School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: October 2009
Apprenticeship: Suicidal wisdom, repetition and seagull dreaming

By Kerri Cripps

Last week I had my first coaching session as part of the Movement Medicine apprenticeship (henceforth MMAP). By the end of the first module we had all designed for ourselves an individualised plan that we were going to undertake before the next module in January. Mine included practical tasks, ways of being and regular micro-practices such as connecting with the elements every morning when I open my curtains.

The coaching session was a chance to check-in and see how I was getting on. I told Ya’Acov that in general I feel happy with my progress, but there is one aspect of my original intentions that I have not yet addressed which is to write more. We then had an amusing diversion where I tried to get Ya’Acov to set me a challenge and he followed another of my intentions about picking up my own authority and handed the challenge back to me. I had already offered to write an article for the newsletter, but I said it would not be ready in time for the October issue because I was too busy, with another MM hat on, organising the Dancing with the Heart of the World workshop for Ya’Acov in Sheffield …


Well as you can see that wasn’t quite challenging enough, so here I am on the day of the deadline wondering what on earth to write about because so much has happened since July. Luckily there is one theme that is very strongly woven into my apprenticeship, which is a video poem called ‘Suicide: the message in the bottle’. I am working very deeply with the intensely personal story of my brother’s suicide 10 years ago, and using ritual, art work, movement and working with dream figures and spirits to look beyond the painful reality of his death and into the dreaming behind it.  I am making it with my friend Helen and we are hoping to present it at the International Process Work Conference in February 2010. The questions we are exploring are: What needed to die? Who is the killer? What is the underlying spirit that can’t be killed and needs to be lived more fully? And what has all this got to do with the rest of us in the family and in society?


The video is almost finished and we have begun developing exercises to explore the themes that emerge, one of which follows the suicidal process to find the un-killable spirit. We tested an exercise out using Simon’s suicide story which involved me shape-shifting to become him and following his dying process on a dreaming level and discovering what the un-killable spirit was that emerged after death.  At the end I became a Seagull that was flying high and diving deep, enjoying testing out its own limits, rather than being limited by the collective idea about what seagulls can do – very like the seagull in Richard Bach’s book Jonathan Livingstone Seagull which was one of Simon’s favourite stories! I love the idea of Simon flying free and exploring his limits. The seagull dreaming also gave me courage to test my own limits, and to discover new ways of sharing the suicidal wisdom of the un-killable spirit, such as writing this article. I also felt delighted that what we had discovered resonated so clearly with one of the core MM practise of being and becoming, of compassionate acceptance of where we are now and the passionate intention to become all that we can be.


In the apprenticeship long dance ceremony, during a round of prayers for the spirit world, I asked Simon how he wanted me to mark the 10th anniversary of his death and he said ‘Celebrate, have a party!’ I agreed and later spoke about it to my mum and to Simon’s daughter who we were going to stay with not long before the anniversary. We had a wonderful time together the highlight of which was taking my niece and her 3 year old son up in a 4 seater aeroplane and flying around the Isle of Wight which certainly stretched her flying limits as she had never been in a plane before nor wanted to. I bought a seagull kite too and we flew it on the beach.


However when the actual anniversary approached I stared to feel much less light and airy and not at all like celebrating, a familiar feeling at this time of year. I took the risk of emailing my fellow apprentices and sharing my vulnerability and my dilemma about how to party whilst feeling so much grief. Their responses immediately put me in touch with the part of me that knows how to laugh amidst my tears as I read each thoughtful heartfelt and loving response I cried and simultaneously felt such joy at being part of such an amazing circle. Someone suggested that we could each light candles on the anniversary and many others agreed so all that day I connected with friends and family and circles of dancers and with each one I lit a candle and felt our interconnection.


The following week Helen and I took the next step with the suicidal wisdom which was to test out an exercise designed to explore what in us is ready to die and how we can kill it!  I had been telling her about how challenging I find repetitive actions - I [KJ1] don’t do repetition I don’t have a regular practice, I don’t even remember to clean my teeth everyday! Helen thought this might be a pattern that needed to die in order for me to fully engage with my apprenticeship. I disagreed – I am really quite attached to it and reluctant to give it up but I agreed to experiment but only in order to test out our exercise. To begin with I first found my spot – the place in the room that felt right to me. Then I closed my eyes, tuned in to my difficulties around repetition and began to turn slowly round sensing the right direction for it to move in. When I found it I opened my eyes and realised I could only take two steps before I reached the wall! The next step was for me to shape shift and become the wall whilst Helen pushed against me. I shouted No! Helen tried her hardest to persuade me to let her past, but I just kept saying No! Suddenly we realised that I was repeating and I began to experiment dancing and singing No, No, No, No, No!. I discovered an infinitely creative, endlessly repeating part of myself which I had previously suffered from, but could now see was actually a passionate and playful ally which could help me with my repetitive practise!


I have since used it to find creative ways to support my MM practise, so now I do my 21 gratitudes in a variety of ways - one day just by saying thank you 21 times, the next by singing them, the next by writing them down and so on. And similarly with my micro-practise of opening my curtains in the morning and connecting with the elements - yesterday I got back into bed and did it snuggled up against the cold, this morning I stayed in bed and did it as a visualisation without actually opening the curtains at all and who knows how I will do it tomorrow, but I am confident that I will do it. And yesterday at Dancing with the Heart of the World I even joined with some of my fellow dancers doing a repetitive dance step which I had previously really struggled with when we all did it together in a circle during the first module. This time I noticed my resistance, began repeating my No and allowed it to lead me into the steps and before I knew it I was enjoying myself and what’s more I’d found my own unique way to be part of the interconnected oneness. Yes!


I am also exploring how suicidal wisdom might relate to our collective suicidal tendencies in relation to climate change, but that will have to wait for my next article otherwise I’m going to miss the deadline for this issue of the newsletter and thus fail my self defined challenge and that just wouldn’t be the right thing for a becoming seagull to do would it?


With much love and gratitude



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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.