A dusty Burn and a Zoom idea

A test of resilience in the desert, an idea to teach the world about Shape of Emotion and helping those who help others.


The wind arrived wild with the partygoers. Fine desert sand buffered glittered bodies, scratched at unguarded eyes and shrouded the site in a veil of - well, dust. Tents were flattened, snapping tent poles and anything not tied down blew away. The dust, jealous of the intruders, wormed its way into everything. Ev-ery-thing. Dust became an unwelcome condiment to hastily cooked meals and pancake gifts. Dust arrived in sleeping bags, in socks and underwear. It puffed out of just wiped chairs and coated the bottom of newly cleaned mugs. Nothing was safe or sacred.

Around 11-ish

Every morning around 11-ish, in the dust and the wind, group after group of curious burners showed up to experience an Emotional Fitness Class. Buffs and bandanas pulled around mouths and noses, goggles strapped on tight, community was formed. Some of what was cleared we were allowed an insight into, mostly, though, we had no idea, except that each person left relieved of an emotional burden they had brought into the tent with them. How do we know this? Because they told us so.

Being content-free, Shape of Emotion asks only that you come prepared to feel a feeling. Then be guided to find it in your body, observe what it looks like then release and let it go. No sharing, no explaining, no exposing yourself or being vulnerable, just a willingness to face that feeling. For a short period of time.

This is a tough ask for some who have spent their lives being told that it is not done to feel or be emotional. It's weak, unmanly, unprofessional. It doesn't do to get hysterical, cry, or go to pieces. Somehow we are conned to believe that our ultimate goal is to Be Happy. Or at least pretend to be. It's easier to bury, avoid and numb those pesky feelings that make us feel uncomfortable, sore or even sick.

One of our goals

One of our goals at 5th Place is to get as many people as possible doing Shape of Emotion. We know that the only way anyone is really going to 'get' it, is by doing it. We gifted Shape of Emotion at the Burn, we include a taste of the process at talks - the latest at the SACAP* Festival of Learning, tag it onto other initiatives and offer it in workshops and training courses - most recently at LifeLine in Johannesburg.

The thing is, we know that it is only by doing something consistently that there is real change. We know from experience that the more you do Shape of Emotion, as part of a daily practice, for example, the more emotionally resilient you become.  You do not get hooked as much, and when you do, the unhooking is easier and quicker. You live with a greater sense of wellbeing.

But knowing that something is good for me, even knowing how to do it, does not mean that I do. Take yoga, for example. I love yoga, I know how to do most of the asanas (yoga positions), I know how good I feel having done it. But do I do it on my own at home? No. I wait for a class. I prefer being guided. It gives me the discipline to complete the whole hour.

An online weekly Emotional Fitness Class

So it is with Shape of Emotion. Many people have said how they enjoy doing a guided kaleidoscope**. So we have started an online weekly Emotional Fitness Class. Every Thursday at 17h30 using the Zoom video conferencing app. You may have noticed the emails, WhatsApp messages and social media posts about these. Basically it's a guided meditative process where we dial-down one difficult feeling and dial-up a supportive one. All in less than an hour. It's yoga for your feelings.

It's our way of supporting those who want to do the work but find it difficult to cut out a corner of time on their own. It's our way of introducing the work experientially to those who are curious.

So far we have welcomed participants from Zambia and Ghana, Switzerland and Holland. Cape Town, Joburg and Port Elizabeth. We have regulars and once-offers. We have those that pop in one week and again a few weeks later. It is our hope that over time more will join and more will join more often. It may not be as easy as popping a pill, or binging on Netflix, but it works. Every time. Hope to see you there too. We've also included a link to the class below the invitation to our next Level one Foundation course.

Level one Foundation course

We're running our next level one foundation course towards the end of July in Linden, Johannesburg. This gives you about four weeks to organise everything and plan for it. If you need a bit of convincing about what it can do for you, here are a couple of pieces of feedback from the last one:

"When I think of the practise I almost sigh with relief that these feelings, stresses and anxieties can be cleared and transformed into a positive space; and that it has a truly cleansing effect on body mind and soul."

"The best aspect of the workshop was the gentle and really beautiful flow of it... no rush... plenty of time... lovely space... being facilitated by two human beings who walk their talk."

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