Accessible holistics…

  
I’m an holistic practitioner and I’m also deaf. But are mainstream holistic, mind body spirit events truly accessible to the deaf community?
My answer is… No. 

Like most situations in life, if I want to access something I have to go out my way to ask for what it is I need. And I had a taste of poor accessibility recently when I visited the Mind Body Spirit (MBS) exhibition in Birmingham. 

Now, if you’re deaf and attending this event you can purchase a concessionary ticket. This means you get two quid knocked off to make up for the hundreds of stall holders that you can’t understand and the free stage performances that you can’t follow. 

Not such a great deal. 

But I went with it. ‘Cause I know most stall holders will generally try and speak more clearly to me if I ask and to be honest I just really, really wanted to go anyway. It’s my kinda world. 

So this year I decided to gather a group of friends together and see if the organisers would provide an interpreter for us to attend a workshop. The great news is they did! The interpreter came and our seats were reserved… Perfect. Big high five to the MBS organisers. 

But we soon realised that the so called ‘up and coming workshop leader, known for his sense of fun and rock and roll energy’ was simply not interested in being deaf friendly. At all. 

To clarify, the guy was supposed to be teaching a workshop on strengthening our connection to Angels. Sounds amazing right? Well, that’s why we went – we were curious! 

But it actually turned out to be a 2 hour – no eye break – talk all about his life.

He mentioned his website, his dvd coming out and his video blogs. And naturally I wanted to know if we could access them. So at the end when he asked if there were questions and there was a pretty awkward silence (probably from an unconvinced audience,) I put this question across to him. 

“Seeing as you have videos and material online, are you able to caption these so we can follow and share them with the deaf community too?”

His response: “Erm. I’ll have to research it. Okay everybody we’ve finished.”

Boom. Talk about a door slamming in my face. 

Without even entering a dialogue with us, this guy had dismissed the idea of even opening up to a whole new audience. 

But as he wasn’t even able to discuss accessibility with us, we doubt it’ll even get ‘researched.’ 

The interpreter went on to tell us that the leader would not cooperate with her before the workshop, refusing to give her any background information for the session.

He didn’t understand she needed some context to base her signs on and he told her “if these deaf people know about spirituality they will understand me.” Hmm. 

Needless to say we left the workshop feeling rather disheartened. His lack of authenticity as a workshop leader is another story but our deal is with his refusal to consider adapting his work. 

So – Ive got in touch with his publisher, Hayhouse, and I’m waiting to hear whether they will support the mission to make the holistic world more accessible.

All they need to do is encourage their writers and leaders to caption their videos! Sign language videos would be the next step but first things first. 

There are 10 million people in the UK with some kind of hearing loss – that’s a huge market and a massive demand. 

But making events like MBS accessible is a bit tricky. Unless there’s masses of deaf people making themselves known, access won’t ever be a priority. And unless they provide access, they won’t ever attract a large deaf audience. 

So I made a petition. I’m petitioning to Hayhouse, the leading publisher in all things holistic and asking them to work with us. 

The ironic thing is the holistic model focuses on the whole body mind and spirit for healing… But holistic practitioners don’t always welcome the whole community – as Mr Workshop Leader demonstrated. 

I know there’s more open minded teachers out there and all we need is one leader or one publisher to commit to including us. 

If they can translate your books into 52 languages why not include a local community that can also benefit from your work? 

Yoga, meditation, crystals, nutrition, reflexology… The holistic options are endless. But they’re only options to us if we can access them. 

I’ll keep you updated on any developments so keep your eye on my social media pages and watch this space! 

In the meantime you can sign and share the petition here. 

www.thepetitionsite.com/777/916/112 

Thanks for your support. 

My mindful month of no social media…

  

The last time I had an extended break from the digital world I was on retreat completing my mindfulness training and had been asked to switch off from as many outside sources as I could.

Aside from missing texting my friends and family I found this surprisingly easy. My mind was free from mental clutter and this feeling of simplicity and ease positively affected so many areas of my life. 

Returning home I returned to texting but I no longer read daily newspapers or watched the doom and gloom of news channels. And most dramatically of all I deactivated all social media. 

I continued like this for quite a few years until I moved to a brand new area and had children…

I suddenly felt (in the middle of a night feed) extremely excluded from the world. As a new mum my social life was dwindling and I felt out of touch. So I made the monumental decision to make my online return. 

It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been a Facebook and Twitter user. But lately I felt increasingly bothered by the amount of time I spent online so I decided to take a month off to pause and reflect. 

That month is now up. 

During my mindful month I soon realised that the digital world is no substitute for the real one. Over my month offline I noticed the real friends that would directly text me and the gazillions of facebook ‘friends’ who did not. 

I also noticed how less distracted I felt and more able to sit, connect with my children and not drift off into a virtual world. 

I admit that motherhood can get lonely but rather than browse my Twitter feed for company I’ve felt the benefit of getting out and seeing people more and having FaceTime chats with friends. 

Ive used my time more constructively to read, write, be inspired and immers myself in subjects that I love and engage me. 

Browsing newsfeeds just seems meaningless in comparison. 

That said, I do understand how invaluable a social presence is for work. It’s a quick, easy and direct way to connect to people and tell them what you’re up to. You can also be inspired by other people’s work, follow what they do and build up a network of like minded individuals. 

It’s also great at contacting or keeping in touch with friends who live miles away or who’s only source of contact is through online messaging. 

So in that respect social media is brilliant. 

But like the workings of the mind, it’s only good if it doesn’t consume you. And as ive got a sensitive make up that’s easily drained by too much stimulation, social media really isn’t all that good for me. 

Mindfulness says that the mind is like a chattering monkey and in that respect social media can be too. A constant yap yap stream of consciousness that you have to filter out to see what’s important and what’s not. 

Problems only arise when it seems you cannot switch off. When you’re addicted to or influenced your thoughts in much the same way you can become obsessed with or driven by social media, it feels as though you have no control. 

The urge to log in, tweet, update or check statuses can become so ingrained that you forget what life was like before it. 

You can also become stuck in a certain way of thinking that you forget what  you were like before. 

That is why I’m an advocate of time outs from social media and of mindfulness meditation. 

Too much of anything is never good for us. We develop itchy fingers, unable to sit still without reaching for our mobiles or some sort of screen to occupy our thoughts. What are we so afraid of? What gap are we trying to fill? Just what are we searching for? 

Social media wasn’t the answer to making new friends in a new area. It was getting out and seeing people. Being online doesn’t even mean that the people I connect to digitally are authentic buddies so I’ll take our casual friendships with a pinch of salt.

All in all, I don’t want to be a slave to the digital world, addicted to its activities and compulsions. I may use social platforms occasionally but they won’t use me. 

If this makes me seem different, old fashioned or introverted then so be it. As a mindful practitioner I practice what I preach. And the best way I can do that is by noticing what drags me into mindlessness, writing about it and taking steps to change it. 

By regularly logging off it may mean I’m left alone with my thoughts and the present moment – but that’s not so scary. It leaves me more quality time with my family. And hey, I’ll take that over a hundred facebook likes any day ūüėČ