Just over a year ago now I was invited to speak about Spiritual Intelligence. “The Flame” is a charity that offers mindfulness, meditation and lots of support to people struggling with their mental health.
They asked if I could share my experiences to help others. I couldn’t pass up such a rare opportunity, I was honoured.
I never really talked openly about my mental health or meditation.. and now I was going to do this in front of 700 people... in a Cathedral!
After the event, my talk was published on YouTube. I watched for the first time in horror... “is this what I look like?” “Am I making sense?” “Look how nervous I am!”. “No one should ever see this” I thought. I was more out of my comfort zone watching it than actually doing it.
Soon after I came across Steve’s amazing Ted Talk on the Inner Critic. Amazing. I saw his authenticity, openness and bravery. What an example I thought. (I went on his lovely course too find it on his website!)
I wondered what was going on for me. I hadn’t told anyone about the YouTube clip, even with so much nice feedback on the day, I was just totally embarrassed.
I plucked up the courage to send it to Steve. I congratulated him on such an amazing talk, and said... I have a huge inner critic going on right now, for some reason I feel I need to share my talk with you. His reply, after watching it was - can you come and do a talk at inexpert. You will be perfect for it!
Knowing Steve and his work I was very flattered, I also wondered why I’d be perfect. I responded with
I thought.. “How amazing... another opportunity to speak in front of a large group of people and be really out of my comfort zone.” I also though “Oh shit Mat.. why do you keep doing this to yourself?”
We scheduled a call and Steve went to explain about the experiment that is Inexpert. A conference where “No one knows what anyone is going to talk about...” “You may leave knowing less than when you come in...”
The only rules are, you are not allowed to be an expert.
I met with Steve a few months later just before an Improv Christmas Carol workshop. Again he could offer me no real pointers about what to do as he didn’t want to influence it. I knew there were no questions to ask.. it was just a case of turning up and doing. A cuppa with Steve is always good for the soul, and that was good enough for me. After a few Christmas Carols in minor key, I headed home to give it just enough thought.
I had lots of ideas... on one hand I knew it didn’t matter... and on the other I thought about how good everyone else might be.
Would I be good enough?, and more importantly... Would my hands shake like a shitting dog?
Steve was great. Over the next few months we had a few calls where he managed to coach me to a place of comfort without offering anything.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my childhood. So much awe and wonder, so many answers to things that weren’t really true (jumping cars, or the resurrection power of a microwave). So many unanswered questions. And there it was. I could talk for hours on so many random memories from childhood.. they would just come to mind.
I decided on a few slides for the younger audience... and the anecdotes just came and went.
I arrived to meet everyone. Some id met at Steve’s amazing Lab... others were just really friendly. I sat with Kay (she’s was on first) and we got to know each other a bit. We decided to do a power stance together to prepare for going on stage (this involves standing stretched out like a super hero). After we had quick cuddle and sat down raring to go.
I looked left and saw a familiar face with a trumpet. I’d met Nick Parker a few years ago at “Spark the change” where he did a beautiful workshop on the art of writing. This time he has doing terribly amazing things with a trumpet... (hmm.. my inner critic is back as I write - Nick is a writing expert.. I am not.. what will he make of this post!?)
Next minute... Nicks finished playing, Kay has done her mini-play.. and I am an inexpert at standing up on stage and talking, but then.. who isn’t?
After nearly being smashed in the face with a tennis ball a few times, and enjoying the silence with Hillary (which is also one of my favourite Depeche Mode songs) it was suddenly all over. Where had the time gone?
The bravery of those who turned up and did whatever they thought... the hidden genius of Steve Chapman... the accepting audience who even in silence understood... it was beautiful.
Moving away.. and now we are home. It’s so hard for people who didn’t attend to understand what it was or why it happened (or what the hell I was banging on). I explain the why, some people get it.. some don’t. I like to think it’s like my favourite Roald Dhal quote “There are two types of people in this world. Those that remember their childhood, and those that don’t. I’m willing to bet most people who attended are the former.
Watching the video of myself is still quite painful. My inner critic still points out all my movements, my nervousness, the bits I could have said but didn't.. did it make sense... most importantly, did people think I was an inexpert?!
Photo by: Steve Marshall
My Inexpert Talk : Here
Amazing Art below by: David Gifford
Inexpert Webisite: Inexpert.org
Steve Chapman: http://canscorpionssmoke.com/