Natural or Performed?
By Charlotte Selver
This article is based on an excerpt from the newly published audio tape of Charlotte Selver’s August 3, 2001 class on Monhegan Island, Maine.
It is very interesting to find out how life is when we are more spontaneous, and when we don’t embellish anything. What happens when we don’t repeat ourselves and say “this is right and this is wrong”, but simply feel in the course of momentary living? At first we may notice that even when we don’t try to be good, even when we just let things have their own way, that we still have this tendency to perform. Could we gradually give this up and let the true person comes out? Can we feel what is really, honestly, happening?
It is very helpful not to judge, just to allow, feel, and see what effect something has. This is true not just in class, but in everything we do. Whether you are with your friends or enemies, or at your job, it is very important to begin to discriminate between that which comes naturally and that which is performed and then to choose what comes naturally.
It is important, however, that we don’t watch from our heads but that we feel throughout. We have feeling nerves everywhere but very many of us watch mostly from our heads. I wish we could gradually become conscious of it and trust our ability to sense from head to toe.
If you were a tight rope walker high up on a suspended rope, how much sensitivity would you need for the next step forward, the next step backward?
Usually, we swallow our sensations as though they are not existing. And yet there is this possibility to sense – as you know, the whole work we are doing is called sensory awareness, awareness of the senses. That doesn’t mean that the mind tells the senses, “Be good,” but the senses, in themselves, are able to feel and discriminate. It is very interesting to realize that we can notice even the slightest lack of air in a room. When we notice that, we open a window. Who knows what I mean? In the same way, when we notice that there is not enough sensitivity in ourselves, we open our inner windows, so that we feel more.
This possibility to feel more can be exceedingly helpful to us, because then we can feel what feels good to us, what we are afraid of, what we withdraw from, where we hold back, where we give ourselves fully. This can be a great teacher in life and I would suggest that you find out about it. For instance, when you go away from here, from the school house, every stone on the road can tell you a story. It’s very nice to walk on the stones and to let them help you to wake up. And you would hopefully not complain and wonder: “Why is this road not smooth and even? Why is the road not parquet?” No, it is as it is! And you respond to it, and hopefully your response is spontaneous rather than directed.
Even if you do the greatest nonsense spontaneously, it’s much better than directing yourself. But the important thing is to find the middle way: to be personal, spontaneous, and at the same time not oppressive. It would be very beautiful to be awake enough – not watching, but being there – for what you notice of yourself and of the other, and then to respond from that experience.