I was down by the lily-pond leaning against the rough, black trunk of an iron-bark tree; sheltering in its shade from the hot afternoon sun. We were a group of students tasked with mindfully communing with nature; searching for an answer to an issue in our lives. This was a class exercise for the subject, Applied Imagination; part of my Masters of Education (Social Ecology). My mind was blank until I realised I was absent-mindedly watching the student near me tap her foot in the water. Her movement created ever-widening concentric circles that broadcast over the water’s surface.
Here I was watching someone else’s foot tap in the water. An insight emerged. I was a spectator rather than a participant in my life. I realised that I need to put myself at the centre of my life … and my speeches. The painting I created back in the classroom is of my foot tapping in the water. I traced the outline of my foot onto the page as a symbolic, physical reinforcement to emphasise the point to myself; that this is my life. I consciously changed my thinking to change my experience. (Allen, 1995).
I am a Toastmaster, Event Speaker and Sustainability Facilitator. In my speeches and workshops I have never felt comfortable sharing personal stories. To do so makes me feel vulnerable and self-indulgent. I talk about other people’s experiences to make my point. Why would anyone want to listen to what has happened to me? But Weiss (2006, p7) tells us, “If we do not hear and see our own stories in public, how can we get a sense of who we really are”. I need to be the story teller of my own stories. I need to find the courage to allow myself to be vulnerable in front of an audience for my own transformative learning and meaning-making.
The concentric circles in my painting are a metaphor for my speeches on their journey being broadcast to the hearts and minds of the audience. My foot represents the old adage of me tentatively “dipping my toe in the water” to find my voice.
How synchronistically poignant that I painted this picture just one month before my son, Robbie was killed in a car accident. I now find myself using my speeches to make sense of my grief. I now speak about my transformational experiences as a Mother who has buried her son. I now speak about how culturally unprepared we are for death. I now speak to stay connected with life. You become part of this transformational process just by listening. My painting was the obvious choice for the logo for my speaking venture, Off The Cuff.
Now when I have a problem or a question I always ask: “What would Nature do?” She always provides the answer. We just have to be still to know.
Allen, P. (1995). Knowing the imagination. Art is a way of knowing (pp 3-6). Boston: Shambhala.
Weiss, B, (2006). A drama ecology of culture. Retrieved January 27, 2012, from https://vuws.uws.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_group=courses&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Fcontent%2Ffile%3Fcmd%3Dview%26content_id%3D_162377_1%26course_id%3D_1754_1%26framesetWrapped%3Dtrue