My Body, My Poet

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Supreme Court justice

This afternoon, in a large brightly-lit room at the end of a hall, on the top floor of a building that once was a house, where men and women facing cancer (and their caregivers) convene for support and to nourish their physical and spiritual wellbeing, I welcomed a new kind of experience into my life.

It was an innovative class being offered at the center, called Body Poetry. Led by Marie, a social worker, actor and mime teacher, today’s class was attended only by myself and another woman, A. How we leapt at the chance to dig right in…

Right from the start, Marie instructed us in a number of improvisational maneuvers, right away coaxing our imaginations into play.

In utter silence, we stood facing the windows, drawing lines in the air. With our fingers, our arms. Straight lines, curved lines. Guided by nothing other than our concentration and intuition, we sculpted and molded complex shapes out of space.

Then, like infants taking their first steps, we gingerly stepped into and walked around/through ever more widening spaces. We moved in all directions: Forward, backward, sideways. At times we lingered, hesitated, back-stepped. We turned, slid along the smooth wooden floor, stole glances in the mirrors.

We listened as Marie continued to lead the way, pushing us – inch by inch – past our limits, allowing us to explore, in movement, with our bodies, into worlds beyond.

For part of the exercises, A and I were told to keep our gaze on each other as we moved this way and that, facing each other, in synch. More than once we lost our concentration and broke down into giggles. Still, without so much as saying a word, and by tuning out all except Marie’s directions, A and I (strangers till today) eventually managed to anticipate each others’ moves and motions.

Call it Body Poetry… or Whole Body Therapy: Either way, this I know; the body holds wisdom – and the key to its own healing.

Perhaps A and I are not yet bona fide “body-poets,” but it takes just the warmth of a sunlit space, and the guiding voice of a healer- (angel-?) in-disguise to effect change and elicit gratitude; because, for the precious 90 minutes of each class at least, I vow to allow the unnamed poetic force that visited itself upon me and my body to return yet again and transport me once more to a realm of wholeness, healing and joy.

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