The wifi kids

Every summer I host and teach English to non-native English speaking kids, who come to stay with my family for a ‘total immersion’ experience in an English family.  I teach them in the mornings, and in the afternoons we have excursions or ‘free time’.  Each year I do this, for at least a couple of weeks, sometimes longer.  Every time, I notice the addiction to wifi, gadgets: iphones, ipads, bluetooth earphones, etc to be more pronounced.  And that is just the gadgets they have brought with them.  Back home they have often left behind more expensive gadgets: XBoxes, Playstations, other models of iphones they own and will no doubt update as soon as the next one comes out.

The boy I am teaching this month has bluetooth earphones on all the time, listening to ‘rap’ from his own country.  When he arrived at my house, he got out of the taxi and the first word he said was ‘wifi’; not ‘hello’ or ‘nice to meet you’ but simply ‘wifi’.  Perhaps I should learn to expect this, but to say I was shocked is a bit of an understatement.  These kids think wifi is some kind of divine right, like water.  He has wires dangling from him all the time and he spends a lot of his free time when we are not on an excursion, watching a series, via the internet on his top-of-the-range ipad, in his native language.  To say he is having a total immersion in an English family would be a lie.  He isn’t.  He is isolated from us.

I feel genuinely sorry for these kids.  They sleep with their gadgets plugged in, dangling from their ears or hands…

As an artist, what I feel most strongly about is looking.  I don’t paint from life, per se, but what I do is look and remember, so that I don’t get too caught up in the process of representation and that my interpretation is always my own.  With the kids of today, I worry that they will not learn how to look,  to connect with nature, or with feeling, sensing.  With my own son, I take him up to the top of a cliff to look out to sea, to see the horizon, to allow his eyes to relax into the vast distance.  Recently I took my student to London and I banned him from using any of his devices, unless it was for photography.  I marched him ’round Tate Modern, made him look at art, informed him that without his bluetooth earphones he should listen, and notice how the sounds, sights, smells and people were all different from those in his home country.  Pretty obvious stuff, but I feel they will never experience anything first-hand, but one step removed from reality, and they will always live in a form of hyper-reality, or even unreality, and not learn how to notice visual or aural clues from others.  Everyone will be atomised, separated, distanced and there will be no real meetings of minds or hearts.  My student constantly shows me how many ‘likes’ he got from his Instagram photo yesterday, and some of the photos aren’t even photos from his life, but photos he has screen-shot from a football game..

You see these girls too; hyper-made up, with facial contouring,  and even their stance is like something from an Instagram shot.  They are always ready for the next shoot and super-aware of their looks and appeal.  This concerns me even more.  How girls are self-objectifying and are more concerned with their attractiveness than ever they were in the past.. I have read of people addicted to selfies, and kids who won’t leave the house until they have caught the perfect selfie.  How many followers they get on social media is more important than real-life friendships.

One year, I took a boy to Canterbury, driving through the countryside on a beautiful summer’s day.  He did not look up from his phone.  He wasn’t reading anything; he was playing a game.  In Canterbury he didn’t look up from his phone.  I don’t think he even saw Canterbury.  Another day, I took a student to Brighton.  Again, a beautiful sunny day.  We sat at the outdoor table of a restaurant.  He had his bluetooth earphones and asked the waitress for the wifi code. Isolated once more.

I do make my feelings known and sometimes quite vigorously.  I tell them, in no uncertain terms, that it is a shame that their parents have paid a lot of money to come to another country, and they are not even looking at it, listening to the sounds, experiencing all the idiosyncrasies of life in a new place. I clearly and fairly loudly voiced my concerns yesterday in the restaurant, about how he was not even experiencing the place he was in, that he was not learning to look, to see,  to notice, to soak up ambience.  After I had spoken, another mother told her children to get off their phones.  Obviously, we are all complicit.  I too have a teenager.  He has a phone and an Xbox.  All his friends do.  We resisted buying him one until the time he was starting to feel alienated from his peers for not having these gadgets. He is still embarassed by his phone.  It is not a ‘cool’ one.  Thank goodness that now he is into mountain biking.  This makes me so happy.

My sister told me about the time she took her students up the i360 tower in Brighton, where you glide up to 450 ft  in a fully enclosed glass viewing pod,  to admire views across Brighton and the south coast.  None of the kids were looking, but each had their phones up, and were filming it through their phones.  Looking at the views through devices, probably to later be shared on Instagram or facebook.

There is no such thing as boredom any more.  Kids are not allowed to be bored.  But boredom is so important in childhood and adolescence.   I remember one summer I spent the whole summer playing patience and solitaire through a rainy and long six week holiday.   I recall observing things as a child and kept a non-physical memory box inside my mind.  I watched the shadow of a seagull gliding over the tarmac of my school playground and decided I was going to put that in the box and I would never forget it.  Another time I was lying in bed and someone slammed the front door and all the radiators in the house jingled and shook with the vibration, and I added that to the memory box.  I still recall them all.  I used to doodle, spending hours creating these elaborate designs on my bedroom wall.  I was bored, and I knew it, but boredom allows the mind to drift, to expand, dream, grow new neural pathways.  It also allows the mind to be still or quiet.  Just as painting is healing for the mind and body, it synchronises the mind to the pace of each brush stroke.

I am not getting into the effects upon the health of individuals for prolonged exposure to wifi as I am no expert, and there is so much information and misinformation on the internet.  However I can see with my own eyes the effect on psychological health.  Clearly it causes a form of attention deficit disorder and that is just for starters.  I know that I  am not exempt, as I love my phone and my laptop, and use it for work and communication daily,  but thankfully I grew up before wifi and I learned how to live, communicate and play before it.

It is not my role with these kids to confiscate their devices, although I can insist in a classroom situation.  However, it is simply the addiction in free time that concerns me.  Maybe it is all part of an evolution and I am resisting it, as of course I remember my Mum telling me I watched too much TV as a child, although I don’t think I did, but to her perception I did..

I try to incorporate physical activity into some of my lessons.  I find going for a walk with my students makes them communicate and allows conversation, and for a brief time they are free of wifi, just walking in nature.

Nowadays everything is one step removed; atomised.  People have long-distance relationships with others where they barely see each other, or some just once or twice a year,  although speaking / ‘seeing’ /sexting each other via WhatsApp or Skype etc..  It satisfies a certain desire for connection, and it is said that distance creates desire..

But you can’t beat physical touch, conversation and simply having a coffee alone or with your partner or friends and just watching the world go by.

 

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The Pthalo Blues

Pthalo blue. What a beautiful colour. Every time I paint with it, it gives me a visual and sensory high while also also soothing me on a soul level. Some recent paintings using this most enriching of colours.

Kind of Blue and The Blue Room.

In my Etsy shop:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/614189310/kind-of-blue

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/601308960/the-blue-room

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Walking and EMDR

 

 

Ferreirola

While I have always known the benefits of walking in terms of health and well-being, I am always open to making new discoveries about the healing that goes with walking.  I know that I am especially obsessed with walking.  Not running, (although I run occasionally,) not going to the gym, not climbing; just walking at relatively good pace in the open air, in any weather.  I am specifically interested in notions of healing through walking, and I use it as a special therapy, alongside my painting in my art retreats.  My next plan is to buy a small place in southern Spain from which to hold more retreats, especially aimed at walkers and painters.

This article I found deeply fascinating:

What do walking, running, drumming and EMDR have in common?

‘Nope, this isn’t a strange riddle where someone is found in the desert in a scuba suit. The answer to the question posed above is actually pretty simple: brain integration.

What is that? Excellent question; I am glad you asked. As you may know, we have two hemispheres of the brain. Neuroscience is a relatively young field, and we are continuing to learn more about the complexity of the brain and its function with time and as research evolves. We do know that there are different roles played by different sides and areas of the brain, and that integrating neural networks appears to be helpful in resolving traumatic memories.

The success of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in treating trauma and mental health challenges teaches us that alternating right- and left-brain stimulation, via visual, auditory, or tactile experience, helps facilitate emotional processing. Through the simple act of holding something that buzzes between your right and left hand, or listening to something shifting from your right to left ear, a memory that was once charged with emotion can become less distressing. During the process, it is common for relevant associations to arise, for memories of thoughts and body sensations to arise. With support, this process can facilitate lasting and integrated healing.

Right-left brain stimulation may sound like a scary, science fiction-like process, but I assure you there is no electricity involved in this type of therapy. Your body receives input in the form of sound, touch, or sight, without any added energy.

Along with helping us process emotions, EMDR can help build up positive memories, experience, thoughts, and feelings. We call this resourcing, and use imagined or real resources to cultivate feelings of peace, nurturing, protection, and wisdom. In addition to and as part of processing negative experiences, it is crucial to cultivate the positive, sometimes the opposite of what occurred in the experience of trauma.

Think about your life for a moment and ask yourself: when do I engage in an activity that engages my right and left brain in alternating rhythm? How do I feel before, during, and after the fact? How can I incorporate this information into my healing path?

How do walking, running, and drumming factor in? Think about it for a moment. When you walk, run, or drum, you are using your body in a rhythmic way, alternating the stimulation or use of your right and left brain throughout the activity. Have you ever gone on a hike or run and felt that you were sorting through your thoughts, developing new insights, or becoming less distressed about something? We know that exercise has many benefits; EMDR highlights for us some of the mental and emotional benefits.

There are a million ways to alternate right- and left-brain activation, including dance, yoga, and some tai chi moves. People have naturally gravitated toward right-left movements in many healing rituals across the world. Think of how many sacred rituals involve drums, movement, or voyages on foot. Understanding brain integration, plasticity, and resilience gives us some insight into why these rituals have been effective and why they continue to be passed down through generations.

Think about your life for a moment and ask yourself: when do I engage in an activity that engages my right and left brain in alternating rhythm? How do I feel before, during, and after the fact? How can I incorporate this information into my healing path?

If you are looking to heal from specific traumatic memories, I highly recommend working with a skilled EMDR professional who can provide structure and guide you toward health and resolution. Consider how your own choices outside of therapy can support your process as well. Perhaps you will choose to walk or bike to your therapist’s office this week, or do a little dance after your session. Whatever you choose, may it serve your healing and integration.’

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/what-do-emdr-running-and-drumming-have-in-common-0901154

 

For more about my walking and painting retreats visit:

http://www.art-retreat-spain.com

 

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New Art Retreat in Spain

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My next art and walking retreat will be in a beautiful bohemian mountain farmhouse in Las Alpujarras in southern Spain.  One of the most beautiful locations I have ever seen.  The accommodation is in traditional Alpujarran style, with solar-powered hot water, compost loos, with the most amazing views and a wood burning stove for warmth in the evenings if needed.

I am aiming to hold the retreat in November 2018. Exact date to be confirmed.  The weather is often sunny and warm in November, with cooler evenings.   The retreat will be self-catered and there is a fully equipped kitchen.  The nearby town of Orgiva (a short walk away,) is lively and has lots of cafes, bars, shops, health food shop, and a Sufi vegan cafe restaurant called Baraka, which sells the most delicious food.  There is also a weekly outdoor colourful market.  I plan to take guests on a beautiful walk with a professional guide, up in the higher mountains to see ancient trade routes, natural springs, threshing floors, and beautiful nature surrounding.  There will also be a day of yoga and meditation.  The walk will not be too difficult and no climbing involved.

We will be painting together.  All tuition and art materials will be provided by me.  The painting classes will be based on my practice of meditative art in the lovely art studio.  Transport on the walking day will be provided.  Space is limited.  This retreat is for up to six people.

Email: alicejulietmason@gmail.com for more details.

 

 

 

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Nispero

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“Many take the path well-worn, but they are only given a half-lived life. To those willing to brave the unknown path, the dark thicket, a remembering of love, magic, and purpose returns. There is a wild woman under our skin who wants nothing more than to dance until her feet are sore, sing her beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer the bottomless cup of her creativity as a way of life. And if you are able to sing from the very wound that you’ve worked so hard to hide, not only will it give meaning to your own story, but it becomes a corroborative voice for others with a similar wounding.”

Toko-pa Turner, from “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home” (belongingbook.com)

Painting by me.  The details for the online class for this simple painting can be found here:  https://www.alicemason.net/my-online-painting-course/

 

 

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More photos of a fleeting trip to the magic mountains.

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Alpujarras. La Taha.

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The Wanderer

“Embracing the archetype of the Wanderer, whether through an external journey or internal one, is what many people find themselves doing at key moments of transition. But wandering is not something that’s been traditionally associated with or available to women – perhaps because of the danger it entailed, or because their responsibilities wouldn’t allow for it.

In our cultural mythology, women who wander are perceived as threats, damaged goods, unsavory citizens, and far too often, victims of violence. These images distance us from setting off on our own, and bind us firmly to hearth and home, despite whatever desires burn in our hearts. But there are women who venture out despite the warnings. The woman willing to embrace the Wanderer archetype can shed confining roles and reinvent herself in new and remarkable ways.”

Author: Kristen Roderick

Painting The Red Veil, by me

Red Veil

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Passion.

la reina

Passion is the energy that love creates with no object other than itself.
The energy born of love is creative – it makes everything it touches new. To see how passionate you are, look around at what you have created.
The source of passion is within yourself. When pasion wanes, it must be rekindled at its source.
Deepak Chopra.

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The Blue Room 2

the blue room 2

Painting in my Etsy shop.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/601308960/the-blue-room

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