Reflections on how a circus intensive made me stronger…

A few days ago, I wrote about BUST and CWL (Cultivating Women’s Leadership) in relation to fueling the fires of beloved community.  BUST is a six week non-residential circus intensive for women only, with all classes and the final performance taking place at Wise Fool New Mexico. BUST is a group of women getting together and learning circus skills. I’m guessing that when people think BUST, they think fun, physical and cool (well it is, isn’t it?). Though the blurb about it on the Wise Fool NM website mentions building trust and community, I’m not so sure it is self-evident how that works. How does a program like BUST play a valuable role in giving women the opportunity to experience and strengthen our capacity to create not just any kind of community, but beloved community?

I’ve written a number of posts to share my reflections about my journey through BUST: What does it take to support each other to rise and shine?

Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour

Ugly is as Ugly does…

A Balancing Act – the art of caring for self while caring for others

When does self-care turn into self-indulgence?

From Fear-Full to Fear-less Still Being

Letting go of shame-full beliefs

The Art of Creating Healthy and Nurturing Community

So, what has my BUST experience taught me or affirmed for me with regards to what it takes to create beloved community? Based on what I’ve written to date, I’d say that  beloved community seems to take self-awareness; conscious action to be nurturing; a commitment to finding balance between the needs of “I” and the needs of “we”; the practice of responding to the ‘ugly’ with beauty and love; a willingness to be vulnerable; and the holding of a safe space.

Creating beloved community also requires a belief and trust in magic – some people might call this belief “faith.”

What else does it take? In the CWL training, the facilitators made a distinction between being kind and being nice. I valued this. Why? Because being nice is being nice – it is saying nice things to someone. At its root, the practice of being nice can be a way of covering up fear of conflict, fear of confrontation, fear of telling the truth. The end result is a dishonesty that prevents relationships from evolving into higher levels.

Being kind is more complicated.Being kind entails being truthful.  I tell you honestly how I experienced a situation. This doesn’t mean it is THE truth of it – but it is my truth at that time. Thing is, what I have to say might leave you feeling uncomfortable because my experience of what you said or did wasn’t a very positive one for me. What’s seems crucial to me these days is understanding that being kind, telling our truth, entails an important element of responsibility.

I once had a conversation with a BUSTer who had been having a challenging experience with it all. She didn’t feel safe, she had a lot of triggers being pushed and at one point was a bit fed up. In any community this can happen. Someone just isn’t feeling the love, as it were.

I know that when I have felt unloved, not held or insecure and unsafe, I have lashed out at the people around me. I’ve gotten angry. The anger is real. It feels like truth at the time. In that mode of being, I have often woven stories to show how it is that a community is failing to support me and possibly even harming me.

The thing is, under those circumstances, keeping quiet can just lead to pent up resentment that eventually leads to an explosion. I know this, because I’ve exploded before. A question arises: When we aren’t feeling the love, what’s the best way to express ourselves – to express what seems true for us at the time?

Authenticity – speaking and living one’s truth – is increasingly becoming a buzzword in certain communities. I hear it all the time in Santa Fe. When we were chatting, this BUSTer and I agreed that sometimes authenticity is used as excuse for someone to be an asshole.

That is to say, just because I feel wronged in some way, does not justify my lashing out at others. Does not justify hurling out judgement-laden, aggressive accusations. Let’s face it – when we go in that mode, it tends to become challenging for people to respond to us from a place of love. Instead, we often all slip into defensive-aggressive modes that take us away from beloved community.

How can I speak my truth in a way that is kind (rather than hateful or vengeful)? It might be critical (and thus, not nice) and it certainly could be angry (kindness and anger don’t have to be mutually exclusive).

How do I do that? I take responsibility.

Responsibility to express anger both honestly and with loving-kindness. Responsibility to respond to anger – even when it is not expressed in a loving way – honestly and lovingly. Often, both are easier said then done.

Practice. Practice in taking responsibility for how I go about stepping into my truth and expressing my self – including my disappointments, frustrations and needs. Practice. Practice in taking responsibility to listen lovingly to others when they are expressing their selves. Practice. Practice in firmly setting boundaries (in and of itself an act of loving-kindness) when someone else is expressing their truth in harmful ways.

When an organization like Wise Fool NM creates a circle of women (or teenage girls, as it does with Teen BUST), it is offering up a space where people are asked to make a conscious commitment to doing what it takes to create beloved community.

Like circus arts, creating beloved community is not for the faint-hearted. Consciously created spaces, like BUST, play vital and valuable roles in giving us practice-time so that we can strengthen the necessary muscles required to lift our selves and each other into our higher selves on a regular basis.

This summer in BUST, some of us (teachers and students) were pushed to our edges. Our beloved community included dynamics that asked a lot from the collective in terms of how deeply we were prepared to go into a practice of love and loving-kindness.  For many of us,  we aspire for a program like BUST to be a liberating space from the oppression of our everyday lives. Challenging interpersonal dynamics can give rise to disappointment and frustration.

In the end, though, I think we collectively rose to the occasion – including people who had been struggling with their experiences of the community. We came together and gave three playful, energetic performances. Throughout these performances, we held each other through ups and downs. I like to think that despite the challenging times, we all came out of BUST with stronger, more developed muscles for lifting up our selves and each other. Muscles that we can then use in the so-called real world.

In the different communities you inhabit, what kind of opportunities do you have dedicate time and energy to strengthen your muscles for creating beloved community? Sure, we all could be doing this day-in and day-out. Yet, this question refers to time-limited dedicated spaces where the majority of people are consciously committed to doing this work individually, collectively and intensively. Well, what opportunities do you have for such strength-building?

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