Mapping, Selfing and Physical Thinking.

Posted on: October 1st, 2012

By adminDanNorman

I watched three TED talks this past week that got me thinking and linking, as I like to put it.  I’m usually trying to bombard myself with various areas or subjects to see if I get any new ideas, concepts, metaphors etc that not only help me with my understanding of the human condition, but also enlighten me as to how “best-fit present” and explore  this topic of “health and fitness”, or personal transformation/transcendence to clients.

The three talks in question were, in order of viewing:


Aris Venetikidis: “Making Sense of Maps.”

Read Montague:  “What we are Learning from 5000 brains.”

Wayne McGregor:  A Choreographer’s Creative Process in Real Time.”


As a compulsive meaning maker I can be guilty of mistaking correlation for causation and drawing conclusions from tenuous links however,  I was taken by these three clips and asked the question; “How can a question, a process and an outcome all occur concurrently?

The three video clips generated for me, broadly, a three-stage process that I felt was a very powerful description of a model for change and understanding, that presented a multi directional way of working with goals, less linear than a talk, plan, execute plan type affair.

  1. Create a map that represents and is functional (gets us there, or very close).
  2. Engage with the person building the map…..and co-create the map so we both know how it works, creating value.
  3. Physically enact the map through a variety of means so that the concept gets expressed as fully as possible.

There were some very interesting distinctions in the first video between accuracy and function.  Maps of the underground worked better when they were less accurate and more simple, when they represented how we build cognitive maps in our own minds.  We are and can be more functionally effective in the real world following a map that allows us to interface with the environment that is “a simplified representation” of reality.  The leaving out of key pieces of information to increase effectiveness was massively illuminating as a thought process, how many times we continue adding detail towards knowledge, bordering confusion and paralysis.

In the second video, Read Montague talks very powerfully about our ability to use all sorts of positioning, nuance, tone to add value, to instil belief, to be accepted by another as a part of themselves, in a way to be cognitively and emotionally held as valuable by another, bringing the whole concept of self, as the Gestaltists do, into view as existing more obviously in contact with another than alone.  This made me reflect on the open system nature of the limbic system, as we literally mind meld with each other in conversation and contact.

The third video I thought was incredible.  Working presently, embodying and describing a letter through various styles of “physical thinking” creating “data transfer” and “information sharing” through the physical movement.  Experts at work here, but how much of a resource is our physicality, how often we believe we must “sit and think, work it out” and only then “go and do it,” with procrastination to move being the white elephant that parks itself betwixt the two.  Physical Thinking…Moving physically for “intellectual” purposes, generating links, patterns, metaphor, silently transferred meaning.

One thing that really struck me about the potential outlined here is the possibility of building, designing, articulating and expressing our health and fitness goals through media and motions that are more immediate, more creative and more powerful than we might imagine.  That thoughts and feelings are physiological events, that as children we expanded our learning, language and thinking through movement to literally build our brains and now we experience the strange notions of mind and body, isolated for thinking and moving respectively.

I always like to see if things can run backwards also.  The concurrency of these principles would also allow us to physically think a subject into a shared understanding of a simplified map, allowing a multi level sensory understanding of a simple goal such as “I want to be more confident.”  This whole experience can be punctuated with sound, sensation, emotion and embedded meaning along the way, rather negating the prospect of “I’ve listened for two hours now….but what do I DO?!”  We get to actually experience the creation of the pathway towards success, as we explore content by examining, sharing  and unfolding through motion, contact and experimentation.

I’m looking forwards to co-creating “wayfinding” maps for strength, fat loss, relaxation and more with movement based metaphoric sessions where people can kinaesthetically feel and develop the written word component of their expressed most desirable outcome.

As we continue with a mind, body, spirit “split-ish” way of viewing the human experience we also fall into the concept of splitting activities that relate to these separated areas, which are largely aspects of a whole, rather than parts of a whole, if, we even want to label, construe or even include them in our “map.”

What we may end up with is the very process and outcome components of any stated goal being experienced and worked through with immediacy, contact and an embodied understanding of how holism really operates.  Depending of course, on what your tidied representational map of holism looks and feels like, who you are “selfing” with and which style of physical thinking you are running it through.  What fun…

Don’t Panic, it’s all Organic.

Posted on: June 19th, 2012

By adminDanNorman

To fellow travellers, I tip my hat.

A while ago I made a decision.  I think, if truth be told, this blog is helping finish that decision, make it more concrete and free me up to get on with things.  Things which matter.  My schooling and my overall experience in the world of work never really sat well with me.  I was popular, for sure, yet always kept myself on the fringe of things, oscillating between gangs, clubs, never planting myself firmly in any of them.  Lessons at school only became interesting when I started to see links and patterns between them and too much rigidity in structure, timing and protocol left me needing longer and longer amounts of solitary time to recharge and reconnect with that “important place.”  Whilst I could apply myself to the given way of doing things I generally found a growing feeling of unease, trappedness and solitariness.  I’d receive much advice in many forms, very logical sounding, coherent, ordered advice that made absolute sense to me in my head, yet wouldn’t always digest in my gut, or heart as it were.  It took me about thirty more years to understand the kind of contact and help it is that I need.

This blog is about differences.  It’s also about the crushing realisation sometimes that our inherent differences are often our biggest misgivings, misunderstandings and source of pain.  Many times and many occasions we are driven to eradicate, edit, conform, control and repress much of what feels like a spontaneity or quirkiness because there’s simply no place for it, we and our nuances aren’t supported or cherished in environments that ask for specific traits in specific measures.  Whilst healthy boundaries and contact skills are inevitably needed and championed in most situations, there is often small opportunity and safety for us to let loose, truly relax and simply be.  I recall standing in my playground aged just eleven, standing still and wondering, virtually out loud, what the bloody hell had happened to my life.  One short year ago I was climbing trees, in shorts playing with my mates, relishing unbound play and freedom, to be transported to senior school with it’s academic ranking tables (which I nearly topped for a year), gowns and funny hats and messages such as “if you’re smiling you’re not learning.”  I remember standing still and with an enormous yearning thinking “what…about….me?”  This experience has formed the single most important inquiry for me in my life which is “what is it like to be in the world, what is that like for me, for you?”

The split between identifying fully with my “lot” and sacrificing what felt like my spirit to it, was too much at that age, I had neither the faculty or wherewithal to receive help (the kind I needed) and fell into a rebellion of not listening, not learning, not participating and not engaging.  I spent a full three years like a zombie, walking the hallways functioning not well enough to fit in and not badly enough to get kicked out.  I discovered weight training in this time and my armouring and consolidation as a rebel with a silent and not violent cause became my identity.  I know now, through some disciplines and testing that I’m introverted, think abstractly, learn globally, am largely visual and kinaesthetic in my learning style, INFP, champion options and strategies above most things and am drawn to mediating, avoiding conflict and resolution.  Peace and calm are my most deeply held ideals and I will, often to my detriment, pursue these things selfishly.  It is where I am safest.  Then, moving from safe harbours to allow more engagement with the world, weathering relationships, new challenges and deep, abiding acceptance of emerging self, daring to express the centre, daring to even approach it…

The difficulty comes when you develop and emerge with a sense that you have compensated in a way that could have been better, could have been other, didn’t travel  the route that was presented and you now can’t see the beauty in who and what you are, and how you have an offering, that whilst might not be God-like, and I’ve wanted to believe that trust me, is uniquely yours and one that you can shape and create a life around, as I believe we must do to both survive, thrive and not go generally nuts.  The path that I took and many of us took is uniquely ours and many people I coach, train, talk to and relate with, have immensely beautiful, painful and rich experiences to share.  We deal with shame, pain, guilt, defences, blind spots, numbness, darkness and isolation.  We rise to joy, empathy, connection, fulfilment, fight, flight and creation.  We break, we heal and we start over.  We live the same dualities and the same paradox seen through a multiverse of personal levels, lines, stages, types, suppositions, beliefs and accidents.

When I was eleven, I was deeply struck by the gap I felt, the discrepancy and the pain between what I had to do, what was being asked of me and who I thought I was, what support I needed, and now, looking back, how I could use what I had to meet the conditions I found myself in, rather than believe that my conditions of worth were solely based around achieving certain criteria.  How I can hold to the best of my ability and desire, both these birds in one hand.  I’ve slowly learned and slowly still learn how to recognise this intriguing relationship of self, other, being and doing and the mighty challenge of finding that which we need in ourselves, to express who and what we are, in changing life circumstances and conditions.  We read, we converse, we learn through trial and error, we hang our hat on many, many pegs as time goes by whilst we are here yet a thread runs through it all, the thread we refer to  as “I,” the experience of our view, our place our time and our journey.

When you think you need to lay some artificial process down on yourself or you find yourself in a situation that is truly testing you to your marrow, get help, lean on people who you know you can love, be loved by and trust, to rest in your difference, your story, your strengths, “gather your chi” and remember….


Don’t panic.  It’s all organic.



Movement Metaphor

Posted on: June 8th, 2012

By Dan Norman

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Welcome to my blog “Life in Motion.”

I enjoy letting an object, a person, a sound, move me.  Sometimes I move inside, currents, waves, nothing… sometimes I’m informed to move literally, slow, fast, stuck, brittle, fluid.  I took these photos on the way to work today and so far they’ve led to music, different ideas for movement sessions with clients and given my mind, my body, broad themes to work with.  The more we draw out metaphor the more we are inclined to see, feel, touch, share and describe.  Our capacity to move can be broken down into larger general chunks, patterns, but the myriad collaboration of thought, feeling, timbre, nuance and intent lend an infinite variety, a creative and unique experience in all we do.  Can you feel the grip and the swing of the bars?  Can you sense the interior through the grid?  Can you recall the exploring as a child?  So free….. I hope you enjoy feeling into the images, let the sensations and the suggestion of movement inside or out, come and go.

   Inviting fingers

Pull! Pull!

Am I free without?

Or trapped within?

What of the plant!?

Safe inside

How special

That reflection…

Rather obliquely

I fashion my path

Which one eats the other?

Which way to truth?

Stay on track?

Or deviate…

What lies underneath?

Running into

Or running away?

Jump up and play

You remember!

Soft and hard

Try and squeeze through

I need to reach out






Bottom right

To top left

Through that special stone

Third row up, centre stage

A perfect staircase

A route through

How good that feels!

What a view….

Champion of the world

Lines, levels, steps, stages, structure, blocks, patterns, rhythms, meaning, no-meaning, reminders, clues, breadcrumbs, tracks and trails, what do I see or notice when I meet someone, what do I take, what do I give, what passes unseen, unnoticed?  Why do some things please us so much and what happens when we take nothing…..I enjoyed the rain today, the wet, the cool wind, the sound my feet made on the floor, it shaped me and I it.

“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased..”

John Steinbeck