Kevin McEvenue explores Participatory Spirituality as a new experience of his ever evolving Wholebody Focusing Practice.
by Kevin McEvenue
Participatory Spirituality: I am introducing a new topic to be shared and explored together.
As I say the words out loud, I notice I stop! I feel confused—as though I don’t know what to think. I don’t know! I pause; I wonder.
I don’t panic or shutdown; I wonder as though I am curious. I am aware of both.
I stop and I notice, and then something comes into my awareness! It feels new—like a new direction—as though a door has been opened in this way of responding. And holding both with equal positive regard.
Something comes that is clearly unexpected and not of my own making. Body, mind, and an awakening that is not of my own making! This is what we will be exploring as this new direction takes us to a place we have not been before, a kind of engagement with life that seems very personal.
Please join me here in this new experience of myself as I explore what happens in me when I take this next step and then the next step, and then the one after that. It seems to have a life of its own. I am given a choice.
We agreed to sense into our bodies separately and then asked our bodies to move how they needed to move. While we sensed into our bodies and gave them time and space to move, we also sensed into each other to connect to the other’s movement.
How would it look to have a conversation without words? Is it possible? What might two people share this way? How can Wholebody Focusing be the medium through which this happens?
Cristina Griggio and I were curious about what connecting via videoconferencing in grounded presence without words would bring. We agreed to sense into our bodies separately and then asked our bodies to move how they needed to move. While we sensed into our bodies and gave them time and space to move, we also sensed into each other to connect to the other’s movement. We became at once the actor and observer.
The video below is but a small slice at the end of that conversation. We were interested in the experience of the communication itself rather than any meaning it might have held. Sometimes we were thoroughly connected to self, and other times were aware of the other and sensing into what is coming for her.
It was fun, surprising, and felt like playing. It also helped us know each other more profoundly. Cristina’s natural ability to express herself through movement at one point filled me with awe.
We offer this video as a suggestion to others–that you too can have a non-verbal conversation between two bodies communicating using the concepts of holding space for what is present, asking your body to move in its own way while holding all that comes with equal regard. We also offer this video as a companion to you so that you have company if you would like to allow your body to communicate with you and move in any way it wants.
Let us know what happens.
Heartfelt Conversation Senza Parole (Google Translate)
Come sarebbe una conversazione senza parole? È possibile? Cosa potrebbero condividere due persone in questo modo? In che modo Wholebody Focusing può essere il mezzo attraverso il quale ciò accade?
Cristina Griggio e io eravamo curiosi di sapere cosa avrebbe portato il collegamento via videoconferenza in presenza radicata senza parole. Abbiamo concordato di percepire i nostri corpi separatamente e quindi abbiamo chiesto ai nostri corpi di spostare il modo in cui avevano bisogno di muoversi. Mentre abbiamo percepito i nostri corpi e abbiamo dato loro il tempo e lo spazio per muoversi, abbiamo anche percepito l’uno nell’altro per connetterci al movimento dell’altro. Siamo diventati subito l’attore e l’osservatore.
Il video qui sotto è solo una piccola parte alla fine di quella conversazione. Eravamo interessati all’esperienza della comunicazione stessa piuttosto che a qualsiasi significato potesse avere. A volte eravamo completamente collegati a se stessi, altre volte eravamo consapevoli dell’altro e percepivamo ciò che le stava accadendo.
È stato divertente, sorprendente e mi è sembrato di giocare. Ci ha anche aiutato a conoscerci più profondamente. La naturale capacità di Cristina di esprimersi attraverso il movimento ad un certo punto mi ha riempito di soggezione.
Offriamo questo video come suggerimento per gli altri – che anche tu puoi avere una conversazione non verbale tra due corpi che comunicano usando i concetti di spazio per ciò che è presente, chiedendo al tuo corpo di muoversi a modo suo mentre trattieni tutto ciò che viene con uguale riguardo. Ti offriamo anche questo video come compagno per farti compagnia se desideri consentire al tuo corpo di comunicare con te e di muoverti nel modo che desidera.
Wholebody Focusing expands the physicality of the Felt Sense to include more of our body’s physical sense of Me Here — all of me present to the situation.
Painting by Kevin McEvenue
A Heartfelt Conversation between
Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue
In the third part of this series between Addie and Kevin, we hear their thoughts about a Felt Sense starting from the early days of Gene Gendlin’s concept of a handle–a word that resonates with the Felt Sense. When a Felt Sense emerges, shifts can happen because the word can create a resonance with the Felt Sense. Something can begin to change. Something may be freed up, and more comes alive in our bodies.
For Addie and Kevin, Wholebody Focusing expands the physicality of this experience to include more of our body’s physical sense of Me Here — all of me present to the situation. When all of me becomes present to itself, a deeper appreciation develops of our essence.
We invite you to view and comment on Addie and Kevin’s exploration of this essential aspect of Wholebody Focusing.
Scientists were interested in two questions, first whether mindfulness can effectively promote sleep, and second, whether mindfulness is better than other evidence-based sleep practices.
21st-century living is no walk in the park; like a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing in our ears, little numbered red dots relentlessly force themselves into our lives. And like a mosquito dipping into our flesh and depositing its saliva, social media profitably reminds us of our inadequacies, one nip at a time.
Amidst all of this, mindfulness encourages us to remain, at least for a moment, detached from all the trials of modernity. Instead, it promotes a period of respite, free from our critical self-judgment, free from our obsessive planning for the future, free from ruminations on the past. Mindfulness is about simply remaining present, passively attentive to the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that comprise our momentary conscious experience.
Over the past couple hundred years, the practice has migrated from eastern philosophy and religion into the western world as an educational tool promoting student focus, a corporate strategy fostering employee welfare, and even into the medical community as a stress-reducing, blood-pressure normalizing, weight-loss promoting, health panacea (Abbott, 2014; Ruffault, 2017).
Wouldn’t it be nice if mindfulness promoted sleep? And wouldn’t it make sense? If we think that some of our struggle to tamp down the stochasticity of our EEG trace has something to do with excessive mind-wandering, self-critical rumination, and planning for the future, why not develop our mental capacity to stay focused on the present?
In people who regularly practice mindful meditation, there are visible brain structural changes in areas associated with perception, memory, and emotion (Fox, 2014). There are also clear functional differences in brain connectivity when meditators and non-meditators are instructed to lie still in an MRI scanner (Hasenkamp, 2012). And when it comes to psychology and mental health, it’s pretty clear that practicing mindfulness is good for our moods (Khoury, 2015). At the same time, mindfulness is a relatively new field, and scientists are still trying to parse out the details.
When it comes to the relationship between mindfulness and sleep, there’s been a lot of research. According to the science search engine Web of Science, almost 600 published peer-reviewed articles. While some studies have found positive outcomes, the value of mindfulness for sleep is not universally accepted. To begin clearing up some of the confusion, a group of scientists attempted to systematically integrate the data from a collection of well-controlled sleep studies (Rusch, 2018). Their goal – the most up-to-date scientific evidence on whether mindfulness can improve sleep.
The Data – Mindfulness Helps People Sleep
Scientists were interested in two questions, first whether mindfulness can effectively promote sleep, and second, whether mindfulness is better than other evidence-based sleep practices.
To their first question, does mindfulness work at all, the answer seems that yes, it does. Not only is it effective, but the sleep benefits seemed to be long-term; five to twelve months after completing the study people were still reporting better sleep.
This group of studies all relied on comparing mindfulness to what’s called an “attention matched control”. For example, in one study, subjects were instructed to listen to a podcast (Radiolab) for the same amount of time as they would have practiced mindfulness. In each case, the control condition had no known relationship with sleep. While there was some variability, from 11 studies and 900 participants, on average, the authors found “moderate strength evidence” that mindfulness improves sleep.
Then came the real test, is mindfulness is better than existing sleep treatments? In this case, scientists looked at studies that compared mindfulness to things like exercise, interpersonal talk therapy, or instruction on good sleep habits (like no screens before bed, how many Tasty videos do you really have to watch anyways?) – in other words, evidence-based recommendations that on average, improve sleep. Looking at seven studies with over 700 participants, researchers couldn’t come to a strong conclusion but found no reason to believe that mindfulness is any better or worse than existing treatment recommendations.
Mindfulness as an Alternative Sleep Remedy
It is important to keep in mind that there’s a range of interventions that are already known to have a positive impact on sleep. Melatonin, exercise, and interpersonal talk therapy are all thoroughly supported by scientific evidence. But not everything’s for everyone. Some people are (sometimes rightly) suspicious of chemical pharmaceuticals, some are physically limited and therefore can’t exercise, some lack the time or resources for interpersonal therapy, and, for some people, the existing interventions just haven’t worked for them.
This study provides the strongest evidence to date that mindfulness meditation can also improve sleep quality. While the practice doesn’t seem to be especially powerful, it does provide people suffering from sleep disturbances another option to try out on their own, which could make it an important evidence-based complement to the existing range of sleep treatments.
Abbott, Rebecca A., et al. “Effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness based cognitive therapy in vascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” Journal of psychosomatic research 76.5 (2014): 341-351.
Fox, Kieran CR, et al. “Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 43 (2014): 48-73.
Hasenkamp, Wendy, and Lawrence W. Barsalou. “Effects of meditation experience on functional connectivity of distributed brain networks.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 6 (2012): 38.
Khoury, Bassam, et al. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis.” Journal of psychosomatic research 78.6 (2015): 519-528.
Rusch, Heather L., et al. “The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2018).
Ruffault, Alexis, et al. “The effects of mindfulness training on weight-loss and health-related behaviours in adults with overweight and obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Obesity research & clinical practice 11.5 (2017): 90-111.
This is a description of the steps of a session with Cristina Griggio via Skype. It can be a starting point for focusers who would like to add some Wholebody sensibility to their practice.
Photo Credit: Diana Scalera
When I attended the Scambi 2019 in Albano Terme, Italy this past summer, I presented my workshop Focusing Around the Dinner Table using mostly Wholebody Focusing as the vehicle to access this theme in our bodies. Since then, some focusers have been asking for help to learn Wholebody Focusing. I have begun working with some of the Italian focusers and have come up with a way for them to get started on their path to incorporating Wholebody Focusing into their Focusing practice. Below is a description of the steps of a session with Cristina Griggio via Skype. It can be a starting point for focusers who would like to add some Wholebody sensibility to their practice.
Both partners need to be willing let go of the need to have an agenda for their session and actively hold space to what your body prioritizes. Each partner can take a turn being the person who is focusing, and the other person is mostly silently holding energetic space for their partner while noticeing how what happens to your partner impacts your body.
Establish your energetic connection with your partner. If you are in person, make sure you have a sense of each other’s energy. If you are working via the internet, find your way to connect in this situation.
The Focuser asks her body a simple question “Where does my body need attention now?” Let your body choose what it needs. Let go of any narrative and your thoughts about what is necessary in this moment. Your body might have a different point of view.
Wait and hold space for whatever comes.
Acknowledge the body’s sense of what is there without adding a narrative. Stay with the bodily sensation.
Let what is there know that it can be just the way it is and has all the time it needs to be present to itself.
Give your body permission to move, especially your hands, which may be able to support parts that are struggling.
Stay with whatever comes. Ask for help from other parts of your body, from the earth below you, the sky above, the air you breathe, or the chair in which you sit.
Let your body indicate when it has found a resting place (or ask your body to find a resting place).
When the Focuser has come to a resting place, the partner can share how that experience with her partner impacted her body. The Focuser can also share more if they choose with their partner about their experience.
After the session, both Focuser and Listener should pay attention to whatever comes that relates to what happened in the session. According to Addie van der Kooy, each opportunity we take to spend time with our bodies in grounded presence causes changes (from minor to monumental). Our lived experiences after our sessions let us know what has changed.
How do we live day to day with so much evidence that our society does not support basic human needs? It is like being children and having families that do not meet our needs. I propose that our readers practice “holding both with equal regard” when we are encouraged or disturbed by what is happening politically. Take time to be with the body sense of your experience and share the results in the comments section of this blog.
Election night 2016, my friends and I went to a performance of Coriolanus, a Shakespeare play about governmental corruption and abuse of power. At the end of the play, everyone in the audience turned on their cell phones at the same time and collectively groaned. The news said, much to everyone’s surprise in NYC, that Donald Trump had won the election for president.
From that night on, most Americans have had their concept of being an American undercut in some way. We all do not share the same ideas. For examples, some of us have been horrified by the growth of white nationalism, while others are firmly against the radical changes that some groups propose.
One thing that has happened, as a result, is that more people are taking an interest in politics and discussing it, arguing it, and feeling it in our bodies.
How Can Wholebody Focusing Help?
I propose we do a mini-research on how “holding both with equal regard” can help us to move forward in this challenging environment. This activity is not limited to people who live in the USA. There are many reasons people in other countries are experiencing the same instability. I recommend the following:
Notice when you see, read, or hear something that is accompanied by a body reaction.
Connect to your grounded presence.
Pause to be with that reaction by holding both with equal regard. If it is something we like, give your body time to process it. If it is disturbing, also welcome it and allow your body to process this new information.
Let your body show you when it is complete. You might notice that the strength of the reaction has lessened or you have moved on to another idea.
Over time, notice if there is anything different in how you are experiencing the ups and downs of the current political situation.
Send comments to the blog about what you are noticing.
The stories connect to the Observer Effect in some way. They are also connected to being able to trust that there is some knowledge beyond our thoughts that can guide us if we let it.
Photo Credit: Marty Correia Kate Sitting with Rothko
In the study of physics, the Observer Effect is the theory that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon.
I am not a scientist and I will take the words above for face value while letting you know that scientists and mathematicians have observed, documented, and proven this concept to be true. The Observer Effect and a belief that our bodies know what they need in order to heal without input from our egos, ids, and superegos can help us find our way to our authentic selves over and over again.
The stories below are connected to the Observer Effect in some way. They are also connected to being able to trust that there is some knowledge beyond our thoughts that can guide us if we let it.
Searching for Peace Amidst the Tragedy of the Holocaust
I recently read a book by Ellen Korman Mains, Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust. It is an excellent book in which Ellen recounts her journeys to Europe to connect with the residue of energies left over from the Holocaust, which she sensed while traveling on a train in Germany. She felt these as a combination of grief, revulsion, and much more. Ellen eventually made finding a way of relating to these energies her life’s work and has written this book to describe her journey.
What Ellen found when she came in contact with these unresolved energies or spirits, was that she eventually was able to hold space for them by dropping the habitual tendencies to judge them (thereby fearing or rejecting them) or to identify with them (thus feeling shame). As she learned to hold space for them in this neutral way, a natural state of compassion emerged.
As Ellen held space for them, they also held space for her own healing. The process that both she and the suffering spirits shared provided mutual benefit. Because of her capacity to observe and sense into energies that others might not be able to recognize, she was able to hold a space of compassionate presence for them. With her support, these spirits were able to experience their own capacity to heal. At the same time, her connection to the Holocaust, as the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, also improved.
In doing this work, Ellen was supported in her lifelong quest to live deeply in the present. Her Buddhist practice and Focusing practice helped her find basic goodness even in the aftermath of the Holocaust by accepting exactly what was already there, and bringing to it an attitude of steady, quiet attention and open curiosity. In the end, she found she could heal herself while helping others through the practice of holding space for what was there, allowing the energies she encountered to be witnessed, and giving them the time and space they needed to heal.
Ellen continues this work by sharing her book with audiences around the world.
Kate and Mark Rothko Observing His Space Together
A friend, Kate, told me about an experience at the Whitney Museum in New York City. She was interested in having a more meditative experience in the museum rather than walking by one painting after another. She asked the staff to provide her with a small stool that some museums offer patrons so that one can take time to sit and be with a painting or art object.
As Kate walked around the museum, she found a painting that called to her. It was Mark Rothko’s Four Darks in Red. (https://whitney.org/collection/works/897 ) Kate put her stool down and sat in front of the painting. As she observed the painting, something occurred to her. The space between her and the painting was Rothko’s space—the area he used to produce this work of art. This is how she describes her experience.
Proximity. The space between me and the painting was his. As I sit, six or so feet from the fields of red, saturated reds to browns, I feel as if I share his gaze over time and distance. I feel his presence and wonder to him:
Is any of this paint your blood? You knew how to open a vein, it would take you, eventually. Did you do that for us? Is your blood crossing time to draw me to you today?
The painting’s fleshy pink and beige undertones are framed in red and layered over with fields of darker tones. From bottom to top the paint layers increase in saturation and deepen into hue. A cramped muddy band caps the composition; under it, the darkest and largest field rests heavily. This field seems emotionally deep, spiritually intense, and physically weighty to me; if it were a three-dimensional object, it would be as dense as lead or as deep as six feet under.
Is this an exploration of life to death? Your mother, Kate, had died ten years before this painting. Your daughter Kate is eight years old. Are you tracking stages of birth to burial? Could it be that the under painting tones are depicting the tenderness of a new born pink baby with layering into the dark tones of damp soil and decomposition? You are twelve years away from taking your life. Are the layers of paint rendering the depth and weight of your angst?
In this dis-temporal experience, did I catch a glimpse of you? Am I close enough to ask what were your joys? What felt like toil? Can I know you?
Was it exhilarating to release a finished work, or was it depleting, or something else? Did you know who you were going to be to us? Did you know you’d reach me today, 60-some years later? Do you see me here? My heart is full of love–of and for you—your work, they are one. I want to travel to your time and remove your pain and suffering. But, would that have killed your compulsion, calling, drive to create? Was painting your exercise or exorcism? As I sit at the foot of your offering I ask—are you free now? Or do you still suffer?
On the way back,in the school bus hired for the ride with the group of seniors I accompanied, I noticed something:
Photo Credit: Kate Conroy
A brown vinyl cushion installed over the bus door frame is patched with a strip of brown tape; its corners are lifted and the band has slipped, partially framing itself in a gummy adhesive. Striking me as visually connected, this image brought me back to the thin brown band at the top of the frame of Four Darks in Red.
Bouncing along in a humid, janky school bus, I feel your presence and wonder, could I find you anywhere, if I simply notice?
A Childhood Moment Observed is a Trauma Changed
I’ve written before about my childhood trauma that is mostly from an early part of my life and difficult to reach because of the non-verbal nature of the trauma—much of it happened before I could speak. I work mostly with movement without talking, asking questions, or creating labels for what I find. In a session with one of my Italian-speaking focusing partners, I sensed into my body and allowed whatever movement my body needed to come for me.
I found my hands moving around the edge of a large block in front of me. As my arms kept on finding, extending, defining the boundaries of this energy field and I waited for more to come. At some point, I found my arms moving in a circular motion at my sides. I noticed that, while moving in a circle, my left arm felt impeded at a certain point in its path.
My arms then stayed in the general area of the impediment as if it were finding a way to move through it. What came to me was an image of being a young child who wanted comfort from my mother. This younger self reached her arms up to my mother, and my mother shamed her for wanting to be held—a combination of not deserving that comfort and annoyance that this younger self thought she did deserve it. I connected to that feeling of wanting comfort, of hoping support would come from my mother and sensing shame that it did not. I wasn’t experiencing it in this moment; however, I was observing the felt sense of my younger self.
I continued moving in the same manner for a while, and something jolted my body—a fear that my mother would hit me if I didn’t leave her space. Now there was also fear of violence and the sadness that knew the needed comfort would surely never happen. This time it was a combination of the felt sense of my younger self and the felt sense of “Me Here Now” who knew how this all turned out. It was essential for me to observe all the aspects of the experience fully. (I like to think of my younger self in a different dimension rather than a part of me or something in me.)
My grounded self held space for my younger self and let it know that it was safe from harm. I observed its wanting, the shame, fear, and sadness and held these felt senses with compassion and love. I asked that universal love and energy be available to us now.
I always had a body sense of the rejection of my mother. This small gesture could have created a lifelong sense of confidence in my body. Instead, however, it created just the opposite. It may have been the moment this pattern originated. Its memory is also the moment that helped me connect to this lifelong experience of a lack of support/not deserving support and allowed me to be able to observe it and give it space and time to become aware of itself. This part showed up through movement and only required my observation of it to find its forward motion. I now spend time with this younger self, and it is pleasurable. It feels like I am making up for the lost time with someone I love but didn’t know was there.
The Observer Effect on our Well-being
What happened for all three of us was that we connected to our bodies’ sense of something we were experiencing. We observed what emerged and accepted it as it was, and we waited for more to come. We also allowed our bodies to guide us to the next moment rather than become entangled in the drama of the energies that we encountered.
When you read more about the Observer Effect, there are discussions, research, and mathematical equations that explain how much observation is needed to create a certain amount of change. Not surprisingly, the more observation there is, the more change occurs.
I strongly urge everyone to visit Addie van der Kooy’s work on this blog and to listen to Kevin McEvenue’s Intunements to learn more about how a daily Wholebody Focusing practice may help one increase one’s observational time of self, which may result in a higher capacity to heal. When we find and observe the doppelgänger of our trauma, we may find our healing.
For Ellen, the Observer Effect shifted her experience of the Holocaust when the spirits she encountered on her journeys to Poland and Germany met her energetic self’s holding of her family’s Holocaust tragedy. For Kate, her observation of the space in which Rothko worked led to an amazing connection to Mark Rothko that gave her an opportunity to deeply sense what his art means to her. For me, observing my younger self and experiencing the birth of my trauma allowed me to hold my younger self in the way it always wanted to be held.
Sometimes we have patterns that are so ingrained we accept them as “our way” or, even if we are not totally in agreement with the model we continue using it without question because we have beliefs that support this pattern.
At the recent Felt Sense Conference in New York City, sponsored by The International Focusing Institute, I had an opportunity to be with an amazing “coach” who helped me experience an old pattern differently and try something new over and over again in a very safe way. This later translated into making a shift when faced with the original pattern.
The Dance of Physical Heartfelt Connection
On Friday, I attended Samarra Burnett’s class called Tango, The Dance of Interaction. She suggested that it be “done in socks, no shoes” and about 16 people showed up to the class. We were to learn to connect physically with each other using focusing and Argentine Social Tango Dancing as the vehicle.
Samarra explained that the main focus was to learn to connect to the movements of your partner using some effortless Tango movements. We were not preparing to perform the type of Tango that most people think of when they hear the word Tango.
To start, we took off our shoes and stood in a circle. Samarra asked us to pick a partner. I immediately felt triggered. One reason I gave up social dancing was that pressure of facing the dilemma of wanting/being wanted by another. Most people picked the person next to them, so that made it more comfortable. From that point on, Samarra organized the class in such a way that our future partner was predetermined. No more anxiety about whether or not I was wanting/being wanted by another. My body relaxed.
Samarra explained that our main task was to use a traditional tango embrace to sense into the movement of our partner for the distinct purpose of supporting each other as a focuser and listener would do when they are in partnership. The moves she showed us were smooth and gentle. The interaction was loving with a sincere intention to support each other.
How Repetition Helped
We practiced each movement with one partner and then moved on to another partner and learned a minor variation of that same movement. After each new experience, we had time to process what came for us. We did this over and over again for about three hours until we had danced with almost everyone in the room. We gained confidence not only in our ability to move in a certain way but also that we could gently lead or follow anyone that we connected with in order to tango. The last exercise was to dance with our eyes closed, not checking on who our partner was. My last partner just wanted to hold the embrace without moving. It was so different from holding space for someone to support our mutual movement. Now I had experience with holding a silent, non-moving interaction for the benefit of both of us.
When I left the room, I was joyful. I had a chance to dance socially without the burden that usually comes for me with partner dancing. I loved how each embrace with different people was unique but also provided this body sense of gentle support and a willingness to be open to each other. I credit this feeling to Samarra’s use of focusing principles and the group’s willingness to trust her leadership.
How an Old Pattern Opened to a New Experience
It wasn’t until Sunday, however, that I realized the value of the work we did. I attended the closing workshop at Lynn Preston’s loft. The main focus of this event was to be present to what had come and was still coming for us from our experience with the Felt Sense Conference.
I started the morning as I usually do, finding a seat and staying put—not wanting to interact with others at the gathering. I did this because it is what I often do when there is a possibility of interacting with a large group of people. We were asked to share briefly about what was present for us. I shared a bit about the Tango class. After I shared, a new understanding emerged.
I became aware of my need to sit still in this large group as a coping pattern. I became curious about this and just allowed my body to stay still as long as it wanted. At some point, there was an invitation to stand. I did stand, and then there was a moment when people were connecting to each other. I found myself standing alone, on the edge of these interactions.
A thought came to me. I could enter the fray rather than standing on the edge—something I usually do not do. I thought of how wonderful the physical connections that were made in the Tango class were and decided to walk up to someone I knew would welcome me. She did, and that opened up my ability to be among the group and interact with the people I had connected to during the conference and even some new people. We exchanged emails, took pictures, and, made plans to stay connected.
I credit the Tango class with helping that happen. Rather than sticking to my typical pattern, Samarra had offered lots of safe, gentle coaching to help us find a new way to be with people we were somewhat acquainted with and some who we didn’t already know. Three hours of practicing how to connect to another person opened me up to find other ways to communicate that felt natural and free of anxiety. Doing this first on a physical level without words or narrative gave me the courage to do this on a personal level without my usual social anxiety.
How Non-Verbal Heartfelt Conversation with Movement Can Translate into New Teaching Opportunities
This experience helped me understand that being part of a non-verbal heartfelt conversation based on mutual body movements allowed me to be able to be curious about other interactions in spite of my long-standing pattern of shying away from social interaction. I needed new experiences to replace the dominance of what was there before. These new experiences, rooted in my body, allowed me to successfully experiment with new social interactions. How can we use repetitive movement that encourages focusers to connect to others support our trauma and create space to move forward?