Alton Wasson on Movement as Spiritual Practice

At the Contemplative Dance – Authentic Movement weekend workshop led by Alton Wasson, which we attended in NYC in March, 2009, the theme was Movement as Spiritual Practice. Alton invited us to be aware that we each have our own spiritual practices – that spiritual practices include more than the standard ones we usually think of, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, etc.

Alton asked us to share the things we do in our daily lives which are spiritual practices for us. Alton set the tone by starting with a couple of examples from his own life. He does authentic movement in bed before getting up, for five or ten minutes; or in the bath: resting in the bath, letting movement happen, going under the water, etc. He rises to greet the sun, a Navaho and Hopi Indian practice, getting up at dawn and running to greet the dawn. We can all do this: go toward the rising light and introduce yourself (Indian names hold their ancestry and history) by saying, “Good morning, I am the son/daughter of …..” and list your ancestors as far back as you know.

After you have read the following practices participants in the workshop came up with, you are invited to respond to us via this Blog with any of your own practices you want to share.

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Doing a gratitude inventory: lying in bed at night before sleep and asking, what was my favorite thing today?

Riding my bicycle.

Doing the yoga Breath of Fire – doing it for 3 minutes (in a position lying with legs long and slightly off floor, head and shoulders off ground).

At any time: pausing, noticing my breath, coming back to my body.

Identifying myself as a spiritual being.

Gardening – watching the perennial flowers bloom again in Spring.

Writing and drawing in my journal is my practice in overcoming self-censorship and focusing on finding my most authentic words. I write dialogues between my different partial selves, draw them, and make clay figures of them.

Writing my morning pages (from The Artist’s Way). Upon waking each morning, I write three pages, free form, without stopping.

Sewing – getting lost in making a tactile thing purges things and puts love into each stitch.

Sounding, harmonizing, making harmonic overtones.

Doing a specific practice a yoga teacher taught me (in India), which takes half an hour: in the morning I start lying down. During the half hour, I move to standing up, in any way I can/wish. Then in the late afternoon or evening, I do it again in reverse, I move from the standing up position to lying down – also a half hour process.

Talking to my cats, feeling blessed to have them in my life.

Saying three Shabbats (blessings), every Friday, lighting the candle, following the tradition with grape juice and bread.

Integrating spiritual practices into my daily life, not split off from daily life or rarified.

Upon waking, watching the light come in through the window, watching it suffuse the room as it lights up the objects in the room.

Acknowledging and orienting to the directions of the medicine wheel.

Dance movement is my spiritual practice. Before performing, before stepping on stage, I pray to be a channel, to let something bigger than myself work through me. Dance is also physically grounding, and focuses me.

Embracing all of who I am, all that life is.

Parenting, especially the challenges.

Holding an overarching view, a big vision, so that everything in my daily life is part of it. It is sacred. Every mundane thing as I go through life is sacred.

Making images, collages, colors when I have fear, not “thinking” about it.

Practicing not pathologizing my experiences.

Bringing heart to all that I do, from washing dishes to going to work.

Checking in with myself: asking, ‘what sensory channel am I in?” or, like a chest of drawers, asking, ”which drawer?” (emotion, visual, sensation, story, ritual, archetypes, spiritual, etc.)

Or asking myself, “who do I think I am? Which part of myself am I identifying with now?”

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Again, please do let us all know what your own spiritual practices are, via this Blog.

© 2009 Janet Charleston and Aileen Crow
Germaine said...

everyday spiritual practice... (perhaps not EVERY day, but I'm aware of the potential in it often engage as I can)

preparing a meal, sensing the life of the vegetable, herb and how it asks to be cut and used.

eating a meal-- aware of the colors, textures, smell and taste. spine very related.

dragging on a cigarette squatting on the step of the back porch the potted plants sharing the stillness while something grateful (grief? loneliness?) in the lungs meets the smoke churling downward.

facing a patient, awareness of my self standing there, the weight in my hips and feet, awareness of them. i breathe, they breathe. i see them, i see myself.

Annette Geiger, Zürich said....

This article is very inspiring. Thank you Aileen and Janet.

I practice Authentic Movement while I pray. The movement happens on a very subtle level.

Inner waves move through me like a constant adjustment into the now.

When I walk my dog I allow these „inner“ adjustments to happen – while I am aware of other people, children, other dogs and traffic. If there is too much happening „outside“ it is a constant going in and coming out and going back in.

In nature I sink into colors, shapes and smells of trees and plants and the air and move along getting a sense of the big Oneness – and sometimes I even succeed to say a prayer while exhaling. All at the same time. That is Heaven on Earth.

Playing music or listening to music is a great inspiration to be with the inner Movement and enables me to listen and to hear very differently than when I use my intellect. It sharpens the perception and appreciation.

When I do bodywork with people I connect with this inner Movement. While listening and watching my client I ask the Oneness in me to unfold and to transmit healing energy through me.

Spiritual practice can happen at any given moment and anywhere if I allow it to happen and step out of my way.

Annette Geiger, Zürich, Switzerland, June 15th 2009