As part of this chapter, in examining who we really are at the core of our being, I bring in an element of the transpersonal yogic perspective, a framework on the five layers of self, also known as the five koshas -- the physical, energetic, mental/emotional, wisdom and 'bliss' aspects. I bring this framework into the understanding of the work with all populations. To help the reader more fully grasp the theoretical foundation of this approach, here follows a brief description of the five layers of self and how this framework serves to guide me in the expressive arts multi-modal process.
The first layer, the physical body, is annamaya kosha. It is in this layer that we concentrate on the physical processes of the body, including heart rate, respiration, circulation and the musculo-skeletal system. Awareness of the physical body becomes a key point of focus as a way to stay grounded in the midst of active thoughts and feelings. This aspect is especially helpful in working with the children in the bereavement camp setting, as many are kinesthetic learners, experiencing the world through movement and physical body orientation. In my approach, we may emphasize physical body awareness through a variety of felt and embodied experiences, including creative movement, the felt vibration of sound, and actively sensing and playing rhythms. Even the 'seemingly simple' act of clapping hands and stomping feet in response to collective rhythm-making can be an effective vehicle for helping participants to ground into a more physiological attunement.
The second layer in this yogic kosha framework is called the "energy body" or the "breath body," pranamaya kosha. This pertains to the more subtle aspects of the physical self. For example, the breath itself can be felt in the body, and one's general energetic states can be sensed with proprioceptive awareness -- an inner awareness of both the physical and energetic body. Proprioceptive awareness comes into play during activities that ask for moments of inner sensing and reflection. This layer of self can also be associated in general with the nervous system, which can be envisioned as an electrical current connecting all aspects of the physical and emotional bodies. Breath awareness based experiences such as humming, sighing, vocal toning, and breathing exercises are some practices that especially help to support and balance the energy body. In addition, the use of gently-awakening sound instruments such as Tibetan singing bowls can be a way to access this more subtle aspect of the self.
Next we have the mental/emotional layer, manomaya kosha. This aspect of self is about primary emotional responses and inner processes of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Importantly, this layer of thought and emotion is viewed not as a separate portion of self; rather, the manomaya kosha gives and receives input multi-directionally with the other layers. Thus, it is vital to holistically view the mental/emotional body as affecting the physical body and vice versa. Practices that may help support this layer include expressive sounding, lyrical songs that help access emotion, personal storytelling, and embodiment of feelings. For example, drumming with vocalization that taps into one's feeling state can be a way to access and express emotions that may have been blocked within.
The next layer, the vijnanamaya kosha, is called the wisdom body or higher mind. This wisdom body holds the seed of insight and reflection, the higher cognitive functions of being able to witness and understand the overall picture. It also can be thought of as a place where we hold the underlying thoughts that comprise our belief systems. This is significant in that our underlying values and beliefs support and contribute to the response of all the other layers. Practices that may help support this layer include songs of affirmation and inspiration, the harmonizing of voices, storytelling through metaphor and poetry, and enactment of our dreams and visions. Also, receptive practices such as listening to uplifting music can serve as powerful nourishment for this aspect of self.
Underneath and around all the layers of physical, energetic, emotional, and wisdom, we bring the anandamaya kosha," or bliss body. In a transpersonal way, the bliss body can be considered to be at the heart of all beings, which is considered to be bliss, peace, and joy. It speaks directly to the transpersonal principle that we begin with an assumption of health rather than pathology. Practices that may help support this layer include: quiet reflection, meditation, mantra, deep listening, and deep relaxation.
This premise can be quite significant, when we begin to actually share the belief that inside the people with whom we connect, work, and play also have peace and joy at the core of their being. It this presumption then that can guide our work towards the 'unlearning' pathway of healing and growth, that is, learning through releasing blocks and unhealthy patterns so that we may remember the inner peace and wholeness at our core.
It also can be said that beyond this bliss body, there is something even deeper within that can be called "pure consciousness," or, "being-ness." Yogic philosophy teaches that this being-ness is said to be eternal. In some cultures, it may be called "spirit" or "consciousness," but however one names it, it is regarded trans-culturally as the essence of a person that never dies, even after the physical body with all of its layers has left. In some form or another in this approach to the expressive arts, utilizing sound, music, movement and theater arts, I find a way to bring this sense of the eternal essence into consciousness. This will come into play as we discuss the practices in the specific setting at hand.
In the ensuing narrative, I provide an experiential account of a sample group action sequence with music, movement, rhythm and story, that took place at a bereavement camp. The reader should keep in mind that each group has its own unique qualities which call for a myriad of adaptations and variations.
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Author: Christopher Kavi Carbone, embraces his role as an Expressive Arts Facilitator.
This role integrates his eclectic and integrative training and professional work as a Registered Drama Therapist, plus as a yoga instructor, community music educator, storyteller/performer, sound healing artist and holistic health counselor. He has been engaged in sharing a multi-modal blend of creative and healing arts with a broad range of settings and population groups in local communities for over 20 years - including child/family programs, and individuals dealing with developmental delays and challenges. In addition to his community-based programs, he serves on the faculty of Salve Regina University's programs in the Expressive & Creative Arts, offering professional training in personal and group transformation through the arts.