What does it take to support each other to rise and shine?

On Sunday, we began the WISE FOOL (New Mexico) circus camp called BUST. BUST has been running for twelve years. It is a six week program of intensive circus training for women. We will explicitly be learning aerial acrobatics on fabric and trapeze, partner acrobatics on the ground, clowning, physical theater, and stilt-walking. I imagine, if we are open to it, BUST will be a place where we each can go deeper into one of my favorite questions: What does it mean to be human? At the end of the six weeks, we will give three performances. I mentioned to someone yesterday that I’m doing BUST and it turns a colleague of hers did it last year. She remarked “You know, I thought it would be like a student variety show but it was really impressive.” Despite being a group with mixed ability and experience, the idea is that we will put on a well-rehearsed and directed performance. Rather ambitious, I think. I’m certainly to curious to see how it all unfolds. How are we all going to work together to shine brightly in our own eyes and in the eyes of of the audiences that come to see us?

We kicked off this journey with a two hour opening-the-circle session. This was a chance to bring all the players into the room – teachers and students. After introductions, we stepped into the art of physical theater. In two of the exercises we did, we were in pairs. In pairs, one person had the power to touch. We did this in two ways. In one way, when a person is touched (a light tap), they move their body into the place where they were touched – as though the touch is a pull.  This movement seemed like a time to contract, get smaller. In the other way, when a person is touched they move their body as though the touch is pushing them. This movement seemed like a time to expand and get bigger.

When we reflected on this exercises, a few people spoke up and shared very different experiences. To one, for example, the touching someone and watching them contract was uncomfortable. It gave rise to the sense that the person doing the touching was some how hurting their partner. To another person, both exercises where just about physics. You pull someone towards you or your touch and they move accordingly. You push them away from you or your touch and they move accordingly.

After hearing a few different perspectives, we seemed to reach a vague consensus that how we experience each other depends a lot on our personal narratives. What are the stories guiding our perceptions? Nikesha, the teacher, also mentioned how it is that all actions generate a reaction (I would add, or a response). I took her to be highlighting for us that our time together creating a performance is going to be an endless series of actions and reactions or responses.

I spring boarded from that thought to focusing on the fact that all any of us can try to control is our actions. This brings me back to the theme of conscious creativity (I’ve written about this often, including in my last post).  Conscious creativity can sometimes become an exercise of walking on eggshells. We become so sensitive to not wanting to push people’s buttons, say the ‘wrong’ thing and the like, that we tread carefully. When that happens, the journey becomes tiring and rather unfun, no? It also becomes self-defeating. The idea with conscious creativity is to lift our selves and others up – not keep us all pushed down.

On that first day of BUST, we were encouraged to nurture ourselves and each other through supportive words. I welcomed the emphasis and I enjoy cheerleading for others. Yet, I think Wise Fool teachers and my fellow students are aware that lifting each other up is about more than affirmations and cheerleading.  I’m excited and curious to step into a question over the course of BUST: Beyond affirmations and cheerleading, how do we support each other to rise and shine?

I’ll be blogging regularly about my BUST experience over the coming weeks. I’ll let you know where this question takes me.

Where would this question take you, if you were to step into it at home, at work, on the street?

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