Rainbow Abstract3

6. Breathing for Creative Collaborations

words written by other authors appear in PURPLE
practical exercises appear in ORANGE

*breathe together vb 6: ‘to work together in perfect synchronicity’, as in “you could feel them breathing together as one being”

“They breathed together, they grinned together,
they were chunky and vital.”

~William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Peter Senge also takes the idea of Presence and expands it from the rhetorical sense of having high charisma, intensity of authority and attentiveness that voice specialists like Rodenburg talk about, into a way of deepened learning.

He starts from the same emphases as Rodenburg and Pearce teach, stressing:
the need for us to get out of our head and more into our body,
to fire our alertness and attention to the specific world around us with equal energy to what we are radiating out into it,
the necessity to become easy and open to not-knowing,
and the vital need to use our breathing to help us to do any of this.

Senge’s teachings are also in complete accord with the Dalai Lama’s vision for a better world, giving us a bridge from our personal breathing practices into something more profound and collective that can affect the vibrations and creative possibilities of our encounters in groups.

In many ways, Senge’s work draws from and pulls together all of the ideas about breathing we have already encountered:
the importance of opening and releasing the Mind, the Heart, and the Will;
the necessity of suspension and being able to stay open and curious and receptive to the unknown and the unconscious;
and the vital necessity of sharing, making connections and fusing energies.

Just as for the fire the alchemist uses to transform raw materials into gold, all of this depends upon a constant fuel of oxygen, and this can only come from the sustaining rhythm and renewal of our breathing.

Exercises to help Unleash and Harness Your Creativity in Groups

Senge offers these guidelines for personal practice for cultivating creative collaborations using the power of what he, too, calls ‘presence:

  1. Learn to cultivate suspension, noticing and coming fully into the present by taking anything you are doing and make it slower. Any time you are moving from somewhere to somewhere else, slow yourself down. And the moment you do this you will immediately notice more things around you. Slow your body down. Do whatever you are doing slower. Become aware of the flow of your thoughts and notice your breathing by paying close attention to your breath in and your breath out and the spontaneous pause that happens after you exhale. Breathing practices are the most fundamental meditation practice, and all meditation starts with learning to expand this pause between breathing out and breathing in again
  2. Develop heightened body awareness by taking some posture or position - like standing on one foot or leaning out and away from your centre - and stretching it right to the edge of your ability; then make it harder – perhaps by closing your eyes or upsetting your balance slightly. You will very quickly lose your control, but the more you practice the longer you will be able to hold these positions, and the more you develop your body awareness the greater your ability will be to sense and notice things around you.
  3. To cultivate your awareness in action, learn to expand, rather than contract, your awareness when something happens that isn’t right. All performance arts are about building awareness in action – learning to be acutely aware and able to modify what you are doing at the same time as you are actually doing it. In other situations we can all develop this performer’s heightened ability by noticing what happens when something doesn’t work out – every time you stumble, every time you are interrupted, every time what you wanted to happen or you thought would happen, in these moments you have a chance to practice noticing “what is happening to me right then?” In these moments you have the chance to notice what happens to you. The idea is to increase our ability to feel something difficult and still take helpful action, rather than just to react to how you are feeling.


Peter Senge believes that the combination of three enhanced capabilities –

1. suspending, noticing and coming fully into the present,
2. coupled with heightened body awareness,
3. combined with continuous modification of what you are doing at the same time as you are doing it
is what leads to ‘deepening, enriching and enacting our capacity to create the world anew, no matter how grave, difficult or seemingly impossible the problems we face.’

You can
email me for an audio extract of Peter Senge talking about more of his ideas along with the excerpt transcript from his audio book, The Power of Presence


Singing in a choir is one of the very best ways to quite literally breathe together in a creative collaborative group. And choral singing makes us feel happy. Fact. It is probably from the wonderful combination of breathing fully so the body, mind and emotions are getting a thorough soaking in oxygen at the same time as we are focused towards bringing the fullest contribution we can make to the collective aspiration of sounding fantastic together – exactly what Patsy Rodenburg would recognise as Second Circle energy.

Even if we can’t go singing with a choir, we can make just as much fun for ourselves by getting a group of friends together to perform choral poetry– especially if we give ourselves full permission to play and try out the fullest range of possible expressions we can create together.

Try performing your poems in as many different ways as you have energy for.
For example:

As rhythmically as you can make it
As quickly and lightly as you can make it
As dramatically as you can make
As tragically as you make it
As comically as you can make it
As dynamic as you can make it
With as much togetherness as you can make it

Whatever you achieve with your performance, you are guaranteed a really wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable breathing workout.

Here is an extract from a poem to get you started if you don’t already have one you want to play with:

The Pied Piper Of Hamelin
Robert Browning

Rats!
They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cook's own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

Link to the full poem of The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The possibilities we can make from and with our breathing don’t stop here.

For a truly inspiring and exciting display of what we humans can do with our breathing, see this breathtaking Ted Talk:
Sxip Shirey breathes music and passion

Enjoy.

Breathe.

And enjoy some more.

…Back to Six Ways of Breathing

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