Anatomy of Wholeness
(Based on David Gorman's Patterns of Being™ discoveries)
The Anatomy of Wholeness workshop is an in-depth exploration of the underpinnings of how we are made. We blend anatomical details with experiential work to understand a sense of ourselves as elastically sprung, open, whole, movable beings.
This model of functioning is a way out of the all-too-common unpleasant experiences of feeling inflexible, tight, old, or of constantly improving or ignoring our bodies, and especially addresses the fundamental problem of sensing our body as somehow separate from our self.
Currently I am teaching the Anatomy of Wholeness in class and workshop forms. This is the workshop that is perfect for conferences, yearly meetings for universities and private studios.
What follows is a description of the Anatomy of Wholeness for Singers workshop I often present. I put this here only as an example of how the general Anatomy of Wholeness material can be adapted for a specific field like voice. It can be equally useful in any number of fields.
This material is best when we have several days if not weeks to explore the work. It can be given in a format of a few hours or a semester long course.
Anatomy of Wholeness for Singers:
This workshop presents a new model for understanding human structure and function and the implications of this model for singing and teaching singing.
Human Compatible Teaching:
A fundamental principle underlying the Anatomy of Wholeness work is that the closer our pedagogical approach is to the way humans actually function the more effective our teaching will be. This is "Human Compatible Teaching". A key component of Human Compatible teaching is that we, as teachers, remain open to new and more accurate information about human functioning as it is discovered, from neurology to structure and function ideas.
We also continue to question our own teaching methodologies. A great deal of common physical instruction is based on alignment/postural ideas or movement ideas that have little to no relationship to how humans are actually designed to be upright and functioning in the world. There is a vast wealth of updated material about our structure and function that has profound implications on how we sing and teach. The coordinating system model presented in the Anatomy of Wholeness workshops is based on this new scientific information.
The Model: Our Inbuilt-Coordinating-Elastic-Suspension System:
We are one whole, already integrated and coordinated being. We have built into us a coordinating-elastic-suspension system that can be relied upon to organize us as best as possible in any given circumstance. It is always working for us unless we interfere with it by either trying to take over our system or turning it off.
What I mean by taking over is any attempt to impose a structural or postural idea on ourselves. Many common postural and voice pedagogy instructions fall into this pitfall. “Stand tall" or "come into your dignity posture", "open your chest", "free your head", "shoulders back". The turning off interference is expressed in ideas like “relax your jaw", "drop your shoulders”.
Human Compatible Pedagogy - Exploratory teaching:
How do we support optimal singing without those impositions and instructions?
Many problems are not a question of what to do to fix the problem, but of discovering why the problem is there in the first place. The student is the one with the information needed to find this out. Thus the teacher needs tools to help students get at that information accurately and fully.
The teacher needs to help students make sense of what they find and help them know what to do with it so the problem does not recur. Students may need to make different choices or see things differently. In the workshop we will look at ways to facilitate this discovery of the cause of interferences with your students. The approach consists of asking clear and direct questions and discerning the implications of what is uncovered.
Another key aspect of the implications on vocal pedagogy of the coordinating system model is having skills to help students become independent learners. This is different than teaching a student what to do.
It is the difference between directive teaching: “Sing it like this” and exploratory teaching: “What did you notice when you sang the first time and the second time? What explains the difference? What did you prefer and why?”
In the latter students learn to make sense of their experiences and access their own criteria for making choices. This kind of approach prevents a huge territory of tension for many students. There is no “trying to get it right” or “trying to please the teacher”. Students learn to explore, discover and make choices based on realistic expectations and knowledge of how they learn and change.
I am including two testimonials because hearing from people who have actually experienced the workshop is perhaps the most accurate reflection of the potential benefits of the workshop.
A recent participant from this summer’s NATS workshop wrote to say “My teaching has been revolutionized by what I learned from you.” She gave a student who had “severe problems with performance anxiety and negative thinking” some written material from that workshop. “At her last voice lesson, I was teaching a new person.”
The student wrote this teacher a letter, part of which I include here. “This new approach is AMAZING. I keep repeating to myself: 'Intend, Do, Assess, Clarify'. I worked a piece tonight using that approach and the difference was unbelievable. Instead of just constantly berating myself until I reached a breaking point, I sang it with a certain goal in mind, attempted it, looked back to see if the goal was achieved, and decide whether or not it worked. Although it’ll be a long while until I can fully adapt this method, since my vocal pessimism also affects many other aspects of my life, this has really helped a lot.”
A voice professor from another workshop left a message on my phone saying “I can safely say I have never felt so fantastic in my teaching: nor have I ever felt so able to facilitate some exciting self-discovery for people as I do this year. Honestly, I have never seen such progress in my students at such a rate. They are just on top of the world.”