This story of the healing through AM of a minor catastrophe begins in my kitchen. I’m home alone one evening, calmly sitting at the table sewing and watching TV. Suddenly the chair I’m sitting on breaks in half and falls apart. I am dumped down on top of it and my back is badly hurt. Shocked, and not moving for a few moments, I switch into my healing mode, which is mostly not pathologizing what is happening by going into “Victim”, with her familiar trauma-derived “catastrophic expectations”. I move gingerly --- is anything broken? No, I can move. I am humming as I put my healing hand on my back and lie there a while. Will I still be down here on the floor on top of the askew chair when my husband comes home? A funny picture.
It is interesting to me to see my beliefs about healing jump into action in emergency. What is healing, anyway? To quote neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, “Joy is conducive to health.” And, in “the ultimate state of well being”, there are “sustained feelings of harmony, ease and joy.”
Although my back hurts and I have a huge dark purple bruise and I feel sick, two days later I have a scheduled session with my phenomenal Gyrotonic coach and Graham dancer, Jennifer DePalo. I know I won’t be able to do the usual strenuous and ecstatic movements she usually leads me into. I fantasize in advance that I will roll around carefully a la AM, with her knowledgeable and intuitive hands on my back. She does just that. Yes, it is certainly healing to me to get exactly what I want in a completely mutual interaction.
Two days later I fly to Maine for our annual Authentic Movement gathering at Carol Zahner’s great house. It’s a loose group that has been meeting for years to move, play, make art, dance and eat. We are six this year, only one of whom, Mie Sato, I don’t yet know well.
Feeling sick and hurting, I am treated lovingly. Carol gives me her bed and giant bathtub, and we all make and eat scrumptious food. I am given soft foot massages and Germaine Fraser gives me a beautiful aroma therapy massage in which I am more than happy to be completely receptive. Not just a massage, it was like being completely cared for by a perfect loving mother. Who could imagine more wonderful healing?
One afternoon between our AM sessions, I’m sitting on a bench at Carol’s dining table with my hand on my hurting back. Mie says, “Would you like me to put my hand there?” Yes. We are quiet for a while, then my body starts to do AM and Mie follows. After a while I think of saying, “Follow your intuition”. I say, “Move with me”, and she does both. Mie does not initiate, but follows, matching me. We are equally active, both of us following my AM impulses. We go on for a long time, as the leading/following gradually turns into mutually matching AM. Perfect. I open my eyes and see Germaine watching. I say to her, “Will you get a camera and catch this? It’s so good.” She does. Mie and I continue in our mutually matching AM. Perfect. An “ultimate state of well being, with harmony, ease and joy.”
Authentic Movement in real life, not just during official sessions within given forms. No designated external Witness, just two movers with Inner Witnesses in relationship. Being in one’s own AM while following another mover’s AM. Mutually matching AM. AM as healing without a program, protocol or system. Healing without solicitude. Love without sentimentality.
I am reminded of Shelley Tanenbaum’s intention in her “Intuitive Life Movement”, a form kindred to AM, to come to have one’s everyday open-eyed interactions enlivened by the continual presence of one’s spontaneous impulses. (See A Moving Journal, Summer, 2004.) And my AM buddy, and contact dancer, Lucy Mahler, tells me that mutual matching, a la AM, is not uncommon in Contact Improvisation.
My goals in AM are: (1) To use AM as my main resource in my on-going project to undo the trauma-induced patterns in my life. (2) To have my AM impulses and feelings present in my daily life and during my interactions with others. (3) To identify at least half the time with my understanding Witness/Listener, who helps me go into problems and projections without getting stuck in them. (4) To easily be able to choose to move out of my old trauma victim’s kyphosis and scoliosis, into the liberating high twisting chest arching that Jennifer and Gyrotonic and my spontaneous twistings in AM have taught me to love and trust. My twistings tell me, “You’re on the right track.”
I am fortunate. The main source sustaining my well being in life is living in love with my husband of nearly fifty years. Thank you, Bill.
My back still hurts and my bruise is still colorful, but it is talking to me. It wants me to be a loving mother to it. It wants me to call it, not ‘Hurt Back’, but ‘Honey Love’, (seriously, and without embarrassed joking) and give it all the time it needs. So I’d say that my (5) goal is: (as Germaine says), To be in love with myself. Harmony, love and joy: that’s healing.
Initially, I responded to Aileen’s gesture of self care because I was in a better physical position to hold that spot on her back.
I was willing to be there and knew that my warm hand would be soothing on her sore back.
I was also willing to be there without doing anything, just witnessing and holding space.
When Aileen started to move I began by following her impulse.
When I surrendered to the dance of just flowing and following I felt my heart open to trust and caring.
There were times when we switched back and forth gently moving energy between us. It felt effortless and healing for me as well.
The other gift was I got to know Aileen intimately as well.