The Puppetry: The Home of the Hummingbird

Leela Grace shares her story of how she came to be part of the Emerson community and the transformations she has experienced along the way...

Leela Grace

 At the age of 27, I found myself wrestling with my life path (quite naturally I now appreciate according to the principle of seven-year cycles) - the path I had followed so vehemently to my own spiritual, emotional and physical detriment. As I embarked on a personal quest to find my true place in the world, I took myself to a 'Change Your Life' event at Olympia in London. I came home with a bag of leaflets and flyers, one of which was from Emerson College. I remember thinking to myself, leaflet in hand - 'wow, I really must go there' and filed it away in a box for safe-keeping. Twelve years on in October 2015, several twists and turns and hands of fate later - I find myself signing a contract for the rental of the Puppetry in Ruskin House as my work-studio. 

Here I am in October 2017, almost two years to the day since I signed that contract - putting into words the story of my being here, the work that I have brought to reside in the Puppetry and my relationship to Emerson College and Steiner's work. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life and in my work, one that I can now write having emerged from a period of retreat, a tender process of deep reflection, a letting go of the old and an allowing of the new to emerge. A process, some would say, that is resonant of that which Emerson itself has been through and has emerged with what looks like renewed purpose, energy and clarity of direction. I am fascinated by how people, spaces and landscapes reflect one another - and as the College, Community and Landscape open up, welcome in new people and become more visible, I find myself doing the same.

Since consciously embarking on my spiritual path in 2001, my life has largely been influenced by the Ancient Wisdom of the East. Since moving to Forest Row in 2014, I see that Steiner has been gently, organically influencing my perspectives and practices in human development, learning, arts & consciousness and the built environment.

As an example, Steiner's seven-year cycles has been invaluable for me in making sense of where I am at in my development as a conscious human being. I understand that I'm now in the early beginnings of my 'Mars period' - a time when one focuses on pleasing oneself rather than society, when we understand our uniqueness and experience a sense of urgency to express our true self. Major personal changes and periods of unrest unfold. We extract new ideas and forge a new direction. It's a time to make our mark. “The purpose of our lives is to give birth to the best which is within us”. Marianne Williamson

'Purpose' - I've been in the inquiry of my purpose for many years. This 'one' thing that I 'should have', the one thing I 'should' solely focus on and pour all my energy into. In Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on this subject, I love her acknowledgement of the Hummingbirds amongst us; the curious ones, the seekers, the connectors, the cross-pollinators - whose purpose it is to be out in the world, going here and there, trying new things and cross-pollinating ideas. It's not about just one thing, it's quite the opposite. Or rather the one thing is about being curious, keeping on learning and sharing the nectar! That is what I love to do - and I'm really good at it. It's my flow, it keeps me alive, vibrant and interested in life. It feeds me. I love being a Hummingbird!

In 2006, I took flight from my corporate office and embarked upon a journey of exploration and experimentation in new sectors, organisations, cultures and disciplines - living the question, how could I use 'change management' (my corporate profession) to make a difference in the world? At the time, I felt like Dick Whittington, off with my nap sack of change management tools, off to find the streets paved with gold. In highsight, I also see that I was searching for meaning, connection, community, a place where I felt I could belong, where I could be truly of service to humanity and create the changes that I felt the world most needed.

I love Gandhi's principle: “If you want to change the world, start with yourself." And it is fair to say, that this is the deeper journey that I have been navigating.

Little did I know that with each assignment I myself would be changed: layers of institutional and societal conditioning peeling away, the reconnecting of my head, heart, and hands, - my awareness of self, others and our world - I have become a woman I couldn't have imagined myself to be just ten years ago.

In many ways, the quest I embarked on is still ongoing - yet I come to it now with the appreciation that whilst being keen to contribute to the world in a positive way, I actually need this work to cultivate my own consciousness, to keep growing and giving birth to the best which is within me. This is my purpose. ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world' - another snippet of Gandi's wisdom.

I am utterly inspired by each and every one of the people, projects and places that I am currently working with; the Leadership Team of an International School in Thailand to build resilience and weave values into their new community, the Social Entrepreneur in Asia on a quest to help young people to be more emotionally intelligent, the research into the Maori tribal culture to integrate their wisdom into daily life, the Leader of a Global Charity to develop resilience in her leadership and her organisation, the local community group co-creating a local co-working hub and an incredibly talented musician to bring her healing songs out into the world.

After this period of change, deep inquiry and renewal - the Hummingbird is once again happily out in the world weaving change across cultures, disciplines and landscapes.

I’ve got my nest here at Emerson College in Forest Row - the place I feel comfortable to call my home, my community - one I am deeply grateful for. Emerson College, the Living & Learning Community, the landscape and spirit of place here have all played - and will continue to play - an important role in my Development and Design practice and my life. In those moments of stilness, even the Puppetry studio itself whispers its wise words of wisdom.

Find out more about my Development & Design practice at www.leelagrace.co.uk

Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_PSUskgiZU