CONTEMPLATIVE ARTS
learning to listen

Learning to Listen -
Working with Land, Forest and Wildlife Management

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'Dancing Farmers, Farming Dancers'
Understanding how the land operates by the means of dance, meditation and improvisation practices

"To become one with nature — agriculture is an occupation in which a farmer adapts himself to nature. To do that, you have to gaze at a rice plant and listen to the words from the plant.
If you understand what the rice says, you just adjust your heart to that of the rice plants and raise them. In reality, we do not have to raise them. They will grow. We just serve nature…Giving up your ego is the shortest way to unification with nature." - Masanobu Fukuoka

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Masanobu Fukuoka is the originator of ‘Natural Farming’ - a way of farming that does not plow the earth, it does not add prepared fertilizer or compost. There is no weeding, and no pesticides or herbicides are being used.

Similarily, indigenous tribes all over the world have lived over hundreds of generations in intimate and interdependent relationships with their natural environment. They were 'tending the wild'.

Addressing and challenging our perception of agricultural practices and progress, these approaches point derive out of a life-philosophy and surely reach way further than farming.

Practicing Zazen Meditation and using principles and exercises of partnering dance forms like Tango or Contact Improvisation we investigate the concept of 'the other', as well as 'the unfolding of the creative process', aiming at embodying deeper levels of ecological understanding and ecophilosophy.

Contact Improvisation is a dance practice of improvising and partnering, based on the physics of touch, balance, weight, momentum, flow and resistance.
It tunes our senses to be ready to respond in an ever-shifting dialogue of movement.
It is an endlessly variable experience suitable for all bodies and inquiring minds.

Similar principles of fine-tuned listening you find in Tango.

An ecosystem is called resilient if it is able to adapt to unforeseeable and sometimes drastic changes.
Thus to create agricultural systems and practices that are resilient is a choice that seems to be favorable in these times.

In order to do so, the ability to listen is key.
This is where dance and meditation come in, which, in one or the other form, have been, or still are part of daily life and practice in various cultures we recognize as sustainable.

Dance, meditation and improvisation can make us understand and experience ecological principles like interdependence and interconnectivity, but also intuitive response and adaptation to sudden disturbances.

By expanding our understanding of dance, and transcending a human-centered perspective of being and dealing with the world, we will discover how core concepts of Zazen, Tango and CI relate to, and may enrichen being and collaborating with the land.

Ideally, we will come to comprehend what 'learning to listen' implies, and thus allow new understanding and ways of interacting with ourselves and our so called 'environment' to arise.

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Praxis Outline

Practically speaking we will playfully investigate the possibilities of non-verbal communication and learning to listen.

In the dance forms of Tango and Contact Improvisation (CI) you communicate not by talking, you are forced to listen to one another.
You get to discover your own body, its awareness and subtleties, and eventually you will meet the person you dance with in new and surprising ways.
Improvised, joyful and rich movement can unfold - with or without music.
No previous dance experience is necessary.

In Zazen meditation we come across the term 'just sitting'.
The Japanese word for just sitting is shikantaza, and it is used in the context of Zen Buddhism.
'Just sitting' will basically be the 'technique' we will practice.
Meditating is not connected to any religion whatsoever.
It is just a practice.
Also it means different things to different people, and the motives as of why to meditate vary.
There surely are benefits that derive from meditating.
Yet, first and foremost it offers the possibility to become aware of your natural state.
Principles of interconnectedness and interdependence may become obvious.
Learned and conditioned knowledge may be questioned.
The cycle of continuous and conditioned action - reaction may be broken and thus new information and ways of responding may occur.

Once the senses are beginning to open and become more and more fine tuned, 'the land' will start to communicate in various ways.