Saturday, 21 February 2015

pulling on the hand brake and catching up with myself

Life feels a little bit like the racing carriage down the bank vaults at Gringotts at the moment (Harry Potter reference for the uninitiated). I am squeezing on the breaks to slow down enough to take note of where I have been this week, lest I forget.

A follow up conversation with a person doing a couple of things I have been invited to take on later in the year, and I accepted the invitation. More on that when the time comes.

Another shift at the maths and English tutoring job, where the steep learning curve got steeper, and I again felt transported into an oasis away from the rest of the world and only these children, this task, this moment mattered. It provides a shift in momentum and perspective I hope will be life-giving.

Facilitating a workshop inviting participants to learn from my practice as a storyteller and discover tools and approaches from story and storytelling that might enliven their practice as teachers and academics standing before audiences to communicate. Here's where I really want to pause.

In preparing the workshop, I examined my practice as a storyteller and composed a workshop pretty full of ideas, theory, technique. We didn't get through all the technique because the conversations that were sparked as participants engaged with the ideas, theory and practice I presented were rich and broad and deep.
We wondered about whether we are 'storytellers', tellers of stories, or people who happen to tell stories from time to time. We explored the need for each of us to find our voice as storytellers / tellers of stories, and were encouraged to practice, to play, to try and be prepared for it not to feel right at first.
After an exercise in telling the story of an item we had with us as a way of playing with story and the structure of story, we wondered about the difference between story and conversation, and the blurry lines in everyday telling of stories. We paid attention to the difference between everyday telling of stories in conversation and the necessary crafting of structured stories for when we stand before an audience, hold a group of people, and invite them to enter a story with us.
I shared thoughts that emerged in the preparation of this workshop of how a story structure might be a helpful structure when composing a paper, when considering the audience.
I stressed the importance of emotion - what we feel we believe more strongly that what we think - as a refrain throughout the afternoon.
We took time to consider a lesson or paper we are planning at the moment, and how a story might help our audience or class to feel and therefore believe in the message at the heart of what we want to communicate. At least one person in the room left considering a change to a lecture next week; all were provoked in their considering of story and how it could help in their various contexts of standing before audiences to communicate.
I told a story and we were moved and we were challenged at how unpredictable, how confronting a story can be, drawing us in and connecting to our own stories. We acknowledged the care we must take in telling a story, respecting our audience; and that we can not know what a story will do to any given hearer of the story (or the teller ourselves). It is important for us to trust ourselves with the story, to trust our audience as receivers of the story who are capable of making meaning appropriately, and above all, to trust the story.
We finished the day with a bit of play - some warm ups and vocal exercises, reminders about posture and gesture and eye contact. And one last recalling of the day's refrain: emotion is key to communication, for what we feel we will believe more strongly than what we think.
The group were engaged, I think they were encouraged, and left in good spirits anticipating more opportunities like this when we can play with story. 

Contemplating, meditating, at NiteKirk with creativity in which to participate, with mesmerising time lapse footage of plants growing, flowers blooming. (The poem I wrote in response to the space is here.)

Contemplating, reflecting, in the season of Lent, with a photo a day project to participate in with friends, and my own reading of a psalm a day.

And in between all that I have been looking into the story of Jonah, having joined a friend / colleague / mentor at my college back home to collaborate on a paper exploring this story through the lens of trauma. There have been confronting moments, as scholars discuss the darkness of the story in Jonah's depression or despair, his yearning for death: stories recall other stories, make us feel, lead us to remember. Our Skype type chat last night (this morning for Liz in Australia) energised us both as we put shape to our argument and mapped out our next steps along the way.

I can't keep my hand on the brake much longer, the carriage must keep moving along, today through marking territory and hopefully into the tunnel of performance criticism for a paper of my own with a deadline fast approaching and into which I do not wish to crash without having accomplished the task.

But I move forward with a calm inside that will hold me steady even as life gains speed once again. May I encourage us all to slow down once in a while, to pause, reflect, gather our thoughts, and remember - re-member (put back together) our selves lest we leave something precious behind.

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