School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: April Newsletter
Kat's Teaching

By Kat
Hello, hereís Kat: Iím half way through my 4th year of teaching Movement Medicine, and just two years beyond the threshold of graduation at Winter Dream Dance 2013, with a bird on my head.

Starting out: After the first module of Professional Training July 2011, I couldn’t wait to begin: I leapt into the teacher role with alacrity, starting with local sessions for friends (asking donations for the MM Sponsorship Fund); five months later opening my first official class in my local city, Thun (Switzerland), once every two to three weeks, with a flyer and entrance fee. From there my offering has grown through invitations to teach in other Swiss towns; the organisers have become my collaborators – assistants – and without them I could not be doing this quantity and quality of work. I deeply appreciate these relationships.

The first 3 years: I have been teaching drop-in sessions in five different locations, and often take the same theme around the different places, like a sort of travelling road show. I love the opportunity to refine and adapt the theme as I take it around – something like a painter who takes the same subject over and over; the evolution of each theme is consistently in the direction of simplicity and distillation, and I observe how this tendency makes the sessions more satisfying for the dancers. To support myself in reaching this clear simplicity, I envision and write down in a very few words a clearly defined intention for each class; this intention is also reflected as metaphor in the altar. (Examples follow below.) I also plan the sessions in quite some detail – this is what makes me feel safe in holding the space – and as time goes on I more frequently move around in or away from the planned sequence and playlist, as a response to what is happening.

Examples of defined intentions: My drop-in sessions started out with exploring yin and yang, the elements, the vertical axis and aspects of dancing with partners. This has grown into a repertoire of themes related to current seasons, such as: New Year – seeds of dreams, spring rising (tender power); Equinox – finding balance, inner space clearing (as in spring cleaning), blossom/fertility (inviting the senses), playing with fire, colours of the summer (dance like you! + visibility); Equinox – finding balance, harvest thanksgiving (receive/give), falling leaves (letting go), evergreens (the themes that remain in deep winter), keeping light in the heart (in deep winter).

I keep on going with this kind of theme as the years turn. I was a bit concerned about being repetitious, but each time the seasons come round again it is different, and my approach has evolved. I think: "The trees do the same thing year after year – sprout up in spring, drop leaves in autumn – so where’s the harm in repetition?" Not only is there no harm in it – but it turns out to be a wonderful and universal reference point for our personal life journeys on the dancing path. And the dancers keep changing, which I sometimes forget. I keep good class notes and play-lists, so I can return to these as that season returns again. I am struck by how the universal themes reappear each time, and also by how I have moved on and my focus has changed, by a little or a lot.

In amongst this, I now more often hold sessions which I call “Let’s dance”, without a particular theme, and I present them like this: “We’re made for movement. Life is movement. Movement is medicine. Through movement of body/heart/mind, we can find self + soul. The altar is empty – a white cloth represents a blank page for the dancers to write or draw on – an image of Nataraja (a small bronze statue) reminds us to dance with everything.”

At the same time, a second river has been running. In a series of small ongoing groups over three years in Littau by Luzern, I have explored the 21 stations of the Mandala in some depth, which has allowed me to stretch gently into less familiar areas, for example, Gateways 7–9, dimensions 4 and 5. The ongoing group structure has invoked more commitment from the participants – a kind of contract between us to explore more deeply; the small size of the group (limited by room dimensions) has allowed me to step into this without too much exposure and responsibility to begin with. Most importantly, from this I have found out my own way of inviting ourselves to move with awareness of the Divine Mystery – alongside my personal reservations like, “who do you think you are to be doing this, Kat?”, and the suspicions of my Scottish Calvinist ancestors.

Recent weavings: Then, last year 2014, these two threads came together in a moment at Easter time: I found myself teaching a two-hour drop-in class on Good Friday (Venerdi Santo/Karfreitag/Vendredi saint) and I asked myself: What do you want to do on this day, Kat, if not the Tree of Life and Life-Death-Life cycle? So we did this and it turned out to be a prayer meeting. Not because of the complexity of it, but indeed because of the simplicity of it. I guided quite precisely to begin with; then at a certain point I found that we were in a ritual space, which I was holding like a ceremony, with minimal input from me – just a few instructions to provide a clear container. I could feel myself simply holding the vertical and horizontal directions of the MM Mesa, consciously holding that container, no longer knowing where the dancers had gone to, and trusting this, and finding a way to bring them back at the end.

From here on, the ritual dimension has appeared in many of my classes, with new themes emerging such as Peace Dance and Spirit World. I asked for my mentoring to switch focus directly onto this new theme of holding ritual space, and discovered through that guidance that I have a whole lot more personal work to do to strengthen and clarify myself in order to hold spaces of this kind. What this feels like is that now I have stepped further forward into the limelight, my shadows are showing up more strongly too – as it is in nature on sunny days.

To begin with I was reluctant to shift the attention back to myself and my own process, and to continue with the personal themes that had emerged in the Apprenticeship. The work is not easy: I keep on meeting resistance and fear in there, and the support of my beloved peers is precious. With the support of my mentor, I am now discovering the richness of re-engaging consciously with my own process, designing rituals for myself, and bringing that ambiance along with me to my sessions. Over and over again, I am finding that I do not need to have everything sorted – I simply need to show up with all of myself, where and how I am at this moment, and that this IS the medicine for the dancers and for myself. Slowly, slowly I become more willing to let the inside be visible outside, and to be able to show up with my heart, as well as my mind and my body; this enriches all sessions, whatever the theme/not theme. The bird on my head has found a landing strip in my heart.

Continued Professional Development: I feel like adding here that I’m experiencing the CPD (Continued Professional Development) requirements – dry and formal as they may look on paper/screen – as an outline of an essential support system, which requires me to stay current with MM developments and updates, to continue with my personal learning and development as I teach, and to visit the community at Long Dances (Summer and Winter) to be held, challenged and inspired there. Part of me is arrogant enough to believe that I could easily dispense with all this if it were not required. I have fallen out of several professional formations in my lifetime, which did not have this essential support system, so I deeply appreciate that we have this as a part of post-qualification requirement (PQR) for ongoing membership of the Movement Medicine Association. I’m currently finding it so valuable that I’m doing far more than we are asked.

A final wink from an elder: When I was a child, the elders I met in the form of my four grandparents gave me the impression that older people know everything and have life all sorted. Now I am nearly 69 and I can say it’s not like this for me. (Just in case any of you are under the same illusion!) If anything, the big life questions become bigger with age, and even more confounding. At this point, if I know anything at all, it’s that what we know as “wisdom” can appear from anywhere in our circles – and an advantage of age can be to have learnt to recognize wisdom more easily when it appears, from whatever source.

Thank you for reading me. If anyone wishes to correspond, you are welcome to e mail me at: 

Kat Forrester


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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.