Entering Not-knowing: Psychotherapy and the Value of Embodied Spiritual Development in the Discipline of Authentic Movement

The spiritual dimension

As I dance, especially in my many years of practicing the Discipline of Authentic Movement, time and again I experience states of great clarity, coherence and wholeness. They are neither accompanied by personal emotions, nor can they be derived or understood from my life’s story. Nevertheless they are highly meaningful. I experience myself as present, consciously grounded in the body, profoundly grateful and “in accordance with the invisible,”(1) tasting the deeper source of our being and of life itself. The relationship to my individual difficulties and also to those of my clients expands toward an attitude of stronger compassion with what is: acceptance, trust and hope.

The moment when my teacher, Janet Adler, addressed me on this topic, is rooted in my memory. I imagine she wanted to be sure there were adequately developed ego-functions, so I could receive these transpersonal experiences without being flooded by them. At the same time, through the quality of her witness and resonance with my movement, I felt deeply seen in a dimension which I call “spiritual” today. Clients are in turn supported by the embodiment of this state of consciousness in working with the injuries of their personal history in an increasingly aware and loving way − and in experiencing themselves in a larger connectedness.

Saying “yes” to the spiritual dimension of our humanness has fundamentally influenced and greatly enriched my life and my work as a dance and body-based psychotherapist. Hence I want to encourage the field of western psychotherapy to remember this healing force, and to connecting with its accomplishments in supporting ego-development, and in solving self-limiting symptoms and interpersonal problems.

The term “spiritual” is frequently used and understood in a wide variety of ways. Here, I am referring in particular to an inner direct experience of oneness—a state mystics of many wisdom traditions have described. It is an experience of nonduality in contrast to the belief in an external God that is separate from me. (2) This state can arise spontaneously, for instance, in nature, in sexuality, through the use of mind-altering substances, or while dancing. It also can arise after years of cultivating certain states of concentration in meditation, or through the development of an embodied inner witness in the Discipline of Authentic Movement. (3)

In this state of consciousness, so difficult to grasp with conceptual language, “the blessing of clear, silent awareness can become known.” (4) When this experience is guided with mindfulness and is held within awareness, it can have such a deep impact that it widens and transforms the development of personality toward authenticity, compassion and altruism. This widening could also be described as a being-in-the-world, that is conscious of itself, and at the same time is aware of and feels responsible for more than the personality, because it consciously embraces others, the environment and life in all its expressions.

From the very beginning of time, humans have searched for and found this direct experience of the numinous in the medium of dance. It is here the body is experienced as an instrument, a conduit and a vessel. Direct experience finds its expression in the body, through the body and because of the body.

The body is closer to an all-encompassing level of consciousness than the intellect. The intellect limits, it segments reality into partial aspects, with which it concerns itself, one by one. The body, on the other hand, can open itself to wholeness. Therefore it is used in all religions as a vehicle into the transmental space of consciousness − in almost all religions, because in Christianity, we have forgotten this spiritual power of the body. The body is always the base. It is in a way the vessel, in which the encounter with the godly truth is held. (5)

I hold the view that this potential of feeling whole while dancing feeds the human longing for being whole. It is one essential, often hidden, reason why many people turn toward body-oriented psychotherapy and dance therapy. Dance therapy, my point of psychotherapeutic reference in this article, offers this inherent aspect of dance by virtue of its subject. For this reason alone, I consider it meaningful to open a space inside oneself as a dance therapist and to create outside in the therapeutic situation a holding environment, in which this sometimes overwhelming experience of wholeness can arise and be accompanied consciously. I believe dance therapists are well prepared for this. The differentiated knowledge of movement, behaviour and psychodynamic development, the bodily experienced knowledge of the correlation of body, emotion, psyche and mind and the training to go into subtle conscious attunement with clients through their own bodies, are important prerequisites. These things support dance therapists in accompanying people processing and embracing their personal suffering as well as in staying aware in the presence of direct experience that goes beyond our everyday consciousness.

The spiritual dimension can extend the classical psychotherapeutic goals and serve the development toward a more comprehensive self, that contains the ego but isn’t limited to it. This thus enlarges ego-identity toward the development of a wider consciousness beyond personality and toward presence and compassion.

The Discipline of Authentic Movement, one specific branch of the major domain of Authentic Movement, offers an evolving path that prepares, practices and, in moments of grace, opens practitioners to this development in relationship with the re-adoption of unresolved personal trauma and suffering.

An embodied mystical practice, which invites the possibility of transformation into new ways of knowing, must include the light and shadow of personality to become integrated into a contemporary life. (6)

Qualities of the inner witness

Seen from the reverse perspective, psychotherapy, which invites the possibility of self-investigation into new ways of seeing oneself, should acknowledge and further the realm of the soul to transform contemporary life. The highly esteemed psychotherapeutic concept of facilitating the development of autonomy should nowadays be balanced by the development of a consciousness that sentisizes to that which carries us — a deeper reality of belonging.

The inner observer makes an important contribution for connecting and developing autonomy and belonging. Moreover, commitment to the emergence of the inner observer increasingly creates an interface between psychotherapeutic and spiritual approaches. Often I recognize in my psychotherapeutic work the healing force of a compassionate inner observer. I support its development, for example, through the introduction of the Discipline of Authentic Movement. In this context, the inner observer is referred to as the inner witness. The therapist is called the outer witness and the client is called the mover. In the following I illustrate qualities of the inner witness using the word “mover” as interchangeable with “client” and “outer witness” as interchangeable with “therapist.”

In the dyadic form of Authentic Movement, the mover closes her (7) eyes and, in the presence of the outer witness, turns her attention inward. Now she tries to follow the movement impulses which appear, to dwell into the arising body sensations, emotions, images and thoughts while being aware of them. After moving, she opens her eyes and, in the presence of the outer witness, goes into resonance with the movement process through language. In remembering and naming her movements and the areas of perception that accompanied them, consciousness about the experience becomes possible. This is an invitation for the mover to move toward a coherent relationship with her experience. This relationship contains the potential for integration.

A mover speaks about her personal process:

I am standing on both feet in the space, sensing a strong pull toward the space behind me.

Step by step I walk backwards, feeling an intense insecurity.

I shiver

The image of a scale appears. A scale, which balances itself, so as to find its balance point. I pause, I shift my weight from right to left, right to left.

I balance myself

Then I continue walking backwards, step by step. I feel a huge desire to let myself drop to the ground. At the same time, I feel an intense fear to let myself drop down.

I stay with the fear and listen inside

At the same instant I recognise “It is good, that I feel fear, it somehow belongs to me – here.”

It feels complete and true and I continue walking backwards

I stand and equilibrate myself until I am completely in balance.

I feel a peaceful calmness in me and deep contentment. (8)

A sudden insight appears by speaking the experience and listening to the words of her witness. The mover exclaims that, for several years, she had to lie in a body cast at night after a heavy fall on her back at the age of four. Later she speaks about being very glad to have experienced her long-time fear of falling as belonging to her as a child, to have appreciated it and to have integrated this through an embodied consciousness into the context of her life’s story. (9)

This example also describes the qualities of a reliable inner companion, the inner witness. Thus the mover is concious of all areas of perception of her embodied experience:

Movement: I am standing on my two feet.

Sensation: I sense a strong pull.

Emotion: I feel an intense insecurity.

Image: The image of a scale appears.

Thought: It is good, that I experience fear, it somehow belongs to me − here.

This development of continuous, simultaneous attention to everything that happens at any one moment in the body while directly participating in it, creates a common basis of the inner witness. This goes together with an emerging inner attitude of acceptance and openness, which is as free as possible of interpretation and judgment. In this way the mover practices mindfulness. “I pause and listen inside.

Mindfulness while fully participating in movement, sensation, emotion and association allows this mover to go into an empathic dialogic relationship with her fearful experience. This enables her to follow it internally and to contain it by herself. She becomes the witness of her own experience. “At the same time, I experience a strong fear of letting myself drop to the ground.

Witnessing and holding one’s own suffering with mindfulness is connected with a growing ability to discern which impulses she wants to fulfill. “I feel the strong desire to let myself drop to the ground. At the same time, I feel an intense fear of letting myself drop to the ground. – I stay with the fear and listen inside.

Now the freedom of choice becomes a potential, empowering this mover to be able to act in a self-conscious way. She’s not bound to her experience from the past any longer. “I stand and equilibrate myself until I am completely in balance.

While coming completely in balance this mover descends deeper: “I feel a peaceful calmness within me and deep contentment. ” This moment describes a shift from mindfulness into awareness, and into a totally different space of perception. In this sense, mindfulness aims more towards the ego becoming aware of itself, by becoming conscious of different senses, emotions and thoughts . Therefore the essential aspect of mindfulness is the birth of the inner witness becoming more and more kind. Yet, in this moment, the mover is conscious of awareness. She is only aware. There is no story, no comment. The inner witness becomes still. She simply is.

In the Discipline of Authentic Movement, these intrapersonal qualities of the inner witness develop within and because of the relationship to the outer witness. The outer witness serves as a model as far as she has developed a compassionate inner witness in herself and connects through it with the mover in a loving, accepting and compassionate way. This interpersonal relationship builds the core and shapes the development of one’s inner witness.

Developing trust in not-knowing: Developing embodied witness consciousness

With an increasing trust in the inner witness, the conscious body develops. A differentiated “sensing awareness” (10) has unfolded, while the mover distracts herself less and less with mundane thoughts, ideas or internal criticism. In a mindful and concentrated way, she is attentive to everything that emerges during the moving process. Trust in the body becomes possible without knowing where the movement will lead. This allows for trust in the unknown and trust in not-knowing. (11)

To dwell in a conscious body as home also means that each body part and each movement can be a doorway to deepening awareness through “systematic development of the ability to concentrate.” (12) The mover fully enters into the constantly changing experiences in movement and body. This goes along with, or alternates with, a focused concentration that stays with just this movement, this feeling, and descends even more into it, accepting it as it is.

So the conscious body invites presence through the art of concentration. In moments of presence there is no language, no inner dialogue. The inner witness is solely conscious presence. Movers sense this in the body as if all pores open and the boundaries become more fluid expanding into wide and open space. Being free from associations, thoughts or emotions, movers as well as their outer witnesses experience a shift from personality into presence, “as though arriving in a clearing. ” (13) In experiencing presence, trust in the unknown becomes entrusting oneself to the unknown.
Presence stands in close relationship to direct experience. In these indescribable moments of non-duality the body is permeable to energetic phenomena and becomes a vessel or a conduit for a universal energetic intelligence, that “concentrates within and moves through the conscious body deeply contributing to experience of wholeness. ” (14) This is often connected with a perception of being precisely aligned and of perceiving the body as a form that is experienced as transparent or as filled from within. The mover “is moved.” (15) She abandons herself to be centered by the movement until she is one with this movement, this form. In other moments she experiences a direct hit by the numinous, an experience of oneneness with all that is or with the indwelling God within us. “The felt separation between the moving self and the more familiar experience of the inner witness dissolves” (16) and develops into witness consciousness. In moments of direct experience, entrusting oneself to the unknown opens up to consciously giving oneself over to the unknown − to surrender oneself to not-knowing.

Surrendering oneself to the unknown can feel like dying, as we let go of our identity of everyday life. The vulnerability that goes along with this speaks of our authentic strength.

Like Janet Adler, (17) I know these moments of being unified as moments of grace, since they cannot be reached by will. They completely capture us and let us be filled with amazement, awe and humility. Consciousness develops toward an intuitive inner knowing and insight. A widening and deepening of the human capacity to feel compassion evolves.
Direct experience often is accompanied by a descent into awareness. The mover lets herself be led further into deep silence, timelessness and open space. Some movers descend into what they describe as the formless, infinite force, that always was and eternally is, a direct experience of emptiness. On a bodily level there occurs a profound calming down of body reactions and of the nervous system. Breathing becomes less and soft. Some are aware of a free falling and of a dissolution oftheir body boundaries. This is followed by a profound serenity. The blessing of clear silent awareness can become known – the Witness.

Clear silent awareness is perceived as the field and the background within which all experience exists.

And here, even the union of the heart subsides into a ground of being that is so simple: It is that place “where distinction never gazed”, as Meister Eckhart called it, where even oneness makes no sense, where the mind of insight has fallen silent, where the heart has fallen silent, and there is just a resting in the simple ground of being. (18)

Taking responsibility for our own lives: Therapeutic effects and consequences

Therapists who have developed a compassionate inner witness and have opened themselves to presence have the capacity to recognize these experiences in their clients. If they do not, transpersonal experiences may, for example, be mistaken for a regression into the pre-personal and irrational stage of infant development that is pre-consciously merged with everything. This reduction of the experience pathologizes the client. It inhibits understanding and integration into the Self. This mistake can also happen the other way round. In this case, the therapist inflates fantasies of omnipotence or psychotic experience to experiences of wholeness. Ken Wilber calls this interpretation a pre/trans confusion. (19) If the therapist is able to distinguish transpersonal experiences from personal experiences, then it becomes a delicate therapeutic task to support a conscious relationship to blessings as well as to challenges, and to accompany consolidation.

It is possible that the client may feel inflated in her ego because of the extroardinary experience. In this case the ego tries to grasp or to own the experience by imagining that it belongs to the client alone. As this effect occurs the therapist supports the client by paying attention to clarity between the experience beyond personality and the reaction of the personality to it, and to bring light to unconscious belief systems or unresolved life patterns. Otherwise the client’s ego can be narcissistically affirmed, which doesn’t serve developing a humble relationship to that which is given.

Alternatively, the client may believe that she now has complete understanding and is instantly healed because of the direct experience. By this response transpersonal states are unconsciously adopted as a form of resistance to facing one’s own individual suffering, and as an avoidance of working through emotional pain. This spiritual bypassing of personal suffering is very common and all too human. The therapist brings awareness to it and again invites the client to work on herself and to recognize that these indescribable experiences serve as an impulse that calls us to take responsibility for our own lives fully − embracing both joy and pain.

Another misconception is to understand an experience of wholeness in itself as the final goal by taking the accompanying side-effects, such as catharsis from a stressful life, well-being and bliss, as all it has to offer. This perspective doesn’t serve the further development toward a widening of consciousness which becomes embodied in everyday life. If this side-effect appears, the client strongly longs for repeated spiritual experiences, and loses relationship to herself as well as to others by escaping from this world with its daily demands to a state of consciousness that she considers better. It is often sufficient if therapists are conscious of this ego response and accompany the client in becoming aware of it without blaming her, and support groundedness in the body, in relationships and daily life again. Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, which have explored the development of consciousness and spirit in detail, know this side-effect as one kind of attachment. In psychology, it is known as a behaviour of dependency. It is here, as well as in the examples above, where psychological and spiritual knowledge come together to enrich each other.

Together, psychological and spiritual knowledge provide a framework that helps us to deal with these direct experiences that are markedly different from the common dualistic worldview of cause and effect, object and subject. Together, psychology and spirituality offer a way to integrate into contemporary western life with integrity and from the heart. Participation in groups of people committed to truth, to rooting an awareness practice in daily life, to be in nature, to become still, can be part of anchoring oneself consistently in the realm of a deeper reality.

Spiritual development as well as ego-development seem to follow an inherent order towards becoming what we actually are. For many this is an ongoing process. Trust in the process itself is helpful while deepening one’s committment with earnestness to a practice such as the Discipline of Authentic Movement.

A spiritual teacher, as well as a therapist, can be helpful commited companions time and again.

Conclusion

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

-Rumi

Rumi has named this interrelational space of unity consciousness and simple ground of being. It is here where spiritual experience opens a new space for psychotherapy. If we as therapists can meet our clients in this open field of not-knowing, then we may become increasingly able to attend fully to ourselves and to the client by attending to our souls and by letting ourselves be touched deeply within our open souls so that the other can be held therein. At this, therapeutic willingness becomes capable of being with intense feelings such as sheer despair, helplessness, solitude, loss and the existential fear of dying and death, and to hold even this with the client and within ourselves with awareness, not looking for supposed answers and solutions that ultimately do not exist. When we as therapists expose ourselves to not-knowing, we recognize our own fear of losing control, our fear of dissolution and of groundlessness, our fear of death; and we realize that we are in fact just fellow humans. We all experience life with all its beauty and all its heavy loads. Here is where we are the same and fully turn towards each other meeting in our wholeness and in our brokenness.

Empathy turns into wide-spread compassion. Growing compassion toward the client develops. This deepens the compassion of the clients toward themselves and supports work with personal pain. The pain does not change, but the relationship with it can be characterized by increasing acceptance and compassion toward one’s own suffering. As the heart cracks open, as the soul is acknowledged and heard, we become able to turn towards our pain.

It is my hope and my experience that the heartfelt soul doesn’t need to detach and dissociate from the tremendous personal suffering and from the outburst of suffering in our world nowadays. The ego alone can’t bear this. Commitment to the development of a consciousness with loving awareness at the bottom can hold this while we bow down with humility, in front of that which we call God—this loving intelligence we cannot grasp.

There´s a blaze of light in every word.
It doesn´t matter which you heard
the holy or the broken halelujah

And even though it all went wrong
I´ll stand before the Lord of song,
with nothing on my tongue but Halelujah

– Leonard Cohen

With deep gratitude to Janet Adler

Notes and References

(1)Peter Schellenbaum. Im Einverständnis mit dem Wunderbaren. München, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003.

(2) Ken Wilber; Integral Spirituality. Shambala Publications, 2007, chapter 3. p. 111-112. The experience is differentiated into states of gross, subtle, causal, being a witness, non-dual and absolute.

(3) Janet Adler. Official website of Circles of Four: The Mandorla and the Discipline of Authentic Movement. 2013

(4) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. Preface XIX

(5) Willigis Jäger. Die Welle ist das Meer – The wave is the ocean. Freiburg, Herder, 2008. 128

(6) Janet Adler. Official website of Circles of Four: The Mandorla and the Discipline of Authentic Movement. 2013. 1.

(7) When the text employs feminine pronouns, both female and male are indicated.

(8) personal communication , seminar 2010

(9) personal communication, seminar 2010

(10) Peter Schellenbaum. Im Einverständnis mit dem Wunderbaren. München, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003. 47.

(11) Some movers already come with trust in their inner witness embodied through this deep trust in the moving body. They seem never to have lost this primal wisdom. Others bring it out of intensive body, movement or dance training. In my experience, methods that adress in depth body and movement awareness as well as improvisation facilitate this sensitive process-oriented embodied awareness.

(12) Jack Kornfield. Das weise Herz – The wise heart. München, Goldmann Arkana, 2008. 447.

(13) Janet Adler. Official website of Circles of Four: The Mandorla and the Discipline of Authentic Movement. 2013.6

(14) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. Preface VIII , p. 206

(15) Mary Starks Whitehouse. The tao of the body. In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999. pp.43-50. (Original work published in 1958).

(16) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. 206

(17) personal communication 2012

(18) Adyashanti. Tanzende Leere – Emptiness dancing. München Goldmann Arkana, 2007. 255

(19) Ken Wilber. Integral Spirituality. Shambala Publications, 2007. 81

 

 

 

 

 

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Authentic Movement, Somatic Inquiry, and Post-traumatic Strengths

What follows are three video clips, with comments by the two people in them, Aileen Crow and Annette Geiger, captured extemporaneously during a break at an informal movement-oriented retreat. The work they share here serves to illustrate one of the many ways authentic, spontaneous, automatic movement work, done with responsiveness and awareness, can go. The two author-participants in the clips are in touch with themselves and witness their actions in movement as their interaction develops. Unlimited exploration awaits us all!

Aileen: Annette and I have been friends and colleagues since she graduated in 1985 from one of the Alexander Technique teacher training programs I ran. During Annette’s training, I’d led the group through an imaginary pre-birth exercise. When it came time for the “babies” to be “born”, Annette suddenly got up and sat against a wall. She was just “out of it”. I learned later that she was born through cesarean section.

Since her training, Annette and I have done Dreambody Process Work and a lot of Authentic Movement together. We have good rapport and much trust between us.

In the video clips that follow, Annette and I were with a familiar group at a yearly get together in a comfortable place. We began to work with the idea of me showing how I would do Alexander Technique now—some twenty-five years later. Annette was to role-play a client of hers’ who had body distortions. I planned to start by asking “him” to show his worst body attitude, then ask him what his body wanted, and proceed from there. I chose this approach rather than guiding him to the Alexander Technique ideal, which we both knew works to some degree.

My plan soon changed after we began. Annette quickly transitioned into being herself instead of role-playing her client. She now sensed what her own body wanted to do. Because the first thing Annette wanted was pressure on the top of her head, I was pretty sure a replay of her birth was what was going to happen, although I thought Annette was not conscious of this.

I had no fear Annette would get stuck in old trauma. We’re both experienced in following Authentic Movement’s body sensation and spontaneous impulses into movement and sound. And both of us were working with our inner witnesses present and active.

As we progressed, it was clear to me we were working in a very unconventional relationship. What started more typically, with me in a therapist role and Annette in a client role, evolved into something more because we were equally involved in our own authentic movement. My “therapist” followed her “client’s” movements in an unusual “moving together” therapist-client relationship.

I’ve been studying how to release trauma, so I did what I’ve been learning. I made a clear distinction between what, for Annette, was a re-experience of what had happened in the past with what was happening now. I encouraged her to do now what she couldn’t do then. I said things like, “Get what you want! Do it your way!”

Part One: Let’s Just Wait and See What Your Body Wants to Do

https://vimeo.com/92556985

Annette: Aileen and I have not exchanged Alexander work for a long time. So we talked about how each of us has integrated Alexander’s principles into our present work. Aileen suggested that I go into a role-play, and I chose to show the physical habits of one of my clients.

She asked me to sense and see what his body wants and proceed from there. I did not expect at all what unfolded from my body during the work. It certainly is not an Alexander approach. But it offered me a chance to react spontaneously, without knowing at that moment that I would go into my own process. Because I trust Aileen completely and because I have been going into trauma physically many times, I felt very secure about going into dark and difficult places, even with people around me who watched us working. 

Aileen: I believe it’s important not to get stuck in re-enacting past trauma. “Going into it” and “coming out” again many times can help keep one’s identity in the present. So I asked her to “come out” of the depth of her experience several times as well.

Part Two: “Coming Out” for a Moment

https://vimeo.com/95902093

Aileen: One movement session usually doesn’t finish an issue. The issue in this case, a baby’s traumatic experience of cesarean birth, seemed determined to resolve itself.

I believe this piece of the release of Annette’s cesarean birth trauma needed the possibility to express high emotion and make noise—doing now what she couldn’t do then.

Rather than acting-out a mental idea of what did or should happen, the story reveals itself. By following authentic sensation and movement, it unveils its importance and meaning through the unexpected and spontaneously authentic movements.

Annette: “Get what you want,” and “do it your way,” are some of Aileen’s supporting words—an invitation that definitely was contrary to my traumatic experiences. These invitations allowed me to go into enormous physical strength and to make archaic primitive sounds that came almost out of an animal world.

This trauma is about a big fight—a fight for survival.

Only today—after going many times into these traumas, being in my life process, and developing as a private and professional person—do I realize the themes behind them.

I believe that not having had the chance to be born in a natural way is a trauma. I never had the chance to choose to be born and to do so together with my mother. Instead, my mother was drugged and I was cut out. For me that was the beginning of beliefs like: “You have no choice”, “you cannot do it anyway” and “you are not good enough”.

Every journey I take into trauma helps me to lighten the heaviness of it. It opens up and shows me ways to transform difficult energies – like being a victim – into strength and power. I feel grateful to myself for having come through such traumatic events so well.

Part Three: We Are Doing it Now

https://vimeo.com/95917777

 


AileenphotoAileen Crow
. . . is in private practice in New York City and New City, N. Y. She combines Process Work, Authentic Movement and Art in her work on transforming trauma. Aileen is collecting some of her writings, drawings and calligraphies into a book, “PANACEA or Who Do You Think You Are?”

 

Anette_03Annette Geiger . . . studied classical music, jazz and improvisation in Switzerland and New York. Early on, she discovered the body is an instrument and that it is as vital an instrument as the flute or singing. She has been exploring the secrets of the body and the mind since then. Annette trained in the Alexander Technique with Aileen Crow who also introduced her to Authentic Movement. As a certified coach and pioneer in the field of Bodymind coaching, Annette has a practice in Zurich, Switzerland that spans both the business world and the arts. She loves working with people who want to develop their potential. Her website is: http://www.geiger.ch

 

 

 

 

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So What About Ducks?

This piece arose from Authentic Movement done by Ruthellen Griffin, a noted grief counselor and play therapist. We include it here as a wonderful example of what can be revealed in our moments of unknowing. What can emerge from our experience of the bodymind’s spontaneous repertoire of movement, image, sound and feeling?

And do we, as part of our human condition, stay stuck until we are willing to look at things in a new way? To do so, must we be brave, open, curious, or even sick enough to allow for exploration beyond the comfortable known? We’re grateful to Ruthellen for sharing these extemporaneous images of her work, accompanying words, and comments.

Ruthellen’s Introduction:

Once my grandfather asked me to pour milk for my brother and myself.  I lined up two glasses, carefully poured, and made sure we both got the exact amount.

He said, “Never take more for yourself!”

I felt embarrassed and ashamed. This experience influenced me much of my life. As a result, I did not take more on many levels in my life. I did not take more for myself. I would not put myself ” out there” for fear of being judged and criticized by “the experts” or by others.

An early hospital experience that combined surgery with lack of parental presence left me scarred physically and emotionally. I felt different, embarrassed and ashamed.

At one point I wanted to be famous. But as I saw and experienced the manner in which the establishment excluded non-conformists, I gave up rather than fighting. I started to ask, “What do I really want to do with my life? What do I want for my self?”

“I want to travel, dance, make my art, and work on my personal process.”

Fear arose again as I procrastinated by delaying putting my Authentic Movement  experience out in public. I thought perhaps a colleague, looking at the drawings would say, “They are phallic”.

Or “They are phallic with arms. This person has problems relating!”

When in fact, the work you’ll see below, drawn after moving, it is about shyness and emerging into the world.

In the end, I always seem to return to my sense of humor—a gift.  I want to use my skills of laughter, art, movement, and play for myself and for others.

Message to Myself

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Be unbalanced, for fun

Be Brave

So what about ducks?

They waddle, have big feet, may be clumsy out of water, but adept when they jump in.

They float, swim, go under, pop up.

THEY PLAY

Ruthellen Griffin, M.Ed., M.A., BCDTR . . . loves movement and art and has studied and practiced Process-oriented Psychology and Authentic Movement for many years. A former special education teacher and school administrator, she holds a master’s in Dance/Movement Therapy. Ruthellen also trained in Play Therapy and is a Yoga instructor. Presently she works in the community for local Visiting Nurse Association programs providing balance education programs for older adults. Through local VNA’s, she works with hospice teams to provide services to dying patients and grieving families. In schools and in her community, she facilitates groups for children and teens grieving the death of a friend or family member.

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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.

4-30-12

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.

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.

4-23-12

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.

4-25-12

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.

4-30-12

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

4-27-12

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.
Open-1-2-3,
Close-1-2-3,
Open-1-2-3,
Close-1-2-3.

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.

5-17-12

“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.

5-22-12

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,
Rejoiced,
Danced, one step, then, the other.
Very gratefully lived.

Selah!

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.

5-26-12

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.

5-29-12

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.

6-13-12

Listening, still
Simply nothing
Much.

Tight shoulders,
Neck tries to help,
And does.

Rain falls
Plants drink,
I get wet.

Raindrops are loudest
All feels quiet:
Is.

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

Home.
Wet morning.
Enough.

6-18-12

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
Inward.

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.

6-25-12

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.

7-2-12

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!

7-3-12

(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.

7-22-12

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.

7-25-12

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.

7-26-12

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.

Endnote

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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Psalmology by Julie Leavitt

I close my eyes, as I’ve done thousands of times. I keep them closed. I sense my body: feet to the cool wooden floor which I love, breath full throughout my torso, spine straight and sensing its own steady rhythm. Skin warm. Heart humming.

When my hands begin to lift, palms up, I am surprised and not surprised. I have been here before and I have never been right here where I am today. When my back arches and my head stretches up—till the skin on my throat is stretched tight and a bit uncomfortable—I know this is a very new place.

My mind wonders if I am like a plant stretching itself toward the rainwater I hear out the window. My muscles strain and I am relieved when my head drops slowly to neutral, eyes still closed, head facing forward and balance resumed.

I am only moving for a short time today. This is afternoon and I usually move early morning. I move on to artwork to continue my listening practice.

flowerdrawingI draw the round head of a golden-red blossom hiding in between its leaves, emerging.   This flower with its blue-green palette seems to rise with its leaves as my neck did. I see in this flower an orchestra conductor mid-note. I imagine the conductor with suspended breath, both anticipating and longing for the rising chords. I see the flower’s fiery head thrown back in ecstasy, in love with the feel of the music it conducts. The leaves could be arms and hands, ready to embody the next phrase of song.

The plant’s foliage reaches skyward; one of the places folks guess is G-d’s house. (1) When I look at the colorful conductor, I know G-d’s house is right here and everywhere I’ve ever been and will be. My breath comes back into my awareness. My heart is full.

* * * * *

Why do I call this practice Psalmology? It is my personal study of Embodied Psalm-making. My study is the listening for love songs to G-d that comes from a conscious movement meditation called Authentic Movement.

I practiced the form of Authentic Movement for years, first as a dance therapy student and then, as what I began to understand and name a creative spiritual practice. I’d returned to Judaism at the same time as I started graduate school in Dance/Movement Therapy at Lesley University. The two streams became one in my creative and spiritual life. When I began my training as a spiritual director in 2003, I still traveled to the west coast twice a year to study with my beloved teacher and mentor, Janet Adler. The tanglelanguage and experience of Jewish Spiritual Direction gave Authentic Movement’s very intuitive, kinesthetic, internal moving practice new language. I had been swimming happily for years through the deep silences on the movement floor. Now I had a container of language from my root tradition of Judaism that unfolded like a dance might unfold from deep silence on the dance floor. Both practices made the same kind of sense inside me; together they made a whole that helped me ground personal experience in an ancestor collective. 

The intimate learning in my study as an Authentic Movement practitioner found its soul mate in Spiritual Direction. Authentic Movement continues to teach me about deep and sacred truths both from traditional sources and from deep listening, which connects me/us to the Source of All. It became a great relief to speak directly about G-d. I came out as the gratefully spiritual person I am in a way that felt useful to myself and to others. The mystical teachings of Judaism I had studied for years grew legs as relationships I’d developed with my directees unfolded in their storied, gestures, and moving meditations.

My psalmology practice began this spring when I felt the need to move authentically in the mornings. I made it my spiritual practice replacing quiet meditation that consisted of focusing on a Hebrew word-symbol for G-d sensed moving through my body in an energetic cycle. (2) In this meditation, the word YHVH is broken into its four letters and then embodied. I sense the shape of the Yud in my head with a breath.  Then, I draw the upper Hay with my imagination across my clavicle and down each arm, always aware of my accompanying breath. Vav goes from the nape of my neck, down my spine to my sacrum. The lower Hay is across my hips and down each leg to each foot. The circle comes back again from my feet to the crown of my head to begin another Yud. I allow a full breath in and out to massage the shape of each letter with the combination of mind and sensation.

Authentic Movement is practiced by a mover with closed eyes in the compassionate presence of a witness whose eyes are open. The witness simultaneously follows both the mover and his/her own internal experience. The witness focuses on the mover meditatively, as one might watch a candle flame or Shiviti, a Jewish mystical meditative image.

My teacher, Janet Adler, explains that one of the desired outcomes is to develop and/or transform our own inner witness. I have been witnessed by tremendously wise and loving people. These witnesses hold the sacred container with a sense of holy Presence, depth, permission, and safety. They have helped me to see myself through myriad movement sessions with increasing complexity, beauty, and spaciousness. I have offered the same for those who moved as I acted as centertheir witness. There is a great privilege in seeing another move in personal solitude, watching quietly what rises from an inner kinesthetic impulse.

In Authentic Movement, the mover begins like a painter with a blank canvas. She chooses the emptiness of not knowing rather than a goal-oriented action. This is always a profound invitation to vulnerability and intimacy. In the language of spiritual direction, this is deep listening for G-d’s mysterious Presence, always creating and recreating the world, moment-by-moment, step-by-step. This co-creative process unfolds through receiving subtle kinesthetic impulses that offer themselves, first as sensation, as a poet might find a word or phrase, from the invisible world.

Mover and witness cultivate the art of deep listening through body and mind. They work to let go of judging self and others. Analysis and interpretation—the longing of the mind to label and understand from past experience—is released in order to create space for attending to the present moment. The mental work of figuring out is not the goal of this sensory movement meditation. Rilke said,  “You are not dead yet, it’s is not too late to open to your depths by plunging into them and drink in the life that reveals itself quietly there.” (3) We don’t have to worry or figure out what the movement “means”, no matter how tempting or unfamiliar that is. This practice may be a way to have the experience of,  “…life calmly giving out its own secret,” of trusting that the flow of movement has its own wisdom and design.

The poet John Keats used the term negative capability to describe the artist as receptive to the world and its natural phenomena. He rejected those who tried to formulate theories or categorical knowledge. “I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after leaf and dropletsfact and reason.” (4) We use “negative capability” when we witness a mover without jumping to any conclusions about the meaning involved. Instead, we listen with our senses. We cultivate the “not knowing” to be our present reality as we witness or move. We consciously choose surrender to the felt sense as our navigational tool.

Jewish mystics call this d’vequt, a clinging to, or a close and dedicated attention to an intimate relationship with the Divine. The Jewish mystical text, the Zohar, calls this Nahar Kevar, the River of Already. (5) When we unblock preconceptions and allow fear and emotion to be present as they come and go, we let the felt sense of the body move us. It is as if we enter a deep underground stream that is always there. Still, we must prepare ourselves to discover and re-discover, enter and re-enter, this eternal flow.

Torah is the sacred teaching text of the Jewish People. Study is a form of sacred practice that is at the heart of Jewish tradition. During Authentic Movement, we study in an opposite way of most religious expression. Usually, we begin with the word or text. In Authentic Movement, we begin with silence. From silence we listen for felt experience. From felt experience comes a flow of movement, like a sentence or phrase, or many paragraphs of meaning. Once the moving time has passed, words may eventually come. “Studying” movement is a kind of nonverbal text. It is taught that Torah is written with black fire on white fire, both wholly alive. We have centered on the words and letters of Torah: black fire. Authentic Movement opens us to the white fire:the Mystery of the unknown that our inner Torah unfolds upon. We look at the dance floor as that Torah. This is the holy ground, or adamat kodesh, that is like an empty page before movement begins. The movement becomes the letters and words unfolding before us.

* * * * *

As I began my Psalmology practice, I wanted to know if I had transformed the critical inner witness, the impatient judge of my childhood, into the one I hoped I would find: G-d as my Beloved. Developing a personal relationship with G-d over many years became key to this healing. I got to know the G-d of my family, the G-d from my childhood image. “He” was a combination of my inherited love of Judaism from my maternal grandparents, merged with the fears of my father and his narrow bridgebrand of wounding and woundedness. I was the first family member born of Holocaust survivors after the Shoah. This very blessed and challenging place in the family history continues to offer ways of understanding my relationship to Judaism and to G-d.

From the vantage point of my birth placement in the family timeline, I have always felt the love of G-d as gifted to me by my loving grandparents’ Orthodox observance. I didn’t yet question their rich practice of Shabbat and Holidays and their transmitted resilient faith when they had lost so many loved ones after their escape from Austria in 1938. I also had a sense of responsibility to the continuity of the Jewish people. From a very young age I knew I had to be part of the continuity of the Jewish people. One way of following this has been through an embodied, internally seeking avodah or devotional service. 

IMG_3918I discovered the witness I met each early morning was compassionate and present. When I close my eyes to move while my family still sleeps, I am not alone. G-d, my Beloved, is with me and is all around me. B’tzelem Elohim, means I am moving as the embodiment of G-d’s image, as a vessel for Shefa, the Divine Flow. My relationship with G-d is a work in process.

Being a spiritual director necessitates healing into a true intimacy, friendship, andflowers partnership with the One who is in the center of all Sacred. I have called and have felt called by G-d. I have come to know this as a two-way relationship. Sometimes I experience the close intimacy of a companion, other times, a sense of the vast Universe, and at still other more difficult times, a sense of loss, disconnection, and longing. The Zohar teaches that there are seventy-two names of G-d. We can listen for the one in our hearts at any moment.

It is presumptuous to call this moving prayer practice Embodied Psalmology. It actually feels playful because of this audacity. The Psalms, or Tehillim, were written thousands of years ago by David, and perhaps, countless others whose names were not recorded or remembered but whose poetry has a lasting, healing impact. Selected Tehillim are chanted during each prayer service and at special times of celebration, mourning, and healing. Traditional  psalms are chanted during the cycle of the Jewish year as a doorway for the kavannah, or intention, of the need of that time. 

waveLiturgy is constantly being renewed and staying the same. Visitors to our synagogue from Uganda said they felt at home seeing the same prayers and service they practiced at home. Sometimes the writing of new liturgy becomes part of the new tradition and is so seamless and fits so well, that we assume it was there all the time. At times, the old liturgy is taught in new ways in order to freshen the meaning for a new era, or for a new ear. I do not call myself a Psalmist, but a Psalmologist. Through dance and poetry, I study the creative process of opening to G-d’s Presence.

Now I share a few examples of my Psalmology practice. I do so with humility and arrogance, with a smile on my face and a blessing for you.

4/21/12

I hold so much and I am held,

before me is what I’ve created

that I can’t see.

In my head is all I have yet to create.

My arms raise up,

come close and cup the air.

You are there everywhere I go.

My feet are still and my arms

are now parentheses around my body.

There is a warmth in between them

and You are there with me.

My wings have taken me here.

You are the sky I fly through

and You are the land.

When I feel it is all fantasy,

when I lose hope,

I forget that I live within You,

constantly being created,

in Your own time.

 

6-10-12

A plane needs one.

A boat is nothing without one.

I need one, too.

You are the rudder,

You are the keel.

You are the water,

The wood, and the steel.

Without You, I drown

Or fall through the air.

When I hit bottom

It is You who is there.

I love You this way

Creator, designer,

You create a weave, finer and finer,

I think I control and figure things out

And then, I remember what life’s all about

Still letting go, crying, and doubt,

And then, I remember what life’s all about.

 

7-23-12

It is my honor

To stand before you,

Your servant,

Your G-d wrestler,

Your lover,

Your friend and companion.

Help me to hear you

To be as close to you

As breath,

Each day I am

In this amazing

And difficult

World.

All parts off me listen for You.

All parts of me sing your holy name.

All of my parts are dancing.

Oh, lucky life,

Oh, lucky, lucky life.

(The last two lines are from Gerald Stern’s poem, Lucky Life, from the book by the same name.)

* * * * *

Endnotes

1.  I will 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 a breath, the embodiment of the Divine.

2. Rabbi Aryen Kaplan describes this ancient meditation in his book, Jewish Meditation. It was taught to me by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. The orginis of this meditation are a Kabbalistic vision of the letters of G-d’s unutterable name and the teaching that all life is made in G-d’s image: B’tzelem Elohim. I have done this embodied meditation for years. It is a deep, instructive core practice.

3. This line is from a collection of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God as translated from the German by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. It can be found in the first section titled, The Book of Monastic Life (poem I.14) on page 71.

4. I first heard this famous quote in a lecture by Jungian Analyst, Nor Hall, in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1980. The quote can be found in the 1899 Cambridge Edition of The Complete Works and Letters of John Keats, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, page 277.

5. This was learned from Spiritual Director, Hana Matt

References

Barrows, Anita, & Macy, Joanna Marie, eds. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 1996/2005.

Keats, John. The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats. Cambridge Edition, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1988.

Photographs and Artwork

All images are original work created and provided by Julie Leavitt, 2013.

pink and yellow   twins   fruit of the spiral

Those who have watered my garden lavishly are Janet Adler, who illuminated a way of being that I have yet to fully embody, my Stump Sprouts AM collective, whose steady presence is always there with extraordinary inspiration and humanity, Dr. Bobbi Breitman, Rabbi Avruhm Addison, Rabbi Zari Weiss, Ann Kline, and Hana Matt. They gave me deep context for the ephemeral and invisible Presence that is always, always creating and recreating the world with love, challenge, and constant surprises.

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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Among the Redwoods by Paul Herriot

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
– From In The Garden, by C. Austin Miles

      

 

reds9

I go to the redwoods for solace. To reflect. To find peace. At dawn and at dusk I have found few people out amongst the trees. At those times people are usually nestled in their homes, cozy under blankets, or preparing a meal in the cool shadow of the sun either rising or falling behind the coastal ridge. The trees form a protective cocoon all their own. It is as if they hold time still. Their canopies rise high above all else, save for the mountains on either side. This is a valley of trees, a prehistoric respite. One fallen trunk shows by its rings it was born in this valley before the Magna Carta was signed nearly eight hundred years ago. This community of trees has been here for thousands of human years, some elders among them still standing. Today, they are alive as I am.

I am a native northern Californian. My mother was a preacher’s daughter from a family that came west from Erie, Pennsylvania in the 1800s to save souls. In northern California, where the Coastal Redwoods survive, hoards of men flooded the area from 1849 onward seeking riches. The Gold Rush set the tone of the place: hungry. The men were not only hungry for wealth but for relief from hard labor and hard living. The Old West tails of miners “a whorin’ and a drinkin’” were told in my mother’s family as our raison d’être: to save Christian souls. On my father’s side, I descended from French trappers. They came to California at the prospect of independence and a better, more abundant life. California was and is a cornucopia of living things. 5148e1cb8f61a.preview-620Fast-forward to today and much of its exploitable glory is managed by the people who have come to its golden shores. I am one of them; I am a farmer. I earn my living by working the soil through a kind of organic farming called Biodynamism. It honors the life of the plants and soil, and respects the earth. Beyond that, it recognizes the place of the earth within its celestial sphere. Awareness of planets and stars and earth’s place in the universe plays a part in how crops are grown.

reds10Doing Authentic Movement among the trees did not come to me as an idea. I didn’t say to myself, “I’ve got an great idea! Authentic Movement with redwoods.” It evolved from my time spent in the redwood forest. I usually come alone. Sometimes in the evenings, people are still partying here among the trees. They are playing the radio. They are cleaning up their cookout while thin wisps of grey smoke curl off their grill. The adults are sometimes drunk. The kids yell to one another, take the young stalks of trees and bend them into a ride. They climb onto and jump off the fallen trunks. Yet the commotion is overcome by the stature and volume of trees. The sharp voices dissipate into muffled echoes until swallowed by the mountains. I wonder if there is a threshold. How many trees per humans until the sound is no longer quelled?

reds32The first time I moved with the trees, I had walked for a long time. I sat down to rest, and then lay back with my hands under my head. As I looked up, I noticed I’d chosen to rest within a circular canopy of trees. Rays of sunlight passed between them, but little made its way to the forest floor. I couldn’t shake the feeling they knew I was there. I felt like a cradled baby, with loved ones looking down at me in my infantile “human” state.

family

I closed my eyes to rest. I want you to know, I rarely rest with eyes closed alone in the forest. But I felt held. That is when I began to move. I had a sense of great longing that my movement matched. I longed for connection. Of course, I thought, “Me, the great organic farmer. I save the earth. I’m a walking ad for sustainability. I’m in contact with nature.” But my body showed me otherwise. The movements arose from my heart. My chest yearned upward. I wanted to be one of them, a member of this ancient lodge of living beings. I wanted them to know I was one of the good humans. I wanted to share my arms and legs and voice with them, so they could protect themselves. And in exchange, I wanted access to the feeling of peace and vitality they engender by their mere existence. Then my chest rested back onto the cool earth. I felt their extensive root system beneath me.

This root-web became a hammock, holding my body, and the soil on which my body rested, in place. reds34My mind reached outward to the other animals in the area, all, I imagined, held in this way. Birds, chipmunks, mountain lions, and other visitors like myself, had become part of the eco-collective. I knew then I could easily live in and die to such a place, allowing my body to be held in this web of eternity. I was a part of it all, moving and breathing within the redwood circle, from canopy above to root system below, on a planet spinning in vastness as intimate as the veins and arteries within my human frame.

reds23The roots of redwoods are shallow for trees that arrow three hundred feet or so straight up. Spreading wide among them, their roots intertwine, just feet below the earth’s surface, with relatives and friends. At times the trees join together in holy union as their roots and trunks actually fuse, forming a web of interconnected life. When I left that first time, I remembered the way, so I could return again to this redwood sphere.

What was it like for northern California settlers to first see the giant trees? I imagine tumblr_m980qmWeB81qj8evso1_500they felt the same awe any newcomer feels. At the same time they must have thought, “how will I ever cut them down to clear my fields?” My mother has a few old photos of men in suits with giant saws astride fallen trees, and of tree trunks hoisted and strapped onto train beds. I am thankful for people like John Muir, James Armstrong, and others who had the foresight to save the trees for future generations.

I have made a practice of hiking to the redwood circle when conditions of weather, time reds15of day, and privacy can be met. And I have adopted a modified Authentic Movement form. I sometimes choose one tree as my partner; or I bring a friend and we move in two segments of time: humans or trees first, then the other species. I have never felt so loved as when I move within the witness circle of redwood trees. And, I have never experienced such awe and gratitude as when I witness my chosen tree partner, or the entire circle within my gaze. No church could give me this sense of sanctity.

At times, I speak to the trees whose tops tower above me. I say how, even with eyes cropreds35closed, I can feel their presence around me. I tell them I feel like I am now one of them, that I have grown roots into their root system and that they have accepted me. The more I feel a part of this family, the less I feel a part of my human one, few of whom would understand why the man who rolls and crawls, howls and cries alone on the forest floor is not crazy. Before I depart, I thank the redwoods for teaching me the benevolence of stillness and of silence. I thank them for their patience and for how good I now feel.

In the evenings, I walk back along the path in near darkness. As I approach the village on the road where I’ve parked my truck, I can see the yellow glow of lights switched on in the tiny houses. My eyes lose their ancient aptitude as they adjust to the electric light. I realize how dark it has become.

From the road’s clearing I turn back to the blackened forest. I look up to see the stars; Venus has risen over the horizon, and there is Mars overhead. I feel my ephemeral relationship to the ancient trees. I cannot imagine how deep a bond they must have with their nightly visitors, the planets and stars.


Herriot1

Paul Herriot is an organic grower from Mendocino County in coastal northern California. He spends his free time hiking, sea kayaking and fixing farm equipment, not necessarily in that order. Paul is active in promoting local, sustainable foods in his community and in ecological agriculture. Paul is a Spanda yoga teacher who participates in a leaderless Authentic Movement group.

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Witness Consciousness and the Origins of a New Discipline

Paula Sager’s master’s thesis is an inquiry into how the inner witness develops within the experience of relationship between mover and witness. Her research leads to evidence that, over time, individuals practicing Authentic Movement experience a transformation of inner capacities that support new ways of being and knowing. In this excerpt, Paula discusses the genesis of witness consciousness within the larger narrative of Authentic Movement’s origin. She then relates the development of the work to germinal publications about Authentic Movement. Paula Sager’s thesis in its entirety can been viewed at: Three Stone Studio.

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Beginning in the 1950s, a new movement practice, now commonly known as Authentic Movement, emerged through the exploration, thought, and teaching of Mary Starks Whitehouse. Three of the central figures in the development of Authentic Movement—Whitehouse and two of her students, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow—trace its origins back to the dance and ritual of ancient peoples for whom the body was the most immediate expressive instrument. Adler believes the discipline of Authentic Movement represents a transformation of ways human beings, from earliest times, have found connection between body, mind, and spirit. She writes, “The work of dancers, healers, and mystics forms the ground of the discipline of Authentic Movement, a way of work in which we practice compassionate witnessing of movement becoming conscious.” (1)

All three women grew up studying dance; and all three, in their published writing, acknowledge that the modern lineage of Authentic Movement began with dancers of the early twentieth century who were discovering new ways to access spontaneous movement within themselves. Chodorow writes of Isadora Duncan standing motionless with her hands on her solar plexus, waiting for an inner impulse that would lead to movement. (2) Whitehouse, who trained with Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, believed that Wigman’s work with improvisation was an indispensable influence on her own work and that of the other early pioneers of dance therapy. (3) Adler points to the writings of Martha Graham, Rudolf Laban, and others who, in the voice of their own experience, address the spiritual nature of the “inner attitude out of which true dance rises like a flame.” (4)

Most of Whitehouse’s work and writing focus on the mover’s development of a conscious relationship to impulse, with little reference to what has come to be known, in the contemporary practice of Authentic Movement, as “witness consciousness.”  Although, in the following quote from her later writing, Whitehouse articulates an important observation about the process of a maturing inner self-awareness:

[A] balance between action and non-action allows individuals to live from a different awareness. They come to the place where they can view everything, from a simple movement to the deepest and most poignant moments of their lives, with an element of detachment, having two qualities at the same time. It is not that they do not suffer but that they know suffering is not the only thing, its opposite is also there. It is not that they do not enjoy, they know there is suffering. Finally, if they are lucky, they can contain and be aware of both of these at once. Then something new is created. (5)

Clearly, Whitehouse had a profound understanding of the developing inner witness and in her writing she appears extremely cognizant of herself as an observer of her students in movement. She did not, however, make a conscious study of the observer role, either inner or outer, as a phenomenon in and of itself.

Joan Chodorow has written extensively, and far more theoretically than Whitehouse, about the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes as experienced through awareness of movement and the body. She writes:

Although the impulse to move may spring from a source in the unconscious, the body, which allows the impulse to manifest itself, remains firmly rooted in the fact of its own existence. The actual act of moving creates proprioceptive and kinesthetic feedback which serves to confront the unconscious with the body ego’s reality. As the unconscious impulse and the body ego encounter each other’s different realities, an intense and fully mutual education is likely to occur. (6)

Chodorow clearly articulates the mover’s challenge: “to develop the capacity to bear the tension of the opposites, to open fully to the unconscious while, at the same time, maintaining a strong conscious orientation. ” (7) As teacher and therapist, a generation after Whitehouse, Chodorow works with the model of witness in relationship with mover; but her focus is on the phenomenon of active imagination. Her contributions to both Jungian and dance therapy literature on the role of movement as active imagination are immeasurable.

The Role of the Witness

Janet Adler, as a young dance therapist, had come to her own central question through her work with autistic children:

Forty years ago autistic children were described as those beings who never had an experience of relationship with another human being. In such a child there is no hint of an internalized other, a mother, an inner witness. (8)

She writes of experiencing flashes of internalized presence in the children she worked with and observes that “such moments of grace created resonance within our relationship, revealing a glimpse of light.” (9) This possibility of resonance, of light, of conscious recognition between two people and all that lies, unconsciously, in the way of that possibility would became the focus of Adler’s work. At the age of twenty-eight, Adler worked intensively with two teachers who helped her define the studio work with students that she’d spend the next four decades developing. From Mary Whitehouse came an understanding of what Adler calls “the phenomenon of mover consciousness”; and from John Weir, a psychologist and teacher of human development, came “the foundation of what has become the phenomenon of witness consciousness.” (10)

From John Weir, Adler learned, “Our existential aloneness is the precondition for everything we feel, do, and think.” And yet,

It is essential that participants share their experience with others. . . . The sharing . . . performs a kind of witnessing . . . Witnessing seems to be extremely important in connection with many ritualistic and ceremonial activities. Witnessing, and sharing for that matter, seem[s] to validate the event and to give it and the participant public sanction and acceptance. (11)

It was through Adler’s work that a witness role developed in the practice of Authentic Movement; she made “a conscious effort to train the next generation of students to be witnesses as well.” (12) Her study with John Weir also contributed the use of self-referential, “percept language” where “individuals are asked to own their experience by using the words ‘I saw’ or ‘I felt’ rather than projecting or interpreting or judging other people’s experience.” (13) Reflecting on her own path of inquiry, Adler writes:

Witnessing the emergence of a discipline with authentic movement reverberating at its center, I have been witnessing the body as a vessel in which healing occurs, a vessel in which direct experience of the Divine is known. As the vessel becomes conscious, it becomes more capable of enduring the darkness and receiving the light of our humanity. (14)

A Developmental Model

Adler very intentionally calls her work a discipline “because practice has unveiled an inherent order, creating form with a theoretical ground, revealing a field of study.” (15) It is both a practice and study of the unfolding relationship between mover and witness, an unfolding that coincides with the development of individual consciousness. Adler has identified one structural aspect of this inherent order as “three interdependent realms” of the developing individual’s experience: the individual body, the collective body, and the conscious body. In her book Offering from the Conscious Body, Adler traces the development of these three “bodies” and notes that:

The work is developmental but not linear, as both personal and transpersonal phenomena occur in the practice within each realm. Individuals can enter this evolving practice at any time if experience in another discipline appropriately prepares them. (16)

In Adler’s teaching, the foundation, or as she calls it, “the architecture of the discipline,” is based on “the ground form” consisting of a single mover in relationship to a single witness.

The ground form is the basis of the individual body phase that begins, for the mover, with “a longing to be seen in the presence of a witness.”  Adler writes that:

The presence of the outer witness can become a compassionate model for the aspect of the mover that is becoming conscious of her own experience. It is the development of the inner witness that creates the evolution of the mover’s consciousness. (17)

 

As the mover becomes more adept and secure in her capacity to be in relationship to movement and inner experience, the longing to see another begins to assert itself. At this point, the mover learns “to track another mover’s physical movement while becoming conscious of her own sensation, emotion, and thought as she sits in stillness to the side of the space.” (18) Adler considers this phase, of being a silent witness, as a transitional practice on the way to becoming a witness who speaks in the verbal processing time.

The second realm, the collective body, is focused around the individual’s interest in and readiness to “discover one’s relationship to many without losing a conscious awareness of oneself.” (19) Typically, work in the collective body happens within a circle of individuals sharing in the roles of mover and witness. The circle, marked by the bodies of the participants, becomes a palpable presence. Adler writes:

In the beginning and ending of each round of work, the circle is empty. As individuals commit to witnessing the emptiness, the vessel strengthens in relationship to the development of embodied collective consciousness. (20)

The work of the collective happens because of each person’s willingness to open beyond the individual, solitary self and intend toward participation. (21) The movers and witnesses choose to move in and out of the circle for an infinite range of reasons or “for no reason at all.”  Adler continues:

People enter when they are tired or at peace, scared or depressed, hungry for pure movement or unable to sit still any longer. They enter because of a glance from another person . . . a shift in the light . . . or the intense purple of the princess flowers, vivid beyond the window seat. (22)

Adler suggests that the circle of the collective body has the potential to hold the full spectrum of human experience and that individuals “take turns descending into different aspects of being human in the presence of each other.” She writes:

Consciously embodying one’s truth in the presence of others can create an experience of wholeness, belonging, and completion as well as an experience of incompletion, frustration, and alienation. “I am because you are” seems true regardless of our experience of suffering or freedom from suffering. (23)

In the third developing realm—the conscious body—the participant may find that witnessing the emptiness of the circle is experientially equivalent to witnessing the emptiness of self. It is the emptiness that holds the potential fullness of creative offering. Adler writes:

Another longing, a longing to offer, emerges out of the emptiness. The body moving becomes more transparent, becomes dance, and dance becomes an offering. Words, becoming transparent, transform into poetry, and poetry becomes an offering. When energetic phenomena, which can be known in the body as direct experience of the Divine, concentrates within and moves through the conscious body, the energy itself becomes an offering—to the mover, to the witness, to our world evolving, to our world longing for consciousness. (24)

Adler’s articulation of the developmental nature of Authentic Movement in terms of the three “bodies” lays the ground for an understanding of embodied consciousness, both in relationship and, in moments of grace, beyond relationship. Such moments are experienced as a unitive knowing of “direct experience in which the boundaries describing all relationships, within and without, dissolve.” (25)

Witness Consciousness as a Force of Change

Many practitioners of Authentic Movement continue to build on the work of Whitehouse, Chodorow, Adler, and other early pioneers of the work. People practice Authentic Movement all over the world and in ways that emerge from their own special gifts, questions, goals, and communities. Even though the work had been developing for nearly fifty years, there were no books or readily accessible materials about the history of the practice. Until the early 1990s, there was no place for Authentic Movement practitioners to share their writing and their questions and become consciously part of the movement’s history.

In 1994, I was part of a group of women who started a publication about Authentic Movement called A Moving Journal. We had met four years earlier in an Authentic Movement group taught by Diana Levy. We found ourselves deeply engaged with the work in the studio and in exploring the role of mover and witness outside of it as well. We practiced in our living rooms and backyards, and even one day in the baggage claim area of an airport. We made artwork, theater pieces, and held community events, all driven by the possibilities of sourcing deep creative impulses and exploring new ways of seeing and being in relationship. Out of this eager curiosity and beginner’s mind, A Moving Journal was born.

In A Moving Journal, our intention was to offer a format for practitioners and teachers to share their research and experiences. We wanted to learn from others, in a way that reflected core principles of Authentic Movement, the importance of direct experience and respect for the individual voice. Over the next thirteen years, I, along with my co-publishers, Annie Geissinger and Joan Webb, had the opportunity to communicate with hundreds of readers and contributors from all over the world. Many times, we remarked that A Moving Journal felt to us like a very large Authentic Movement circle. As editors, we aspired to be witnesses in relation to our contributors. In relation to our readers, we often felt like movers, finding our way in the face of the unknown.

A book of collected essays by Whitehouse, Adler, and Chodorow, edited by Patrizia Pallaro and published in 1999, had a significant impact on the level of discourse among our readers and contributors. With the publication of these essays, the fruits of rigorous personal research into the role of movement in the study of conscious and unconscious experience became available to the growing community of Authentic Movement practitioners.

In 2006, as we finished production of our thirty-eighth and final issue, Annie, Joan, and I were invited to join Pallaro as speakers at the first International Gathering of Authentic Movement hosted by Daphne Lowell and Alton Wasson at Hampshire College. Many of the contributors to a second volume of Authentic Movement essays, again edited by Pallaro, were also present. Participants of the gathering, some of whom had never met before, came together to discuss ways that the impulse to share and connect, begun by A Moving Journal, might find new form. (26)

Perhaps what is most striking about the second volume of essays is the sheer quantity of words that have emerged from a practice grounded in the non-verbal. Close to forty contributors are featured, displaying the extraordinary range of thought and application that current practitioners of Authentic Movement have to offer.
Here is just a sampling of some ways that Authentic Movement, Volume Two, documents how Authentic Movement is moving out of the studio and into the world through those who are exploring “its power as a force that can support the development of personal and global conscience:” (27)

  • As an important adjunct to psychotherapeutic practice and clinical use.
  • As a spiritual practice in and of itself and as it intersects with other spiritual practices.
  • As an enhancement of the arts and creative expression.
  • As a support for the health and well-being of individuals with illness or disabilities.
  • In relationship to deep ecology and a more embodied understanding of nature.
  • As practice and inspiration for peace and social justice endeavors.

The main common link Authentic Movement offers to individuals working in these widely divergent fields is an inner witness strengthened in the context of the physical body and in relationship to others. It is through the embodiment of the two—mover and witness—that witness consciousness develops. It is through the discipline’s exploration of the relationship between the two that authentic presence can be discovered, cultivated, and can ultimately manifest in the world.

Endnotes

(1) Janet Adler. “From Autism to the Discipline of Authentic Movement.” In A Moving Journal 10.  From American Dance Therapy Association 37th Annual Conference keynote address. Spring 2003. 12.

(2) Joan Chodorow.  “Inner-Directed Movement in Analysis: Early Beginnings.” In Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved, Vol. 2. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007. 32

(3) Susan Frieder. “Reflections on Mary Starks Whitehouse.” In Authentic Movement: Vol. 2. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007. 35.

(4) Janet Adler. “From Autism to the Discipline of Authentic Movement.” In A MovingJournal 10. 12.

(5) Mary Starks Whitehouse. “C. G. Jung and Dancer Therapy.” In Authentic Movement:Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999. 83.

(6) Joan Chodorow. “Dance Therapy and the Transcendent Function.” In Authentic Movement: Vol. 1. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999. 246-247.

(7) Joan Chodorow. “Dance Therapy and the Transcendent Function.” In Authentic Movement: Vol. 1. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999. 310.

(8) Janet Adler. “From Autism to the Discipline of Authentic Movement.” In A Moving Journal 10.  From American Dance Therapy Association 37th Annual Conference keynote address. Spring 2003. 11.

(9) Janet Adler. “From Autism to the Discipline of Authentic Movement.” In A Moving Journal 10.  From American Dance Therapy Association 37th Annual Conference keynote address. Spring 2003. 11.

(10) Janet AdlerOffering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xiii.

(11) John Weir. In The Laboratory Method of Changing and Learning. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books, 1975. 321.

(12) Tina Stromsted. “The Discipline of Authentic Movement as Mystical Practice: Evolving Moments in Janet Adler’s Life and Work.” In Authentic Movement: Vol. 2. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007. 247.

(13) Neala Haze, and Tina Stromsted. “An Interview with Janet Adler.” American Journal of Dance Therapy, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1994). 87.

(14) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvi.

(15) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvi.

(16) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvi.

(17) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. 6.

(18) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvii.

(19) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvii.

(20) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xvii.

(21) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. 124.

(22) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. 124.

(23) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. 124.

(24) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xviii.

(25) Janet Adler. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002. xix.

(26) Less than a year later, the Authentic Movement Community Web Site was up and running with a directory, classified ads, and a committee to oversee the creation of a blogauthenticmovementcommunity.org. Out of this collective, the current online Journal of Authentic Movement and Somatic Inquiry was founded.

(27)Lisa Tsetse. “Moving the Outer Rim In: Authentic Movement and Non-violence.” In Authentic Movement: Vol. 2. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007. 406.

Further Reading and Works Cited

Adler, Janet. “From Autism to the Discipline of Authentic Movement.” A Moving Journal 10 (Spring 2003): 10–15.  From American Dance Therapy Association 37th Annual Conference keynote address.

——. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002.

——. “Who Is the Witness?” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1 (pp. 132-159). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999.

Chodorow, Joan. “Dance Therapy and the Transcendent Function.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1 (pp. 236–252). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999. (Paper presented at First Regional Congress of the International Association for Social Psychiatry, Santa Barbara, CA, 1977; and First International Conference of the American Dance Therapy Association, Toronto, Canada, 1977)

——.  “Inner-Directed Movement in Analysis: Early Beginnings.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved, Vol. 2 (pp. 32-34). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007.

Crow, Aileen. “Sensory Channels and Authentic Movement.” A Moving Journal, 9 (Fall-Winter 2002).

Frieder, Susan. “Reflections on Mary Starks Whitehouse.” In Patrizia Pallaro, (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved, Vol. 2 (pp. 35-44). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007.

Haze, Neala, and Tina Stromsted. “An Interview with Janet Adler.” American Journal of   Dance Therapy, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1994), 81–90.

Johnson, Don (Ed.). Bone, Breath, and Gesture: Practices of Embodiment. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1995.

Lowell, Daphne. “Authentic Movement: An Introduction.” Contact Quarterly, Summer 2002: 13–17.

Stromsted, Tina. “The Discipline of Authentic Movement as Mystical Practice: Evolving Moments in Janet Adler’s Life and Work.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved, Vol. 2 (pp. 244-259). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007.

Tsetse, Lisa. “Moving the Outer Rim In: Authentic Movement and Non-violence.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved, Vol. 2 (pp. 406-413). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007.

Wasson, Alton. “Witnessing and the Chest of Drawers.” In Patrizia Pallaro, (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved Vol. 2  (pp. 69-72). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2007.

Weir, John. In Kenneth D. Benne, Leland Bradford, Jack Gibb, and Donald Lippitt (Eds.), The Laboratory Method of Changing and Learning (pp. 293-325). Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books, 1975.

Whitehouse, Mary Starks. “C. G. Jung and Dancer Therapy.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement:Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1 (pp. 73-101). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999.

——. “Physical Movement and Personality.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1 (pp. 51-57). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999.

——. “Reflections on a Metamorphosis.” In Patrizia Pallaro (Ed.), Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, Vol. 1 (pp. 58-62). London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 1999.

The introductory poem, “Witness” by Denise Levertov is from Evening Train, (1992) by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Photographs

Photogaphic images for this article are by Paula Sager and Joan Webb.

Paula Sager has a degree in dance from Bennington College, is a certified Alexander Technique teacher, and has practiced the somatic discipline of Authentic Movement for more than 20 years. In 1993, she co-founded and served, until 2006, as editor and writer for A Moving Journal, an international publication devoted to Authentic Movement. Working closely with mentors, Arthur Zajonc and Janet Adler, Paula conducted research on the phenomenon of the inner witness in her master’s degree thesis, Witness Consciousness and the Development of the Individual. Her long-time teaching practice focuses on the role of movement and sensory awareness in supporting cognition, creativity, and presence in a wide range of professional fields. Paula is a co-founder and president of The Mariposa Center, a non-profit organization that incorporates contemplative approaches to the teaching of early childhood education and she is a board member of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyday Healing

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Oddball Movement

by Paula Gallagher

A few years ago, I took a job at a large corporate institution. Their work environment was very formal and conservative, which felt strange and alienating to me.  I was not very happy there and one morning, when I was feeling especially glum, I was greeted with a big smile and perky “good morning” by a rather strange man who worked there as an administrative assistant.

He was an odd-looking character, kind of long and lanky with bright red hair and a little cowlick that stuck straight up from the crown of his head. He always dressed in a brightly colored sports jacket with a white shirt, bow tie and suspenders holding up his pants that were just a few inches too short for his long legs. He had an ever-ready smile and subservient, eager-to-please manner that struck me as a bit over the top.

He also had a very quirky way of walking. With his head and torso tipped slightly off to one side, he lifted his knees and picked up his turned-out feet with each step in a purposeful manner as his forearms swung rhythmically from his elbows. The quality of his movement reminded me of a mechanical wind-up toy that was just slightly out of sync. I have to confess that I tried to avoid him most of the time, thinking to myself, “Oh no, here comes that weirdo.”

One morning, I paused as I entered the building.  As I stood there, watching him walk his odd little walk across the main lobby of the building, I was suddenly struck with a bolt of insight. This guy is happy. There’s a twinkle in his eye and a sense of lightness and buoyancy in his step that he brings to all his actions. Not only is he happy, but he seems to actually enjoy his job—always friendly and cheerful in his offbeat manner. And here I am, with my perfect posture, miserable and making a judgment about him.

Then I remembered attending an Authentic Movement workshop with my teacher Aileen Crow, and heard her voice saying with delight, “I’m just fascinated with oddball movement.”  With this shift in my awareness, I decided to try on his “oddball” way of walking and found that it cheered me up immediately. I tipped my torso, picked up my feet, and swinging my forearms from my elbows, I took off down the hallway to my office.

I discovered a great sense of freedom and rhythm in this movement pattern that not only lifted my spirits but altered my perception of myself in relationship to my job and work environment. I soon found myself smiling and saying “good morning” to people rather than passing them by.  As I walked on, I started to connect with, and embrace, the oddball in myself; the gypsy dancer, the bohemian, the free spirit who has always lived outside the corporate box. Instead of feeling lost and alienated in my work environment, I felt liberated and free to be myself. It’s okay that I don’t “fit in” here. I don’t have to and I don’t really want to.

From that day on, I became absolutely fascinated with this peculiar fellow. I found his presence refreshing and uplifting and instead of avoiding him, I would seek him out.  Whenever I found myself feeling dismal at work, I would start walking like him and find myself giggling and smiling from a place of genuine joy within.

As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I have been trained to keenly observe human movement patterns and to use my hands in a highly skilled manner to guide people in fine-tuning their sense of body awareness, posture and coordination. My first response might easily have been to observe this fellow’s quirky way of walking and begin “fixing” what was “wrong” with his posture and gait. However, by trying it on I gained a much deeper awareness of myself and of this other human being.

This odd movement pattern didn’t seem to be causing him any harm at all as far as I could tell. However, my mental pattern at the time, even with my “perfect posture” was causing me a great deal of emotional distress and unhappiness. I realized that I was caught in a repetitive cycle of negative self talk which was perpetuating feelings of being stuck in a situation that I did not want to be in.  I found myself thinking over and over again, “What am I doing here?” “What have I done with my life?”

I had never felt more disconnected from myself, my creativity and my spirit. I was so overwhelmed with feelings of regret at having taken this job that I was not relating to the people around me at all. I found myself frequently on the verge of tears and wanting to escape this bad dream.  These repetitive thoughts and feelings were depleting my vital life energy and blocking my sense of flow, rhythm and joy.  By embodying another movement pattern I was able to instantly shift my mental state into a much healthier and happier place.

A few days later, I was walking down a drab gray hallway of administrative offices when he appeared out of nowhere wearing a bright green jacket and, in a very gallant manner, opened a door for me.  I thanked him with a deep theatrical bow and grand arm gesture. “Thank you, kind Sir,” I said, and he began jumping up and down saying “Yes, opening a door for a beautiful lady, that’s something I can do.” My response was to immediately join him. We both jumped up and down and giggled like two excited children on a playground. Once again, I had a fabulous mood shift that altered my day in a most positive way.

When I told a friend about this encounter, she asked if maybe he felt like I was making fun of him. I honestly didn’t think so because I joined in his movement from a genuine place of spontaneity and fun, and not from a place of judgment or ridicule. I think it was a very positive experience for both of us and no one around seemed to blink an eye about our behavior.

This experience is also a wonderful example of how we affect one another on an energetic level through our thoughts, emotions and body language.  Our thoughts and emotions emanate a vibrational frequency that affects us inwardly on a cellular level and outwardly impacts our relationships with those with whom we come into contact. I find it very interesting that I never had a conversation with this person—a person who has had such a powerful impact on me. Our connection was predominantly through body language and energetic exchange. By connecting with an energetic pattern of joy, I was able to shift out of my cycle of self-defeating thoughts and feelings into a much more open and expansive state of being. In the process I felt reconnected with my essence, my inner dancer, my free spirit, and I was more open to connecting with others.

By bringing conscious awareness to our thoughts and movements, we have the ability to change our perception of life and thus alter our experience of life. The life force expresses itself in myriad ways—just look into nature at the infinite variety of flowers, plants and animal life.  Our humanness also expresses itself in multidimensional ways. Through my observation and experimentation with another person’s movement pattern, I was able to transform a very self-destructive pattern in myself. This process also awakened in me a sense of curiosity and compassion for someone that I had previously avoided.

I have become fascinated with the variety of human movement patterns I observe wherever I go. It seems that nearly everyone is slightly off kilter in one way or another, and there are infinite varieties of gait and rhythmic patterns. I try them on and shed them like trying on clothing in a dressing room.  The saying “walk in another’s shoes” has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I immediately sense a different mental/emotional state with each change in movement pattern.  I feel a deeper connection with people that I would not experience from simply observing them.

Martha Graham states “the body never lies.”  We carry with us a lifetime of experiences, our joys and sorrows, accomplishments and disappointments, our hopes and dreams as well as our traumas and fears.  We can only imagine the inner experience of another human being. By trying on another person’s movement pattern, we can gain insight into another experience of being human and also broaden our awareness of our self.

For myself, when I’m feeling unhappy, frustrated, unloved or insecure, my movement vocabulary becomes very limited. A sense of hopelessness comes over me and my energy level plummets.  My movements feel sluggish and effortful, pulling me inward and downward as if the world is closing in on me.  When I’m feeling happy and enthusiastic about something, my whole body feels energized, my movements are expansive and flowing and my spirit is radiant.

Our bodies are capable of expressing the full spectrum of human emotions.  Our mental and emotional states are continuously being reflected in our posture and movement. My experience with “odd ball movement” has reminded me that the opposite effect can also occur.  By changing my movement pattern, I can effect a change in my mental and emotional state.

I invite you to join this dance of embodying another movement pattern wherever you are.  Whether it’s a little old lady shuffling along with her walker or a child skipping with abandon in the playground, try it on.  Embrace the oddballs and eccentric characters of the world as you encounter them on your daily journey through life. We have so much to learn from them.

 

Paula Gallagher has an extensive background in movement and the healing arts spanning over thirty years. Originally introduced to Authentic Movement by Aileen Crow in the 1980s, Paula continues to integrate the practice into her life. She is a practitioner of the Alexander Technique and Reiki, and is an accomplished dancer with a passion for the art of Middle Eastern belly dancing. Paula is currently writing a series of healing vignettes inspired by her experiences as a professional hospice nurse.

 

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Health and the Body: A Tantric View

by Rudolph Ballentine, M.D.

In his new book, Kali Rising, Rudolph Ballentine M.D. presents a holographic view of our current world crises through a modern Tantric perspective. His focus is on the dynamism between two basic aspects of the universe—the masculine and feminine principles, at times personified as divine beings named Shiva and Shakti respectively. In Tantra, their dynamic interplay is nothing less than the foundational “hum” of all that exists. In our human lives, awareness of the Shiva and Shakti dynamism can not only be a way to connect with this cosmic dance, but can provide a context within which we explore personal issues of well-being. In this excerpt, Dr. Ballentine describes how the core dynamic between Shiva and Shakti, the archetypal masculine and feminine forces in nature, play out at the level of health in our modern times and lives.

For many years I practiced holistic medicine, struggling to integrate the approaches of natural medicine within the framework provided by Tantra. (1) So allow me to begin this discussion with a case:

David said he was burnt out. He worked eighty hours a week.  Though he worked as a healer, he looked not unlike the average 50-year-old man—red-faced, potbellied—angry enough to stay just this side of depression. A psychic had told him that if he continued the way he was going, in a few years he would have “the opportunity to pass over.” That got his attention, and he decided that he’d rather make some sort of adjustments so he could stay on the planet. He still had work he wanted to do.

As I worked with him, homeopathic remedies emerged as good bets and patterns of relating took shape. He had left his wife because she was, he said, crazy. But from our tantric perspective he was clearly identified with an inner Masculine that was not merely sometimes in gentle disagreement with its Feminine counterpart, but who was at war with Her. She was, he seemed to feel, unreliable, not nurturing, and liable to irrational fits of pique. He wanted no part of Her.

From a tantric view, embodiment is the sphere of the feminine. She revels in the carnal connection with life on earth, and happily preoccupies herself with its minutiae. In fact, it is often convenient to think of our bodies as our own personal, standard issue piece of Gaia. It is our own little portable experiment in being living matter. But being in a body can be “inconvenient.” It’s a messy business: smelly fluids and constant neediness—food, water, rest, and most humiliating of all, touch from others. She (the Feminine in each of us, be we male, female, or some other variant of gender) demands all this incessantly, and seems resistant to reason. She refuses to be put off (at least not for long), and is openly scornful of His (our Masculine’s) logic and businesslike agenda.

David wrote Her off. She was impossible. “She is—” he confided, “seriously—insane!” Though this was said in reference to his ex-wife, it soon became clear that it applied to most women he knew. And it was, I surmised, how he saw his own Feminine—which he didn’t own, but projected on whichever female came near him.

Though David’s mother had, according to his account, been unusually distant and his birth especially difficult, he is, as far as I can tell, only a slight exaggeration of what can be seen in many of us—women as well as men. Inside each of us the relationship between inner Masculine and Feminine may be tense and troubled. The counterparts may be cognizant of certain distortions of the masculine and feminine archetypes, and may be working to shed those, while our society as a whole offers twisted and tortured versions of Masculine and Feminine that are far worse.

That is not to say that such acculturation is surprising. In order to accommodate the institutions and pressures of the world we live in, most of us, women and men, identify predominantly with the sort of workaholic Masculine that ruled David. And, like David, this leads us to neglect our bodies. We treat them as irrational pests that are best ignored. What follows, of course is a multiplicity of diseases, the details of which we obsess over—while we don’t notice the underlying dynamic responsible: our fundamental estrangement from embodiment.

Medicine, meanwhile, stays busy chasing its tail: contriving endless treatments (many of them toxic and destructive) to block the deterioration of the body, without addressing the root causes. Our attitude toward our bodies and that of the medical establishment which provides a context for our struggle, add up to a potent “catch 22.” The only viable way out of the dilemma is to become aware of what we are doing and to address the inner dynamic ourselves. Yet the alertness and insight necessary to do so is blurred and obfuscated by the compromise of our bodily functions—most notably the nervous system. Being befuddled and baffled, we are like the proverbial chicken which can’t find its way around a wall (the wall being our compromised health).

Though Tantra is a path of radical experimentation and liberating knowledge of the self, it is an embodied path. The instrument of our journey along this path is the body. If it is not clear, vital, and incisive, we will falter as tantrikas—hence the critical role of working with health. Without that any spiritual path, especially Tantra, will be to a great extent blocked.

Lewis was a case in point. He had no time for pampering his body. He ate whatever was at hand and sat most of the time at this desk, where books and papers were piled precariously all around. Though he was an advanced and dedicated student of tantric Buddhism, his progress was limited by the breakdowns in his body. While his Lama exemplified radiant health, Lewis tried to emulate him through rigid schedules and long hours of poring over his books. Instead of radiant health, the result was tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea, esophageal reflux, Hashimoto’s disease, and a score of allergies. He was on an even dozen strong pharmaceutical medications, not to mention lists of herbs and supplements. Most of his symptoms were worse on the left side of his body. “Why does my left side suffer?” he asked. When I explained that the left side is the Feminine, and that he was neglecting Her, he smiled. When that began to make sense to him, I encouraged him to take time, relax, be with his body and ask it—ask Her—what She wanted, then give Her, his feminine, in this case Her physical, corporeal aspect, what she needed. It was important to work with his body, with Her. It—She—needed to feel his concern and attentiveness. “She’s going to be hard to convince, She’s been put off so much in the past,” I warned him.

“And note: you’ve still expected Her to be there to pump your blood, feed your brain, and draw your breath. You may not have had time for Her, but She had better be on the job, keeping the house, when you decided to show up.”

At our next session, Lewis was beginning to see how his relationship to his body was like that of an absent, workaholic husband. “The unnoticed Feminine is really pissed,” he remarked. To tell the truth, She was in a rage, he realized, having reached the point of beginning to “wreck the house!” Suddenly his physical collapse was making sense to him.

Of course, Lewis is not unique. Nor is this problem limited to men. Women suffer similarly, if not as severely generally speaking. Their Masculine reflects the same planetary pattern. (2) And this disconnect from the body reverberates holographically throughout life on the planet—showing up, for example, in distorted masculine political and economic forces of competition and exploitation that similarly ignore, neglect and abuse the body of Gaia.

But in this holographic complex, issues with the body and physical health hold a unique place. We are talking about the survival of the individual when we begin to consider the diseases that can supervene and threaten life itself. This is the rich and fetid territory of the Root Chakra—where the fear of annihilation dwells. It has always intrigued me that the cultures of the East, by and large, take more common sense care of their bodies, and despite what often amounts to food shortages and inadequate public hygiene, remain surprisingly healthy—and this in the context of a cosmology that views the body as a mere temporary vehicle, to be cast off when worn out.

Meanwhile, in the West, the body is overstuffed, over drugged, and over stressed, despite the fact that many in this part of the world view their bodies as the sum total of their existence, and believe that when it expires, they will cease to be, their consciousness extinguished with their physiological processes. Is this some macabre dance with annihilation? Is it a desperate attempt to assert autonomy by taking charge of ones own destruction? (3)

While the answers to those questions remain a mystery, it seems clear there is a great struggle going on in the territory of the Root Chakra—an overwhelming preoccupation with a pervasive sense of “the futility of life,” and a lack of any felt nurturance from the Cosmic Feminine. He in his arrogant exploitation of Her, projects his own contempt and indifference and thus assumes She feels that for him. He fears She will turn on him. When She does—in the guise of Kali—“burn down the house,” and set him free from his stalemate, he only sees retribution and viciousness, rather than the liberation She brings.

Preoccupation with fear—actually terror is a more accurate term—and the desperately denied conviction that he is ultimately to be annihilated (4) prevent him from being open to Her playful spontaneous creations, and the limitless love and nurturance She offers.

After this tantric analysis of our relationship to our bodies, let us look at a tantric solution to the disastrous situation with our health that has resulted from it. The basic challenge is to uncover our own pure Her—the essential, unsullied version of our Feminine—She who nurtures us, and who guides our actions, decisions and way of living. Or, at least, potentially guides us. To find that deeper, inherently powerful and loving aspect of ourselves, of the Universe as present within us, we must also uncover our own pure Masculine.

That will usually be necessary since most of us are firmly positioned in the Masculine as we relate to our bodies. We have identified with Him and relate to Her through Him. And we have assumed all His violent, abusive attitudes, and his fear and rejection of Her. To be able to even acknowledge that She is there, that we are in part Her, we need to uncover a less distorted Masculine from which to look for Her. In other words, we must find Shiva as well as Shakti within. Tantra includes principles we can employ to accomplish this.

One such principle is that everything is an experiment. Therefore approach interactions with our bodies, our dietary choices and our herbal teas or exercise sessions, as experiments. We try what we feel inclined to try, or what captures our curiosity, and then we observe carefully, gathering data. She will never be averse to that, since She loves attention. By following this principle, we become attentive.

Another principle is to use tapas. Tapas involves exerting some degree of inner discipline. Use tapas around what are observed to be damaging habits if they are “ripe for plucking,”—in other words, if we are ready to let them go.  There will generally be one, even if it’s a small habit that is ready to be worked with.  Allow tapas to release energy tied up in the targeted habit that can power your body to make new choices, actions, creations, and observe and appreciate what it’s doing.

Harness the outward moving aspect of the masculine—the phallic—by cultivating and going with your curiosity, your desire to understand, to penetrate into the mystery of why and how your body functions. (5)

Study your outer relationships with a partner, a boss, or a friend to pinpoint the dynamics you might find in your relationship to your body, and then see if that is what is going on—check it out.

Notice how bringing more of the light of consciousness down into the inner workings of your physical body automatically changes the way it functions. When you actually locate your liver, and you can feel the congestion or discomfort after you have that third cup of coffee, does it begin to respond differently to what you put in your stomach? Or does feeling its uneasiness shift the way its dysfunction leads into anger?

How is your body the battleground for your inner gender war? Notice the connections between what is going on between your Masculine and Feminine on the one hand, and the tensions, spasms, blocks, and complaints of your body on the other.

Finally, look for the pleasure. Where and when does it register? Remember that She is a pleasure generator. She is designed to experience pleasure. But she needs Him to create the container, to bring the light of awareness for it to reach the level of delight and joy that is possible. Learn what you can do that gives your body pleasure. Don’t be stingy with it. Then work with your body so its capacity to experience pleasure is expanded, extended. By attentive tending of it, you cultivate its sensitivity, rather than blunting it, as is done when you’re inattentive, impatient, indifferent to it.

This is what my teacher, Swami Rama, used to call “making obstacles into means.”  The very impediment to our progress along the tantric path becomes the opportunity to learn Tantra and to develop an embodied appreciation of the verity of its principles. In Tantra, the body is a microcosm of the larger world. Working with it hones the skills we will need in the other domains of life as we use the same principles and meet analogous challenges.

So we see that working with the body is a complete tantric practice in itself! Tantra is an embodied spirituality in which the body must be capable of holding the energy implied by that for new explorations and discoveries. Using such an approach to our bodies brings us into curiosity, insight, patient containment, and care relatively free of the usual distortions. That purer Masculine, that Shiva within us, will be able to see and honor Her—Shakti. Their loving interactions then open us to higher more insightful and delightful ways of being.

Endnotes

(1)  See Radical Healing by the author which details many of the practices and approaches to natural medicine that are in keeping with the philosophy of Tantra as presented in this work.

(2)  Note that when we move to speaking of women, we talk about “their Masculine,” relating to their Feminine, whereas Lewis spoke of himself relating to Her. Herein lies an advantage that women have currently. Generally, they more easily step back from their Masculine and can observe it. Men identify with it tenaciously. Ultimately Lewis’s path to health will necessitate that he come to observe not just Her, but Her and Him.

(3)  Classics of our literature, such as Poe’s, Red Masque, and Dostoyevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov hint that this may be true.

(4)  Of course, he is ultimately to be annihilated—at least that current ego, constructed as it is around the denial that he has a Feminine and that She is his power. His recovery involves: first admitting and owning his fear; then entering it and discovering its link with the undesirable ego; and last, joyfully liberating himself from the chains of that now obsolete version of ego.

(5)  An inward surrounding, containing aspect of the masculine is also observable. Please see Kali Rising, by the author for further explication.

References

Ballentine, Rudolph, M.D. Kali Rising: Foundational Principles of Tantra for a Transforming Planet. Ballentine, S.C.: Tantrikster Press, 2010.

Ballentine, Rudolph, M.D. Radical Healing: Integrating the World’s Great Therapeutic Traditions to Create a New Transformative Medicine. (2nd. ed.) Honesdale, PA: Himalayan Institute, 2011.

All artwork by Genevieve Schmitt © 2012

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