April 13 – Mirror Mirror.
Still recapping last quarter since I was too discombobulated to write about all this stuff then. Plus, we have only had one class this quarter and that was mostly talking about what we are going to be doing. No action yet.
One of the big exercises we had to do last quarter was calle The Mirror. Sounds harmless enough you say, and if by harmless you mean physically and emotionally exhausting, then you would be right.
What you do is go up in front of the class. The rest of the class stands opposite you. Whatever you do, they do. whatever you say, they say. As you might imagine, having 15 or so people watching you intently, mimicking your every move, tends to make you feel a little, um, shall we say, uncomfortable.
What you are supposed to do with this uncomfortable energy that is running through you is throw it back onto the group. You can do this by shouting at them, or waving your arms, or grunting, stomping your feet, whatever, but it has to be at them. Which is all well and good until they do it back to you.
Robin sits off to the side and lets this first phase go one for a while. Then she starts to side coach you. She’ll throw out a person or situation and you were supposed to act it out. So for instance she would say you are a puppy, and the person would drop to the floor, wag their imaginary tail, scratch fleas, bark to try and get you to play, run away scared, and roll over. It was all improvisation.
Common things thrown out at you were some animals, puppies, cats, chimps, wolves. Often you would have to protect your young. Lots of growling, swiping of claws and gnashing of teeth.
Then there were the erotic dancers, and street prostitutes in the Holland Tunnel hustling for johns, and had to fight off the young uppity ho, who thought she could take your spot. You could go from Can Can Dancer, to boxer, to stand up comedian dealing with a heckler, to Elvis.
Often you would have to sing something. I had to be a country-western singer performing in front of live audience at the Grand Ol Opry. It’s amazing how when someone asks you to sing a song, all the words go right out of your head.
You would also often have to confront an imaginary person(s), who would be doing something horrible, say like torturing an animal, or about to kill a bunch of women and children. And you would have to stop them with your words alone. This was really hard. My thing was I had to stop a town of religious zealots from stoning two women they thought were lesbians. Fun.
It’s tiring. No matter what side of the mirror you are on. You end up moving around for about 20 minutes or so. At some point Robin lets the group drop out and then it’s just you. She’ll make you stay still, and say some phrase over and over again, or sing some childhood song to each person who is standing in the group not moving, but watching intently.
She’s looking for our “masks” to fall away, those shields we put over us to keep from being vulnerable. This exercise does that. You don’t realize it while it is happening, but as a group member watching, you can see the transformation.
Most people at the end have a childlike essence. It’s hard to describe without seeing it, but often I could see the person as the would have been when they were five, just simply standing there and being themselves, without the artifice of having to be with-it and in control.
Some people cried, some laughed, some left the planet for a bit, but all returned and came back as themselves. Beautifully and simply themselves.