Choreograph Breath

Choreograph Breath

I had an amazing experience recently. When I was performing at the Waterloo Juggling Festival, everything in my act went exactly as planned. This, of course, sounds how it should be, but if I am honest with you, I have really struggled in my carrier to nail it. I do well, enough to ensure no one else notices my foibles, but there was one thing that drastically changed how I felt during my act: I choreographed a moment of stillness in order to take a deep breath. In fact, even in this act, I forgot to choreograph one last breath in the final minute of the act. At 40 seconds, I fumbled just a tiny bit. How was I making it through 6 minutes without breathing  before? In reality, it’s scary to take time to be still on stage. This makes me feel all the feelings contained within my body. All eyes are upon me in that moment, and I feel the urge to do and be something. There is this voice inside that says “You don’t want to waste a precious second of your audiences time without entertainment!”. It’s a lie. As my teacher David McMurray Smith says “Nothing never happens”. But when you are up on stage, building energy, it is very likely that your sympathetic nervous system has kicked in. Your body becomes a jumble of nerves and using cognitive functions becomes more difficult. The body puts its resources into fight or flight responses.  It’s screaming “Do something!”. This is where all that practice comes in handy! It’s great to rehearse an act 100 times but...
Showing up vs Showing off

Showing up vs Showing off

Notice the differences between your practice when you feel like you are in a comparative mindset.  Are you showing up, or are you showing off? Showing off is all about your ego, with you as the center of your mindset. You are in the future mindset with angst or arrogance. This is where you find yourself trying to prove something to other people, gain validation from their attention. This is where you are trying to be “the best”, “the prettiest”, “the coolest” instead of trying to do the work of expressing all the original expression only you can do. In contrast, by showing up, you connect with yourself authentically as you are right now. The quality of your work changes when you can be with yourself because you can connect with others. When you are showing up, you’ll find yourself able to listen, as you have already learned to listen to yourself. When you’ve stopped trying to prove yourself to others, you can slow down and turn your attention outwards and hear what the world needs from you. We artists need to promote ourselves consistently to be able to sell our work. Taking photos and videos, writing bios and promotion packages then creating perfection on stage. There is an enormous focus on our egos because we are the product we are selling. We sell our image and our moves. Showing off is an easy trap to fall into in the business. Yet, the other side to this line of thinking is that what we are really showing is the work we do on ourselves. Our ability to be authentic...
Mindfulness on Stage

Mindfulness on Stage

The fleeting moment of accomplishment is not the goal of our work. Sure, it’s motivating and it feels great. If all goes well those peaks will be there. But, that moment is only a split second of the real work. The mindfulness is the true purpose of the practice. Witnessing yourself through all the peaks and the valleys without judgement (or letting go of judgement) is what will keep us coming back to the studio. Getting into our body, feeling ourselves and how we relate to the space around us, going deeper and feeling our feelings is the real reason we practice anything in life. Our audiences don’t want to watch someone who shames themselves into being “perfect”. Our audience wants to to connect to us, because for that moment that we are on stage, we let them into our world. We give them permission to feel their feelings through our process of sharing ours. We allow them a moment to side step their own shame, and validate themselves. This can only happen if we give ourselves permission to feel and be ourselves and be free of our own cultural constructs that bring about shame in the first place. The meaning of our practice is in the mindfulness. It’s not about the attainment of each trick. Tricks show the mastery over the our world, it’s true. But honestly, mastery is only interesting for a second. What humans really desire is that connection, and mastery actually creates walls and idols and pedestals that destroy our ability to connect. The progress of ourselves as humans is the real story. How did...
What is Flow?

What is Flow?

Flow is the essence of spirit, the base of human consciousness, the innocence of a child. It is the full awareness of the moment and yet the slowing of time. It is a healing place, a meditative place, it is a vulnerable place but a place of connection and rebirth. It is essential for humans to feel a sense of flow periodically to feel whole and fully human. The Flow Arts are a way into this essence. These movement arts can help remove the self-consciousness of lived-experience, allowing immersion one into pure focus, of movement, dance and rhythm. The Flow Arts have element of community and therefore a sense of belonging. This gives participants in that community the freedom to be seen while in their essence. If one is in total flow, they are in a place of acceptance of all emotions and they have the freedom to express it. Sometimes the feeling of flow can be so powerful that the realization that one is in a flow state is enough to knock them out and back into a state of self-consciousness. It is difficult to shake the chains of adulthood, judgement, fear and a sense of lack of worthiness. But flow is where this can happen. The Flow Arts help that journey. A flow state allows one to go beyond the knowledge of experience, giving those who are in it a sense of freedom, awe and wonder with the world. It is a place of openness, curiosity, and vulnerability. It contrasts with the worlds demands of being too-cool, stoic, or knowledgable for protection. A flow state allows for...
Bilbo Baggins Syndrome

Bilbo Baggins Syndrome

  Leaving home for the first time is a magical journey filled with adventure. When you are far away, you dream about the things you miss; your mom’s cooking, your old coffee shops, the weekends with your friends. When you first leave you just don’t consider the changes that will happen while you’re gone. Your memories of the old town doesn’t change, but the people back home do. The old cafe closes down, your weekend friends have children, you mom moves an hour outside of the place you grow up. You finally return from all the fun adventures and difficult patches you’ve had over your journey. You see the accumulation of a billion tiny changes that happened since you left. Each person you know is different and so is the landscape around you. You hear the phrase “this place has changed a lot since I was young”… it’s true everywhere. Nobody really understands the things you have seen and they rarely wish to hear about the new ideas you have found. Everyone refers to your old identity; a person you don’t even remember being anymore. They talk to you as if you still are that person. All the once unfamiliar things in far away places have now become familiar. All that was once familiar is now strange. You thought you knew them. They think they know you. Everything you once knew well now is now a novelty. You see it all with new eyes. You know yourself better for returning, yet feel out of place and disconnected because it’s no longer home, these are no longer the people who...

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of those things in our society that we really gloss over. Something horrible happens to us, and if we’re are lucky we have deep friends who are there by our side, willing to listen to us – for as long as we need – as we find forgiveness for those who’ve done us wrong. (I am so grateful to have friends like this). But many aren’t that lucky. Some get a 3 month grace period from family and friends, after a major divorce, severe betrayal or a death, and after that they get the trite and cliche phrases of “let it go” “get over it” and “suck it up”.  This may shut people up, but it is unhelpful in the long run. It actually shuts down the process leading to forgiveness. Our society can seem allergic to emotions, trying to rid ourselves of them as soon as possible, but humans don’t work like that. Forgiveness is inefficient and time consuming. But, totally, totally worth it. Yet, even in the best of situations, surrounded by good friends and having time to process the losses, most of us don’t have very good examples of what forgiveness is. All the stories in all the world focus on overcoming the obstacles,  getting the girl, and perhaps getting revenge. Anger is powerful, and it’s easier to blame and slay your enemy. But Hollywood movies and popular stories don’t go into how forgiveness is given, or the long, slow process it can take to construct it. So, in my own path to forgiveness, I have created this flow chart in an attempt...
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