Many people have anecdotes about how Flow Arts have helped their lives in a myriad of ways. It is well known among our community that it helps us grow into being better humans. But how does playing with toys change us in such profound ways?

Morgan Goldberg does a handstand with her fire staff at EJC2015

Physically

The lack of physical exercise is a currently a global problem, contributing to many chronic and deadly illnesses. Just the act of getting up and doing aerobic activity a few times a week, or better yet daily, gives you a leg up on your physical and mental health. Because the Flow Art of your choice is fun, you are more likely to do it than going to a gym to do leg presses. Of course, the more vigorous the training, the greater the physical benefit gained. Creating a balanced practice is essential if you are developing as a professional circus artist, however, the simple act of having a circus practice at all is beneficial to your health and will increase grey matter in your brain.

Community

The Flow Arts community helps us connect to others within our field. The benefits of community can never be overstated. Recent studies state the subjective feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death from 25-32%. Which means participating in the Flow Arts community can actually help you decrease your risk of death! Perhaps some of us are geeky or awkward and never fit into the average group in our school. Perhaps all of our good friends moved away or had children and we don’t speak with them any longer. Perhaps you’ve immigrated and are new to the community. For whatever reason, many of us end up alone and isolated. Yet, in the Flow Arts Community you can find friends world wide. In many cities, there is a weekly way to connect to others. These meet ups are a place you enjoy, both because you’re able to express your individuality with your own prop-dance and because of the company of others to share it with. Circus Arts have always had a larger acceptance for outliers, and our Flow Arts community has a sense of inclusion of all kinds of people. This inclusion brings meaning to our lives. This community is a place where we can be imperfect at a skill, struggle together to find our way, and find others who are doing the same.

Brene Brown says it best:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them.”

 Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are 

Tossup.jpg

Image Credit: http://www.ejc2016.org/ website: are you coming to play in the Neatherlands?

Will Power

Getting up every day to train your skill is a daily exercise of will power. If you’re deeply into the Flow Arts, you begin to habituate practice schedules, and like any discipline of thought, this reveals the ebbs and flows of your own energy, motivation and enthusiasm. Playing and persevering through all variations of these states of being helps to strengthen your willpower. As you begin to gain confidence in your capabilities, your ability to push through any difficult mindsets increases. Energy, motivation and enthusiasm change over time for everyone, even over the period of a day. As the practice becomes more complex over time, big skillz become harder to attain and require more time and effort. The larger the effort, the larger your reward.

We learn patience with ourselves, as we learn to forgive ourselves for our failures and create plans on how to face obstacles in the future. Sometimes we have to wait through injury to start again. Sometimes, we have to relearn ideas from the beginning, understanding that we learned a drill only on one direction or one side and now we must start from the beginning again on the other side.

The practice of Flow Arts is our movement meditation. Most of us have reached a state of flow at some point, and often, our practice is actually an attempt to reach this place again. It is a rare and precious state of mind, and difficult to reach, and to break through into a great flow mojo one must continue to practice continuously and thoroughly. Meditation itself actually increases will power, the bonus is, Flow Arts is an intrinsic motivating meditative system.
If you want to learn a lot more about willpower, check out this incredible talk.

Collaboration

Being part of the Flow Arts community means we learn to work with others. Creating spaces which we can all share and train together takes a small army of dedicated individuals, and many more to just show up. There are so many reasons this kind of collaboration is beneficial to our development as a healthy humans. Developing an act together takes dedication, willingness and partnership over a long periods of time. We have to learn to negotiate, communication and compromise in order to build something greater than ourselves. We must learn to put our egos aside and give everyone equal time on stage. To quote the above hyperlink, we learn how to “criticize ideas and not people”. We have to learn to allow others to make their own artistic decisions and include them in our vision.

Whether we are making a theatrical stage performance to a whole flow festival, we must succeed and fail together. Then you must learn how to make the most of those experiences, overcome the obstacles and do it again, only better.

On top of that, collaboration with your fellow artists and team mates is fundamental for bringing the community forward in a big way. The Flow Arts Institute, European Juggling Association and the International Juggling Association all attempt to create events for us, document the history of our experiences, create lessons and ideas and bring all of us together to learn from each other. All associations on the planet have their struggles together and learn from those ideas. Anyone reading this article benefits directly from the efforts of those associations work, now and from the past organizers. The most important thing we learn from our collaborations and associations is gratitude: the willingness to appreciate the efforts of those around us who do the work to better all of our experiences in these fields.

Flo is the leader of MAMAGABE in Poitiers, France

Becoming a Leader

After we break out of the beginner phases of learning, we begin to teach others how to play too. It starts simply, by just helping one another and sharing ideas and opinions. Then we realize we know how to teach a workshop, and begin developing a pedagogy or some online tutorials. Perhaps you begin volunteering at a festival and helping out. Then you become the president of the local juggling and spinning club recruiting members to participate. Then when everyone else moves, has children and can’t continue leading, we decide keep the torch going and decide to run that festival we were once volunteering for. We may develop full classes, research and write about the history of the art or develop a DVD.

If you continue in the Flow Arts, and you level up, eventually you become a local leader in your community. It’s a natural progression, and it’s something we all benefit from.