An Open Container

The Freedom Lab is an open container to explore our natural passions, in a creative and supportive collaborative space

This forum is, in essence, open, but of course to create anything there has to be some degree of form and structure. I see any structure we use like stabilizers on a bike, or the rocket which takes the space shuttle to space; once the goal is reached it disappears.

Here is an outline of what a structure might look like, although of course this is open and only an initial thought – once we start we can really explore what it would look like in real time.

One: Our space

Our circleWe start with an opening circle.

This is our container. It is where we are one, where we begin on the same page and where we are all equal; but there is also the space for our radically unique individuality. We begin here.

In this space we start and we explore freely what this container actually is. We stand together in mutual trust and support, in freedom and inspiration, together in this challenging experience we call life.

We stay here as long as we need to so we can establish ourselves and each other in this ground.

We have sat in circles together for what seems like an eternity and so we return here, to start again.

Two: Our passion

Once we are ready we open our hearts to each other, as much as feels right. We take turns to share our passion and what we feel called to in this moment: natural, free, authentic, awkward; whatever it is, let it be heard, in this moment it is true.

Three: Our theme

Openness is the ground of our exploration but the theme is our trajectory. From our sharing of passion and exploration natural threads emerge; themes and topics common to us present themselves as possible avenues to explore more deeply.

If you pay close attention we are often exploring common and connected themes in our lives. These usually feel personal to us, but then when we speak with others we often find they have been exploring similar issues, sometimes exactly the same ones!

This is not something we force, we just give voice to what is already being explored, and to allow that to be our arc; the arc we sail together on, the arc we dance and explore through co-creation.

Four: Our arc

We build, from the ground of our circle, with the sparks of our passions, the session we want to create, together. It’s fine if we’ve planned something, or if we show up with nothing. We bring whatever we have, and create the session, the arc, we want. We can trust the organic intelligence of our interwoven connectedness, the truth of our deep and raw natural passions: this is what we’re here for!

Whether we want to dance, sing, play music, explore consciousness or shadow elements, this is a space to do this and to do it directly. Our arc can be anything, there aren’t any limits. One person may lead the whole session, this may feel right. Or maybe there are multiple mini-explorations led by multiple people. There is no right answer.

We are open and fluid, but at the same time, we are structured. We set times and are clear who is leading and what our plan is. We follow the structure, because we chose it together. We surrender to it and explore it with our hearts. But if something really isn’t right we speak out, we are all co-leaders, we are all co-creators, together.

Five: Our reflection

Once the arc has finished we return to the circle for reflection.

Being in a circle is not always easy. Some people love it, some people hate it. Unfortunately, for better or worse, our world is structured within very rigid hierarchies. We have all been hardwired to fit into these hierarchies and unconsciously compare ourselves to others. When we sit together in a circle none of this goes anywhere, however many Ommmmms we chant, or however much sage we burn. We are essentially quite primitive beings and when we sit together we compare ourselves to each other, positioning ourselves against each other.

Some of us love being in circles, always with something to say, always confident. Others are terrified by these spaces, feeling pressured to speak, scared to speak, annoyed that others seem to be effortlessly expounding with seemingly no self-consciousness. All of this is actually okay. Our varied experiences come from all the different ways we have grown into this life; all the different experiences, backgrounds, conditioning et cetera.

There is nothing wrong with any of this, not in terms of our personal experience of this or the fact that this is the way we have evolved. This is a space that includes all of that, but it is also a space to try to look beyond it, to create a level of safety where we all feel comfortable to share; where the motor mouth, like myself, actually shuts up for a while and only speaks when it is sincere; where the usually shy person feels comfortable enough to share whatever it is that is going on for them.

We all affect each other, and the more people who feel free to be themselves the more everyone benefits; in terms of individual freedom and personal expression, and because as a result of this the magic web of our mysterious collective nature is given life and wakes up, invigorating everyone.

The whole purpose of being able to share and explore freely, unselfconsciously, is to be able to deepen together, to integrate more, to understand more of what we have explored – and most importantly to practice what it means to be ourselves freely, together.

The ‘Co-creative Crucible’

So what is The Freedom Lab…what does it actually look like? Well, as I mentioned before, I’m not actually sure yet. I want to co-create it with others, which means it will grow and get input based on interactions with others. But a direction, or at least a way to start, has begun to form in my mind and I would like to get something started soon!

Basically, to start with anyway, it’s an event. I want it to be in the spirit of the conscious dance community, and also the overwhelming diversity of creativity, that is in London. There are so many incredibly beautiful and deeply creative human beings in this crazy city, and I’m hoping to be able to co-create with some of you awesomers!

The event itself would focus around something I will call the Co-creative Crucible (that name just popped into my head while I was in the shower today, so will probably change into something less dorky at some point). This would be the main focus of the event and everything else we do would be to support that. In the Co-creative Crucible we would be free to create, for it’s duration, spontaneously together, everyone using their own independent creative skills and passions. So let’s imagine, for example, that 20 people showed up to this event. Within that group of 20 people you might have 3 musicians, 2 singers, 1 visual artist, a 5Rhythms facilitator (or some other kind of facilitator), and the rest dancers. Now that’s a very vague and rough way to make an example, but whenever you have a group of people together there are always going to be amazing and beautiful combinations of artists and creative passions. What I’m really interested in is creating a forum, a crucible, for everyone to be able to express their own passion fully in an open, improvised, co-creative dynamic. No set agenda. Nothing pre-planned. Just an open space for us to be truly free and ourselves, together. To begin this process there would probably need to be some light form of a structure, both in terms of the event itself, and also having a few people that would be able to guide it a little bit in the beginning, a kind of launching off point. But the point is to launch away from individual guidance, from our old model of leadership, into a natural dynamic of relating, where we all get to be ourselves free from the confines of hierarchy that is so strong in the world we live in. It’s a challenging thing to do but I know it’s possible and I know so many of us yearn to relate together in this way, and many of us are already exploring this in our own ways.

Like any event that involves movement, and any kind of engaged creative activity, it really helps to have some kind of a warm-up. So as people start to enter the event space someone can lead a very open warm up to bring us into the space, and into ourselves. The purpose being really to set a trustful and relaxed space, a welcoming space of openness. Then before the crucible begins someone, probably myself at this point, would explain what the process is. Now explaining what a spontaneous and co-creative process is is a total oxymoron, but it’s just a way to launch off into actually doing it together. We would all gather around the edges of the space, with the centre of the room being the focus of the crucible. We are now ready.

There would not be any set timing to this process, but as it is based in the form of a wave (like a 5Rhythms class or any other movement meditation/ecstatic dance practice) it would have it’s own life-course. We can trust in this and follow it’s natural course. We would set the room up in such a way that all creative participants have what they need to create. DJ’s, musicians, singers, visual artists etc. would have the desired equipment, amplification, etc., and of course us dancers have floor SPACE!

Everyone will be set, knowing their focus of creative self expression, but there would be no plan, no script. Now to begin with, it would probably make sense to have a few people, for example a DJ, a few dancers, maybe a 5Rhythms facilitator who are ready to lead very lightly, as a jumping off point. But this might not even be needed, and the whole point is to free up everyone’s dynamic spontaneous creative contributions. There really is nothing like that open space of energy and positive expectation to guide one’s creative expression.

For the duration of the crucible whatever emerges comes from truly natural and inspired co-creative impulses. If you feel the impulse to sing, you sing. If you feel you want to dance, you dance. It’s really that simple. One aspect of the format is that we allow the paradox of performer and audience to merge into one. In this situation you are both performer and audience, as one. There is no ego in this, you are not there to show off or be seen…but in being seen the light of immediacy is brought to you, that energy that wakes you up and allows you to be even more free, is there. We dance together, we dance on our own. There is no agenda. If collective dances happen, if they emerge, just let it, enjoy it, give to it, be it. Whatever you need. Whatever we need. If we respect the space, each other, ourselves, this crucible, then whatever happens will be trustworthy, and we can really let go to it. Of course many parts of this are not new, it’s really like a jam session, but we are setting it up in such a way where we can all be involved, and we get to do it consciously with each other. We get to see each other, to learn and get involved…just like we do with all the amazing practices that are around today..

So how do we get this started? Like I said I am likely to start with a few people that can provide some kind of basic structure: DJ, facilitator, anyone that wants to be involved really. Then it will be a case of inviting people to this event and asking people who want come to share what their passion is on the event pages on Facebook or in a Facebook group. This would then build the event as we get closer to it. If someone says the are a painter and they want to hang their work at the event, then we can do that. Or they are a singer then we can figure out if they need amplification etc. The event would grow and build and when we get to the event there will be a natural collective energy that would help guide us all.

In terms of the financial side of things I would want these events to be as cheap as possible to start with so that they would be open to people and we can really experiment. It would be great to be able to cover costs to start with. Then in the future, if it ever became successful, it would be up to those involved to figure out what made sense. While I would love for this to eventually become some form of a financial income, to start with I really just want to explore it and see where it can go.

Highfalutin Words!

What happens when you bring your natural creative expression together with others in a co-creative dance of spontaneous unfoldment? Hopefully not just a bunch of highfalutin words! 

Do you love to dance? Are you a passionate singer or rapper? How about a natural facilitator or someone who lights up people’s minds with your artistic creations? Whatever passion burns inside you it’s possible to set this free together with others and literally create as one. I’m not talking about melting into an amorphous blob of we, some unconscious collective borg state, but consciously letting go of self-concern in relationship with others.

So much of what limits us comes down to how we relate to one another, to each other as an other. If you start with the premise that we are actually one, and engage consciously in this process together we can free not only ourselves, but each other from the limiting shackles that hold us back mentally, emotionally and of course creatively. Many of us yearn for relief from the ongoing torment of tension and pressure we experience from life. We often find different ways of dealing with this reality; some of us meditate, dance, go on retreats, create, love, etc. In this spirit I am attempting to bring the essence of this impulse in us together in a free container where we can truly be ourselves, together; where there are no limits or pre-defined paths to  what can emerge.

The Freedom Lab!

I want to bring a project to life that has been simmering in me since my late teens. It has taken many forms but there has been something essential to its nature that has continued throughout. I’ve decided to blog about it as a way of both developing it and recording its progress. I’ve also decided to post at least one blog each day for 100 days as a motivator, because I’m lazy. It won’t necessarily be full blogs, but some form of progress, process, development etc., what is happening with the creation of the project. A bit rough and ready, but with the idea of trying shit out!

So, on to the project!

I have a very strong sense of direction, but because of the co-creative nature of the project, its form is very, errrrm, unformed. I want to create a space for us to create together, as one collective, but with each of our own individual creative passions and potential. At this point it would probably follow a similar structure to a 5Rhythms (or any ecstatic dance/movement meditation practice) class in that it would move through a wave but instead of just dancing people would be able to participate with their own deepest passion and creative expression. Maybe that is dance, maybe it’s music, singing, drumming, dj’ing, or maybe it’s some kind of visual art. Although not limited to, this work really benefits from live expression. At the same time I want to stress that this is more about what we create together, meaning that we all have totally different ways of seeing things, desires etc. and I want a forum that is truly open. There would also be no real teacher/leader/facilitator; it would literally be co-created in the moment, together. An original co-created art form that would always be new and ever changing. Now if all of this is a bit vague, or doesn’t make sense, don’t worry! If you are least a little bit interested I will be elaborating on this, clarifying and articulating as I go. My plan is to not just articulate the ideas myself but start to explore this with others and see if there is both interest in a project like this, and also start to get input into what it could look like.

There are many influences that have come together to create the impulse for this project. These include, in no particular order:

  •   Powerful transcendent experiences (some may or may not have been influenced by mind altering thingamyjigs) during my teenage years, that led to a committed exploration of the inner life;
  • Powerful transcendent experiences (seems to be a theme here ;)) through dance, but also just the simple and direct experience of dance itself, for its own sake;
  • 15 years involvement with an intense, committed, crazy spiritual community that was trying to create a collective culture grounded in the spiritual revelation of oneness, oh and also the tumultuous and deeply liberating dissolution of this community (I think I learnt more from the latter!);
  • Getting involved with conscious dance/movement practices, especially 5rhythms, and also the form of a wave that is often used in these practices;
  • A passion for conscious performance that began with a vision of performance art that is motivated by the essence of what life is (I guess it always is!), driving me to get involved in the spiritual life (not sure what that actually means anymore) in a more committed way (I basically gave up what was my life at that point and joined a cult!) to bring this vision to life, and led to a very powerful collaboration project where I worked with a live musician, projection artist and myself as the dancer/director to create a truly integrated experience that would communicate the direct experience of life as movement and stillness as one thing;
  • Collaborating with others in co-creative events that included live music, talks, comedy performance etc.;
  • Oh, and the most important part of all, the unfolding beauty and love that is my life with my wife and our little daughter Joy!

To be continued…