Punya interviews Mouji and Ganga about their workshop.
For several years I’ve known that Ganga – my neighbour on Corfu – and Mouji are leading Satori and Clowning workshops together. I had often asked myself what Satori, the enquiry technique which uses koans such as ‘Who is in?’ has to do with clowning.
Today, over afternoon tea at Ganga’s lovely house, I first heard about Satori Process combined with Creative Expression and now I find out how Satori and clowning fit together.
When did you discover Satori?
Mouji: I love Satori very much because I love to explore myself. I did my first Satori group in 1985 and then one or twice every year. During a Satori workshop I come closer to myself but when I go back to my ‘normal’ life I lose the connection somewhat, and then again I come closer during my next workshop. It’s like breathing in and breathing out. This technique works for me and so I am staying with it.
When I first came in contact with clowning, it didn’t have anything to do with Satori.
And how did you discover clowning?
Mouji: I took a clowning workshop without really knowing why. I just wanted to do it. The teacher was a great clown and was also interested in meditation.
How can you teach clowning? Are there techniques?
Mouji: All you can do is create an environment in which everybody has the freedom to express themselves. In our workshops we don’t train people in clowning. We just use the red nose and the mental image of the clown as a hint; the clown is allowed to show himself and speak his unique truth.
So, it doesn’t have to be funny?
Mouji: It can be funny but it has to be real.
Like the fool in the king’s court.
Mouji: Yes. The clown was the simpleton. He was not the educated one; he spoke the truth like a child.
On one of my visits to Corfu I had a red nose with me; I showed it to Ganga and she loved it. Soon after we looked for ways to combine Satori with clowning. We wanted to encourage participants to feel free and express themselves in a dynamic way. They have to come on stage, they have to move, they have to be there and face the audience.
Ganga: It is a situation like in each and every moment of our lives. Also, our whole upbringing and education has taught us to be successful. We are not allowed to make mistakes and this, for me, is the beauty of clowning: we are allowed to make mistakes. Actually, the mistakes are the source of most laughs. You do something and you fail, and everybody recognizes themselves in that failure. It makes you more human; you learn not to have such high ideals of yourself and you relax a little more into being yourself. OK, so I messed this one up, I’ll try again. Oops, I messed it up again and I’ll try again.
Mouji: Whatever the clown is playing has to do with his own life, his own wishes, and his own ideas. Through playing I start to discover myself. I go into it, try my best and if it doesn’t work out I try again, maybe in a slightly different way, or maybe there is a moment I don’t know how to go on. All this is part of the play.
Ganga: It means that the internal dialogue becomes a part of the play, the dialogue which is usually hidden out of fear or shame and is never shown in public. All those things we usually keep secret get their space. In other words, we externalize what we have in our head and say it out loud. That’s the funny part which touches the audience.
What are the instructions you give to the participants before they start?
Mouji: There are only a few instructions how to show yourself on stage, how to use your body and how to exaggerate gestures. And there are a few more rules of clowning. Rule number one is: never act, be real and show what is there right now. And the other rule is: always act! Even if you don’t know what to do next, play that out exactly, show it, be total in this not knowing. In fact, to play “Not knowing” is the third rule.
This is a beautiful koan in itself!
Ganga: Actually, a large amount of time we play this “not knowing” which is, in fact, a different way of working with the koan, ‘Who am I?’ For example, you know this is a cup and I know this is a cup. If I approach it with “not knowing” I can explore the object in new ways and expand it.
In the workshop we use objects of daily life, nothing complicated. There are millions of things we can do with an object and it will be our unique way to explore it and show this on stage.
Mouji: When you come on stage you don’t know what you will find there; all you know is that there will be something and that you have to play with it, use it. It is a surprise.
Ganga: To make the entrance, to come on stage, is often the scariest part for people. How do I do this? How do I present myself? You might have put on some clothes and maybe you have an idea what to do and then you see this thing over there – and it doesn’t fit with your idea. It’s so funny to see what people do, some even sit on the object and pretend it’s not there! It really pushes you into your spontaneity. You need to be flexible, let go of your beautiful idea and stand there empty-handed.
How long is such a play?
Mouji: It lasts from three to five minutes. It’s a short presentation of yourself with very high energy and a lot of adrenaline; there is high alertness because others are watching.
Ganga: Then you have to find an exit, a way to close the story and say goodbye.
And after each performance we give a feedback. Of course we do it in a positive way, so it’s not like, “That was horrible, you are boring.” Rather, “In that moment you really had my attention, I really liked that bit.” It is okay to give feedback about what didn’t work, but because most of us have been criticised so much and we can hardly imagine doing anything well, it’s good to hear from others what they liked, even if it was just that one moment. We are self-critical enough.
Mouji: This is very self-empowering and strengthening.
Ganga: What I often hear as feedback from people who have taken part in the workshop is: “It has been great. If I have to go for a job interview, if I have to talk to people, I’m so much more relaxed. I’m much freer, more spontaneous. I am not so much interested in doing it right, but more in having fun. I am more relaxed, I am more daring. If one approach doesn’t work I try another. I stay with it until I get through to the other, i.e. until people understand what I want to say. And I don’t have this ideal to have to get it right the first time.”
Mouji: It is about becoming more liberated.
Ganga: If I compare all the combinations of Satori and other disciplines offered by the Academy of Awareness and Creative Expression the combo with clowning seems to have the most effect on people’s lives. Of course, nobody could have imagined that. Most people think, “I’m a serious meditator. I won’t waste my time with clowning!”
Anything else you want to say about the combination of Satori and Clowning?
Mouji: It is a light way to face yourself and your fears, which you can often leave behind, and to finally feel more free and with more space inside yourself.
Ganga: It’s really about making friends with yourself, to expand, to be open to yourself, and to welcome whatever there is – even if it is failure, even if you do not know what to do. We don’t need to always give ourselves a hard time; we can be human, we don’t need to try being superman or superwoman. Just to be ourselves is enough, with all the shortcomings and gifts. That’s another thing: not to be afraid to show one’s gifts.
It’s about standing behind yourself, to say yes to yourself, and to gather the courage to show others how you take part in life; not to be miserly with yourself but to show who you are. It’s more fun. If we all did this, oh, it would be heaven. There would be so much more light, there would be so much more joy, so much more of everything.
This year Mouji and Ganga will be offering an island holiday version of the Satori/Clowning workshop: less Satori but more beach! 1-8 October 2016 in Corfu – www.awareness-academy.com
Interview by Punya
Mouji is a pedagogue and a social worker, specialised in psychiatry. She has been a sannyasin since 1984 and loves the Awareness Intensive Satori work. For the last 8 years she has been experimenting and later offering, together with Ganga, workshops for clowning and self-exploration. She lives in Augsburg, Germany where she works as a social worker. www.nlp-augsburg.de
Ganga Cording, Dipl. Psych., lovingly nicknamed “Mrs Satori” facilitates Awareness Intensive Retreats worldwide since four decades. She is the founder of the Academy of Awareness and Creative Expression which offers programmes combining inquiry with creative expression to establish a stable left- and right-side connection in the brain – the foundation for an integrated, conscious being. www.awareness-academy.com