The beginning point of all practice is having the calm and psychophysiological state to be able to begin in the first place. This cannot be stressed enough. Actually, I may venture to say that nurture ought to be 80% or more of our physical movement practice, and sometimes it blends in with actual performance movement. At every second of the day, we should remember to keep our instrument (our body) in nurture. How is the breath? Is there tension anywhere in the body? Address that on the spot.
Richard Schechner calls these conditioning states proto-performance (p-performance), and when these p-performances place the body into an non-ordinary state, it is what Eugenio Barba terms pre-expressivity. He gives the example of the slightly bent legs and contracted arms in martial artists (e.g. horse stance, ready stance), which prepare the individual for attack or defense.4 Subbody butoh practitioners are encouraged to be in perpetual proto-performance.
Without nurture/warmup, real profundity in movement might be lacking. If we are to face the dragon, we are to have the blessings of the mother. We also want to dance in a way that is sustainable, so that we can dance to a very old age like Kazuo Ohno. Nurture creates a safe environment to enter into deep resonance. There are various nurturing practices. Nurture brings relaxation and ease. No ease means dis-ease. Several of the practices can also be done with partners.
Invoke your inner mother. Enter into becoming-mother or becoming-mother-baby.
Effortless Body & Noguchi Taiso6
As modern humans, we have a tendency to use more effort than is needed to engage in movement. If we learn to release or let things flow more, our bodies will thank us. Noguchi Taiso is one such movement discipline that serves to evoke the effortless body by drawing upon fluidity (water), gravity, and strings. Gravity is not fought against, but embraced. Michizo Noguchi (the founder) at times even gave workshops at Hijikata’s Asbestos studio.9
Taken from a Nodus Labs description of Noguchi Taiso, they explain:
One of the main principles in Noguchi Taiso is movement as a reaction. Instead of attempting to make a movement intentionally the practitioner creates the conditions for the movement to arise as a natural response. This makes it much more energy-efficient, relaxed, smooth, and fluid. For example, when one moves an arm in Noguchi Taiso, the impulse starts from the ground, traveling through the leg, hips, torso, into the shoulder where the movement itself starts to happen as a reaction to that initial impulse.
There are innumerable amount of breathing techniques. Here are a few breathing techniques that may be used. Note: To intensify any of these breathing exercises, you can simultaneously contract the perineum as is encouraged in qigong.
1. Localized/Mist Breath Soak
This is breathing directed to a particular area of the body, e.g. perineum or kidneys. Example qualia-world: An essential oil mist quietly enters into the nostrils and travels toward the area of interest. Once there, the mist soaks into the area like a sponge, nurturing the area.
Note: This type of breathing can lend itself to deterritorialized breathing, when the function of the lungs is transposed somewhere else in the body–another part of the body acting as the lungs.
2. Silk Breath
Enter into silk ribbon qualia. A silk ribbon gently travels in and out of the nasal passage down past the pit of the stomach. One can even take it all the way down to the bottom of the feet (or further!). This is very gentle breath and is smooth. Silk breath can be short, long, or natural.
3. Breath of Fire/Hummingbird Nostril
This is very subtle and fast breath going in and out. The focus can reside under the nose. Feel millimeter inhalation and expiration. The body will feel heat and also vibrate. Example qualia world: Between your nostril, there is a little hummingbird. The wings are the breath that flap at rapid speed. Then the hummingbird nostril initiates the movement, and one can travel to various parts of the space.
4. Breath Riding Movement/Inflated & Deflated Balloon
Experiment utilizing breath with movement. For instance, when moving toward the vertical axis (or the spine), inspire, and when moving away, expire. Or when expanding the body, inspire, and when the body is dropped, release the breath. Example qualia world: The body is a helium balloon that fills up (with the breath), then someone lets the air out, and the balloon shrinks quickly down into a droopy deflated balloon (exhaled breath).
5. Yawn or No Breath/Rainbow Body
The space between inspiration and expiration is a magical space. One can feel the effects with a yawn, especially sustaining a yawn. During a sustained yawn, one can then open awareness to the entire body and feel the whole body breathing. Example qualia-world: One is tired, so one extends the arms and yawns. At the peak of the yawn, time freezes. In this space, the body shifts into every color the rainbow.
6. Expelling/Banishing Wind
Expel breath completely and suddenly, especially stale breath that is no longer needed. Example qualia-world: A malignant spirit enters your body through your breath and takes over your entire body. Then your protector spirit suddenly reaches in through your mouth with one hand and your diaphragm with the other and violently pushes the diaphragm as she/he/they pulls the malignant spirit out.
7. Breath of Life
This is an important deterritorialized breath exercise encouraged by Rhizome Lee. Breath of Life means breathing from every cell in the body.
8. Organ Breath Sounds
The following are Mantak Chia’s qigong breath sounds associated with certain organs. This is an ancient Taoist practice. Once you get familiar with all the sounds, it is recommended to experiment freely going in and out of them and even in-between them. This pairs well with opening up the audio channel.
(a) Lung – ssssss. This sound releases inner pressure. Enter the qualia of a pressure cooker releasing its pressure.
(b) Kidney – choooo (oo in shoe). Like blowing a candle if you begin with the sounnd “ch”.
(c) Liver – shhhhh. This sound calms anger immediately.
(d) Heart – haaaaa. Like when you are cold and you warm your hands up with your breath.
(e) Spleen/Pancreas – whoooo (more from back of throat than kidney).
(f) Tripple Warmer (Multi Organ) – heeeee
Shakes & Quakes
For goodness shakes! Whole body shakes are one of the most fundamental methods of releasing tension. Can also be done by knocking the heel while standing in which case it will be like a bodyquake.
A recommended practice to get into the body which is both extremely nurturing and great for butoh is the floppy body. The floppy body is a body being shaken by something else while one is passive or floppy (one can even think/feel dead or asleep). Executing the floppy body with the entire body is great, but one can also isolate different parts such as the hands, essentially bringing the floppy hands.
Excellent qualias to capture shakes/floppy body: (1) a corpse being catapulted; (2) a child trying to wake up a gummy worm; (3) a puppet whose puppet master’s hand has a seizure.
The same idea is executed but with a partner, and Noguchi Taiso makes use of it. The following comes from a Noguchi Taiso article written by Paola Esposito and Toshiharu Kasai:¹
1. Lie down on the floor on our back. Stretch your knees.
2. Your partner catches both your ankles, and holding them together shakes your legs to the left and right briskly, making your entire body wave.
3. Check if the head is swaying to some extent as a result of this waving. Your partner changes the shaking speed and the amplitude so as to make an irregular movement in the body.
Reach up with a limb or body part with inhalation then expel the breath while dropping the limb/body part. If any limbs were dropped, feel the tension especially leave from the joints Examples:
1. A puppet master lifts your arm up. The string is cut.
2. Stand on one leg upon something small so that the other leg dangles in mid air. The puppet master lifts the dangling leg up slightly. The string is cut.
3. Sit down with the bottoms of the feet stuck to each other. The puppet master lifts one knee up. The string is cut.
While sitting, sway in space. To start, you can move on the directions of a clock, but all directions work. Also, you can lay in a supine position (on your back) and pull and push your heels back and forth. You can develop a nurturing vibration through this subtle rocking. Example qualia world: You are seaweed in the ocean.
If you are sitting or standing in any space (even outside of the butoh world), it is recommended to always have at least a subtle sway. The sway can act as an excellent transition point between qualias. It is a filler/scribble. The sway can also be thought of as the palate cleanser to the wine tastings of qualias as well as medimotion (moving meditation).
Similarly, shuckling is a Jewish ritual, usually swaying forward and back, but can also go side to side. It can also have a tendency to go into shake.³ This motion can also be a bit of stereotypical behavior in psychiatric wards.
Walking in Space
Just plain conscious walking all throughout the space can be nurturing. Like swaying, it is also a great transition point between qualias or a palate cleanser for the wine tastings of qualias.
Laying of Hands
Simple hand to skin contact alone is nurturing. Specific places to try after rubbing hands together till hot.
1. One hand heart, another forehead
2. One hand heart, another stomach
3. One hand base of skull, another solar plexus
4. One hand heart, another on spine (especially while in fetal position)
5. Head container – one hand front, one back; one hand side, another side.
Patting, rubbing, vibrating, and rocking can also work or hovering over the skin where the heat of the hands can be sensed.
Put Your Body Together5
The following exercise comes from Jeannie Donald-McKim:
I want you to put your body together.
On your own, use your hands to put your body together.
Start from your feet and then go up.
This exercise is like putting your own flesh back onto your bones.
Hugging yourself is always nurturing and can also be done in a number of ways. The arms need not be the only things. Try with legs too. (For more on hugs, see below “A Universe of Hugs.”)
Acupressure & Trigger Point
If you want to experiment with various acupressure or trigger points, you can do so. The information is widely accessible. Experiment with various ball densities (e.g. tennis ball, lacrosse ball).
Experiment with giving various pressure against the wall with your entire body. The wall can be incredibly nurturing. Example qualia-world: Every surface that your body touches on the wall immediately curls into a new armadillo ball that rolls slightly in every direction. The armadillo can also unfold a little from its ball sometimes.
Wring a wet towel, swing ropes, bear hug a pillow, etc. Example qualia-world: You got sent to the psychiatric ward and are put inside a very tight straight jacket. Your arms are the arms of the straight jacket and they squeeze you. You do not want to be in this straight jacket so you try to fight your way out (like the stereotypical image), and you even get angry while doing it. Miraculously, your arms break out. Feel the relaxation that ensues.
All stretches should target the fascia or provide strength at point of maximum extension. Do not stretch too much a cold body part. Creating qualia-worlds that engage the stretch is a very efficient way to go about stretching. Example list of qualia-worlds:
Mother Earth Hug — On your stomach, you stretch your arms and legs out to hug Mother Earth.
Wet Rag Head — Your head is a wet rag drying in the sun that is dangling on any side of your body. Feel the stretch and tension release.
Solipsist (God Complex) & Reverse Solipsist (Ghost Complex) — You are a solipsist (the epitome of narcissism) and your chest is wide and your arms are wide. The fingers are spread out like Jazz hands. Feel the stretch of the chest. Feel the stretch of I-am-God.
But then eventually, you fall from that ivory tower (figuratively speaking) and gradually begin approaching the reverse solipsist, the one with the lowest self-esteem. You don’t exist. Your chest caves in all the way, and your head caves in (head-tail curve) perhaps like a gargoyle. Feel the stretch of your back. Continue alternating between the two extreme states of being.
Televangelist Healer — You are an obsessed televangelist healer with arms stretched out and palms up in every direction. Feel the deep fascia stretch that spans the entire length of the arm and even back.
Enter into a memory that made you smile authentically. Take this smile inside your body. You can smile to whatever needs the attention. Smile to all the organs and systems. Study your anatomy and have a smile frenzy.
A Universe of Hugs
Enter into a world that consists of endless hugs. To begin, perhaps one makes the gesture with ones arms and can even hug others. We don’t stay here though. We begin getting deeper. We shift to ferment/distill the idea. We can incorporate objects around the room and to the space in between them. Experiment with the length of the hugs. We can also change the size or any quality (e.g. any form of reduction or regeneration).
Eventually we lump the entire universe into a solid entity which is hugged. This is an exercise in bhakti, Divine Love or 100% Life Resonance.
Shadowbody Five Nurturing Steps
1. Rub hands till they are hot then lay them on the effected area. Go through this series: (1) simply hold hands in place like the sun’s messenger; (2) rub the Genie’s lamp (you wish to solve this matter); (3) pat to try to wake up; (4) squeeze like a tube of special healing paste; (5) vibrate like a healing sound.
2. With razor-sharp nails, dig into the area with guttural or grossly sound resonance, and grab the knot or density and quickly eject it behind you while ejecting the breath.
3. Dance water sway into the area.
4. The water freezes and the breath freezes. The bodyquake begins which cracks the ice. Keep cracking the ice. Rub the hands hot and then lay on the area. The sun melts the ice.
In case of an emotional/psychological emergency, keep these in mind. Just one may work just fine. I have utilized all three of these before when faced with dark shamanic journeying.
1. Stop and breathe.
Utilize the silk breath (see above) in a comfortable posture (such as half lotus) and become a third person observer. Optional: Count from 99 to 1.
2. Give up.
Surrender to the ground. Whatever comes at you will not effect you because that would be like beating a dead horse. You can even jokingly ask (like I have), what are you going to do, kill me? I’m already dead!
3. Repeat “love.”
Repeat “love” to yourself like an endless mantra. Nothing more.
Important: If the episode passes, yet you feel shaky or trembly, resonate with this by taking them into more pronounced shakes or convulsions. This is a natural response in nature to release trauma. Despite, it does not hurt to shake or convulse just in case. See section Statue & Freeze.
Resonant Qualia Body Work
This is a powerful cobody group series of warm-ups/stretches. In a circle, one individual calls out a qualia or qualia world of stretch/warm-up. In other words, stretches or warmups of the body are guided through qualias (multidimensional imagery). For instance, instead of telling everyone to reach up high to stretch the arms, why not open up the imagery of an apple tree. We reach for the apple tree but cannot quite reach the apple, and we are also very hungry for it, so even our tongue wants it.
Using qualia/imagery for body work will naturally let the central nervous system facilitate a more efficient series of muscles to perform whatever action there is to do. In this way, we can break old habits and possible inefficient movement. This is the idea behind ideokinesis, which is also a discipline of image-based body work.²
To make this exercise even more powerful, emphasize the transitions between each individual. For instance, after one individual finishes the apple tree world, perhaps now someone wants to climb this apple tree, so we get a nice body work exercise by feeling we are climbing up this tree.
For an example list of qualia-guided body part conditioning known as qualia tattoos, qualia yoga, or qualia gong, see Body Part Butoh-Fu.