CHANGING THE MENU: Lexie Koren (interview!)

I met Lexie whilst i was still living in Norway. We bonded over so much: music, approaches to life, wellness, culture, love of London and the familiar feeling of being "in between", whether it was the experience of being Other and living in different countries, or being involved in particular industries with a non-vanlig approach. 

She is to me, more than a breath of air - she gives me hope, jaw wide injections of "ah-ha" moments, and reassurance in my path. She´s also doing amazing and important work on her journey. We hope you will feel that giddy inspiration-wisdom penetrating your pores as you read her responses to our Changing the Menu interview questions! 

What´s your name/how do you want to be referred to?

My name is originally Alejandra, my passport says Alexandra. Alex is what I have been called for a very long time and about 10 years ago a friend started calling me Lexie. I liked Lexie, it gave me a chance to explore another, more feminine part of myself. 

Names are powerfully charged labels, they carry an identity that is put on you from the time that you are born. I like to playfully challenge these labels and today, I use all three variations of my name. 

Where are you based?

Until recently, I would say that my base was London. In a way it still is; I pay my taxes in the UK. But I am writing to you from Santiago, Chile.

A pic of Santiago from Lexie's instagram

Please describe what you see around you right now?

At this very moment I am sitting on a terrace drinking mate tea. My laptop is placed on top of an old, repurposed Singer sewing machine. On my right side a large window is open, letting in a very needed, albeit polluted breeze. We have 35 degrees Celsius. If I look out the window, I can see an old building, a palm tree and the Andes Mountains.


Can you tell us a bit about how you spend your time in the world?

I move a lot. I mean, there is a lot of action and movement in my life. There’s singing, there’s dancing, there’s writing, running retreats, seeing clients, planning events, travelling. I guess if I had to narrow all of this down, I would say that I spend my time in the world creating connections, whether it is to other people, the Self or the unconscious. The tools I use to create these connections are the expressive arts. In practical terms, I am a psychotherapist and a performer. I run workshops and see clients in my virtual office via Skype. 

Creating connections: Lexie on the dancefloor

Creating connections: Lexie on the dancefloor


You´ve have had a lot of creativity events in your home/workspaces including diva workshops, dance painting, ritual etc. Please offer us some nibbles about your experiences - your fave standout memory from one of the events e.g.::: ...and challenges too if you feel like it? 

A few years ago I set up a project in London called The Alma Hub. It was in a converted warehouse and the idea was to provide a space for workshops and events with a creative edge. It was a truly magnificent period, fertile with ideas but challenging financially. All of the events and workshops were unique. 

We held Red Tent Circles with shamanic practitioner Amber Agha, Sound Healing circle with the incredibly talented and wise Voice and Movement Therapist Laura Valenti. The Londres Psychology Practice held a talk on Pharmaceuticals causing a heated debate between psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. 

Dionne, you held your fabulous Yoga Disco. What a treat! The place served as a recording studio for podcasts with the Spanish speaking London based online magazine Londres Asi and the Alma Hub’s podcast Conversations with Alma.  I ran my private practice and held workshops of my own there. There was just so much creativity and life at the Alma Hub. 


Where´s "home" for you Lexie? (we understand this is a loaded one!)

The great Alejandro Jodorowsky says “Home is where my shoes are”. I would second that and add a slight modification, mostly because I have shoes stored in Norway, London and various places in Chile, “Home is where my feet go”.

Earlier this month I co-facilitated a retreat in the Chilean Lake District. There, by the feet of the volcano Puntiagudo, I took my shoes off and let my feet sink in to the warm, porous earth. I felt at home. For me, home is a feeling, not a place. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with that.  

Home: Where the shoes are. 

Home: Where the shoes are. 


As someone who bridges cultures and countries including Norway, the UK and South America, can you give us some giblets about "belonging" and "adjusting to different cultures"? Is there any mask-wearing that needs to occur in order to have more ease?

Language is essential in the process of bridging, adjusting and belonging. I grew up in the west coast of Norway, on a small island. There’s a particular dialect spoken there. If I am out in the world and run into a Norwegian they will hear how I speak and will be able to relate to me as a Norwegian. Growing up in Norway and while being there, it was very clear that I wasn’t Norwegian, despite sharing the language and the culture. This is because my looks would give my origins away. Outside the Nordic territory looks didn’t matter, language did, hence the belonging vs not belonging conundrum. 

I speak English fluently however, I do have an undefined accent. At times British sounding, with a Latin staccato in my rhythm, some Scandinavian endings and the occasional American twang. I never felt I didn’t belong in cosmopolitan London. 

Chile is a new experience for me, it’s the first time I am staying here longer than a few months and I am expanding my network outside the family. I also speak the language fluently, but I am not familiarised with the local slang. My professional vocabulary (psychotherapeutic) is in English, I am having to read a lot in Spanish in order to explain myself. Socially, the warm welcome has been exceptional. Within weeks I had been invited to form part of events, filming a movie with the father of cult cinema, holding talks at holistic fairs and other creative endeavours. 

My progressive views on everything from reproductive rights to healing the female wound have been received with both shock and acceptance. I recognise my Scandinavian upbringing as it is accentuated by contrast to the consequences of historical oppression, evidenced by public policies in this Catholic, South American country.

Every country has its battles.      

I believe that creative expression is a natural step for achieving a deeper connection, for creating that bridge of compassion and understanding between cultures.
— Lexie Koren

In regards to mask-wearing, I guess we always carry a form of mask. They are the initial point of contact. If we look at masks as character traits and think about how every language holds a culture and every culture has its idiosyncrasy i.e. traits, then Spanish, Norwegian and English are all masks that help us form that initial contact. Once contact is made, I believe that creative expression is a natural step for achieving a deeper connection, for creating that bridge of compassion and understanding between cultures. 

The masks we wear: Lexie during shooting of the Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky movie Endless Poetry, Santiago 2015.

The masks we wear: Lexie during shooting of the Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky movie Endless Poetry, Santiago 2015.


What do you need, in order to feel plugged in and connected to your creativity?

A notebook and a pen. I do a ‘follow the pen’ exercise. I let the pen fill in the blank pages and see what happens. Throughout the years I have had various forms of plugging in, but this particular exercise has been my buddy since childhood. The truth is, creativity comes at the most random of times; at the bus stop, in a cab, on the phone, in the middle of the night. 

A few months ago I was having trouble sleeping. I kept seeing these geometrical shapes in my mind’s eye, in the street, in buildings, on my clothes, in the way people walked. It was so overwhelming I just couldn’t sleep. I started drawing them, it was soothing but not enough to get me off the geometrical shapes. So, one day, without any prior experience, I got up and painted over a white wall and created a teal accent wall with golden geometrical shapes. I have since not once been ‘bothered’ by geometrical shapes, and my flat looks Art Deco fabulous! 

What I am trying to say is; as creative beings we are here to create, to let these juices flow. If we don’t express this, we get stuck. What doesn’t flow with ease, becomes a dis-ease.    


Do you have a daily routine?

I used to have a daily routine. First thing in the morning I would write my dreams down, then I would do a 20min meditation. I’d hit the gym for yoga/Zumba or cross fit (depending on the day) and then get my day started.

These days I am on the move so much that I have recently started to long for a routine. I still write my dreams down and I meditate before bedtime.

Lexie during an art therapy group session at women’s retreat, Lake Rupanco, southern Chile. January 2016

Lexie during an art therapy group session at women’s retreat, Lake Rupanco, southern Chile. January 2016


Can you tell us a bit about your adventures in the Amazon?

Oh the Amazon! What an experience! I never thought I would get to do what I am doing. 

I remember in my early twenties, when I called myself an atheist, but still read the tarot on a regular basis, living life in the spiritual closet, a woman at university read my palm. She said I was a very spiritual person, and that my path was in that direction. I laughed it off and thought, this girl doesn’t know me at all. Fast forward a few years and many spiritual awakenings later, I find myself in the jungle being a shaman’s apprentice. I still have my reservations about this path, it is no walk in the park but rather one of balancing between the veils of illusions of this world, being a shadow and dreamwalker, and coming back alive to tell the tale. You begin to unlearn certain limiting conditioning, you experience the past as the observer and you enter a realm that seems, at first, unreal. Reality, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

My trips to the Amazon will continue indefinitely, I have so much to learn. I am learning about the use of plants. In the past I couldn’t separate a lily from a rose, to me they were just flowers. Now, I am seeing the medicinal effects of the plants and I am integrating this knowledge into my work as a psychotherapist.   

Lexie hanging out with an anaconda in the Amazon. 

Lexie hanging out with an anaconda in the Amazon. 


You are also a performance artist. Would you share a golden nugget of your wisdom in how one might become more confident?

As a performance artist, I would say voice and posture are two main things to be aware of. Is your back straight? How is your breathing? How is your body supporting your voice?

In Gestalt counselling and psychotherapy we talk about the creative experiment in the therapeutic space as the “rehearsal of the possible”. I like the idea of giving yourself permission to rehearse new ways of being. Performers rehearse too, we try different ways of expressing our material before presenting it to an audience. If you want to work on your confidence, try this gentle exercise at home, in front of a mirror or with a friend before testing it in public:

Imagine you have a golden string pulling you upwards, starting from the base of your spine, all the way up through the neck and your head. Out of your crown the string continues up towards the sky until you can’t see it any longer. Take a deep breath, pull your shoulders back and notice how your posture changes. Make sure your feet are hip width apart and put your hands on your waist, like Wonder Woman or Super Man. Are you breathing? Smile. You’re doing great. Prior to this, you would have thought about a statement that expresses the feeling you would like to exude. For example: My name is ______ I am confident/ good enough/awesome (whatever is closest to what you can believe at that moment). Say it out loud. Take a deep breath and say it again: I am good enough/wonderful/brave, etc. Repeat it many times, shake it off. Walk around the room and do the whole exercise again. Always noticing the small changes taking place and congratulating yourself for taking the steps to expand on your capacity to be self-nurturing.


We think you are changing the menu in art, expression, representation, creativity and activism. How do you balance out your broad skills and interests?

Thank you. Well, I think that integration has been a key theme in my life. Learning to integrate the broad skills and interests, and stay balanced is something I work on every day. Even my professional title underlines that, I am an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist. I am always on the lookout for tools that will aid this integration so that I can be of service in a way that is beneficial to the people I work for and with, but that also keeps me whole and nurtured. It is a work in progress.


And how do you choose what areas to focus on at any one time?

I make lists. I am a big fan of mind maps and lists, and I get great satisfaction from ticking tasks off my list. On Sundays, I plan out my week, I put really simple things on it, like “wake up”, “leave the house”, “sit down and have some tea”. It may sound silly but I need these reminders in order to focus. Otherwise, I might get a creative idea and then get lost in that world. 

Right now, it’s the summer holidays in Chile, everyone’s away but I am working, and I love it. I am also spending time planning out the year ahead.


What´s in store for future projects?

I have a children’s book coming out with Balboa Press, a subdivision of Hay House, this year. I say it’s a children’s book but it is also for the inner child in every adult.  The publishing house is giving me guidelines for press and marketing and I am finding that selling myself as an author is quite the challenge. 

There are a few workshops and retreats in the works, I am working with a singing coach and preparing a set list of jazz standards, and I am dancing with a troupe of Swing and Lindy Hoppers. There are a few collaborations with fellow artists and a wonderful transpersonal psychologist. And of course my apprenticeship in the jungle continues. Apart from that, I will carry on offering Skype sessions.

Have a vision. If you don’t, find out what it is.
— Lexie Koren

Do you have a nugget of advice you could give someone starting out?

Have a vision. If you don’t, find out what it is. Whatever happens, you might get side tracked, life might throw you a few punches but you always have your vision to get back to. Your vision is your grounding stone. 

What inspires you?

People that have overcome adversity. 


Dream dinner?

Emmeline Pankhurst, Maya Angelou, Charlie Chaplin, Oprah, Trevor Noah, Frida Kahlo. Wait, are you talking about food? In that case, anything fresh and colourful.

Hungry: Oprah feasting on the Serengeti

Hungry: Oprah feasting on the Serengeti

Fave animal?

Pandas


Colour(s)

Teal, purple and hot pink


Place in the world you will never tire of?

Wherever there is love, food and good company.

Fave youtube clip?

This is a difficult one. I tend to scout youtube for comedy clips. Lately, I have been following the presidential debate in the US via political satire programs such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and the hilarious Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. 

Comedy moves me. Here, I’ll share a clip from Trevor Noah’s set on BBC’s Live at the Apollo. People are laughing but what he talks about is rather poignant. 

A book. 

Mandalas and the 12 healers, by Maria Rioseco. She’s my colleague and has written this wonderful book merging Jung’s theories with Bach Flower Remedies. It’s an extraordinary piece of work. Keep a lookout for this in Europe, we might bring it over.

A piece of music you´re feeling right now.

Distance and Down by Emily King, Black Gold and Precious by Esperanza Spalding on repeat.

A person you think is "changing the menu"?

Every now and then a comedian grabs my attention and keeps me interested for years to come. Comedy is such a fine art, being able to make people laugh while overcoming adversity and creating social commentary across borders, on a universal level. It’s so inspiring. Charlie Chaplin did it, Eddie Izzard, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Amy Schumer. Right now, it’s Trevor Noah for me. He steps up to the challenge, his stand-up comedy takes up important issues, it challenges the status quo, and it changes the menu. 

Making Lexie laugh: Richard Pryor

Making Lexie laugh: Richard Pryor

Thank you so much for participating in our feature, Lexie! We appreciate you! 

In a Lexie kind of mood? Connect with her on instagram or via her website