As a board member of ISMETA, I am keenly aware of both the positive energy and the growing pains of our supposedly new profession: somatic movement education and therapy. Recently
I encountered some verses of the 8th century monk and scholar Shantideva, and was reminded that our profession is not a new one, but one that has been unfolding over many centuries. The ideals of embodiment, healing, and service, which I think are the foundations of our profession, are articulated beautifully in these lines:
May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to cross the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.
The Way of Bodhisattva, Shantideva, 3rd Chapter
Was Shantideva a closet somatic movement educator in his own time? I certainly feel connected to him through these words. When I think of my own service, I accomplish some of these ideals and have been less successful in others. I invite you to consider your own work in this light.
Am I a guard, a protector? I would like to think that my work as parent of a son with developmental disabilities makes me his protector. Perhaps my work with children with similar challenges and their families allows me to be a sort of protector of those kids as well. I also feel that supporting the fierce passion of ISMETA, its board, and its executive consultant constitutes a form of protection for the field as a whole—as I see it, our primary mission is to guard the right of people like ourselves to do our work, to be the medicine for the world.
Am I a guide? Musing on my experience as a teacher, with several ongoing and developing trainings in somatic movement education, I have perhaps been most successful fulfilling that role. I try to support student seekers who are just as passionate as I am inviting consciousness through movement awareness. I open questions for people regarding how they move, how it feels to move, and how to transform themselves and others through this embodiment process. One of my students recently challenged the idea of becoming a teacher or educator. She prefers the role of somatic movement guide: I understand her completely, and her insistence has clarified my understanding of my role. I am a somatic movement guide.
Am I a raft, a boat, a bridge for those who wish to cross the water? Sometimes I think I am. I treasure the few instances when I have supported people in major life transitions, including birth and death. I also galvanize my somatic movement awareness to support people who are self-birthing out of trauma; I think that when I am at my best I am indeed a bridge for them as they cross deep and disturbed waters toward a more fulfilling life.
I am not a doctor or nurse by training, so I will rule those out immediately, but am I the medicine itself? Yikes! I would like to be. I trust that in refining my ability to stay completely present with what is—that which is scary, painful, or horrific—and in cultivating my capacity for compassion I may provide my clients and students with the sense of safety and containment that allows them to heal.
I devote my energy to this field because I think that collectively we are the medicine that the world needs. We carry on a long tradition that has emerged again and again in different cultures and eras across the world. The tradition of healing through awareness has been lost to us in mainstream western culture over the past few centuries, and I find it a blessing to hear from our predecessors in the work, the many guards, guides, bridges, doctors, and nurses of compassion. Thanks, Shantideva!
Mark Taylor, the immediate past president of the Board of Directors of ISMETA, has a background in dance, choreography, and movement education. He directs the Center for BodyMindMovement, with certification programs in somatic movement education located in Pittsburgh, PA, Eugene, OR, and Mexico City, with several new programs opening in 2018. http://www.bodymindmovement.com