A few weeks ago, our BUST circus intensive class did three public performances. This is how, in one sense, we brought BUST to a close. I’ve been blogging about the six-week experience throughout. When it came to an end, I was overflowing with experiences I wanted to share. I decided to pause to let the exhilarating buzz soften into into me, before writing anything. Now, the stories feel ready to be told. I’ve chosen to begin with a story of concretely stepping out of one belief and into another.
A couple of years ago, I learned that I have been holding a deep-rooted belief that vulnerability is shameful. As a person who has struggled much of my life with anxiety, this belief in some way must have been leading me to be ashamed of my self. Anxiety is fear. When we are afraid, we are feeling vulnerable. Particularly in the past year, I’ve been inquiring into this belief to try and understand it.
Since January 2014, I’ve been studying the art of clowning (or red nose, as my Wise Fool teacher – Sarah Jane Moody – calls it). I began this study during a two week Wise Fool intensive. After the intensive I did two rounds of eight week classes. In this time, I developed a clown character I call Matilda.
Matilda wears a white dress with thin, blue vertical stripes (that ties in back) and pink tights. She wears sneakers and her hair in pigtails. Matilda tends to be joyful – she loves to say hello to people and to smile and be excited about what’s going on around her. She is also often befuddled by the world around her – people seem so strange and perplexing sometimes. She likes to try new things, but can be timid and a bit nervous about doing so.
Nudged on by fellow BUSTers, I chose to do two acts in our public performances as Matilda. Matilda was on stilts and she performed with two other clowns in an acrobatic act. In both these acts, Matilda was not at all reluctant to let her fellow players and the audience know what she was feeling: fear, shyness, excitement, surprise, joy, disappointment, befuddlement.
My Matilda make up consisted of a darkening and enlargement of my eyebrows, false eyelashes, bright red circles to highlight my cheeks, and deep red lipstick. The idea was to accentuate my facial expressions.
After one of the shows, a woman I did not know came up to me and said: “I really enjoyed your clown. Thank you. You know, I often feel scared like that, too.” I heard this comment and thought “Wow! How fabulous! Matilda possibly left someone feeling less alone in their fears.”
I then reflected on my journey with Matilda and her presence in our performances. I was struck by the idea that when I am in Matilda or Matilda is in me, I play with fear. I play with all my emotions. And I do it publicly. I publicly play with the joy which, until recently, often eluded me. The fear which often paralyzed me. The sadness which often collapsed me.
I play with these emotions – and in doing so feel liberated, connected, confident and whole.
Instead of ashamed, stuck, isolated and like I’m falling apart.
As I delved into this experience, I was hit by the understanding: Matilda has been able to emerge with such brightness and clarity because I have let go of, or been let go by, the belief that vulnerability is shameful. If I really believed that, I could not hold a space for Matilda to emerge within me and then share her with others.
What has replaced the belief that vulnerability is shameful? I haven’t really thought about that until now. I guess it is this belief: I am human, therefore I am vulnerable like everyone else. It’s not good. It’s not bad. Being vulnerable is simply part of what it means to be human.
And it is this belief: Vulnerability contains within it seeds for beauty.
Did a six week non-residential circus intensive dismantle a belief that I’ve possibly being carrying within me for over forty years. I don’t think so – I think it would be misleading to say that is what happened. Much soul work led up to this paradigm shift. That said, BUST certainly was a space where I took crucial steps in embodying a new restorative belief, via Matilda. BUST has been an important part of my [r]evolutionary journey.
I busted through an old belief system and into a new one, in the course of the BUST adventure.
What fundamental beliefs do you carry deep within you that drive you into isolation, shame, fear, rage and whatever else there might be? What’s your experience of letting go of, or being let go by, such beliefs? How do you imagine we create significant shifts in our beliefs at a collective level? What collective beliefs are playing the biggest roles in creating toxicity and oppression in the different communities you inhabit?