I’ve been reading a bunch of books that relate to several topics of interest recently.
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Wounded By Love: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1532408.Wounded_by_Love
Move Without Pain:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12786548-move-without-pain
An Actor Prepares: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18856935-an-actor-prepares
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The Body Not The Brain
I’ve been reading a bunch of books that relate to several topics of interest recently. These include: A book about prayer in the Orthodox Tradition, several books about Somatic Movement Therapy, mainly concerned with the techniques of Feldenkrais and, An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski.
It’s funny how one’s seemingly separate interests converge and are actually just all one thing and that realisation at this moment in time, is exciting. However, in the context of everything that is going on in the wider world, I have a certain mix of emotions and feelings about it all.
Let’s take a quick tour and you can pick at the orthogonal flows between them.
I am, at this stage in my life, as interested in prayer as I am in meditation.
I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t really see much of a distinction between the two.One leaves a window open for metaphysics to flow in and the other doesn’t. I am of course talking about Meditation as we understand it in the west and its the same as the same practices embedded in their local context elsewhere in the world. I would also point you towards McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality by R Purser, a book I also read this year. It’s really good. Anyway.
In the 1930’s a young Saint Porphyrios author of Wounded By Love once asked a local bishop about Prayer.
Buddests talk about Self-Emptying during meditation. But as far as i can tell in the living orthodox tradition they would say that Self-emptying is an act of love. And because God is love one is not seeking the loss of self but the gaining of a true self instead. You empty yourself with prayer until there’s nothing left but the divine. We are all made in God’s image.
So then, Prayer is something that is experienced, not practiced.
Somatic Movement Techniques. It seems to me, are all about reconnecting or re-familiarising oneself with one’s own body in a way that impacts chronic issues like pain. What it isn’t is stretching. It’s more like Yoga in its truest sense. Union. To be conscious of the self inside one’s own body. Somatic movement techniques are simple movements that allow the body to recognise muscles that are suffering Involuntary muscular contraction. By moving and relaxing them consciously, with full attention. It allows them to relax past the usual baseline level of extension so that a muscle learns the new level relaxed extension. Again this something that has to be experienced, not practiced.
Now An Actor Prepares. I picked it up off a bookshelf in my old room when I was back on the chalk the other week. It’s not mine so it must be my Brothers. But seeing that he now lives 10,000 kilometers away, plus the fact anyone with siblings knows that possession is 100% of the law – it’s now mine.
Anyone who has studied drama will have read the book, so I’ll presume that a few of you are familiar with it. It is about the inward preparation an actor must undergo in order to ‘act’ in the world of the stage. I’m only 50 pages in so far but with each turn of the page,with the context of my other current reading I recognise a deep sense of spiritual embodiment within the book and the lessons it imparts. Flicking through the book it seems the word soul isn’t used. At least in my Translation anyway. I presume it’s because the actors of 19c Russia were born and raised in the Orthodox Faith and its principles were common knowledge with no explanation needed.
As such I’d like to point you towards the essay ‘The influence of Christian Orthodox thought on Stanislavski’s theatrical legacy‘ By Gabriela Curpan from 2019 which seeks to plug the book and Stanislavski’s work back into the Orthadox socket. As an aside i can’t imagine any GCSE or A level Drama Teacher having the time to put this book in context in today’s teaching environment.
Finally, a few weeks ago I finished Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. It is one of the best books I’ve read in ages. Everyone listening should go buy it immediately.
So to close out this one hundred and first episode of 301 let’s return to what I said about the mix of emotions and feelings I’m experiencing. The subjects I’ve just skimmed I think you can tell, both excite and interest me deeply. The confluence of all these threads are a heady brew. Next, I think like to read a book by a dancer (recommendations welcome!). However there is still some small part of me that thinks my interest and practice of all this is somehow self indulgent. Is it some deep CofE protestantism that makes me second guess the importance of connecting soul to the body? Everything is terrible and I’m sitting at home breathing through my nose and concentrating very hard on the pain in my wrist and forearm. Is that self indulgent? Maybe for some. Certainly less so than sitting at home tweeting angrily about something into the void I reckon. Anyway.
The one thing I can say for certain tho is that doing puts knowledge in your body and not your brain.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.