Express Yourself

The Chilean transpersonal psychologist Claudio Naranjo defines three broad classes of meditation practice: formless meditation, form meditation and expressive meditation. Mindfulness, vipassana and zazen are formless: you just allow thoughts, feelings and sensations to come and go without trying to force or control them in any way. The mind and body settle naturally. Mantras, prayers and visualizations are examples of form meditation: the mind has a specific object and a specific focus.

Expressive meditation is about embodying and expressing energy, the most obvious examples being singing and dancing. But singing and dancing as expressive meditation is very different from singing karaoke or dancing at a wedding or nightclub. We learn to sing and dance as it were “from the outside”, whether we have actual lessons or not. We mimetically acquire the correct vocal inflections and dance moves and mentally impose them on the body. Thus we learn the cultural conventions of song and dance.

If you can allow the body to do its own thing without external imposition, “from the inside”, you are doing expressive meditation. The breath is set free. The voice is set free. The usual social constraints and habitual self-repression are temporarily suspended. The body can express itself spontaneously in sound and gesture. It feels liberating. It feels great.

To a casual observer, it can look and sound amazing or completely ridiculous. As with any art form, either the person expressing is an experienced, skilled practitioner or a clumsy novice. But if they are doing it right, even beginners can express beauty and charm. Think of unselfconscious young children. Their sense of freedom and playfulness shines through whatever they do.

Mysticism is about mastering the arts of formless meditation and form meditation. Shamanism is about mastering the art of expressive meditation. Through practice, awareness shifts from the left to the right hemisphere. You learn to think differently, speak differently, sing differently, dance differently. And you get better at it. You refine your expression. You find the balance between order and chaos. No longer stuck in your head, you can express yourself fully, mind, body and soul.