The Shifting Contexts of Void Space
© 2016 Antero Alli
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My ongoing experience and relation with the No-Form process has undergone many significant stages over almost four decades I've been practicing it in Paratheatre and living with the results (note: I've never maintained any sitting meditation practice). Beyond these stages, one constant remains. No-Form has never been what I thought it was. However, I have found language to articulate these stages that have been personal to me. Perhaps others may relate with them, as well.
First stage: Resistance (five weeks). Back in 1977, I was initiated into this work after seven years of studying, teaching, and performing a style of Mime Theatre based on asserting a high level of control over body, gesture, and movement. In this orientation, No-Form was totally inaccessible. I resisted letting go of my highly developed and coveted sense of self-control, a prized technical prowess that also maintained my sense of self, my income, my status. After five weeks of attempting No-Form, I finally broke through and broke down. The No-Form experience hit me suddenly like a lightning bolt and threw me to the floor laughing my ass off.
Second stage: Religious (three months). Being struck by No-Form like that resulted in a kind of a religious conversion experience. No-Form became for me "the answer to everything". For several months, I attempted to convert others to the No-Form experience. I wanted to share the news with the world! I am Nothing and so are you! That did not go very far. Out of sheer futility, I finally stopped trying to convert others and began searching for another way to cope with my conversion experience.
Third stage: Nothing Special (1979-present day). During my search, I read "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki who referred to the No-Form process as Nothing Special (see page 46 in the book). This idea held great appeal for me and helped cool the white hot jets of my religious fervor. My No-Form practice in Paratheatre soon became more workman-like by focussing more on the function of No-Form, what it did -- as a trance-induction device and as a tool for trance-dispersion or, breaking trance. Make trance, break trance. No-Form became more practical, less "religious".
Fourth stage: Escape (1990-93; three years). During this stage, No-Form became for me a kind of refuge and sanctuary from the anxiety and stresses of daily life. Here, No-Form provided a deep sense of safety that was missing from my life, a meta-place where I could disappear and avoid the static of the out-there world and the default culture at large. However, this escapist tendency proved very short-lived. It soon became obvious that I could not function in the world the way I wanted to if I was busy hiding in the void. Dwelling in the un-manifest potential state frustrated my needs to manifest certain ambitions and realize my dreams. I was not done with the world and the world was not done with me.
Fifth stage: Acceptance (1996-present day). No-Form as friend. By simple acceptance of the existence of No-Form, I developed an ongoing friendship with the fertile Void. This gentle rapport helped me stay receptive and self-aware, critical conditions for staying creative and close to those sources of inspiration that fueled my art in theatre and filmmaking. This capacity for ongoing receptivity turned into a strong value that remains in me to this day, a value that enables all creative work and the realization of my dreams.
Sixth stage: Identity (2005-present day). No-form as true nature. After many years of No-Form practice in Paratheatre I became increasingly aware of, not only a deepening acceptance of and relationship with the fertile Void but, an experience of actually being an expression of the fertile void - not as any concept or idea but as identity. Void as true nature. Now - when entering No-Form in Paratheatre work, I have only to remember who I am and instantly, a deep receptivity blossoms. This sixth stage holds such infinite capacity that I have not found any further stages of the No-Form experience beyond integrating elements from all previous five stages. I'm not saying this is any final stage; No-Form can never be what I think.
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