Flow and Awe

“The more self-conscious we are, the less fully conscious we seem able to be.
It’s when we’re most engaged in life itself and with someone with whom we share life that we can lose all awareness of time, place, and self – a state psychologists call “flow”.”



Signal to Noise

This week we looked at signal to noise. A term borrowed from electronics. The artistry in Freeforming is to be able to hold the communicative energies while reducing the amount of intrusion the tasks that support this connection make. At the same time we try to open to the possible connection or communication that may be emergent from the “noise”.

In experimental terms we try to reduce the variables of our situation. We try and drop that which not responsive or resonant to our partners intent or attention.

Wholeness as Balance



I liked the above chapter heading “Wholeness as Balance” from In an Unspoken Voice by Peter A. Levine (a book I enjoyed.)

The phrase highlights the foundation of Freeforming and, for me the practice of therapy. That is, the importance of holding a peripheral awareness, an openness, and co-ordination that allows you to keep in touch with the broader situation you are in with your partner without becoming immersed or concentrated on one aspect or figure. This includes both the dimensions within your skin, your partner and the space you are in.

(In Gestalt we might refer to this as the Id of the situation – thanks to Ruella Frank for highlighting this).

I have always been attracted to practices that demand this of me. Playing on a gym ball is a fun and convenient way of  doing this on your own. Have fun.

coherence and continuity

we are currently looking at freeforming contact meditation from combined view points of coherence and continuity.

bringing ourselves together with our partners.

the nub of the practice is becoming alert to fracture – noticing where I jump from one emotional/physical state to another.

this applies to flow of my own process and to my engagement with my partner.

a way i approach this is first to slow down so i get an early warning of creaks and cracks – maybe a sudden tightening of breath or perception of a gap between me and my partner.

sometimes it happens so fast. however, in working on my own process i can go back. re-visit that territory. find the tight crease, the air of urgency, maybe a place where my thinking leaps out of my situation. there will be discomfort!

I like to try reversing in and out of this hot spot. I try to take as much time as I can find. this needs a lot of breath. continuity in my breath. and as i come back to my breath i more often than not find a workable basis for smoothing and easing out this tricky corner of my experience. rolling slowly through and reversing back with sensitive use of the “clutch” of my breath/awareness. here is the gluing. and here is born the grace.

approaching my partner I look for synchrony. one aspect is not to surprise or split my partners apprehension of me. to this end I like to gear the whole of my movement at the same pace – torso,  feet, hands and head all having the same approach velocity. for me this makes it much easier for all of us to keep tabs on what is happening. it helps me experience my unity and this is easily digested by my partner.

close to this how i support my self bridge distance to my partner. stumbling is disturbing for us all.

we have been exploring how when standing we stretch for support with feet rather than falling into them – a more insect like approach – which I became particularly aware of when practicing sword work. so sliding to sidle.

of course at speed we may find synchrony in a trot or gallop – but that’s another story….

on the more physical side things I find provide exciting challenges to me often involve challenges to my balance and any transition. I like to play on slack ropes, and balls and anything on one leg or four.

i guess we hi-light a central value in freeforming which is the development of emotional/physical continuity and coherence through as wide a range as possible. this is our challenge. this is our training territory.

relational mindfulness

working with a new freeformer the other day.

she was extremely experienced with mindfulness practices.

after practicing freeforming together she gave me her reflections.

she said that freeforming embodied everything she had experienced with the mindfulness practices, including mindful moving work.

however, there were two additional aspects in freefoming that had been absent in her previous work.

the first was the expansive scope of movement possibility and sense of “freedom” she found in freeforming.

the second was that although she was aware of other people in her mindfulness practice, they were not acknowledged as they are in freeforming.

she felt that our mutual presence did not impose on each other but fostered a sense of “respectful” togetherness which she felt enhanced her mindfulness.

Reflections on “Developing Clarity – Weekend Intensive London October 2011”

Clarity of Connection

The weekends focus was clarity of connection.

This was understood in terms of coherence, and depth of mutual understanding or resonance.

Reflections of My Thoughts and Experiences of the Free Forming Weekend

3rd– 4th October 2011

I wasn’t sure of what to expect from the workshop except perhaps high energy activities and lots of body contact. I was hoping to break through a barrier of stuckness and learn more about how I make contact with other people.

My overall awareness was of how little I fully engaged all my senses in the course of my every day life and in particular in the course of my work with my clients.

I experienced a unique for of contact different levels of awareness, physical sensations and emotions. I am more aware of how limited was my peripheral vision.

On the first day I struggled with the exaggerated use of my breath and sense of smell which took me into personal boundaries of other participants. I suppose I also felt invaded and became more aware of my discomfort or avoidance of intensely close contact. I struggled as I attempted to stay with this process hoping for something that was not currently part of my awareness at the time.

I struggled initially with ‘doing’ and not ‘being’ and I suppose this limited the depth of my experiences. I recognise that this is useful information for how I may interrupt contact with my clients and others.

I realise how much ‘leading’ was part of my process and how much I resisted following and staying with the other. This I imagine for me is linked to my sense of mistrust. The weekend facilitated my learning to be with and to engage with the process of staying with the phenomenology of the other without losing sense of my own process.

In this way I became more aware of their emerging phenomenology and my own impulses. I am more aware of how paying attention to small movements physical or otherwise can support attunement in the moment.

The weekend facilitated for me an awareness of yearning for intimate, vibrant contact and a less dull existence. Contact with the group was on so many levels of sensory awareness that I felt met and attuned to how I make or don’t make contact with others. I learned that good contact can come from many unexpected sources and in unconventional ways. I experienced fantastic sense of support for my playfulness and spontaneity arising from the ground.

Some of the exercises enabled me to become more aware of limitation and areas that required attention. I learned that I could become selected with my listening. This I realise is often linked to my sense of shame. I then move away from contact with the other.

I was not aware until now the depth of communication that could be achieved without words and through the use of: synergy and space, movement and forming, sounds and smell, breath, sight and spatial closeness. I felt awakened at the end of the weekend. I expended a great deal of energy and received back lots of body feedback which on occasions were more powerful for me than words.

I took this workshop at a time when I was experiencing low moods, and felt depressed and desensitised. During the weekend I became energised and expelled lots of energy. I used my voice to more powerfully than I can remember ever doing before. The sounds for me were cries for longing and of loss.  As I write this passage. I am becoming tearful as I remember how I was supported by the closeness of the other and felt the support for the expulsion of wailing sounds and primal cries from deep inside my body. On reflection I recognised that I still managed to hold back as I was unsure of the limitations of my body and was also afraid to push myself even further.

I felt I began to learn that I was capable of communicating more vibrantly, by just being more aware of my whole self. I think that at some time in the future that I will want to repeat or do more of this kind of activity.

I found the weekend full of challenges and was not prepared for the highly charged sensory environment. I am glad that I attended. There may have been less useful or vibrant experiences but they have now faded into the background.

I took away new experiences which I know will support me in my personal life and also in the work with my clients.


Freeforming and Polyvagal Theory

Exciting perspectives on the area of non-verbal connection or social engagement can be found in Stephen Porges Polyvagal Theory. The Polyvagal Theory describes three developmental stages of a mammal’s autonomic nervous system: Immobilization, mobilization, and social communication or social engagement. Porges theory supports the notion that our social engagement systems become dormant when we detect through neuroception that we are in danger. This throws light on the visceral experience of contact, the significance of deep listening and the implications of the articulate face in Freeforming practice.


Dyadically expanded states of consciousness

The whole point of Freeforming is the expanded state of consciousness that arises from successfully meeting and staying with our partner(s). I believe it is within this larger awareness that we access those unrealised aspects of ourselves that are freed by the practice. Here is an excellent article by Tronick who coined the term dyadically expanded states of consciousness –

Peri Mackintosh

Lullaby to kiai : voice of Freeforming

Voice can be a profound medium of meeting. It is surprising transformational. The moment we meet something changes. The meeting of tone links our engines of emotion. Rhythm gathers us into the shared moment. We engage in mutual induction.

Sighing soothing
Shrieking disruption
rumbling in brood
gasping in outreach

Humming in our skulls
The scrape of our tongues

Spitting precision
Crooning commiseration
Tapping parity with eagerness
Forcing the cheek bones

Blind in blue tones
A touch of green whisper….

Breadth of Attention: an experiment

An experiment in awareness and attention

First –

Let your attention expand. Let it become peripheral and panoramic.Relax your attention and rest in awareness. Rest in the given sensation of the situation. Stay with this a while.

Next –

Focus your attention. Narrow your attention.

Play with these two positions of awareness and attention.

I am interested to know if your sense of well being changes from one attitude to the other.

If you wish to share your experience, I would be delighted to hear from you.  Send me your reflections.

Peri Mackintosh

Awareness of Attention

Essential to FF is the process of being aware of our own and others attention. For people who grasp this, FF is instantly possible.

I believe this ability is innate. In humans and animals and between species. I say this because I see the immediacy with which some people and all animals seem to display this. However, I think this
instinctual detection of another’s awareness can at times be distracted. Training therefore comprises allowing our innate sensitivity to inform our interaction unhindered.

Peri Mackintosh

Emotional Capacity

The ability to stay with the experience of our emotions as feelings. This involves allowing our attention to stay with the raw sensation of emotional energy without diverting off into thinking about, or acting out.

This involves allowing space in breath, posture and awareness. This “suffering out”, as Myokyo-ni described the process, allows us to stay present to our situation. Our emotional energy remains to fulfil the potential of the moment rather than being teased away into some explicating “issue”.

At it’s best FF becomes a play of engaged emotion. This requires of the players, at least during these moments, the ability of emotional capacitance, a staying-with our feeling.

This then is a training. A training we may both carry into, and from our lives outside the practice space.

When my reaction to feeling is to slip into thought that is when I slip out of touch with both you and I. The play falters.

Of course, this happens time and again to us as we play, but the challenge, and the discipline of FF, is to throw my self back into the savouring of feeling as soon as I notice this slippage.

Finding You and the Shape of Attention

My task in FF is to find You.

My sense of myself emerges and takes shape through and in my attention.

Out of the panorama of given awareness my attention is a marshaling of resources from the most subtle noticing to the most dramatic of vigorous action.

This marshaling of attention is perceptible in others. We can see – hear – feel how someones attention forms.

In FF we oriantate our selves both around our forming attention and the attention of our partners.

Is the sharing of our attention, our connection?

Our self attention has place and shape. This is fluid, mobile. I may for instance at one moment feel I am in I’m upper chest and face . From this vantage another area may be objectified – the itch on my ankle “down there”

This self awareness is always subtly shifting ( although we all may have tendencies to position ourselves in certain ways – what we might call attitude).

The next moment I may, for instance, recede behind my eyeballs “deep in thought”, and the next, gradually open and expand into a more diffuse broad awareness of the entirety of my whole bodily being in this space.

Our awareness can expand to the panoramic and contract to pin sharp focus and can be variously configured in shape, depth and projection. This is the continually evolving shape of my presence.

In FF we track this both in ourselves and our partners. We attempt to match and meet through the flow of our attention, drawing as much of our selves to each other as we can muster.

Savour and Flow

Savour and flow. The heart of Freeforming. Embracing the moment in a breath cycle. Breathing in – savouring what ever my experience is in this situation. I breathe you in. Breathing out – flowing in the experience, falling into you.
This is our working unit. This is our eternity. In this way the moment expands from a fleeting knife edge bruised between buffeting continents of past and future, into a broad plateau, a wide, open arena of pliable, encompassing space. This is our play ground.

open to influence

Freeforming is about opening to influence. To be in-formed by the situation. I am informed by you.

The earliest use of the word “influence” was to to imply a “flowing in”. Only later did it accrue the sense of exerting personal power.

I like the earlier sense. It describes the exquisite opening and sensitising to what is already stirring in the situation. To allow it to flow into me and allow me to be formed afresh.

Of course in someways this stands at the opposite pole from that of a martial art where the attitude is one of ultimately taking control, of exerting the influence.

What I love about the idea of influence is the possibility that I might be changed by something I hadn’t thought of.

(The growth seeding novelty of contact in the Gestalt understanding.)

mindfulness, awareness, nowness, presence

I don’t like the term “mindfulness”. It has for me a scent of piety, or preciousness as in “minding your your p’s and q’s”. It also carries the implication that it involves a kind of intense thinking about what you are doing. Of course it is none of these things, but I am happier with the terms of awareness, nowness and at a pinch presence.

Freeforming begins in awareness. By this I mean the Perlsian coming to my senses, – a de emphasis of thinking about. I am talking of a pre-reflexive consciousness, my experience before I start thinking about it. What I am sensing, experiencing now.

I like Trungpas deft admonition that what is important is what we are aware of not, us trying to become more aware.

Its sticking to nowness rather than my mental embroideries, even if it is most reasonably about the now ( or what was the now…).

It this now that has a gutsy, physical energy to it which the term mindfulness misses.

It is this energy of the moment that informs the practice not my calculation or consideration.

I am fond of telling Freeformers that in Freeforming my ideas, however clever they are, always result in a break in contact. A severance from now. A break from you.

The discipline is a kind of decanting the revved engines of my thinking and a return to listening, waiting, resting in sensation – allowing my self to be moved by the situation.

So yes there is a presence to the situation in the sense I am her, now, with you. (Again, I am reluctant to bandy this word presence as it carries a dramatic or earnest flavour to it that I find obscuring. By now you be noticing my pickiness with words which is hopefully given respite in the non-verbal!)

For me there is deep richness in the moment as I recede. There is the fullness of life that my reflections invariably negate.

So Freeforming begins in awareness. Awareness is also the aim and end of Freeforming.

This moment without stricture.