This is based on a session by Sandra Reeve – “The Involved Witness” – at a conference called: The Mindfulness Turn in Martial, Healing and Performance Arts at the University of Huddersfield on Saturday 19 November 2016. This free event was jointly hosted by the AHRC-funded Martial Arts Studies Research Network and by the Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research and the Mindfulness and Performance project at University of Huddersfield.
Osho and others talk about somehow finding a place outside your mind; and from this place just quietly watching your own mind during meditation::
Meditation starts by being separate from the mind, by being a witness. That is the only way of separating yourself from anything. If you are looking at the light, naturally one thing is certain: you are not the light, you are the one who is looking at it. If you are watching the flowers, one thing is certain: you are not the flower, you are the watcher.
Watching is the key of meditation:
Watch your mind.
This is the kind of statement which may sound straightforward on the surface – but in practice can be incredibly hard to access, or even start to make sense of.
Who or what is the witness; and what is he / she / it actually doing – and where?
Sandra took a really innovative approach to bringing this concept to life, by getting us to assume (purely through movement) three roles: “doer”; witness; and meta-witness (the one who watches the witness).
This formed the basis of a lively, creative, movement-based session. It was hugely enjoyable, and definitely broke the ice and got us all warmed up and interacting for the day ahead.
The role play (if that’s the correct word for it) acted as a brilliant physical expression of the different layers of consciousness involved in mindfulness. We explored identifying with and acting out each of the three roles in turn, and then feeding back in smaller groups and to the whole room.
I’m not certain what the meta-witness role represented, but this probably misses the point – Sandra didn’t give the impression of trying to map the roles directly onto anything – it was far more open-ended and exploratory than that..
The learning I personally took away from this session was less about coming to understand the inner witness, and more about watching Sandra use specific techniques to engage the group – including the shyer or more self-conscious attendees.
The conference was a mix of martial artists and performing artists, and it’s probably fair to say that most or even all of us were people who are very comfortable in our own bodies. Yet several of the martial arts people said to me privately during the day that they felt quite out of their comfort zone in the “free movement” aspects of the day. It was just so different from what we’re used to.
So the fact that Sandra kept us at pretty much 100% participation (and lively enjoyment) throughout her session, was impressive, as it was definitely a stretch for some of us.
From chatting to Sandra over lunch, this is something she’s very conscious of, and makes a big effort to achieve. For example, she used a lot of praise, and kept saying: remember whatever you do is right. There’s no wrong movement.
Sandra also structured the session very cleverly, by initially giving us a simple, well-defined “vocabulary” of physical movements as a starting point (clustered around angles, lines and points). She then guided us to build on this foundation, in increasingly creative ways. Which is really a micro version of how we learn a martial art, and presumably any performing art too.
When you’ve been training in the martial arts for a while, it can be easy to forget how clumsy and self-conscious absolute beginners can feel. It felt like a really valuable experience to be suddenly thrown to the edge of my comfort zone, but safely supported to stay there, quickly lose self-consciousness and end up having fun.
So perhaps the key learning points for me were (a) empathy for how a beginner might feel being asked to “perform” alien body movements within a group of strangers and (b) watching a skilled teacher integrate that large group of strangers – with very different experiences of and relationships to performing – into such satisfying, harmonious, collaborative physical activity . . .
For most of my adult life I have worked with movement, meditation, culture and the environment. The Move into Life® approach and workshop programme draws on the teaching of the respected Javanese movement artist Suprapto Suryodarmo (Prapto), ecological principles and Buddhist mindfulness practice. It reflects my passion for movement as an artist, a teacher, a therapist and a director. Movement is my main source of creativity and my guide to health.
I met Prapto in 1988, while I was living in Bristol, and studied Joged Amerta (Amerta Movement) with him for 24 years. I spent three years living in Java and moving in different cultures, landscapes and religious sites in Java, Australia, the USA and Europe. Since 1999, when I moved to West Dorset, I have established Move into Life here and in Ireland, offering workshops, individual sessions, professional training and developing my own artistic work.
I completed a PhD in Performance Practice at the University of Exeter in 2010 where I am an Honorary Fellow. My thesis is called ‘The Ecological Body’ and an interactive map which I created as part of my PhD can be found online here.
My parallel interest in the relationship of movement to health led me to qualify as a Shiatsu practitioner in 1987. In 2002, I qualified as a Senior Registered Dance Movement Psychotherapist (UKCP), enabling me to apply my skills to different client groups and to offer therapy on a one-to-one basis. In 2014 I completed a Foundation Year in Family and Systemic Therapy at the University of Plymouth and a Diploma in the Creative Approaches to Supervision training at the London School of Psychodrama. I offer supervision for psychotherapists, counsellors, arts and play therapists, coaches, bodyworkers, and medical and other practitioners.