Embodiment Made Easy
An Educational Practice Guide to Embodied Living
DEDICATION: This book is dedicated to Caliana, may your light continue to grow and teach us all.
THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU IF
You want to feel grounded in your body and emotional world. Confident. Curious. Open. Powerful. In touch with your full self, including the dark and messy. This is the way to the light. This writing provides a window into a few chosen practices that can help you open to a different relationship with your body. Through tangible and simple techniques, this will begin or deepen the dialogue you have with your own body. I’ll present a brief introduction to the theory, philosophy, and content of each practice. I will provide guidance on how to implement the practice in your own body, and possible places these practices can give meaning in your life.
Ultimately, feeling and breathing and moving your body is the top priority with all of these practices. My hope is that this lands on a deeper level for those who learn best by reading. I hope this is helpful and you use the power of your thinking mind in order to reach deeper into yourself.
The list goes on. The source of enlightenment, energy, center, power, light, love. Different systems have found labels to describe a phenomenon that is so sacred it is impossible to name it fully with words. The experience of a fully connected body, open and alive to the fullness of life, is a sought after gift. People go through countless explorations to find it. Yoga, breathwork, therapy, drugs, dance, mindfulness, sports, meditation, sexual techniques, there are countless ways that we all try to tap this phenomenon. Danger is a certain block to experiencing this fullness. Another is our own resistance, because this fullness often comes with a lot of intensity. The moment when we most need to keep going inward, something in us says “run!” My invitation is to stay, and keep going.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. speaks about this aspect of our psyche and bodies by saying without this instinctual part of ourselves alive and awake, our inner eyes are closed by a shadowy hand. Some people feel the physical feeling of soul in the chest or heart area. Others say the experience of soul is completely without a label. Without soul, large parts of our days are spent paralyzed and in wishful thinking, we lose the sureness of our footing, we forget why we are here, we hold on when it would be best to hold out, we take too much or too little or nothing at all, we are silent when we are in fact on fire. Once we are connected to this archetypal energy in our cells, we have an ally, teacher, leader, and model. We see not through two eyes, but through the eyes of intuition which has many eyes.
These are practices intended for you to apply to yourself as maps, small pieces to stitch together, to visit and revisit time and time again. To leave and come back to years later. The oldest form of psychology speaks of embodying the soul. This writing has been chosen to embolden you and offer a guide on your way so that you begin to thrive on your own nature. As you do these practices, do not be fooled. You may begin to feel your yearning and heartbreak in a different way than you have before. As you do this, receive the experience as another piece of yourself and enter the becoming stage of transformation.
A NOTE FROM ME
I too have been on the quest to experience my body fully. Obsessively! I knew that no emotion or life event can be fully experienced if I was not fully inhabiting my body. I felt the void loudly. It showed up in multiple different forms of behaviors in relationships, addictive patterns, self-esteem, negative thinking, and much more. Our bodies include our cells and tissues, physical structures, heart, brain, and ATP or the energy that keeps our hearts beating and our breath moving through us. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, a person who is connected to their body, heart, and mind at the same moment holds a power that cannot be denied.
I chose these practices to help guide you to better connect with your body, heart, and mind because these have been studies I have practiced in depth and have been particularly potent in my life. I write about them with an intention to be secular, body-based, and leave them open for your interpretation. These practices give you a taste of how to apply them and does not dive deep into their application. This is an introduction intended to spark curiosity and intrigue in you. I invite you to notice where you feel pulled and reach for the places that feel true to you. Write to me via email if you want guidance on how to find resources for each practice. My invitation is to be curios and open with yourself. Sometimes these practices can bring up emotions and stories about ourselves. This is common and natural. Keep a journal closeby! Staying curious and committed is quite helpful on the path of coming into one’s body.
The practices I will cover are listed below. In no way did I come up with these systems. This guide is my analysis and personal way of making sense of them. For those of you who are auditory and kinesthetic learners, stay tuned for more offerings coming up and write to me via email if you are interested in learning more or if you would like to explore working with me 1:1. The practices go in no particular order or sequence (though I do believe starting any embodiment practice with developmental movement which is practice #1 and #2, is always helpful). This guide covers:
1 - Bartenieff Fundamentals
2 - The Satisfaction Cycle
3 - Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP)
4 - The Gestalt Cycle
5 - The Chakra System
6 - Heart Math
7 - Authentic Movement
I have always been particularly resistant to anything or anyone who says “this means that”. My internal response usually replies: ‘who said?!’ I’ve gotten the most benefit most from finding my own meaning. However, at times we can feel lost in the dark. In lost times, it can be helpful to have somewhere to begin. Once you have something to hold onto, you find the meaning that works best for you. You ask yourself “is that true for me?” Any of the associations / meanings that are given as part of these systems are intended to help you ask questions and see what is true for you. The hope is you will take what works, leave what doesn’t, and create your own story. Your own personal practice map that is quilted together from many of these practices and incorporates other pieces of your life that blend nicely.
FOUNDATIONS: YOUR BODY SENSATIONS
I will frequently ask you to notice sensations in your body. This can be challenging in the beginning if you haven’t had this introduced to you yet. If someone asks you “what do you feel in your body” and you say “angry”, that is an emotion. When we use words to describe body sensations, we are trying to connect the physical sensation to the emotion (body and mind connected). A helpful follow up question can be “how do you know you feel angry” and someone might associate “heat, tension, tight fists” etc. There are many body sensation words, here are some examples to get you started. I encourage you to keep looking for your own unique sensation words to bridge the experience of body, heart, and mind.
These words are often associated with images, temperature, tissues and muscles, organs, bones, and emotions:
- burning, hot, cold, warm, cool, icy
- achy, full, tender, numb, radiating, hard, heavy
- hurt, cramp, crush, cutting, dizzy, pulling, pulsing, tugging
- weak, shaking, sharp, pain, piercing, penetrating, freezing
- full, dry, dull, empty, flashing, itchy, scratchy, jumpy
- moist, nauseous, pounding, pressing, relaxed, searing
- light, shooting, silky, smooth, sore, squeezing, stabbing
- stinging, loose, still, tight, tingly, and so many more!
1. BARTENIEFF FUNDAMENTALS & THE SATISFACTION CYCLE
The Bartenieff Fundamentals are a set of principles for corrective body movement developed by Irmgard Bartenieff. After becoming a physical therapist, Bartenieff developed this method in the form of a set of exercises. It is based on the concepts of how the body functions and extends into all types of movement possibilities. The patterns of “total body connectivity” are breath, navel radiation, mouthing, head-tail, upper-lower, body-half, and body-diagonal.
THE FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS
In order to practice these patterns (there are youtube videos available that show parts of the sequence), I am coming out with a video series as a follow up to this guide to demonstrate how to use body pattern sequencing step by step. In the meantime, you can begin to notice the patterns of body connectivity in yourself through your daily life by bringing awareness to these places:
- your breath
- your breath in your core
- your mouth and the top of your spine (try this on by playing with & moving your mouth and neck)
- your upper and lower body and where they connect (move your upper body, then your lower body, and then your core)
- your right and left sides and where they meet in your core (isolate and move your right side and left side)
- your diagonal line from your left toes to your right hand (and the opposite)
Take a breath with each of these patterns and see what you notice on the mental, emotional, physical, and breath layers.
These patterns open more pathways for connection throughout your body. You can use this practice to warm up before any type of exercise, to energize in the morning or relax before bed, ground before a date or giving a talk, or anything else where you want to feel grounded and full of life. This can also help you work on and discover overdeveloped or underdeveloped patterns that may show up such as pain, tension, over-extension, injuries, psychological or emotional tendencies. Remember that patterns aren’t “bad”, we just want to learn about them. A curios eye is the most helpful here.
2. THE SATISFACTION CYCLE
The Satisfaction Cycle is a model that relates closely to the Bartenieff Fundamentals. This developmental movement cycle brings us further into the psychological aspect.
The 5 fundamental actions associated with The Satisfaction Cycle (intentionally listed in linear order) are yield, push, reach, grasp, and pull.
This applies to many factors of life in regard to how we surrender, approach, go for, and digest all that we want and experience in life. Use an object available to you to practice this sequence (any object works, this is going to be the object of your desire, set it a few feet out of your reach):
- YIELD: Feel into your body. Surrender your weight into the floor (lying or sitting on the floor helps). Get heavy. Let yourself see the object of your desire and let yourself have the experience without moving. Check in with all of your layers: your mind, emotions, body sensations, and breath. Ask yourself:
- what is happening in my mind?
- what is happening in my emotional world?
- what body sensations can I name?
- how is my breathing?
- where am I holding on that I can let go?
- PUSH: Begin to feel your weight become active against the floor. Push against the floor and feel yourself pushing the floor away and pushing yourself up from the heavy grounded place you were just in. Practice lifting and coming back down to the ground a few times. Check in with a breath.
- REACH: Only once you feel completely supported by the floor and stable in the action of pushing, begin to reach for the object. Do not grab it yet, just reach and then let your arm pull back into your core a few times. Check in with a breath.
- GRASP: once your reach is fully extended and you can almost touch the object, you can reach to the max and grasp onto the object. Experience the object with your hand / eyes before you pull it into yourself. Check in with a breath.
- PULL: pull the object into yourself and notice the experience of satisfaction. Experience it fully and notice any senses that are appropriate (if it’s food, smell, taste, and chew slowly before swallowing). Savor this object before you put it down and move onto something new. Fully let go of it before your focus goes elsewhere. Check in with a breath.
REFLECT ON THE EXPERIENCE
Notice each of your layers (mind, emotions, body, breath). Use the above list to refresh your memory and answer these questions and journal about anything else you feel is important:
- Which part of the sequence was easy for me?
- Which was challenging?
- Are there similarities in the way I approached the steps in this activity with situations in my life?
- What were my thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and breath like with each phase?
This sequence can relate to our relationships and how we approach many aspects of our life including food, sex, exercise, body image, work, money, and more. There are different ways to view each layer. You can find your own meaning which is most important. If you need context for the actions, these are some common associations:
- YIELD: trust and belonging, letting down barriers, safety
- PUSH: feeling and aware of self, setting and maintaining boundaries, being self-supporting
- REACH: we often reach out of curiosity, desire, longing, compassion
- GRASP: bringing the world closer or bringing self closer to the world, in order to grasp and pull, one must be yielded into the environment, push into stability, and mobilize with a reach.
- PULL: the complex action that requires all of the first actions to be completed first if we are to achieve integration in a grounded way. Without first being grounded we can end up feeling / being grabby, unsatisfied, always hungry for more, or stuck and unable to mobilize. This can establish a pattern of taking without the satisfaction of fully receiving. On the counter end, sometimes we never get to reaching and we are stuck or immobilized in yield and push.
The KMP has “families” which lead to different layers of the system. I’m going to review the effort, shape, and space families. After each family, I’d encourage you to take about:
- what each family and quality feels like to you
- where your challenges are
- where your strengths / familiar places are
- what feels familiar and what feels new
- your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and breath
THE EFFORT FAMILY
The effort family has 8 different efforts and each pair of 2 relate to one another. As you read these, you may want to get up and practice each one. You can also practice on a smaller level with just your hand going through each as you read.
How do I keep going? This is the feeling stage. There is free flow and bound flow.
- Free flow is energy that flows through and out the body, fluent, carefree movements that are difficult to stop in an instant, the movement just keeps on going. Think water-like. No beginning and no end, circular movements. Move with your free flow for a few breaths.
- Bound flow is keeping energy within the body, controlled, restrained, careful, and can be stopped in an instant. There is a more linear and angular style in bound flow. Move with bound flow for a few breaths.
Where do I go? How is energy focused into action? There is indirect space and direct space.
- Indirect space is meandering, multi-dimensional attention, flexible, moving toward an object or area in the space but without direction. If someone were trying to guess where you were going, they wouldn’t be able to figure it out. Move with indirect space for a few breaths.
- Direct space is pinpointed, channeling, honed in, and single-focus awareness in the environment. Find an object and move directly toward it without being aware of anything or anyone else. I want this and that is where I’m going, then move on. Move with direct space for a few breaths.
What is my impact? This is the force or pressure in a movement. There is light weight and strong weight.
- Light weight is less exertion, delicate, fine, and soft touch. Like you were picking up a baby. Move with light weight for a few breaths.
- Strong weight is more exertion, forceful, pressured, and body weight makes a big impact. Think of the hulk. Move with strong weight for a few breaths.
When do I need to finish? The attitude toward the duration of an action can be involved here. There is sustained time and quick time.
- Sustained time is stretching out time, slow, lingering, leisurely, almost like time stops even though it is actually moving. Move in sustained time for a few breaths.
- Quick time involves a sense of urgency, may be startling, staccato beat, fast-paced. As soon as you touch something you’re onto the next one. Move in quick time for a few breaths.
Take a moment to check in with yourself on all of the layers:
- your mental tone and activity
- your feelings and emotions
- your body sensations
- the pattern of your breath
Re-read and “try on” each family in your movement for an experiential learning process.
THE SHAPE FAMILY
As we go through the shapes that the body can make, the invitation is to notice the benefits and challenges that each shape can offer. Ultimately no one shape is the winner just like no effort or way of being is good or bad. They balance one another out and give us the opportunity to explore paradox in our system. Notice how these nourish and enliven you!
- pin (stretch out as long as you can standing up or lying down, pointing your hands upward)
- ball (curl up as small as you can toward the floor)
- wall (open your body up as wide as you can with your feet wide and your arms outstretched to your sides)
- screw (twist yourself up into a curvy screw like shape)
- Try on each shape and take one breath in it. Then see if you can combine the shapes to make one shape go to the next with fluidity.
Shape Qualities: the qualities that each shape can have as they move
- Rising and sinking
- Enclosing and spreading
- Retreating and advancing
- Try on each shape with each quality and notice how it feels to rise and sink, close and spread, retreat and advance with each shape.
Modes of Shape Change: the way a shape can change from one to the next
- shape flow is about me and myself, self to self, growing and shrinking (similar to free flow).
- directional movement is arc and spoke-like, it is about me and relating to the environment (similar to the direct space effort).
- carving is adapting and molding movements, the most complex use of joints, muscles and including adapting, accommodation, sculpting, and interacting with others.
Take a moment to check in with yourself on all of the layers:
- your mental tone and activity
- your feelings and emotions
- your body sensations
- the pattern of your breath
THE SPACE FAMILY
This family teaches us about we inhabit and use the space available to us. This is a teacher about how we walk, dance, move, use stillness, and relate with life and others.
- high, medium, and low (try these on)
Direction in Space
- up, down, right side, left side, forward and backward (try these on)
Reach in Space
- near, middle, and far (reach to these levels with all of your limbs)
Take a moment to check in with yourself on all of the layers once again. Re-read and “try on” each of these pieces. Let yourself remember everything in this model, from the 8 efforts, to the shapes, to the space family and journal your reflections.
4. GESTALT CYCLE
Gestalt Psychology was first introduced to philosophy and psychology by Christian von Ehrenfels and has evolved throughout the years. Gestalt Therapy was coined by Fritz and Laura Perls. Gestalt tries to assist us in understanding the laws of our abilities to maintain meaning in a world that appears chaotic. The central principle of Gestalt is that the mind forms a global whole with self-organizing tendencies. Gestalt allows for the deconstruction of the whole situation into the truth of what it really is. It is experiential and present-moment based and helps us relate to our unfinished business so that our past does not sculpt our current behavior and reality. Gestalt carries the belief that dysfunction and symptoms in human functioning occurs because we get stuck between the stages of the gestalt, unable to complete the full cycle. Below is an outline of the full Gestalt cycle and also the “stuck” stages, each which have their own name. I’m including Gestalt because my experience of it in practice has been very body-based. All of these different phases and blocks will show up differently in the body and the bodily experience of them can be the best way to work through them.
You may want to think of an experience you’ve had that still feels “charged” or “unfinished” in your mind / body / heart and apply it to this cycle. The stages of a complete Gestalt go in order as follows:
How rarely do we really get to do this complete cycle with ease? In families, relationships, work life, and most contexts and relationships that have meaning and are complex, complications can get in the way. The “stuck” pieces that interrupt our experience are as follows:
- introjection: between the stage of sensation and awareness, input from the environment, or the voice of another, becomes the voice inside of the self without discriminating
-- tip for dealing with introjects: realizing who the voice belongs to and having dialogue with the voice to put them in their rightful place so they are no longer controlling your / anothers’ life
- projection: between awareness and mobilization, putting something about myself onto another person, institution, or object frees me of the responsibility to act because I can pretend I’m not responsible for what I’m thinking or feeling. Or the reverse, someone does this to me.
-- tip for dealing with projections: taking back your own projections or having others take back theirs. “Blocking” a projection can be challenging but once you start to see when someone is doing this to you, it becomes easier to spot and deal with
- retroflection: between the stage of mobilization and action, this occurs when a person turns stored up energy back upon oneself instead of out into the environment, this is an important protective function
-- tip for dealing with retroflection: release or discharge the energy that is being contained / internalized toward self in a safe & integrated way once the opportunity is there
- deflection: between action and contact, at the very last moment we avoid contact in favor of a more partial, less satisfying encounter with the cycle and the present moment
-- tip for dealing with deflection: turn toward what is happening and fully experience it, supporting oneself to be open and available, if you get this far and openness is not available, you have some work to do
- devaluation: between contact and closure, the contact is there, but it is made to be less satisfying and is undervalued
-- tip for dealing with devaluation: pause and see the whole experience for what it is and find meaning for it inside of oneself, same as above this requires a certain level of openness
- confluence: the last resistance occurs between closure & withdrawal, there is no letting go so the necessary process of withdrawing and integrating the experience is never had
-- tip for dealing with confluence: no matter how difficult, giving space and time for separation and for each party to reflect
Now we put these two pieces together to give an idea of how this can work, this is where the interruptions come in and prevent the full Gestalt from completion. We can even get stuck in one place and continue to backtrack only to try to move forward and hit the same or a new “block”:
Sometimes we will be clued in that we have a pattern that seems repetitive (most of us have tendencies to get “stuck” at certain points more frequently). At other times we will see that different contexts and types of relationships may lead to different types of interruptions of the Gestalt and we have to find new ways of feeling and making meaning out of the interruptions and how to move through them.
For Self Inquiry: Review the above stages and reflect on your experience for each stage:
- what feels familiar and what feels like something you’re not familiar with
- what happens on the mental layer
- what happens in your emotions
- what happens in your bodily sensations
- what happens to your breath
5. CHAKRA SYSTEM
Stemming from tradition in India, the Chakra System is often related to the world of yoga and asana practice, though is doesn’t have to be. The word Chakra means “wheel” in Sanskrit and is thought to be an energy point or node in the subtle body. The subtle body is referred to as our energetic body. The points are not physical in the way of being identified with anatomy, but reside in a general area of the body. They are the meeting points of the non physical energy channels called nadi. Nadi are believed to be channels in the subtle body through which life force or vital energy can move. Various scriptures and teachings present a different number of chakras. There are many chakras in the subtle human body according to Tantric text, but we will discuss the 7 that are considered the most important and central. Once these chakras are felt within oneself, more detailed and subtle chakras can be worked with. I will name each chakra, the associations & properties of each, and walk through a practice on how to form a relationship to the chakras as individuals and as a complete system.
- the crown chakra
- located at the center of the crown of the head or slightly above the crown of the head
- the color white
- associated with the state of pure consciousness, the center of peace and liberation
- In Tibetan Buddhism this point is of primary importance for consciousness projection after death in order to obtain rebirth
- the third eye chakra
- located between the eyes in the center of the forehead
- the color deep blue or indigo
- associated with non-duality and true seeing or wisdom
- balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance and intuition
- visual consciousness and clarity in emotions
- the throat chakra
- located across the whole area of the throat
- the color silver or light blue
- associated with communication and growth through sound expression
- physical communication, emotional independence, mental fluent thought, and a spiritual sense of security
- the heart chakra and is called the heartmind
- located in the heart and all around the chest
- the color green or pink
- associated with complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, rejection, and well-being
- physical circulation, emotional unconditional love for self and others, mental passion, and spiritual devotion
- the solar plexus chakra
- located between the ribs, the upper belly
- the color yellow
- associated with personal power, fear, anxiety, opinion, introversion, and transition from simple or base emotions to complexity
- metabolic and digestive system and corresponds to the conversion of matter into energy for the body
- physical digestive space, mental personal power, emotional expansiveness, and all spiritual matters of growth
- the sacral chakra
- located in the lower belly, above the pubic bone, also called the “energetic womb space” (not based on anatomy but on energetic properties of reproduction and creativity)
- the color orange
- associated with relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, pleasure, and creativity
- reproductive system and sex hormones
- physical reproduction, mental creativity, emotional joy, and spiritual enthusiasm
- the base or root chakra
- located at the base of the spine in the most bottom part of the core and can be contacted by engaging the pelvic floor or PC muscle. If you don’t know how to engage your pelvic floor, imagine you are urinating and try to stop the urination. You will feel a gentle pulse of the muscle.
- the color deep red
- associated with the flight / fight response when survival is under threat, instinct, security, and basic human potential
- Physical sexuality, mental stability, emotional sensuality, spiritual sense of ground
- this chakra is where the three main nadi separate and begin their upward movement toward the crown chakra
To contact your chakras, follow this sequence with your breathing:
- put your hand on the top of your head and take a breath with white light and connection to something bigger than yourself
- put your finger on the center of your forehead between your eyes and take a breath with dark blue light and connection to your inner wisdom
- put your hand on your throat and take a breath with light blue light and connection to your spoken truth
- put your hand on your heart space and take a breath with green light and connection to your compassion
- put your hand on the middle of your upper belly and take a breath with yellow light and connection to your power and purpose
- put your hand on your lower belly and take a breath with orange light and connection to your creativity
- put your hand on your genitals and take a breath with your whole pelvis, engage your pelvic floor and breathe into connection with security and stability
- for one final breath, feel your pelvis. If you can’t feel your pelvis, rock your pelvis a few times slowly against the floor or your seat so your lower back arches lightly and then curves inward. Trace the breath from your pelvis through your lower belly, upper belly, heart, throat, forehead center, and top of the head. Send the exhale down the back of your spine back down into your pelvis. Do 3 of these spinal breaths
- feel the tingles, warmth, pulsing, aliveness of your system. If there is any charge or tension (there often is), put a hand there and bring support and warmth to this area of your body
Journal and reflect on your layers and your experience of the chakra system:
- your mental layer
- your emotional body
- your body sensations
- your breath
- what were the challenges and familiar / easier places
6. THE HEART
There are organizations and practices that serve to help individuals, and the global community incorporate the intelligence of the heart into their day-to-day experience of life. This is done by connecting heart and science in ways that empower people to reduce stress, build resilience, and unlock natural intuition. I’ve experienced many ways of working with the heart through different practices. I still go back to the sensation and breath and fluctuations of the heart to help me throughout my daily life. Heart based practice can help with focus, listening, sleep, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
Introduction to heart feeling:
- Focus in on the general area and surrounding areas of your heart. This includes your whole chest, your upper belly, the lower part of your throat, and your shoulders. Take stock of the experience there. Physical sensations, emotions, mental activity associated there, and the pattern of your breath.
- Begin to feel the vertical direction of your heart. Feel into the bottom of where your heart lies and the top of your heart. Feel your breath travel from the bottom to the top of your heart and then back down to the bottom. Take 3 breaths with this direction.
- Feel into the horizontal plane of your heart. Feel into the far left and far right sides. Feel your breath stretch your heart side to side and then rest into the center. Take 3 breaths with this direction.
- Feel into the back space of your heart, in the very core of your body and toward your back ribs. Feel into the front space of your heart and your chest. Feel your breath stretch your heart from front to back. Take 3 breaths with this direction.
- Feel into the core / center of your heart. Take a breath there.
- Remembering all directions, up and down, side to side, front to back, and all of the spaces in between, take a slow and deep breath and begin to feel your heart fill up like a balloon. See your heart as a 3D sphere shape. When you hit the top of your breath, inhale just a bit more. Pause there and feel the breath stretch your heart to its biggest spherical 3D shape.
- As you begin to exhale, feel all of the directions and spaces of the heart release with your breath back toward the center and core of your heart with a rest.
- Repeat this breath 3 times and feel the expansion and release of the heart breath.
Journal and reflect on your layers and your experience of the chakra system:
- your mental layer
- your emotional body
- your body sensations
- your breath
- what were the challenges and easier spaces
This breathing practice and heart focus is incredibly regulating to the nervous system. Even if for one moment each day, you remember to focus on your heart, that is a great place to begin!
7. AUTHENTIC MOVEMENT
Authentic Movement was coined and developed by dancers and psychotherapists. With interest in Jungian (image / dream based psychology), Mary Whitehouse began using movement in sessions. This is one of the foundational practices of Dance Movement Therapy. By integrating active imagination and movement, Authentic Movement is now used in group formats and individual psychotherapy. This practice involves “being moved” and working toward letting our body be moved by impulse rather than daily social conditioning. When one moves with eyes closed or limited sight, unconscious material of that mover will begin to surface. Whitehouse stated “when the movement is simple and inevitable, not to be changed no matter how limited or partial, it becomes what I call ‘authentic’, it could be recognized as genuine and belonging to that person.” The conversation between intuitive impulse on the body level and activity of the mind is very complex and seems never-ending.
In the practice of Authentic Movement, the mover is witnessed by a peer or therapist who provides them with a conscious and caring container. A container in this sense is a place that provides structure, empathy, attunement, understanding, and support. This container is without judgment, projection, or interpretation. This is a deep way of “being with” and it takes extended practice to be ready to witness. “Being with” involves feeling one’s own system while they are witnessing someone else move. For example, if I am witnessing, as I see someone moving, I am tracking and aware of my own mind, emotions, body sensations, breath, and my images and associations that come up in myself as I see them in their movement time. I am not making up a story about what their experience has been, or falling asleep, or thinking about my next days events. One has to “build a container in oneself” before they can truly witness another in a supportive way. Traditionally, someone would move for extended time (over many months) before witnessing, as it is an intense task to be present with the unconscious material of another.
Ultimately this should be practiced with trained professionals. For experimental purposes with yourself, you can try this on in a light way. Create a safe and clear movement space and read the entire list of the following prompts before moving:
- your eyes do not have to be completely closed. They can be softly opened with a “soft gaze” or closed and opening when needed
- make sure the space is clear of anything dangerous or breakable
- if you believe you may make contact with an object, crack your eyes open and check out your surroundings. The intention is that we move consciously in doing what we please, not where we do whatever we want without awareness
- set a timer for yourself for 3-5 minutes
- close your eyes and lay on the floor for 5 breaths
- if and when you feel a true impulse to move, let yourself “be moved”. If your eyes are completely closed, heighten your awareness of your body in space and keep the movements contained and small enough so that you will be safe
- notice any imagery / sounds / memories / unconscious or “old” material that comes up for you. If this is your first time, you may not have any “big” experiences at all. It can take time for the body and unconscious mind to open
- when the timer goes off, take some time to become aware of your body in contact with the floor, the smells, taste in your mouth, sounds, and slowly bringing your eyes back into awareness of color and light in the space
- sit and free write for at least 3 minutes. No prompts, no instructions, no structure, just writing anything about what you thought / felt / saw / feel now in your body, mind, emotions, and breath
- take a few minutes to re-enter “normal” daily life and activity
INTEGRATION AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
My invitation and encouragement is to read and practice one of these techniques / models per week. If you have time you might revisit it once or twice throughout the week. You can even take a few weeks with each. Just like anything else we learn, the more you practice these techniques, the more it will land and impact you. But be sure to give yourself time to integrate. Rushing through all of them in a hurried way will probably not make much of a difference and doing one every 6 months may also not make much of a splash. Take time before you move onto the next practice. I highly encourage you to write about each of these. Even if it’s only one sentence, there is something about the written word that lands experience on a different and deeper level.
Thank you for your reading and interest. I would love to hear from you with your experiences, thoughts, feedback, and questions. You can look out for Youtube videos from me in the next few months that will cover the developmental movement pieces in this guide. Please write to me via email at email@example.com and visit my website for more information about my work: https://alicianpatterson.com/
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS
First I must thank the creators of these models and techniques, for giving me something powerful to write about. My most humble thanks go to all of my embodiment teachers for all of the different ways in which you have shown me the way. My deepest thanks to Kim Manfredi, Allison Eaton, Craig Perkins, Shane Perkins, Susan Bowen, Kim Groark, Martha Rogers, Christine Caldwell, Zoe Avstreih, Ryan Kennedy, Brie Anderson-Feldman, Sam Elmore, Carla Sherrell, Wendy Allen, Mike Lythgoe, Francisca Mix, Jackie Ashley, Melissa Walker, Avani Dilger, Leah D’Abate, Melissa Michaels, Victor Warring, Duey Freeman, Nova Golonka Carmichael, Hannah Loewenthal, Casey Chapman and all my fellow Naropa movers and seekers, you are so appreciated! Thank you Suzanne Stricker for your reading and editing. Thank you to Rick Cummings and Dana Winkelman for your photography talent. Thank you to clients who let me into your lives, you are my biggest teachers. Thank you to my family, friends and community who have supported me throughout my studies and inquiries into the world of the body. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be here, I can’t rightly express the quality of love I feel for you.