Theatre of the Oppressed at Full Bloom

We recently had our second “Theatre of the Oppressed” workshop here at Full Bloom, led by our friend Eliot, a wonderful performance artist and facilitator of this dynamic and unique form of theater.  Here’s is synopsis of the form:

As created by Brazilian visionary Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O.) is a form of popular community based education which uses theater as a tool for social change. It’s basic aim is to re-humanize humanity. Originally developed out of Boal’s work with peasant and worker populations, it is now used all over the world for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy, and government legislation. Designed for non-actors, it uses the universal language of theatre as a springboard for people and whole communities to investigate their lives, identify their dreams, and reinvent their future. Not a soapbox, T.O. invites critical thinking and dialogue. It is about analyzing rather than giving answers. It is also about “acting” (taking action) rather than just talking. With T.O., people can and often do discover empowering solutions to their own struggles. And they have a good time doing it.

He is serious about the “good time” part of the description.  The workshops have been extraordinarily fun.  In turns out that the serious, charged and complex material of social oppression really needs movement, mirth, and play in order to be fully and sustainably explored.  Cause at the end of the day we’re not going to be motivated to explore and heal oppression if its heavy, lacks movement, and is completely devoid of laughter.

In T.O. participants are incredibly supported in the exploration of oppressions they feel in their daily life (such as money, ageism, racism, physical disability, sickness, isolation etc.) by having some of their feelings, thoughts, and stories on the matter reflected back to them by “players” (BTW all of the participants in the workshop are spectactors, meaning they both witness whats happening and are actively engaged in the games and theatrics).



An warm up game where everyone partnered up with someone in the circle and attempted to mirror back their movements to the best of their ability. That’s Eliot in the red hoodie.

What I took home as the higher purpose of T.O. was this: to refelct the tender complexity of the human condition so that we may be genuinely heartened, grow in our understanding of humanity and maybe even laugh at the messes we get ourselves into personally and collectively.  I really appreciated the sense of togetherness that it generated which felt much fuller than what often happens in a simple “sharing circle” where everyone shares their personal stories or challenges as if they are theirs alone, when it actuality everyone has versions of feeling excluded, oppresses, or unjustly treated.  I’m looking forward to taking this form deeper as we continue to grow as a community through all the inevitable conflict, oppression, and confusion.

IMG_8287“When we look beyond appearences, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life” Augusto Boal


Meditation Group Starting at Full Bloom

Last week the residents here decided to re-establish a weekly group meditation practice and I found myself reflecting on the why of it.  There’s a million things to do on this land, why would we all get together and just sit quietly together.  I like to ask these kinds of questions to myself and just write down the reflections that come to me.  When I first started a regular practice of meditation some years ago (To be specific it was in 2001 where I met my 3 other land partners at Green Gulch Zen Center) I thought it was mainly about calming the mind and eventually achieving some transcendental state of perfection where the the throws of human emotion and relational conflict cease to be an issue.

I’ve realized lately that the transformative power of meditation exists in the opportunity it provides to notice a pattern of thought or behavior and to choose something else, some other way of being.  If we stop on put our focus on our breath versus how much that person is wrong we can literally alter our brain chemistry and whole new options, choices present themselves that were preciously not there (given the brain state that goes with reactivity.  For more on this check out Dr. Dan Siegal’s work

We have this invaluable ability as humans to intentionally change our way of being in the world and in relationship.  Its up to us to employ this ability to say to ourselves “instead of lashing back at this person I’m going to pause and take a deep breath and consider some more constructive options”

I’m not saying there isn’t value to exploring the depths of human consciousness through the practice of mediation, what I am saying is that it can also be an incredibly powerful grassroots tool that has radical implications for how we pattern and re-pattern our lives both individually and collectively.  Its simple and I think simple can be quite powerful: pause, breath, and watch your perceptions change right before your very eyes.

I’m grateful to be living in a community of folks that value this practice.

Thanks for reading,


The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.
― Pema ChödrönWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult 




A reflection on our New Vision Statement: Recovering from a Culture of Separation…..


Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs one step at a time.
― Mark Twain

Last Week the four land partners of Full Bloom:  Myself, my wife Eden, Jo Ferneau and Rosie Demmin collaborated on a new vision statement with the intention of having the statement be something we could read at the beginning of any meeting or gathering to remind us why we do what we do, to awaken our deeper purpose behind all the myriad things we do to keep Full Bloom growing.   I’m finding that one of the lines has been really working on me ever since we nailed it down:  “We are recovering from a culture of separation and disembodiment, rediscovering what it means to have a sacred relationship with the mundane”.

I find that uttering that line leaves me with a sense of relief.  I believe it has something to do with the admittance that I am in the process of recovering from certain patterns and conditioning that have led me to feel separate and either ambivalent towards our downright disrespectful of my body and the earth body.  This shows up in pushing my body to just do one more thing regardless of what its telling me through back pain or fatigue, or buying the new shiny thing rather than repurposing what I already have.  These habits disturb me, or not in alignment with the kind of person I want to be.

But rather than expecting myself to not feel separate, to feel deeply connected to my body, to always be a model eco-citizen this statement allows me to say: “I’m working on it, I’m doing my best to remember that this earth, this body, this food is sacred and not separate from me and to relate with it accordingly.”

Over the years I’ve frequently fallen into a state of guilt or shame around the habits I have that place my needs above the earth, other people.  Habits of mind that turn me into an island to defend and bolster rather than a node in a web of relationships to enjoy and honor.   Bit by bit I’m intentionally shifting those Habits and giving up the tendency to try to “fling them out the window”.  Patience, acceptance, self-compassion are virtues that are becoming my refuge as I mature.

All I know is it is of utmost importance to me to have companions to explore these difficult issues.  Friends in recovery from patterns that don’t support life of deep connection to the earth and all living beings.  Friends who can offer that gentle reminder of why I’m here and what really matters.

Below is the Vision Statement in its entirety:

We are a community weaving a web of heart intelligence so that every being we interact with is inspired to thrive.

We are in recovery from a culture of separation and disembodiment, rediscovering what it means to be in sacred relationship with the mundane.

We are committed to deep connection and radical care with ourselves, each other and the earth.

Thank you all for reading and please post any feedback and/or thoughts about this post.


Inspired by the Leviathan Studio on Lasquitti Island B.C.

Just coming by from two inspirational weeks at the Leviathan Studio in B.C.  Mark Young is the founder and coordinator of this center dedicated to exploring the form of contact dance.   He has a certain devotional energy around the form as he attributes it to helping him recover from brain trauma.  He built the studio mostly by himself and some teenagers from the island he restled up to keep them out of trouble and give them something to focus there energy into (moving and stacking rock for the walls seen in the picture).    The Studio was built completely into the landscape with large rock and trees incorporated into the interior.  It creates an experience of still being in wild nature.  As a dancer I felt inspired to include the feeling and texture of the place into my dance.

DSCN0703 DSCN0693 DSCN0713Mark keeps the workshops at the studio very affordable through a relatively simple meals, and no frills lodging (camping).  Which was fine by me.  I came to dance!   Through the simplicity of the the place one is able to just enjoy the natural setting of the island with the coastal breezes and beautiful conifer trees.

After the trip I am emboldened to create a center her at Full Bloom that can offer individuals the opportunity to dance, enjoy the natural world, and connect with other kindred souls!
“There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good”.  ~Edwin Denby


Inspirations from Sierra Hot Springs Contact Dance Festival

Just returning from 5 days of dancing and soaking and connecting with amazing people at the Sierra Contact Improvisational Dance Festival in Sierraville, Nevada.  The event was started by one of my favorite teachers of the form Karl Frost ( who has created a type of event that is beautiful blend of a structure and freedom to follow your own impulses and desires (which makes sense given that “improvisation” is the key word for what we are doing).  Every morning during the festival the whole group (around 40 of us) would gather for a facilitated movement warm up led by different facilitator each time. We gave each other body work, explored different degrees of contact with each other, and laughed and played into the second part of the morning: an open “Jam”.



Above you see the tail end of the morning “jam” which in contact dance is a term referring to a full improvisational context for exploring dance.  Anything can happen; somedays I dance with one other person for nearly 45 minutes, other days I shifting from partner to partner or I’m in a trio for an extended period or some combination.  Every jam ends up being an adventure into the previously unknown ways of moving and relating to oneself and others.  Its deeply invigorating and fun and I always learn something new about myself.

The major aspect of the Festival was the Socializing.  I always get so much out of meeting and getting to know the people that are so passionate about such a courageous and creative practice.  Over the cours of my time there I cam to know a transportation planners, several performing artists, an anthropology and a math professor, and a paragliding instructor.  Its always so fascinating to me how they came to Contact Improv.



I feel so grateful to have ended making this form a central part of a my life and I am looking forward to hosting events such as this at Full Bloom in the very near future!


 Siobhan Davies