Monthly Archives: February 2013

Research as yoga

During yoga class last night, our teacher L spent some time speaking with us about yoga philosophy. She brought our awareness to Patanjali, the person who documented his thoughts and knowledge of yoga in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a few thousand years ago. More specifically, our teacher drew our attention to three aspects of Niyama, the inner discipline: (this is in my own and my teacher’s words, obviously the philosophy set out my Patanjali is far more comprehensive)

Tapas – the work we do

Svadhyaya – study of the self

Ishvara-pranidhana – surrendering into what is

As L shared these concepts with us and put them into the context of our class and the postures we had been doing, I drew parallels between each discipline and my research practice: 

Tapasthe busy work of research that is set out in my method. Undertaking fieldwork, transcribing conversations, reading literature, writing, meeting with supervisors, administrative tasks, the list goes on. The ‘work’ in my research is diverse and for most of the time I feel incredibly positive about doing it.

Svadhyayafor the past year I have been using a processes set out in The Artist’s Way called Morning Pages Journaling. Usually when I wake up each morning (or whenever I can fit it in) I journal for 3 pages, regardless of whether I feel I have anything to write about. As I have deepened into this practice I am able to hone more quickly onto the disconcertments I am feeling in my body about issues related to my research, relationships, work and other areas of my life. This study of myself has allowed me to stay in positive relationship with my research and the people that support me in my research. Most of the time this writing is bland and inane, but occasionally I have a stroke of insight and am able to draw connections that allow me to subtly shift my way of being in the world.

Ishvara-pranidhana – I have contemplated what this discipline means for my research practice as it did not resonate with me straight away. I think that surrendering to what is, is about being in the flow of my research – listening deeply to where it wants to go rather than driving it from a head-strong position of always thinking I know. It is also about surrendering into relationships so that I let go of control (or the illusion of control) and can listen from a place of neutrality and be with people-place in a more authentic, present way.

I felt embarrassed and reluctant to write about this idea of research as yoga, because of a self-consciousness of how it might be ‘read’ by others… but it is the metaphor that resonates most with me right now. The practice of research is a discipline, like my practice of yoga. It is a process that I want to honor because I know that it reflects all of me and my being in the world.

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Lurujarri Dreaming – AWAY!

ABC Radio National, Saturday 2nd March, 6PM

Four years in the making, the animated Lurujarri Dreaming documents the Western Australian song-cycle from Broome up through the Dampier Peninsula.

This particular song-cycle is part of the annual nine day Lurujarri Heritage Trail which was established in 1987 by Goolarabooloo elder Paddy Roe.

Though since 2008 plans for a land based liquefied natural gas development have loomed over the Kimberley coast, in particular James Price Point (Walmadan), located approximately fifty kilometres north of Broome – this area making up part of the Lurujarri Heritage Trail.

Lurujarri Dreaming – AWAYE!

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Meeting this place for the first time

I first came to this place on foot by following a trail, one that I couldn’t really see, but others could. This trail is part of something much older than a cartographer’s impression of a pathway or landscape features (here I go making all of these temporal references too. I am sure that this trail exists in a cosmology where my Western sense of temporality has little bearing). I was held by red and blue landscape, but the colours felt as though they were part of me. I have this visual in my mind of pindan red and aquamarine blue pouring out from my heart to paint the rocks, cliffs, water and sky; deep, rich, vibrant voices translated into something visual. Visual sense can be tricky sometimes, especially when what is around you is so stimulating. Another kind of listening was going on too, not one that I was very conscious of at the time, but a sense of some other kind of conversation. Was it a tuning out of the reasoning mind and a tuning into something visceral and somatic? Before we started Trail F would tell us to close our eyes and try walking through feeling, to find the threads of hard sand amongst the soft on the beach by listening to this feeling. Listening in this sense is metaphoric. So was the reference to reading the country as we were all walking trail. I didn’t get this until later on. Seduced by the visual stimulus I thought reading was all about what I could see with my eyes and knowing about inter-species indicators for food hunting and gathering. The people from this place call this listening through feeling le-an. R, the storyteller for this place, says that is how we read the country, through our le-an. I can look back now at what happened and know, not just in a cognitive sense, that walking the trail became a process of deep somatic learning, and that the challenge and beauty from that experience has been translating and articulating the stories and knowing that my body holds into a form that I and others can understand. There was a particular point on trail when I felt like I became present to where I was. Yet it was more than that, it was a ‘dropping into’ another way of being. The texture of my reality in this place changed. We were playing in the waves at this beach. The tide was outgoing and the sand bank leading into the water was getting steeper and steeper. There is so much relief in splashing around in the waves after a long, exposed beach walk. Shallow dives into the crests of the waves exhilarated me, until I dove too deep. Hitting my head hard on the shallow sandy bottom, I emerged shocked and gasping for air. Looking around I saw F, a friend and nurse, just as the muscles of my neck and shoulders seized to support my spine. One look at my face and she knew I was in trouble. It was a long, slow journey back up the expansive dune system and down into our camp. Walking into the Birrin Birri and Mamagen forest was such a relief, it felt like a healing space. F went to get snake vine from the forest to wrap around my neck and R placed his hand on my neck and shoulders for some time, I don’t know for how long. I fell asleep in a small clearing in the shady forest. Waking into a rawness, it was as though something had been striped back from my perception of being in, or with this place. But I woke up, something in me woke up. So as I write this and re-perform meeting this place for the first time, I realise, this is my waking up place.

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More research on Walmadany (James Price Point)

If you are following the issue of the proposed LNG Processing Plant at Walmadany (James Price Point), here are some links to other research related to the issue:

Deborah Ruiz Wall is researching Who Gets To Develop James Price Point? 

Hansson (2012). When the state says yes but country says no – localising a conflict in a globalised world: A case study of motivation and perceptions of change through participation in the campaign against the Browse LNG Precinct, Australia, Master of Science thesis, Lund University

Muir (2012). ‘Songlines, Bilbies and Facebook: The ‘No Gas On The Kimberley Coast’ Campaign – Community Actions, Personal Stands and Social Media Representations’ A conference paper for the two-day seminar Songlines vs .Pipelines? Mining and Tourism Industries in Remote Australia, University of New South Wales, 28-29 February 2012.

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Transcribing as a performance and somatic understanding

I was speaking with MC the other day and he asked me if I had been writing about the process of transcribing. At that point I had intended on writing reflections and analyses of the stories I was transcribing, but not about the act of transcribing itself.

I have been looking at how my thesis is a meta performance, one that will contain the performance of other stories (more on this later). And then there is the performance of transcribing: being transported from my physical place to the place that is being reflected back to me through audio. It isn’t just the words that other people and I say that I am looking to represent on paper, I want to capture the feeling of the situation, the sounds and silences that tell stories about people-place: our relationship to one another, the landscape, birds, wind, sunset, heat, affectionate dogs, insects, tides and other people coming and going. They are all part of how our conversations and stories were performed.

The idea that I can even translate what exists in these audio recordings onto paper as some kind of accurate reflection seems stranger and stranger to me the more I contemplate it. What I hear and what holds meaning for me might be completely different to someone else. There is no way that I can hand this time-consuming process (transcribing) over to someone else. I reground in my somatic (embodied) awareness of people-place when I listened to these stories being performed. There is a texture, feeling, an ability to anticipate what happened next when I listen to these stories. I feel the sand, the wind, sun and see the movement when I listen to these stories. The somatic memory of these stories is fanned when I listen to these recordings.Where I am when I listen, how I am feeling and all the other factors of my context are too part of the performance of transcribing.

When I listen to these story performances I realise that they are in me, embodied. So, a process of translation now unfolds as I try to make sense of the knowledge that is already there. In expressing his views on somatic understanding, Egan (2005) writes that it is the embodied knowledge of the world and underlies linguistic understanding. Something that is prevalent in the stories that I listen to, is my own and the inability of others to articulate some of our somatic understanding/knowledge/learning. This inarticulation is a fertile site is an interstice, a gap, an in-between place where the body’s knowledge is struggling to be translated into a linguistic, cognitive concept. Is this why we look to the worldviews and languages outside our own ‘normal world’, to make these translations possible?


Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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