Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contemplating Movement

I took a Contemplative Dance workshop with Alton Wasson last weekend. His work comes out of Authentic Movement, and he calls it "movement as spiritual practice, artistic resource and psychological narrative." For me, it felt like coming home. My body is my home, the shape in which I live, breathe, and have my being. My body is also the conduit for the expression of thoughts and feelings, not only in words but also in movement and space.

Ever since I could walk, I expressed how I felt in and through my body. As a little girl, I twirled with joy on the lawn; I waved my arms and leapt about, mimicking the movement of the trees and flowers. As I studied dance and learned a larger movement vocabulary, I began creating dances and performing them. The initial inspiration was always based on how an event or interaction felt and was expressed through the body.

We tend to forget this. We often are unaware of the coded messages, the subtle cues our bodies are sending when we are communicating. Arny Mindell calls these secondary messages – our voices might be saying "How nice to see you," to someone we don't care for, and our body tenses, our chin drops down and the person to whom we speak has a momentary confusion. They hear the words and believe them but they are also picking up the secondary "I don't like you" message. Mindell works with these secondary channels, asking clients to perceive them, to amplify them and clarify their meaning.

The clarification opens the possibility for transformation. If I notice that a difficult emotion is locked into a part of my body, I can work through the feeling with movement. By releasing the tension, the emotion is allowed to flow. By flowing with it, I transform it. If fear hunches me over, drawing my shoulders up and my arms tight around my chest, I can roll my shoulders back and open my arms. I can shift my stance and awaken some courage in the face of fear.

Moving through emotion and giving it free expression within the body is very healing. There was one session in the workshop that was hard for me because sorrow welled up, unwanted. I was resistant, yet it was real and I had to let it flow for a while. I also noticed that I seemed stuck in one spot a lot of the time, and took this for a metaphor of being afraid to move forward. In another movement session, I let myself travel all over the room, feeling the freedom of forward motion, and discovered that staying in one place was not necessarily being stuck. Being rooted could mean that I am growing.

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