September 17, 2014

Why doing Circus Tricks in a Restaurant is Good for Us. ~ Erin Sharaf


Safety vs. Freedom.

I recently left the safety of my academic job in Boston because I decided that my happiness did not have a price tag on it. I put my stuff in storage and decided to travel for a while—writing, coaching, teaching mindfulness and making space for the next chapter.

My first stop is one of my favorite places on the planet, Sedona, Arizona.

sedona arizona sunset

The other night, I found myself in a funky restaurant with a piece of silk hanging high above a sand pit. Being smitten with Cirque du Soleil, I had actually taken a couple of aerial silk lessons many years ago and I was dying to give it a whirl.

My socialized self immediately objected and started in with such thoughts as:

Are you crazy? You’re by yourself. What if you get hurt? You don’t know what you’re doing. No one else is doing it. What if you‘re too heavy and you break it? How embarrassing would that be? You’ll make a fool of yourself. Do you know how old you are? You’re not strong enough. Just eat your mushroom medley quietly and then go safely home to bed.

Normally, that would have been the end of things, but this was a new chapter after all. And my essential self, my inner kid really, wanted to swing on that thing.

After several minutes of inner wrangling, I decided that this piece of silk was a perfect symbol for the new life I am creating; a life where one does not turn down opportunities to soar, in any form; a life where fear has space to weigh in but does not have the final say; a life where we all remember that our real job is to become fully lit up.

As Mary Oliver says, joy is not meant to be a crumb.

So the next thing I knew, my shoes were off and I was hoisting myself up above the sand pit, wrapped in red silk and joyfully swinging upside down as strangers ate their meals.

Was it pretty? Probably not. Did that matter? Not at all. Did I have fun? Hell yeah!

After a few minutes another person came forward and also wanted to try. My flight had given him the courage to spread his own wings. Soon there were three of us taking turns, swinging and laughing and having more fun (I am guessing) than the average restaurant patron anywhere else.

The smiles and laughs had that genuine quality that you see and hear on a children’s playground but which become distressingly rare as we get older. I could not have been more thrilled at the way this evening was unfolding, because that’s exactly what this new chapter is all about: giving myself permission to be happy and bringing others along with me.

wb yeats ej quote

There are pieces of silk everywhere (metaphorically) if we just give ourselves permission to grab them and start swinging.

When we can take even a tiny step past fear and towards joy, magical things can happen. This is my invitation to you to get out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be more playful in life. What is your “piece of silk”? How will you find even a wee bit more joy and freedom in your day?

This isn’t selfish, as joy is contagious and therefore for the whole tribe.

Will you join me on this ride? The next time you’re in a mushroom medley vs. aerial silk situation (or, safety vs. freedom), consider coming down on the side of freedom and see what happens. I look forward to seeing you around the sand pit.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Anita Ritenour/Flickr, Alpha/Flickr

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Erin Sharaf