Movement as Ritual


Sometimes I find it challenging to put words to the movement work that I do.  What I love about movement is that there are no words, that we access another part of ourselves, another part of our brain.  Recently finished reading a wonderful book “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” by Francis Weller and in it he talks about the importance of ritual for processing grief and how our culture is in many ways devoid of ritual.  As he describes ritual, I realize that that is what we are creating as we come together in Emerge Movement.  He says,

“simply said, ritual is any gesture done with emotion and intention by an individual or a group that attempts to connect the individual or the community with transpersonal energies for the purposes of healing and transformation.  Ritual is the pitch through which the personal and collective voices of our longing and creativity are extended to the unseen dimensions of life, beyond our conscious minds and into the realms of nature and spirit.”

I love that line – the personal and collective voices of our longing and creativity.  YES!  And it is so refreshing to create a space where we can access this.  In our days of constant scheduling, responsibilities, and tasks, it feels so necessary to create a space where we can let go and be present with whatever is there – emotionally and physically.

I often think that some of the more powerful moments of my lifetime are moments without words.  They are an embrace or a dance or a breath or a gaze – and those moments do transcend everything.  I often say that being seen is one of the most therapeutic things we can experience.  This is why the relationship between a therapist and client is more important than the content or the process…it is the act of being seen that helps us relax into who we are.  Without that, we keep looking and trying and proving and reaching….but the moment we are truly seen, we can relax into ourselves, into our bodies.  It is like a settling, a coming home in the deepest of ways.   As Weller says,

“Ritual provides the elements necessary to help transform whatever it is we are carrying in our psyches.  It may be fear, grief, rage, or shame….Whatever it is, it evokes an emotional response that necessitates a holding space in which we can invite everything to be present.  In this way, ritual provides sufficient intensity to help access the emotions that are present.  We need its heat at times to help us cook these states into something new.  Ritual provides something else we deeply need: a level of witnessing that truly enables us to be seen.  Attention is necessary for embodiment, for fully stepping into the world in an open and vulnerable way.  There is something sacred about sustained attention; it deepens the connection between all present.”

Indeed.  And we can practice this internally too – on the dance floor and in life!  In other words, when we notice that energy of trying to prove, we can invite our witness, or our adult part, to just hold space for that other part that is vying to be seen.  And we can hold that part in a tender way and ignite that beautiful quality of being seen.

I love that Emerge Movement is a ritual in which we can see ourselves and others exactly as we show up on the dance floor…and in that way, come home to ourselves anew again and again.


Doing Your Soul’s Work

My sister recently suggested we each reflect upon some marketing questions since we are both small business owners, and because I am in the process of creating Emerge Movement.  She asked me questions like “what would help this experience be exactly what your customers want”, etc. You know, typical marketing questions that are all about fitting what you are selling into what the buyer is buying.  I had a rather visceral reaction to these questions and I couldn’t quite figure out why.

And then I came across Oprah’s backstage Golden Globes speech and I realized exactly why I had this visceral reaction.  Oprah is asked to share her wisdom to young film makers about how to make great films.  She says, “Do the work that comes straight from the soul of you.” And then she shares that the single greatest wisdom she has ever received…..

Can I get a drum roll please!  This is from OPRAH and she says the “SINGLE GREATEST WISDOM” is…

“the key to fulfillment, success, happiness, and contentment in life is when you align your personality with what your soul actually came to do…when you can use your personality to serve whatever that thing is you can’t help but be successful.”

Well, there you have it folks!  So now the question is what did your soul come here to do?  My dear friend and guiding angel in my life who died at the tragic age of 20 said to me at the tender age of 17, “Erika, I don’t know what exactly you will do in life, but you will inevitably work with people and help them.”  Now granted, this was one of those philosophical break it down sessions on the beach when you are 17 and everything seems so possible!  And his response so resinated with me. I followed this path of “helping people” to many social service jobs and eventually to Graduate School in Social Work. And as I refine this path and listen to what I love to do, I realize that my soul is meant to create space and inspire people to become their best self.  So if I align my personality to serve that, I would say that my personality is about engaging with people, listening to them, breaking it down (on the dance floor or in session), as I am energized by and in awe of people and their stories and their humanity, vulnerability, resilience, and strength.

So Emerge Movement is that process for me of aligning my personality of engaging with people with serving my soul’s purpose of creating space and inspiring people to become their best self.  And I am not interested in figuring out how to alter what I am doing to fit into what will sell or what is the next hottest trend.  In fact, I think when we try to alter what we do to fit into what other’s want, we lose part of our core self and the energy is often a “scrambling” energy. Our focus is “out there” and we scramble to fit what we have to what others want. This, of course, is the basis of marketing. At least, that is my understanding of what marketing is and why I had that visceral response to my sister’s question. So as I create Emerge Movement, I want to turn my focus inward and find out if I am continuing to be in alignment with what my soul is meant to do…and from that place, I know I will be successful because my core self will be in tact instead of fractured by trying and scrambling to fit it into what everyone else wants of me.

Of course, I recognize that if you are selling a pair of shoes, it might be useful to see what your customers really like. So obviously there is a place for marketing…I just think that balancing what we are selling and doing (whatever that may be) with what we came here to do or what we are best at – helps us to feel connected, alive, and in our most authentic self.

So, I invite each of you – friends, students, dancers, clients – to look inward and find out what your soul came here to do. And market away, my friends… from this place!


What interesting timing to be leading a Sexual Abuse Survivor Group this fall right at the same moment of this #metoo campaign and this political backdrop of exposing the secrecy that shrouds sexual abuse, assault, and harassment.  Survivors that I see have had a variety of responses to this social media campaign, ranging from triggering to enlightening, validating, and empowering.

I always pay attention to timing and signals both external and internal.  These signals often help me to gauge if I am in alignment and flow.  When lots of things connect and there are lots of “oh now that” moments, it feels to me like I am doing the work I need to do at this time.  This “alignment” is a key component of the Emerge Process.

Thus when my client came in earlier this fall and said that she wanted to share her story in our survivor group, there was this resonance of “of course”.  For starters, our theme for the coming week was self-trust.  And this client having a clear internal directive that it was time to share her story was a wonderful example to reconnecting to self trust.  There is a definitive rupture of self trust after abuse of any kind.  Embedded in a sexual abuse dynamic is messaging that you can’t trust your body.  This messaging is sometimes given directly by the offender “Oh you like this,” by the family or community (being allies with the offender) or by the use of denial and avoidance by the offender, the family system and/or society at large.

An amazing sisterhood has developed in this group.  We wrapped up our time together last night in a beautiful game that I created called “Pass the Rainbow.”  I wanted each woman to receive light and hope to take with them so they might use this light in their dark moments.  My dear friend and movement student Christy Goldsby, founder of Honey Mamas, gave us a gorgeous rainbow pack of her chocolate and I sliced each bar in small bites and placed a lovely colorful bar in front of each lovely colorful woman.  Then we started with one woman and began to shine all the light on that woman.  I began by leading a little meditation calling that woman into the room – her presence, her essence, her courage, her healing.  Then, we went around the circle and the women shared what they witnessed of the called upon woman.  They blessed her with their hopes for her particular healing.  And then we toasted that woman by nurturing ourselves together with a little square of beautiful chocolate.  Next, we “passed the rainbow” by passing the bars to the right and beginning with the next woman to “receive her light”.  It was a powerful closing circle, complete with standing in the power of our own light as women, as women supporting women, and, as survivors.

Here the seed of Emerge Empower was born.  This program will begin again in January with more brave survivors reclaiming their bodies, their sexuality, and their lives in a profound process of movement, dialogue, connecting, and sharing.

honey mama

Emerge into discomfort

When I lead classes, I often talk about looking for the ease and flow, finding comfort and joy in our bodies.  Also, in my clinical practice, these are guiding principles.  And yet, this week, I heard myself urging clients and students to lean into the foreign, unknown, and unfamiliar parts.  These are the parts that may not have had the right conditions to emerge.  We do, act, and move in ways that work for us.  So those parts get well honed like a well oiled machine. If how we survived was to always hide, then “showing ourselves” will feel really foreign and unfamiliar.  And yet, it may now be safe for this part to come out and may indeed allow us to add more of ourselves to our relationships, work, and life!

In class this morning, we connected to those awkward parts.  We experimented moving in ways that were foreign, silly, and new.  Dancing is often a laboratory to explore in a playful, non-threatening, and light way.  You see, sometimes the things that are familiar are not the things we need.

If someone is used to not speaking up, there will be much discomfort when this person needs to speak up but is unable to.  This might result in feelings of powerlessness and frustration.  A student of mine shared recently that a movement in class helped her access her power in a new way and that just by visualizing this “power move”, she was able to access her power in a moment when she wanted to speak up but couldn’t at first.

When we dance, we literally grow ourselves.  We gain access to dormant, awkward, and foreign parts.  What emerges is a bigger, more powerful self that has a variety of ways and strategies to move through life!

Here we go!!

After announcing last Saturday that I will no longer be teaching Nia after 17 years, I am filled with a so many thoughts and feelings about what it means to let go, and really trust a process.  Last Monday, I attended my wonderful therapists process group that I have been a part of for years and I shared my working name for whatever is coming….Emerge.  My therapist commented that this is about my own emerging.  It is about me emerging from my family in new ways and my work in new ways and about me fully stepping into my confidence and path.  Boom.  Yes.  My own emerging is the framework for this process of holding space for others to emerge.  

The night this name was born I was with my dear friend Christy at the “Together” show with Glennon Doyle and other fabulous women.  I bought these tickets on a whim when it came across my feed one day.  What was the show about?  Well, a lot of things really. But at it’s core, it was about truth telling.  Boom, there it is…when we pay attention, it is all right there.

During intermission, I said out loud to my friends, “By the end of 2017 I will no longer be teaching Nia.”  Just saying these words out loud was so affirming.  Our language does in fact very much guide us.  And then I went on to say that I needed a name for what was coming next – I don’t even know what that is.  I know it is about me stepping into my own knowledge, wisdom, and confidence and offering my best gifts to the world in a really true and authentic way.  The thing is that I have been doing this – through a thriving counseling practice and movement practice and often times, integrating the two.  But this is about me really owning what I do and not using other peoples framework but trusting my own.  I couldn’t even look my friend Jane in the eye when I told her my working name thus far.  Turning my body away from her, I said quietly, “Soul Flow” and my friend Jane practically shouted “no no no.  It’s just too out there.” We both busted up laughing and I nodded, “I know!”  And then she said, “it seems like the word ’emerge’ keeps coming up for you”.  Boom.  Paying attention.

My mantra for year 2015 was “Let it emerge”.  And then in May of that year, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  That was not exactly what I was talking about but the universe works in mysterious ways.  What I was talking about was how to let things happen, unfold, be spontaneous and allow space for spirit to emerge.  I just felt like I needed space from all the scheduling, soccer games, playdates, and constant planning.  Yes, this is a theme! And so on May 7, 2015 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and guess what?  I got space! I let go of my counseling practice and my Nia classes and even from parenting…because I had to.  My healing from my double mastectomy was brutal and slow.  Everything got quiet and slow – this is the space of healing.  And when I started to emerge, I was really mindful about what I put back in place and how to choose mindfully.  In fact, that became my practice – “just say no!”  Many people work on saying yes, but my work is about saying no so that I can then say yes to what I really want and need.

I was on the fence then about re-engaging with Nia – it’s so refreshing to actually re-evaluate instead of just being in automatic mode.  And in that re-evaluation place, there was a part of me that wanted to step away from Nia but also a part that couldn’t imagine not teaching and guiding students to more health and wholeness!  Alas…this part won, and I stepping back into teaching in Jan., 2016.  But that other part kept talking to me.  It kept saying that there was something else, something more.

I often talk in both my clinical practice and in my movement practice about being in alignment.  As I stepped into the Jewish New Year several weeks ago, the Rabbi framed it so well, “how close are you in this moment to the person you are at your core”.  In my faith, this is the time of year to examine and reflect and I knew that it was time to listen to this other part that told me first I had to let go of Nia, and then I can see what will EMERGE! I am so grateful to continue my emerging alongside of each of you…