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10 Life Lessons From Aerial Circus

02/01/2016 12:32 am ET | Updated Feb 01, 2016
  • Kylie Dunn Author of Do Share Inspire: The Year I Changed My Life Through TED Talks

In April last year I started aerial circus; static trapeze, hoop and silks to be more precise. It took me far too long to sort this out for myself, given I posted about my desire to fly in January 2014. The delay was largely due to the fact that I didn't know I could do this 15 minutes from my house - and then there was the fear associated with taking the step to try.

That fear was mainly due to the fact that I started this a few months before my 43rd birthday, when I was about 20kgs over the weight I'm happy at, and having done not a lot of exercise for more years than I would be willing to confess here. Putting my body into activewear and heading out in public to grunt and strain through activities I've never done in my life, was unsurprisingly scary.

But in March I finally pulled up my big girl panties and signed up for the next term, and I have loved every second of it - yes, even the aching muscles, bruising, torn up hands and, did I mention aching muscles?

Reading my book in catches It took me a long time to be able to do anything substantial or significant by myself - there was a lot of assistance provided by the instructors for months. Five months actually; it took me five months to be able to get up onto the trapeze unassisted. I can't put that feeling into words - maybe excitement, sense of achievement, pride, give an idea.

So below is a list of eight lessons that I have learned, or been reminded of, through my experience in entering the world of aerial circus. They are life lessons that I think everyone should remember for daily existence, but they are particularly important when you are pursuing a dream or starting something new.

1. Balance
It was my first class where I had the epiphany of being told "feel for the point where you need to change from pulling to pushing to keep yourself upright." This struck me as applying to every aspect of our lives. You need to know your tipping point in life, because balance is achieved in the moment.

2. Strength
You are stronger than you understand. I was quite overweight, 42 and unfit when I started aerial circus, but I was still stronger than I believed myself to be. I rediscovered that strength, and learned that sometimes a little bit of assistance will help you achieve something 'impossible'.

3. Permission
If you have a dream, or something you have always wanted to do - find a way to do it! Give yourself permission to be 'ridiculous', especially when you need to make yourself vulnerable to do that thing! Remember, 42, overweight, unfit - but I still started trying to do aerial circus, amongst a gym of fit, young, skilled people. Which leads nicely into...

4. Courage
This does pair with strength, but be brave enough to live outside your comfort zone - have the courage to take on your dreams. Yes, even when those dreams seem ludicrous, like starting aerial circus at 42!

5. Momentum
Muscling through an activity is possible, but you will only last for so long. When you use your body's momentum, actions become easier and you can achieve more. If you use the momentum you have built through achievements and interactions, actions will become easier.
The lamppost - one of my favourites
6. Trust
This was my biggest lesson, because I realised how much I didn't trust my own body. Trust your strength, the process, your ability to eventually get there. This extends to trusting your gut, and the fact that you generally know the decision you need to make, or action you need to take.

7. Flexibility
When you are able to stretch and bend more, you can do better tricks. When you are willing to stretch and bend in your life, then you can achieve more. If you are able to maintain a flexible attitude to who you are, then you can also change more readily and take on new challenges.

8. Do the Work/Fail
Sometimes you will need to practice, fail, try again and continue failing until you can do it. Failing is part of learning and you will eventually get there; but you will never achieve what you want if you don't commit to taking action.

9. Support
Surround yourself with the right people to tackle activities that scare you. I have had wonderful instructors - Adie, Ana, Gareth, Zeb and Jyoti - have all had a greater belief in my ability to do this than I would have ever had for myself. You are right to say that is their job, but they've never made it feel like it's just their 'job'. Adie's favourite saying it "I believe in you", when you're struggling to complete a move - yes, she even says it to herself. I will admit that those four words have often made the difference between me giving up or pushing through. They also don't let us say we can't do something, we just can't do it YET!

Last weekend I went to Melbourne to do a flying trapeze lesson, which was incredibly exciting, and a little scary - and why wouldn't it be. Sadly, that experience didn't quite go to plan - yes, I flew, but I didn't make the catch. Worse than not making the catch was... well you can watch the video below. It has prompted me to include a tenth life lesson to this list:

10. Focus
Don't get too caught up in what you want to achieve, or what you want the outcome to be. Just focus on doing the work; getting the basics down; being in the moment; and you will get there when you're ready - rather than rushing and making a situation worse.

The future

I'll keep going with static trapeze, I love it! It's given me so much joy and confidence, and introduced lovely people into my life. I will go back and try flying again, not for a little bit though. At some stage I hope to develop enough strength and flexibility to start doing silks properly, but I have a way to go for that I think. Having said that, I continue to amaze myself at my progress and increased strength - maybe it's not as far away as I might believe.

I know I would never have had the courage to fulfil this dream of mine if I hadn't done My Year of TED - if I hadn't found a way to move away from being a perfectionist, and embrace self-compassion and vulnerability. That's why I say aerial circus reminded me of a lot of these lessons - but it reminded me about them in the most wonderful way.

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