- a catalogue of recent findings -
meet rafe kelley, founder of evolve move play.
i’ve been following rafe for some time now. initially, his work blended into the somewhat homogenous background of apparently-similar movement teachers, but it wasn’t long before i began to recognize something… different about rafe.
i found myself returning again + again to his videos; i began to notice all-new areas of respect for this person who seemed not only passionate, but also generous + capable; i even looked forward to his engaging posts on facebook.
like ido portal, rafe’s history of experience is remarkably dense. his biography reads like a scatterbrained recounting of movement disciplines. see for yourself:
modern dance, contact improv
BJJ, kickboxing, muay thai, capoeira, systema
crossfit, weightlifting, movnat
kung fu, aikido
this diverse background, of course, speaks to the value of generalized learning that we’ve discussed previously in these chronicles, but what stands out most prominently for me about rafe is a general complex of attitudes.
what i notice in rafe is a balanced harmony of:
sincerity, humility, generosity, a persistent respect for nature, boundless curiosity, and a tangible sense of genuine care.
of course, the list could go on, but these attitudes especially appear to be consistent, honestly seeming to emanate from him in everything that he creates. they place him in a category all-his-own.
true to the personality of its creator, the ethos of evolve move play never ceases to fascinate + inspire me. returning the applied context of movement to the environment of its evolution is pure genius.
one wonders how we ever managed to forget it.
very recently, rafe posted something somewhat controversial on facebook that i find myself in steadfast agreement with. here’s the quote:
studying human locomotion on the substrate of a dance floor is like studying fighting against a heavy bag. it’s a nice tool but you’re missing the context that makes it real. #getoutside
but that’s enough of my own observations for the time being. watch the video + see for yourself. then consider:
what does this new way of understanding movement inspire in you?
now that you’ve met rafe, let’s take a moment to unpack the video itself. i want to help you see what i have seen, to sense for yourself what lies beneath the surface.
you can start by looking for what’s new in the message being conveyed. you can ask yourself very simply: what is there in this for me to learn?
in other words, begin by assuming that there is more to what you’re seeing than what’s apparent at first glance. here are some examples of what showed up for me:
first + foremost, by repositioning an urban discipline like parkour within a natural setting, rafe manages to enrich the content of the discipline simply by redefining its context. taking one step even beyond that, we can see how this imaginative re-contextualization is in fact perfectly appropriate to the practice at hand. this is true outside-of-the-box thinking, reminding us that while altering context can have a significant affect on content, identifying appropriate context magnifies the benefit exponentially.
rafe elevates the practice of human movement by grounding it in its origins. this unlikely decision is deceptively simple: it seems unsophisticated, it feels like some form of regression. and yet we soon see how this return to the simplicity of nature in fact amplifies the complexity of movement. (the phrase “less is more” comes to mind.)
there is a lesson about resourcefulness here, too. i have often heard ido say something to the effect of: expensive tools make for cheap movers. this has always resonated with me. consider how rafe makes use of context (environment) to determine the trajectory + content of his learning. consider how very little this decision has cost him. consider how this process elevates the ordinary to the level of endless opportunity. consider where in your experience you might do the same.
when rafe describes his experience of moving in nature, i am reminded of the (relatively new) field of study known as ecopsychology. essentially, ecopsychology explores the impact of nature on the total human experience. this includes the finding that nature not only affects the state of human psychology + physiology, but also dramatically impacts the capacity for learning + effective integration of new material. rafe makes intuitive use of this advantage, having recognized it through direct personal experience. all things considered, it is a stroke of pure genius.
rafe demonstrates movements that are un-common to me within a context that is not uncommon to me. this expands my own understanding of what is possible. it inspires exploration of that new realm. most importantly, it reminds me that learning is capped only by the mistaken sense of having nothing left to learn. familiarity may breed boredom, but the wonder-filled mind of a child is a learning space of limitless allure. rafe’s perspective is very much like that: seeing endless variations on any given theme. he represents a brilliant model for active learning.
as you can see, these findings exceed the superficial boundaries of the video itself, but each of them is implicitly contained in that video nonetheless.
noticing for lessons in this way will alter the value of even the most ordinary things + experiences.
this is a fundamental skill that WHOLESYSTEM HUMAN focuses heavily on developing.
want to practice?
check out these links + pay close attention to what shows up for you when you bring yourself fully to them:
let’s consider one more side of rafe’s contribution: social connection. as if hosting the evolve move play community weren’t enough, rafe has recently been sharing thoughts with his followers via facebook live.
now, this avenue of communication is notoriously challenging + often reduces even the most capable of teachers to aimless ramblings. yet rafe makes effortless + articulate use of this medium as well.
in the video that i’ve linked you to here, rafe discusses the significant connection between love + teaching, among other compatible themes.
though seemingly directed toward an audience of teachers + leaders, the lessons contained in this conversation are universal + deeply relevant.
rather than going into detail on the lessons that showed up for me, i’ll simply encourage you to pay special attention to the following themes:
feeling affects performance, as well as the capacity to learn
intellectual understanding vs. feeling-based comprehension
the affect of social support on learning + performance
the affect of social support on fear + self-doubt
the three primary characteristics of care, knowledge, and charisma + effectively balancing these characteristics
allowing care by assuming knowledge
the importance of deeply listening
creating space for appropriate response to spontaneously arise in-the-moment
leadership as a marriage of kindness, strength, and wisdom + the importance of balancing all three elements
wisdom as applied knowledge, or direct experience
a piece of fieldwork:
consider how any number of the above points can be taken into the ecosystem of your own everyday life + actively investigated through direct experience.
near light by ólafur arnalds has been following me around these past couple of weeks. it’s been one of my top songs for years + still gets me every time.
something about it just causes me to stop whatever i’m doing + take notice. it catches my breath. when i play the song loudly enough, i can feel its crescendo in my chest.
while researching for this feature, i came across ólafur’s video for only the winds. this song, too, has been with me for many years. it is playing as i type these words.
there is a power in music like this. both songs are haunting - they contain some version of sadness - they contain history. but there is hope in them as well, even if just a glint.
early on, i connected with the shadow sides of these compositions: they put my feelings in a frame - a special sort of context - a cocoon of understanding.
i felt less… alone.
but now i hear them differently. now they tell a story: a story of unassailable interconnectedness, a story of shared experience, a story of heroic resilience.
which tells me what i’ve really seen in them all this time: i’ve seen myself. various reflections of my self. so this must be at least a certain part of the power that they hold:
music as mirror; mirror as a lesson that what the mirror shows can always change… will change… is always changing.
music like this is more than music when you have the ears to hear what’s being said. what do you hear?
here is yet more research correlating positive emotion to measurable improvement across a whole range of experiential metrics: health (especially heart health), energy levels, overall efficiency, and even the capacity to focus.
heartmath institute (HMI) is well known for studying the important link between the heart + the brain. interestingly, the article linked here is almost ten years old!
over + over again, we see that positive emotion is tied to an optimal state from which all of our best attributes + capabilities become readily accessible.
in my opinion, the gold nugget of this particular article is in its emphasis on appreciation. consider the following:
the feeling of genuine appreciation is one of the most concrete and easiest positive emotions for individuals to self-generate and sustain for long periods. nearly all of us can find something to genuinely appreciate.
take careful note of this, because it changes the game from the ground up: it introduces the variable of CHOICE.
pay close attention here:
if our way-of-being in life is intimately tied to the state from which we operate, and if that state is directly related to the quality of our emotional experience, then we can take deliberate control of our way-of-being by choosing to self-generate positive emotion.
since appreciation is the easiest positive emotion to self-generate, its significance becomes very hard to miss. applying some embarrassingly simple math based on these findings, we come confidently to the following conclusion:
appreciation is the easiest, most concrete + sustainable pathway to deliberate control of our way of being in life.
really reflect on the simplicity + power of this:
right now, you have the ability to transform not only your experience of life, but also the very nature of who you are in life simply by choosing to appreciate more.
this may very well be the most potent principle of practical self-transformation that i‘ve shared via these chronicles yet.
PLEASE DON’T LET THIS PASS YOU BY UNTESTED.
john fire lame deer
we indians live in a world of symbols and images where the spiritual and the commonplace are one. to us they are part of nature, part of ourselves - the earth, the sun, the wind and the rain, stones, trees, animals, even little insects like ants and grasshoppers. we try to understand them not with the head, but with the heart, and we need no more than a hint to give us the meaning.
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