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.
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 AfrikaBurn, we include a taste of the process at talks – the latest at the SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) Festival of Learning, and tag it onto other initiatives.
We also offer it in workshops and training courses to educate and explain on what emotions are and why they are so important. The most recent workshop held 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 (The name for a complete Shape of Emotion process, from start to finish). 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, Johannesburg 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.
[Update: January 2022: It’s been quite a journey since we started doing the Emotional Fitness Classes online, things have changed quite a lot in how we offer them and we invite you to explore our dedicated Emotional Fitness Class information page. It offers answers to questions about the process, format and structure as well as insights into What is an Emotional Fitness Class.]
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.