Vision – Part I

This past Thursday evening I was lead into a dimly lit auditorium along with 10 other participants of what was called an Innovation Lab, lead by the Swedish group TILLT. One of our two lab leaders, Jon Liinason, sat at a piano in the far dark corner of the stage. His fingers ruminated over the instrument, from which came short open-ended phrases without resolve. Between these musical expressions were space, breath, and pause – a space that invited us to be and to think. The phrases were like the beginning of thoughts that we were to carry into the expanse of our own imaginations.

On the screen in front of us was a still image of Berlin; the telltale Fehrensehen Turm, or TV tower, rising tall on the left side of the screen. Jon’s music trailed off. He stood and asked us,

“What is vision?”


There was a long silence. We had all settled into our seats and were waiting for the presentation to continue. We then realized that we were part of the presentation and that Jon was waiting for us to answer. There would be no passive reception of material. Most of us sat up an inch or two in our seats, grounding our feet into the ground, elongating the spine, and becoming more active through the entire body. The light remained dim as we delved into defining Vision. Our way of speaking and sharing, reflected Jon’s musical phrases that had preceded us. There was space and patience. Naturally, without any instruction, we waited for each person to speak, and after he or she had finished, there was a pause, just in case he or she had anything to add. There was time enough for everyone to share.

Vision is….an image, imagined, an image we have for the future, un-realized, impossible,….the answers were many, and all accepted. There was no wrong. When we ran out of definitions, there was a pause and then we found more. When we trailed off into a discussion, we were brought backing to talking about “What is vision?”

The entire time my eyes rested half-consciously on the image of Berlin’s TV tower. From time to time I became aware of where my eyes were resting. “This was a vision,” I thought, “a Foucoult vision of power and control.”  A tall spire reaching high above the city. From every part of East Berlin, you see the tower, and just maybe the tower is watching you.


I thought as well of the Matrimander, the impressive meditation edifice, located in South India at the center of the alternative, futuristic city of Auroville, founded in the early 1970s by followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Matrimander, is a gold-geodesic dome supported by 12 pillars, and appears something like a giant-sized golf ball, set amongst green fields and gardens.


Along the inside of the dome, white carpeted glass ramps spiral upwards toward the Inner Chamber (aka meditation chamber) like the inside of a nautilus shell. As I padded along the white carpet this past December in my double layer of perfect white socks, a dress-requirement of all visitors, I had the feeling that I had entered a futuristic space world – a new age of humanity.

MatrimanderLotus3 In the photo above, you can see the nautilus-like structure, as well as the ray of light that passes from top of the dome, down through the inner chamber, through the central chamber (above) and out through the bottom, into a crystal ball floating at the center of a lotus pond (to the left). The Matrimandir is the structural embodiment of a futuristic vision.

We are surrounded by structural visions – some more functional than others. I have often thought how, I myself have very little knowledge about the structures I occupy and experience on a daily basis. If stranded in the wild, I doubt that I could build but a basic, rudimentary shelter for myself .

In the documentary film Breath Made Visible, Anna Halpern talks about each individual being a manifestation of the image he has of him/herself. Consciously or unconsciously we all have an image of ourselves – a vision of ourselves and this is who we essentially are. We therefore all have the power to re-image ourselves – to become the person we want to be. The person of our own vision. In the film, we learn that Anna had been struggling with a serious illness. She used the power of vision, painting the vision she saw of herself and then embodying this vision through movement, to become this vision and to successfully ward off her illness.

What is the current image or vision that you have of yourself? How conscious/ unconscious is it? What vision would you like to have of yourself and your life? Make that vision: draw, write, dance – using whatever medium makes sense to you.

* Try writing an invocation poem, in which you call on or invoke the qualities of other things. Use repetition starting with the words I am…

It is your vision, and with visions there is no limit. Explore making associations with weather, color, texture, smell, movement, animals, flowers, anything you can think of.

I am the gleaming tropic sun…

I am deep chlorophyll green…

I am the wiperwillow calling from above…

I am the moon lily bathing in soft purple light….

I am the ancient salty sea….

I am spiral, melt, coil and spring…

Later you can fill in with the object’s more specific quality, i.e. what makes you the gleaming tropic sun?

The 2nd Harvest – Blind explorations, sensing and writing

It is April 15th and one of the first lovely, warmish days in Berlin. It is a few minutes after 6pm and I am alone in the studio, waiting for Fertile Field participants to arrive. We are a small group of 7 people, but it is surprising that no one is yet here.  Surprising? On second thought, “no, not surprising”. After such a long, gray winter, one of the darkest in recent recorded history, spring is an unbelievably sweet seduction. We are besides ourselves – we forget time and all previously scheduled engagements. The wind is noticeably warmer and seems to carry us where it will, regardless of our intended destination. The smell of the city is also remarkably different. It has a moist earthy smell to it. The smell of soil being turned, plants pushing up and emerging from the dark earth, roots descending, worms tunneling. The birds are gloriously happy and you can hear it in their song. We, too, sing in our own way and forget ourselves. It is as if we have been transported to an entirely different place, a different country, a different planet – a place unimaginable only a few weeks ago, when the world was still ice, frozen, biting wind.  At 6pm the sunlight is deceptively clear and bright, making it seem as if it were still afternoon, rather than early evening. Surely it is not time for class to begin. I wonder if anyone will show up at all; perhaps they are all still frolicking in the park.  If I weren’t leading the workshop series, then perhaps I would be lounging forgetfully in the grass, gazing up at the blue sky, life feeling easy and good.

On such a day, the studio seems too confining and too far from the singing spring. I therefore, ditch my class plans and descend to the K77 House courtyard, a magical playground of sprouting life, sculpture and unexpected objects. It is a creative garden space, attended to in some ways and unattended in other ways – a reflection of the ever-changing community that owns, runs and lives at K77. The first person arrives around a quarter past 6 and slowly in the course of the next half hour the others traipse in, drunk from spring.



We start the class with blind (closed-eyes) explorations in the K77 courtyard. In partners, one person closes her eyes, the other leads her on a journey through the courtyard, inviting sense- interaction with various elements. We play with sound, smell and touch. The person leading should not rush, but rather, give her partner the chance to sense and experience the element at hand. From the outside the journey may seem slow, but for those with eyes closed, senses open and time expands. The journey is lead in silence, however, those who are being lead are free to express themselves through sound or words if they feel the impulse to do so. After approximately 20 minutes, the blind journeyers are brought to their notebooks/papers where they write for 7-10 minutes, throwing onto paper everything they can from the experience of the journey.



Once both partners have experienced a blind journey and written, I ask everyone to choose a location which was in some way provocative for them. We begin with breath, while being in some way in contact with our object or location. Focusing on our breath, we allow ourselves to arrive in our location and simply be there, without wanting, looking or asking for anything. If you feel a sound or words come, let them come. Once you feel that you have arrived at your location, notice what senses are engaged. How would you describe the sensation? What images or memories come to mind? The next step is to begin to explore how our location inspires us to move. In what ways? What body parts? What organs? What dynamics? We have 15-20 minutes for this second interaction with our object/location. Afterwards we take another 10 minutes to write.



An hour and a half into class, the evening has cooled and the light grown dimmer. We return to the studio to complete a short moving and writing composition. We start by bringing our movement from outside into the space of the studio. The movement must not be an exact replication of the movement from outside. Rather, it should be inspired by our outdoor experience – taking as inspiration all or any of the following: our physical interaction with the object/location, the sensation invoked from this interaction, any arising images or memories, our writing. The final task, to be completed in the last 15 minutes of class is to prepare something to share. I give participants the freedom to choose how and what they share. It could be pure movement, pure movement and speaking/sounding, moving and writing in some combination,… The task is fairly open, but I am available to offer more specific structure if anyone requires this.


More photos from the K77 courtyard. These were taken one week after our 2nd Harvest but were inspired by our blind explorations.


Accessing your strength and power

If you are used to moving softly, with flow, that is great, but try moving in a way that accesses your strength and power. Push, pull, slash, punch! This activates your core and connects you strongly to your breath. (Notice how your breath automatically syncs up with your movement.) You can still have flow and take care of yourself even when using your power.IMG_0141

I have spent many years learning and re-training my body to move with ease and flow. I needed this. As a child I trained intensively as a competitive gymnast; I was power and explode, form and tension. And my culture was action and do. As a teenager I ran long distances daily and was determined to not miss a day. Action and Progress. When putting off my running until late in the day, my mother would repeat again and again, “go so you can come back.” The phrase irritated me – and still does. I wan’t just running in order to be done with it! Life isn’t just doing one thing, being done with it, and moving on to “doing” something else. Do. Do. Do. Where is the pleasure of the action itself when we only have the end-goal in mind?

Flow is defined as the the action of moving in a steady, continuous stream. It is not about reaching a goal, or a means to an end. It is about connection, within ourselves and to our environment. As a former athlete and obsessive do’er I was often holding unnecessary tension in my body and joints. This tension inhibits flow and can lead to injury. I therefore, needed to find connection and flow through my entire body and through my joints. I needed to learn how to let go, and to not strain or overuse muscles. I needed to learn how to just be. It was a necessary re-training of my neuromuscular system. Through this re-training I discovered that I was also song, melody, river, ancient bones, evolutionary body, and much more.

Now, however, after years of retraining flow, I am enjoying accessing my strength and power. Strong powerful movements, such as punching, slashing our limbs through space, pushing, pulling, kicking brings us in connection to breath, core, heartbeat and blood in a clear, unambiguous way. Blood flows, circulation increases, we are awake, alive, ready, connected. I could energetically flail through space -that is a possibility -but my natural instinct is to increase my awareness of the space around me. I see and am awake to my environment. The flow, which I worked so long to retrain, supports me in my more powerful actions and keeps me connected internally.

What behavior is fitting of a small, petit female, who has always looked quite a bit younger than she actually is? Socially I have trained myself to be nice, acceptable, pleasing, agreeable. Soft. Moving in strong and powerful ways, feels incredibly good – and is also a good way to remind myself that I have strength and can use it. I can be direct. I can say what I want. I can go after what I want. Dancing and moving with power is a way of practicing being powerful. It is similar to the way children play roles in order to experiment with different ways of being in life.

Moving in different ways, directly, indirectly, with flow, with power, etc, helps us to nurture all sides of ourselves – including sides of ourselves that may be neglected or even unknown.



Everywhere/Anywhere Word Catching

It is Tuesday April 9th, one day after our first Fertile Field Harvest. I have just dropped my son, Theo Ben Leo, off at Kita (preschool), and have gone to the nearby organic store, Kiepert & Kutzner to do a round of shopping – bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. On a recent visit I discovered the large silver samovar tea service at the back of the shop. Strong black tea is always brewing here and customers are welcome to help themselves. On this visit I discover the motley colored patchwork couch positioned next to the samovar. I take a paper cup, filling it half full with the thick black tea and then topping it off with hot water. I nestle onto the couch. Words of all sorts are floating freely in my mind and coupling with other words and word groups in unusual ways. This is undoubtedly the result of our word pools from the previous evening a The Fertile Field. Inspired, I pull out my notebook and begin creating a new word pool – here in the knusperbrot and tea section of Kiepert & Kutzner. For a brief moment I am self conscious about settling in on the grocery store couch, as if I this were my living room. But what then is the couch for, if not for sitting, relaxing, settling? I am delighted when another customer sits beside me and pulls out a hard-covered black novel from his jacket pocket. He too settles into quiet, here on the couch at the back of Kiepert & Kutzner amongst neat rows of teas with names like:

Cha Dô
Pa Mu Tan
Zauber Trunk
Bamboo Balance
Sternenklang (star chime)
Blümiges Kräuterfest (Blooming herb party)
Sußschnabel (sweet beak)
Muckefuck (coffee substitute)

Wow, this tea is strong. Within 10 or 15 minutes I fly into unsuspected caffein cloud dream. Just this morning I have received emails from friends organizing retreats on Northwest islands off the Washington coast. Body and I fly to Whidby, Orcas, Indian Islands. Cool northwest mist.

I have had some Zauber Trunk

and alles Loslassen

from the motley colored couch

perching on knusperbrot and zweiback

matte and pukka

galumphing amongst high dreams

to the sound of rumble dairy refrigeration

and the Sternenklang, star chimes,ringing

and the scanner beep, beep, beeping

reaching Venusmond, the moon of Venus

goddess of love and beauty

beside the silver samovar service

at the back of Kiepert and Kutzner

my local grocery store

Inspiration into Action:

1) Write somewhere unusual, where you would normally not think of writing. Create word pools from this place. You can then go a step further using elements from the word pool as inspiration for a poem or story. Play!

2) Take words from unusual places – cookbooks, plant books, electronic manuals, etc.

The Fertile Field – the first harvest, April 8th

We start with a breath and movement warm-up, which gave us the chance to arrive in our bodies and in the space. After exploring a variety of movement qualities and dynamics, we bring our attention to the space around us.

Word Catching (in space)

See a point or place in the room, moving directly to it and coming into physical or focal contact with this point. (This is about making clear decisions and going towards them.) Without judging or searching too much, we say the first word that comes to us – regardless of whether it “makes sense”.

–       pay attention to the sound of your word

–       repeat it if you like

–       at first we spoke quietly to ourselves. I then asked for people to speak the word into the room so that we would create a cascade of captured words.

B) Same as above, except one moves indirectly to the point they have chosen.

Word Catching (in the body)

Reach out into space with a body part—any body part—while simultaneously sounding out the first letter of a word which you will capture. The idea is to begin with the sound without knowing what the word will be.  If you find that you already have a complete word in mind, find a different word. Surprise yourself!

Group Word Catching on Paper (Unassociated Word Pool)Image

We sit down to a large piece of paper. A variety of colored pens and crayons are available. As above in the body word catching exercise, start writing with the sound of a first letter, without knowing what the complete letter will be.

B. Create word combinations phrases, using the words at hand. We do this as a group, speaking out loud:

Nightfall lighthouse, yes

flowing stammer challenge

triple mercy snow challenge

ice tulip clamor

windy fantasy dandelion shape

Associative Word Pool (as a group)

We are now free to make associations to other words we hear or see on the page. (We say our word while writing). The page filled up very, very quickly!


B. In our notebooks, we write 5-7 word combinations. At least half of these should be without deliberation – bringing words randomly together without much thought. Some of our phrases:

Carry roses in the awesome desert, catastrophe gathers

Dozen teacher cheat stencil invasion treat

C. Using at least one of the phrases, write! Style, content, is entirely open.

Authentic Movement & Write

We divide into partners. One person moves with eyes closed in a way that is authentic for her/him in this moment. The witness (observer) observes and writes. I encourage people to write in a literal sense about the action or movement that they are observing and also in a metaphoric sense. What do the actions you are observing look like?