How I can be happy and live a good life has interested me for most of my life. Connecting to others, being in relationships, sustaining those relationships, and creating a life that I enjoy and feel worthwhile is a wonderful aim that is not always easy to achieve.
In my late teens I watch films such as Family Life by Ken Loach (1971), Three Faces of Eve (1957) and later One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) all still worth watching. Being fundamentally interested in who I was and watching those films ignited an interest in psychology and in particular mental health.
I was 19 when I went to work in a psychiatric institution on the Mile End Road in London, the then St Clements hospital. Life in these hospitals was changing rapidly at that time. The realisation that many patients had been hospitalised for decades and nobody knew why, shocking as this now seems, was becoming apparent. Such was my discomfort in working in St. Clements underline by particularly 'Family Life' the film I went on to study psychology and university in London.
Studying psychology was a very disappointing experience. Is psychology a science was the main questions asked. The scientific method was fundamental to that course but not to me. I was interested in human life and their relationships.
It took me a few years to discover Gestalt Therapy and later Buddhist thought and training. Gestalt and Buddhism sit well together. My trainings in Gestalt therapy enabled me to appreciate my fears and where I was holding back without having a choice and of course about therapy and therapists.
Meditation, mindfulness and long retreats, I culminated in a three month silent retreat at Gaia House, all enabled me to really examine my mind,body and feelings at depth. I have learned so much from working in the field of therapy and Buddhism, while maintaining a deep enthusiasm for my own awareness of who I am. I still attend residential group therapy four times a year. I am still learning, when I cease to learn I am dead.
For me to grow is to be more. To bring and show more in a relationship, not to hold yourself back through fear. To be able to contact or connect with someone fully in all of our glory and vulnerabilities. To have a broad sense of self that continues to grow throughout our lives.