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Robert
Kaplan
Professor
ASU School of Film, Dance and Theater

What is mindfulness to you?

Mindfulness is just Being. That said in order to focus on just being I’ve learned to cultivate a kinesthetic or somatic awareness, which is a lifelong journey. Beginning with breath awareness, and my relationship with gravity, I’m able to come into relationship with how I am right NOW; how my mind is; how my body is holding tension and how to bring myself into balance. This can change daily, especially as we age. 

How do you use mindfulness in your work, research, or practice?

 I have found that students engage with a classwork and interaction more fully after having at least 5 minutes to come into self-awareness—leaving everything that happened earlier outside the room, letting go of everything that has to get done later, and finding a way of coming into balance with right NOW. My research incorporates mindfulness through an approach called Living Musically℠, which uses improvisation as a model or metaphor to understand the world and live well in it, providing       tools that establish a mode of creative inquiry and communication that becomes an intentional practice, both individually and within groups. Our lives are essentially unscripted improvisations and our ability to listen and be aware of relationships is central to our ability to live musically. Establishing and sustaining one’s focus facilitates the shaping of ideas in a conversational realm, whether done as an individual activity or with others. This ability to maintain focus facilitates awareness of how everything may become a significant part of a larger field of relationships. Mindfulness practices range from formal meditative practices that build our ability to sustain focus, bringing our attention back to a single focus without judgment, to informal practices like walking, doing dishes, gardening, eating, drawing, basically anything — when done with an intentionality towards paying attention to NOW.

How has the practice of mindfulness affected your life (personally and professionally)?

I never considered what I was doing as “mindfulness.” I was introduced to breathing over 40 years ago in college through a yoga class. That immediately began to affect my way of being in the world. It led to a journey through improvisation and somatic techniques that have shaped my personal life, my life as a performer, and teacher—informing what and how I teach. Having the ability to check in through a variety of formal to informal contemplative practices increases our ability to LISTEN with all of our senses. 

How can mindfulness transform society?

Practicing mindfulness can bring people into personal balance, increasing our ability to listen and be more responsible for our actions, and less reactive. Most of us go through our lives as creatures of habit set not only in our physical ways but also in our beliefs. As more people are drawn to practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation we begin developing full-sensory awareness and an ability to LISTEN—both internally and externally. A Living Musically℠ vision is a campus community where    improvisational—mindfulness—practices are established in all areas of learning, teaching, and research’ building a community around the investigation and practice of approaches to expanding       modes of communication through listening, self-awareness, awareness in relationship, and creative interaction. This can extend to non-academic communities as well.

What does the future hold for the practice of mindfulness?

Human beings are more than just their minds. Based on my life’s journey/relationship to breathing and somatic awareness I see how it is possible for us to take responsibility for how we are within our bodies. How discovering one’s kinesthetic sensibilities can help connect us to the minute changes that take place in the way we use our body, which if unattended can lead to pain and great discomfort. Contemplative (mindfulness) practices when combined with well-taught somatics are the beginning of real health—where we have a relationship with our tension/stress triggers, how they find homes in our body, and how to more accurately communicate with health care professionals as partners in health.