Witness Projection by Aileen Crow

Oh, I miss the Moving Journal. I am personally grateful to Paula, Annie and Joan for having given me (and many of us) a voice for thirteen years and for their having brought us all together and practically creating our AM community via the Journal. I am offering this bit of writing to say hello to all of you and kick off what I hope will be a fruitful continuing communication.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of discussion about the necessity of having an external witness present in order to do AM. I recently had an experience related to this subject that may be old hat to some of you, but it was fun and new to me, I’d like to share it with you, and hear your responses..

I was doing an AM exchange with my colleague, Lucy Mahler, at her home, where we had lots of time. I was ready to move, but she needed a short nap. I decided not to just wait, but to go ahead alone, pretending I had a witness present. I draped some beautiful fuchsia and orange fabrics over a chair, to ‘be’ my witness. I arranged them just right in the light, to ‘be’ her looking at me, and I moved. It was fine. She was a great witness, very understanding and simpatico.

Afterwards I wrote to my witness praising her for the qualities she had that helped me to be so easily in my AM:

“You are a first rate witness. You bring no inner conflicts here.

You are my projection out of an inner part of me that is most specifically true to my deepest core feelings.

You are the part of me with the largest frame, the most complete overview through time and space.

You have interested curiosity about every part of me. You find me absolutely fascinating. You never get bored with me.

You’ve been there yourself and you’re not afraid. You say, “Go ahead. I trust you.”

You are an artist, a dancer, a creativity counselor, an encourager.

You make art of me.”

AND, the part I’m excited to tell you about is this: after I wrote all that, I reclaimed my projection by saying aloud in front of Lucy, in first person, all the positive attributes I’d given to my witness; saying them ABOUT MYSELF. I said, for example, “ I am (often) a first rate witness, (when) I bring no inner conflicts with me.” And “I do find myself absolutely fascinating.” (I stole that line from Katharine Hepburn.) And, “I make art of me.”

It wasn’t easy to say all those good things about myself. It brought up feelings of shame for bragging, self importance and immodesty, from a part that wants me to be normal, not a foolish oddball. I listen to both of them. My Shamer wants to make sure that I am sweetly connected to community and engaged in moving together, and at the same time, my ‘oddball’ self delights in the unpredictable and the unusual.

Saying all those positive things aloud in ‘public’ about MYSELF put me in a happier relationship to my witnesses, inner and outer, than I’d been in before. I’d like to hear what any of you do with this --- if it is of any use to you.

©2007 Aileen Crow


cz said...


Elizabeth from Averill Park said...

"You are the part of me with the largest frame, the most complete overview through time and space."

I love this idea for my own inner witness. Very useful to me. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Aileen- thank you for this beautiful image!

I won't say it is old hat for me, but it is common for me to move without an outer witness- it is either that or don't move. I have learned two huge things in this practice- and they are both about connection. I imagine one or two of my AM friends in the room with me- and as I move I feel their attention, compassion, openness and self care. I learn in this to trust the connection with the world and I loosen the grip of isolation. so you are not here- we are still connected and still loving.

The other is about the inner witness- who has had to grow more solid in her compassion and willingness to be with my mover. This has created some profound growth in caring for myself and giving permission for me to express the fullness of me. It is in the journaling that my inner witness really helps me see the depth of the work. Learning true compassion for my self is the core to being able to move through the world and among fellow humans with compassion.

In the community of Friends, the Quaker tradition, there is the notion of speaking from that of God in oneself to that of God in another. In her memoir "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert posits that the witness is that of god in us. I don't know if she knows anything about AM, or quakerism for that matter- but she does seem to have the concept of witness. (it, by the way a beautiful and delightful book of a spiritual journey) (the question arises for me- if the witness is that of God- does that mean that the Mover is not? Tapping into the place of witness does seem expansive- but then the mover also has this enormous capacity for creativity- delving into the unknown- which could also be considered god- no real need to define it, but as a born agnostic- I do find the musing interesting)

As I muse on my own growing sense of the divine- I begin to understand that embracing the world from a place of witness and trusting that not only can I be a wonderful witness to myself, I can also trust that there are outer witnesses for my journey. those connections are life giving. And it is wonderful to bring that witness to the broader community outside of the AM community.

I long to be with other movers and witnesses- there is no substitute for that, but there is a lot to learn in moving by myself.

Val from Western PA

Karen Daly said...

Response to Aileen Crow

I loved Aileen Crow's story about her "witness" and the things it brought up for her. I am frequently conflicted about moving "alone", with my Shamer telling my Artist that it is silly self
indulgence, worth nothing in the real world. I am excited to try a witness stand in now. I so love AM and the quirky, truthful, silly and serious parts of me it taps. I, too, struggle with it's relevance to my "role" in the world. Some very authentic part of me believes that I am at my most productive, most healing and most engaging when I have dropped in to AM. Thanks, Aileen, for the reminder.

Karen Daly

Anonymous said...

Answer to Aileen's query -- Doing AM by "myself"

I agree with Aileen that being your own witness is powerful. It provides a methodology for communicating with the deepest parts of me.

I agree with Candace Pert, a scientist who wrote a book called Molecules of Emotions that posits the idea that the body IS the unconscious.

My quest as a writer and teacher has been to harness the unconscious. Freud said that the road to the unconscious of through dreams, and that is partly true. After years of therapy and intellectual dream work that was ultimately frustrating -- I could connect, but couldn't speak the language!

Movement is the bridge for me, and once I began to work with Aileen, I found I could understand myself on this deep level because movement is a universal language.

The big news for me was that my unconscious enjoys moving too!

Authentic movement is a way for the unconscious to communicate to the conscious self, so when I move and witness, that is the interaction. "It" the unconscious moves, and "I" witness, and learn. Ask yourself if the unconscious is not in the body, where is it?

-- Marilyn Horowitz, New York City

Jess Glenny said...

I love you for breaking the 'rules'!

Jenn Frank Tantia said...

I love this. Thank you, Aileen for moving outside of the box. xo