9.-12.07 Workshops with Minako Seki
The workshop began with cleaning of the floor in the workshop space – to honour the space surrounding us, and the space inside us, like Minako explained. I find this idea very beautiful – before going to body work, you clear your surroundings, turn your focus towards the space you will be filling with you existence and movements. Through that you alsp purify yourself in a way. You clean your head and aim for a purer state.
After that we continued with Vipassana meditation, which was somewhat similar to the zen-meditation I’ve tried but a bit more ritualistic with very concrete „choreography“ and order of movements. It consisted, just like the zen-meditation of the walking meditation, where every step connects you to the present moment, and the sitting meditaion, where you try to become a viewer of your thoughts and reactions. For me, in the sitting meditation, it was a bit more difficult to achieve the clarity of mind. The most important part is to accept all your thoughts, sensations, emotions, acknowledge them and then – let go. Meditation is a perfect way to set yourself in a balanced and concentrated mental state that is needed and aimed in butoh. And butoh is also deeply connected to zen-buddhism and its philosophical side.
Today, we practiced only basic exercises to get the sense of weight and weight shifting. To illustrate the main principles of movement, Minako used a scarf (moving and falling in waves) and a chain (our backbone as a chain, which can be lengthened and moved one segment at a time). Minako’s understanding is based on the principle of gravitation, that makes every movement we are executing a falling. For her, walking is falling towards the core of the Earth, where all the energy is hiding. So weight shifting is the basis for understanding your body movments and the natural falling. So we worked with weight and falling, and followed the impulses that came from the falling.
She also explained how the reason behind we being able to stay up, walk and move in a vertical position is the water that fills our body. Minako compared the human body to the bones that are floating in the water. We had to do exercises where we imagined that we were releasing every bone in our body with the sense of water surrounding our joints and bones. Weight shifting process in our bodies is therefore similar to a wooden stick that holds bags full of water and gravitates aside.
We made different exercises to release our muscles and tensions in our body, using also our voice.
We also worked in pairs to get the better sense of centre balance and weight, for example pushing each other, trying to push until the balance is lost. Also using one’s one body weight to push down on other’s hipbones, to give him/her the impulse to follow and descend.
It seems that Minako’approach is derived from natural bodily movements and instincts. She relates human bodies to the Earth, water and environment, creating a holistic image.
Vipassana meditation (like any other) is based on only observing (your steps and breathing), being conscious, understanding from where an emotion or sensation or thotught comes (from certain experience) . This deep understanding leads you to accepting.You see your emotion, understand where it is coming from, accept it,and then you can gently put it aside.
Then we continued with several exercises based on the usage and manipualtion intentional directions, changing directions, orientating in space, which was helpful in widening awareness, hearing, responsiveness, and sharpening perception. It is useful when sharpening our attention, being very attentive towards space and the movements and directions of others.
Minako explained that once you become very aware, you can start imagining that you are inside your body but also that you can look on it from above, that you are a bird flying. It all comes from deep understanding, she said. It find that to be true. Sometimes I look at nature or other human being and realize, we are all the same. we have the same source – what happens to them, happens to me, I can deeply relate to their existence. That is the ultimate Oneness.
After that we worked with partners: did a massage relaxing muscles, followed by breaking (falling) and coming up with the support and impulse from your partner, then straightening the centre line, feeling weight and strength, absorbing energy from the ground, core of the earth, staying connected to the earth. And finally lengthening towards space to feel the body line, opening and relaxing face muscles (Minako used the baby comparison – looking as a baby who sees everything for the first time). Again she asked us to imagine the water that fills our bodies, and has weight but can also support us when standing up. We worked with body lines, curves, waves.
Atthe end of the workshop we tried some martial arts movements, especially tai chi. That also requires extreme attentiveness towards several directions, concentration, relaxed yet deep breathing, intentional and intensive movement and body work.
Again we started with cleaning floor and the Vipassana meditation. This time Minako explained a bit the background of her mediattion practice. I really liked how she described the emotions that are always somewhere standing and waiting. It is our choice, whether we pick them up.
The third day was the most intensive and dynamic. The workshop included fast movements and was quite dynamic as we practiced some movements and techniques from martial arts: tai chi, kung fu, aikido.
The main idea behind every movement was to move along. The gravity, the centre, everything is connected with the ground – you do not force any movement, the strength comes from the earth,although it looks like you use a lot of power when executing the movements.The hand (from the wrist, as the shoulder and elbow are still strong to give the direction and to control the movment )should not have any tension in it, but be relaxed. So you basically give directions, but weight and gravity create the power needed to throw or hit the water bottle.
We also did several exercises with directions and conscious movement, moving around in the whole workshop space. The main focus was on different and various intentions, listening to the space around ourselves, being present, aware and attentive towards the space and others. These last exercises were perfect to train our intuition,esepcially the part of it concerned with space and directions in space.
We ended the day with waterbag massage – relaxing muscles, getting the sense of weight and the water inside our bodies. The sound of water moving slowly in the bags around us got me feeling most relaxed, just like I was floating in the middle of the sea with waves slowly passing by and carrying me.
Once again we started with cleaning the floor that was followed by meditation.
Minako’s philosophy is clearly buddhist roots, meditation, acceptance and reflection on your mind and spirit are already inherent in Japanese culture. Meditation helps to stop the suffering human beings tend to set themselves in. I like to think of that as a choice: I have a choice to feel certain emotions and feelings, as I also have the choice to stop myself from doing harm to myself through negative emotions,stress,anger and anxiety. Actually I can change the „tracks“ any time, if I am present and conscious enough. For me, the image of clouds covering the sky, has been most helpful. I is a common image or metaphor used in describing meditation. Your thoughts and feelings are just like clouds that are gathering and sometimes filling the sky. But you are not the clouds, the clouds are temporary and can be blown away.
Minako talked about a reatreat centre in the woodsnear Munich, that she visits every year where they practice meditation (both walking and sitting) daily, and hold silence for 15 days in a row. I truly believe silence is essential when you start practicing meditation. Together with cleaning your mind of constant chatter u create a space thatcan be filled with ideas and creavity within yourself. During the last meditation I felt how my mind can change into white canvas, that can be decorated with clear thoughts and purest sensations like drawed lines. Silence also lets you get to know yourself better.
This time I had had better sleep and could concentrate more easily. I also noticed quickly when my mind started to drift and could acknowledge and accept different thoughts and emotions more clearly. I managed to stop thinking, to let go and just be.
We started with a massageand afterwards did exercises of directing focus and shifting attention. Then we played with waves in our upper bodies, doing a little improvisation on a music piece.
Playing with the attention of the observer, we worked in pairs, firstly in a shorter distance, then went moving and changed directions, trying to surprise our partner. That concerns the question of intention – it is more interesting to watch your movement if there are some contradictions, for example you point on one direction, but look at another. these surprising moments offer more to the audience. For me, the quick and sharp changes in directions, worked far better. I also found myself being more intrigued by the clear oppositions in directions (of hand and head, for example). By that, the dancer can lead the attention of the audience in a wished way, but also constantly offering new images that are simultanously interesting and a bit confusing. Light confusion attracts the observer more than alltime straightforward movements and predictable directions,lines or levels.
The unpredictability is connected to the foggyness. As Minako said,it is important to erase something – to take out some part of the information from your movement,so that the audience or observer can start to imagine things and images by him/herself.
At the end of the class we worked with our inner landscapes, creating abstraction from the previous directions and finger pointing. Minako asked us to imagine eyes on our nape watching a familiar or fictional landscape and then to forget. Forgetting was essential to give way to doubts and hesitation that had to be depicted with our gestures, mimical features and overall movement. Forgetting lead me to an interesting state, which felt like I was decieving and confusing my own body and mind on every second. I had to forget and erase the intention, to sense the disorientation and doubt. Although I actually had an intention and task, the difficult part was to get the feeling that you do not have one, that your body and mind has nothing to rely on. Moreover, Minako pointed out how we should imagine and use all the layers that are surrounding us: she described how we should imagne the ground, or sea levels below, the space above us and all the layers behind our back and in front of us. So basically, she asked us to imagine and work in an indefinite space, so we had endless possibilities for creating movements. I felt,for example, like I was floating in space, like in a freefall. I felt like there was no time, like past, present and future melted into one vast bubble that was endlessly widening – like the space itself.
(c) Edegar Starke and Ambra Bergamasco