Boundaries (Updated: 05/10/18)

Deep butoh works with the hidden or subconscious, but sometimes the edge may be so strong that a retreat is called for. This is not a moment to create another shadow (that of guilt or shame). We should respect where we are in the work. In the art of war, we must know when to retreat. Sometimes, even, retreating from one shadow may be advancing in another.

One characteristic of shadows is their ability to remain in the same place we left them. Time allows for re-strategization if returning is the intention. In butoh, we are warriors. We never give up the fight. Sometimes even the fight is a good shield made of pure self-integrity. If the fight calls for complete surrender, it shall be for the sake of resurrection or even double-dealing, knowing spy-like that we intend to craft a clever escape plan.

Resolving shadows does not mean being consumed by them, but working with them. A little taste of the shadow may go a long way. Sometimes anything more is redundant or beating a dead horse. We must also gauge whether we necessarily have to dive into the deepest depths of hell in order to learn or gain something. When we learn through punches, new shadows may be created, which may worsen the situation as a whole. If we do take the path of hell, we must go with a certain degree of protection as well as nurture.

Protective Tools

1. Theater/Play

We go into the subconscious body while under the protective circle of theater. Know that outside of class or time limits of personal practice, hard edges do not have permission to affect us. Think role play.

2. Riddle

You can lighten the sentiments of the work by thinking about it as an unsolved riddle or joke. Make use of curiosity instead of any series of negative emotions such as fear, horror, or despair. Yes, shadow work is serious, but perhaps not as serious as you might think.

3. Procedure

Go through the motions one by one, without emotional investment. The target is seen and the only desire is to reach this target. Be a mechanical warrior till you reach the target.

4. “Yes, And…”

The key to this protective tool is spy-like integration. Open the imagination and know that everything has its place. So the line goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. “Yes” is the spy; “And…” is your creative potential. Change things from the inside. Wink, wink. See more on “Yes, And…” Here.

Exercise 1: Karate Painter

The defensive stance of a martial artist and the stance of a painter can look similar. While one defends, the other creates art. Move with a flow that is ready for anything. Sometimes the lines between art-making and protection may even blur. Allow exactly what you need to be the artist while effortlessly protecting yourself from anything keeping you from being the artist. Find your Jo-Ha-Kyu in this.

Exercise 2: Protection Bubble

Like blowing a balloon, blow a bubble of protection that no unwanted forces can penetrate.

Exercise 3: Knife of Power

Visualize a flaming dagger. Stab in every direction possible, including within your body (without physical contact).