During our week at Uley (see last post) Alan Woods, a fellow-member of the Artful Leadership Collective, suggested that we explore the embodied nature of our knowing by drawing life-sized outlines of our bodies on huge sheets of paper and then intuitively illuminating them with colour.
It was a brilliantly simple and profound exercise. The images quickly took on the unique form and character of each artist, revealing our life-and-death relationships with our own fleshy bodies: shimmering lines of energy; wildly imagined limbs; looping twisted guts; pierced bloody organs; flowing lines and harsh sudden marks.
When they were all finished, the whole group explored the aesthetics and meanings of each self-portrait. The discussions were surprisingly intimate as our sense of embodied selfhood revealed itself subtly (and sometimes dramatically) under our collective gaze.
My image was likened by someone to that of the Cerne Abbas giant – although without the club and obvious erection – and I did indeed feel disconnected from it, unable to inhabit the distorted pain-filled body I had drawn. I added the small figure of a man standing on the giant’s foot; “I’m alright,” he seems to say. “I’m real. This other thing is just a projection.” He feels somehow more substantial and larger than the giant; he gives me a voice that enables me to reclaim myself. I like this defiant, life-affirming, articulate part of myself.
Towards the end of our time together, the group created a “word-hoard” – nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs – on separate pieces of paper that we laid out on the floor to make a single poetic statement about the experience of embodied image-making we had shared in the previous 48 hours. Some of us (the 5 men as it turned out) then drew on what we had collectively created to write individual poems. Here they are, strangely beautiful, with sincere thanks to fellow artful inquirers: Alan, Bethany, Chris, Doug, Ellie, James, Marcelo, and Sarah.
Wounded circling darkness
flows over a fiery archipelago
of falling fleshy blood.
The mythical flood
radiates sensual compassion
in a majestic patterning dance.
We tiptoe in vital mud
pierced by healing waves
as the spirited ground spins free.
Reach forth bold sprite;
trust the maelstrom.
The Falling (Alan)
Bodily bold, I the man, became fluid
Falling with all my flowing, fleshy blood
Splittering and splattering into the dark pools of sensual compassion below
Pierced by knowledge
I can stretch my trust through fleshy space
Reaching and spinning to the shoreline
And emerge from the vital mud spirited by lightening
I joyfully know my grounded fleshy heart, skin deep and with deep, majestic flesh.
Embodied Life Forces (Marcelo)
bodily surface becoming fluid
a cruel dance of forces
sensual mud, flowing as blood
circling, spinning confidently
through the pierced flesh
slithering forces dance
Reach out in a fiery dance of love,
Be bold, moving through shadow to a spirited darkness and a glowing glee.
Meet me at the ground of our becoming,
Through vital mud, tiptoe to me.
Love fiercely and
trust through fleshy wounding
when darkness radiates and floods the heart.
Witnessing presence, sets compassion free.
Grounded spirit, emerging healing, majestic life.
How can we show up
as the people who have lived these lives?
How can we live present to loving purpose?