More about what we do in Expressive Arts

If your curious about expressive arts and would like to know more about what other teachers say about it, the following is an short description of another Tamalpa graduate.

MovementBased Expressive Arts is the Tamalpa Life/Art Process®

The Tamalpa Life/Art Process is a somatic and expressive arts therapy approach. The soma – or our body of experiences – contains our whole life. It is the vessel of our consciousness, where the physical body, emotions and imagination interconnect.

As you enter the realm of movement and expressive arts, the themes and patterns or your life are revealed. In other words, as you work with art, or creatively, you are also working on some aspect of your life; to a certain extent, artwork is also life work. From this perspective, art is inextricably connected to life and this fundamental connection is put to good use as the Tamalpa Life/Art Process guides you into change, learning and healing.

We work with the potential generated by movement and artistic expression through which we experience learning and change. This process leads us to new resources and greater possibilities; exploring movements and expanding our creativity translate into a broader repertoire of emotions and mental imagery as our whole person is involved.

Movement itself is a revealing language. it’s a precious tool for anyone striving to reach their maximum potential. A deep experience in movement can open the door to the emotional and imaginal dimensions of the body. Being fully aware as you experience a movement can have an impact on the whole of the psychic phenomena that make up your personality.

For many of us, movement means ‘daily habits’ and is shaped by what we need to do. But when we pay close attention, when we sense our movements as a utilitarian means to an end (eg: I want to grab X, so I reach out my arm) – we may also perceive it energetically and hear its hidden message, even as we perform the movement.

Movement is a key to the door of self-revelation. If it is the body’s first ‘language’, then dance takes things further, as it combines body, emotions and imagination… all in motion.

Through Tamalpa Life/Art Process, you are invited to ask yourself: If your body could speak, what would it say?

We use Movement, Voice and Sound, Drawing, Dialogue, Improvisation and Reflection.

Of Nurture and Ground

For the past three weeks we have immersed ourselves in the  realm of Staccato.

 “The rhythms, when I first identified and named them, turned out to be much more than a way to work out my body. They became a way to work out my soul – to sensitize my intuition, stretch my imagination and tap new levels of inspiration that I had never dreamed existed.”             —–Gabrielle Roth, Sweat Your Prayers——-

Circling back to the Rhythm of Flowing, yes I did introduce these out of order; we will look at the feminine aspects of nurture, entice and balance. This week we shall begin with the physical expression of the nurture.

Now, many of you may ask, how I can possibly understand the deep feminine aspects of nurture? According to Roth, this energy is present in both men and women and is expressed in our everyday life, as well as on the dance floor.

For example, this feminine energy expresses itself in our ability to nurture  and tend others. This feminine energy also knows how to “take things in”  and to receive them – being the receptive aspect. But it also knows something about making sure everyone is comfortable and at ease. This feminine energy has an intuitive sense of things and can move fluidly throughout sensing and holding tenderly what is present.

It is the bowl I eat my soup out of and an entrance way towards the energy that holds many characters embodying various qualities. Each of us has to identify these characters and the qualities for ourselves.   How does the feminine aspect of nurture show up in your life?

As for me, I have a specific muscle memory of nurture – holding my infant son Aeron when he needed calming and nurturing. At 2am, calling in the nurturing energy, I seemed to be the only one (for nine months) who could soothe his screaming body as I swayed from side to side. Accessing this energy today is as easy as holding another infant in my arms or even a sack of potatoes in the similar position. My body begins to sway in the similar way as I did over 25 years ago as I fed and nurtured my infant son.

Today the feminine aspect of nurture shows up in my life as a nester, forever wanting my home to be more comfortable for my family and friends. I feel the soothing energy when I first step under a warm shower. It shows up as I bake my own gluten free bread and hold the neighbors purring cat on my lap.

Write me back and tell me your story of nurture and how it shows up in your life.

 

The Breath of Becoming

 

We are continuing our investigation in Staccato with the three masculine aspects of this rhythm. We have explored Father and (Wild) Son and this week we will explore the aspect of Holy Spirit.

Holy spirit is the part of us that goes for the truth and purpose of life, often seeking it in strange corners in the world – like sacred pilgrimages to India or Mt. Shasta in California. Holy spirit is the key that opens door to the room where pure reason resides. In our most desperate moments, we use this key to enter our “safe-room” for protection where we find our balance and acceptance in becoming not attached to things being exactly how they are.

Holy Spirit is our true witness and the part of us that knows what the next right thing to do is, the part of us that knows better before we make a mistake. Holy Spirit sees right through our games and false identities and is not interested in outcomes we are invested in. Holy Spirit is our higher power that tunes into universal patterns.

According to Gabrielle Roth, “Holy Spirit is the part of us that actively seeks a community of like-minded souls with whom to do the holy work of awakening. We find a place where we can practice being human, spiritual, sensitive, stupid, sorry and silly without feeling competitive, self-conscious or judged.” (Roth, Sweat Your Prayers, 1997)

Community is a safe harbor where everyone receives much needed attention – directed towards our essential nature of whom we are or are becoming.

In our physical practice of Holy Spirit in the rhythm of Staccato we discover some important connections.

Holy Spirit is invariably connected to Stillness similar to the still points, clear stops and starts of Staccato. Holy Spirit and Stillness are also connected through the breath. In Staccato we use the breath to support our expression and in Stillness the breath inspires our movement in our communion with spirit. There is also a humility, a naiveté and an innocence that permeates both Wild Son in Staccato and our being in Stillness. This is important to consider because the energies of humility, naivete and innocence are present as in the younger Son aspect of ourselves that seeks guidance from the older Father.  In Stillness we turn our attention inward in the seeking of wisdom, compassion and inspiration to fill our hearts with gifts of love, grace and forgiveness that the divine has to offer.

Scotty

Wild Son

 

In the second rhythm of the 5Rhythms® Movement Meditation Practice, Staccato, we encounter the masculine aspect to balance the feminine aspect we encountered in Flow.

This masculine aspect has three archetypes. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Now, indeed, we are not talking about the Catholic or Protestant Church. Gabrielle Roth was clear that these powers are aspects of our human psyche.

Father is the protective energy, that knows how to set limits and draw boundaries.  This aspect is also responsible for many things including building stuff, like houses and go-carts or sweat lodges to corporations.  Father energy is solid and stable – generative.

Wild Son is the James Dean of the family, the rebel the limit tester.  The Wild Son aspect of ourselves takes risks and has passion for many things, including going-for-it and living out our dreams.  Without it…well?

The Holy Spirit aspect is the seeker of truth and has the wisdom to know things from a galactic position in the cosmos.  This aspect is engaged with our purpose on the planet and anchored deeply in the universal ocean of mother earth.

Last week we explored the physical aspects of the Father archetype. This week we will explore the physical aspects of the Wild Son.  The Wild Son is the aspect of ourselves that desires and breaks free from the solidity of the wiser Father energy.  We will explore the passion that fuels the Wild Son energy in us as we add breath into our movements to burn away constricting energy that holds us back.  Wild Son is the bridge that connects our blood red reality-based lives with the non-reality based mystical realms of divine energy.  As Bill Plotkin says in his book Wild Mind, “because the Wild One has always known the world is far more enchanted than has yet been discovered,”  the bridge,  in my imagination builds toward the center of our body and is welded solidly to the ferocious heart.

The hormonally-fired Wild Son creates so much drama that we often don’t know where to look to solve our problems.  Enter the rebel and the trickster and the patriarchal authority is reduced to confusion, often looking for grounding in the mature.  Wild Son shakes up our cognitive-heads and follows the emotional-heart.

To allow the Wild Son to come out to play, I imagine, takes plenty of courage.  To uproot stoic Father and move untethered in the world is an action only the fearless would do – and the emotionally brutal truth-telling Wild Son is the fearless archetype of this holy trinity.  Wild Son connects us all in an unpredictable and authentic way, creating unforgettably robust and soulful relationships.     See you on the dance floor.

 

Staccato – “Stay With” – Dancing with Your Bones.

 

In my physical practice of Staccato, I begin to notice movements that reoccur.  I am interested and curious about them, for they tend to be connected to something in my inner world. With this new awareness, I can “stay with” these movements, repeating them in a movement exploration. Then, I begin to use this awareness to connect to the source of them. By using my imagination, I can begin to build a bridge from this inner place to my outward physical expression in my dance.

As I dance the hard edges, percussive and angular shapes of this Rhythm, I am doing the work of Staccato, familiarizing myself with my inner world. It’s as if I am taking a journey “within” and connecting to something that wants to be danced. I am revisiting this familiar place allowing whatever is there to come to the surface and be recognized and expressed. As Gabrielle Roth says in her book Sweat Your Prayers, the “ghosts that have been stored since childhood in my muscles and bones take over my dance.” When I find these reoccurring movements or something that I am curious about, I “stay with” them in repetition longer, instead of rushing to judgment and the next movement. This opens me up to deeper meanings as I explore metaphorically their representation and origins deep with me.

Not every movement has a deeper meaning, but I imagine these movements are pathways, as I journey inward, around my inner world. I learn more about myself in the process; perhaps I will learn something new about my olds ways of being. Perhaps enough to be able to let go of an old pattern as I dance it out or release it in the next Rhythm, Chaos.

Conjuring up the willingness to confront, shape and “stay with” these dances that emerge on the dance floor, gives me strength and courage as I continue to open up my inner life. Odds are that I will discover something new about myself that I want to explore. I might discovery a change that I can make as a result of my dance exploration.

Staccato is the expressive rhythm in the 5Rhythms® movement meditation practice and as I use my breath to intensify my dance, I expand my creative range of play. Breath, like the trust of a jet engine, adds the element of fire to every movement, charging the body as my inner world manifests in physical expression. In this form of creative expression, the breath makes sure that I am expressing authentically and not covering up or leaving behind my true inner life.

Staccato is the Rhythm of “LET IT OUT.” It is the place in the 5Rhythms® Wave that we express-out what lies deep within us. Roth says, “from fatigue to fury, misery to memories and hatreds to heartbreaks.” We say with our bodies what words sometimes cannot, the unspeakable truths that haunt our daily lives, giving them a voice. This is healing.  ——- Scotty Lewis ———

The Medicine of Stillness

This writing on the medicine of stillness has been updated from a previous writing posted on stillness a few months ago.  I hope you enjoy the additions as I deepen my own inquiry into the practice of stillness.

Being the last rhythm in the 5Rhythms®, stillness seems a contradiction in terms when considering this somatic movement practice. Even as we sleep like a log, the hearts beat on, our lungs expand and contact in our inner dance of life. But not much of anything is still, is it? If movement is life, then when things stop moving we expect death.

For me, the somatic energetic of stillness is fueled by my breath and kept alive and curious by the burning ember of life at the heart of the creative process. Like a beacon on a foggy night, it acts like a guide and mentor illuminating my path ahead. When I slow down and get quiet, I am inspired by the glow and warmness of this mysterious and magical ember. With each in-breath, I fan it to life, giving me the impulse and inspiration to move. As I rest in exhale my body arrives at a still-point, or what seems like a stillness-shape, only to take-up and catch the energy of my breath’s continuum.

As it is with me, I imagine, it can be with you and when we arrive into lyrical and transition into stillness we take what we have discovered so far and attempt to be with the mystery of its deeper teaching. We don’t judge it, we remain curious. And like lyrical we don’t dance stillness, as we are teachable and willing, we are stillness, as we seek the truth, long and thirst for wholeness or oneness with Spirit. We cease to be, and for a time, blend into Spirit connecting fully, taking-in its wisdom as a sponge drinks in water. We give ourselves over in absolute surrender and become an incarnation of the emptiness within us, which is God. Our moving shapes become a prayer for wisdom, compassion and inspiration. Somehow we imagine that our steps and the shapes we make resemble the tracks and outlines of a God. For a moment we seem to understand what’s behind everything and trust enough to dive beneath the surface of life to touch upon the source or great mystery of all things. In humility, we recognize we don’t really know these things, nor can we touch them. They are like a whisper that we don’t quite understand but recognize like images, as they dissolve with each out-breath. We realize that we have already inside us that which we seek without, that our journey of longing and seeking lays within.

In my physical practice of stillness, I might discover that when I stop, I feel my movement. I might discover that when I move, I am aware of my stillness. I touch only my feet on the solid ground as I commune in expanded space and time. I allow my breath to be my guild on this sacred journey in stillness. At the bottom of the breath I am present with the emptiness waiting for the inspiration to inhale. At the top of the breath I hold lightly to what is, as I welcome the shear pleasure of exhale.

It must become plain to all who practice this rhythm the simplicity, beauty and miraculous nature of the breath. In this place of stillness I find peace in the subtle nature of my breath-movements and I may discover that parts of myself have their own orbit around the sun. Somehow I have taken refuge within myself, within the emptiness. With this safe anchorage and connection to Spirit, I let go of all my attempts at impressing the world and discover that I am not extraordinary, but that in my plainness, I am more dazzling and amazing than ever.

Scotty Lewis

The Medicine of Lyrical

 

After Chaos we arrive in Lyrical and become willing to pay attention to what’s new and different. We notice new openings, doors to walk through – things, people and situations that have heart and meaning. Since we are progressing towards Stillness we begin to look for doors opening into communion with the divine. We begin to lift our eyes towards spirit listening deeply within.

Sometimes, I have trouble practicing this rhythm. I too get afraid and want to take control. I get up in my head and just don’t get the hand bit as gateway to Lyrical. So, I just KISS. (keep it simple Scotty) The 4th Rhythm of the 5Rhythms® meditation practice Lyrical is the most intricate and in my experience of it, is about lightening up and ease.

Gabrielle Roth talks about this in her book Sweat your Prayers as a lightening up after we let go and empty-out everything that holds us back or “weighs us down”. That it is a journey towards “delightenment.” The more I teach this practice the more I begin to believe that emptying out is a primary goal in our practice. Pema Chodron talks about emptiness in her book Start Where You Are, “great bliss arises from the experience of emptiness.”

Gabrielle further talks about Lyrical as the deeper teaching of self-realization as the product of detachment and fluidity. So this make perfect sense and is where we add the mindfulness activity to our dance as we intend flow around things left over from Chaos, things that we are attached to that did not get released in chaos. We add fluidity to assist in our detachment from them being a certain way. As we do this we build character as we begin to realize things about ourselves, and our purpose on the planet.

My experience of entering into Lyrical after Chaos is that of beginning to wake up. I imagine slowly opening my eyes to greet the day as I transition from dream world to an awakened state. Contrary to some beliefs, we don’t need to have a big release (or orgasm or cold water splashed on our face) to wake up after Chaos. It can be a gradual sharpening of our focus as we slowly come to our senses. Pema Chodron says, “everything is fuel to wake up” – The possibility of things shifting and moving around within us.

The goal is to Stay Awake – being curious and paying attention to the empty space that has been created. Gabrielle calls that “Cruising emptiness.” I believe that we can find our ecstatic place when we inhabit our emptiness. If we don’t fill it up with “stuff” we can return to our happy place, our place of bliss time and time again.

 

I’ll end with a short quote from Rumi.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

The Medicine of Chaos – Finding the space between

Chaos teaches us how to let go and how to move in the unknown. As Gabrielle Roth’s says – Chaos is this unknown place we enter – like when we fall in love – it is an undiscovered Country each and every time we do it. It’s the kind of love that is unpredictable and as I quote the movie Shakespeare in Love “A love that overthrows life, unbitable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart and nothing to be done come ruin or rapture.”  Chaos

This love and all our artistic inspirations come from this creative reservoir and gets activated when we make space for it. So, in Chaos, when we let go, release and empty out everything that gets in the way of our intuition, we dive into and surrender the logical mind and get in touch with our intuitive-mind, our wild-heart-mind and gut-mind.   This emptiness created, houses our spontaneity, creativity, our whim-cycle, impulsive and inspirational selves.

So the goal is to stop controlling and let this energy move freely though our bodies.

Gabrielle liked to say that we are cruising emptiness – which means moving through life with fluidity and without attachment.

Emptiness – All great art comes from this place.  All great dances come from this place. We disappear in the dance and only the dance remains.  — G. Roth —

So, I imagine, as we add fluidity to our Chaos dance we cruise emptiness, the in-between space that does not block us from being fully connected to everything around us – especially our intuition or our knowing selves.  Witches and magicians know something about this place of “in-between” everything. It is what they work with in their magic and it is what, I imagine, we dancers activate when we sweat our prayers.  As we arrive in the dance we come with a lot of stuff to take up this empty space. The job we have is to empty out what is not essential. I don’t know if this empty space might be considered part the the universe – this dark space in between everything in our inner worlds, that all matter is made of.  What I do know is that when I dance and empty out I feel lighter, things seem to flow easier around me and my days seem more spacious.

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5Rhythms® – The Medicine of Flowing

Most of us have had life-events that have challenged or changed our lives completely. They have rocked our world. It seems like someone has broken into our home and rearranged the furniture. Everything is off or slightly cockeyed and we are not sure what’s wrong. These events can completely though us off. This sometimes makes it difficult to connect to our organic or natural selves, our compassionate selves, curious selves or our patient selves. These events disorient us and we have to adjust around it to regain some sense of ourselves.

It is this re-orienting that we explore and practice in the 5Rhythms®. Especially how it connects to the first rhythm – Flowing.

Simply put, Flowing is the way in which we are fluid in all of our actions and movements. We are open, “hanging loose,” as it were, being flexible in our continuous circular movements through life.

So, what do we do when someone throws a monkey wrench into the mix?

Mostly, we panic, worry and get stressed out and rigid. Other times we can get self-conscious or overexert ourselves onto the situation.   Sometimes we just get lazy. These are our flow-freezers and we all have them. They are different or the same for each of us. But whatever stops us or freezes our flow, we can adjust by recognizing our tension and begin to add fluidity to our situation.

Flowing is the feminine and receptive rhythm in the 5Rhythms® practice and so the medicine of fluidity is that it knows something about how to “take things in.” How do we take in what is going on around us? Well, the Feminine knows something about this and as we add fluidity to our movements, circle and find our way around things, we soften our edges so things can come in. Flowing is also the rhythm of Earth, so we learn how to how to feel the resource and support beneath us as we inhale and take things in: like complements, putdowns, intuitions, hunches, vibes and moods.

When we add the medicine of fluidity to the mix we connect and “take in” the natural rhythms, cycles and moods of the earth and everything around us. We are fully connected to the energies around us and we intuitively know how to be with what is happening now and what comes next. So, if we relax into our Flow, doing things that once were a challenge, become as easy and natural as breathing.

So, whenever you notice that your becoming rigid and tense, feel your feet on the ground, breathe, relax and add fluidity to your movements and actions. Notice which body parts are tense and move them in circles, curves and contours while you are aware of your surrounding’s. Then notice what happens. Good luck.

5Rhythms® Movement Practice of Stillness

Stillness

I thought I would share a bit about my experience of moving in stillness in the 5Rhythms® movement meditation practice.

Being the last rhythm in the 5Rhythms®, stillness seems a contradiction in terms when considering this somatic movement practice. But not much of anything is still. Really. If movement is life, then when things stop moving we expect death.

For me, the energetic of stillness is fueled by my breath and kept alive and curious by the burning ember of life at the heart of the creative process. When I slow down and get quiet, I am inspired by the glow and warmness of this mysterious and magical ember. With each in-breath, I fan it to life, giving me the impulse to move. As I rest in exhale my body arrives at a still-point, or what seems like stillness, only to take-up and catch the energy of my breath’s continuum.

When I arrive into lyrical and transition into stillness I take what I have discovered and attempt to be with the mystery of its teaching. I don’t judge it, I remain curious. And like lyrical I don’t dance stillness, as I am teachable and willing, I seek the truth, long and thirst for wholeness or oneness with Spirit. I cease to be, and for a time, blend into Spirit connecting fully taking-in its wisdom as a sponge drinks in water. For a moment I seem to understand what’s behind everything and trust enough to dive beneath the surface of life to touch upon the source or great mystery of all things. In humility, I recognize I don’t really know these things, nor can I touch them. They are like a whisper that I don’t quite understand but recognize as they vanish in thin air. With my feet solid on the ground, I realize that I have already inside us that which I seek without, that my journey of longing and seeking lays within.

In my physical practice of stillness, I might discover that when I stop, I feel my movement. I might discover that when I move, I am aware of my stillness. I allow the breath to be my guild on this sacred journey in stillness. At the bottom of the breath I am present with the emptiness waiting for the inspiration to inhale. At the top of the breath I hold lightly to what is, as I welcome the shear pleasure of exhale.

It must be plain to all the simplicity, beauty and miraculous nature of the breath. In this place of stillness I find peace in the subtle nature of my breath-movements and I may discover that parts of myself have their own orbit around the sun. With this connection to Spirit, I let go of all my attempts at impressing the world and discover that I am not extraordinary, but that in my plainness, I am more dazzling and amazing than ever.

You will be able to explore stillness next Tuesday July 15th, 7:30pm at Presence Studio in Bellingham.  I teach a bi-weekly 5Rhythms® practice class at part of completing my training to be a Certified 5Rhythms® Teacher.  Join us and bring a friend.