00:02:57 Social Presencing Theatre

00:06:40 Dharma art

00:09:00 True activity, non-manipulation and non-aggression.

00:12:00 Listening to the moment and nothing being toxic to its core

00:14:00 Attending to the larger beauty, humor and natural kindness in the world

00:19:00 Using the body to find words and suspending meaning-making

00:21:00 Arts and direct knowing

00:22:00 Japanese principle Ma and not projecting what you think you already know

00:25:00 Unconditional well-being.

00:31:00 Resting with experiences and building trust

00:37:00 Noticing what you love

00:41:00 Origins of Bugaku, 7th C Japanese court dance, excruciatingly leisurely, breath time.

00:46:00 Form and freedom

00:51:00 A practice to nourish your spacious self













Arawana’s Book: Social Presencing Theatre: The Art of Making a True Move




Enjoy these episodes? Please leave a review here. Scroll down to Review & Ratings. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/love-liberation/id1393858607


Arawana Hayashi

Arawana heads the creation of Social Presencing Theater (SPT) for the Presencing Institute. Working with Otto Scharmer and colleagues, she brings her background in the arts, meditation, and social justice to creating “social presencing” that makes visible both current reality and emerging future possibilities for individuals and groups.

Arawana’s pioneering work as a choreographer, performer and educator is deeply sourced in collaborative improvisation.

Her dance career ranges from directing an interracial street dance company formed by the Boston Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs in the aftermath of the 1968 murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, to being one of the foremost performers of Japanese Court Dance, bugaku, in the US. She has been Co-Director of the Dance Program at Naropa University, Boulder, CO; and founder-director of two contemporary dance companies in Cambridge, MA.

She is currently on the core faculty of the Presencing Institute. She joins Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer for the Executive Champions Program co-hosted by the Presencing Institute and the Center for Systems Awareness. She co-hosts social arts residencies with Claudia Madrazo and Ricardo Dutra in Mexico, and joins Michael Stubberup and Ninni Sodahl for the Sustainable Co-Creation program in Denmark. She co-teaches with Phil Cass in the Physicians Leadership program in Columbus, Ohio.

Transcript: Please excuse all errors

Olivia Clementine: I’m Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Arawana Hayashi. Arawana heads the creation of social presencing theater for the Presencing Institute.

She brings her background in the arts, meditation and social justice to create social presencing that makes visible both current reality and emerging future possibilities for individuals and groups., Arawana’s pioneering work as a choreographer, performer, and educator is deeply sourced in collaborative improvisation. Her dance career ranges from directing an interracial street dance company formed by the Boston Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs in the aftermath of the 1968 murder of Dr.

Martin Luther King to being one of the foremost performers of Japanese court dance, Bugaku, in the United States. She has been co director of the dance program at Naropa University and founder director of two contemporary dance companies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It was a long time ago now that I first met you, and something that really sticks with me when you come to mind is that I remember you through your embodiment.

like I, I remember exactly how you walk into a room and how you sit down. And then from that, all the wisdom that you transmit . And that’s a rare thing that somebody impacts you through their actual movement. In a cognizant way, like, of course, everybody’s impacting us, but I just really appreciate your place in the world in this way. So thank you for being here.

Arawana Hayashi: Olivia, very kind words. And it has been a long time, even though we don’t see each other very frequently, I really appreciate being invited to be part of this conversation. And I’m looking forward to our our sharing of our thoughts and sense of.

What it is to be in a body. And not only in our own body, but in our social body with others.

Olivia Clementine: So in our first conversation, I think we broke down a little bit more, the social presencing theater. Would you give a summary as to what social presencing theater is for anyone that didn’t listen to our first conversation.

Arawana Hayashi: Sure. Maybe the name of it is a good descriptor, I think it, it’s easier to just say that the, the name of it to tell you the truth was given to you.

By Otto Scharmer, who is the person who articulates this change theory, which is called Theory U and is the basis of the work of the Presencing Institute, which is where is the network of people that I work with. And the, the name itself, first of all, starts with social. So most of the practices, it’s a set of embodiment practices, some of which I’ve done for decades and decades, and some have been co created in the last 20 years with Otto Scharmer and other colleagues at the Presencing Institute, and even though there are some that really Help us be more personally embodied and synchronize our, our, our mind and body, our attention and our embodiment.

Many of them are done in groups in pairs or sMall groups or teams in this sense of how we’re all always within social bodies. That our body is never really separated from the family body, the team body, community body. And so Many of the practices, most of them are done in a, in a group of one sort of the other.

Presencing is this Made up word that is a combination of senses using one and trusting one’s sense perceptions. What we see, What we hear, and specifically in our work, also what we feel, the felt sense of something. And the second part of that word is about presence, being present, and recognizing how powerful our presence is in the world.

We sometimes don’t think about that, we’re focusing on content, what we say, Do but are simply presence is very full of communication and being being present in this moment. And then theater is not about the acting or what we think of as the theater, although we have a great love for that as well. But it’s about, we’re using the root of the word theater, which means the which means a place where.

Things become visible or where significant activity becomes visible to the whole so much of our work is is around that is Making the social body visible bodies are very visible. Thoughts and words are not so visible, but bodies are visible, how they arrange themselves is visible. And that we have a sense of the felt sense of both where we might be currently in little social systems, but also with our work where we’re really interested in what is the most creative, the most innovative, the most compassionate gestures that we could Make towards creating a a saner and kinder future,

Olivia Clementine: And you had a calligraphy from Suzuki Roshi that said, “if it comes out of nothingness, whatever you do is natural. And that is true activity.” Will you speak on to what you’ve learned so far that we can term true activity?

Arawana Hayashi: My training is, as a Buddhist and my teacher was Trungpa Rinpoche who was very interested in art. And so he taught on what he called dharma art, other, of course, Buddhist teachers have taught on that topic as well. And much of it had to do with how you, how creativity unfolds or.

Without being about self, a kind of self confirMation, self aggrandizement. What would be you know, in this category of egoless, or at least lightening up on the ego aspect of art Making. So the emphasis then became this quality of openness or spaciousness. And I think in that particular quote of Roshi’s, when he uses this word nothingness.

He’s meaning that it’s a space that’s not full of concepts and opinions and judgments and assumptions, but it’s a much more open space of mind, and therefore an open spaciousness for gesture or word or notes if one is a musician to arise. So it’s somewhat without being disrespectful to ourselves.

It’s lightening up on all of our kind of past learning and conventional barriers so that there’s a little bit of freedom and a little bit of openness to what could be fresh and new. And I think that’s what we’re referring to as the true move. It’s in accordance with our context, our kind of present moment knowing.

And not so bound up in our past opinions and concepts.

Olivia Clementine: I know you’ve also used the terms , non Manipulation and non aggression, and are these a part of true activity? And if so, what is it looking like to to create with non aggression and non Manipulation?

Arawana Hayashi: It’s very interesting to be like my work now is specifically around, you know, social change. And so sometimes people refer to those of us that work in changes change agents. It’s a strange topic, you know, in a funny way, because of course, change is always happening moment to moment, things are changing and much of probably what our work is, is a certain kind of identification with the amount of suffering on the planet in terms of the health of the earth itself, as well as beings on the earth, aniMals and fish and and huMan beings, beings on the earth.

And so there is a certain kind of wanting things to be better. Enormous yearning for change in our, and it can be in our companies, in our communities. You know, we want things to be You know, we want for people to have well being as a community and joyfulness and courage and care for one another.

So there’s this very strong longing, which then can go into just how do we fix this. And I think that how do we fix it is what we mean by Manipulation or a certain kind of aggression. It’s not that we don’t want things to change. So, aggression in this case doesn’t necessarily mean anger only, but it just means this dissatisfaction always with the present moment.

Dissatisfied. We want it to be different. We want a better, a better version of the present. And for ourselves in terms of who we are, we’d like to change and be like without this particular kind of neurotic patterning, for instance, or would then we want other people to change so that they’re more we like that better or they’re more agreeable somehow.

And then that, of course, Stretches out to large, you know, their large sense of us and them, you know, we want them to think like us that kind of thing. So this is in this area of of aggression, and yet, we all have this longing in a certain way for harmony and sanity. So I think the work is. saying that in any one moment, certainly with our work to be in this moment and not try to fix something, but to really try to listen and to try to feel into what is this moment and how, how does this moment actually want to unfold.

And it’s based on this idea that systems, whether it’s an individual, you and me, Or whether it’s a larger social system that at the core that that system is basically sane, basically kind, basically healthy, basically good. That’s a, that’s a premise. You know, I’m not saying that that’s true, particularly there’s plenty of evidence that that May not be the case, but this is the premise on which this work is based and that that there is nothing that’s toxic at its core.

No institution, no healthcare system. It’s not Toxic at the core that that there’s so Many layers of confusion and fear, and then policy built on that and decisions Made on that. And yet, underneath. All of that. And in our work, it doesn’t it’s not that far under the surface. Actually, there’s a sense of care of people naturally and just being ordinarily kind and sane.

And so it’s trying to tune into that and Make it visible, rather than to try to Manipulate and and fix. And you know, throw some opinion on other people that, that we, we have the right way or something like that, but that it’s much more organic than that. And much more creative than that. In terms of how, you know, social systems can, can really sense into themselves and sense their own longing for a good world rather than be caught in all of their differences and you know, opinions and fixed ideas and feelings around things.


Olivia Clementine: and how is it for you to rest in that the goodness of it knowing that there’s still other experiences that aren’t good how how do we have the space to do both

Arawana Hayashi: yeah it’s a great question for all of us you know it’s just like every day ordinary right we get up you know, sometimes things are a little irritating, you know, sometimes it’s aMazing how well everybody gets along.

You know, basically, you get some groceries or basically you have to put gas in the car if you don’t have an electric car, or basically you have to you, you know, it’s, there’s so much evidence that people. You know, want to get along. I think recently I heard Mathieu Ricard speak at the Change Now, which is a huge cliMate conference in Paris this summer.

And Mathieu Ricard, who is a, Many of you might know, is a quite a well renowned Buddhist teacher and also was very involved in, in much of this brain research on noting the, The natural mindfulness of mind and compassion of mind and how these qualities can be cultivated with a little bit of practice, meditation practice, a little bit of contemplation practice.

But he is a wonderful teacher and thinker and he was the keynote speaker and he used this expression, the, the sort of banality. Of goodness that that if we actually tune into every day with a little bit of openness of mind ourselves, there’s so much evidence that people people can think completely in my community differently than I do politically.

I mean, couldn’t be more opposite. And yet, they’re, you know, they’re helpful and, you know, and they’re good neighbors. You know, and there’s something about that, the, the attending to the beauty in the world, and just humor in the world. And the natural kindness that is larger than these incidents of craziness and and I think, you know, which is not to say that there isn’t enormous kind of mental health and anxiety and stress going on in the world.

And he, and yet there is also plenty of evidence, I think that

there’s also sweetness and

care. And I think the issue, though, Olivia, is that somehow it’s not as evident. In other words, what goes on to the news and the various media that we look at is generally not celebrating ordinary goodness. And I know there are all sorts of people like, for instance, you on this podcast that are doing that or celebrating.

I don’t feel discouraged. And yet, if I read and I think, for instance, about cliMate, and I think about my grandchildren, I do have a lot of fear, and yet it doesn’t change what to do every day. In other words, because of the uncertainty and because of the fear, we’re not in a position to give up.

So, so no Matter what happens, we still do our best, you know, day by day to connect with this basic goodness and sanity and see that in other people and other situations.

Olivia Clementine: I guess, continuing in the thread of this kind of spaciousness. That’s, that’s needed this kind of holding the multiplexity of, of these experiences. You know, often I think it’s very common that we think we need to communicate and that our words are more valuable than anything else. And that’s how, you know, the modern culture gets across things most of the time is like, how do I say things perfectly and And something that’s really significant in social presencing theater and something you speak about in your book, Social Presencing Theater, is the Japanese principal, Ma.

And will you share about what you have noticed happens with non verbal communication and this Japanese principle.

Arawana Hayashi: I think the arts in general, whether it’s visual art or performance art, which is certainly in dance and theater is also visual, but

I think partially this, I’ll start with the first part about the words. And I also agree that words are so important. And in our work we have two kinds of words in a funny way. One is the word that will come out of an embodied shape. For instance, the work will invite people to Make, you know, Make big kind of sculptural shapes with the body.

And that could be around aspiration or could be around kind of stuck place, and then to allow the shape to have a word, rather than that. I’m thinking of a word that you know that that interprets this shape. If we stay long enough in the shape itself, some kind of word or phrase might come to mind, and it’s a more like a poetic or a symbolic or a ceremonial kind of word.

And then the other part is this description that in our work, we really suspend meaning Making, we suspend interpretation, so that we restrict our reflections to the words. I see, or I saw, and I felt. I feel. When I see this, I feel this. When I

see or feel this, I did this. Right? So it’s very descriptive of data. So that it turns our attention to actually what happened? What did I see? What did I feel? What did I do? And not, what does it mean? So it’s very specifically discipline around how the word connects to the experience and tries to lighten up on a quick meaning Making a quick interpretation based upon whatever my past assumptions are here.

So, the arts, I think, invites us into this. Direct knowing, whether we’re looking at a painting or a sculpture, or whether we’re in the theater, it invites us to suspend a little bit, everything that we think we know, in order to actually be engaged in a journey of some sort of, of knowing, right? And so it is very embodied in that way.

It’s relying on body knowing, I guess I’d say, and not just on what I think. And with Many people, it’s, it’s hard, like in our work, sometimes people don’t understand that these are two different things. This is an experience and this is what I think about it. They haven’t thought about that before.

Right. And that’s something that we as meditators probably notice right away that this is my experience and these are my thoughts. And opinions about that or reflections or memories, and that those are both important but they’re not the same.

So the word Ma, it means interval or gap.

So here I am talking and that this would be a Ma.

It’s a little space, but it isn’t a space in which everything goes dead. It’s a kind of lively space in which people are attending to the next, you know, they’re waiting in a certain way and they’re listening. Into something that hasn’t happened yet. So this quality of allowing this gap in life in general, but certainly within our work is a moment in which there’s not knowing.

And in our work, not knowing is what we call intelligence. It’s or Suzuki Roshi called that a beginner’s mind. And I think Krishnamurti speaks of it in dialogue. Also this kind of interval in which you’re not projecting what you already think you know.

So it’s easier to do. We do it in conversation, but it lends itself to movement because movement has these stillness, what we call shape or the gesture or the posture, it pauses. And then what does this shape want to do, which is very different than my mind says we should be doing this.

So we’re training ourselves to really listen to the body’s knowing and to the space in which the body is living. And that, that turning attention to the part that is kind of not there, or not happening is part of the discipline that we are kind of investigating and which in, in Japanese aesthetics is called Ma, gap.

Olivia Clementine: So great this, Ma.

Arawana Hayashi: Now in Presencing Institute, we’ll be designing some course or something and a person will just say, Oh, not enough Ma.

The kanji for Ma is a tori gate, a gate with the sun coming through. So if we think of the sun as light or warmth or even wisdom,

it needs to come, it needs to shine through a gap. And sometimes we’re just so full of our own thoughts and our own opinions and we don’t let any light or warmth shine through. And we don’t see the warmth or light shining through other people. So the gap, whether it’s a small or big, that little space allows that, that sense of the light of the sun to be present.

Olivia Clementine: So in terms of social presencing theater, you’ve shared the efficiency of these embodied practices, that they really help us get to the heart of the Matter and and help us understand what’s under the surface, what’s happening when we’re synchronizing the mind and body that allows for this.

Arawana Hayashi: Ah,

I often think that, and from our meditation practice, Many of us have this experience, I’m sure, when the mind and the body are synchronized to a little bit of mindfulness practice. So in mindfulness of bringing the, you know, that our mind is so lively and it thinks of this and that and then we have a kind of invitation to let the mind rest on the feeling of the body.

If we’re using the body as our resting place or the feeling of the body breathing, Many of us use that as a kind of place to rest our attention. And of course it dances off and then we awareness notices and. We let the attention rest again on the feeling of the body or the feeling of the body breathing.

So in our work with the Social Presence in Theater, it’s not that we use the breath breathing so much, but we definitely use the sense of the earth’s body and our body. That the Mother Earth body is always there and always holding on to us, right, otherwise we would float off into space. She’s always holding us quite close.

And oftentimes we don’t rest on her body. We don’t feel. When we’re sitting or standing or walking, that we’re resting on her big body. So the practice here is that the mind’s attention, which is often in the space, you know, floating about here and there in the past and the future and whatever, we’re allowing it to rest in the body, on the earth’s body.

And that feeling of like a sense of being,

where the sort of mind and the body are synchronized, allows for not only a sense of being, but I think is the basis, and this is so Many of our experience, the basis of a sense of well being. And that is unconditional. It is well being for no reason whatsoever, not because circumstances are going well or we get an award or whatever.

It’s it’s just because we’re human beings on this earth, connected to this mother earth, under this sky, in this situation, that we’re present for that. And it could be pleasant or unpleasant, wanted or unwanted. But there is a sense of fundamental well being, that the mind and the body are synchronized and sitting on this earth.

And that allows for a natural sense of expansion and openness. In other words, we’re not self, so self centered, like, what about me? How am I doing? Oh, this is okay. Am I getting what I need? This continual, self worry, right? Because there’s this basic well being, then the mind is naturally open and expansive.

It naturally is curious. It naturally is extended out and inclusive and cares for this world, for what it sees and hears and the others in the world. There’s a natural sense of awareness and inclusion and openness.

It’s not something that we’re trying to Make ourselves into somebody else, but it does take a little bit of practice, a little bit of commitment to saying that, that yes, I have an interest in not only my own wellbeing, but in some kind of social wellbeing.

And in order to do that, some, a little bit of mindfulness and awareness. Is really important, you know, like there might be other ways, but this is certainly the way that we’re familiar and that we know there’s power in it.

Olivia Clementine: I heard you giving a talk at some point in the last few few years and you said something about this kind of ability to rest in the chaos or the mess and also just resting in a lot of information that might contradict each other and all of these things.

What does resting do to the experience of one’s trust, both in oneself and also the chaos of the world.

Arawana Hayashi: So, rest is a funny word here in the way that they say that mindfulness cultivates peace. And I think we have a concept of what rest and peace are which is a little limited, right?

So in this case, it has to do with feeling, right, that, that feeling, and I’m not necessarily labeling that as emotion, particularly, we could put that labels on this. We have names for different kinds of feelings, but I’m talking really about not the name of it, but the actual experience of the feeling.

And that oftentimes holding difficulty feeling, we don’t think of that as restful. And yet that’s what I mean that staying with the experience. The felt sense of whatever it is and building a capacity to stay there without you know, here we are like kicking and screaming or whatever inside. Can we just stay with that feeling?

Without judgment, opinion, without a label, without a story of who did what to whom, but can we just stay with it and build capacity for basically for difficult feeling, for difficult and unpleasant feeling? Can we build a capacity for not either becoming dissociative, shutting down, or acting out? Those are three options, and we have all sorts of polyvagal styles for doing all of these things, but can we just actually just be there with this experience, whatever it is, and build capacity for holding for simply being and breathing in and out in this particular experience, whatever it is.

And I think that that’s what builds trust , we realize that the habit of closing down, or, pretending that isn’t happening or bypassing by in some spiritual or psychological way or acting out that these are not that helpful, oftentimes, and the wisdom comes from actually being able to pay attention to listen to ourselves to listen to the feeling of this experience, and in particular, difficult experience. challenging experience. Not only could that be a kind of healing. I don’t have a background that uses the language of healing that much and I don’t have a psychological training or background, but it is a kind of not only healing, but also I think, as you say, it builds trust.

It builds trust in ourselves that we actually have some courage, it takes enormous courage and that we care enough about ourselves to be present for our own experience. This is work, you know, in a certain way.

And Maybe our work with social presence in theater just opens that door a little bit, partially that working in embodiment with the groups that I work in. People are not that familiar with working with the body. There’s a lot of beginners mind, because they’ve never done it before. There’s always a certain kind of vulnerability or awkwardness around this work embodiment work for Many people. It’s not their, their familiar mode of communicating.

And so we already have an advantage there in that there’s less expertise. There’s just more like whatever you see is what you get kind of situation, and then there’s also more, more possibility for people just opening up to one another. Because they don’t have the normal ways that we would all kind of posture with one another. There’s no way of doing that within the form. So it touches on this kind of, again, capacity to build trust that just as human beings, we can not only envision, but we can embody saner, healthier, more compassionate futures.

We can do this. It’s in the body mind system. And we can strengthen that and we can build trust in that. That we’re not just it’s not just a pipe dream having a compassionate society, but we can actually feel it within our small group of five or twenty or however Many, fifty or hundred people who can feel, ah, yeah, I can feel that this is a possibility and that it has strength and something I can trust in.

I’m sure there’s much more to reflect on, but that’s such an interesting question.

Olivia Clementine: If you’re in the social presencing theater context, for instance, and you grow more compassion in that small group.

There’s probably this fear of, we’re doing it here, but like out there, there’s, you know, and I’m sure you experienced it all the time in the work that you’re doing.

Arawana Hayashi: Yeah, we hear this all the time right here in this training or this workshop or this small community this practice group, but you know, we’re kind of we’re special and they’re not, I mean that’s a little bit what people. It’s not a kind way of saying it but it’s a little bit like that, but I’m not certain that that’s true. It’s just Maybe a commitment to the fact that every being, wants a good life. Now, how we all think we’re going to get there is different, but everybody loves something.

It’s something about not having such a strong boundary between you know, this experience, I’d say, whatever gathering it is, and I’m in Many, Many gatherings, and We notice oftentimes at the end of gatherings, a kind of, for all of us, a kind of holding on to each other, holding on to the experience, holding on to what we’ve Made together, what’s been co created here, right?

And so we have this little ritual at the end of programs. In which we, we stand in the circle and we acknowledge that something good has been created, co created here, a sense of connection, sense of aspiration, sense of strength. And then we ask everyone to, to turn away from the center of the circle with their keeping their hands up and, and then just send that up or to recognize that there’s so Many people on the planet, just like us, who just don’t have the opportunity to gather with others or who haven’t, for whatever reason, are not able to know that that’s an option, that we can get together and have good conversations and creative experiences. And so it’s remembering or recognizing our own privilege for being able to get together and gather.

But that so Many people are already gathering for one thing in their own groups, but are so Many people would love to have something like that happen. So it’s something about trying to recognize like within people’s companies that they say, you know, I’m the only person in my company that thinks like this.

It feels like this, they don’t have companions. We work in schools and the teachers will say, well, there’s only one other person that thinks like me, everybody else is terrible person. So there’s something about that attitude, you know, of, you know, I’m saving these kids and everyone else is, a system is destroying them and this kind of.

thing about framing everything like that I think it’s more porous than we think. So trying to encourage people just to, when they, when they leave our gatherings or trainings Just to notice just to find two or three people that they love, you know, that they don’t know, but they love, they can love them anyways. Because, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s such a common thing that, and I understand how difficult it is to work in public school system or in healthcare systems or in banks, I understand that, I mean, I, this is not my situation but I hear so Many stories.

So it’s not that I don’t hear the difficult or notice the difficulty when I’m in schools or, you know, just as a patient in the healthcare system.

But we can’t give up, Olivia. We can’t give up.

Olivia Clementine: No, no, we can’t give up. And, and for that reason, we’re going to talk about Bugaku.

Because we can’t, I, I just, I know we talked about it last time, but I just can’t not help us talking for a moment. So you are one of the few, I would say, right, dancers of Bugaku in the United States.

You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a Japanese court dancer and Will you speak to the original purpose of this dance?

Arawana Hayashi: A very interesting question here. So for, for those of us who don’t know, this is 7th century Japanese court dance.

So it’s a, It was imported into Japan from the dance forms and the music, orchestral music was imported from China and where, where now is Vietnam and from Korea and other places. And then it, you know, Japan was very close to other countries and it became this very, very refined, very elaborately costumed.

And very unusual music and dance form. And to refer again to Trungpa Rinpoche, he was very interested. He heard this music when he was at Oxford on a UNESCO recording of world music. And he was so fascinated by the sound. It has a very unusual sound. The music is called Gagaku, the elegant music, and it has a dance form of, some of the dancers are four people, some are two, there are some solos, and they’ve been passed down within the Imperial Household Music Department.

For all these hundreds and hundreds of years. And my teacher was part of the Imperial Household Music Department. He left Japan and became a faculty at UCLA, University California, Los Angeles.

So Trungpa Rinpoche was the person that said, Maybe you could check that out. And so in 19, when was it? 76 I went to Los Angeles to start to study. My teacher, whose name was Suenobu Togi,, and that was such a profound experience because this was, talk about spacious, this art form has been called excruciatingly leisurely.

And it’s incredibly precise and I had a lifetime of being an improviser. And it’s very, very precise and all, and very everyone in, in unison with the dancers and the orchestra, which has no conductor. So the entire thing stays together, the string, the instruments, the percussion, the winds and the dancers just on breath time and on a kind of sense of how it is unfolding.

So this was a very significant art form for me for Many, Many years, and I still have companions, a few of us left, and I don’t perform anymore haven’t been much opportunity . We still tried to practice not nearly as much since our teacher passed away. But prior to that we were very committed to keeping this going. The dances originally were Made to bring gods or kamis down to the earth as guidance for the emperor. And the leadership of that country and the country still Maintains a department of music and rituals, which have to do with bringing harmony and connecting the sort of heaven principle to the earth.

And I still think that these, the music and dance can inspire the best in leadership, they inspire vision of harmony and beauty and power and longevity

Much of leadership has forgotten that.

Olivia Clementine: Are there a couple of tenants from the dance itself? Like a couple key aspects to doing the form well that you were taught by your teacher, like things you either keep in mind or perceptions or movements in the body.

Arawana Hayashi: Yeah.

Olivia Clementine: Would you share a few of them?

Arawana Hayashi: My teacher never spoke about anything. You could ask him questions and he would always kind of look at you or give you a ridiculous answer. And it always had to do with the practice itself. That was true for my original Tai Chi teacher, too, from China.

They, he just I couldn’t understand why anybody would ask questions. It was really about doing the practice and knowing what you knew, you knew because of the practice. But I would say that in tying this together with the conversation that we’ve had earlier, this sense of precision in terms of the body which required enormous sense of attention to the detail, you know, of, of, of gesture.

Because it’s a prescribed form, you know, so that the arm couldn’t be an inch higher or an inch lower, it had to be at a particular height and the timing at a very specific time that you move this leg and shifted the weight onto this foot. Right. So in terms of just physical precision,

and that sense of groundedness from on the earth from Just physicality. That was one thing.

The second thing you would could say, so the dances are in a square, the performance area is a large square, and , the dances have to do with the directions, and the sense of equality of the, not only of the top and the sky and the earth, but of the four directions.

So much of the gestural Material has to do with the diagonals and the square, and this balance of how The two figures one or four figures were spatially and geometrically designed for some kind of planetary harmony in the, in the four directions. So the spatial is not only openness, but it’s also the sense of always being with the others.

Creating this kind of Mandala in the space. So it required this kind of attending with, like you would say with meditation, of not too tight and not too loose between one’s own body, the other bodies, and the larger sense of space. And then it unfolds with this music and being with the orchestral music, moment to moment to moment.

So the, the learning for me with that form, more than in any other situation, is it was about freedom, that the container and the precision of the container allowed enormous sense of space and freedom and openness. And that relationship between form and freedom has been a lifelong interest. And just working, let’s say, with some group and doing social presence in theater, how much, there’s a form, and the form is very important, but what is the minimal structure that allows the most freedom?

And Bukaku is in some ways, very simple, physically and Spatially, and yet the attention, the amount of attention necessary, somehow opens into this sense of enormous spaciousness, and it’s partially because the sound of the music and the gesture and don’t know much about Magic, but it has a certain kind of quality that used to happen for me also in group improvisation that it, that it’s not like each person does their thing. And it, it’s not a bunch of people it’s, it’s that, that thing is the living body.

And that thing is expressing itself. It’s not each person. But that system itself is a living being that is got its own kind of unfolding, if that makes any sense.

Olivia Clementine: It totally makes sense. It totally makes sense. And is there a small practice you could suggest to our listeners to, to ponder to themselves, that might nourish their Ma?

Arawana Hayashi: The main thing is to pay attention to the back of your body, that the back of the body is present and that you don’t think of yourself as just a front, but that when you move through the space or when you’re sitting in front of the screen, like we are, that you remember that the body has a back and sides and there’s space behind the body and space to the sides.

So. The body sits on the earth. So it’s important for us to feel one’s feet so that we feel like we’re walking, we feel like we’re standing, we feel like we’re sitting, you know, that where our weight is on the earth. And the second thing is to remember that the body is a, is a, you know, it’s a 360 degree object.

It has a back. And that also gives us a sense of perspective to remembering all the back energy of our ancestors and our mentors and everybody that has got our back or that’s, you know, cheering us on. And it gives us a sense of sides, those that are moving with us. And it kind of softens the eyes and softens this obsession with the front, which those of us who spend a lot of time on Zoom can always use a little reminder.

And always to just have window practice, like even if you don’t have a daily meditation practice, just go to the window or stand outside and just look out and do nothing for five minutes. So that we have a little ma, we have a little gap,