Lesson Three

Lesson Three
You will begin to incorporate different skills into one exercise testing your understanding of the skills and your ability to integrate the skills. Resist the urge to move forward before you are ready. Remember, this is not a race, it is a process.
Exercise 1.7 introduces the practice of recalling a memory using your five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. Vivid, sensory recollections can have an indelible imprint on our brains. If 1.7 is a challenge for you, commit to paying closer attention to the whole experience, not only the activity that occurs but the sights, smells, sounds and feel of the whole experience.

1.6 Warm up
Ball Toss (lesson one) The objective remains the same: keep the ball in play. Add the intentional use of the voice and breath as described in lesson two.
Discussion/Journal response: How did the physical action of tossing and catching the ball alter my breathing? At what point was I successful at catching and tossing the ball AND breathing from my diaphragm?

Additional modifications/challenges: The group should decide on a memorized passage (Pledge of Allegiance, Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc.) Decide if the passage will be divided by word or phrase. Decide who will begin the exercise.
Begin tossing the ball with the addition of speaking the next word or phrase as the ball is tossed.
Then try saying the word or phrase when the ball is caught and compare the differences.
Discussion/Journal Response: It is possible that the use of the voice with proper breath support is easier when tossing the ball and that maintaining a neutral position is easier when catching the ball before you speak? How do additional modifications/challenges compliment or detract from the primary objective: keeping the ball in play? How can you integrate the two?

1.7 Sense Memory/Recall
Sense memory (or sense recall) has been utilized as an acting method for many years. Thanks to functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), when brain mapping is employed we can determine which areas of the brain become engaged and energized. The same areas of the brain that are activated by actual engagement show activity when a memory of the engagement occurs and the correlating brain synapses (connections) are activated. There are many kinds of sense memory exercises, but these are a few I have found beneficial. If recalling sensory details is difficult, resolve to develop the habit. Raising your awareness will not only improve your sensory perception in the present, it may ignite neuro-synapses established long ago.
Dr. Richard Restak, author and Clinical Professor of Neurology at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science cites the use of a common acting exercise in which novice actors are taught to use their sense memory. Dr. Restak lists this concept under Plasticity-Enhancing exercises.

Let me stress that the success of sense memory relies on the details recalled. A general recollection of what a medium-well filet mignon tastes like is not enough. Take the time to recall all of the different senses involved and write or mentally talk yourself through each one.

1. The objective of this exercise is to recall, in as much detail as possible, past experiences. In pairs, take turns describing for one another, in detail, a savory dish or food.
Discussion/Journal Response: Did your mouth begin to water? Stomach rumble? Did the other person have any sensory experiences relating to the description?

2. Individually, in your journal, recall an emotionally charged exchange between you and someone else. In as much detail as possible, write about this moment.
Discussion/Journal responses: where you were, what the place looked like, colors, textures, sounds, temperature, what you were wearing, what the other person was wearing, the sound of your voice, the sound of the other persons voice, etc. As you write about this experience become aware of any changes in your pulse, breathing, grip on the pen, speed of writing, pressure on the page. Was your jaw clenched? Your toes? The small of your back? Your neck? Was there a knot in your throat? Was your mouth dry? Note any other significant changes
Pair off again, determine who will begin.

Construct a basic scene:
3. Waiting for a bus
a. Each person decides on detail-what, where, when and why (weather, location, time of day, etc.) without sharing the details with the partner.
b. Each person performs the scene for the other. 
Avoid “showing” the details rather, focus your attention on the activity you are recalling in that particular environment. Commit to the memory and trust that your commitment will be sufficient to re-create the specifics of the 4 w’s.
Respond to the scene that you observe.
Discussion/Journal Response: Based on what you saw, do you know the 4 w’s where, what, when and why?

Lesson One

Lesson One
Exercise One: Ball Toss

-A round ball approximately 15” with a soft and pliable outer core is preferred.
-In a circle either standing or sitting with feet flat on the floor, begin tossing the ball from person to person in no particular order. Adjust the circle to an appropriate size for tossing.
-The goal is to toss and catch without dropping the ball. When the ball has been successfully tossed to each participant, or when the ball is dropped, use the break in action to add a new challenge or discuss ways to successfully achieve the goal.

Setting a goal for determining a successful outcome is important because this is how you will gauge when a new challenge can be added to the existing challenge. Adding or layering challenges while performing a relatively simple physical task exercises your mental flexibility and capacity.However, the repetitive physical task (tossing and catching a ball) must be conquered first. Only when this action becomes ‘second nature’, will the benefit of additional challenges be felt and understood. Other challenges IF the goal is reached:

-Stating your name as you toss the ball

-Stating the intended recipients name as you toss the ball

Each participant is encouraged to toss the ball to the first person with whom they make eye contact. This begins to develop the habit of  trusting their instincts rather than intellectually “choosing” someone. The pace will increase as a result, requiring immediate engagement. Discussion points and or journal entries:
  – possible changes in physical posture
  -areas of tension- shoulders knees, clenched jaws, etc.
  -where your visual focus tracks
  -pace, how quickly or slowly the ball moves

Exercise Two: Gaze
 Intentionally altering the level of and distance of your gaze effects physical posture and awareness of the space around you.
-Predetermine a distance (approximately 10-15’)
Each participant estimates the number of steps he or she will take to cover the distance
-As each  participant walks, he or she should mentally repeat a well known passage ( pledge of allegiance, the alphabet, a poem, etc.)
-Those watching, count the actual number of steps taken
-Compare the estimate to the actual
-Discuss where his or her gaze habitually fell and why
After each person has taken his or her turn, discuss the difference between the estimate and the actual. In most cases the estimate will be different from the actual number of steps. Spatial awareness and physical perception improve as the difference between these two numbers decreases.Discussion points and journal entries: 
How many steps did I estimate?
How many steps did I actually take?

At what level did my gaze rest?
Did I look to an end goal or focal point?

This should take about an hour give or take. As always, begin new exercises erring on the side of safety. Each person know his or her abilities and should trust themselves as to when a task has been mastered.  Let me know how it went!!

Expressive Avenues Wellness lessons for aging adults 65 and up

Hello again!

I hope some of you who followed along last time are with me again, as well as some new curious minds. It’s been over a year since I ended the first blog and since then I’ve been teaching, learning and discovering what works and what does not. I’ve got some positive results to share and some new exercises. October 26th will be the first post for 2014 and will start posting lessons again in January. So, if you haven’t participated before, gather some other like-minded people and get ready to start, get through the season’s events and look forward to starting 2015 with an optimistic, energetic and experiential program to strengthen your heart, mind and soul. Now, here’s a little more about Expressive Avenues: Wellness…

The goals and outcomes in this program may be tailored to a specific population. The validity of this program lies not only in the immediate results but in the long term wellness benefits. Joining these particular acting and movement exercises with accepted therapeutic outcomes offers participants the promise of vibrant living throughout a lifetime. Expressive Avenues: Wellness focuses on three areas: mental flexibility, physical perception, sensory awareness.

Exercises are most effective in groups of six or more. Social interaction, community building and trust among group participants is essential. Expressive Avenues: Wellness for aging adults closes the existing gap in wellness care for those 65 years old and older. Based on fMRI brain mapping results illustrated in Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter and referencing Abraham Maslow, Edward de Bono and Richard Restak, Angie Dortch has synthesized their theories/philosophies with experiential gaming and awareness exercises used in acting, dance and voice. A wellness program which addresses mental flexibility, physical perception and kinesthetic awareness in a social, interdependent atmosphere is the result. This evidence-based approach to the aging process improves cognition, balance and awareness of the participants internal and external environment.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.– Mother Teresa