how to think
Episode Two: Ria Righteous

Rajni Shah
Ria Righteous
Fili 周 Gibbons



Manually subscribe by RSS | Download MP3: conversation | offering
Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify Listen on Google Podcasts

Episode notes

In this first full conversation, Rajni Shah and Ria Righteous take time to allow words to emerge between them through deep listening. The conversation is intimate and personal, meditating on themes of grief, selfhood, family, renewal, and the long and difficult work of dearmouring the heart and body. This episode is suitable for listening to as you fall asleep.

This episode is accompanied by a short offering (see separate recording) in which Ria guides the listener through a meditation called ‘Breathing the body’.

The Rūmī poem "what you want also wants you" that Ria quotes from can be found here: https://www.persianpoetics.com/poets/rumi-jalal-ad-din

Information about the school run according to Kanien'kehá:ka values that Rajni mentions can be found here: https://www.stepxstep.ca/

*

In the main episode, you will hear recordings from Kersal Dale, which were recorded by Ria (details as above). In addition, you will hear recordings from the waters of the O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Grand river). These were made at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area (Ontario, Canada), located on the on the traditional lands of the Attawandaron (Neutral Nation), Haudenosaunee, and the Mississaugas of the Credit, and on the present day lands of the Six Nations of the Grand River covered in the 1784 Haldimand Treaty. You will also hear sounds of wind and forest, which were recorded in the south-western Saugeen Peninsula (Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario), on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabeg, and specifically the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaty No. 72.

All recordings were made with care and respect for the lands, waters, winds, trees, and creatures being recorded.

Episode themes

  1. Prelude [00:01:08]
  2. Episode intro [00:02:36]
  3. Calling in and acknowledging [00:04:30]
  4. What happens now? [00:18:57]
  5. There is no arrival [00:24:40]
  6. Desire [00:31:00]
  7. Love [00:40:10]
  8. The consciousness of trees [00:48:30]
  9. Our broken systems [00:54:54]
  10. Lineages [01:08:35]

Series Credits & Acknowledgements

This podcast was made on Indigenous lands, including the lands of the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Woi Wurrung, and Boonwurrung peoples in so-called Australia, and the lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation on Turtle Island. We pay respects to the custodians of the lands on which we have created and edited these recordings, and we acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

how to think is being co-led by artist Rajni Shah and Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, the new head of DAS Graduate School, as part of the AHRC project Performance Philosophy & Animals, in partnership with the Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey, UK.

Project conceived and delivered by Rajni Shah
Editing, mixing, and sound design by Fili 周 Gibbons and Studio Apothicaire
Recording and technical support by Roslyn Oades
Contributors: Ria Righteous, Julietta Singh, Khairani Barokka, and Omikemi
Special thanks to Theron Schmidt, Leo Burtin, Nadia Chana, Astrid Korporaal, Sheila Ghelani, and the Acts of Listening Lab

Before these conversations were recorded, podcast host Rajni Shah posted a small zine to each of their fellow listeners, in which they outlined the invitation for the conversation. You can see a copy of the zine for reference here.


Transcript

[sounds of cello plucking and bowing a fiesty little tune weaving in and out of the following words that begin each episode]

Rajni:

how to think is a series of slow conversations between humans who recentre the work of listening, healing, justice, and love. Created with recording and technical support from Roslyn Oades, and with editing, mixing, and sound design by Fili and Studio Apothicaire.

This is a DAS podcast, presented in partnership with the Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey in the UK, and is part of the AHRC project Performance Philosophy & Animals led by Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, Head of DAS Graduate School in Amsterdam.

For transcripts, full credits, and acknowledgments, including land and water acknowledgments, please visit the Performance Philosophy website which is linked in the show notes.

Thank you for listening.

[cello stops]

PAUSE

Rajni [voice over sounds of water and simple evocative cello sounds]:

You are with me today, all day.
Tonight, I will meet you, and I will meet myself.
Everything is already just as it needs to be.
I trust the juice, the pip, the dust, the stars, the leaves and moss, within and without us.
I trust us.
Seeds of being.

Rajni [narrating]:

Hello, and a very warm welcome to this second episode of the podcast how to think. My name is Rajni Shah, and in this episode you’ll get to hear me having a super slow, super intimate conversation with my dear sibling Ria Righteous. Ria is someone who has committed at a very deep level to the work of healing and heart-centered leadership, and I’m sure you’ll be able to hear that as you listen to our conversation.

A few notes before we dive into the episode. This conversation was really held by listening, meaning that during the conversation Ria and I sat quietly together for long stretches, waiting for words to emerge. We’ve kept in many of these long silences in the episode, and woven in some other sounds. So you’ll hear sounds from Kersal Dale, near the river Irwell in Salford, recorded by Ria near their home. And the beautiful cello sounds in this and many of the episodes are played and composed by Fili, our sound designer.

Finally, there are links in the show notes about some of the things that Ria and I mention in this episode. And there’s also a separate episode that accompanies this one in which Ria offers a guided breath meditation. So you may choose to listen to that one first, as a way of arriving yourself before tuning back in to listen to our conversation.

As with the previous episode, this conversation begins with Ria and I arriving ourselves through a series of slow acknowledgments. I hope you enjoy the listening.

PAUSE

Rajni:

So… I'm… I always find this headphone situation a little bit challenging for, um, finding myself. Because I feel like I'm inside a little cocoon… um... and the chair that I'm sitting on is… I can put my feet on the ground, but they’re not all the way on the ground, so I actually have them slightly raised on some flattened out cardboard boxes under the table with a blanket on top. Um… yeah, so it's like I'm a little bit in the air! But I am, again, on Bedegal lands, and I pay my respects to the Bedegal people and thank them for their custodianship of these lands over many, many years. And pay my respect to their elders past, present and emerging.

And I want to really pay respects to all Indigenous peoples who are and have been for so long doing the caring work, the fierce and rigorous caring work, for this planet and all of us, all of the beings and creatures in it, with such deep and wide intelligence that I can barely understand from my … from where I am. And for the work of passing knowledge from generation to generation over so many years, and the incredible wisdom of that work.

And, yeah, I want to acknowledge that we're in a time of.. where those knowledges continue, and they’re so important. But also where for many of us, those lines have been broken. And we are finding ourselves in different ways, in all the ways that we can. But it can often feel like we're working with broken pieces. So I always feel a little bit like I'm aware, very aware that these aren't my lands. I live on Gadigal lands here. And those aren't my lands either. But I'm - I think I said this last time as well - but I want to acknowledge, um… I want to acknowledge the trees and the birds and the soil and the roots and all of the incredible complexity around me. And I also struggle to connect with those systems. And I want to acknowledge that that's… that's part of my work, and part of the present moment.

I want to acknowledge my dreaming world. And the connections that happen so differently in that world, and the courage it takes to honour that and to relate that to the waking world when so many systems belittle that work. I want to really honour that. And I just, I want to acknowledge you as well, and the incredible journey I’ve been on today of just… feeling nervous about this, trying to prepare, and then really trusting. And knowing, kind of like waves of knowing how deeply I can trust this.

Thank you.

Ria:

Thank you.

[gentle sounds of birds, trees, and water fade in and continue under Ria’s voice]

I would like to acknowledge the two cities whose border I live on/between, and the two cities I come from in the north of England: Salford and Manchester. Where I was conceived and born, where my parents met, and where my ancestors are buried.

I call in my ancestors from Agecroft Cemetery in Salford. My grandmother, Dorothy Barton, and my cousin Lorraine Broadhurst. I call in my ancestors from Gorton Cemetery in Manchester. Matilda Douglas, Hubert Douglas, Glenton Douglas, Alphonso Douglas, Craig Douglas, and Renee Douglas. I call in my grandfather, James Hartley. And I call in all the lives that have worked on this land, in these cities, that gave their lives to make it what it has become, with and without consent.

I call in the river Irwell, who runs adjacent to where I live now. And I thank the river for its nourishment to this land and what it has endured so that we might receive the privileges that we have now, in what we call technology and industry.

I honour those whose hands worked the cotton mills from the river side. And those who lost their lives to this industry.

I acknowledge the birdlife and the wildlife that exists around the river and that finds its way to co-create with the city, despite it being their land first, their habitat first.

I acknowledge all the people in this building above and below me, many of whom are challenged by our current systems in multiple ways and are finding ways through.

I acknowledge the children in this building, who may not be receiving all that they need right now.

I'd like to call in the energy of resistance and social justice from this area, from the members of the working class movements, the members of the suffragette movements, the members of Black Lives Matter movements, the members of the queer community movements, past and present.

I’d like to call in the spirit of the artists and the worker bees…

… and acknowledge that I am a part of this land and this place. Although I often don't see it as my home, I'm very much anchored and rooted in it and with it.

And so I acknowledge myself in this place.

[cello bowing sounds fade in over nature sounds]

And I thank you, Rajni, for the invitation to call in.

Thank you.

Rajni:

Thank you.

[sounds of cello crescendo and then fade out]

Ria:

“What happens now?” were the last three words my cousin Lorraine said before she left this plane of existence.

She was the first to find out but we still don't know.

We knew what happened for us.

We arranged a funeral. And we started to grieve.

But I wonder how her question was answered.

That was just over a year ago.

[quiet cello fades in, long low tones]

I did not know then that just within a year I would be growing and giving life, sat in the presence of hers ending. But we did speak about it. And a few months after she passed I had a dream of birthing.

There’s been a lot of death in my lineage in my lifetime. But this will be my first act of lifegiving.

And it's changed me and is changing me. I am transforming physically. But I am becoming again.

[cello fades out]

So someone is dying and being born at the same time.

Rajni:

Feels like you carried the question forward also.

What happens now? is like the question of each moment.

[soft cello sounds fade in and out over the next sections]

Or, I guess I think of it as… ideally as the question of each moment. Because it brings together the future and the present.

This is such an extraordinary moment to be having this conversation. I’m very aware of those energies and … the… maybe liminality [laughs gently], being on the brink of a moment… with you.

I'm curious about your … um … in this moment of change and transformation … your sense of who you are in the world, or maybe the seed that you are in the world, whether that feels like your perspective on that is shifting.

Ria:

Hmm. I think these last few years I… I have shed so many versions of myself. And learnt how to let go of the illusions of my identities, and then catch them again. And then let them go again, and try something else on. Seeking authenticity, or whatever that might mean. Being in the truest version I can be of where I am at any given moment, which is always an accumulation of memories, learned behaviour, other people's voices, soul, spirit, context, fleeting information that you may or may not catch. And it's always in and out of focus. And it makes me often extremely judgemental of others and the systems that we experience as life. And then I come back into acceptance of what is, and what it is that I am to be in this what-is-ness.

So I feel like I'm now ready to embrace the reality that there is no arrival in this lifetime. There is just the continuation of being and becoming. And I'm ready for who is to come next. It comes with a lot of grief and sadness to say goodbye to what was and also those who my what-was-ness connected to. Because I can no longer be the versions of myself that I was expected to show up in the world as. Which means a loss, often. A loss of community, a loss of place, a loss of role in the world, and things worked hard for that seem to no longer be serving. But I accept it now. Not without a bit of a… discomfort.

Rajni:

Mm.

I’m curious about allowing the emergence of something and, um… I was going to say “versus seeking”, but I don't think I mean ‘versus’. I’m just wondering about the relationship of… for some reason the word ‘seeking’ came into my mind. And I don't know that I can say why. But I was interested in this idea of letting go, but also – and allowing what's next, and feeling into it, and finding it – but also… yeah, maybe ‘seeking’. I guess I'm just curious about seeking. Is it… do we, do we seek what's next?

But maybe that… It feels like that… in my mind, it starts to become a little bit linear then, when I start describing it in that way, I don't think that's what I mean. Maybe it's a curiosity, a seeking that's a curiosity. And allowing that mode of being which… is really beautiful but can also feel… light? Too light? It can feel like it doesn't have enough gravity.

Maybe it doesn't feel like that. Maybe that's something that comes from the outside.

Ria:

I think it's something like what Rumi says in their poem, in the last verse of their poem. Which – the title I don't remember - it says, and I spoke these words to you recently: what you want also wants you. So it's the meeting point of the allowing and seeking.

Rajni:

Mmm.

Ria:

In my experience - that's all I have - is the dance of allowing and seeking. So it's like the infinity symbol. It's… if you allow too much, you get washed up in the waves of with the currents, and you might lose your map, because there needs [to be] some intention as well, so that you can meet what you want and what wants you.

So there's a[n] energy of seeking, the thrust of seeking. I don't know. There's lots of different ways people talk about this energy, like the yin and yang, and different elements. But I think it's about balance, and if… if there’s too much of one, then we fall out. And I don't think it's just two things. [laughter]

How does that feel in your body?

Rajni:

I was thinking about the work of desire. And how… I feel like that's the work that I've been doing that feels really aligned with that. Which is, you know, such a different kind of desire to the idea that I desire something or I desire someone in a kind of possession-related way or achieving-related way, but that's about opening, opening up… and a lot of work that I've been doing around dearmouring. And I think it's, it feels very similar in that I think the work of dearmouring for me is this kind of opening up and opening up and being, becoming more sensitive to desire, but a desire that within it has a complexity of… maybe the… the waves that you were describing? Actually being able to feel that which then allows me to feel my way into the world in that kind of balance of seeking and receiving, without ever having to differentiate between them.

And I'm doing… I'm just beginning the work, I think, of trying to figure out how to - or what's needed in order to be able to - carry that private work into the world... and for it not just to disappear in so many moments of every day when things happen that set me off balance.

But I feel like you are much more steady. I feel like your heart work and your rootedness go so deep. And I love that. When I've been with you - you know, and it's worth saying that we have a very deep relationship and friendship, but that we haven't spent very much time at all in the same place together or met in person - but in the brief few hours that we had most recently when we met in Manchester, I really - I feel like I really got to observe that: your way of being in this busy city, driving around, and dealing with the world, and going to a restaurant, and dealing with parking. [laughs] Just all kinds of things. And um… and you were just love, and groundedness. And it didn't go away. And that - I felt like: this is how the world changes. Because it was changing around you. I could see that, and feel it, and witness it.

[cello interlude]

Ria:

I feel like the greatest gift in my lifetime so far has been to experience the energy of love, and really begin to understand what that is. Not what I was taught. Not what I thought. And that connection to love really could only happen with the work of dearmouring. Because my heart was so armoured. There were so many layers to protect it that I could not let it in. I could not feel it. I could not be it. I could not share it, and I couldn't remember how to. I knew that it was there as a child somewhere. I remembered something about it. But it had gone and I couldn't find my way back to it.

And I am so grateful and proud of the armour that I developed in my lifetime. It was my survival. Without it, I would not be in this conversation with you right now. It saved my life several times. And I had to put it on - to be resilient, to survive my childhood, to make my way through the world so that I did not leave. Because I wanted to so many times. And it gave me the strength to stay here and to keep fighting forward. But at some point, I knew that my life path was about love. And I knew I needed to find my way back to love and… I just had no idea where to begin that work. I tried to read about it [laughs gently], and there are so many wonderful authors and words and within the field of the arts, there's so many things that can reach and touch you. But when your heart is armoured, you cannot feel fully. And I tried to make work to reach out and touch others and heal myself and dearmour. But even in that place, I couldn't – there was a new kind of armour I had to put on.

But when I opened my heart for the first time since my childhood, it floored me. And I couldn't get out of bed, or stop crying, for months and months and months. And… the world stopped feeling like a safe place that I could go out into, and I couldn't interact with humans for a while. And the only place I could be was in the woods with the trees and the river and the squirrels. [laughs] They were… I had never felt that vulnerable in my life that I remember. Like being a child again in an adult's body. And that was not who I was known to be. I was known for my armour. When you take your armour off and surrender it, no one knows who you are anymore. Not even you.

And I can see why people don't enter that work, because it’s a lot. It's hard, and it's a lot to give up. But there's also so much to gain. And I think it’s the more… It is the more authentic way of being in the world. But it's a harder way, in this time.

So I gave up that life, which means that it's hard to be in this - in the environments where hearts are closed or armoured. And that's, that’s everywhere really at the moment. Because most of the people that are here today also survived their childhood in some way, or the conditioning of the culture. So everyone had to armour somehow. There's very few people, I think, who were raised in a way that they don't have to armour.

Rajni:

Mm.

Yeah wow. I never thought about it like that before. But you’re right. Of course. It makes sense.

But it's also something that we share actually.

Ria:

Yeah.

Rajni:

And we do share the capacity to remember.

Ria:

Yes.

Rajni:

But it can feel impossible.

And I feel like… I feel like maybe there is a seeking that has to happen there. It's our common journey and it could be our common work.

[long pause, sounds of birds, water, trees fade in]

You described that time of being only able to be with the trees and the water and the squirrels. And I guess I'm curious about that, um… how it becomes possible to widen that circle… to eventually include other humans.

Ria:

When I was really vulnerable, I felt like this shell had been cracked open around my heart and all of the shrapnel or whatever materials, or, you know, that I had built this wall around this beautiful soft space, [and it] just came falling down. And it was so tender that the world as I knew it was too loud, too fast, too violent, too concerned with things that didn’t really matter. And I didn't know how to be with it anymore. I just… it felt overwhelming to just even go to the shop for a, you know, pint of milk, type of thing. It was just - I couldn't do those things at all anymore.

And the trees are just so present. They're just so conscious, and grounded, and unconditional in their beingness with you. There's nothing expected. There's nothing taken. They’re just very giving beings, and extremely healing. And I could just be that with them, you know, and with the animals as well. If I just sat there by a tree for some hours in silence, all these different creatures would just come and hang out and they're just doing their thing – in this country, we have obviously lots of squirrels in the woods, so that's who I saw mostly. Up in the higher parts of the tree there were different birds and, obviously, like insects and things, but… I just felt so connected, so connected and so aware of the earth and all living things.

And when I came back to my apartment and into the city, I just felt this sharpness and this um… this edge that just felt very uncomfortable and very unnatural. And it took a long time just for that to kind of settle.

And I felt I could connect then with the elements in a way that I hadn't. I was remembering. I was remembering how to connect with myself and to connect with the river, the air, my feet. Taking my shoes off and socks off and putting my feet on the earth. Just sitting with the trees. The simplest things. And not thinking about anything. Not trying to do anything or achieve anything or figure anything out, but just be present. That was it.

And nothing else was inviting me to be present in that way. Not even a meditation class. [laughs] There's a whole way into that that's not present. And so this is all I could do..

I'm really grateful for that moment, for that time.

[cello sounds begin to fade in and out again]

To be broken back into the wildness of the animal body.

I would love that for everybody.

And I think this time, this year, I think has brought people close to that space in many ways. Just by slowing down and stopping, and being in a position where [we’re] actually reconnecting with nature, going out to the woods, and walking on the earth, and not being able to interact with other people. So having to slow down and perhaps be alone with yourself, with your own beingness. If it has been an invitation to that, in many ways.

Rajni:

Yeah, I feel that too. Um. I'm also really aware of this slowing down then meeting, you know, the hard edges of the need to return or continue or make money or achieve, and how, um… how impossible that feels. I don't know that… I don't know what's gonna happen. Because I do feel like there’s something, in whatever form that has taken, something else has started to emerge and… I think for many people, it feels like… there's a violence in then the demands coming back in. And then also a feeling of inadequacy in no longer being able to meet them immediately in the way that we used to.

And… I worry about that. What will happen in response to that - that meeting of these different speeds. Because really what we need to put in place right now is a whole lot of care and care systems.

Ria:

Yeah.

Rajni:

And I don't really see that happening. Or… I do in some really grassroots ways, but I don't see it happening systemically, in the places that I've been.

Ria:

In my old life I spent so much time not being able to see how things could work with the system and shouting at its brokenness. I used to scream at it and all the people that were a part of the things that I so desperately wanted to change, that I felt had some potential authority in making changes. It’s been frustrating to see some of those people seven years later speak of their illumination all of a sudden this year, of what I was screaming at seven years ago, I thought. So there’s, um… there’s my force of speed as well, in that wanting. I've wanted so many things to happen and tried to push those who've not been ready. And I’ve known the receiving side of that. Um…

But now I'm really interested in a different focus. It's like turning 180, and stop the energy flowing towards what's not working, but to reorient towards envisioning and imagining what is and what could be without any barriers or limitations.

Like, I don't know if you've ever been in those conversations where you have an idea, and it's exciting and you're passionate and you can see this potential, and you share it with somebody or a group of people. And it's met with a list of reasons why it can't happen, why it can't be, why it's not possible. And so I've - I spent time in my life, especially in my childhood, doing that, and it getting shut down and shut down. And I think I forgot about the dreamer, the one who imagines, the pioneer, um, the inventor, the one that creates, the artist, you know.

Rajni:

Yeah.

Ria:

The one who isn't the artist who is here to serve the government agenda. Which I do believe in - ‘great art for everyone’, here in the UK, that's our number one priority - but it's too conditioned and too rigid in its way of being.

But I do believe in envisioning without boundaries, imagining beyond the limits of what is possible. And I sometimes fantasise about what that would look like if we had a way of saying: Let's just begin again. Let's start from today and see what everybody wants to start creating , you know?

If we had limitless time and resources to focus on moving forward, what would it look like? If we asked each individual worker what they would prefer spending their time doing to contribute to society and community, where they wouldn't have to worry about being the breadwinner for their family, and everyone had their needs met. What would you really be spending your life doing right now?

And I think that straight away people come in with the ideas about how that wouldn't work, why it wouldn't work. But we - and I'm not saying that that's the way forward - but I just feel like even asking people about what their dreams are, what they would really want to be spending their time doing, where their heart really is in the world… Like, if you really, really went deep into that place. What is it that you've come here to do, really?

Rajni:

I visited - when I first moved to Montreal - I visited a First Nations School, and got to learn a little bit about how they teach there. And, you know, they just said, well, we believe that it's our job to help each child find their gift, whatever it is. Every child has a gift to bring to the world, and we need to do whatever it takes to help them know that and understand it.

And, you know, it's - that's so simple, actually. But if we grew up in systems where that was the focus, then we emerge into the world understanding - not only understanding our gift, but understanding the gifts of others, and how they’re different, and how we can respect each other's gifts and honour them.

It just really struck me as something so simple and so… obvious. Of course that's what education should be for. But I've never… I've never encountered that in my life before, in other systems of education.

Ria:

Yeah. Those are the… those were the systems that stole my dreams. I remember it happening. [laughs gently]

Yeah, there's a lot of work in unschooling now, and I feel like there’s so many waves of these new generations of young people who are really coming through with a determination to say, I know better for myself. In a way that I didn't feel like I could … I did try. I definitely was outside of the Head’s office most of the time because I was a resistant child. “Why?” “Why that?” You know, like, “Why are you telling me this? I don't believe you.” I would challenge all of the adults. And that is always understood as a bad behaviour, you know. So I entered the punish system.

But I still believed in what I believed in. And I didn't know where that came from. And I see that coming through stronger. I'm really going to um… nurture that in my child. Even if it challenges me the most as a parent. [laughs] I hope that they will - they will, like, grow with that.

But we don't know what the world will be like in, say, twenty years time from now. I have a feeling a lot is going to change over this next decade in a way that change has - it seems to be speeding up. More is happening in less amounts of time. We have some global questions right now that we really need to awaken to in a more focused way. And this year, this moment of global lockdown, I guess, has – for those of us in the world with access to computers and the internet – has definitely kind of drawn us together with these tools in a more focused way than we have done before. And I wonder what that… what the outcomes of that will be over the next years.

[cello interlude]

Ria:

I was thinking about… how many years ago did you leave the UK? Because I remember we were in touch. I saw you at a LADA event, and I wrote to you. And then you sent me a message back saying that you were leaving the UK in like three weeks. [laughter]

And I was like, what?? And you were going to Australia. And I was like, hang on a second. I just, I just got your email. No, you can't just leave now! [laughs] I've been waiting years to get to know you! Because I already followed your work for some time before that. And I couldn’t believe it . We made this connection, and then you were going to leave.

So I don't think I believed that that distance was ever gonna to stop the connection.

Rajni:

There's some seeding that happened. Cause I remember that moment when we met as well, and you came up to me and said that my work had been significant for you and… that meant so much to me. I had no idea that my work had been significant for anybody. And the framing that you gave me taught me so much about the things that we don't know or the connections that we don't know we’re making or offering, that are being received. And the lineages that we're in, actually, that, you know, I… you helped me to understand a lot more about lineage and about being really conscious about connections and.. and I think respecting my own work.

Yeah.

And it took time. You know, I feel like we met in that room really briefly, and then you followed up, and then I left. And then somehow we got back in touch again. And we had an exchange of messages, but they were really slow. And um... the trust just built from there really slowly. There was a lot of patience and waiting for the right moment. I really appreciated that.


I wonder if there's anything that you’re… is there anything that you feel is unsaid, that needs saying?

Ria:

I feel like I just want to pay my gratitude really for this… for this moment, but also for all the moments that have come before in that journey between us. And recognising that we are, we are family. And what family can mean outside of our, I guess, birthed and blood lineage. And outside of the ideas, I guess, and conditionings around what family means.

And that we are grateful for you.

And all that you bring.

Rajni:

Thank you.

[cello sounds play, long bowing and playful sounds, for several minutes]

Offering

[sounds of cello plucking and bowing a fiesty little tune fade in]

Rajni:

Welcome to this short offering that accompanies episode two. What you’re about to hear is a short guided meditation focused on the practice of ‘breathing the body’, led by Ria Righteous. This meditation was recorded in Kersal Dale, near the River Irwell, in Salford. Enjoy.

[cello fades out]

[sounds of outdoors, birds, wind, trees, ducks, water, and distant road sounds run underneath the following meditation]

Ria:

We begin seated, in a comfortable position. Either on the floor, cross-legged, or on a stool or chair. If it’s available to you, keeping the back upright.

And first, just coming into stillness. Noticing the body, the thinking mind. Not trying to do anything.

Placing some focus now on the breath. And just breathing normally, naturally.

And if you feel comfortable to do so, close your eyes. And take a deeper breath in through the nose, and out through the nose. Just relaxing the muscles in the face.

Noticing any tension around the shoulders, just letting them drop.

Hands rested in your lap or on your legs.

And just keep taking in nice long breaths through the nose, and out through the nose.

[sounds of breath coming in and out through the nose]

And you’re going to draw your attention inward, on each in-breath. If you can imagine that all your energy around you is coming closer towards you and facing inward, with every in-breath that you take. And as it comes towards you, it gravitates towards the heart centre.

And your breath is so subtle, so slow in its drawing in, so slow in its drawing out, that you can hardly hear, feel, or sense it.

And as you do this, you notice that your breathing has extended from the breath of the nostrils and the lungs and the air, and you sense that you are breathing with your body.

And that the breath is 360° around you. Above and below.

So as you draw in your breath now, you are breathing through the crown of your head, through your shoulders, through your neck, through your back and front of your heartspace. Through your torsoe, your hips, your thighs, your knees, your legs, your feet.

And from the seat down below you, you’re drawing that breath up inside the body towards the heartspace centre, and out.

Just slowing it down just a little further.

Taking each breath in through the nose, through the body, silently, subtly drawing it in towards the heart, filling up the heart with your energy, with your breath.

And then just as subtly, releasing. Letting the air flow, letting the energy flow out.

Start to see a cocoon of energy around your body, filled with green and golden light, nourishing you, protecting you, holding you, healing you.

And see that cocoon grow outward with every outbreath, until it fills the room that you’re in.

And when you’re ready, come back into your regular breath, and open your eyes. And just check in with yourself how you feel now, how your body feels, how your energy feels.

And know that this space is always available to you, any time, any moment. That you can replenish your energy body. You can fill your space with the energy that you create. And you can do this and return to this as many times in the day as you choose.

[sounds fade out]

[end of Episode Two]

 

Works Cited

Rūmī. n.d. "what you want also wants you". Translated by Sharghzadeh (شرق‌زده). Accessed 10 February 2021. https://www.persianpoetics.com/poets/rumi-jalal-ad-din

First Nations school run according to Kanien'kehá:ka values: Step By Step Child and Family Center. n.d. Accessed 10 February 2021. https://www.stepxstep.ca/


Biographies

Fili 周 Gibbons (we/them/us) are a musician and recording engineer working across a range of community and professional contexts to support plural voices, expressions, and sonic experiences. As well as leading community workshops they frequently work with other sound and video artists, drawing on listening, memory and intuition as guiding forces in collaborative making practices. Their work interfaces with plural cultural histories and experiences, intangible arts traditions, and community-oriented sound practice.

Rajni Shah (they/them) is an artist whose practice is focused on listening and gathering as creative and political acts. Key projects—always created alongside and in collaboration with others—include hold each as we fall (1999), The Awkward Position (2003-2004), Mr Quiver (2005-2008), small gifts (2006-2008), Dinner with America (2007-2009), Glorious (2010-2012), Experiments in Listening (2014-2015), Lying Fallow (2014-2015), Song (2016), I don’t know how (to decolonize myself) (2018), Feminist Killjoys Reading Group (2016-2020) and Listening Tables (2019-2020). In 2021, Rajni will publish a monograph and series of zines as part of the Performance Philosophy Series, entitled Experiments in Listening.

Ria Righteous is an artist and healer. Their practice overall is a contextual life enquiry, which responds to generations of systemic violence & oppression and is concerned with the decolonisation, healing, reclamation and transformation of psyche & soma. Extensive auto-ethnographic research, tacit knowledge and esoteric practices heavily inform their work. Healing and integration is both their praxis & political action.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.