The Gentle Rebel Podcast is a podcast for quietly creative misfits, hosted by Andy Mort. It explores how we might slow down and become more aware of what's going on, both in and around us. So that we might live life with more meaning and intention, and without becoming overwhelmed by all the noise, absurdity, and posturing of today's world.
Andy is a songwriter and professional slow coach; and he shares his experiences of a world that won't stop shouting, assuming, and demanding. He asks how we might take better care of ourselves and each other, so that we can nurture the courage required to tune into our creative sensitivity and change the world from the inside out. Are you ready to join the gentle rebel alliance?
346 | Lose Like You Mean It
Do you ever leave notes for yourself?
I use the Evernote Scratch Pad to record thoughts that pop into my head when I'm busy. They're usually a couple of words, a sentence, or a quote that I've heard.
I intend to process the 'inbox' daily so that I can expand on them for the sake of my future self. But I usually forget.
I took a look at my messy digital brain zone a few days ago (I wanted a fresh writing prompt). And I found this:
"When it comes to life there is no way to win, but there are ways to lose more meaningfully…" (September 4th, 08:06am)
Umm ok, sure!
Judging by the time I think I was probably making a coffee at the time #CoffeeThoughts
In this week's Extended Play Episode I talk about the deep yearning I felt when taking this photo, watching the sun disappear beyond the horizon
I LOVE finding notes I don't remember writing.
As much as anything, it's a great reminder that context matters. Oh, and that I should definitely process my idea inbox a lot more regularly!
Something might seem glaringly obvious and true in its moment of recording. But come to it two weeks later and I'm flummoxed. What was I thinking? What was going on in my head?
What On Earth Was I Thinking?
It's like waking up from a vivid dream. You think 'there is absolutely no way I could ever forget this'. Because in that moment it feels SO concrete and impossible to lose. But an hour later when you try to recall it, BANG! It's completely gone. And you may have absolutely no clue what the dream was even vaguely about.
Well here's our clue. At least we have SOMETHING to go on...
"When it comes to life there is no way to win, but there are ways to lose more meaningfully"
I want to use this podcast as a treasure map. Let's see if we can take that clue and build on it as we navigate my brain-scape. We will dig for any nuggets that might be lurking beneath the surface.
On our mini quest we explore the following:
* How we get caught hacking at the thicket when we could take the clearer path towards creative and personal breakthroughs
* Why "the work is often a lot easier than we tend to make it"
* My re-discovery of painting and its reminder of a particular time of relational flow I experienced with my grandparents when I was a child
* Why the day after your birthday (birth anniversary, not literal birthday - though it probably still applies), might feel like the worst day of the year
* The very real grief that comes from achieving goals and accomplishing meaningful pursuits
* How winning can become a tragedy if we don't understand its cost - and why feeling sad in the midst of success does not make you ungrateful or selfish
* Why despite appearances, this is all a source of great joy and meaning in life
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Extended Play Episode - You Can't Fill The Hole In a Yearning Soul
345 | The Ideology of Promise (with Helen Rollins)
In this week's podcast I am joined by screenwriter, director, and producer, Helen Rollins.
I came across Helen's work through her collaborations with Peter Rollins who I have been reading and following for many years.
I wanted to chat with Helen about some of the concepts I've seen her explore through her films and heard her talk about on her podcast (The Lack). She has particular interests in psychoanalysis, continental philosophy and film and literature from the French and Spanish-speaking world.
Yes, this is one of those kind of episodes! And I love it!
The Ideology of Promise
What comes to mind when you hear the term 'Ideology of Promise'?
Does it sound familiar?
Helen talks about 'Ideology of Promise' as a way to describe the air we breathe under the clouds of modern capitalism.
We've all experienced it. In fact, we swim through it every day.
It's the message that keeps us holding to the future promise of wholeness and completeness, if we can eliminate the obstacles that holds us back from achieving our desires.
Wrapped up in this ideology is a simple (unspeakable and hidden) truth...the lack can never be filled. Even when we acquire an object of desire, it soon becomes apparent that it fails to fulfil its promise of true satisfaction.
I was recently struck by a TV advert that seemed to capture the essential characteristics at the heart of this Ideology of Promise. The advert shows a well-dressed attractive man driving through empty sun-kissed streets in a generic city down-town. He stops for a short photo shoot in a sparse warehouse studio before he gets back in the car and drives on.
This is underlaid by epic string-driven electronic, lens flare, and these words...
"For me one of the best things about life is that we keep moving forward. I love that we're constantly evolving. We progress. Every day we discover exciting new technologies. Redefine who we are and how we want to lead our lives. Basically we choose what we want our future to look like...so what's yours going to be?"
Yes I know, most car adverts are complete nonsense. But something about this one really grabbed me. The music, the aesthetic, the pacing, yes. The warm fuzzy feeling...Yes! The warm fuzzy feeling.
On the surface this seems fine. It feels like it's delivering some comforting words of reassuring truth about the future.
And yet, beneath that surface it's unsettling. It's not reassuring or comforting. It speaks to the heart of this ideology of promise. Bad infinity and unattainable satisfaction. The never-ending growth towards nothing. There is no foothold. Nothing to grab hold of.
Anxiety and Empty Progression
It pokes our fantasy. This life, this car along these streets, this aesthetic, freedom and attention. But it presents us with a utopia, which can't exist.
The utopian future world, where the roads are empty, we are gliding through the streets in with silent ease, alone. The sunset glow gently through the window, as we gaze into the rear view mirror to see a perfectly sculpted face, flawless smile, and eyes that could melt a thousand suns. And these words reverberate around our isolated world...
Keep moving forward. Constantly evolve and progress. Discover new technologies and redefine who you are. Choose what you want your future to look like.
In other words, never stop progressing...
Progressing towards what?
Towards the ever present itch that can't be scratched.
In the podcast Helen (and "I") discuss:
* The nature of lack and excess in our lives as subjective beings of language
* The positive side of our propensity as humans to excessively over-invest in things
344 | 7 Years
7 years is a funny length of time. A lot can change. But it also disappears in a flash.
It feels like a meaningful timespan too. I’m not sure why.
Maybe it was ingrained through school (like many things). Primary School goes from ages 4-11 and Secondary School/Sixth Form from 11-18. Years of formidable (and somewhat unimaginable) change and formation, at both half time (the first 7 years) and full time (the second 7 years).
I’ve been in a reflective mood this week. Perhaps even more than usual...after it dawned on me that it’s seven years since the first version of The Haven landed in the world. It started in June 2014 as a clumsy area behind a paywall on my main website (called Sheep Dressed Like Wolves back then). The ‘SDLW Members Haven’ was a clunky experiment. At a relatively early stage in what has become a rapid development of membership platforms and plugins.
The seven year realisation conjures a whole mixture of feelings. So much has changed since that first version. The screenshots and videos are pretty funny to look back at.
The Turtle Head of Shame
Yet at another level I have noticed some shame poking its little green wrinkly head out of its shell. I heard a critical voice saying, “you’ve been doing this for 7 YEARS...the dream hasn't really happened has it? If this was going to succeed it would have done so by now, don't you think?”
“Yeah maybe I SHOULD pull the plug on it”, I think to myself, accepting this pretty calm judgement as valid. “Hold on”, I pull myself out of my daze. “What’s the dream again?”
“Oh it’s worse than I thought!” My inner critic exclaims. “Please tell me there's a dream...a plan!? What’s wrong with you man! Look around you. Everyone else has it sorted. They’re accomplishing personal, work, health, business, community, family goals left, right, and centre. And what are you doing? Wasting your life. You’re an embarrassment.”
Whoa, alright mate, where did that come from!?
I’ve noticed that my shame gets loud (a bubbling tunnel vision feeling that rises through my stomach) when I’m talking to particular people about ‘progress’. It jumps in with responses about numbers, progress, and the reassurance of future success.
My shame leaves me talking about things that don't drive me as if they're all I care about. It's desperate to fit in with the assumptions, demands, and expectations of an ‘up and to the right’ world.
It doesn't care about the true joy I get, often from how things already are. And it doesn't believe that I'm generally pretty happy without constantly striving for another magical destination.
I enjoy experimenting more than accomplishing. Seeing what happens and iterating as I go. I prefer finding a steady rhythm more than chasing after big goals. And I have absolutely no desire to be famous, rich, or in control of anyone else’s life. That's someone else's dream. I don't know where I picked it up.
...Oh wow, that felt freeing to write.
By recognising ‘The Dream’ that doesn’t belong to me, I have space to think about what is actually important to me.
“I suppose you can say that if somebody doesn’t spread themselves too much they can have a more solid and enduring and established success, and if that had been what I wanted, which it never has been, then I shouldn’t have tried so many different things. But I’ve been always more interested in experiment than in accomplishment” - Orson Welles
This quote really resonates with me. It's as true within our endeavours as it is across the sphere of our endeavours.
'Society' provides us with measures for solid and established success. This is the default ‘Dream’. The most efficient route to the highest measurable result.
343 | Tankespjärn (with Helena Roth)
In this week's episode I am joined by Helena Roth, the gentle rebel behind tankespjarn.com.
You may well be wondering what "Tankespjärn" means. While there isn't a concrete definition, it should begin to take root and make sense as you listen to our conversation.
Helena has been on a long journey towards inner gentleness. She describes the place she has reached today as gentle with an edge. This resonated strongly with the concept of gentle rebellion.
For Helena, gentleness appeared to be the only effective response to the harsh internal dialogue which she describes as a mash-up of Hitler, Mao, and Stalin.
She says: "You do gentle. Then you add “the edge”, which for me, is tankespjärn."
Descriptive Not Prescriptive
Tankespjärn is a description of something that we all experience. It's found in the opening or invitation to experience a shift. Not enforced from an external source but through an inner electric surge. Where something ignites and a new possibility or perspective is seeded.
Like me, Helena takes a descriptive rather than prescriptive approach to writing, coaching, and creativity. Rather than providing one-size-fits-all blueprints and models, we carry an intuitive connection to this idea of tankespjärn.
Helena says that "when you’re faced with Tankespjärn, there’s a choice. To step away from the possibility, or to step into it. But it sure is hard to forget about that door, leading to the unknown; the knowledge of which will, once revealed, always stay with you, even if you chose to let the door slam shut without entering.
What is tankespjärn for one, might not be for another. They aren’t necessarily universal or general, but rather personal and specific. What makes me go Huh? might not cause even the slightest ripple within you, and vice versa."
I have experienced it over and over in my life. It's nice to put a name to it.
"Certainty is a closing of the mind, to create the new requires doubt" - Milton Glazer
In this episode we talk about:
* What 'tankespjärn' means, and how Helena discovered it as a perfect personal philosophy
* How to find your 'edge' and what it looks like to walk along it in life
* Learning gentleness and how to stick with it when we make errors
* Seeing gentleness as a shock absorber which can help us roll with the punches of life
* Why we are both fans of descriptive rather than prescriptive approaches to blogging and business
* The sources of our current 'epidemic of harshness' (and the potential antidotes to it)
* How certainty and anxiety rise together, and what can happen when we drop our certainty statements and changing our language
* The infectiousness of culture (how we can be more intentional in order to create a gentler and less harsh world)
* Why it's OK to not have (or share) your opinion
* How your enjoyment doesn't detract from my suffering (and why it's important to share what feels good rather than staying silent)
* The ways we shape and create our own reality with the people and stories we surround ourselves
* How adversity is often the fertile ground of connection, beauty, and art
* What to do with your desire to make a positive imprint (and how to use this in conjunction with your approach to social media)
* How to curate healthy filters of input and output in order to build an energising creative rhythm
Connect With Helena
Instagram: a href="https://www.instagram.
342 | Radical Non-Judgement (with Chris Brock)
Like many of us, Chris Brock has spent a lot of his life trying to work out what he was 'supposed to do' with it. He followed the expected path through life, pursuing what he had thought he ought to.
But there was a creeping dread, underpinned by a drift towards places he never set out to go. Places he wouldn't have chosen. And his life became haunted by questions we may recognise..."Where have I gone wrong? What have I DONE wrong?"
During a particularly low period Chris' wife made an observation, which stirred something deep inside him. "Every time we go out I feel like I have to cheer you up".
Something clicked for Chris. He realised he didn't want to be like that with those he loved. And he started to explore the possibility that life didn't HAVE to be like that.
So alongside his wife, Chris took gentle steps inwards, where he became aware of his self-narrative. And through this period of deep introspection he found practices that helped him gradually return to his core sense of being.
It was not easy, but instead of continuing to run or hide from them, Chris turned to face his inner roadblocks and demons. Over time they began to crumble and allow him to see beyond them.
He shifted from feeling like an observing subject of his life, to the person in the driving seat. And he felt more integrated and connected to what was actually meaningful. Rather than following the scent of all he had been told he was supposed to find meaningful.
The Red Flag of Resentment
Resentment develops when it feels like the world is conspiring against us. Chris talks about developing resentment awareness.
Resentment becomes a self-fuelling emotion because when it fuels our interactions we ill-treat people, and they react badly.
He had noticed himself creating more of a world worth resenting by mistreating people he believed possessed what he deserved. He operated from a place of scarcity and shame. And from that he built a reality that gave him more reason to feel those things.
The Flow of the Junction
Where do you recognise resentment showing up for you?
Chris noticed it when he was driving. Through the stories he would tell himself about those driving nicer cars than him. He would actively avoid letting such drivers out of junctions. Potentially provoking the kind of angry reaction that would reinforce the story that people like them don't deserve the things they have.
When resentment prompts us to stop letting people out at the proverbial junctions of life, we block deeper part of ourselves from growing.
If we choose to let our resentment dictate our action, we turn off the tap that allows our expansive creative energy to flow through the core of our being.
This is damaging to us as individuals, and can have a cascading impact on society.
Unfortunately however, resentment is the fuel on which a lot of modern society runs. It drives us to accumulate, to envy, to fear, to embrace scarcity, urgency, and distrust. It drives us to feel like we are on the receiving end of injustice and unfairness, and that other people are getting the things to which we are more entitled.
People who complain a lot often have a lot of things to complain about. People who are gentle and hold lightly to things that go 'wrong' don't have much to complain about. Not because things go right, but because they hold things differently.
Sonder and Radical Non-Judgement
Sonder was a term coined by John Koenig on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
It puts a name to the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as our own. Everyone has a subjective experience of the world,
341 | Practice Makes Peaceful (with Emily Agnew)
Emily Agnew is the founder of SustainablySensitive.com, where she supports sensitive people through Focusing and Inner-Bonding practices. She is also a professional musician having auditioned and performed at the highest level.
One of the characteristics on Elaine Aron's HSP self-test says, "When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise."
Emily and I both relate to this within our experiences as musicians.
For Emily auditions have created difficult to manage adrenaline spikes, and for me I have experienced it in live performance settings. Even when I'm not overly nervous, the release of stress hormones can lead to physiological reactions that make performing difficult.
In this week's Extended Play episode I talk about specific examples of times when I've become so shaky that it's been impossible for me to play my instrument. And I share some of my own trial and error practices that have worked for me over the years.
You might be wondering what this image has to do with this week's episode. To be honest it didn't come out as I hoped - it was supposed to our inner selves and the anxiety that comes when the wrong characters occupy inappropriate places in the car. Except, they both look like they're having fun. Maybe it has a meaning that I'm not yet aware of. That's why I'm not changing it...well, that and the fact that I can't be bothered to re-do it!
In our conversation Emily and I talk about:
* How performance anxiety and overwhelm can impact us in highly stimulating environments
* How to develop practices that root sustainable energy in everyday life, and keep us grounded in an intense spike situation (such as an audition or performance)
* Psycho-physical reactions to stress and what I might be telling myself when I get sore throats before gigging
* Inner Relationship Focussing - how Emily helps clients to create inner space for healthy self-awareness and engagement
* How the tiny traumas of everyday life leaves hermetically sealed fragments of our 'selves' steering the vehicle of our lives, like ghosts stuck in a state of limbo
* How focussing our inner relationship helps get the different 'selves' in the right position to drive life more sustainably
* Why sensitive people might struggle to speak clearly to the needs underneath the emotions they feel so deeply
* The importance of working with someone else who can help us ask ourselves the right questions and discover answers beyond our default thought patterns
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Well being oasis
Just found this podcast through episode 319. At a moment when I’m working though isolation as part of nhs. This really hit the spot and I found the episode so relatable. Would recommend for anyone who needs a podcast that comes across a good friend style chat rather than the usual Dr to patient dynamic.
One of my favourites
When much of the world is just a bit too loud or busy, this podcast carves out a creative space to think and be at peace. Andy’s considered and thought-provoking explorations offer fresh perspectives and helpful nudges, along with the comforting reminder that we’re not weird or alone. :) Super soothing (can I say perfect to fall asleep to?) and I wouldn’t want to be without it.
Listened to the podcast on social hangovers today, and i appreciated how it affirmed an experience I have a lot and am only recently learning how to notice and cope with better. The advice given was thoughtful and kind, and it's the first time I've ever really found advice on this aspect of my life, and the advice itself was based on experience and attended to the complexity of what goes on for you after social situations