Though in daily life we tend to consider emotion abstractly, in actuality all emotions are based in bodily, sensory experience. Along with the pre-movement strategies for orienting and balancing that we have considered in previous weeks, the “movements” of the autonomic nervous system, what we experience as anger, fear, sadness etc., can play a fundamental role in shaping our more conscious, voluntary movement patterns. To illustrate this, this week we used some of the more thrilling elements of the “high ropes” course in the gymnastics gym.
We compared the sensation of walking a line on the floor, a low beam, a beam 4ft off the floor—the same movement, each one a different and more challenging context. Then, dressed in full regalia, harness, helmet and belay equipment, one by one we climbed the rope ladder to the 4 inch beam--40 feet in the air. Descent was by rope swing across the gym. Traditionally high ropes courses are used to develop confidence and risk-taking ability. Here they provided a laboratory for experiencing the physical sensations that we call “fear.” At 4 or 40 ft, shaking legs and arms, sweating, and increased muscle tension are some of the markers by which our bodies signal emotion. In this context they are obvious; on a more subtle level, they operate underneath our conscious attention, creating tension patterns that interfere with coordination and fluid movement.
Class also included a quick look at student progress, and beginning to plan for the exhibition in May which will include an explanatory poster as well as a finished device.