So we’ve now been in London for nearly four months and what a rollercoaster it has been. We have just moved into our new flat in Hackney after living three weeks in temporary accommodation as we waited to move into our first flat, by ourselves, here in London. The first few months of house sharing was fine, and we met some lovely people, but it was never what we wanted. We have chosen Hackney… close to London Fields, Broadway Market and Victoria Park; a good independent cinema and the famous Empire Theatre, we are looking forward to immersing ourselves into our new London lifestyle.
Living out in Wanstead village was a good introduction to London; leafy and calm, it retains a quaint village feeling whilst being on the central line… but now we feel we are moving into LONDON. The hustle and bustle, the connectivity, the bars, the pop ups. It feels like an exciting beginning.
So just as a new chapter is opening, I’ve also been part of the closing of a small chapter for me. One of the first people I met and connected with here in London was, the brains behind Togetherness, Adam Wilder. We were introduced by our mutual friend Laura Fox who told us we should meet and the first sensation upon meeting was of someone relaxed, fun and deep. Adam has been running Togetherness for a few years now since, in the 2016 referendum, Britain voted to leave the EU. He told me recently “I started Togetherness to help create more connection amongst us all, despite our background, our beliefs or our culture”.
The House of Togetherness, a pop-up in Covent Garden, has been the physical home of many creative, intimate and exciting events designed to help us connect and enjoy the simple art of being together. Some of these playful activities include: Ssssssh Dating (A silent dating night), Rage Club, Wheel of Consent, The Foundations of Connection and much more. On the Togetherness website they promise the following…
We promise to take your mind and body on a journey from the playful to the profound. To help you build more alive, authentic and meaningful relationships.
We promise to create experiences where you can connect beyond identities, labels and beliefs. Where you can witness others and yourself, as you are. Raw and unapologetic.
We’re committed to creating an atmosphere of permission and exploration. To respect your wholeness and sovereignty. To allow you to make your own meaning of the experience, without our intervention, without any expectations.
At House of Togetherness, there are no shoulds or musts – only the permission to be yourself.
I resonate with this promise. I resonate with the truth within the words; and having spoken with Adam, I resonate with the truth within his quest to create more opportunities to create human connection. I also resonate deeply with the importance of deep, honest truthful meetings. This to me is the basis for all therapeutic meetings, indeed, Carl Rogers would claim, all truthful relationships are themselves necessarily therapeutic ones, since the truth has a therapeutic value to it.
So when Adam asked me to take part in the final event at the House it was something I immediately wanted to do. While studying Somatic Experiencing, a somatic discipline for trauma release, I came across the Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges. This simple and eloquent theory enunciates a three part hierarchy of the autonomic nervous system and how it responds to prompts of safety and danger. Since discovering Polyvagal Theory, my therapeutic vision has transformed massively. It has transformed some of the practices I used, it has increased my own self awareness, it has made me more compassionate with myself and more capable of understanding my mood changes.
This theory subdivides the parasympathetic nervous system into a ventral system of social connection which allows us to read the emotions and states of others by their facial expressions and a dorsal system linked more to energy preservation, often referred to as the feigning death response or freezing response. Sandwiched between these two systems on the hierarchy of ANS responses is the sympathetic nervous system, designed for action, for play and in states of danger, for fight or flight.
When talking about the foundations of connection, it is impossible to leave out the functioning of our neurophysiology. It is the activation of the states of the ANS that allow us to register if this is a situation of safety or of danger, which allows us to gauge if we can connect or not. Increasingly, I am coming to understand how in developmental trauma, where the normal bonds of connection or attachment have not been formed in a healthy way, connection becomes a huge challenge for us throughout our lives; both in our intimate relationships with out partners, with our friends, with our families and with our work colleagues. The same neurophysiological pathways that kept us safest during our childhood, will repeat themselves into our adult life until we become aware of them and begin to change them. I have found that the ability to feel into our state and name it, is a huge step in the process of learning how to regulate our own nervous system, to allow us the possibility of connecting with others.
So when Adam asked me to lead a workshop at the Goodbye to the House of Togetherness Party, I knew I wanted to focus on giving people a glimpse of the understanding and the somatic sensations behind this theory. I tried, in 90 minutes to give people a basic understanding of the three levels, and also to try to tap in to what happens in our bodies when these systems are activated.
Having been living and teaching in Spanish for the past 15 years, it felt challenging to suddenly be teaching in English for the first time. Certain words which come naturally to me in Spanish, felt hard to find and unnatural in my mother tongue. Yet the information came out, people listened and seemed connected, and the feedback that I have received so far has been very positive. My first experience leading a workshop here in England. YES!!!
It is a huge step for me. Another step on the way to inserting myself back into the UK, into London, into new circles of human connections. So on that day, the day that Britain didn’t leave the EU again, the 31st of October, the House of Togetherness closed its doors, awaiting a new way of expressing itself.
I am now in the process of working out the next phase once our home is created. Many people have been asking about sessions and classes and I am grateful for that interest. I am currently offering sessions in Stoke Newington on a temporary basis and will soon be offering sessions at our new home. I am in the process of defining what this next phase of my life will look like; looking for a place that feels right to give sessions somewhere in central London, and within a few weeks, the new place in Hackney will be available too.
I feel excited to see things falling into place as the pieces of our lives begin to rebuild after the chaos of moving continents. Step by step towards a new order. Slowly slowly.
If you were at my workshop and would like to connect, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would also appreciate your feedback!!
In the new year I will start offering the first one day courses here in London. Would you like to study with me? Please let me know and I will contact you once the first courses and dates are released. email@example.com