landscape, bodyscape

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In October I will be offering a workshop at the annual ISMETA (International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association meeting. They have asked me to speak to the question of how Authentic Movement can nourish somatic movement education and therapeutic practices.

I have been thinking about how we in the Authentic Movement community can make that work more available and explicable to the larger community.  Even more delicious and tantalizing.

I have also been thinking about the word “somatic” and finding it oddly missing or misunderstood in common parlance.  If I tell someone that I am a somatic movement therapist, they often look a little blank and polite.  I need to polish my elevator pitch.  So I would like to unpack that as well.

This is what the ISMETA website says:  The field of somatics has developed over the last century through a process of inquiry into how consciousness inhabits the living body. The term is derived from the word “somatic” (Greek “somatikos”, soma: “living, aware, bodily person”) which means pertaining to the body, experienced and regulated from within.

My explanation is that somatics connects the bodily experiences of structure, function and expression by teaching us how to listen to and feel the body more deeply.  It is not physical therapy yet it has the effect of improving function, resiliance, expressivity and pleasure.  It helps us to become more awake and peaceful in our mystical, carnal selves.

How does that happen? Lots of ways.  Touch.  Breath.  Movement.  Stillness.  Investigation.    Curiosity and acceptance. Some of my work is in partnership with horses.

In a recent session, I worked with a client with a painful shoulder to practice neutral observation of the “voice” of that shoulder throughout the day.  We played with gradations of tension and relaxation, with “chunking down” movement in and around the joint, and with exploring how the rest of the body – fluid, fascia, organ – could support the whole upper quadrant.  We loooked at how movement sequenced from the opposite foot all the way through that arm, passing through the inner columns and hollows of the body.  We talked about images and memories connected to the restriction.  In an Authentic Movement session, she had the experience of water flowing through the inner channels of the arm and shoulder, and then pouring down the arm and fingers.  The water became warm and salty, and she realized that the bracing in the shoulder was related to an inability to release her sadness about an early trauma.

Authentic Movement is an improvisational, contemplative practice.  There is a mover or movers and a witness.  The witness acts as a container for the experience of the mover[s].  The mover moves without direction of any kind, including music. The invitation to the mover is to “wait to be moved.”  That means to allow and follow any impulses arising from the bodyscape.  The mover is neither editing nor shaping their movement.  The witness is not judging or analyzing the movement, but rather providing a safe container for whatever arises for the mover.  After 20 minutes or more, the mover[s] finds a way to finish and then the mover and witness may speak about the experience.

Authentic Movement is “aimless.”  It is not pointed at a goal.  It is similar to meditation in that it offers time and space for the conscious and non-conscious play of body and mind to occur.

I often weave it into my therapeutic and performative work because I find it the richest and most profound way of attuning, and also the most surprising.  I love it because it further unravels the tendency to direct, dissect, understand, interpret, produce.  It is restful but it is not resting.  I experience it as a correlate to the intercellular fluid in that it provides the oceanic, psychophysical brine that connects all of the parts of myself.  It is the big undoing.

For more information, please contact me.

 

 

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flying, opening

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I wrote this on my way to Italy for an artist’s residency in early 2014.  I remember feeling anxious at the prospect of being away for a month.  Imagine that as a problem!  Italy for a month.  Oh well.

Looking at what I wrote now, it feels connected to my post on searching.  Sometimes searching requires deeper more rigorous inquiry, more vastness in our sensing.  Finding and arriving are about entering the bonehouse, the skinsuit with our hearts intact and our minds willing.  And so I share this today.

Looking out the airplane windows, feeling dulled into ordinariness – a flat airless terrain of fatigue and sorrow.

Then we are in the air.  Look!

Vast pillowy expanses of clouds with a distant cloud rhinoceros and a small ancient upwelling cloud tree; distant shapes like humped mountains and a shiny patch of distant lake like a silvery mirage.

Finger-combed prairies of lumpy clouds.

Now mountains, real ones, sharper and steep-pitched, not like the nubbled cloud ranges.

Here come quick, daft wisps of thin cloud-flocks like transparent geese speeding by.

The clouds meet a soft rim of sky, a seam of cloud and blue blurring into each other, softening to each other like cats napping, fur on fur.  A soft white mat laid at the doorstep of infinite blue, absent all marks and markers of civilization save the noisy pod that carries us.

Now big bulbous boxer cloud heads with ruined noses and shuffled ears rising up out of smooth porcelain plains, like virgin snow or curving shapes smoothed into perfection by a sculptor’s hands.

Now sun ghosts on the Ligurian water, shining, dissolving; light and cloud mingling in the haze, the silver of the reflecting water drifting outward and upward like hopeful angels, full of light, full of prayer.

I have arrived.

searching

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I watched the Fox news clown show Thursday night followed by Jon Stewart’s farewell program and felt a sinking despair.  What to do without the leavening, enlightening perspective of this brilliant generous man?  Where to look for a lift of mind, heart and spirit?  Rachel Maddow and the MSNBC crew, of course, but the comedic aeration is essential.

Another search: we are house hunting.  Looking high and low for what may be the next best fit for our complicated lives.  There is something about this process that makes me want to consider Italy, Spain, France, England. None of those places is exempt from political madness either. My family’s roots are in Norway, but that feels distant, cold and deeply unknown.

I love New York.  I hate winter.  I love the ocean.  I don’t like tourists.  The list goes on and on like a crazy ping pong match.  My angst blooms and morphs like the weird spongy thing I saw growing under a rock when I was eight and exploring the ravine behind our house.  I remember flying up the hill, horrified by whatever was growing there.  Feels a little like that, especially whatever is growing in the political murk.

Finding the balance between doing the work and letting the universe hold it and hold me is the tricky part.  I heard a wonderful quote by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings in the On Being podcast the other day.  She said that critical thinking without hope is cynicism, and that hope without critical thinking is naivete.  I think that arcs back to both my search for sanity and humor in the social-political world, and my search for a home.

Another thing that Maria Popova said was that the search for genuine insight, understanding, connection (not her words, but my translation) takes time.  Really steeping oneself in a thought, a book, a conversation, a process of creation, rather than the superficial fast forward of listicles.

Searching should take time.  It should ask us to look deeply, meditate, feel into the question, the poem, the place, the moment.  Or in the profound invitation of the practice of Authentic Movement, wait to be moved.

 

 

 

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thank you friends

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All my Body-Mind Centering friends are departed save a handful, nestling in our dorms one last night.  I am filled with appreciation, admiration, delight.  Here is an offering, inspired by Clover Catskill’s beautiful performance today.

Thank you friends!

Mindful

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver