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Life-Lines: new-spiritual geographies in Brighton, UK AHRC–ESRC Religion & Society Programme Phase III (presentation for Religion & Society Programme Conference,

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Presentation on theme: "Life-Lines: new-spiritual geographies in Brighton, UK AHRC–ESRC Religion & Society Programme Phase III (presentation for Religion & Society Programme Conference,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Life-Lines: new-spiritual geographies in Brighton, UK AHRC–ESRC Religion & Society Programme Phase III (presentation for Religion & Society Programme Conference, Sacred Practices of Everyday Life, 9 th -11 th May, 2012) Chris Philo (University of Glasgow), PI Louisa Cadman (University of Glasgow), RA Jennifer Lea (Loughborough University), External Consultant

2 Life is lived, I reasoned, along paths, not just in places, and paths are lines of a sort. It is along paths, too, that people grow into a knowledge of the world around them, and describe the world in the stories they tell. (Tim Ingold, 2007, Lines: A Brief History, p.2) It seems that what modern thought has done to places – fixing it to spatial locations – it has also done to people, wrapping their lives into temporal moments. If we were but to reverse the procedure, and to imagine life... as a manifold woven from the countless threads spun by beings of all sorts, both human and non-human, as they find their ways through the tangle of relationships in which they are enmeshed, then our understanding... would be irrevocably altered. (Ingold, ibid, p.3)

3 ‘new-spiritual lines’ run through/across the city connecting sites, nodes, places of new-spiritual practice traced (made) by individual new-spiritual practitioners in the course of their embodied travels individually composing their own new-spiritual life- worlds collectively composing an overall new-spiritual landscape – subtly pervading the overall landscape, lending it character, soaking into its interstices – many small visual cues, albeit largely unregistered

4 Time-space diaries (x 26 [with follow-up interviews x14]) DIARIES : addressing our first two project aims, an innovative feature has been to recruit practitioners of yoga and meditation to keep a detailed diary on the days when they practised yoga and/or meditation, providing data on the form, duration and location of their practices, but also reflections on how these practices 'fit in' with and 'leak out' to shape aspects of their (often very busy) everyday urban routines. Our target was 30 diaries, but we ended up with 26 (28 practitioners agreed to produce diaries, but we had 2 drop-outs]). It quickly became apparent that not all of our diarists wished to participate in follow-up interviews, so we decided that the 'diary pack' would include not only a brief questionnaire used to extract basic quantitative data (age, gender, type(s) of yoga and/or meditation practised, longevity of practice) but also an open-ended request for more substantive qualitative data (biographical details, health and disability, religious and/or spiritual beliefs) which would otherwise have emerged in interview. This change in our 'diary pack' compensated in large measure for the 'loss' of some interviews. We are exploring ways to represent the findings from the diaries, including the use of time-geographic diagrams, which we argue will allow a particularly novel window on the 'microscopic' level of 'new-spiritual' encounter, effect and affect. (From our Project Final Report)

5 Sites: homes, centres, ‘outside’... Meditated with a friend at home. we set up a shrine with candle, buddha, angel, flower, crystal, etc. He did some chanting and then we meditated. Nice to build up confidence meditating at home and to do it with someone else. Felt relaxed after and more at ease and accepting in mind about spending the day at home and pottering around as, previously, I felt I ought to be out doing something while I was meditating. [D7]... it was an amazing experience to have about 17 of us in the room all moving in rhythm with of our breath. [D1]... practice was pretty good. Oh, except I felt a bit squashed against the wall and didn’t have enough space, especially as everyone had to squeeze past me get to the mat cupboard. [D1] Guided meditation, not many people, lots of space. I had a great spot in front of beautiful buddha triptych. Just the room helps me relax. Guided body scan and mindfulness of breathing. [D7]... still not cycling but cooking, gardening, walking dogs, washing have become contexts for yoga practice. And so is work, and study (and also definitely sex but I’m not writing about it in the diary). [D2] Cooking tonight wasn’t yoga practice. Partner a little bit involved with it but feeling ill – I think I have to cook on my own to get to that yoga place. [D2] Noticed sky when I went out. Feeling meditative and walking at slow pace, noting smells (it’s warmish evening): orange blossom and honeysuckle is exquisite. Also smell of dampening of grass, petrol, sun- dried dog shit, bus exhaust. [D2] Went for walk and tried to make space for how I was feeling based on meditation practice. Slowed busy mind. [D4] Swimming in sea for me is like yoga/meditation. I find it really rejuvenating and an instant tonic. Today nice waves to play in. [D7]


7 Lines: resonances and resources; effects and affects; anticipitatory and reflective... There was a lovely energy afterwards. [D1]How does yoga affect/impact on my day? It makes me surprisingly chilled, like today the washing machine door came off in my hand – the hinge had just sheared apart. That’s really funny. I can’t/don’t get upset about it. Sure the big stuff like partner’s anguish at being ill, and my mum doing what she does to me, it upsets me and I feel cross... But recently, I’m not losing it like in a mental health problem way... [D2] [Yoga practice] set me up nicely for working on a family tree, which involves writing very small with risk of writer’s cramp. [D3] Sometimes playing music after meditation can be interesting – I wasn’t concentrating on playing exact tunes, but letting the instrument suggest where to go. [D3] Short centring meditations between clients. Helped to refocus my attention after difficult client... Attempted to re- centre myself through breathing and sitting for 5 mins. Helped to feel calm and grounded. [D4] I woke up thinking about yoga. [D1] Enjoyed practice... Had been a v. busy week. Yoga (mindful yoga) helped to bring me back together somehow; more whole and focussed, more positive. [D6] Felt energised and relaxed afterwards. (Wed. is the end of my working week as I work Sat.-Wed. So it was a great way to start my Thurs.-Fri. Weekend. [D7] Went for a drink after course. 1 pint – felt reflective and open to ideas – talked with friend about wide range of issues relating to Buddhism, psychology and therapy. [D4] Determined not to miss this [practice] today as yesterday didn’t turn out so well with the rushed start and no Y/M practice. [D6]


9 Delicate lines, durable lines... Lines that matter... Lines easily broken; and new lines so hard to routinise... all tough to keep intact in the face of busy urban lives... But also lines jealously guarded, zealously planned and prioritised – the last things to give, not the first... Lines that are matter (material lines of interconnectedness) and they matter... But rarely prompting the kinds of fundamentalist obsessions sometimes associated with other systems of belief-and-practice, if not necessary then being ‘merely’ pick-’n’-mix assemblages (although they can be that...)... For some, the vital scaffolding of physical and mental well-being (perhaps in the face of the challenging modern city)... For some, the invaluable ‘topology of existence’ to set against, not just everyday demands, but also the more dramatic of life-crises... For many, these are life-lines that keep them going, ‘hanging in’ there, better able to cope, finding meaning (if not necessarily big answers, just intuitions of ‘otherness’): opening themselves to the mundane enchantment of small ‘magical’ people, places, moments, events...

10 Lines by way of conclusion Easy to dismiss these life-lines as of little import... * self-indulgent ‘potterings’ around the city * irrelevant to questions of political-economic transformation, social sustainability, etc. * individualised retreat from, even consumerist complicity with, late-capitalist modernity? And as far from representative of early-21 st century religious/spiritual worlds/landscapes... * and of what exactly is our study representative? But, in their attentiveness to the ‘magic’ of the here-and- now – in their insistence on carving out slow time-spaces from the speed-up of late-capitalist modernity – these life-lines arguably comprise an immanent critique of this pervasive/pervading order... They also embody a practice and a knowledge of a fundamentally different quality to that installed by the European Enlightenment – the ‘tests’ of spiritual practice when questing for (if [of course] never reaching) “truth... in the form of the other world and the other life” (Foucault, 2011:340)

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