Occassionally, as a senior, I find myself reflecting on the person I have been and how I have changed over the past four years, and as I begin to pack up my room in anticipation for graduation I am confronted with storage boxes filled with momentos. Things I’ll never use, but will never throw away. Alongside those are papers I’ve written that I was proud of. As a sophomore I wrote the following and I think it is particularly relevant to how sparse the blog aspect of SimplySomatic has been. To briefly provide some context, I hadn’t met the requirement to post to a forum we were supposed to participate in at least twice over the course of the semester. A small task, but sometimes those are the ones that get away from us.

“So…yes I am probably one of the last people to post. I had all semester and several reminders throughout, but for some reason after each moment when I remembered, my attention turned elsewhere. Especially during the end of the semester, I, like every other person on campus, professors and students alike, have a lot of things calling my attention outside myself and I must divide my attention between them. I think the ways people cope with this problem of organizing attention are interesting. I could make a list so that my brain doesn’t have to remember everything by itself. I could put a reminder post-it to my mirror so its somewhere i’ll see everyday. I can set an alarm on my phone to remind me to pay attention to a certain task before the days end. There is even an app on my ipod for “reminders.” All of these are ways to organize those pieces of attention externally, but thats just the problem. When I make a list, the list keeps track of that thing for me. I am no longer actively designating attention to that task. I have given that job to the piece of paper which I might reencounter reminding me to do something. This semester for me has been all about learning to pay attention, and clearly it is an ongoing process. I have learned that the nervous system loves patterns and that repatterning a physical habit takes about three weeks. This last post is a testament to how strongly my nervous system is embedded in a mental pattern of inattention. Repatterning mental habits in the brain, i think takes much longer than 3 weeks. Maybe even a lifetime.”

In case you’re wondering, my professor’s very generous response was, “Some things are worth waiting for.”

More to come on SS in the near future! Thank you for your patience! Keep checking in as we get back on track!

Jason de Silva

“When we really are awakened to the way our minds work and the way we think and feel and experience the world we come to realize that its all really about these feedback loops between our creative and linguistic choices and our inner experience, the inner dance…”

200 Percent

While interning at a dance studio in January one of the teachers there imparted an interesting piece of advice; Teaching requires you to demonstrate at 200% of your physicality and energetic capacity. That got me thinking when have I ever even TRIED to exert that much effort into anything? When is the last time I did something that I actually could not have done one more thing for? Of course, mathematically it is impossible for anything to reach twice its fullest capacity, because full, is full, is full. However, I think in pursuing my 200% I may find my 100% reaches farther than I thought.

This semester I want to try out this mantra. I may overexert myself or over-tire myself, but I want to come closer to hitting that boundary. I want to sniff it out and try my best to come close.

Zenon EAT IT

Simply sliding

Sliding along crispy crunchy snow—chasing the peachy sky and the sinking sun.  Poling, pushing my desire to catch it around the next turn before it sinks away completely and I need another impulse for gliding down the next slope— around the next bend. This is my somaticme–just chilly enough in the late afternoon winter air, just desiring enough a great challenge, just loving this ending to my Friday afternoon!

There is Dawn in Me

Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awak. How could I have looked him in the face? We must learn to reawaken and keeps ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Building Towards Subjective Function

Different types of physical pursuits require a person do develop his/herself in different ways. The key here is, whenever you are in the studio, in the pool, on the track, etc… have a goal that realistically accounts for what exactly are you building your self towards. In terms of the body, dance performers train for long muscles, clear alignment organization, awareness of core, and strong lower limb strength. The current trend of featuring inversions in choreography has caused dancers to think about their training in new ways. Not only do dancers now need to train upper body strength, but also develop a comfortability of the sensation of being upside down. Other athletes have different structural needs. Swimmers for example build powerful musculature structures at the shoulders to pull themselves through the water, but muscle is a denser body tissue, so they need to be careful that their training doesn’t end up weight them down. Wrestlers are especially aware of these types of compromises in building for their specific weight category. Runners train for endurance and long, lean musculature.

These goals define our bodies, and ultimately our sense of self as a result. When you look in the mirror and recognize that image as YOU, know that what you see and how you feel is a result of all the ways you have “trained” to become YOU in this moment. There is an aspect of our paths of development that is chosen subjectively, that is, based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.* This is what I refer to as “subjective function.” The type of physical function that is chosen by YOU, so the next time you go to the gym or the studio, or the winter slopes, remind yourself of the functional you you are building toward.

Ken Robinson: Education and Subjective Experience

How to establish an individualized education system?

Essentially that is what Ken Robinson is grappling with. As we dive deeper into more complex understandings about the extraordinary variability among human bodies and psychological conditions, it is becoming clear to educators that the well-established, homogenizing system of educating may not be the most effective. Not only do we see this need for change towards a system that honors the subjective experience of each student, but students are beginning to feel they have a right to ask for it. They are beginning to recognize themselves as intelligent individuals with valid experience in the world to contribute to a learning environment, even before the point where formal education is complete.

In recent decades schools at many levels of the education system have begun to abandon the one-size fits all method wherein the student’s only role is a passive receptacle for information transferred by a teacher. Some colleges and universities are moving away from requiring ‘general education’ credits. Many have opportunities for students to individualize their experience within a major and even to create their own major. Where class size allows, many high schools and colleges have embraced discussion-based learning in the classroom where, to an extent, students direct their own learning and contribute their own perceptions and experience as class content. Not only does this enable students to become more engaged, but it also validates subjective experience as something worth paying attention to.

Education has long been about the objective facts, yet the word itself refers to something indisputable, and this is where we get away from real depth of critical thinking that educators want their students to participate in.

What if I don’t see it that way? How else could this be viewed or understood?

Perhaps, in part, this is why a great perceptual chasm between body and self exists. We aren’t used to listening to our gut reactions, our felt sensations, and first perceptions. We aren’t used to giving those immediate and intimate things weight.

Any physicist will tell you that at best any equation that describes physical phenomena is a model that only operates under an exact and ideal set of conditions, yet perfect conditions rarely exist in the world. If we consider the current educational system in this light, we see it is also only a model. It takes faith to break away from as prescribed and long standing as the  educational model, but in a nation that values individualism as much as ours, we may not be able to help ourselves from taking the leap.

The essential flaw in education as we know it today is that it is based on ancient and often primitive practices whose equalizing purpose was neither conscious nor clear.

-Moshe Feldenkrais

Lets Revisit: David Kahneman

While catching up on skype a friend of mine recommended a TED Talk that he found in the past couple weeks about the difference between events as they are remembered and experienced and then I remembered… yes, i wrote a blog post on that!

This is the value of spontaneously revisiting things: you will almost always find something new. Today I realized what gives the remembering-self its ‘tyranny,’ as Kahneman calls it, is our trust, self-trust. 

The remembering self is endowed with hindsight that sometimes allows us to see variables that were hidden from the experiencing self. This is why the remembering-self is so valuable. It helps us to better understand the present moment by affording us additional wisdom about why situations, people, and feelings change. In other cases, this process becomes less useful when our remembering-self allows us to invent those hidden variables. At the point when that additional wisdom is not yet absolutely apparent to us, we make assumptions about what must have been true despite the experiencing-self’s experience. It is in that moment we mistake those assumptions for the wisdom of hindsight that it is possible to lead the self as a whole into a most erroneous sense of truth.

All of this brings me back to my original post that extolled the virtues of the experiencing self. While hindsight is a valuable asset afforded by the remembering-self, i think the experiencing self can help keep us honest and true to the way events were really experienced. Maybe it is in finding a balance between these two entities that we can move forward as one whole self.

The Youngest in the Room

Ah. the plight of every teribbly-misunderstood young person. To listen or to contribute?

In June Sherry and I attended the International Conference for Teaching Somatics Based Dance Technique, (wow, what a mouthful!) and I realized that since the end of school, in just a few short weeks, without a studio to move in, or an interesting environment to explore, I had forgotten what it felt like to ‘do’ somatics and to ‘think’ somatics, and to ‘talk’ somatics with others. As the presentations started up, I sunk into a sense of belonging… almost. From the very first day it became inescapably apparent to me that I was the youngest attendee, the baby. So what is the place for an undergraduate at a conference like this? What is our role? Are we solely to listen and absorb? or are we here to share?

It feels uncomfortable to accept that we are clean slates that know nothing and are ready to absorb everything the al-mighty wise adult presenters have to teach us, because we aren’t. I am 21 years old and have 7670 days, or 184080 hours of unique experience under my belt that has built who I am. There’s gotta be something in there that those presenters haven’t thought about. But it also feels too naive to excuse myself with “as a young person I offer something ‘fresh.'” What does “fresh” mean anyway? A new perspective? A new spin on already-introduced material? or a completely unprecedented idea? Those are certainly hard to come by these days. What I realized is not necessarily that I have something to add, but that different aspects of this somatic work are important to me than to others, and that each person has something he or she’d like to emphasize. 

To be honest I’m not sure if any idea I heard at the conference was completely new and unprecedented, but everyone had something different that brings them meaning within somatic work. Several presenters stressed the importance of avoiding self-judgement in class, in practice, and in choreography. Some addressed the relevance of somatic work in different kinds of technique classes: ballet, modern, improvisation, even business classes. For others, somatics has been a powerful route for psycho/physical/emotional healing. For me, right now, I keep pressing on about valuing the subjective nature of experienceMy experience is mine, and it is every bit as valid and as real and as truthful as everyone else’s. It is likely that this aspect of somatic philosophy and practice is so important to me BECAUSE I am so young, and you bet i’ll grab onto anything that validates my non-expertise.

So what is the role of an undergraduate at a conference like this? As far as I can see its the same as everyone else’s. Share and Listen. Find the thing that means the most to you and share it with everyone you can, and listen to everyone else’s most-important-thing too.


Teaching Somatics-Based Dance Technique Conference Reflection

What’s not to like about gathering with a group of like minded peers and sharing your latest explorations? Maybe that after a few presentations I just want someone to challenge this somatic status quo, to say “yes but” the way some of my students are prone to do, or to acknowledge that quiet questioning I do in this somatic teaching adventure. Don’t get me wrong I am firmly committed to a somatic approach in dance training having come through many years of my own training in which I was continually replicating someone else’s patterns with little concern or attention to my own moving sensibilities. But one of the attractions for me of a somatic perspective is the built in possibility for change and renewal. A practice such as open attention with a directive toward noticing and embodying, questioning and growing can take one in all sorts of unusual directions. It can transform one’s moving, feeling, thinking, imagining, and creating. But sometimes the current somatic landscape looks too similar to the one I wandered into nearly 20 years ago as I began investigating Laban and Bartenieff Fundamentals, Ideokinesis, Continuum, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, and Body-Mind Centering—and I wonder why? Maybe it is just conference somatics. These events always get me thinking about everyone who is not here. I wonder what they are doing that is “somatic” that I could be excited by, that would feel like new terrain to explore, to wander through?

   One of the workshops at the conference I was excited by was “Dance improvisation as a tool to deepen student learning for technique and performance”. We followed a few of the teacher’s movement ideas and patterns in gentle and fun ways. So there was the challenge of moving in someone else’s skin. We also had plenty of opportunity in the hour and forty-five minutes to explore “dancers choice”—in relation to a pattern or structure that was given or in totally free movement styling. We laughed and bantered back and forth as we manipulated movement material into our version of it. But the thing that was most apparent at the end was our individual sense of accomplishment in a broad movement spectrum from warming up to focused body exercises to specific body initiations leading through space to a little piece of choreography that we quickly made our own–to watching others and dancing ourselves. Wow! a lot–of fun! In listening to my own moving desires and choices for “what’s next and how?”, I got to know myself a little better and I also revealed a bit of myself to the other dancers in the space. And this is when I return to thinking about everyone who is not here and wonder what if there were a bit of this somatic perspective sprinkled throughout the bigger dance world. Would the dances made look different? Would the physical relationships experienced run deeper? Would the dancing group be differently composed? Would I be changed by other perspectives??