Amber Elizabeth Gray on Continuum & the Creativity of Health

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From Darfur, Kosovo and Haiti to her clinic in New Mexico, human rights psychotherapist Amber Elizabeth Gray blends dance therapy and Continuum in her recovery work with refugees. “Every human being deserves the right to inhabit his or her body in the way they choose.”

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Amber Elizabeth Gray (video transcript):

Continuum supports me in my work as a human rights psychotherapist and a dance movement therapist working in human rights contexts. Dance therapy nourishes me in so many ways but also there was a certain demand. So where those demands were Continuum was the nourishment. Over the years, they’ve come slowly together. There was a point where I remember I [said], I’m going to just start sneaking a little Continuum into dance therapy.

I remember particularly it was with one client who is a survivor from Iraq who had lived in the same town as Saddam Hussein and had lived her whole life with the fear that anybody in your family could disappear, because that’s what happened. And therapy and dance therapy and lots of good really solid attempts to work with her – she really wanted to find her body again, she’d developed a lot of weight – and I just really tried something different. I just had this feeling, and she said, “sure, try anything, I’m tired of suffering,” and we did some lunar breaths.

I brought in a yoga mat in for that session and we did some lunar breaths. She just opened up her eyes and looked at me, and she said, “this is what a body is supposed to feel like?! I’m home. I just found my body.” And from that moment on, I started to layer Continuum into dance therapy and layered dance therapy into Continuum and they’ve merged together.

Ever since I’ve started teaching Continuum, quite honestly, I don’t feel as burned out.

Every time I came out of Rwanda, or Kosovo, or some of the places I was working, I was fine and I was really sick. I had a really bad cough, my back went out, etc. So there would be some aspect of my health, my wholeness, my wellness that would be affected. And when I went to Darfur, which is probably one of the most dangerous places I’ve ever been, there’s a certain magic, the landscape has this really deep tawny rose colored sand, that’s like silk. Camels, the way that they move,  white robes. So there’s all this beauty and then there’s all this not beauty  there’s the war.

Every night I would lay in bed, and I had to sleep under one of those big thick mosquito nets because there were spiders there, and I did the lunars. And it was the first time that I had a really conscious practice, like it was like kind of like a lullaby or a prayer you’d do for a little kid. I would just get into bed and I would do the lunars until I drifted off. And I would do the lunars with the landscape when I was walking around. I remember I went home from that trip and my husband looking at me and he said, “there’s usually some suffering that comes home with you. I’ve never seen you so light. And so uplifted.” I said, “well, it was different this time.”

I realized it was the way the lunars connected with the beauty of that place, they were the perfect breath to go with the sound of the wind at night, and the little hut, the cool that is coming through, the shape and colors of the sand, the hills, the movement of the camels.  And ever since I’ve started teaching Continuum, quite honestly, I don’t feel as burned out. I don’t feel as stretched out.

I always say everyone has the right to embody their body […] and that’s really the spirit of this work. So the creativity of health is also acknowledging that we can be empowered to move ourselves from when we’re in the more alien places, to the places that have more wholeness.

Val Leoffler on Continuum & the Creativity of Health

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Continuum teacher and bodyworker Val Leoffler discusses a creative approach to healing in her work with clients, as well as in her own recovery from a brain tumor. (6.08 min)

 

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Val Leoffler (video transcript):

There’s a way in which Continuum, as it keeps that practice of being able to drop down in, provides a kind of nourishment that is the essence of healing. Being able to come home to my breath, my sound, my movement, I will be able to continue to fall back into a practice. You know, having been ill or having a severe injury can be a very isolating process. That’s why fundamentally for me this work is about being able to come not just into that pause, but in the moment of being able to feel into how I can build a relationship with myself, with my own self-touch with the touch of my environment. How I am in relationship with props that I might use, with my own internal dialogue, or in the act of being witnessed.

I want to say something about complexity. You know, I had my own healing journey, nine years ago when I was so grateful from having had a brain tumor and brain surgery and the result was losing the use of my leg and not having full sensation. To be able to fall back into my teaching practice and my own practice with Continuum was everything! And it was a deeply creative act because I’m dealing with the unknown and dealing with the uncertainty of the unknown.

When I got out of the hospital and was starting my recovery I was giving myself lots of attention about just restoring breath. It had nothing to do, as we would say in regular physical therapy, with the injury site which was hip down to foot, but had to do with knowing that for the recovery of surgery [I had to] really open up; I remembered my breath and remembered my lateral lines and my diaphragm – all to help with the sense of overwhelm that can happen in any situation.

I never approached myself as a problem that needed to be solved. This wasn’t something that had to be fixed. This was more the openness to it – like I’m not attached to what happens here, but I’m going to listen and really love that […]

And then I have an ongoing continuing practice of working with different breaths and different sounds. I remember specifically because I couldn’t stand, of working with having my foot against the wall, and being able to feel into it. I couldn’t keep my foot up with the wall first, but being able to at least press it against where I was laying down and be able to get that sense of some contact there, and feeling into it. Which is how I work a lot if I’m working with somebody on kind of a problem of having again a relationship. [We work on] being able to play into that and go into that.

Whenever I’m traveling and in a new town or a city that has a lot of walls or buildings, and I have to maybe be inside a lot during the day, I’m always trying to find out where the greenbelt is, if there’s a little tree that I could go find or a water way or a park or something like that, just to be able to be in nature, to remind me of my own nature. And I realized that what I’m doing in my Continuum practice is that I’m finding that greenbelt inside myself. And being able to feel where life is continually yearning to regenerate and bubble forth.

You know, we come from a culture where a person [is] a problem. That’s one thing that I didn’t do, I never approached myself as a problem that needed to be solved. This wasn’t something that had to be fixed. This was more the openness to – like I’m not attached to what happens here, but I’m going to listen and really love that, and that’s just the baseline, that has to be said.

I’m appreciating a lot the Japanese culture’s art of kintsugi where they work when a bowl has cracked, to be able to restore the crack in the bowl not by making it invisible and just gluing it together but by putting gold in the crack. And when that happens, that becomes a piece of art. And so there is the beauty in that healing and the beauty in that value of the complexification that has happened in what we might say a person that has been wounded or a person that has been working through something that it’s now at value because it has deepened, its layers have deepened.

Continuum & The Creativity of Health, with Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell

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Movement educator Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell reveals the value of Continuum in navigating life’s most intense and personal experiences and shares her vision for weaving somatic practices into public education. (4 min.)

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell (video transcript):

For me, in its essence, Continuum practice is about reorganizing or reorienting to an understanding of myself as a biological organism, rather than as a specifically human being. And that has opened up these possibilities for me, that didn’t exist before.

Continuum was profoundly resourcing for me during my pregnancies. I used specifically in my second pregnancy lots of explorations while I was pregnant. During the birth itself, magically, amazingly enough, my second son was born with his water sack intact, which is quite rare. In particular, I used the lunar breath, quite a bit during labor, which for me was aerating and dispersing to the point where I could move beyond what I thought were the edges of my limitations to tolerate discomfort, pain, and to surrender to this expanding that needed to happen in my body on a very literal level.

“There was also a surrender mentally, or in terms of my consciousness, of trusting whatever this flow was going to be after giving birth.”

There was also a surrender mentally, or in terms of my consciousness, of trusting whatever this flow was going to be after giving birth. I had the very clear sense deep in my abdomen of all the connective tissue around my uterus reorganizing after all that expansion, and it can feel very disorienting. Of course, once the child is born then our bodies have to figure out how to find a new normal. And this practice was really supportive of that process in my system.

So, a primary passion of mine is to find ways to integrate Continuum practice into educational contexts, especially for younger children, because I believe that in the trajectory of development the earlier we can offer resource and positive intervention the longer term the gains, the benefits are. Just like we are learning so much about how the human brain is plastic and can throughout the lifespan create new, not only new neurons in certain parts of the brain, but new pathways and connections. Movement and mindful movement – which is what Continuum is to me, a mindfulness practice – mitigate some of the effects of chronic stress from living in impoverished and violent neighborhoods, for example.

Continuum, at its essence for me, also is a learning practice. It is creative inquiry. And so, in my mind and in my body, it feels natural to have it explored in learning communities. I know I’m a bit of a dreamer but I do hope that the work that I do over the next 10 and 20 years can help somehow build a bridge between the world of somatic movement and creative arts and public education, particularly in elementary schools. So stay tuned.

Continuum & the Creativity of Health with Megan Bathory-Peeler

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The “artistry of healing” inspires the work of Continuum teacher, bodyworker & dancer Megan Bathory-Peeler. (3.47 min)

 

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Megan Bathory-Peeler (video transcript):

I really came into my work and identity as a healer through injury and curiosity, raised as a dancer. So the artistry of healing is really what I practice and what I endeavor to awaken in everyone that I come into contact with. It’s not something that’s special that I have as a healer. My job is to help awaken that and reconnect people to that birthright and support their self-healing and recognize that we are living, moving works of art.

“I see healing at its best is a whole creative art.”

The gift of the practice, and really the gift of the life philosophy, has deepened and brought together, interwoven everything that I do, from my performance work to my healing work. They were always connected but having that supportive continuum has just made it completely one piece of fabric. So I see creativity as one of the most sacred and healing things that anyone can participate in. And I see healing at its best is a whole creative art and whole creative act for being able to help people drop into sensing and feeling, what’s happening inside their own bodies and help their nervous systems get out of the every-day level of functioning into the deeper layers of territory that we really need to access for transformation, for awareness, for change. And my work is greatly facilitated by having the client participate with me. So, using sound, using breath, using even subtle movements to help them settle and be able to work on what it is that’s getting in their way. What are the restrictions that are preventing them from being fully who they want to be. While I’m tracking through my hands and listening and seeing into their bodies it’s just the most magnificent dance ever, and the efficiency of the work has dramatically shifted, since I first embodied the practice of Continuum for myself and then brought that into session work.

We are particles within this amazing web of the universe, and we’re no different than anything else. And that just inspires me to see how Continuum inspires and reminds people how to live as creative beings.

Continuum & The Creativity of Health with Bonnie Gintis

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“On so many levels, I am convinced my practice of Continuum is what has allowed me to live for 9 years with a fairly advanced level cancer diagnosis.” — Bonnie Gintis, osteopath, author, Continuum teacher & Watermark Arts Science Advisor.

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Bonnie Gintis (video transcript)

On so many levels I’m convinced that my practice of Continuum is the medicine that’s allowed me to live now for nine years with a fairly advanced stage cancer diagnosis. In the beginning it certainly helped me cope with what I was going through. I had breast cancer that never showed on a mammogram, and no one could feel it, including myself, so there was no way to know I had it until it spread to my bones. At the time I was diagnosed, no one expected me to live for more than a year or two, so I had to find a way to be with what was going on without being in terror and making things worse. And I feel like it was my Continuum practice that allowed me to breathe in a way that I could avoid the places that were incredibly painful.

I had a large tumor in my sternum that actually fractured, the tumor was so aggressively growing at the time. I had incredible dexterity and capacity to breathe in a lot of different ways and I learned how to breathe without moving the area that was so diseased and injured. I was able to just drop down and breathe from another place until it began mending itself, which it did. The cancer didn’t go away, but it got quiet. And now it just sits quietly in my bones, and I have a relationship with it. The most difficult relationship I’ve ever had – but it’s my ability to meet it.  I’ve changed, and it has changed.

“Health [is] about the full expression of the nature of the body, which is movement.”

So I realized early on that health is not the opposite of disease, and it’s not about resolving something that’s wrong in the body – although that’s the lens through which we usually view it, that’s what brings us to ask for help – but that health was about the full expression of the nature of the body, which is movement. And it’s no different in the body than on the rest of the planet and all of nature. Health is the expression of the movement of these natural laws and forces that we have on this earth, and that there was a way to practice in accord with that.

All of that got intertwined with my explorations in Continuum during my first year of school where I thought it was somewhat insane they were asking me to feel things in other people’s bodies that I had never felt in my own. So I embarked on my own parallel curriculum, where everything I was being taught to feel in other people’s bodies, I’d go home at night and I would find a way to spend time with myself, whether it was directly putting my hands on my liver or breathing and imagining the blood flow from my heart to my lungs and my kidneys. It was bringing the dry curriculum out of the book quite alive in me.

Many years later I finally dived into Continuum myself and realized that this was the perfect blend of understanding the body from inside mine in a way that allowed me to connect with other people and sense in theirs in a way that they never could have taught me in school.

I think with all the things that we go and ask for help for with our health, asking for what’s really needed in the moment is the key.  Sometimes it’s a very physical mechanical process, sometimes it’s something biological and sometimes it’s something more in an energetic or spiritual realm. Most people tend to gravitate towards one of those ends of the continuum. And for me it’s been an important lesson to meet the necessity of the moments. So where on the spectrum do I need to address what’s going on and draw from all areas.

In 2007 I published a book called Engaging the Movement of Life. What I hoped to do was gather together my notes from teaching for the previous 20 years because whether it was a class of osteopaths or a Continuum workshop, people would always come up to me and say, “oh, is there something I can read on that subject?” I used to jokingly say, “well, no one’s written the book yet.” Ultimately, I wanted everyone to understand that the book is not about osteopathy or about Continuum, the book is about the natural world, and how it expresses itself, primarily through movement in our body. Healing adaptability, change is no different in what happens in the planetary process and in the human body. And if somebody practices a form of health care that understands that and can work in accord with the way nature expresses itself through the body, that potential opens up tremendously.