Witnessing in Silence, by Ann McNeal

A report from the Contemplative Dance Winter Retreat Feb 3-6, 2011, led by Alton Wasson in Westfield, MA

q u i e t
q u i e t
q u i e t
I’m in such a tender state from this mostly-silent movement retreat (the Contemplative Dance Winter Retreat Feb 3-6, 2011, led by Alton Wasson in Westfield, MA).
It was a workshop in the thick of winter, the snow deep and crusty in the lawns and woods of the Genesis Center, but the sun also thickening towards spring, its warm hand reaching down from blue, blue sky to touch our faces.
We were eight dancers plus a leader. There was much silence, a care in speaking.
I knew I needed to let go, let go. I’ve been busy with projects of my own making—important projects dear to me. I was tangled in my own fishing lines, the ideas, the ambitions, the urgency, the familiar loss of center.
Our first movement session was an hour. Catch, release, think, let go. Crawl on the floor, feel gravity welcoming me, then spiral off into thoughts. Lie down and sigh, let my hands trace the contours of my face, then another flock of ideas swooping like starlings, carrying off any peace that had crept in. Over and over, the step by step descent and startle, release and be caught up.
As we sat in the circle afterwards, Alton invited each of us to take five minutes to share what had happened, but with a different twist. It would be OK to sit in silence for those minutes and simply be held in the container (the grace, the mind, the love) of the group. Whether we spoke or showed a movement or simply sat, it would be a continuation of the meditation that was the movement.
Just to form the words for this, I leave the experience. We were
held, together,
separate, safe,
invited gently,
allowed, allotted
these minutes ours
whether we said a word
or closed our mouths in awe
There was no requirement to come out of the deepening quiet, no requirement to produce a word or conjure a concept. And, at the same time, each of us was seen. Being silent did not mean being ignored or left out. When my turn came, after two people had spoken, bringing words to their experience, I crossed my hands on my breast, with a shaky indrawn breath, and sat, trusting that I was held, silent for five minutes, being with the group with no words. Occasionally I looked at faces and saw acceptance. Throughout the weekend, different people took this risk in the circle and allowed the group to witness and hold them without articulating or condensing their experience. The space felt larger for this.
I am still learning what it is I savored, what grace we created and discovered and risked.

You do not have to speak
in order to be heard.
You do not have to move
to be seen.
Nor accomplish
to be worthy.
The glory of your being
is with you
in sickness and in health
in moving and in stillness.
You are loved,
you are held,
you are worthy
of all this.

© 2011 February 11, 2011 

Kathryn Kollar said...
Ann, What a beautiful reminder for even those of us who were there. Thank you for this sharing. It moves my dream forward and enrichs my own experience. My Love, Kathryn
Christine Draper said...
Thank you Ann for reminding me of the gift of being held by the group. I feel deepened, stilled, seen. Christine