Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Practice: Differentiation stance

If you want to see what happens when spouses are rigidly linked (emotionally fused), picture two people standing a foot apart. They are leaning on each other in an ``A-frame'' hug, literally getting their support from each other. When one partner starts to ``wobble,'' the other has to prop him up or make him stop wobbling, in order to stabilize both of them. The ``wobbling'' partner often complains that the other partner is very controlling or not ``supportive'' enough!
Now picture two people standing on their own two feet supporting their own weight, loosely holding each other with their arms. In this position one partner isn't as affected if the other starts to lose equilibrium. If the stable partner remains quiet and still, the wobbly partner is more likely to find a new balance, since (a) there is no static from the quiet partner to amplify the initial disturbance; (b) the wobbly parner realizes that it isn't the stable partner's responsibility to fix the disequilibrium; and (c) it's actually easier for people to maintain equilibrium if they know they can/have to do it on their own. In hugging, as in life, the best thing to do when your partner starts to ``lose it'' is hold onto yourself and quiet down.

... [Practice: Differentiation stance] Stand face to face about two feet apart. Place your palm against your partner's with your elbows comfortably relaxed against your ribs. Align your weight over your legs. Take a moment to relax and feel the ``tone'' of the connection with your partner.
Now see what happens when you place your ``trust'' in the stability of your relationship and your partner: take a large step backwards (keep your palms together, elbows against your sides) and lean in. If the impact on your connection is not clear---or if you believe mutual support, trust, and commitment are the keys to a stable relationship---take another large step back and experience those beliefs in their physical form.
How does this position feel? Do you like it? Does it feel different from your expectations of how marriage works? If you and your partner both step forward to take responsibility of individual support, how does this position feel? Isn't it curious that the differentiation stance, a position that allows your partner to walk away, also makes your ``relationship'' feel and function better? More curious is that emotional tug that makes us want to lean when it's unwise to do so.---pp.161--162, Passionate Marriage [PM:DS1998]

Practice: Hugging till relaxed

A simple practice with some explanations taken from [PM:DS1998]:

[Practice: Hugging till relaxed] Hugging till relaxed is simple and elegant. The basics require four sentences: stand on your own two feet. Put your arms around your partner. Focus on yourself. Quiet yourself down---way down.
The real power of hugging till relaxed comes in realizing that it's both a window offering a clear view of the level of differentiation in your relationship and a useful tool for developing more differentiation. It's a perfect example of using touch (sex) to grow yourself up by learning to enjoy togetherness and separateness. ...
Differentiation is your ability to stand on your own two feet, physically and emotionally, when you are close to others. It allows you to stay close while your partner ``bounces off the wall.'' If you can quiet yourself while your partner is flooding with anxiety, you don't have to move away or make him or her feel differently in order to control your own emotions.

Hugging till relaxed provides a tangible way to learn to self-soothe, to quiet yourself, to maintain yourself in close proximity to your partner. It's the literal embodiment of how well you can do that. You can also feel how ``holding onto yourself'' eventually brings connection with your partner. You can feel how that connection differs from lockstep emotional fusion. ---pp.160--161, Passionate Marriage [PM:DS1998]
This practice reminds me of another practice I did once with a friend. He suggested that we would go to a park and walk for a while without talking at all. Being close to someone, without being able to communicate with him/her, raises different sorts of anxieties inside and test our ability to calm ourselves on our own.

As with sex, you can do hugging till relaxed at different depths of involvement. ....
You can reach a stage where you center yourself effortlessly. You stop focusing on your partner; you stop wondering what he's thinking or worrying he's having a bad time. You do more than contain your jolting and twitching. You quiet yourself to profound calm. ...
You can use sensory awareness to center and quiet yourself---that's a standard Eastern technique of self-realization. ---p.167,  Passionate Marriage [PM:DS1998]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Resources: Two TED Talks

1) Iain McGilchrist: The divided brain

Analysis: He offers a new interpretation of the dichotomy of left and right sides of human brain. The left side is associated with narrow focus and the right side with broad attention.
He has a book on this subject. More information here:

2) Charles Limb: Your brain on improv

Analysis: For me, his motivation for the studies he conducts is important, that science offers little in terms of understanding human creativity.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Practice: Doing the Right Thing---Fearlessness

[Goal] There are two main goals to this exercise. First, to uncover the guiding voice within. Second, to overcome fears and doubts that prevent us from acting on the voice.
[Background] An important attribute of the best decision makers is that they make their decisions with their wholesomeness and they implement their decisions whole-heatedly, without doubts and fears that impede an efficient execution of their decisions. Practicing this quality is extremely difficult in critical situations when the results of making a decision, and its faithful execution, can change our lives. Therefore, it is important to use ordinary moments in life to practice and increase our preparedness for the times that making wholesome decisions affect our lives.
[Basics] Interrupt simple daily activity to listen to the voice within and act on it.
[Exercise] During normal daily activities stop yourself:
  1. If necessary meditate for a few minutes to calm your mind.  
  2. Note that the meditation or calming the mind is not the goal of the exercise. So do not overly attach yourself to it. In this stage, the main idea is to return to the `Here and Now' by paying attention to breathing and bodily sensations.
  3. Ask yourself this question: `What is the right thing to do in this particular moment?'
  4. Note that initially, and maybe even for a long time after starting this practice, you may not really hear your inner voice. Therefore, in the beginning, be content with the situation as is. Even if you do not clearly hear the voice, pretend that you do and choose whatever task feels the right thing to do at the moment.  Also note that your answer can be as simple as, `Wash the dishes,' 'Eat,' or, 'Sleep.'  
  5. Announce your decision to yourself in a loud and clear voice: `The Right Thing to Do here and now is ...'. 
  6. Use the power of your voice to calm your mind and engage your heart in the decision that you have made.
  7. Implement your decision with total focus and with whole heart, as if it is the last thing you will do in your life. 
  8. Hopefully, with the calmness and clarity from the initial meditation, you have made a simple decision that is doable and does not require extraordinary amount of focus and willpower. This, being content with your capacity in the here and now, is extremely important in the practical usefulness of the exercise!
  9. Evaluate your decision. Criteria for the evaluation: (1) Feeling fulfilled. (2) Feeling courageous.
  10. It is important to learn from each exercise. How do we know if we have listened to the "real" voice within? By checking how we feel afterwards. Performing an act that is in accord with your internal desire makes you feel happy, content, fulfilled, and courageous!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Practice: Being Specific

Goal: The main motivation is to understand our selves better through our thoughts about, and attitudes about, specific things in life. Moreover, I begin to realize that it is difficult to be depressed when you think, feel, and process in specifics.
Basics: Practice talking and writing about specific attributes of ``things''. Also, when describing events, emotions, and feelings. talk and write about details of the situation at hand and specifics of it, rather than labeling them in general terms.
Exercise 1: Write for 5-10 minutes about different characteristics and attributes of an object, for example the pen you write with.
Exercise 2: Write for 5-10 minutes about an event or a situation from the same day experiences. Describe the situation without using general terms such as love, hate, fear, anger. Instead, explain the situation directly such as to evoke the same feelings in the reader as what you have experienced.
Exercises 3 & 4: Do the same two exercises (1 and 2) while talking to a friend or a family member.

The idea for this practice came from a number of quotes from two different books.

The first one already appeared as a post on my other blog.

I appreciate art, in its infinite forms, as the surest way to self-discovery. Hence, I find insights from arts very useful even when they seem very specific in their scope. Here are some more quotes from "The Actor's Art and Craft,'' by William Esper and Damon DiMarco, that signify the importance of dealing with specifics, rather than generalities, in order to understand who we are:
I want you to consider that there are no generalities in nature. Therefore, there can be no generalities in art, because the artist---as Hamlet put it so eloquently---seeks to hold the mirror up to nature.

To be an actor, you must train yourself to think unswervingly in specifics. How else can you seek to illuminate the world around you? But the skill of thinking in specifics is not something ordinary people do in everyday life. Most people walk around spouting generalities. Just think of the so-called conversations we engage in all the time. ...

Some money. A job. A party. Descriptions like these cannot feed the imagination. They cannot transmit how we truly feel about things. Until we acknowledge what's truly going on within ourselves---the specifics of who we are and how we feel---how can we possibly seek to be understood by others? ---pp.91-92, The Actor's Art and Craft   

The next sets of quotes are from ``Writing Down the Bones,'' by Natalie Goldberg.

"Being specific" seems to have an important role in self-discovery. We have seen it in the quotes from ``The Actor's Art and Craft'' book. Here, in ``Writing Down the Bone'', by Natalie Goldberg, at least two aspects of it in `writing' are discussed. First, instead of using general terms to describe feelings and states of being, describe the state in details so that the reader can experience that state first-hand (or second-hand?) from reading you. Second, in descriptions use specific names. The first is from the chapter, `Don't Tell, but Show', and the second is from the next chapter, `Be Specific'.

Being Specific - 1
There is an old adage in writing: ``Don't tell, but show.'' ... It means don't tell us about anger (or any of those big words like honesty, truth, hate, love, sorrow, justice, etc.; show us what made you angry. We will read it and feel angry. Don't tell readers what to feel. Show them the situation, and that feeling will awaken in them.

Writing is not psychology. We do not talk ``about'' feelings. Instead the writer feels and through her words awakens those feelings in the reader. ... ---p.87

When you write, stay in direct connection with the senses and what you are writing about. If you are writing from first thoughts---the way your mind first flashes on something before second and third thoughts take over and comment, criticize, and evaluate---you don;t have to worry. ... We can't always stay with first thoughts, but it is good to know about them. They can easily teach us how to step out of the way and use words like a mirror to reflect the pictures. ---pp.87-88

Some general statements are sometimes very appropriate. Just make sure to back each one with a concrete picture. ... ---p.88
Being Specific - II
Be Specific. Don't say ``fruit''---``It is a pomegranate.'' Give things the dignity of their names. ... It is much better to say ``the geranium in the window'' than ``the flower in the window.'' ``Geranium''---that one word gives us a much more specific  picture. It penetrates more deeply into the beingness of that flower. ---p.90

When we know the name of something, it brings us closer to the ground. It takes the blur out of our mind; it connects us to the earth. ...

... Williams says, ``Write what's in front of your nose.'' It's good for us to know what is in front of our nose. ... Continue to hone your awareness: to the name, to the month, to the day, and finally to the moment.
Williams also says: ``No idea, but in things.'' Study what is ``in front of your nose.'' By saying ``geranium'' instead of ``flower,'' you are penetrating more deeply into the present and being there. The closer we can get to what's in front of your nose, the more it can teach us everything. ...  ---p.91

Learn the names of everything: birds, cheese, tractors, cars, buildings. A writer is all at once everything---an architect, French cook, farmer---and at the same time, a writer is none of these things. ---p.92

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Will power [ATM:MF1990]

Quotes from ``Awareness Through Movement'' by Moshe Feldenkrais. A friend (H.K.) has lent me this book when I asked him about Alexander technique. It has a set of body awareness practices that I may end up using. The following quotes are regarding willpower and are quite consistent with my own personal view:

... For only those activities that are easy and pleasant will become part of a man's habitual life and will serve him at all times. ...

... We shall do better to direct our will power to improving our ability so that in the end our actions will be carries out easily and with understanding.

To the extent that ability increases, the need for conscious efforts of the will decreases. The effort required to increases ability provides sufficient and efficient exercise for our will power. ... most people of strong will power ... are also people with relatively poor ability. People who know how to operate effectively do so without great preparation and without much fuss. Men of great will power tend to apply too much force instead of using moderate forces more efficiently.

Both these ways of operating usually achieve their objective, but the former [will power] may also cause considerable damage. ...

Whatever we can do well does not seem difficult to us. We may venture to say that movements we find difficult are not carried our correctly. ---pp.57-58, Awareness Through Movement

Friday, September 23, 2011

Art of Practice

Today, on my way back home I received a nod. Listening to the "Performance Today", I found out about a new section in the program called, "art of practice". A good sign for me and my new journey on writing a book about "life practices". Practices to deepen and enrich our lives.
Link - Performance Today:
Link - Life Practices: