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Prologue

Exercises

A Self
in
Relation

In the Face of Loneliness

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged society in drastic and unprecedented ways. Not only due to the direct health consequences of the virus but also because the precautions taken against its spread transformed many peoples’ lives and will continue to do so for quite some time. Working environments have radically changed, leisure times still have to be re-organized, and new ways have to be found to stay in touch with loved ones. Besides the huge humanitarian and economic toll, the pandemic has created a need to design new strategies to deal with these changes to the social fabric.

In Germany, where I live, according to the Institute for Communication and Society (IKG), changes in social life in 2020—such as keeping distance, restricting contacts, and closing public spaces—have contributed to an increased feeling of isolation and loneliness, in particular for people who are not in a partnership or do not have a family. An evaluation on mental health during the pandemic, published by the German Socio-Economic Panel in July 2020, further showed that in Germany loneliness almost doubled since 2017. Contrary to expectations, these statistics also indicate that it is not the elderly who suffer the most from isolation, but rather young people around thirty years of age—a tendency that was already evident in the 2017 surveys. But what actually is “loneliness”? And what can be done against it?



“loneliness is [...] not primarily about a change in relationships and social contacts, but rather about a persons’ own identity, needs, and sense of belonging.”



When speaking about loneliness, the term is often mistakenly equated or interchangeably used with “isolation.” However, even though isolation may be a big cause for people to feel lonely—especially nowadays during the pandemic—the two aspects are not inevitably linked. A paper from 2018 by the UK Government, titled “A connected society: A strategy for tackling loneliness,” describes loneliness as a very subjective feeling that is not always related to being alone. That is to say, a person can still feel lonely even if maintaining many social contacts and on the other hand, a person who prefers to be alone is not necessarily lonely. Loneliness is a feeling that there’s something lacking in ones’ relationships and social networks; a desire for more social contacts, deeper relationships, or other forms of community. It is an imbalance between the contacts wished for and the actual relationships one has.

According to the same paper, various events may trigger such an imbalance, such as changes of personal circumstances—moving to another city, unemployment, or the loss of a loved one—as well as changes within a family—becoming a mother, becoming a care-giver, or when a child leaves home. Besides these personal factors, the survey also names social change as a key role. In working environments, for example, even for people sharing an office with others, workload and pressure to perform can discourage social interaction. Another set of factors that the previously mentioned Institute for Communication and Society (IKG) names are individualization and technological developments, which while offering greater flexibility in shaping both private and professional lives, often lead to less direct interaction with others.

Even though these personal and societal circumstances can be a cause, loneliness is also not primarily about a change in relationships and social contacts, but rather about a persons’ own identity, needs, and sense of belonging. This means that loneliness can also be deeply rooted in one’s biography and connected to trust issues and other fears, making a one-fits-all-approach impossible.



“while the pandemic has brought increased attention to the issue, loneliness is by no means a new topic.“



The various factors that can lead to loneliness show how complex an issue it is and how many interwoven forces are at play. The multitude of social, psychological, and political aspects also make clear that while the pandemic has brought increased attention to the issue, loneliness is by no means a new topic.

As was hinted at previously, the UK government already called out loneliness in 2018 as “one of the greatest public health challenges of our time” and responded to the rising numbers by establishing a commission, that has since become known as the Ministry of Loneliness. The ministry’s measures not only support large companies in dealing with loneliness at work, but also focus on creating new shared spaces and referring patients to community activities such as sports groups or cooking classes. Similarly, in 2019, the German Government published information on the effects of loneliness on public health, referring to several studies that show how much loneliness does not only affect our psyche but our whole body. According to these studies, loneliness does not only increase the risk of chronic stress and contribute to a rising rate of mental illness such as depression and anxiety disorders, but can also lead to serious physical illness, such as dementia or cardiovascular diseases. Loneliness is thus just as harmful as alcohol abuse or smoking.

“There is still a difficulty, it appears, in taking into account the complex aspects that lead to loneliness in the first place.”



In the past years, various governments and organizations have turned their attention to the issue of loneliness and launched campaigns on mental health and social bonding. Since 2020, many of these campaigns also take the pandemic and its special circumstances, such as isolation and restricted public life, into account. Since I started my research into this topic in Autumn 2020, many lists, articles, and documents have appeared and disappeared online as the pandemic continues and the issue of loneliness becomes more acute and new insights come to light. One of the first documents I found back in Autumn that is still online today, is a more general list on mental health during the pandemic provided by the World Health Organization. It contains advice such as keeping contact to other people, speaking about worries and fears, and developing routines. More recently, in February 2021, the campaign Zusammen gegen Corona (Together against Corona), launched by the German Federal Ministry of Health in 2020, published an article focusing specifically on loneliness. Called “Coping with Loneliness,” this guide contains more concrete suggestions, such as meeting online to play games, initiating shared projects such as reading clubs or learning a new language together, or refreshing memories via photos and diaries to create emotional closeness with others.



These new measures against loneliness in light of the COVID-19 pandemic show how much previous strategies against loneliness had relied on public life. Not having access to community spaces, not being able to meet in larger groups, not having face to face communications, has created a need to develop and design completely new approaches. Many of the proposed suggestions, however, still seem to mimic social settings or try to reactivate social contacts that existed prior to pandemic-related restrictions. There is still a difficulty, it appears, in taking into account the complex aspects that lead to loneliness in the first place. Aspects, which the pandemic has made even more acute.

“maybe there are other aspects of relationships and other forms of engagement that are worth looking at and designing new strategies from.”



Grateful for the raised awareness and the strategies that add to previous measures, I thus still find myself wondering: What about people who do not have social contacts or who find it difficult to reach out? What about people whose loneliness comes from a place other than missing social contact? Do these approaches show enough perspectives and include various enough realities? How can a conversation about loneliness be opened further? And how can the mentioned “new routines” look like? As a designer and an affected person alike I felt like there were a lot of aspects worth having another look at.




Tender Rituals and Joyful Interventions

At the age of 27, I am in the group most afflicted by the issue of loneliness and while my social environment before and during the pandemic includes a large number of people, I often feel that I do not belong. My feeling of loneliness is not an effect of isolation and limited social life, but of an insecurity and lack of trust that cannot be addressed by the simple act of making regular phone calls. It is a feeling of disconnection and of missing agency. Looking at this understanding of my own loneliness, I struggle to find myself in the provided methods. Reaching out is even harder than it already was, with spontaneous chatter or chance encounters happening only very rarely. I miss the physical presence of other people and the tiny surprises that make a day special, that distinguish one day from another. While in some parts of my newly arranged daily life, I wish to have more control, for others I yearn for less. I wonder whether there is something else missing than simply social contact. And I wonder what that “else” is. Between the actions possible during lockdown and the actions available in the long run, maybe there are other aspects of relationships and other forms of engagement that are worth looking at and designing new strategies from.

In search of approaches that would add to what is already provided—approaches that make use of other formats, diversify the perspectives, and come from subjective experiences and needs—, I reached out to friends and colleagues from different fields of aesthetic practice. I got in touch with performers, dancers, actresses, dramaturgs, media artists, scenographers, exhibition designers, product designers, communication designers, media philosophers, and writers. I asked them to build on past projects that engaged with questions of body, engagement and space, and their experience with formats such as playful exercises, collective practice, and performing arts. Deriving from their personal experience of loneliness and their specific practice, they engaged with the following questions:



What other notions of relationships could be approached?
Expanding the understanding from solely interpersonal relationships to an engagement with oneself, with other living beings, with the objects surrounding you, or with nature.

Can a strategy come from another place than the absence of something?
Working with what is already there and creating an awareness of its potential.

What forms can relational work take?
As playful rituals or humorous intervention that interweave organically with ones’ being and everyday life.

From this process, 19 approaches to conquering loneliness by entering into relationships and experiencing oneself emerged. They activate body and mind in different ways, from walking and boxing, to writing and listening. They are invitations to transform yourself into an octopus, to have a staring contest with yourself, or to mess around like a child. They ask you to get lost by, for instance, cleaning a very persistent stain or following a complete stranger. They conjure up memories, through smell, through using thumbs as memory-storage, or by taking a walk to visit sites of memory. Bodily borders are expanded and energy balls traced. Hands build shells, weigh objects, or grab spaghetti. Mirrors and smartphones reflect what is, could be, or has been.

Shifting in tone—from giving step by step introductions to telling a personal story, from poems to images, from tender to humorous—all the narratives, rituals, exercises, and interventions are designed to easily be done alone by oneself and at home without depending on any infrastructure, specific knowledge, or previous experience. They are an encouragement to playful experimentation and an invitation to interpretation and adaptation. They are shared in the hope of creating richer images of connectivity and opening new ways of tackling loneliness. And perhaps, they will even serve as an impulse to create strategies of our own.

Maybe, at the end, the current situation, precisely because of its shared challenges, is an opportunity to find solidarity and understanding of the issue of loneliness, to open up the discussion around it and overcome the stigma attached to it. And perhaps the experiences we make in doing so will inspire to counter loneliness not only in times of the pandemic, but also beyond.




This text has been published on Futuress.org in March 2021.

Latest Update: March 2021

"A Self in Relation" has been published in March 2021 on Futuress.org—an online magazine and community space for design politics—and was part of the Troublemakers Class of 2020, a remote workshop for design research and writing, and a support network for the killjoys, outcasts, misfits, and rebels of design.


While initiated by Mio Kojima, the project was really brought to life by the wonderful people who created all the exercises, who copy-edited the texts, and who supported the project in all kinds of ways!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
mail@miokojima.com

Authors

Cécile Kobel
Chiara Fiori
Christina Scheib
Hanna Müller
Ilja Mirsky
Jandra Böttger
Jaya Demmer
Judith Milz
Klaut Vom Teich
Leia Walz
Lizzy Ellbrück
Michail Rybakov
Phạm Minh Đức
Mira Hirtz
Naomi Bah
Sophia Stoewer
Sara Hoss
Vera Gärtner

Copy Editing
Exercises and Epilogue

Copy Editing
Prologue

Website Programming

Mio Kojima

Further Acknowledgement

Futuress:
Corin Gisel
Madeleine Morley
Nina Paim

The Troublemaker Class of 2020

Lino Santo

Michail Rybakov

Loneliness is stretching your octopus arms in all directions and not finding anything. Being alone is keeping your arms rolled up and knowing you could unroll them at any time. Sometimes, however, the octopus has all its arms occupied and can’t be bothered with anything new. That too can feel like disconnectedness.

Michail Rybakov is a media artist working with bodies in real and imagined spaces.

Jandra Böttger

To me, loneliness is linked to a feeling of powerlessness. Equipped with many good friends and caring surroundings, a feeling of loneliness still overwhelms me sometimes. I am then not able to reach out. Sometimes I even push those caring away, not able to let them in. It is the divide between me and any other being, or action, which seems impossible to bridge.

Jandra Böttger holds an MA in Art Theory and Media Philosophy from the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. She currently studies Philosophy at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Free University of Berlin. Her research focuses on the intersections of Aesthetic Theory, Political Theory, Affect Studies, and Contemporary History. She currently employs a praxeological approach to work on the exercise as a politico-governmental means, but also as an artistic genre and aesthetic discipline.

Christina Scheib and Lizzy Ellbrück

Whoosh. Gschhhhhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrml.
Why actually? Gschhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm. Pfffffffff. Tsssssssssssss. Drrrrrrrrrrr. Phhhhhhh.
(chorus)
One state.
One in between.
One (gasp) in between being alone and not.

Christina Scheib and Lizzy Ellbrück are less and more trained photographers and have two B.A.s in (1) Cultural Studies and aesthetic Practice and (2) Culture + Technology, Interdisciplinary Art Studies from the University of Hildesheim and TU Berlin. In addition they hold 1.75 diploma with honours in Exhibition Design, Scenography and Curatorial Studies from Karlsruhe University of Art and Design. Christina and Lizzy share not only their debut in both their moon and sun sign, but also their interest in the joint implementation of collective (feminist) practices. In particular, they are like-minded by their interest in socio-cultural interrogations of the collective self, identity politics and patterns of power.

Sophia Stoewer

To me, loneliness is distance. Mainly emotional distance.
I oscillate on a different frequency when I feel lonely. Nobody finds me, not even myself. I experience
a feeling of no longer being located, of dissolving.

Sophia Stoewer is a German product designer who works intensively with interpersonality, needs, and primal instincts. She bases her processual, strongly body-based work practice on psychodynamic theories and seeks experimental solutions with the help of regression and the inner child.

Phạm Minh Đức

It is a place, yet a moment, in which we experience exclusion and ignorance. It is the void between me and the other, in which a longing arises: to be recognised, accepted, to be appreciated.

Phạm Minh Đức is a Vietnamese-German artist. Phạm’s artistic practice is the aim and urge of a strong desire for structural change and self-determined social mobility. Pham’s artistic works can be seen as individual pieces, yet they are to be considered as progressive series.

Sara Hoss

Loneliness is when you use your powerful brain and decide that you’re lonely, when you ignore the one person that literally won’t ever leave you alone; You. When the moment you have turned off your computer and switched off your phone feels threatening and uncomfortable. Because you are uncomfortable. Because it’s all in your head, you can even feel lonely, when you’re with others. When your own skin doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. Physical contact and touch may help, but it’s only a relief from the symptoms of loneliness. Others are not the cure; you are.

Sara Hoss lives in Berlin and works as a translator, editor, and writer. In her work, she focuses mainly on art, architecture, history, and human sciences, while her thirst for challenges (and money for rent) often leads her into unknown climes. Today, Sara’s career and life is shaped by various and exciting projects, experiences, and clients as well as her passion for words and everything between the lines.

Hanna Müller

Loneliness is to feel wounded in a society of the healthy.

Hanna Müller is a communication designer. In her work she explores forms of community and social participation.

Ilja Mirsky

Loneliness is the art of yearning for social structure. It’s the art of melting the reflexive outside perspective into an inner desire of self-empowerment. Loneliness is like a seed waiting for the energy from outside to overcome its dark surroundings beneath the earth’s surface.

Ilja Mirsky is a dramaturg, programmer, and immersive media artist. He works at the “Institut für theatrale Zukunftsforschung (ITZ) im Zimmertheater Tübingen” and as a lecturer at the University of Tübingen. He is pursuing a PhD, a collaborative project on Artificial Intelligence and Theater at the University of Tuebingen and the Zurich University of the Arts.

Klaut Vom Teich

Loneliness is a state that I feel exposed to. A way of being abandoned (mostly) without knowing by what or by whom. In any case, something is taken from me, but I don’t understand what exactly I have to get back to feel complete again.

Klaut vom Teich uses the body in motion to question the structure of real and imagined spaces. Throughout this process, improvisation and instant compositions are constantly opening up new scopes. In her continuous practice with other movement enthusiasts, exploration is often about well-being. Beside that, however, in her performances she examines neoliberal contrariness. Stuck in a lump of raw wool, Klaut is currently trying to find out how we can withdraw back into public spaces.

Mira Hirtz

To me, loneliness can mean many things. Sometimes loneliness is a state, in which it feels as if my inner world is tight and frozen. Because of this narrowness and numbness, I can’t and don’t want to let anything or anyone, any impulses or communication, get to me. Then I don’t see the rich life that is always happening around me.

What if dancing is the answer to all questions? After all, it’s just an assumption, a presumption, an imagination. Mira Hirtz imagines often, and in different media and contexts, what dance is and what the value of creativity is – for people, the ecology, and for the mediation of knowledge. Contexts include performing for her own pieces and those of others, curating events at the Badischer Kunstverein ("How do we care?), walking at the documenta14 (Chorist), and facilitating workshops at the ZKM Karlsruhe, where the museum turns into a rehearsal space in analogue and virtual ways ("Critical Zones"). The fact that she completed the MFA Creative Practice at Trinity Laban Conservatoire and Independent Dance London in 2019 and the Master’s degree in Art History and Media Philosophy at the HfG Karlsruhe in 2016, certainly played a crucial role in her progress, along with her co-editing the online platform "reciprocal turn". She currently collectively imagines the journey of symbiotic beings and magical substances in the context of a theatre piece.

Naomi Bah

To me, loneliness means being literally alone. Having no one around to chat, to do stuff or even just to sit in quiet. I feel alone, when there are no prospects of being surrounded by people I love any time soon. And I feel alone, when I don’t feel actively loved, especially romantically loved.

Naomi Bah is an Afro-German actress currently living in Hamburg. Starting her journey in Stuttgart, one of the most multicultural cities in Germany, the world of theatre opened up to her in an inclusive and international form, where she found the power of her voice. Now living half of her time in Berlin, she’s the co-founder of The Soul Sauna Symposium, which tries to manage the gap between opening discussions about socio-economic topics and affirmative action. Because of her intersectionality, her work and art are always politically motivated. She’s not gonna ask for representation, she’s gonna take it!

Cécile Kobel

I can’t promise you anything but there is something in the wind.

Immersed somewhere between yesteryear and the invented, far from any activity in the sense of an active life Actimel-drinking people, I think of the long lists to fight deadly boredom that I used to write with my sister. My mother always said: You have to endure being bored. Sometimes I wish I had a cat now. Apart from that, I can barely remember the feeling. Bittersweet idleness, nothing more than that. The other day, I was alone for almost a whole day. I was staring into space for a particularly long time. In the armchair, which usually only seats clothes, I was lying almost horizontally observing the blue veins on my pale legs. And what else? Nothing and no one.

Cécile Kobel (grown-up, tall, and self-employed) is a trained graphic designer. She often takes detours: She photographs, researches, interviews, performs, or publishes. No less interested in purely graphic activities, her work is essentially about finding a specific language for things. The translations can then be in the form of books in small editions, readings, video works, or even an 8-course meal. Since 2015, she has been working on visual concepts alongside Rana Karan as the graphic design duo Karankobel.

Leia Walz

Loneliness is the moment when I no longer find myself positioned in the surroundings. I can experience loneliness even if I am surrounded by many people. Even if these people gather because of me. If I lost the ground I would drop away into loneliness. I feel misunderstood, not seen, not heard.

Leia Walz studies scenography, exhibition design and curatorial studies at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. In her projects she experiments with collective, feminist processes, and the space between movement, action, and current social and political structures.

Vera Gärtner

When I think of loneliness, I think of absence, of the lack of physical closeness and warmth. I freeze. An inner iceberg makes my movements and thoughts heavy and sluggish, contacts seem unattainable. People who feel excluded and lonely perceive rooms colder. A cup of tea and a hot water bottle sometimes helps me.

Vera Gärtner studies exhibition design, scenography and curatorial studies at the HfG Karlsruhe. By means of artistic research, she tries to question socio-political, especially feminist issues and, linked to this, to find forms for making visible what is often overlooked, hidden and isolated. This becomes especially visible in her preoccupation with characteristics of secluded places and forgotten refuges: not spots, traffic islands, microbial habitats or the clitoris.

Judith Milz

I’d like to see Einsamkeit as a space that you can deliberately enter, though if not deliberately entered, it might be complicated to find a way out. Seeing Einsamkeit as a state in which other people do not respond to you mentally, haptically, by speech, touch or any other sensation, I tend to see it as something you could also yearn for. People call it freedom then, I guess.
(Disclaimer: I have never undeliberately, for a longer amount of time, suffered from loneliness, I guess that’s why I tend to see it as something one can also embrace.)

Judith Milz works as an artist. Her artistic research is often subtly interwoven with situationally developed ideas and performative practices in real contexts. Casual and everyday activities, like standing on a chair, taking the floor, or cleaning (and everything that goes with it – physically and mentally) play an important role in her private and artistic work.

Jaya Demmer

I feel lonely when i am not able to reach out to others. It’s a state of mind where my social life seems distant and unreachable. It’s also a state of mind that has to be recharge at certain points.

Jaya Demmer studies scenography and exhibition design at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design.
Her interests include social contexts and forms of participation that act out or can take shape in spaces.

Chiara Fiori

We suffer from listlessness, we feel guilty for lacking drive – our negative thoughts turn into a downward spiral and paralyse us. A sense of inner turmoil and brokenness has spread through us. We search for meaning and fail to find it, yet we are likely to isolate ourselves and trigger a cycle of loneliness.

Chiara Fiori studies cultural and media education with a focus on theatre and art. She has a strong passion for dance and especially dance theater. For her, working with the body is not only art, but also means healing.

Sophia Stoewer

To me, loneliness is distance. Mainly emotional distance. I oscillate on a different frequency when I feel lonely. Nobody finds me, not even myself. I experience a feeling of no longer being located, of dissolving.

Sophia Stoewer is a German product designer who works intensively with interpersonality, needs, and primal instincts. She bases her processual, strongly body-based work practice on psychodynamic theories and seeks experimental solutions with the help of regression and the inner child.

Mio Kojima

To me, loneliness means feeling detached from the people and things that surround me. Not feeling my impact on others and others impact on me. Not being part of and part in what happens. – Loneliness is being apart. Loneliness is almost not existing. Not being lonely is the experience of feeling an unconditioned connection. A connection that is always there, whether I am alone or with others. Not being lonely is sensing that being in relationship is always part of my being in itself.

Mio Kojima studies Communication Design at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. She is interested in the interrelations of language and mind, in collective approaches, emancipatory work and feminist practice. Her projects are often informed by the idea of creating frameworks and tools to which others can connect, which others can reform and extend.

Being an Octopus

Imagine yourself as an octopus inhabiting the landscape of your body.
Think about the place in your body where it feels comfortable, where it feels at home, this octopus. My octopus lives in the back of my head, warming my neck.
Where could the nest of your octopus be?

Now imagine this octopus floating in the landscape of relationships. There are other octopuses, objects, or situations floating around it. Each of your eight arms is reaching out to different directions. Each one is holding something. Or touching another octopus. Holding a situation. Repelling something. Playing with something.

Think of the situations you are currently dealing with and let the octopus hold them. Picture the octopus arm as it holds, or tries to hold such a situation. Maybe there is nothing to hold? Maybe the grip is particularly tight? Who is holding the situation at the other end? Or is the octopus arm touching another octopus’s arm directly? Maybe the octopus is holding on to something? Or is being held?
The octopus has eight arms with which it can grab hold of things. Go through each of them and imagine up to eight situations.

Now, let go of them one by one. Imagine the octopus letting go of a situation. Whatever the octopus lets go of doesn’t fall or disappear, it stays where it was. Let your octopus arm contract, curl up.
Go through all the situations you imagined one by one. Release your grip on them, let them stay where they were, roll up your octopus arm and withdraw.

Now all the octopus arms are rolled up. The octopus is floating, unconnected, with its arms comfortably curled up under its body.
Sense how that feels. Does it feel airy and bright? Warm and protected? Allow yourself to linger in this state for a while.

Now start to roll out one of your arms again. Touch whatever you like, not necessarily what you’ve held before. Explore it. Caress it. Hold on to it if it feels right. Or go on to find something else.

Repeat this procedure several times with the free arms, but make sure to let one or two arms remain unconnected. They are free to explore yourself and the world.

Feel yourself connected again. Listen to how that feels.

Sense how it feels to know that your octopus arms could let go or grab hold of something again at any time.

Sparring is Caring

Once, during a sparring session, I started crying. I cried even though I wasn’t really hurt by my partner, nor was it a fight I felt completely powerless in. In fact, I was challenged to the maximum. So why did I start crying? She managed to strike my chin twice. I guess that was too much for me. Me – my body, me – my mind, me – my soul?

It was merely my body that was irritated, I was actually very proud of having fought that fight and did not fail entirely, considering the fact that my opponent was very well trained. After I started weeping, my trainer came over to me. He had watched us fighting and now started to explain what to do in a situation of powerlessness. By using my very own arms, my torso, my shoulders and my forehead, I can modulate a Faraday cage around my vulnerable parts – my eyes, nose, lips, and ears are protected by my gloves and strong arms; I feel my heightened shoulders protecting my neck; my breasts shielded by my elbows, as is my belly. Anything not covered by this protection can get hit, which may be painful, but not too bad.

Whenever I feel powerless, I put myself into this setting. Whatever the reason, I try to put my body into this pose. I place my hands in front of my face, set my feet one shoulder length apart, and hold my elbows tight before my upper body.

Once I began to realise how much I relate this pose to a feeling of support and strength, I started to also use it as a mental image. Just imagining myself being in this pose makes me gradually feel at home within myself again, building a strong cage around me, stabilising myself standing on my own two legs. By doing this, I also regain the strength to reach out to others – whether that’s to punch them or ask for help.

This is the pose I transferred to everyday situations of powerlessness. It became a quotable gesture, a reference my mind could use to remind my body, or if needed, the other way round.

A Self-in-Relation, Not quite a Proposition


1. How can we work with what already surrounds us?
Alvaro Urbano, Expanding Universe (An ongoing Map)

Two fingers make a sausage.
Stretching out two index fingers at eye level, pointing at each other approximately 20 cm away from your face, fingertips just a couple of centimetres away from touching one another: a sausage will appear. Look at what is behind your fingers, look beyond yourself. A sausage appears. A sausage whose length varies depending on the distance of the fingers. First, the sausage might appear blurred; if you try to look at it and fix it with your gaze, it will disappear. It is only present if you look beyond.


2. How can we expand the concept of relationship?
mirror therapy

The mind is a natural healer.
Sometimes it relies on your imagination to work its magic. In several therapeutic disciplines a mirror is used to create the illusion of an intact limb. This works, by placing an impaired limb behind a mirror, so the reflection of the opposing limb appears in place of the hidden limb. This method tricks the brain into noticing positive visual feedback by watching the limb move without experiencing any pain.


3. What forms can relational work take on?
macOS Catalina 10.5, Apple default set stock image

Ill. macOS Catalina 10.5, Apple default set stock image





Catalina - A fascinating landscape, a place of longing. A place full of freedom, loneliness, infinity. The landscape is a state of mind. It reveals and radiates melancholy.
The composition is strongly symmetrical. In clear simplicity, the horizon divides the sea into two thirds and the sky into one third. It splits the represented landscape into three elements: land, sea and sky. The name-given island of Catalina sits in the centre. Nature, rocks, foggy landscapes. The static language of form contrasts with the “naturally formed” ruggedness of the coast; in the background, the blue, almost magenta tinted sky refers to the rising or setting sun. This light represents the transience of things in the day and night cycle. A play of light full of emotions! Such colour mysticism! What a life of nature! Nature as a mystical place, the “sublime” (according to Burke), the aesthetically charged.
The original logic and norm of romantic landscape painting is broken up by the island motif moving into the centre. The barren rock illustrates the harshness of the landscape, which offers no protection whatsoever. This supposedly unobstructed view of the central pictorial motif obscures the actual content of the same, it is kept in the dark whether there is one at all. God’s perspective!
Almost typical for reformers of romantic painting is the incongruence in relation to the position of the viewer, who is not assigned a standpoint, instead s*he floats at a safe distance above the ocean. In relation to the human being, it is precisely the sublimity of nature that is accomplished through the removal of a human’s position; the human being does not stand on supposedly fixed certainties (any longer). Her*is insignificance and tininess in front of the all-encompassing rock clarifies the temporal relationship between human existence and the immovable, billion-year chronicle of the stone, it does not forget. Barren and isolated, the rock loses itself in the infinity of nature. There is no limit, no hold, only the limbo between day and night, doubt and hope, death and life. Lonely or not. And yet, solid as a rock.
The deep black lower edge of the image resembles an insurmountable trench between the viewer and the “land”. A single rock outcropping cautiously stretches out towards the observer, like Leonardo’s (or Urbano’s) finger trying to make contact, to allow a touch, a leap over on solid ground. This may be filed somewhere between a glimmer of hope or a slap in the face, depending on one’s state of mind. Emotionally charged! The lingering eye (gets stuck). The necessity of conscious seeing (German: sehendes Sehen) becomes a prerequisite for an rapprochement.
“Romantic irony“ (according to Schlegel) describes an individual or a fact standing before the infinity of being. Landscape and identity are one and unite allegories of loneliness and ideas of being. The irony refers to the simultaneous reflection, it describes the awareness, what one does is only something made by hand. This is a relativisation, because of course, one could do it differently.

Spaghetti Monster

There is no better cure for loneliness than spaghetti with tomato sauce.
Cook a handful of spaghetti al dente.
Roast onions with a bit of basil, tomato paste, sugar and bouillon mix.

Close your eyes for a moment and sniff out each ingredient. MMMhhh.

Deglaze everything with tomatoes and let it boil briefly.
Mix the sauce with the noodles (a lot of sauce helps a lot) and drape it on a soup plate.
Bon Appetit!

What does it smell like now?

One by one, suck the noodles in through your lips.
How does it feel?

Play.
Twist them with your tongue.

How does it taste?
Can you taste all the ingredients?

Put way too many in your mouth and smack with pleasure.
What sounds do you make?

Eat with your hands.
Is it warm, cold, squishy, runny...?

Grow a spaghetti beard.
Barbarossa or walrus?

Right now, only you and your spaghetti are important.
Enjoy being a child to the fullest.

When the body was an Unnamed Place
Extract from Memories of Skin

In my greatest sorrow, you are my haven in the void. You welcome me into your home, and we become a duet:
__________


It’s about trust,
that’s all.
You are me. I am you.
__________


My chest raises constantly.
Up and down, in and out.
Breathe.
The pulse is slowing down.

Boom.


Boom.




Boom . . .
__________


I’m glad you’re here today.
Keep breathing.
May I ask?
Your breath is getting wider.
You stand there quietly and feel every single movement.
Don’t turn around, have faith in me.
I’m part of you. I surround you.
Softly and tenderly.
Dance with me,
Creating the perfect symbiosis
of you and me,
because

You are my greatest sense
And me,
sensuality.
__________


I stand behind you,
in front of you, across from you,
next to you.
I embrace you entirely
and sense your fears, your desires.
My joy,
a never-ending dream.
I surround you
With warmth, love and comfort.
You’re giving me sense,
I’ll give you sensuality.
Can you feel? What do you feel?
__________


Let go, fall.
I am holding you.
Exhale.
In and out.
Can you sense me?

– My desire.
__________


I’m obsessed with you.
Because I am sensuality
And you are my greatest sense.
I follow you with loyalty,
your spirit gives me form.
My existence, your protection.
My sense.
__________


I desire you.
An eternal dance,
the most beautiful dream.
__________

Sitting it out

While the lack of physical and social contact can evoke the feeling of loneliness, I believe that I only feel truly lonely when I’m not enjoying my own company. When the only person left to entertain me is myself, and I somehow make myself uncomfortable. When being by myself feels uncomfortable, because without others, who am I anyway?
I once read that when everything is quiet around you and you just sit there in your room all by yourself, you get to decide whether that’s loneliness or freedom. I can’t shake off the idea that I’m the only one who decides that I’m lonely and that accordingly, I’m also the only one who can change that.


Find a mirror that you can sit in front of, whether you have a big one or a small one placed on top of a chair, just make sure you sit comfortably. You can either place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, or rest both palms on your thighs. Calmy breathe through your nose.

Try and get as close to your mirror as possible.
Look yourself straight in the eye, left or right, pick whichever you like, switch whenever you like. Look at your lashes, determine the colour of your eyes. If you’re really honest with yourself, your eyes kinda look beautiful, don’t they?
Do this for at least 30 seconds, whatever 30 seconds feel like to you.

Feels uncomfortable, right?

Try and keep your gaze steady, start a little staring contest with yourself. If you feel stupid and weird, try doing it even longer.

If you think you’ve had enough, let your gaze wander from your eyes to your eyebrows, to your forehead, then your hair.
Try not to think negatively about any aspects of your appearance.
Instead, imagine seeing a human face for the first time, studying it curiously but neutrally, unaware of any flaws you might notice.
Right now, this is just a face.
Your face, sure, but just a face.
If your thoughts wander off, acknowledge where they took off to and then gently pull them back to your own reflection. Also: Don’t worry. Your mind will pull out all the stops to distract you. Just be patient with yourself.
Watch your nostrils as they subtly lift up and down with each breath.
Observe yourself for a bit.

Then try and smile as much and as fake as you can. Use all the muscles in your face (and there are at least 40 of them).

Then try and pretend you’re a crying baby in a silent movie. Go all out. If you’re by yourself and you feel confident to fake – cry out loud, go for it.

Now make an angry face.

Imagine someone is taking photos of you and they’re asking for as many facial expressions as possible.
Try and look very confused.
Stick out your tongue.
If you want, wink at yourself.
Raise your eyebrows, or just one of them.
If you feel weird and uncomfortable, you’re doing everything right.
Any facial expression works. If you have to laugh, keep laughing. It is funny, after all.

Remind yourself, that you are by yourself. And when you’re by yourself, nothing is uncomfortable. Why should it be? This is just you. There is nobody around to judge. Only you.
And you wouldn’t judge.
Would you?
Don’t.
There is no reason, and you know it. You’re not breaking any laws.
You’re not ridiculous. Thinking that you are is ridiculous.

Relax your face again and direct your focus back to one of your eyes.
Now try and smile, but more authentic this time.
Watch how your eyes change, when you smile. How they become smaller and more friendly.
Think of those click pads you could use to warm your hands – imagine your smile triggered a warm stream slowly filling up your whole body.

When you feel lonely and uncomfortable, repeat this exercise to remind yourself that you’re only uncomfortable if you allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. And guess what: you only feel lonely if you make yourself believe that you are.

Once you’re done, let your own silence fill the air for a moment, close your eyes for a few seconds and then slip back into reality.

Remember that you can decide whether you’re lonely or free?
Use that powerful brain to try and turn perceived loneliness into experienced freedom.

The Danger of a Single Story
(Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

“When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Meet with a person who lives at the same place as you. Take a walk together through your town or village. Visit places you have a connection to, or a story to share about, and discuss how you grew up. Try to walk through your lives in small stages.
Where were you born?
What’s the earliest memory you can think of?
What kindergarten did you go to?
What were your school years like?
Where did you meet your friends? What did you do?
When did you start your first job?
Are there places that are important to you? Why?
What do you know about the past of your place?
If you like, also talk about your parents, grandparents or siblings.
Talk about small details, about nice and difficult memories.

Flight Mode

Do this exercise every night, when you’re alone at home after a stressed day.

Grab your phone, open your contacts and scroll through them. Scroll through all your contacts and ask yourself questions about the people you see there. When did you see the person the last time? What is your relation to this person? How long have you already known this person? What kind of memories do you share with them?
Continue scrolling through your contacts and stop at least 7 to 10 times thinking about those questions.

Now enable your phone’s “flight mode”. Disable all other electronic devices around you which might disrupt you from the following steps of this exercise.
You are now in flight mode. Your phone is still switched on, but you are unreachable. You have many contacts and people saved in your phone but none of them can contact you. Scroll through the last messages on WhatsApp, Telegram and other communication apps on your phone. Those messages are not up to date anymore. They might be outdated but for now, this is not important. Have you ever asked yourself why the flight mode is called flight mode? Flying is freedom, flying is being isolated from the earth, flying is ground breaking, flying is an external perspective on your existence on earth, flying is being isolated, flying is being unreachable. What if this flight never ends? What if you could never come down again? What if there was no gravity? No push messages? No contacts on your phone that could reach out for you?

Switch off your flight mode and check for new messages and updates. Welcome back.

Knead your Dough

For the following exercise, I suggest that you look for a quiet place where you can lie down on the floor comfortably for half an hour, with a little bit of free space around you.

Make yourself comfortable. If possible, lie on your back and keep your arms and legs relaxed, but straight. You can close your eyes. Open your mouth slightly as you breathe, so your jaw can relax. Begin to inhale deeply and then hold your breath for a brief moment before exhaling again. Repeat this a few times, imagining that with each exhale your body sinks a little deeper into the ground. Every exhale causes your shoulder blades, collarbones, arms, wrists, your jaw, the back of your head, pelvis, legs, etc. to become heavier.

Take another few breaths in your own rhythm. Wake your fingers by rubbing your fingertips. Then bring your hands together above your belly. Begin to feel every part of your fingers and then your hands for tangible components. Sometimes you only get to pinch a piece of skin between two fingers with your thumb and forefinger, other times you hold your whole palm in your fist. Take everything you can grab. Try to estimate the quantity of each piece. Measure the skin and flesh you can grab with the tip of your fingers, your whole hand, or anything in between. Use both hands to gradually explore your whole body this way. Imagine how much material you are mentally detaching from your body. Don’t forget your neck, armpits, and nose, either. To examine your feet, you may need to sit or change your position first.

Once you have a rough idea of the quantity of the tangible material from head to toe, you can rest your arms relaxed and stretched out on the floor. Breathe. Imagine the quantity of everything you grabbed. In your imagination, it can be as large as a cloud in the size of a house or as small as a jam jar. Perhaps it doesn’t have a concrete shape, but it keeps growing and shrinking. Focus on the shape before your inner eye for a moment. Take a bit of time with it. Imagine it in a colour that you like. Assign two or three nice properties to it.

With the next exhale, the shape dissolves and its individual parts migrate back to your body. In order to merge these firmly with you again, knead your body into the ground a little. You can also roll to the right and left while doing this. Make sure you’ve massaged all parts of your body.

“All that you touch, You Change.
All that you Change, Changes you.”

– Octavia Butler

Find an object that you feel comfortable with or that interests you. Place it near you and find a relaxed sitting position.

Close your eyes.

For a moment, allow yourself to focus your attention only on how your body feels right now.

Where are your legs and pelvis? Your spine, your shoulders? Your arms, your hands? Your neck, your face, the back of your head?

How is your breathing? Shallow or deep, fast or slow? Where do you feel your breath?

Then, with one hand, take your other hand. Hold it.

Imagine that you don’t know this hand, maybe you’ve never held a hand before.
Be curious.
What is the weight?
What is the temperature?
What is the shape?
How does the surface feel?
What do you feel when you gently press deeper with your fingers?
Can you tell what is outside, what is inside?

Then separate both hands from each other. Rest them both, for example on your knees.
Breathe, feel.

Now grasp with both hands the object you have chosen.
Imagine that you do not know this object, perhaps you have never held it before.
Be curious.
What is the weight?
What is the temperature?
What is the shape?
How does the surface feel?
What do you feel when you gently press deeper with your fingers?
Can you tell what is outside, what is inside?

Now let both hands rest on the object, or hold it still.
Feel your breath.
Imagine that the object is also breathing.
Can you breathe together?
Can your hands and the object merge a little?

Take your time.
Then move your hands a little, as if they were stretching and loosening.
Feel the skin of your hands on the surface of the object.
Let your hands touch each other and let the object touch your hands.
For a moment, focus on the differences between the hands and the object, like three familiar beings who are familiar with each other and yet different.

Then, with your eyes still closed, gently set the object aside.
Rest your hands, for example, on your knees.
Feel.
What has changed?
Do your hands feel different to when you began the exercise?
How is your breath?
How does your body feel?

Gently open your eyes.
If you feel like it, draw or write about your observations.


“All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change Changes you.”

– Octavia Butler

Thumb Places

Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and enjoy the complete silence within and outside of you for a moment.

Then try to think of a place where you once felt at ease, a sort of personal safe space, where you didn’t feel lonely. The place should really exist and therefore mean something personal to you. It could be a place where you regularly spend time or somewhere you once visited. A place where you’re either alone or with people. The only condition is that you have never felt lonely at this place!

If you find that place, try to remember it as precisely and accurately as possible with your inner eye.
Once the imagination is vivid, squeeze one of your thumbs for 10 seconds without losing that picture.
Now, your safe place is imprinted in your finger; whenever you feel lonely, you can squeeze your thumb and immediately find yourself back there.

You can also do this exercise with several places and overwrite your thumbs like a hard drive. Whatever serves you well. I personally have one place for each thumb.

Lonely and Blue.
Mindfully, the world perishes

I’m standing on one leg until I fall.
Has the floor beneath me become slanted lately or has one of my legs become shorter?
I am in danger of losing my footing, towards the wall on the right, into the blue sky.
I take a pathetically combative posture:
Warrior.
On my leggings it says BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
I turn my heating to level 6,
Take off all my clothes.
Practising a naked downward facing dog,
I crash and remain lying on the warm wooden floor.
I’m thinking of the strong woman in EDEKA the other day before Christmas, who told me that it’s as sure as eggs is eggs that she will have a fourth. She didn’t want it at all, but that’s the way it is now.
I cringe at the thought of puking children, of my puking self.
Trying to remember the song the assistant at the dentist hummed during my last check-up while she was holding my sweaty cold hand.
Trying to cry a little,
No success.
Putting on socks.
Grandma told me the other day that she is now knitting bed socks for a woman in the old people’s home with cold feet. She is positive. Not my grandma, but the woman.
I think of all the other positive people without any bed socks.
I let time pass.
My room would be staring at me if it had eyes –
So terribly tidy.
For their whole lives, hermit crabs borrow dwellings from limy worm tubes and corals.
I can’t help myself.
I remain lying down.

Catch one’s Breath

When I feel lonely it doesn’t really matter where I am. I cover my ears with both hands. I really try to press skin on skin to avoid letting anything inside. As if I can’t hear anything.

Then I start to listen to the sound inside. I follow the swoosh in my inner-ear.
I ask myself how big this world I listen to is.
With my eyes open I look around. I look slowly. I look but I also overlook. I stare.

Then I watch things moving. In case I find myself indoors I might look out the window. I ask myself why those things are moving. What initiates this movement, why it is reacting. I see the tree moving in the wind or I watch the lights switching on and off. An animal sitting on the wall or people passing by.
I follow this movement. I see that everything is moving.
My breath is moving my lungs, my chest, my shoulders, my stomach. The blood flows through my veins. I feel the pulsation.

I start moving my toes, my fingertips, my tongue. I shake my whole body for a little while. I stay with the feeling of moving differently but collectively.

Instruction for a Walk

best 1-2 hours daily

Put on warm clothes, go outside. There is nothing wrong with wearing large sunglasses. As soon as you step out on the street, look around inconspicuously, don’t be picky and attach yourself to the first person in view. Always try to keep an eye on him*her and follow them, but always keep a certain distance between you. Let him*her give you direction and rhythm. If they take a different course that you no longer want to follow, stop for a moment, take a deep breath in and out, let go of your secret guidance and reorient yourself, but do not stop the walk. Now it’s time to just stroll around.

Loosely based on Judith Schalansky, Verzeichnis einiger Verluste, S.101-116, Suhrkamp Berlin, 2018

The closer you get to finish, the more Work is to be done.
If you’d measure the coast of England as detailed as possible, you’d grasp it’s endlessly long

Lying on the floor I look at the ceiling, every time I look at the clock only or already half an hour has passed, I don’t know, the feelings I have about these two specifications alternate, sometimes it’s “already”, sometimes “only”, the more time passes, the more “only”, I lose myself in it, sink into it, solely reminded of the following:
Being so absorbed in the process of cleaning that there might be nothing but cleaning itself. Absolutely absorbed in, let’s say, a lime stain. The lime stain of an old shower that I wanted to make usable again. On top of the lime stain there is a blue shower mat, while the lime stain itself is no indication of a particularly dirty shower. Only the constant dripping and the fact that the water used to accumulate in certain spots under this mat, again and again, had led to this calcification. It had basically turned into a sheet of lime, whose edges had already turned yellow and dark here and there, making it look like actual dirt. So I grabbed a sponge with its rough side down – this lime stain was so persistent, I also could have scraped it off the tile with a spatula – and began, piece by piece, to take off every single layer of lime that had grown over the years. You see it took years for these layers to build up and turn into such a thick slab. I scrubbed until my fingers shriveled up, and the vinegar I had poured on the lime had already started to burn my skin and small injuries on my hands, both tiny and larger cuts, I scrubbed until there was hardly anything left of the sponge, I just kept turning it around, and turning it around. I scrubbed until there were only small spots of lime left, my eyes deceiving me with every movement, making me believe that the stains had become smaller, that it could already be the last time I would have to move my arm; I wanted to use my thumbnail to scrape off the last tiny piece of the lime, but the nail had already become too soft from the moisture, and simply caved in under the pressure that the complete removal would require. So I scrubbed until the monotony of the movement made my arms first heavy and then light again, my eyes fixed on the stain that was probably getting smaller but never quite disappearing, and until everything around the stain’s centre gradually became blutterd before it eventually disappeared. A vertigo, apart from utterly wet, sore knees, and battered hands, a sensitivity that can’t compare. Where I am now, I am alone, the only thing left is the certainty of having to stay that way; the closer I seem to get to the goal, the greater the work that remains to be done.

[This is not an exercise but an exemplary text or proposal for an activity of immersion. There are no specific instructions, rather a set of moods comparable to situations you might have experienced yourself, that you might come across or that might happen to you.
Rather than being just playful, it is more a repetitive thing, actually a thing you sink in so deeply, leaving you unable to say whether you have performed it for seconds, hours, years, or forever. Emerging ideas, the attention for something else, but also external factors of distraction or time, should by then be absorbed by the vortex of the activity, focusing so intensively on one thing, that it becomes hard to imagine there was ever anything else, something essentially different. Even though you might call that loneliness – being far away from anything other than yourself – the idea of isolation as an entity in a dual system (where you can either be alone or not alone) yields the idea of isolation as a room, that you can enter,get lost in, that you can encapsulate yourself in. The external doesn’t play any role in this space.]

Silent Walk

Take a walk outside your home. Regardless of how long it takes.
As soon as I am leaving my home, I remain silent. As far as possible.
Still hearing my breath, my sniffing nose, my steps on the street.
This promenade can be different than the ones before. Silent.
After returning, I try to remember: Where did I rest? Which path did I choose? Which sounds did I notice?
Drawing the path, I try to recapture my discoveries.
What did I hear?
Perhaps other friends of yours try the same path.
Perhaps they like to extend your drawing on the map with their discoveries.
Perhaps this path can be done with a group of people. Together, with distance to one another. in distance.
Still seeing each other. Reacting to each other’s plans. Lingering in the same place.
Starting to walk again. Moving together in silence.
After finishing the path, I ask myself: What did I hear?
I try to capture it on the drawing of the path.
Perhaps, so does the group. Drawing a silent map together.

Energy Ball

In this exercise we want to direct our whole attention to our body only. We sit on the floor, cross-legged or on our heels, hands resting on our thighs. We can do the exercise in silence or with soothing meditation music as accompaniment. Our eyes are closed.
We imagine an energy ball moving inside our body.
First, we go in search of this ball of energy that is inside of us. Some perceive it as a lump in the throat, or a tightness in the chest, or a feeling of warmth in the waist.
When we have found the energy ball, we start to move that part of the body slowly. For example from right to left, from front to back or in circles. The whole body moves with it, swaying. Sometimes weak and sometimes strong, but always in flow. We visualize this ball of energy. What color is it? How does it move? In which direction does it move within our body?
We wander through our body with it and only move on when we feel we have received some kind of signal. Maybe it feels like we have released an energy blockage, so we move on to the next one. Depending on how intensely you can connect with your body, a feeling of trance can set in. The journey ends when we return to our starting point.

This exercise can be done for about 10-20 minutes and is perfect as a morning and evening routine. Have fun!

The Scent of Memories

Use the moments in everyday life when you are waiting for someone or something. Don’t pick up your cell phone but focus on yourself. Whether that’s at a red light, in front of a store, in the waiting room, or at an appointment.

Close your eyes for a brief moment and inhale through your nose as deeply as you can. Feel the air flow past your throat and into your lungs, expanding your lungs and pushing against your ribs. When nothing else fits in, hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds, your awareness is directed to your upper body. Now exhale forcefully through your nose. Follow the air as it flows out of your lungs, along your throat and sinuses, until it leaves your body. You hear the sound of your exhale, feel the air brush your nostrils.
Keep focussing on your nose. Take a deep breath again, soaking up all the particles that surround you. How does the air feel on your nostrils as you inhale? Is it warm, cold, dry, moist, acrid? What can you smell? What do you perceive as individual components? Do you know everything, does it smell familiar or a bit strange? Do not judge, just observe. What associative spaces open up to you? What do you associate with the smell? Do memories of places, people or situations come to mind?

If you like, write down the smell, the place, the time and your sensation and map your olfactory experiences.

Stangers

You can do this exercise in many variations by focusing on a different aspect of the person’s being each time.

Open the window.
Look at the scenery in front of you.
Whenever somebody comes in sight, transform yourself into that person: Imagine you were them, and write this moment down as a first person narrative.

Variation 1: Body
Imagine how it feels to be in that body.
How do I feel? How do I move?
Am I carrying something? Is it heavy or light?
Maybe I am pushing a stroller? Riding a bike?


Variation 2: Time
Try to trace the moments before and after.
Where am I coming from? Where am I going?
Maybe I am on my way to work? Maybe I am on my way home after running errands?
Maybe I am visiting a friend. Or taking a walk.


Variation 3: Space
Observe the surroundings.
What am I reacting to? What is reacting to me?
When am I speeding up or slowing down?
Maybe I am waiting at an intersection to let a car pass? Maybe my footsteps are whirling up fallen leaves.


Do this exercise maybe once a week whenever you need a little break, or every day for a few minutes while making coffee. Just find a moment where the exercise fits in organically.
After trying the different variations, you may find other aspects to concentrate on.
And after some more time has passed, you may find little moments in your day – while standing in line at the supermarket or waiting at a traffic light – where you can implement the exercise naturally, without writing.

This exercise is inspired by the Proposition “Writing as a Transformative Practice” in To Become Two. Propositions for Feminist Collective Practice” by Alex Martinis Roe.