This exercise is a two-part somatic method. It begins with a meditative silent image theatre practice to develop a conscious understanding of where the body holds trauma. The second half uses that body-knowledge to then recognize and externalize the ways names instill behaviors, traumas, and memories on the body.
In a quiet space when all troupe members are sufficiently prepared for the work of reencountering their traumas, participants are asked to find a still spot and calm their bodies and minds. They are walked through a gentle calming meditation, easing the tension out of their muscles and joints until they are relaxed. They are then asked to focus their minds on one moment of trauma. They are then asked to think about the trauma in advance so they would be able to focus closely without searching for which trauma to choose in the moment. They are asked to think of a trauma that pulled them into their past, either with a longing to reconcile the trauma or a longing to travel back before it. I also asked them in advance to only choose a trauma they felt ready to work on with the troupe, using their own judgment. They are asked to imagine the exact moment of that trauma. I asked them to imagine the smells, the sounds, the sights, and to let their bodies reflect those sensations. They are asked to reflect in their bodies their fear in that moment, then their physical sensations, then their emotional sensations. They are asked to be as non-literal as they can. They are asked to push their energy through each part of their body, examining where they are holding tension and where they feel pain. They are asked to identify one spot where they find a lot of that tension and pain and focus all of their energy on that spot. They are asked to send their loudest scream into that spot, simultaneously pushing their muscles towards it. They are asked to cry if they want, to yell, to shake, whatever they need to create a pulse of all this energy. Using their hands and their breath, they are asked to begin to smooth the tensions from the rest of their body into that one spot. They are asked to feel the heat of that spot, and to pull it out with their hands, and breathe it out with their mind and air until the tension is outside their body in a ball of energy. They are asked to examine the ball in their hands, to note its size and weight, its energy and color. They are asked to calm it, to refocus it, to use their bodies and their breath to reshape it. Then, they are asked to replace the ball back into their bodies. They are asked how it feels, the same or different. They are asked to hold it, and to acknowledge it. They are asked to repeat this exercise as many times as necessary as we identified spots of tension from the original trauma. At the end of the exercise, they are asked to reenter their memory of the trauma and let themselves respect their bodies’ responses, noting how they had shifted or not.
Following a debrief of this exercise, the group continues on to the second part of the “Baggage” techniques, using the same meditative somatic/image theatre practice to examine the embodied experience of their original or dead name. Prior to this exercise, the group again speaks openly about trauma, triggering, and safety in these exercises, recognizing that anything asked of them in this exercise can be skipped or modified to suit their limitations and needs.
To begin this exercise, participants once again find a quiet and open space in the room. They comfort and still their bodies and bring their breath to a steady pace. They are asked to attune to any remaining tensions in their body as a sort of “pre-exercise” status for personal comparison. They are then asked to conjure their original name in their heads, silently. They are asked to let their body respond viscerally. They are asked to attune to the changes in their breath, the changes in the tensions in their body. They are asked to form their bodies around the name, trying to make their body fit within its demands. They are asked to embody the name, embody the person expected by the name. Frozen in this image, they are asked to examine the places in their body that cannot or do not fit. They are asked to push those parts further, stretching and bending them to make them fit as best they can. They are asked to scream and push into this body and wrestle with its incongruity. Then they are asked to examine the parts of their body that are still, easy in this posture. They are asked to feel and acknowledge the parts of their body that do fit within this image, to accept them. They are asked to release this image and find a comfortable position once again. Then they are asked to form their mouth around the word of their name, at first silently, then as they are able, with sound. As they do this, they are asked to say it first, hear it second. They are asked to attune to the sensation of saying the word, not the sensation of hearing. The process of separating the motion from the hearing others the word—separates it further from their person, allows them to disempower it. If their body responds to the word, they are asked to lean into this movement, attune to these tensions. They practice this until the word is made strange, or until their body recovers its easy breath and pulse. This process continues then as did the first part of Baggage, where they find and push energy through places of tension in their bodies, reforming their bodies.