Body wisdom in your pocket
The author and poet Robert Bly says, “go where a man’s wound is and that is where his greatest gifts lie”. He nailed it. As a creativity expert, I consistently see how we spend a great deal of time covering up our best parts, thinking them strange or unloveable. Tara Brach, the author of Radical Acceptance, calls our belief in being less-than, the “Trance of Unworthiness”. When we are so mired in our self-loathing, we are indeed in a trance, zoned out and believing the sadistic propaganda of the mind. Buddhist teacher and poet, Mark Nepo says: ”We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves. I am here to teach you a few fun and easy ways to get ungloved, unmasked, and authentic. It all starts inside; in the body.
Over the last two decades, I have found a place to take my feelings of unworthiness. And that place is the dance floor. I continue to study many movement forms including; authentic movement, dance therapy, Jungian Expressive Arts, modern dance, African dance, Qigong, contact improvisation. I have created a mindfulness-based healing system that uses dance and movement as it core. I call this system Dance Your Bliss. With it, we can be surprised again and again by where our work takes us and what kind of person we are becoming as we follow it. What can we really learn from our bodies? You might ask… I believe that the body serves as a metaphor for our entire life experience. Roberta was a 58 year-old woman who was very shy and disconnected from her body. She looked so uncomfortable the first day of our workshop that I expected her to leave. But she stuck around. By the close of the workshop, she was brimming with the new beginning that she had created. She not only could love herself – and her body so much more, she felt creative, expressive and alive. But this happens all the time.
In my work, I have danced with hundreds, possibly thousands of people, but I especially love leading those who do not see themselves as dancers, those who deeply want to feel beautiful in the home of their bodies. Becky emailed me several times before my weekend workshop, terrified she would be the “fattest person in the room.” She hadn’t danced in years, and couldn’t imagine moving in the much bigger body that she now lived in. She imagined the awful shame that the workshop might bring on. Instead, she was able to contact a level of beauty, confidence and sexiness that shocked her. I remember the beautiful expression on her face when she began moving. I could see the narrative in her changing, and by the end of the workshop, she was not only beautiful and more confident, she shared with me that she deeply wanted to lead this kind of work. And she is.
I have a keen and deeply intuitive ability to support and help heal those who are plagued by shame, especially body-related shame. Together, we create a new physical map and script for how they can and will live in these vessels. I love bearing witness to someone who felt stiff, disconnected from their body, leave a workshop with a whole new tool-kit of moves, stretches, and a new story about their body. When we move with authenticity, we can discover and re-cover our inner dancer and creative genius.
When I teach, I show my students a new way to be in – and possibly change and restore – their body’s structure, so they can have a different way of experiencing, moving and acting. As my great teacher Daria Halprin says; “It is as if each body part, as well as the duets, choruses, and symphonies between and among the body parts, has a particular piece of a story to tell. Exploring part by part, we uncover and reveal a whole picture of our lives.” We are born on a dance floor called experience. Life is our partner. I support people in developing a new relationship with this ever-present magnificent and tragic partner.
What do we do in Dance Your Bliss?
Dance Your Bliss employs a full range of the creative arts: movement/dance, drama, voice, painting, poetry and other forms of writing, ritual and performance. I use a blend of modern dance, gentle yoga, mindfulness meditation, contact improv, authentic movement and body-mind centering. I want everyone to find a new relationship with their body. There are so many wonderful, accessible movement forms for all of us. As you know, creating a free and protected space is crucial in the therapeutic relationship. Safety and freedom are two main ingredients in opening up creativity and the creation of the play space. The thrust of my workshops is to ignite the creative process in each person through the use of expressive techniques which bring on healing and growth.
When we dance we can access proverbial experiences. When the unconscious leads, creative energy begins to flow back into our lives and balance the suffering of life with one’s creative potential. My partner Ben loves to play Cricket. That is his bliss. I ask my students to find what they love – that which gives them pleasure, and to do it. Every day.
We have this built in, absolutely incredible gift –that we constantly forget about. We are housed in these wonderful bodies, that we spend far too much time judging, or downright hating. To be able to move our bodies is pure pleasure. If one is dealing with chronic pain, there are very gentle and extremely powerful tools. In any creative outlet we have permission to let down our masks. My hope is to create a safe space for people to journey to a more joyful self through dance. Using the 108 structures in Dance Your Bliss allows the whole body to be restored to a state of unity and balance. It is intended as a healing method and expressive arts system that connects us deeply and profoundly to life, each other, and the magic and power in every moment, even the “ordinary” ones. We fall in love with life. I say this as an extreme skeptic.
There are 4 basic tenets in Dance Your Bliss. I invite my students to utilize these after our workshops that:
Mindfulness; Yes, I know this is a big buzzword these days. Buy for good reason – it works. We need to slow down, take in in 3-biggest breaths of the day. Stop the fidgeting. So we work on being in awareness. This includes breath work, seated meditation, walking meditation, T’ai Chi, nature play, restart-making, guided imagery, prayer, ritual, intention setting.
Motion; we must remember to move the body every day, consciously, in ways that feel pleasurable. The body excels at locating the present moment – there is no way to take a breath for yesterday or tomorrow. Mary Starks Whitehouse, creator of Authentic Movement, tells us; “the body is the personality on the physical level and movement is the personality made visible.” I ask all of my students and clients to find a physical activity that they enjoy. Not everyone loves to dance. And that is ok.
Connection; many of us are starved for contact. We need to spend more time around people and animals each day (not just our clients, which can be alienating). We must reach out and share intimate contact. This is crucial for us in a time when social media (I call it “anti-social media) is ubiquitous, and it can be easy to disconnect from others. But we have within us this deep, intrinsic hunger for connection. When we nourish that, we can be well again.
Creativity; I believe we are all creative geniuses. We just need the chance, and comfort to shine our light.) In the early 1960’s in a lecture at the Cooper Union Hall in New York, Joseph Campbell was asked what you should if you are stuck in your life: “Follow your fascination, he immediately replied. Your fascination reveals your deepest connection to the life force; if you follow it rather than what society tells you you should follow, you will be all right.” By following what moves us, we grow in mind-blowing ways. Lately, I am obsessed with making terrariums and giving them away as gifts. These miniature and magical worlds are so whimsical and playful to me. It does not need to be high-art – but we must follow our bliss, and stoke the creative genius that I believe we all have. I believe that if we can live with more of these elements, we can achieve more balance and health. Here’s you you. Your art. Your journey. Your dance.