Monthly Archives: October 2009

An Essential Study

Posted on by

Phillip Zarrilli’s new book may have a title that only a theater critic could love, but the body of his work deserves to be known and practiced by a much wider audience—and in terms of this blog’s readership, I am referring to anybody involved in the expressive or healing arts, ministry, ceremony, or public speaking.

zarrilli

Psychophysical Acting: An Intercultural Approach After Stanislavski is about the core of all effective expression: aligning will, mind, and subtle physical energies so that they meld seamlessly with our actions. Zarrilli has made a lifelong study of how breath, awareness, focus and movement conjoin to create believable performance, but his inquiry goes deeper than that: he is after a level of performance and presence where “the body becomes all eyes,” and one is “standing still yet not standing still.” (Disclosure: Phillip is also a cool family friend.)

His is much more an Eastern sensibility than a Western one, and Zarrilli bases his training method in large part on an intensive study of the South Indian martial art kalarippayattu, a practice that requires power and precision along with expanded attention and awareness. To the physical forms of kalarippayattu, Phillip has added breathwork and movement based on yoga and taiqiquan to create “a complementary set of psychophysical disciplines that begins and ends each day of training with a series of simple, breath-control exercises.”

The core of the book is a close and careful explanation of the exercises Phillip uses in his trainings, starting with the breath and then moving into different modes of embodied experience. The exercises and concepts used in the book are amplified to great effect by the accompanying DVD-ROM, which is very well done and adds extended video and audio clips that demonstrate what his hands-on work looks like in training and performance.

Pagan religions are all about embodiment—the immanence of the Divine in nature and in ourselves, the omnipresence of the spirits and the ancestors, Gods and Goddesses. With such a multi-layered world view, it always surprises me how very little we know about actual embodiment, let alone practice it in our rituals, celebrations, even in private meditations.

To some extent this lack is being remedied by better training, but without in-depth models of what is possible and how to get there, we won’t progress very far. This book is an excellent manual for explaining just that. It is better suited to group than individual study, because these embodied states are extremely subtle and we need reliable external feedback to train them into our bodies. But anyone who is serious about improving their ritual skills should either consult this book, or work with someone who has.

Better yet, Phillip Zarrilli travels all over the place from his studio in West Wales, training people in his system of embodied performance. He is a wonderful resource, and very approachable. The enterprising group that hires him for a period of intensive or ongoing work would find that their time and money were well-spent. And the result would benefit far more than just themselves.

So Many Blogs, So Little Time

Posted on by

I have never been a blogger that can whip out short, frequent posts on the day’s most Googled topic, in the race to drive traffic to my site. Instead, I am one of many bloggers who write thoughtful pieces about the things that interest me, in hopes that those who are similarly interested will continue reading what I write because it’s good, not because it’s trendy.

Writing blog posts has meant adjusting my writing style to one that is more compact, because in this format a shorter rhythmic flow works better than essay writing. People (myself included) just don’t stay glued to a digital page for as long as it takes to read a long, expository piece.

Last Fall, by a mixture of luck and moxie, I landed a spot as blogger for the Huffington Post. That has caused me to tighten and focus my writing even more, to match the pace of the site and get more people to read my (still on the long side) posts.

I like the challenge. And while I mostly write about dreams, my raison d’être, I have had lots of fun with my last two Huffington posts, “How To Survive a Divorce” and “The Three Most Important Words In Any Relationship.” I will most likely keep experimenting with this style, the “truth-humor spritzer” as I like to call it, in my writing there.

For now, Blog o’ Gnosis and HuffPo are my two main blogging platforms. The third, at annehill.org, is where I upload podcasts from my weekly radio show, and cross-post dream-related articles from my other blogs.

For now, I can keep them all straight, and post once or twice a month to each blog. I have no plans to discontinue any of them, though I may cross-post more in the future. I have several fascinating books to review here in the next few weeks, and several interesting people to interview on the radio show as well. And the irreverent humor part of my brain is always churning up more ideas that are perfect for HuffPo.

For now, this is a workable model. However, I hope to be writing for money sometime very soon, in which case things may shift rather rapidly. If so, this would be good news. And you will hear about it here first, or possibly on my Twitter feed, or maybe in a cryptic Facebook status update.

Meanwhile, what is up with the time changing so damn late in the year? I am against it, and hope that no one is thinking of creating a New Religious Movement based on the “Fall Back/Spring Forward” cycle. Can you imagine the desperate entreaties to the Gods that would be happening right about now?

The Limits of Awareness

Posted on by

Monday I stood up a friend for brunch. I didn’t mean to, and I certainly didn’t plan on it. I had been looking forward to it just a couple days before, had the meeting written in my book, and the book was with me as I did errands beforehand. Yet so complete was my forgetting that I didn’t even realize what had happened until hours later when I was back home working.

All that would have been bad enough, but the whole reason for our meeting yesterday was to make up for one a few weeks earlier, which I had also completely forgotten about. The first time it happened, I felt bad and was very apologetic. Monday’s incident left me feeling positively disoriented.

What was wrong with me, standing up the same person twice in a row? That had simply never happened to me before. I mean, if I don’t want to see somebody I don’t make plans to begin with. And when I do make plans I show up, getting there on time if not early. What’s more, when I forget something or someone I almost always feel an intuitive knock at my door, and following that can usually get back on track right away.

So what was going on here with my friend? Did I have an unconscious block against meeting her? Was there something about our plans that was out of kilter with the universe or something? Was I (shudder) losing my marbles? For the rest of my disoriented day I pondered the options.

Both attempts at meeting were marked by one important detail: shortly beforehand I had to cope with new twists and turns in a couple very stressful situations that are ongoing. When these incidents come up they have to be dealt with immediately, and they have the effect of contracting my energy field and putting me into crisis mode. But that is not news to me. What is news, and what Monday’s fiasco made me aware of, is how deep that pattern goes, and how it blocks not only my intuition but also my ability to do new things.

For someone who spends a lot of time fishing in the deep unconscious to see what morsels I can catch through dreams and synchronicity, this raises the question of whether awareness has a catch-and-release policy I didn’t know about. Must random details from our waking lives be sacrificed to the void occasionally in order for us to extract other types of information?

Being a fan of irony, this idea is appealing to me in spite of the embarrassment it causes. But since that day I have noticed that I am not the only one walking around with a pinched, worried look and a contracted energy field. It occurs to me that this is bigger than my personal dilemma, and that perhaps we all need a little tonic for our jangled nerves.

Fortunately it is October and the season is changing visibly, with the sun setting earlier and Samhain moving closer every day. This gives us a great opportunity to slow down our pace and move slowly into ritual time. Over the next few days, I intend to spend much more time in my garden, pruning back the dried flower stalks and tidying things up for the winter. Just smelling the lavender and sage as I prune is a balm to my spirit. And maybe if I do a really nice job on the rosemary bush, it will give me a much-needed memory boost. Rosemary is for remembrance after all, or had you forgetten that?