About the blogger:
Maria Meindl is the author of Outside the Box: the Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould, the Grandmother I Thought I Knew from McGill-Queen’s University Press, winner of the Alison Prentice Award for Women’s History. Her essays have appeared in The Literary Review of Canada, Descant and Musicworks, as well as Creative Non Fiction (US). She has made two radio series, Parent Care, and Remembering Polio for CBC Ideas. She was thrilled to have a story published by Found Press in 2011.
She taught writing to adults from 1986 to 2002. Since then, she has been teaching movement to individuals and groups. She is the founder and organizer of Draft, a reading series, which specializes in new and unpublished work by emerging and established writers. The series is now in its tenth season.
About the blog
It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, set up a blog about writing and … well. You see, right away I’m up against one of the issues that have kept me spinning my wheels for so long. Writing and what?
It would be easy to say movement, because I’m a movement teacher, but it’s more than that. Is it writing and health? Sure. But the health of what?
Okay, I’ll say it: the body.
I really wish I could avoid using that term.
I don’t even mind ‘body’. It’s ‘the body’ I object to. The Body with a capital B. Can’t you just hear the tone? Somber and slightly accusatory. As if you’d failed to clean or shave it adequately. ‘The Body’ banishes thoughts of any of the fun things bodies are capable of. And as I get older, it seems more and more important to have a sense of humour when it comes to …The Younowwhat.
Okay. Maybe I should say my body? But I don’t only mean mine. Our bodies then? Sounds like a gym teacher, preparing to talk about something embarrassing. Our bodies as opposed to someone else’s bodies – namely, the boys’. The ‘the’ is important. It conveys the idea that a body – the body – is something we all have in common, even though we don’t share a single one.
I was attracted to Feldenkrais technique because practitioners seldom use the word ‘body’. In our training we were taught to say ‘self’. Much as I hate jargon, and hate even more being told how to speak, this sat very well with me. In Feldenkrais, there is no distinction made between the body and the self.
I agree with this position wholeheartedly, but it doesn’t solve my current problem. I need something to refer to the corporeal part of the human being, the part that is not the mind or (if you believe in that sort of thing) the spirit. The part that might, for instance, think. Or write.
For now, I’m skirting the problem by using ‘body’ as a modifier in the name of my site. This relieves the pressure on the word. Also, I like the idea of expanding the ‘writing’ part to include language as a whole, even spoken or sung language.
Body Language has a nostalgic appeal for me. I heard about it for the first time as a kid. It was a fad in the 1960s, something like the drink called Tiger’s Milk which was purported to keep people virile and attractive. My parents and their friends (may they rest in peace) discussed Tiger’s Milk, and Body Language in our living room over drinks and cigarettes.
You know there are people who can see what’s going on inside of your mind, just by watching you?
What could they see? Sex and aggression, of course.
Granted, this is not the most positive association, but it is funky and irreverent, a reference to a time when people drank and smoked and said completely inappropriate things in front of their kids. (And we so didn’t come out okay …but that is another story.)
All I mean is, when it comes to The Body, I think it’s time to lighten up.
Which only adds to what has become a tall order for the launch of this blog. I want to write about body/mind disciplines: therapeutic and educational, talk about where the therapeutic side of the spectrum ends, and the educational begins. I think these things deserve to be talked about, thought about – and critically, too – but from a sympathetic perspective, the perspective of one who can see the benefits of taking the body into account. I’d like to write about my own explorations in body and language, though I have no conclusions to share.
Though I consider myself a pretty smart person I still find it hard to write about the subject that has fascinated me for thirty years – since I decided to forgo a career in academia and study theatre instead. I could not have been more unsuited to theatre, but I didn’t want to live my life as a talking head. Nor did I want to “get out of my head” as many an acting professor urged me to do. (I wanted to answer, “No, and by the way, you’re a fascist,” but was too repressed.) Still, the conflict between these forces rages on.
There’s a lot of debate on the subject, but I really do believe body and mind are one. They don’t always feel like one, though. Hence the debate. For me, there is a tension between feeling well and at ease with my body – feeling my body at all – and writing. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
I have come to believe that there is something fundamentally incompatible about body and language. Incompatible, but not irreconcilable. That’s the interesting part.