Dave

Dave and Kit's Coffee Shop Conversations #1

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Adding the URL for the podcast:

 

https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/kl-podcasts/Dave-and-Kit-Coffee-Shop-Conversation1.mp3

 

"The Origins of Stretch Therapy, and Deep Well Being"

 

Part one of a new series, Dave interviews Kit, and together they explore the origins of our collective work. Influences include G. Spencer Brown, Anthony Wilden, Alfred Korzybski, the Buddha, and countless students, here and overseas.

 

Kit talks about how he discovered some of the core techniques of ST (before find that, of course, he was only re-discovering what others had found!), and Dave asks Kit about some of his major influences in his thinking.

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I put this response on the Facebook posting, but will repeat it here, in case people cant get enough of my pearls of wisdom:

 

Thanks very much - just watching (as well as downloading and saving the file). Prompted to give a response to the comment at 26.00 that with flexibility training the resting tone is reduced compared to the average person. Certainly the case for me - and I have been wondering if that is why I tend to get cold now whereas when young I could stand any amount of cold - muscles are known to be one of the great sources of heat in the body.

Still I'm sure that I'll have many other responses to this interesting conversation, kept up without hesitation, repetition or deviation for nearly an half an hour now.

(By the way, I've watched the whole thing now, and will go through it again as it will repay study.)

 

Many thanks for posting it,

Jim.

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I really enjoyed this, thanks guys!

I was just listening to you guys as a podcast before going to bed. You both seem very grounded and it was very relaxing listening to this conversation, and of course also very interesting:)

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Beautiful, thank you so much for this! I really love how stretching the body starts to stretch the mind as well. An often neglected fact I would probably have not been exposed to without your work. Would love to see more videos like this from you guys.

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G'day Folks

 

I would like to add to the discussion regarding how working with the body entails working with the mind, approaching the issue from a Buddhist perspective. 

 

When we speak of working with the body, the body being referred to is the sentient body, the awareing body, and the sentience is where the work takes place, and where the worker is imagined to dwell. We are skilled at ignoring the awareing (of body) and instead focus on body only, the body imagined as out there somewhere, "my body." So the challenge becomes to work with body in a way that consciously brings in sentience, by focusing on our awareness-of-body (in both directions), rather than on body. In both directions? Outwardly, awareness of body sensations; inwardly, awareness of our flow of responses to body sensations. 

 

So "body-work" is equally "awareness-work." This is where physical exercise becomes meditation practice. We can work with body and deliberately suppress awareness - for example, by a culture of straining after results, where the results are essentially conceptual (how can I fit my image of what this should look like?). Or we can work with body without cultivating awareness, for example by focusing on the desired position of the body. But the meditative approach would privilege the awareness-of posture over the posture. The result being sought is a quality of awareness rather than a capacity to fulfil the demands of a given exercise. And awareness is only available now, so any sense of what might be attained in the future has to evaporate.

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Alright! Patrick is here!

 

I think what you mentioned about "both directions" is quite important. The direct experience of the awareness of bodily sensations, its position relative to itself, its position in space and relative to others - this is something achieved by many great athletes.  However, when you add to this the meta awareness....the experience of being aware of what you are aware of, this changes the (whole) experience entirely. Furthermore, as you get more skilled at this, you are able to notice more subtle parts of the direct experience that can and do slip most ordinary physical practices. This is quite apparent to me in the fact that I see almost no talk of the practice of walking, a practice that to me grows more amazing as I my meta skills grow so that I can direct my awareness to more and more subtle experiences. My perspective as a result of all of this is that every physical activity has an infinite amount of detail available, with potential for a lifetime of practice in something as simple as a single step. 

 

It is, however, also quite apparent that the more difficult a task you are doing (for example, some complicated gymnastics skill), the more exponentially difficult it is to focus on the meta awareness, you simply get absorbed by the movement in all of its physical detail.  Not a bad thing by any merit, in fact this would be a highly desirable state and it seems that this is one of the reasons that people pursue it.  The only issue is that the level of absorption can only go so far without particular practice, so to revert back to simplified exercises like basic stretches, single steps, etc to build the capacity for the meta awareness, and then slowly introduce more complexity without destroying the meta awareness, seems like a good approach to me.  It is certainly working (to a degree) in my own experience of things. 

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My apologies for the length of this posting.


 


I really enjoyed the (caffeine induced) discussion between Dave and Kit (jet leg?). And, if I understand right, there will be more to come. 


 


Also, interesting postings from Patrick and Craig. Here is my reaction. Mostly to see if I understand this notion of "awareness" that they talk about.


 


I have no knowledge of buddhist practices. Also, the notion of meta-awareness is (for the moment?) one bridge too far (kiss, kiss, Craig :) ). So, I may have missed some significant points.


 


What I have come to understand from the approach to stretching, as taught by Kit (and his group) is that "fear" (or apprehension) is the main impediment for getting further into a stretch. The notion that you have perfect flexibility (except, where you need fascial release) when unconscious (i.e. without "fear") for me is a key insight. Now I just have to find a way to render myself "unconscious" while stretching. Hence, my interest in "awareness".


 


Have I ever experienced "awareness"? Yes, I think so. For example, when rowing a race.


 


Rowing a  5 km race in an eight (at my age) takes moving with 30 strokes per minute during about 17 minutes at the limit of my aerobic capacity (i.e. after 10 minutes everybody in the boat hurts like hell from lactic acid buildup). Winning requires moving the boat. And moving the boat requires being together during the 0.7 second of the stroke and the 1.3 seconds of the recovery, while breathing about 2 times per second. The "best" way to do this is being "aware". If you do it "right", you become detached from your feelings (of hurting) and can focus on just the sensory feedback that becomes the cue for your own movement, such as the sound of the catch and the finish of the stroke, and the run of the boat during the recovery. In that way eight separate organisms become one in a distinct movement pattern. The thought of winning does not move the boat (we win most of our races, anyway :D ).


 


So, if I take my rowing experience, this is how I can explain "awareness". "Awareness" of your body moving, resting, stretching involves experiencing the sensory manifestation of the movement directly (i.e. without the perceptive filtering and loading with emotions that "normally" takes place). This implies complete detachment from "normal" emotions (such as fear, but also from culturally induced thoughts or emotions such as "right on", "way to go", "three more reps and I am done for today", "I hope coach approves of me") and focus just on the sensory feedback from the movement. Time becomes secondary; i.e the movement is experienced as if in slow motion. A repetitive pattern (in the sensory feedback) seems to make it easier to be "aware" (or maybe essential, when you notice how important breathing is for meditation). Being aware of your breathing while standing still makes it easier to become aware of the sensory feedback from your "standing still". 


 


Am I on the right track, here?


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Hi Fritz,

What I mean by meta awareness is awareness of awareness itself. For example, you are aware of your stroke rate. Being aware that you are aware of your stroke rate is meta awareness. However, meta awareness works best (and can be trained effectively) on the level of being aware of what you aren't aware of.

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Hi Craig,


As an aside, my awareness experience (if that is what it is) has more to do with the stroke than the stroke rate. But, yes, now I understand a little better what you mean by "meta-awareness". 


 


I did try to find a definition of meta awareness (in relation to the practice of meditation) that would give me more of an insight, but found, that the term is used mostly to describe "ones explicit knowledge of the current content of thought" (this in the context of "mind wandering", where meta awareness is required to become conscious of the "mind wandering"). The linked paper explicitly links mindfulness meditation training with meta awareness, as follows (my suggestion, just read the Conclusion of this paper):


 


Research on mindfulness meditation training 


demonstrates a process that may focus on the 


benefits of meta-awareness, while avoiding its 


pitfalls. Like other forms of meditation, mindfulness 


 mediation deals with becoming aware of conscious- 


ness. Unlike other types of mediation, it does not 


involve focusing on a stimulus, but instead strives for 


a broad observation of several facets of experience. 


Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to 


help decrease stress, anxiety, and lead to several posi- 


tive outcomes. These results indicate that there may 


be different sorts of meta-awarenesses to be experi- 


enced, and one that involves being broadly mindful 


may avoid some of the pitfalls of other varieties.  


 


https://labs.psych.ucsb.edu/schooler/jonathan/sites/labs.psych.ucsb.edu.schooler.jonathan/files/biblio/chin%20%26%20Schooler%20meta-awareness.pdf


 


 


Thanks for your response. As you notice it provides some impetus to do a little more research.


Cheers. 

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There are a few terms that we must get straight before we can continue discussing any further, and I really hope patrick checks back in here, as he can provide a much better answer than me with my limited experience. Anyways, I'll give it a crack:
 

-Awareness

-Attention

-Mindfulness

 

Awareness: From my perspective this means to know about something. I am aware that my breathing is constricted.  I am unaware that I can't feel some part of my body I don't know about.  I'm aware that I can't feel certain parts of my body except under special circumstances. Meta-awareness would then be being aware of what I am and am not aware of.

Attention: This is where your focus is. I am paying attention to my breathing.  I am paying attention to my bicep muscle. You also have meta attention: I am paying attention to where my attention is. It goes to the breath, then off to a day dream, then to that sound over there, then to that ache in my body ,oops im meditating...back to my breath.  And so on. 

 

Joining them is where the fun comes in.  I am paying attention to 5th lumbar vertebra. It is not in my awareness though; I cannot feel it.  I continue to pour my attention into this blank spot (perhaps by quickly shifting my attention between the spots above and below that I can feel, or simply pouring the attention into the void in between).  I become aware that I am not aware of it, and also aware of the spots that I am aware of (meta-awareness!). I pay close attention.  As I am doing so I notice that within the space of 1/10 of a second, my attention has changed between 15 different sensations to my body, bringing each into my awareness as the attention moves to it. I pay attention to my attention darting about (meta-attention!). With practice, all of these things get better, and eventually the attention can go from the point I want it, dart out, and I notice immediately and return it very quickly, and this cycle repeats some hundreds or thousands of times per second. As my attention grows and I'm able to continually poor it into this spot, I find my awareness of this spot also grows immensely. woohoo.

 

Then we have mindfulness...probably better translated as remembering.  I am remembering to be attentive, and to pay attention to my attention. Mindfulness grounded in breath?  I am using breath as a reminder that I am supposed to be paying attention to something.  Why the breath? Because it is always there as a constant reminder.

 

Anyways this is my current understanding, no doubt going to shift in the very near future (once again), and I look forward to reading this in the future and thinking "what an idiot". Until then, maybe some of the ideas will help you, or spark someone with more knowledge to pipe up and correct :)

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I would like to say something about the nature of awareness, which might contribute to an understanding of "meta-awareness" or "reflexive awareness." My apologies for the length of the posting. Awareness is the simplest phenomenon, and therefore the trickiest to get a conceptual hold of.

 

Awareness is presence. Awareness normally appears in the form of the-presence-of-something. Something is present to me, or not. For example, I see these words on a screen; they are present to me; I am aware of them. I close my eyes, and the words are not present, but absent. I am not aware of them. So the simplest way of understanding awareness is as a simple binary. Something is present to me – or not. And notice that awareness is not a thing; it is a quality. Awareness is presence itself, the presence of whatever is present. Regardless of what is present.

 

When we speak of what is present, we are speaking of what we could call the object of awareness. When we are aware, we are aware of something, and this “something” is the object of awareness. Awareness is awareness-of-this. Normally, our attention and concern is directed towards the object of awareness, “this” that we are aware of. We find it more interesting than the awareness itself. I am aware of these words on the screen in front of me, and the concepts conveyed by them hold the focus of attention. This writing is interesting; or boring; or irrelevant; or whatever. All these describe our response to the object of awareness, here the (visual) words on the screen but mostly the (mental) concepts generated by the words, rather than to the awareness itself.

 

Then we may speak of meta-awareness, or reflexive awareness. These terms do not indicate some special kind of awareness; they simply point to an aspect of awareness that is always available but usually overlooked. This could be described as the quality of presence itself. One example given by John Dunne, a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, is that of stepping into a dark room at night and turning on the light. When we do so, the light illuminates everything. The light does not choose to illuminate this or that part of the room or its furniture; it illuminates everything. That is its nature. We are presented with an open phenomenal field, always available.

 

However, as we have seen, we tend to ignore the field and focus on particular aspects of it. As Kit mentioned, a (coherent) universe arises when we make distinctions within this open field, and the choices that shape this process come from our basic motivations. So we find ourselves privileging certain aspects of the room and ignoring others – the furniture is nice, or not; don’t bump into this; how big or small is this room; the paint job is good, or not. We loose sight of the luminosity of the whole, and become lost in the contents and our relationship to the contents.

 

This brings us to the question of how different streams of meditation practice work with awareness. In some streams the focus of meditative interest lies in the object of awareness, and in some it lies in the awareness itself. Too much to cover in this post! But just notice that “meta-awareness” or “reflexive awareness” is already available, and does not require effort to uncover. Effort, in fact, tends to bury it, since effort is driven by a desire to privilege one object of awareness over another. 

 

Try this experiment: Notice a sound or a sight, and check what this feels like. Then release your hold on the object of attention and notice the noticing of the sound or sight. Is there a difference? If so, what is it? Don’t think about this, until after the exercise. Just be interesting in the experience of noticing.

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Craig and Patrick, thank you for your postings. Especially Patrick's explanation about "awareness" and "meta-awareness" is quite illuminating (for me). It provides me with a concise  and very clear description to go back to and check (i.e. an anchor) every time when I come across yet another attempt to define/describe "awareness". 


 


The apparent difficulty in general to grasp "awareness" even though it is well within the realm of our faculties reminds me of what Robert Pirsig ("Zen or the art of motorcycle maintenance") had to say about "quality": "Everybody knows what it is but nobody can define it".  Only with "awareness" it would be: "Everybody experiences it but nobody can grasp it".


Thanks again.

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Dave, thank you so much for organising this. 

 

Kit's talks during the seminar I attended, especially when he connected stretching to other subjects, have probably been as useful to me as the stretching techniques themselves. In the sense that understanding the fundamental principles, the big picture stuff, let me ‘get’ the techniques and their application so much easier. Knowing why makes the how much simpler.

 

Great to see you both, with your valuable knowledge, acting in a practical free-open-source way like this; Kit joked about following the guru model of dispensing pearls before swine, I expect a less thoughtful man would have succumbed to the temptation.

 

At around 22:00 you spoke of the “illusion of difference” in respect of relative stress levels. So, does this mean we should be aware that a potential obstacle to experiencing complete relaxation in our bodies is muscular tension we may be completely unaware of? Particularly in hard to stretch muscle groups, like iliopsoas?

 

 

Also, I'd be very interested in your and Kit’s experience and thoughts on martial arts you’ve practiced, and their philosophies.

 

Looking forward to the next episode, and thanks again.

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"Dave, thank you so much for organising this."

 

You're welcome. 

 

"At around 22:00 you spoke of the “illusion of difference” in respect of relative stress levels. So, does this mean we should be aware that a potential obstacle to experiencing complete relaxation in our bodies is muscular tension we may be completely unaware of? Particularly in hard to stretch muscle groups, like iliopsoas?"

 

Yes and no.  Yes in that people definitely have very vast amounts of muscular tension they are unaware of, from specific structures (muscles, like psoas), to general tension levels, to more subtle tensions (tension in layers of membranes around organs, emotional charges, and so on and so forth). 

 

You can have what I define as deep relaxation without having high level awareness of your psoas or some such other muscle group, it is mainly the reducing general tension levels to a certain point and getting into a specific bodymind state.   That being said, you should (if you are into this stuff) work on reducing unnecessary tension across all of the realms I have mentioned above - and that is quite something!  At this level into part of the 'Full Body Map' goal I mention elsewhere in my writings.

 

I think the complication comes from the wording 'complete relaxation' - I have never had this! ..but am working on it.  I have, however, had very deep relaxation, and that in itself is an amazing experience and something worth the years of practice to attain. 

 

"Also, I'd be very interested in your and Kit’s experience and thoughts on martial arts you’ve practiced, and their philosophies."

 

This won't happen for a while and will likely come through my Physical Alchemy stuff.  But happen it will.  PM me if you have specific questions and I may have time to answer. 

 

[D]

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You can have what I define as deep relaxation without having high level awareness of your psoas or some such other muscle group, it is mainly the reducing general tension levels to a certain point and getting into a specific bodymind state.   That being said, you should (if you are into this stuff) work on reducing unnecessary tension across all of the realms I have mentioned above - and that is quite something!  At this level into part of the 'Full Body Map' goal I mention elsewhere in my writings.

 

Thanks for the clarification, I was only thinking 'across the realms' because I imagined the body repeatedly responding to mental stress with physical tension in 'emotional muscles', and this physical stress accumulating in the body in the form of permanently held physical tension. A closed circuit where a person is slowly but continually 'wound up' by stressors (job, relationships, modern life, whatever) without even being aware that they are tense at a fundamental level.

 

Sort of the psoas as a thick rope being twisted so slowly you don't notice it, and you end up with the background level of tension you are oblivious to, which hampers your efforts at 'complete relaxation' for want a a better term. 

 

 

"Also, I'd be very interested in your and Kit’s experience and thoughts on martial arts you’ve practiced, and their philosophies."

 

This won't happen for a while and will likely come through my Physical Alchemy stuff.  But happen it will.  PM me if you have specific questions and I may have time to answer. 

 

[D]

 

 

Sounds great, I've got nothing specific, so I'll look forward to it.

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Coffee Shop Conversation #2 is tentatively set for 4/5 July!  Should be fun. 

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