The Essence of the Senses
THE ESSENCE OF THE SENSE(S)
By Mary Morrison Vanni're, 1991, Albany, New York
"I'd like to impart some words of wisdom to the class of 92 (and beyond). Entering the world of mime according to Avital will be the most natural, uncomfortable, wonderful, frustrating, peaceful, maddening, funny, serious, playful, thoughtful and eminently useful experience you can imagine."
Most of my life BC (Before Colorado) I worked as an editor/writer. The move to Boulder in 1981 was intended to launch a new career. It never got off the ground.
Meanwhile, I took advantage of the opportunity to study mime. It was something I had always wanted to do. It was there, and I was there. It was fate, if not fait accompli!
Although I never became a 'mime', this is not a tale of failure. Au contraire!
Samuel Avital, the teacher whose visage had beckoned from the pages Yoga Journal, was about to take another dimension. And so was my life.
Ten years later and still working as an editor, permanent value has been added to my personal and professional life. I don't wish to mislead anyone. I make no claim to being a shining example of the principles practiced within the mime space. The truth is I wander from them. The bigger truth is that I can tap into them whenever whenever I choose, because once learned, they are never lost.
Ten years and hundreds (thousands) of students later, the teacher did not at first recognize the name signed to a card congratulating him on the 20th anniversary of his brainchild Le Centre du Silence. From halfway across the country he called to solve the puzzle. 'When did you study with me? Who was in the group with you? Several names came quickly to mind; more faces waited for recognition...
'You remember the names?' Oh, yes. These were friends united in a common, uh, endeavor. I don't think I am unique in this respect. For the student, working with Avital is an unforgettable experience!
Always the teacher, Avital gave this former student an assignment: to write what I remember from the training. The lessons clearest in memory are:
- Adequacy, the art of doing exactly what is required, no more (superfluous effort),
No less (incomplete effort). Finding the perfect balance in everything.
- Movementthe skill of tapping the internal source of energy, to move in natural
Harmony with the rhythms of the universe.
- Gates of speechbefore speaking, Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? (Did I forget
one?) What he calls now the 'Mouth responsibility', and speaking only when
- Masks. (I still have mine) - letting the entire body express character and emotion,
economically, of course, and discovering the innate nature of the honesty of the body.
- Silencemaking the space for the learning to come forth.
These are not just lessons in mime. These are lessons in life.
The only thing I found missing from the lessons was the opportunity to see Avital Perform, to take a visual reading of the principles and exercises taught in class - not to steal his act but to see a master at work.
Nor was he silent, except perhaps in those eternities while he waited for you to come up with the amazingly simple answer to a question he had posed. You tried too hard and invariably came to the wrong conclusion. And he laughed at your struggle to find the utterly simple truth, the essence, which you knew and should have recognized.
In these and other ways the teacher was a mirror, the kind only a true friend will hold up so that you can see what is really there.
In this environment, the student learns to seek the essence of his/her own senses and sensibility. There were no moon walking techniques taught in the circle I attended. Getting under your own skin and finding out what you could do with it was the 'material' with which we worked.
And it worked! I t was often nice but never easy. It was, by nature, intangible; yet we were challenged to produce a tangible result. And we were challenged to do so, not by our prepared and impromptu presentations but by our own inner selves: by our being.
Avital has a way of interfering with comfortable habits and poses so that we can get to the core of our being. One of his classes 'assignments' was to observe one day of silence a week. It was an idea I merely intellectualized at the time, understanding the value but failing to see the practical use. Mow I find myself desperate for moments when I can think for myself; I am in control; I finally see the point.
On a practical level, the essence of being an editor is precision and economy in the written medium of creative expression. The lessons in adequacy serve well here.
In parting, I'd like to impart some words of wisdom to the class of 92 (and beyond). Entering the world of mime according to Avital will be the most natural, uncomfortable, wonderful, frustrating, peaceful, maddening, funny, serious, playful, thoughtful and eminently useful experience you can imagine.
Mary Morrison Vanniere lives with her husband Gary amid the beauty of upstate New York. She edits a monthly magazine for a trade association near Albany, New York.