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1. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 3

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 3

part 3 of a 2 hour gestalt therapy session on awareness with actress bel baca BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


2. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 5

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 5

part 5 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness with actress bel baca. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


3. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 1

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 1

part 1 of a 2 hour gestalt therapy session on awareness with actress bel baca. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


4. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 9

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 9

part 9 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness by actress bel baca BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


5. FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER moshiach comes to town

FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER moshiach comes to town

the vilna gaon dons beggar\'s clothes and goes out of town to do penance. on the way home there are some strange happenings. original music & images added to a retelling of the traditional jewish story. How can I justify the wild associative leaps that I make in this video? For example, by substituting Netanyahu for the Vilna Gaon, and Barak Obama for Moshiach? The answer is that I am following the formula of Nachman of Breslav, when he writes, "my Torah is completely behinot (hebrew: "associations"). A string of intuitive associations that generates a work salad, such as Nachman's "Likutei Moharan" (hebrew: "collected essays") is based on inductive rather than deductive logic. Inductive logic was taught by Francis Bacon and Georg Hamann within the Christian tradition, and no doubt Nachman found similar sources within the Jewish tradition he studied. What follows is my own essay about how inductive thinking is the key to understanding Nachman of Breslav. Since most of my videos also are constructed inductively, it is an important essay to read if you wish to make sense of what I am trying to do in the videos you have here on the net. ........................................... .... FRANKLYN WEPNER fwep@earthlink.net June 5, 2009 LM 4: BACON, HAMANN AND NACHMAN CONTENTS (1) INTRODUCTION (2) BACON TO HAMANN TO NACHMAN (3) BACON AND PERLS (4) LM 4 (5) HAMANN ON LANGUAGE: (a) imagery ("bilder") (b) analogy (c) parataxis (d) paradox (e) multiple levels of language (f) affective terminology (6) CONCLUSION REFERENCE: "JOHANN GEORG HAMANN, BY JAMES O'FLAHERTY (1) INTRODUCTION FW: The Breslaver Hassidic movement as it is set up and operates today is an introverted sect, in contrast to the Chabad Hassidic movement which is set up and operates today as an extroverted sect. Breslavers tend to keep to themselves, while Chabadniks drive around town in Mitzvah Tanks seeking wayward Jews as potential recruits. But opposite as the two sects are in that respect, one thing they have in common is an aversion to "philosophy" in its traditional academic sense. Both sects condemn "philosophy" as "chochmot chizoniot" (external wisdom) or "avodah zorah" (strange work). even through ironically they both embody philosophy in the most profound manner possible. Breslav is largely Jewish neo-Platonism, while Chabad is largely Jewish rationalist Aristotelianism. However, since, of course, their educational curriculums contain no Philosophy 101 course. they pay the price of ignorance and intolerance as a result. The Chabad press, for example, once published Nissan Mindel's excellent "The Philosophy of Chabad", but today that book is almost impossible to find, and Chabad has no plans to republish it. The book is being supressed most likely because in that book Mindel contends that Chabad is ideologically within the tradition of Moses Maimonides' "Guide For The Perplexed", which, as everybody except Chabadniks themselves know, is ideologically within the tradition of Aristotle. Breslavers are even more anti-rational than Chabadniks, since their theory base is primarily neo-Platonic mysticism. Merely mention the word Plato at a Breslaver shul on the Sabbath, and you can be sure nobody will invite you to dinner! Or go to a Breslaver mikvah after demonstrating your philosophical insights concerning the writings of Nachman, and there is a good chance that after you emerge from the holy waters you will not find the clothes you hung up! FW: Another price that Hasidic sects pay for ignoring their intellectual roots is mistranslating the writings of their own originators. The originators, fortunately, were profound philosophers, but much of what they are philosophizing is wasted on their disciples, who are preachers of the sect rather than teachers of the Word. Preachers of a sect aim at building up the sect by glorifying their colleagues, in this case the "tzaddikim" (Hebrew: pius ones) or "talmid chachams" (Hebrew: wise students, students of wisdom) of the local congregation. Teachers, on the other hand, have a primary loyalty to the subject matter they teach, i.e., to the truth. By translating the phrase "talmid chacham" as "wise student" or "Torah scholar" rather than as "student of wisdom", the deeper reference of the word "chochmah" (wisdom) to the right pillar of the tree of life, or inductive logic, goes into the trash can, and we end up with the notion that anybody who sect leaders designate as "wise student" or "Torah scholar" is thereby empowered to serve as a spiritual guide. But preachers are not necessarily teachers, and so most talmid chacham's today are serving the needs of the sect rather than propagating the message of the sect founder. Thus, for example, Nachman's emphasis on the individual's search for God by "hitbod'dut" (being alone with God) is these days transformed into a typical cult emphasis on groupie gatherings, mob hysteria, guru adoration, nonsense "bubbeh maysehs" (Yiddish: grandmother stories), 18th century sect uniforms and scribbling the name of Nachman of Breslav on public buildings. Have you heard, for example, the bubbeh mayseh about how Nachman himself is sitting up there somewhere near God's footstool sending letters or emails to the chosen few?! What ever happened to the basic belief of Judaism that God is One, not two or three or whatever? FW: But fools step in where angels fear to tread, as the saying goes, and so this essay is all about the roots of the Breslaver Hasidism in the neo-Platonic tradition as this was modified by Francis Bacon in the scientific renaissance of the 16th century. As if this topic is not heretical enough, I will in this work find much of the support for my contentions in the writings of a Christian theologian whose writings appeared in Europe not far from the doorstep of Nachman, fifty years or so before Nachman wrote his main work, his "Collected Essays" (Hebrew: Likutei Moharan). Now, I am not at all claiming here that Nachman plagiarised Johann Georg Hamann, since it is extremely unlikely that a person growing up in the communities that Nachman did had direct contact with the work of Hamann. But the mere historical fact that the two authors published books dealing with similar topics in a similar manner in the same historical period certainly suggests that they both were tapping parallel Christian and Jewish threads of the religious world that flourished in 18th and 19th century Eastern Europe. One can muse that perhaps Nachman during his occasional trips to Lemburg for medical treatment or to dialogue with members of the Haskalah movement thriving there did come upon a Yiddish translation of something by Hamann or by one of the followers of Hamann, but to date there is little basis for such fantasies. FW: My goals in this essay are modest. I will make use of an excellent commentary upon the work of Hamann by James O'Flaherty, his "Johann Georg Hamann", Twayne Publishers, and merely demonstrate how the same six key ideas which, he maintains, underlie the work of Hamann can be used as a royal highway to quickly penetrate what appears to be in the writings of Nachman of Breslav an impenetrable hermeneutic jungle. As a prelude to my interweaving of Hamann and Nachman, I will tap a bit of the philosophical tradition which underlies both authors, in particular the work of Francis Bacon who lived in the 16th century. Why Francis Bacon? Because even though Hamann and Nachman are often cited as the epitome of anti-rationalism, yet at the heart of both authors is a sort of logic which is quite profoundly rational. We will contrast inductive logic, what Bacon calls concrete, analogical logic based upon juxtaposing ideas, with deductive logic, which is abstract, mathematical, systematic, and based upon arranging ideas in syllogisms. Once we grasp this distinction between the two types of logic, we will understand why in essays that embody reasoning of the inductive sort, Hamann and Nachman can tell us - without fibbing - to avoid like the plague "philosophy" or "reason" and rely upon faith. The two theologians simply are splitting hairs between induction (which they like) and deduction (which they do not like). They mystify us, however, by calling deduction "philosophy" and induction "kabbalah" or "Judaism or "the Word of God". But obviously any philosophy or theology worth the name must incorporate both sorts of thinking. So let's stop mixing up apples and pears and recognize both of them as fruit! The Word of God is smart enough to encompass both the left pillar of sefirot (deduction, differentiation, creation, the downward path), and the right pillar of sefirot (induction, integration, redemption, the upward path back to God). We are dealing, after all, with the dialectical tradition of mainstream Judaism, within which Chabad appeals to folks that stress the left pillar, while Breslav appeals to folks that stress the right pillar. For the Catholics analogous slots are occupied by the Dominicans (rationalists) and the Franciscans (pietists), respectively. O'Flaherty says it well: O 87. A superficial analysis of Hamann's prose may result in the conclusion that its all too frequent obscurity is rooted in sheer irrationalism. This is, however, by no means the case. Its obscurity derives for the most part from an excessive use of intuitive reason rather than from true irrationalism - quite a different matter. Having seen to what extent Hamann is committed to intuitive or analogical reasoning, while at the same time rejecting the abstractions of the Enlightenment, we can more readily understand why he alternates between praise and vilification in his references to reason. Thus, when he makes such statements as "Faith has need of reason just as much as reason needs faith", "Without language we would have no reason, without reason no religion," As soon as one knows what reason is, all conflict with revelation ceases, since Hamann is obviously referring to what he considers the legitimate use of reason." FW: Most of the essays that constitute Nachman's Likutei Moharan anthology would serve as examples of Nachman's use of intuitive reason, of induction, and I have here merely selected LM 4 arbitrarily from the list. Like the others, the overall structure of LM 4 consists of a Houdini magical demonstration of how just about anything can be seen as an aspect of anything else, without losing the encompassing subordination of particulars to emerging generalities. The longer the process of finding associations and aspects (Hebrew: "behinot") goes on, the more the series of particular items coalesces into higher and higher levels of integration and encompassing general ideas. But let's now zoom in and be specific. On the side of the particulars Nachman cites at the outset a Talmudic yarn calculated to boggle any deductively oriented mind and delight the imagination of most 5 year olds. Here is the Talmudic fable. LM 4:10 Rabbah bar bar Chanah recounted: One time we were traveling on a ship and we saw this fish in whose nostrils was sitting a mudeater. The fish died and the water tossed it about and cast it ashore. It destroyed sixty cities. Sixty cities then ate from it. Sixty cities salted its flesh. And from one eyeball they filled three hundred kegs with oil. When we returned after twelve months time, we saw them sawing planks from its bones with which to rebuild those cities. (Bava Batra 73b) FW: And on the other end of the chain of exegesis in LM 4 Nachman presents his final inductively derived generalization. LM 4:11. This (the above Talmudic story) is the explanation of the opening verse: "I am God your Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery." FW: The entire essay LM 4 is a string of associations and analogies that begins with the ship, the fish, the mudeater, the cities, the oil and the bones and gradually arrives at a level of intuitive wisdom sufficiently profound to qualify as an important contribution to our grasp of the meaning of God's role in the Exodus saga. You will see, of course, that during this intuitive, inductive process of "behinot" there are very few abstract, deductive syllogisms of the sort "if A and B, therefore C". The process is mostly intuitive leaps of the sort, "this is an aspect of that, and that is an aspect of something else". My project, then, outrageous as it might appear to be at the outset, is to apply an account of the methodology of Christian theologian Johann Georg Hamann, in an effort to decode the compositional procedure which Nachman has followed in this LM 4 essay. First I will set out some simple logical rules that Francis Bacon gave us in the 16th century, and then I will present a grid of six linguistic techniques which, according to O'Flaherty, 18th century Romanticism overlaid on Bacon's framework. In a word, 16th century Bacon plus 18th century Romanticism together give us a key to decode much of the vast, profound, Scriptural and kabbalistic tapestry which is the work of either Hamann or Nachman of Breslav. I am grateful to O'Flaherty for making these connections clear to me and encourage you also to profit from the work of an excellent teacher by reading his book. Just substitute Moses for Jesus as you read and your Jewish ego will be immune to indoctrination! (2) FROM BACON TO HAMANN TO NACHMAN Here then, to start off, is a brief chapter summarizing the contribution of Francis Bacon concerning these matters. My text is simply a presentation of the succinct summary given us by Vatican priest Frederick Copleston in his "History of Philosophy", Volume III. But Hamann and Nachman of Breslav are figures of the late18th century, and so in their work a tradition of Romantic style exegesis and poetry overlays and masks the underlying rigorous logical foundation provided by Bacon. Bacon's theory of induction is the philosophical seed of which Hamann and Nachman are glorious flowerings. For what appears in their work to be the exact opposite of scientific rigor is indeed, as I shall demonstrate here, a meticulously devised associative network of the most profound logical interconnections. Let us begin, therefore, with the basic logical principles of Francis Bacon, which are spelled out quite clearly by Copleston in his presentation of the influence of the new Renaissance sciences on philosophy. C 289. As a preliminary, one may remind oneself of the two elements of scientific method, namely the observational and inductive side and the deductive and mathematical side. The first aspect of scientific method, namely observation of the empirical data as a basis for induction and for discovering causes, was stressed by Francis Bacon. C 300. [According to Bacon] the purpose of science is the extension of the dominion of the human race over nature; but this can be achieved only by a real knowledge of nature; we cannot obtain effects without an accurate knowledge of causes . . . The syllogism (deduction) consists of propositions; and propositions consist of words; and words express concepts. Thus, if the concepts are confused and if they are the result of over hasty abstraction, nothing which is built upon them is secure. Our only hope lies in true induction. . . finding the truth may proceed from sense and the perception of particulars to immediately attainable axioms and thence gradually and patiently, to more general axioms. . . this is the true way. The mind proceeds from a careful and patient examination of particulars to the interpretation of nature. . . . Induction starts with the operation of the senses; but it requires the co-operation of mind, though the mind's activity must be controlled by observation . . . Bacon rejects the syllogism on the ground that induction must take its rise in the observation of things, of particular facts or events, and must stick to them as closely as possible. The logicians wing their way at once to the most general principles and deduce conclusions syllogistically . . . In induction we proceed in the opposite direction to that in which we proceed in deduction. C 302. But to attain a certain knowledge of nature is not so easy or simple as it may sound at first hearing, for the human mind is influenced by preconceptions and prejudices which bear upon our interpretation of experience and distort our judgments. It is necessary, then, to draw attention to "the idols and false notions" which inevitably influence the human mind and render science difficult of attainment unless one is aware of them and warned against them. Hence Bacon's famous doctrine of "the idols". There are four main types, the idols of the tribe, the idols of the cave or den, the idols of the market place and the idols of the theater . . . (a) The "idols of the tribe" are those errors, the tendency to which is inherent in human nature and which hinder objective judgment. For example, man is prone to rest content with that aspect of things which strikes the senses . . ."for what a man would like to be true, to that he tends to give credence". Further the human mind is prone to indulge in abstractions, and it tends to conceive as constant what is really changing or in flux. (b) The "idols of the den" are the errors peculiar to each individual, arising from his temperament, education, reading and the special influences which have weighed with him as an individual. These factors lead him to interpret phenomena according to the viewpoint of his own den or cave. (See Plato's metaphor of the cave.) (c) The "idols of the market place" are errors due to the influence of language . . . Sometimes words are employed when there are no corresponding things. (d) The "idols of the theater" are the philosophical systems of the past, which are nothing better than stage plays representing unreal worlds of man's own creation. C 305. The best demonstration is experience. But it is necessary to make a distinction. Mere experience is not enough . . . True experience is planned, . . . proceeding by an orderly and methodically inductive process. What, then, is true induction, positively considered? Human power is directed to or consists in being able to generate a new form in a given nature. (Read: a new gestalt in a new situation, here and now.) From this it follows that human science is directed to the discovery of the forms of things. Form does not refer to the final cause; the form or formal cause of a given nature is such that "given the form, the nature infallibly follows". It is the law which constitutes a nature. . . . the primary task is to prepare a "sufficient and good natural and "experimental history" based on the facts (Read: what Hegel labels an "objective history" in contrast to our subjective illusions.) . . . These tables having been constructed, the work of induction really begins (Read: what Nachman is referring to when he says, "my Torah is entirely behinot", i.e., a string of associations and interpretations.) . . . which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at. (For example, the "existential message of the dream", which emerges at the end of a three hour gestalt dreamwork session, which is what Maimonides labels the unripe fruit of prophecy now ripened into a Word of God.) (3) BACON AND PERLS FW: But before we jump into the great ocean, the turbid waters of inductive interpretations and Romantic theological poetry that is the work of Hamann and Nachman, let us stop at the banks of the ocean and examine a rather clearcut version of the same process, a contemporary example cut from the same cloth. I refer to the Gestalt Therapy lore of Frederick Perls, which while it makes no pretense of being the basis of a religious sect, probably has attracted more devotees worldwide than the opus of either Hamann or Nachman of Breslav. Perls gives the seeker after truth a rather simple task to explore. He tells me, his gestalt therapy client, to talk about what pops into my awareness and to stay in the here and now. Focusing this process on a dream raises the efficiency level, but just shooting the breeze also will yield useful results. Now, if I accept Fritz's invitation and set out on this verbal monologue, a mysterious sequence of events is likely to unfold. As I listen to what comes out of my mouth and respond to those sounds, a sort of instantaneous feedback system is generated. In fact, it is genesis in the most profound biblical sense. For lo and behold, I begin to create a world. I am operating, as says Maimonides in his "Guide For The Perplexed", "in the image of God". For I am copying the manner in which God does His creating. We need to distinguish the path of Fritz Perls from the path of Sigmund Freud in these matters. For if the therapist has me lie down while I do my dreamwork monologue, and if he hides behind me and limits much of his function to being a tape recorder documenting my output, then the setting is Freudian. But if, on the other hand, the therapist takes an active role, helping me to take responsibility for my actions and deal actively with the impediments to truth which come up along the way, then we have the Gestalt approach. From the theological point of view, the crucial element that Perls and Freud share here is that language is the medium for a truth search, and that man speaking is paralleling God creating His world. FW: Entering even further into theological analogies to psychological processes, do we not have here also the unfolding of the love affair of Adam and Eve, as I, the subject, the kabbalistic First Adam, emanate language, the object, Eve from my own being and then precede to constantly impregnate it/her with my ideas as my dreamwork monologue goes on and on? Just label me, as Nachman does, the Talmid Chacham, wise student learning as I go along, and label my verbal output "my world", and we have the makings of a kabbalistic mystical system, with chochmah (Hebrew: wisdom) impregnating binah (Hebrew: building a world) with ideas. In the neo-Platonic version of the kabbalistic tradition, all this is unfolds on the level of pure Platonic ideas, known as "sefirot". The Hebrew word "sefirah" means "number", as in the use of numbers by Pythagoras in Greek philosophy to relate theological truth. In terms of the Romanticism of the 18th century I am, furthermore, during the course of my Gestalt monologue generating "poetry", in the sense of an emotionally grounded form of linguistic action. Returning to Francis Bacon, let me repeat the previous quote and we will explore what else we may learn from it. C: Human science is directed to the discovery of the forms of things. Form does not refer to the final cause; the form or formal cause of a given nature is such that "given the form, the nature infallibly follows". It is the law which constitutes a nature. . . . The primary task is to prepare a "sufficient and good natural and "experimental history" based on the facts. . . These tables having been constructed, the work of induction really begins . . which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at. FW: Let us interweave these words of Bacon with the Gestalt therapy monologue. The monologue of here and now verbal expression is part of the flow of here and now contact experiences. These experiences constitute what Bacon labels an objectively real "experimental history based on the facts", and what Hegel labels an "objective history" of real experiences. Then, "these tables having been constructed the work of induction really begins, which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at". The positive affirmation that is the result of the work of induction is a new idea which is the result of "Platonic collection", i.e., gestalt formation or a figure emerging from a ground here and now. In Gestalt dreamwork, this could be, for example, the "existential message of the dream" that might occur to the protagonist after three hours of exploring his objective history in the here and now dreamwork process. The protagonist is working his way up from specific concrete contact moments, weak gestalts (Perls), low level monads (Leibniz), some would say angels (Maimonides), towards more and more encompassing strong gestalts, monadologies, some would say archangels. Maimonides labels them "cherubim", since the Hebrew root is "karov" (near), and cherubim are closer to the oneness that is God than are ordinary angels. The new idea emerging from the void of not knowing the answer is what Bacon labels "the form of things", the "law which constitutes its nature". He is referring to the distinction between matter and form, the form being the idea which is the gestalt or pattern which man imposes upon the items of his sensory and motor experience. Nachman says in LM 1:1, "The Jew must always focus on the inner intelligence/idea of every thing, and bind himself to the wisdom and inner idea that is to be found in each thing. This so that the idea which is in each thing may enlighten him, that he may draw closer to God through that thing." We already have here the logical seed upon which Nachman built his LM 4, but as a transition into the text of Nachman let us see what his contemporary Hamann has to say concerning similar matters. Hamann is a convenient bridge here, linking Francis Bacon with Nachman of Breslav. O: While it is correct to say that Hamann stands in the empirical tradition of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Hume, the important qualification must be added that for him experience is always crystalized in language. There exists, of course, an inner correlate of the objective facts of language, the invisible essence of our soul which is conjoined with the outer correlate by an "incomprehensible bond", which he describes, invoking religious terminology, as a "sacrament". But whatever the nature of the inner correlate, it is the evidence of the objective facts of language to which Hamann appeals, and from which he draws inferences as to the nature of mind and of reality. "I concern myself with the letter and with what is visible and material" . . . In his view God is above all a speaking God, indeed an Author: "God reveals Himself; the Creator of the World is a Writer". It is always God's Word which evokes our rational powers in the first place. Hamann employs a sexual metaphor in this connection, stating that our reason must be "impregnated" by the "seed of the divine Word". FW: It is this mysterious freely associating monologue in the here and now, this mix of thinking and speaking unimpeded by the distractions of everyday cause and effect logic, which is the open sesame which for inductive "science" (from the Latin, "scire", to know) unleashes something analogous to The Word. C: Such unity as man possesses is mysterious in its origins, and derives from a source which lies outside of himself. Only through the individual positive response to the Logos can man's collective powers of faith, passion, and reason be brought into harmony. Otherwise they fall all too easily into strife with one another. For Hamann God is the One in whom all opposites coincide, and it is this principle of the coincidentia oppositorum which, embodied in the Logos and manifested above all in the "form of a servant" in which Christ appeared, which succeeds in reconciling the opposites within the human psyche. . . . "Here on this earth there is no possibility of a metamorphosis or transfiguration into the divine nature, but only the old message of rebirth". FW: Jews do not need the allusion to Jesus as "the form of a servant". In LM 4, which we are considering here, Nachman attributes to Moses the same function. LM 4:9. This is: "No man knows [the burial place of Moses] - even Moses did not know. For he was negated in Ein Sof (Hebrew: God as Endless). All this was at his death. However, also during his lifetime Moses certainly stripped away all corporeality and attached himself to the Light of Ein Sof. But then, this stripping was in an aspect of "the living creatures ran [from being an ego] and returned [to being an ego](Ezekiel 1:14). This is because the Holy One desires our service, as is written (Yom Kippur Liturgy), "You desire praise from mounds of dust, from lumps of clay." FW: Hamann, writing only a few years before Nachman, created his own theology by portraying language as a powerful creative or destructive force in the world. We need not now grope further back into the history of religion to find other predecessors of Hamann and Nachman. It is sufficient to recognize that the two authors here under scrutiny are drinking from the same fountain, with some minor variations. One of these is the question whether we are to label the holistic embodiment of language the Jesus function or the Moses function. We will ignore that battle, but now we are ready to appreciate Nachman's contribution in LM 4 to this linguistically inspired tradition of the theology of The Word. As we read, we will keep in mind (a) that YHVH and the Talmid Chakham (wise student, Torah Scholar) are standing in for the subject, the Divine Author learning as he creates His world, and (b) that Elohim is standing in for the object, the world being created, and (c) that the Kingdom of God, Malkhut d'Kedushah, is standing in for the language of the dreamwork monologue on the material level. The problem, for Nachman in particular and for Romanticism in general, is that language in its pure, primordial form of "poetry" has been co-opted by the system of deductive logic and lost its original roots in inductive logic. For Nachman, as for Hamann, it is only the complete system encompassing deduction and induction in a higher synthesis which will give us a "foretaste of the World to Come", the messianic idea, and get us out of Egyptland. This is a longing, paradoxically, on the one hand for the messianic future and on the other hand for the pre-Industrial middle ages of shtetl life. Nachman is talking primarily about a Gestalt or hitbod'dut (being alone with myself and talking to God) monologue here, even though he provides a second level of meaning for those not privy to philosophy and linguistics, and for those who need an excuse to follow Torah Scholars and other gurus blindly. For as a matter of fact, (a) hitbod'dut and (b) confessing in front of a Torah Scholar, and (c) doing a Gestalt Therapy monologue, all mean the same thing, given the manner in which the concepts are used in Breslav theology. FW: Confessing in front of a Wise Student means doing my Gestalt Therapy monologue in the manner of a feedback loop and carefully (as the "subject") paying attention myself to what comes out of my mouth (the "object"). Just substitute "God is listening" for "I am listening" or "the wise student is listening" and this will be clear. Basically, it is The Author, the Creator, the Gestalt client, who is listening to Him creating, and this feedback loop by itself re-animates the dead forms, the selfinterrupting non-creative speech habits and manipulations, which man in his Fallen state tends to spew forth. In the down-to-earth jargon of Fritz Perls, instead of verbalizing my usual elephantshit in defense of my ego games, I need to emanate poetry, sacred truth from my true source. What clearly distinguishes Breslav pietism from Chabad rationalism is the emphasis on being alone before God, me being immersed in my monologue and relying on faith, rather than me being part of a vast pyramid of scholars and relying on guidance from a Jewish pope on the top of the pyramid. The Catholic parallel here is the Dominican sect versus the Franciscan sect, or more generally the Catholics versus the Protestants. (4) LM 4 FW: Here, then, is the beginning of Nachman's LM 4, as it is published by the official Breslaver translators. Let's immerse ourselves in Nachman's poetically inspired prose for a few moments, to get a sense of the overwhelming assault to which our rational, deductive faculties is subjected in such an experience. PROLOGUE. I am God your Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. (Exodus 20:2) LM 4:1. When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for his benefit, this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come. As said, "When He is YHVH, I will praise His word; when He is Elohim, I will praise His word" (Psalms 56:11). And this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come, as our Sages taught: "On that day God shall be one and His name one" (Zechariah 14:9). They asked: Is He now not one? And our Sages answered: At present the blessing "Who is good and beneficent" is recited over good, whereas "the truthful Judge" is recited over bad. But in the Future it will be entirely "Who is good and beneficent"(Pesachim 50a). The holy name YHVH and the holy name Elohim will be totally one. LM 4:2. Now it is impossible for a person to grasp this perception except when he uplifts Malkhut d'Kedushah (Kingdom of Holiness) from its exile among the nations. For presently, malkhut and rule the nations. This is the reason . They nurse from the aspect of Malkhut, which is called Elohim, as is written (Psalms 74:122) "Elohim is my King from long ago". But when a person raises Malkhut from among the nations, it is the fulfillment of the verse (Psalms 47:8) "For Elohim is King of all the earth." LM 4:3 Yet it is impossible to return the kingdom to the Holy One, except by means of spoken confession in the presence of a Talmid Chakham (Torah scholar). Through this one rectifies the aspect of Malkhut and raises it to its source. [Take d'varim (words) with you and return to YHVH (God) (Hosea 14:3)] This is the meaning of "Take D'VaRim with you . . ." - i.e., spoken confession. This is the aspect of Malkhut, as in, "one DaBoR (spokesman) to a generation" (Sanhedrin 8a) - dabor connotes and ruler. " . . . and return to YHVH - so that they rectify and elevate the aspect of d'varim/Malkhut/Elohim to [the level of] YHVH. As mentioned above, "When He is YHVH I will praise His word; when He is Elohim, I will praise His word." This is, to know that everything that happens to him is all for his good, and to recite the blessing "Who is good and beneficent" over everything. LM 4:4 Knowing all this is called complete awareness. For the essence of awareness is the union of . This is called daat. In other words, he does not differentiate between lovingkindness and judgment, but blesses "Who is good and beneficent" over everything. This is called "YHVH is one and His Name is one". As our Sages taught: In the Future there will be total oneness and it will be entirely "Who is good and Beneficent". This is: YHVH is echod (one) [and His Name is echod]." "His Name corresponds to Elohim/Malkhut, as is written (2 Samuel 8:13) "David made a name for himself" - . Echod has the same numerical value as ahavah (love). Therefore, whether it be YHVH - which is compassion - or whether it be "His Name" - which corresponds to Elohim judgment - all is for your benefit and a result of the love which the Holy One has for you. As it is written, "For those whom God loves He rebukes (Proverbs 3:12); and "Of all the families of th earth I knew only you [Israel}]. That is why I will punish you for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2). (5) HAMANN ON LANGUAGE FW: Rather than a crystal clear Torah message graspable by deductive logic, the above word salad strikes us as a murky bowl of borsht or shabbat cholent. Therefore, we will turn now to Bacon and to Hamann to help us get our bearings in decoding Nachman's Torah offering. The allusion to goyishkeit suggested by the names "Bacon" and "Ham" need not, I hope, deter us! I stated above that aside from the philosophy of language, much of Hamann (and Nachman) is an update on the philosophy of Francis Bacon, in the context of an 18th century aesthetics of Romanticism. In support of that contention, here are six specific techniques of Romantic style poetic expression which, according to O'Flaherty, lend themselves to the purposes of intuitive (inductive) rather than abstract (deductive) reason. but to start off here is Hamann's version of Francis Bacon. O 83. In order to comprehend Hamann's understanding of reason it is necessary to distinguish between two modes of cognition, namely, the intuitive and the abstract . . . Abstract reason affects language in precisely the opposite ways from intuitive reason . . . "Human living seems to consist of a series of symbolic actions by means of which our soul is capable of revealing its invisible nature, and produces and communicates beyond itself an intuitive knowledge of its effective existence" FW: And now comes Hamann's list of the six Romantic techniques for poetic expression, which in the sequel we will illustrate using the text of Nachman's LM 4. In my essay our focus is to illustrate these six techniques. Therefore, we will not give as much attention as perhaps we should to other important aspects of Nachman's text. Most of what Nachman has to say he says again and again, we surely will run into these other themes in the sequel. Here, then, is a preliminary listing of Hamann's six techniques of language expression. O 83. Since in Hamann's view there is no thought apart from language, it seems quite appropriate that we should look to language for the earmarks of reason. It will be seen that there are six salient features which characterize the language of intuitive reason, i.e., reason functioning within its appropriate limits. To be specific, we may say that intuitive reason manifests itself in language by the following: (a) the abundance of concrete images (Bilder); (b) the employment of analogical reasoning; (c) the frequent recourse to paradoxes; (d) the presence of multiple levels of meaning; (e) paratactic sentence structure; and (f) the presence of affective terminology. O83 FW: We will examine how Hamann explains these six poetic tools, and at the same time we will illustrate how Nachman of Breslav brings over each technique into the realm of Hasidic Torah commentary. (a) CONCRETE IMAGERY OF EXPERIENCE VS. ABSTRACT RELATIONSHIPS OF WORDS O 84. Hamann maintains that natural language is, to adopt Henri Bergson's phrase, "molded on reality". Ordinary language or "the language of nature" is for him the historically developed vernacular of a people, which has been "unimproved" by grammarians or the creators of technical jargon. It is this kind of language which can be raised to the level of poetic expression . . . Wrote Hamann, "The sphere of poetry does not lie outside of the world as a fantastic possibility conceived by the brain of a poet; it strives to be precisely the opposite, the unadorned expression of truth, and must for just that reason reject the deceptive finery of the alleged reality of the man of culture" . . . Hamann's conviction is grounded in the essential nature of both God and man. Hence, God, "the Poet at the beginning of days", always speaks to man in poetic language. "The Scriptures cannot speak with us as human beings otherwise than in parables because all our knowledge is sensory, figurative; and because understanding and reason transform the images of external things everywhere into allegories and signs of more abstract, more intellectual, more lofty concepts." FW: Analogous to Hamann's theory of poetic expression is that of today's Gestalt therapists, as laid out by Perls, Hefferline and Goodman in their text, "Gestalt Therapy". For Gestaltists poetic speech refers to contactful speech, supported by man in action, rather than man stuck at an impasse and brooding abstractly about his life. The choice is between a concrete reality and mere aboutism. If I see a fly buzzing over there and I say, "I am aware of that fly buzzing over there", that is "language molded to reality", even more so if I identify with that fly and say "I am a fly buzzing over here, hoping that my buzzing will get you interested in my ideas." By identifying with the fly, finding the inner idea of that fly as Nachman puts it in LM 1:1, I am concretely at this moment in touch with my existence. But if I am an entomologist and I say "flies are arthropods", that particular fly out there has disappeared from my life into abstract jargon. Verbalizing has replaced poetry. The fly buzzing out there had the potential to be part of my existence, say, my tragic death as one day it may buzz around my rotting corpse, while the "arthropod" of an entomologist is cut off from my existential experience by being locked into a grid of dead, abstract terminology concerning, for example, information about how many legs it has. Likewise God, the "poet at the beginning of days" is engaged in a living action of creating His world, while a geologist who lists the layers of rocks making up a particular mountain range is cut off from the real experience of creating that mountain range. How does Nachman of Breslav deal with this requirement that expression be poetic? That is to say, how do Nachman's Torah commentaries serve as a symbolic overlay for human action? First of all, he is assuming he, Nachman, the writer, and we, his readers, and also the protagonist he is describing all are spiritual pilgrims, seeking to return to God. All three personnas therefore share a common grounding in concrete here and now experience. Let us see how all this works in the continuation of Nachman's LM 4 text. LM 4:5 And a person's iniquities are on his bones, as is written (Ezekiel 32:27), "And their iniquities will be etched upon their bones". Each sin has its own combination of letters. When a person commits a particular sin, a negative letter combination is etched upon his bones. This brings the spoken aspect of the prohibition which he has transgressed into the realm of impurity. In other words, he brings the aspect of Malkhut among the nations, giving them the power to rule. For example: If he transgressed the utterance of the prohibition "You shall have no [other gods besides Me]" (Exodus 20:3), then he destroys the utterance's positive letter combination and forms a negative letter combination. This letter combination is etched upon his bones "It is your iniquities that have turned away these things (Jeremiah 5:25). And it is written, "Evil is the deathblow of the wicked" (Psalms 34:22). By means of spoken confession, however, the letters disappear from the bones into which they have been etched and are transformed into the words of confession. For speech emanates from one's bone, as is written (Psalms 35:10), "All my bones will say". He tears down the negative structure and combinations, and from [the letters] builds Makhut d'Kedushah. This is what the Sages said: During the time the Israelites traveled in the desert, Yehudah's bones rolled about [in his coffin] until Moshe said (Deuteronomy 33:7) "Hear, O God, the voice of Yehudah" (Sotah 7b). Moshe requested that the Holy One remember for Yehudah's sake the confession he had made. And this is just what happened. Thus it was specifically "his bones rolled about", as is written, "and their iniquities will be etched upon their bones." But by means of the confession they were rectified and each one went into its place. And Yehudah corresponds to Malkhut - an allusion that the aspect of Malkhut is rectified through spoken confession. This was accomplished with the aid of Moshe, who recalled the confession. For it is necessary that the confession take place in the presence of a Talmid Chakham. And every Torah scholar is an aspect of Moshe "Moshe, you said it well" (Shabbat 101b). By Moshe's mentioning the confession, it was considered as if [Yehudah] had now confessed . This caused the aspect of Malkhut to be rectified and the negative letter combination, which had been etched upon [Yehudah's ] bones to be torn down. FW: There is a real life struggle going on here in Nachman's text, involving bones, Yehuda and Moshe, as though the story has been told around a campfire or dreamed by a Gestalt client. Nachman is not merely "talking literature", but is presenting an epic human action being carried out by a protagonist, and by implication also by a reader who is struggling with the iniquities etched in his own bones. Moses first identifies with the needs of the bones of Yehudah. Then the confession, hitbod'dut, mini-Gestalt session that Moses expresses in language brings those needs of Yehudah into the midst of a committed authentic action by Moses. Moses as strong gestalt and encompassing messianic monad here fulfills the logical function of induction, Platonic collection, in relation to the bones and essences of the existence of Yehudah. The parallel to Gestalt dreamwork is very clear here. According to Perls, we must identify with each of the different images and aspects of the dream we are exploring, in order to grasp the overall existential message of the dream. We move from ordinary everyday objects, like trees and clouds and bones, more and more in the direction of encompassing ideas, encompassing essences of our existence, as we move inductively upwards towards the final encompassing existential idea and message of our work on this particular dream. And yet in this dreamwork process everything must remain concrete, articulated, eventually, in terms of the unfinished business of important childhood relationships. The inductive ascent is not at the same time a flight to abstractions. That is to say, the three personnas involved in the ongoing storytelling process are active readers. They (we) maintain their (our) identification with the story which is unfolding. Here is an analogous message from the work of Hamann, with the messianic role shifted from Moses to Jesus. O 86. The abstract language of the philosophers fails, according to Hamann, to take into account the fact that God's infinite love for man is revealed precisely in His willingness to condescend to man's estate. God has humbled himself to the extent of speaking in the everyday idiom of the people by means of "little contemptible events" and "humanly foolish, indeed sinful actions . . . For Hamann does not subscribe to any form of the double-truth theory; spiritual truth does not require two forms, one for the philosopher, another for the masses. "To say that Moses wrote only for the common people is either meaningless or a ridiculous view of the matter" . . . Philosophically speaking, the "images" (German: Bilder) of natural language represent for Hamann "objects", which may be defined as uncritically perceived entities of ordinary experience, principally visual in nature. Abstract or discursive reason has the power, however, to eliminate such objects and to replace them with terms which actually stand for relations . . . "Existence [ i.e., concrete existence in a world of real objects] is realism, and must be believed; relations are idealism and rest upon connective and discriminatory procedures" . . . Metaphysics misuses "all the word-songs and figures of speech of our empirical knowledge" by transforming them into "nothing but hieroglyphs and types of ideal relations" . . . Another fundamental aspect of imagery is, of course, its strong appeal to the emotions, a quality which is lacking in the case of abstract terminology. FW: In Hamann's reference here to concrete objects of experience disappearing into abstract verbal relationships no longer in touch with their initial concrete reality, we recognize the terminology of 14th century Nominalism as articulated in those days by William of Ockham. See my essay on "Nominalism: the Here and Now, There and Then", for more about this. (b) ANALOGY VS. LOGICAL SYLLOGISMS O 87. The second characteristic of Hamann's use of reason is his preference for analogical, as opposed to purely logical, thinking. Whereas the rationalist establishes a principle, whether deductively or inductively, and thereupon proceeds to draw inferences from it, the intuitive thinker establishes a model on nonrational grounds, as, for example, instinct or faith, and thereupon proceeds to draw parallels to the model. This latter procedure accords, in Hamann's view, with the proper use of reason, despite the fact that reasoning from analogy does not yield the certainty one might desire. Thus, he writes that "reason cannot grasp anything but analogies in order to obtain a very ambiguous light" . . . Following the lead of Francis Bacon, Hamann maintains that man, in his original state, thought analogically rather than logically. This idea is clearly stated in the famous passage at the beginning of the Aesthetica In Nuce: "Poetry is the mother tongue of the human race" . . . Hamann places analogical thinking, as opposed to the later development of discursive thinking, within the framework of his general anthropology with its emphasis on man's retrograde development away from his primordial state. It is more natural for man to think in metaphors or parables, which involve analogical thinking, than to arrive at deductions based on rational principles . . . "All mortal creatures are able to see the truth and essence of things only in parables". For Hamann to metaschematize means to substitute one set of objective relationships for another, analogous set of subjective, personal, or existential relationships, in order to throw some light on their meaning. FW: Hamann here is saying what Nachman says when he says "My Torah is all behinot (Hebrew: aspects, interpretations, associations, analogies)". The notion of "man's retrograde development away from his primordial state" stems from the Platonic theory of anamnesis, "not forgetting" that primordial state by groping in the void for primordial ideas. Anamnesis entails immersing oneself in a chaotic sea of fragments and using Platonic collection or kabbalistic tsimtsum in the cognitive void of "not knowing" to discover/remember the primordial ideas by means of a series of associations, behinot. The obvious illustration in Nachman's LM 4 text is the endless string of associations, behinot, which lead Nachman from concrete particulars towards his final grand conclusions. "A" is an aspect of "B", and "B" is an aspect of "C", etc., etc. In the section which follows, for example, the string of behinot leads on and on, apparently endlessly, from (a) the lust of Nevatt to (b) fire to (c) purging via fire to (d) the fire of sin to (e) sins themselves to (f) crossing over to bundles of fragments being collected into a new idea (Platonic collection), and then on to (f) the wrath of God as fire negating all the negations of the One Without A Second, which itself leads on by means of tsimtsum to (g) nothingness, which is analogous to (h) humility as an aspect of (i) wisdom, leading to (j) the elevation of language, which itself is analogous to (k) the kingdom of God and refers by contrast to (l) the secular government, which needs to be brought back to its source by means of (m) the intervention of Moses, who is aspect of (n) Mashiach himself! All this in two pages. Note how Nachman gives Moses the Mashiach function of pulling all the fragments together, in exactly the same manner that Hamann gives that messianic function of Platonic collection to Jesus. For both Hamann and Nachman what is lost in logical precision is more than compensated for by the vast range of insightful sparks generated in the process of induction - provided, of course, that the spiritual pilgrim and the audience are receptive to this sort of pietist, Romantic, poetry. What makes this word salad "poetry" in the profound Gestalt and Aristotelian sense of committed personal action is Nachman's own biography, i.e., his self-proclaimed role of Tsaddik of the generation and messianic savior of the world. Whether we take him seriously or not, we at least know that Nachman is not just writing a book. He also is living the role he has carved out for himself in his own pained existence. FW: As Hegel in his "Aesthetics" points out, one major characteristic of Romantic art that distinguishes it from Classical art is that Romanticism allows emotional content to flood and overwhelm the forms in which it is packaged, leaving an audience gasping for breath. Hegel was less than appreciative of this form of expression, and he regarded the Absolute or God to which it all finally associates as "the night in which all cows are black". That is to say, most people, like the rationalist Hegel, prefer to let words mean what they do mean rather than have them all end up being symbols for the same thing: the Void of all-knowing and all not-knowing. Here, then, is Nachman's version of Platonic collection or tsimtsum in the void, from (a) to (n), from the lust of Nevatt to Mashiach himself! See if you can find your way through the maze, and at the same time see how many insightful associations are stimulated in your mind as you follow the creative mind of Nachman along his chosen trajectory. LM 4:6 This is the aspect of returning Malkhut to its source. For the source of Malkhut is fire, as our "Sages taught: 'why did Nevatt err? because he saw fire escape from his member (Sanhedrin 101b). And the Torah is called fire, because it is from there that Malkhut originates. As it is written (Jeremiah 23:29) "Behold, My Word is like fire," and (Proverbs 8:15), "Through me kings rule." And the essence of Torah is the Torah scholar, as our Sages taught (Makkot 222b): How foolish are those who stand up before a Torah scroll and yet do not stand before a rabbinical scholar! This is: "Every davar (thing) that was used in fire must go through fire " (Numbers 31:23). "Davar corresponds to Malkhut, which has been into the realm of impurity the heat of the evil inclination, as in "the fire of Amram" (Kiddusin 81a). ". . . must go through the fire" - its rectification is by means of fire, i.e., spoken confession before a Talmid Chakham. And this is the connotation of aveyrah (transgression): the AVeyRah letter combination OVeR (crosses) within his bones, from AyVeR to AyVeR (side to side). The word mitzvah, however, connotes joining together. When a person performs bundles of commandments, he binds together the shattered fragments of his bones, as is written (Psalms 34:21), "[God] safeguards all his bones, [not one of them is broken]." FW: Note: not one bone is broken; not one fragment of the symbolic collage is lost or damaged in the process of Platonic collection. All the antitheses, one after the other, are encompassed in the higher inductive synthesis. But there's more to come . . . LM 4:7. ["The King's wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man can pacify it." (Proverbs 16:14)] And this is the explanation of the verse: "The King's wrath is a messenger of death." For the wrath of the Holy One is on account of Makhut , " . . . but a wise man can pacify it" - i.e., the aspect of Talmid Chakham/Moshe who will atone for [the sinner]. As it is written (Micah 7:18), "[The Lord] forgives the transgression for the remnant " - for the sake of the one who considers himself as remnants (Rosh HaShanah 17a). We find, then, that when he comes before a Torah scholar and expresses all his letter combinations in a Talmid Chakham's presence . . . The Torah scholar is an aspect of Moshe who considered himself as remnants, as is written (Numbers 12:3), "The man Moshe, however, was very humble." This is the reason he is called a wise man, as is written (Job 28:12), "Wisdom comes from Ayin (Nothingness)." Through this the wise man has the power to appease, as is written, "but a wise man can pacify it." This is why when Moshe prayed that the sin of the Golden Calf [be pardoned], he said (Exodus 32:32), "If You would, forgive their sin. But if not, please blot me out [ from the book that You have written]!" It is impossible for a person not to feel some pride when he hears himself being praised. All the more so, when a great king praises and lauds the person; then it is certainly impossible that he would not be moved to some feelings of self-importance. However, this necessitates the negation of all one's emotions and corporeality. Then, a person can hear himself being praised and not come to any pride. This was the case with Moshe Rabbeinu, who saw it written in the Torah: "God spoke to Moshe," [and] "God said to Moshe." Each day the Jewish people read in the Torah [God's] praise of Moshe. What's more, he himself related his praise to them. Yet Moshe had no feelings of haughtiness or pride from this, as is written, "The man Moshe, however, was very humble." And certainly, by means of his humility Moshe had the power to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, as is written, ". . . but a wise man can pacify it." FW: The mashiach function that Moses or Jesus fulfils here is that of identifying with all the fragments, one after another, and then, by means of consumate humility, negating all of those fragments by negating himself. He then is the true servant, serving God as the negation of all negations. Each fragment is an extreme antithesis of the others, and the messiah manages to negate all of these negations of the One Without A Second. Also here, once again, not one bone is broken; not one fragment is lost or damaged in the process of Platonic collection. All the antitheses are encompassed in the higher synthesis by means of the Platonic messiah/poet/artist that Nachman or Hamann is embodying in his writing. What Plato labels a "poetic frenzy" of artistic interpretation, based on passionate personal involvement in a process of committed action, Nachman relates to the state of humility he sees Moses attaining in the biblical text. Nachman concludes his series of behinot by stressing the humility of Moses as the quality which qualifies him for the messiah function. LM 4:7 This was Moshe's argument: "But if not" - i.e., if You do not forgive their sin, You are demonstrating that I do not posses the humility needed to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is why I requested, "please blot me out," so as not to be tripped up by pride. For I constantly see and hear the recounting of my name and praise in the Torah. Who can stand up to this - hearing his praise recounted and not become haughty - if not a very humble person? And if I am humble, You must pardon their sin, as is written, "[The Lord] forgives the transgression for the remnant . . ." This is (Deuteronomy 33:5) "There was a MeLeKh (king) in Yeshurun" - indicating that MaLKhut had risen to its source, as it is written (Psalms 37:11), "But the humble will inherit the earth." "Earth" is dina d'malkhuta (the law of the government) as is written (Job 20:27), "Earth rises up against him." FW: Moses with his messianic degree of humility has here re-elevated language (Malkhut d'kedushah, the kingdom of God) back to its primordial holistic power. This is anamnesis, "not forgetting" that the primordial idea of language as The Word has emerged from the void of nonbeing. Looking back at the entire journey of inductive logic through which Nachman just has led us, and with just a bit more analogical thinking, the parallel to Gestalt dreamwork ought to be clear. (a) First, Nachman expects you to find the inner idea of each thing by identifying with each image of the series. In Gestalt dreamwork you do that by play acting each dream image and attempt to say it with your whole body. In Nachman's poetic style Torah exegesis you, as Orthodox Jew, are expected to identify totally with each nuance since it all is God's word, right out of the Torah with chapter and verse included. How can it possibly not be the truth? (b) The second part of the process, in Gestalt dreamwork, is to commit your whole being to the project as a whole and negate your ego totally by the "rhythm of contact and withdrawal", which is the Gestalt version of tsimtsum. This death of ego is the negation of negations that translates you inductively up beyond your own existence, as you serve as a vessel for the existential message of that particular dream. The dream itself was only 1/60th of prophecy, while the dreamwork provides the other 59/60. The dreamwork is the Platonic collection or kabbalistic tsimtsum which accesses the messianic idea which was implicit from the primordial beginning of the dream itself when in the middle of the night you dreamed it. Again we have Platonic anamnesis of primordial ideas by means of tsimtsum, as the Gestalt therapy protagonist contracts his ego down to zero in order to embody the intuitive dialectical logic of induction, in order to serve as the messiah capable of redeeming his own fallen state. FW: And what is the equivalent to this "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" in a Torah lesson being given by Nachman or one of his disciples? The answer is, likewise, to commit yourself totally to the quest for truth. In your daily life you are to embodying as many Torah commandments as you can find the time and resources to accomplish, and also you are to commit your will completely to following the guidance of your Torah teachers, whether they make much sense to your rational mind or not! Along with that you are to assimilate each and every word of the mind boggling Torah lessons. You are not, God forbid, to try to understand it all using deductive logic, since most of it is inductively written and admittedly too lofty for your rational understanding. Rather, accept it all on faith as absolute truth. If you find yourself bewildered, get advice from your Torah teachers (who, unfortunately, also are forbidden to understand it), and then go talk to God out in the woods if there are any loose ends. FW: Nachman taught that the messianic soul of Moses is re-embodied to some extent in the tsaddik ha-dor, the righteous man of each generation. But, Nachman maintains, only in certain key historical figures, especially Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai and Nachman himself, is the embodiment totalized. Fritz Perls begs to differ, and encourages each of his clients to do fulfill the mashiach function himself. Fritz was Jewish, but not religious. Neither did he know Yiddish. But if someone had asked him why he gave his clients that option, and if indeed he had spoken Yiddish, perhaps he would have given the famous Yiddish retort, "Far vus nit?" (English: "Why not?") Now, my own suggestion is to meld the two approaches, that of Nachman and that of Fritz, which brings the caricature of Nachman's teachings which I just have presented back to the source that Nachman intended in the beginning. That is to say, begin with hitbod'dut, with the verbalized monologue. Do it rigorously, according to the system of Fritz, so you do get the results you need. Then, from that foundation go about dealing with the commandments and the Torah exegesis. This puts Tevye's "Fiddler On The Roof" horse back in front of Tevye's cart, with the proper Kantian stress on conscience as a liberation from the closed system of everyday habits, groupiness and chit-chat. This also puts Nachman very close to the position of Fichte, and historically exactly where he belongs as an heir to Kant's theory of the moral autonomy of the practical reason. See my essays on Fichte and Nachman for more of this. Doing hitbod'dut intelligently clarifies most of Nachman's enigmatic texts and helps balance the conflicting demands of 613 different commandments. Having discovered your own built in Moses function, you will not be flying blind and you will less vulnerable to demagoguery. This inner gyroscope was lacking when Hitler's Nazis adapted the teachings of Fichte as the basis of national socialism. They made a travesty of the teachings of Fichte. Hopefully you will not make a similar travesty of the teachings of Nachman of Breslav. (c) PARATAXIS FW: O'Flaherty makes a distinction between parataxic and hypotaxic sentence structure, a distinction which is as relevant to the work of Nachman as it is to the work of Hamann. O: The roots of the terms are "para" (by the side) + "tassein" (to place). "Parataxis" is the placing of clauses or phrases one after the other, without coordinating or subordinating connectives. On the other hand, from "hypo" (under) we get "hypotaxis", which is arranging clauses with a conjunction that subordinates one to the other. Paratactic sentences are characterized by brevity and the absence of long involved dependent clauses; the word order tends to be natural or to follow elementary logic in that the subject and predicate are expressed at or near the beginning of the sentence, with the other elements following generally in the order of their importance. Aphorisms, epigrams, etc., because of their laconic nature, are necessarily paratactic in structure. Hypotactic sentences, on the other hand, are characterized by greater length, involving, as they do, longer dependent clauses . . . Because of its frequent use of dependent clauses, hypotaxis involves the subordination of certain elements within a sentence, whereas parataxis involves their coordination. Both styles do occur in Hamann's writings . . . In his most characteristic and influential writings the aphoristic mode dominates . . . It is precisely in these works that we find him employing intuitive, as opposed to abstract, reason. FW: The following sections from Nachman's LM 4 illustrate nicely this contrast between parataxic and hypotaxic use of language. Nachman begins with an introductory fable in the style of parataxic language. PARATAXIS: TYPE 1 A SIMPLE FABLE LM 4:8. This is the meaning of what the Sages said: It is comparable to someone who was walking along a path in the utter darkness of night. He was afraid of the thorns and the ditches, of wild beasts and bandits, not knowing which path he was on. When he happened upon a lit torch he was saved from the thorns and the ditches but he was still afraid of wild beasts and bandits, not knowing which path he was on. When dawn broke, he was saved from wild beasts and bandits, yet still did not know which path he was on. What is this crossroads? Rabbi Chisda said: It is a Talmid Chakhkam and the day of death (Sotah 21a). PARATAXIS:TYPE 2 SIMPLE SENTENCES LIST FOUR ALCHEMICAL ELEMENTS FW: Next we learn of the four alchemical elements, mineral, vegetable, animal and human, which are variants of the usual water, earth, air, fire sequence. Here the presentation also is in the parataxic style, though a bit more complex. LM 4:8 It is known that all evil character traits and their derivatives stem from the four yesodot (fundamental elements), the four humors. As is brought in Mishnat Chassidim: Melancholy and its derivatives stem from the mineral life form; evil passions and their derivatives stem from the vegetable life form; idle chatter and its derivatives stem from the animal life form; pride and its derivatives stem from the human life form. Anyone who would take the path of must break all of the vices in the presence of a Talmid Chakham - i.e., spoken confession. The Torah scholar will then define and clarify a path in line with the roots of his soul. PARATAXIS: TYPE 3 COMPLEX SENTENCES, WITH BEHINOT FW: Also presented parataxically are three steps for attachment to a tzaddik, which also are a code for three stages of human action in general. Since Nachman's version will get a bit murky, I'll do the dissection as a preface, in my own inimitable Fallen, deductive, hypotaxic manner. If this were a Gestalt session, Fritz no doubt would have me examine my own need to insert prefaces and dissections into the flow of life. Anyway, concerning the tsaddik, (a) first, perceive him properly, (b) second, give him charity and (c) third, accept his advice at the moment of crucial existential choices in your life. To each of these simple instructions, Nachman adds subordinate and related ideas. (a) For the first instruction, more generally establish contact with the situation, (b) for the second instruction, undergo death of ego by giving it away charitably, and (c) for the third instruction, choose a new idea in the void of not knowing. But these corollaries are not appended to the initial three ideas deductively using hypotaxic sentence structure, the way I just have taken pains to do it. That is to say, Nachman's stress is not on making sure we "understand" it all by laying out his ideas in a series of primary and subordinate clauses. Rather, to the first three ideas he appends a series of only tangentially related ideas, parataxically by simply laying them down, one after the other. Then he leaves it up to us, the readers, to open our minds and hearts to discover the higher level encompassing experiences. For Nachman wants us inductively to "grasp" macrocosmic Platonic ideas, and not merely deductively to "understand" microcosmic concepts. LM 4 is not just a textbook of clinical psychology, it is also inductive science and Platonically inspired Romantic poetry. Hence, Nachman injects into the basic flow of the hypotaxic framework quite a bit of parataxic embellishment. Nachman begins with the three themes, in the manner in which a Beethoven or Mozart might begin a symphony with three simple themes. Then, in the manner of a fugue or stretto, more and more interlocking variations and distantly related motifs pile up as a magical information overload. Schopenhauer, a 19th century philosopher who shared this Romantic aesthetic, held that music is the highest form of art, since it embodies ideas purely without needing to incorporate naturalistic content. Nachman's prose in his stretto sections approaches the level of musical art, as kaleidoscopic ideas overload their reference to the deductive framework and leap up inductively from our Fallen microcosmic world to the liberated macrocosm of pure Platonic/Torah ideas. When Nachman does it, it works fine. Of course, when an Adolf uses a media blitz inductively to peddle an overgrown Idea of the Third Reich we may have second thoughts about "inductive science". LM 4:8 Now, there are three steps in attachment to the tzaddikim. Through these three steps everything is rectified. The three steps are as follows: The first step entails seeing the tzaddik, as in (Isaiah 30:20), "your eyes will see your teacher," This step negates the vices that stem from the two yedodot, mineral and vegetable - namely, melancholy with its derivatives, and evil passions. For the tzaddik of the generation is called "Mother" because he nurses the Jewish people with the light of his Torah. And the Torah is called "milk", as is written (Song of Songs 4:11). "Honey and milk under your tongue." We have empirical validation for this: Even when a child is sad and lethargic, if he sees his mother, he very quickly stirs toward her - i.e., toward his source. We also see clearly that when a child is absorbed in his own nonsense, even through he has a great desire for this, if he sees his mother, he throws away all of his desires and draws close to her. We find, then, that the vices stemming from the two yesodot, mineral and vegetable, are negated by gazing at the countenance of the tzaddik. This is: He was afraid of the thorns, the aspect of the vegetable life form; and the ditches, the aspect of the mineral life for. When he happened upon a lit torch - this is a Talmid Chakham, who with the light of the Torah. Through him he is saved from the vices that stem from the two yesodot, mineral and vegetable; and then he is saved form the thorns and the ditches. LM 4:8 The second step is the charity one gives to a Talmid Chakham . Through this he is saved from the vices that stem from the two yesodot, animal and human - the aspects of wild beasts and bandits, which are idle chatter and pride and their derivatives. This is because idle chatter and slanderous gossip engender poverty, as is written (Exodus 4:19), "All the men have died" - this is poverty (Nedarim 64b). Also concerning pride it is taught: Poverty is a sign of a haughty spirit (Kiddushin 49b). But by giving charity a person becomes wealthy. As the Sages taught: "Though they were united and likewise many, even so they are over and gone; I have afflicted you, but will afflict you no more" (Nahum 1:12) - he is never again made to experience the markings of poverty (Gitten 7b). And this is: When dawn broke, he was saved from wild beasts and bandits. The break of dawn is an allusion to charity, as is written (Isaiah 58 7-8), "When you see the naked, and you clothe him . . . Then your light shall burst forth like the dawn." We find, then, that through charity one is saved from the vices that stem from the two yesodot, animal and human, corresponding to wild beasts and bandits. LM 4:8 The third step is when one makes a spoken confession in a Torah scholar's presence. Through this the Talmid Chakham guides him on a proper path in line with the root of his soul. This is: When he came to a crossroads. And Sages comment, It is a Talmid Chakham and the day of death. This is the step of spoken confession before a Talmid Chakham. The day of death is an allusion to confesson, as the Sages taught: All those about to be put to death confess (Sanhedrin 43b). This is called PaRaShat DeRaKhim (a crossroads), because the Torah scholar maPhRiSh lo DeReKh (defines his path ) in line with the root of his soul. Then, he was saved from all of them. Because, before he confessed, even through he was close to the Torah scholar and had given him money, he still does not know which path he was on. For "A path may seem right to a man, but its end leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). But when he comes to "a crossroads," which is a Talmid Chakham and the day of death - i.e., spoken confession before a Talmid Chakham - then, he was saved from all of them. PARATAXIS: TYPE 4 COMPLEX SENTENCES, WITH BEHINOT AND ALSO WITH PARALLELS OF FORM AND CONTENT FW: Later, as the style of the text approaches pure poetry, content joins form in telling the tale, which in this case is the tale of a completed action. The actor/poet Moses/ messiah undergoes death of ego at the crossroads of his life, the moment of committed choice during an action. At that moment, according to Aristotle, the knower, the known and the knowing all are one. Ego is minimal in the midst of an action. The theological context of an action for Nachman here is "the word of God", and for him, like for Hamann, that means language in the sense of The Word as the Kingdom of God, Malkhut. Language and action here are parallel concepts, grounded in the dialectical framework of deduction/induction, the descending and ascending sides of the tree of life, the kabbalistic sefirot. Each counterclockwise cycle around the complete tree of life is one "beat" of the dialectic, one cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, one moment of running and returning, one moment of action. If the process works properly we have induction, intuitive reason, positive letter combinations, poetry, If the process does not work properly we are stuck in deduction, abstract aboutism, negative letter combinations, verbalizing. After completing the action, the protagonist retains a sense of what is was all about. In the context of a Gestalt Therapy session he can tell us what was the existential message of the dreamwork, what he got from the session. He can see the details of his present life situation (Elohim, the left pillar of the tree of life) in the context of the Oneness of authentic action (YHVH, the right pillar of the tree of life), and at that moment he has a sense that the One and the Many are One Without A Second. A parallel in the aesthetics of Romanticism and the work of an actor in the Brechtian theater is the notion of "the performer on top of his material" creating "live form". When, in this style of work, an actor prepares his material, he works deductively and assembles a junk collage of forms into a complex poetic image which is his "character". Then, at the moment of presentation for an audience, he relies upon his here and now reactions to images that flash in his imagination to give him macrocosmic ideas with which to illuminate that microcosmic junk collage of forms. The result, when it works properly, is "live form", a meld of content (ideas discovered inductively) and form (the junk collage which was derived deductively), which is, theologically speaking, the macrocosm in the microcosm, the One in the Many. LM 4:9 This applies each time a Torah scholar. The Talmid Chakham is an aspect of Moshe, who is an aspect of Ayin, as is written, "Wisdom comes from Ayin." And in this way you become encompassed in Ein Sof (Infinite One). This is the concept of Zarka: it is thrown back to the place from which it was taken (Tikkuney Zohar #21). This is return Malkhut to Ein Sof, which is the will in all the wills. For Malkhut corresponds to the letters of speech, with the will of God clothed in each and every letter. It was God's will that one letter have such and such a shape, and another letter have a different shape. We find, then, that [God's] wills - i.e., the forms of the letters - serve to reveal His Malkhut, And all these wills, the forms, stem from the will of Ein Sof - which has no form . And all the objects and material existence in the world originate from the letters, i.e., from Malkhut. This is because material existence is a consequence of Malkhut, of the Holy One's desire that His Malkhut be revealed in the world. Through this He created the world ex nihilo. All the wills - the forms and all material existence corresponding to Malkhut - receive their vitality from the will of Ein Sof. As is taught (Migillah 31a): "In every place that you find the greatness of the Holy One - i.e., His Malkhut wills - "There you find His humility" - i.e., the will of Ein Sof. And this is an aspect of stripping oneself of corporeality. For when a person wants to be encompassed in the will of Ein Sof, he must negate his material being. This is what is written in the Zohar (II 88b), that Moshe passed away on Shabbat, at the time of Minchah. For that is when raava d'raaven (Will of Wills) is revealed. This is the will of Ein Sof, from whom all wills receive their vitality. This was because Moshe had totally negated his material being, as is written, "After all, nachnu mah (what are we)?" (Exodus 16:7). "So Moshe, the servant of God, died there, in the land of Moav, by the kiss of God. [God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moav, opposite Beit Pe'or. No man knows his burial place to this day" (Deuteronomy 34: 5-7). This is the meaning of "[God] buried him in the valley" - it alludes to as is written (Isaiah 40:4), "Every valley shall be elevated." "In the land of Moav" - this alludes to Malkhut, for King David descended from Moav. Moshe ascended into Ein Sof, into Will of Wills, raava d'raaven. This corresponds to the will of Ein Sof, which is clothed in the wills/forms of the letters, the aspect of Malkhut. As explained, "In every place that you find His greatness" - i.e., Malkhut, the aspect of - "there you find " - i.e., the will of Ein Sof. FW: For the kabbalistic tradition, the metaphor of "running and returning" tells this story, in the sense that we first run away from ego and later return to ego. The jargon of Gestalt Therapy here overlaps that of Romanticism. Gestalt speaks of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. During action we move from contact, from awareness of the contact boundary, to withdrawal, withdrawal from the contact boundary. Withdrawal from the contact boundary, by means of tsimtsum, puts us in the void of not knowing, the messianic now, and then we return to awareness of the contact boundary as the action comes to an end. Nachman describes running and returning by invoking the notion of "da'at" (Hebrew: knowing, knowledge). But "da'at" is a slippery term, used by many authors in many ways. Here is reference is knowing in the sense of the Gestalt process of establishing contact by means of awareness. Da'at here is awareness. Awareness establishes a bubble contactful experience, a "world" that the protagonist "knows", in the sense that Adam knows Eve during an orgasm. When the contact boundary becomes clouded by neurotic games, by self-interruptions of the life force, and the Gestalt client finds himself deductively at an impasse of polarized cloudy ideas, he needs to withdraw from that contact boundary into the realm of inductive, intuitive experience by closing his eyes and going into his body awareness and fantasies. This is the moment of withdrawal and tsimtsum, contraction of ego. And this also is "running" from his ego and the microcosm in general into the void, where hopefully new macrocosmic ideas await him. After his moment of gnostic enlightenment, then he "returns" to his ego in its new form. But he brings with him a vague trace or "reshimu" (Hebrew: remainder) of his other worldly experience. Overall, then, he runs from deduction to induction, and then he returns from induction to deduction bringing with him the results of the induction. LM 4:9 This is "opposite Beit Pe'or". As the Sages taught: Why was [the idol] called Pe'or? Because it opens its mouth wide. For when one blemishes Malkhut, [Pe'or} then has the power to open its mouth wide with negative letter combinations. But Moshe rectified the aspect of Malkhut, and as a result Pe'or could not open its mouth wide (Sotah 14a), This is "No man knows [his burial place]" - even Moshe did not know (ibid.). For he was negated in Ein Sof. All this was at his death. However, also during his lifetime [Moshe] certainly stripped away all corporeality and attached himself to the Light of Ein Sof. But then, this stripping was in an aspect of "the living creatures ran and returned". (Ezekial 1:14). This is because the Holy One desires our service, as is written (Yom Kippur Liturgy), "You desire praise from mounds of dust, from lumps of clay." Therefore, it is imperative not to remain [in this state of negation] until such a time that the Holy One Himself comes and takes one's soul. LM 4:9 This is why we see that now and then a person becomes inspired while praying and he recites several words with tremendous fervor. This is due to God's compassion for him; the Light of Ein Sof has been opened to him and shines for him. When a person sees this radiance - and even though he might not see, his mazal sees (Megillah 3a) - his soul is instantly ignited in great devotion, so that he attaches himself to the Light of Ein Sof. And to the degree that Ein Sof is revealed - commensurate with the number of words that have been opened and begun to radiate - he recites all these words with great devotion, with a surrender of self, and with a negation of all his senses. Then, during the time he is negated in Ein Sof, he is in a state of "and no man knows" so that he himself is unaware of his own existence. But this must be in the aspect of "running and returning" in order to preserve . We find then that when he is in a state of "returning" he must also disclose to his daat. For at the beginning, at the time of devotion, his daat was nullified, as in, "and no man knows". But when he is in a state of "returning", returning to his material being, then he returns to his daat. And when he returns to his daat, he knows the oneness and beneficence of Ein Sof. Then there is no difference between YHVH and Elohim, between the divine attribute of judgment and the divine attribute of compassion. For a change of will is not applicable to Ein Sof, Heaven forbid. Changes only occur in the changing of the forms. Nevertheless, by virtue of a person's attachment to Ein Sof - where there is no change of will, for there the will is uniform - afterwards an imprint of this oneness remains within him. Then later, when he is in a state of "returning", this imprint illuminates , so that he knows that all is good and all is one. This is what Moshe said to his generation: "It has been clearly demonstrated to your daat that YHVH (God) is the Elohim (Lord)". (Deuteronomy 4: 35). For Moshe corresponds to Thus it was fitting for his generation, who were attached to him, to [have] daat - i.e., to illuminate the daat with an awareness of Ein Sof/raava d/raaven, the aspect of "YHVH is the Elohim." (d) PARADOX O: An important aspect of Hamann's conception of reason as it emerges from his use of language is his acceptance of the paradox as a vehicle for the expression of spiritual truth. His reason for such a positive view of the paradox is, in the last resort, theological. Since God has condescended to reveal Himself in lowly, even contemptible form - as the Scriptures everywhere attest - the paradox possesses the highest possible legitimation. "One must view with astonishment how God accomodates Himself to all small circumstances, and prefers to reveal His government through the everyday event of human life rather than the singular and extraordinary events." The supreme paradox of Christianity is, to be sure, the incarnation in Christ, the appearance of the Creator of heaven and earth in the form of a servant. FW: To appreciate the relevance of paradox in this sense to the work of Nachman of Breslav, let us backtrack a bit now and zero in on the last section of LM 4 which we just cited under the heading of "parataxis". These six techniques of Romantic poetic language certainly overlap, and there is no reason why we may not find all six of them at work in a single passage from Nachman's "Likutei Moharan". In this last section we found an obvious parallel between the messianic function Christ serves for the Christians and the same messianic function the soul Moses serves for the Jews. As is the case for Christ in the work of Hamann, Moses for Jews is a supreme example of paradox, the apparent contradiction that the pure idea of Moses/Mashiach - Moses as symbolic code for the messianic idea - embodies on the one hand the most encompassing notion of all-reality and on the other hand the idea of absolute nothingness, total self-obliterating humility. This rudimentary example of dialectical thinking, a thesis and an antithesis encompassed in a higher synthesis, is basic to kabbalistic metaphysics. In this respect, then, the parallel between Hamann and Nachman is clear. However, in what follows, as we decode the jargon to get to the philosophical foundation, we find that this clear conceptual parallel is fogged over by the work of the official Breslaver translators. We unearth one more example of what happens when the sorcerer's apprentice, ignorant of the dialectical powers of his master, grabs his master's broom and makes a big mess the laboratory! Once again we will see the dangers of preaching dialectical religion rather than teaching dialectical religion. I repeat, a preacher aims at propagating the sect, primarily by glorifying his colleagues, while a teacher has other objectives, especially ferreting out the truth of his subject matter. Watch, now, how the translators of LM 4 muddle the dialectical message of Nachman in this passage, and shift the focus from the individual's search for God towards the direction of creating a herd of sheep following other sheep following other sheep, just as lemmings might follow other lemmings right off a cliff into the sea! Here once is LM 4:9. LM 4:9 This applies each time a Torah scholar. The Talmid Chakham is an aspect of Moshe, who is an aspect of Ayin, as is written, "Wisdom comes from Ayin." And in this way you become encompassed in Ein Sof (Infinite One). FW: Nachman begins with the pshat, the superficial code. This is step one in creating the paradox, the apparent contradiction that this Torah scholar you meet in the street is at the same time an aspect of Moses and the Jewish version of the messiah. LM 4:9 This is the concept of Zarka: it is thrown back to the place from which it was taken (Tikkuney Zohar #21). This is returning Malkhut to Ein Sof, which is the will in all the wills. For Malkhut corresponds to the letters of speech, with the will of God clothed in each and every letter. It was God's will that one letter have such and such a shape, and another letter have a different shape. We find, then, that [God's] wills - i.e., the forms of the letters - serve to reveal His Malkhut, FW: Another paradox, then, is that the all encompassing Kingdom God corresponds to the tiny individual letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each letter has its particular form and message. LM 4:9 And all these wills, the forms, stem from the will of Ein Sof - which has no form . And all the objects and material existence in the world originate from the letters, i.e., from Malkhut. This is because material existence is a consequence of Malkhut, of the Holy One's desire that His Malkhut be revealed in the world. Through this He created the world ex nihilo. All the wills - the forms and all material existence corresponding to Malkhut - receive their vitality from the will of Ein Sof. As is taught (Migillah 31a): "In every place that you find the greatness of the Holy One - i.e., His Malkhut wills - "There you find His humility" - i.e., the will of Ein Sof. And this is an aspect of stripping oneself of corporeality. For when a person wants to be encompassed in the will of Ein Sof, he must negate his material being. FW: Here is the paradox cited by Hamann above, that the messiah (Christ or Moses) embodies the apparent contradiction that what is the All is also Nothingness, abject humility and the will of God. LM 4:9 For a change of will is not applicable to Ein Sof, Heaven forbid. Changes only occur in the changing of the forms. Nevertheless, by virtue of a person's attachment to Ein Sof - where there is no change of will, for there the will is uniform - afterwards an imprint of this oneness remains within him. Then later, when he is in a state of "returning", this imprint illuminates


6. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 8

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 8

part 8 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness by actress bel baca BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


7. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 4

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 4

part 4 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness with actress bel baca. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


8. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 6

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 6

part 6 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness by actress bel baca BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


9. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 2

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 2

part 2 of a 2 hour gestalt therapy session on awareness with actress bel baca BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


10. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 10

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 10

part 10 (last part) of a two hour gestalt session on awareness by actress bel baca. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


11. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 7

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt therapy with bel 7

part 7 of a two hour gestalt session on awareness by actress bel baca. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net HOW I WORK: GESTALT DREAMWORK AS THEATER AND PROPHECY GESTALT DREAM WORK AS PREPARATION FOR PERFORMING Since 1975 I have been using Gestalt work on awareness, dreams and personal relationships as a way to train and direct performers. The basic principle is simple. I use the Gestalt work to peel the onion of layer after layer of social cliches, ego games and unfinished personal business, and then I do the reverse process reconstituting the onion in the form of characters or other artist structures. The existential message of the dream becomes the superobjective or action of the tragedy, and then I build up the way the performer handles the characters and the plot around that. My usual procedure is to begin the training with three Gestalt sessions, one on one. The first session, two hours long, deals with the three zones of awareness. During the first hour I simply let him relate what he aware of, since I want to know how he operates before I start meddling with his life. This is important since overall during the Gestalt sessions we are peeling the onion of cliches and games to get to authentic action, and later we will need all of those layers to rebuild the onion as characters involved in the unfolding action of a drama. We need his cliche and game layers for the beginning of the action in Act One as much as we need his authentic action at the end of the dramatic action for Acts Four and Five of a tragic drama. During the second hour of the first Gestalt session on awareness I attempt to guide him towards a balance of the zones of awareness: outer zone awareness of the environment, inner zone awareness of his body, and fantasy zone awareness of his daydreams. The second and third Gestalt sessions are each three hours long, and each is a typical Gestalt dreamwork session as presented by Fritz Perls in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. The performer tells the dream in the here and now, identifies with (play acts) several of the main images of the dream in dialogues with each other, and experiences the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. That is to say, after each major dialogue of polarized sides of himself (the contact part) he is instructed to close his eyes, enter his body awareness and daydream (the withdrawal phase of the rhythm). Since my goal is theater as well as healing, whenever possible during the Gestalt dreamwork I encourage lots of expression using sound and movements. I work with a palette of about 200 different types of recorded musical excerpts, and whenever appropriate I ask him if that image or emotional state were part of a movie what sort of music might be the sound track. Then I find something close to that in my palette of musical colors and ask him to express the mood using the music along with his vocalizing and expressive movements. While he is doing the entire session I spend most of my time jotting down near verbatim notes and making stick figures of his poses and movements, since later in the work I will feed all this back to him and encourage him to explore using it as creative material for acting, dance or whatever his medium is. Taping the session is less useful, since then I would need to spend too much time replaying the tapes. Taking notes live forces me to sort out the wheat from the chaff very efficiently, even at the cost of not observing or notating every detail. WORKING OUT FROM YOUR CENTERS After the three introductory one on one Gestalt sessions, session number four is for feedback and discussion of the results. I show him in my notes and diagrams all of the stages of competed and uncompleted actions, and together we search for characters in the theater literature that have similar patterns of action. Is he a Hamlet type, or an Oedipus type, for example? In contrast to the usual practice in acting classes, his first acting assignment probably will be a monologue from a serious tragedy, since I want him to begin with a dramatic action with which he can identify totally. In this process he is using his major Gestalt moments as what Michael Chekhov in his book "To The Actor" labels "psychological gestures". Perls calls them the "essences" of a patient's personality, or we can say he is working from his "centers", stretching those sounds, moves and psychological motivations in as many creative directions as he can. I monitor closely to be sure he is not faking it, the way most actors end up doing since they do not have the centers to begin with. Before the performer begins working with others doing improvs and scenework, there is an important transitional stage in the work in which I help him get comfortable using his very personal Gestalt material freely as creative material. He needs to shift from seeing himself as a patient to enjoying the role of an artist of the theater, freely using his life as creative material. He needs to distance himself from the hot personal stuff using alienation techniques usually associated with the epic theater process of Bertold Brecht. Especially useful here is the "mocking your forms" exercise. First he performs one of his most personal forms, the movements and the sounds, and at the same time observes carefully (visually and kinesthetically) exactly what his body and voice are doing. Next he moves over about ten feet and from the new position looks back and imagines he is observing himself doing what he just did. Then, in as critical a manner as he can risk, he begins to mock that image of himself which is doing the form. He uses the form to mock the form by exaggerating it in as grotesque a way as he can risk. "I see you over there, Joe, you are flapping your arms just like a fish, like you don't know what you are doing, etc., etc." The more cruelty he can risk in his distortions and denunciations, the more he frees himself from being self-conscious and also the more the initial one physical and vocal form gives birth to a family of related forms. Other techniques which help expand and loosen up hot psychological material are (a) using various sorts of music as the basis of improvs, (b) stretching the forms into naturalistic short scenes, such as swimming or basketball, or (c) introducing a short text, such as "Yes, but". GROUP TECHNIQUES One he has his core of personal essences and after he has achieved some distance and flexibility in the use of his material, he is ready to work with other performers on improvs and scenes. I can direct several performers simultaneously since I know the sources of their personal material. I am directing them inside and out, so it is not just guesswork and wishful thinking as in most studios. Here again there are certain exercises which are particularly helpful in developing communication between performers and establishing a group improv structure that allows each person to use his personal material in a creative manner. Basic acting or dance improv exercises used by all studios work much better once each performer has a stock of essences to guide his explorations. The mirror exercise and funnyhouse mirror exercise are excellent to establish contact and get the process going. In the funnyhouse mirror exercise one performer, the lead, does a simple real life activity such a brushing his teeth, while the partner grotesquely parodies the lead. In the conductor exercise the lead does only movements while the group "orchestra" does only sounds that correspond to those moves. The puppets exercise is the reverse of the conductor exercise. The lead make sounds, while the group functions as marionettes suspended by strings. Each sound from the lead elicits corresponding jerky moves from the group, as though the sounds are tugging on the strings. The worlds exercise is an opportunity for one performer to explore using all his personal Gestalt material, while a group uses all the improv techniques above to work with the lead in his "world". Once each performer has done the worlds exercise, the last exercise in the series is the leaderless worlds exercise. Here each performer is both lead and follower. The entire group seeks to function as one group organism following "it". Each one actively takes turns as the lead and then passively gives up being the lead in order to enter into the world of each of the others. The result is a profound active-passive state known by philosophers as the middle way and by performers as the pure process mode. THE IDEA OF A THEATER So far we have a combination of four different ways of working: (1) individual Gestalt work as preparation for artistic experience, (2) alienation techniques for distancing oneself from hot personal material, (3) group improvs to make the transition from therapy results to artistic results, and (4) initial work on characters that are as close to one's centers as possible This mix guides a student through a powerful and totally natural, organic introduction to the art of the theater. Each performer remains within the personal world he has discovered during the dreamwork, while simultaneously expanding and then interweaving this world with the worlds of the other performers. In a sense this process develops the sort of ritualistic space found in "primitive" tribal societies. The artform is congruent with the lives of its participants, such as was likely the case when the small world of a Greek polis gave birth to the classical Greek tragedies which corresponded to the fantasies and personal actions of the members of the community. In "The Idea of a Theater", Francis Fergusson contrasts that ideal ritualistic function of a theater with the theaters of today which in most cases have lost that organic relation between a community and its artforms. We have today lost the encompassing "idea of a theater", and we have to settle for productions that present only what individual blind men can fathom of the entire elephant. Fergusson writes, Drama can only flourish in a human sized scene, generally accepted as the focus of the life or awareness of its time, and such a focus no longer exists . . . We do not have a theater in the classic sense nor do we see how we could have one. But we may still study the cultural landmarks - the drama of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the Divine Comedy of Dante - in which the idea of a theater has been briefly realized, so we may learn to recognize and appreciate the fragmentary perspectives we do have; collecting the pieces, keeping the idea alive in the tentative, fallible, and suggestive light of analogy. FF225 What we especially have lost is exactly that which Gestalt dreamwork gives us back, the ability to know objects by identifying with them totally, and then to "say it with your whole body". Here is how Antonin Artaud put it in "The Theater And Its Double". We cannot go on prostituting the idea of theater whose only value is in its excruciating, magical relation to reality and danger. "The Theater And Its Double", 89. To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. ibid., 11 Fergusson and Artaud use theatrical and philosophical jargon to say what Perls says in psychological jargon. Fergusson uses the term "histrionic sensibility" to mean "identify with the image and say it with your whole body". Fergusson also uses Aristotle's notion of "perception before predication" to refer to Perls' notion of awareness before aboutism. First get in touch with reality and then judge it or add your comments about it. ARISTOTLE AND FRITZ Fergusson quotes Butcher's translation of Aristotle's "Poetics". The plot is the imitation of the action - for by plot I [Aristotle] here mean the arrangement of the incidents . . . But most important of all it is the structure of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action and its end is a mode of action, not a quality . . . Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions . . . The plot, then, is the first principle and as it were the soul of a tragedy. FF229 In the preparatory Gestalt dreamwork which I do with each performer, oftentimes a 3-hour session concludes with a committed action, profound insight or "existential message of the dream". This is the "ahah" moment of a strong gestalt. From the point of view of this final idea or action, everything that transpired previously during the 3-hour session leads up to and is encompassed by this experience of integration. Fritz tells clients to "identify with the coming solution" as an act of faith. This is Fritz's version of Aristotle's insight that what is actual is prior to what is merely potentially the case. The action, in other words, is somehow already unfolding from the beginning of the session, even though it does not emerge full blown till three hours later. This same notion Aristotle carried over into his notion of action in the theater as a form of poetic art. When he says "the plot is the imitation of the action" he is saying that the series of conflicts and resolutions that lead up to the final choice or revelation in a tragic action are in a certain way an imitation of that final insight or action. They imitate the action in the sense that they are analogous to it or correspond to it. The idea or action of the drama exists on an ideal, Platonic level of truth, to which the stage action can at best only correspond as a code or symbol. Theologically this amounts to saying that while man is made in the image of G-d, he is not G-d and only can seek to intuit how G-d operates and strive to manifest that process in his being and actions. To the extent that he succeeds in this ascent, the performer is serving in the role traditionally assigned to prophets. Contemporary visionaries of the theater such as Fergusson and Artaud will settle for nothing less than a theater which actualizes our prophetic potentiality. CONCLUSION Aristotle's view of the plot as the imitation of an action justifies my use of the Gestalt dreamwork action (the peeling of the onion), as the basis for the theater process (the reconstituting of the onion as a tragic action). For the dreamwork events that unfold over the course of three hours are, in a sense, the plot of a tragedy that is a code, overlay or symbol for the overall action, idea, or existential message of the dreamwork session. I am transferring the plot and action of the dreamwork from the arena of healing to that of art. But it is only in our schizoid, "fallen", fragmented, de-ritualized contemporary society that art and healing are separate events. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall, and utopian, holistic philosophers such as Hegel seek to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. For Hegel the arts, religion and philosophy are subdivisions of the encompassing realm of Absolute Spirit, and their common dialectical framework allows free movement of theory and practice from one discipline to the other. Gestalt therapy, which leads clients from cliches and habits towards the realm of pure thought (the existential message of the dream) by means of the creative use of imagery, has similar holistic aspirations. Hence Gestalt dreamwork lends itself perfectly to the sort of interdisciplinary manipulations required to allow it to serve as the foundation of a theater which embodies the prophetic vision of "the idea of a theater". VIDEO OF BEL BACA'S WORK ON AWARENESS VIDEO AND ESSAY BY FRANKLYN WEPNER, 2005 fwep@earthlink.net VERBATIM NOTES OF THE SESSION ARE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. (A) INTRODUCTION This essay is a companion piece for two DVD's which I video-ed in April 2005 and completed editing in November 2005. The DVD's present two hours of gestalt work on "awareness" performed by a young actress named Bel Baca, who recently completed a B.A. in Theater at the University of Central Florida. My audience is primarily those who have seen those DVD's, but I will try to make myself intelligible to those who have not seen them. The particular process which I am describing here is a way of working which I pioneered in 1975 and have been doing in basically the same manner ever since, first in New York, then in Philadelphia, then in Israel and now in Miami, Florida. Therefore, what you are reading here represents the fruit of 30 years experience. Going back further than that, Fritz Perls developed the techniques of Gestalt Therapy around 1950. Going back much further than that, according my own research I believe techniques very similar to these have been used for many many centuries in healing and religious practices all over the world, for example in the middle ages in Judaism and Christianity by priests and rabbis who were exorcizing demons and dybbuks - which we now label "introjects" or "projections". And back in 500 B.C.E. Heraclitus and other philosophers already were writing about the logos (dialectic or word) and self-interruptions of the river of awareness (self-interruptions which we now label "anxiety" and "neurosis"). Gestalt work also has roots in traditions of meditative practices, such as concentrating on your breathing in a Zen monastery. "Meditation" in this sense means to stay in the here and now and deal objectively with whatever comes along in your experience as it is happening. I am stressing the long history of this process since I want to make it clear from the beginning that I am not doing what nowadays is called "therapy". The "therapy" thing is a recent invention. It implies a formal and legal agreement whereby somebody takes responsibility to guide the life of someone else according to the rules of a certain group of people who have set themselves up as an organization to grant credentials to its members. This "therapy" item, which then can be marketed as a commodity, brings great financial benefits to its practitioners, whether or not it has much value for the consumers who purchase it. Not being grounded in any world tradition of wisdom and morality and with little accountability except to members of the same clique, these moral entrepreneurs set themselves up as self-fashioned gods driving around in divine chariots powered by platinum credit cards rather than true ideas. In my work, on the other hand, I ask people to sign an agreement stating that we are not doing therapy at all. I inform them that I walked out of medical school in 1963 and was thrown out of social work school in 1974, that I am not a licensed therapist and that I am not at all taking responsibility for their lives. I call my colleagues performers and not patients. I tell people from the beginning not to trust me any more than they decide they want to as we go along in the process. In fact, their not trusting me is an important part of our work, as you saw in these DVD's of my work with Bel Baca. As of this moment in December 2005, to date I have done this particular 10 hour series of one-on-one gestalt workshops with about 610 people over the past 30 years, i.e., a total of about 6200 hours, in addition to the other performer training techniques I have been using. (B) BEL'S AWARENESS WORK Let's summarize now the first hour of Bel's work, what I label her work on "unguided awareness". During the first hour I did not "direct" the work since I wanted to learn where Bel is starting from, how she usually operates when she is on her own in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bel from the outset showed us clearly how she operates. In a few minutes already we saw overall a pretty well defined pattern ("gestalt") beginning to emerge: Bel tended to implode in on herself, work herself up to a hysterical state of tension and anxiety, and then rescue herself with some sort of escape fantasy image, all within 15 minutes! At the beginning of the session Bel had a certain amount of contact with the outer zone, balanced by some emphasis on the inner zone. But by the end of the first hour we saw that even after my feedback most of her attention went inside. Gestalt directors talk about the "holes" in a person's awareness functioning or map. In Bel's case where there could be eyes and ears we found at the outset - to a certain extent - holes instead. Especially we saw how she tends to avoid looking directly at people, me (her scene partner) in particular. Let me be very specific about this. At the beginning Bel limited her contact with outer zone objects to only a few seconds, whereas she felt comfortable spending much time inside. Outside she saw general properties of objects which did not elicit much interest, while inside she zoomed into compelling details. Keeping her eyes half closed much of the time fit into this pattern. For example, until I pointed it out she did not pay much attention to colors or give time for associations and fantasies regarding objects in the environment. Also, she tended to restrain the natural progression from sensing an object to reaching out and touching that object. Being aware of feeling cold, for example, did not connect to reaching out for something warm to wear until I made the connection for her! I did not call her attention to the nasal outpouring which went on throughout most of the session, and so instead of a handkerchief or a piece of toweling which no doubt was available within 10 feet of where she was sitting in her own apartment, Bel used practically every surface of her hands to deal with the problem during the two hour video! This tendency to remain within her cocoon was especially evident when it came to dealing (or rather not dealing) with me, her scene partner. Usually she waited till I turned away to glance quickly in my direction, but then when I turned back in her direction she was back inside again. I have never seen a prairie dog, but I can imagine they must have developed similar survival techniques to deal with marauding wolves on the prairie. According to Gestalt theory, people who do not see or hear are likely to fill the empty space with imagination in a non-creative, self-destructive manner by cranking out critical judgments of other people and at the same time projecting critical eyes out onto others. They then imagine that these others are judging them critically. This habitual pattern of behavior below the level of awareness, or what Eric Berne labeled a "game people play", is harmful for an actress, since she ends up being so busy worrying about what the audience thinks of her work that she is distracted from identifying with the role. In Bel's case in the DVD we saw, in a classic manner, how after about 5 minutes of work Bel had propelled herself into a state of anxiety and gloom. Instant tears! Along with the tears came shame, as the merciless projected eyes demanded that she be ashamed even of crying. Soon Bel was worried about not being attractive enough (to satisfy the projected critical eyes), and then her associations led her to pop singer Kelly Clarkson and the words of Clarkson's song "Because of You". SONG: "BECAUSE OF YOU" BY KELLY CLARKSON, DAVID HODGES, BEN MOODY I will not make the same mistakes that you did. I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery. I will not break the way you did. You fell so hard. I've learned the hard way to never let it get that far. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you I am afraid. I lose my way, and it's not too long before you point it out. I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes. I'm forced to fake a smile, a laugh, every day of my life. My heart can't possibly break, when it wasn't even whole to start with. I watched you die. I heard you cry every night in your sleep. I was so young. You should have known better than to lean on me. You never thought of anyone else. You just saw your pain. And now I cry in the middle of the night, for the same damn thing. Because of you, because of you, because of you I am afraid. Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt. Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I am ashamed of my life because it's empty. Because of you I am afraid, because of you. Notice how the words in bold type are the result of feeling judged by critical eyes and how they led Bel more and more away from the real world and into an imaginary world of self-disparagement. In that cramped cocoon space Bel feels helpless to deal with the alien world "out there", out there where she is afraid even to look. But this is at first no problem, since once she gets lost inside Bel has plenty to keep herself busy. She never tires of concentrating on body awareness, the "ickyness" for example that she contacts in her "tummy". Also, most of her body movements are relating herself to herself, such as holding her hands, twiddling her fingers, curling up in the chair, wrapping herself in a towel (security blanket) and manipulating small objects close to herself. She plays on her body and her breathing as though it is an accordion, going back and forth between constricting her breathing and relaxing it just enough to get some air. All this retroflection (tension and overcontrolling of her body) contributes to her anxiety and after a while we find Bel in a state of despair brooding about Marilyn Monroe's suicide in Los Angeles at age 36. Shortly after our Gestalt session Bel moved to L. A., to "Hollywood and Vine", and like Marilyn Monroe once did, Bel now is making the rounds of auditions. Apparently, like Sheri (the character Marilyn Monroe plays in the movie "Bus Stop") Bel has a straight line "direction" leading right to Hollywood. Now that she is there, her ability to generate instant hysteria and tears is probably a great asset to her as an actress - so long as she does not take it all too personally and end up like Marilyn Monroe did. One other result of all this imploding is that by overcontrolling her breathing and not making much use of her ears Bel started out our session with a very limited range of physical and vocal expression. Her physical moves were general and vague rather than focused and specific, while her voice most of the time was a soft monotone. But fortunately, Bel has a way out of the cocoon she spins around herself. Like Cinderella or like Princess Jasmine in Walt Disney's musical Aladdin, Bel has a heart and a head full of rescue fantasies. Her favorite themes are floating, flying and breaking away, and since she is very musical these themes often enter her mind in the form of song lyrics of pop songs she knows - especially those of Kelly Clarkson. First, the imploding and despair spiral inward like a whirlpool, transporting Bel helplessly into a dark, melancholy void, and then - "it's all so magical!" - along comes the rescue fantasy transporting her - once again passively - "out of the darkness and into the light", like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. In view of all these parallels in the action, I took the liberty in my DVD of inserting into the scenario a scene from Walt Disney's version of Aladdin. Aladdin in this scene arrives on his magic carpet, rescues Princess Jasmine from the castle, and whisks her off to "a whole new world" of out-of-this-world vistas. As an actress Bel, in her emotional and fantasy life, certainly can capitalize on this cyclical roller coaster ride back and forth from self-generated melancholy to self-generated euphoria, so long as she does not lose control of the machine and succumb to despair herself. (C) GENERAL SUMMARY OF BEL'S ENTIRE SESSION What overall observations can we make? First of all we can say that the work "worked". Bel was open to my direction and despite the monumental obstacle I gave her by putting a Canon XL-2 video camera, with its blinking red light, about 8 feet from her nose she seems to have gotten to some sort of closure during the work. In the language of Gestalt theory we can say that she accomplished a certain "action" during the two hours she spent with me in the here and now. There was a sense of moving forward in all the three zones of awareness, and also there emerged a fluid relationship between the three zones: (1) the outer zone of objects in the environment, (2) the inner zone of body awareness, and (3) the fantasy zone of daydream images. This fluidity of awareness zones reveals a potentially healthy and creative individual, whereas lack of movement between the zones would characterize a brittle, very limited schizoid ("split") personality. Now I'm going to be more specific about Bel's progress and add a bit of interpretation concerning what it all means. But don't worry. In this brief essay I will not say much about the philosophy underlying my work. I won't try to force feed you any particular philosophical or religious system. Of course, to me personally the theory of this work is very important. So if you are interested in hearing more about my take on the process, I hope you will check out some of the interpretive essays I have written where I look at the gestalt process from the perspective of various sects - secular and sacred. Getting back to general observations about Bel's work, here are some prominent trends that I noticed that emerged during the two hours of work on awareness. (1) Balancing the three zones of awareness leads to "the big picture". First of all, Bel managed to balance the three zones of awareness by bringing more outer zone focus and a rich fantasy zone experience into her work. In the fantasies she began with small objects that flitted by and then gradually expanded her range to deal in a sustained manner with a particular person (Marilyn Monroe). Finally, she focused on an image of a kitten in some depth. At first Bel's attitude toward other objects and creatures was distant and defensive, but by the end of the session she reached out, touched and acknowledged feeling a need for contact with others. At the end she said, "I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling." In terms of the theory of drama developed by Aristotle and elaborated by Fergusson in "The Idea of a Theater", we can say that this was an opening action and a reaching out for warmth and love, like the action of a flower when the sun shines in the morning. This need to open and reach out for love was, as Stanislavki would have called it, Bel's "superobjective" in this tragedy. The character Sheri in Bus Stop and the character Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire" share a similar superobjective. But while Bel and Sheri succeed in overcoming the obstacles and completing the action, Blanche does not succeed in overcoming the obstacles. Blanche is driven back even further inside herself to psychosis by overwhelming environmental factors - especially the obstacles imposed by character Stanley. Why would Aristotle or Stanislavski call the completed action of Bel or Sheri a "tragedy"? Because in some sense the main character undergoes a death and rebirth of ego, or discovers a new point of view about life. The non-contactful insect style ego which needs to spin a cocoon in order to survive in an alien environment must die, we might say, in order that the human child can be born into a loving world inhabited by other human beings, just like so many classical Greek tragedy heroes need to die in order to fulfil their dramatic function. (2) Good contact results in a wider range of physical and vocal expression. Another area where Bel demonstrated much progress was in physical expression. Contacting and then finding the voice of each body part led to excellent results. This carried over also into vocal expression. At first she was stuck in a soft monotone, but later she began - to some extent - to vary the pitch, dynamics and tempo. She did this not merely technically like a virtuoso musician, but contactfully in response to here and now momentary concrete physical and emotional needs. In her own life and as an actress this is a technique she also can apply to vocal readings to keep her audience from falling asleep - if she is willing to risk that! (3) Bel moves from having abstract "ideas about the scene" to living concretely here and now in the moments. As Bel balanced the outer, inner and fantasy zones of awareness, there was a shift from regarding herself as an ego style Self, a Self with a capital "S", a Self which is a large precious thing that needs to be protected, towards a non-ego self, a self with a small "s", a self which is merely a process of exploring and discovering reality. The Self with its deliberate "ideas about the scene", such as "I am going to die one day" and "don't you dare to reach out and touch strangers", yielded to a less rigid "self as process" which could risk surrendering to the circumstances of each moment. The shift from Self as thing to self as process was an important result of Bel's work today. We saw how this shift of point of view towards that of "the big picture" was, paradoxically, the result of dealing with tiny details of her experience. Her "faith in a grain of mustard seed" (each moment of concrete awareness) was rewarded by holistic progress as she became more and more grounded in reality. Like Sheri in "Bus Stop", she discarded her childish rulebook with its rigid principles, and grasped more holistic ideas, such as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (of good contact). She discovered that in this wider frame of reference she could find her own support, her own grounding. Being more grounded in reality helped her to deal with the gloom that led to crying at the beginning of the session. As more and more moments of good contact converged into a rich encompassing contact boundary, she no longer had the need to implode into hysterical emotions and a sense of helpless despair. (4) The "rhythm of contact and withdrawal" leads Bel to an overall action or idea of the session, a "superobjective". Aside from basic work on awareness itself, the major structural component of Gestalt work is known as "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". By "contact" in this context is meant awareness of specific objects such that one can say "I see that" or "I hear that". By withdrawal is meant ceasing the "contact" experience and, one might say, "getting lost" without any specific focus. Usually this implies closing one's eyes, going into one's body awareness and allowing a daydream to percolate up from the "fertile void". The new image oftentimes gives rise to personal associations to events from one's life, especially events involving close family relationships in childhood. The Gestalt director then can guide the performer in an exploration of unfinished business involving that relationship. This all happens in the here and now, without stopping to analyze or talk about what is happening. The performer relives the important event as though it is happening in present time, putting himself in one chair and the other person in the other and going back and forth play acting the roles and the dialogue. One cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal constitutes one "beat" of the underlying (dialectical) logic of the dramatic action. During today's session on awareness I led Bel back and forth between the contact stage and the withdrawal stage, through several beats of the action. I do much more of this sort of work during the second and third sessions, where acting out the dream images and dialogues between them deepens the experience. During the first session on awareness I merely ask the performer to shuttle between outer zone and inner zone awareness and give an opportunity for daydreams to emerge along the way. An indication of how well Bel's work progressed today is the lovely manner in which each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal led her organically on to the next step and onto the superobjective in what turned out to be the final leap of the series. It was as though a higher or deeper force was propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. Why did it appear "as though" this was occuring? Answer: because it actually was occuring. There was, "in truth", a higher or deeper force propelling the inner logic that was unfolding from the outset. This, again, is what Stanislavsi means by the word "superobjective". Hence, we can see how dumb it is for actors and directors to expect to grasp the superobjective of a major tragic (or comic) action merely by fooling around with literary minutia or intricate cerebral analyses of a script. Even Brecht demanded that actors first contact their superobjectives before adding on layers of formalist devices and alienation effects to the acting score. Clever shticks, virtuoso technique, literary and intellectual erudition, and "knowing the business" certainly are important in the theater, but an actor (or dancer or singer or poet, etc.) who is floating on the surface of his life in a dinghy full of shticks, information and aboutism is merely paddling aimlessly on the great ocean when it comes to organizing these surface details into a coherent, credible artistic action (Aristotle) or idea (Plato). Rather, an actor needs to discover as many of his own centers as possible, and harness the powers of the great ocean (or whatever you would like to call it in your own cultural context) for his own purposes and the needs of his art. Later stages of this gestalt theater process attempt to do just that. My essays present my own particular way of finding a cultural context for this work within Judaism. (5) The series of withdrawal images reveals the beats of the action, the "acts" of Bel's tragedy (or comedy). I will go through the series of withdrawal images with you now, so you can see exactly what I mean by the beats of a dramatic action or superobjective. At the same time, as we examine the content of the images we will notice that other changes also were happening in a way that moved the process more and more profoundly along the banks of an underlying river. At the beginning Bel's images were fleeting, but they became more and more sustained and developed as the focus of her fantasy zone increased. Another gradual shift was from images that served passively as a release from despair to images that involved committed actions that Bel undertook as part of her existential, or some might say "spiritual", attempt to grow. Let's take these images one at a time. Image 1: the song "Because of You" During her work on unguided awareness Bel is quite proficient at talking herself into a quagmire of tension and despair. Soon she ends up feeling helpless and judged by critical eyes. Then suddenly pops into her head the Kelly Clarkson song "Because Of You". Miraculously, Bel finds some release from her sense of constriction and helplessness. How does this happen? Certainly the words of the song are not all that cheerful and full of hope. My hypothesis is that suddenly Bel shifts her way of thinking from subjectivity (worrying about causes and effects) to objectivity (dealing with life here and now in a meditative manner). The strong image gives her here and now an objective contact boundary, a strong "gestalt" (pattern, focused idea) to grasp. This releases her from cause and effect style anticipations of painful judgments and imminent catastrophes which might occur in the future. "If", for example, "I do not lose weight or get my lines just right (the cause), then soon people will see me as uninteresting (effect number one) or unattractive (effect number two), and then . . . (effect number three, etc.)!" But now, by involving herself in actually hearing the tune in her head, Bel frees herself from self-interruptions (projections, introjects, demons, etc.). She no longer is possessed. She now is able to use her mind and body in a natural human way to restore balance and homeostasis. Bel relaxes her muscles and soon she is breathing freely and concentrating on the task at hand, contacting the three zones of awareness. Image 2: passively floating and flying away on a magic carpet Next, as she begins to discover the power of this new awareness technique, Bel says "I am picturing myself flying". The first time the flying image occurs it is merely a fleeting notion, but the image comes back a little later in a more developed form, and Bel now is able to sustain the focus and see herself lying on her back on the carpet, with her arms outstretched in the shape of what she calls a "cross", passively floating out the window and flying through the air. Nevertheless, the image still is a relatively weak one. For example, there was no music accompanying the image. After the session I asked Bel if she had any musical associations to the image. What came to her mind was the Walt Disney musical animation "Aladdin". But during the work itself Bel did not volunteer any particular musical background. Here is the text of the song Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine as he whisks her on his magic carpet out of her palace and into a magical new world. I see this song as being entirely appropriate to Bel's state of mind as it appears to me to be at this moment in her work.Therefore, I have taken the liberty of interjecting both the song and the magic carpet ride visual track that accompanies it in the Disney flick into my DVD's of Bel's work. Since my intent here is helping people to grow, and not to make a profit, I hope this use of the Disney clip falls under the heading "fair use". SONG: "I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD" FROM WALT DISNEY'S MUSICAL "ALADDIN" ALADDIN: I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid. Tell me, Princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under on a magic carpet ride. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us "no", or where to go, or say we're only dreaming. JASMINE: A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. A dazzling place I never knew. But when I'm way up here it's crystal clear that now I'm in a whole new world with you. ALADDIN: Now I'm in a whole new world with you. JASMINE: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, we're weaving through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world. ALADDIN: Don't you dare close your eyes! JASMINE: A hundred thousand things to see. ALADDIN: Hold your breath. It gets better. JASMINE: I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: Every turn a surprise. ALADDIN: With new horizons to perceive. JASMINE: Every moment gets better. BOTH: I'll chase them anywhere. There's time to spare. Let me share this whole new world with you. ALADDIN: A whole new world. JASMINE: A whole new world. ALADDIN: That's where we'll be. JASMINE: That's where we'll be. ALADDIN: A thrilling chase. JASMINE: A wondrous place. BOTH: For you and me. JASMINE: (spoken) It's all so magical. ALADDIN: (spoken) Yeah. Image 3: actively flying and breaking away with her own wings A crucial parameter we need to monitor in regard to these daydream images is the extent to which the performer is actively involved rather than being a mere passive victim of circumstances. So far Bel's imagination is becoming stronger, but at the same time so far these images of floating and flying still have Bel casting herself in the role of passive recipient of energies from forces outside herself. But soon another "flying away" image emerges, and this time Bel herself takes responsibility for the action. She daydreams the melody and words of another Kelly Clarkson song, "Break Away". SONG: "BREAK AWAY" by M. GERRARD, B. BENANTE, & A. LAVIGNE Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down I'd just stare out my window. Dreamin' of what could be, and if I'd end up happy, I would pray, trying hard to reach out. But when I tried to speak out, felt like no one could hear me. Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here, so I prayed I could break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky, and I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget all the ones that I love. Want to feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree. I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Feel the rush of the ocean, get onboard a fast train, travel on a jet plane, far away and break away. Buildings with a hundred floors, swinging round revolving doors, maybe I don't know where they'll take me, but gotta keep movin' on, movin' on, fly away, break away. I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly, though it's not easy to tell you goodbye. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away. Out of the darkness and into the sun, but I won't forget the place I come from. I got to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and break away, break away, break away. This time Bel herself is having thoughts of actively breaking away from her past and moving on to new adventures - though not without a certain need to hang onto her roots in the past. Her past she now sees as "darkness" and the freedom she is craving is the opposite, "light". Jet planes and buildings with 100 floors are strong attractions to a young actress who is on the verge of pulling up stakes in Florida and heading for the big time in L.A. Also, here we have music with a strong personal connection for Bel. The song articulates two of Bel's urgent needs: "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly. I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky." To breathe and think freely and to reach out to touch and find love are two objectives which are crucial components of Bel's superobjective, two parts of the emerging whole. In terms of the overall tragic/comic action of this two hour gestalt session, we can say that we now are in Act Two of a five act drama. Bel now has a clear objective: to break away into the light. Her obstacles are the forces or demons symbolized by what she regards as "darkness" and "because of you". The action still is far from complete. Image 4: Marilyn Monroe as symbol of deep personal conflicts It is only in the next image, that of Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", that finally we have a fully human situation linking specific imagery and emotional needs. This is Act Three of Bel's tragicomedy, and it is no longer just an adolescent cartoon scenario. Now the obstacle ("to disparage myself into a colossal flop") seriously confronts the objective ("to overinflate myself into a superstar"). Bel is moving the action towards an X/-X impasse, a "stuck point" crisis in Act Four. At first Bel can identify superficially with Marilyn Monroe as a happy and attractive star, but soon depressing and ugly thoughts of Marilyn's suicide at age 36 in L.A. intrude and turn the Hollywood dream into a nightmare with which Bel will not identify. From the point of view of her conflict and resultant misery at this point of the action, Bel concludes that the main thing, what she really wants, is "just to be happy". This certainly is a superobjective that seems to resolve the conflict, but actually this superobjective is only a vague and abstract "idea about the scene". Identifying with such an objective as "to be happy" is merely playing a quality of pumped up hysteria. The objective "to be happy" does not imply a series of specific concrete beats that can be used to articulate the action, either as Bel Baca or as any character Bel may want to play in her career as an actress. Marilyn Monroe herself plays a similarly muddled aspiring actress in "Bus Stop". The character Sheri at first is fixated on getting to L.A. at all costs, for the relatively superficial goals of "getting some respect" and attaining lots of success and happiness. But by the end of the movie Sheri resigns herself to dealing with the specific circumstances occasioned by her new relationship with a young man named Beau. Sheri decides that despite all the obstacles it entails from the point of view of her initial program of being a superstar, the prospect of marriage, security and concrete here/now satisfaction with this specific person named Beau affords her a stronger objective than does the vague spectral lure of "Hollywood and Vine". Sheri rips up the abstract roadmap which till then had been a rigid "story of my life", an "idea about the scene", and now she identifies with this emerging new concrete love relationship which here and no is giving her a rich, vital contact experience. Image 5: a kitten as a love object safe to reach out and touch Bel herself does not deal with a similar conflict until the next and final image of her session, the image of a blue-eyed very furry kitten. The content of this image is much less dazzling than either the Hollywood studio scene or the life of Marilyn Monroe, but what is new here is no less important in the deeper logic of Bel's existence. For now, for the first time, Bel is no longer only a passive victim of tragic circumstances. She is no longer breaking away blindly in the manner of a teenie bopper. Rather, as a mature woman Bel now is reaching out to another living creature (be it merely a kitten or a grain of mustard seed) with full contact and emotional involvement. How does Bel feel about the kitten? "I love it", she says. The parallel to the "Bus Stop" movie is striking. When near the end of the movie Sheri's lover "Beau" tries to grab her in the way men have been grabbing her since she was age 12, Sheri takes charge of her life and demands that "this time it should be different", not just being grabbed as an object of someone else's lust. Beau has a similar revelation when he discovers that "kissing someone for serious is scary", scary because it involves authentic contact with another human being and not just blindly grabbing an object you plan to make use of. Like Sheri, who chooses motherhood over L.A., Bel associates reaching out and touching the kitten to holding her sister's baby. The mothering/loving feeling soon generalizes and by the end of the session Bel feels a need to reach out to people in general in a loving way. Perhaps soon Bel will move beyond an either/or conflict in this area towards a higher integration of the opposite sides, but for now the issues are only just emerging into consciousness. Along with this new perspective on life comes a mild explosion into joy and optimism about her life as she anticipates the long journey that "begins with a single step". This is Act Five, the denouement, of Bel's drama, at least on the deeper (or higher) level of the superobjective. We do not have enough current information from Bel to know how this existential action is translating into specific events of her life as it is unfolding now at "Hollywood and Vine" in Los Angeles. (D) CONCLUSION If we look now for general technical terms to summarize Bel's existential journey during our two hours of work, we can say there was a transition from imploding to exploding, from closing in on oneself to opening out to the universe. The session ended with what Gestalt people label a mild "explosion into authentic joy", a shift from gloom to a mild euphoria, as energy tied up in tensing herself and imploding herself became available for living life creatively. This was a mini-satori or enlightenment experience. The implosion process was reversed merely by tuning into the larger context or envelope of here and now experience, the context of life itself. We did not need analytically to meddle with specific events in Bel's childhood or present life. True, in later dreamwork sessions which Bel one day may undertake there would be a place for zeroing in on actual dream images, past relationships and unfinished business, but these individual events are in Gestalt work usually integrated into larger and larger envelopes as a performer or pilgrim gets more and more grounded in the contact boundary and reality itself. Each new conflict along the way leads to its own resolution on a higher level by means of a certain kind of deeper (higher) logic that goes by many names depending upon the point of view of the person doing the theorizing: induction (versus deduction), ascent (on the right side of the tree of life), translation (moving up Jacob's ladder of angels), identifying with the coming solution (Gestalt), the final cause (Aristotle), return to origin via anamnesis (Plato), etc. And so we find that there is no way to avoid dealing with philosophical and religious matters in this work. Secular philosophers talk about how the two sides of a conflict - the thesis and the antithesis - get incorporated into a higher level idea called the synthesis. This way of thinking is known as dialectical thinking, and it forms the basis of most philosophical and religious traditions in the world, east and west. Religious leaders, such as Maimonides or St.Thomas, developed their own vocabularies to deal dialectically with the traditions of their own communities. For example, if we want to use the philosophical framework of Aristotle or Maimonides we could spell out Bel's series of beats as an ascent from conflicted lower, smaller spheres, envelopes or heavens towards encompassing higher and broader spheres of the universe. But I promised not to force feed philosophy or religion in this account. For those who find pondering deep causes of things to be more trouble than it is worth, and for that reason will "pass" on my other essays, this, then, may be the end of our shared journey. I'll conclude this essay now by quoting what Bel had to say about this session when a month or so later I asked her for a "reference". She sent me the following email from L.A. "Be open to a Gestalt session and you'll be amazed. I'd personally recommend Franklyn's Gestalt work to everyone, whether you have a personal emotion or issue you want to work on, or not. Franklyn used this technique in showing me my own awareness paradigm, which in turn helped me in all aspects of my life, including my acting. It served to give me more emotional freedom and helped me grasp the power I have to influence my thoughts, emotions and hence my decisions. Bel Baca, actress, Los Angeles, California, September 2005." BEL BACA: AWARENESS CONTINUUM MY NEAR VERBATIM NOTES TAKEN DURING THE WORK APRIL 17, 2005. THIS SESSION WAS CONDUCTED IN BEL'S APARTMENT. THERE WERE NO OBSERVERS. THE PRESENCE OF HER ROOMMATE MOVING ABOUT OUTSIDE THE ROOM MAY HAVE AFFECTED BEL'S SENSE OF PRIVACY. THE VIDEO CAMERA WAS LEFT RUNNING BY ITSELF THROUGHOUT THE WORK. WE HAD AGREED BEFOREHAND THAT I WOULD TAKE THE TAPE WITH ME AT THE END OF THE SESSION. UNGUIDED AWARENESS: ONE HOUR B: Now I am aware of cool air. My feet are on the ground. I'm aware of my tummy, 'cause I just ate. You want physical things? F: No questions allowed. B: I'm aware of seeing you all in blue. Now I'm aware of feeling a little anxious 'cause I've never done this. I'm aware of my center. My stomach is anxious. You want more? I feel I have energy, but also my energy is zapped. I feel that often. TWIDDLING HER FINGERS. LONG PAUSE. I'm aware that my eyes look red. I have an irritation. It's from soap. SHE SPENDS MUCH TIME LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR. I'm aware of feeling icky. I don't know why. SLIGHT SMILE. Like I want to cry. SHE CRIES, SNIVELS. IN GENERAL MUCH OF THE TIME BEL'S EYES ARE HALF OPEN. Now I'm aware of feeling embarrassed that I cried. EXHALES DEEPLY, AFTER HOLDING HER BREATH A WHILE. AS A GENERAL PATTERN, I NOTICE THAT BEL SEEMS TO PLAY HER BREATH LIKE AN ACCORDION, HOLDING IT AND THEN RELEASING IT WITHOUT BEING VERY AWARE OF HOW THIS OVERCONTROLLING GENERATES A STATE OF PHYSICAL TENSION AND AN ACCOMPANYING SENSE OF ANXIETY. SHE LEANS FORWARD AND LAUGHS. NOW HER EYES ARE ALMOST CLOSED. I'm aware of thinking it's funny that I cried. DEEP BREATH. I'm aware of feeling constricted, because I'm feeling stuck in my body. F: I AM CONCERNED LEST SHE WORK HERSELF UP INTO A STATE OF HYSTERIA, BUT I WOULD RATHER NOT INVERVENE. I AM HOPING THAT SHE WILL WORK HER WAY OUT OF THIS IMPLODING. Let me know if you need help. In the meantime go on with what you are aware of. B: LONG PAUSE I'm aware of the beautiful trees outside, blowing in the wind. I'm aware that I'm a human being, that I'm mortal and that I'll die someday. That makes me feel helpless. I'm looking at my finger nails. Now I'm aware of the taste of this nail polish. It's not good. I'm aware of feeling a little drowsy. I'm aware of the stress I'm putting on my toes. SHE IS PRESSING THEM AGAINST THE RUG. HER NOSE IS DRIPPING NONSTOP, WITH OCCASIONAL DROPS HANGING FROM THE END OF HER NOSE. I'm aware that I'm too aware of bodily feelings as opposed to higher concepts and ideas. MUCH SNIVELING. I'm aware that I probably have fears and anxieties that I need to release. OVERALL: MUCH HOLDING AND THEN RELEASING OF HER BREATH. I'm aware that I'm distrusting of myself and of others in life sometimes. F: I NOTICE THAT BEL MOST OF THE TIME AVOIDS LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. WHEN I TURN BACK TO HER AFTER LOOKING AWAY, SHE QUICKLY TURNS AWAY FROM LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. B: I'm aware that I'm hoping this exercise will help me in some way. PAUSE. I'm aware that I have a song playing in my head. F: What song is it? B: "Because Of You". I'm aware that I took a deep breath. That felt good. I'm aware that I'm very conscious of how I look, my body image. FEEDBACK: AT THIS POINT I STOPPED BEL'S AWARENESS WORK AND GAVE HER FEEDBACK. I WENT OVER ALL OF MY NOTES, POINTING OUT WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE "AWARENESS" ACCORDING TO GESTALT THEORY AND WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE SOME OTHER SORT OF FUNCTIONING, SUCH AS JUDGMENTS, PROJECTIONS AND AVOIDANCES. I POINT OUT THAT SHE IS AVOIDING CONTACTING HER "SCENE PARTNER", WHO IN THIS CASE IS ME. BEL TOOK A FEW MINUTES TO REPLAY THE VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE LOOK DOING THE WORK. THEN WE RESUMED THE UNGUIDED AWARENESS EXERCISE. B: LONG PAUSE. I'm aware of my face being itchy. I'm aware of you looking at me. AS A MATTER OF FACT, AT THE MOMENT SHE SAID THIS I WAS NOT ACTUALLY LOOKING AT HER. I'm aware of feeling more relaxed. I'm aware of some kind of sound outside. Cars maybe. I'm aware of your shirt. It says "Martin Guitars, Established 1833". Now I'm aware of feeling tired. I'm yawning. SHE IS TOUCHING HER FACE QUITE A BIT. I'm aware that I'm sniveling. I'm aware that I'm more relieved. I'm aware that I am self-conscious, that I am annoyed that I'm sniffling a lot. BEL LOOKS DIRECTLY AT ME FOR PERHAPS THE FIRST TIME. LONG PAUSE. I see that you're wearing glasses and white sox. They look clean. SHE CONTINUES LOOKING AT ME AS I WRITE, BUT WHEN I LOOK UP AT HER SHE QUICKLY LOOKS AWAY. SHE YAWNS. HER VOICE IS SO FAR AN UNEXPRESSIVE MONOTONE MOST OF THE TIME. I'm aware that my nails are pretty. I'm aware that my eyes might be half closed, that I'm smiling and that my shoulders feel sore. I'm aware that I am happy that I am doing this exercise. Now I'm aware that the fan is spinning. I'm aware that last night's show may not have gone well. I was too much in my head. BEL IS AN ACTRESS PERFORMING THE LEAD ROLE AT A LOCAL THEATER EACH NIGHT THIS WEEK. I'm aware of how this bracelet feels on my arm. I'm aware that I am sniffling and that I am touching this bracelet. HER CURLED UP POSITION IN THE CHAIR HAS NOT CHANGED FOR A WHILE. I'm picturing myself flying. I'm looking at that purple back massager IT IS GLASS, ON A TABLE ACROSS THE ROOM. It is very pretty. Now I am picturing what it would be like to touch that piece of paper you are writing on. YAWNS. I'm aware that I just yawned. WITH HER LEGS STILL CURLED UP ON THE CHAIR SHE STRETCHES HER ARMS OVER HER HEAD. I'm aware that I'm stretching. Your pen is an interesting shade of blue. I'm aware of feeling uncomfortable in this chair. I'm aware that I'm trying to keep my eyes more open. RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON OUTER ZONE DETAILS SHE IS FOCUSING ON KEEPING HER EYES OPEN. I'm aware of blue circles on the file box. WHEN I LOOK AWAY BEL LOOKS AT ME. I'm aware that I'm a little tired. I'm aware of what that blanket feels like. SHE DOES NOT GO OVER AND TOUCH IT. I'm aware of how my toes look. I'm aware of your thing holding down your hat, your berette. I AM WEARING A JEWISH STYLE SKULL CAP. BEL IS CHRISTIAN. I'm aware of your curly hair, that your shoes look like they are made of suede leather. SHE MOVES HER TOES UP AND DOWN A FEW TIMES. I'm aware that I am thinking. I am aware that my forehead is probably wrinkled right now. I DO NOT SEE ANY WRINKLES THERE. AT THIS POINT I STOPPED HER WORK, SO THAT I WOULD AGAIN HAVE TIME TO GIVE FEEDBACK BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST HOUR. I REVIEWED MY NOTES WITH HER, POINTING OUT WHAT WAS AWARENESS AND WHAT WAS NOT AWARENESS ACCORDING TO THE GESTALT POINT OF VIEW. BREAK: 5 MINUTES GUIDED AWARENESS: 1 1/2 HOURS OUTER ZONE B: I'm aware that I'm holding my hands. I'm aware that I am cold. F: What can you do about being cold? B: TAKES BRIGHTLY COLORED TOWEL TO WRAP AROUND HERSELF. CELL PHONE RINGS. I'm aware of my phone making noises. WIND BLOWS THE DOOR WITHIN ITS FRAME SO IT MAKES A THUD. The door made a noise. F: That's the outer zone. Stay there a while. B: I'm aware of the green of that shelf. It's a 70's green. It feels smooth. BUT SHE DOESN'T GO OVER TO TOUCH IT. My nails are black. My bracelet is made of brown wood. I'm aware that I'm on camera being filmed. F: What do you actually see when you look at the camera? B: I see the red light blinking. F: Describe the camera. B: I see a microphone. F: A "microphone" is a complex idea. It's not something you actually contact. Be like an aboriginal who looks at a camera for the first time. Describe the microphone. B: It's a black object. It's circular and long. It looks like it's soft. F: Go and touch it. B: TOUCHING THE MIC. It's not as soft as I had imagined. THROUGHOUT THIS SESSION IN BEL'S APARTMENT I MYSELF AM AWARE OF THE SMELL OF CIGARETTE SMOKE SEEPING UNDER HER DOOR. HER ROOMMATE, WHO ALSO IS HER SISTER, SMOKES. WHEN AT THE END OF THE SESSION I MENTIONED THAT SMELL, BEL SAID THAT SHE IS SO USED TO THE SMELL SHE NO LONGER EVEN SMELLS IT. INNER ZONE F: OK, now let's shift over to working on the inner zone. Close your eyes. What are you aware of now in your body? B: I'm uncomfortable in my gut. Maybe it's anxiety. It's my tummy. I can tell you why. F: No, not "why". Just tell me "what". What's going on in your stomach? B: I'm uncomfortable with myself. F: That's an abstract idea. What is going on physically? Does it feel like hunger? B: No. F: Do you sense something moving there? B: No. Now I'm letting myself breathe. I feel better. I'm aware that my shoulders are hunched. HER FINGERS ARE IN A FIST. F: Go into that. Hunch up some more, and make noise, like this. Squeeze your fingers also. I DEMONSTRATE HOLDING MY BREATH AND SQUEEZING, IMPLODING WHILE I BLOCK THE SOUND SO IT CANNOT COME OUT FREELY. B: FOLLOWS MY EXAMPLE AND CURLS UP ON THE CHAIR. F: The toes too. Curl your toes also. Now relax. Very good. When you are ready open your eyes and come outside. OUTER ZONE B: OPENS HER EYES. F: What's your reaction now to coming outside into the outer zone? B: I want to go back inside. F: What is there that you need? B: I don't know. F: What are you aware of now outside? B: The green cabinet. It has rungs in front, rectangular, like bamboo. And it has a handle that looks like a pinapple. It's yellow, tilted. F: Good. Now that you see it, let's go onto the next step. Do you have any associations when you look at it. Maybe it reminds you of something, or whatever. B: It reminds me of when I painted it. If I picked it up it would be heavy. Inside it are videos and jewelry. What do you mean by associations? F: It could be anything: memories, judgments, images, comments. B: Like I could imagine little midgets jumping on it? F: Right. That's called "creative thinking". You go from objectivity to subjectivity, not the other way around. If you do it the other way around it's psychotic thinking. Like maybe you imagine somebody is out to get you and you don't bother actually to see the person at all. OK, let's go back to the inner zone again. This is called the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. The contact part is the outer zone and the withdrawal part is going back into your body and the void inside. INNER ZONE F: Close your eyes now. First of all, are you comfortable in your body? Any tension? B: I'm not comfortable. My thighs are sore from doing some exercises. If I stretch I'll feel better. SHE STANDS AND STRETCHES, BUT KEEPS HER MOUTH TIGHTLY SHUT AND EMITS NO SOUND AT ALL. F: What was missing that time? The sound. Would you mind doing it again, but this time add the sound. Do it harder and open your mouth and throat. Let all the parts of your body find a voice. Move your fingers. How does that change the sound? Listen to the sounds. Now your hips. Now your toes. Good. GRADUALLY SHE ESCAPES FROM THE FROZEN VOCAL MONOTONE SHE HAS BEEN IN MOST OF THE SESSION SO FAR. HER VOICE BECOMES MUCH MORE EXPRESSIVE. F: Sit down again, please, and close your eyes again. Now we are going to work on the third zone of awareness, the fantasy zone. So far you haven't used your imagination much today. If you don't mind I'd like you to do a daydream. Go on a trip or imagine something. Take your time. You're free to censer, but the more you share the more material we have to work with. B: I'm imagining I'm lying on my carpet, touching it with my fingers. Then I have my arms spread out like a cross and I float off the floor. I float through the walls and out the window. It's like I'm flying. I land on the roof. I can see the road outside. F: If the daydream was a movie can you imagine any kind of music that would go with the movie? B: I am imagining a song, "Break Away" by Kelly Parkstone. F: Can you sing it? B: SHE SINGS THE SONG SOFTLY WITH HER EYES CLOSED AT FIRST. F: Keep your eyes mostly closed and stand up. Dance along with the singing. Find a sound that comes from each body part. Make the sounds as different as possible. High sounds, low sounds, fast sounds, slow sounds, loud sounds, soft sounds. Good. Now zero in on a few key words of the song and drone them over and over. Trip on them and see how they develop. B: SINGS REPETITIVELY " . . . out of the darkness into the light . . . fly away and break away . . ." OUTER ZONE B: I burped. SHE CLOSELY EXAMINES ONE OF HER HAIRS. This hair is split in half. I just ripped it apart. It blew on me. Now I am aware of the red camera light blinking. That light THE CEILING LIGHT WITH FAN ATTACHED TO IT has a string hanging from it. SHE FOCUSES ON A SMALL "FAIRY" SHAPED DOLL ACROSS THE ROOM. The little fairy has feathers blowing on her head. There is a string hanging from her. I can picture touching that. F: Go over and touch it. B: It felt nice: hard, solid. F: Now that you really saw it and contacted it, do you have any associations or thoughts or judgments about it? B: Once I played a character that takes pleasure in little things. I wish I could be like that. She was not just concerned with herself. She lives each moment. F: That is what I call "creative thinking". First you contacted the doll and then you got associations about it. INNER ZONE F: Now we're beginning to get some integration of outer zone awareness and fantasy zone awareness. Let's keep going with the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Close your eyes and go inside one more time. Are you comfortable in your body? B: Yes. INSTEAD OF CURLING UP ON THE CHAIR BEL NOW IS SITTING UP STRAIGHT WITH HER FEET ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF HER. SHE APPEARS TO BE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN UP TILL NOW. APPARENTLY SHE NO LONGER IS CONSTRICTING HER BREATHING. F: Try another daydream. Take your time. B: I see an image of Marilyn Monroe. She has red glittery shoes and smooth legs. She's wearing her famous white dress, tightened on the waist. Her arms are straight. She has red fingernails. I see her collar bones. F: What's your reaction to seeing this image? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? B: Pleasant. She seems happy. She's smiling. She has pretty teeth and lips. F: What can you say about how this image relates to you? B: She seems happy but also sad. I know she ended up killing herself. F: Do you have any associations when you think about the image? B: I don't know if I want to share them. BEL CRIES. SHE OPENS HER EYES. F: You have a right to censer and protect your privacy, but is there anything you feel you can share? B: It's confidential. F: Does this image tell you anything about what you need in your life? B: I need to feel accepting of myself and like myself. F: Would you rather deal with that question today or let it go for now? B: That may be the area that affects everything. I try to help myself. I use all sorts of techniques, like yoga. I feel bad about myself. I feel I am unattractive. It's due to how I was raised. I need to take responsibility. I don't want to take medication for a chemical imbalance all my life. I just want to be happy. OUTER ZONE F: Since our contract today is to work on the awareness exercise and not go into specific problems I want to return now to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. What are you aware of in the outer zone now? B: The sound of the wind outside and the door makes noises. F: Take the wind first. How does the wind sound? B: The leaves are rustling. It sounds windy. F: Describe the sound. B: It's a swishing sound. Also there is the dull roar of traffic. F: Now the door sound. B: The door is moving back and forth with the wind. F: So they are related. What's your reaction to these sounds? B: I don't like the door noise. The swishing is soothing. F: You just closed your eyes. You keep wanting to run back into your box. Keep your eyes open for now. How do you encounter me? B: I'm grateful, but F: Wait a minute. I forgot to ask you for associations to the wind and the door. B: The door noise reminds me of people who are angry. The wind is like freedom, nature. F: What about nature? Do you deal with nature much in your life? B: I do not have much freedom or nature in my life. I don't go outside. I'm either here in my room or rehearsing or driving. F: Do you think you should spend more time with nature? B: Yes. F: And what about the angry people? B: I think of my roommates. ONE OF BEL'S ROOMMATES IS HER SISTER. They are always cursing. Also, my parents were always angry. F: Was there a particular reason for that? B: They hated each other. There was no money. SMILES. Too many kids. SHE REQUESTS A BATHROOM BREAK. USUALLY I AM STRICT ABOUT LIMITING THE FIRST SESSION TO TWO HOURS TOTAL. BUT BEL SEEMS TO HAVE TOUCHED ON SOME IMPORTANT AREAS THAT NEED SOME CLOSURE BEFORE WE END THE SESSION. THEREFORE, I OFFER HER THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO ON A WHILE. INNER ZONE F: Actually our time is finished, but we can go on a while if your want. Do you want to stop now or do one more round? B: One more. I'm cold. SHE WRAPS HERSELF IN THE TOWEL AND CLOSES HER EYES. I curled my toes under. I'm taking deep breaths. I feel good. My head feels itchy. F: Any images coming? B: I'm picturing my stomach going up and down as I breathe. It feels pleasant. I feel fat and "icky". F: Keep your eyes half closed, stand up and dance "ickiness". SHE DOES A SILENT IMPROV WHILE WRAPPED IN THE TOWEL. Do it again. Add the sound this time. Open your mouth and your throat. Find the voice of each body part, for example the toes. B: CLOSES HER EYES. I see a kitten, soft with a lot of fur. It's cute. It has blue eyes and white fur. F: In the image what is your relation to the kitten? B: I'm touching it. It's the softest thing I ever felt. I love it. F: Just stay with the image and see how it develops. B: I'm holding it. F: Do you have associations to similar situations? B: I'm thinking of how it was holding my sister's baby. F: Does this work tell you anything about what you need? B: I need to be closer to people, so I can share a loving feeling. F: Good. We need to end the session soon. If you look back over the whole session, can you find an overall message that you got from today's work? B: I feel I'm getting a better understanding of myself. I need balance as far as awareness goes, the outer and the inner. Also I need to be closer to people and not so into myself. F: They are related. Seeing and hearing them helps to relate to them. B: I used to be that way. A year ago I moved here, to a place where I know no one. When we balanced the awarenesses, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. F: I noticed that you stopped the crying by yourself. What is it about the big picture that stops the crying? B: We work on the little things and the big picture gets better. Usually I overdo it. I overload myself. A long journey begins with a single step. F: That's what they say in acting classes. Go in for the moments, the beats. Don't try to eat the whole turkey in one bite. Don't play one big idea about the scene from the beginning till the end. Provide yourself with lots of real things you can contact here and now along the way, lots of outer zone environment objects and inner zone fantasy objects. You need that objectivity to balance all the subjectivity, all that emotional soup that you have a tendency to get lost in. The subjective stuff you are very good at, and a lot of the time that is what the audience wants, but if you do it too much it is overwhelming and boring. You need to give the audience all the realities in a balanced way. And you can't give them what you don't have yourself.


12. FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER in the valley

FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER in the valley

"Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!!" but are you sure that's what you really want??? original music and images added to a retelling of the traditional jewish story.


13. FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER israel & the enemy

FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER israel & the enemy

a scary werewolf story. what seems at first to be a simple story for children turns out to be a profound example of what today we call gestalt therapy. text by permission of editor howard schwartz, from his "gabriel's palace, jewish mystical tales". in this story we see the baal shem tov (hebrew: "master of the good name") - the founder of hassidism, according to some - in his youth struggling with two opposite sides of his personality, the good side and the evil side. the evil side takes the form of a werewolf, and the young tsaddik succeeds in doing some serious symbollic centering work. a footnote to this story is that fifteen years ago i created the music in a single improv session at the keyboard, without even a single pause. i simply read the story to myself and my fingers attempted to come up with sounds that fit the action and mood at each moment of the text. then, since the story was longer than the text i had created, i simply reprised the music i had recorded when the initial music ended, with a slightly faster tempo to fit the heightened dramatic tension of the story's ending. the end of the story coincided with one of the cadences of the music - and in the appropriate minor key. voila! finally, this week i added the video images. THE FOLLOWING ESSAY FITS NICELY TO THIS STORY, THOUGH THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO TRACE ALL THE PARALLELS. BRIEFLY, IN THIS VIDEO THE "BAAL SHEM TOV" IS AS THOUGH DOING A GESTALT THERAPY SESSION, CENTERING TWO SIDES OF HIS PERSONALITY. DURING THAT PROCESS HE MOVES, "TRANSLATES" FROM ORDINARY TYPE LANGUAGE TO "PURE LANGUAGE" KNOWN ONLY BY ENLIGHTENED SOULS, BY PROPHETS. AT THE END OF THE VIDEO THE SPLIT HAS BEEN TRANSCENDED BY HIGHER LEVEL "PLATONIC" IDEAS. ALONG THE WAY, BY ENTERING THE HEART OF THE WEREWOLF THE BAAL SHEM TOV ACTUALLY IS PLUMBING HIS OWN HEART, AS PART OF THE KABBALISTIC PROCESS OF "TSIMTSUM" (CONTRACTION OF EGO), SO THAT HE CAN BE REBORN WITH A HIGHER POINT OF VIEW ABOUT LIFE. I APOLOGIZE FOR THE MANNER IN WHICH DIAGRAMS IN THE ORIGINAL PDF ARE GARBLED UP BY VIDEO UPLOADING MACHINERY. BY FRANKLYN WEPNER JULY 4, 2006 fwep@earthlink.net GESTALT DREAMWORK AS "TRANSLATION" GESTALT DREAMWORK CONSIDERED FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF WALTER BENJAMIN'S "THE TASK OF THE TRANSLATOR" FW: What is a translation, in its broadest sense? Think of angels or saints travelling up and down from earth to the heavens, on a ladder or whatever other means of transportation they have available. That is one sense of the term "translation". Then, think of a set of Russian Dolls, or an inverted stack of bowls with the smallest on the bottom. Translation implies moving up or down the stack, from smaller to larger envelopes, or from larger to smaller envelopes. Now think of a stack of inverted gestalts or monads in a monadology, such as comes to pass during a Gestalt dreamwork session. Here again the motion is from smaller to larger and more encompassing envelopes, or the reverse. This time we are talking about envelopes of awareness or the circumference of a contact boundary. This also is translation. But what does this sort of translation have to the translation of a text from one language to another? FW: Especially relevant to this discussion is a remarkable essay on "translation" in all the above senses by the literary critic Walter Benjamin. The essay is entitled, "The Task Of The Translator: An Introduction To The Translation of Baudelaire's Tableau Parisien". The original was written in 1923, and recently it was republished as part of an anthology of Benjamin writings called "Illuminations". Walter Benjamin was a friend of the Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem, and he availed himself of the latter's library of Kabbalistic sources. Like Scholem, Benjamin made use of a mix of idealistic philosophies: Gnosticism, Plato, and Aristotle, all from a Kabbalistic point of view. In addition, there are in Benjamin's work obvious references to alchemical lore, perhaps that of Paracelsus. What follows are some selected passages from Benjamin's essay on translation, along with by my own commentary. WB: A translation issues from the original - not so much from its life as from its after life. For a translation comes later than the original. In translation the original rises into a higher and purer linguistic air. FW: The translation or "after life" of a text, is, dialectically speaking, its final cause (Aristotle) or the good which comes from it (Plato) or the Word of G-d which is revealed through it (Kabbalah). This is a pietistic point of view which places the spirit of the law above the letter of the law, and hence puts great value in the role of a translator or interpreter of texts as a prophet of the Word. A literary translation, therefore, is a spiritual ascent of both text and interpreter to the level of divine immanence and universal man, man who thinks in encompassing Platonic ideas. The translated text resides in a higher level of the logos, or Word than did the original. The translation comes later than the original, after the original has passed through the concrete dialectic or biological clock. During that concrete dialectical process the constellations of polarized ideas (X/-X) making up the alchemical water and earth of the text are processed by alchemical air and fire. In the course of this process the microcosmic constellations of the original resonate with corresponding constellations of ideas on higher macrocosmic levels of the logos or Word. A true translation, hence, conveys the macrocosmic echo (Benjamin) or shadow (Artaud) or Double (Gnosticism) of the original text. As alchemy Benjamin's goal of a "pure language" is an attempt to distill from the dross of the original spiritualized gold. Here is the concrete dialectic or biological clock which underlies much dialectical thinking. I have explained this diagram in several other essays and here I will deal only with those aspects necessary for the present discussion. ARISTOTLE & PARACELSUS ON TIME & THE ELEMENTS: "THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK" G-D "RIDING THE ARAVOT", ACTIVE INTELLECT ANGELS AS MESSENGERS FROM OUTSIDE fifth element, macrocosm ↓ microcosm 0:00/12:00 midnight fire 1:00 11:00 6 AM water, ↓ Y ← 0 air, 6 PM deduction X / -X ↑ induction earth, impasse 12:00 noon WB: The life of the original attains in the translation to its ever-renewed latest and most abundant flowering. Being a special and high form of life, this flowering is governed by a special, high purposiveness. The relationship between life and purposefulness, seemingly obvious yet almost beyond the grasp of the intellect, reveals itself only if the ultimate purpose toward which all single functions tend is sought not in its own sphere but in a higher one. FW: With all this talk of flowering we can suspect to find Paracelsus' biological clock lurking in the underbrush, and we recall also Fritz Perl's use of the plant metaphor in "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim". A Gestalt dreamwork session is a translation of the dream as original text into the existential message of the dream as translation to a higher level of integration. The language of the final synoptic idea employs more encompassing, stronger gestalts, less confused ideas, than does the original. Gestalt dreamwork as translation is an ascent from low order monads to higher order monads of a monadology, or from malchut to chochmah on the Kabbalist's "tree of life". In the biological clock above translation is another label for logical induction, the ascent from the extremes of the impasse to the moment that the new idea bursts through and negates all negations of the One Without A Second. WB: Here it can be demonstrated that no translation would be possible if in its ultimate essence it strove for likeness to the original. For in its afterlife - which could not be called that if it were not a transformation and renewal of something living - the original undergoes a change. Even words with fixed meaning can undergo a maturing process. FW: Perls and Paracelsus share the metaphor of growth as a ripening, maturation and coming to fruition. Words, for example, do not mean the same thing when spoken as part of the existential message at the end of the dreamwork that they do when first used to describe the dream itself at the beginning of the session. During the dreamwork the words undergo a ripening, progressing towards the ideal goal of being an articulation of the Word of G-d, i.e., an explosion into authenticity. In Nominalist jargon, we can say that what initially was merely a web of terms about reality gradually is displaced by language which more and more codes for the divine omnipotence, reality itself, which is struggling to burst through the veil of mere verbalizing. Poetic use of language is an intermediate level use of language, culminating in the dreamwork session as a whole constituting one Word of G-d crystallized in the existential message of the dream. For the dream itself, as Maimonides tells us, is only the unripe fruit of prophecy, only 1/60th of prophecy. The dreamwork, in the form of the concrete dialectic, is what ripens or matures the dream to the level of prophecy. A ripened, perfected dream constitutes on example of what Maimonides labels a "prophetic vision". It serves as a vehicle, "merkavah" (Hebrew: chariot) which allows the prophet to receive the Word, i.e., the existential message of the dream. An example: let's imagine that the initial dream contains a tree that the client describes as "beautiful, with lots of leaves". Next he identifies with that tree in a dialogue with the sky and involves his body, his emotions and his personal associations to, say, his father as a source of protection against too much light. Finally, that tree is part of an overall gestalt expressed by the existential message of the dream, wherein he identifies with universal, complete man and is able to say goodbye to his father. He no longer has a hole where his own center ought to be. The word "tree" remains the same, but its meaning has expanded to the ends of the Gestalt protagonist's universe. WB: Translation is so far removed from being the sterile equation of two dead languages that of all literary forms it is the one charged with the special mission of watching over the maturing process of the original language and the birth pangs of its own. All suprahistorical kinship of languages rests in the intention underlying each language as a whole - an intention, however, which no single language can attain by itself but which is realized only by the totality of their intentions supplementing each other: pure language. FW: Benjamin here is perhaps alluding to other essays he has written on the Name of G-d. A Gestalt session, since it is transpiring in concrete, biological now time - the messianic now - is an ongoing naming of the contact boundary, which in its totality often is labeled an experience of "the Glory of G-d". This piling up of awareness moments or Names is labeled the Glory of G-d in view of the Hebrew root "koved", meaning on the one hand substance or tangibility and on the other hand "glory". Hence it refers to the tangibility of the client's experience of his contact boundary. Each time the protagonist says "I am aware of X" he is giving an account (Greek: "logos") of another aspect of G-d's face, countenance or presence in the space. A hint of the complete Name would be attained by a Gestalt protagonist who proceeds with the process till arriving at a culminating explosion into authenticity. Benjamin's notion of a "pure language" implies the complete Name, and hence for most of us is merely an asymptotic process of successive approximations. Perls and Goodman, in "Gestalt Therapy", make a distinction between contactful and noncontactful use of language using the secular jargon of existentialism, by distinguishing between poetry and verbalizing, or being real and talking literature, or being believable and using aboutist elephantshit. Gestalt work on awareness transforms language from talking literature about one's life to active involvement in living one's life here and now. Language which serves to express the Word is prayer. Gestalt work is meditative process as prayer, when it is considered from a religious point of view. FW: Another analogy that can be drawn between Gestalt dreamwork and Benjamin's linguistic musings involves the term "history", a word which has many ramifications in dialectical philosophy. By "the suprahistorical kinship of languages" Benjamin is referring to what Perls in his own jargon labels "the rhythm of contact and withdrawal". Each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, each rotation of the biological clock, each beat of the concrete dialectic, constitutes - from the point of view of the subject doing the process - a world with its own language. This is so since each cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal includes its own movement from thesis (X) to antithesis (X/-X) to synthesis, and incorporates all the alchemical elements: water, earth, air and fire. It is a complete world with its own governing idea. "History" here is another word for the gradually emerging Word or the logos (account of the dialectic). Hence the suprahistorical kinship of languages is the gradual maturing of languages from beat to beat of the dialectic, each language more mature, closer to the Word or existential message of the dream than was its predecessor. Ultimately - so Benjamin maintains - a state of pure language is attained by man at the level of universal man, prophecy or the messiah - which Perls labels innocuously "the coming solution". WB: In the individual, unsupplemented languages, meaning is never found in relative independence, as in individual words or sentences; rather, it is in a constant state of flux - until it is able to emerge as pure language from the harmony of all the various modes of intention. Until then, it remains hidden in the languages. If, however, these languages continue to grow in this manner until the end of their time, it is translation which catches fire on the eternal life of the works and the perpetual renewal of language. Translation keeps putting the hallowed growth of languages to the test: How far removed is their hidden meaning from revelation, how close can it be be brought by the knowledge of this remoteness? FW: What remains hidden in the original, microcosmic text is the macrocosmic text, the Word or logos or concrete dialectic. Since it is this dialectical process which - for dialectically inspired folk - man and G-d share; therefore, when it is said that man is made in the image of G-d the implication is that man shares with G-d his participation in the concrete dialectical process. Now, this is not to proclaim that "G-d is dialectics, selah"! None of the authors we are dealing with here presumes to know that which according to his own tradition is unknowable, i.e., the complete definition of G-d. Rather, by examining the actions of man in what are considered to be his most inspired, truthful moments idealist thinkers get a notion of how G-d operates, his Divine action as immanent in the world. They postulate this ideal of universal man (authenticity, truth, prophecy, metatron, Moses, Jesus, etc.) as the goal of human striving, and build their philosophies accordingly. Universal man thinks not just ideas, but he thinks Platonic ideas, pure, unconfused ideas, ideas divested of selfinterruptions. FW: In a literary translation, or in a Gestalt dreamwork session regarded as a process of translation, true meaning - the Word - is not to be found in the individual words and sentences of the original. Rather, there is first of all the concrete dialectical process, the biological clock which to begin with factors the initial text (and the pilgrim along with it) into key extreme polarities (constellations of ideas), and then demands of the pilgrim that he withdraw into his "heart" (the fertile void), confront the reality of his existential impasse, and open himself to the possibility of finding resonances with corresponding higher level, more encompassing constellations of ideas. Then, "with a little bit of luck" as the song goes, from the void or from the heavens and by means of logical induction, emerge the higher, redeeming ideas as an explosion into authenticity. This translation from fragmented, conflicted existence in the microcosm to integrated, blissful existence on the level of macrocosmic encompassing, general, universal ideas, goes by many names - most typically Platonic collection or anamnesis (recollection) of primordial ideas. Once the pure, universal ideas have emerged, then they are projected upon key figures of the particular cultural tradition which is the context for that Gestalt session. If the context is Jewish, then the most general ideas (those of the dialectic itself) may be projected onto Abraham (the thesis, awareness), Isaac (the antithesis, conflict) and Jacob (the synthesis, authentic action). Other Jewish trinities are available, such as Chochmah/Binah/Keter, or Metatron/Avir/Shekhinah. Christians prefer the persons of the trinity and Paracelsus prefers his three basic principles of alchemy: sulphur (the thesis, what is combustible), salt (the antithesis, what is solid), and mercury (the synthesis, what is fluid or volatile and can undergo translation). FW: Kabbalah labels pilgrims who undergo this descent to the heart in search of pure, redemptive ideas as "those who descend in the chariot" (Hebrew: "yorday hamerkavah") Maimonides, writing 200 years or so before the Kabbalah became a major cultural force in Judaism, prefered to focus on preparation for the prophetic function when he addressed man's participation in the concrete dialectic or biological clock. But regardless of which set of metaphors is invoked by a particular philosopher, theologian, therapist or alchemist, the "process" underlying concrete, here and now dialectical thinking remains the same, and it is perhaps Gestalt dreamwork which is the most clearly accessible, paradigm case of this process. The notion of man operating in the image of G-d refers to concrete dialectical experience in which the macrocosm of possible, ideal experience shines through the microcosmic dead shell of our usual experience. Man's hope is that pure ideas will illuminate dead form into live form. Religiously inspired people express this hope by saying that G-d creates the world anew at each moment by emanating His light into the darkness of the world. MACROCOSM VAST POSSIBILITIES, INFINITE LIGHT DEDUCTION ↓ Y ← 0 X / -X ↑ INDUCTION MICROCOSM DEAD FORM ILLUMINATED INTO LIVE FORM WB: The nucleus is best defined as the element that does not lend itself to translation. While content and language form a certain unity in the original, like a fruit and its skin, the language of the translation envelopes its content like a royal robe with ample folds. For it signifies a more exalted language than its own and thus remains unsuited to its content, overpowering and alien. The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect [Intention] upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original. Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. FW: When we read of "a royal robe with ample folds" and "the echo of the original" immediately we suspect Gnostic sources. The Hymn of the Pearl is quite popular among those who turn to Gnosticsm for inspiration. Walter Benjamin is no exception. (See Hans Jonas' "The Gnostic Religion" for a succinct rendition of the story.) The myth is simple, but its implications are profound. Once upon a time, it is said, the heavenly Father and Mother decided to dispatch the Prince to go forth into the world in search of a Pearl. The Prince leaves behind his heavenly garment and his twin brother and sets off on his way. Once there the Prince forgets his mission, until a message from on high reminds him to complete it. He does so and returns home, where he reclaims his royal garment, merges with his twin brother and joyously appears before his Father and Mother. End of the Hymn of the Pearl - simplified version. Now, the twin brother who does nothing at all in the story is actually the key to decoding it, since he is a Gnostic version of Aristotle's final cause immanent in the world. Says Aristotle, the final cause, which is actuality, is prior to potentiality. Or in Gestalt terms, the "coming solution" with which the protagonist needs to identify is prior to the mere potentiality of the system of rigid games and ego defenses in which the Prince is stuck at the outset. Likewise, the Prince leaves a copy of his "nucleus", center, true actual being, final cause behind in the heavens, and he descends into the mire of a world full of archons or dybbuks which are organized as a totalitarian system by the demiurge. Around his pneumatic nucleus, the Prince dons a human ego instead of his regal garment of pure Platonic ideas and he sells himself out to the system. But finally he hears the call from on high. He then identifies with the coming solution and finds his way back home by doing a lot of Gestalt dreamwork, until the Double bursts through the Prince's ego character armor and rejoins the Prince's pneumatic soul. FW: Concerning the art of translation, the original text is the Prince lost in the world. The nucleus of that text that does not need translation is the pure pneumatic soul of the Prince which is one with his transcendent Double. The pneumatic soul of the original author (the content of the original text) and the expression (skin) of the original text form a tolerable unity in the original, but nothing like the explosion into authenticity that that pneumatic soul would experience if it would rejoin its royal garment of pure Platonic ideas on the level of universal man. For then as Metatron (universal man), merged with the Ether (the perfected contact boundary), the pneumatic soul would embody the Shekhinah, the Divine immanence. Ditto for an analogous process using Christian or alchemical symbols to code the underlying dialectical logic. FW: What is the role of the translator in the Gnostic myth? The translator, as messenger sent by the Father, calls from outside the terrestrial system (the forest), and seeks the hidden soul of the original text - the soul its author put there is the first place. The hidden soul, the Gnostic pneuma, is the lost soul of the Prince buried in the quagmire or junk collage of the world. The translator struggles to release the pneuma by working his way through the text and identifying with the heavenly Double or pure language. By himself undergoing the concrete dialectic, as an image of the true G-d, the translator extracts pure ideas from the dross of the world - the X/-X extremes - and sends them forth to illuminate the original text, thereby elevating it to the level of a true translation. FW: And here is the Gestalt parallel. The protagonist does dreamwork on the dream using awareness, identification with images and the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. Thereby he sets the biological clock in motion dialectically. This is his alchemical distillation apparatus, and from the dross of the X/-X impasses he extracts pure Platonic ideas, which then move the original statement of the dream through the dreamwork process and towards higher ideas in the macrocosm. The protagonist succeeds in negating the original dream statement, burning it up in alchemical fire, and from the husks he creates a series of new texts, each one more pure and exalted than the last version, till finally the text is freed all terrestrial entanglements and as the existential message of the dream the text and the translator rejoin the Double on high. Amen. No longer is there an echo, since now the Word and its echo on high are one. The Nam(ing) of G-d and G-d Himself on high are One at this moment of messianic redemption. This is the hope expressed at the end of most Jewish religious services: "and on that day the Lord shall be One and His Name One". This is the ultimate translation.


14. FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER the sword of moshiach

FRANKLYN WEPNER STORYTELLER  the sword of moshiach

reb shmuel isaac, disciple of reb nachman of breslav, relates a vision of his ascent to the palace of the messiah. original music and imagery added to a retelling of the traditional jewish story. text by permission of howard schwartz, editor of "gabriel's palace, jewish mystical tales". . Nachman's statement in this video that "the sword of Moshiach is prayer" is a typical example of the kaleidoscopic nature of his utterances in general. There is, of course, the simple meaning for simple minded people, and there are many other profounder meanings for profounder minded people. The following essay explores in depth this notion that "the sword of moshiach is prayer". The essay is a commentary on essay number 2 of Nachman's "Collected Essays" (Likutei Moharan), his main kabbalistic work. Along with all of Nachman's references I throw in a couple of references to my own healing work. Orientation Therapy is the label I give to a multimedia performing arts therapy process that I developed to work with violent adolescents. I published this report of my work with kids in a NY city school in The Drama Review, Nov 1973. The essay was called "The Theory And Practice of Orientation Therapy". Also in what follows I refer to my 35 years experience doing Gestalt Dreamwork Therapy, especially to train performers and to guide spiritual searchers in Yeshivot. FRANKLYN WEPNER NOVEMBER 2008 fwep@earthlink.net LM 2: SIMPLE AS CHILD'S PLAY "TRY TO REMEMBER AND FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW . . ." (FROM THE SONG "TRY TO REMEMBER", IN THE SHOW "THE FANTASTICS", BY TOM JONES AND HARVEY SCHMIDT) CONTENTS (1) SIMPLE AS CHILD'S PLAY (2) PATH #1: "ORIENTATION THERAPY" (3) PATH #2: GESTALT THERAPY (4) MISHPAT (5) CHARITY (6) CORRUPTION OF MISHPAT (7) PREGNANCY (8) MOSHE-MASHIACH (9) NACHMAN'S ALCHEMY (1) SIMPLE AS CHILD'S PLAY FW: Nachman says: "I am the brook." A child might say: "I am a dog. Wuf, wuf!" A Zen monk might ask: "Am I a Zen monk who thinks he is a butterfly, or am I a butterfly who thinks he is a Zen monk?" Nachman might ask: "Am I the water source limited by the banks of the brook, or am I the banks of the brook being carved out by the water source?" All of these apparently different utterances are in a profound sense saying the same thing, something so simple that only a small child or a wise man can grasp "it". In LM 1 Nachman calls it "Yaakov", the middle pillar. We have pointed out that thesis/antithesis, subject/object and chochmah/binah dichotomies are involved, and that pondering these matters leads us to label the results the "dialectical synthesis", "identity in difference" and the middle pillar of the sefirotic tree. Conceptualizing this dialectical synthesis requires us to attempt to step back from our everyday polarized X/-X world to a somehow prior state of innocence before the Fall from oneness into a state of division. Aristotle says: Actuality is prior to potentiality, and actuality is the state of action, when the knower, the known and the knowing are one. The Tanach says: "B'reishit, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", and Rashi reminds us that "b'reishit" is the first utterance of God - an utterance that somehow encompasses all that is to follow. Plato tells us to "try to remember, and follow, follow, follow", a process which he labels "anamnesis" (Greek: not amnesia, not forgetting) of pure, primordial ideas. Nachman tells us to try to remember the Patriarchal ideas of Abraham, Yitzchak and Jacob and to incorporate these memories into our everyday existence here and now. God, it is said, created His Torah before He created the world, and so "b'reishit" (in the beginning) implies trying to remember that primordial Torah and following it. But what is there to remember before there is a subject/object relationship between me and what I am remembering? Again we come to another Zen riddle: "show me your face before you (and your subject/object distinctions) were born". For Fichte's version of these dialectics see essay 07 on the Absolute ego. FW: "It" is all very abstruse, and yet a child grasps "it" when he plays freely. Nachman begins LM 1 with the quote from Psalms 120:1, "Ashrei T'mimei Darekh", "Happy are those whose way is naive, simple, perfect, who walk with the Torah of God". And here in LM 2 once again we find Nachman renaming this mysterious origin of all being. This time he calls it "mishpat" (Hebrew: judgment). He says that the sword of Mashiach is prayer, that Mashiach must must not deflect his sword to the right or to the left and that this is impossible to do without the attribute of mishpat, "for mishpat is the center pillar". He gives us some other clues: "In giving charity one embraces the attribute of mishpat." "The Lord is judge. He brings down one and lifts up another. He impoverishes one and enriches another". Also, "Now the main cause of foreign thoughts (during prayer) is the corruption of mishpat . . . (the foreign thoughts) are like clouds covering the eyes . . . but in the Future the concept of mishpat shall be restored." These clues help, but nevertheless we seem to be spinning our wheels and getting noplace, sliding from one vague metaphor to another, beating around the (burning) bush, as it were. We are pushing at the limits of rational language in an attempt to describe simple, undisturbed experience that eludes description in words. Does that mean we are at the mercy of mystics and demagogues in our search for truth and reality? I will leave that question unanswered, and instead present what seem to me to be two clearly observable, scientifically valid ways to "try to remember and follow, follow, follow". If I in my life experience found two, then perhaps you can find another few. Each of the paths I will propose leads, I believe, out of the darkness and to the entrance of "the Promised Land" of naivete, beyond which perhaps we must settle for the slippery metaphors. (2) PATH #1: "ORIENTATION THERAPY" FW: In 1972 I conducted an exploratory "drama therapy" workshop with four groups of boys at a "600 school" in New York City. Two of the groups were 10 year olds, one was 12 year olds and one was 14 year olds. Wright 600 School, in the warehouse district of New York City, was in those days a place for kids who had been ejected from the regular school system due to serious discipline problems, including violence, insubordination and drug abuse. I had not yet learned about Gestalt Therapy. My theory base then was in anthropology, especially a book called "The Ritual Process", by Victor Turner. This book attempts to make rational sense out of the apparently irrational rituals of "primitive" African tribes. I labeled my own process "Orientation Therapy" and published my results in an issue of "The Drama Review" in November 1973. For a complete description I refer you to that essay. Now I will merely summarize those aspects that, it seems to me, are relevant to the work of Nachman of Breslav. FW: I provided the boys with a wide range of props, rhythm instruments and taped musical stimuli. I did a theater class type physical and vocal warm up with each group, and after that I invited them to explore whatever improvisational ideas they chose. At the end of each session we sat down and I asked them to share their feelings about what had gone on that day. Sessions lasted from one to three hours, depending on the needs of the group. The limits were minimal: no nudity allowed and no physical violence to another person allowed. I made every effort to avoid punishing the boys, even if occasionally, for example, something was broken or disappeared. Workshops were held once per week with each group for 8 weeks. The results were, in my opinion, both surprising and significant. First of all, nobody was hurt, though during that same period of time a boy in the school but not in my groups was arrested for what I was told was the crime of murder. Second, there emerged a rather uniform sequence of improvisational themes in all four of the groups. The sequence, which emerged gradually over the course of the eight weeks, was: (1) drugs, (2) violence, (3) heterosexuality, (4) homosexuality, (5) normal activities such as sports, and finally (6) verbal discussions of personal problems. I stress that all this happened without me imposing any agenda on the boys, and without much use of verbal encounter or therapy techniques. In other words, they were invited to explore the void freely on their own, in a safe, permissive, supportive setting. In my analysis of the process I noted how the props were used as multivalent symbols, more or less as they are used in African tribal rituals. The same broomstick, for example, might one day serve as a cannon, the next day as a penis, and another day as a magic wand. A lady's hat might one day elicit rage and be stomped on, and another day it might elicit homosexual tendencies and be worn as a costume for a "girlie" dance. Overall, I concluded that there was a marked tendency during the eight weeks progressively to peel the onion of socially disfunctional behaviors and revert to behaviors that are more characteristic of simple, non-tormented children. These were mostly black inner city boys, and the drug stories they began with represented the peer group culture that surrounded them in the slums of New York City. This was the outer shell they needed to present socially in order to be accepted as "one of the boys". Rather than become alarmed by all the sordid mayhem I witnessed, I let it all go by as merely stages of an unfolding process. This required lots of faith on my part, on the part of the administrators, and on the part of the boys themselves. We were flying blind together, in a free fall situation. Nevertheless, as it turned out there was a river (or "brook") carrying us in its current. Were the banks shaping the river, or was the river shaping the banks? Or rather was this not one more example of the middle pillar, the middle way, a state of active passivity, as we tried our best to keep going without imposing upon ourselves any particular direction. FW: We were, I propose, "trying to remember" and following "it". And following "it" seemed to me at the time to consist of two components: a series of behaviors and an accompanying series of orientations or points of view. Each new configuration of behaviors, costumes and props I labeled a "symbolization", since the Greek root "symballein" means "to throw together". I concluded that a certain symbolization #1, for example, "robbing a bank", resulted from a previous "orientation #1", for example, wanting to demonstrate contempt for private property, and then itself led on to a new orientation #2, for example, feeling guilty. The new orientation #2 then might suggest a new symbolization #2, such as acting out being condemned by the judge to the firing squad. This sort of theorizing should sound very familiar by now. Is it not merely the same old subject/object, ego/non-ego, chochmah/binah, right pillar/left pillar stuff? The difference is that the events I documented at Wright 600 School in 1972 were not just slippery metaphors. They were objective facts. They actually happened, and by staying with the process these boys accomplished a movement of ideas in the direction of more and more "prior", "real" experiences, from a pseudo-existence based on peer group illusions toward the basics of human life. That is to say, they were moving in the direction of "adam kadmon" or "b'reishit". This was, I believe, Platonic anamnesis (literally "not amnesia", "not forgetting"). This was their attempt to "try to remember and follow, follow, follow". This was "Ya'akov" and "mishpat", simple as child's play. "Ashrei t'mimei darekh", "Happy are those whose way is that of simple naivete." (3) PATH #2: GESTALT THERAPY FW: The Orientation Therapy path I just described is merely another version of what could be labeled "meditative processes". in the sense that participants remain focused on here and now happenings and anticipate the revelation of truth or enlightenment in the "messianic now". The "chaotic breathing meditation" process popularized by the Indian guru Acharya Rajneesh is not very different. Rajneesh instructs group members to breathe deeply and rhythmically for a couple of minutes as a prelude to an individual chaotic explosion of movements and sounds lasting several minutes, followed by lying on one's back on the floor. Rajneesh maintains that "it is only pure if it is chaotic". Some other meditative, here and now techniques are concentrating on one's breathing or gazing at images of the name of God. Still another meditative process is the Gestalt Therapy system of the psychiatrist Frederick (Fritz) Perls. The Gestalt approach focuses on the types of awareness, the acting out of dreams, and work on personal relationships which for the client associate to the dreamwork. All this is explored in the here and now, hopefully leading to what Perls refers to as a "strong gestalt", an "ahah! moment", or some insight which Perls labels "the existential message of the dream". If we accept the Jewish point of view that a dream is 1/60th of prophecy, then the Gestalt client is a would be prophet and that existential message of the dream is nothing less than "the Word of God". FW: Since Gestalt dreamwork operates by free association from one dream element to another in the here and now, it is like Orientation Therapy a free fall, middle way, middle pillar, actively passive experience of following "it" with all one's resources, while at the same time not deliberately choosing a particular goal. Gestalt dreamwork once again is the path of "Ya'akov" and "mishpat". But whereas philosophical systems like that of Aristotle and religious documents such as Likutei Moharan tend to dissolve into a salad of slippery overlapping metaphors, Gestalt Therapy is a precise, relatively simple objective and scientific procedure. Perls, in fact, makes an exaggerated effort to demystify his jargon. He uses hyper-simple terminology bordering on vulgarity. Gestalt Land is populated by game playing conmen, topdogs combating underdogs, tragedy queens manipulating suckers by phoney pleas for sympathy, elephantshit (aboutism) as the opposite of staying in the here and now, "pompous ass" tyrants bullying their "piece of shit" victims, etc., etc. Gestalt Therapy directors can document sessions verbatim and later point out to clients exactly what step of the process occurred at which moment, with which fantasy image, which accompanying tone of voice and which physical movements. All this is totally objective data. Before our eyes we see pilgrims embodying philosophical and religious processes, divested of mystifying metaphors and storytelling. This is truth no less raw and unprocessed than is the sequence of themes generated by "children who hate" in Orientation Therapy workshops. The peeling of the onion in Gestalt Therapy lends itself to a precise account of the stages of the process. The word "account" in Greek is "logos", and the logos is the pathway to truth in Greek philosophy. The Gestalt logos moves, usually, from confluence (no awareness), to introjection, to projection, to retroflection, to egotism and on towards an explosion into authentic action by means of such happenings as anger, grief, joy or orgasm. The experiences are sublime and divine but the jargon is simple and down to earth. Again: "Ashrei t'mimei darekh". "Happy are those whose way is that of simple naivete". (4) MISHPAT FW: Now, within the context of objectivity, of scientific data pure and simple, which we have just established, let us return to the cryptic jargon, elusive metaphors and 19th Century Romantic style avant garde poetry of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, and see if we can better grasp the message of Likutei Moharan 2. This is not an attempt to disparage the work of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. It is merely an attempt to understand the message of Nachman by doing a figure/ground reversal. For Nachman Torah is reality, and life needs to be fathomed and conducted according to the requirements of Torah. Here I am maintaining that if we assume that reality is reality, and if we can fathom Likutei Moharan according to the requirements of reality then this other point of view might help us better decode Nachman's esoteric symbolism. Finally, the combination of the two points of view may yield a good mix of theory and practice that will maximize the benefits for those trying to learn Torah and carry out mitzvot in this world according to Nachman's path. I propose, then, to translate Likutei Moharan jargon into dialectical jargon, as a tool to grasp the underlying messages. Then, of course, we want to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and appreciate the poetry and piety of Nachman's style of expression. When, for example, Nachman says that LM 2:1 the basic weapon of Mashiach is prayer (and that) this weapon must be received by means of the aspect of Yosef - guarding the brit (Covenant), FW: he is saying that Yosef, like Ya'akov (Jacob), symbolizes the middle pillar, and that guarding the brit means maintaining the primordial Patriarchal "covenant" of concrete dialectical logic that moves the entire Logos or Word of God forward towards messianic fulfilment. Here the three primordial ideas, thesis/antithesis/synthesis, with Jewish labels are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, respectively. The concrete dialectic implies that authentic action in concrete circumstances. And moral uprightness - including sexual purity - is one corollary of that agenda. In the context of dialectical thinking, the word "mishpat" (literally: judgment) has the deeper sense of "negation", making judgments and distinctions that negate and break up oneness. Mishpat implies: (1) negating (setting limits to) God's emanations in the sense of temporarily negating, contracting, the oneness of God, in order to (2) subsequently negate those negations by contracting one's own ego as an attempt to return to God. The initial negation of the One Without a Second, creation itself, is deductive style thinking, which for kabbalists is tsimtsum (contraction) type 1, while the later negation of those negations is induction, which for kabbalists is tsimtsum type 2. Mishpat, then, symbolizes the entire movement of the dialectic, first as descent on the left pillar (deduction, ramification of the idea), and then ascent on the right pillar (induction, collection of the fragments into oneness on a new higher level). Mishpat, negation in the broadest sense of the word, is the motor which moves the world around the ascending spiral of concrete dialectical logic. This circular movement in one place is what Aristotle labeled "local motion", and which he considered to be the most important sense of motion. In this sense motion is "translation" of creatures and angels (forces) up or down the spiral of dialectical logic, as the great chain of being brings the Word of God into the world and the world into the Word of God. Nachman goes on: LM 2:2 Yosef, who guarded the brit, gained the rights of the firstborn. This corresponds to the divine service of prayer, which is an aspect of the double portion [inherited by the firstborn]. For prayer is itself twofold, as it is comprised of both praise of God and requesting one's needs. This corresponds to "a double-edged sword in their hand" - i.e., two edges, a double portion. FW: Praising God in the here and now is inductive style thinking, seeing the oneness in the manyness of everyday life, while requesting one's needs from God is deductive style thinking, leaving the here and now and making detailed specifications according to which God is being asked to limit his oneness in the future in order to accommodate our wishes. Aside from the induction/deduction, left/right aspects that need to be balanced by the point of view of Ya'akov/Yosef there also are higher/lower, macrocosmic/microcosmic aspects that need to balanced. Reb Noson, Nachman's foremost disciple, likens prayer to appreciating one's firstborn child, in the sense that LM 2:2. Note 26 having witnessed the efficacy of his (first) prayers, his faith is strengthened and he prays again and unceasingly, until he sees even more births (either of children or of God's bounty). Indeed, all subsequent births are easier to come by because of his "firstborn" prayer. Consequently, the birthright is a double portion: the firstborn claims a portion in all subsequent births (from Torat Natan #10). FW: This may be a very clever reformulation of Rashi's commentary on "B'reishit" or Aristotle's theory of actuality/potentiality: that the initial act/idea underlies and guides the unfolding and eventual negation of all subsequent potentialities and ramifications of that initial act/idea. The idea of the coming Shabbat, for example, is prior to, underlies and guides all the preparations for and implementation of that coming Shabbat by a religious Jew. In the general context of dialectical thinking an entire Gestalt Therapy dreamwork session is "prayer by a firstborn" in these same two overall senses. This is in addition to the fact that a Gestalt session is primarily a monologue undertaken for the sake of "the coming solution", an implicitly religious, messianic point of view. In terms of Nachman's terminology in LM 2, a Gestalt dreamwork monologue is "prayer by a firstborn" (1) first, when the client identifies with a dream image and says, for example, "I am a frog. I jump around a lot. I would like to find more stability in my life." The frogness idea is the left pillar, mishpat, binah, limiting the right pillar, oneness, intellect, chochmah, of the client at that moment here and now. He is praising God for revealing to him his new potentiality as a frog able to jump around. Perhaps this is a new experience for him, a moment of induction as this new identity congeals out of many fragments. At the same time he is leaving the here and now and making specific demands on God. This is deduction style thinking. (2) The second sense in which playing the frog image is prayer by a firstborn is that from the beginning of the dreamwork session the final existential message of the dream that he will receive at the end of the session already underlies and guides the entire dreamwork process. Playing the frog, he is getting a double portion: revelation of his potentiality as frogness and also a premonition (1/60th) of the eventual prophecy or Word of God that will culminate the session. (5) CHARITY FW: Continuing now with the Gestalt model of dialectical logic, let us consider two other aspects of mishpat that concern Nachman in LM 2: charity and the corruption of mishpat. LM 2:4. And how does one merit the aspect of mishpat? through charity. In giving charity one embraces the attribute of mishpat . . . "You execute mishpat and charity in Ya'akov" (Psalms 99:4) For charity (is itself) a product of mishpat, as in (Psalms 75:8), "The Lord is judge, He brings down one and lifts up another". He impoverishes one and enriches another. FW: The dialectical charity one does in Gestalt Therapy is the process of tsimtsum, contraction of one's ego in order to submit to the healing process. Tsimtsum type 1, the deductive type occurs when I say "I am a frog", since for that moment I am willing to limit myself to being merely a frog in order to allow the dreamwork process to unfold. Tsimtsum type 2 occurs when I get stuck in a pair of X/-X extreme polarities and undergo the rhythm of contact and withdrawal. I close me eyes, enter my here and now body awareness, actively forget the struggle that got me stuck in this void and allow myself to daydream freely. Both tsumtsum processes, type 1 and type 2 are examples of mishpat, negation. In the first case I negate myself down to the level of a mere frog, and in the second case I negate even the frog and its opposite that got me stuck. I negate the negations in order to receive from the macrocosm new ideas down here in the microcosm. Nachman tells us in LM 2 that this fertile void which serves as the passageway from macrocosm to microcosm is the nose of Arikh Anpin, and the hasidim say to this metaphor, "amen", but the dialectical thinking of Gestalt Therapy is a more workable technical vocabulary for those who would like to be more efficient in negotiating the dialectic themselves or in helping others to do so. The Gestalt client or religious seeker needs to know that he ought to limit his ego by all means available to him, not just giving money. What if he does not have any to give? He also needs to know that by impoverishing his ego he is enriching his powers as a vessel of the Word of God, in the sense that by cooperating with the therapist and playing (like a child, with simplicity and naivete) the silly game of being a frog he is more likely to get the results he wants. Limiting his ego, his collection of weak gestalts, stillborn ideas, games he plays to manipulate himself and others, redirects his energy into identifying with the emerging new higher level ideas that can integrate his personality and allow him better to deal with his needs. (6) CORRUPTION OF MISHPAT LM 2:5. Now the main cause of foreign thoughts during prayer is the corruption of mishpat. For mishpat is an aspect of AYNin (eyes) . . . they are like clouds covering the eyes . . . but in the Future the concept of mishpat shall be restored. FW: Historically this sounds a lot like the theory of prophecy put forward by Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in "Derech HaShem" ("The Way of God") in the 18th Century. For Luzzatto the prophet's view of God's Word is only through clouded lenses, which he labels Apaklariot ("lenses"). What clouds the Aspaklariot is "achirut" (turbulence). What is the Gestalt Therapy equivalent of the achirut? Answer: self-interruption of the concrete dialectic leading towards authentic action. We already have listed the major self-interruptions: confluence, introjection, projection, retroflection and egotism. Gestalt work usually begins with work on the three primary zones of awareness: the environment (outer zone), one's body (inner zone) and one's imagination (fantasy zone). A person used to not using his eyes to see what is going on around him is said to have a "hole" where he ought to have eyes. Since he does not see, he finds it more natural to project his eyes onto others and to assume that others are looking at him and making critical judgments about him. So it seems as though Nachman here is using the notion of clouds covering the eyes as a label for poor awareness in general. And just as in Gestalt Therapy the cure is to be found in "identifying with the coming solution", the emerging existential message of the dream, so for Nachman the cure is to be found in the messianic Future by identifying with the coming of Moshe-Mashiach. (7) PREGNANCY FW: Nachman uses the notion of pregnancy for what Perls calls "the coming solution", as though the messianic idea is undergoing a process of incubation or "cooking". In fact in the Talmudic "fish" story that follows he actually declares that God bestows His compassion when He reaches a critical "energy of activation" in the biochemical sense! LM 2:7. Now, all the Torah a person studies for the purpose of observing and fulfilling - all these letters are sparks of souls, and they are clothed within the prayer. There, they are renewed in an aspect of pregnancy. As is brought in the Sefer HaGilgulim: all the souls enter Malkhut (Kingship) in the aspect of pregnancy and are renewed there . . . Prayer shines to the souls in the aspect of new insights. For she renews them in an aspect of pregnancy." FW: Here once again we have a major job of decoding, demystifying, to do if we want to come up with specific advice for a religious seeker. The word "Torah" in this context is best seen as derived from the root "TUR", "to explore, seek" rather than from the root implying "to instruct", since what is involved here is a dialectical truth search. From the Gestalt Therapy point of view "sparks of souls" are "gestalts". The philosopher Leibniz (18th Century) would label them "monads", in the sense that a gestalt or monad is a sort of spiritual "organism" or unit of life, organized around a central idea in the relation of parts to a whole. If I see a flower, the image I see is a gestalt or monad, and if I then play act that flower then I become a gestalt or monad of that flower. If I then play the forest that includes that flower, then I have ascended from a low level gestalt or monad to a higher level one, the entire phenomenological "tree" which includes the flower, the bugs in the forest and the forest going by the label of a "monadology". In Jewish terminology we have ascended from one world to another world, or from the level of an individual flower to that of a "tsibur" or collective organism. Now for Nachman the sparks of souls are "clothed within the prayer" in the sense that the gestalt or monad of a flower is encompassed by the gestalt or monad of the forest that includes the flower and all the other organisms of the forest. The prayer is a new higher level gestalt/ monad/idea. We are talking here of inductive style dialectical thinking, moving up the right pillar from the particulars, the thesis and the antithesis (X/-X) towards the new encompassing general idea, the synthesis (Y), in this case the prayer. In the Gestalt Dreamwork process the individual moments of awareness (the gestalts or monads) enter into the "kingdom" or "world" of phenomenological awareness that the client is building up around himself. Once this world begins to congeal into a more encompassing gestalt or monad, then the central idea of that new gestalt or monad (Y, the synthesis) takes over and strives to incorporate the lower order gestalts/monads into itself. The strong gestalt/monad then is on the one hand being born and gobbling up all the lower level gestalts/monads. But the other hand the component low level gestalts/monads are being reborn or illuminated by the new encompassing idea that has swallowed them up. From their point of view this is a moment of enlightenment. As Nachman puts it, "prayer shines to the souls in the aspect of new insights, for she renews them in the aspect of pregnancy". From the point of view of God overseeing the entire process as the largest gestalt or monad, this is the process of "reviving the dead", "m'chayei meitim". Dialectical thinking is in itself morally neutral, indifferent to whether it is Moses or Adolf Hitler who is the new encompassing idea, as the German people learned too late. Therefore dialectics needs to be balanced by Halachah. Nevertheless, dialectical thinking is a very useful tool to make sense of texts written in a dialectical manner, texts such as Likutei Moharan. (8) MOSHE-MASHIACH LM 2:8. The tzaddikim of each and every generation raise and erect them, as in, "Moshe erected the Tabernacle". They raise each and every part of it to its place and build the structure of the Shekhinah bit by bit until the full measure of its structure is realized. Then Mashiach, who is Moshe, will come and consummate it, by erecting it perfectly . . . When the structure of the entire Shekhinah is completed through the multitude of prayers


15. FRANKLYN WEPNER DIRECTS SVETLANA BEN 18: PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY SHOW + ENGLISH SUBTITLES

FRANKLYN WEPNER DIRECTS SVETLANA BEN 18: PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY SHOW + ENGLISH SUBTITLES

LOVE STORY (SORT OF). After doing two hours of Gestalt work on awareness and working 3 months processing the results into creative theatrical form, Svetlana Ben presents here her "Personal Myth Project" show. The director was Franklyn Wepner, but most of the text was from poems written by Svetlana. The show is called a "personal myth project" since the ways of thinking and behaving Svetlana discovered during the Gestalt work and which you see here in an artistic form are for her not just a story but reality itself. They are like myths or idols or fate that she lives as basic assumptions of her life. This is not the place for in depth analysis, but we can note just a few obvious components of this personal mythology. Apparently the loss of her father at age 6 was an important source of childhood emotions, longings and fantasies. On the one hand her childhood allowed her to develop into a sensitive, creative adult with many expressive skills, and on the other hand there was her rebellion against the practical restraints imposed upon her by her mother and by the communist regime in Russia. At age 40 Svetlana immigrated to Israel. Here her need to make a living forces her to continue full-time her profession as an electrical engineer, but also since arriving in Israel she has been using all her free time to develop herself as a professional performer. So now all of that pent up loneliness, rebellion and creative energy contributes to her explosive emotional temperament and provides a rich store of emotional life for the stage characters she creates. But at the same time those childish exaggerated emotional tendencies sometimes come into conflict with the demands of the adult situations that Svetlana now finds herself in as engineer, mother, grandmother, professional actress, and as companion for the man in her life. Spending three months preparing this little show has helped Svetlana to better understand the forces at work in her personality. Since the Merkavah Theater training begins with Gestalt Therapy, therefore all our work together is therapy as well as theater. What you see here is what came out of only a single two hour Gestalt session focused on awareness. Perhaps Svetlana now is ready to go on to explore a couple of three hour Gestalt sessions dealing in depth with dreams and personal relationships. Given the lovely artistic results which came out of only a small amount of soul-searching, there is every reason to hope that the next installment might be even more significant, both as art and as a personal growth experience.


16. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork "truth search"

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork

gestalt dreamwork on my own dream. the original dream is that with a baseball bat i am defending a group of adults which is having a discussion. a pack of hungry cats is circling us and closing in ready to attack. the group is not paying any attention to either the cats or to me defending them.


17. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork "the branch" 3

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork

part 3. personal gestalt dreamwork on a picture instead of a dream. FRANKLYN WEPNER JUNE 2009 fwep@earthlink.net LM 5. HEIDEGGER & NACHMAN REFERENCE: MARTIN HEIDEGGER, "THE ORIGIN OF THE WORK OF ART", IN "PHILOSOPHIES OF ART AND BEAUTY", ED. HOFSTADTER & KUHNS (1) THE "OPEN" & THE PURE PROCESS MODE (2) THE TEMPLE, PLATO & MASHIACH (3) CONSECRATING THE TEMPLE AS RITE OF INITIATION (4) NACHMAN'S TEMPLE IN BRATSLAV (5) CLAPPING HANDS AS ALCHEMICAL MAGIC (1) THE "OPEN" AND THE PURE PROCESS MODE H 681. Setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness of beings as a whole, or truth, is won. FW: The above is a typical sentence taken from Martin Heidegger's essay, "The Origin Of The Work Of Art". This sentence is loaded with Heidegger technical jargon: world, earth, battle, unconcealedness, beings and truth. Also in this sentence, these terms are laid out in an interlocking manner such that words that we thought we understood suddenly become very strange to us. We are mystified. But let us try now to decode this knot of dialectical jargon. Decoding even this one sentence will reveal much of the underlying logic of Heidegger's philosophy of art. Our project in this short essay is to see whether Heidegger's recondite reflections about art can shed valuable light on the work of Nachman of Breslav. We have been approaching Nachman mainly from the perspective of Isaac Luria's dialectic of conflict, which was Nachman's own reference point in 1800. But doing so required jumping right away into the tsimtsum theory, and we risked explaining something very obscure in an even more obscure manner. Fortunately, we have available a magic carpet tool from the performing arts which in one quick, painless stroke will land us in the middle of the dialectical universe of both Heidegger and Luria and allow us from those two starting points to converge on our primary target, the work Nachman of Breslav. This tool is a world class technique with a long history. It constitutes a major foundation of the dance theaters of Asia, and in today's avant garde theater world it is known as the "pure process mode". Again I express my gratitude to the Mabou Mines Theater Company for initiating me into this bit of esoterica. FW: The pure process mode as performed looks a lot like Tai Ch'i, but then again you might not know about Tai Ch'i either so I'll start from the basic idea. A group of performers is told to focus on awareness rather than thinking. Like in Gestalt Therapy, awareness here includes contact with one's environment using senses, with one's body using proprioception, and with one's fantasies. The stress in this exercise is on environment awareness. Along with work on awareness, the group is instructed to begin a holistic, total movement of all body parts, very slowly and very relaxed so as not to let the movements or body tension interfere with the awareness. All this is here and now work, passively responding to what is happening in one's awareness. What to do next stems from passively reacting to what already is happening, and going with that flow in a non-deliberate manner. Philosophically, what we have here is "induction" or Platonic collection, or gestalt formation, in the sense that from the particular details the performer infers a single new encompassing idea which then becomes the rule that guides his next choices. From the ground of what is happening arise potential figures, weak gestalts, until one of them becomes the strong gestalt or monad which then is the new world of that emerging moment. And here we have Heidegger's key term, "world", emerging as a product of inductive, intuitive thinking. The world that worlds, using Heidegger jargon, is the emerging gestalt or figure that then is the organizing center of the organism's existence until the next strong gestalt (world) takes over. For Gestalt Therapists a neurotic is an individual who interferes with, who interrupts his natural figure/ground process such that strong gestalts do not congeal and the ground keeps churning up weak gestalts aimlessly. FW: So far we have presented half of the pure process mode concept, the side of passivity and induction. The other, complementary side of the pure process mode is the active, deliberate, deductive side. Here is how that works. As I am doing my awareness and movement exercise, I am instructed also to allow any particular focus that emerges strongly enough from the ground that it attracts my conscious attention to continue to develop, and then I see where it takes me. In other words, I am looking for associations, or what Nachman would label "behinot". This is an aspect of that and that is an aspect of the next thing, endlessly. The main motor of the pure process mode is the passive, induction side, but riding on it is a series of deductive moments or deliberate active choices to accept the hint and go with that idea to its completion as a particular "thing". For example, I notice that my body is doing something like a swimming breast stroke, and I allow myself gradually to go almost fully into the breast stroke form. But here I interrupt the naturalistic form I am performing and remind myself that I need the active/passive balance, the middle way. And so I now allow the breast stroke form - again gradually with full awareness - to dissolve back into the passive aspect of the pure process mode. We now have the two poles of Heidegger's dialectic. The deliberate, active point of view Heidegger calls "earth", and the passive point of view Heidegger calls "world". Here again is our initial Heidegger quote. H 681. Setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness of beings as a whole, or truth, is won. FW: The "battle" is the competition between world and earth, induction and deduction. Usually when we do the breast stroke in the pool as part of our 20 minute exercise routine, the choice is deliberate, and the details of the stroke fit into a vast grid of distinctions of different kind of muscular and breathing activities. The ramification of the basic idea of "swimming" into all these strokes and nuances of strokes is an example of deductive logic, moving from the general idea of "swimming" to the particular differences of each stroke. The opposite of deduction in this sense is the passive experience of letting all those details and nuances fade away into no-thing-ness. The combination of deduction and induction, earth and world, kabbalistic left pillar and right pillar, is the concrete dialectic which grounds much of sophisticated world culture, east and west. Doing the pure process exercise is like a slow motion movie of some sport which reveals the seams linking the individual moves. These seams usually are a hidden, "concealed" ground for the chain of deliberate moves. The pure process mode reverses our usual figure/ground process, thereby "unconcealing" the ground of "being as a whole". If we think of our usual daily existence as packed with habitual, mechanical behavior, then the pure process mode opens up or clears a space in that dense structure. Here is another Heidegger statement, This time he describes this "open center" of our existence. H 679. In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing, a lighting. Thought of in reference to what is, to beings, this clearing is in a greater degree than are beings. This open center is therefore not surrounded by what is; rather the lighting center itself encircles all that is, like the a Nothing which we scarcely know. FW: Just substitute no-thing-ness for Nothing, and we have again the pure process mode, with things coming into existence and going out of existence devoid of their usual thingness as specific objects that we make use of or relate to. FW: Turning now back to Nachman of Breslav, let us read Heidegger's prose from the point of view of the dialectic of conflict and the tradition of alchemy which Nachman inherited from Isaac Luria. Immediately we see a likely source for Heidegger's choice of the word "earth" to suggest the process of deduction in opposition to the process of induction. For the process of deduction or creation on the left pillar of the tree of life descends deductively from alchemical water to alchemical earth, before ascending inductively through alchemical air to alchemical fire. Moving through these four elements, water, earth, air and fire, completes the cycle. Alchemical air is what becomes revealed (unconcealed) at the moment of tsimtsum, as God or man contracts his frozen x/-x polarities to allow a relative vacuum. Into the void emerges or overflows inductively a new idea from the macrocosm which then encompasses the two sides of the former impasse in a higher integration. The encompassing new idea Nachman labels, logically enough, the "maqqif", since in Hebrew the word "maqqif" means "encompasses". The void is the "open" of Heidegger, which begins as an air pocket and then does a figure/ground reversal from air pocket to encompassing no-thing-ness in which the two sides, x/-x, of the former impasse disappear. This disappearing is the negation of the negations of the One Without A Second. The negations, the stuck antagonists of the impasse, are thus burnt up in alchemical fire, completing the circle of alchemical elements of the concrete dialectic. FW: By stressing the impasse at the expense of the pure process mode, kabbalists like Luria and Nachman of Breslav highlight the absence of new ideas flowing from on high. This is like building up charge on a condenser. The ideas certainly are there, since God is in all the world, but they are apparently absent. Arthur Green shows how Nachman made his own personal experience of the apparent absence of God a central dogma of his renovated hasidism. The Breslaver hasid is instructed to seek out more and more challenging conflicts, "maqqifim", as a way to stimulate his need to rely upon faith rather than look for an intellectual understanding of God. Eastern religions, without as much stress on a personal God as has Judaism, can do without such a condenser model of faith and rely more upon the natural power of awareness as a tool to access divinity. Here is Nachman's version of Heidegger's "the open" and the Asian dance theater pure process mode. It's the same dialectic, with different cultural overlays to mask it. Since the Fall, since the Tower of Babel, since the decree, different peoples need to disguise their prayers with different codes, different "stories", lest the accusing angels on the left (our need to maintain cultural distinctions, our "gevurot") protest. LM 5:5. Know as well that a person must couple the gevurot (severities) with chasadim (benevolences), left with right, as is written (Psalms 20:7), "with the saving gevurot of His right arm" . For the main revelation comes about by means of chasadim, as is written (ibid 110:1), "Sit at my right hand while I make your enemies your footstool". It is likewise necessary to couple love with fear of Heaven, in order to generate thunder. This love is from the right side, from "a mind as white as silver" (Tikkuney Zohar #70). . . ."The sound of Your thunder was in the sphere." and this is (Song of Songs 8:7), "Many waters cannot extinguish the love." For the ability to conquer is mainly by means of love, as in , "Sit at My right hand while I make your enemies your footstool." FW: Both Heidegger and Nachman point toward resolving the "battle" of world vs earth dialectically. In LM 5:5 Nachman uses alchemical water rather than alchemical earth to symbolize the side of deduction, and "love" symbolizes the power of induction to encompass strong polarities (enemies) in a higher unity. Parallel to this dichotomy is that between the Fear of Heaven and love, in the sense that extreme polarities in our existence drive us to the breaking point, abyss, void, and instill thereby in us a "fear of heaven". Thunder in LM 5 symbolizes these extreme opposites reverberating in our lives. The reverberations of thunder reach on high and invite drops of dew (new ideas from the macrocosm) to enter the void in the microcosm and open up new possibilities. The new possibilities, dew drops, at first are merely weak gestalts/figures percolating up from the ground, analogous to the weak figures or gestalts that pass through the body and mind of the performer in the pure process mode. Thus, thunder and lightning serve Nachman in LM 5:5 as structural equivalents to Heidegger's "the open" and the Asian dance theater pure process mode. Nachman's version of the conflict dialectic makes the conflict much more explicit, in order to stimulate a greater reliance on pietist faith in a personal God than is necessary in the Eastern equivalents. (2) THE TEMPLE, PLATO, AND MASHIACH H 670. A building, a Greek temple, portrays nothing. It simply stands there in the middle of the rock cleft valley. The building encloses the figure of the god, and in this concealment lets it stand out into the holy precinct through the open portico. By means of the temple, the god is present in the temple. FW: Again Heidegger approaches the conflict dialectic, this time with a metaphor much closer to the tsimtsum framework invoked by Nachman in LM 5. Rather than associating to the gentle pure process mode, the allusion to the conflict dialectic and tsimtsum is here much more direct. First we see this in the location of this Greek temple: "the middle of a rock cleft valley", i.e., the two extremes making up the impasse that opens up the void. The word "building" points immediately to the left pillar headed by "binah", from the Hebrew root "to build". The figure of the god is the emerging new macrocosmic, Platonic idea, the "maqqif" which negates the "pnimi" (the impasse of one's heart) and supplants it dialectically. In the pure process mode it is "the Open" (world) which houses the forms which come and pass away (earth), but here it is the rigid structure of a temple (earth) that houses the constantly emerging open (world, god). Here we are back in the typical Lurianic kabbalah terrain that is Nachman's home ground. H 671. Standing there, the building holds its ground against the storm raging above it and so first makes the storm itself manifest in its violence. The luster and gleam of the stone, though itself apparently glowing only by the grace of the sun, yet first brings to light the light of the day, the breadth of the sky, the darkness of the night. The temple's firm towering makes visible the invisible space of air. FW: Around the temple crashes the thunder and lightning of a great storm, which is the moment of tsimtsum in the concrete dialectic. And this time it is alchemical air which Heidegger cites to remind us of his own grounding in the traditional dialectic. Or perhaps in this compact temple image we have the entire dialectic: water (the storm), earth (temple as rigid framework), air (the space for the emerging maqqif idea) and fire (the lightning and the heat of the sun). Let's see how our two gurus articulate these alchemical ideas, each with his own "story". First Heidegger: a Greek pilgrim approaching in the valley sees first the temple in the distance, before the small figure of the god inside is visible. And Nachman says in LM 5:6, LM 5:6. This is the aspect of fear which precedes. For fear of Heaven precedes all else, as is written (Psalms 111:10), "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God". FW: But what exactly is the function or work of this Greek temple? H 670. It is the temple work that first fits together and at the same time gathers around itself the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline acquire the shape of destiny for human being. The all-governing expanse of this open relational context is the world of this historical people. Only from and in this expanse does the nation first return to itself for the fulfillment of its vocation. FW: The work that is done in the temple and by means of the temple itself is the concrete dialectic, which for both Heidegger and Nachman includes the Platonic concepts of collection and anamnesis (Greek: "not forgetting"). Specifically, the temple work (dialectic) gathers around itself (collects) the unity of those paths and relations (the weak gestalts encompassed by strong gestalts, maqqifim). Heidegger was a contemporary of Fritz Perls, and a glance at the Gestalt model will clear away a lot of metaphorical muddle here. The gestalt work (temple work) that the Gestalt patient does by identifying with pair after pair of his polarities in his work on his games and unfinished business serves to encompass all the inner ideas of these points of view within his own emerging self-as-process. This is Platonic collection of weaker ideas, gestalts or monads within stronger ideas, gestalts or monads. The "coming solution" with which the patient identifies as his goal is thus on a higher level of integration than his previous game playing self. It is as though an unruly mob has been integrated into a mature human populace with a clear sense of purpose. This is the return of the members of the nation to its true self, its archetypal dialectical ideas and logic, and the grasping of its destiny ("vocation"). Plato, like Heidegger, placed the needs of the republic above the needs of individuals. Heidegger as Nazi leader showed us the ugly side of Platonism, while the restraints imposed by hasidic halachah kept Nachman and his followers closer to a balanced position. The "world" of a historical people is for both thinkers inhabited by ideas associated with the folklore of that tribe. These are the personages of Wagner's operas for Germans and the patriarchs of the Bible for Jews. In LM 5 Nachman makes use of Yitzchak and Avraham for this purpose, and likewise for Yaakov in LM 1. LM 5:3. This is what our Sages taught: When a person has fear of Heaven his words are heard (Berakhot 6b). For when someone possesses fear of Heaven, his voice is converted into thunder. This is because thunder is from the side of Yitzchak, as in, "the thunder of His gevurot." This causes his words to be heard - i.e., "the voice is transmitted to the creation." For hearing is linked to [the fear of Heaven], as is written (Habakkuk 3:2), "O God, I heard of Your message; I feared" (Zohar III, 230a). . . This also corresponds to the sound of the shofar - i.e., the shofar horn of the ram, the ram of Yitzchak (Zohar III 235b) - which is an aspect of "the thunder of His gevurot". LM 5:5. It is likewise necessary to couple love with fear of Heaven, in order to generate thunder. This [love] is from the right side, from "a mind as white as silver" (Tikkuney Zohar #70). This is (Exodus 14:27). "The sea" alludes to the sea of wisdom, "when it turned morning" - this is the morning of Avraham (Zohar II, 170b), corresponding to "Avraham My beloved" (Isaiah 41:8), "to its might" - this is gevurot, corresponding to "The sound of Your thunder was in the sphere.." And this is (Song of Songs 8:7), "Many waters cannot extinguish the love." For the ability to conquer is mainly by means of love, as in, "Sit at My right . . ." LM 1:2. For the Jew must always focus on the inner intelligence of every matter, and bind himself to the wisdom and inner intelligence that is to be found in each thing. This, so that the intelligence which is in each thing may enlighten him that he ma draw closer to God through that thing. For inner intelligence is a great light that shines for a person in all his ways, As is written (Ecclesiastes 8:1), "A person's wisdom causes his countenance to shine. This is the concept of Yaakov. For YaAKoV merited the right of the first born, which is reishit (beginning), the concept of wisdom. FW: Let's relate these two sets of metaphors to each other, i.e., Heidegger's account of the temple and Nachman's account of the patriarchs. Yitzchak, symbolizing the left pillar, (gevurot, severities, distinctions, judgments, deductions) is likened to the Fear of Heaven arising from the extreme polarities associated with tsimtsum/thunder. Avraham, symbolizing the right pillar (love, grace, benevolence, induction, ideas from above, maqqifim) is depicted as powerful enough to encompass "the waters" of deduction. Thunder in LM 5 has a double reference to tsimtsum. In regard to Yitzchak thunder suggests the extreme polarities of the storm, while in regard to Avraham the allusion of thunder is close to that of "the Open" in the pure process mode. "In the morning" the naturalistic forms which congealed dissolve back into the pure process mode. Earth gives itself up to world, in order to restore the balance of the middle way. This is Yaakov as maqqif, encompassing Yitzchak and Avraham in a higher integration. FW: Again, Gestalt practice can help to get the point here. Think of the Gestalt pilgrim working his way through his objective history. After identifying with the inner ideas of each of his x/-x polarities and doing the work of each dialogue in the ascending spiral of the dialectic, the Gestalt pilgrim is instructed to "identify with the coming solution", close your eyes and enter your body and fantasies. This is the rhythm of contact and withdrawal which is the Gestalt equivalent of the tsimtsum idea. The result of this process is grasping the existential message of the entire work, i.e., Yaakov, the balanced wisdom, the sword of the messiah that veers neither to the left or to the right. For Nachman, the tsaddik function, represented by himself as paradigm and potentially available in each Jew, is this archetypal dialectic, the messianic soul Jews receive from Adam, from Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, etc. and lastly from himself as Mashiach ben Joseph. This original messianic soul incorporates the three patriarchal ideas dialectically: Avraham as the thesis, Yitzchak as the antithesis, and Yaakov as the synthesis. Recalling these patriarchs in the context of an ongoing spiritual search grounded in faith is Nachman's version of Platonic anamnesis. Learning, for Jews, is remembering the wisdom of our original founding fathers, our origin. FW: Heidegger had an analogous philosophy of education which he attempted to implement in 1933 as Nazi party member and rector of the University of Berlin in Hitler's Germany. Like Nachman, he found active messianism a bit too difficult and was forced to give up the job. Also like Nachman, he then turned to art as a sublimation of his messianic longings. Hence the title of this essay which we are studying, which Heidegger wrote in 1935, is "The Origin Of The Work Of Art". The essay announces that for Heidegger art - Nazi art, that is - serves the messianic function, with the artist standing in for Jesus or some Aryan equivalent. This parallels Nachman's grand messianic vision of the role of the tsaddik - especially himself - in Jewish lore. Nachman's Platonic gathering and inductive collaging of quotes from traditional Jewish sources as a code for the conflict dialectic is an example of religious art fulfilling the messianic function using anamnesis of archetypal ideas in a Platonic manner. Wagner's operas, with their teutonic patriarchal heroes, serve a parallel Platonic collection function for a Nazi German soul. (3) CONSECRATING THE TEMPLE AS RITE OF INITIATION FW: Doing a Gestalt dreamwork session and moving dialectically through a series of polarities according to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, is, dialectically speaking - in the sense of Heidegger - setting up a temple with the "coming solution" as the god inside who is illuminating the entire structure. If this is the Gestalt client's first such experience, then Heidegger would speak of "consecrating" the temple. In fact, the process also alludes to the "B'reishit" moment of Genesis, which from a philosophical point of view is happening at every moment of authentic action as God constantly renews his creation. H 672. To dedicate means to consecrate, in the sense that in setting up the work the holy is opened up as holy and the god is invoked into the openness of his presence. . . To e-rect means: to open the right in the sense of a guiding measure, a form in which what belongs to the nature of being gives guidance. FW: We have seen the notion of "measure" in LM 5, in Nachman's stress on attaining a proper balance of left and right pillars, the Fear of Heaven on one side and love on the other side, this being the state of Yaakov, which dialectically synthesizes the antithetical relationship between Avraham and Yitzchak as they usually are portrayed in the kabbalah. Arthur Green has shown clearly that identifying with these three patriarchs was for Nachman a major part of his spiritual quest. Nachman considered the dialectic of the patriarchs as a symbol of his own struggle to attain a level of spirituality appropriate for the leader of a hasidic community. Green maintains that Nachman's journey to the land of Israel was primarily a need for a symbolic rite of passage, the goal of which is in Judaism represented by the dialectic of the three patriarchs. Here is Green's argument. After returning from his journey to Israel, amidst Napoleon's naval bombardment of the Turkish fleet, Nachman TM 85. had "passed through water" for the sake of God, and had seen his faith withstand the threat of imminent death. He was now one who could deserve the vision of the patriarchs, having followed their example by the utter denial of his corporeal self. TM 84. It is now clear that Nachman's journey to the Holy Land may best be defined as a rite de passage, or a voyage of initiation, the likes of which have been studied in various other religious cultures, both pre-literate and classical, but which are not generally considered to be a part of latter day Judaism. TM 82. The patriarchs, who fulfilled the mitzvot in purely spiritual ways, are, in Nachman's imagination, symbols of complete transcendence of the bodily self. Chayay 5:19 Shortly before he departed for the land of Israel, someone asked him why he did not draw the disciples near and speak with them. He said that he now had no words, but said that "by means of the verse "When you pass through the water I shall be with you" (Isaiah 43:2) it has become known to me how one may see the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whenever one wants." FW: Green cites Eliade on the relationship between rite of passage and consecration. TM 92. The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity. Attaining the center is equivalent to a consecration, an initiation; yesterday's profane and illusory existence gives place to a new life, to a life that is real, enduring. M. Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return (Cosmos And History), p. 18 FW: Finally, here in LM 5 we find all of these themes succinctly expressed with Nachman's usual collage of Torah quotations. LM 5:5. When you guard your mind from the aspect of chametz, so that it does not become clogged, then your voice will strike your skull and be converted into thunder, and the heart's crookedness will be made straight. Then, you will merit joy, as in, "and joy for the straight of heart." This is the meaning of (Psalms 81:8), "When you called in secret, I answered you thunderously, I tested you at the Waters of Conflict. Selah" FW: Nachman asks his disciples to surrender themselves to an intense, harrowing rite of passage by doing their work of hitbod'dut, talking to God, in a manner directly analogous to the Gestalt therapy monologue process of creating a world of one's own. The Waters of Conflict his followers will pass through thereby are the descending pillar of the conflict of dialectic. His hasidim are to seek to obtain a properly balanced dialectical relationship between the patriarchs symbolizing the left, right and middle pillars, which is Nachman's kabbalistic way of speaking about what Plato calls "measure", and other call the middle way. Initiating this monologue by calling out to God is what Heidegger labels a consecration of the temple, which is at the same time an opening up of a world of holiness and an invoking of the god. Nachman, of course, is referring to the tsimtsum experience which opens up the void and invites new ideas to descend from the macrocosm. We also have heard him refer to this process as attaining the place from which the prophets suckle, and also in LM 5 we recall we have found right in the text the main points of Luzzatto's theory of prophecy articulated in terms of seeking the most unclouded aspaklariot (lenses) through which to experience the word of God. Luzzatto uses the word unclouded, while Heidegger says more or less the same thing in his own idiosyncratic manner by using referring to the unconcealment of truth. (4) NACHMAN'S TEMPLE IN BRATSLAV FW: A very clear parallel between Heidegger's use above of the terms "world" and "right" for the notion of opening up a holy space is a homily Nachman delivered shortly after moving to Bratslav, which perhaps served to commemorate the opening of a new temple. At TM 137 we have the following taken from LM 44, in which Nachman likens his arrival in Bratslav to Abraham's arrival in Israel. Nachman viewed his own arrival in Bratslav as the founding of a new Jerusalem, the center of a world based on his teachings. TM 137. Thus our sages say: "Whoever establishes a fixed place for prayer, the God of Abraham helps him." For by his hand a new world is built, and this new building is through Abraham, as Scripture says: "The world is build by chesed". (Psalms 89:3). Abraham was the first to attain Erez Israel. FW: Heidegger makes the dialectical foundation of this consecration very explicit. H 72. What does the work, as work, set up? Towering up within itself, the work opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force. To be a work means to set up a world . . . Wherever those decisions of our history that relate to our very being are made, are taken up and abandoned by us, go unrecognized and are rediscovered by new inquiry, there the world worlds. FW: Going back to our paradigm case of a Gestalt dreamwork session, the "work" is the dialectic initiated by beginning a session, as the pilgrim sets out to work his way through the series of x/-x polarities, the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, that constitutes what Hegel labels the "objective history" of the pilgrim's soul. Going deeper, the overall superobjective that guides the Gestalt session, what Aristotle labels the actuality which is prior to the potentiality of each of the beats of the dialectic, is this opening within the denseness of Being. The via negativa way of formulating the opening is to invoke the notion of a vacuum, what Luria and Nachman refer to as the tsimtsum process. Likewise, in terms of the sefirot, at the moment of Genesis it is chochmah, the new idea, which opens up a world within the pre-existent being of God, binah, which already is built up. The Hebrew root of "binah" is "to build". Likewise chesed, God's grace or benevolence, is the opening up of a space within a pre-existent state of judgment, limitation or Fear of Heaven. Chochmah and chesed are on the right pillar. Nachman's goal is that left and right will combine to give the balanced middle pillar/middle way, symbolized by Yaakov. In the following passage Heidegger specifically mentions the role of grace (chesed) and its absence, (5) CLAPPING HANDS AS ALCHEMICAL MAGIC H 73. In a world's worlding is gathered that spaciousness out of which the protective grace of the gods is granted or withheld. Even this doom of the gods remaining absent is a way in which world worlds. FW: Here Heidegger zeroes in on exactly the founding principle of Nachman's dialectic, the apparent absence of God in the secular world, and we wonder if the grand theoretician of Nazi Germany in 1935 had perhaps got his hands on a translation of Nachman's work as a pretext for his own projects. If Heidegger had read LM 44 he might have found in Nachman himself much of the same racist magical wishful thinking which his own colleagues later perfected to make their own conquered lands "Judenrein", cleaned out of Jews. Nachman's recipe for instantly ridding a town of goyish presence was very simple: just clap your hands. It is reminiscent of Mary Poppins' advice to the children on how to get rid of unpleasant thoughts by singing a happy tune. Nachman said, in that same sermon at Bratslav, TM 137. All things are called the power of His deeds, the word power [ko'ach, numerically twenty eight] corresponding to the twenty-eight letters [in the first verse] of Creation and to the twenty-eight joints on a person's hand. As is well known, the atmosphere of the pagans' lands is polluted, while the air of the land of Israel is holy and pure, since God has taken it away from the other nations and given it to us. Outside the Holy Land, however, the air remains impure. When we clap our hands together in prayer [using the twenty eight joints] we arouse the power of the twenty-eight letters of Creation, the "power of his deeds", showing that He has the power to give us the inheritance of the nations, since everything belongs to God. Thus we are able to purify the air of other peoples' lands, as these lands are brought back under the rule of God, and He can distribute them as He wishes. FW: All this is one more example of why hasidism (for Nachman) or hegelianism (for Heidegger) without education concerning the philosophical roots of what all the mumbo-jumbo means is irresponsible at best. At worst, we need only look back at the last century to see the fruits of a world run amuck after uncritically gobbling down a too generous helping of dialectical thinking. Clapping our hands to push aside polluted air and open up a space of pure air is alchemy, with alchemical air representing the kabbalistic empty space of tsimtsum which opens up within alchemical earth. Alchemy and dlalectics are elements of renaissance science, which hovered on the borderline between science and magic. Pushing back the borders of hard logic (deduction) to allow "the Open" of wishful thinking (induction) is a wonderful tool for liberation of the human spirit, so long as what then enters the vacuum is carefully monitored. Monitored by what? Monitored by who? Perhaps just asking these questions is sufficient here. Building a temple is a noble enterprise in itself, but then we need to ask what god will then be invited into this new temple to serve as Aristotelian final cause, pure Platonic idea, or to embody alchemical fire ignited to negate all negations of the One?


18. FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork "the branch" 4

FRANKLYN WEPNER TEACHER gestalt dreamwork

part 4. personal gestalt dreamwork done on a picture instead of a dream, FRANKLYN WEPNER JUNE 2009 fwep@earthlink.net LM 5. HEIDEGGER & NACHMAN REFERENCE: MARTIN HEIDEGGER, "THE ORIGIN OF THE WORK OF ART", IN "PHILOSOPHIES OF ART AND BEAUTY", ED. HOFSTADTER & KUHNS (1) THE "OPEN" & THE PURE PROCESS MODE (2) THE TEMPLE, PLATO & MASHIACH (3) CONSECRATING THE TEMPLE AS RITE OF INITIATION (4) NACHMAN'S TEMPLE IN BRATSLAV (5) CLAPPING HANDS AS ALCHEMICAL MAGIC (1) THE "OPEN" AND THE PURE PROCESS MODE H 681. Setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness of beings as a whole, or truth, is won. FW: The above is a typical sentence taken from Martin Heidegger's essay, "The Origin Of The Work Of Art". This sentence is loaded with Heidegger technical jargon: world, earth, battle, unconcealedness, beings and truth. Also in this sentence, these terms are laid out in an interlocking manner such that words that we thought we understood suddenly become very strange to us. We are mystified. But let us try now to decode this knot of dialectical jargon. Decoding even this one sentence will reveal much of the underlying logic of Heidegger's philosophy of art. Our project in this short essay is to see whether Heidegger's recondite reflections about art can shed valuable light on the work of Nachman of Breslav. We have been approaching Nachman mainly from the perspective of Isaac Luria's dialectic of conflict, which was Nachman's own reference point in 1800. But doing so required jumping right away into the tsimtsum theory, and we risked explaining something very obscure in an even more obscure manner. Fortunately, we have available a magic carpet tool from the performing arts which in one quick, painless stroke will land us in the middle of the dialectical universe of both Heidegger and Luria and allow us from those two starting points to converge on our primary target, the work Nachman of Breslav. This tool is a world class technique with a long history. It constitutes a major foundation of the dance theaters of Asia, and in today's avant garde theater world it is known as the "pure process mode". Again I express my gratitude to the Mabou Mines Theater Company for initiating me into this bit of esoterica. FW: The pure process mode as performed looks a lot like Tai Ch'i, but then again you might not know about Tai Ch'i either so I'll start from the basic idea. A group of performers is told to focus on awareness rather than thinking. Like in Gestalt Therapy, awareness here includes contact with one's environment using senses, with one's body using proprioception, and with one's fantasies. The stress in this exercise is on environment awareness. Along with work on awareness, the group is instructed to begin a holistic, total movement of all body parts, very slowly and very relaxed so as not to let the movements or body tension interfere with the awareness. All this is here and now work, passively responding to what is happening in one's awareness. What to do next stems from passively reacting to what already is happening, and going with that flow in a non-deliberate manner. Philosophically, what we have here is "induction" or Platonic collection, or gestalt formation, in the sense that from the particular details the performer infers a single new encompassing idea which then becomes the rule that guides his next choices. From the ground of what is happening arise potential figures, weak gestalts, until one of them becomes the strong gestalt or monad which then is the new world of that emerging moment. And here we have Heidegger's key term, "world", emerging as a product of inductive, intuitive thinking. The world that worlds, using Heidegger jargon, is the emerging gestalt or figure that then is the organizing center of the organism's existence until the next strong gestalt (world) takes over. For Gestalt Therapists a neurotic is an individual who interferes with, who interrupts his natural figure/ground process such that strong gestalts do not congeal and the ground keeps churning up weak gestalts aimlessly. FW: So far we have presented half of the pure process mode concept, the side of passivity and induction. The other, complementary side of the pure process mode is the active, deliberate, deductive side. Here is how that works. As I am doing my awareness and movement exercise, I am instructed also to allow any particular focus that emerges strongly enough from the ground that it attracts my conscious attention to continue to develop, and then I see where it takes me. In other words, I am looking for associations, or what Nachman would label "behinot". This is an aspect of that and that is an aspect of the next thing, endlessly. The main motor of the pure process mode is the passive, induction side, but riding on it is a series of deductive moments or deliberate active choices to accept the hint and go with that idea to its completion as a particular "thing". For example, I notice that my body is doing something like a swimming breast stroke, and I allow myself gradually to go almost fully into the breast stroke form. But here I interrupt the naturalistic form I am performing and remind myself that I need the active/passive balance, the middle way. And so I now allow the breast stroke form - again gradually with full awareness - to dissolve back into the passive aspect of the pure process mode. We now have the two poles of Heidegger's dialectic. The deliberate, active point of view Heidegger calls "earth", and the passive point of view Heidegger calls "world". Here again is our initial Heidegger quote. H 681. Setting up a world and setting forth the earth, the work is the fighting of the battle in which the unconcealedness of beings as a whole, or truth, is won. FW: The "battle" is the competition between world and earth, induction and deduction. Usually when we do the breast stroke in the pool as part of our 20 minute exercise routine, the choice is deliberate, and the details of the stroke fit into a vast grid of distinctions of different kind of muscular and breathing activities. The ramification of the basic idea of "swimming" into all these strokes and nuances of strokes is an example of deductive logic, moving from the general idea of "swimming" to the particular differences of each stroke. The opposite of deduction in this sense is the passive experience of letting all those details and nuances fade away into no-thing-ness. The combination of deduction and induction, earth and world, kabbalistic left pillar and right pillar, is the concrete dialectic which grounds much of sophisticated world culture, east and west. Doing the pure process exercise is like a slow motion movie of some sport which reveals the seams linking the individual moves. These seams usually are a hidden, "concealed" ground for the chain of deliberate moves. The pure process mode reverses our usual figure/ground process, thereby "unconcealing" the ground of "being as a whole". If we think of our usual daily existence as packed with habitual, mechanical behavior, then the pure process mode opens up or clears a space in that dense structure. Here is another Heidegger statement, This time he describes this "open center" of our existence. H 679. In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing, a lighting. Thought of in reference to what is, to beings, this clearing is in a greater degree than are beings. This open center is therefore not surrounded by what is; rather the lighting center itself encircles all that is, like the a Nothing which we scarcely know. FW: Just substitute no-thing-ness for Nothing, and we have again the pure process mode, with things coming into existence and going out of existence devoid of their usual thingness as specific objects that we make use of or relate to. FW: Turning now back to Nachman of Breslav, let us read Heidegger's prose from the point of view of the dialectic of conflict and the tradition of alchemy which Nachman inherited from Isaac Luria. Immediately we see a likely source for Heidegger's choice of the word "earth" to suggest the process of deduction in opposition to the process of induction. For the process of deduction or creation on the left pillar of the tree of life descends deductively from alchemical water to alchemical earth, before ascending inductively through alchemical air to alchemical fire. Moving through these four elements, water, earth, air and fire, completes the cycle. Alchemical air is what becomes revealed (unconcealed) at the moment of tsimtsum, as God or man contracts his frozen x/-x polarities to allow a relative vacuum. Into the void emerges or overflows inductively a new idea from the macrocosm which then encompasses the two sides of the former impasse in a higher integration. The encompassing new idea Nachman labels, logically enough, the "maqqif", since in Hebrew the word "maqqif" means "encompasses". The void is the "open" of Heidegger, which begins as an air pocket and then does a figure/ground reversal from air pocket to encompassing no-thing-ness in which the two sides, x/-x, of the former impasse disappear. This disappearing is the negation of the negations of the One Without A Second. The negations, the stuck antagonists of the impasse, are thus burnt up in alchemical fire, completing the circle of alchemical elements of the concrete dialectic. FW: By stressing the impasse at the expense of the pure process mode, kabbalists like Luria and Nachman of Breslav highlight the absence of new ideas flowing from on high. This is like building up charge on a condenser. The ideas certainly are there, since God is in all the world, but they are apparently absent. Arthur Green shows how Nachman made his own personal experience of the apparent absence of God a central dogma of his renovated hasidism. The Breslaver hasid is instructed to seek out more and more challenging conflicts, "maqqifim", as a way to stimulate his need to rely upon faith rather than look for an intellectual understanding of God. Eastern religions, without as much stress on a personal God as has Judaism, can do without such a condenser model of faith and rely more upon the natural power of awareness as a tool to access divinity. Here is Nachman's version of Heidegger's "the open" and the Asian dance theater pure process mode. It's the same dialectic, with different cultural overlays to mask it. Since the Fall, since the Tower of Babel, since the decree, different peoples need to disguise their prayers with different codes, different "stories", lest the accusing angels on the left (our need to maintain cultural distinctions, our "gevurot") protest. LM 5:5. Know as well that a person must couple the gevurot (severities) with chasadim (benevolences), left with right, as is written (Psalms 20:7), "with the saving gevurot of His right arm" . For the main revelation comes about by means of chasadim, as is written (ibid 110:1), "Sit at my right hand while I make your enemies your footstool". It is likewise necessary to couple love with fear of Heaven, in order to generate thunder. This love is from the right side, from "a mind as white as silver" (Tikkuney Zohar #70). . . ."The sound of Your thunder was in the sphere." and this is (Song of Songs 8:7), "Many waters cannot extinguish the love." For the ability to conquer is mainly by means of love, as in , "Sit at My right hand while I make your enemies your footstool." FW: Both Heidegger and Nachman point toward resolving the "battle" of world vs earth dialectically. In LM 5:5 Nachman uses alchemical water rather than alchemical earth to symbolize the side of deduction, and "love" symbolizes the power of induction to encompass strong polarities (enemies) in a higher unity. Parallel to this dichotomy is that between the Fear of Heaven and love, in the sense that extreme polarities in our existence drive us to the breaking point, abyss, void, and instill thereby in us a "fear of heaven". Thunder in LM 5 symbolizes these extreme opposites reverberating in our lives. The reverberations of thunder reach on high and invite drops of dew (new ideas from the macrocosm) to enter the void in the microcosm and open up new possibilities. The new possibilities, dew drops, at first are merely weak gestalts/figures percolating up from the ground, analogous to the weak figures or gestalts that pass through the body and mind of the performer in the pure process mode. Thus, thunder and lightning serve Nachman in LM 5:5 as structural equivalents to Heidegger's "the open" and the Asian dance theater pure process mode. Nachman's version of the conflict dialectic makes the conflict much more explicit, in order to stimulate a greater reliance on pietist faith in a personal God than is necessary in the Eastern equivalents. (2) THE TEMPLE, PLATO, AND MASHIACH H 670. A building, a Greek temple, portrays nothing. It simply stands there in the middle of the rock cleft valley. The building encloses the figure of the god, and in this concealment lets it stand out into the holy precinct through the open portico. By means of the temple, the god is present in the temple. FW: Again Heidegger approaches the conflict dialectic, this time with a metaphor much closer to the tsimtsum framework invoked by Nachman in LM 5. Rather than associating to the gentle pure process mode, the allusion to the conflict dialectic and tsimtsum is here much more direct. First we see this in the location of this Greek temple: "the middle of a rock cleft valley", i.e., the two extremes making up the impasse that opens up the void. The word "building" points immediately to the left pillar headed by "binah", from the Hebrew root "to build". The figure of the god is the emerging new macrocosmic, Platonic idea, the "maqqif" which negates the "pnimi" (the impasse of one's heart) and supplants it dialectically. In the pure process mode it is "the Open" (world) which houses the forms which come and pass away (earth), but here it is the rigid structure of a temple (earth) that houses the constantly emerging open (world, god). Here we are back in the typical Lurianic kabbalah terrain that is Nachman's home ground. H 671. Standing there, the building holds its ground against the storm raging above it and so first makes the storm itself manifest in its violence. The luster and gleam of the stone, though itself apparently glowing only by the grace of the sun, yet first brings to light the light of the day, the breadth of the sky, the darkness of the night. The temple's firm towering makes visible the invisible space of air. FW: Around the temple crashes the thunder and lightning of a great storm, which is the moment of tsimtsum in the concrete dialectic. And this time it is alchemical air which Heidegger cites to remind us of his own grounding in the traditional dialectic. Or perhaps in this compact temple image we have the entire dialectic: water (the storm), earth (temple as rigid framework), air (the space for the emerging maqqif idea) and fire (the lightning and the heat of the sun). Let's see how our two gurus articulate these alchemical ideas, each with his own "story". First Heidegger: a Greek pilgrim approaching in the valley sees first the temple in the distance, before the small figure of the god inside is visible. And Nachman says in LM 5:6, LM 5:6. This is the aspect of fear which precedes. For fear of Heaven precedes all else, as is written (Psalms 111:10), "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God". FW: But what exactly is the function or work of this Greek temple? H 670. It is the temple work that first fits together and at the same time gathers around itself the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline acquire the shape of destiny for human being. The all-governing expanse of this open relational context is the world of this historical people. Only from and in this expanse does the nation first return to itself for the fulfillment of its vocation. FW: The work that is done in the temple and by means of the temple itself is the concrete dialectic, which for both Heidegger and Nachman includes the Platonic concepts of collection and anamnesis (Greek: "not forgetting"). Specifically, the temple work (dialectic) gathers around itself (collects) the unity of those paths and relations (the weak gestalts encompassed by strong gestalts, maqqifim). Heidegger was a contemporary of Fritz Perls, and a glance at the Gestalt model will clear away a lot of metaphorical muddle here. The gestalt work (temple work) that the Gestalt patient does by identifying with pair after pair of his polarities in his work on his games and unfinished business serves to encompass all the inner ideas of these points of view within his own emerging self-as-process. This is Platonic collection of weaker ideas, gestalts or monads within stronger ideas, gestalts or monads. The "coming solution" with which the patient identifies as his goal is thus on a higher level of integration than his previous game playing self. It is as though an unruly mob has been integrated into a mature human populace with a clear sense of purpose. This is the return of the members of the nation to its true self, its archetypal dialectical ideas and logic, and the grasping of its destiny ("vocation"). Plato, like Heidegger, placed the needs of the republic above the needs of individuals. Heidegger as Nazi leader showed us the ugly side of Platonism, while the restraints imposed by hasidic halachah kept Nachman and his followers closer to a balanced position. The "world" of a historical people is for both thinkers inhabited by ideas associated with the folklore of that tribe. These are the personages of Wagner's operas for Germans and the patriarchs of the Bible for Jews. In LM 5 Nachman makes use of Yitzchak and Avraham for this purpose, and likewise for Yaakov in LM 1. LM 5:3. This is what our Sages taught: When a person has fear of Heaven his words are heard (Berakhot 6b). For when someone possesses fear of Heaven, his voice is converted into thunder. This is because thunder is from the side of Yitzchak, as in, "the thunder of His gevurot." This causes his words to be heard - i.e., "the voice is transmitted to the creation." For hearing is linked to [the fear of Heaven], as is written (Habakkuk 3:2), "O God, I heard of Your message; I feared" (Zohar III, 230a). . . This also corresponds to the sound of the shofar - i.e., the shofar horn of the ram, the ram of Yitzchak (Zohar III 235b) - which is an aspect of "the thunder of His gevurot". LM 5:5. It is likewise necessary to couple love with fear of Heaven, in order to generate thunder. This [love] is from the right side, from "a mind as white as silver" (Tikkuney Zohar #70). This is (Exodus 14:27). "The sea" alludes to the sea of wisdom, "when it turned morning" - this is the morning of Avraham (Zohar II, 170b), corresponding to "Avraham My beloved" (Isaiah 41:8), "to its might" - this is gevurot, corresponding to "The sound of Your thunder was in the sphere.." And this is (Song of Songs 8:7), "Many waters cannot extinguish the love." For the ability to conquer is mainly by means of love, as in, "Sit at My right . . ." LM 1:2. For the Jew must always focus on the inner intelligence of every matter, and bind himself to the wisdom and inner intelligence that is to be found in each thing. This, so that the intelligence which is in each thing may enlighten him that he ma draw closer to God through that thing. For inner intelligence is a great light that shines for a person in all his ways, As is written (Ecclesiastes 8:1), "A person's wisdom causes his countenance to shine. This is the concept of Yaakov. For YaAKoV merited the right of the first born, which is reishit (beginning), the concept of wisdom. FW: Let's relate these two sets of metaphors to each other, i.e., Heidegger's account of the temple and Nachman's account of the patriarchs. Yitzchak, symbolizing the left pillar, (gevurot, severities, distinctions, judgments, deductions) is likened to the Fear of Heaven arising from the extreme polarities associated with tsimtsum/thunder. Avraham, symbolizing the right pillar (love, grace, benevolence, induction, ideas from above, maqqifim) is depicted as powerful enough to encompass "the waters" of deduction. Thunder in LM 5 has a double reference to tsimtsum. In regard to Yitzchak thunder suggests the extreme polarities of the storm, while in regard to Avraham the allusion of thunder is close to that of "the Open" in the pure process mode. "In the morning" the naturalistic forms which congealed dissolve back into the pure process mode. Earth gives itself up to world, in order to restore the balance of the middle way. This is Yaakov as maqqif, encompassing Yitzchak and Avraham in a higher integration. FW: Again, Gestalt practice can help to get the point here. Think of the Gestalt pilgrim working his way through his objective history. After identifying with the inner ideas of each of his x/-x polarities and doing the work of each dialogue in the ascending spiral of the dialectic, the Gestalt pilgrim is instructed to "identify with the coming solution", close your eyes and enter your body and fantasies. This is the rhythm of contact and withdrawal which is the Gestalt equivalent of the tsimtsum idea. The result of this process is grasping the existential message of the entire work, i.e., Yaakov, the balanced wisdom, the sword of the messiah that veers neither to the left or to the right. For Nachman, the tsaddik function, represented by himself as paradigm and potentially available in each Jew, is this archetypal dialectic, the messianic soul Jews receive from Adam, from Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, etc. and lastly from himself as Mashiach ben Joseph. This original messianic soul incorporates the three patriarchal ideas dialectically: Avraham as the thesis, Yitzchak as the antithesis, and Yaakov as the synthesis. Recalling these patriarchs in the context of an ongoing spiritual search grounded in faith is Nachman's version of Platonic anamnesis. Learning, for Jews, is remembering the wisdom of our original founding fathers, our origin. FW: Heidegger had an analogous philosophy of education which he attempted to implement in 1933 as Nazi party member and rector of the University of Berlin in Hitler's Germany. Like Nachman, he found active messianism a bit too difficult and was forced to give up the job. Also like Nachman, he then turned to art as a sublimation of his messianic longings. Hence the title of this essay which we are studying, which Heidegger wrote in 1935, is "The Origin Of The Work Of Art". The essay announces that for Heidegger art - Nazi art, that is - serves the messianic function, with the artist standing in for Jesus or some Aryan equivalent. This parallels Nachman's grand messianic vision of the role of the tsaddik - especially himself - in Jewish lore. Nachman's Platonic gathering and inductive collaging of quotes from traditional Jewish sources as a code for the conflict dialectic is an example of religious art fulfilling the messianic function using anamnesis of archetypal ideas in a Platonic manner. Wagner's operas, with their teutonic patriarchal heroes, serve a parallel Platonic collection function for a Nazi German soul. (3) CONSECRATING THE TEMPLE AS RITE OF INITIATION FW: Doing a Gestalt dreamwork session and moving dialectically through a series of polarities according to the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, is, dialectically speaking - in the sense of Heidegger - setting up a temple with the "coming solution" as the god inside who is illuminating the entire structure. If this is the Gestalt client's first such experience, then Heidegger would speak of "consecrating" the temple. In fact, the process also alludes to the "B'reishit" moment of Genesis, which from a philosophical point of view is happening at every moment of authentic action as God constantly renews his creation. H 672. To dedicate means to consecrate, in the sense that in setting up the work the holy is opened up as holy and the god is invoked into the openness of his presence. . . To e-rect means: to open the right in the sense of a guiding measure, a form in which what belongs to the nature of being gives guidance. FW: We have seen the notion of "measure" in LM 5, in Nachman's stress on attaining a proper balance of left and right pillars, the Fear of Heaven on one side and love on the other side, this being the state of Yaakov, which dialectically synthesizes the antithetical relationship between Avraham and Yitzchak as they usually are portrayed in the kabbalah. Arthur Green has shown clearly that identifying with these three patriarchs was for Nachman a major part of his spiritual quest. Nachman considered the dialectic of the patriarchs as a symbol of his own struggle to attain a level of spirituality appropriate for the leader of a hasidic community. Green maintains that Nachman's journey to the land of Israel was primarily a need for a symbolic rite of passage, the goal of which is in Judaism represented by the dialectic of the three patriarchs. Here is Green's argument. After returning from his journey to Israel, amidst Napoleon's naval bombardment of the Turkish fleet, Nachman TM 85. had "passed through water" for the sake of God, and had seen his faith withstand the threat of imminent death. He was now one who could deserve the vision of the patriarchs, having followed their example by the utter denial of his corporeal self. TM 84. It is now clear that Nachman's journey to the Holy Land may best be defined as a rite de passage, or a voyage of initiation, the likes of which have been studied in various other religious cultures, both pre-literate and classical, but which are not generally considered to be a part of latter day Judaism. TM 82. The patriarchs, who fulfilled the mitzvot in purely spiritual ways, are, in Nachman's imagination, symbols of complete transcendence of the bodily self. Chayay 5:19 Shortly before he departed for the land of Israel, someone asked him why he did not draw the disciples near and speak with them. He said that he now had no words, but said that "by means of the verse "When you pass through the water I shall be with you" (Isaiah 43:2) it has become known to me how one may see the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whenever one wants." FW: Green cites Eliade on the relationship between rite of passage and consecration. TM 92. The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity. Attaining the center is equivalent to a consecration, an initiation; yesterday's profane and illusory existence gives place to a new life, to a life that is real, enduring. M. Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return (Cosmos And History), p. 18 FW: Finally, here in LM 5 we find all of these themes succinctly expressed with Nachman's usual collage of Torah quotations. LM 5:5. When you guard your mind from the aspect of chametz, so that it does not become clogged, then your voice will strike your skull and be converted into thunder, and the heart's crookedness will be made straight. Then, you will merit joy, as in, "and joy for the straight of heart." This is the meaning of (Psalms 81:8), "When you called in secret, I answered you thunderously, I tested you at the Waters of Conflict. Selah" FW: Nachman asks his disciples to surrender themselves to an intense, harrowing rite of passage by doing their work of hitbod'dut, talking to God, in a manner directly analogous to the Gestalt therapy monologue process of creating a world of one's own. The Waters of Conflict his followers will pass through thereby are the descending pillar of the conflict of dialectic. His hasidim are to seek to obtain a properly balanced dialectical relationship between the patriarchs symbolizing the left, right and middle pillars, which is Nachman's kabbalistic way of speaking about what Plato calls "measure", and other call the middle way. Initiating this monologue by calling out to God is what Heidegger labels a consecration of the temple, which is at the same time an opening up of a world of holiness and an invoking of the god. Nachman, of course, is referring to the tsimtsum experience which opens up the void and invites new ideas to descend from the macrocosm. We also have heard him refer to this process as attaining the place from which the prophets suckle, and also in LM 5 we recall we have found right in the text the main points of Luzzatto's theory of prophecy articulated in terms of seeking the most unclouded aspaklariot (lenses) through which to experience the word of God. Luzzatto uses the word unclouded, while Heidegger says more or less the same thing in his own idiosyncratic manner by using referring to the unconcealment of truth. (4) NACHMAN'S TEMPLE IN BRATSLAV FW: A very clear parallel between Heidegger's use above of the terms "world" and "right" for the notion of opening up a holy space is a homily Nachman delivered shortly after moving to Bratslav, which perhaps served to commemorate the opening of a new temple. At TM 137 we have the following taken from LM 44, in which Nachman likens his arrival in Bratslav to Abraham's arrival in Israel. Nachman viewed his own arrival in Bratslav as the founding of a new Jerusalem, the center of a world based on his teachings. TM 137. Thus our sages say: "Whoever establishes a fixed place for prayer, the God of Abraham helps him." For by his hand a new world is built, and this new building is through Abraham, as Scripture says: "The world is build by chesed". (Psalms 89:3). Abraham was the first to attain Erez Israel. FW: Heidegger makes the dialectical foundation of this consecration very explicit. H 72. What does the work, as work, set up? Towering up within itself, the work opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force. To be a work means to set up a world . . . Wherever those decisions of our history that relate to our very being are made, are taken up and abandoned by us, go unrecognized and are rediscovered by new inquiry, there the world worlds. FW: Going back to our paradigm case of a Gestalt dreamwork session, the "work" is the dialectic initiated by beginning a session, as the pilgrim sets out to work his way through the series of x/-x polarities, the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, that constitutes what Hegel labels the "objective history" of the pilgrim's soul. Going deeper, the overall superobjective that guides the Gestalt session, what Aristotle labels the actuality which is prior to the potentiality of each of the beats of the dialectic, is this opening within the denseness of Being. The via negativa way of formulating the opening is to invoke the notion of a vacuum, what Luria and Nachman refer to as the tsimtsum process. Likewise, in terms of the sefirot, at the moment of Genesis it is chochmah, the new idea, which opens up a world within the pre-existent being of God, binah, which already is built up. The Hebrew root of "binah" is "to build". Likewise chesed, God's grace or benevolence, is the opening up of a space within a pre-existent state of judgment, limitation or Fear of Heaven. Chochmah and chesed are on the right pillar. Nachman's goal is that left and right will combine to give the balanced middle pillar/middle way, symbolized by Yaakov. In the following passage Heidegger specifically mentions the role of grace (chesed) and its absence, (5) CLAPPING HANDS AS ALCHEMICAL MAGIC H 73. In a world's worlding is gathered that spaciousness out of which the protective grace of the gods is granted or withheld. Even this doom of the gods remaining absent is a way in which world worlds. FW: Here Heidegger zeroes in on exactly the founding principle of Nachman's dialectic, the apparent absence of God in the secular world, and we wonder if the grand theoretician of Nazi Germany in 1935 had perhaps got his hands on a translation of Nachman's work as a pretext for his own projects. If Heidegger had read LM 44 he might have found in Nachman himself much of the same racist magical wishful thinking which his own colleagues later perfected to make their own conquered lands "Judenrein", cleaned out of Jews. Nachman's recipe for instantly ridding a town of goyish presence was very simple: just clap your hands. It is reminiscent of Mary Poppins' advice to the children on how to get rid of unpleasant thoughts by singing a happy tune. Nachman said, in that same sermon at Bratslav, TM 137. All things are called the power of His deeds, the word power [ko'ach, numerically twenty eight] corresponding to the twenty-eight letters [in the first verse] of Creation and to the twenty-eight joints on a person's hand. As is well known, the atmosphere of the pagans' lands is polluted, while the air of the land of Israel is holy and pure, since God has taken it away from the other nations and given it to us. Outside the Holy Land, however, the air remains impure. When we clap our hands together in prayer [using the twenty eight joints] we arouse the power of the twenty-eight letters of Creation, the "power of his deeds", showing that He has the power to give us the inheritance of the nations, since everything belongs to God. Thus we are able to purify the air of other peoples' lands, as these lands are brought back under the rule of God, and He can distribute them as He wishes. FW: All this is one more example of why hasidism (for Nachman) or hegelianism (for Heidegger) without education concerning the philosophical roots of what all the mumbo-jumbo means is irresponsible at best. At worst, we need only look back at the last century to see the fruits of a world run amuck after uncritically gobbling down a too generous helping of dialectical thinking. Clapping our hands to push aside polluted air and open up a space of pure air is alchemy, with alchemical air representing the kabbalistic empty space of tsimtsum which opens up within alchemical earth. Alchemy and dlalectics are elements of renaissance science, which hovered on the borderline between science and magic. Pushing back the borders of hard logic (deduction) to allow "the Open" of wishful thinking (induction) is a wonderful tool for liberation of the human spirit, so long as what then enters the vacuum is carefully monitored. Monitored by what? Monitored by who? Perhaps just asking these questions is sufficient here. Building a temple is a noble enterprise in itself, but then we need to ask what god will then be invited into this new temple to serve as Aristotelian final cause, pure Platonic idea, or to embody alchemical fire ignited to negate all negations of the One?


19. FRANKLYN WEPNER DIRECTS BORIS GORELIK 5: PERSONAL MYTH SHOW (ENGLISH SUBTITLES

FRANKLYN WEPNER DIRECTS BORIS GORELIK 5: PERSONAL MYTH SHOW (ENGLISH SUBTITLES

'WAR & PEACE (SORT OF)" After doing two hours of Gestalt work on awareness and working 3 months processing the results into creative theatrical form, Boris Gorelik presents here his "Personal Myth Project" show. Boris has found a lively comic way to present his habitual tendency to interfere with his artistic creativity by doing a lot of self criticism. We might call the show a search for peace of mind, since his work led him from a battle of extreme opposite sides of his personality to an impasse and then on to an idyllic peaceful fantasy of a wise old owl reflecting upon a lifetime of happenings. At the time of the Gestalt work, Boris took out his guitar and had the owl sing his reflections, and here in this video Boris sings the owl's song exactly as he created it during the final moments of his Gestalt work on awareness. The show is called a "personal myth project" since these habits of self-judgment are for Boris reality itself, like myths or idols or fate that he takes as basic assumptions of his life. But despite the message of the wise old owl, manufacturing idyllic fantasies is still not human action. Getting to know himself better by working on this performance project may help Boris in the future to question some of these assumptions and to seek more productive alternatives. פרנקלין וופנר מביים את בוריס גורליק 4: הצגה PERSONAL MYTH SHOW בווידאו הזה השחקן בוריס גורליק מציג את "פרויקט המיתולוגיה האישית" שלו. חומר הגלם של ההצגה הוא שעתיים של עבודת גשטאלט שבה בוריס בחן את תהליך המודעות שלו. לאחר מכן הוא עבד שלושה חודשים והפך את תוצאות החיפוש של האמת האישית שלו לצורה יצירתית תיאטרלית. סך הכול רואים פה שהוא מצא דרך תוססת ומבדחת להציג לראווה את נטייתו הרגילה לעכב את היציריות האמנותית שלו בשל ביקורת עצמית אין-סופית. חשים בהצגה זו את כמיהתו של בוריס לשלווה נפשית. בוריס מתנסה בנסיעה פסיכולוגית המתחילה בקרב אלים בין ניגודים קיצוניים באישיותו המסתיימת במבוי סתום, שבו בוריס מגלה פנטסיה אידילית, והפנטסיה משרה עליו תחושת שלווה. בדימוי מופיע ינשוף זקן ונבון המהרהר על כל התרחשויות קיומו. ברגע זה בעבודת הגשטאלט המקורית, בוריס תפס את הגיטרה שלו ודובב לינשוף שלו לשיר את הרהוריו. כאן בווידאו בוריס שר את אותו השיר בדיוק באופן שבו הוא הלחין אותו ברגעים האחרונים של עבודתו עם מודעות. הצגה בנוסח זה מכונה "פרויקט מיתולוגיה אישית", מכיוון שחוויות כאלה נראות בעיני בוריס כמציאות עצמה, כמיתוס או כאלילים או כעין גורל שלו. הוא חווה אותן כהנחות יסוד של חייו בכל יום. אולם, למרות דעת הינשוף הזקן והנבון, ייצור פנטסיות כשלעצמו עדיין לא מהווה פעולה של ממש בחיי בני אדם. יתכן שההכרה העצמית שבוריס גילה דרך השתתפותו בפרויקט הזה תעזור לו בעתיד לשקול מחדש ההנחות הללו ותעודד אותו לחפש ברירות יותר יצרניות. TAGS


20. CHEKHOV, GESTALT, KABBALAH 3 - actor training

CHEKHOV, GESTALT, KABBALAH 3 - actor training

BENZION LEHRER PRELIMINARY INTERVIEW. singer, guitarist, healer benzion lehrer shares with franklyn wepner his reasons for beginning wepner's merkavah theater training process in safed, israel. the process is always evolving. at the present time the focus is on integrating the michael chekhov acting technique with gestalt work on awareness and dreams. theoretically, since the framework of chekhov is the neo-platonic christian kabbalah of rudolf steiner, we will be examining parallel jewish sources. especially relevant to us is the text of the zohar, as it is summarized clearly and succinctly by leo schaya in his "the universal meaning of the kabbalah". if you want to hear from michael chekhov himself the foundation of his system of actor training, please click the following link, which will lead you to the 5 hour video which he made in 1955, the year that he died. we will refer often to this video in our work. franklyn wepner may be reached at fwep@bezeqint.net. benzion lehrer's website is: www.thereturninglight.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjooI15cOZE


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