How to apply
the dramaturgy of meaning making
to the mat
and take it into everything
by Deborah Haaksman
Dear friends of Earthwalking,
It's ever so tempting to start a text, and this wlog especially, with a charming metaphor to draw you in.
In Forrest Yoga (and in professional scriptwriting),
"life is a journey" or "life is a quest" is a metaphor we all connect to really well.
So I'd usually begin with something like:
"This time of the year at the threshold
between spring and summer
resembles the stage of adolescence,
when the urge to quest for identity
and make meaning of life radically kicks in."
"Nice", "interesting", "ah", "indeed" might be first remarks on your mind.
Yeah, inspiration is pleasant.
But is it anything beyond that?
This question has been bothering me.
I realized that inspirational lines often leave me in a superficial state of excitement. Dealing with the potential of words in my profession as a playwright, I wondered:
...take this deeper?
...apply it to yoga?
...turn verbal excitement into kinesthetic action?
Let's take off with 'radical' as the operative word.
The word radical contains a tangible dynamic, a quality that helps us to get to the place of its literal meaning: "to the roots."
Tracing how humans evolved, we became a species with spoken language, with a desire to understand and share our experiences.
It's not just me, a trained playwright, who is characteristically tending to words.
Our brain comes predisposed to make sense and meaning from story.
Words and metaphors are the basic elements of the stories that provide meaning to what we're encountering and doing.
The parts of the brain that process raw sensory input turn it into image and words first.
That is the initial step of story making and therefore, meaning making.
And it is the origin of abstraction.
Now if you're like: "Abstraction? This article is about to get boring..."
- you're in the middle of a reaction that is worth tracking, stay put!
Abstraction comes along as:
Serious, conceptual, ambitious, complicated.
And likely not very practical.
"At least not on the mat," you might think.
Well, I invite you to challenge your thinking.
Our capacity to abstract is crucial for pretty much everything:
From making a grocery shopping list to charting ethics, - and for setting an intent in our yoga practice.
However, our intuitive bias towards abstraction comes with a good cause: Following the dynamic of its literal meaning, abstraction "pulls us away" from the immediacy of an experience. The further we abstract, the further we usually move away from feeling. We de-emphazise our perception of feeling. Our body almost disappears.
In a Forrest Yoga practice, we re-emphasize that perception, we move into feeling.
Stories and their basic elements, words, are the link between abstracting and feeling.
They are the pivotal elements that operate at the threshold of meaning making.
They are the tool to stay in feeling touch with an experience and enable its theoretical reflection within in a mutually informing cycle.
We need to take care of our abstractions just as much as we need to feel our bodies.
We don't find the word 'abstraction' in a yoga ad, that tells us something about how we as a community of practicioners frame and value our practice.
It's an implicit statement of what we feel commited to and responsible for and what not.
It points to a taboo, a shadow aspect within the perception of our practice, something that gets in our way to come out and voice our spiritual knowledge in the big public debate. Crucial stuff...
...consider it a cliffhanger for Earthwalking Wlog Entry # 2!
Our gift for you today is breaking all of this down into impulses to work with on the mat. Get set. Here we go, ho!
- As an intent, choose a word that has a feeling associated to it.
It's not about forcing yourself to feel exactly as anticipated.
Just use it as a cornerstone in your awareness, as a reminder. And whenever you have a bright, open moment, focus on this word and feel for its effects in your system.
- Identify words that work for you and that create a feeling of cohesiveness.
That's a crucial somatic marker in building transitions, tracking where sensation, feeling and kinesthetic awareness transmute into words and vice versa.
- When working with a spot in your body, listen to the words and stories that come up first, like :"This hurts." "I'm so stupid I had this injury..." etc. Don't deny anything. This is a necessary prologue. And then, whenever there's breath, space, a moment of silence: just listen. And tell yourself what you feel, sense, see.
Save it for later. Move on. Enjoy your practice.
Take it into savasana, laying or sitting.
And continue to listen and tell. You might be surprised!
In a recent experience, my knee became a black volcanic rock pointing out to the ocean. From there, a story, an elucidating conversation with an ancient, beautiful, ragged, intelligent landscape evolved.
It inspired me to choose the opening picture by courtesy of Idan Hojman.
The basic rhythm of a story is depicted in mountains and valleys, as is our heartbeat, the basic rhythm of life.
At Earthwalking Festival 2015, Idan Hojman shared the images and insights from his own quest, the photographic project LAND. He returned to his homeland, today known as Israel, again and again, with the intent to capture its awe-inspiring beauty from a pure perspective, as the land of Genesis, a land that doesn't tell a story of borders, but of unity, as a part of Earth we're part of.
Idan reported how "going again and again to the same place the landscape slowly revealed its depth and beauty."
And that's our closing Earthwalking impulse for you to practice wisdom:
To come back to the same place, pose, spot
again and again
to perceive its Beauty,
to listen to its poetry,
to come home.