I love being a facilitator of the arts. Whether I'm teaching dance in a studio setting, working therapeutically with one of my students at Monarch, or facilitating an expressive arts group for adults...it's always an experience that astounds me, leaves me curious, awakens gratitude, and leaves enough room for the spice of mystery to show up.
What I don't get to share about as often is the secondary healing that I get to experience for myself as a result of being witness, observer, space holder, process shaper and sometimes "co-explorer" of the creative process. That's what I want to share about right now as, we at Yellowbird, start to generate anticipation and internal spaciousness for our upcoming Enflesh Weekend Retreat in October. I can't believe it's just a couple of months away!
Sarah and I co-created and co-facilitated Enflesh for the first time this past Winter, and since it was a pilot offering we wanted to make sure we went through the Enflesh journey in a parallel process as best we could. We also had an odd number of participants and that often meant one of us was partnering with a group member as we do a great deal of exploratory work in duos. This served to deepen my understanding of the potential of our Enflesh curriculum since I got to experience it firsthand.
The photo featured above is one of those moments that took place in the group...one of my "Aha" moments on a personal level while still serving as facilitator. This happens all the time for me as an Expressive Arts Practitioner, usually in small and subtle ways but also in larger ways that ripple out into my own healing journey and become part of my overall wellness. We call it the alchemical gold we come into contact with because of our sacred role in the process. I feel blessed to be in a job that literally contributes to my own well-being, as well as to the health and healing of others. The Enflesh moment captured above is definitely one of those!
en·flesh, verb, give bodily form to; make real or concrete.
We chose Enflesh as the name for this offering because we wanted to create a playful, artistic, multi-modal place where people could come to intentionally work with an aspect of their choosing and through the process "enflesh" it. We work with this aspect through poetry, theatre, embodiment, dance, mask-making, partner & group dialogue and sharing. Some participants came to Enflesh knowing exactly what quality or aspect they wanted to explore and shared it in the opening circle, "I want to play with the aspect of the Priestess, and here's why...". Others entered the door not exactly sure what they would work with and found it along the way. I had a vague sense of two different aspects I was interested in and wavered between the two until, I would say, one chose me. That was the evening this photo was taken and being a natural mover & dancer for many years, I wasn't surprised that it was a movement based exercise with the mask that generated the clarity.
Sarah led guided movement wherein we were holding the mask (which we'd already spent a significant amount of time making). The mask was not on our faces but in our hands - almost like doing a duet with a dance partner. At this point in the Enflesh process, I felt really torn between the two aspects I'd been exploring in various ways. I held the mask in my hands and started to move, and something happened! The mask quickly took on a life of its own and it was powerful as a clear personality emerged right off the bat. The mask was being held and moved in so many different ways by the participants, but mine only wanted to look at me. My mask looked at me from different distances, varying angles, and with all the time in the world. More than that though was the profound love and acceptance I felt as it looked at me. It felt unbelievable and also tangible. As I moved in different ways, and it looked from diverse perspectives, all I felt was unwavering, steady love.
You know...the kind of love you long for from your parents, or your life partner. The kind of love you imagine God giving you (whatever your version of Spirit may or may not be) or the pure love you might pour out through your eyes at a newborn baby. But this was so much better because I'm 41 and full of flaws and life mistakes that weigh heavy on my spirit, and that's unconditional love was what my mask was giving me. I felt it, and it felt so good that I wept as I danced, and it was so strong that I can still feel it all these months later. Not every day, not every mood, but it feels accessible all the same. A kinesthetic body memory that I honestly treasure. And even better...probably because of my years of therapeutic work on myself and because I'm married to my soulmate, a woman who helps me deconstruct day by day all the walls that keep me feeling lovable, I actually felt like I deserved it!
As I kept working with this aspect - finishing the mask, writing letters to & fro, capturing it through poetry, and continuing to dance in partnership, I can attest that I felt like I was enfleshing this aspect of genuine, uncompromising self love. I named her Wild Hope and am even considering the possibility of getting those words tattooed above the compass on my left wrist as a reminder.
I'm starting to think about what I might enflesh this fall as we embark on another journey, this time in a different format. A 3-day weekend retreat vs. our 8-week series (1 group per week) that we did this past Spring. I'm enjoying the anticipation of the people that will gather from all walks of life and am so eager to hear and support what they might be enfleshing for themselves. People with varying levels of arts experience and comfort will somehow feel the call to enflesh something and we will all be in it together, held by the beautifully aesthetic space of the Soul Care Barn. I mean...doesn't that sound like the perfect place to dive into the creative waters of the expressive arts? No matter what happens, or who gathers, I know I will receive gifts on many levels, and that's the joy and absolute magic of doing this work!