3.4 Attunement Practices

3.4 Attunement practices

During the process of building my attunement capacity in discovery workshops, I identified several attunement practices that were useful in my performance practice. The practices are to: yield, drop-in, dilate, and imagine. I describe my experience of these practices as follows:

Yield is a term used in BMC practice to indicate a quality of resting that is “in contact” with the environment (Aposhyan 1999, p. 64). It is based on the BMC premise that yielding forms the basis of the ability to act effectively in the world. From a BMC perspective, it is about a state of being rather than doing. Yielding is a quality of resting that allows the experiencer to become discerning about the most appropriate push, reach, pull movement pattern to enact, based on their contact with the environment. I have found this way of attuning to the environment particularly effective in the development of my attunement capacity, and in my ability to sense into immersive conditions.

To ‘drop-in’ is to focus attention on the sensations of the body in a more heightened way than in everyday experience. Attention might focus on the breath, the vocal folds, the hands, the back, the feet, or any other part of the body. It is simply a matter of focusing attention on some body-centered thing and holding one’s attention there for a period of time until a sensate shift occurs. In Focusing terms, it is tuning into the felt-sense in a way that can help “bring in what’s missing” (Weiser Cornell 2005, p. 239). It is an attunement process that actively shifts everyday attention to a more heightened attentive awareness of lived experience. I note that, to varying degrees, the embodiment practitioners I work with use the term ‘drop-in’ to describe the sensation of being in a more highly attuned state. This sensation of dropping-in is also akin to Buddhist meditation. Meditation is a process that develops awareness of the present moment by paying attention to the breath (Dhiman 2008). The breath is used as an object of concentration in many forms of meditation training because “it is always available to us” (Bodhi 1994/2000, p. 80).

In my experience, to ‘drop-in’ is, at first, indeed a feeling of ‘dropping’. Usual everyday thinking does seem to have head-centred sensations, so many embodiment exercises begin with taking attention to the feet on the floor or the buttocks on the chair as a way of shifting that focus. This process has a gravitational pull that feels like dropping, particularly when standing or sitting. As my practice grows, I am less inclined to experience this phenomenon exclusively as ‘dropping’. I now have multiple entry points as I embrace the multi-dimensional, omnidirectional structure of the body. When I engage in this process now, the experience is more about simply focusing attention on some body-centred thing and sensing into the shift that comes. I still use the term “drop-in”, however, because it is useful short hand amongst embodiment practitioners who tend to have common understandings of this colloquial term. This quality of attention initiates a process of accessing experience differently. Consciously directing attention to body sensations and perceptions helps bring awareness to the ways in which sensorial and perceptual encounters are “given concretely, sensuously and intuitively” (Gallagher & Zahavi 2012, p. 99).

To dilate is to expand awareness in a way that can hold multiple body-centred sensations and perceptions in focus at once. In Focusing terms, as attention continues on the ‘felt sense’, over time it “fills out” so that more is present (Weiser Cornell 2005, p. 239). For example, I might tune into the sensation of my feet touching the floor, and then dilate that experience by noticing the texture of the floor itself. From there I notice the quality of the contact between feet and floor, yielding ever more foot onto the floor. I might dilate further to sense the atmosphere of the particular place where I am located by noticing the temperature of the air, the light, the atmosphere, the space, and so forth. The idea is not to shift attention from one thing to another but to build, over time, a thicker experience of sensation and perception, whereby multiple things might be held simultaneously in attention. This quality of attention brings forth an expansive and different way of accessing experience.

Activating the imagination, in this context, is to expand and augment the everyday experiences of visceral phenomena. Attuning to the fundamental structures of lived experience is a radically imaginative and expansive act. For example the process might begin by sensing into the feet on the floor, then dilating that experience to include the floor, the atmosphere and so forth. The process might then expand by using the imagination to endow the feet with the attributes of another sense. For example what is it to see with the feet or hear with the feet? This act of imagination is deeply embodied. It expands awareness and develops imaginative ways to access experience differently. It might be argued that this act of imagination induces an experience not unlike the neurological condition of synaesthesia whereby multiple senses are triggered by a single sensory stimulus. According to Cytowic, although synaesthesia can be difficult to cope with, it is “an additive experience” that allows for a more complex and “multi-sensory evaluation” of experience (1995, p. 92, p. 167). From a focusing perspective, taking time to slowly increase contact with the felt sense in an imaginative way can lead to the “point where the felt sense seems to have its own needs and wants” (Weiser Cornell 2005, p. 239).

The words that are used to describe these attunement practices are not new. Their linguistic style is decidedly colloquial. This means they can operate as a short-hand signifier for a more complex corporeal process within the context of a workshop setting amongst like-minded practitioners. When these practices are operating at optimal capacity there is a particular experience that many practitioners recognise as the “sweet-spot”. To experience the ‘sweet-spot’ is to feel and attune more precisely to the forces that act upon lived experience.  My experience of the sweet-spot provides visceral evidence of the “force that is evolving throughout the organised world” as described by Bergson (1911/2005, p. 140). In discovery workshops and in performance I have learnt to consciously attune-to the downward force of gravity and the upward force of life a process I will describe in subsequent chapters.

In brief, the sweet-spot, for me, is experienced as a visceral sensation that occurs when I feel pregnant with creative possibility. As Grosz points out the forces that act upon the body are a “process that produces things and the reservoir from which they are produced” (2011, p. 45). Experiencing the ‘sweet-spot’ is a process of deep listening; it is present, it is live, it hovers in-between the points where the manifestations of life collide, interact and intertwine. The ‘sweet-spot’ can be found in-between our unrehearsed liveness, our retention/recollection/ anticipation of, our potential for, our choice to, our commitment made, and our idea realized. The sweet-spot is the experiential shift that occurs when attuning to what Bergson refers to as “the great blast of life”, where lived experience is viscerally understood “as a progress” (1911/2005, p. 141 – 142). The sweet-spot for me allows for “a glimpse of the fact that the living being is above all a thoroughfare, and that the essence of life is in the movement by which life is transmitted” (Bergson 1911/2005, p.142).  The experience of learning and applying these corporeal practices was greatly enhanced by the following processes of reflective practice.


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