The Situated Body: Listening in and out

Jonathan’s workshop ‘The Situated Body’ invited to develop a response to our experience in the land around us, based on the sensitivities we’ve been developing towards our bodily experience.

I was interested structuring attention across internal and external environments, drawing on experiences of Feldenkrais work, meditation and environmental audio field recording aesthetics – to explore how I might bring the same quality of attention that I would bring to bear on listening to sounds in a remote rural landscape (birds, wind, insects, distant motors etc.) to my internal experience – visceral, postural, muscular, cardio-respiratory and skin sensations. Previously, in the context of meditations and body-scan exercises I’ve had a hard time maintaining my focus on these sensations, being easily diverted by complicated, self-conscious judgements as to whether I was doing things ‘right’ or simply drifting off into daydreaming about what I think I should be doing tomorrow, or something someone told me some time ago etc.

I’ve drafted a guided sensorial scanning experience, that could be presented as a form of listening meditation workshop for a group of people, or undertaken individually. I think it makes a big difference being in a beautiful rural setting like Bundanon/Riversdale, with its abundance of birdlife, rivers, insects, other animals and wide open spaces, but will be interested to see how I go doing this in an urban setting with lots of cars, music, people and various alarms and sirens.

The idea of folding internal and external experience picks up on Lizzie’s observations of the maps we created, when invited by Maggie to create a map of our brains: the maps many of us made, could just as well have been maps of our experience of the world, a diagram describing relations between modes of engagement.

Structuring experience and perception between internal and external environments.

Wet your hands with a little water, and wipe this water onto your face, neck and ears; focus your attention towards the sensation of the air as it moves around your body.
How do you register the direction and intensity of the breeze as it moves around your body? Can you imagine these changes in intensity and direction as changes in air pressure: the wind around you as a fluid moving around and within the landscape surrounding you …the ebb and flow of air pressure systems circulating over the land, and the gradual transformation of these currents from one minute to another; from one sunrise to another; from one season to another; from one year to another.

Now draw your attention inward, toward the sensations arising from your chest, thorax and pelvis, focusing specifically on sensations that describe changes in the state of the various muscles inside this area of your body: the expansion and contraction of the muscles in your chest and ribs that accompany your breathing, and the extension of your breath and subtle, moment-to-moment postural adjustments to the muscles in your pelvis and shoulders: subtle changes in tonus across the volume of your torso.

Consider the irregularities of these sensations as they rise and fall from your awareness, the meandering rhythm of these sensations and reflections, in relation to your recent experience of the air around you.

Directing your attention back outwards now, to the sounds of the environment around you: the birds, flies buzzing around you, the engines in the distance… Can you hold these sensations in your attention and also feel the acoustic quality of the landscape around you: the way that the various sounds you hear travel around the space: the subtle echoes and reverberations that tell you what kind of space you are in  – that you are here, and not in your bathroom; not in an underground car park; a desert, or a cathedral…

Imagine now a circle drawn around you, outward into the land around you, as far as you can hear. Listen for what you can hear that is located directly in front of you, can you hear anything at all? Use the sounds you can hear all around you to identify the presence or absence of sounds directly in front of you – as if a line where drawn from the front of your body, outward to the horizon.

Turning our attention back to the feel of the air around you, listening to the subtle reverberations and echoes that tell you about the place your in, can you imagine this experience as an experience of density? The air around you as a diffuse but tangible and dynamic substance. What do your sensations of your skin, smell, ear, nose and throat tell you about the quality of the air around you, and, by extension, the quality of the land you are in.

Moving back inside your body, turn your attention from the feeling of the air around you, to the feeling of the air inside you: the sensation of each breath on the inside of your nose, your throat, tongue and deep into your lungs, taking care to note the subtle shifts in what comes to your attention, between the sensations on the inside of your nose, the roof of your mouth, and inside your throat, taking time to appreciate the dynamics of your focus as it shifts between these sensations from the different parts of your respiratory tract.

Focusing attention back out the land around you, can you listen to the sounds around you according to pitch, listening specifically to sounds that lay in the higher frequency range: the birds, insects, leaves rustling, grasses. Can you experience these sounds as clusters of high pitched sounds increasing and decreasing in dennsity? Can you imagine the negative form of all the frequencies you aren’t hearing, as defined by what you can hear – where within this spectrum of frequencies is greatest amount of silence?

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