Psalmology Part Two by Julie Leavitt

In this video clip, I describe how to join in the practice of Psalmology; a combination of authentic movement and spiritual direction.

The following poems were written during my morning practice described previously in Part One of Psalmology. I wrote them after moving with a sense of G-d(1)—the One of Mystery and Compassion—as my witness. What unfolded for me was an experience of moving prayer as conversation with a beloved and intimate friend.

In my practice, I move for about fifteen minutes, then sit at the kitchen table, or in the backyard, and write from my experience of moving prayer. I write in the present, seeded by the movement/dance itself. I let the writing go where it wants, just as I have with the movement. It is a continuation of the flow, the journey through Nahar Kevar, the River of Already. Sometimes, I have a line with me as I finish moving. Other times, I write what comes next and the writing forms itself. As in the movement, I do my best to follow.
My “psalms” are love songs to and from G-d. Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel writes this line in her rendition of Mah Tovu, “How Good it is”, which is a traditional prayer from the morning liturgy. “Blessings flow into the world from the Source of Life. Be a vessel for the Love Song of G-d.”

Each of us has a few core stories, learning stories, like modern Hassidic tales. I have one that I have told many times about my daughter, Tali. When Tali was three years old, we were driving to the supermarket. We listened to Rabbi Hanna’s version of Mah Tovu on CD. Tali asked, “Mom, What’s a blessel?” I had her repeat it a few times, not sure of the question. Finally, I let myself hear the new word she had created, assuming it was the word she heard in the song. Tali, in her brilliant innocence, heard what Hanna was truly singing. We are all blessels–vessels of blessing–for the ongoing love song of G-d. This is what I hope to open myself to when I position myself as a “Psalmologist” each morning. I listen for the blessel inside of me and let myself be moved.

During the time I documented this practice, I’ve had peaceful moments, though the vast majority has not been tranquil. I have cared for and watched one of my children suffer to the point of my own depletion and depression. And during this time, my beloved mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, began receiving hospice services, and then died at home in the circle of family who so loved and cared for her. I have felt the great love of family, and so much gratitude for a strong, supportive, joyful marriage. All this moves through my movement offering.

G-d, May Your Divine Presence dance through our words and silences. Meet us where we open to meet You. May this meeting be a true connection that heals You as You heal and create through us.


When I thought death was near,
I asked Gd for more time
with you.
Not now! I got mad.
Then, I saw you smaller in your chair,
Pale, whitening, knowing.
Mourning becomes tears
this morning.
We have begun a procession
of days or months
To say goodbye.


Readiness and time are co-creative.
Souls listen, they also decide.
When you go, let us be beside you.
Let the ones you love
continue our relationship with you.
This loving, tender touching,
Being close.
Let us live the prayer of your life.
Singing our goodbyes, swaying in a circle,
Crying and laughing,
As you finally receive
what you are asking for.


When goodbye comes,
there is nothing, but
tears of love, relief, sadness, some regret.
The window opens for a while.
There is no glass, no pane,
Only the clear opening
Between past and present.
I am looking forward and back at once.
I see us there, the closeness
and the struggle.
The life lived and not fully entered.
The window only opens like this
for moments,
It is like a well,
we look through a pond
beyond reflection, through time.
There is forgiveness in those waters,
only forgiveness,
Then, no more window,
Only hands holding a space
Left empty, alive, vacant.
These are the same hands
that wave goodbye, drop slowly,
Wave goodbye, drop…
There is grace in standing still,
noticing the goodbye
as it fades
into the present.


A simple two-step,
one foot, then the next.
When I get to the window,
There is no more movement,
Only sensation, warm and cool at once.
We never know where our feet will take us.
Open the window. The sun is soon to rise.


Open Heart
Leaning away like Graham
Clearly a mourning dance
Best done with an open, wailing heart.


Things are not always what they seem.
I, so quick to judge, must slow down,
Drinking, eating, thinking, listening, talking:
I must slow down.

When I do, pushing away is not a Latin dance.
Rippling through my spine, not a crime.
Pushing away becomes a rhythm
The ‘and’ opens like a deep breath.
Closing is just the partner to opening.

My heart knows this.
Each time there is a ‘no’,
My mind gets the boxes ready,
Wants to label and seal them.
My body waits for the mambo rhythm,
Listens for it.

Long ago, G-d designed the heart
to do the same thing.
Choosing life
means dancing
the mambo of the heart,
again and again-2-3,
again and again.


“What do we do when we’re lonely.”
-Halley’s song

There is no rain
No devastation
There is no heartbreak
Or ruin
There is nothing wrong here
No rejection or abandonment
Where, then, do these tears come from?
Did I do something wrong? Something right?
Are they from another time, squeezed
Through a crack between worlds?
Are they from a mind that wanders
Into unholy places too often?
Is the heartbreak that once
Lived here, always a presence?
Are they just tears?
And I am from the ocean,
As we all began
And as we will all return.
Nothing else, nothing left.
Tears and the sorrow
Of generations.
Feeling only personal, only this morning,
Only now.


Rejoice, rejoice
To the sky
And to the earth.
There is a joy in the dance of living.
There is mystery that reveals itself.
When those moments come together.
This place, this body, this earth
is home.
This life makes moments, a few hours
Of sense.
The miracle is here and
we are living it.
Some days, like a whale
Suddenly breeching,
Meaning pokes through the water
to be seen,
Danced, one step, then, the other.
Very gratefully lived.


A strawberry is like this.
Its seeds live in full view
Nothing is held back,
This life we are given
Must be consumed
To be truly known.


Round and round
The universe,
Stars and seeds,
are one.
Round and round
this universe,
A new time has begun

Round and round
we orbit
Reaching, rolling, flying.
Round and round
the universe,
What is not in life is dying.

Dying back to earth,
Dying off the tree,
Living with what is,
Living strong and free.

Round and round we go,
Facing what we must,
Touching the whole circle.
Living with found trust.

When my trust is broken,
Something hurts and grows,
Careful what we wish for,
What we choose to know.

Opening wider sings,
Aligning every soul,
No one lives without dying,
No one is not original and whole.

The aching heart is open,
Ground work is complete,
Stretch into what invites you,
The mystery, exquisite.


Climb on my shoulders, child.
Together, we will see
the new and developing world.

You will discover
You are not alone
As I have.

This world has pain and
loss, just like the past.
You are loved here.

There is no shame in tears
No punishment in expression.
I give you full permission to live.


Listening, still
Simply nothing

Tight shoulders,
Neck tries to help,
And does.

Rain falls
Plants drink,
I get wet.

Raindrops are loudest
All feels quiet:

Breathing hears everything.
Thinking is a muffler.
My chest lifts and settles back down.

Wet morning.


There are four directions,
No six,
Above and below are counted,
No seven,
Fly inward,
That is always a destination
For arrivals and departures,
At once.

The hawk is in the east
The mouse in the south
The turtle is in the west
And the great eagle of the north.

Stand to the south, the wind at your back
Stand to the east, wind beneath you
No wind in the west today
Nothing, but wind facing north.

From a distance there is only
Heaven and earth,
It takes a human
For the journey

I am Eskimo,
I am from Massachusetts,
I am from the wetlands of Canada,
I am from the sandy shores.

Wherever you are,
Seek each direction.
You will travel
Without passport of ticket
To a new and foreign home,
Right here.

Keep breathing,
That is the wind.
Keep breathing,
The wind, the wind.


Joy can come from mourning
Just open your eyes.
Rocking and keening
Keep your spine curved low.
Rejoicing lifts the spine,
Gives it some arch.
Storms can break trees.
Those that last
Have roots that grow deep and keep growing,
Branches that reach high and higher.
Oaks do this naturally,
They grow without suffering.
For us, it takes awakening,
Stepping outside,
Opening inward.


Bring my hands together.
Fingertips have many stories
to share.
Finger to finger like a
telephone line.
Current on!
Palm to palm,
Something intimate to say
That should not be heard incidentally.
Less than a whisper
Move the breath of skin,
Warmth of lifelines listening.
What else to say?
My hands, Your hands,
Storytelling at its best!


(Filmed by Hannah Scharlin-Pettee)

Holy One,
My hands tell your story
I listen as they lift and hold shapes
You offer me.
Curving my spine
is the overture,
The first words of your song.
I sing with my spine.
Surprise finds me arching,
Head released, open,
I am still singing.
I don’t know your song
till it sings through all of me.
Slowly my hands cup or a moment,
The healing chorus,
The end.
My tears tell another story.
The love of Your song.
Gratitude and a heart
Broken open and healed
at the same time.


You are my compass.
My feet know Your name.
They know Your hot sands
And cool mud.
They know Your grass and Your rock.
Your support is all there really is.
The foot, the sole, the ankle, the arch.
You’re my hands-all I touch,
All I don’t hold and all I hold.
You are movement and stillness.
You turn me,
till I find myself somewhere new.
Not where I thought I’d come to.
Turning is an art.
You are the magnet.


Dance is the gift you gave me.
None better!
Each step, lift and sway of hip,
Joy to the World!
A sentence or paragraph
in praise of life
Without cutting down one tree!
The way of the future
and the past,
Here and now,
This present:
a gift.


You sent me a heron today.
All wings, slender legs, and pointed toes.
Could this be a dance lesson?
Stretch and glide with everything you have
Till the dead branches
become perches for pause.
The heron has a feathered headdress.
It lifts itself and soars in a wide circle.
over Lake Miriam
Its wings still slightly visible,
Flying into the Berkshire forest.


1. I follow the tradition of leaving the vowel out of the writing of G-d’s name. I interpret the biblical commandment that says G-d cannot be represented as a “graven image” extending to word as image. You might think of the missing vowel as a reminder of G-d as Mystery and experience the dash as breath.


JulieJulie Leavitt has practiced Authentic Movement for many years. She is a fortunate student of Janet Adler. The same year that Julie became more Jewishly involved, she first experienced Authentic Movement. The two continue to teach her about the other. She teaches at Lesley University and at retreat centers on dance as therapy and spiritual direction, primarily through the form called Authentic Movement.

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One Response to Psalmology Part Two by Julie Leavitt

  1. Michael Gardos Reid says:

    Dear Julie,

    Thank you for your generous offering. To let yourself be seen is a courageous gift. Thanks for the role modeling.

    Michael Gardos Reid

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