School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: October 2010
Small Acts of Kindness

By Susannah

A few weeks ago we celebrated Ya’Acov’s mother’s 70th birthday. It was a beautiful celebration of a wonderful woman. When Ya’Acov and I were first together it was not so easy. Ya’Acov is from a Jewish family who took their duty to keep the tribe intact seriously. I am from a Christian background and did not fit the bill! It was hard for everyone.

But Ya'Acov’s and my love and sense of destiny were irrefutable. Those early times were a little uncomfortable for Ya’Acov and with his family. Over the years the difficulties have melted away and we have become friends as well as family. Reuben has grown up with his cousins. I am as grateful for my dear mother in law as I could be. Last autumn at our wedding anniversary ceremony Ya’Acov’s mother gave her blessing to our marriage and something fell into place. And to be able to celebrate her birthday with her family, friends and colleagues was very beautiful. Ya’Acov wrote a song for his Mum which we sang with all the grandchildren, the chorus “Grandma, we love you!” sung with dramatic musical flourish by the youngest. Very sweet and strong.

At the party Ya’Acov was told this story by an old man who he had not seen for decades. The old man said that for most of his life he had been a grumpy, bad tempered man who thought the worst of everyone and whose bad expectations of life were normally proved right. Nevertheless, he married and had children. Then, in his 60s, his wife got terminal cancer. In her last weeks, in hospital, he would visit every day, and every day he would go and buy flowers from a little florist next to the hospital. Every day the man in the shop would greet him kindly. After his wife finally died, and he was saying farewell to the hospital, he decided to go back into the shop to thank the man for his kindness. The man in the shop was surprised and moved himself, to be so thanked, and they had a sweet, poignant moment of meeting as two human beings. After this, the man decided to experiment with “being nice to people” talking with people at the bus stop, smiling at people in the queue at Sainsbury’s. And to his great surprise, by and large people responded with kindness, warmth, and humour. The world looked different. The world WAS different. The man told this story with humour and innocence, as if he was still surprised by his own power and shocked that he had lived his life for so long under the spell of self-fulfilling gloominess.

Two things come up for me in response to this story. One of them is about the resonance of apparently small acts. The florist’s kindness was part of a chain of events which has not yet finished, and had a level of effect far beyond those moments. The other is this. I see how easily we tend to think of ourselves and the world as a ‘thing.’ “It is like that”, “I am like this.” “I’m a grumpy old man”, “The world is unfriendly and uncaring”, “I have something to offer the world, a smile, a kind world” “The world receives me with warmth and welcome”. Perhaps life isn’t an object, but a process. Maybe I’m not a fixed thing but a dynamic of constancy and change, moment-to-moment choice and pattern. Maybe people and (myself included!) don’t respond to what or who I am, but to how I am. And certainly my perception of the world (and myself) is dependent on which spectacles I am wearing.

During the Salzburg Wild Life workshop I stayed with friends. She is a yoga teacher, he an artist. He showed me his work: abstract paintings painted on the back of glass. The effect is mesmerising. I saw one painting as the surface of a strange planet. Then, suddenly, it changed, I saw a three dimensional forest of weird bamboo. Nothing had changed on the outside. Only how my brain was interpreting the information. I experimented with distance and found I could get both “pictures”, not at will, but I could find both ways of seeing. Of course I’ve known about this phenomena, and seen it in pictures of the woman/vase, but this was so vivid, so apparently absolute, and the change so fast and clear, it was a beautiful, fascinating wake up call to remember again the power of the mind. This is one of the things I love about Movement Medicine. There is such pleasure and sensual depth in the sensation of movement in the body. There is such a power to be released to learn (and I feel we are only just beginning) to use the depth of the mind and what is possible for us as human beings.

I will end for now with 2 Images: The oldest member of our current ‘Journey of Empowerment’ group gazing at herself dancing on video, tears of love and joy streaming down her face, (and ours too!) as she recognised the little girl who loved to dance, still dancing free in this 73 year old body. What a privilege to witness her falling in love with herself. The other: At the Move! evening last week at St Peter’s in London, the participants became dancers in a field of freedom, connectedness and co-creativity as an unusual magic descended on us, and a level of simultaneous individual freedom and deep belonging grew which was intimate and beautiful and left me, for one, moved and grateful and hopeful for our species.

Wishing you a happy Autumn of being and becoming.

Susannah. October 2010.


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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.