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Deep Living And Flow
In this episode
- what deep living means to Angela
- the movement practice that has helped her feel more authentic and connected
- plus some insightful questions that you can ask to start bringing more flow into your life
Angela Ashley-Chiew 0:00
So when I think of flow, I think of this ability to be able to move and respond and adapt and to shift and respond to life and change because life is change.
Tahlee Rouillon 0:14
What does it feel like? When you’re in flow? Does it feel easy, joyful? spacious? Can you sense what your body feels like when you’re in flow? Or what your mind is thinking? Can you identify when you’re in the flow in the moment? Or is it something you identify after the fact? And do you know the conditions that brought about flow in the first place? It seems to me that flow and deep living go hand in hand. Deep Living requires self awareness, intention, and presence, which, in turn is exactly what flow states require. So how do you bring more depth and flow into your life? Let’s find out. You’re listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary, a show about creating sanctuary in life, work, relationships, and home so you can embrace a life that matters to you. I’m your host Tahlee. On today’s episode, I speak with Angela Ashley-Chiew. A Feldenkrais Method and Reiki practitioner, Angela helps people move and feel better, so they can serve their community and clients in more effective creative and sustainable ways. During our conversation, we talk about what deep living means to her, the movement practice that has helped her feel more authentic and connected. Plus, Angela shares some insightful questions that you can ask to start bringing more flow into your life. Enjoy.
Tahlee Rouillon 1:56
Hi, Angela, thank you so much for joining me today.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 2:00
Thanks for having me.
Tahlee Rouillon 2:01
Pleasure. So in this series, we’re talking about deep living. But I’d love to know if you can tell me about a time when you were living a shallow life.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 2:13
Hmm, that was a really interesting question. And even just that, that term shallow made me reflect on what that actually means to me. I think I’ve, I’ve always been the type of person who, like loves a deep and meaningful conversation. Even I was a kid. I was actually, when I was looking back, I was trying to think of, has there been a phase in my life that I’ve lived, no been interested in, like, the more shallow things. And honestly, I don’t really think there has. There’s been more moments, there are moments that I dip into… where I start, where I know that I lose myself, and I lose my connection to self and I start going into looking to external resources and to everybody else for the answers. And that’s when I know that I’m, I’m not connected to myself. And the other times that I thought of were… was actually I had a career change, like I struggled with having to change my career for a couple of years before doing it. And it was because I felt I didn’t want to get dragged into this vortex that I saw people in my industry get dragged into. So I worked in the music industry for about a decade. And I just observed people who had been around for too long, who just weren’t enjoying what they were doing anymore, who had lost connection to their passion and the reasons why they had gotten into it in the first place. And I did not want to become one of those jaded, jaded people. So, yeah, yeah. I tried to get off that path before I ended up down there. Yeah.
Tahlee Rouillon 4:01
Good catch. So you touched on something really interesting there, you said that you can when you can feel yourself disconnecting from you. And that’s when you know, you’re starting to go down that shallow path. Do you think that is a key part of deep living? Like what does deep living mean to you?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 4:25
So deep living to me is about being really connected to your own sense of self and trusting yourself. And being connected to that inner knowing that’s beyond what might be happening on a surface level on the day to day and being connected to the world at large as well. Yeah, having that sense of deep knowing I suppose. It’s, it’s can be hard to describe, but it’s an inner state and inner feeling. It’s a very tangible feeling to me has become stronger over the years since I’ve deepened in physical movement practices and energetic practices, it’s something I can, I’m quite sensitive to, and I can feel when I’m, I’m slipping away from it. So in these times, being quite challenging, I can notice when I start either numbing out or doing things that make me feel like I’m numbing out, or I’m overwhelming myself. And it’s just that sense of fear rising. And then rather than quietening, down and grounding back in myself, instead, all my energy goes outwards, trying to like grasp answers from anyone else or everywhere else, I can find them.
Tahlee Rouillon 5:53
So how do you support yourself to live more deeply? How do you connect to that deep knowing within?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 6:02
Hmm, it’s, for me, it’s about creating the space that I can hear myself. So I’m the type of person who I’ve discovered and come to accept, because I resisted this for a long time, because it seems so different from other people, but I need a LOT of time by myself to feel okay. Like if I don’t get that? I get super cranky. And I’m not. I don’t like being around me when I’m like that. And having kids who are quite noisy can make that really quite challenging. Yeah, so for me, it’s having a lot of time, just being able to hear myself. So for that, for that, just being meditation, and I’ve been meditating on and off over the years. Usually, I would do guided meditation. But lately, I’ve really deepened into the practice of going “Actually, I need silence”. I need to be able to hear the silence, even for small bits just to calm all that activity down. So I’ve been doing a bit of that. My Feldenkrais practice. So awareness, remember, so even just me lying down on the floor, I’ve spent that much time doing it. It’s like, coming home. And the floor for me is like, it’s like a feedback as to what’s actually going on in my body, where I’m holding.
Tahlee Rouillon 7:34
Oooh, go there, talk more about that.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 7:38
You know, when we’re walking around every day, just upright in our daily activities we’re on our feet. When we’re moving, we’re not as aware of where we hold or how we move. But when you lie down on the floor, you carry everything that you’ve been carrying around with you in your daily activities with you when you go down to the floor. And when you’re against the floor, you can feel that. So those parts of you that are really active all the time that hold on and are tense? You’ll feel that against the floor because you’ll feel that it’s holding you up against the floor, they’ll feel tighter. And over time, if you do some movement where you can start letting some of that go and the nervous system calms down, you can actually feel the tone of your whole body start to melt into the floor a little bit more and allow the floor to really take its weight. So that tells me instantly what’s going on, I can feel my breath when I’m against the floor because I can feel my ribs moving against it. It’s a mirror for me. Lying on the floor and my breathing.
Tahlee Rouillon 8:49
I love that. That was so beautiful. So you’ve mentioned Feldenkrais there. But for our listeners who might not know what this is, can you give us a little bit of a rundown of like, what Feldenkrais is and what drew you initially to this practice?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 9:10
There are many ways to describe it. But for the purpose of this, I’ll describe it as it’s an awareness practice that uses movement as the tool to be able to sense yourself more deeply, more wholly in a way that you can feel the connections throughout your whole self more. It uses a very specific type of way of moving in order to create an environment where you can listen to yourself. So we’ll either do it in group classes, or you can do it one on one with a practitioner where they naturally move and you can just experience it. And all the movements are really slow, really gentle, always within always looking for this range of movement that feels easy and fluid, and pleasurable. So it’s, it’s bizarre that you can do these movements that are so small, and just within a range of ease with constant rest that we rest a lot in between so that our system can just calm down and integrate what it’s experiencing. That it can let go of any patterns or holdings that are unnecessary. But most of the time, we don’t sense that unnecessary, because we’re just in a habit of going, going, going. So it’s a practice of deep listening through the body.
Tahlee Rouillon 10:36
It’s so funny that you talk about the subtle movements leading to these really profound moments. Do you find that when people do a Feldenkrais class, or they maybe do a one on one with you that they have the sort of maybe emotional or mental shifts that are larger than the physical movements themselves?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 11:03
They can do, it really depends on the person. And it depends on where they’re at. Depends what why they’ve come to it and what their expectations were, because people come to it from through many different ways. So I came to the method through, just completely by chance, really, but I was looking for something to do with chronic tension. So I was working as a publicist, so I was at my desk a lot, and had all of those typical tensions that people who have desk jobs have, so a lot of chronic neck, shoulder, upper back tension. I used every single contraption that I could find to do with ergonomic setup, seating arrangements, lighting, I was getting regular treatments. And that would give me relief, but I would just end up there a month later with the exact same thing that I’d come there for in the first place. And I was like, well, something’s missing. I don’t know. I’ve tried everything. It was really frustrating. I had no idea what it was that I was doing. But I could tell that it was something. Came across a Feldenkrais workshop had never heard of this method before. But all I knew was that it was gonna focus on uppper back tension. And I was like, well, that’s me. So I’m gonna give that a go. And we just did these tiny movements. We had our arms in a little triangle, we were just moving at this tiny little bit, and then we’d rest and I remember lying there thinking “We’re not not actually doing anything. What do you mean, we’re resting?! We haven’t done anything yet!” And then after about 40 minutes, we had a break, and I got up to walk across the room to make a cup of tea. And I barely recognized the body I was in. I was like, “Who? What is this? What is going on?” I felt like I had no reference point for it. Because it was beyond relaxation. You know after a really good message and you feel relaxed, that’s something. But I was moving differently, I could tell. I felt like I was moving like some kind of slinky cat, it wasn’t my body. So I was really intrigued.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 13:21
But yeah, it really depends on the person and how they come to it. So some people come to it through pain. Lots of musicians and actors and performers and dancers have done a bit of Feldenkrais if they’ve gone to somewhere like College of Arts, they tend to do either Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais. So they have a bit of that experience from it. Sports people come to it as well. So they can improve their performance. So it really depends on why people come to it and what they’re expecting to get out of it. Sometimes asking people to slow down can be really confronting. For me, I remember even just from that first lesson of them telling us that we’re doing things small and slow and within ease and never going into pain or stretch completely bent my mind when I experienced for myself the effects of it afterwards, like that just completely broke my paradigm of how the world works. “What do you mean? What do you mean less is more?!” I couldn’t intellectually argue my way out of it because I physically experienced it in my body like there was no arguing like I actually experienced it. So it put a lot of questions in my mind about the way I was experiencing the world.
Tahlee Rouillon 14:45
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Tahlee Rouillon 16:04
I love that Feldenkrais is basically a way to interrupt the habitual ways in which we do things. Because it opens up so much possibility then for like, well, what else is possible? Where else is there potential? If I’ve been walking around with a sore neck for months or years, and then all of a sudden, just by doing this incredibly, almost infinitesimally small movement, and I can get up and feel like a different person. That is profound.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 16:37
Yeah, yeah. And it can be so quick as well. So Moshe Feldenkrais who developed the method was saying how you can’t think or feel or sense or move without each of those things being affected at the same time. So this idea that we have a mind-body connection, it’s one of those things where language fails us because it’s beyond a connection. You can’t do one without the other. And so what he was really interested in was finding a way for people to be able to improve, to be able to change, to be able to fulfill their fullest potential. And he was like, if I’m going to use (it could have been any of the sensing, feeling, thinking, acting ways of his way in). But he was like, if I’m going to choose one, well, it might as well be movement, because it’s a really tangible thing. Everyone can do it, it’s quite easy to be able to focus on, which is one of the things that I really enjoyed when I first came to it. It was easier for me to grasp it than pure meditation, I could find myself through slow movement a lot easier than I could in stillness. Because there was feedback happening. I could sense what’s going on, I was moving on the grounds, it was something a little bit more tangible, but it was affecting me on all levels at the same time.
Tahlee Rouillon 18:05
So I want to switch tack a little tiny bit here. So your business is called A Life In Flow. It seems like that is a very intentional business name. You don’t mention Feldenkrais in your business name. It is, I guess, ambiguous. But there’s a lot in that name. What does flow mean to you? Why did you choose that name?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 18:31
The name came to me, before I created the business. So as soon as I started… When I discovered Feldenkrais, I was intrigued after that first workshop, and did more classes did more one on one. And was just, I tend to whenever I come across something new, no matter what kind of area it is, I’m always pulling out elements of it and figuring out how that applies to my life as a whole. And the lessons that I was learning on the mat about… because when you’re doing a lesson, it’s not like a yoga class where there’s a teacher who’s demonstrating what to do, we don’t do that. It’s very much an internal experience, so it’s more like a facilitated exploration for the person on the mat. So the teacher guides them through verbal directions. And also, a lot of the time is asking questions as a way of directing the students thinking as to and sensing what’s going on within them. So we’re always asking these questions that when you first hear them can sound really vague. There’s tangible things like how you’re experiencing yourself on the floor, what’s pushing more into the floor, what’s lifted away. But there’s also questions about, how can you make this easier or simpler? How could you do this even smaller?What would happen if you did it even smaller and slower than you are now, and then being able to sense how much more you can experience and become aware of when you do that.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 20:10
So those kind of questions were getting planted in my head, like, like seeds. And I started questioning what else was going around me. And this was around the same time that I was realizing that my time in the music industry was probably… I’d probably done everything I’d wanted to do and it might be time for me to go. I started thinking just about, about the way that, I had been raised and my approach to life. I have immigrant Asian parents who had a family business that I was involved in, that had, were very much like “hard work is the only way to go, No pain, no gain, that’s the way you get anywhere in life”. So to be even given permission to rest was like a revelation. Our family has always been about “multitasking is the standard”, “don’t just stand there talking, can’t you do something with your hands at the same time?” Like, “sure, talk to me, but can you fold something while you’re doing that?” So this idea that rest was actually necessary. And even like learning to experience rest was really amazing. And also just feeling how that amplified the experience after you allow yourself to rest was was really interesting. And so I had all these questions about how this applies to the rest of my life. And at the time, I was like, so what do I do with this? I’m coming to all these Feldenkrais classes and I don’t know what to do with all these questions that I had. But I trained to be a life coach a few years later, so I always wanted to do the Feldenkrais training, but it was like a four year training, that had these segments that would go for like two to three weeks at a time, full time, throughout the year. And I was just like “how on earth?!” I had a full time job at the time, I was like, there’s no way I could do that. And then I had my babies. So it was about eight years until I finally got to do an intake of the training. So in the meantime, I did a six month coaching course, because I’d always wanted had this vision that eventually I would bring the two together. And so when I finished coaching, and I was thinking about what I would call it that name came to me, because it brings everything that I wanted to do together. So flow for me is very much about this couple of elements to it. So when I think of flow, I think of this ability to be able to move and respond and adapt and to shift, and respond to life and change because life is change. And then there’s also that beautiful state of being in flow state, which is something I have experienced, this experience, probably most when I’m on the floor doing Feldenkrais, where you’re just so immersed in the process, and the experience of what you’re discovering without being attached to a goal to interfere with the process and just being able to deliciously explore that. And if we all had that, if we could all experience that, like live our lives like that, I just think you’ll just be so much, so much richer.
Tahlee Rouillon 23:40
Can you expand a little bit on? You mentioned, that the experience on the mat has helped you bring a lot more flow and grace into other areas of your life? Does something come to mind like an experience in your day to day life that you had that you were like, “Oh, that was a direct result of how I’ve learned to become resilient and more graceful and more in flow because of Feldenkrais”.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 24:10
There’s the movement aspects of Feldenkrais but really the crux of it is… every time you get on the mat, it’s like a training to become more aware. So just over the years I’ve become… it’s helped me slow down and find that pause between intention and action. And I’ve had enough experiences of finding those little pockets of movement when I’m on the floor where I’ve sensed full body ease and connection and integration. And then when you you’re exploring these movements on the floor, and we usually come up upright afterwards and walk around the room and feel ourselves in this new organization. And it effects your entire way you feel. So it’s knowing knowing that I can access those parts of myself that, that they’re always available there. Whereas when we really get stuck in our habits, and we don’t give ourselves the space to take those habits away, and leave those tensions behind and explore new things, we don’t realize that there’s other things possible for us. Not always there, but it’s just being added train ourselves to give ourselves those options.
Tahlee Rouillon 25:27
Yeah, that space in between to make the choice to, yeah, change something about the way that we think or feel or react in the world. And I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and I’ve been reading a book called How Emotions Are Made. And it’s written by a neuroscientist, and she talks a lot about this idea of the constructed theory of emotion. And it’s this notion that we don’t actually react to the world, that the old theory of emotion is that you had a stimulus, and then you react to it. And that’s your emotional response to something happening. And she said, that’s a very intuitive way of thinking about emotions, because that’s what it feels like in our body. But actually, the way that the brain operates is that there is no separation between, as you were saying, like in the Feldenkrais concept is that there is no separation between thought and feeling. It’s all the same. And it’s contributing to this overall, what she calls affect, an affect is our overall mood, our arousal level, how content we are, or how aroused or angry we are, or how sated we are, or how pleasurable things are. And so it makes so much sense that when you change something in your body, you’re having this effect, that is changing everything.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 26:55
Yeah, during our Feldenkrais training those so many times that I’ve just become so frustrated by the language that we’re trapped in, because language is so linear. And it’s, it’s so hard to express something that’s multi dimensional, and simultaneous, all going on, and even now, there’s so much more awareness about the nervous system, I started getting really frustrated and going, but we’re doing the same thing. Now we’re just talking about the nervous system, but we’re not a nervous system. I’m very happy that it’s getting as much attention as it is. And we’re talking about the nervous system, as opposed to the brain, we split the brains just in the head, but actually, the brains connected through nerves throughout all of us. So everything we’re sensing and touching and feeling, that’s all information for your system. But we’re whole beings, like we are human beings. So we are all of these things, and it’s okay to highlight different parts of it. But it all matters. And everything affects everything. It’s experiencing, and sensing, to me, everything.
Tahlee Rouillon 28:08
For anybody who’s listening, and they’re sort of feeling like, Yes, I want to bring more flow into my life. This sounds amazing. How would you suggest that they start?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 28:21
So Feldenkrais is a learning method. So I’ve got a lot of learning methodology around how to learn to improve anything, really. So in this case of it being flow, the first step is always awareness, and creating the environment that you can become aware of something, and to create the environment, you need to be able to slow down and quieten the stimulus enough that you can actually sense what’s actually going on. So I think for a person, if they want more flow in their life to actually look at what it is that they do in their daily life that gives them that sense of flow, what does flow mean to them? What does it feel like and when do you experience it? And really, tease apart what the elements of that are? What are your thoughts as you’re doing that? What is it that you’re sensing? How do you feel in your body? Where do you feel that in your body and to really dive deep first into what it is that you know, your experiences of that and once you can really learn to be able to, to access that, then you can start expanding it out into other areas?
Tahlee Rouillon 29:41
Yeah, it really seems like self awareness is this sort of key foundation to so much of deep living really.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 29:51
You can only change anything that you want in life once you know what you’re doing. And to know what you’re doing, you have to actually really know… you’ve got to be aware of what it is that you’re doing.
Tahlee Rouillon 30:04
The great paradox of spirituality and self growth!
Angela Ashley-Chiew 30:10
You have to know what you’re doing to do what you want.
Tahlee Rouillon 30:13
Oh, well, thank you so much for this amazing conversation and sharing all of your amazing wisdom with us. I am just loving it. Just before we go, I’d love to know, what are you currently diving deep into at the moment?
Angela Ashley-Chiew 30:28
So I’m really diving deep into being with myself. I’m so into me at the moment. laughs This new routine. So I was saying before, I’ve come to realize in recent years, just how much alone time I need to fill my cup up to the point of overflowing. And I think in the past, I’ve criticized myself for that and thought I must just be selfish. But I’ve come to accept that actually, I’ve been really hungry for it because I need it. So I have developed this really insane morning ritual. I was getting up quite early before but now I’m getting up like, insanely early.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 31:30
I get up at 4am. I come into my little retreat room. And I just have like hours by myself meditating and moving and like doing whatever I want, before the rest of my family get up. And it has been a complete game changer. I’ve had half a day to myself it feels like, by the time they get up. And I’m so filled up that you could throw anything at me for the rest of the day and I’d be fine. So I’m really into meditating and into doing little Awareness Through Movement Feldenkrais practices. And I’m reading a whole different bunch of books. I’m doing a lot of EFT tapping at the moment. I’m just really into spending time on my own.
Tahlee Rouillon 32:30
I’m sure every parent listening is going to set their alarm for 4am tomorrow.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 32:36
I highly recommend it. It’s like I get up and I I give myself the best part of my energy to me before anyone else gets up. Instead of giving just the rest of me at the end of the day to myself, it’s been a game changer.
Tahlee Rouillon 32:55
Thank you for sharing that.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 32:57
You’re welcome. As insane as it sounds.
Tahlee Rouillon 33:01
4am is definitely not my time to shine. But I imagine if I had kids, I would probably need a quiet morning to myself.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 33:08
I was getting up at five. And then I found by the time actually got into my room after washing my face and making a cup of tea pottering around. It was 5:30. And then it was seven. And it wasn’t enough. I was like this is not enough. I’m gonna get up a whole hour earlier. And it’s been amazing.
Tahlee Rouillon 33:25
It’s great. I love that you’re giving yourself that permission. Fantastic. Thank you, Angela. It truly has been such a pleasure chatting with you today.
Angela Ashley-Chiew 33:36
Thank you. I can talk about this all day.
Tahlee Rouillon 33:42
Thank you for listening to the Seekers’ Sanctuary podcast. I’ve been your host Tahlee. If you’ve enjoyed the music on this show, then you’re going to love becoming a Seekers’ Sanctuary member. You can access hours of calming meditones music on any device with our premium streaming service. Head to seeksanctuary.com for your free trial today. Special thanks to our editor Justin Rouillon for helping bring these episodes to life. Until next time, big love.