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Lucy Ball is an executive coach, pairs coach and team coach.

Jan 2022

Wellbeing: Dwelling and Mobility

A New Year reflection after a long time of not blogging!

2021 passed without a new word appearing in this journal. What have I been up to? Well, lots of coaching and development work with brilliant clients for which I’m extremely grateful. And also some newer stuff. I’ve been making my tiny contribution to Climate Action by facilitating with the UCL Climate Action Unit. I’ve been teaching the life-changing Cape Cod Model at the Gestalt International Study Centre and I’ve been studying counselling and psychotherapy. The latter includes many essays and reflective writing assignments which have rather diverted me from this particular channel.

Today my reflection is on the polarity ‘dwelling and mobility’. It’s a concept that was developed by L Todres and K Galvin who study wellbeing. It is a way of conceptualising what wellbeing means. It struck me right between the eyes this morning as a perfect concept for my first few days back into work after a break.

In a chat with a colleague this morning we compared our experiences of getting back into work-mode during which she declared with a smile ‘I just really like pottering!’. During the Christmas break, knowing that those to whom I have obligations are also switched off, I eventually drop my striving mode and settle into pottering mode. I sometime describe this pottering mode as ‘following my nose’. Following my nose means asking myself things like:

  • What does the weather suggest for today’s activity?
  • What am I hungry to eat next?
  • What do I fancy doing with my attention in the next 1 minute?
  • Which room do I want to be in right now?
  • Whose company shall I seek or move away from?

It is a delicious form of living in the moment, seeing what presents itself and responding to internal and external prompts. Time horizons shrink to seconds and minutes, not calendar months or quarters. Interruptions to my pleasure seeking, like the dishwasher and the teens needing lifts, have less alarm around them. Anything to be achieved feels eminently manageable and the space to daydream seems to stretch and expand.

Of course, as the holiday came to an end and the email started pinging, the pottering became less sustainable. Projects, tasks and goals called my attention. Other people in other places and time zones with new ideas and requests intruded into my awareness. And it did feel like an intrusion. That is, until I started to meet some of my obligations and be in contact with the world outside my pottering space. Then, with joy, I remembered the upsides! Stimulation! A sense of achievement! Connection!

Todres and Galvin’s concept of Dwelling and Mobility is a polarity. As I understand it, ‘Dwelling’ is about being comfortable in the here and now. It is about ‘letting be’ and a sense of being ‘at home’ with the emergence of experience moment by moment. It is as essential to wellbeing as ‘Mobility’. Mobility is about possibility, it is about connection with new stimuli; people, places, times, ideas, in order to make things happen, to complete projects or co-create something new. Mobility is as essential to wellbeing as Dwelling.

Mobility and Dwelling exist in an inter-related unity. There are upsides of both and downsides of over or under-using either. For some, emerging from a switched-off break in which Dwelling has been the primary mode is bound to trigger the fear of ‘not enough Dwelling’ or ‘too much Mobility’. And for some, emerging back into the world into more Mobility is a blessed relief from the stodgy and listless downsides of ‘too much Dwelling’ and ‘not enough Mobility’. Thanks to Todres and Galvin, I have a new compass to guide me as my Mobility ramps up.

With thanks to G for our conversation about ‘pottering’.

With thanks to N for our email exchange that included the words ‘stodgy and listless’.

Thanks to Hannah Denton and Kay Aranda for their research paper ‘The wellbeing benefits of sea swimming’ (2020) in which I first discovered the reference to Todres and Galvin.

Thanks to M whose brilliant Mobility balances my tendency to Dwell.

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