Mudra Space Awareness:

  • Performative Structures & pERFORMER tRAINING

  • Theatre Composition

  • Form & Space   

 

'The answer I received from this Mudra work was that the basic bottom lines of performance are: form and space. Until these are thoroughly understood experientially our investigations of the art will be superficial and subject to the whims of fashion'

(Worley: 2017: 4)

 

Mudra Space Awareness is a performer training developed by Trungpa and the Mudra Theatre Group that explores the play between form and space. The practice is derived from Trungpa's training in monastic dance in Tibet as preparation for The Chakrasamvara Dance - a slow dance that was performed as part of an annual festival at Surmang  Monastery.

The Mudra Space Awareness training consists of three sets of exercises that emphasise the play between  Shamatha -mindfulness and Vipashyana - awareness.  These exercises are known as Intensification Postures: Reptile, Generosity  and Warrior.  The postures involve the play between contracting and relaxing all the muscles in the body. The intention is to allow individuals to truly relax by encountering tension. This reverse logic allows individuals to experience 'Shamatha - peaceful abiding -  through Intensification'  and 'Vipashyana - clear seeing - by letting go. Performers learn how to consolidate their being through intensification while the process of letting go brings greater awareness of space'. The progression from Reptile to Generosity and then Warrior is described as "I" - "am" - "becoming". Trungpa noted that we forget the intensity in which we were born into this world and as adults it is necessary to remember this process of becoming. These exercises are also analogous to intensity that we may encounter in day to day life as well as providing a metaphor for death.

Below is an outline of the Mudra work. Over the years Trungpa added additional exercises that lead to a gradual progression from consolidating one's being through intensification and then encountering space by letting go. Please note that the exercises 'Walking' and 'The Poles' are not included in this study.

 

1st:  Set - Shamata Intensifications

Reptile

Generosity

Warrior

Reptile Relaxation

2nd Set - Vipashyana  

Generosity Rising

Waking

The Dance

 3rd set

Generosity - half and half

The Poles

The Presence of Being Circle

 

Below  are instructions for the practice of the exercises listed above excluding descriptions of the 'Walking' and 'The Poles' exercises. Also included are instructions to Sitting Meditation, Sound Cycles and the Seeing and Being Seen exercise, all of which are extensions of the Intensification Postures.   

 

Sitting Meditation:

Bow to start. 

Sitting on a meditation cushion.

Legs crossed. Hips above the knees.

Straight back following the natural curve of the spine. Back strong and chest soft.

Hands resting on the knees or thighs. Shoulders relaxed.

Eyes open at a forty five degree angle. Soft gaze looking out one - two meters onto the floor.    

Breathing either through the nose or mouth. Natural breath, no manipulation of the breath.

Sense of human dignity in the posture.

Guide participants through The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

 

Body - awareness of  the physical form, its corporeality, earthiness and  sensations, mindfulness of breath, exhale dissolving out into space. 

Feeling  - awareness of one’s emotional landscape, engage with the raw emotion rather than the discursive thoughts or storylines around it. 

Mind - awareness of one’s thoughts, when a thought passes through the mind, gently  label it 'thinking' in your inner monologue and return to the breath - body.    

Sense Perceptions - awareness of one's sense of: touch, smell - taste, hearing and sight
(Fergeson: NW: )

 

Bow to close.

Emphasis on the difference between bare attention and conceptualisation.

Instructions remain the same when seated on a chair; back should be self-supporting and feet planted on the ground.

Meditation time is relative to the group's experience and workshop plan. 

  

 

Presence of Being Circle: 

Form an evenly spaced circle.

Time keeper bows with the ensemble and initiates the exercise by saying 'Presence of Bing Circle'.

Standing for five minutes.

Time keeper enters the space, walks to the center of the circle, turns to his/her left and proceeds to weave in and out of the circle until back to the their original standing position. 

The person to the time keeper's left repeats this weaving action.

Moving from the left, each group member completes one weaving action.

Time keeper bows with ensemble to mark the end of the exercise.

Aimless wandering to mark the transition towards the next structure.

 

Developments:

Two or three people weaving at the same time. 

Speaking of sound cycles.

Two Presence of Being Circles

 

Intensifications Exercises: 

Form an evenly spaced circle. 

Time keeper bows with the ensemble and initiates the exercise by saying 'Please take the Reptile, Generosity or Warrior posture'.

Participants take the respective posture.  

The time keeper guides the participants through the intensification exercise by employing an active imagination narrative.

 

Reptile posture:

Lying on the ground, blade shaped hands, relaxed body, time keeper narrates active imagination. Contraction of back, front and sides for a total of 3 minutes, 1 minute respectively. Let go.

 

Generosity Posture:

Kneeling on the ground or cushion,  extended front leg at a ninety degree angle with the soul of the foot pressed on the ground, back leg at a ninety degree angle supporting the upper body with the shin and foot on the ground. Arms rounded and extended as if offering yourself to space. Time keeper narrates active imagination. Contraction of fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, back, chest, feet, calves, thighs and glutes. Final intensification of abdominals to join top and bottom.  Let go.  3 minutes in total.  

 

Warrior Posture:

Kneeling on the ground or cushion, Aikido style, hands resting on the thighs. Time keeper narrates active imagination. Well of Intensification travels from the pelvic floor, through the internal organs, through the heart, up the throat, into the head, puncturing the forehead, a beak of intensity lifts the participant's trunk off the ground.  Let go. 3 minutes in total. 

 

Time keeper bows with the ensemble in the circle to mark the end of the exercise.

Aimless wandering to mark the transition into the next structure.

 

Developments:

Generosity Rising, Generosity 50/ 50 tension and relaxation, Generosity intensification and relaxation holding form. 

Reptile intensification and relaxation holding form.

 

 

 

Sound Cycles:

Sound cycles are to emphasise the space as a means through which to support the voice and can be delivered during The Presence of Being Circle or Sitting Meditation.

 

.

 

Seeing and Being Seen:

Form a stage with  a performer - witness dichotomy. 

Individually each participant bows at either side of the stage, enters, stands in space, encounter's the audience's gaze, exits with a bow.

Cycle through this exercise until each person has had at least two opportunities to feel the intensity of the witnesses gaze.  

Aimless wandering to mark the transition into the next structure.

 

Developments:

Action 

Action and sound 

Action and word 

Performing the exercises in pairs, trios and quartets, seeking the kinesthetic relationship between individuals' actions, sounds or words. 

Sound cycles