Asia West Pacific

Reflection of Body Awareness for Trauma Recovery and Practicing Peace

We shared Embodied Peacemaking Process: Five Quick and Easy Exercises by Paul Linden on February 16 and March 8, 2020. In this simple process he offers a few body riddles in which someone throws a tissue at their partner or pushes on their shoulders to see notice the difference between their habitual reaction versus other optional reactions. Then Paul shared five basic exercises.

The first three focus on the power of softening, kindness, and shining out. The last two focus on core power as our bodies stay relaxed and non-anxious.
  1. Relaxed Core with breathing and softening the belly.
  2. Smiling Heart imagining something happy or kind and noticing how it softens the body.
  3. Shining letting your body expand in all directions like a star or a light.
  4. Power Sitting hinging at the hip as you sit slightly forward, transferring pressure to the ground.
  5. Power Walking pushing off the back leg projecting up and out rather than falling forward.

We offered this over the internet to dancers in New York, USA and West and Central Java, Indonesia. Most participants appreciated being able to see peace and nonviolence more visibly in our bodily reactions. One US participant felt it was too simple and slow, and one Indonesian participant felt it was too hard without a skilled facilitator present. But here are a few reflections from others participants.

Petrus. When I got to know AVP, I began to care about body language and releasing thoughts, emotions and muscle tension from the body calm down. We need to relax ourselves internally when taking action. In these online training exercises, we learned how to position the body properly and how to physically practice relaxing. The role of the body had a profound effect on everything. When the body is tense and on guard, when I face pressure I need more energy to resist it and am less steady. But with the correct body position, I can relax much more. Then I’m more able to help myself or to ask for help and I’m more stable and less easily shaken. So I realized I have to train myself to relax in my body and brain so I don’t spend so much energy with every action. This alone brings more calmness and stability.

Rhaka Katresna. In 2017, I heard from Dien Fakhri Iqbal Marpaung, a practitioner of Integrative Body Movement, that Aikido could be used for practicing peace. Then I attended a somatic movement workshop with Susan Sentler, who said that I needed to learn more somatic movement. For Next Steps at the end of the International Peace Training 2020, I proposed making community peace building through arts. I asked Nadine whether there was peace training through movement. It was a god-shot for me when she said yes, and I was really surprised that I got to participate in the Embodied Peace Workshop.

In the first session on February 16, 2020, I noted that we’ve learned three exercises throwing tissue, pushing bodies, and holding hands. The principle of embodied peace comes from the body. When I change my posture my perception on my surrounding changes too and visa versa. I transferred the experience into dance then I remembered that the posture and gesture define the meaning somatically. It reminded me to be aware of the effect and meaning of the movement to my own body. It’s a fun and wonderful experience.

I invited Gusti, Ummul and Jalil to a practice session on February 23, 2020. Having tried it out in the previous online meeting, Jalil and I didn’t get new lessons from our experience. Instead, we learned it from the experience of new participants, Gusti and Ummul, as we shared it with them. To become a more embodied peace worker, I need to practice it daily and share it with others.

In the second session on March 8, 2020, I learned that softness comes from strength and generosity. I realized that I need minimal effort to engage in some things. When violence comes, I can step in and bend or deflect the threat away from my body. Strength comes from a relaxed posture and a good breath. In dance, it’s the optimal concentration needed to execute movements. So, this is where a good movement comes from.

Over-concentration can lead into exhaustion and weakness. Stability was lost when I became too focused on one thing. It felt like dropping bricks. To become grounded, I needed to relax my breath and have a good posture. That is the source of strength.

My current choreography work involves the situation of conflict and how violence affects the body and mind. A situation can start to shift when someone changes their perspective. I recalled when my posture change day-by-day, from bad to better. Then, after nervous breakdown, my posture degraded from good to worse. I remembered the basic skills of posture from the very beginning again. It takes persistence. I agree that we need consistent practice to keep up the good life. It took me three years to recover. This practice reminded me of that journey.

Embodied Peace will be my foundation for my current choreography project. I sent to you my questions about applying it to dance making. I am very happy to participate in this workshop and enthusiastic to follow any future workshops. Thank you Nadine and Paul for making it happen.

Delia. In the first session, I’ve learned how to control my reaction in order to change my perception towards sudden changes from external stimulus. I used to blame external situations for the impact on my body or even my emotions. But in fact—by this session—I learned that things that happen around me are beyond my control, and I can’t force things to happen the way I want them to. What I can do is to stop always trying to control everything around me, but have full self-control in the way I face things.

The movements I did in this training opened my eyes. I do have choices int the way I respond to any stimulus. This was proven when my partner threw a tissue at my face. At first I reacted the way people are used to, but then the trainer taught us to be more calm by taking a deep breath, relaxing our bodies, and even smiling. And that worked! Here I learned that if I keep myself mindful I’ll be ready to face any (bad) situation, even ones that are beyond my expectation or control.

Another movement that was very impactful for me was when my partner pushed my body backward. At first I wasn’t ready and fell down. Of course I was shocked. But again the trainer taught us how to be ready to face it. That time I saw that being mindful by thinking rationally can also impact our reactions. When I yelled “fish in the water” (which is realistic), my defense became stronger than when I didn’t think about anything or when I said about something unrealistic like “fish climbs a tree.” In this session I learned that keeping our thoughts realistic really helps prevent over-thinking or assuming things that might never happen, which strengthens our defenses as our brains connect to our body.

After having this training session and learning the movements to practice controlling my reactions, I no longer overthink and worry about what is coming because I know now how to get ready to face it.

Fatwa. Embodiment Peace Training is an exercise to create internal peace that can be actualized to the world around. The basis of the Embodiment Peace Training is the understanding that the body will contract, and the muscles will tighten when we are threatened, and how to create space in ourselves by overcoming the wrinkles of the body and straining the muscles.

One example of shrinking the body is when we wrinkle the forehead when we are tense. In one session, participants tried to hold back the encouragement of their partners. Unconsciously, participants frowned as they tried to hold back the urge. When participants are asked to relax their forehead by raising their eyebrows, the participant’s partner becomes easier to encourage participants because participants have opened themselves and relax the muscles that contract and tighten in the self defense system.

The most interesting session for me was when participants were asked to be prepared to take tissue throws at their faces. Tissue is not a dangerous object, and has a small threat level, but the body responds to the tissue with a tense throw. The tense and surprised response was the initial response felt by my body when I first received the tissue throw. On the second toss we were asked to regulate the breath, and the tension in my response was slightly reduced. On the third toss we were asked to imagine our body glowing emitting positive energy, and the tension in my response returned slightly less. There is a slight difference between the response to a tissue roll and the response to a subsequent tissue roll, but I can feel that my response to the last tissue roll was much more relaxed than the response to the first tissue roll.

The lesson I took and is new to me is that we can control our emotions, one of which is a physiological response, by regulating and choosing the appropriate response by moving our bodies as needed. Usually I control my emotions by thinking and trying to find logical clarity so that my emotions are muffled; but I think the Embodiment Peace Training method with the subject of training to open up, relax the muscles, and regulate the breath, is much faster and feels benefits.

Akbar. “Optimum Effort without Love is Self-Destructive.” My name is Akbar Prawira Helmi Natadireja. I would like to share my thoughts about Embodied Peacemaking Process (EPP) on 16th February and 8th March. To be honest, at first, I was skeptical. Before we started the online meeting with Paul Linden and friends we were given a digital handbook. After some reading, I thought to myself. “Is it true? That harsh and cruel words can affect our body that much?”

In the past, my family’s work made our family move from place to place. Because of that, I needed to learned how to socialize and adapt to my new environment over and over again. At some point, I was bullied, physically and verbally. That experience made me distrust and be reluctant to interact with other people. Moreover, I was driven to be the best because I thought that’s the way to be respected and not be harassed by other people. Living with this mindset over the years makes me feel stressed and exhausted. Sometimes, when I can’t manage to do something up to my standard, I berate and blame myself. My excuses are “I don’t try hard enough,” “I’m not good enough,” “this happens because I don’t give my all to it.”

Living with this mindset is harmful because of the consequences. I often got sick, I often blame other people and myself for my failure. I withdraw from society because I feel societal standards are too hard for me to fulfill. Nowadays, due to some of my friends and professional mental health, I managed to lower my standards and quite blaming myself and other people for hardships that happened in my life. But some bad habits still remain. I still force myself to do things 100% and it harms me and burns me out without me realizing.

On 16th February, on the online meeting, we discussed how we rarely include softness in our daily life, always trying power through every obstacle in life and it makes us weary. It exhausts us, at least, that’s what I thought. I was surprised at how a few kind words and softness in our movement makes wonder changes in our body. I felt stable. I felt strong. I never knew there was that kind of way of living. And so I finished the workshop with the conclusion that treating ourselves with kindness and softness makes us more appreciative of ourselves and gives us courage to face our hardships.

8th March came and once again I attended the workshop. On 8th March, we learned how to present ourselves with power and softness. We learned the practical side of incorporating power with softness. The results were astounding. I noticed even with little to no power, I can make myself more stable, more relaxed, and more aware about my surroundings. I learned that to resist power with power not only makes me more exhausted and weaker, but it harm the body. The crux of my conclusion is on the exercise where we pushed our partner’s palm. I realized that even with little, gradual power, we managed to pushed our partner’s hand and not hurt ourselves.

The workshop finished and we said goodbye to each other. After the workshop was done, I was thinking. How often that I give it my all to finish a task or a job yet I’m not satisfied and berate myself? How often I harm myself physically or mentally because I push my limits for everyday task? I realized that going through our lives doing everything without treating ourselves with love, care and softness can break us down, and we can hurt ourselves. I learned that incorporating kindness, love, and softness into our daily life can benefit us greatly. I learned that optimum effort without love, can be self-destructive. I would like to thank Paul Linden and friends for the lessons that were imparted. I hope I could learn much more about life. Thank you for teaching me and thank you for the opportunity to meet each other. Have a good life. Cheers.

Ummul. The first meeting I was very proud of the activity. Even though they were just simple gestures, they motivated me to reflect. When faced with problems in our surroundings, I can position myself to respond to external stimulus in either negative and positive ways. The second meeting, I still didn’t really understand, but one amazing thing was when standing up and being pushed slowly. I got the meaning that not everything done quickly gets the maximum results. When faced with problems, calm behavior and decision-making can have more leverage.