Monday, December 28, 2009

It's All About Love

Because of the holidays, I have been thinking recently about the act of gift giving and what we look for when considering a gift and what we hope for when receiving one. When searching for ideas, I often think of these questions: who is this person, what do they like, what is their taste and style, what would be useful for them, what would make them feel appreciated, loved or seen? To give in a truly thoughtful and personal way we usually need some knowledge of the receiver's preferences and how they define themselves, hence their projected identity. Similarly, when the exchange is reversed and we're tearing open that carefully wrapped box and anticipating the exciting moment of opening it, revealing its contents, I think we want a present that makes us feel understood or reflects our needs or tastes.

I also think that the holiday's can get mired in the culture of consumerism, and that we simply crave getting more stuff to add to our collection of existing stuff. We place a lot of importance on outward symbols of identity and our attachment to objects and things that we believe communicate who we are. But just like a hair style or outfit can only communicate who we are to a limited degree - that is, how we like to appear to others - a product that was self-bought or gifted will only ever tell the story of material identity that exists on the surface in the physical plane. We are so much more than this.

When we have a true collapse of our inner reality, the importance of that outer material stuff falls away. This reminds me of something I just read last night. While visiting family I found a copy of Suzanne Somers' new book about alternative cancer treatments and out of curiosity began reading it. Regardless of her controversial views about health and medicine and the star power she uses to promote them, I found the sections I read to be intelligent and compelling. In the chapter where she recounts her experience of being misdiagnosed with terminal full-body cancer and how it triggered a complete confrontation with her life and mortality, she writes that she had a moment of crystal clear clarity about what truly matters for and in each of us. "It's not who you are, it's not what you have, it's not where you live, it's not what you do, it's only, only about who you love, and who loves you. And the more you love, the better!" Yes, yes, and yes.

So to circle back to the beginning of this post, underneath the act of giving and receiving, as emphasized during the holidays, is the importance of relating to each other, including ourselves. Loving and relating to our self in an honest and pure and compassionate way is more important than our style or career or station in life or possessions. Likewise, our ability to connect and share with each other in an authentic and loving way trumps material gifting. And when you're faced with the collapse of your trusted reality (like your health) or identity, the only thing that truly matters is the love you have for yourself and others.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

FOI History

This afternoon we showed the first rough cut of the film to a small group of folks for the purpose of getting constructive feedback. It felt like a significant moment - FINALLY something to show, as this project started nearly three years ago in late 2006. When considering the history of our endeavor, it is important to note that, ironically, we experienced the exact loss we were trying to describe in the film when most of the initial shoot media was lost due to failed technology. Instead of abandoning the project, we let the loss inform the identity of the film itself, the underlying message being that everything is subject to re-discovery. What an appropriate metaphorical experience that influenced what we’ve thus far created. We have hoped that our commitment to the process would result in a more focused and evolved creation. We have attempted to weave together our continually evolving perspective on finding “self” and are committed to the natural progression of the project to make a universal story. Fortunately, the initial feedback we got today was positive - that although there are sections needing revision and details to polish, as a whole we’ve assembled a cohesive, meaningful piece of work.

Monday, November 30, 2009

self-identified crazy person

I know. I know. I'm totally nuts. That's usually what I tell guys on a first date, just so there are no surprises later.

Jess and I had to keep our senses of humor throughout the production of our film. This clip was taken after a looooong day in the studio, when I found a CD of Brazilian drumming and felt inspired to document how it made me feel like dancin'!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Identity Thunder Storms

I have been recently reminded of how it feels to be knocked off center and to temporarily loose the knowledge of my rooted, steady, core self. What makes that happen? Why do certain events or people leave us feeling strip-mined and exposed? Do we permit our secure identities to be rattled by others or do they steal it? When we have felt that someone has violated our personal sense of self by being disrespectful or selfish, how long does it take for us to settle back in to our intrinsic sense of empowerment and groundedness? This is an important question to weigh, because really, even when truly wronged, I think we are all somewhat responsible for any power we give away to others. Sometimes it takes a thunder storm to clear to clear the air though.

There is a whole succession of stages we often go through to right ourselves or recalibrate our internal compass – sometimes taking minutes, sometimes taking years. It is much like the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection. First the individual molecules of emotion (anger, hurt, shame, expectation, hope, attachment) are evaporated by our internal sun and become vapor in our stomachs; then they condense into powerful arrows that we want to aim and shoot. Once the vapor has transformed to liquid and the air claps together from the lightning’s void, our feelings release with heavy precipitation. Finally, after the rain has fallen, we are able to recollect ourselves and become intimate again with the deep blue body of water that is our true self. I guess the goal is to honor this cycle and to try to move as quickly through the sequence as we can so we are able rightfully claim our authentic existence, unabashedly real and powerful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

living in the forcefield of love

Shot just after our last location shoot, at Cronkhite Beach in the Marin Headlands.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cultural Identity

How much does a particular culture influence one's core identity? Certainly we all have a culture that we grew up in and identify with, the differences between global, regional or even neighborhood cultures varying widely, but do we even realize just how deeply our internal drives and characteristics are shaped by environmental stimuli, relational customs, language, and ritual? Consider the author Malcom Gladwell's thoughts, as expressed in his latest book, Outliers:

"Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them. How are attitudes passed down from generation to generation? Through social heritance. Think of the way accents persist over time....Whatever mechanism passes on speech patterns probably passes on behavioral and emotional patterns as well."

We like to think that we are each extraordinarily unique individuals, and we are, but some of what we might consider to be personal idiosyncrasies, beliefs or inclinations may very well be informed by our culture and all the subcultures we take part in. It is comforting to realize that our overlapping and shared experiences are grounds for identifying commonalities and relating to each other. And when we can't relate to someone very easily, I like that we can understand so much more about that someone if we put them in context.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Right Brain

I just finished reading the book My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a neuroanatomist who suffered a severe stroke that took her eight years to fully recover from. This book describes in great detail her experience as a brain scientist studying her own brain's process of trauma and then recovery, which is fascinating. In much of the book she talks about the different functions and personalities of the right and left hemispheres. The left brain thinks sequentially, rationally, is language based and provides all the brain chatter we constantly hear in our head, whereas the right brain has intuitive powers that allows us to experience the present moment without any awareness of time and allows us to feel the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. Interestingly, the left brain's story teller is the keeper of our identity. Consider this:

"One of the jobs of our left hemisphere language centers is to define our self by saying 'I am.' Through the use of the brain chatter, your brain repeats over and over again the details of your life so you can remember them. It is the home of your ego center, which provides you with an internal awareness of what your name is, what your credentials are, and where you live. Without these cells performing their job, you would forget who you are and lose track of your life and your identity."

Because the author experiences a hemorrhage in her left brain, she lost all of her language and her identity as she knew it. This resulted in her right brain gaining undivided attention, through which she experienced the bliss of feeling the interconnectedness first hand. Here's another passage describing how she perceived this:

"When I lost my left hemisphere and its language centers, I also lost the clock that would break my moments into consecutive brief instances. Instead of having my moments prematurely stunted, they became open-ended, and I felt no rush to do anything. Like walking along the beach, or just hanging in the beauty of nature, I shifted from the doing-consciousness of my left brain to the being-consciousness of my right brain. I morphed from feeling small and isolated to feeling enormous and expansive. I stopped thinking in language and shifted to taking new pictures of what was going on in the present moment. I was not capable of deliberating about past or future-related ideas because these cells were incapacitated. All I could perceive was right here, right now, and it was beautiful.

My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, and entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me. I understood that at the most elementary level, I am a fluid. Of course I am a fluid! Everything around us, about us, among us, withing us, and between us is made up of atoms and molecules vibrating in space. Although the ego center of our language center prefers defining our self as individual and solid, most of us are aware that we are made up of trillions of cells, gallons of water, and ultimately everything about us exists in a constant and dynamic state of activity. "

Dr. Taylor's message through out the book is to encourage us to continually "step to the right" and try to nurture and expand our right brain awareness as much as possible. This is such a comforting notion for when we do experience a crisis of identity (and we all do at some point), because as we have to let go of the ego-driven story about ourselves we can have access to this deep wellspring of fluidity, openness, and connectivity to everything else around us. Allowing our identity to encompass the vision of our right brain could bring so many new dimensions to our perception of self.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Last night I was riding BART into San Francisco to attend a modern dance performance, anticipating experiencing a mixture of visual beauty, stimulation and satisfaction and nostalgic sadness. Sadness because I'm no longer participating in the SF dance community, other than as an occasional audience member. As I sat on the train watching the outside whizz by, I remembered the book I was carrying, The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron, and decided to open it at random. On the first page I landed, the word "egolessness" caught my eye. I thought, "what does that mean?" Curious, I read on.

In the words of Pema, "In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity." Ah ha! Now that sounds like a familiar topic, one being explored by this very project - Forms of Identification. She goes on: "The teachings on egolessness points to our dynamic, changing nature. This body has never felt exactly the way it's feeling now. This mind is thinking a thought, that repetitious as it may seem, will never be thought again. I may say 'Isn't that wonderful?" But we don't usually experience it as wonderful, we experience it as unnerving, and we scramble for ground. The Buddha was generous enough to show us an alternative. We are not trapped in the identity of success or failure, or in any identity at all, neither in terms of how others see us nor in how we see ourselves. Every moment is unique, unknown, completely fresh. For a warrior-in-training, egolessness is a cause of joy rather than a cause of fear."

I looked up, observing the blurred trees and buildings out my window, listening to that familiar low pitched squeal of train wheels on train tracks with an overtone of muffled voices. I felt a wave of understanding cover me, like a caring mother's hand stroking my hair, shoulders and back. I took a breath in and out, and noticed how all the sudden I felt more curious and present with myself than defeated and lost, and I thought, "Yes, I want to be a warrior."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Clip from Forms of Identification

Watch this clip from the film! We like to call it the Junkyard Scene. Filmed on location in the Marin Headlands, Union Square and Ace's Junkyard.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Meaning of Identity

Webster’s Definition of Identity – 1. a: sameness of essential or generic character in different instances b: sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing: oneness 2. a: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual: individuality b: the relation established by psychological identification 3. The condition of being the same with something described or asserted 4: an equation that is satisfied for all values of the symbols.

I appreciate that there are multiple definitions for the concept of identity, especially the ideas that it is both an essence that remains intact as well as being individual characteristics or outward “identifiers” in each person. One idea is more interior, while the other more superficial. When we think about the idea of psychological identification, I believe the ego is involved. Instead of being truly in tune with our inner core, we attach ourselves to outside events and things, fleeting experiences, projections and constructs. Identity is ego driven, while the id, or true essence of someone, is truly constant but below the surface of outward appearances. Ego is how we want to be perceived and understood and what identifiers we’re attached to - our profession, aesthetic or appearance, talents and skills, interests, personality traits, idiosyncrasies, and values and beliefs. Identity crisis is then the death of our perceived self or the stripping away of ego. But the id always remains, and this is what we can remember and gain strength from.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pictures From Our Initial Shoots

stretched foot



over the city


FOI Short Description

This is a dance film that explores the ways we create who we are, our attachment to our various “forms of identification,” and where we must sometimes go to find our core selves. The film asks such questions as: “When I’ve lost what I perceive to be the most important element of myself, what is left?; Who am I when all my circumstances have changed?; Do I have to be creating something to be real?; Am I afraid of what people might think if they see a different side of me?; How do my public and personal personas overlap?; Where can I go to be genuine and what is the essence of me that can never be taken away?” By asking these questions the film hopes to encourage viewers to recognize their own authentic identity which, by extension, gives everyone they interact with permission to be authentic as well.

Finished Principal Photography!

Jessica and I finally finished filming (and re-filming) Forms of Identification! Phew - what a relief and sense of accomplishment! We'll be posting updates on screenings of rough cuts, trailers and other clips and or photos of the film here. You can also stay tuned to hear how post-production and our distribution and funding plans are going. So come back often!