Spend a weekend with me in the Berkshires! Change Your Movement, Change Your Life! comes April 17-19 to Rowe Camp and Conference Center. We’ll take the reflexes into creative movement,discussion, journaling, walks in the woods, good food and just hanging out.. Co-taught by Linda Ugelow, principal dancer with Libana.
The idea for Change Your Movement, Change Your Life! came while I was going through a rough patch with my aging parents (Nothing in my life really prepared me for becoming a mother, and nothing had prepared me for the possiblity of losing mine).
My old friend Linda Ugelow was leading dance classes in a nearby town. JourneyDance turned out to be a sort of guided story through a gorgeous playlist of eclectic music, and the best part was that you could follow the group if you wanted to – but you didn’t have to. You could dance with people – but you could also spend the whole hour lying in the corner, and no one would say boo, and everyone would still give you beautiful smiles at the end.
I knew that everything I was feeling now was also triggering old feelings. Everyone carries traumatic memories that become fossilized in their bodies. These "stuck" movements are reflexes that have never completed themselves, integrating into an environment of safety. How often in our lives do we just "suck it up" and keep going? It takes a toll on us.
So in JourneyDance, I’d pick a reflex movement and dance it out. I’d begin the evening in turmoil, and finish it with some measure of calm. i'd begin feeling isolated and end feeling supported by the other dancers. During the dance, or later, the next morning, Ideas would sometimes come to me. I’d know what to do next - or simply be more accepting of my inability to do anything at all.
We tend to think about reflexes in terms of infants and children, and of course, that is totally appropriate! But we continue to develop throughout our lives – and what I’ve found is that the process is not, at bottom, very different for a six month old or a six year old or a sixty year old. The ways we move wire our brains and bodies. When we apply intention to that movement, we can rewire our brains and bodies in intentional ways. When we combine intention with the ancient movement alphabet of the reflexes, we can fit a lot more information on the microchip of ourselves. We fast track the process of transformation.
So I asked Linda to teach a workshop with me, where I would present the reflexes and she would take them into dance. We collaborated on the soundtrack and the movement stories. That became Change Your Movement, Change Your Life!
The results were good. In our first workshop, we explored the reflexes for moving from wiggling on our backs (Spinal Galant Reflex) to a belly crawl (Bauer Crawling Reflex), to a baby crawl (Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex), to up on our feet, balancing on one foot, walking, running, skipping, dancing (Leg Cross Flexion-Extension Reflex). We explored how the weight felt on different parts of our feet (Babinski Reflex) and how it felt to turn from side to side (Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex). My peak experience in that workshop was grabbing hands with a partner and twirling round and round for what seemed like minutes. I hadn’t done that since I was twelve years old. And I didn’t get dizzy!
Later, we taught a workshop that focused on relationship. We did the Bonding Reflex with stuffed animals and then one another. We experienced the Hands Supporting Reflex against the walls and one another’s hands. At the closing circle, participants remarked upon how safe they felt, and how they felt that they had known everyone forever. Later, one of them wrote:
"As a rule, I am 'eye shy', and I find it difficult and uncomfortable to make sustained eye contact. We wove ourselves into harmony with each exploration, deeper, until I found myself gazing into the most beautiful caring smiling eyes, with such a peaceful sense of well-being (for I do not know how long). 'Safe space' was a refrain; Eve and Linda guided us to this place, in space and time, where we could be our best selves, accepting and caring for each other as the best of old friends. Beautiful women of all ages brought tremendously helping energy to share. My intention at the start of the day: find the freedom to choose, confidence to continue, or grace to let go. The tools to encounter that grace are now mine, and my choice will include rejoining this group experience with other new old friends as often as I can. "
There are ways to do this on your own. You can activate a reflex, for starters. You might wave your hand in front of your face for Fear Paralysis. Or gasp and throw up your hands for Moro. Or make two fists and then touch your jaw for Babkin, which is about feeding and nurturing. And then you can put on the music – or listen to your inner silence – or make your own sounds – and dance.
Doing our own personal work helps us to realize that our children’s willingness to grow and change is not separate from our own. We can’t send a mixed message and expect positive results.
Children stretch us to the max. They can even give us the courage to do the healing we’d be too scared to do for ourselves.