Self-Expression and Healing

interview with Paul Oertel in Health & Nutrition by Tammy Simon

This issue's Health & Nutrition is taken from an interview with Paul Oertel conducted by Tammy Simon, host of KGNU's Live From Planet Earth. Mr Oertel is a movement and voice specialist, performer, dancer and actor. He is a principal of the internationally renowned Nancy Spanier Dance Theatre.

TAMMY SIMON: You believe that the Earth is in a time of crisis. What do you see as the components of survival, in terms of self-expression and attitudes during this phase?
PAUL OERTEL: A critical element right now is for people to look within. To find one's own strength, one's own inner song, inner power and own resources. And to really get that power going. People who have done that are infinitely useful to everyone around them. They have the resources to take charge of the situation and to survive what seems to be unbelievably stressful and changeable energy.

They have the flexibility, the openness and the resources to walk into whatever situation no matter how polluted, confused or negative and survive it. Not by virtue of denial or separation, but by virtue of strength, compassion, understanding, openness, inclusion of the full environment. They have included all of their own emotions so they become an enormous vessel that can embrace all of reality for whatever it is. Therefore, they can become useful to anybody in need or who is hurting. They can embrace them and deal with the situation constructively.

TS: In a world of crisis, what role does art play?

PO: One of the roles, unfortunately, is that of creating distraction arid diversion and confusion. Because of that, art is developing into a very depressed state. Art in a world of confusion is becoming what art often will do, which is simply reflect the chaos. As things are getting in a sense tighter, as people are hanging on and clinging, art is getting thinned out, reduced, concerned less and less with larger issues. But in this situation we need more than ever people who are willing to create an art that embraces the more humanistic and total approach.

TS: What is your belief about the connection between self-expression and healing?

PO: For healing to happen there has to be an absence of denial. There has to be a full expression and full realization of what the person is and what they are feeling. Movement or voice brings the person into contact with that expression. These tools help them make the relationship between the expression and the facade, or the denial, apparent. They break that up so a person can come forth.

Essentially, a healed human being is one in which there are no blocks. Everything flows freely. The person can be breathing in and out, taking in and out, giving off in a way that maintains health. If one is absorbing too much or giving away too much - or what is coming in is blocking in some part of the body or being - then that part can become stagnant. It becomes unhealthy. It begins to die. The person becomes ill. Self-expression is a way of keeping everything in motion, fluid.

TS: What is the edge between being in control so you are technically excellent and disciplined, and just letting go?

PO: Traditionally, the process of skill is one of control. If you use control to get control, whatever you do will look rigid. In terms of the physical body, that process is destructive. That is why many dancers are ruined with knees breaking and cracking by the age of thirty-five. Voices are ruined through the same misuse of control. That approach to control destroys the physical form.

The other way to work with control is through the idea of letting go. Your freedom, or your control, or your discipline is the process of understanding a free flow in your body. That can be a difficult process because it requires letting go on all levels. Of understanding how to let go of the flesh in order to control it, rather than hanging on to the flesh. People are beginning to explore that more and more.

One aspect of the discipline of freedom you are talking about has to do with being able to just be okay with whatever comes.

I feel that is an absolute necessity in these times. In order to survive the whole situation where there seems to be such violent and chaotic and confusing forces at hand, one needs to be extremely flexible in order to survive. If you are rigid when a great force hits you, you'll break. If you are flexible, you can work with it and play with it. Flexibility is the key to the whole notion of survival at this point.