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My Fantastic But A Bit Esoteric Tips For A Better Body-Mind-Awareness On Stage
“While working on The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci regularly took off from painting for several hours at a time and seemed to be daydreaming aimlessly. Urged by his patron, the prior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to work more continuously, da Vinci is reported to have replied, immodestly but accurately, ‘The greatest geniuses accomplish more when they work less.'”
Body and mind are not two distinct, unconnected dimensions of our self. Whatever you do think, produces immediate effects within your body, and whatever you do experience at the body level, influences heavily your perception of yourself and the world you are living in.
There are a thousand models from a thousand different traditions and cultures telling us how we should treat ourselves and our bodies in order to achieve strength, happiness and old age. Based on my personal experience, I would probably choose to distinct these innumerable lines of thinking along how they relate to our body-mind-system: The first group of models belong to a mechanical and typically Western way to think about ourselves. Here the body is basically seen as a biophysical machine that needs energy of some sort to produce the desired performance. The pieces of this machine can break but can also be fixed, and the mind, yes, can help to mend those broken pieces, but only in a very limited way.
The second approach towards our mind-body-reality is a more Eastern and more holistic one. Here the human body is seen as a vessel that holds an in part invisible, much larger, dynamic “whole”. Consequently here the terms body, mind, heart and soul are only seen as names for the different aspects of the same reality — energy.
If you prefer a metaphor, I would describe the Western approach to our self as someone that thinks that the sum of the six distinct sides of a dice are forming the object, while eastern medicine and philosophy would be someone saying that the sides of the dice are only manifestations of the one energy flowing within the cube. The numbers we see in the West on the side of a dice are either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 OR 6, the numbers they see in the East are always 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 AND 6. The focus in the West is on the “parts”, the focus in the East is on the energy that flows in between the parts and behind and through them.
I am neither a trained medic nor a studied philosopher, and I wouldn’t dream of giving you an advice how to relate to your body-mind-system. But I think that we are both well aware that the state of our mind-body matters a lot whenever we go on stage, and that is why I would like to share two ideas with you: How Energy Management can improve your presentations, and how you might try to become a Master of the Art of Presenting on the body-mind-level (if you want).
Energy Management & The Art Of Presenting
Whenever I go on stage I am full of energy. The same is true whenever I teach, write or engage in discussions. I have the great luck to be the laziest possible person in my private life but super energetic whenever it comes to work and creativity. How is that possible? Well, I think that I have developed a precious balance over the years, a balance between moments of high focus and energy on the one hand and moments of forgetfulness and relaxation on the other. When I pitch I am 100% with my students or clients, in those amazing moments I possess no name, no age, no titles, I don’t think of yesterday and I do not think of tomorrow, I am completely — with every fibre of my body, mind, heart and soul — in the pitch or lecture I deliver. I AM the lecture or the pitch.
Strange enough an hour later I have completely forgotten about the event. I read, watch a movie, take a ride on my bike, look out of the window, kiss my girlfriend — and there is a new, fascinating now and there are new things to do and new thoughts to be thought.
You know, the idea that you have to give 100% at any given moment of the day will lead only to one result: Get you to the cemetery way ahead of time. I take lots of breaks during the day but stay completely focussed during my periods of creativity. Relaxing, creating, relaxing, doing, relaxing, stopping caring at all. To be sure this might have slown down the overall pace of my career, because there are always idiots or greedy bastards ready to grind others and themselves in order to get ahead in your field of profession. But would I really want to become one of them? Hell, I don’t think so. But of course you have to find your own, unique “swing” and way to do things.
Which brings me to the next and last point: The long term development of your presentation skills on the body-mind-level.
Becoming A Master Of The Art Of Presenting On The Body-Mind-Level**
As I said above, there are a thousand “knowledge systems” advising you how to become a healthier, stronger, happier and more successful person. Personally I am amazed by all those beautiful books, trainings, videos and interviews available to us when we feel the urge to get to another level physically as well as spiritually. Today I will share with you my (certainly limited) experience about what people lack most when they come on stage to present their ideas to others — and what I think they could do about it:
Consciousness, Presence & Will
Feeling yourself on stage completely, feeling your own value as well as feeling your bodily connection to mother earth, standing tall but gentle like a tree: You see that rarely on stage, probably because it take years to achieve the smooth endurance of a tree in this stormy world. I try to feel myself, my whole body, once and again all through the day and I try to get physical before getting on stage. I call the picture I use in my head to get me there “Kfir”: Being strong but at the same time playful like a young lion.
Aliveness, Courage & Strength
Most presentations lack passion and aliveness because the presenter does. You have to feel enthusiastic and you have to show enthusiasm while on stage. Every topic can be interesting and be presented in an interesting way, all it takes is patience and courage. And you need to work on your hands, facial expressions and voice in order to transmit more passion and to be perceived as charismatic, no matter WHAT you are saying. I have the advantage to be Italian, we were born with drama, loud voices and wild, passionate gestures. Become an Italian yourself, join a theatre group, go to Karaoke events, recite fairy tails for your children. Feel how much alive you really are!
Curiosity, Light Heartedness & Joy
In every single moment of the day all kinds of things happen around us. If you are absorbed with fear and doubts about yourself, you will miss them. Curiosity is the ability to SEE with an open heart, to see what is going on in every single moment of your life. Curiosity is joyful, and joy is contagious. I try to start every presentation with a smile, no matter what the topic might be. And I always try to make my audience laugh by using once and again little jokes or sarcastic remarks. I am not a TV entertainer or clown, but I am well aware that laughter will help my audience to open up, connect with me and understand new things.
Truth, Harmony & Peace
One of the big mysteries of existence is the fact (at least I believe it to be that) that there is no real peace and harmony — and consequently happiness — without truth. Strange enough most people I have met in my life are convinced of the opposite. To them the disturbing knowledge about how our world is aching under inequality, mass manipulation and mass control is something that must be better forgotten in order to live “a good life.” This “good life” apparently consists mainly in doing jobs they don’t want to do, faking feelings they don’t feel and marrying “suitable” husbands and wives destined to make them and their offspring unhappy. All this they do for money, to be sure. But the truth is always there in front of us, shining like a star. Don’t ignore it, take it with you and honour it whenever you go on stage. Live a compassionate, honourable life, let the idiots laugh at you. They will face a terrible delusion at the end of their lives. Live in harmony with your inner voice, feel that kind of peace at the end of the day that only a difficult, true and compassionate life can give you. Never sell your soul, your inner child, your inner genius, to the “low”, stone faced men without a heart.
Compassion, Self-Love & Love
Years ago I used to stand in front of my students at the beginning of a lecture and show them a pocket mirror: “You know, you are all afraid to go on stage, and rightly so, because in fact there will be a person watching your presentation, taking note of the slightest mistake you make and expecting you to fail, watching your every single step with hard eyes and a unmovable, stoney heart. Do you know who that person is? Take a look in the mirror. Yes, it’s you.”
Everything starts with compassion and ends with love. There is no higher wisdom and there is no higher rule. There is no harder to get personal achievement and no achievement that will get you more hardship proved happiness and peace. Everything starts with compassion. Therefore begin by exercising compassion towards yourself, then exercise more and more compassion towards others, who are just like yourself struggling to find a way through life, and then, maybe in this life or maybe after a hundred thousand lives lived in order to understand, you will have learned to love yourself and others as well. At that point love will impregnate your whole being. You will never be a saint, you will never stop to struggle, you will never stop to occasionally suffer and be afraid or even desperate, but you will feel always compassion and love while doing so. And that will make all the difference.
And that’s it for this section about the Art of Presenting and our body-mind-system. If you want to read a bit more about how to live a more compassionate life, here is my personal to-do-list for you:
Eight Little Steps Towards A More Compassionate Life (& World)
1. Everything starts with getting to know ourselves better and deeper. Watch yourself, feel yourself, reflect. Once and again. Become aware of who you REALLY are. Become aware of who you are not. You are NOT your thoughts and emotions.
2. Learn to endure suffering in the here and now. One of the main reasons for the destructive forces of anger, fear, greed and doubt to arise in us is that we all want to avoid totally every unpleasant state. The problem with this is that not every pleasant state is beneficial to us and not every unpleasant state harmful. On the contrary, every abuse of drugs starts with a very pleasant feeling but turns out to be very harmful soon. On the other side a lot of beneficial things like medicine, body workout or discussions in a relationship are hard to endure at first but turn out to be priceless later.
3. Learn to control your destructive impulses. Do not feel bad about them, accept them, but do not act directly on them. Leave the scene of an argument, sleep a night before answering to an offence, wait 20 seconds before answering an apparently stupid question. Take your time. Calm down. Breathe. It’s easy like that. It’s hard like that.
4. Try to respect people and to see them as fellow travellers on a very difficult journey. See the similarities instead of concentrating on the differences. If people do obviously wrong, do not accept their actions, but keep a basic respect for the divine being that committed the wrong deed. Be as kind as possible to everyone on a daily basis. Say “Thank you” and “You are welcome” as often as you can. Always be thankful, never take anything for granted.
5. Live like the person you admire most. Be helpful when you can help, listen to people and their problems with patience, be the loving caring person that you missed so dearly in your childhood. Befriend everybody who inspires you towards confidence, integrity, and dignity. Be a hero, try to live a heroic life, even if that might mean that you will earn less money than others.
6. Try to become more generous every day. Start with giving away things and money, than proceed to give people around you security and safety, go on by inspiring people around you with good words and precious, non invasive counsel, finally try to make love and compassion the ultimate goals of your life.
7. Go out on the street and think at least five times a day this, when a stranger is passing you by: “May you be free of suffering and pain today, may you attain happiness and peace today.’
8. Try to see the magnificent beauty in everything and everyone as well as the fragility of beauty. Everything but love will fade away. Therefore become a saviour of beauty, but even more a keeper of compassion and love. Don’t wait. Life is short. Start living a beautiful, compassionate, loving life now.
*The quote by Tony Schwartz at the beginning of this page is an oroginal one 😉
Please read Tony Schwartz: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance.
**You might have noticed that my thoughts regarding our body-mind-system above refers (very freely) to a concept called “Lata’if” and created by the Sufi movement in order to improve our body-mind-awareness.
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