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Fading Flowers – knowing when to let go….

I might have put these dying flowers in the garden bin days ago. But something stopped me each time. As I carefully removed the drooping withered flowers, still a few possibilities remained from their un-budding into full boisterous bloom. Now they were close to the end but somehow they communicated to me that they still had more to give, that they wanted  time to experience their whole life cycle.

It was as if they said to me, ‘no not yet – let us stay a little longer’

It’s my pattern I think, I find it hard to let go of things if there is still a Chance, a hope of life continuing. And isn’t there always still a Chance?

Until there’s not of course

So how do we know when it’s time to let something go? A musing of this morning brought into being by seeing these flowers, and by being suddenly housebound because of a Covid contact. Time to muse, time to set down some words, to give voice to memories and to allow whatever forms to flow.

The thoughtful meandering brought me back to my beautiful friend Ro. It’s nearly her birthday – all the goddess qualities of Virgo so visible in her – but its nearly 5 years since she left this life, c/o Cancer of the Oesophagus. And I realised that being with something, or someone, or a relationship, or a life phase, in its process of dying brings beauty if we give ourselves the chance to see it. As life ebbs away then something might reveal itself. For Ro, who had experienced such weight gain from over drinking and overeating to numb the pain of her past, it was in the dropping of weight. There was a point where she expressed how fully in her physical beauty she felt – and she was ALWAYS SO beautiful – but in her shedding of protective layers, she felt like the actresses who had the type of body that she wanted to inhabit. It might be cruel to realise it was the affects of cancer that brought about this transformation but in that brief moment Ro was in her full power, energised, excited and sharing it with me. It was real, viscerally and powerfully real.

As I write I am receiving memories of other loved ones, and their moments of beauty and vitality while in this process of dying. I feel such strange gratitude for these flowers on my table today. Do they know how they are moving me? In this dialogue of connection, I feel such heartfelt gratitude for the strength I found to be with my friend as she went through the terrors on her journey. And I feel an openness occurring somewhere across my chest and my neck, that wants to say ‘you can do this for yourself too.’

There are no simple answers to any of our big questions of when to let go, when to give up, when to continue and whether the hope is truly directed. There is though, the possibility of living through our own processes alongside others who are also in-process. The answers unfolding and taking shape in their own time, not forced, and not hurried. Two decades ago, a very clever work colleague who was also a linguist told me of the French saying:

‘Plus ca change, c’est plus la meme chose’

Immediately I recognised the life changing power in those words. It took me those decades to live into their meaning though…. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’

Change is inevitable, change itself being the continuity of things. That things change because they continue, because we live through their life cycle, co-creating what the changes might look like. It requires us to be brave enough to stay while the dying happens, and then of course there is the grieving. Beyond that threshold there is the possibility of new life, of new understanding, of transformation that could not have come into being any other way. We must be careful with our energy, holding on to things that are already leaving will deplete our beautiful body. But we can be a willing witness to the beauty of life as it comes to its physical and material end. This doesn’t make the territory less tough, but it will promise us a soft quiet bed to rest in at the end of it all. The softness and quietness of having been with something that mattered so much to us that we willingly gave the energy to bear its ending….

1-2-1 Body-Mind Centering sessions in Edinburgh

I am offering 1-2-1 and group sessions for anyone interested in the embodied approaches of Body-Mind Centering. Since the COVID situation which affected us all in March 2020, I have been delivering sessions online (via Zoom) and, where legal and safe, in person with social distancing measures. From the beginning of May 2021 it should be possible to arrange in person sessions whch will take place in my dedicated Movement Space in Marchmont, Edinburgh. If your motivation is for more ease in your body, or a deeper sense of embodied awareness, or for more enlivened creative expression, I would be delighted to offer my knowledge to support and facilitate your own journey.

For more information, or to discuss whether Body-Mind Centering might be beneficial for you, please contact me by email at:


Accreditation and recent professional experience

Debbie Allan is a somatic movement educator (SME) working with movement and embodiment practices to help individuals wake up their inherent capacities for good health and wellbeing. She graduated with an MSc in Dance Science from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in 2009 and went on to study Body-Mind Centering® (BMC®) in the UK and France, graduating as an accredited somatic movement educator in 2013. She is a professional member of the Body-Mind Centering® Association in California and has studied with, and assisted, the founder of the work, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.

Debbie is interested in the blend of Science (objective understanding of biomechanics, psychology, anatomy and physiology) with Somatics (subjective inner awareness, rhythms and impulses unique to the individual) as a pathway towards greater ease and joy.


One of the key ways in which Body-Mind Centering can support anyone is in the area of Postural Alignment. Moving into an embodied awareness of our own unique postural alignment is the opposite of the old fashioned way of thinking about good posture, and needing to ‘impose’ an ‘ideal’ form. Dynamic healthy postural alignment is an enlivening and surprising process of discovery and recovery. These sessions focus on skeletal alignment and breath motion as the basic underlying support for our body to find comfort, ease and healing. Our muscles often work against us, pulling the bones away from a natural easeful alignment; as we find the clarity of our bones and their innate response to gravity, it becomes possible to organically repattern. We begin the process of releasing long habituated holding patterns that may have built up in response to life events. Our bones also provide the underlying architecture for all body structures and functions: well aligned bones lead to well aligned blood vessels, nerve pathways, lymphatic vessels, glands, organs, and muscles! In terms of breathing it is possible to identify and release holding patterns in the area around the lungs and heart – the muscles of the ribs, shoulders and upper arms often create so much tension leading to a caged-in, rather than flight-ready feeling. When we open to more natural, full and free breathing – we find it is the very basis of all healthy human functioning.

But there are many ways in which we might explore together. As a general guide, I would lead you through a process that involves some or all of the following:

  • Guided visualisation to help you relax and quiet down the busy thinking brain. We do this so that it becomes possible to ‘hear’ our body’s signals
  • Hands-on listening and responsive touch (where Covid restrictions allow) to help with structural awareness and to support and encourage repatterning
  • Ongoing dialogue so that your unfolding experience and embodied feedback is fully integrated into the direction of the session
  • Relevant movement practices that may be done sitting, standing, lying on the floor and moving through space
  • Sharing of images and anatomical knowledge to support you as you begin to inhabit (embody) more of your inner body landscape
  • Recommendation of movement patterns and sequences which can be practiced at home – in easeful, enjoyable and exploratory ways



A question of Identity?

This is a short (well that was the original intention, but as you’ll see it’s anything but) blog post to mark the day I changed my name from my married name of Watson back to my maiden name of Allan. No big deal you might think – or not! Actually it has been a huge journey to get to this moment. I was married for 17 years (19-36 years old) and have been divorced officially for 16 years, though we parted over 20 years ago.

Why has it taken so long?

It seems to be a question of Identity – how am I identified, who do I want to be identified with? Who am I still connected to, and who am I not? A large part of the reason I have taken so long to make the change is because I have two daughters whose name is Watson, and who understandably wanted to continue with our shared family name. That for me was a good enough reason to shelf the matter, to wait for another moment, a better time, a more compelling reason.

So the right time has presented itself – enough healing, enough disconnecting, enough conversations with loved ones – a readiness for change. But I have been Debbie Watson for 37 years and it’s been hard to suddenly find myself with the freedom to choose. I could revert to my maiden name without much fuss, but equally I could choose a different name?

I grew up with a tradition and in a patriarchal culture that instructed we take our father’s name, our husband’s name, somehow the imperative was to continue the all important male line/name. I remember my own father, feeling superior towards his step siblings as he was able to ‘produce’ both a son and a daughter. As I think and write this memory of my dad, I realise though that he didn’t favour having a male child over a female one. Our childhood was a difficult one, violent, unsafe, and wholly frightening and confusing. So the question of whether to willingly go back to my birth name, knowing the memories associated with those early times, was one that I had to spend time answering for myself.

Going back/Moving forward

I realise it is a spiralling dialogue, the shadow of the past informing the present, the ever evolving present reevaluating the past. And the future, unknown but step by step being entered. Like the waves of the sea roaring, powering or more gently coming in, all the while the undercurrent pulling it backwards – the forward motion leading as the tide comes in, the backwards motion leading as the tide goes out. I’ve been lucky enough to feel that at a body level, our own tidal flow, the fluid movement back and fore, towards our feet, towards our head. It’s one of the most vivid moments in my body-mind centering experience. And during that exploration there was a further invitation made to co-create that flow, to enter into the space with the person whose flow you were listening to through your hands, to surrender to a co-creative experience in which that flow became conscious and there was a possibility of a meeting, a choice making, a discovery as we ‘met’ each other in that space.

This co-creative force underpins our own existence, sperm and egg together, opposite energies of speed and stillness, piercing motivation being allowed to enter the space of patience and possibility. A new unique life being energised, the spark of life that may lead to the birth of a child with the potential to experience the whole spectrum of possibility that is created when these two polar-opposite forces ‘decide’ to merge.

So the decision I’ve come to is to honour the name I was given at birth. As an illegitimately born child myself, and as the grand daughter of an illegitimate only girl child who was taken from her mother, never allowed a father’s name or any knowledge of him, I am grateful that I knew, and got to love, my mother and father. And that my daughters got to know and share love with their grandparents.

But this post isn’t over yet, there is a modern day and future twist to the tale. Part of my journey over the last few years has been to begin to uncover and discover my matrilineal history. My mother suffered mental illness and depression for most of her life, probably brought on by a harsh childhood, and an even harsher early adulthood when she became pregnant by a man, his identity still not revealed to this day, and was not allowed to be a mother to the daughter she gave birth to. She was treated for mental illness for most of her life, including ECT treatment in the late 60s and she would always say that it took away her memories and that was why she didn’t speak about the past.

Growing up with a fragile, depresssed, isolated and often suicidal mother meant that I took on the role of her emotional carer, trying from an early age to make her feel better, and avoiding anything that would upset her. It was not until her last birthday, on 25 June 2013, before her death in March 2014, when I took her out to visit Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire that she began to open up.  On that car journey she told me things about her past, about her mother’s past and even about her grandmother’s story. I drove on taking in all this new information and writing it out as soon as I stopped the car. It was incredible to me, exciting, thrilling and suddenly I felt as if I had access to more of my own story, through these tiny fragments of my maternal history.The stories I have pieced together tell of a tragic line between my mother, grandmother and great grandmother – all named Bessie. It seems as if there was something ill fated about their lives, and specifically the first (and in my great grandmother’s case, only) borne child. The trauma, shame, stigma, and fear that was experienced by each of these women before the age of twenty was enormous and created a lifelong impact which reached out beyond themselves to affect those of us who came after. I am continuing to try to understand my ancestors’ lives, to fill in the details, some of which involve royal castles and a lot of servile powerlessness. My hope and plan is to develop a creative work which is both performative and participatory so that others who want to look at their maternal stories of trauma and shame, have a safe place to explore it. And perhaps even to embody and express those stories in a creative and ultimately healing way.

I didn’t intend to share the story of the 3 Bessies in this post but in the writing I must have tapped into the undercurrent flow and it felt good to follow it. It’s taken me to a point of understanding the role of past, present and future in making this decision. I am going back to my birth name, honouring the forename my mother gave me, the middle name they both agreed on, and to my father’s surname. But I am also going forward, adding a second middle name of Isabella. Isabella was my great great grandmother, who lived on Gamrie Bay in the North East. She gave birth to the first Bessie who left there to be a servant girl at Balmoral Castle, the holiday residence of the Royal Family since Victorian times. I think that is the moment where the story of deep trauma began and where it seemed to be passed on, almost through the naming of the next two generations of Bessies.

Biologically, each trio of grandmother, mother and baby share an incredible secret.  As a female baby is about to be born, all of the eggs that she will ever have available to fertilise are ‘downloaded’ into her ovaries before birth. This means that the egg that became me was contained within my grandmothers womb, as she carried my mother there. I know it’s mindblowing but it begins to set the scene for understanding how and why maternal experience is passed on emotionally, genetically, and energetically. Even this week the news highlighted the lack of support for women whose births are traumatic and who end up with mental ill health because of their experiences. Hopefully, and reflecting my own journey of healing, the zeitgeist will support us in trying to explore, to understand and to express all of our stories.

I dedicate this post to my mother Bessie Allan and to my daughters Cara Watson and Sasha Watson. (03 December 2018)

Debbie Elsie Isabella Allan (DEIA)

The F-word

Last October I went into studio 4 in Dance Base, Edinburgh with three fantastic women, who are also dancers, to explore and create a movement response to all sorts of F-words which were flowing from my questions about Feminism (past, present and future) and our perceptions and conceptions about being feminine and female.

Two questions (or is it one) keep coming up for me: What makes me/you/us fulfilled and what makes me/you/us frustrated? What are the stories and examples from our own experience; what can we share about what has and is happening to us, to our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and to women around the world whose stories touch us. I have set up this participatory performance project to gather personal stories and to explore how text, movement and dance might emerge within and between us, and to see where that might lead?

The dialogue about feminism is becoming mainstream again, flowing into our consciousness, providing a new opportunity to look again from the place we are now. As a 52 year old woman and mother of two daughters in their twenties I want to feed this dialogue and offer an embodied participation. We need new ideas and new ways of moving, listening and seeing. Wish us luck with our exploratory beginning of what I hope will become an ongoing performance and participatory project coming to a place near you – soon!

And please, if you have stories, images, thoughts, and inspirations you would like to share, please post them.

Oh and why the F-word? When my ideas started, it occurred to me that Feminism seemed to have taken over from the original F-word (which is everywhere now), as the new ‘dirty’ word that shouldn’t be used any more. Well… after I got over my shock about that, I decided it could be fun to play with it. The floodgates to F-words then just opened up, there are so many amazingly relevant and poignant ones.

So again, if you want, please post your favourite/s and any stories about why you think that F-word comes up for you or what it means to you.