Words from a Participant

In June, Simon Berkowitz, who has completed several weekend and five day workshops with Jonathan, kindly took the time to write about his personal experiences of Fooling. For any of you that have not worked with Jonathan before, this gives a wonderful insight into the benefits of the work, and for those of you that have worked with Jonathan, I’m sure this will sound familiar. Thanks very much Simon!

“As I stood up a scene took shape around me. I was looking across a field of bright green grass towards a crystal clear blue sky. I could feel the sun on my skin and a very slight breeze move from right to left across me. To my left was an old gnarly stunted oak tree. I could see all the shapes in the bark, the twisted branches and the light reflecting off the leaves. In that moment I felt totally spontaneously alive.

This was an experience I had on day 2 of a workshop with Jonathan Kay at Cardboard Citizens in Whitechapel. It was the first time that I had had such a clear and powerful experience of my imagination spontaneously creating a whole scene for me as a complete and total immersive sensory experience. And it was magical.

Berkowitz 1I have been affected by a serious fear of public speaking for over 20 years, especially how to deal with those unforeseen moments where you get stumped by a question or something totally unexpected throws you off track. This is what brought me to try Fooling with Jonathan Kay.

I used to be a lecturer in Chinese Medicine and for two whole days beforehand I would be crippled by dread. In my case it wasn’t the physical symptoms that were the worst, it was the overwhelming terror. I felt like I was waiting for my execution.

In a way it didn’t matter because nobody ever knew. But I did, and it made something that could have been a real pleasure into torture.

It wasn’t limited to my professional life either. For some reason even social situations where there were groups were often difficult for me.

I ignored it (as you do) and just pretended it didn’t exist until I started on my current line of work where group interaction is central. My first step some years ago was to do something drastic- a course in stand up comedy.

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Rewarding, exhilarating, terrifying. I did a handful of gigs and it made a huge difference but because I was working off a script I knew by heart, it did very little for my ability to be spontaneous.Because almost all human interactions are spontaneous I knew I needed something else and that’s what drew me initially to Fooling with Jonathan Kay.

In Jonathan’s workshops you get the opportunity to explore what it is like to be truly open to being spontaneous in the moment. For someone who is used to planning and thinking before speaking as I have this has been a total revelation.

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Those moments of true spontaneity that come up in the workshops are so exciting and energizing (like the scene with the tree above) that they have totally shifted my experience of communicating. And the effects have rippled out through most every other part of my life.

Professionally I feel much more natural meeting new clients and groups for the first time. This was often a challenge for me as I would revert to being all rigid and formal. Now I feel so much more comfortable waiting, seeing and then responding to what the situation demands. It just feels much simpler.

General social situations are also easier. The most challenging for me used to be the initial stages of joining a group where I either did not know people or knew them just enough to make me feel even more awkward. It does still affect me at times but even at its worst only at about 20% of what it used to be.


 Coming away from the workshops I have thought a lot about why they have made such a difference.

The first reason (which seems counter intuitive) is that the workshops have made me much more open to failing. Where in life do you get an opportunity to fall gloriously flat on your face and for it not only to not matter but be applauded for it? I didn’t actually die. Such a relief.

It is also a very lovely experience to see other people get up and do their thing. It’s not just seeing them in their moments of brilliance which are great to learn from. There is also something very beautiful about seeing all sorts of very different people surprise themselves by what they realize they can do.

This picture has been reproduced by kind permission of stormthorgerson.com.
This picture has been reproduced by kind permission of stormthorgerson.com.

A third reason is that the structure that Jonathan has developed is repeatable. What it seems to do is offer a framework that makes the exploration of spontaneity something that can be ‘trained’.

There is also JK’s uncanny ability to put his finger directly on the blocks that stop a person from being spontaneous. This is probably the most hilarious part of the workshop and often had the whole room in stitches.

The last reason is something to do with validation. There is something about the workshops with Jonathan Kay that made me much more comfortable with myself in a way that includes the messy bits rather than denies them.

Berkowitz 3This is for me the greatest key to being open to the spontaneity and discovery that can take place from moment to moment. If I reject what is there right now in this moment I close down and nothing happens. If I stay open then that offers the possibility of the magic.

While I was on the last workshop I got offered an opportunity to interview for a week’s work lecturing. Ten groups of 25 students at quite a prestigious London college. In the past I would have hesitated, procrastinated and probably found some reason not to go for it. This time I just said yes.”

Simon Berkowitz, June 2016.