I saw this mesmerizingly-superb movie, “The Music of Strangers”, when my household cable carrier gave me a gratuitous peek at HBO.
I borrowed a two-CD set of Asian music at the library years and years ago and have been hooked ever since.
The YouTube channel is linked below so you can sample the music in-depth at your leisure.
There is a lot of focus in the movie on Yo-Yo Ma (why not, since he’s a well-known name and entity) but the stars of the movie are the other people, especially the story of the founder pictured here, and — of course — the very nature of music itself.
“… I have a friend, Charlie Lehman, who teaches 6‐year‐olds design technology and he says he has these 6‐year‐olds come into class every morning and they sit down and they center together and he says to them, to these kids, he says, “Children, if you learn what to pay attention to and what to focus on, you can be anything you want in life.” And so that’s what we’re practicing here. We’re practicing choosing what we pay attention to.”
“… social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.
I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.
Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.
Like TV it now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside….
Neil Postman provided some clues about this in his illuminating 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The media scholar at New York University saw then how television transformed public discourse into an exchange of volatile emotions that are usually mistaken by pollsters as opinion. One of the scariest outcomes of this transition, Postman wrote, is that television essentially turns all news into disinformation.
“Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing … The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?…”
Hossein Derakshan (@h0d3r) is an Iranian-Canadian author, media analyst, and performance artist who lives in Tehran. Find his latest project, an exploration of the intersection of performance art and journalism, at @talkingtagsart.
“Read books and magazines and the labels on the backs of cereal boxes. In Beloved, Toni Morrison wrote that one of her characters died “soft as cream.” You can’t use that brilliant line, but when a sentence like that is in your mouth, there is a possibility you’ll find another to offer to the gods.
People often switch genres as they get older, of what they write but also of what they read. They will say “I don’t know why I am suddenly reading poetry” or “I’ve given up reading fiction altogether.” People are often surprised or even uncomfortable, as if they’d suddenly begun an illicit affair if they switch writing or reading certain genres. “But I always loved fiction,” they say. It is as true as swimming in a lake where the water suddenly changes temperature. It can be unsettling, but the oldest students in my class, those in their nineties, just smile and say “And it will change again. You will see.”
Genre does not matter, as long as you’re reading. If you’re not reading, you’re not writing. Reading is part of your daily devotion if you are a writer. When you read as a writer, it is different than reading for pleasure. You are studying the craft, just as an artist must go to the museums to see the great masters, and a musician must listen to Mozart and Miles Davis, and everyone should read Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo.
When you read as a writer, read a sentence and try to imagine the sounds, the touch, the taste, the smells the writer is writing about. As you write, you put yourself back together.”
An observation in this age of social media, driven by TV, Hollywood and other practices of the creation of a “brand”, is that brand image is the new battleground for supremacy of information. The mainstream media have been knocked off their high perch and, while the pre-season scrimmaging for audience share and recognition has been underway for some time now, the new ratings period is open. The New York Times is selling its office space, oligarchs are venturing into news company ownership and web site creation, and ioncreasingly we see competition for who should be seen as the premier purveyor of acuracy.
Everyone, before and after the numerous infilitrations, was and is responsible for their own minds.
What we are witnessing is the Oprahfication of truth. The hapless reader is asked, nay being forced, to choose between the Kardsashans of investigative journalism and the others.
It’s just the latest variant or extension of contempt for your own ability to read, decide, and more. Indeed, along with the Oprahs and her offspring, the Kardashian sub-industry, “reality TV”, revamped and re-packaged TV news, and dozens of other choices, it’s a battle for where and how you should place your attention.
The book “Deep Survival” will explain the real importance of attention.
Eric Booth’s “The Everyday Work of Art” stands as a pinnacle.
Find a copy of Terry Orlick’s interview with the world-class cardiothoracic surgeon Curt Tribble, M.D., in which he discusses the ability to function with an element of uncertainty, the critical importance of focus and distraction control, and the ability to deal with sub-optimal outcomes, all relevant to any pursuit of excellence.
It has been said that the information we allow into our consciousness is what determines, in the end, the content and quality of our lives.
Leonard Bernstein on Cynicism, Instant Gratification, and Why Paying Attention Is a Countercultural Act of Courage and Rebellion
Most of us are completely unaware that nearly every piece music is tailor-made to produce a specific emotional, psychological and more importantly – physiological response and state. This is the unseen science of frequency.
DIRECTOR’S COMMENTARY: Frequency is a new original documentary exploring the mysterious world of sound. The Secrets & Science of Sound explores the areas of Binaural Beats, Synesthesia and Cymatics with a hope to further understand to what extent sound can affect the human brain and body. Binaural beats is a process in which brainwave activity can be altered at will using sound, Synesthesia is a bizarre condition in which sound can be perceived as colour and Cymatics is the world of sound made visible. These exciting and fascinating areas will hopefully expand our future understanding of the creative and potentially destructive power of sound and how in many ways we are always being affected by Frequency.
[Ed.: Note the description of binaural beats in the second chapter of Summon The Magic (pages 46-49), and the presence of the book “Thresholds of the Mind” in its bibliography. I was tested by the Haldane Associates in the early 1970’s as having a perfect 50/50 balance between left and right brains. I have been a user of HoloSync since about 2003.]
I had the pleasure, along with Mrs. Blogger, of taking in a performance by Livingston Taylor. We bought the tickets a long time ago, as soon as his appearance was announced, and then we stayed patient. I got the the tix as a present to her, knowing that she would respond to his soft, laid-back approach which includes a lot of show tunes (she’s a fan of musicals). I’d cued up some YouTube’s on him and his family and his gig as a professor at Berklee’s local technical school for musical performance where a buddy of mine had taken an online course in song-writing.
The opening act was a four-song set by one of his students, a veteran of The Voice, Rebecca Loebe.
Taylor teaches a course on stage presence which he surely exhibited; having bought his book at the concert, it’s easy to look back and pick off the lessons one by one.
The book, by the way, is hereby informally added to the bibliography of Summon The Magic, sliding in between the two by Greene on preparation for audition. Taylor’s “Stage Performance” is highly recommended for everyone, even if you are not a performer, because it’s about self-presentation, how to have a conversation, cadence, rhythm, connection, and more. You’ll find a golden nugget on each page.
And, that night, on stage, he had his audience in the palm of his hand.
I stumbled across a number of pretty darn good TED talks the other day.
I am naturally interesting in learning, performance and creativity, and several of the topics seemed to be in alignment with my previous reading about sports and performance psychology. A couple of them are simply startling barn-burners.
Here’s a mix of short TED talks, a blurb on creativity, and a couple of long videos on how to be a really good photographer.
Chris Lonsdale is Managing Director of Chris Lonsdale & Associates, a company established to catalyse breakthrough performance for individuals and senior teams. In addition, he has also developed a unique and integrated approach to learning that gives people the means to acquire language or complex technical knowledge in short periods of time.
The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph | TEDxRyersonU
As the Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, Dr. Joseph is often asked what skills he is searching for as a recruiter: is it speed? Strength? Agility? In Dr. Joseph’s TEDx Talk, he explores self confidence and how it is not just the most important skill in athletics, but in our lives.
Scott Geller is Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the World Academy of Productivity and Quality. He has written numerous articles and books, including When No One’s Watching: Living and Leading Self-motivation.
Can you do it? Self efficacy
Will it work? Response efficacy
Is it worth it?
Competence,Consequences, Choices, Community
Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can | Graham Shaw | TEDxHull
Written by Helen Williams, Community Love Director at Holstee
I was recently given the opportunity to see author Elizabeth Gilbert give a talk in the city of Denver. It was an unseasonably warm evening in early May and the front of the Paramount Theater was pacing and alive with anticipation. Many of us had read Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert’s 2007 bestseller-turned-movie. It was a novel that sold ten million copies and sparked a million responses, good and bad. But what gathered us together that particular evening was Gilbert’s newest output,Big Magic, a reflection on her personal experience with creativity.
I can’t summarize the book for you in a way that will do it true justice, but my one sentence rave review is this: it resparked me. I’ve always been a person who made space for creative endeavors. I dive into books for inspiration for my own writing. I listen to music that moves me enough to drive me toward the piano keys. I soak in colors and shapes to bring myself back to my original love of drawing. All these things and more made me certain, yes, I am a creative person because I participate in these things. I make stuff. I tune in.
“This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted—by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
But of course when it comes to the pace of life, there isn’t always ample time for the things that make you feel most like yourself. At least that is what I told myself when gaps of time would pass and I hadn’t picked up a pen or a paint brush and a thick layer of dust coated the chipping ivory keys. Other obligations would demand my attention and I would relent, letting those other parts of myself stay paused in midair until I had time to snatch them up again. During these times I would feel hollow, less engaged and sometimes even panicked at the time that would pass without my making space for feeling creatively inspired. These phases of life were dull, unmemorable. In this way, I treated my need for creativity as its own distinct feature of my existence, something entirely separate and extra from the rest of my more normal, responsible, adult life.
What I learned from turning the pages of Big Magic, however, was that I was looking at it all wrong. Creativity wasn’t meant to be a single strain among others. Creativity wasn’t supposed to be a hobby that would often conflict with “more important stuff” or be overtaken when duty called. It was meant to be the lens through which I viewed all parts of my life. Choosing creativity was what transformed an everyday experience into an adventure. Creativity could have a hand in all of it, if I allowed it to be so.
Well, that was news to me! I was so ingrained that creativity was a specific dedication to artistic endeavors that I couldn’t even picture it having a hand in my daily decisions, in the way I approach problems or interact with other people. I had reduced creativity to a rare moment that would come barreling towards me from a great distance and leave as soon as it came. Which, to be fair, was all it was capable of when I forced it into such a limited framework.
And while creativity can certainly make itself known to us in sudden, dramatic instances like these, it can also be more subtle, interwoven throughout the rest of us, the barely detectable hum beneath our every move. Suddenly, nothing was all that commonplace to me anymore. Everything had potential to be more than it was. And while some would view this revelation as daunting (“You mean I have to be creative every second, all the time, with everything?”), I choose to see it as a relief and an opportunity. Small seconds can balloon up and fill us with inspiration we would have otherwise overlooked. It’s looking one inch to the left instead of straight ahead. Mundane moments can present solutions we couldn’t allow ourselves to see. It’s asking internal questions instead of quitting. Conversations, interactions, passing people can all become more if we turn toward them, if we allow ourselves to pause long enough to find the connection. It’s saying, “Tell me more,” instead of simply nodding along.
It isn’t about always making or seeing something with an immediate and obvious purpose. It’s about engagement, simple awareness and appreciation of the here and now. So see what’s here. Soak it all in. It might not be anything except what it is. Let that be enough.
Suddenly, everything holds a new potential to me now, thriving, reaching, awake with possibility. To me, that’s something to look forward to. That’s the discovery of what happens next.
Helen Williams is a Colorado transplant who is passionate about cooking, writing and combining the two on her vegetarian and vegan food blog,green girl eats. She strives, every day, to be less sorry. When she’s not in the kitchen, you can find her reading, loving the community at Holstee or trying to pet your dog.
The place where I have decided to take my creative yearning is back to the field of photography. As noted previously, I owned a Minolta SLR and bought a 28-volume Time/Life series on photography and a bunch of other books, got a subscription to several well-known photo mags, and even enrolled in a correspondence course with some very good school in the Big Apple. The course was pricey, and working in slides and stills can get pretty expensive too, but the course taught me some basics in how to see light, and more. I was a pretty decent amateur but one day some thief broke into my house and made off with the complete camera bag, a memorable event because the fellow left a prize of a pile of feces on the living room floor before he left. Aren’t people wonderful? Well, my step-mother knew I had a thing for photography and so insisted on going by the local mall to acquire for me a basic Nikon SLR. Oh, Nikon, everyone sighs, but frankly I didn’t like it, couldn’t get the physiology of learning to work and thus the psycho-physical state of flow rarely showed up. One day I inadvertently left the rear window open with the gear on the floor of the back seat and a thunderstorm came by and lingered just above the window. Bye bye Nikon. By that time, I had already scoped out the possibility of turning pro. I’d checked out two major photographic schools, one in Boston and the other out in Franklin Country where I’d spent some time. The one in Franklin County gave tuition-paying people a brand new medium-format rig worth $1,400 but I didn’t bite. I’d shadowed some people selling their wares at art shows and investigated the economics of selling 4×6’s and more at tourist shops, but the conclusion I came to was that I couldn’t afford to make the investment. One such potential competitor was displaying the most elegant and pristine very large prints shot with the best film printed on the best paper at pretty reasonable prices and, over the course of five hours in a good crowd, didn’t sell a single one. And just at that time digital photography was on the horizon; suddenly people could put their new device on automatic, skip going to school and reading books, and turn out the same kind of thing at radically-reduced expense. How could I sell them a masterpiece (assuming I had what it took to make one) when they could shoot one themselves? I gave up the pursuit and turned to different things. Today, everyone has an iPhone.
Then three years ago my daughter gave me a $65 Kodak 14-mp point-and-shoot digital camera. A little playing around, and I was hooked again, and so I began slowly to learn something about digital photography. Recently I took the next step up and bought a Canon EOS Rebel Vi with the kit lens and a zoom lens. Just today I bought an extra battery and a lens shade for the zoom. I’ve printed a page full of shooting sites and ideas, bookmarked a few events calendars, and started to avail myself of the incredible value of series of educational YouTubes put up by camera vendors on which pros share their tips and techniques.
There are enough active shooter scenarios going down lately that it’s all but impossible for one person to follow, investigate, deeply investigate and analyze them all. Some of them seem to be, or have proven to be, hoaxes, or at least laden with jarring gaps in factual evidence and reporting so as to invite inquiry.
But it has gotten to the point where some specialized service or institute or dedicated branch of investigative journalism could be devoted to the task. The latest — well, now, actually, second-latest — is the one in Chattanooga where gaps and discrepancies became evident almost immediately. There’s one that just popped up in Maine that strikes me as the real deal.
(See my pdf entitled “catastrophic crunch” for a sampling of offerings about the Chattanooga shooting incident. Nothing here should be seen or construed as a criticism of anything there.) The individual reader still has to have an active mind, a well-honed “crap detector” and some time.catastrophic crunch
But the active shooter scenario is just one small focus. The anniversary of the incident involving MH17 (as discussed here and here) is another example.
“In times of terror, when everyone is something of a conspirator, everyone will be in a situation where he has to play detective.”
If you’re a regular reader of Occurrences Foreign and Domestic, its source blogs, and other outlets I might not yet know about (hint, hint), then you are perfectly well aware that there is a whole host of events, people, industries, corporations, governmental agencies, politicians and more who deserve a greater degree of attention than they are geting or want. We live in the era of increased governmental transparency, we are told, when the reality is quite the opposite, when government itself is wholly engaged in surveillance, and when they are hastening to put all of their activities behind a locked barrier.
I’ve regularly suggested a coalescence, some collaboration, a congealing and coordination among like-minded individuals to hone and sharpen focus, improve efficiencies, etc. Many online centers of activity are regularly begging for financial support, spinning their wheels, fending off hackers and DDOS attacks, scrambling to add technologies (and pay for them) or otherwise looking over their shoulders.
Open question: Where is the best source for training and education in investigative journalism? Perhaps someone involved in the investigative trades could convene a panel discussion or online virtual seminar to help bloggers and citizen journalists get better, stay safe, and do more incivisve homework.
“All the clues are there in front of us, hidden under a veil, we cannot get the clue by searching for, we have to search for the veil instead.”
“All people, whether Aspie or neuro-typical are predisposed by their society to make guesses, jump to conclusions and then seek to defend those conclusions, regardless of logic or changing circumstance. This is sloppy, illogical thinking which may not hinder your life too much, under normal circumstances. But if you want to be a great detective, then such thinking will absolutely ruin your chances.”
“Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. IRE was formed in 1975 to create a forum in which journalists throughout the world could help each other by sharing story ideas, newsgathering techniques and news sources.
Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. began in 1975 as the brain child of a small group of reporters from around the country who wanted to share tips about reporting and writing.
A meeting was organized in Reston, Va., by essentially four people: Myrta Pulliam and Harley Bierce of the Indianapolis Star’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team; Paul Williams, former managing editor of Sun Newspapers in Omaha, who worked on the Boys Town expose; and Ron Koziol of the Chicago Tribune, who covered police and courts.
Others at that inaugural get-together were columnists Jack Anderson and Les Whitten; David Burnham of the New York Times; Len Downie of The Washington Post; Robert Peirce of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat; Jack Landau of Newhouse newspapers; Frank Anderson of the Long Beach Independent; John Colburn of Landmark Communications; Indianapolis attorney Edward O. DeLaney and former New Orleans reporter Robert Friedly.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which had passed resolutions supporting freedom of information, helped in the formation of IRE, including the design of the first IRE logo. A grant from the Lilly Endowment also helped IRE get started with a $5,278 bank account.
About 300 reporters attended the first IRE conference in Indianapolis a year after the Virginia meeting. For three days, experienced journalists offered advice in 90-minute segments on how to tackle everything from city hall to ethical problems.
The conference was significant for two reasons. Not only had a group of reporters and editors struck upon a highly successful model for sharing information, the organization voted to turn down a major grant from a non-journalistic foundation. The new membership was determined to rely upon the support of professional organizations and journalists themselves.
At the organizational meeting, Les Whitten asserted that what most characterizes the investigative reporter is “a sense of outrage.”
During the course of the meeting (and with the help of a dictionary), it was determined that the simplicity of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the resultant acronym, IRE, seemed to fit such an association.
Reporters and editors who had been investigative reporters or who had organized investigative teams were at the initial meeting in Reston. They remain the backbone of the organization, although professors, students, freelancers and book authors also have joined IRE.”
“Of course it’s very hampering being a detective, when you don’t know anything about detecting, and when nobody knows that you’re doing detection, and you can’t have people up to cross-examine them, and you have neither the energy nor the means to make proper inquiries; and, in short, when you’re doing the whole thing in a thoroughly amateur, haphazard way.”
Includes tipsheets, a library of stories and story packs (collections of IRE and NICAR resources designed to help you approach certain topics and beats with an investigative mindset), a bookstore with printed and digital resources, listservs (mailing lists to exchange ideas, information, techniques and war stories with members and non-members), and a large collection of archived audio recordings from conferences, webinars and other training session.
“Blackstone’s Police Operational Handbook recommends the ABC of serious investigation: Assume nothing, Believe nothing, and Check everything.”
These are open for public consumption; there are others for members only, for internal organizational news, as well as blogs built around ongoing conferences.
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
http://ire.org/publications/book-list/ [Holy Cow! A seemingly-endless list of books I’ve barely heard of, all written by investigative journalists, many of which I’d like to read (or at least a review)…
That’s one resource. Are there others? Or better ones?
“I may not carry a detective’s badge, but I’m certainly the highest ranking member of Albatross Harbor’s neighborhood watch program. And like tilapia, I know something smells fishy when I taste it.” — Jarod Kintz
“… Unlike many professions, a degree in investigations is not a requirement to enter into this field. Competing against individuals with extensive backgrounds in law enforcement, security and investigations can be a daunting task, but many industry veterans certainly believe hitting the classroom can help jumpstart a career in investigations…..”
“The general public have a warped view of the speed at which an investigation proceeds. They like to imagine tense conversations going on behind the venetian blinds and unshaven, but ruggedly handsome, detectives working themselves with single-minded devotion into the bottle and marital breakdown. The truth is that at the end of the day, unless you’ve generated some sort of lead, you go home and get on with the important things in life – like drinking and sleeping, and if you’re lucky, a relationship with the gender and sexual orientation of your choice.”
Every morning I wake to sunshine and birdsong (sometimes a little bit of morning fog). I rise to take my morning coffee. (There is always coffee. And my pantry is always full of good food. Make a note of that.)
Then I begin my work. I do this work on behalf of all of you, although I’ve never spoken of it before. But lately I’ve heard people wondering: why is it we are not more upset by the things that are going on in the world? In our own country, our own town? Why is there no generalized rage at the contempt for life displayed by those in power? Why are we so servile to the rich and corrupt? Why do we not swarm the streets in protest every day, demanding someone’s head on a platter?
Well, now I’ll tell you: It’s because of me. Every morning I actualize the consciousness that in most of you is only potential, and (I am convinced) it is this mighty force that continues to keep things in place. Which is good for me, because my life is truly fine (see above). It would be ungrateful and hypocritical of me to wish to upend the status quo, when it has given me everything I need and more. And so through this work I do I’m really just trying to give back to the universe.
But whenever things seem to be a fraying a bit at the edges, I start to worry. Perhaps I alone am not enough. More of you should be aware of the power you wield, and wield it consciously; otherwise at some point things could get bad, even for me. So I’ve decided to go public. I’ve decided to ask you all to join me in a single daily meditation (yes, that’s all it takes).
There’s no personal ambition here – I’m not seeking power or celebrity. And there’s no cost – I’m not in this to get rich; I am already rich, relatively speaking. I just want to keep the good life that I have. And from observing you closely every day where I work, where I live, and when I travel, I can see that you do too. Many of you have told me as much. Why shouldn’t you? You’re human! It’s that simple.
So now I invite you to join me in my daily practice. Here’s all you have to do. Repeat along with me:
Nothing in my life is changed by Euro-austerity and the humiliation of Greece.
Nothing in my life is changed by the latest mass shooting.
Nothing in my life is changed by the latest oil spill.
… the Chinese stock market panic.
… the mass deaths of migrants.
… the War on Terror.
… the War on Drugs.
… the acidification of the oceans.
… the suicide rate of children, transgender people, or soldiers.
The tenth chapter of the e-book Summon The Magic: How To Use Your Mind… is actually one of my two most favorite chapters. (Those two speak to me, and they ended up being assigned the letter E and the letter J. Funny thing how those things work out, huh?)
It’s entitled The Spirit of the Game and, while it is laden with concepts of spirituality, it doesn’t attempt to proselytize. Parker Palmer (Footnote 111 on page 55) gives as good a defintion of spiritual as I could find.
There are references from within religion’s expressions, but spirit includes them all, allows you to parse and understand them if you desire to do so, and ultimately it transcends them.
The Spirit of the Game ranges across the topics of prayer, intention, attention, life alignment, love, mastery, presence, soul, music, movement, ex-stase, awe, connectedness, the sweet spot in time, gnosis, peak experience, yoga, samadhi, behavior, discipline, intent, will, performance, creativity, energy and grace.
There’s a quote in there from the fellow whose insights were the key that unlocked the door to the creation of this e-book.
It was in the middle of the explosion of the decades of research into the brain through the use of functional MRI studies and Roland Perlmutter, M.D. (neuroradiologist, Duke University Medical Center) is the individual quoted from within the book On The Sweet Spot: Stalking the Effortless Present.
It’s not that quote (footnote #24) that quickened me.
The one that made we sit upright, that confirmed my interest, my work, the value of these concepts beyond sports, and the value of sharing this material shows up near the end of my e-book.
But here’s a better expression of all of that from an old blog of mine (circa August 21st, 2013). I’d been reading a Sports Illustrated in a medical waiting room and encountered a letter to the editor that was “surely of interest to the father of a professional fast-pitch softball player whose hand was broken by [Jennie] Finch when she stepped on it during a pick-off attempt at first. Was Finch mad at her because she not only did not strike out but managed to draw couple of walks against her and made one of them stand up for a win? The bone was broken above the knuckles, making it impossible to hold or swing a bat, but a visualization process I designed on the basis of my readings [actually, it was an audio tape from Lydia Ievleva; see this] and which she implemented which came to fruition in front of the orthopod ten days later and got her a clearance to return when the doctor said said “I’ve never seen a bone heal so quickly”. The bone and the body that it belonged to went on to earn a Second Team All-American slot in the ASA Majors division.”
Back then in 2013, I referenced the book On The Sweet Spot and my own e-book Summon The Magic and the applicability of what I have come to understand about the human mind/body/spirit as an antidote to the oppressive wars, narcissistic psychopathology of leadership, and the failure of the average human being — especially the dormant American ones — to wake up and effect some change.
From the description found at the Amazon link (but the emphases are mine):
“… as Richard Keefe, the director of the sport psychology program at Duke University, looked deeper into the nature of his experience, he found profound links to the spirit, the brain, perhaps even the soul.
Keefe recognized that the feeling golfers and other athletes have of “being in the zone” is basically the same as a meditative state. And as a researcher with experience in brain chemistry, he went one step further: If we can figure out what’s happening in the brain at such times, he reasons, we can learn how to get into that “zone” instead of just waiting for it to happen. This is the Holy Grail of sport psychology — teaching the mind to get out of the way so the body can do the things it’s capable of doing. Keefe calls it the “effortless present,” when the body is acting of its own accord while the brain has little to do but watch.
All religions describe some kind of heightened awareness in their disciplines; Keefe explores whether such mystical experience is a fundamental aspect of our evolution, an integral part of what makes us human and keeps us from despair. And he brings the discussion back to the applications of such knowledge, reflecting on our ability to use these alternate planes to achieve better relationships, better lives, better moments. Keefe’s true subject is extraordinary experience — being in the zone, in the realm of effortless action. On the Sweet Spot builds from the physical and neurological to the mystical and philosophical, then adds a crucial layer of the practical (how we can capture or recapture these wondrous states)…..”
That’s what summoning the magic is all about.
If a mind can heal its own fractured hand, why can’t many minds heal a fractured world?”
And, oh look, that calligraphic expression I mentioned back in healing a sick world shows up on page 75.
(So that’s where I put it..!)
Even Caitlyn Jenner makes an appearance in a potent retrospective.
But speaking of sports (and there are plenty of sporting references in The Spirit of the Game), last Monday’s news had an example (and there are plenty of them every day) of attempts to “psych out” an opponent — to take them off their game. My exact reference is to the US/Australia women’s 2015 Women’s World Cup opening match in soccer and the re-surrection or re-mindfulness of the US keeper’s legal difficulties. I take no position on the keeper or her history. In fact, I raise the point because, in all my research and other encounters, I have never met a performance psychologist who embraced or helped someone else “hone” the art of dissing.
You see a lot of it in pro sports. Larry Bird and some others have shown that, if you’re going to get into “trash talk”, you’d better be able to back it up.
The entire discipline of sports/performance psychology would suggest that you expend your energy focusing on your own game, that your attention to your opponent’s game in an attempt to create an advantage more often backfires than not. There’s a book listed in my bibliography that comes so dangerously close to taking the wrong approach that I won’t even identify it for you.
Refefence has already been made to bringing the best you can bring to the exchange as an ideal way to respect both the game and one’s opponent. Pre-game, in-game and post-game “trash talk” is trash and doesn’t fall within The Spirit of the Game.
Julia Cameron would understand. On Monday, her book “The Well of Creativity” got packaged with two of her earliest books, The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold, and shipped off to a friend. I had thought “The Well of Creativity” was the one actually I received today (more dementia, or lack of focus) but the recipient is a close friend so it’ll all come out in the wash.
Arriving today wasSupplies, which Cameron describes as good, plain water for those thirsty aspiring or working people who are busy making things — “books, musicals, movies, plays. board games, computer programs, sculptures, watercolors, greeting cards, effective aprons, better lives”.
The second page reminds us all of an “extremely effective technique” a lot of us have forgotten, or dismissed, or turned our noses up at beause it seemes so juvenile.
Several more pages in, and I had to put the book down; I was hooked. It’s serious shee-it. (I’ll report back on it in good time, but it’s a workbook and I’ve got to do the work.)
”Mastery of kitchen utensils does not guarantee creativity in cooking but, like the tools of any trade, they must be used with individual and even idiosyncratic vision to yield results.”
The July-August edition of Cook’s Illustrated arrived as I wrote this; it was not an act of serendipity because I subscribe to the magazine for its recipes, reviews of foostuffs and tools, great recipes, and outstanding cooking tips. It was an obvious act of synchronicity, given the title of this chapter and the selection of the image at the top that I’d already made.
Inside the magazine, ahead of the tool review, the kitchen notes, the ingredient notes, the blind taste test of balsamic vinegar, three pages on knife sharpeners, two (illustrated) pages on how to grill trout, the right and wrong ways to cook sausage, the ultimate method for char-grilling steaks, and two pages of illustrated quick tips, is Christopher Kimball’s “The Don’t List”.
Alas, folks, it’s not online.
If you call right now and ask issue #155, you’ll get closer to a mastery of kitchen utensils.
In the past, you’d had the second chapter (the one about the brain) which I noted was probably outdated by the time it got to you. I was right.
“In a landmark study published last week in the journal Nature, scientists revealed the discovery of vessels that directly connect the brain to the lymphatic system. According to a EurekAlert press release, the discovery radically changes the current understanding of the brain’s role in responding to major neurological diseases, and opens up several amazing new areas of research.
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered that the brain has a direct physical connection with the lymphatic system, which collects and removes toxins from the body. The doctors discovered peculiar vessels hidden in the meninges, or membranes covering the brain, in mice. They used an innovative dissection technique to locate the vessels, which they previously thought simply didn’t exist. Using live imaging, the scientists were able to demonstrate the function of the vessels as they interacted with the central nervous system.
The discovery raises a wide range of questions about the brain and the diseases that can affect it. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is caused by the accumulation of large protein chunks in the brain. Scientists believe that these proteins accumulate because these lymphatic vessels have trouble removing them. The team said that the discovery also had implications for the understanding of many other neurological diseases including autism and multiple sclerosis.
According to Dr. Jonathan Kipnis, the study’s lead author and researcher at the University of Virginia’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, this is the first time lymphatic vessels have ever been identified. Previously, there was no mention of any such type of vessel in medical textbooks.
The amazing new discovery of the strange lymphatic vessels may very well shape the way we approach treating neurological diseases in the future, and will undoubtedly change our understanding of the brain’s role in regulating the various functions of the body for years to come.”
“… According to Dr. Jonathan Kipnis, the study’s lead author and researcher at the University of Virginia’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, this is the first time lymphatic vessels have ever been identified. Previously, there was no mention of any such type of vessel in medical textbooks.
The amazing new discovery of the strange lymphatic vessels may very well shape the way we approach treating neurological diseases in the future, and will undoubtedly change our understanding of the brain’s role in regulating the various functions of the body for years to come.
The chairman of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience, Kevin Lee, Ph.D., explained his reaction at first:
“I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” he said. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”
When showed the results, he had just one sentence for the team:
“They’ll have to change the textbooks.”
Moving forward, knowing the brain has a direct connection with the immune system changes how researchers approach neurological conditions. They can now ask mechanical questions. If the disease has an immune component, the vessels should play a major role.
Treatments can be developed based on direct responses on the brain’s lymphatic system. While the shotgun approach to tackling neurological conditions will continue, teams can now approach diseases such as MS with an eye towards activating the brain’s immune system response.
It’s a hell of a discovery. Not only is it cool we are sitting in the middle of 2015 and still mapping our body’s internal structure, but it offers hope to people suffering from neurological diseases.
But I’ll still give you the ninth chapter of the e-book Summon The Magic: How To Use Your Mind…(a collection of excerpts from some of the best books and sources on performance psychology, coaching, neuroscience, etc.) and which is entitled Food for Thinking, Doing and Being.
It ranges across the topics of the performance triangle, will skills, homeostasis, change, the mind-body dialogue, thinking tools, the ACT triangle, decision-making, suggestion, auto-suggestion, attention, and meditation, among others.
It will get you closer to mastery of your performance. [What doyou perform?]
The ninth chapter also crosses the threshold of the use of audio-assisted or audio-driven neditation through brain wave changes that can gently pull you into proper states for doing (beta), relaxation (alpha), problem-solving and thinking (theta), and rest/sleep/deep sleep (delta and deep delta).
Deeo sleep is where the body heals itself, where your neuroplasticity kicks in, where you can can begin to make changes in your body’s chemical engineering. It’s a subject I’m still exploring, so caveat emptor.
Some of the books noted in the bibliography are relevant. The first three are older, very good general introductions to the topic, the last two written by physicians.
The fourth (Thresholds of the Mind) can easily be found either as a used book, online, or e-book. It’s very very good and is written by the fellow who runs HoloSync ( https://www.centerpointe.com/v2/ ) which is a product I’ve used since about 2002 (it’s better than crack, said one psychopharmacologist); I’m now researching other options, since it’s pretty expensive.
Afterwards, You’re a Genius: Faith, Medicine and the Metaphysics of Healing, Chip Brown, Riverhead Books (Penguin Putnam), New York 1998.
Healing Beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind, Larry Dossey, M.D., Shambhala, Boston 2001. [A recognized leader in this field…]
Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Bantam New Age Books, 1989.
Thresholds of the Mind: How HoloSync Audio Technology Can Change Your Life, by Bill Harris, Centrepointe Press, Beaverton, OR 2002. [The explanation of the science behind the use of audio tones to drive brain waves and create mental states for learning, creativity and more… , to balance right and left brain, and to provide very deep meditation and its benefits). This amazing system is highly recommended and is available through www.centrepointe.com .]
I went to see the home opener of a summertime inter-city league game for college players who want to make it to the majors. [Good luck. There are only 720 such jobs but, as has been said, there are 700 positions and someone’s got to fill them. And the smallest paycheck they can give you when you win the job is over half a million a year.]
“Baseball is like church.
Many attend but few understand.”
Just the other day, I was told that my grandson is gonna be a catcher. His coach told me.
His uncle was a catcher in high school. His grand-dad was a catcher for the team that won the state Class B slo-pitch championships.
His coach (his mother) was a two-time NFCA regional Division I All-Star catcher who was nationally-ranked in the top ten in three offensive categories; she earned a master’s degree in sports management while she was an assstant coach for a D-I college team while she played for a perennial national amateur championship club, played pro ball for two years and then did color commentary on TV in the third season, and then earned another master’s degree, that one in elementary education.
“His legs are buckled into clumsy shin guards; his face is hidden by the metal grille of a heavy mask…. His chest is covered with a corrugated protective pad, and his big mitt is thrust out as if to fend off destruction…. his field of vision gives him his own special view of the vast ballpark. In a sense, the game belongs to him. He is the catcher.”
Time, August 8th, 1955
“Catching is much like managing. Managers don’t really win games, but they can lose plenty of them. The same way with catching. If you’re doing a quality job, you should be almost anonymous.”
— Bob Boone, Kansas City catcher, in the 1989 season opener issue of AstroSports
“A good catcher is the quarterback, the carburetor, the lead dog, the pulse taker, the traffic cop and sometimes a lot of unprintable things, but no teams gets very far without one.”
– – Miller Huggins,
in The Complete Baseball Handbook by Walter Alston
“Consider the catcher. Bulky, thought-burdened, unclean, he retrieves his cap and mask from the ground (where he flung them, moments ago, in mid-crisis) and moves slowly again to his workplace. He whacks the cap against his leg, producing a puff of dust, and settles it in place, its bill astern, and then, reversing the movement, pulls on the mask and firms it with a soldierly downward tug. Armored, he sinks into his squat, punches his mitt, and becomes wary, balanced, and ominous; his bare right hand rests casually on his thigh while he regards, through the porticullis, the field and deployed fielders, the batter, the base runner, his pitcher, and the state of the world, which he now, for a waiting instant, holds in sway.”
— from “In the Fire”, by Roger Angell
Quotes from Baseball’s Greatest Quotations, ed. by Paul Dickson, HarperPerennial, New York, New York 1991.
“Coaches of tee-ball kids and the like are usually wholechild centered. As the youngsters get older and more skillful, coaches become learner-centered. After a couple of more years, the coaches are sport-centered, teaching strategies as well as more sophisticated techniques….”
Find out more (and read about the trap into which most coaches fall) in this very short series of excerpts from Coaching the Mental Game: Leadership Philosophies and Strategies for Peak Performance in Sports – and Everyday Life, by Harvey A. Dorfman, Taylor Trade Press (Rowman & Littlefield), New York 2003.
Harvey Dorfman, now deceased, lectured at major universities and for corporations on psychology, self-enhancement, management strategies, and leadership training.
The book “The Well of Creativity”, based on a series of interviews of Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Keith Jarrett, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi et alia by Michael Toms, arrived yesterday. I tore into it like a kid opening presents at his birthday party.
I have studied or read for years most of these people for years. Cameron’s “The Vein of Gold” arrived a few weeks ago. Jarrett’s music takes up a lot of space on my iTunes files, and links to his YouTube videos on improvsation are tucked away for regular enjoyment.
While Cameron is a source for those with writing block, she is also a source for those interested in writing or composing music.
Echoing what John Temple said about being the dream, Julia says simply “be the music”, and I’ve set up my keyboard synthesizer and begun a file for this kind of stuff:
Tab G is the next chapter due out in the e-book series entitled Summon The Magic: How To Use Your Mind to be a better athlete (or anything else you want to be).
My athletic days are over, unless you count the in-pool therapeutic walking, stretching and swimming I’ll be doing just as soon as the summer warmth returns to the pool.
But a review of this sixth chapter (“The Arts and Athletics: Using All Your Common Senses”) will help my musical inquiries as I seek to develop and train the small muscle groups in my upper distal extremities. Will that make me a phalangist?
Whatever gets your temperature rising is likely to be aided by 90 pages of excerpts drawn from educators, neuroscientists, performance psychologists, experts in movement disciplines, and two of the people you met earlier in the Je Ne Sais Quoi symposium.
The sections on developing and using kinesthetic imagery, brainwave entrainment, resonance, improvisation, vocal toning, proprioception, mindfulness, perception, sensory experience, rehearsal, concentration, attention, observation, and awareness skills will slowly get you en fuego.
Turn up the heat on your internal burners and get cooking.
As a follow-up to the recent series entitled “Je Ne Sais Quoi”, here are excerpts from The art of somatic coaching: Embodying skillful action, wisdom, and compassion, by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley California 2014.
Richard Strozzi-Heckler has a PhD in psychology and a sixth degree black belt in aikido. He has worked with hundreds of thousands of people over the last 40 years, including corporate executives, social and environmental justice leaders, Olympic and professional athletes, managers, political and military leaders, and inner-city gangs. He is been noted for developing a groundbreaking leadership program for the United States Marine Corps. He was named one of the top 50 executive coaches in The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching and in Profiles in Coaching. He is a pioneer in applying somatics to education, healthcare, leadership, team development, technology, and international piecework.
In the introduction that runs from page 1 through page 7, Dr. Heckler says:
“Many years ago I passed through a significant crossroads in my professional life. As a body-oriented psychotherapist, I had a full private practice of 20-25 people a week, I lead or co-lead two therapy groups a week, and I co-taught a week-long training seminar once a month. What became apparent over time was that the psychological diagnoses I needed to submit to insurance companies for my clients’ therapy didn’t apply to who they were. Although I had worked in residential psychiatric wards and served clients who suffer from serious psychological conditions, the vast majority of my clients were fully functional, fully contributing human beings. Their issues revolved around purpose, meaning, authenticity, living a rich emotional life, turning insight into action, transitioning from one stage to life to another, and navigating relationships…..
I sought a context in which my purpose is grounded in the spirituality that was inseparable from skillful action in the world….. I learned to collect my energy, to intensify, to cool it down, to break contact without breaking commitments, to trust the images formulated from my tissues, to release the muscular contractions adopted from society, to honor the language of the heart, to let love penetrate the surface, to be with the animating life source that makes us who we are…..
From this perspective the psychological symptoms that my clients presented were soon eclipsed by a vision of wholeness in which their actions, emotions, thinking, and energetic state were inextricably linked. The unexamined social patterns that they had inherited I now saw were integrated into their muscular, organ, and nervous systems. It became clear that it would be impossible to unpack their various issues without working directly through the body. Layers of complexity were revealed that paradoxically condensed into simple inquiries:
“What yearns to come to life?”
“What is complete?”
“What wants expression?”
“How do I enliven, or numb, myself?”
The center of gravity of the work was transformation, embodiment, and practices, not of unraveling symptoms. I saw that indulging their basic human dignity increased their capacity to be self educated, self-healing, and self generating.…
Everything in these pages has application to those who are interested in personal and societal evolution. As we face a time of unprecedented environmental disaster, a plague of violence, and an immoral legacy of poverty and disenfranchisement, it’s necessary that we wake up and respond with skillful, wise, and compassionate action. This book is a call for a radically different way to form our lives and our communities.…”
In the first chapter, Dr. Heckler builds on a ine from James Joyce about a certain Mr. Duffy who “lived a short distance from his body.” Heckler goes on to say:
“From a somatic point of view living any distance from our bodies is dodgy and the consequences harmful, even grave. Now we can scientifically ground, through technological advances in the emerging field of neuroscience, that distancing ourselves from our body places not only our physical health at risk, but our emotional health as well. Furthermore, being out of touch with our body limits our capacity to learn and evolve, and it dramatically reduces the possibility of meaningful relationships, as well as an authentic spiritual presence– surely all foundations for a fulfilled, satisfying life.”[Pages 9-10]
Heckler goes on to add:
“The institutionalized, rationalistic view that compartmentalizes our bodies, minds, emotions, spirits, and nature has arguably been a cause for the increase of violence, stress, isolation, and physical, emotional, and sexual trauma. If we do not live in our bodies we do not have to feel the pain of internal and external oppression…..
The primary difference of living in our bodies or at a distance from our bodies lies in the heart’s intent, i.e., what we pay attention to, how we pay attention, and in the very purpose of our attending. Most of us live out lives that we’ve unconsciously inherited, and we’re mimicking patterns of living that have been passed on to us by family, school, religion, government, economic institutions, and the media. We have lost touch with the rich, subjective life of being in the human body, upon which our entire experiences based…..
The contemporary interpretation of the body that has led us to the marginalization of feeling has its roots in the work of the French philosopher René Descartes. Writing in the 17th century, a time of interminable war, religious persecution, and a social order based on superstition, police and magic, Descartes was convinced that it was possible to alleviate this chaos by providing certainty through rational means.… His philosophy of rationalism, which is also conversationally referred to as Cartesian thinking, was an effort to free people from theological domino dogma and medieval witchcraft through an objective, impersonal map of the universe….. This transformation of knowledge effectively move the reins of power from the hands of the priests in church to the scientists and their emerging technology…..
Freely applied to humans, culture, nature and social policies,[this] emphasis on rationalistic thinking has stunted our emotional and spiritual literacy…. We employ reason and logic to determine our relationship with nature, with those we love, to teams, and within organizations. We’re so firmly entrenched in this way of seeing that we have become blind to it…..
In the rationalistic tradition, the body is viewed as a collection of anatomical parts that are organized, guarded and kept in check by a central command called the mind, which is separate from the body. In the separation of mind and body, energy, desire, feeling, emotion, sensation, and spirit are marginal, inconsequential phenomena. The body is used primarily for its capacity to serve the mind’s ability for rationalistic thought. The body carries the mind around in order that it may do the important work. Aside from feeding, cleaning, and having it appear respectable, there’s little need to attend to the body. When Descartes declared,”I think therefore I am,” he removed the body from Western philosophy in one clean cut. This position implies that there’s no legitimacy to sensing, feeling, moods, or emotions. It also validates that one can deny responsibility for any and all feelings, unless we can rationally come up with a good reason to have them. In this separation of mind and body, we have also separated ourselves from God, nature, as well as other human beings. Spiritual fulfillment can be found only outside the realm of the body; consciousness is something apart from the body. This two-worldview, which is a fundamental aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition, stresses actions in this life that will reserve us a place in the afterlife.
The body, in this view, is seen is a hindrance to one’s spiritual development. Sensual feelings and sexual desire are one’s moral downfall; intuition is illogical and therefore useless. It’s mandatory, therefore, to immediately crush any feelings that arise in the body in order not to be distracted from our heaven-bound intentions. This marked the beginning of a concern for respectability and righteousness they gained influence over the next 250 years. This shows up now in our denial of life the body. We live in anxiety and fear of our feelings, moods, desires, and emotions. In other words we are culturally taught to fear life.
The combination of extinguishing the voice of an embodied living spirit in humans with our unexamined devotion to materialism has placed us in a position analogous to the one Descartes faced over 300 years ago. His antidote of rationalism, and the subsequent splitting of mind and body, apply to a crisis of certainty has now become the breakdown. People are again living in a time of uncertainty, confusion and fear. To rely on our rational nature is no longer sufficient. To live the life society assigns us is no longer fulfilling. Material wealth does not guarantee a good life. By separating ourselves from nature we are poisoning our water, air, soil and bodies. Somatic coaching reinterprets what it means to live a fulfilled and successful life and challenges the dogma of rationalism. It offers a possibility in which human beings can creatively transform themselves and the world.”
In Chapters Two and Three of his book The Art of Somatic Coaching: Embodying Skillful Action, Wisdom, and Compassion. North Atlantic Books (2014) ISBN 978-1-58394-673-2
Heckler describes the differences and commonalities among teaching, coaching, the art of the martial arts sensei, and the development of humanistic psychology and the self-help movement.
“… Self–improvement is accepted as a way to progress and get ahead in life.
Beginning in the late 60s, whenGeorge Leonard coined the term the “human potential movement,” our national predisposition towards self-development took a new turn.
Psychology, a discipline less than 100 years old, was revived by new humanism. Theorists and clinicians like Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Fritz Perls, and Carl Rogers placed the person that the center of the therapeutic process instead of their symptoms. Therapists began facing their patients instead of sitting behind them as they lay down. They also begin to pay more attention to how the patient actually appeared in the treatment room instead of classifying their neurosis, complexes, and disorders in a rational manner. Many of these early thinkers introduced or were influenced by bio-cybernetics, bodywork, group therapy, encounter groups, T-groups, eastern meditation practices, and psychedelic drugs. Soon thereafter the concept of treating the whole person spawned the terms “holism,” “holistic health,” and ”mind-body-spirit.”…..
This development in humanistic psychology has more recently been followed by psychiatry moving toward more biochemical interventions (read: medication) and traditional psychotherapy becoming more embedded in a cognitive position and less inclusive of the body in the treatment room. Currently a psychiatric resident receives minimal and sometimes no training in practical psychotherapy.
At the same time the growing field of coaching has continued to represent the Cartesian mind-body split. That is, coaching primarily address is what the client is doing, separate from how they are being, how the self is inextricably linked to the actions and behaviors in which they’re engaged. Tips and techniques are provided so that the person coach will be able to do their sport, job, health, relationships, career, etc. in an improved way, much like behavior modification. This type of coaching does not take into account the whole of the person, the how of learning, the role of cultivating the self that allows one to be self-generating, self-healing, and self-educating.”
“… Somatic Coaching is distinct from conversational coaching in that it includes the physical world of sensations, temperature, weight, movement, streamings, pulsation, and vibrations, as well as images, thoughts, attitudes, yearnings, dreams, and language. Somatic coaching is also distinct from mind-body-spirit coaching in that it doesn’t see these three domains as separate but the human form as a unified space in which humans act, perceive, think, feel, sense, express emotions and moods, and live their spiritual longing.”
“While the physical scientists of the 17th and 18th century asked, “Where are we?” in the universe; and the social scientists of the 19th century inquired,”Who are we?” in our relationship to nature and the unconscious; we’re now at a time of history when the question is “How are we?” in our interconnectedness and interdependence with life.
I propose that by asking how have we so effortlessly destroyed our soul, polluted the air we breathe, and poisoned the water we drink; and how is it that we allow conflict to so quickly escalate to violence instead of evolving to generative solutions; and how do we participate in the growing gap between those that have and those that don’t opens the possibility of finding new solutions to these problems. I would also claim that one of the reasons that most conflict ends in violence is our inability to feel and sense; and that one of the reasons that there’s a growing separation between those that have and those that don’t have is our inability to feel and sense. Furthermore I would claim that are dwindling spiritual and moral health is arguably our inability to feel and sense.
This is the intent of Somatic Coaching: to train individuals, communities, and organizations to organize themselves muscularly, emotionally, socially, and spiritually to embody the ethic of environmental sustainability, of social equity, and the generative interpretation of conflict. This will pursue the territory of personal and collective healing, transformation of antiquated conditioning, and learning new skills and ways of being. In realizing this destiny as human beings we must embody pragmatic wisdom, grounded compassion, and skillful action.”
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D. is founder of the Strozzi work and of Strozzi Institute. A nationally known speaker, coach and consultant on leadership and mastery, he has spent four decades researching, developing, and teaching the practical application of Somatics (the unity of language, action, emotions, and meaning) to business leaders, executive managers and teams from Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, technology start-ups, non-profits, the U.S. government and military.
Richard is the author of eight books, including The Art of Somatic Coaching,The Leadership Dojo, In Search of the Warrior Spirit, The Anatomy of Change, Holding the Center, Being Human at Work, The Mind/Body Interface, and Aikido and the New Warrior. [I’ve read and recommend all of them.] His articles have appeared in Esquire, East West Journal, The Whole Earth Review, and numerous other publications. In October 2000, a Wall Street Journal cover story featured the groundbreaking leadership program developed by Richard for the United States Marine Corps.
He was named one of the Top 50 Executive Coaches in The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching, Jossey-Bass, 2004 and Profiles in Coaching, Linkage Publications, 2003. He is also the Honorary President of the Peruvian Coaching Association. He is the co-founder of the Mideast Aikido Project (MAP), which brings together Palestinians and Israelis through the practice of Aikido.
From 2002 to 2007 he was an advisor to NATO and the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR) General Jim Jones, who is now the National Security Advisor.
Richard has a Ph.D. in Psychology and is a sixth degree black belt in the martial art of Aikido. He also holds ranks in Judo, Jujitsu, and Capoeira.
Richard has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, Sonoma State University, Esalen Institute, Lone Mountain College, Naropa Institute, and the University of Munich. Richard was the 2009 William Dickson Leader-in-Residence for the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach.
The aikido master says, “You will learn how to give up your ground without giving up your center.”
The student says “What’s the difference?”
The master says “Center is the connection with your own sense of personal power. Ground is extending that power into the environment.”
The student says, “Give me an example.”
The master says, “Imagine yourself standing on a well-polished marble floor and you have wool sweat socks on. You can be centered, but you cannot be too well grounded. If you take off the sweat socks, you can ground yourself.”
We can learn to give up our ground while still keeping our center, our own sense of personal power and choice. We can learn to move in harmonious relationship to any incoming energy, any difficult situation, without giving up who we are.
Attention is a primary ingredient in embodiment and, at the same time, the connecting thread throughout our learning and development. When we are paying attention to what we are doing, we are both learning and encouraging learning. Our attention is the rudder that guides us through the world. It gives us direction, and it connects us to the current of energy that moves us. The act of paying attention creates a quality of awakening that expands us beyond the usual dreams. Cultivating this awareness enriches our lives because it tells us who we are and how we are.
In order to embody and use our self as a source of learning, it is necessary to identify with the life of the body. To live in our body and be aware of what we feel, touch, taste, hear, breathe, see and think, it is necessary to shift our attention
from analyzing and remembering to feeling and sensing. Bringing attention to our body vitalizes and empowers our actions. Without it, our life is mechanical; we go through the motions but are not with our self in a truly meaningful way. We can correctly form our arms around another for a hug, for example, but if we are not paying attention, it is only a shadow of the kind of warmth that can be communicated. Our attention is at work all of the time, probing into the world and back into ourselves. It is an innate skill; nothing needs to be invented. What we need to do, however, is to come into direct contact with our attention so that we can learn to use it to manifest meaning and wholeness.
The first principleof attention is that it is flexible and can be directed. It is attention that imbues the sensory organs with presence and vitality. With attention on your fingers and hands as your read a book, information will come to you about the weight of the book, the texture of the paper, the pressure of your fingers. You can direct your attention to the sounds in this room, or the next room, and a whole new set of information will come to you. Yet your hands
remain holding the book. Now take your attention to your memory of the last meal you ate. As your attention probes your memory, highlights of that last meal will appear, perhaps woven with tactile and taste sensations and emotions about those with whom you shared. The experience of holding the book remains. The sounds of the room remain, but now we are focused on something else. This power of
directing one’s attention is the key to embodying ourselves. By integrating this capacity, we have a way of bringing ourselves back to the experience of the life of the body and of anchoring ourselves in the present moment.
The second principle is that attention can vitalize or devitalize a situation. This is because it magnetizes energy. Where we place our attention, energy will follow. By turning the attention to a specific bodily function, we can gather information about that function and also initiate a change in that area and ultimately in our behavior. For example, if your attention concentrates on an ache or pain, you will find that it is not static and unchanging, but dynamic and moving, and the power of your attention can become a key factor in working with and lessening the pain. We can gain a better understanding of the numerous signals our body transmits concerning health and well-being.
The organ of attention has enormous possibilities for both healing and learning. If we place our attention on that which is life-giving and creative, that part of us will be nourished. If we place our attention on negativity, that will be cultivated. Sit comfortably with your eyes open and let your attention gaze out the window. Now bring your attention to the window frame, then to an object near you, then to your feet on the floor, now to the rhythm of your breath, now deep inside you to your core. As you shift attention, everything remains, but the power of attention illuminated and energized each one in turn. Everything exists at the same time, but our attention brings them into the foreground of our experience. We can illuminate our embodied states as well. Paying attention to what we are doing provides a spaciousness that allows self-inquiry to take place. We can literally open ourselves to participate in something that is larger that the boundaries we are normally accustomed to.
Through an ongoing personal discipline and practice, we can begin to contact an intelligence that is deep enough to be the source of our learning and precise enough to show us how to learn. This awareness is the basis for learning and transformation. When we place our attention in our body, we can begin to connect to our energy which informs us of our direction and meaning in life. If we respond from that energy, we are responding from that part of ourselves that is least conditioned. If we act from our energy, and not from our ideas, social images, or what others expect, we feel enriched with genuine expression and life.
The Body as a Functional Living Whole
(from The Anatomy of Change)
Somatics, a word derived from Greek, defines the body as a functional, living whole rather than as a mechanical structure. There is no split between the mind and the body; the soma as a unified expression of all that we think, feel, perceive and express. In the art and science of somatics, we are encouraged to become the source of our information by participating in our knowledge and self-discovery.
We become the source by contacting our body. In this way, we can bring to light the dimensions of gesture, stance, attitude, emotion, movement and that which is the foundation of all life: energy. This approach does not discount thoughts or thinking but integrates them with the how of our self. How we really are, in action, attitude and the way we relate to others, is a basis for learning by experience. If we embody our ideas and opinions, we can participate more deeply in who we are and who we may become; we have at our disposal the primary ingredient for learning: our self. In whatever situation, the most difficult imaginable, the most delightful, the most boring, we have on 24-hour call what is necessary for making a decision, for taking a risk, for choosing and responding.
When we learn how to work with our excitement, an aspect of ourselves that is rich with information and creativity comes to the surface.
In the first level, the student plays without knowing what is happening. He is lost in space. He sees nothing. Not only do the movements of his opponent seem to materialize by magic, but his own movements are beyond his control.
This stage is called Playing in the Dark.
Following this, the new student gains a foothold in the techniques and flow of movement; this is called Playing in the Water.
Then there is a mastering of technique in which the student demonstrates impeccable skill. Called Playing in the Light, this stage represents a shift from physical mastery to emotional control, an understanding of the philosophical elements of the art. This is the place where inner art is developed. This is also the place where many hit a wall, lose motivation, or get stuck.
Some move to the fourth level, Playing with the Crystal Ball, where concerns about strengths, skills, speed and other physical aspects become less important to growth and the student begins trying to read the opponent’s mind and set himself in the right place at the right time.
After further work at this level, the last level Playing with the Mind is found, in which the opponent must do what your mind silently orders him to do. Such control has no other purpose than to help your opponent evolve.
Exercises for Jo Kata Practice (11 minutes)
to develop flexibility, strength and a centered presence
“For the second year in a row an early fall storm soaks us with an inch of rain, followed by a robust sun. The air is thick and damp and the windows in the dojo steam over as the heat of moving bodies transforms the space into a translucent glaze of moisture. Despite the focused heat my waning garden reminds me it is not spring, as does the thickening light and the Vs of geese that arrow south. Mice, voles, and Brewer’s sparrows scurry in the underbrush, amending their rhythms to imminent change. As I harvest the last of the tomatoes, lettuce, and squash I’m reminded of what seeds were planted in the spring, both in the receptive earth and in my psyche. If we stop and quiet ourselves there’s a transparent abundance in this turning toward winter. Heeding our fragile place in its unfolding we are inevitably led to gratefulness. I perform a deep bow to the fence posts, to the corn, to the stones, to the gophers that ate the melons, to the emptiness of mind, to Life.
Our body is precisely the medium of exchange with this field of awareness we call Life. The body is life, it is the interface with life, it’s the ground in which we participate with the air, the falling leaves, the smile of a grandchild, the doe and its fawn darting through the live oaks. In concert with other bodies- waving our limbs, sighing and laughing, shouting to the night sky, walking into a shared unknown – we co-author a story that can be told an infinite number of ways, a pluralism that is mysteriously One. Our sentience is not a body in seclusion; it is birthed by our direct encounters with the terror of the night as well as the delight of a fresh Roma tomato dribbling off our chin; and everything in between. Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that our capacity for conscious reflection is the result of only partnering with our self, rather than with the world at large.
Here’s a profoundly simple way of practicing that partnership: Align along your vertical line, extend through the crown of the head up towards the heavens and through the soles of the feet down to the earth. Now draw in a breath and let the vertebrae and rib cage swell while you both settle and straighten. Do this again, each time feel, and imagine, that the breath is connecting the world with your most inner places. Pull the breath from the outermost edge of the cosmos and feed it to your cells and let it expand your soul, and your skin. Notice how it is all tied together: breath, tissue, sensation, community, energy, self, the Mystery. Now say “Thank You” from this Unity.
Whenever there is work requiring strength or courage,
‘Are there no warriors around today?’
The warrior has been with us since man and woman first stood upright, not only protecting our hearths but expressing our highest values. A warrior is someone who is always striving for self-mastery, to improve himself and better serve his goals. Being a warrior doesn’t mean winning or succeeding. But it does mean putting your life on the line. It means risking and failing and risking again, as long as you live.
The intrinsic virtues of the warrior include commitment, service, courage, loyalty, comradeship – belonging to the entire human family. The imperishable code of the warrior over time includes the qualities of loyalty, intensity, impassioned, service (often expressed in the protection of others), calmness under fire, patience, strength of will, awareness of limitations, and self-mastery.
The modern warrior is grounded in a spiritual discipline and is at the same time committed to compassionate service in the world. In the traditions of both the East and the West, the warrior serves in a noble and necessary position in the overall well-being of society, but the intrinsic virtues of the warrior belong to the entire human family, in each human heart that hungers for a passionate and whole-hearted life, the calling to be tested, that part of us that seeks to be challenged to extend beyond ourselves. We long for the encounter that will ultimately empower us with dignity and honor.
There are certainly a legacy that distinguishes the warrior fro war. The sacred path of the warrior is part of an ancient moral tradition that includes the Indian warriors Krishna and Arjuna from the Bhagavad-Gita, Homer’s hero Odysseus who outwitted his opponents rather than slay them, and the post-16th-century Japanese Samurai who, in his finest hour, administered a peaceful government while still maintaining a personal discipline and integrity to not only the martial arts but also to the fine arts of calligraphy, flower arranging, and poetry.
In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets, Richard Strozzi Heckler, North Atlantic Books, 1992.