The term Spiritual Theatre has come out of a need to define my theatre practices in such a way that they include the thread that leads us to the answer of a vital question: ” Who am I becoming? “. A person, being an artist or not, cannot create deeply, intuitively and universally if not in constant touch with this question that leads them to discover and listen to that “call of the soul”…and make it manifest in this world through aligned action. That kind of action is according to universal laws that can be de-coded and felt at a cellular level through spiritual practices.
Spiritual theatre has been a path for me for more than 10 years having created projects in several countries of Europe and Asia. This project has been supported by Kundalini Yoga entities, University entities, European Commission International projects and Cultural Associations. One of it´s principal aims is to trigger our 6th sense in such a way that we start or continue creating intuitively and use this potential to achieve personal and community changes.
” Instead of the 5 senses, we must develop and trust our intuition-our 6th sense. That sense can understand and direct the other 5. Feel our feelings and process them through that consciousness to act effectively, compassionately and realistically”
I invite you to read an article I wrote about Spiritual Theatre for Barcelona´s cultural magazine “Matrix”. Here you have a version in English and another in Spanish: Spiritual Theatre: Integrating Kundalini Yoga to enhance personal and community transformation
FIRST EXTENDED APPLICATION OF SPIRITUAL THEATRE
My first extended Spiritual Theatre project took place in the summer of 2008 in Pokhara-Nepal with street children. Before that, I was offering small workshops in schools and other organisations since 2006. Its first official presentation, was materialized when I was invited to the XXVI Congress of the Psychodrama Spanish Association in Santander, October 2011. The proposal was presented in the “Space for New Talents and Resources” of the congress. It´s a space created to host innovative practices related to personal and social transformation that could complement and enrich psychodrama. The presentation was a practical workshop of Spiritual Theatre related to the element of fire. This proposal was a call for burning old mental patterns that inhibit our fulfillment and make space for new insights, using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and Kundalini Yoga as catalysts for this change.The participants were mainly professionals and students of mental health, most of them using art as an integral part of the healing process.
SPIRITUAL THEATRE WORKSHOP IN KARAM KRIYA WOMEN´S CIRCLE 2014,
The wounds in life show where love is hidden inside us. They open like mouths and ask: “Where is the soul?”
It has been a great honour for me to share a Spiritual Theatre workshop at the Karam Kriya Women´s Circle in 2014, organised by my teacher Shiv Charan Singh and his wife Satya Kaur. During this workshop we started a dialogue with our wounds turning our focus inwards paying attention to those voices that come out of them.The next step was to listen to our partners: body, mind and soul, listening with attention, sense of humour passion and compassion. The final goal was to create a strong group energy through improvisations and small scenes that the group can bring home and use as an elevation platform for them and others.
You can watch a snippet of the workshop on the followin video (min.8:14-9:05)
SPIRITUAL THEATRE WORKSHOPS AT “MANTRAS AND YOGA SOUND FESTIVALS” ,
Workshop snippet min 1:56-2:24
PERFORMANCES FOR MOTHER EARTH-POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY OF VALENCIA
One of my most fulfilling experiences has been a colaboration for two consecutive years with the NGO Ingeniería sin Fronteras that forms part of Valencia´s Polytechnic University.
We worked at several levels with university students to create two performances related to the protection of our planet. One developed the theme of world water crisis and the other the food sovereignty.
We followed a process of incubation exercises based on Kundalini Yoga practices and Theatre of the Oppressed games and exercises, to open up, receive, process and share. Then we moved on to improvisation that ended up at the creation of the above mentioned performances.
At the same time as the physical and mental work, we were running a parallel investigation on the themes mentioned, so as to base our performances on tangible information.
The play, scenography, and music were created collectively and all of them were original. I was deeply surprised and blissed with the creativity of the participants, most of them being engineers and mechanics.
THE EXPERIENCE IN POKHARA-NEPAL
During the summer of 2008 I stayed for 4 months in Pokhara at the self-sustaining children´s home “Annapurna”. Breaking up with old ways of mine I submerged to the experience of living day by day with local people, the majority of them being children between 1 and 12 years old. Most of them were abandoned for one or another reason and belonged to lower castes, a fact that made their position in Nepal´s society considerably difficult. They were deprived of basic rights like access to necessary medicine, affection and a future that would give them the tools to sustain themselves at a material and spiritual level.
During the day we worked together with the women of the home, preparing the children for school, cultivating the land, cooking…and late in the afternoon we gave Spiritual Theatre classes creating thus an incubatiοn space through which a play would be born. The theme chosen by the children was the lack of medical care and humanity to their situation resulting to the play “The carving on the tree”. The process aimed at empowering the children giving voice to their feelings, insights and state, giving them support to maintain a focus to it and attracting any practical help possible.
With the valuable help of the women who worked there, the commitment of the children and the support from Manipal University Hospital and Pragati Boarding School, the process resulted creative and effective. The play was presented at the hospital and the school. A flow of interest on behalf of the local society was created. The children were donated school material, second-hand clothes, vaccines, medical check-ups twice a year and money that was used to enroll them to english classes, a tool that could result useful for them later by giving them the chance to find a job.
Equally important has been the fact that the theatrical experience has been experienced by the children as an act of reassuring themselves and feel that once expressing themselves with strength, dignity and humility magic can happen; they offered a play to the local society and the local society responded to the call.
Diversi T O Vienna and Spiritual Theatre
In October 2013 I received an invitation for Vienna, related to a Theatre of the Oppressed programme that would get together T.O facilitators from different european countries in order to share original ways for teaching T.O and exploring diversity. There were different very interesting proposals and what especially drew my attention is the fact that practices like Theatre of the Oppressed tend more and more to acquire healing and spiritual dimensions either through the fusion with practices like psychodrama, contact-improvisation techniques etc, or through spiritual practices.
My proposal was to put aside for a while the usual -isms: comunism, socialism, capitalism, laicism etc. and concentrate more on humanism not only taking care of social issues like it´s used to happen in social theatre ambients, but also of our own balance and communication with, our intuition. Cultivating this connexion will help us be focused and at the same time able to attend and stand up for issues related with peers and society in a more effective way.
Throughout this project Spiritual Theatre has been applied twice. First, by using Kundalini yoga as an energiser, first thing in the morning, and before proceeding to T.O games and exercises. Second, facilitating a workshop with Anna María Avella, a T.O facilitator from Italy. The theme of the workshop was extracted from the incident in the italian island Lampedusa, in october 2013, where hundreds of africans looking for a better life in Europe, died when the boat that transported them from Africa sank near the shores of the previously mentioned island.
Before exploring different dimensions of this incident through T.O techniques, we facilitated some kundalini yoga exercises that helped the participants relax and treat this subject not in an academic, intellectual way but an intuitive one in such a way that they would feel not only observers of the incident in Lampedusa but also empathise with its protagonists.
The result of the whole process was the creation of collective images-insights on the issue of Lampedusa that at some point were activated to give life to what connects us with others, being those others strangers or not.
SPIRITUAL THEATRE WORKSHOPS AT KUNDALINI YOGA AND ART FESTIVAL
2013, 2015 AND 2016
For 3 years Spiritual Theatre workshops have been shared at Kundalini Yoga and Art Festival, held by then in Crete-Greece. The first 2 years they were facilitated by me and in 2016 by Magdalena Spychaj, a student of mine, Polish theatre facilitator and kundalini yoga teacher. The fusion of Kundalini Yoga with theatre techniques resulted in small performances that were greatly enjoyed by all of us proving that one does not necessarily have to be a professional artist to be creative.
KIMP Kundalini Yoga Festival Catalonia and
Encounter of Families and Free Spirits in Gandia
During two consecutive years 2012, 2013, Spiritual Theatre was taught at the KIMP Kundalini Yoga Festival on the mountains of Catalonia-Spain.
The themes that were primarily dealt with were related to existential matters connected with the teachings of Kundalini yoga.
They were extracted from the everyday life of the participants and developed in such a way as to reveal the innate potential of the situations we find ourselves in and use it as a motivation for mental, emotional and spiritual development. This aim is achieved through kundalini yoga exercises and meditations, and games, exercises and improvisations based on theatre techniques in order to create final sketches or performances related to the themes treated in each workshop and enjoy the process of exploring who we are and what we do in this life.
Also Spiritual Theatre has formed part of th Encounter of Families and Free Spirits during the years 2012 and 2013 in Gandia-Spain. It is an encounter that joins practicioners of diverse spiritual practices aiming at reinforcing change in consciousness in such a way that we all become participants in respect of peace and community building starting from an early age.
We use the educational and artistic aspect of theatre and the transforming power of Kundalini Yoga to share the message of peace and tolerance.
SPIRITUAL THEATRE EXPERIMENTAL GROUP IN CRETE-GREECE
In 2009 an experimental Spiritual Theatre group was created in Crete-Greece. The participants were adults caring for exploring their inner world through techniques of the Theatre of the Oppressed. The theme of the course was “Where the soul is” and consisted on the use of games and T.O exersises that led us to spontaneous improvisations related to how we connect to and manifest our essence in everyday life in a way that we feel grounded and, at the same time, transcend the energy of negative feelings into a boost for creativity. T.O. was fused with Kundalini Yoga meditations, visualisations and more spiritual tools to strengthen the insight aquired by the artistic practices.
Apart from the above techniques we also used poems by world poets and created our own poetry based on the material generated by the exercises. Those poems along with the improvisation contributed to personal and community expression of practical ways of acting in life, searching for balance.
HOMMAGE TO THE THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED
As Theatre of the oppressed has served as one of Spriritual Theatre´s´basic ingredients, I would like to pay hommage by sharing information and my experience with it.
Theatre of the Oppressed: Introduction
The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) was developed by the Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal during the 1950’ps and 1960’s in an effort to transform theatre from the “monologue” of traditional performance into a “dialogue” between audience and stage. His explorations were based on the assumption that dialogue is the common, healthy dynamic between all humans, that all human beings desire and are capable of dialogue, and that when a dialogue becomes a monologue, oppression ensues. Theatre then becomes an extraordinary tool for transforming monologue into dialogue. “While some people make theatre,” says Boal, “we all are theatre.”
From his work Boal evolved various forms of theatre workshops and performances which aimed to meet the needs of all people for interaction, dialogue, critical thinking, action, and fun. While the performance modes of Forum Theatre, Image Theatre, Cop-In-The-Head, and the vast array of the Rainbow of Desire are designed to bring the audience into active relationship with the performed event, the workshops are virtually a training ground for action not only in these performance forms, but for action in life.
TRAINING PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED TECHNIQUES- GREECE
During the summer of 2009 we got together with a group of primary school teachers and explored the possibilities of applying the techniques of theatre of the Oppressed in education. The programme was part of the intensive training organised by the Employment Office of Greece in the island of Crete. It aimed at giving extra tools to primary school teachers who were unemployed and wished to continue having new stimuli around their work through creative ways.
The programme was held together with the stage director Litsa Markopoulou. My role was first to facilitate the participants with games and exercises of the T.O in such a way that they first focus on who they are as educators and what they want to achieve through education. The material would serve them to set an educational and existential direction. Secondly, we shared the insights generated to build the group´s energy and intentions as educators, facilitate the communication between us and head towards the building up of improvised plays based on a greek tale related to environmental consciousness. It was equally important for us not only to show ways of teaching drama at school, but also to use this means in order to raise consciousness around several issues related to the life of all of us.
After the “incubation” process, Litsa took over helping the participants put the improvised parts together and script the plays as well as stage them paying attention to
The teachers-participants had a practical experience of how to use those techniques in class, not only for teaching drama but also being flexible in using them for a more creative approach on different school subjects such as foreign language teaching through improvisation and role-playing.
Education especially at an early age is important not only to build skills in the students, but also raise awareness of who they are and what they want inside the context of the society they live in. Theatre is a way of canalising and expressing their creativity and therefore being more balanced. Balance gives them peace inside and peace makes them capable of being compassionate and build a more humane society.
THE EXPERIENCE IN CALCUTTA-INDIA
My personal contact with Augusto Boal took place in India during the autumn of 2006 for the Mukta Dhara Festival of the Theatre of the Oppressed. It has been an inspiring encounter that combined direct influence from the founder of the T.O, getting to know the way the hindu T.O group Jana Sanskriti works,social intervention, art and close contact with the hindu culture.
The result of this boost of inspiration was my return to India in the autumn of 2007 staying and collaborating with Jana Sanskriti.Being in deeper touch with the people there I got deeper into the techniques of T.O and above all,in a context where social reality is hard to assume with the polarities of everyday life being so present that you either learn how to integrate them or you quit.Social injustice and cruelty are so intense that don’t give you too much space for theorising and intellectualising.You have to take action fast and efficiently and do it from a heart impulse,creating a solid spiritual base in order to be able to keep up.
There I attended workshops leaded but the founder of Jana Sanskriti,Sanjoy Ganguly, and collaborated as intermediary between the indian group and disitinct groups that came from Europe to share practices and insights as a boost for personal and social transformation.The festival Mukta Mancha of the T.O took place at that time in Kolkata and we also travelled to several places of West Bengal creating theatre workshops and actions related to social issues like alcoholism,domestic violence,medical care etc.
all the necessary facets for the theatrical experience to be complete, clear and direct; acting skills, scenery, props, illumination, music. The music generated was original, created by the participants who already knew how to play instruments and others who had no experience but risked marking the rhythm of the songs using different types of instruments and percussion.
Nicolas Ronjat and Jerome Cargill,members of a french team from Grenoble,recorded this process and created a documentary film called “La voix del opprimé”.