Article THE SCIENCE OF EMPATHY
I’m very interested in sulking. I am a past master of it myself (in recovery…) and so am sensitive to the issue!
Sulking is a performance. When I sulk I am signalling my displeasure by my withdrawal. I am making myself noticed by my absence. What intrigues about sulking from a standpoint of Freeforming or therapy is that sulking attempts to block out intersubjectivity or kimusubi. The stance is you don’t understand me and by God I wont let myself be understood. This stance can at times be almost embarrassingly dissolved and the sulker unmasked. I am sure you will all have experienced the situation when the someone manages to engage a knowing smile from the previous strenuously stern faced sulker. Both parties know at the same moment exactly what is happening between them. At that moment the game is up for the sulker. They then have rejoin humanity or make a vigorous attempt to reinstate the sulk. However this is rarely successful as the ruse has so obviously been blown!
Over many years and many trials and errors, we learned that sensitivity at every moment to one another and the audience is more important than self-expression.
Peter Brook p.196 The Improvisation Game, Chris Johnston. NHB. 2009
Working with voice highlights for me the issue of holding a receptive edge to expression. In Freeforming our use of voice is to “sound out” our partners. Our voices must represent and an attitude of both representing ourselves and receptive enquiry. It is not call and response in the sense of “one moment i sound the next I listen”. Our shuttling must be so fast that it occurs within what both me and my partner will experience as “this moment”. I again come back to an image of finding my way with an antennae.
Autumn term for weekly Freeforming practice begins this 10:30am Saturday 4th September at Edmund Waller School Waller Road SE14 5LY.
Call Peri for info 07947369990.
Carl asked us to investigate the transition from working from eyes shut to eyes open.
Beginning with touch and eyes shut.
I noticed that as I open my eyes my awareness shifts location rapidly. I found it almost impossible to keep my awareness with the touch.
In a way this is obvious.
Simply my intention to shift sensory modes entails a shift of awareness.
Freeforming is about meeting our partners awareness with our own awareness.
We often begin practice sitting.
We practice returning to our awareness.
Lowering the degree of our engaged identification with our thinking to return to the “empty mirror” of awareness.
We then attempt to meet this awareness in our partner.
I picture this as holding a plastic cup of water between us. At first the cup may be full of ripples if not spilled or dropped entirely.
However, we attempt to stll our selves so that the water becomes still.
It reminds me of my experience of the Kashima Shin Ryu sword practice. Facing opponents practice by waiting until they sense both themselves and their opponent is completely settled, before acting
A moving target is difficult to hit. In Freeforming I want to make myself easily available so that the other can reach my awareness. I may also wait for them to settle.
It is from our creative adjustment to make and maintain this stillness connective awareness between us, that the motion of Freeforming is generated.
I’m very grateful to have had this wonderful experience of Freeforming again.
The training is a great opportunity to become more physically and mentally present. It dissolves habitual ways of doing things and gives me new perspectives and flexibility in my work as an actress and aikido practitioner.
It’s good to break the rules again!
Listening to my own body, trusting it and following its movements was an enriching experience. Getting my head “out of the way” opened new fields of experience and lightness. This experience of letting go was so refreshing.
Freeforming makes you really aware of your partner and the space you move in. I felt the benefit of this when I returned to my work and my aikido training.
I also found it very helpful to work with Freeforming in my teaching. Aikido is complex. It can take a long time to become aware of the inner processes that aiki movements have on your body and spirit. I experienced Freeforming as a clever short cut that makes issues like contact, flexibility instantly physically accessable.
I started using elements of Freeforming with great response in my aikido classes as well as in my movement training classes for actors.
Freeforming is like a wordless international language of the body and emotions.
People are suddenly moving gracefully in awareness together.It’s hard to believe it is emerging in the moment without any rehearsals!
Thank you Peri for this great experience and thank you to all the wonderful people I’ve worked and leaned with in October 09 at the Konjiki Dojo.
Hope we all meet soon again and expand our freeform experiences!
Take care and all the best from Berlin
I think these two quotes illuminate Freeforming.
Buber stressed that an Ich-Du relationship lacks any composition (e.g. structure) and communicates no content (e.g. information). Despite the fact that Ich-Du cannot be proven to happen as an event (e.g. it cannot be measured), Buber stressed that it is real and perceivable. A variety of examples are used to illustrate Ich-Du relationships in daily life – two lovers, an observer and a cat, the author and a tree, and two strangers on a train. Common English words used to describe the Ich-Du relationship include encounter, meeting, dialogue, mutuality, and exchange.
i-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are different, being essentially “contemplative” rather than practical. Here we meet an Other in such a manner that nothing beyond the meeting is desired or sought: the experience is one of something/someone which/who is seen and felt as an end-in-itself. The experience involves an appreciation of and a respect for the reality of the Other, grasped in its uniqueness and its mysteriousness. Here I am open and willing to receive the self-revelation of the Other as it stands-out-in-the-open-toward-me, showing itself just as-it-is. In this I welcome, and thus encourage, the Other to show me his/its own unique Truth. The experience is not expressible in descriptive language: it is fundamentally ineffable, since it is the experience of the Other in its uniqueness and its unfathomable mysteriousness: the Other is apprehended as a reality which we can never fully to know, predict, or control. The attitude which characterizes the person who experiences I-Thou is one of disinterested–yet caring and curious–fascination.
Peri Mackintosh expanding sensation with breath and movement.
Freeform practice begins with sensation.
Breath and movement is used to heighten and expand sensation into space.
Breath and imagination is used to link sensation.
This is the internal aspect of kimusubi (energetic bonding) that is central to Freeforming.
In practice to day with Carl – we weren’t getting it….
Despite our best efforts we were unable to connect. To find kimusubi. To meet each other.
I tried slowing to allow connection in stillness – no joy.
I tried moving as fast as I could to catch up with what I perceived as Carls flickering attention. No dice.
We paused to review. “we are not communicating” Carl succinctly put it.
We tried again. I then remembered how Carl had a number of times referred to mood. This term had never entirely clicked with me. However, I decided to focus on this. What was the mood in the room? I felt as though my zone of awareness lowered. My sense of smell perked…
Boom – we were connecting! The Practice instantly moved from an arid desert to a rich, vocal and emotional dynamic engagement.
I realised I had been looking for communication on the first or second floor – but Carl was looking for me in the basement. Our kimusubi or connection happened in the ambiance of our meeting rather than the detailed alignment of our focus or attention. The connection felt like that of a pack of animals with coordination of roaming rather the pointed precision of duelists. In psychological terms we are talking mood contagion.
This was no new area for me to practice in, but one I hadn’t consciously made explicit to myself in my conceptualisation of freeforming practice. It could have been described as the id of our situation.
So, Carl, thanks for your patience in helping me realise this crucial aspect of practice.
Riding home on my bicycle last night exchanging glances with pedestrians and other road users. Much of the time I had a sense we were judging each others trajectory (Buber’s I-it relating). However there were occasions I believed that in our contact we both recognised each others consciousness.
Re-reading Daniel Stern’s The Present Moment (p. 73) I liked this passage.
The present moments that interest us most are those that arise when two people make a special kind of contact – namely inter-subjective contact. This involves the mutual interpenetration of minds that permits us to say, “I know that you know that I know” or “I feel that you feel that I feel.
This is a nice elaboration of what the aikido tradition might call kimusubi and is at the heart of freeforming
Another way of looking at the challenge of Freeforming is trying to find
Where are we and what is us between you and me?
I think the concept of communitas as elaborated in this link fits very well with both the intent and affect of freeforming practice.
“a kinaesthetic and emotional sensing of others – knowing their rhythm, affect and experience by metaphorically being in their skin, and going beyond empathy to create a two-person experience of unbroken feeling connectedness by providing a reciprocal affect and/or resonating response” (p. 236).
Erskine, R. (1998). Attunement and involvement: Therapeutic responses to relational needs. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(3), 235-244.
the therapist must feel the other side, the patients side of the relationship, as a bodily touch to know how the patient feels.
Buber, M. 1967. In R. Anshen (Ed.), A believing humanism: Gleanings by Martin Buber New York:Simon and Schuster
“tying awareness/intention” – a process of continually unfolding connection.
and awareness of different levels of physical and energetic feedback that enables spontaneous creative experience of Aiki (meeting energy)
See Aikido As A Martial Art © by Lawrence Novick, Ph.D. http://home.earthlink.net/~aiki1/martial.html
mutual engagement between subjects who consensually attend and attune to one another’s emotive states, expressions and gestures in a prereflective and nonverbal mode of felt immediacy.
Braten, Stein http://stein-braten.net/p00044.htm
We have a new URL to fit our new identity – freeforming.net.
We also have a new freeforming facebook group.
This group is open to all to add your thought, experiences, ideas, media and links regarding althings freeforming and associated areas of connective awareness, mutual mindfulness, freeform aikido, kimusubi, intersubjectivity, improvisation, play, etc…
Your contributions are most welcome
Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity; not an isolated state, but the unmediated experience of subjectivity.
by Raoul Vaneigem.
Vaneigem championed “radical subjectivity”. Maybe Freeforming could be considered as radical intersubjectivity!
In thinking about the openness required in kimusubi practice i thought of a title of an art work by john ferris. No Ready Made Solution. This was a found piece of linoleum that by chance had the shape of Ireland. He presented this as an artwork – a Ready made.
I thought the title expresses the perpetual beginner frame necessary. Being without either formal “techniques” or dredging the traces of what we thought had worked in the past. This is challenging in that little can be taken for granted. All we have is the authenticity of our attention and our openness to our partners shifting focus in this moment.
I may use my eyes to see the direction of your attention but I can feel your attention upon me.
I can feel where your attention is.
I can sense when I hold your attention.
I can also break your attention. I can neglect your attention and move too fast.
In kimusubi our attentions are like lights shining back at each other. And like a bright light I feel the “heat” of your attention.
In the past few weeks I have been focusing on our ability to be moved, to be motionally responsive to our partners attention. We experimented with one person restricted in their travel by having to remain on a large sheet of paper. This challenges the free participant to release thier mobility.
I was also interested how in a particularly fast engagement my own volition could override my responsiveness. I discovered that at speed I needed to allow my awareness to “fall” or “rest” in my partners movement. This receptivity allows for a direct connection with less of the interuptive mediation of my will.
These past few weeks in order to hone our attention skills we have refrained from much actual physical contact.
This has been intense and rewarding in the distinction and clarity it brings to the practice. Kimusubi is about attentional linking. This can sometimes be muddied by the mechanics of a physical contact when pressure and weight bearing can be confused with attentional focus. It is the attentional focus that might distinguish Kimusubi free-form practice from, say, contact improvisation.
I began training Freeform Aikido in February of this year, since joining I have been surprised by the number of unexpected benefits to be found in this discipline. Aside from the obvious benefits of training to improve physical fitness and co-ordination I have also found that the practice has given me a space to explore ideas that have been of great interest to me in my creative practice as a designer, in particular the notion of reading intent.
One of the first concepts Peri introduced me to be the concept of Kimusubi, the idea of oneness and connection. In my practice as a designer I have become interested in developing an approach to practice that does not rely on a fixed approach, technique, or style instead I have tried to develop an approach where my choices are informed by the values present in the subject, people and environment. Working in this manner is much more like stumbling, feeling for a sense of what is present and of value. In taking this approach I have found myself developing not just a more intuitive and honest approach but also more importantly a practice, which is born out of the relationship with the people, I work with.
In my first training session with Peri it was obvious that a similar idea was at play in our practice. I wasn’t being asked to learn a technique or system of responses, instead I was asked to feel the intent not just of my partner but also of environment and myself. I’ve been taught a few basic principles of how to protect my self and my partner when Freeforming such as rolling and extending. Outside of this I have found that listening for Kimusubi has been enough to inform my choices when Freeforming, a feeling of extension in the shoulder, a bending of the knees towards the body, a drawing of breath, all these things are there in the moment informing myself and my partner. I have had no formal training in traditional Aikido but listening closely for Kimusubi I’ve found myself responding in a way that has not been learned but would be recognizable to many as a form born of the ideas of Aikido.
Freeform Aikido has offered me the opportunity to understand myself in relation to the practice both on and off the mat and aside from this it continues to be a fun and uplifting experience.
I noticed with a number of trainings there is demand that a practitioners “energy” inclination, arousal arrangement be a certain way. At times this can be at odds with where theirenergy is. This I realise creates a problem in aikido practice. If the goal is unification though joining energy –kimusubi– we are at once creating a split between the practitioners actual energy state and that demanded of the practitioner.
With this in mind I am attempting to encourage practitioners to stay where there energy currently is. Using the a deepened breath to heighten this awareness. Practice then evolves from from following the direction of any energy and opening to the influence of the energies of those around, without loosing touch with our own energies.
This will be familiar to Gestaltists as both the paradoxical theroy of change and the practice of inclusion.