Weaving together their respective practices of embodied awareness and biography, Paula Sager and Susan Kurz offer a creative space to enter your own experience from new and deeper perspectives, gaining insight into your own destiny and life choices. The following conversation between Paula, Susan and Stephanie Turner offers a peek into their collaboration and upcoming workshop in the Contemplative Series.
ST- What is the intersecting point of your practices that inspired you to bring your work together in this way for the Contemplative Series?
PS – I first learned about the Biography process in a graduate program and subsequently developed Following the Thread of Your Life, a workshop inspired by the Biography work, integrating elements of the Discipline of Authentic Movement and Contemplative Inquiry. In preparing to offer the workshop again this year, I invited Susan Kurz to join me as a guest teacher. I’ve known Susan for years through our shared interest in the work of Rudolf Steiner, and have enjoyed learning about her training at The Center for Biography and Social Art in Spring Valley, New York. For me, the main intersecting point is a shared respect for and interest in the unique unfolding of each person’s life.
SK – I’m mostly pretty unconscious about moving, I just move. After experiencing Paula’s workshop a few years ago, I just felt that there’s something really wonderful here. Oh! Your movement says something. Biography works in a similar way. Your life, just like your movement, is uniquely saying something… everybody moves and everybody has a story. In our work we are entering into our own story through artistic endeavors, myths and fairytales. We usually look at our life from the perspective of moving forward, but you don’t really understand your life until you go through it backwards because then you see this amazing interweaving of events and patterns- it is a work of art…every life is a work of art. There is a lot of mystery in the human being and I feel as though we are at a cross point where we have the responsibility and luxury to look at that.
When I look in the world, I see that what’s missing is exactly what Biography and the Discipline of Authentic Movement offer. They offer an opportunity to discover what’s really happening, what’s possible. Take this moment, the three of us sitting here, each with huge stories behind us… coming together in this moment to share a conversation. We can start looking at our life phenomenologically—in this work we’ll use artist cards, clay or a story to see what wants to come out, what wants to be said. This is very different than asking someone to tell you about their life… Well, I have this job, and this girlfriend and this house… It’s an alchemical process when you are given the safe environment that brings people into a soul space, a space that’s less confined.
What I find really exciting is the social art part of it, because I could sit in a room and think about my life forever but when I have to speak to another human being that’s really listening to me, something happens. There’s no judgement, there’s a deep respect for another story as well as your own. When you hear someone else’s story you know yourself more. They’re bringing a piece of the universal puzzle… we all share this existence but we experience it uniquely. It’s a paradox…. the more I hear about you the more I know about me.
ST- This makes me think about the relational dynamic that is so important in the Discipline of Authentic Movement not only in the moving and witnessing but equally in the speaking and listening which seems parallel to the process of biography.
PS- I see, in both practices, first there is a way of inviting inner experience to emerge, to be moved, to be felt, to be seen. Then there is a space- also intentionally held- where, in relationship to a listener, one discovers that words can also have this emergent quality. How we speak and listen become ways of practice.
What is it like to be heard?
To be seen?
What is really wanting to authentically become more present in my life?
How does the felt sense of being heard and seen support this?
I’m forever intrigued by impulse, what is moving us and within us. How impulse emerges and how we follow it. When we are in the midst of living it’s difficult to see this process unfold. Somewhat unconsciously, we become who we are. Another overlap of our work has to do with our longing to become more conscious.
SK- Yes, consciousness. In my studies of anthroposophy we are in these different states… we’re asleep, we’re dreaming, we’re awake…. and being awake is a little bit like being in a waking dream. Now is the time to be conscious of what’s going on, this is our task.
PS- There is so much we can’t see, the mover gets to embody this. By closing eyes, turning awareness to our body, we’re free to choose or not choose an arising impulse to move. The mover can enter what sometimes feels like dreaming, sometimes waking. So, there is something about having an outer witness, one who intends toward being a non-judgmental, supportive presence and then what does this offer to one’s own sense of a developing inner witness? Within relationship, we can learn to integrate a more compassionate inner presence of self-awareness. This in turn, prepares us to be a compassionate witness for someone else.