Authentic Movement

Body flowing out of spirit,
spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing.

  • Rumi, “The Reed Flute’s Song”

Authentic movement is a simple yet profound relational practice that involves development of aware, embodied presence. It is practiced in various contexts – creative, therapeutic, and spiritual. In the therapeutic process, we may draw upon this practice for exploring, deepening into, and expressing experience through bodily movement.

About Authentic Movement

Authentic Movement originated within depth psychology and dance therapy as a form of “active imagination” in movement, or “movement in depth,” as a way of relating with the unconscious and bringing awareness, expression, and integration through somatic experience. It also developed as the Discipline of Authentic Movement, a practice drawing upon mysticism in the development of inner witness and unitive consciousness.

The Relationship in Authentic Movement

The basic form involves a relationship between a person who moves (the mover) and a person who witnesses the movement (the witness). This relationship forms a sacred container for safely holding emergent experience as the mover and witness enter into the unknown – not knowing or planning what will happen, how the person will move, what will arise in their time and space together.

The Beginnings of Authentic Movement

Rather than being directed or told how to move, the mover is invited to allow movement to emerge from immediate experience, to move as one feels drawn to move. A prompt, curiosity, or particular issue may initiate movement exploration, or the mover may begin by waiting in stillness for what might arise. The mover and witness seek to become open and curious as to what might be revealed through the wisdom of the body, noticing moments of moving and being moved. This process welcomes movement and stillness, silence and sound, breath and gesture.

The Authentic Movement Process

The mover is invited to close the eyes, to wait and listen within, concentrating on one’s experience with awareness of how one is affected moment by moment – what is happening in one’s body and accompanying feelings, thoughts, images that might arise. One allows movement to come forth, following inner impulses as they take shape and come to embodied expression. The mover’s freedom and choice in relation to movement is always respected. Meanwhile, the witness seeks to practice open, receptive, compassionate presence – attending closely to the movement and expressions of the mover, while also remaining aware of her own experience. Unconscious, personal, and collective psychological material as well as spiritual experience may emerge in the open space of contemplative presence.

Integration after Authentic Movement

After the movement period ends, there is often a time of transition through expression of experience in writing and/or in art/drawing. Following is a period of speaking one’s experience – sharing what has emerged and finding words to express what may be ineffable or difficult to name. The witness may echo, ask questions, reflect, and respond with discernment, without judgment or interpretation. New insights may develop as what is experienced and expressed through the body in movement becomes conscious and is explored in relation to one’s life. The relationship of mover and witness also allows for the gradual development of embodied consciousness and a compassionate inner witness, which translate into one’s capacity for presence in one’s daily life.

Authentic Movement in Therapy

Elements of this practice may be incorporated into the therapeutic process. We may also open and/or close with reading of poetry or a sacred text, centering or meditative awareness practice, or guided movement and stretching. This practice is welcome to people of many different physical abilities and ranges of mobility; there is no need for specific techniques or skills in dance or movement.

Authentic Movement is offered at Restore Psychotherapy & Wellness by Camille Mica. (Please link this to her provider page.)

This description is based on personal experience in Authentic Movement practice and the formal Discipline of Authentic Movement and also draws upon descriptions in Patrizia Pallaro, ed., Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler, and Joan Chodorow (New York: Jessica Kingsley, 1999); Patrizia Pallaro, ed., Authentic Movement: Moving the Body, Moving the Self, Being Moved: A Collection of Essays, vol. 2 (Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley, 2007); Janet Adler, Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002).

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