Encounter with Self -embodiment, Expression, Ecstasy
Self Encounter is a series of workshops conceived with the intent of facilitating an authentic meeting with the Self, and finding its network of relations with others and with the world. It takes as its starting point the image of the inner sacred presence that various mystical traditions visualize – such as the “moner manush” ,the ‘inner man’ or ‘man of the heart’ of the Bauls of Bengal, or the Sufi image of the Beloved.
The work is totally experiential in nature, focusing on doing rather than discussing, and is an unlearning process for people from all backgrounds and experience levels. The workshops
are based on “Sahrudaya – Theatre of Resonance”, a deeply researched methodology towards training performers and others towards self-awareness and wholeness.
We assume the body is the source of presence, imagination and creation, and that we need to delve deep into the body-psyche to break the set-patterns of everyday life that society imposes on us, to rediscover aspects or ourselves which are primal, wild and raw (and hence vulnerable, suppressed and hidden) as well as radiant and sacred; and find a sense of liberation.
Human beings are creatures of emotion. Modern technological society has taught us to suppress our emotions, and not to give them the fullness of expression. Our bodies
themselves, however, are repositories of memories and emotions which guide our life choices and actions. The Indian performative tradition has categorized the nine universal emotions as a framework for understanding all our actions and choices. In Kootiyattom, the Sanskrit dance theatre tradition of Kerala, this has been mapped to the breath, so that there’s a pattern
of breath for each possible emotional state, and this inner energy is in turn expressed throughgaze, gesture and action. Taking a cue from this, we will explore the embodiment and expression of our emotions, by first going deep within the psyche and then trying to give it a specific outer container, so that the experience is challenging but also cathartic and illuminating.
Mystics and Shamans from all ages and cultures have explored a state of ecstatic trance – a state of radiant awareness when our perception is heightened far beyond daily life levels and
we feel a deep connection with the universe, as if our inner world resonates with the outer and all distinctions are blurred. Great musical composers, artists, scientists and leaders have
experienced similar states of heightened inspiration, not understandable by ordinary rules. It can be said that this is a state of grace in which our deepest creative impulses are set free.
Through specific psycho-physical impulses, we will explore the transformation of energy from an ordinary state to this heightened state of awareness.
The focus of the work is not to be actors, i.e. it is not about telling stories by imitating daily life behaviour through clichéd stage mannerism, vocal inflections and modulations. It is not
about learning formal dance technique. First and foremost, it is about organicity, i.e. a lack of inhibitions, of psychological blockages. It is about a state of pure presence, i.e. stillness, a
sense of inner silence, grounding, openness, responsiveness, a lack of self-consciousness. It is about surrendering completely to the moment, to the space, to the other human beings in that
space, of communicating purely through the impulses of the body, not mental concepts and ideas, not saying;. It is about finding a quality of honesty and truth, spontaneity and
precision, deep, inner playfulness, a quality of awakening and aliveness.
Sahrudaya (literally, ‘of one heart’) refers to a performer who is in a state of radiance and grace, resonant with her/ his interior awareness, with the co-creators and with the space. It is
the performer who has the courage to be vulnerable, to be spiritually naked, and to meet other human beings with this vulnerability, without pretence. This is the name we give to the
approach to performance craft developed by Arka Mukhopadhyay, based on over seven years of collaborative research with various artists into Indian performative/ embodied sources
(martial arts, song, ritual) as well as organic possibilities of the body and voice
The basis of the work is the simple, everyday act of breathing, but looked at as a bridge between the inner and the outer world, and the foundation of the rhythmic, awakened body, a
body alive to its own creative potential. The work draws upon elements from various forms
(Kalaripayattu, Baul praxis, Kootiyattom, Butoh and others), but ultimately focuses on the human body, the organic being, as the source of creation. It challenges the body and the
imagination, improving our focus, attention, precision and presence, opening up a rich,dynamic language of the body and voice, full of a deep, inner life.
What we shall try to do in this session is to dive underneath the surface of conscious,everyday reality, where we are forced to wear a thousand masks, and live a thousand lies,taking us far away from the source of our humanity and creativity. Can we go deeper, to a
place where buried memories, dreams and desires are unearthed, and our primal nature is revealed in its rawness and sensuality? Can we go on a journey, as if body and voice were a
country with its holy mountains and sacred forests?
Through simple acts - breathing, looking, walking, moving, can we awaken rhythm in our bodies? And through these acts of the body, can we touch something which is higher than us,
a state of radiance and grace? Can we have the courage to not hide, to be vulnerable,spiritually naked before the human being in front of us?
When we work with words, can they come ‘from the depths of truth?’
Thus, can we journey towards our natural state of being, awareness and bliss – Sat, Chit,
What we shall do in the workshop:
1) Work on ;opening up\; or tuning&the body - develop an embodied, perceptive presence that is characterized by a quality of listening and watchfulness. This we shall do through specific
warm-ups and structured exercises developed over several years through original research.
2) Work on how to transform our inner energy from a daily to an extra-daily quality
3) How to find grounding and an energetic centre through specific, repetitive actions,
transforming our inner sense of time from ‘normal’ to ‘ritual’ time, revealing the ‘body of ritual
4) How to be receptive and responsive. Not to do, but to respond. To not say ‘no’.
5) How to develop a sense of lightness, effortlessness and flow in our presence, how to work
spontaneously yet with precision, to engage rigorously in free play, with courage and joy,making specific choices at each moment
6) How to develop an awareness of breath, and the oneness of breath-gaze- gesture
7) How to connect the voice and body - to ‘speak’ and move with the whole body-voice,
which becomes a landscape of the imagination
8) To work with fundamental principles, which apply to any style or genre: proprioception,
impulse-intention- action, tension-opposition- symmetry, balance-imbalance,
transposition/shift, buoyancy, curvilinearity, spiral lines of force, push-pull, the fluidity of space and how to &;open it up&with our bodies
9) To work on ‘inner actions’ or ‘personal mythologies’, revealing dimensions of the poetic,
grotesque and fantastic within us, finding our inner messiahs and monsters
About the Work-Leader:
Arka Mukhopadhyay is a physical theatre performer and teacher who has been practising for over twelve years. His performances and workshops have taken place all over India and many
other countries. He has also deeply explored many ritual or mystical practices, from Baul songs of Bengal and Sufi Qawwali to Theyyam and other rituals of Kerala to name a few. He
has also been an award-winning poet and has written on travel and culture. In his work, he brings together his different experiences of physical, intellectual and spiritual practice to explore the totality of human expression. At present, he leads the Jyothirgamaya Theatre
Research Laboratory, based in Trivandrum.
1. the beginning of a long and beautiful journey towards something inviting, peaceful and agreeable with the soul and yet strangely uncomfortable and compelling for the everyday self.
For all this and so much more,
Thank You Arka.
2. For the first time, I experienced a focus into space which gave me a lot of freedom from certain concepts like, one ‘needs’ something in this physical realm to hold onto. I guess
‘magic’ lies on the other side and to reach there one needs to loosen their sense of control.”
“I don’t know where to start talking about the workshop, but like you always said “dont think”
or don’t intellectualize too much.
I would like to share my experience as precise as possible.
To begin with, the workshop has been therapeutic for me and it has initiated a journey within me to the unknown and unexplored routes to the roots of my being. I also discovered my
strengths and weaknesses.
During the course of the workshop I revisited the beautiful childhood memories that were stored somewhere little known to me.I also realized the importance of breathing in our
lives,this sounds simple but its equally complicated to explain and i cannot articulate it in words.
I will incorporate the different breathing exercises and kalaripayattu disciplines as a part of my daily routine.
The 5 days went by like a flash, i so wish that the course of the workshop was little longer.
To conclude i would like to thank you for sharing the process with us and guiding us.
I am sure the process will help me grow not just as an actor but also as an individual.
Most of the workshops (...) are generally superficial, surface level talk and activities and I felt, this one was very intense , in depth and amazingly refreshing.
It is only after we finished and I tried it out with my students, that one came to realize that the objective was really tough one but you made the journey very smooth.”
“Some of the exercises (blind-guide pair dancing, witness-mover, synchronized breath) were
good experiences even in and of themselves. Moreover, they supplied the elements for
constructing more concrete repeatable acts.
Overall, the space was imbued with magic, many of the activities brought out wonderful bits
from everyone, and there was a sense of ease”
;The few things which have really helped me out side working with others, on other projects are- Firstly my body movements in space which is the major part of your training it has
helped me in terms of moving on stage.Having a better body posture ,having sense of the space in my mind like what kind of scene it is am in a office or my house or a jungle for that
matter,what are my ears hearing is there traffic sound or is it birds chirping all of this in my imaginary head.What am i seeing and etc.Secondly The Movemets in its self have helped me
put my body into a characters body as in how my body postures would change if i am playing certain characters,like you would say the body is an animal.I can adapt to the characters body
type and be more honest in my work.Thirdly the most important for me was the breath work.how to find the breath and how to build on it, has helped me to be a genuine actor and not be a fake while doing a scene or an act.The other crucial things would be rhythm ,finding where the movements comes from,voice impovements,singing.Also so much of knowledge
about life,art,acting and a lot of other things which i have grassped and also few new things I have developed in my head.All thanks to you, [...] as you give the freedom and liberty for us
to develop our own work in the dynamics you have thought us.”
There are rare instances in one’s life, where one feels complete surrender and immersion in
just being. I have had the good fortune of meeting [...] Arka Mukhopadhyay, who has not only taught me free performance without the rigours of anticipated rehearsal and cliche forms
of delivery but who’s lesson has engaged the inner energy to just be and do without thoughtand action. Very rarely have I seen performance so crystal clear and true. Oneness with your
role and not having to think about [...] the actor in the middle. I strongly recommend his workshop to experience freedom in performance . There is ecstasy and purity but also hard
repetition , unending patterns but in the end emerges the unmasked performer!”
“ i let a lot of me get unlocked. Between storms, and rains, responding to and speaking with
every passing sensorial impression in an improvisation piece i developed and shared at the
residency, and working with a bunch of real warmhearts at Shantiniketan has been fulfilling,
to say the least. [...] i found my rhythmic self and let my body surprise me in ways i hadn’t
Bloom & Grow, Bangalore
6th Cross Road, 17th D Main Rd, 6th Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560095