LucyLovesCircus

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Chapter 208: On keeping calm... Shhhh!

Photo credit: Cathy Eastburn

What a week back in London. Postcards Festival in full throttle at Jacksons Lane and getting ready for Shhh! on Saturday night with three kids on summer holidays and a house in chaos being redecorated for the new tenants arriving in August. We are leaving you see. By the end of August we will be of no fixed abode, on a 40 foot catamaran, preparing to set sail round the world in September. Never a dull moment here! 

With the pressure on, I discovered two essential safety valves this week: laughter and gong baths. Take Wednesday night, on the phone to a friend were going through arrangements to meet up with her husband and son for Cypher Stories at Jacksons Lane, but my son kept butting in. I hung up and got very cross with him, but while in full stream realised that my phone has inadvertently dialled Shhh! host and Cirque de Soleil clown Sean Kempton. I tentatively put the phone to my ear. Hello, Sean...? Oh god. Well, maybe he hasn't heard the whole exchange... Hello Lucy. Please don't put me on the naughty step... and we all fell about laughing. Moral of that story? Every parent should have a clown on speed dial.

As for gong baths, that probably sounds a bit funny too; the very the word "gong" has an onomatopoeic comedy ring to it. A couple of years ago I met Cathy Eastburn when our daughters we going to aerial classes at Flying Fantastic. When in conversation it emerged we both enjoyed aerial too, Edel who runs the school allowed us to rig up a hoop and for Cathy and I to have practice time while the girls soared. Actually, I'd done trapeze but never hoop before and Cathy was my first instructor. As well as being a circus spirit, Cathy is an accomplished musician, and has been playing the gamelan (Indonesian bronze percussion orchestra) for over 20 years, often to be found at the Southbank Centre. For the past two years she has been running gong baths, which means, for the uninitiated like me, meditative classes where the body deeply relaxes by absorbing the resonances and vibrations that emanate from the gong and singing bowls. I had never been before as normally classes are on a Sunday evening, which with three young children is not fair on my husband, who already does more than his fair share of babysitting for circus-related activities. But Cathy has also just started up a Thursday morning class in Balham where I live (for now!), and this week was the final class before breaking up for the summer holidays. With so much on, I really didn't have time, but then, I reflected, that was precisely why I needed to make time for some headspace. 

I had never been to anything like it before, but I had loved the use of the Himalayan singing bowl that opened The Alchemic Order's brilliant immersive production of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray (see post - click here) and I was intrigued to hear more. Lying down on a yoga mat, head on a pillow, snug in a rug, I totally surrendered to the music of the spheres for the next hour. As the gong reverberated the sacred nature of cathedral bells suddenly made more sense that it ever had before. I was transported. With my eyes closed my mind wandered, not with thoughts as such, but with a sense of timelessness and being connected to all peoples of all ages. A Javanese bamboo flute conjured up birdsong to me, a percussive instrument that followed seemed to speak of flapping wings and movement in infinity loops. It was the most restorative of hours well spent. 

I was struck by Cathy's observation afterwards that it was no coincidence that she has been drawn both to aerial hoop and gong because of their shape, and that while a "big O" has many connotations, for her there is something about it representing the greater whole. Like Cathy, for that reason I feel the of the hoop over other aerial disciplines like silks and trapeze. It also explains my elemental attraction to (watching!) Cyr wheel, that echo of Leonardo's Vitruvian man, and woman. Maybe that is why that night I dreamed of covering myself in animal faeces and morphing into a powerful wolf-woman. Less extraordinary once you know I have been dipping in and out of Clara Pinkola Estes' book "Women Who Run With Wolves" that draws heavily on vivid archetypal myths and fairytales, and was the inspiration behind Alula's (Cyr) show Hyena, at Underbelly (see post - click here). I emerged from the whole experience feeling deeply grounded and in tune with the essential in life, and all the calmer for it. So here's to the restorative and regenerative power of gong baths, laughter, and to the circus spirt everywhere. 

For more information on Cathy's gong baths in Clapham and Balham, starting up again in September, check out the Facebook page: 

Photo credit: Gamelan group Siswa Sukra www.siswasukra.com
All the best to the group for your trip to Indonesia this summer! 

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