Writings

Dissonant Flow.

January 2018

Wild, bawdy humor which makes out-of-control noises pour forth from one’s nose. The movement there, this is something that the body does to survive, no? Like the beauty of flesh saving itself in falling.

Smoothness. Moving through whatever is there. Yes-ing to all. Onward-ness. Never turning back. Aikido’s way of harmonious spirit. These are certain types of flow.

What does flow look like? Feel like?
Can flow be broad enough to include awkward edges, contrast, nose noise-making humor?
Is a violently shifting riptide in a storm’s wave flow? How could it not be?
Can there be pleasure in dissonance, in confusion? Can dissonance be considered a type of flow?

……

I once heard a teacher talk about need; to let the body do what it needs.
‘Is this instinct?’ asked one student.
‘No,’ the teacher replied.
‘What if my need is to take care of another? My need is to tend to what they want.’ another asked.
‘No, that is not it!’ the teacher replied.

If a boulder dropped from this cafe’s roof, would I react in time?
My body, keen to survive, would move.
I allow myself to scratch my nose as I type.
I do not need to scratch my nose.

Is the difference between allowance and need, instinct and survival, a matter of speed? A matter of urgency?
At a certain speed, I lose my ability to observe my sensations. I work at this tempo’s edge. (I could easily stay relatively still for hours. I once spent a year working as a living-statue. With pleasure.)
The quality of these movement-origins feel slightly different: Need. Allow.
Probably, the precise distinction of words is not so important, rather the experience.

… …

Without forcing any, when I listen, there are sensations which fit with the word true. They feel true, somehow.
When I allow them to move they feel right. I feel an overall sense of possibility. Vitality. Creativity. Openness. Some amount of I can (Sheets-Johnstone 1999).
I feel other sensations. Some have a quality of neutral-proprioception: balance, weight, etc.
Some have a more external or temporary quality. Sometimes the thoughts that fit these sensations are: “I am supposed to move in a certain way in this space.” Or, “This move will be impressive.” Or, “I want to appease you.” The sensations feel stifled, frozen, disconnected. Dead-end-street feeling.

When I hear the sensations with this quality of true-ness, I increase my speed. I incorporate awareness of you. Of the room. I lose the sensations. I find them again. And so on.
As we dance together I notice and allow these sensations with a quality of right-ness to move.

Does need feel true? I don’t know, it all happened so fast. But I’m pretty sure, yes.

… …

“According to Piaget… human understanding (e.g. abstract and rational) arise from earlier and more implicit forms of sensorimotor organization… A subject can perceive… only those environmental aspects or events that she can actively assimilate (integrate or absorb) into already existing senorimotor schemes… faced with an ever changing world (and body), [she] will constantly be challenged by not-yet-assimilated aspects of her environment, which create internal sources of tension and conflict … What and how this agent experiences perceptually… is determined by her sensorimotor repertoire.” – The sense of agency – a phenomenological consequence of enacting sensorimotor schemes – Thomas Buhrmann & Ezequiel Di Paolo (2015).

… ….

It is tiring to disappoint.
A particular type of muscle tautness and heat rising from my skin. What perceptions arrive me to the conclusion that you are disappointed?

In many cultures it is rude to decline food. Hurtful, offensive, insulting.
With these (and other) customs enmeshed in our tissues, how do I communicate that my own allowing is not moving towards the offering of your back, your gentleness, your…And
this does not mean that I am not aware of you; it does not mean I am not dancing with you.
How many ways might I communicate, say this to you?

If a boulder dropped from this cafe’s roof, do you reach to protect me?

If I listen well, I can sense nuances, in the qualities of my sensations.
Even if I do not understand their meaning.

… …

Does one seek softness on the dance floor because life has so many rough edges? Or simply because there is pleasure in soft flow? Does a well balanced soul always move smoothly? Is the state of a psyche judged based on a flailing or smooth style?

Who knows what each of us are doing on the dance floor.

… …

We do or do not understand how to make sense, moving together.

“How far are you going?” asked the fighter, meaning how much closer was he going to get to his reservation than he was now.
“Up to Wenatchee,” I said. “I’ve got some people to interview there.”
“Interview? What for?”
“I’m a reporter, I work for the newspaper.”
“No,” said the fighter, looking at me like I was stupid for thinking he was stupid. “I mean, what’s the story about?” – The Toughest Indian in the World – Sherman Alexie (Grove Press, 2000).

What do the sensations of our assumptions feel like?
When I notice a thought or emotion about your moving, analyzing, judging,
if I dive deeper, to hear all of my tissue, what are the sensations there?

… …

The experiences of dissonance, surprise, tension, boredom, conflict, they inform me about my desires and expectations in our dance.
What sensations notify you that you have reached an edge? Of assumption, hope, desire… ?

Curiously exploring, gathering information through experiencing.
Are our discomforts, our moments of not-understanding each other also flow? How could they not be?
Your scent is seeping into my pores, and mine yours – creating, even if temporary, influence on one another.

How long does it feel true for either of us to dance together?
What are the sensations you feel when you decide it’s time to leave our dance?

I notice what it feels like to end my words here.

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On Experts

6 August 2018.

If my appendix explodes I would like to be around someone trained in performing an appendectomy.

In more complex situations, experts in the same field can give varied recommendations. They may even give information that is contradictory to one another.

A friend recently injured their knee. Included in the advice they were given by various expert sources: Swim. Do not to swim. Do Tai Chi. Don’t do Tai Chi. Don’t move in ways which bring pain. Move into the pain.

How does one know what to do? Who do you trust?

There are no easy answers here. Below are a few, quite intense stories. I feel the intensity is necessary to speak to the complexity of our situations. For, it is when we are in intense situations that we most often seek ‘experts’ to support us.

This is a brief version of an extremely personal story. My sister was very sick. She was unable to be helped by several, highly touted therapists – psychiatrists, psychologists with certified somatic training, clinics specializing in depression and suicide, and clinics specializing in anorexia. My sister did not live through this experience. What I witnessed was a person in a situation too complex to be properly held by a variety of experts in their field. She needed more and different care than they were able to provide. Many of them sent her away, stating that they did not have the capacity to help her – some citing insurance policies. Her therapist openly stated that he had failed to give her his full attention. I walked next to her for a large part of this journey and felt – as I intimately knew her – that she did want to live. Yet, we could not find her enough, fitting support.

Another story, years later. I was in attendance in a somatic sexuality course. During one exercise in this course a participant was touched in a region specifically marked as ‘out of bounds.’ The violated participant had previously been sexually assaulted. This new violating touch resulted in a trauma response of freezing, unraveling into many difficult months of recovering from this experience. No participant in the course remembered bringing touch to this participant; and, the violating touch (not the person who brought the violating touch) was seen by the instructors. After this, effort was put forth by the instructors to process this situation. Still, the person who was violated did not feel the situation was adequately addressed and has since distanced themselves from this community. There was a general note given to the class to look into learning more about trauma response. That said, the person who brought this touch remained a mystery and the entire class carried on, en route to become certified somatic sexuality practitioners.

Pausing a moment to take in these stories. Then I bring you this question: which expert is not also a fallible human?

What are the qualities that you seek in an expert? What do they seem to be paying attention to when you meet with them? How did they come to learn this expert knowledge they are sharing? Does it feel like they are listening to you?

How do you feel while you are with them? After meeting with an expert do you create space to sense into your entire reaction (including cognition, emotions and the murky unknowns within you)?

Somatic work is about learning to feel. It’s learning to taste the nuances of sensations – thoughts, emotions, all aspects of our experience. Do some thoughts taste acidic? Do some people make you feel like honey? Do some activities make you feel vital?

Somatics is about feeling into all the information – the expert’s advice, your own cognitive knowledge, how the all-of-you feels when you consider a situation. Then you take a small step in some particular direction and notice again, how does this feel? Maybe you stay still for a long time if you don’t know. Maybe you try a step and then step back. Maybe you try a step and then shift towards the right.

It’s slow going. There are no easy answers here.