Following on from the last post, in the spirit of slowing down and staying more in the moment, I found myself volunteering last week to give a one minute speech on the zen of circus to a group of around 50 interesting, inspiring, diverse and dynamic women. It was at a Hub Dot* supper club, exploring the art of being vs. doing, led by their in-house philosopher Niki Barbery Bleyben**. No pressure there then. Well, actually there shouldn't be, because the Hub Dot is an organisation that creates a supportive environment in which women from all walks and stages of life can share their stories. And, as an ordinary woman witnessing an extraordinary time for circus, I felt I had a story to share on what I've been learning. Still, I've done enough teaching in my life to know that ease in public speaking only comes from supreme confidence in self or in your preparation. I'm in the latter camp.
So, on Tuesday afternoon, the school run became a rehearsal run in front of the toughest audience of all, the kids. "Hi, my name is Lucy," I began, "I'm the mother of three lovely children [Mum, seriously, do you have to call us lovely?!] and I write a blog about circus, and learning circus skills..." General consensus was that I should use more expression, as well as my hands (a tricky one that, when they are gripping the steering wheel) but in general, it would do.
I arrived to a warm welcome from Simona and her team, greeted with a drink and a relaxed, happy vibe in an informal setting at The Imperial, on the Kings Road. The supper upstairs was beautiful, tables and places arranged with thought and care. Nevertheless, when called to give the talk my body was a mass of involuntary trembles. I hadn't shaken that way since faced with the prospect of putting a naked flame down my throat at The Fire School (see "Playing with Fire" click here), and my throat was just as dry. Time to channel that mindset I was about to talk about. Circus is for me an extreme form of zen - crossing the tightrope, dangling on trapeze or swallowing fire requires you to focus on what you are doing. And I really struggle with that. When it clicks, though, there is an element of going into the "zone", and that's why I go back for more. But I wanted to also talk about the fact that so often nowadays we are defined by what we "do" for a living, and how that does not necessarily capture all that we are, or can be. That is central to the Hub Dot philosophy as well, where people make connections by asking not "what do you do?" but "what's your story?". As for me, I choose to define myself now by what I love, drawn to a flexible and open space that knows no limits, circus is a state of mind. It's also a learning space, and I enjoy that sense of wonder that comes with new beginnings. Maybe no surprise then to find myself in a passageway afterwards practicing handstands with Megan, the founder of a great site www.beginanywhere.co*** devoted to trying out new skills. It brought home to me the fact that people don't put up barriers when they are having fun, and that's when the synergy happens, just don't call it networking.
** Check out Niki Barbery Bleyleben's blog www.girlwithoutawatch.wordpress.com (Twitter: @girlwoutawatch) - a philosophy I subscribe to ever since arriving at my French penfriend's house with a rundown watch. Madame told me a new battery was unnecessary, we were on holiday time after all, and I have never worn one since.
*** Follow @_BeginAnywhere on Twitter for the latest updates. The next event is tomorrow (Tuesday 29/9) - a beginner's guide to being amazing, sounds like a good place to start!