© Nita Little
January 15, 2008
“After all, what an intellectual thing in a way the human hand is.”
(Alan Watts, 1966)1
I have been involved in the development of a dance form, contact improvisation,2 that has radically changed what we understand to be the dancer’s physical and relational capacities. In my tenure as a leader in this dance explosion, I have been amazed by what dancers are now capable of, through the inclusion of the tactile realm as a considered “drive” in the formation of their action. Beyond the obvious increase in movement pathways provided by physical contact between dancers, there is also a tremendous increase in the mover’s information that supports those pathways. Through touch, the mover perceives the three dimensional space in which she is moving, and the conditions of that space. The dancer that I have been focused on evolving is one who is as intent upon what enters her body/mind system as what is produced by it. Indeed, her every move is dependent upon it. Thus, the dancer as information gatherer, perhaps even more than the product of that information, is one of the revolutions that contact improvisation has offered.
Not surprisingly, much of my work over the past thirty-six years has been to expand the dancer’s informational base, knowing that the result would be visible through an increase of the dancer’s movement capability. It became clear to me, early on, that to expand my physical potential I needed to expand my mental range and ability, which was a bigger task than simply expanding the perceptual and somatic skills with which I had already been engaged. Therefore, I stretched my inquiry to include current practical technologies of the mind. I have become certified as a clinical and medical hypnotherapist, as well as a certified Master Practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming, (NLP)3 and The Destination Method®,4 a progression of that work. These methodologies have provided me with an in-depth understanding of the relationship between cognition, language and subjective experience. They inform the metaphors and language present in my work.
Information and experience are necessarily and inextricably coupled. The increase of a dancer’s base of ‘immediately present information’ develops her awareness, and thus, her physical choice and range. More importantly, it expands her experiential ability which in turn influences her dance capabilities, bringing new material into her art. This material development changes everything for me as an artist. Yet as I go forward, time and again I recognize that in my quest for an evolved dancer, I am only scratching a surface.
In this paper I explore some of the conditions necessary for the development of dance artists who creatively articulate levels of subtle awareness in the actions of their minds and their bodies as well as their relationship to others and their environment. As an improvisational dance artist, I investigate how it is possible to turn this mindful awareness into practical action that accomplishes something visually and kinesthetically distinguishable to others. Coming from this base, I seek an evolved body of material to impact the broader field of contemporary dance. A further interest is in the art that becomes possible when such dancers are creatively engaged, using capabilities just below the surface of everyday awareness. These capabilities arise when certain conditions exist - conditions in which the mind and the body, acting in union, are congruently engaged, pass fluidly through experiential states that break the bounds of normal cultural orientation, including that of western dance forms.
To do this I question the nature of the mind, the body, and their relationship as an emergent dynamic. These queries take me into the new physics, mystical religious traditions, cognitive science, systems theory, cognitive and somatic therapies, and my own dance research. As I explore these areas, I seek emergent forms, those existing uniquely on a new level. These new forms are derived not from one idea, or another, but through their synthesis.
I intend to identify a few of the skills involved in the development of the mind/body relationship in order to support my thesis that it is time for dance to train the mind as well as the body. It is particularly time to examine their relationship. Throughout this paper I emphasize the significance of experiential states as the root of individual capability and creative capacity. However, you will notice that I focus more on actions of the mind than those of the body. This is for two reasons. Firstly, many movement and somatic practices emphasis the body over the mind and secondly, it is with the mind that I see the deficit not only in our training of dancers but also in the very human “art of experience.”
I write this paper from the perspective of a participant observer, with acknowledged subjectivity in my research. Indeed, part of my premise is that the concept of objective observer is flawed. When speaking inclusively, unless otherwise noted, I am speaking of those of us who practice this work and whom I wish to acknowledge as an integral part of this research. I have not been alone, but supported by a wonderful group of dedicated dance explorers. Throughout this paper, for the sake of conciseness, I call the developed capability I reference, “the art of experience”.
The art of experience is not an art of emotionality. Emotions are the result of what is held in mind, a complex of cognitive and physical events, and thus are not a root cause of experience. I wish to identify a source for this art of experience at the level of its emergence. Feelings (as emotions rather than kinesthesia), though motivating and energizing, are not deep enough. According to NLP, emotions are the result of actions of the mind on the level of inner experience through what we ‘see’ with our inner eyes, ‘feel’ with our inner kinesthesia, ‘hear’ with our inner ears, and ‘savor’ with inner taste and smell.5 These mental actions are part of the tools I am interested in discovering, however I am looking for a different type of result on the human canvas other than simply the work of an emotional paintbrush.
Conversely, the elimination of emotion sets up other circumstances that would also limit an art of experience, and so, the maintenance of a neutral emotional state cannot be the objective. Rather, I seek a more inclusive perspective. I distinguish emotions from what Judson Church pioneer, Judith Dunn, has called “feeling tones”, when teaching me dance improvisation. In my explorations, “feeling tones” are small shifts in a “state of mind” that precede emotions. They have tonal qualities. Raise your open arms, face and chest skyward and one “feeling tone” inhabits the moment, which is a different tone than dropping head first to the floor, chest concave, arms flaccid. Stopping emotions halts these subtle shifts in the “feeling state”. This drains the “color” out of our moments, and color offers tone and nuance, an amazing quality of information. Imagine: a stick is dipped into a still pond. The action of it breaking the water’s surface draws our attention. Changing our view to include the whole pond, we notice the outward moving waves are opening into the pond at slower rates of speed. These waves, like emotions, slow down as they expand throughout the pond. Dancers move and articulate at the cutting edge, like the moving stick. There, tonal “feeling states” move quickly. Our minds’ attention can be placed at any point in this pond, or, it can encompass the whole pond at one time. The moving dancer, by staying present in the physical moment moves feelings and awareness at the speed of the stick articulating in the water. Here, stick and water are one action. From this moving point, the waves of emotional response form a complex web of interacting patterns, each wave moving at its own speed, influencing the whole pond. When we move in this work, we do nothing about the water, but we do shift our attention, noticing the results of the varied levels. Attention on just the cutting edge is more useful under some conditions than attention on the whole pond, which can allow us to “feel” the ripples. However, it is wise not to lose attendance on the moving stick while in an “extended’’ state, since that is the location where actions are happening: a mental tool I call “tracking”. Tracking in this way, we know the wonderland of complex interactions of emotions and “feeling states” without needing to do anything about them. We neither try to push the water, nor resist it. This way of attending enables direct experience without interference. It is multi-leveled, changes by the milli-second, and yet has substance.
Actions of the mind shift levels of attention within the pond. Developing this ability requires another mental tool that conditions the amount of information that is perceived within each moment. Borrowing from the language of NLP, we change the “chunk” size of the information entering the body/mind system.6 A chunk is simply an amount of information, derived from a situation or experience. It can be changed much like a lens. Moving outward “chunking up” is like widening the focus. Things become more general, but of greater quantity. “Chunking down” is like zooming in so that things become more specific. “Chunking laterally” keeps things in the same class of information but changes the view. This skill promotes flexibility within the individual’s experience and responsiveness to the conditions of her own body in space, and can also be extrapolated to include others and their experience. An ability to control the quantity of information is a formative skill for this art of experience.
The idea of chunking developed out of the 1956 research of George Miller,7 who established that people are only able to process plus or minus seven bits of information in their conscious awareness at any given time. The operative word, here, is “conscious”. The conscious mind is formatted quite differently than the subconscious which may be likened to a large warehouse filled to overflowing.8 The relationship of the conscious to the subconscious mind is as the amount of material lit by a flashlight in that warehouse is to the numerous contents of the warehouse. Comparatively, the conscious mind focus’ on a miniscule amount. It is possible, (according to experts who study information processing), that the nervous system receives up to two million bits of information per second.9
From my work with hypnotherapy, I know that levels of this information are stored in the subconscious in many forms: whole images, partial images, interchangeable parts and more. Access to the subconscious varies for any given person within any given day and circumstance. People have varied ability to contact this level of mind. Clearly, having a ready and skillful admission to the contents of the warehouse is important for being resourceful and flexible in life, as well as in dance. Any tools that promote this ability are vital to an evolved dancer and her ability to engage in fluid multi-level experiencing.
Once we are accustomed to perceiving the “feeling tones” in our performance of dance, we notice that they change with every action and that every moment is resonant with feeling. As small an action as lifting your little finger changes your feeling state, as does even thinking of lifting your little finger. Move your mind’s attention to what is behind you, and your feeling changes instantly. Even the level of micro-movements can make big changes. Every micro-movement is a shift in thought/feeling. The initiating source, mind or body, influences the whole. Thus, experientially, the body/mind system is self-referential; they are mutually changing. Mind and body are both capable of inducing state shifts. On the subtle levels of awareness of which dancers are capable, these changes are both “local” and “global”, so they are felt throughout the body. Thus a shift on the level of the little finger is a shift of the whole body. It is the subconscious that perceives this and makes feeling states accessible. An ability to stay “whole body present" with each of these shifts gives us access to all the tools in the toolbox.
I am invested in dancers evolving with a mind-body relationship that enables states of experience that are fast and flexible. They can then receive multiple levels of information simultaneously. This ability both enables sustained attention to complex informational fields and to simple ones. It becomes possible for them to experience on more than one temporal level (e.g. fast cutting edge, slow responsive waves, etc.).
To do this, I introduce the concept of slicing time. A large amount of time is a large slice. An example might be a movement recalled and performed as one action, such as the entire sequence of a port-de-bras. People can also slice time very thinly, into milli-seconds, and yet hold a large chunk of information within it. Many people have experienced a life threatening accident and report the experience of being aware of time slowing down while they noticed every detail. They ‘thin slice’ time at a very high rate while connected to a large chunk of information, thus taking in a great deal more information than in their normal waking consciousness while experiencing time slowly. The faster we move in contact improvisation, the thinner we need to slice time. An ability to shift the size of the slices of time we are experiencing is a companion skill to chunking. It enables us to control the detail and the quality of information we receive.
Having tools with which to be skillful in our attention produces the ability to interact physically on varied levels. Returning to our pond metaphor, we can be present on the cutting edge, thin slicing time, or with the whole pond in thick slices. We could also choose any variation of these forms. Our experienced “reality” will shift accordingly, and so will our physical interaction with that reality. For the mind/body dancer this mental and physical articulation has few boundaries since she will always have multiple mental tools in the toolbox as she moves and with which she can shift levels, according to need.
Whether the information is from the internal world (the world within the flesh) and/or the external world (that outside the flesh), the mind/body moves with a finely tuned response. Indeed, the very word “response” is no longer viable under these conditions. The definition of “response” according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary is “to say something in return: make an answer,” which infers time and space. It is a “result” of stimuli.10 What we are looking for is a potential that includes and exceeds responsiveness. I posit that there is a mind/body state beyond responsiveness where simultaneity exists.
To accomplish any of these possibilities requires huge mental and physical flexibility. Flexibility arises in the presence of many options. The more options within a situation, the greater the flexibility to act. Simply put, the more choice, the better. This means that the active mover is more specific and capable in her choice making when she holds a vast number of options in a present, resourceful state.
These options include level shifts of attention, not just choices within one field of view. It becomes clear that the resourceful dancer is able to be present with the full complexity of interacting systems, at the same time that she can be tracking a single drive or path in space/time. Here, I am presenting a new concept, that of flexing between complexity and simplicity, sometimes so frequently that it appears we are doing both nearly simultaneously.
Experientially, I notice that when I slice time very thinly, I discover an oscillating quality of attention, a wave of attention. There seems to be many kinds of oscillations possible. One such kind is a wave of attention that moves between complexity to simplicity: awareness of “the many”, (many points of experience), to “the one”, (one whole experience). Another wave of attention is between things falling apart, (disassembling) and things coming together (assembling). Oscillations provide us with ways to receive information from a broad “field” of information without the duality of opposition. Try this in a slow way with your body and you may find that it is possible to experience your own body as many parts, or as one part, a union of many. Taking this experience to the cellular, fluid level provides a highly playful movement potential that changes technical capabilities and physical possibilities.11 The experience of the body in its multiple forms provides a variety of realms of action and interaction that show up in movement forms such as release technique and contact improvisation. However, this type of experience in these techniques is more often than not a passive result rather than an actively, trained mental skill.
Enhanced technical results are possible when we move between experiential states. The differing states of multiplicity, (many individuated forms), and singularity, (all as one individual form), provides an example. Each state has a unique physical as well as mental potential.12 As many, all of our parts move separately. They individuate in their relationship to gravity, providing solidity and specificity. In contrast, as one, we organize all our body parts together to move forward as a single unit. We need both, especially in dance. The field of possible future moments changes with each shift in the wave of experience: this way or that way. At very high rates of speed they blend, providing the full range. This or that becomes this and that.
In dance, as in life, we work best with a full spectrum of possibilities. These oscillations in physical attention can be unbelievably fast, almost beyond the ability to distinguish, or meditatively slow. While observing a broad range of people through both their movement choices and later discussion, I conclude that most are initially disorganized in regard to what they pay attention. Skillful dancers have learned to control their attention, but they can have a limited spectrum of possible states.
The rate of oscillation between a complex field of information and a simple one becomes a significant factor in the creative experience. The faster the speed of oscillation, the closer to simultaneity the resulting creative movement and interactions are. The slower the speed, the larger the time slices are and the more emotional or embedded in responsive activities. As the oscillations of varied attentions slow down, dancers individuate and make more obvious choices in their dance, the mind separates from the body, linear decision-making becomes a factor, and tools external to the dance become necessary in order to control what happens. Ultimately, the drive for the dance returns to a formal fixed state: away from immediate real-time composition and into prepared or practiced patterns, whether intended or not.
Groups and individuals dancing beyond responsiveness, in a mutuality that is simultaneous happens for a reason. Almost every dancer in every dance form has experienced it as a heightened state. In Contact improvisation, this situation can show up as the magic that happens when you don’t kill yourself, flying and falling with another body! Although, this can have far subtler manifestations. At these times the mind is highly flexible and works on multiple levels of awareness while the body is wide-awake receiving and flexing with that information(13). From it amazing movement and movement relationships happen, producing, for lack of a better term, meta-responsiveness. This occurs under circumstances in which both the body and the mind are in extraordinary process. There are many experiences that produce meta-responsiveness, and it is the mind/body relationship that exposes this potential.
Although our mind-body relationship has undergone great change in the past half century, much of it due to the influence of Eastern forms of philosophy, religious practice ,and medicine. In the past forty years have we seen the widespread rise of somatic disciplines. Yet the actual living of this relationship is still dominated by a history of dualism and the philosophical hierarchy of mind over body found in Plato and Aristotle’s accounts of knowledge, indoctrinated by Christianity, and molded into our worldview by Descartés and Kant.14
Throughout most of the 20th century it was still accepted that the relationship between the mind and the body was not a rational relationship, therefore, even the study of this relationship was not considered rational.15 Thus this study was not considered worthy of medical or scientific research until very recently. In such an intellectual atmosphere there is little wonder that the dance arts have been similarly influenced by this mind and body “guillotine”.16 The head remained separate with a goal that it maintains constant control of the body. Rupert Sheldrake said of the difference between then and now, “The only difference is that the supposed seat of the soul has shifted a couple of inches from the pineal gland into the cerebral cortex. But, we’re still left with an animating principle inside the brain somehow controlling the body.”17 The unfortunate fallout of this situation is present not only in how we dance, but in the status of the dance art within the culture.
In contrast, at its inception, contact improvisation was directly influenced by Eastern movement practices. Steve Paxton, having studied Aikido and Tai Chi, generously taught crucial elements of these forms to those of us working with him. We experimented with the new movement possibilities that became contact improvisation: how to fall, the flow of one action into another with energetic efficiency, weight falling earthward, circuitous rather than linear articulation in circular space rather than vertical space, and the elements of stability. These lessons became the practical applications of a more global view of the body and its relationship to space than Western training had yet conceived. They opened the possibility for a new mind/body potential, vastly changing the way we young dancers were engaging, physically, as well as mentally. The work I do today is a further result of this shift.
The Cartesian dualistic model found comfort in clean mechanical explanations for phenomena. Realms of thought were reduced to those that supported this model. One result is a culture in which we strive to find simplicity, reason, and obvious cause to our effects. We do this in two ways: we ignore present information and we limit the mind to prevent it from seeking beyond comfortable boundaries. As children we are taught to pin the tail on the donkey, and we make one tail “it”, disregarding the other twenty interestingly placed tails. Ignoring information is pervasive in our culture on all levels: in our court systems, medicine, farming and psychology, to name only a few. If there is too much information, just get rid of some of it and see what you want to see! The need to dominate the elements of our universe through limiting the extent to which the mind understands that universe has had serious consequences. Conceptually reducing a messy universe into one that is mechanical and controllable may work for industry, but it is killing humankind and our planet. Dr Jean Houston, a visionary in the human potential movement said,
“What we have done in our Western reduction of intelligence, in marshalling industrial and economic progress, is we have greatly shrunken the mind’s domain. We have placed an enormous overemphasis on certain styles of thinking, which has resulted in the ecological holocaust, for example. It‘s what Francis Bacon referred to as “extending the empire of man over things.”18
The body has been one such “thing”.
Twentieth and twenty-first century reality is not the same as that of previous centuries. Physics has brought us the theory of relativity, which told us that reality exists relative to the observer. Quantum theory told us that it really isn’t an either/or world, (which non-dualistic spiritual inquiry had been saying all along) but that reality exists as a wave and as a particle, both, therefore the observer of a phenomenon is not separate from the phenomenon itself. Quantum theory busted our belief in objectivity making us responsible for the conditions of form. If we are in the room, our presence actually makes a difference to what shows up in that room!19 Quantum theory also implies that what we think is happening is happening in part because we are present to it happening.
Thus we cannot think without something changing. What a remarkable situation. When speaking of unexplainable physical phenomena, Rupert Sheldrake said, “Several recent ones …(explanations) are based on formulations of quantum theory involving ‘hidden variables’ or ‘branching universes’, and postulate that mental states play a role in determining the outcomes of probabilistic processes of physical change.”20
However, as a culture we are slow to change our forms of thinking to fit our physics. Probably the most significant limitation we have imposed in the technical training of dance has been the scant attention paid to the mind/body interface. By focusing only on the body’s actions and eliminating the simultaneous actions of the mind, we have flattened out our potential as well as our craft.
Reductive simplicity in motion creates “super highways” of easily repeatable movement, carved deep into the mental patterning of the dancer. This deeply carved pattern means the mind as well as the body is affected and becomes reflexive rather than inquisitive. “Super highways” have their value, they can get us from here to there, and … we don’t want to live on them. We want free range to use them only as long as necessary and then get off where the possibilities multiply.
The concept of the rational mind, relegated to pilot over a body that is mindless, leaves both functioning not only in isolation but also in minimized states where neither one can possibly live up to it’s potential.21 The relationship between the mind and the body that I am exploring is not just two individual natures, mind, and body, interacting. It’s also a singularity: not one or the other but both, and … what? Seeking something that will present itself in an emergent form, I imagine two lovers who, when united, are individually strong, yet lend one another their unique gifts, to the enhancement of both. Why not extend this model to the mind and the body?
With the body as visible mind and the mind as invisible body, each living moment is composed of both as human experience manifests through this union. Without a mind experience doesn’t exist, nor does it exist without a body. When the union is weak, our possibilities are weak, when strong, we’ve got a great deal of choice. The character of this union is not a fixed form; rather it is a process. It is unique for everyone, and, yet we share a common language of “knowing” in our shared experience. For dancers, the range of physical language and creative expression is in direct relationship to the character of this union.
When our ‘lovers’ unite, mind and body, the boundless mind is embodied, and this gives structure and form to experience. That which is boundless becomes framed in form as it is changed from formlessness into an incredible weave of possible awareness’, possible awakenings, and possible knowing. Each changes our experienced “reality”. At the same time, we can notice that the bounds of the body stretch beyond the flesh, into the territory of the mind, while still having characteristics of ‘body-ness’, such as touch and kinesthesia. Thus, when the body experiences it’s boundless aspect, infused by boundless mind, it experientially becomes something far more mutable in form.
The mind is range and possibility itself, with many different possible forms of mental action. Unfortunately, most people use the term “mind”, to mean cognitive “thinking”. They typically mean linear thinking, the conjuring of internal pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, and smells that they imagine are generated in our brain and flow out in “stream of consciousness”. As movers we know that linear thinking is problematic to the body because its point by point processing limits perception, diminishes awareness, and is basically too slow for the huge amounts of information available in other action formats of the mind.
There is another alternative that I refer to as “multi-dimensional” processing, “open” or “whole” mind. It is a logic that works in whole forms of experience, fields of awareness, more similar to “being states” than to the point by point processing that is so convenient to verbal language. Whole mind acts within the body as well as in the whole field of awareness that encompasses the body and its surroundings. In fact it is inseparable from it. As a three dimensional shape is to a line, so is multi-dimensional processing to our normal everyday brain based linear thinking in terms of the amount of information the “whole” mind can contain. This kind of mind can cast a web of simultaneous connections forming “shapes” of mind. They are infinite in number and character, either individualized or interacting as when a whole group of dancers have a heightened sense of “presence” with one another. As Antonio Demasio says in The Feeling of What Happens, “… the presence of you is the feeling of what happens when your being is modified by the acts of apprehending something.“22 The “act of apprehending something” is where our embodied mind has play, and range, and potential. It is the point of choice.
Getting “out of one’s way” in the making of art is an attempt to step into the flow of experience, let go of linear thinking and embrace freedom. However, it may force a release of the very tools that would enhance the experience and propel the art and the artist to a new level. When arms are “felt” to be longer, they can appear longer, too. When they, from a distance, “touch” a wall, a creative act is taking place that includes both the mind and the body, which can be seen in both the body of the dancer and the “body” of the space that is filled with mind. When someone walks through that space there is a visceral resonance, a shift in the felt sense. Not surprisingly, these shifts show up visibly in the performing person and are “felt” experiences to the viewer. If the dancer has not had the experience of actually “touching” the wall through space, touching the wall with her body’s mind, the viewer will probably not have this experience either. People are inherent mind readers through the language of the body, and here their ability to read the mind of the body is an enhanced experience.
In an extended whole mind, a mind that moves out into space body-like, people have access to a great deal of internal as well as external information. Time becomes flexible, as do other elements of conscious awareness. The internal experience of the mind moving through time is expansive, i.e., there is plenty of time. It becomes possible to slice time into very thin slices, which enables many points of awareness to be active at one time. With this practice comes a tremendous amount of interconnected information moving in a flow. There is an ability to function from the subconscious and the conscious realms , as well as what we could call the “expanded” conscious realms (which include space and others in it).
With this increase in presence, physical and mental connections arise that are instantaneous to the knowing of those connections. Creative synchronicity in motion becomes commonplace. In contact improvisation what is needed, by way of support, or possibility, is provided at the moment of its need. In improvisational composition, the connections between place in space, shape in time, and meaning are convergent and instantaneous. Groups function with the interconnected clarity of a school of fish or flock of birds all going somewhere together, with one great distinction. The difference is that they are immersed in individual complex actions rather than the same repetitive actions. They are individuating with the results of moving like a flock.
This highly creative process has been referred to as “no mind”, which in my estimation is to miss that it is a valuable form of thinking/awareness. It is a kind of super-logic, rather than an illogic or abandonment of logic. It is not a single state, but a continuously changing flow of “states”. It is accessible by including more awareness, holding more oscillating information, rather than less. It is highly sophisticated play with the depth and breadth of experience.
Allowing for this complexity, we can accept the conditions of both the mechanical universe, and the quantum one which are two distinct levels of understanding the structure of experienced phenomenon. The observer can recognize the presence of a wave, knowing she will find a particle The dancer, experiencing the presence of many potential futures, a “wave” or a “field” of possibilities, can experience simultaneously that she arrives in one possibility. The action of a mind that is trained on just one potential is far different than a mind that is open to multiple coexistent realities, and the information that is garnered is also radically different. We begin to consider that we dance artists have yet another choice to make about the function of the mind of the dancer. One dancer may be functioning in a set, predictable universe, while another is functioning in a fluid, un-set and unpredictable universe. In this universe the ‘laws of physics” start looking a lot like “habits of physics” as Rupert Sheldrake calls them.23
If the interpretation of information is not separate from the information itself, then there is no objectivity in the act of experiencing and we have to consider that it is all a creative function. We find that the one who experiences is the creator and the creator is the one who experiences. Maturana and Varela artfully give voice to this result in their book, The Tree of Knowledge, saying, “This circularity, this connection between action and experience, this inseparability between a particular way of being and the way the world appears to us, tells us that … every act of knowing brings forth a world”. 24
Our experience, and thus, our dance, is bound by the limits that define the intake of information: such limits as expectations, the education of perceptual range, the perceptual equipment and specific brain function. However, it also is limited by our mental skills which can include an ability to control chunk size, slice time, oscillate between states, and flex between the functional mental modes of linear mind and whole mind, to only name a few. The “state of potential” to receive information that exists in the observer is formative. It defines that which will be observed.25 As a creative act this is where experience begins to have its artistic potential and where there is a movement frontier. This is where the dancer’s playground expands.
That people have choice in the framing of that which they experience is often lost in concerns of “what” the experience is and “why” it is. What appears when we look at “how” we integrate our mind and our body is a dance that crafts an art of experience. It’s creators are the mind united within the body. Together they act as one, and many, holding a spectrum of possible states of experience. This produces meta-responsiveness which brings flexibility and expansion to our connection to time, space, one another and the environment. As dancers we live at the cutting edge of this experiential frontier. Our experiential capabilities define and influence our world, as well as the art that we produce. Exploring the crafting of experience could be a much needed gift to ourselves and to a shrinking world which looks for simple answers and needs ways to deal with complex situations.
This could be the time for dancers to become leaders in a potential that can increase our human understanding and respect for experience as an art, as a creative act. As dancers we have an opportunity to bring to our culture an art of the highest order that will illuminate the human condition through its very substance, rather than only through its representations. We can do this by extending and deepening our understanding of the art of experience and finding that it lives in the core of the art of dance. In this understanding is our creative potential, and our cultural authority.
“So my point is simply that the intellect is not something cut off from every other kind of experience, existing in a kind of abstract vacuum which has nothing to do with anything else. The intellect is part and parcel of the whole fabric of life. It goes along with your fingers; it goes along with being able to touch. After all, what an intellectual thing in a way the human hand is.” Alan Watts26
1. Watts Alan, The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, (1966) terebess asia online (tao), http://www.terebess.hu/english/watts2.html(accessed January 4, 2008).
2. Contact improvisation (CI) is a dance form based on the physical relationship of two people interacting through the flow of a shared point of touch, the contact point. Through this moving pathway of connection they communicate subtle shifts in their dynamic while also engaging in the play of shared weight, structural support, and free and controlled falling. Mutually interacting with the laws of physics, CI dancers require heightened sensitivity to weight, momentum and shifts in the dynamics of force. It is one of the most significant emergent forms of post modern dance. Since it’s birth in 1972, it has greatly influenced dance partnered relationships and changed dancer’s skill in moving their bodies with a free orientation to the circularity of space.
3. “Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) is “…an explicit and powerful model of human experience and communication. Using the principles of NLP it is possible to describe any human activity in a detailed way that allows you to make many deep and lasting changes quickly and easily.
“…(This material demonstrates) the structure of experience. When used systematically, it constitutes a full strategy for getting any behavioral gain.
“The same principles can be used to study people who are unusually talented in any way, in order to determine the structure of that talent. That structure can then be quickly taught to others to give them the foundation for that same ability.” John O. Stevens, forward in Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Frogs Into Princes. (Moab, Utah: Real People Press, 1979) i iii.
4. The Destination® Method (TDM),”is a comprehensive and compassionate interpersonal activity, uses extraordinarily powerful Telos Tools that are designed to resolve unnecessary suffering at every level of human experience: physical, sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual.
“The Destination® Method is the result of the marriage of the Heart and the Sword. In other words, TDM was born of the union of compassion with precision tools for personal transformation. It is empowered compassion in action. The skilled Destination® Coach uses many Telos Tools, from a variety of fields, to resolve unnecessary suffering in a climate of mercy, one client-determined destination at a time.” Robert McDonald, The Telos Healing Center, “The Destinationâ Method,” www.teloscenter.com/ (accessed January, 13).
5. Richard Bandler and John Grinder, Frogs Into Princes. (Moab, Utah: Real People Press, 1979): 5-78.
6. Steve Lankton, ACSW. Practical Magic. (Cupertino, California: Meta Publications. 1987): 81.
7. Miller, George. “The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits On Our Capacity For Processing Information,” The Psychology Review, Vol 63, March 1956. Study described in Lankton, 1987: 81-82.
8. John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn, Training Trances, Multi-Level Communication In Therapy And Training. (Portland, Oregon: Metamorphous Press, 1994): 2.
9. Lewis B., Pucelik, RF, Magic Demystified. (Portland, Oregon: Metamorphous Press, 1982): 7.
10. Merriam-Webster, online dictionary. http//www.com/dictionary/responding (accessed Jan 10, 2008).
11. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, “Sensing, Feeling, and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering (Exerpts) in Bone, Breath, & Gesture: Practices of Embodiment. ed. Johnson, Don Hanlon, 183-203. (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1995): 189.
12. This subjective description of the felt mind written by Huston Smith is valuable to my argument. It verifies an experiential state of mind similar to the one that I am describing. It is also interesting since Smith is a prestigious authority on world religions and thus is not unfamiliar with accounts of altered spiritual states. In his book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. he says that under the guidance of Dr. Timothy Leary he took a mescaline “trip” (during their Harvard days), and likened it to a religious experience. He writes, “It was as if the layers of the mind, most of whose contents our conscious mind screens out to smelt the remainder down into a single band we can cope with, were now revealed in their completeness spread out as if by spectroscope into about five distinguishable layers. And the odd thing was that I could to some degree be aware of them all simultaneously, and could move back and forth among them at will, shifting my attention to now this one, now another one.“
For him, this was only a chemically induced mental/spiritual experience, one beyond the body, rather than within it. However, his description of the mind expresses the multidimensionality of experiencing on multiple levels at one time. He goes on to question, “How could these layers upon layers, these worlds within worlds, these paradoxes in which I could be both myself and my world and an episode could be both momentary and eternal how could such a things be put into words?” It can’t, and that is why we dance. Huston Smith. Cleansing the Doors of Perception, (New York: Putnam, 2000): 10.
13. NLP author, John Overdurf, explains just this problem when speaking of the mind, “’Mind’ is a nominalization, indicating that a fluid system of human sensory awareness has been turned from a process into something static, ‘a mind.’” John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn. Training Trances, Multi-Level Communication In Therapy And Training. (Portland, Oregon: Metamorphous Press, 1994): 3.
14. Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. Embodiment and Cognitive Science. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006): 7. Mathew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, Natural Grace: Dialogues On Creation, Darkness, And The Soul In Spirituality And Science, (New York: Doubleday, 1996): 75.
15. Antonio Demasio. The Feeling of What Happens, Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1999): 39; see Fox and Sheldrake, 1987: 79.
16. Alan Watts in 1966 said we are limited by, “…our tacit conspiracy to ignore who, or what, we really are. Briefly, the thesis is that the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy religions of the East …. This hallucination underlies the misuse of technology for the violent subjugation of man's natural environment and, consequently, its eventual destruction. We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence which is in accord with the physical facts and which overcomes our feeling of alienation from the universe.” (Watts, 1966)
17. Fox and Sheldrake, 1996: 78.
18. David J. Brown and Rebecca McClen Novick, Voices From the Edge, (Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1995): 239.
19. Wouk, Joseph. Lecture class: Weird Physics, January May, 2005, ADF. Santa Cruz, California.
20. Rupert Sheldrake, A New Science of Life; The Hypothesis of Formative Causation, (London: Blond and Briggs, 1981): 29.
21. Since Aesop (620 BC 580 BC) we have understood and acted on the dictum, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Nations are built on this principle; yet, could this be any more true for a nation than for the very body to which it refers?
22. Demasio, 1999: 10.
23. Rupert Sheldrake Audio Clip, “The Presence of the Past ”, 1999 interview with Dr. Jeffery Mishlove, www.sheldrake.org/realaudio, (accessed January 2, 2008).
24. Ron Kurtz, Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method, (Mendocino, California: LifeRythm, 1990): 24
25. Rupert Sheldrake, speaking to theologian, Mathew Fox, says, “The idea of the disembodied knowledge of the scientist is giving way to a sense of science as participatory. The observer is involved in what he or she observes. What is being looked for, and the way it is looked for, affects what is found. Moreover, the expectations of the experimenter affect what is observed, as in the placebo effect in medicine, or the experimenter effect in psychology. We are coming to a more participatory sense of our knowledge of Nature.” Mathew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, Natural Grace: Dialogues On Creation, Darkness, And The Soul In Spirituality And Science, (New York: Doubleday, 1996): 24
26. Watts, 1966 in http://www.terebess.hu/english/watts2.html
Bandler, Richard and John Grinder. Frogs Into Princes. Moab, Utah: Real People Press, 1979.
Brown, David J.ay, and Rebecca McClen Novick. Voices from the edge. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1995.
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