Wednesday, 23 March 2016

March meeting - Keep Calm and Carry on Singing

Thank you to Sarah for updating us on this month's meeting...

We are in March so it's officially spring but I reckon I'm not the only one still feeling wintery, sluggish and decidedly lacklustre. Our meetings always have a feelgood factor but this one really warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits and once again, showed us just what we can achieve, when we have great people to guide us along the way.

Business is business however and important matters such as the result of the vote for this year's Resolutions and updates on the various projects we are involved with, needed discussing first. These include the opportunity to take part in an upcoming event to welcome recent immigrants to Bradford, and providing the catering for a local Wool Festival for the second year running.

Twenty first century life is often discombobulating and we get pulled in so many different directions that our minds are turning somersaults. So it's never been more important that we are able to take time to be calm and centred. Which is where our first speaker, Steve, comes in. Steve is based at the Leeds branch of Mind which provides peer led support, retreats and courses, one of which is Mindfulness and Meditation.

We learned that mindfulness goes back over 2500 years, way before the Buddhist and Sufi teachings we often associate it with. It can help us to develop deeper awareness and kindness and to cope more effectively in many challenging situations, such as recovery from depression or managing stress, anxiety and physical pain. So essentially, it's for just about everyone. Under Steve's guidance we took part in a short exercise where we concentrated on the air entering and leaving our body, the sounds around us and on neither blocking out, nor focusing on, our thoughts. A short but profoundly wise statement Steve passed on to us, was that our thoughts are not facts. Awareness of this, makes us better able to check out the truth behind the things we tell ourselves and the things others may tell us about ourselves. It felt very liberating to be given a bit of time out, where nothing was asked of us, other than to sit calmly and just be.

After feeding the soul, it was time to feed the body, which we did with our usual enthusiasm. With a choir workshop ahead of us, it was essential we fortify ourselves with all the energy giving grub we could get our mitts on.

The second guest of the month, was Frances Bernstein, who leads two choirs in Leeds and has worked with many other community choirs over the years.

Many of us, didn't rate ourselves as singers before Frances set to work on us. We totally surprised ourselves though, as after less than two hours, not only could we sing a song, we could sing it in four part harmony and in its original language. South African born Frances, chose a song that really resonated with us as a WI group. It was originally sung by black women in protest against the heinous Pass Laws of Apartheid. Basically it states that if you pit yourself against women, you hit a rock.

Singing in a large group is so joyful and engaging, that like Mindfulness, it places you truly in the moment. As you concentrate on learning words and different parts and keeping it all together, you can't be thinking of anything else. The experience really had us buzzing.

A huge thank you to Steve and Frances for giving us such a life-enhancing afternoon.

Until next month I will end with the words of our last song:
Famba Naye, Famba naye nai ba ba -
Keep you in peace, until we all meet again.

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