Thoughts to stimulate conversation... I view these thoughts and other content on my website as my intellectual property... so please honour my thoughts and way of being in the world by referencing G. Unkovich g-moves.info if you choose to use any of the material from my site. Thank you.
Butterfly Meditation with an existential conundrum (for Gabrielle)
While riding on the back of a motor bike in north Thailand I wondered what I could do to settle into the speed and rushing wind of the day’s journey. What might I learn from the experience? I initially pondered ideas of floating in the air before coming to project myself into hovering over the adjacent fields and rice paddies. A butterfly caught my eye and so I then spent quite a while meditating on being a butterfly, moving across the same landscape, the rice paddies, hills, trees, mountains and rivers.
As I looked out and projected myself as butterfly into the surrounding country I closed my eyes and wondered what philosophical insight I might take from this experience. In my meditation I hovered with a sense of weightlessness, the air rushed over my body and I did not touch the ground. Only my partner and my brother knew I was there on the back of that bike. Here is what I found!
A butterfly is an exquisite creature, extremely fragile with an incredible amount of strength. My meditation on being a butterfly took me up to the peak of mountains, over their ridges, deep into valleys, along rivers, and among the flowers without anyone knowing that this butterfly was achieving all of this! Without any recognition the butterfly continues its journey with courage and integrity while maintaining its beauty. Most often nobody knows it is there!
All it can do is be beautiful regardless of the lack of recognition or applause for its continuing efforts. Maybe this is what we could all remember to do and strive to be the same in our lives. We can strive to carry on with all we do without need of recognition or applause – let our inner beauty carry us across our fields and rivers with courage and integrity. After all, most often nobody knows of our effort, and most people don’t even know we are there!
Our Body Stories are Real: this is not an illusion
We live from the body, a corporeal experience whereby we make public something about ourselves while in relationship with self, with others, and with the environment. Is this a social body, an acknowledged body, a hidden body, a responsive body, or a body unknown? All of these questions continued to raise my curiosity as a Dance Movement Psychotherapist (DMP) when working with adults with learning disabilities and/or, profound and complex needs. What do those labels say to you the reader? In my clinical practice I endeavoured to shut out of the room the ‘learning disability' and prioritise the physical and embodied presence of clients, it is this corporeality of relationship that informs our interactions. In the therapeutic space I refute the disability label, am I in denial? I think not. If we let go of the able and disable label then the potential space, the space between and surrounding our perceived abilities, we find a myriad of extraordinary interactions in movement, sound, gesture, posture, and facial expression. Though extraordinary is not an appropriate word for these interactions, for they are far from ordinary, and they are far from extra; they are explicitly integral to our corporeal existence and modes of expression.
Enabling Flexible and Spontaneous Boundaries
A shape that continuously moves and changes to best fit a person’s needs. Bending, swaying, bouncing back, shifting sideways, holding firm and saying no are all integral aspects of my dance movement psychotherapy practice. My existential curiosity centres me in the here and now as soon as I step into my place of work, or indeed any social context. Wondering what may occur from moment to moment brings to mind a spinning top that plays the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down or elastics which I may use as symbolic representations of tension, letting go and playful bouncing. Do we have the ‘structure’ needed to support our many ways of interacting so that we don’t fall down? Maybe falling down is what I want to do! This may sound chaotic and out of control, however, with the person always at the centre these movements can occur around, away from and toward the each other, it is our bending, swaying, bouncing back, shifting sideways, holding firm and saying no which are integral to our way of being in the world; and to experiencing boundaries that invite flexibility and spontaneity.
What is non-verbal communication?
I am someone who has moved/danced for fifty years so ‘non-verbal communication’ is an implicit aspect of my being. Through involvement in a colleagues research project I have come to wonder that by using the term ‘non-verbal’ are we too often denying the significance of vocal communication? By verbal are we being explicit about the non-use of words only? Or do we shut out vocal/sound expression as well? I cannot shut out vocal/sound expression as these improvised vocal sound-scapes are integral elements of my clinical and creative practice and if shut out would be denied their impact on our interpersonal experiences. To me non-verbal communication includes the space surrounding our verbal communications. In this explorative space we find a myriad of extraordinary interactions in movement, sound, gesture, breath, posture, and facial expression. All these layers of inter-subjective experience – including the somatic – are integral to our communications which cannot be separated one from the other!
A tripartite conversation...
I am heavy, I am full, and I cannot hold myself high. Why should I lift to be ‘with’ you? I am full, full of emotions, full of thoughts, full of memories and experience I cannot explain. I cannot explain why I cannot explain! I am full I am heavy. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, confusions, unprocessed, unrelated, intertwined and confused. You will never understand so why should I try to share how it is that I am here and how I feel and how I experience you and life and me!
I lift, I drop, I tilt, and I turn. I am weighted down and I do not have the way to be with you. Here I hide, here I do not have to explain or change or try. Leave me here. There is too much out there to process, to see, to hear, and to call for my attention. I am full and I am tired of holding all of this thought, all of this emotion, all of this loss, all of this frustration and anger. How can I begin to process these things? Why should I begin to process all these things and what will it lead to? There will always be uncertainty and confusion and miscommunication so why should I make an effort to let you in?
Okay I’ll lift, oh no I can’t, I am too heavy, don’t coerce me to lift and move as it takes too much effort. Too much physical effort to connect with all those muscles and nerves in my back and shoulders and neck just to lift me up! I’ll do nothing, but then you try so hard to encourage me, to want to see and be with me. How long will you keep trying, how long shall I resist, who will win, is there a winner, can’t we just leave it all alone and let me be here.... heavy, hung, full, weighted down.... that is what I know.
I am heavy, I am full. Here I hide, here I do not have to explain or change or try. Leave me here. I’ll do nothing, but then you try so hard to encourage me, to want to see and be with me. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, confusions, unprocessed, unrelated, intertwined and confused.
I see that you are low, are dropped and falling. I wonder why it is that you are low and dropped and falling. Are you falling? Are you shutting me out or do you just not have the effort, energy or will to interact? Maybe my words are not enough or are too much, maybe I should be quiet. Shutup! But what then, what should I do and who should I be? How do you want me to be with you today? You hang your head and I wonder about shame, sadness, loss and boredom. Which of these might it be? You do not need to feel any shame with me, but then who am I to say that when I do not know what it is that you communicate. You do not need to feel shame in my presence, I accept you for who you are, you need not be anything else but who you are. But then, you are being who you are so is there any need for me to say these things? I do not know.
Am I here to entertain you? Is this why you come here each week? Is this posture to say ‘why bother’? But then that is why you are here isn’t it? For me to help you chose, for you to find a way to make some choices and to share something of what it is like for you to make a choice or to have choice taken away from you! How do I know that you are choosing to do nothing when it seems that you are doing nothing! I dance, I move, I hold your hands and ‘we’ move together. Or do we really, maybe that is my fantasy? But then if I do nothing we would both do nothing? But then that is my nothing and I do not know what your nothing is! We are never nothing!
Nothing! Maybe I should do nothing and just be with you doing nothing. Is that enough? Do you want to continue doing this each week; do you want to continue coming here? How do I know if you want to be here, if you want to be here then you have to give me something to work with? I can work with the nothing, but then we will both do nothing and that might be a waste of time for us both. Maybe entertaining you each week is enough? Maybe that is a relief for you, something different, is that enough as therapy?
He talks, he moves, he sighs, he breathes, he sits, he stops, he pauses ... Who are you and want do you want from me? All these words, all these movements, moving by himself, I see him move, I see him pause, I see him move closer and make physical contact. He holds my arms, he holds my hands, he leans into my shoulder, he supports my torso and moves me side to side... am I ‘moved’ by all this moving? What am I supposed to do here? Agree, cooperate, ignore, resist, move ... what will it mean, what will he think it means and what will that lead to? I do not know and how can I explain when I do not have the manner in which to explain. Do I have to explain, can’t I just be me? But what is just me and who decides what just me is?
He moves his legs, he walks, he stamps, he kicks ... I cannot move my legs in that way. I cannot walk, stamp, and kick in that way. Does he move this way to affirm what it is that he can do? Does he move this way to affirm what I cannot do? Does he think of these things? Leaning into me, lifting my arm, coercing me to respond ... maybe if I give him something he will leave me alone? Do I want to be left alone? He is entertaining and this 30 minutes means I can listen to some music, watch someone move in ways that I cannot, and just be who I am! Is that the purpose here; is that how dance movement psychotherapy works? Movement, whatever that is, lets me be who I am!
He doesn’t know what we are doing here; I don’t know what we are doing here. He sits, he leans in to talk, to watch, to observe, to notice... I daren’t move or do anything as it might mean something to him that it doesn’t mean to me and how do I explain that? I will just stay here and do nothing and let him make choices on what it means to him. Is that mean? Maybe I have no other choice, ah! There, I mentioned choice, is it me that makes the choice or is it my body, my mind, my ‘condition’ that makes the choice? Well, my way of being makes choices for me as an indirect or unintentional instigator of his response.
Rhythm may change but is always present and if we can be aware of the breadth of our rhythm then we can manage the polarization of rhythm we experience. In knowing that our rhythms change we can discover where the fulcrum in our rhythm lies, and this is our anchor.
Rhythm, pulse, heart-beat, gravitational pull of the moon, night and day, seasonal, work, rest and play, menstrual, cellular, breath, circadian and organic cycles of rhythm... the rhythm of life ...
Rhythm’s of improvised movement that determine, amplify or reiterate a mood, emotion, question or experience, may draw attention to the scattering, solid, unconventional, syncopated, irregular or consistent configuration of our emotional well-being; a ‘rhythm of being’ to be explored in movement improvisation as a solo dance or intermingled in a duo or group experience.
Individual rhythms that respond, influence, collide, meld, accompany and clash with other individual rhythms to make a symphony of rhythms that send vibrations and ripples into the wider context.
I wonder if dance movement psychotherapy is rhythm’s fulcrum for our clients and for the practitioner of dance movement psychotherapy! In my work I endeavour to support clients in finding some balance in their lives, to develop a capacity for grounding themselves in the here and now. By feeling our ground and using our core as our fulcrum we are more able to balance the polarisation of rhythm that can be so disturbing.
Intimate empathy in care
Following the premiere of Dr Beatrice Allegranti and Jill Halstead’s film ‘I Can’t Find Myself’ (a new short film capturing the experience of Dementia through Dance Theatre and Music: May 9th 2015) I am left pondering the words ‘intimate empathy in care’.
I wonder how abstracted the word ‘care’ has become when I think of the abuse of this word in the horrid circumstances of Winterbourne View hospital and Stafford Hospital for example. The Collins English Dictionary (2003) defines ‘care’ as – to be troubled or concerned; be affected emotionally... to have regard, affection, or consideration (for)... to provide physical needs, help, or comfort (for)...
These words ‘intimate empathy in care’ came to mind in my personal reflections during discussion with audience members after seeing Allegranti and Halstead’s film for the first time; a film in which I am a performer. At the time of filming I had very recently lost my mother to cancer so had decided to maintain some emotional distance in my involvement during the final rehearsal and filming process. I did not think I had great emotional attachment to my performative content.
While watching the film I was very aware of my embodied and somatic response; I held my breath, was unable to fully inhale or exhale, held my two hands tightly together and had gentle tears in my eyes. I was struck by the intimacy of the film, of the movement relationships created by Beatrice and we cast members, the intimacy of knowing why we were there! Audience discussion highlighted the significance of the great need for empathy in care for those suffering with dementia.
In all this discussion I was reminded of the care that my family and I gave to our mother during her last weeks of life. The intimacy of empathy in care was integral to that experience.
Maybe it is time we rescued the word ‘care’ from the clutches of abuse and neglect. It is time to demonstrate to all that we know and care for that we are indeed troubled, emotionally affected by, and have affection for them in times of need. Time to let our empathy be seen in those intimate moments of caring for each other every day.