School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: February Newsletter
Movement Medicine and Ministry

By Catherine Wright
I am taking up Susannah and Ya’Acov’s invitation for facilitators to share about their work. In February of 2014, I graduated as a Movement Medicine Teacher. And at this year’s Winter Dream Dance I graduated as a Movement Medicine Facilitator. My “other modality” is my Interfaith Ministry.

What on earth, you may be wondering, is an Interfaith Minister?


To answer that question, I want to start with a quote from George Eliot. In Middlemarch, George Eliot says this

“It is in these acts called trivialities that the seeds of joy are forever wasted, until men and women look round with haggard faces at the devastation their own waste has made, and say, the earth bears no harvest of sweetness — calling their denial knowledge.”

I understand her to be saying that the stories we tell are much more powerful than we are inclined to believe. We create our own reality. We have the opportunity to create a reality that is rich and nourishing and fulfilling and full of love... a story in which we find it easy to be kind and generous and trusting.
Or we can tell a destructive story, a story in which we are surrounded by baddies, and have been dealt a particularly unfair and unplayable hand… a story in which it is easy to be defended and mean and petty.

At the heart of my ministry I am working (with myself and others) to sow and nurture the seeds of joy. It seems to me that in the theory and practice of Movement Medicine I have found so many ways of creating a nourishing constructive story in which I notice how blessed I am. Movement Medicine supports me whatever challenges come my way.  


Funny that I should start with George Eliot. Back in the mists of time, I wrote my Ph.D thesis in the Philosophy of Mind. At the heart of it was Middlemarch, a novel full of wisdom and humanity. I’ll give you one more quote, which is of course laced with irony as well as wry compassion.

“… we do not expect people to be moved by what is not unusual….  If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.  As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

I guess since right back then, I have been working to take the wadding out of my ears, to wake up to the ordinary suffering of humans, without dying of the roar on the other side of silence. I believe that my ministry is to walk alongside those who are healing their everyday heartbreaks.

And I have been following my nose all these years… through consultancy, training and coaching work and more recently Interfaith Ministry. Somewhere along the road (thank heaven) I found the Dance! Movement Medicine has become my spiritual practice. It is my refuge and my discipline. Movement Medicine is profoundly about resourcing myself to wake up; and in that waking up, to feel more gratitude and compassion.


I suspect that that is at the heart of my Movement Medicine work both as a teacher and as a facilitator. I guess I could say a lot more about how and why I teach dancing! But this little piece is to talk about my work as a facilitator, my work as an Interfaith Minister, in which I work both as a celebrant and with individuals and couples.


I’ll start with my work as a Celebrant. Celebrants work with ceremony. Sometimes ceremony holds us in loss and grief. And often (as the name suggests) ceremony is about celebrating the joys and delights of life.  


At a general level, Movement Medicine has profoundly influenced my work as a Celebrant. I use my own awareness of the micro, medio, macro and meta to orient me. I consciously lean into the Mesa when I need support. I have become more conscious of yin and yang in my work. I have become much bolder in encouraging people to listen to their bodies, and to harness the wisdom of their physical sensations. And I take seriously the thought that at the heart of the Movement Medicine map is Mystery… and to help us live in the Mystery we have stories that inspire and comfort and protect us. And the Movement Medicine map has become a source of hugely inspiring ‘story’ for me over these years.


But I want to give a more specific example, of how my work as a Wedding Celebrant has been deepened by Movement Medicine.

Couples come to see me about their wedding…

Often their focus is on The Dress, the Canapes, the First Dance. (Very understandably). My work is to help them drop back into the Meaning of their Marriage. For me the ceremony can do a number of things. One of them is holding and celebrating the real story of this couple. I think I see myself sometimes as helping them appreciate the beauty and romance of their own story, rather than thinking that they are a pale imitation of the Societal Myth. Quite often, when I meet wedding couples for the first time, there will be some ‘Thing’ or other that they don’t really want to talk about. They think it shows them in a bad light.  Sometimes we can be talking for quite a while before the ‘Thing’ comes out. A horrible relationship with a parent. Or an ex partner. Or the relationship between their children. Or the relationship between their parents. Somehow there will often be some kind of ‘shame’ around it. They think it spoils the “happily ever after” story.
Part of my work with them is to find a way of writing a ceremony that holds the true beautiful story of their marriage.
In my line of work, I muse about The Myth….   You know how it goes….
“Once upon a time a beautiful princess had to go through terrible trials before she met her handsome prince. The handsome prince had to do all sorts of things to prove his worth.  And then they got married. And they all lived happily ever after.”
How helpful is this story?
Where does it resonate? Where does it not?
Sometimes, you know, it really does resonate. J
I married a 70 year old man to a 60 year old woman recently. 
And for her, finding this good loving man, after many terrible trials, felt like the fairytale happy ending!! But at a profound level, I think this Societal Myth can be at the very least a bit unhelpful. Marriage is NOT the end of the adventure. Some of the monsters have not been vanquished. And the triumphs and disasters, and the trials and the tribulations continue. 


Movement Medicine has given me another map to navigate the meaning of the ceremony of marriage. Thinking about marriage on the map of the Five Dimensions, we move away from the “happy ending” story to a more exploratory story that has a past (of course) that has brought us to the present, but it also has an expansive, engaging and possibly exciting future. 

So these are a few of my questions, clustered around the Five Dimensions:
First Dimension

What meaning does Marriage have for each individual in this relationship? How well loved do they feel? What do they need in order to feel comfortable at the heart of this huge ritual? Etc.
Second Dimension

What does Marriage mean for them as a couple? Why now? What do they want from the ceremony? What support does their relationship need? What is the deep dreaming of this partnership? Etc.
Third Dimension

What needs to happen for this ceremony to ‘place’ the relationship in their community?  Are there family issues that need to be healed? Or honoured? Or let go of? Etc.
Fourth Dimension

How can this ceremony call on the ancientness of the tradition of marriage? Where does it link this young couple to their own particular ancestors? Is there something important that needs to be said about that? Etc.
Fifth Dimension

And finally why ceremony? What does ceremony mean for this couple? How does this great big meringue-dressed-ritual link to the Divine?


Celebrancy has a very beautiful place in my wider “ministry”. At a metaphorical level, celebrancy is the fertile plains of ministry. In the rest of my ministry, I am often accompanying people who are tramping the foothills of the Wild Mountainous regions, where the monsters live. In the cold lonely places live the monsters of self-loathing, of superiority and inferiority, of failure and self aggrandisement, all that troublesome human stuff. Sometimes, the troublesome stuff is cooked up by different parts within an individual (e.g. that old Superego Fellow is a fairly feisty character in most of us!!). And sometimes the stuff is catalysed by conflict with another.


These days, in my work in these adventurous places, I have come to feel held right in the paradoxical heart of Movement Medicine. At the heart of everything is Mystery. In dance we surrender to the fact that we simply do not know what should happen. 

We deeply do not know how things should be……. 

And yet…. 

There is always the invitation to step up, to take responsibility to make the world a better, more peaceful place.  
The Yin of surrender and receiving.
The Yang of action and intervention.


Working with conflict is right in the heart of this paradox. At one level, Mediation is deeply about acceptance of what is. The work is about helping people in conflict make space for The Other to be who and how they are and not who and how they would like them to be, or who and how they think The Other ought to be. But Mediation is also about change. To get out of conflict, each individual has to step towards Peace. If an individual in a conflict stays focused on how The Other needs to change, the chances are the conflict will stay stuck. So working with conflict is about deep loving acceptance of what is…. And it is about finding the courage to move. Holding these two things is at the heart of Movement Medicine.


I’ll give a specific example: Often people who come to see me for mediation are heavily invested in a story in which they are the Good Guy. Once, after a client had gone, I found a scrap of paper that she had left behind by mistake. It was her preparation for our meeting. On it was a list of the ‘incidents’ where the other person had behaved badly!! She thought her task was to show me that she was the ‘wronged’ party, so that I would tell the other person how to behave!! It made me smile, ruefully. In the one-to-one work with her, she needed to feel seen in this angry sense of being ‘wronged’. And what I was also looking for was the ‘wiggle room’, the place of self-responsibility, where she could see that SHE had some power to bring peace to this situation and therefore to the world. My work was to help her find the ‘story’ in which both of them fucked up, even though they are both Good Enough Guys!!


So, in conclusion, the purpose of my teaching and facilitating is to promote healing in hurt places. I long to see people around me believing in their own brilliance. Sometimes we hobble ourselves because our wounds would have us believe we are of no value.


I often think of the words of that lovely old Bob Dylan song “Most of the Time”
Most of the time I can keep both feet on the ground… follow the path… stay right with it… handle whatever I stumble upon… Most of the time…

I guess the purpose of my teaching and facilitating is to celebrate those times…

and to offer some practices for the other times, when it all seems bleak and impossible. 




One of these days I will create that website…..
But in the meantime…. Here is my facebook page if you fancy staying in touch

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.