Almog Loven Part 2: Feels

Part one of this series looked at the more physical elements of the “Weightlessness” workshop, and revealed the wonderful surprise of walking away with better knees.  Part two will attempt to unveil the method behind the artistry of making a group of strangers feel loved and connected.

 

Weightlessness, Almog taught, occurs by first accepting your weight, then releasing it into the ground.  To release is to relax.  Tension, met with tension, creates a fight that will exhaust both sides.  Choosing softness before it is forced upon by fatigue extends the time and extent in which one can participate.  It allows one to be open, and fully experience the interaction taking place.

 

VISION & PERSPECTIVE

How we see the world dictates how we coordinate our place in it.  Where our attention is drawn can become a point of reference and/or a fixation.  Can we see both the big picture and the details?  What must we ignore to stay focused?  Are we willing to step back and let the image come to us, or can we only make sense of things by locking in and going after it?

We were asked to stand close to a wall, and keep a focal point.  We stayed with it as we walked away backwards.  Then we returned to it by stepping forward.  Which action made the point more interesting?  How does ease play into this?

We then tried to keep our focus on the target as we organized ourselves into a diagonal line.  Though many of us had decent spatial awareness, some struggled with relational organization.  With many attempts, we might have gotten ourselves exactly straight once or twice (and likely more aligned to ourselves than the set end points about the room).

During our final line, we were asked to lay on the floor.  We turned to our right side, then our left.  After looking forward and narrowly for so long, the expansive side view was captivating.  There were so many things to notice and pay attention to!  When we got up, returned to the wall, and were given the assignment to find our place again, we were uncannily perfect.  We held multiple perspectives by which to orient ourselves.

 

SELF & CONSTRUCT OF CHALLENGE

Becoming a point on a perceived line requires a challenge of self perception.  Am I right?  Are they right?  Will I adjust myself to fit where I am not sure I should go?  Do I even notice the others sharing this space and exercise with me?

Am I open to being moved?

To answer this question, one must first examine their own way.  What are they after?  How do they study or experiment with it?  Ownership makes the otherwise mundane pleasurable.  It is easy to develop qualities of our choosing (particularly when you exist in a vessel you have already deemed good and worthwhile).  We accept where we are and what we can do and place ourselves in situations that nudge us just past.

Given no time reference, we were given the task of stringing five movements together and repeating them in a loop.  When we discussed what we did and why after the first round, each person explained how they kept their sequence interesting.  During the second, we were asked to challenge ourselves.  I chose to keep with moves that challenged the bend in my left knee.  As the music continued, I took more liberty in adjusting the speed, tempo, and duration I spent getting to know this part.

Jenn Pilotti justifies her selection below:

 

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At a workshop I went to Saturday, the instructor gave us a simple task: pick 5 positions. String them together. Challenge yourself. .. This isn’t unlike the add-on game in Parkour, except it was solo rather than with a partner. The challenge could be in the positions (some people had very cool handstand and backbend variations going on), or it could be in the transitions, or in the relationship to a position—some people worked with positions that caused fear of pain or discomfort . I chose to focus on smoothness and the relationship to gravity, since it was a workshop called “Weightlessness.”. .. There is value in having an internal practice, one where you focus on control, on feeling and creating tension. There is also value in letting that go and just moving, focusing on a feeling of smoothness and efficiency, tapping into the experience of flow. #playdaily

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FEAR & RETRACTION

I spoke at length in part one about how pain creates closure, to avoid more pain.  Looking into another’s eyes during slow and soft partner work exposed itself as another form of elusion.  For about a day I started at necks shirt collars.  It seemed too intimate.  But then, during several long bouts of cleverly protective ‘pushing’, something changed.  I found myself looking into and finding warmth within one pair of eyes, then another.  It felt like solace, and I wanted to linger there.

Notice the difference in head position in the above re-creation.  Though I was willing and attentive, my partner does not give me the chance to make, let alone hold eye contact.  Two hands become one hand, and the request for the other to leave our space became an invitation to enter it.

 

TRUST & INTENTION

Touch assesses, regulates, and establishes a sense of trust.  It is literal connection, and conveys intent to either help or harm.  When used in the right way at the right time, it presents an opening of vulnerability, and a chance to prove that tenderness can be rewarded with tenderness in return.

A game suggesting the thoughtfulness that must accompany care has one partner lowering another ‘dead’ partner to the ground, and then bringing them back to standing.  Can you fully put your safety in another’s hands?  Can you remain invested in rest as they struggle with you?

 

A second activity had one partner lead a ‘blind’ other across the room.  Their goal was to get them as close as possible to the opposing wall without running them into it.  Conveying ‘come’ and ‘stop’ was meant to occur as gently as possible, without jerking or startling motions.  Could you communicate your intention with enough kindness to keep your partner calm and appreciative of their trust in you?

 

Doing this work with kids was really powerful.  It is one thing to experience yourself and quite another to watch others experience it.  In one of my classes there is a boy who often gets left without a partner.  To demonstrate, I asked if he would be mine.  I closed my eyes first and explained what I wanted him to do.  He said, “Take two big steps.”  I did.  We repeated this three or four times.  Then he said, “Take two smaller steps”.  I obliged, and he continued, asking me to take smaller and smaller steps as I came within a hair of the net.

Then it was his turn.  He closed his eyes tight and balled up his hands as he readied himself to perform the task in front of fifty other kids.  I gently took his hand.  He immediately let go and softened, and a huge smile swept across his face.  I led him to the nets while looking at him, checking to see if the smile stayed.  There was a collective ‘Awww’ from the audience, and when we finished the group clapped and smiled at what they had seen.

The recognition of kindness is universal.

Many used creative means to guide their partner without talking or touching.  By the third or so round, almost everyone had their hand on their partner in some way.  Pairs then doubled to make groups of four, and one guide led three blind.  The difficulty of herding three unbound people to a destination without words encouraged a togetherness of some kind.

The second phase evolved into what I call “Hug Curling”.  A sighted partner led a blind person toward a receiver at the far end of the courts.  This time, though, the let them go and let them walk on their own.  The blind had to trust they were sent in the right direction, that the receiver would stop them before they ran into anything, and that they could get to them on their own.

After letting go could the guide continue with their intention until the sent had reached their destination?  Could the receiver give love in a way that wasn’t jolting or jarring?  Could they offer a hug in a way that let the trusting lead and come to them?

 

In Almog’s own words:

“Openness is rare.  Complete sincerity even more.  But anything else is just excuses.  An ongoing deception:  We wish to grow, but we are not willing to release what is restraining us.  We practice towards something, as if someday will be enough.  We leave our ground to venture among the stars, forgetting the only ground we have is the one on which we stand.

If you really wish to face yourself, know that your fears will come in the way.  They will offer you excuses to look elsewhere, an endless supply of them.  Unknowingly you keep fueling them day by day, and they will never run out until you stand and look at them.  Don’t try to muscle through them, that will only fortify your hiding place.  Just stand.  Be open.  Sincere.  It takes true courage to do so.  Nurture this and you will stop running away.”

 

The beauty of “Weightlessness” is that it reminded us of our senses.  That we were designed with ultra-sophisticated antennae that most of us have lopped off or covered in tin foil in order to feel only to our liking.  We want to control our experience and shield ourselves from discomfort.  Then, when our curated life gets f*cked up by the real one, we wonder why we struggle so much to adapt.

This armor was supposed to keep up safe.  Instead, it stops us from recognizing all the tiny fluctuations our skin is naturally attuned to.  Taking the time to notice all the delicate changes can be absurdly invigorating.  The simple act of pausing might be the only thing you need to find something lovely to smile about.

 

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