for our own needs to be met.’ These statements are so appropriately timed it’s almost witchy.
Ravyn speaks about the different roles of the left and right brain. ‘That it takes about 8 seconds to react, and an emotional reaction is not connected to logic.’ The emotional reaction has to do with the amygdala. I have heard it called the ‘reptilian brain’.
Ravyn: ‘Once in a reactive state we are stuck there for at least half an hour and this is why taking three deep breaths or counting to 10 doesn’t work.’ Anxiety and I have long been acquaintances. I’ve tried many techniques and remedies that didn’t work. We do a breathing exercise which is simple and works for me.
Ravyn: ‘The more in contact with our own reactivity we are, the more we can ask for our own needs to be met.’ The person meeting those needs might be ourselves or our supporter(s). This can be summarised as: ‘Always go to self-empathy immediately and first.’ My new mantra!
Ravyn: ‘There are four types of reactivity: defend (e.g. I’m not wrong), attack (You’re wrong), submit (I’m very wrong) and withdraw (‘Let’s go to a film’).’ I nearly cheer out loud when submit and withdraw are mentioned. I give myself some empathy for every time those reactions have been ignored.
Following these gems of wisdom, we do some pair work. First we act as a ‘Sacred Witness’ for each other, answering the question: ‘What sensations, emotions, postures, impulses, thoughts and beliefs,’ come up for you when you are in the reactive state? Later there is more pair work: we ‘sculpture’ a reaction from the description of a situation.
Finally, we use the expertise of the Path to ‘brainstorm’ what works for us. One pair introduces their gestalt animal: Wombat Butt. This involves turning and shaking your backside to release negative energy. We all laugh at Wombat Butt: it relieves the tension. Someone suggests ‘kala kala': creating a spell and releasing negative energy into a bowl of water. Jarrah Staggard leads us in a ‘kala kala’ ceremony, gives us homework and we close the circle.