Today I want to speak about the Fool’s Medicine, why is needed and how to tap into it.
The intensity of these troubled times rocks many people’s boats. From inflation to political instability and ecological disasters, we must learn how to navigate uncertainty.
Where I live, last year we had a terrible drought and some storms that brought sand from the desert. Many trees have been affected, and people could not harvest as many olives, oranges, almonds and kakis as in previous years.
The land was very thirsty, and suddenly we had rain for more than 24 hours a couple of days ago. That amount of water, on the one hand, was a blessing; on the other, something was out of balance because it fell too vigorously and quickly, and it could have been dangerous.
When I start overthinking where we are heading as human beings or worrying about what the future holds for me, I know that I am setting myself up for trouble. Especially if I get stuck in my head, I risk increasing anxiety and impacting my overall health.
So, this morning, while I sit with my cereal coffee, I want to write about a medicine that we may need in these troubled times. As you know, I have the habit of writing super long blogs, but today, I want to trust that the ceiling will not fall on my head and the ground will not swallow me if I write something short (-ish!)!
I want to experiment with new writing methods and trust that the words will find their way in without planning too much ahead. I am practising being lighter and easier on myself!
‘I will follow the upward road today; I will keep my face to the light. I will think high thoughts as I go my way; I will do what I know is right. I will look for the flowers by the side of the road; I will laugh and love and be strong. I will try to lighten another’s load this day as I fare along’.
— Mary S. Edgar
So, I want to talk about archetypes, humour, laughter, and not taking ourselves too seriously. I want to talk about the Fool’s medicine and how two tap into it.
This is one of the greatest lessons I constantly learn from my partner: he can find humour in the grand theatre and tragic comedy that is life. Sometimes, when I get too attached to a position or want to be right, he can help me snap out of it with his humour. Laugher breaks the spell!
I know that as I grew up facing many struggles and a lot of trauma, I developed the tendency to take myself very seriously. To an extent, that is natural because a child takes her survival very gravely; it is a matter of life and death to her. Sometimes I think this pattern led me later in life to become attached to my drama and neurosis!!!!
I also realised that I often struggled when it was unnecessary, put myself under pressure, and expected a lot from myself. I noticed that I did not know how to give myself a break; consequently, I was very harsh, judgmental, demanding and quite heavy! Oh dear, you would not have wanted to be around me when I took myself so deadly seriously!!! That was not fun! And sadly, I also inflicted a lot of pain on myself and others because of that.
I remember my dad’s tremendously strict aunties. My dad’s parents also did not smile a lot. And my mum died when I was six; what could I have laughed about? Not laughing and taking life very seriously was a way to be loyal to my clan (and honour their struggles and sufferings) and my mum. To be so serious was a way to keep my sense of belonging.
We may take ourselves very seriously when we embark on a healing journey.
We are entering a difficult terrain, not for the faint-hearted.
And when we mature and learn to navigate life’s complexities and paradoxes, we can also honour that there is some beauty in that. It can signify commitment, depth and dedication to doing things well.
This understanding now allows me to have more self-compassion for myself and love and accept the wounded child inside me. And I want to nourish the magical one who is curious, lighthearted and desires to live, be more joyful and dance with life!
I remember that when I had cancer, I started to explore stories of hopes, recoveries and remissions as much as possible. One of those really struck me. It was about Norman Cousins, who wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (and then a couple of books) after being diagnosed with a severe and degenerative illness. He shared his experience of watching comedies, as laughter would help him manage his physical pain and overall recovery!
I watched a lot of fun movies when I underwent chemo treatment. It really helped me to stay so much more positive in general. I also trusted I was producing those feel-good endorphins and hormones, stimulating my lugs and relieving stress. We also know that laughter is a natural painkiller and lowers blood pressure and cortisol. As an adult, I know now that it is essential to do so and avoid overloading my nervous system with scary or fear-producing stuff. In fact, my inner magical child does not like it when I watch things that trigger anxiety because my nervous system is super sensitive!
Laughter is a great medicine.
When I landed in Peru last Summer to work on the orphan archetype and the wound of abandonment, I watched all of the Kung Fu Panda series, which was awesome! My little one inside felt reassured, safe and nurtured by that choice.
After I was diagnosed with cancer, I also trained in Laughter Yoga. There was something really potent about learning to laugh without any reason!
‘I have not seen anyone dying of laughter, but I know millions who are dying because they are not laughing.’ – Dr Madan Kataria, creator of Laughter Yoga
Laughter Yoga is based on the modern scientific understanding that the body cannot differentiate between intentional/voluntary laughter and real laughter. Apparently, the physiological and psychological effects are the same! You may have also heard of that research about people putting a pencil in their mouth so that they mimicked a smile. They were less stressed and presented a faster recovery when facing challenges. Literally, our muscles affect our mood!
I also remember, in those years, experimenting with laughter in unexpected moments. For example, if my dad turned a bit aggressive, I laughed. It was disarming for him, and he did not know how to respond; he would sometimes be speechless!
Laughter helped us loosen up, realise that we were both being silly when attacking each other, and remember what mattered.
When we laugh deeply, our bellies soften, and the ground shakes. We scare the devil off.
I love the archetypes of the Sacred Clown, the Trickster and the Dancing Fool. They belong to our collective human subconscious and all of Earth’s oral and spiritual traditions!
The sacred clown reminds us of the importance of innocence, awe, wonder, openness, play and curiosity.
The sacred clown is not scared of showing her wounds. With courage and lightness, she can make poetry out of them.
She knows human feelings, moves people to tears, and can find laughter in the darkness.
She is sensual and drunk with life and knows the depth of her soul. She is an edge walker and shapeshifter, knows light and dark and her own madness.
A few years ago, I attended a week-long workshop in London with the world-renowned clown, director and performer Angela Castro: How To Become A Stupid. It was an experience full of laughter, joy, tears, sweat and play! And it was a lesson about embracing mistakes, letting go of perfection and control and practising being in the present moment. Also, we are culturally so worried about not being wrong, not making ourselves fools in front of others! We often do not dare to take risks, embrace our creativity and be seen in our nakedness and vulnerability.
I remember developing a clown character; she was my alter ego. Her name was Severina,which in Italian would indicate a strict little one.
Angela Castro helped me see that the clowning is a state of openness, rawness and presence, reclaiming the infinite possibilities of the imagination. It is not about performing a particular set of actions but about being and surrendering!
Severina helped me embrace that part of me that likes to be in charge, control, be a bully, and make demands – with love, humour, creativity, tenderness and laughter. There was no need to push her away or be scared or ashamed of her. Here she was, out in the light, eager to share her faultiness, awkwardness, humanity and flaws…she was magnificent and innocent, a piece of art and poetry.
The Sacred Clown, as an archetype, can also tap into all things we cannot express in daily life and make us feel weird, alone, different or uncomfortable. This possibility opens up a magic exploration and creativity and can help us break our limitations.
The Sacred Clown looks at the world with fresh eyes. Everything is interesting, comes to life with poetry and has a story: a grain of sand, a blade of grass, the smile of a stranger.
The Sacred Clown sometimes has no present or future; she encounters life as it arises at the moment with no plans or expectations. That is where the magic begins.
‘We believe in the vital role of clowns as truth-tellers, entertainers, subversives and communicators in the arts, in society and across the world.’
– Angela de Castro
So, as storytellers, we can call in the archetypes of the sacred, clown, dancing Fool and trickster to envision new stories and possibilities!
In many American traditions, the trickster is both of this world and not. It is a sacred archetype that teaches us that even if things can change unpredictably, we still need to laugh.
The trickster combines sacredness and irreverence and knows how to laugh at herself/himself. She/He tricks others so they can let go of rigid belief systems or structures, cut through social norms and exposes hypocrisy, authority or falsity.
Generically speaking, the Fool, number zero in tarots, teaches about new beginnings, facing the unknown and seeing the world upside down and from a different perspective.
The Fool lets go of fixed ideas, knows how to take risks and reminds us that making mistakes is part of the journey of creation.
There are overlaps between these archetypes, which express the medicine of laughter and creativity. They remind us of the ridiculousness of life and the capacity to put down our masks and see through the veil of illusion. They teach us how to see ourselves with new and fresh eyes.
There are nuances, and I am not diving deep into history and myths right now….I just wanted to give you a taste 🙂
We need to find humour in the great theatre of life. Laughter is medicine and allows us to be lighter, more forgiving and more flexible (with ourselves and others). Wouldn’t it be best sometimes to laugh at our neurosis? Then we could stop giving ourselves and others a hard time and start with fresh eyes.
‘Earth laughs in flowers.’ — Ralph Waldo Emerson
In Movement Medicine practice, we play with the energy of the Dancing Fool.
Sometimes when I teach a class, I love to suddenly change the flow and break movement patterns and expectations. Especially when we (me included!) may believe that we are in a deep, serious, enlightened, trance-like or even superior spiritual place, I like to call in the Fool’s medicine!
I play silly/comic/upbeat or cartoon-like music, encouraging people to explore the room and their movements differently. They usually find other gestures, postures and creative expressions. I typically witness a burst of creativity in these situations; people dance together, move in unexpected ways, and find new expression pathways. Most importantly, they connect even more with one another. They want to engage relationally.
The Fool breaks walls, rigid movement patterns or postures and fixed points of view. It brings in fresh energy and new perspectives.
‘And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false, which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.’ — Friedrich Nietzsche
So here are some tips for you…
1) The first and most obvious is to watch fun stuff, especially when you need to curl in and care for yourself tenderly!
2) Try, if you wish, to suddenly do something different when you feel stuck.
Change the pattern. Break the habit. Be curious. And see what happens. You could make silly faces and strange animal sounds, jump up and down or talk in jibberish. You would be surprised.
3) Thirdly, you can collect music supporting the Fool’s state. Here is an example of music you can use. Of course you can experiment and see which music works for you!
How does the Fool want to move today? What is the dance teaching you?
4) You can write a letter to yourself, embodying the energy of the Fool. What would she/he say to you?
What would be their advice?
How would you see the world through the eyes?
5) Go in front of the mirror. Look in your eyes and laugh. I just did it. It truly shifts the energy and takes only a couple of minutes. This is also a way to establish an intimate connection with yourself and cherish self-love. Can you loosen up the tension in your diaphragm?
Well, my friends, I will start now to wrap up this letter. Funnily enough, this morning, I woke up feeling quite heavy. My neighbour has the habit of playing music very early in the morning, which I find pretty irritating. Well, to write about the Fool is reinvigorating and energising. I am entering the day with more lightness without focusing on what he is doing to me!
Moreover, there is something beautiful I want to share with you!
A few weeks ago, I recorded a live interview about the Fool’s journey and stepping off the cliff of the unknown with Jolie@Kriya Arts. You can listen to it here.
Well, this article ended up being longer than I thought lol…the strict part in me is saying that I should edit what I wrote at the beginning as I said that this would be short and sweet, and it is not. Still, Severina is telling me that is fine, it’s ok to be a bit messy and a bit cheeky, and you won’t beat me up (right?)! I wrote many things today; I may have created a cacophonic symphony full of different textures and invitations. I hope it supports your mad and wild imagination!
Also, I am not inviting laughter to bypass feelings of loss and grief or mock somebody else. I am all about shadow work and the authenticity of feelings.
And, as some said, a great comedian must know how to cry!
As a matter of fact, the Fool archetype may also invite us to explore an aspect of its shadow: the victim! But this is for another letter 🙂
I want to celebrate life’s intelligence, synchronicities and mystery!
This little poem below is the fruit of a community effort and process in a friend’s home last Friday, where we played with collective creative writing exercises and prompts. Each line has been written by a different person!
Hibernation seems like a good option
When the party is over
And everybody has left
Stillness is an answer
In this crazy troubled world
And the dance of the fool is a prayer
That awakens the child’s innocence
Who can this fool be?
That awakens innocence in children
Can the world become still
If fools abound on our planet.
Now I am transformed
No longer just as a fool
But more a dancing Harleqin
Harlequin in red and yellow
With gingling bells on his head
And a donkey on his back
So hear hear
Listen to the call and whispers of the crazy holy dancing fool
Bringing the gift of innocence to the screaming loud world.
Furthermore, yesterday I cleared my inbox and found some old pictures from a clown workshop I attended in Tenerife a few years ago.
It seems the Sacred Dancing Fools has been calling you and me!
If you want to play more with archetypes, including the Wise Elder, the Inner Healer and Medicine Woman, please remember that I am now enrolling for the Radical Wise Wild Women Circle: A 7 week online Somatic Movement Medicine, Voice And Ritual Based Journey for Midlife Women.
It starts on the Wed the 25th of January. The programme is by application only.
You can click here to read more about it and book an informal chat.
This programme distils everything I have been learning in the last twenty years. It blends Movement Medicine, voice work, ritual, somatic stress release practices and nervous system healing.
I embarked on this great adventure of supporting midlife women as I prematurely entered menopause. I would have never made it on my own, and I had to learn to reach out and connect to elders and other women.
So, this is my offering, rooted in sleepless nights, prayers, tears, laughter and hope. I truly welcome those who feel called to join us!
The picture above was taken during the 72 hours Summer Long Dance held by the School of Movement Medicine in 2014.