We are into week three of BUST circus camp at Wise Fool NM. So much I can write about. What’s front of mind right now is the ways in which we can be so hard on ourselves. I’m thinking about how ugly it is. I’ve written about the ugly before, with The Ugly in Beauty. I’m paying a lot of attention to observing my fellow students. The other day someone was clearly struggling with an activity. I watched and listened to her agitation with herself. I remember thinking, “Wow. That’s really ugly.” I told myself, “There, that’s it. See, see what it looks like. Choose beauty.”
This might sound mean-spirited. But it isn’t. I watched my compañera and knew I was looking in the mirror. I did ELEVATE – the two week Wise Fool NM circus boot camp – in January. At the time, I was very uncomfortable in my body. In the previous six months, I had put on a lot of weight (for me, anyway) and I was out of shape.
One objective of ELEVATE is to increase one’s fitness. I repeatedly criticized myself for things like having poor flexibility. When I did so, my fellow ELEVATORS (as it were) would encourage me to take a different perspective. They would tell me to focus on the fact that I was showing up and I was stepping in the direction of fitness. They encouraged me to give myself some credit for taking steps in a different direction.
I’m grateful for their encouragement.
Notwithstanding the ELEVATE experience, I’ve made some “I’m really frustrated with myself and my limits” comments during BUST. The other day, when I saw someone else doing this, I was jolted. I saw how ugly it is. The tone of voice, the look on her face, the visible tension in her body. I was watching someone expressing self-loathing rather than self-love. Not a pretty sight. I thought – geez, I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want to embed it into my self. What struck me even more, was the sense that I don’t want to send that ugliness out into the world.
I want to send beauty out to the world. I want to send beauty in the world in order to play a nurturing role in the collective. Why use creativity (the ability or power to bring things into being) to give rise to ugliness? I say this and then I think “Whoaa, hang on!” I’m inclined to pause because I don’t want to be an advocate for turning love into a practice of sweet words and affirmations. Yes, they have a role to play in generating love and beauty.
At the same time, both love and beauty ask more of us. What I liked about the way fellow ELEVATORS responded to my ugliness – that is, the negative self-talk I was generating – is that they didn’t latch onto what I was saying one way or another. The didn’t try and cover up what I was thinking and feeling with sweet compliments. They didn’t say “no, no, no, you look great.” Nor did they try to reinforce my negativity. They didn’t say “Oh yeh, I know what you are saying” and then throw in their own version of ugliness.
They nudged me to respond lovingly to what I was feeling and experiencing in the moment – in all its ugliness. I’ve noticed this kind of response happening with our BUST women, too.
Again, I am grateful for it.
How conscious are you of the ways in which you create ugliness in thoughts, words and actions? When the ugliness bubbles up, what kind of reactions do you have that fuel it? What kind of responses could you have instead? What does it mean to you to give rise to beauty in your self and others?