Bird, Drew

What role can myth play exploring the Buddha’s teaching on the existential nature of the human condition?

Drew Bird

We tend not to see things as they really are, but how we want to see them. The Buddha considered this kind of perception a delusion and how clinging to these ‘false views’ caused suffering. The research addresses how the universal and existential nature of myth can be utilised to explore the Buddha’s teaching that the human condition is characterised by seeing the impermanent as permanent. Being able to see the nature of things as impermanent and constantly changing was considered a right view or truth. Central to Buddhism are the three laksanas, that life is unsatisfactory, impermanent and devoid of a permanent and unchanging self. The paper explores how the enactment of myth can facilitate playing with the three laksanas in the new and different cultural context of Greek myth. The Buddha emphasised learning through experience, aspiring to study, practice and realising the truth for themselves rather than taking the Buddha’s word for it. The Buddha suggested that any aspirants to his path tested out his ideas themselves and came to their own conclusion. The paper explores Jones’ life/drama connection (2007) for reflecting on myth and the three laksanas. The aim of the research was to consider whether myth was able to develop awareness of clinging to false views or a tendency towards delusion. The research addressed how the playful and experiential nature of dramatic metaphors can create aesthetic distance to find new ways of exploring the potential for truth in the Buddha’s teaching. The paper explores the pitfalls and benefits of the research and what can be learnt from harnessing dramatherapy approaches within different religious or spiritual contexts. 


Drew Bird, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer on the MA in Dramatherapy course and undergraduate Creative-expressive Therapies course at the University of Derby, UK.  He has been a fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the U.K. since 2011. Recent publications and research have focused on the use of metaphor and the senses in learning, heuristic inquiry, arts-based research, A/r/tography and dramatic improvisation and performance as research into teaching and clinical practice. He leads workshops and presents internationally. He is also a Buddhist practitioner.


Recent Publications

Bird, D. and Tozer, K. (2018). An a/r/tographic exploration of engagement in theatrical performance: what does this mean for the student/teacher relationship. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education.

Bird, D. (2017). Playback Theatre, Autoethnography and Generosity. Dramatherapy. Vol. 38 Issue 1, pp. 32-42.

Bird, D. (2016). Heuristic Methodology in Arts-based inquiry of Autobiographical Therapeutic Theatre. In: Pendzik, S., Emunah, R. and Read Johnson, D. The self in Performance: Autobiographical, self-revelatory, and autoethnographic forms of therapeutic theatre. UK and USA: Palgrave-McMillan.

Recent presentations

2018: ‘The Borders Between Play and Theatre - Formless and Form in Autobiographical Performance: Implications for Practice.’ Paper presentation at the European Federation of Dramatherapists Annual Conference in Nurtingen, Germany.

2016: ‘Formulating a model for personal and professional development using a research methodology in solo autobiographical performance’. Performance and workshop at the European Federation of Dramatherapist’s Annual Conference in Bucharest, Romania.