Saturday, 17 March 2012

Being a Sacred Clown

The sacred art of clowning is wonderfully described by Lex van Someren, who has many talents and shares his gifts with the world in many different ways. He helps to understand what it means to be a sacred clown and how to become one. He also informs about the origins of clowning and their relevance today.

Lex writes . . .

THE SACRED ART OF CLOWNING - The clown as a healer, as a mirror of Truth, as a door to a new awareness of Self 
The sacred clown is a universal archetype of wisdom, expressed through utmost simplicity. He or she is a facilitator, like a shaman, to bring out the inner clown, so that people can become more playful in their own lives.

He or she guides us back to a space where we can give new birth to our innocence - the inner sense of playing a tiny little part in that great big mystery of the universe.

He or she acts as a catalyst for truth and authenticity. Wherever such a clown comes in, it cuts like a knife, dividing that which is true from that which is not true. In this respect the Russian tradition of clowning speaks of 'a fool for Christ'.

As playful clowns we can journey through our physical reality into the heart and passed the mind, into another dimension of existence - the world of mystery, wonder and delight.

This approach to clowning is an artistic discipline - meditation. By entering the art process, listening to our innermost images, and birthing them through body language, movement and sound - visual poetry - we can contact the 'sacred' with integrity and simplicity, with a release into personal joy and gratitude.

“Take off your mask and be a clown … be yourself”.

The sacred art of clowning has nothing to do with 'trying to be funny'. It is about being grounded and centred in our own identity, acknowledging our truths in relation to Universal Truth. It focuses on finding that inner relaxation, where we can let go and link-up with the stillness deep down inside. This requires a willingness to face oneself with honesty and sincerity, accepting both the light side and the shadow side of ourselves.

Sincere humour and delight will then appear of its own accord, by taking the many different facets, talents, passions and feelings of ourselves into a real creative and playful relationship with the world around us.

It’s about the innocent child within us wanting to dance and sing in the field, eager and full of potential and inner aliveness, blossoming in the 'HERE and NOW'. It’s about finding the sacred place of awe and wonder that the child occupies in all of us and among us.

Many psychological barriers and emotional blockages just dissolve in the spirit of play. And it is not a temporary thing. The mystical experience of clowning allows profound changes in our consciousness, which will greatly assist us in facing the challenges of everyday life.

The TAO OF CLOWNING implicates:
  • Expanding our awareness of the physical and emotional body, of life-energy, and of our own 'circle in space'.
  • Creating a limitless space where every moment is new and fresh, enabling us to discover new perspectives in life.
  • Being allowed to fail, to be imperfect, which guides us into a natural state of just being - relaxation into existence.
  • Seeing limitations as the gift of freedom to create, and as a source of inspiration for humour.
  • In the act of wonder we express our gratitude for being alive. It also allows us to relate to material things as living beings, and to communicate and play with the invisible world.
  • Playing with the world of dualities (yin-yang). Exploring the polarities in life, such as sadness, happiness etc., and exaggerating their expression. This can lead us into an experience of true Oneness.
  • The power of simplicity and its creative application.
  • Introduction of the art of timing, subtlety and delicacy, in relation to humour. Practising this art can lead to inner revelations of other dimensions of time and space.
  • Learning to make contact with our deepest sense of Self and its creative power, and to stay with it in front of an audience.
  • Entering a state of ecstasy through playful discipline.
  • The non-verbal language of the sacred clown brings about a quality that can be called 'poetry of the soul'. The subtle and simple gestures, the artistic expression of feelings, the sense of beauty (aesthetics), the sound of the voice and the intuitive discipline of timing are the 'make-up' of the sacred clown. With this 'make-up' visual poetry - art - is created.
The Sacred Art of Clowning (in Germany “The Tao of Clowning”) originated in the 1970s through the work of Lex van Someren (Lexis the Mystic Clown). His performing and teaching, and those of Didier Danthois (A Fool at Heart), are helping people to re-connect with the clown as a teacher and healer who can touch souls in a playful, simple yet profound way. Now there is a growing 'family' of sacred clowns who are exploring ways to bring this art more alive in the world - both in the artistic context of theatres and other venues, and in the many areas of life which can be enhanced by this kind of creative expression.

Sacred clowning is like an ancient tree with many branches, for the archetype of the clown is deeply rooted in human history. The clown appears not only as an entertainer, but as an important part of social and religious customs in many parts of the world. Part of his role has been to point out aspects of human nature that lie hidden beneath the surface of life. One example is the court jester whose function was to remind the king that he had the shortcomings of any other man, another is the Native American clown who mimics people’s foibles, especially when they become inflated with self-importance. Clowns have always challenged 'normality' by being unconventional and behaving in ways that would shock the society of the time. Today’s sacred clown also challenges things that society takes for granted, by showing alternative ways to approach life in this materialistic and technology-obsessed era.

The sacred clown we are writing about is approachable - without the custard pies, aggression or cynicism of some of his peers and predecessors - but his message is uncompromising. He too sheds light on the shadow side of life, but the things that often lie hidden nowadays are qualities like beauty, innocence and true compassion. In Western society simplicity and the sense of magic and wonder have been driven underground by materialism and pressure to be rational and 'adult'. People easily lose the natural instinct for play and the wild imagination of childhood. This is what growing up is supposed to be about. Yet the world is poorer for it, and souls are suffering because society does not value the simple beauty of being fully human. The natural expression of joy and the sense of connection with each other and with the invisible world have largely been forgotten. This is reflected in contemporary visual and performance art, much of which presents only cruelty and hopelessness. Alternatively, 'new age' culture tends to focus only on the 'light', not always acknowledging the necessity of pain, conflict and limitations on the path of self-awareness and healing.

Healing is a process of becoming whole, which means accepting and learning to balance the opposites within us. While respecting the whole person, the Sacred Art of Clowning teaches the healing power in play and the natural humour born of innocence. This can be experienced through watching performances, or attending courses to explore one’s own 'inner clown'. It is a re-discovery of the 'way of the heart': - meeting the imaginative child within; honouring oneself and yet remaining playful; discovering ways to live honestly, joyfully and with compassion.

Sacred clowning honours the feminine principle - that which is perceptive, intuitive, all-embracing. It is sacred work which invites people to return to their original, unstained essence and to express the soul’s natural longing for creativity. A first clown workshop can feel like a joyous leap into liberation. However it is not always easy to break through years of suppressed feelings and numbed creativity, and there may be encounters with inhibitions about being expressive. The playful, warm and non-judgemental way in which sacred clowning is taught makes it an ideal medium to tackling such difficulties gently yet positively. It is not a therapy, but can have powerful therapeutic effects. For those who become deeply involved with sacred clowning, it may grow to be a central part of life - a spiritual practise, with the 'inner clown' as teacher. At this stage sacred clowning may call for discipline akin to that of a spiritual warrior - a centred readiness to meet life authentically and skilfully.

At the core of sacred clowning is the sense that each person is part of something greater - a source of being which connects everything, which many call God. In this book we speak of the divine in a way that leaves it open to the reader to choose a definition that feels right. We also use terms like the infinite, the invisible and the unknown, for each creative act brings the sacred clown to a moment of surrender to these mysteries; he does not know what will happen next, and nor does his audience. The sacred clown plays on the edge between the familiar world and the vastness of the cosmos; here he is challenged to let go of 'control' and trust whatever happens.

The cared clown’s journey is like an inner quest to re-discover his true, uncomplicated self. On this path he is nourished by many positive spiritual and creative influences. Clowns have been part of human society for maybe thousands of years, and the memory of these 'ancestors' helps to inspire and shape the identity of today’s sacred clowns. As we come into the 21st Century we are privileged to be part of a rich mixing and sharing of cultures, a breaking-down of artistic boundaries, making way for new, exciting possibilities to emerge.

However, despite past and present influences, the key to becoming a sacred clown is to unlearn - to put aside intellectual ideas and historical knowledge, and instead to cultivate a sense of inner freedom and spontaneity. From this state the true sacred clown is born. This 'natural' clown may learn certain skills as his tools, and may know about traditions and techniques, but his aim is to communicate his inner experiences in his own unique way. The language of sacred clowning is learnt by focusing on the body and listening to the spirit. From this starting-point grows each individual clown’s way of relating to others and to the world.
The result of this alchemy is a clown who, like a prism, can reflect different qualities at different times, but remains a unique individual. As Lex says,

“People often ask me what type of clown I am, but this does not feel like the right question. When I perform I sometimes feel like the intelligent Pierrot who thinks he has all the answers, and at others the naughty Auguste. However, the fact is that I created my own clown, and only later did I learn about all the clown traditions. The Sacred Art of Clowning seems to embrace all these types and make way for new ones.”

You can find out more about Lex on his website:

1 comment:

  1. I quickly skimmed enough to know that I want to read the whole post. Well done!