Visualizations, creativity and the incredible oneness of being
Can this really be me writhing around the floor in a large, darkened room with a number of other should I call us crazies? I have my eyes glued shut but I know the others are out there because I can hear grunts and whines and hisses and the odd blood curdling yell. I have never been to anything like this before. I am here to “inflict” this experiment on myself; to “expose” myself to this ordeal. I know this is why I am here, because it is what I write in my journal at the end of the day.
I am also here feeling guilty that I am selfishly spending my hard-earned money on myself and something that most of my friends would consider whacky.
I am here feeling I should rather be sitting at my desk writing, like the sensible woman I like to pretend I am.
And I am here out of sheer curiosity, to see how a workshop described as “dance therapy”, where you don’t need ever to have danced, can fulfill its promise and release my “innate creativity.” If I have any of this, I want it liberated. But I am only grudgingly hopeful. I feel that if ever there was any (creativity) in me, after several years of single motherhood plus giving my workaholic tendencies free reign and grinding out a myriad of daily chores, it has gone away.
Which is dire straits for someone keen to switch from feature writing to writing novels. My eyes are glued shut because we have been given the option of keeping our eyes shut and I am going to keep mine shut this entire weekend, because if they are shut, I am invisible, and nobody can see me make of fool of myself.
The first session, as I say, we writhe. At least, I writhe. I have no idea what the others are doing and I don’t want to know because I don’t want to be intimidated. I am convinced our workshop leader, a psychotherapist who works through the medium of movement, was humoring me when she said “just feel the music and move anything you do is okay.” I am sure that they are all doing it right. It is bad enough that they are all making noises and my mouth is glued tight as my eyes.
She says to let our negative spots touch the floor.
She tells us to grow tails and long manes of hair and toss them around.
I notice that I am enjoying my body’s stretchings, and realize that it is the first time I have been in touch with it for some time.
I know I don’t listen to it when I overeat until I ache and lug around a heavy camera bag, telling myself that I am tough. I decide the tension between my shoulder blades as I writhe must be arthritis or rheumatism and the voice of logic and reason urges me to stop these silly games and go home to the familiarity and comfort of a book, a bottle of wine, and a friend.
I shut out the voice by writhing harder, until my shoulder muscles feel bruised. Somehow, I make it to the end of the class.
I return on Day 2, wondering what I could have done to deserve this.
First, we are told to use our imaginations, yield to the music, and make like an animal. I contain my urge to make like a dodo and die. I close my eyes and wait for the music to transport me.
I become a dumpy mountain elephant lumbering through a jungle. I wish I felt more exotic, like the screeching and thumping animals I hear around me. But I am encouraged that I am at least something.
When we finish playing Jungle Book, our workshop leader reads us a paragraph about an imaginary town made of porcelain.
She says we are going to close our eyes and let the music take us on a journey to this imaginary town. I almost gag, swallowing my doubt. But, I find myself dancing.
I am, at first, in a valley, from where I make my way up to a village of iridescent, dome-shaped structures, pearlescent and sparkling in the sun. I don’t see a soul, but I am being drawn by the melodious strains of a woman’s voice to the big, low-slung structure in the middle of the village that has no doors or windows. But I know, if I feel the walls, I will touch the right spot and a secret door will let me in.
It does, and I step into a cavern that is rich and baroque, with gem encrusted walls. I follow the voice down a passageway, feeling the jewels on the walls, and mildly marveling as I go. And then I emerge, in a circular room, where I find myself stumbling between big straw baskets filled with jewels. On a king-sized bed, reclining on satin sheets and clad in a delicate nightdress, is the beautiful woman of the voice. Handmaidens fan her, feed her grapes, and pass her a goblet to drink from. I run my hands through the jewels, admiring their lavishness, and note that I have no desire to take them.
Then I join the handmaidens in a dance until, curiosity satisfied, I skip and dance out into the sunshine and back into my life.
We are asked to share our experiences with a member of the group. I choose a woman who seems to believe she is a tree, and I tell her that I cannot believe my boring, mundane mind has just taken me on this vivid little trip into a dreamlike, fairytale world that I never knew existed in my head.
I note that my skeptical inner voice of logic and “good sense” has been replaced by interest. I wonder what will happen next, in a dance that I hear is supposed to be my life story.
My eyes are shut and there is music, and guided on this visualization by Tossie’s words, I watch myself start out as a fetus that swims, on a long and solitary journey, punctuated by transient connections with people, some of whom I never knew or no longer know.
The journey is rambling and convoluted and takes me to small pool in the middle of a big, bare field, where I swim round, and round, trapped in a well of emptiness that feels just like the place I have been in my real life with the man I have been seeing. I want to pull myself out and run away but I am caught, so I curl up on my haunches on the floor, and wait for the dance to end.
On Sunday, I arrive eager and curious.
I don’t know where I will go today, but the trust I have developed tells me it will be somewhere special.
We are told to close our eyes and to move in a repetitive way that feels like strength.
We are told to adapt this movement and not use our arms; to adapt it further, and not use our legs. I hear that I am going back to a most primitive form, where there is only spine. The words feel like they are coming from far away and I get a sense that I am watching them interact directly with the images and pictures that are emerging, like I am a spectator, hearing dialogue and watching a movie.
I hear that the less body I have, the more I will be able to see, and I watch myself become a green stick figure with an eye on top, attached to a twig that sways above a gently bubbling marshland that looks like one of the mud pots at Yellowstone. I see a outgrowths of contorted leafy plants. Things that look like dragon flies swoop over them and frogs plop. My place is warm and primitive and bathed in a muted, verdant light.
Then, from a faraway place nearby, I hear that we are losing our spines, and with a change in the music, I watch my surrounds become a moonscape, and my self transform into a plant with many tentacles. Each tentacle waves an eye. Each eye observes everything around.
I have an eerie feeling that this is where my life began and that I am watching a million years pass by.
After observing for a while, I heed the urge to change from spectator to participant and watch myself transform into something a little alarming. Leafy snares grow beneath my eyes and, like a Venus’s flytrap, I interact by ambushing and consuming anything moving within my range that takes my fancy. I know that I am large, because I devour a vaulting spaceman as he glides by, having left his spaceship some way off.
Curiously, none of this seems macabre or even slightly deviant. There is no blood or guts. I just flap my traps and my victims disappear. I realize that I am a revered plant, when creatures without substance that I recognize as the beings of this place come and gaze at me in awe.
What a life! Here I sit, waving my eyes, which are also my mouths, hooking in moving targets at whim, while scrutinizing this strange and prehistoric world that is mine.
At some point, I become aware that I can stay where I am for the rest of my life, or I can move.
Curiosity conquers comfort. I have no idea where I will go. I pull up my roots (which I discover were not made for walking) and start a slow, laborious trek across the landscape. I feel that I am searching for a creature like myself. I understand that I will not find one.
I sense it doesn’t matter. I carry on, interested to see what I will find instead.
The music changes and I hear that I must transform into an eye, which I instantly become. A big, beady, bloodshot eye, set in the ground, peering at my life, which has materialized above me and all around me in a series of concentric circles, each one comprising a different aspect of my world.
Closest to me are some good friends. I feel bonded and connected to them. A little further away, I see my world of work, my focus in real life. But now, work has been pushed away to give space to the friends.
I realize that in real life, I have been neglecting these friends. From among the friends, I see that I must push out the man I see glowering at me from the sidelines as he is a destructive force in my life. His brooding presence sears into me, distracting me. He represents restriction and obsession, blinkering me from the spaciousness of life.
Beyond my world of work, I seem to be looking out over many universes. I have a sense of things graduating to encompass all the countries of the world, a world filled with people and activities and people’s lives.
Beyond the world, there is space with the planets and the stars. I can see everything and I am part of everything.
And while experience a deep knowing that I am part of everything, I realize that I can only connect deeply with certain things.
I get a sense of all the countries I have said I want to travel to. I realize if I don’t make choices, I will never get to any of them. And I connect to a truth that all of life is like this. I must select and engage and connect with chosen people, places, and activities, otherwise I will always be an outsider. Remote. Joyless. Unfulfilled. The world a blur of possibilities, none of them achieved.
My message is that while I am part of the whole, only by engagement and involvement will I experience essence and meaning in my life.
When I hear that we must grow back our spines and begin the return journey to our bodies, I reverse the stages of my devolution and return to my human form.
When I hear that I must dance my life structure, my body heeds the command.
I want to make myself into a dancing animal, but I am not in control. I can only watch as I become a fetus again, straining and stretching into life.
I hear that I must dance how I feel and words come to me. And then an image. The words I hear are “strength”, “leader”, “vital” and “life force”. The image is that of a goddess.
I try to reject goddess. It seems incongruous. Goddess to me means sex goddess, pretty, decorative and weak. But I am not in control.
As I move, I feel that this goddess is strong, powerful, and energized with life force. As I embrace and dance this goddess of strength, I experience a shift. Suddenly, it is admissible to be soft, sensual and feminine. It is okay to accept this side of me, the stereotypes that as a “modern” woman and a feminist, I have felt pressured to reject.
It is okay to be woman. Relief floods through me. I can be woman with whatever womanhood includes. In this moment, I know that it is enough to be myself.
I emerge from the dance
- aware that I have let stereotypes, habits and generalizations box me in,
- aware that self-constructed prison walls have limited my thinking, my options and how I behave,
- aware that the effort of knocking down a wall can open up a whole new world,
- aware that I cannot dance. And so what? The experience unlatched a lock on my creativity, which I can now continue to explore, aware that action induces change. Do if first. Think about it later.
This was my first truly revealing experience with visualizations (and why I believe in their power and use them as a coach).