My journey, with Dance and Creative Wellness
By Christina Gravemaker-Scott
I would like share my experience my journey, with Dance and Creative Wellness. 1 How I integrate it into my life (not only as an MSer) because I believe what I say is valid for everyone.
I will do a reading as opposed to just talking, (a wise suggestion from Andrew), as I am aware that I can get carried away, or repeat myself in my enthusiasm for sharing the joy it brings.
And afterwards, hopefully we can have some time for discussion and questions.
And do forgive me for repeating things you may have already heard or know.
First of all, a very brief background / history, which I believe is relevant to understand- ing my journey so far, and how creativity and wellness already played a role in my earlier life.
So, if you are sitting comfortably let me begin…
For much of my life I have worked in the area of design. I went to art school, where I trained in fashion/textiles and spent many years working in the fashion industry, before moving into journalism, writing on design (be it fashion, interior, architecture) and have during these years also been involved in graphic design.
However parallel to these activities a deep-seated interest in the area of yoga and medi- tation developed… a kind of ‘spiritual search’.
I went to my rst yoga class back in my student days and have to admit the real reason for going, was that I had my eye on this very attractive guy who I heard went to this par- ticular yoga class…
So no spiritual searching there!
Sadly enough, it never really worked out with him, but I have to say I got a taste for yoga, that steadily grew over the years.
Let me remind you, this was way before it became cool to go to yoga, this was when yoga-wear was extremely unattractive, and classes were frequently held in cold dingy church or school halls.
On top of that, I was working in an industry where appearance was of prime impor- tance, therefore yoga certainly did not add anything to my credibility!
Anyhow… I was hooked and continued to practise and study, eventually becoming a 2 diploma yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga. In short, after many years of practising, studying, going on retreats, attending workshops etc. I had attained a relatively high level within this eld.
But, it always remained in the background, in the shadows so to say, together with my fascination for all ‘other-wordly’ things. and my need for spiritual nourishment.
Basically my background and experience within (the areas of) creativity and well-being were quite well established, and then…
And then… along came dance!
Or should I say, before that came Multiple Sclerosis?
It was back in 2001, that I was diagnosed with this chronic illness, and that considerably changed my life. It was a very dif cult period, I had to make changes to my life-style, giving up old habits, changing patterns and also losing certain parts of my identity!
But, gradually, I was spending more time on the ‘well-being’ side of my life, something that the fast moving, ashy fashion designer world had certainly not encouraged.
I was still trying to come to terms with MS, to accept it, and tended to avoid all MS groups, meetings and events. It was only after a fysiotherapist told me about a trial group that was looking at the effects of dance on MS. I carefully considered it and even- tually got involved in my rst MS related venture.
Dance entered my life in March 2015, and along with dance, came Andrew Greenwood.
This moment turned out to be a pivotal point in my life, because dance took me to, reached yet another level in my ‘deep inner work’.
For years, I had focused on the somewhat isolated and inwardly orientated practice of meditation and yoga activities, and these had taken me far… but now I was discovering and attaining another hidden depth within myself, a yet unreleased facet of my charac- ter.
I was amazed to nd — it was not only on my yoga mat or my meditation cushion — 3 but also when dancing, that I could I reach a stage, where my MS seemed to disappear.
I could go beyond it!
A place, a space, where I was able to be my absolute self and where I found another in- nermost aspect within my being, which was more physical, and outwardly expressive…
And how brilliant that felt!
I had the very good fortune then, back in March 2015, when I attended that rst MS dance-class (at the National Opera&Ballet in Amsterdam), to meet Andrew Greenwood, and what can I say?
He taught me, lead and guided me… but also inspired, enthused motivated, encouraged, and thankfully pushed me to reach where I am today.
I do not consider Andrew as my teacher, but as a force, an energy, a combination of many things, be it a facilitator, a mentor, and even a bit of a therapist!
However, let me add something…
Right from the start we have shared this journey. In fact, we have learnt from each other, which is an important factor, of the growing process, and this how it ideally should be.
This exchange was not only between Andrew and myself, but also within our group, we all bene ted! And the more we put in, the more we got back.
He brought such experience and knowledge and taught me to go way beyond my expectations, out with my boundaries and to break free. And while this was an amazing new adventurous path for me, it was also for Andrew, an unexplored relatively new excit- ing domain. Having been used in the past to working extensively with professional dancers, he had now chosen to work with a very different public. He has had to adapt and was open to all we had to tell him! In fact, it became a kind transformative learning process and therapy for all involved…
Throughout this period he has observed and witnessed my growth, my challenges and 4 my inner and outer development. And likewise, I have been witness to the many changes and further growth of Andrew’s strengths and capabilities. I have seen his understanding and compassion expand, and watched his already amazing teaching abilities develop into something way and beyond being a teacher.
Somehow, it is difficult to believe that it was actually less than 2 years ago, that it started for me, so much has happened since then. We have achieved so much, on so many levels over this relatively short period.
If a couple of years ago you had said to me that I would dance on stage, travel to London and Berlin, to attend workshops… and even talking at one… I would never, ever have believed it possible!
So much has already been accomplished on both sides, and I am so proud to have been able to collaborate and to contribute to it all. And now this week, WE are all here work- ing together and combining our forces.
Don’t forget, Andrew may be leading us and of course we will get so much from him, but he will also gain from us. And that is how it should be, giving-taking-sharing, to make Dance and Creative Wellness stronger and stronger.
And lest we forget: there is nothing more powerful than genuine enthusiasm and pas- sion… it is infectious…let’s spread it…
Now, I would like to SHARE with you what works for me and how I bring this into my 5 life. Some of my ‘departure points’ for my inner work practice. And how I go towards ‘my optimal experience’.
It’s simple… but requires considerable attention.
First and foremost, aim to be a ‘LIVING EXAMPLE, by ‘simply finding’ your pure self.
To be able to genuinely express your true nature/to be who/what you are, is for sure, highly beneficial, not only to yourself, but to others around you — (be it family, friends, students, patients) — everyone benefits).
‘Practice what you preach’ Be a living example, get back what you give out! It is a win- win situation. But as easy as it sounds, it’s a long, often intense, but extremely reward- ing process.
In order to do that, I believe one must first look at GOING WITHIN, a deep exploration and discovery of one’s real self. We all have such potential, such power — as well as a wisdom — which resides within. Search it, encourage it and utilize it to its maximum.
But to access this, you really do need to SWITCH OFF, tune in…and open up an IN- NER DIALOGUE.
It is all there, at your disposal! You have available : the best advisor, therapist, friend, and teacher you could ever imagine!
And, free access!, 24 hours per day, every day! No wi , apps or appointments, nothing is needed, it is all there for the taking.
Sadly the possibility of an inner dialogue is often inaccessible. It is hidden by layers of thoughts, beliefs, ideas, a bit like a thick fog. Patience and perseverance is required!
Give it time, space, and it will grow. It requires however, focussed attention, regular practice and a certain determination. I promise, It will eventually inspire and motivate you to go further, to unearth the richness you possess within.
To help this uncovering…
One needs to regularly REFLECT and CONTEMPLATE: allow time each day, as this is a valuable preparation for a more profound intense practice.
We are usually so busy with all our thoughts, but too much thinking rarely brings an answer, just stress. Thinking is not bad — we are not trying to eradicate it — just put it in perspective.
It helps to SLOW DOWN and SIMPLY OBSERVE. 6
Ask yourself: What is happening, what you are doing? How do you react? To know what is happening for you? with you? Talk to it, listen to it, feel it in your body — what has to to tell – its heart-felt response.
Just listen to your heart — be guided — it knows the way.
This is not a critical self-analysis, more of caring for yourself, looking from the wise inner-self outward. Taking time just to observe, reject… is like a ‘relaxed alertness’.
Enhance it by STILLNESS, QUIETNESS.
Often we feel uncomfortable with silence, in this noise polluted world, but slowing and quietening down allows one to have that relaxed alertness. ‘Stillness’ is there if you want it. Be creative with it and find how/what works for’ you… it is all part of the inner search.
And on to the subject of meditation, or as I prefer to refer to it as A MEDITATIVE STATE. One does not learn meditation! Meditation is purely a tool to get into a meditative state.
So much is written about meditation these days, people want to learn it, to achieve a ‘supposed stress -free enlightenment’ — which is of course, a totally unrealistic goal — and certainly not my intention.
I am not just seeking happiness as such, it is more a CONTENTMENT, an inner contentment that I look for. Happiness comes and goes, but contentment is profound, and a more stable quality.
There are numerous meditation techniques, but personally I find the preparations I talk of, the most effective route.
Another important factor is to RESPECT and (SELF) LOVE
You have to start by loving yourself (often a tricky one), thinking good of yourself, have respect for, nourish, and be kind to, your self.
Make a point of Congratulating, not always Criticizing your good self! You can always find something to praise, even a tiny action, or something you did well in your day, or a quality you have.
The basis for showing compassion is first and foremost to show it to yourself – 7 (e.g. introduce ‘self-compassion breaks’ when you are mindful of recognizing your needs/desires, listen – show kindness. Ask yourself : What do I need right now? What can I do for myself?)
There is a Buddhist loving- kindness meditation technique (metta bhavana) whereby you practice giving compassion to others, only once you have given it to yourself.
Because, it is only then, that you can effectively move on… and can genuinely show compassion to others.
Also helpful is having an attitude of GRATITUDE and THANKFULNESS.
Make it a regular habit to notice, or to be aware of, things that one is grateful for and that gives one pleasure, albeit tiny things.
See/Look for the good, as we have the choice: positivity versus negativity. Experiment: imagine a situation/circumstances from both a negative and positive point of view, and just notice the difference in your feelings, body reactions and body language…So why chose negative?
And look at YOUR INSPIRATIONS:
VISUALS/IMAGES: what is it that appeals to you,? Be curious (& collect/keep them at hand/easily accessible).
ICONS, GURUS, or people you admire, (not to copy as such but) Recognize and acknowledge the qualities you admire.
WORDS: notice how they can affect you, even fractionally. Words you like that, resonate with you and use them, be creative. Chose/use your words well.
(e.g.Kindly force yourself, softly focussing etc.what works for you and de tinely no shoulds!).
Also, ‘wise words’, sayings etc, collect them.
(e.g. my notebooks, images words write them on note in bag etc etc,)
In my opinion, AESTHETICS play an important enhancing role, surround, immerse yourself. Develop ‘aesthetic awareness’
Also through AWAKENING THE SENSES. 8 Senses can distract us, but can also bring us back in touch, and they can certainly be used to heighten our awareness, both in and out of a meditative practice.
(e.g. they can be used in meditation (e.g. the use of sound which acts as a reminder that our thoughts have wondered, thus one is then grateful to the normally unwelcome interruption of sound)
(e.g. with smell: use of e oils, which act as a pleasurable gentle reminder, to be in & appreciate the present moment. an (‘aesthetic awareness reminder’).’
I am happy to share and talk more on all of these things, (give examples), but in the end it is about, what works for YOU! …You have to discover that…
Above all, use your POWER of MIND! It is such a beautiful tool, learn to master it and be creative with it.
Dance and Creative Wellness can be so very helpful in all of this, it allows one to open up, the mind, the heart, and express oneself on different levels. It is like opening up a cupboard of goodies, a treasure trove.
It’s a wonderful fascinating ongoing journey… And it never nishes! … So enjoy it! now…..right NOW…
you know… We worry about the past, but cannot change it, so be grateful for it.
We fear about the future, but cannot control it, so look forward to it… But, we do have the present, so make the most of it!
Because, as the buddhists remind us: ‘this too will pass’.
I think I have said enough, otherwise I risk sounding obsessive!!
Let me just nish off with the ‘FINALE’:
WELLNESS adds to DANCE adds to WELLNESS, add the CREATIVE ingredient, and ‘voila’ you have a great recipe.
A most BEAUTIFUL PACKAGE, truly your own creation. You can make it as wonder- ful as you want
Thank you so much for listening to me! And now over to you…