On the Path, Off the Trail
Finding Meaning Through Movement
I grew up in a small town in Kansas, immersed in traditional sports and athletics. If it involved a ball and a team I loved playing.
My earliest and fondest memories are of playing sports with my dad and brother, friends and neighbors. It was a dream come true when I received a scholarship to play college football.
It turned out to be a very humbling experience. After two years and a couple of injuries, I decided to quit.
It turns out that I didn’t just quit playing football: I quit sports. I quit athleticism. I quit competition. I quit my relationships with men. I felt ashamed for how much time I invested in sports. Deeper than this, I felt ashamed for who I was.
So, I tried on a new hat.
In college, I started practicing yoga and meditation. I dove deeply into organic agriculture and permaculture and shaped all of my studies in Sociology around environmental and racial justice.
My teammates and friends thought this transition was strange. I felt like an outcast. I went from being a big fish in a small pond to being bullied for being different.
I wasn’t getting the celebration and support that I wanted and needed as I worked to embody my authentic self.
I decided to travel abroad as a way of creating space for this identity exploration and search for my right livelihood.
By the time I made Kansas my home again, I visited a number of communities and cultures in the United States and abroad. I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer planting trees, an NGO researcher looking at social and economical relationships, and as a farm hand in rural Zambia.
Throughout this time I had a slow, gentle yoga practice and a strong commitment to meditation.
I felt fulfilled. I felt enlivened. I felt authentic.
Until I didn’t.
Recognizing the Trap
On the surface, my life looked free: I was exploring the world.
But when I looked at my movement practice - which I believe provides insight into the rest of my life - I realized that I created a "trap" of control.
I had a highly regimented practice that, if I didn't do, left me with unbearable anxiety, tension in my muscles, and stiffness in my joints. If I didn't do it, I didn't feel good.
I also realized that I was suppressing large parts of myself, and my interpretation of yoga encouraged this. I was hiding from my big emotions - the pain, the fear, the anger, the shame.
Rather than process and dialogue with these parts of myself, I let them float away like a cloud.
Turning Towards my Shadows
After my mom passed away and I became a father, these emotions grew and bypassing them no longer worked.
However, I was afraid of engaging in these big movements, feeling these big emotions, and reverting back to a self I felt ashamed of.
I needed more ways to experience, express, and contain these emotions.
During this time of feeling powerless, I started to integrate more "power" practices - heavy weight lifting, sprinting, and throwing.
During and after these sessions I had new and deeper insight into the way I was showing up in the world.
Reconciling the Duality
Cognitively, I was asking myself: How could I integrate these two ways of being - the "athlete" and the "spiritual guy" - in the world when large parts of me were exiled?
It took some time, but I realized the connections between these seemingly disparate passions - team sports, working on the land, and spiritual practice.
They all shared in common a deeply embodied experience of flow and companionship.
And, when I looked at the way that I was shaping my movement practice, I was integrating spiritual practice and athletic development.
Integrating the Whole
When I realized the ways that this was serving me, I made big changes in my life.
I worked, and continue to work, in creating a life that honors these needs of embodied flow and companionship.
Running in the woods meets a different need than Olympic weight-lifting.
Standing meditation brings a different experience of the body and consciousness than sitting meditation.
Moving through a choreographed flow brings a different sense of freedom than ecstatic dance.
Gently manipulating my tissues for improved mobility and flexibility meets different needs than pushing my body into new and different postures.
By engaging in these different movement practices, I’m able to access different parts of myself, experience a greater range of (e)motion, and deepen my engagement with the world around me.
My Question and Invitation
The question that I'm currently exploring is: How can I create a movement practice that explores, experiences, and expresses the relationship between body, emotion, and environment?
Structural Bodywork and Natural Movement have been supportive companions on my path toward healing, building a relationship with my body, and finding deeper meaning through movement.
The education that I’ve received as part of my Hellerwork Structural Integration training has complimented my intuitive, play-based approach to movement and the body. The skills that I’ve gained in the manual therapy, movement analysis, biomechanics, and self-awareness dialogue have served my clients not only on the table, but in their life. At the core, my work isn’t about Structural Bodywork and Natural Movement, it’s about Life, and I’ve found these two mediums to be incredibly powerful and transformational Life Tools.
It is my privilege to offer you support in your healing, meaning-making journey with your body and life. Please be in touch if you are feeling inspired, encouraged, or hopeful.