On Sunday night a friend and I went to the Sane New World show with Ruby Wax. It was interesting for me to experience many of the fundamentals of teaching mindfulness wrapped in humour and theatricality. Familiar themes from the MBSR curriculum were illustrated and amplified for impact, animations of our cave ancestors experiencing the fight flight response to stress, projections of the brain at work, and even the workings of Ruby’s self-denigrating mind, A self-denigrating mind, that by the way most of us experience at one time or another. Surely, even you have experienced self-judging thoughts…
The audience clearly received a lot from the performance, if the ripples of laughter and appreciative applause were anything to go by. There was a lot of information provided during the show. The audience members experienced a short mindfulness of breathing practice and Ruby explained how to turn down the stress response by bringing awareness to one of the primary senses e.g the sensations of contact of the feet with the ground, or shoes.
The most important message from the show for me, was that it is ok to be vulnerable, it is ok not to get it ‘right’ all of the time. Ruby demonstrated in her transparency about her challenges, both the everyday ones, as well as the challenges of depression, how powerful a truth the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ is. It was Ruby herself, in her way of being, her openness about her difficulties, and her generosity in sharing them with us, that made the most impact on me. She told me, by her way of being that being a fragile human being is not just ok, but tremendously powerful, not only for the individual, but for all those around them. It is permissive, for the rest of us, when someone is just being themselves, not trying to be uphold the illusion of togetherness at all times.
In researching for my Masters thesis on empathy I discovered that any attachment to competence precludes empathy. There is no connection. We connect in many ways, through fun, humour, light conversation, my experience is, however, that the ways we connect through tenderness and vulnerability open us to the potential depths and richness of who we are, that soft core that exists way beyond the ways we think we should be.
It reminds me of this extract from the poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Prelude to The Dance:
‘What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?
How would this change what you think you have to learn?‘
That’s a big ‘What if?’…
You can get a taste of what Ruby has to offer in this interview with All In The Mind.