The Sacred Practice of Loving My Body

The principles of building a healthy committed relationship comes with the want to be in a constant exchange of learning, listening, loving, growth and betterment for the good of those relating to one another. I have been growing a fuller exchange with my own body, committing myself more and more to a spiritual practice of building a deep and loving relationship with it.


I realized that I had healthier relationships with the bodies of others, that I was taught to look on another’s shape and form and appearance and want what they had and praise them for it. It has taken investment in understanding that I needed to unlearn these constructs of comparison and create practices that would uplift the way I saw and praised my own body. These practices began with taking the time to really listen and learn about what my body needed, what it was capable of doing and what stories it had to tell me of who I am and what I carry as I walk in this world. This was the root of what made me realize the sacredness of building a loving relationship between my body and my spirit.
My practice in Physical Theatre was the starting point of my exploration toward understanding what it meant and felt like to know my body. Physical Theatre work challenged me to delve into knowing myself whole. Understanding the science of my anatomy and discovering how diverse the modalities of all my body parts were, helped me to take risks in what I was capable of doing as a human being and stimulated my mental desire to know my physical self in new ways. My fascination of my own body grew in being aware of what it meant to feel and meditate on the movement of my inside organs and bones and muscle structure in connection to the outside world. Every movement awakened energy from inside me and these energies could travel from every inch of my being speaking something powerfully without words. I realized how much a slight bend of my fingertips, a tilt of my head, a minor shift in my weight from one leg to the other could communicate something greatly. I learned how endless the discovery of my body’s capabilities to feel and make others feel was. And I found myself wanting to learn more and more how to harness this power.


I began to make connections to the way I treated my body to the way I moved through this living. Like, recognizing that what I fed and nourished my body- what my diet looked like, what it was that I allowed it to feel of different movements and what I said to it, what I believed of its value and capability- these all determined the way I physically and in turn mentally and in turn spiritually moved through the world. I found a deep value in knowing what I put into my body. I found awareness in how certain foods and substances truly made me feel. I began cooking most of my meals, increasing the consumption of food grown from the ground. Paying homage to the hands that work to prepare the growth and passage of every grain of rice and every fragment of a living animal into my home and onto my plate. I learned to be critical about how food made me feel, how it effected my capacity to participate fully in every activity and experience presented to me.

I also challenged my body again and again to feel actions, rhythms, energies of different movements I had never placed in my bones and muscles and joints before so I could awaken my ability to be challenged to go beyond knowing. From pole and aerial movement that let me feel what it is like to be suspended above the ground- so close to flight, to cultural dances from other countries and my own that helped me to feel histories/herstories imbedded in the tradition of movement and the truth of what genes spoke of experience of ancestors, to martial arts that has brought a strength and countering of fear that I have not known- a sense of primal energy that keeps me vigilant and unafraid, and to moments of letting myself just move freely in my living room, returning to the freedom flowing of the child I was, who moved with no judgement or intention- just feeling and liberation.

Photograph taken by Edward Pages

I learned love for my body in appearance later in my growing, as we are raised in this world that often makes us shame our bodies, and deny it praise and love. An emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive relationship results from our feelings and notions that something about our physical being needs to be different, needs to change. How many times have you looked in the mirror and believed that what you see is not good enough, is not beautiful, is not worth the love of others, or more importantly not worth the love of yourself? I make the intention now to begin every day by not looking in the mirror, but feeling my body when I wake. I wake not valuing my body for its appearance, but for the miracle and wonderment of its capacity to move, the ability of my toes to curl, my eyelids to blink, my chest to rise and fall in breath, my knees to bend. I wake praising how my body can stretch, and roll, and bend, and flow. I begin my day feeling my body even before I let my toes plant themselves onto the floor. And when I finally look in the mirror I don’t look on with judgement of superficial beauty, I look on with wonderment. This is how I learned to value my body’s appearance in a deep way. I see miracle in every part of me, I see particles and elements and matter, I see a human being, I see my ancestry, and my life’s experience in the whole of my body and I value the stories that live in every inch of me.

Representation of the light of physical self that holds my spirit and protects it.

I’ve learned how sacred my body is, and I have worked to build in my relationship with it for the benefit of my full being. To maintain an understanding of its sacredness, I had to create sacred practice that allowed me to love my body whole. I arrived in this place, by making it a practice to love myself unconditionally- that is without influence of the conditions and constructs of others. And I know, like all other loving relationships, that it takes work, and that I have to choose to do that work every day. Building a loving relationship with your body is re-membering yourself every morning you wake, and it is actively exchanging with it in full attentive presence, where you are listening to it, giving it opportunity to learn what it is capable of doing, feeding and nourishing it and giving it the space to explore and move past limits. Being committed to building in my loving relationship with my body is not always wonderful, it’s also challenging, but that’s why it has become such sacred practice for me. All Love takes commited, sacred practice, and Love for all others starts with loving yourself whole- spirit, mind and body. People say it’s what’s in the inside that counts, but I’ve learned that how you feel about your outside is so important and with sacred practice I’m learning how to love my body more and more every day.

Leadership Manifested from Being Centered in Self, Not Self Centered

Checking my ego has been such a humbling process. Uncovering the truth of her existence within me and confronting her head on with vulnerability and discomfort in moments when she decides to step over the line way past confidence and humility, has and continues to be jarring. I’ve seen her appear mostly in spaces where my worth is challenged, where I feel my sense of being is compromised by the being of another. There are certain things that I feel I have understood of myself- the learnings, skills, practices and ways I have learned to live and thrive in fulfillment that I have and continue worked to master, grow and create in all my invested experiences. These investments have made me who I believe I am, and being exceptional in these traits of course brings a sense of pride and passion. I have taken pause to be very observant of my behaviors, thoughts and actions in most recent moments where I feel my ego arising. I’ve realized it has been most present in these moments of comparison to others who are walking what seems to be a similar path as my own. The initial feelings of threat that are awakened in me have been something I didn’t want to fully examine, or have denied even existed fully- for fear of being truly honest about the real presence of the human fault of egotism within me.

I have thought about this reality primarily in spaces of leadership and experiences in which one is recognized or held to a certain light as a person to look to as a model, a teacher and person who has influence and inspires. I feel we all seek to be acknowledged for something we work to better in ourselves, and we have been taught to aspire to attain leadership, ownership, and/or a sense of power of influence and attraction in this. But I have learned more and more the value of removing myself from those aspirations completely. Where it is not the intention to become a leader, seeing rather that leadership is a state of being that we arise to when we are truly living out our lives centered in our own personal power. When we are in want of constant growth and betterment of self and seek to support those who may feel you can guide and share with them in their own growth and betterment, understanding that they have something to teach us in exchange for betterment in another aspect of living in return- this to me is where true leadership arises, in exchange.

I realize how conditioned we are to live in a way that makes us seek standards of measurement that tell us what betterment in any learning looks like- a degree, a title, a certification. We see mastery as Linear, in schooling we pay to learn in such a way that says we have achieved another marking a notch on our belt signifying our betterment. We boast our learnings from institutions and known places of prestige in relation to what we are investing our path toward. And I have been working so hard to remove myself from this thinking after living almost 3 decades believing that my learning should be measured in this way, or should be measured by anyone else at all.

I was contemplating this to a friend recently, speaking to her about how I wonder how and who established certain paths as the “way” or the “right” and what it took for the majority to invest in believing that and seeking to take that particular path even if it does not fulfill them as wholly. I reflect on times that I have been corrected or have repeated those correction others who are not doing things as we might have learned for ourselves works or yields the greatest results. We argue our experience as being the one that they should take- and we urge them, as others may have urged us to take on an experience and learning similar to you. There is a difference between offering and forcing your lived experience on another.

Why act out of self righteousness, and judgement over others and create feeling that you have the burden, or responsibility to bring people to “where you are at”- as if you were more enlightened, as if you were better than, as if you know what is best for them and what their path looks like? This want to be a leader is ego driven, to say “I’m going to lead you.” “You should follow me.” And maybe we don’t say this as directly (although many do), but we say things that evoke that.

In my own process of becoming, I have become more and more aware of my disconnect to claiming myself as a leader. I am not fixated on leading. I am focused on being and investing in my path and celebrating others on their own. I understand that what is “ripe” for me, may not be for others. Only they can know what they are ready for, or what calls to them to move forward, what makes them feel lifted and elevated. It may look similar to my path, but it will never fully be my own.

I have been blessed to have teachers and mentors throughout my lifetime who have given me access to this expansive way of understanding leadership and mastery. I have seen so many of them invest their teachings to me in a way that understands they are giving me access to a part of them that may grow differently in me and they have encouraged and supported that in so many ways. I have been taught to see leadership as a support to others, in Kababayan we used to speak of the notion of being a leader amongst a world of leaders. I have gained insight of the value in collective leadership, where everyone in a community has something to offer to us that will expand our human being. And at El Puente we speak on the principles of Collective Self Help and Ubity through Diversity that bring upon Transformative Community Building. Just the other day I explained to one of my Guros in my Filipino martial arts training that I felt a bit intimidated to attend a seminar because of the master teachers who would be teaching as I had heard so much about them. He offered me the perspective that yes there is a respect and an honoring toward them for their mastery in which they embody, but to remember that we all are masters of life in someway, and we will be skilled in another area of living where they are not because we have walked our path differently than them and they would honor that as well.


We all have the means within ourselves to delve so deeply into something that we work toward understanding and applying it in a masterful way. We all have the potential to grow into greatness, throughout the lifetime we live- whatever feels like greatness to you. We all have the ability to teach as we learn in an exchange of our own unique human experience and discoveries. Sharing in this way what we invest and commit our physical, mental and spiritual capacities to can bring the attention of others where their ask of you is to lead, guide and help them understand what you have uncovered of this living. And this exchange may only be for a moment in time, or you may build together in this learning and expanding for a lifetime. But I have learned that for however long I walk on a path of becoming with another it is important to accept that we are always on separate journeys. This truth allows ego to fade away.This is where leadership arises in a way that is not self centered, but rather centered in a self- where you have invested so much of your time, presence, curiosity, connection and urgency to better yourself and master a practice, a learning, a way of viewing and living in the world and all you wish to do is share it. Not because you believe it is the only way, or the best way, but because it has uplifted and grown you on your journey in a deep way.

The Journey: Realizing the Path You Lay Will Be the Path You Walk

The past couple of days have been filled with transitions that are shifting my process of becoming and bringing the greatest clarity of what path I should be walking that I have ever known. You hear the clichés of “Trust the Universe” and “Listen for the Signs” but to live with this as practice, as daily waking ritual to not just say this but believe it, act on it and reinforce it with discipline, has helped me realize, in truth, what journey I must take to become my fullest and greatest self.


It is what I have allowed myseld to believe that has shaped my words, has formulated my thinking and understandings of life, and in turn has brought me to act, to wake with purpose to do, to create, to live out my becoming. I ask myself : “What do I let live through my own living?” “How does it serve or not serve the betterment of my self and all those around me?”
I learned through one of my greatest mentors, JLove Calderon, that victimization is a state of being that can be chosen and we keep ourselves there by blaming, complaining, justifying and staying in a state of confusion that makes life seemingly unclear, that makes us powerless to circumstances and that makes life a problem where we focus on negativity and don’t take the time to truly breathe in gratitude for the goodness of life, and move in a direction where we take the agency within ourselves to change our thoughts, and words, and actions, and practices- to shape our living. I did not grow up in a household with the greatest societal privileges, but I have chosen the privilege of consciousness and I have chosen to share that wealth. I have experienced unexpected and uncontrollable sufferings of life, and have come to understand that many of these things are man made. And I have invested myself in deconstructing and unlearning these teachings and replacing them with thoughts, words and actions that counter human created suffering.

Human beings are at their center creators, and we have created so much beauty and enchantment in this world, but we also have created so much pain, hardship and oppression as well. Death and destruction of human being and the earth through greed and hatred that cause poverty, famine, torture and suffering- are all a part of human contribution to this living, this is the reality that is fed into every waking moment, through thought, and words, and actions, that have become practice, that have bred deep belief that this is the way life is. That these conditions are more powerful than our own will. I have given myself permission to wake up every morning and release little by little and understand deeper and more readily that I can listen to something different than what path I am being told is the one I should be taking, contrived by messages that seek to feed deeper into this state of victimization that human beings have created. I listen instead to the messages that release me from fear of speaking my thoughts, and instead make me communicate my thoughts with an intention to seek deepened understanding of what I mean and what others mean when they speak the truths they have uncovered in their living. I listen to the messages that make me act with the utmost integrity, that support me in creating relationships that encourage exchange of presence that uplifts and inspires. I listen to the messages that remind me that I have much to learn and unlearn and that I should seek out these experiences with humility and wonderment. I listen to the messages that encourage me to create ritual of practices that feed my soul, that make me feel connected to all things, that strengthen my ability to love all of living, and love my self as a reflection of all of living. I listen to the messages that continually say “Be Grateful,” “Be Humble,” “Be Happy,” “Be You.”

Everyday my Journey has become clearer and clearer. Life has given me the opportunity “to give practice to that which,” as Perla Daly had written so clearly
“…increases our awareness,

Harmonizes logic with intuition,

Marries our hearts with our minds,

Uplifts us and inspires us,

Connects us to to that which fires us,

Guides us,

Nourishes us,

Strengthens us.”

I have been waking up every morning the past week looking around me at the artifacts, the relics, the writings, the creations, that I have gathered from the life I have realized. And I feel so blessed to make the movements that support the further realization of my life’s Journey.  And with joy I’ve shared so much of this reflections in exchange with those around me.
 Lately, I find myself breathing through moments of transition so deeply and with such joy. When maybe even a year ago I would find myself in despair and sorrow at the challenges that present themselves before me. I breathe through these moments and re-member myself- my beliefs, my thoughts, my words, my actions and what I practice to readily move forward on my Journey.
I exhale with gratitude every thing and person I have let go of to make room and give energy to what and who I know will serve my path and that I can serve in their existence in exchange. I learned long before that: not everyone will rise with you, some benefit from you not rising. Look around you and see who understands truly that when you rise so do they, and when they rise so will you. I exhale with acceptance of the things and people that fall away from my life is something I have learned to hold with ease and grace and joy.
I inhale learning, learning, and more learning- through conversation that is filled with questioning and the seeking of clarity, through full presence that allows me to feel the magic and miracle of life, through humbling myself to the fact that nothing is ever fully learned and to being aware that my truth lives beside many truths of many beings creating their existence beside my own.
I exhale with humility, the releasing of my ego and every moment it makes me feel I need to compare my life to someone else’s to realize my own worth. I exhale my ego because it doesn’t allow me the ability to just exist in my greatest self without validation from others.
I inhale with love, the over-standing of connection to all things that exist as I exist, that pushes me to build in community with surrender to the transformation into a more whole self as I discover the self I never knew lived within me, in another. My life is a reflection of all the people and experiences I have engaged with, and I understand how I have learned about who I am from so many. I honor them by honoring this walk on a path that I know they all have helped me make clearer everyday.
And I am more than ever allowing myself to find joy and trust in every transition. I am present, I am ready to live, I am ready to see and hear and feel my path unfolding and to move forward and upward with clarity and lift.

I am on my Journey. I am alive. I am me.

Transformative Community Building: The Journey with Kapwa Collective


I have learned more and more, how I want to create my existence in this living- through deep and continuous building of communal exchange that allows me to discover myself in all those I encounter, with wonderment, humility, and gratitude for betterment and transformation of self and other. We are all mirrors to one another, we all have a piece of shared humanity to reflect to any living being if we allow ourselves to be present to it, we are all Kapwa, we are shared selves and this acknowledgement of truth is something I feel so rooted in.

My entire life has been blessed with communities that have surround my being and that I have worked with to understand, protect, maintain and create our human existence for the benefit and prosperity of all of us. They have helped me to see myself in them, time and again. Every community that has opened themselves to these connections has helped me to find the wholeness of self more and more. This past week was filled with experiences so profound in this notion.

In the past 6 days, me and 4 of my sisters of the Journey of a Brown Girl and my god daughter Talia -were given an opportunity of divine making to build in this way with the Kapwa Collective in Toronto, ON. I will attempt to describe the magic of the transformative community building that took place this week and honor all those who chose to be present with our presence in Toronto and who held us and exchanged with us in light, solidarity and tremendous love.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the feeling of open, welcoming embrace that we felt in every moment with the Kapwa Collective. And how much Care was taken of each and everyone of us. From the meals prepared to nourish us from our trip’s beginning to end. A first communal meal Aimee and Jo where we exchanged in conversation and laughter as if we had known eachother for lifetimes with, a small gathering on the grass of the Mabuhay Festival with Lilac talking about our paths of knowing self deeper and the continued journey of discovering our indigenous spirits, the endless bags of food and snacks backstage and at the font of the house provided by Kapwa Collective and Kanto to feed our souls, the closing celebration dinner at LaMesa with a whole banquet of the community we built with all of this not just to physically nourish us, but nourish our hearts with the intention of every meal to be held by community building.  

 Then there was the home of Kim who upon us arriving with welcoming, trust and warmth gave us the key to her 3 bedroom home to shelter us and give us comfort after long days of exploration and energy exchange. And provisions to fill the fridge gifted by our Kapwa, and most of being given the space to call our own for 6 days, to find release and solace in.   There was also an air of great excitement that kept us in-joy throughout the trip with the sharing of community day to day, experiences unique to summer in Toronto, from small businesses like A Homerun at Kensington owned by Jodi who also runs the dance troupe Hataw, the Toronto Expo where Tina got her fix of Poutine and we explored international crafts and goods and the experience of Filipino gathering at the Mabuhay Festival meeting elders who were leading the community in gathering under the sun, and the opening up of a session with JB Ramos and the Combat Science Kali collective to connect us to practice of martial art in our own heritage.
  

Along with all of this was the care taken of the experience we were bringing through our movement work of The Journey of a Brown Girl. Kapwa Collective secured a beautiful playing space at the Factory Theatre and filled it with so much extra care, from providing Vanessa with care for our baby goddess during rehearsal and performance, to the preparation of the entrance space of the performance surrounding gusts with cultural images and textiles, right down to the beautiful professionally printed posters, flyers and programs. Each performance also had food offerings to the community.


And every night began with community filling the stage with lifted energy that we would take on with our movement on the stage. Our first evening we were blessed with a prayer and ceremony circle of intention and gratitude with Amy Desjarlais (Earthtalker Water Project) and Michelle who were invited by our sister Jen, indigenous drumming and song filled the space and we washed ourselves with life giving water to initiate a blessed performance and gathering of community exchange. We were honored to also have the altar created by Amy sit beside our own in shared sacredness which we honored throughout the show.

They then opened up to our audience in ceremony similarly preceding a sacred sharing of the Ifugao voice and story by Ester Dulawan Tuldague (Ifugao Association of Canada). In day two we had the Combat Science warriors give energy to the playing space bringing spirit of all who fought for our freedoms to the space as well as the playing of an all sister Kulington collective- Pantayo which we (unknowing to them) took in and moved to offstage as the audience enjoyed and connected in their divine, elevated sound. All these sharings energized the space and called the ancestors closer to us before we even entered. 

Following the performances were talk backs with the community who gathered to hold space for our sharing and the conversations were filled with uplifting honoring of our sisterhood, but also was process of understanding and conversation as a community. We engaged with elders who spoke to us of the importance of integration in our stories, to move away from airiness of superiority as Filipinos and explore how to find deeper humility to our shared humanities, and who also spoke with us about how “I Love You,” for them is rooted more in action than word and that understanding is so important for all of us. We heard youthful voices of all generations speaking on the healing that our sharing brought, and how the exchange helped them to bring more clarity and light and acceptance to their own Journeys. We also exchanged with academics and organizers the need for these created community spaces to learn, to speak what is not spoken and to uplift art as a powerful means of doing so. We met so many people who wanted to go deeper with us, as we have many times before, but this time it felt we were ready to also go deeper than ever.

Our performances were blessed with the energy of the full moon (as many of our recent performances have been) and after Saturday’s closing we all took to the waterside and sat with all those who wanted to gather in community under her light and shared intention.

And amongst all of this were most importantly the, intimate exchanges with Kapwa Collective, the sun of motherland rays felt beaming through each of them- whose presence was in all ways always warmth, power, energy and light. Jo, whose smile illuminated spaces of exchange, and who had a gentle fire that spoke on justice and humanity with us and was always in a spirit of honoring- setting atang (offering) aside at every meal, giving of laughter in every meeting, speaking to us with urgency and truth of the inclusion and importance of the trans-sister voices. Christine Balmes, who was a calming magic and joyous presence, giving of her music and her knowledge to our sisterhood exchange. Kristen Jordan who arrived from a sacred gathering connecting in community with the Earth who brought back such hopeful and readied energy to call to all of us to awaken, sharing the importance to connect to the sacredness of all things the waters, the land and each other. Jen Maramba, whose divine mothering was felt in every moment, the magic of her embrace of Talia, and of all of us, I have deepened more and more my admiration of her being with every exchange as she is the keeper of many sacred experiences connected to the ancestors and has time and again used that to uplift herself and numerous communities’ spirits.

And Aimee Gomez, the center of all that was manifested this past week, she not only is the fiercest organizer I have ever met, she does everything with such grace and joy. She breathed with and through every experience with us and her care for us as individuals and as a group was tremendous. She held every detail with intention of elevating our experience and was so present to every moment with clear mind and spirit. In moments of stress, she helped me trust the universe and laugh at the challenges life presents. She also kept us connected to the depth of every experience and showed us why she with genuine intentions of love saw everything that she does as a part of such greater purpose. She was everything to us.

I recount all these things because they brought us to build in community that was so deeply transformative. This was what 6 days in Toronto brought so greatly to our minds, spirits and physical beings- what my Kapwa and I in Brooklyn at El Puente refer to as Transformative Community Building.

In this transformative experience my sisters and I were gifted blessings of affirmation and growth through challenge individually and as a collective. And it moved us in great change and recognition that we were all in the right place.

My sister Karen, learned just how sacred her singing is, as elders spoke on how her voice boomed Bayan Ko into their souls with honor of those in their lives they lost in the revolution and who were taken in as political prisoners- a Tito in the audience gifted her with the affirmation “you sang that song like a true revolutionary.” She also shared her understanding that the Journey has strengthened her relationship with her parents and elders at home and she advised to others, that even if they continue to not respond there is value in being present to asking questions, engaging with our elders and urged “to keep trying.”

My sister Lee, was given opportunity to embrace her needs outside of the experience and what it means to be taken care of while moving in and out of responsibility to other passion projects, and need to focus on self amidst also welcoming community exchange. The community and our sisterhood circles held space for this for her, and helped her move through the challenge with ease and support.

My sister Tina showed up in her power as usual, but this time demanding what she needed to feel successful and in order to honor the work and herself in the process. We all acknowledged that we could not do anything as masterfully as we do with out her and she grew deeper in her craft as not just a technical wizard, but also as our link to the sacred spaces we play in, holding the utmost professionalism, patience and love- she is our backbone and I believe she is seeing and feeling that more too.

My sister Vanessa and I experienced with each other the depth of what our meeting through this work 6 years ago and continuing to deepen has created for our sisterhood and what it means for her as a mother. She saw how the community gathered around Talia, how there was a want to uplift her as adescendant of all our ancestors, the next generation, who we do this work for. She experienced what it really means to have a village raise Talia as for the past 6 years, it has raised Vanessa.   

And I recognized my purpose in building this way- Transformative Community Building is my calling, and I seek to let this move me in my adventures in this living. I reaffirmed that as I rise to this light of being, not everyone will follow, or understand, or desire to deepen in the same way- and as they fall away, I will be surrounded deeper in the presence of those who do wish to rise beside me and exchange with me in their own shared self that they see in me.

What we experienced with the Kapwa Collective this past 6 days, was example of how I always seek to build, with care, with exchange, with gratitude, with understanding that all of this is so much larger than just ourselves, it is those around us, before us and after us. And as we transform so do all of the countless communities that connect to us in light, love and solidarity of shared selves.

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Owning Your Existence is Honoring the Pieces of Self that Have Been Gifted to You through the Lives of Others 


One of the markers of true integrity as a creator is understanding, honoring and giving gratitude to the roots of what has shaped you as you elevate in your expressions of self in this world. What I mean by this is, that more and more I have realized how important it is to pay homage and that it is important that you turn to those you have received and taken from in learning and experience of the world in creating yourself into existence and give thanks as well as be certain what they have shared with you is actually yours to share as well.

This is honoring traditions, assuring that when an elder, a leader in a community, a teacher of skill, trade and thought turns to you with the desire and trust to share with you their practice and values you know how much of a gift that is- to you. I emphasize to YOU because I have experienced in my own life the replicating or the misrepresentation of teachings and how it becomes a dishonoring and trivializing of what has been taught to you. This is something I have learned myself in my own trial and error and mistake, especially as an artist and expressive being. When we learn something and connect to it with deep movement, our initial want is to take on that practice as our own, take on that value as our own and begin sharing it to the world as soon as it comes to our consciousness. But true living out of anything should include deep investment in practice and ritual. My Guro Njoli in Kali training shared the thought that it is not about the years you practice, but the hours you put in to something that allow for true embodiment and mastery of a teaching.
My thoughts as I have moved forward in my life sharing my own formed practices and values deeply, is that there needs to be so much care taken before we claim anything that has been taught, shared, gifted to us as our own. We need to gain the deepest of understanding what the intention is in what it means when an individual who is carrying a rooted practice chooses to share with you and create tradition by passing on their knowledge, their words, their actions, their movements to you. We need to understand what it means to honor this exchange properly, and it really begins with humbling ourselves to knowing that as we begin owning these sharings as a piece of our existence, that we look to those who have shared with us and acknowledge that they have shared those teachings with YOU. Communicate what the intention is in this exchange, is this something that can and should be passed on in your own teaching and practice? What is the nature in which it is appropriate and honorable to do so? How, when and to what degree can we actually own these thoughts and practices as our own without offending or misrepresenting them?
All of these understandings are important for us to take care of in the way they have taken care of it in sharing with us. I share all of this as my own understanding of how I hope to continue building on my own practice as an individual who is committed to my practice of For the Movement Theatre as I call my own practice of Physical Theatre work integrated with Spiritual Practice and Human Be-ing. All of this has been uplifted by the teachings of Teachers, Warriors, Sages and Healers like Cindy Little, Melissa Herr, Evelyn Case, Ernest Tamayo, my Leadership Family at Kababayan, Kuttin Kandi, Bambu, Kat Carrido, Ron Buenaventura, Eli Simon, Michele Bottini, Delia Meyers, Cristina Marin, Leny Strobel, Baylan Megino, Perla Daly, Letecia Leyson, JLove Calderon, Frances Lucerna, Gloria Zalaya, Clara Waloff, Afaliah Tribune, Maria Marisigan, Ana Liza Caballes, Riya Ortiz, Enmanuel Candelario, Frank Lopez, The Peace Poets and most recently Njoli Brown, Francis Estrada, Arvee Garde, and Jeanette Ladores- just to name a few of my greatest teachers to my soul workings of physical, community and individual transformative and spiritual arts. These are individuals who have gifted me with their thoughts, ideas, values, practices, rituals and created tradition in our exchange. And most importantly, they have all taught me the proper ways to share these gifts in my own existence beyond our exchange. What is appropriate and not appropriation in owning what we absorb, learn, practice and share of what has been taught to us?
It is easy in this day of social networking, relaying communications with the click of a button or touch or a screen that we more than ever see how we represent all the pieces of ourselves that have been shaped by the teachers, leaders and nurturers that have grown us. I’ve learned to take care more and more how I share what has been gifted to me. I have learned honoring and giving gratitude to what has been taught to me begins by conversations with my teachers of how best to do this. And as I teach and share of my practices and my rituals I look for the same in tradition and continuation of the legacies that create the whole of my being.
I am a reflection of the many who have lifted my spirit, who saw a piece of themselves in me and chose to invest in growing that part with their support, guidance and teachings. And I follow suit to do the same with all those I build and encounter in exchange of thought, practice and spirit with. I honor them all as I honor myself and who I have become because they existed in my own existence. I am because they are. And I give gratitude everyday for that truth.

Pekiti Tirsia- Movement Rooted in the Earth and Elevated Toward the Divine

I have only been practicing the Martial Art of Kali, with the Pekiti Tirsia Elite family here on the East Coast for 2 months now, but with each moment of training (2-4 days of class a week and daily personal practice) I have discovered a part of my spirit awaken that makes me feel fuller in my whole being. The brother Guros of the PTK Elite family have guided me in understanding the historical context of this Art and how to fully apply it to the act of protecting myself and being able to understand my ability as a human being to access strength, stealth, awareness and focus to my movements in the midst of moments where violence and endangerment may arise. Pekiti Tirsia is a Kali fighting technique/ school that does not teach defense, but rather how to be in a position for attack and counter offensive movements to survive in situations where another threatens your life. They recount in every movement taught, stories of our ancestors- workers, farmers, indigenous peoples connected to the land and the sky and the sea and the sun, who, with invasion because of conquistadors and colonizers threatening the lives of our peoples, were forced to awaken the warrior spirits within themselves.


I seek to access these piece of my memory in muscle, joint, bone, blood, nerve- physical vessel in whole. I have slowly come to understand that connecting to this practice connects me to a part of my ancestry that has been dormant within me. It, like many other movements connecting to the traumas and triumphs of my people have been put to sleep by privilege of being raised 2nd generation immigrant in the U.S. I have never been in the position I know many people around the world still, in this present day, love and grow in- where by force they are made to live in constant survival mindset under situations of violence, war and duress. My ancestors placed these movements into their bodies for lived circumstances that forced them to protect their lives and the lives of their family and tribes, to protect their land and to protect the divine spirits within them.


My greatest connection to the practice of Kali is discovering how putting these movements, these motions, these vibrations- connects to deep spirit. I have taken time to in tune myself to these energies in my body and how my spirit dances with these movements- the balance between gentle healing flow in the fluid dance of the art, and the fierceness, the fire and grounded power of protecting whole self, body, mind and spirit.


With putting these movements of revolutionary ancestors into my body. I found an understanding for myself that this practice of martial art can be rooted in spiritual connectivity generating energy in my body from the heavens to the earthly plane. Bringing these energies together can create a synergy of spiritual power that allows for the dual fluidity and strength in power of this ancestral practice to come through in every strike, every thrust, every slap and every slash and she spoke to my continued practice of breath being at the center, as breath of life, as release of spirit.

The traditional bow to our instructors also roots in the honoring of spirit. Movements connecting to above, and rooted below. Even the sacred triangle that all of our movements are framed in speaks to spirit elevated upward with grace toward the divine and downward, rooted into the earth and this physical human existence.

I appreciate and value the teachings of survival and the vigilance that I am learning in my trainings, but even moreso, I give gratitude for what it helps me re-member. Every moment I practice, I know it is an act of giving to my body, mind and spirit- returning the movements back into my physical self, enlivening images of distant memory- my ancestors in historical resistance and awakening my spirit to unveil its resilience in connecting these movements to the divine and protection of the sacred miracle of my living. I am so thankful to all my teachers the Guros of PTK who have encouraged, supported and uplifted me in this path or learning and re-membering, each sharing a piece of their own journey back to understanding self through their practice of PTK. I am blessed to learn and build in the community they have created through their collective desire and passion to share the knowledge of this sacred martial art with all those that wish to commit to exploration and deep learning beside them.

I’m committing myself to this practice of ancestral movement, and seeking the investigation and discovery of other movement that will awaken in me a fuller sense of who I am as a Pinay, as a human being, as an animal of this existence. I welcome these movements into my body and let them settle in my whole self and find home there again.

Re-membering My Animal

“Humans have lost their animal.” This truth shared by my professor of Commedia, Michele Bottini has echoed through me since that first moment of exchange in Arezzo, Italy in 2008. “Humans have lost their animal.”
He referred to the movement in our bodies that has been confined to conditioned and limited physical capabilities we perpetuate everyday- by the way we sit at a desk, in a car, on the subway, in a chair most of our day, or by the way women wear heels to create appeal, the way we are told to stay still as a child as a gesture of behaving. We have restricted our ability to flex our spine, to find deep bends in our joints, strength in our muscles and in turn high functionality in our internal organs. When we were children as our bodies developed we were freer in how we stretched and tumbled and pushed past our boundaries as we learned our bodies, as we found courage within ourselves to see what we could do, how we could move. At some point we stopped in this exploration and began to limit our ability to move.


The center of my performative work is the examination of the body’s ability to re-member itself. To relearn, and reconnect it’s full functionality of movement. In order to do this, we have to deconstruct the layers, piece by piece that do not primarily live in our physicality, but are results of our mental and spiritual conditioning as well. Why do we move the way we do, where do our rhythms come from when a drum plays, or a guitar is strummed, where does the openness of our limbs, and chest and the lift or the fall of our head come from, where does the gaze in our eyes and the pattern of our breath being released and inhaled come from? How is our movement connected to the way we woke up this morning, what we carry from interactions through the day, and thoughts we carry in our head from waking? How is our movement connected to a moment in our herstory/history from womb to present moment when we were injured by an incident or person or injured ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally? How is our movement connected to our ancestors experiences, their physical labor, their psychological influences and emotional conditioning- how are their memories they carried in their bodies passed down to us beyond our conscious knowing?

 

Our physical being holds so much herstory/history the difference in our body structures is, I believe, beyond just DNA make up. When I look at another human being, I don’t see just dominant and inferior traits, I don’t see beautiful or unfavorable features, I see stories, I see the human experience, I see a human being, living, growing, experiencing, developing, I see ancestry and I see the pure animal they may have lost.
What stories do we hold in our physicality that can help us remember? I have been on a journey examining what each part of my physical being can tell me of who I am and where I come from. One piece of me that I have been drawn to throughout my life are my hands. They have been a part of my body that I have valued tremendously, and been fascinated with as I am a crafter, a visual artist. I have found them to be such a gift, and it is such a wonderment to me that what my mind and my spirit imagine and dream up can be manifested from my hands- steady, agile, strong and precise. They tell stories of crafters from my lineage and I embrace their truth and stories as creators within my own hands with gratitude.

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My grandmother’s hands carry the experience of a wom*n whose work was never just her own, it was her children’s and theirs, and theirs after. One day I was sitting with my grandmother holding her hands and I never noticed this before, but my attention came to her right thumb and index finger swelled, callused and misshapen. I asked her what happen to her hands, and she said her hands were always this way, they were from when she worked in the sewing factory- my grandmother was a seamstress in Hawaii where she migrated to with her 5 children, through her labors she raised them all and built for them lives full of joy and gratitudes and her hands tell this story. But even further I have watched her hands provide for all of us, her grandchildren and now great grandchildren as we all grew through the workings of her hands and heart, with her many makings of meals and clothes we would wear and tear, many workings from home to home, many carrying and raising of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren-her many, many givings of sweat and self- always with the greatest love and light manifested through her hands.

What stories does your own body hold that speaks to who you are in whole, that pays homage to those before you? And what would it be like for you to stretch the ability for these stories to be freed and lived past their limits?  What would it be like to listen to your body deeply, and let it move without restriction, conditions?

I ask myself this with the desire to re-member my being in wonderment, in exploration like when I was a child, before I lost my animal. And seeking to value my body so much that I give it capability to move in multiple rhythms and flows, return to its flexibility, and grow in its strength. In finding these stories, in listening to my whole self, I find my animal being, I re-member it. And in doing so, I re-member that all others are also made up of their own vibrant and rich story filled physicality, if only they could see it themselves and value it.

What if we all re-membered, and freed our body from construct that limited and divided us in judgement, and instead allowed the knowing and listening to our body help us find truth and understanding of our origin of being from ancestry to animal deeper- how might we love ourselves more, how might we love one another more?

Becoming a Being of Loss

On Sunday, I picked up my bag to leave the house and found something unfamiliar that was seemingly growing on its outer flap. Something to the liking of mold: white, web like, cottony and lifted. I instinctually thought, with discomfort, “I need to clean that off!” a remnant of the farm where I was outdoors the day before. I brought my bag to the kitchen and sprayed it with cleaner, the webbing shrunk and revealed a caterpillar beneath who had nested on my bag creating the beginnings of its cocoon. My heart froze and a severe pain shot from my stomach, through my chest and into my eyes. I couldn’t believe I had taken the life of this living creature. The experience for me was unbearably saddening. So many layers to the experience, the idea of life being loss, the idea of me causing it, the idea that it happened in the midst of this creature’s rebirth, the idea of my carelessness to the situation. I was experiencing something within myself that I never have before, speaking so loudly to my current state of being, of who I have recognized myself to be as of recent. I feel the world in such a deep way that sometimes I have no words to communicate fully how I experience living, but I try to be patient with myself to find them and I speak them to those who will open their ears to listen and understand. 

This past year has been a year of great loss, and I have been living to sort out what it means to not just feel loss, but understand deeply that loss, like all feelings once we have experienced them, become a part of us. At any instance we can re-member that part of ourselves and it will live in our being again.

I have felt loss on so many levels this year. And it has grown to be a part of who I am in this moment of blessed living. I walk the world in loss, but not just in the way that loss is seen as grieving and as mourning and discomfort and recognition and emptiness of absence. I walk the world feeling loss as a part of becoming, of making room for who you need to be in the now. It is a reminder that all things must end and that we have gained in living to make room for loss.  Loss would not exist if we did not gain, of knowledge, of experience, of relationships, of possession.

The more I lose, the more I am reminded also that I do not need much. It reminds me that at one point we came from nothing and with time and with the miracle of human ability to create we became and gained all that we risk to lose- all that we will eventually lose. Understanding this in the past year, embracing loss as a part of me has allowed me to walk the world feeling so much deeper and more openly. This understanding. you might think, would make me more accepting, make me numb to the moments of experiencing loss again, but I choose to feel it fully because the understanding of loss in my life, reminds me that I am more whole  and elevated and than ever.

Being at our highest and best is really letting all parts of who we have been, inform who we are, including all the pain, all the sorrow, all the darkness, so we can fully open ourselves to accepting the lives of other beings in their wholeness as well. All life is sacred and all life is made up of losses and gains. The caterpillar in that moment spoke of loss to me, reflected my journey of becoming a being of loss, just as I am a being of joy, a being of wonderment, a being of passion, a being of miracle- all this was meant to be felt. Transformation is the discomfort between loss and gain that pushes you to become. I am embracing the loss as I have given gratitude to all life’s blessings. I am more whole because I live with loss as a part of who I am.  

-JL

The Artistry in Communication: Seeking to Understand and Be Understood

Communication is the center of all relationships, without communication we cannot create true relation and interconnective experiences. The beautiful thing to recognize is that we have the capacity through our physical and spiritual selves to communicate with actions, with physicality, with energy directly and involuntarily expressed.

But for human beings- communication centered in speech is valued above all else. Language is powerful. And often the keepers of word and understanding of their definition are those who yield more power. We are encouraged and often urged to “expand our vocabulary,” to “speak properly,” and when we are not knowledgable of a word by definition, we are questioned by those that do know, with boastfulness and ego- “You don’t know what that means?”

My reply to this is “no, but help me to understand what you are saying with words I do know,” or “help me learn the word so we can understand and communicate with full exchange.” Communication is about the way we listen and discern with clarity and also how we help others to listen and receive with clarity. Not necessarily to bring them fully agreeing of our viewpoint, but rather to exchange, with the intention to balance how you understand others, and how we seek to be understood.

It is so important for me that others can connect with my intention of words, I am guilty of “misusing” words and phrases and many times I lack the words to even fully describe my experience and so I replace this with repetition of words I often use, with shift in meaning or create new words completely. This is something that is flagged and corrected- why do we expend this energy outside of understanding? To prove a point? To maintain a structure of language that limits? When we do not seek understanding as the goal in communication we create power dynamics that restrict us from gaining in deeper connectivity and elevation in relation with one another.

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It takes so much patience and willingness to let go of the ego and power we are taught to hold in communication exchanges. This work toward understanding can also feel uncomfortable and put us in places of vulnerability that we resist because of the conditioning placed with the power dynamics of communication. We want to avoid embarrassment, or the feelings of inferiority and isolation that come with being misunderstood.

I feel it is important to be diligent in the way we communicate. And even though speech may take precedence in communication, awareness of body, energy is a part of creating strong communication as well. How we take care of the whole of our interactions in communicating our words and what we seek to be understood is artistry. How do you set the stage for your words to be received fully?

This is actually something I learned to take care of from my performance-the art of communicating profound messages, stories and the voices of others telling memories, experiences of importance. The mastery in this comes from not only thinking of how something is artfully written and spoken, but how you can support your audience to artfully listen. When I was in the “Aesthetics of You” class with Anna Deavere Smith during my Masters Studies at NYU one of the first things she made note of was who was the best audience member in the course- great performers know how to be great audience members and setting an audience up to be successful at engaging with your work is important. What do you do to create the atmosphere for an exchange that will move them, that will help them feel they can move past vulnerability and help them find understanding and connection to stay fully engaged throughout your communication? How do you work toward clarity and help guide someone in hearing you fully?


I have created for myself a number of practices that help me to create exchange rooted in understanding in every conversation I engage in whether connected to the stage or in life’s interactions:

1) Be patient- When you are communicating, do not be in a rush. Be willing to take your time, to communicate with awareness and ability to take pause to process when necessary, to really feel out and make sure the other you are exchanging with is following your communication, is with you. Take care of the communication and do not be afraid of silence, allow this to be moments to communicate without word, or to hold room for the best exchange in response to what has been spoken to be achieved on both ends.

2) Acknowledge emotions that arise in communication, but don’t let them deafen and paralyze you. Emotional reflexes and triggers have been built up in each of us from experiences in the past. Communication is a muscle, connecting thought to emotion- how this is released should be taken care of. We should always honor the instinct of our responses, but then take care to release them if they are not serving the exchange. Emotions can easily hinder the ability for someone to be heard or to hear others. In this it is especially important to release defensiveness. This again comes from ego and the want to be “right” in a situation and not to be understood, regardless of whether the other may agree with you.

3) Pay attention and take care of how your body and energy support your communication. Your physicality is important, this is something that is greatly connected to the way that you engage in a conversation, either receiving or speaking in the exchange. Your physicality feeds into how your emotions and your energies are held. In these moments, breath should be checked, a release of breath can relax the body in an instance and create openness physically and energetically. Let your consciousness of physicality support your communication exchange.

4) Be flexible and open minded in the way you listen and speak. We have to be willing to adjust in our conversation. If the other or your audience is not opening to you, or wanders from the communication how do you reengage? How do you take a moment to respond to the shifts in energy that may happen from the other? Be also willing in these moments to ask questions for clarity still holding the intention to understand and be understood.

5) Be honestly compassionate in the way we speak our truth and experience and honor the truth and experience of others. We all come from different very complex and layered experiences. It is important for us to understand this coming into any conversation first and for most. You have to know that your truth is not always going to be in line with another’s, but it does not make you or them wrong. This is the root of the importance in understanding. How do you consider how the other is entering the conversation? How do you engage their lived experiences that inform their ways of communicating and what they communicate, the ways they receive and listen and what they receive and hear in an exchange. These truths may not be in line, but understanding is not with intention to change someone’s mind, but rather gives them the opportunity to connect why your truth is informed by your living, different that yours.

6) Be willing to see when another individual does not seek mutual exchange in communication and be okay with letting the conversation go. We are all conditioned by societal constructs, and working to undo these things that do not allow us to hear one another takes so much time. You cannot reach everyone and the acceptance of this comes with breathing through the care that you take in all your conversations to understand and be understood to the best of your ability. We cannot control how someone hears you and whether they want to, we can only take care of the experience with all of the intention to make space for understanding, if this is not mutual on their end, then it is important to release. There are always going to be audiences that come into a conversation with experiences and beliefs they may not be willing to compromise at all. In these moments all you can do is breathe them out.

Take care of your communications, and create exchanges that will leave the other/ your audience with feeling they have moved toward deeper understanding and connectivity.

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