Blog #3E Denial of Death

Anavami Center
Blog #3E Denial of DeathIn our adventure of challenging the current paradigm we question the man-made cultural norms that dictate our lives. More than anything else, our greatest repression is the “Denial of Death”. Pulitzer Prize winner, Ernest Becker’s book by that title maintains. Human beings spend an inordinate amount of energy strategizing to ward off recognition of our mortality. Socrates said as recorded by Plato, “the practice of dying” is a phrase that describes one aspect of how we become “morally mature.” Socrates urges us all to turn inwards and face our mortality. The Greek philosopher is among many others insisting we live with death in order to clarify our motives in life. It is surely possible that denial of death is at the bottom of our materialism, consumerism, addiction and escapism.
Blog #3E Denial of Death

Axis Mundi/Intimacy

We have been using poems by Billy Collins this month as he is an artist who plays the death card as he is coming to terms with dying, the ultimate loss, with humor. Making the life/death/life issue conscious and personal is central to other realities in life and is at the core of artist’s work, be it musician, dancer, writer or one of the artists of everyday life—chef, mother, carpenter. It also defines the different between skill and artistry. As materialists, we are used to perceiving and dealing with things like replaceable commodities, so our sense of loss seems minor in daily life. However, we all must process allowing our loss to make room to live when we feel and note loss. When not consciously felt and grieved loss becomes what Stephen Busby from Findhorn says constructs ‘the un-lived life.’

Blog #3E Denial of Death

Baba Yaga’s House

Artists in particular, on the creative edge, cannot afford to deny the exchange that is required because it will stall the process. The creative process is on the edge of the unknown willingness to risk loss. This week we incorporated two earlier participant-lead refrigerator journeys, placing them in a part of the body to access in the imaginal somatic to blend into one piece through marking. We then deconstructed that piece onto a new substrate. This was to underscore how loss of the cut-up piece became material for something new. Despite the initial discomfort, everyone enjoyed the freedom of not knowing what was happening. Several of the re-worked pieces found a deeper resonance with more revealing content.

The first image above draws on two Refrigerator Field trips-one that brought me to Axis Mundi and the other to Intimacy.  These were cut-up and reconstructed. Out of the ashes arose the image that reminded me of Baba Yaga’s three-legged house. She is the archetype witch of the transformative agent of the psyche containing the wise and the terrifying tester. This alerted me that when a threshold guardian shows up there is something around the corner.

Click on thumbnail to see full size image. Majio





Blog #3C In-Bodying the Field: Conjunctive Knowing

Anavami Center

Blog #3C In-Bodying the Field: Conjunctive Knowing I have been sitting in an ice-cold stream pounding kuzu fiber on a rock with a wooden mallet for hours in a small paper-making village outside of Nagoya, Japan. Why exactly am I doing this I wonder. It feels like a traditional apprentice initiation, but it is more than that. It is about conjunctive knowing, instructions directed through the eye movements of my taciturn teacher. It is part of an apprentice systems across time and place to embody knowledge by watching, listening, smelling and tasting, learning through the body.

Blog #3C In-Bodying the Field: Conjunctive KnowingApprenticeships in the seventies in Japan was very much like it had been for hundreds of years. They honored the tradition that someone who came seeking mentorship from the master would not necessarily be taken on, but they were to be fed as long as they stayed on the porch.  Sometimes this was all it took so that perseverance could be demonstrated to the master and acceptance found.  There was a sense of perseverance but also of discovery of self within that I developed during my time studying with various masters.  My pottery teacher would say to listen to the sound of the brush touching the bisqueware to know how thick to make the iron oxide. It took me two years in calligraphy to realize myself how important breath was. Once my tea ceremony teacher stopped in her preparation for guests and listened to the wind. We went outside and she handed me the rake for the first time. She watched me rake up all the leaves in front of the tea house and then stood there with the silent message that we would stand here until I finished. I looked around madly for any missed leaves. Finally, I reached over and slightly shook the maple tree. A few red leaves fell on the path and my teacher bowed and enter the tearoom.

Blog #3C In-Bodying the Field: Conjunctive KnowingAwareness of knowing through the body rather than the mind, has been one of the many gifts I still carry with me from my time in Japan. Gnosis is the kind of conjunctive knowing that in the Bible refers to sexual relations, knowing a woman. It is a union, not just taking in information but a knowing through the body. This same idea is how information and skill are transferred in the cultural arts of Japan and many places in the world. Sweeping the floor and making tea is becoming attuned to not only the master but the materials, the shop and sometimes hundreds of years of experience. It is also developing a telepathy between workers.

Blog #3C In-Bodying the Field: Conjunctive KnowingIn the studio we are using somatic practice and embodying imagination as our entries into knowing through the body as we develop conjunctive learning. We trust our hand to reach out for a color or marking implement and are developing awareness of conversation, even flirting with other elements in our field so that we can play together. This way of working is bringing in many surprising elements, especially for people who have worked from personality for decades. One thing that strikes us is that we often don’t immediately relate to the marking before us. Our old ways of perceiving what works artistically is not important. The gage through the last few years of this practice is more toward authenticity, what is evoked and felt in the body and what stays with you as an afterglow or even shadow. It is because we are in a greater collaboration and it can take a while to see it.

The following images are from participants in the In-Bodying the Field Six-month Seminar, relating journeys through the refrigerator through mark-making.

Click on thumbnail to see full size image. Majio

In-Bodying the Field Blog #2D: Reciprocity, Shape Shifting

Anavami Center

Anavami CenterShape-shifting may sound like an ethnographic study where a shaman transforms into animal, while in truth it is fundamental to our everyday experience. Shape-shifting allows for the ability to change form or identity at will. It is a part of spiritual practice, parenting, the arts and just about any aspect of life that is carried to artistry. Compassion and empathy are ways of shapeshifting.

My friend, who does large scale landscape says the way she chooses the plants is to run them through her body. As she imaginally becomes like the plants she can see if they are appropriate for the overall plan- how is she (as them) through the seasons, as size, as color, as movement. Closing our eyes is actually a powerful tool we have all used, where we have felt for a moment that we are there doing it ourselves-as we watched ice figure skating or dancing, swayed to music, “run” the track or thought through a difficult problem. Einstein mentions imagining as integral to his theory of relativity where he pictured himself riding a light beam had him gain insights that he was not able to gain through logic alone.

Anavami CenterIn-bodying Marking this week focused on becoming-like-something with which we had a natural affinity. The words of David Abram, Becoming Animal, set the stage for the exploration in this Imaginal Field:

“The boundaries of a living body are open and indeterminant more like membranes than barriers they define a surface of metamorphosis and exchange. The breathing, sensing body draws its sustenance and it’s very substance from the soils, plants and elements that surround it; it continually contributes itself, in turn, to the air to the composting earth…breathing the world into itself, so that it is very difficult to discern, any moment, precisely where this living body begins and where it ends.”

Abram’s words helped participant to have a body sense of those times throughout our lives when we have changed shapes, like playing as a child, intimate moments with a loved one and being absorbed in a book. In the current ecological crisis movies like Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life and Louie Schwartzberg’s Fantastic Fungi make it much easier to access feelings of belonging to the earth as never before.

The following marking pieces are explorations of being-like something else by participants in last week’s marking sessions. Many found a new sense of making-marks that stemmed from the new perspective. The experiences were varied but there is an embodied quality in the marks that shows through as sensing.

Click on thumbnail to see full size image.