HI team IMPACT.
Here's a few preliminary ideas for AWARENESS.
I included exercises from my own dance practice and research on Gestalt Psychotherapy, and the creative projects that I've generated from them.
Your feedback is appreciated!
1. Notice what you notice:
Go on a walk in a new place. Pretend everything about this walk is happening for the first time. With each step, notice what you notice. Be as detailed as possible. Be aware of your inner thoughts. Be aware of objects and people around you. Be aware of your movements. This isn’t to say that everything is ‘interesting’. If you’re bored, observe your boredom. If you’d rather eat a sandwich, then that’s where your walk will likely take you.
See things, touch things, and take as much time as you can, or want. As soon as you finish your walk, make a point form list of everything you remember, including interruptions. If you’re fast at typing, you might prefer to type. Use this list of your ‘conscious awareness’ in a creative project.
I chose to write a story. It revealed to me how my awareness shifted from the 1) deep inner me, 2) my outer self that I present to the world, and 3) the environment. These three zones are in a dynamic dance, and my awareness bounces through them. This is an exercise to help bring your consciousness to it.
I am walking. It is September. I am in Seydisfjordur, Iceland.
The mountains change me, and I change the mountains. We look at each other. There is some kind of exchange happening. I want all of those blueberries on the low shrubs up above the hiking path. I want to possess them. They are so plump and fragile and they will be gone in a few weeks with the cold weather. They contain time. They are an embodiment of a moment, rising, plumping up, and plopping down, right into my mouth.
This container is too small. I’ll empty my water bottle and use it too. I’ll empty my water bottle into my gut. But I already have to pee… How is it possible to feel embarrassed about squatting in the bushes here? There’s no one around. Not even animals. I’ve been undisturbed all day. Could I possibly be embarrassed by the gaze of the mountains? I don’t like flashing my butt. How can I do this with minimal butt flashing? Time to buy a few longer t-shirts that might provide some coverage. But I wouldn’t want to pee on them. Note to self: write my butt an apology letter.
I finally installed that punching bag in the back room of the studio. I made it out of an old tarp, a rope, a carabineer, and a hook somebody screwed into the ceiling, and I filled the tarp with little white pebbles. They’re heavy enough to slow the movement of the bag. I later found out they’re not pebbles, but fish skulls. Not the entire skull, but a tiny smooth, oval nugget, maybe a frontal plate. It’s the one part of the fish that won’t burn in the fish-gut-incinerator. This boxing bag is kind of like an emotion-gut-incinerator. I punch it until I stop fixating on that wave of feelings and stress and ‘I should’s’ and that ass-a-holic inner critic. I channel her through my gloves and meet the bag, again and again and again. The bag wins. The gloves win. The arms win. The voice quiets. I like this bag. It offers a kind of reciprocity. It changes me, and I change it, over time and with frequency. Time to practice more.
I just got this app reminder to do my Spanish lesson. Shit. Yes of course, learn that other language you’ve been trying to get into your pocket, into your dreams. I remember this yellow sign in Toronto advertising ‘Think in Spanish’. I hope that also means I’ll dream in Spanish too. I chose Spanish so I could go to Bogota, Columbia. I wonder what my accent will be like. I wonder what kind of Spanish accent this app will teach me? I wonder why I’m having such difficulty concentrating on my lessons. Forced concentration is one of those habits I picked up in grade school. But I have less patience for it these days.
Do I need a teacher, or a coach, or a facilitator? No, I want to be taught something, why is this hard to admit? Maybe I’m too proud to admit the gaps in my knowledge. Maybe I just want to be born again as a hot Spanish actress who rolls liquid R’s off the back of her tongue. My Argentinean friend taught me a word: ‘Paja’. It means: when you are so tired and apathetic and de-energized that you don’t want to get up off the couch. It also means masturbation.
Maybe it’s not that my pimple is getting bigger, but maybe the rest of my body is getting smaller…
I’m looking at the mountain across the fjord again. We are locked in a stare. We are interrupted: “EXCUSE ME! Do not go that way! We are trying to get the sheep home! PLEASE! Cross on the other side of the road!” The most brutal baroness of Icelandic sheep farmers thrusts her booming shadow over my daydream. I am struck by her voice, I am struck by the indifference of the sheep, and I realize that I know nothing about this place. I am an intrusive tourist to her, and myself, at least in this moment, as I gaze at her home, and her mountains, like a lustful, fixated explorer. And yet, I am here, and she is here, and we manage our awkward interaction.
I sheepishly cross the road, sit on a rock, and wait, pulling out a peanut butter sandwich on the hardest, toothsome bun that my roommate Rhombie made. She is a torrential force in the kitchen, second-guessing every choice out loud: “How long? Did I use enough yeast? It never turns out when I make bread. Should I knead it? Is it wet enough? It’s not cooked through, is it? I should really stop eating granola, but I love it SO much! Wait, what? Let’s go to town, granola is on sale. But if I buy it I’ll regret it. I should just eat fruit and skyr (dense Icelandic yogurt).” I chew on her questions, smeared with peanut butter, and continue to watch the sheep. It all seems to go on forever. These two activities are well suited for each other. I avoid the baroness’ gaze and contemplate the comforting taste of mashed peanuts.
Time here is strange.
I am on a walk right now, from Seydisfjordur to Skalanes. Google maps says there is a mountain lodge there. I have no idea what this means, it could be an empty shack, or a glamorous abode. I just left on a whim this afternoon. I knew that Skalanes was my destination, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought I’d ride a bicycle to save time, but the pedal broke at the edge of town so I ditched it near the last fish factory. I thought I’d just walk a bit, but I’m now about halfway, and feeling like pressing on. It’s about 20 kilometers out, at the edge of the fjord. I have this desire to reach the edge of the fjord, and meet the furthest eastern point of Iceland. To arrest my tiny introspective gaze by showing it what the edge of the earth looks like. I want to be confronted by a vision of total horizon. The widest gaze possible. As I think about this my ears stretch apart a little, and my eyebrows soften. This walk is a rite of passage.
I reach into my bag to grab my phone. It’s 2:15pm. Shit, and I forgot my charger. I should preserve the battery and turn the phone off in case of an emergency. But wait, in an emergency isn’t it best to have the GPS on? Like in case I’m blown into the fjord so they can at least find my corpse? Maybe it’d turn up at the fish factory. I wonder if there’s a part of my body that wouldn’t burn, I wonder if I have a tiny fish skull. Where is it? Perhaps it’s embedded in this warbley toe that keeps pushing up against my boot. That hard little nugget of calcified dance moves and resistance.
62% battery. I feel about that.
Do I have my wallet? I dig for it. A shriveled blueberry sticks under my fingernail. I pull out my wallet: pink leather, once so fancy and chic, now muted and worn like my enthusiasm for adulthood. There’s a blueberry stain on the corner.
I want to possess every blueberry on that hilltop. I want to laboriously hunt for those little dangling gems, so tart and delicate, and transform them into something dark and sweet and feel it stain the inside of my body after I eat it up. What does dark purple-blue taste like? It has a flavor. Iron-y. Earthy, but perhaps not earth-LY. It’s an alien pustule of liquid healing potion wrapped in the most delicate natural leather membrane. One extra squeeze and it pops all over your fingers. Even extracting the stem takes the finest touch as to not also extract a glob of translucent innards.
It’s late in the season, the blueberries are starting to become rubbery and wrinkle up into little sad unpicked sacks: all skin and droopy. I want to give each berry my attention. I want to cradle each one. I want to lift a tiny leaf and find a darling cluster. Once I start the hunt, it is difficult to stop. It becomes all I can see. An unsupposing shrub of leafy bits becomes a hanging forest of desire when I lean over, crouch down, and look under its leafy skirt. The berries are all there, peaking out like shy little puppies, naturally regal and silken, but not yet aware of their own temptation.
I can’t help this perversion. I am fixated. It is all I can see. I look back to the path. Where did I leave my bag? It’s much further than expected. I think about all these folk tales of little girls getting lost while picking blueberries, and can see how easily it might happen. The transfixed bewitched trail, the line of berries follow their own logic of germination and growth, spread and recede, plumpen and fall, that leads me far off the path of human traffic and reasonable footholds. These boots are crappy. I should turn back. But the blueberries are pulling me higher as I glance up the hillside, up their skirts, and towards an endless field. My eyes have been narrowed like this for some time, and a headache sinks in. The dizzying spell of micro focus and occasional macro vista disorients me. I am a weak faun to any lurking predator, especially of my own design, and desire.
Desire is a wild pony. It is not quieted by containment. This only ramps up its frenetic, all-out energy. Desire is unspecific, undirected, and blows up all over the place. Even the bugs are drawn in to its magma, its once dormant brew that is shooting out ashen warnings “stay away from me, I will love you and leave you, I am a dangerous, unruly, and frivolous sack of human flesh pushing outwards in every direction all at once.”
My fingers are so cold I can barely do up my pants after squatting in the nearby shrub. Once I made the decision to just pee and get on with my life I could barely get to it fast enough. The dense wrinkles of my frigid blueberry stained fingers fuddle at my button-up pants, just thumping at the buttons like wrinkly pepperoni sticks. It feels like I’m trying to repair a delicate watch while wearing sheepskin mittens. I remember that time my mom waved a lamb shank at me right after I decided to try out vegetarianism. She was the cutest Neanderthal in that moment, clutching the juicy shank by the bone and taunting me, challenging my self-discipline. It is as hard as the rock I’m standing on. However, once in a while there is a massive shift, and a fissure gapes its wide mouth…
Once time in the 1960’s the fjord here turned silver. I hold my cold stained fingers up against the water’s present rust colour. The waterfall turned red the other day after a long bout of rain and mud.
When the fjord was silver, it was densely packed with herring, squirming and wilding and spawning and collecting, seemingly right into the bellies of the townsfolk. It was, and still is, the mainstay of the fishing industry, the crux of this town. Those herringbones await my return, suspended in that punching bag at the studio. They make a particular sound of light chalk as they rub against each other. Their skulls are still engaged in a constant overlapping pileup, shifting and mounting, as though they were still squirming around in that silver fjord.
The jellyfish don’t seem to have bones. I saw one from the bridge at night. I thought it was a plastic bag, but as I looked closer it ballooned and contracted, elegantly churning its tentacles in the night water. It was on an evening skinny dip.
I imagine moving like the jellyfish, as if I had no spine. I also imagined moving as if I could extend the consciousness of my spine into other things, objects, or people. I tried this for a while with a thick fishing rope and 8 buoys strung along. I felt like medusa, suddenly attuned to the rope, and sending my central nervous system through its fibres. What if the buoys were my eyes? The jellyfish can be violent. I think they reproduce, consume, and attack all from the same hole.
I finish buttoning up my pants.
I’ve walked much further now. The bellowing sheep farmer is long gone, and her dogs and men have followed.
I don’t know how I’ll get back.
I took a walk with my friend Shan the other day. He told me all about his performance work and how he’s inspired by rites of passage. They have three phases, they are: separation, transformation, and integration.
Here, right now, I am walking and thinking about this. I wonder what will happen once I get to Skalanes? I’ve made it this far, I have to persevere. I think about respecting my resistances. I’ve learned that something I find incredibly difficult is to say ‘no’, especially to myself.
I decided to become a witch this year, and I sanctified this commitment by jumping into the fjord. I stunk of fish for a little while and was very cold, but something happened. I washed off a layer. I let go of that tiny bit of skin that nagged at my person, and inhibited my potency. I shed that innocent fingernail that connected my self worth to the happiness of others. I molted out of that tightness around my diaphragm, and took my first conscious breath: a shocked gasp by the cold water.
In this personal ceremony, I committed to not inhibiting myself anymore. I want to channel something else, something I’m deciding to call my witchly prowess.
I heard that the whales swim into the fjord from time to time. Usually after the cruise ships and ferries have left, and the calm water invites a place to land, and rest a little while. To return. I think about the integration phase of ‘rites of passage’. Is there something I could set-up that would make it easier to come back? Could I make myself a nest, or a landing pad, or somehow soften this bristly moss for a well-deserved nap? I consider this as I keep going.
I change the path, and it changes me. I burst into tears in a surprising moment of empathy and synchronicity with a waterfall. A tear is makes for a good offering to the bridge troll and I safely pass.
I don’t know how I’ll get back. What if I’m too tired to walk back?
I might not get to Skalanes until 4pm. If I let myself rest a bit, and leave by 5pm, then I might not make it back to Seydisfjordur until 9pm. I could hitchhike. I can manage. I will manage. It’s simple. Just go. Follow the whales and the blueberries and the inner compulsion of your feet that keep going despite the unknowns. Just this time, be a little bit unprepared, be a little bit wild, and let your curiosity drive.
You don’t have to force a pony to run, you just let it run. I want to let myself go, and encounter the rocks that gently divert me, that carve the shape of the fjord. The water still flows, despite self-doubt.
I feel myself letting go of that something: that pulling, gnawing at my fish-skull-toe, barking at me to cross to the other side of the road, enticing me to lose myself in the blueberries, compelling me to punch out my inner sanctuary of emotion, and committing me to sharpen my jaw on Rhombie’s dense bread.
I, in this very moment, am trusting myself.
I, in this very moment, am sensing and managing.
I, in this very moment, am moving the mountain, and it is moving me.
2. ‘I statements’: Taking responsibility, celebrating choice.
Use a microphone, or something that will distort or muffle your voice, and speak through it. Begin every sentence with the word ‘I’. Do this for 10-15 minutes. Notice what happens. Nothing has to be true, a fact, or a confession. Notice where your thoughts go. They are your thoughts, don’t be afraid of them.
Pick out one or two sentences that resonate with you. Use them in your next creative project. Here’s what I came up with, and a corresponding dance:
“I am a champion, and champions aren’t cute. I am a champion and I am serious about accepting my ability. I am a champion, and I have become the medallion. I am working on my confidence. I want to embody the spirit of an athlete crossing the finish line. I am curious about the weight and gravity of the medals. I want to draw a continuous line with them through space. I am sending my physical consciousness through the medals. I know this is possible because my imagination is very vivid.
Tips: It was really difficult to hear my own voice, and essentially ‘talk to myself’. Sometimes I felt like there was a separation between the ‘me’ I felt, and the ‘me’ I could hear. Sometimes it feels easier to write instead of talk. Sometimes it feels easier to wear a costume, and step outside my familiar self for a little while. A wig and sunglasses do wonders for the imagination.
3. Projecting gold in the shadow
The things I admire in others are resonant of my own positive traits, traits that perhaps live unconsciously, and are often difficult to embrace. It takes as much energy to muffle a quality as it does to bring it into awareness (for example, if I spent the same amount of time learning another language as I did thinking about how I really wish I could speak another language, then I’d be closer to my goal, and less frustrated. This can apply to more subtle characteristics, like “I appreciate it when others are decisive because I have difficulty fully accepting and expressing my own decisiveness”. This declaration is already a shift).
This is an exercise to help bring some of the positive traits that you already possess into the forefront of your awareness. Maybe you don’t share the same skills as the person you admire, but think about how that person acquired those skills. Maybe its this kind of ‘tenacity’ or ‘discipline’ that your personalities share.
There are no hard and fast rules, if something feels ‘off’ then it probably is, and if something feels ‘right’ it probably is. Do the exercise as it makes sense to you, or think about other ways of exploring the same parts of yourself, for example, writing from the perspective of a person you admire, or painting from her hand.
(Find a private space where you don’t feel self-conscious. Lock the door if you think interruptions will affect your focus. You will be talking, so turn some music on if the sound of your own voice has an affect on you.)
a) Move and talk at the same time. Declare what you are doing, what is happening, and identify your thoughts as you go. If you run out of things to say, move your body. This generates material. Set a timer and work for about 20 minutes. Playing your favorite songs can be a helpful way to get started.
b) Do the exercise again, but this time pretend you are someone who you admire, a heroin of yours (fictional or not, living or deceased, human or not. You don’t have to tell anyone who your heroin is). You are still you, but you are also ‘playing’ her. Set a timer and do this for about 20 minutes. Notice the positive, powerful, and vital characteristics that come out. Observe them. Write them down as you go if that is helpful and doesn’t interrupt you. Otherwise, write them down after the 20 minutes is up.
c) Reflection: what do you notice? Are there any traits you listed that resonate with you? Pick one trait, and declare it as your own. This is already bringing it into your consciousness. Hold it there for a few days if possible.
-Notice the faces you’re making
-Becoming Silver: Place your teeth together, just the tips, barely touching, and also slighty apart. Notice if your jaw starts to tremble, and your teeth clatter. Transmit this sensation, real or imagined, through your body. What stands out?