Discover the history and teachings of Continuum, with a variety of perspectives, reflections, images, and more, in written, audio and video documentation. This is a growing library; new material from Continuum teachers and practitioners will be added regularly.
Embodiment, Collaboration, and Social Trauma, with Dr. Amber Gray
Discussion of creative arts therapy, dance and movement therapy, trauma, and embodiment in the field of therapy.
Inspiration to Manifest
Poem by Cari Greywolf Rowan, participant in Kori Tolbert’s ‘Waters of Life’ Continuum Virtual Series
Over a six week series beginning with Emilie's Peace Prayer, dropping deep into the dissolve with lunars, then beginning to stir with micromovements, engaging intentionally with our fluid intelligence, in body and earth, moving through the Primordial Anatomy, and finding our fluid strength to rise up to standing together, a call to ourselves and humanity on the planet, we called, listened, and moved.
After the last day of class one of the participants, Cari Greywolf Rowan shared this poem with me. This was shared with Kori on May 21, 2020. I asked Cari if I could share it with the CTA media project after she shared with me and she said she would be honored and happy to.
INSPIRATION TO MANIFESTATION
Inspiration to manifestation.
Allowing the magnetic core of the planet to carry me to her bosom
Landing at her core,
The place where mama earth holds me in a sweet embrace
To offer sustenance and hope to this weary body-mind-soul
I plead for forgiveness~
Forgive us for the our rapacious greed and callous disregard.
I swim in her tears, as our fluid bodies merge momentarily.
The warmth of her embrace offers me succour and sanity.
As I begin the slow merging,
I experience her fluids within me.
I feel her bones within mine.
I rise patiently,
Becoming more fully human
with each dive and each rising,
embodying more of mama earth,
more heart, more balance, more love.
I emerge renewed, refreshed, remodeled.
The clarity of my cleansed fluid systems moves me to reach for light, and love, andlife
Tenderly, I embrace and then release my fears and doubts.
If only for this moment I feel my sacred union.
@cgr May 2020
Continuum Voices #1: Rosemarie Kussinger-Steffes
Rosemarie Kussinger-Steffes speaks about her healing journey with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Restorative Movement Psychotherapy with Dr. Amber Elizabeth Lynn Gray, #ORadio
Ostrolenk speaks with Dr. Amber Elizabeth Lynn Gray, an award winning dance movement therapist and a somatic/human rights psychotherapist. Dr. Gray has worked for many years with people who have survived human rights abuses, war, and torture. Dr. Gray details how various educational and career experiences, and ultimately her time in Rwanda, drove her decision to pursue her degree in Somatic Psychology and Dance/Movement Therapy. Dr. Gray details her creation of Restorative Movement Psychotherapy, a clinical counterpart of the Poto Mitan IHaitian Creole for “Center Post/Place) Trauma and Resiliency framework, and how her experiences have evolved her view of the body politic and the ways in which we dehumanize the body. The intersection of spirituality and science, of humans and the Earth, and humans and animals are a few of the spaces in which Dr. Gray is increasing her work.
Continuum Within Our Cultural Context: an emerging new philosophy of notions in motion
Over the last 50 years there has been a silent revolution changing cultural concepts of body/mind awareness. Recent scientific studies have found that age-associated disabilities can reverse or improve flexibility, strength, and mental clarity via movement practices. This has altered our concept of aging as well as our understanding of the body’s ability for regeneration. In recognition of the potential for maintaining good physical and mental functions, a host of therapeutic modalities have emerged. Over the last half century a demand for these therapies has proliferated into one of the fastest growing professions in the market place; spas, movement classes, fitness coaching, manual therapies, etc.
Concurrent with these somatic practices, meditation has also become more main stream. Many seminars and workshops have encouraged adults to reach for new states of awareness that were formerly relegated to gurus, clergy and monks. Self care has become coupled with practices that calm the mind and expand awareness. A new paradigm is emerging. Since the age of reason, the dawn of the Western civilization, the body as been viewed as the shackles impeding spirituality. Its survival imperatives were seen to bind us to lower forms of consciousness, appetites in contradiction with our spiritual nature. The appreciation for somatic intelligence has opened a door to seeing a cooperation between mind, body and spiritual development.
Emilie Conrad’s visionary contribution to this shift in perspective is leading the way into an inquiry for a conscious participation in corporeal evolution. The potential to heal the mind/body split does not stop with an individual’s self-care. Collectively, the Continuum community has been discovering further ramifications for developing a cooperative and empathetic union between one’s body and this elemental world. This path of discovery was developed by a woman who saw that cultural attitudes toward the body mirrored similar unconscious values inherent in our treatment of the environment. 50 years ago she was saying: “As we have abused our planet, so we have treated our bodies”, using up its resources without mindfulness. Viewing the plant and animal kingdoms as lower forms of intelligence, has led us to the hubris of domination and control. The wayward instincts of the body have been coupled with nature’s un-tame-able forces. These attributes have also been assigned to the feminine. Humanity’s survival is on the line now. We must change our ways. Continuum invites us to engage in the body’s silent language of sensations and movement as a pathway to resonance with the fluid intelligence of life’s power for regeneration. This movement modality engenders healing and well-being without imposing any goal driven directives. Presence, attentiveness and engagement with whatever is emerging is inherent in a Continuum practice.
Continuum came forth, as Emilie said, in response to the challenges of our times. It has incorporated new scientific and therapeutic data, yet it also has roots in the wisdom of ancient practices. Our ancestors were well aware that their survival depended on cooperation with nature. Prayers and ceremonies were woven daily in gratitude for the life giving gifts of the elemental world. Finding our right relationship to nature was described by the Taoist concept of wu wei. This ancient practice describes wu wei as “the action of non-action.” Given the ‘doing’ orientation of our culture, the action of non-action seems elusive, yet Continuum engenders this state through combinations of movement, sound, and breathing. Achieving wu wei means engaging fully with the fluid intelligence of self and, through it, with the biosphere, accessing a playful, relaxed state in which potent creative forces are available. We are both circling back to re-remember forgotten truths while evolving in our current era.
The Influence of Science on our Concept of Body
Scientific objectivism applies a reductionistic approach to understanding the components of living processes - from the chemistry of a substance to the separate systems that make up a body. Inevitably we fall into mechanical metaphors; the heart as a pump, the joints as hinges, the brain as a computer, parts that wear out but sometimes can be replaced. From this perspective, movement is understood as a series of levers and pulleys that operate sequentially. One segment stabilizes to allow another segment to move. One muscle contracts to allow another to lengthen. Muscle building and many strengthening regimes isolate muscles, working one at a time. This segregation extends to medical specializations. We seek a neurologist or a gynecologist or an orthopedic doctor, etc. This habit of fragmentation extends to seeing a doctor for the body, a therapist for the emotions, a professor for the mind and a separate venue for spiritual guidance. This viewpoint reinforces a compartmentalized sense of body and self. Many people are left with a feeling that their body is a foreign entity and objective tests are the only truth to be known.
However, now that exercise is generally understood to be a necessary component for maintaining good health., many people are giving their bodies more attention than 50 years ago. In the last 10 years many new movement modalities have shown up from Boot Camp fitness to Zumba, from Soul Motion to Pilates. Movement is as complex as diet when it comes to finding the right fit for personality and physiology. Nevertheless a new dedication to better health through movement regimes has emerged culturally. More recent developments in this field offer more holistic methods of movement that put an emphasis on full body coordination rather than the segmented lever/pulley fitness model. Whether conscious or not, they are exploring strength and holism via the connective tissue or fascial system. As science has been able to study living, responding connective tissue, it has changed our perspective of movement. The lever/pulley model of muscles and bones, called the Sherrington model in kinesiology, has been augmented with an alternate and supportive fascial system. Connective tissue, used interchangeably with fascia is our soft skeleton, a binding web. It is an all encompassing, non-segmented tensional network that influences posture, muscular force transmission, and resting tension. We might postulate that just as we have a nervous system with the dual functions of sympathetic and parasympathetic regulation, so it is possible that kinesiology can be organized and supported by two different systems: one for effort and segmented demand and the other for full body organization and participation. The collagen fibers of connective tissue protect our joints the way high top sneakers add support to ankles. Called a sixth sense by some, it is richly innervated with proprioceptive cells. This system gives us information about changes in pressure, vibration, stretch and weight. Through this awareness we are oriented in space and able to balance in gravity while changing our position. The sum total of this constant informing adds up to what is now being called the seventh sense, interoception, an awareness of one’s own internal body state via internal signals. Interoception is essential to embodiment, motivation, and well-being.
Historical perspective of this silent revolution
The Human Potential Movement: a new value for mind/body awareness (interoception)
In 1968 I arrived at Esalen Institute for a summer job. The workshops and seminars hosted by this facility, offered an exciting ferment of ideas and experiential workshops that became known as the human potential movement. My lukewarm pursuit of a college education was dropped when I realized this was my pathway to career and lifelong inquiry.
Two essential ingredients were embedded within this collective social experiment. First, that therapy could be of service to assisting one in a more authentic and satisfied expression of self, less encumbered by unconscious programming of cultural and familial expectations. Previously, therapy had been seen as a necessity only when one was emotionally impaired from living a normal life. This social experiment sought to pursue our potential for greater joy, maturity, and aliveness. Secondly, these therapies placed a new value on paying attention to corporeal sensations in concert with associations of our mind. The field of somatics arose from the concept that listening and allowing bodily sensations could lead to personal insights that restore more ease and well-being. Many therapies found a foothold in our culture through their exposure at Esalen and other centers like it. Gestalt therapy, Hakomi, Grof Breathing, Feldenkrais Method, Body-Mind Centering are examples. All of them, now established institutes with trainings, are based on a premise that focusing on body-mind awareness within a guided context can lead to higher orders of health and well-being.
Concurrent with the new values embedded within these therapies, physical manipulation took on a very different role in service to the human potential movement. Ida Rolf was a pivotal pioneer in this. She had been formulating her theories and technique for 40 years, but at age 72, Esalen gave her a venue and a receptive audience for her visionary contribution. She called her work Structural Integration but her students affectionately called it ‘Rolfing’. Her basic premise no longer seems radically revolutionary. Yet in those days the notion that physical function and posture could be improved through manual manipulation seemed far fetched. This was her theory: Over time injuries, repetitive functional patterns and ingrained psychological responses to stress and strain create holding patterns and chronic tensions within posture and movement. Our nervous system and breathing habits are a by-product of our navigation our sense of self in relationship to others and the environmental context. As we age these perceptual habits tend to stultify, robbing the body of space, relaxation and new variations in responses. When the body is freed from chronic holding patterns, it will come into better alignment with gravity. Clients learn by the contrast of regained or new found ease, thereby developing more conscious choices for self care.
My own first experience of Rolfing at age 20 enabled me to shed a painfully insecure and gawky self-image. During the 10 session series of Rolfing there were several vivid recalled memories which elucidated an underlying anxieties. One such memory made sense of a recurring nightmare. This dream was a metaphor for the organismic threat of my traumatic birth. After feeling into the scrambled unintelligible quality of this dream from an awake state, I could make sense of it in a larger context. This initiated an ability for me to uncouple my introduction to life from this nightmare which never revisited my dreamworld again.
I am going to share 5 basic principles of Structural Integration because they have strongly affected the larger field of manual therapies, whether or not the credit comes back to Ida Rolf.
- Manual manipulation can enhance physical function.
- The body can repair as well as decline as we age.
- Traumatic events live in the flesh and can be released with educated awareness as well as educated touch.
- Respiratory and physical restrictions hobble our expression, our adaptability, and our possibilities for manifesting a more alive, emergent self.
- Connective tissue, the fascial sheath that envelops all muscle, bone, organs and nerves, is an intelligent system, crucial to our ability to organize and move within the gravitational field.
Ida Rolf was saying this 50 years before science caught up with her. Her seminal ideas are so widely assumed now that they are incorporated rather than discussed in schools of manual therapy. Chronic habits of poor posture and body use are like corrupt code within this intelligent system of connective tissue communication. When a skilled practitioner can release the strain patterns and educate the client toward more discriminating awareness, habitual patterns of misalignment have an opportunity to change. An improved alignment with gravity, offers a palpable sense of better support, ease of function, and a more relaxed set point. Studies have shown that these upgrades reduce pain syndromes. Structural Integration and other sophisticated holistic manual techniques assist in aiding or resolving a host of somatic and emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, etc. The increased sense of embodied satisfaction leads to smoother parasympathetic functions; breathing, digestion, elimination and sleep. Current scientific studies of the fascial system speculate that information conveyed by the nerves within fascia is the conduit for mind-body awareness as the fascial web is included within our brain. The body perceives while the mind is the perceiver. No longer is massage equated with a mechanical series of thumping and kneading. New manipulation techniques have proliferated as one of the fastest growing industries in our culture. There are now specialized techniques for practically every system in the body; lymph, cranial/sacral, visceral, connective tissue release, nerve sheaths, ligaments, and bones to name a few. All of these modalities are rooted in an understanding that disease and dysfunction occur when there is a breakdown in the exchange and communication within an organism. Every cell must receive nutrients and excrete toxins to remain healthy. When there is a failure of circulation and coordination between or within the systems of the body, isolation, immobility and stagnation follow. From acupuncture to osteopathy to physical therapy, manual manipulation is designed to restore the holistic orchestration of a living, communicating organism.
The fascial system can be altered through manual manipulation, but it is also possible to strengthen its capacities via movement. It is here that Ida Rolf’s baton is passed to Emilie Conrad, the founder of Continuum. Scientific research has identified seven qualities of movement that strengthen the collagen fibers of fascia as well as enhance the awareness of the connective tissue web.
- Full-body participation (rather than segmented actions)
- Gliding and sliding
- Undulations, wave-like fluidity
- Nuanced variations of small fluctuations within a patterned movement
- Rhythmic bouncing
- Positions that explore unusual relationships to gravity and therefore unusual muscular and vestibular demands
Emilie intuitively developed every one of these qualities of movement within the repertoire of Continuum.
Continuum’s Contribution to this on-going Revolution
Continuum asks the question: Can we find a way to participate with movement impulses and sensations in order to restore mutability and higher orders of coherency? Can movement be a nutrient rather than an expenditure of energy? Its explorations are based on a central belief that fluid, non-repetitive movement can inform and unify the whole body. Initially Continuum’s inquiry into the potential for an infinitude of creative impulses and new expressions can be disorienting. This practice asks us to step into an unknown agenda. Rather than directing the body to behave in a conscripted fashion, we must listen, allow and follow sensations in both movement and stillness. There is a learning curve to entering unknown territory every single session. It has all of the challenges of any creative endeavor as well as requiring patience to sustain interest in very subtle, usually ignored, sensations. However, building this capacity has deep rewards. (Given the current situation of this 2020 pandemic, accepting rather than fearing the unknown is a boon.) Listening first to a current somatic report, then engaging with undirected, instinctual movement is more revolutionary than meets the eye. We discover an inner world that resonates with nature’s language of waves, spirals, micro-movements and cloud-like shape shifting. These qualities flow through the connective tissue system, traveling according to their own non-linear logic. As those who practice Continuum find pleasure and fascination in unfolding easeful movement, often they discover that restrictions release without effort or plan. Unsegmented wholeness and spontaneity refresh habitual patterns required for daily tasks, thereby enhancing circulation and suppleness. Scientific research is indicating that the fascial system recreates itself over time according to use patterns. So being at play with the 7 qualities of connective tissue expression is very likely to create a stronger, more flexible bodysuit, because collagen fibers strengthen according to demand.
Continuum and Trauma Resolution
Many new therapeutic modalities increasing somatic awareness are demonstrating the potential to develop higher levels of physical and emotional well-being even as we age. As Ida Rolf said, we are now grasping that past traumatic events live in the flesh and distort our ability to self-regulate with ease and adaptability. There has been a deeper understanding of the long term effects of trauma on the nervous system. 50 years ago, a lack of understanding of trauma responses left many feeling ashamed. PTSD, post traumatic stress disorders, were perceived as failings of a personality. Physical and emotional abuse in childhood were family secrets. Culturally we are beginning to understand that very few of us get through life without some form of medical emergency, debilitating accident, devastating loss, or deep social wounding. Even benign experiences, such as child birth, can leave traces of unresolved overwhelm or shock within us. Therapeutic approaches for resolving PTSD are helping the side-effects of head injuries, car accidents, difficult births and returning war veterans. While this is still on the fringe of the medical world, it is spreading through mainstream practices. Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing, and a former student of Ida Rolf, describes trauma as an “altered state of consciousness, a state of high arousal that persists over time.” Peter Levine, Stephen Porges and other trauma theorists describe how overwhelming events (too much, too soon, too fast) can cause dissociation, fragmentation, or freezing in shock. We become stuck in a pattern of high alert that can appear normal but is numb as if one is semi sleep walking. There are often blind spots within our perceptual field and/or areas of the body that are blank within our awareness. This state robs our world of vibrancy. Often a state of chronic fatigue, a diminished capacity for pleasure, and a muted ability for expression and creativity become the norm.
While animals share a similar nervous system with similar trauma responses, they are more able to discharge the highly activated states inherent in a predator/prey environment. This occurs naturally for them. It is more complicated for humans. A car accident, for example, is not exactly a predator/prey situation. Rather than following the directives of instinctual physiological responses, we reach for the cell phone or are asked to produce a drivers license, etc. Humans depend more on social systems of support than their instincts. Our neocortex is capable of overriding the impulses of the brainstem during the time of re-regulation needed after a traumatic experience. The shaking, sweating, crying, moaning, collapsing and sleeping stages of recovery can be deferred or controlled and then the moment is lost. This results in something like shards of trauma encapsulated in an otherwise functional body and psyche. Over time the undischarged trauma manifests in a range of symptoms: sleep problems, immune disorders, anxiety, repeated accidents of a particular type, and behavioral aberrations such as addictions or eating disorders.
Therapies that seek to resolve trauma teach client and therapist to attend minutely to signals, sensations, and awareness associations arising from the body. Healing occurs when a numb robotic area of being can be given permission for delayed actions, reactions and sensations to re-emerge and start to flow. As intolerable sensations are met with support and understanding, a restoration of aliveness and coherency follow. Along with other soma-based therapies, even certain ancient Tibetan practices, this engenders a faith in the ability of the body to lead us toward healing through sensations and movement impulses. While not a modern idea, this vital rediscovery has modern applications and is supported by science and research.
Continuum has much to offer to this growing trust in the creative and re-creative wisdom of our physiology. A practice of Continuum can gradually reawaken the deadened zones. Developing an ability to sustaining interest in small signals arising from our sensate awareness fosters self-care empowerment. We learn to re-regulate from highly agitated to deeply relaxed and spacious states. We know how to shift our state towards a freer, more relaxed, better supported way of being. Rather than trying to control our breathing, we become acquainted with breathing that is natural and satisfying. This personal sense of empowerment is priceless. Classes provide a medium for gradually loosening the grip of habitual patterns of perception and function. Often the group process also feels very supportive should the challenges of renegotiating a trauma arise.
Elements inherent in a Continuum Practice
Biological time is not on the clock. Our current lives are strongly influenced by the speed of cars, electronic devices, work schedules, even the rhythm of speech. A slower pace facilitates relaxation, digestion and circulation. It also allows us to notice more subtle sensations. Biological time is not linear. It meanders, pauses, takes side roads, stops to smell the roses. While learning to move like molasses is very informing, not all movement within Continuum is slow. There are times when our fluidity expresses more like a bubbling brook. This is also very interesting since the complexity of this full body display is beyond our ability to control and direct. In between each phase of exploration we learn to pause in order to simply notice, rest, and absorb without action. Learning to appreciate the space between events is a teaching in itself. As many of us have noticed during the social distancing of the pandemic of 2020, once we stop rushing to keep up, we have a chance to reconsider and perhaps make new choices.
Creating a safe container
Our organism needs to feel safe in order to let go and become more present with Now. Therapists and group facilitators are putting more emphasis on creating a dependable sense of orientation in social situations. In general during this era, clarity and respect for personal boundaries has become more delineated in therapeutic and educational settings. The container of a Continuum class offers not only the standard therapeutic sense of safety but also an opportunity to be enveloped, soothed and comforted through being together without language. Group meditations also seek a focus in silence and stillness together. Yet, dropping out of self expression through language, while exploring it with movement and sound evokes a mammalian memory of belonging, akin to a snuffling, snoring puppy pile. Our limbic, or relational brain, thrives on communing while attending so deeply to our own needs. It is unusual to care for our personal rhythms while simultaneously sharing in a social event. This opens up the parameters of what it means to belong.
Allowing self-pacing and individual expression
From pre-school on we have been trained to fall into step with group processes. We have become habituated to following the leader whenever we are gathered together, whether the focus is external or internal, intellectual, emotional or physical. Most movement classes walk us through the steps all together. Even a private session is guided by the coach. The nature of Continuum serves the ability of the nervous system to improve self-regulation. Individuals must have the freedom to respond to their own needs and pacing within the framework of a group process of self-care. It is not uncommon within Continuum classes to have a participant snoozing during an exploration. This is one way that the nervous system re-regulates, so it is welcome. Emotional expressions that arise within the class are greeted in the same way. They have neither more value or less. This is a departure from social mores that separate emotions from physical and mental tasks or put them front and center during therapy. Many of us have learned to feel shame if we can not keep our emotions under wraps in the wrong setting. From ecstasy to anguish, Continuum encourages this powerful flow of energy without a hierarchy of good, bad, sad or glad. It is possible for all of these states to be at play simultaneously within a workshop. Social healing occurs from being seen, heard and accepted within a non-judgmental social setting that neither denies or encourages emotional outbursts. While our tendency is to resonate with each other emotionally, we do not need to be in lock step with each other. I have had strong passages of healing and self-understanding for being in emotional waves that have blended with my full body participation in movement. Rather than making a case for my feelings with a story, I have felt the melting of barriers and the power of the surges take me from one state to the next as naturally as weather changes. Emotions become an ally rather than an impediment. Being simultaneously responsible for one’s own self-care while joining with others is more revolutionary than meets the eye. The structure inherent in a class exploration does not preclude adjusting it to suit one’s own interests and expression. Without an outside authority telling us what to do all together, there is no other option than to take responsibility for our own state of being. If I am bored or resistant, it is up to me to find my way through. The internal judgments of good, bad, right, wrong must look for a deeper truth of self under the social programing of either blaming self or other. Within a context that gives us so much freedom to find our own way, the voice of the inner critic becomes loud and clear.
Loosening the grip of social conditioning
Our social programing far exceeds that of other mammals. Children need to adapt to family structures over long years of dependency. Adults need to figure out how to belong to the current norms of society in order to ‘make it’ in the world. We are herd animals, needing each other for survival. Cultural norms create a context that shapes all of us; the chairs and cars we sit in, the clothes we wear, the language we speak, the electronic devices we depend on. We could call this the fish bowl that contains the goldfish. The goldfish no longer knows the oceanic world of its origins. Dictates and restrictions of the environment are largely invisible to us, just as the water and the fish bowl are a given for the goldfish. We are shaped and programmed by habitual patterns of perception and function in relationship to this context. Most of us are no longer engaged with the elemental world for our survival. Reliance on machines shapes us to the point that our anatomy is referred to as a soft machine.
Our ancestors, without technological control over their environment, were reminded daily that survival depended on living in harmony with the forces of nature. Appreciation for its life-giving abundance was woven constantly into prayers and ceremonies. Now that we have a much more abstracted relationship to nature, its forces can seem capricious and out of control. This imbalance of dominion over, rather than cooperation with, the elemental world is affecting all of us whether we are conscious of it or not. The pandemic has brought us face to face (or possibly to our knees) with the peril of our situation. It is hard to fathom the extent to which this loss of right relationship with nature is affecting us in terms of ambient, rootless anxiety.
There are further ramifications between the distant, abstracted relationship with nature and our attitude towards our own bodies. In traditional religions the body is often portrayed as a lower order of the human being. Just as we have felt free to subjugate the animal kingdom to our own needs, so the body has been treated as a ‘dumb’ beast. And the drives and desires of physicality are often still seen as impediments to the pursuit of higher self. Our inevitable mortality causes us to fear our bodies the way we fear the un-tame-able forces of nature. We rely on medical tests for answers more than we trust the healing powers within. How to become a conscious participant with the recreative, healing powers of our body has largely been lost just as we have less ability to engage in our elemental world for mutual benefit.
The way that Emilie led us back into a dialogue with sensation was and is so much more than a self-care regime. Her vision of the lost soul of humanity was at the heart of her need to create Continuum. She called our mechanical and electronic devices ‘body snatchers’. It is so true. Regularly after a longer session at the computer or on zoom the results are numbness and tension.
Continuum’s explorations seek to rediscover the infinitude of movement possibilities living outside the goldfish bowl of social habits. Spontaneous experiences arise that remind us of our aquatic origins. Reptilian and mammalian visitations seem to possess our movement for a time, giving us a sense of oneness with all of life’s creatures. The exquisite fluidity of an octopus transmits a healing power to our tissues. Emilie called these experiences ‘species inclusivity’. They feel more like a blessing than an exercise. Our body remembers itself as a non-fragmented, intelligent whole. Its intelligence is in its ability to transfigure, modulate, discern, transform, mix, transport and unify. This innate wisdom is primarily the result of resonance with a larger field of fluid intelligence – life itself. As one of nature’s creatures at play in the universe we are floating on the lily pad of existence; belonging. Spiritual states of unity with ‘oneness’ are not only possible from disembodied states of consciousness. Feeling the benign nature of life unfolding, recreating and transforming engenders trust in the cycles of life and death. This is a silent revolution because physicality is not an obstacle holding us in bondage, fear, and pain, but a portal into a spiritual state of unity. The love of our world, transmitted through our bodies, can lead us back toward a mature stewardship for our planet. The only way to discover and develop this portal is by attentive listening and following the flow of sensation and impulses for movement. To do this we have to let go of mental directives. Presence within pleasurable, non-linear movement becomes a teacher of greater awareness. But we have to step into the unknown every single time we take this journey. This in itself is a spiritual practice.
Sound as movement
How do we initiate a richer expression of sensations and movement without mental directives? What enhances the impulse to explore outside the range of everyday patterns of perception? What guides us into deeper interoception, an inner awareness of our state of being; our presence within. As much emphasis as we put on listening, allowing and following, Continuum is not a passive event. If repetitive habits become stultifying and instill rigidity, how do we reverse this trend of aging to increase neuro-plasticity, stimulating the recreative capacities of our organism?
Mantras, chanting, and singing are as old as the hills. Music is a state changer as it helps unify us in harmonic resonance with self and other. The Greek root of the word emotion defines it as energy that moves from inside to outer expression making our vocal expression a conduit for inside to out flow of energy and expression. Depression is often not so much a lack of joy but a loss of creative expression. So the flow between our inner world and engagement with ‘other’ is key to participation and belonging rather than curling away in isolation or numbness.
Sound is a vibration and vibration is movement. When making sound, using our voice without the meaning content of language, we can focus on the sensations that vibration creates internally. In this way, we receive sound as if we are a tuning fork, feeling it in our bones and tissues. The attention we bring to this gives us a bio-feedback loop of assessment. The denser, tenser, more numb areas in our body do not respond to sound as easily as the more open and relaxed areas. Just as water transmits sound globally and evenly, we can know where our tissues are more or less resilient within our internal fluids. During one session of Continuum there is often a progress report via sound, letting us know that our organism has become more coherent and ‘in tune’ with itself.
With sound we have a way to touch internal spaces where no hand will ever go, such as the front of the sacrum or the inside of facial bones. Combined with the touch of our own hands in the same territory we are palpably passing this vibration from inside to out. This gives us the power to bring more energy and awareness to places in need. Since a primary symptom of shock and trauma is a blank spot in our awareness, this becomes a pivotal resource for trauma resolution via Continuum. When an area is ‘off line’, so to speak, resolution begins with noting the missing territory. Just as a numb sensation signals us if an area of our body has gone to sleep, so feeling the gap in coherent sensation begins the return of awareness.
Sensing the vibration of sound can also invoke impulses for micro-movements, minute split second twitches, quivers or something between imagination and movement. Clearly we can not direct these. As we become fascinated by their spontaneity, they tend to proliferate, complexify and spread. The animal body discharges the high activation of trauma by shaking, quivering, making sounds or crying. When humans have missed this stage of resolution, the invitation for spontaneous micro-movements can serve to thaw the frozen territories of PTSD as it trickles through the blocked channels of discharge. Trauma aside, micro-movements and sound open areas of stagnation and density.
Vocal sounds are breath made audible. The play between sound and breathing creates another form of biofeedback. As sound resonates within the cavity of our skeletal container, it conveys a sense of volume. When we create something like an OOO sound, we can both hear and feel where it resonates. In doing so our typical breathing pattern is interrupted allowing us to witness how breathing chooses to re-regulate between one sound and the next. Breathing is so intimately interwoven with our nervous system that we can not affect one without affecting the other. If we are anxious, breathing speeds up and becomes more shallow, while relief is experienced as a more satisfying inhale and exhale and more open air passages. Shifting breathing patterns towards ease is more challenging that simply telling oneself to ‘take a deep breath’. The autonomic function of breathing means that it is regulating according to signals from heart, resting tensions, and systemic needs beyond our mental directives. As we become more aware of our internal volume and its permeable responsiveness to sound, breathing also gives us a progress report. How does our breathing re-regulate for an upgrade of function and what can we learn from that? What areas need to relax and find support from the earth? What holding patterns rob us of the gift of breathing at ease? We can witness what our breath wants to do without interfering mentally. Sometimes it seems to quiet and become smaller. Sometimes the space between breaths elongates incredibly. Sometimes we find breathing responses moving into new territories as holding patterns release. Invariably the reset point chosen by our breathing offers a better sense of being supported both from inside and from the gravitational field. Over time we become more aware of the affect our stress responses have on breathing. Likewise, we are more cognizant of the way back home. To know that a spike of anxiety can be turned around by tending an inner state nourished by sound and breathing awareness is incredibly empowering.
Accessing the power of the field
What does that mean; accessing the power of the field? The shared focus within a group seems to help our concentration, igniting a fecundity of creativity and serendipitous exchanges of information. This is at the heart of all churches and organizations. Continuum participants report an augmentation to their explorations within a class setting. We notice that motifs seem to emerge spontaneously or we have shared experiences without plan or pre-thought. Because individuals in a Continuum class are self-directing their process, sound streams take on a life of their own. It is very possible to feel penetrated or touched by another’s sound. This is different than empathy. Rather than being touched by another person’s emotional state, we feel resonance as a collective field. Silences and interplays of sound blend and influence our inner journey. This can feel as if we are breathing as an organism without any loss of individuation. The perception of being enclosed by the barrier of one’s own skin softens and expands with a delicious sense of permeability. Intuition, synchronicities of events, healing from a distance all seem to indicate that we are in a soup of awareness together, adding our own essential spice to it. But because science has no explanation for this phenomenon, it is more challenging to develop trust in a larger, invisible, yet communicative field. Intellectually we realize we are breathing in oxygen that tress exhale while trees are breathing in the carbon dioxide we exhale. Symbiosis is the nature of nature. Yet, experiencing ourselves in a greater exchange with each other and the universe often remains an intellectual concept, not a felt sense of knowing. The constraint of science’s quest for a physical-materialistic view of objective reality has kept theories of the Implicate Order of Bohm and the morphogenic field by Sheldrake in a metaphysical conundrum for the last century. In order to expand a science of consciousness, we would need to accept that our minds appear to be more enfolded, entangled and interdependent with the world at large. Not only do we need an accepted paradigm for this but a felt sense of knowing it as an inner truth. As we become familiar with the power of non-directed, non-linear fluid expressions of movement to create more coherency and well-being, the trust in waters’ life-giving intelligence becomes an experience of belonging to an implicate order within that also operates beyond our skin. Meanwhile, given the restrictions of gathering together during the 2020 pandemic, collective explorations have had to go to zoom or other meetings from afar. This seems to be engendering a greater awareness of non-local inclusion. The potential to feel akin to something larger that ourselves; beyond creed, color or culture, is a collective healing. Rather than preaching to an abstract concept of unity, feeling augmented by these shared experiences helps pave the way for a step that humanity must take for its own survival. This quality of alone/together begins within a safe container of like-minded pursuits. Gradually with repeated experiences, it changes the fierce individualism and competitive perspectives of our times.
We are not the first to delve into energy fields of healing or communication at a distance. For example, Australian aborigines were quite at home in this realm without the training wheels of electronic devices. Slowly but surely our current networks have been creating a world wide web of information. With the global problems of pollution and pandemic, survival imperatives are causing us to reach beyond tribalism, racism and nationalism in order to seek solutions. John Lennon’s song, Imagine, begins to sound like a necessity for the survival of humanity rather than unrealistic idealism. Yet, we still have culturally conditioned habits of polarization that choose to divide and conquer. How can we practice an ability to welcome diversity within a unified field? How can we care for our own local needs and be cognoscente of our place within a greater whole? As small as Continuum seems in the larger scheme of humanity’s evolution or demise, it models an experiential form for resting at ease within the creative potential of these dilemmas. The analogy of an orchestra conveys an ability to access the beauty of unified intention combined with individual expression. Cultivating repeated experiences, whether in classes or virtual events, help pave the way for a revolution that seeks cooperation over competition, reinforcing new habits for humanity.
The power of imagination
All inventions begin within our capacity for imagination. Social change also comes from imagining a better world. John Lennon’s song was already mentioned and Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “I have a dream” is another example. The play of children, such as caring for baby dolls or driving a fire engine, imagines empowerment and agency during the dependent phase of life. These are all precursors to an unfolding future, not yet tangible. Many meditations enlist visualizations of color and imagery as a practice to overlay order within our energetic awareness. Psychics, too, develop an alternate channel of perception via less immediate and literal data.
Pictures, images or something like metaphors can easily arise within a Continuum dive. There are times when it feels as if one is in a lucid dream. The literal body can seem to dissolve or turn into something other. During Continuum explorations we often call on our imagination and visualization to take journeys down through the inner realms or into space outside of our body. It is not uncommon to ‘send’ an audible breath/sound into or around a particular area. Sometimes this brings us into a specific awareness of our anatomy, such as bones or viscera. At other times we might be weaving an imaginary spiral around the outside of a leg. The coupling of sound and visualization augments focus while simultaneously letting the artist of imagination surprise and inform us. Spontaneously, our imagination will want to knit an injured area with special attention or create a conversation between two areas that were not slated for the project at hand. Like the dream world, inviting imagination to the party enlists the power of the unconscious to deliver messages one step ahead of our literal sensibilities. Making friends with the unconscious in pursuit of more consciousness has primarily been the realm of Jungian therapy, or historically a role within shamanism. It is, as yet, an unrecognized ally when brought to bear on the potential of our physical body to develop new neurological capacities. Continuum combines our ability to initiate visualizations with a free form receptivity to imaginal emerging. Combining organized imagination with free range imagination while tracking physical sensations and responses opens up new territory in the field of somatic practices. Somatic therapies listen to the associations of image, emotions and sensations arising from our past. Continuum applies these same skills to our emerging self. This is about growth as well as repair. It requires a fresh moment in response to the unknown. This is about living our lives as developing, unfolding beings continuing to awaken to new awareness. Awakening is not a fixed state. Emilie said that the intelligence of life is encoded in movement: “Movement is both the message and the messenger”. Engaging with life’s ever changing interplays is the game, the learning, the emergence of becoming. When we do this through the spontaneous movement expressions of Continuum, our body, mind awareness and soul come together with a single purpose.
Continuum as a practice
Slowing down - creating a safe container - allowing self-pacing - loosening the grip of social norms - sound as movement - accessing the power of the field - imagination: these components create the learning environment of Continuum. The architecture of a ‘dive’(what we call our forays into this medium) has a beginning, middle, and end named a layout. There is usually a preparatory phase. This allows us to notice our initial state of being before we begin. The cognitive report of an initial ‘baseline’ will give us a comparison later after we have experimented with various sounds, breaths, and movements. In this way we start to teach ourselves how different modalities in Continuum evoke shifts in our perception and in our physiology. Next we set out an itinerary for our journey. Often we bring specific focus to territories such as diaphragms or ribs, etc. Or perhaps we initiate a conversation between areas in the body. Creating counterpoints such as different positions in relationship to gravity or contrasting energizing play versus slower, more receptive phases serves to keep us dexterous and attentive to change. We are not bound to march through this plan of action should we become intrigues with phenomena that arise spontaneously whether from sensations, images, memories or reflections. Yet, we re-orient to the layout as a way to create a conscious process. Once we begin there is a natural flow of movement from one thing to the next. Like a symphony, there are phrases, returning themes and natural pauses. The punctuation between these stages is always a time for Open Attention. Open Attention is a form of resting awareness without a specific focus. Often surprises or revelations arrive during this pause. Welcoming new subtle pleasure as it flows without action could be the most important harvest of this endeavor. Certainly applying the rhythm between focused action and a more dilated lens of perception is a healthy habit to develop in life. During these periods of Open Attention we remind ourselves of our beginning state and compare it to the new ‘now’. Given half a chance, the body will find ways to open and rebalance at a higher level of order. It is crucial that we learn to track the progression from one state to the next and from one dive to the next. We are learning to trust the intelligence of our organism and to develop our ability to respond to its impulses. Breathing, relaxation, more coherency and stronger interoception are within our power to improve through this form of engagement; part willful and part receptive. Yet, self teaching requires a definition of experience. Without creating meaning for these ephemeral states of being, they will drift away without a trace. Empowerment comes with understanding how we have learned to change our physiology. Integration comes when we take the ‘notes to self’ arising from body, psyche and mind and apply them to our everyday life.
An Emerging New Philosophy
From a casual glance at a Continuum class, the apparently self indulgent lolling, rolling and napping could hardly seem to be revolutionary. When Emilie, after years as a professional dancer, first surrendered to her depression and asthma, asking her body to lead her, she could not have known how this query would continue to unfold for the rest of her life. Nor could she have foretold its powerful and ongoing affects for her students. She was a dancer, not a scientist. She knew nothing of connective tissue or trauma theories. Her passions and visions took her beyond the scientific paradigms of our biological parameters. To this day, her work with paralysis has gone unnoticed because it defies the current medical beliefs about a total severing of the central nervous cord. One of her longest term students, Barbara Mindell, was a paraplegic who regained full sensation throughout her body and the ability to move in ways considered medically impossible. Essentially Barbara developed an alternate neurological system that allowed her to lift her legs and crawl via Continuum’s explorations in movement.
Yet, how does this contribute to a philosophical view of the purpose of our lives? First we need to acknowledge that this trajectory has been developing over the last 50 years with contributions from countless thinkers, practitioners, therapists and teachers. As well, Continuum was developed not only by Emilie, but by her students who shared their knowledge, insights and contributions: most notably, Susan Harper, Emilie’s first Continuum teacher, who collaborated with Emilie for many years. This new philosophy sees the purpose of life as an on-going process of burgeoning awareness, learning and unfolding of being. No longer is the success of a life measured only in achievements that are culturally lauded. With this broader process-oriented endeavor, diversity is encouraged rather than curtailed. Emotions are no longer relegated to a private world of neurosis or seen as weakness. Rather their crucial signaling directs us toward more discriminating choices and authentic vitality provided we can meet them without judgment or blame. Spirituality is coming closer to everyday life; meaning, as Emilie said many times, “God is not elsewhere.” Rather than putting spiritual authority outside of oneself with representatives to shepherd or translate the wisdom of religious traditions, we are reaching for our own relationship to our own spiritual insights. The mediums for this can be through art, meditation, plant medicine, engagement with nature, ecstatic dance, caring for one’s children, music, etc. Life’s challenges are in service to growth rather than seen as a punishment or a test for delayed gratification after we die.
Continuum’s teachings are as painstaking as any meditation practice. It takes a long time to develop patience, skill and trust in its potency. Emilie believed that we can participate consciously in the evolution of our neurology in order to repair damage, as Barbara Mindell demonstrated, but also to develop new sensibilities. We can not know where this takes us or what it could mean, but that has always been the case with evolution. As we tend barely perceptible sensations that become more elaborate and vivid with our attention, all we can discern is the satisfaction within our state of being. Personally, I believe that Continuum helps integrate the two hemispheres of the brain as well as the functions of the neocortex, limbic and reptilian brain stem. Again to quote Emilie; “Our neocortex became too big for its britches. Now we need to backtrack towards a brain that follows the lead of the heart rather than dissociating from it.” Continuum still feels visionary within the current paradigms from science to theologians. These are the factors that point the way toward a new society:
An un-fragmented sense of self. Equal value given to the information coming from mind, emotions, body, and the subconscious.
Granting of equal wisdom manifesting among group members without a need to have the same beliefs or the same state of being. Welcoming diversity, rather than protecting against it; this being the only way that humanity can evolve beyond racism and territoriality. It begins by being at ease with diversity within a social container. Direction comes from a sensibility that arises from the collective rather than the top down hierarchy models of leadership. To practice resonance with the field rather than taking directions from a leader mirrors a shift from a neocortical dominated body to a heart based body in resonance with the whole of self and others. This is how the Continuum Teacher’s Association has modeled their organization.
Empowerment to work with ourselves effectively in order to reduce anxiety and other discomforts. This ability to improve our parasympathetic state when it becomes agitated challenges habituated responses of blame and victimhood.
Engendering states of communion with the animal kingdom and the natural world. This love of earth and body is in total harmony with spiritual aspirations, not an impediment to the higher self.
A relationship with our bodies as a portal to higher states of spiritual unity. A new sense of spirituality involves waking up as an ongoing process of gaining new awareness. The perceptual body is a participant in the integration that turns experience into wisdom. Continuum provides food for our souls in relationship to daily life.
I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon two amazing, powerful, visionary women who shaped my path this lifetime. Emilie’s passion transmitted a dedication for an inquiry into being fully alive and present to my own precious life through experiencing the intelligence of life at play within me as well as beyond. My life has transfigured through many small deaths as well as some great sorrows and disappointments. Yet, meeting these times with presence and staying true to the moment has continued to enliven me. Movement is as much a dissolving of one form as a transpiring into a new becoming. Without fear or judgment, within this dance of life, seeming un-resolvable polarities such as mind/body, life/death, spirit/material, belonging/aloneness, pleasure/pain seem to exist together without contradiction. I believe that this practice of refining my capacity for very subtle pleasures will continue to take me home, perhaps even as I am dying.
Thank you, Emilie and the full, gracious, graceful, gorgeous Continuum community.
An Exploration of Continuum with Sarah Grace
In this video, Sarah guides us into "Resting Within the 3 Centers" using sound and Continuum as an experiential way to self-regulate, nourish and connect deeply into the tap root of Mother Earth.
Continuum Voices #4: Gael Rosewood part 1
In this podcast, Gael tells us how she met Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum Movement, and shed light on many subjects such as the relationship of sounds and tissue or the impact of trauma in the body. She also speaks, as a daughter of philosopher Huston Smith, author of The World’s Religions, about the lineage of Continuum with ancient traditions such as the Gnostic.
Continuum Voices #5: Robert Litman
Robert speaks about his meeting with Emilie Conrad and how he became one of her closest collaborator and how they created the Wellspring program.
Continuum Voices #6: Amber Gray
Amber Gray speaks about her path at the crossroad of activism & sacred healing.
Continuum Voices #7: Sylvain Meret interviewed by Amber Gray
Sylvain speaks about how his background as a visual artist and a dance performer led to meeting Continuum and Emilie Conrad. He speaks about his view of the body in terms of connective tissues and matrices, connective tissues and ancestors and the virtual practice of Continuum at this time.
Continuum, Part 1: The Art of Fluid Movement
This is an introduction into Continuum. 'We are water, moving on land', as Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum, said. Inviting the fluid movements through sound and breath sequences, the body gets permission to move in its own way with restorative, nourishing and balancing movements, gestures or postures. Starting in sitting position, hands on the heart-area, becoming aware of the baseline. What is present now? Then making a couple of simple humming sounds, feeling the vibration of the sound in the body. Allowing the body to move, finding its own shapes and directions. Bringing awareness into the body through tracking the movement. Slow. gentle. As long as it takes, before coming back to baseline again. Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012.
Continuum, Part 2: Calming the System
One part of Continuum is to allow our whole system — body, mind, emotions, spirit — to rest and settle. In that way it can integrate experiences, digest and regenerate itself. Starting in lying position on your back with the baseline. Eventually making a gentle HA-exhale, at least 3 times on every area: with the hands on the upper chest, then diaphragm, then the lower belly. Making tiny micro movements with the fingers. Then, after the breath invocation, allow the body to move, finding its own shapes and directions. Bringing awareness into the body through tracking the movement. Slow, gentle. As long as it takes, before coming back to baseline again. Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012.
Continuum, Part 3: Micro-Movements
If we are aware of it, or not: Everything is movement. Our whole body is an orchestration of movements. Consciously exploring tiny minute micro-movements, especially in areas that we are not used to, can increase our adaptability to (new) situations. It stimulates possible abilities of the body, as well as development of our brain-functions through neuroplasticity. Start with a sitting baseline. Observe breath-movement. Then just focus on one hand. What are you aware of? From there, explore the most tiniest movement possibilities of all the areas in your hand. Then, let that inform your arm, shoulder, and other parts of the body. Eventually that can bring you also in contact with the ground. Play with micro-pressing of your hand/claw/paw in all different directions. Allowing the body to find its own shapes and forms in an open movement exploration afterwords. Take as much time as you feel like. Coming back to baseline and rest in order to integrate. Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012. He is founding member of the Continuum Teachers Association.
Continuum, Part 4: Diaphragm Jellyfish
Our body comes out of the sea. Discovering the elements, creatures, and movements that are still alive in us, communicating their wisdom in these pulsating, waving, undulating choreographies. In a sitting position, noticing the baseline. Especially the space around your breath and diaphragm moving. Bring a couple of "Puffed O's" into the area of your diaphragm (or simply a hum, if you haven't learned that sound yet). Feel the ripples of the sound inviting the diaphragm-jellyfish to have its play. As long as it takes, before coming back to baseline again. Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012. He is founding member of the Continuum Teachers Association.
Continuum, Part 5: Fluid Fitness
Ok, here comes one of my favorite practices of Continuum! The "Continuum Playground" also called "Jungle Gym". It is an active, dynamic form of movement, playing with gravity, species inclusivity (meaning that we have the whole animal kingdom inside of us), riding through emotions, shapes and forms. In the video you see some of the starting positions for Jungle Gym, together with the HU-breath (That breath is best to learn from a Continuum Teacher to make sure it comes easy, light and playful. We don't want to force anything or give any form of stress to the system!). From there it can go into an open movement exploration afterwords. You can layer it, starting all over from position one. Or layer it with any other sequence. Take as much time as you feel like. Coming back to baseline and rest in order to integrate. Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012. He is founding member of the Continuum Teachers Association.
Continuum, Part 6: Gravity
After the Continuum Playground /Jungle Gym in part 5, we gonna bring it in this video further in evolution: Hanging from a chair or floating. You can also use any other object that calls your attention in order to change your angle to gravity, like pillow under your side or butt. Playing in this way is not only strengthening our muscular system, but also brings incredible twists, space and balance for spine, psoas, neck. Next to that it is activating our lymphatic system and in that way helps cleansing the body. Did somebody say "Fun"? Of course!! That too! In the video you see some starting positions for engaging with the chair, either together with the HU-breath or as a slow movement exploration. Less is more, start slow, and make sure you always feel the support of the ground! (Practice is on your own risk.) From the chair it can go into an open movement exploration afterwords. You can layer it, starting all over from position one (on the ground). Or layer it with any other sequence you did before. Take as much time as you feel like. Coming back to your baseline and rest, in order to integrate. Have fun! Volker was authorized as Continuum Teacher and practitioner by Emilie Conrad in 2012. He is founding member of the Continuum Teachers Association.
Elaine Colandrea, Continuum Teacher and Director of Watermark Arts, demonstrates how Continuum helps her "meet the moment to moment unfolding of life" and develop "inner authority" by connecting with the most primary level of knowledge — the sensory systems. Includes demo of the life force itself in motion after preparing with a breathing and sounding preparation.
Embryonic Origins with Continuum
Elaine Colandrea, Continuum Teacher and Director of Watermark Arts, explores our embryonic origins. The embryo is a primary motif used for somatic explorations of our fluid nature and creativity in Continuum.
Moving Like Water
Elaine Colandrea, Artistic Director of Watermark Arts, guides an introductory somatic movement exploration using Continuum.
Susan Harper, Heart of Continuum
Summary: Watermark Arts presents a cinematic celebration of Susan Harper’s extraordinary life journey.
Born in Africa to missionary parents, Susan began her devoted exploration of Continuum with Emilie Conrad in 1975, partnering with her in various ways until Emilie's death in 2014. Continuum Montage, Susan's lifework, began as a record company and grew into the full expression of the innovative somatic practices born of Susan's deep inquiries and collaborative nature.
Susan Harper, Heart of Continuum was created to honor Susan's 70th birth year in 2020.
Conceived & produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts. Edited by Hannah Tobias with Elaine Colandrea. Original score by Cory Blake. www.watermarkarts.org
Les alliés cachés de notre organisme Les fascias ARTE
Gros plan sur notre tissu fascial, qui entoure à la manière d'un bandage à la fois dense et irrégulier les éléments composant notre corps : nos organes, nos muscles, nos os. Cet organe méconnu et vital suscite parmi les chercheurs en médecine un intérêt et un espoir croissants.
Visibles à l'échographie, sensibles à l'acupuncture et à la pression manuelle, facilement endommagés par le stress et l'inaction physique, les fascias pourraient en effet se révéler l'origine méconnue de nombreuses pathologies, dont les douleurs dorsales, qu'elles soient chroniques ou non. L'approfondissement des connaissances en la matière est donc susceptible d'ouvrir de nouvelles pistes thérapeutiques, y compris dans la lutte contre le cancer.
Introduction to Continuum with Kim Brodey May 5, 2020
Introduction to Continuum with Kim Brodey May 5, 2020
Introduction to Continuum with Kim Brodey May 19, 2020
Introduction to Continuum with Kim Brodey May 19, 2020
Finding Ground in the Swirl with Amber Gray and Sharon Weil
You can use your own body to self-regulate fear, panic and the uncomfortable physical sensations that accompany emotional reactions to the uncertainty of this pandemic. Dr. Amber Gray, somatic psychotherapist, dance therapist and Continuum teacher offers insight and practical exercises to find peace, calm and a sense of personal connection in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your Breathing is the First Line of Support for Your Health with Robert Litman and Sharon Weil
Self-care starts with your own breath. Learn from breathing expert, Robert Litman, simple techniques and important information about how to use your breathing as your first line of support for your health and anti-viral protection in the time of coronavirus.
Being With: Regenerating Wholeness In Chaotic Times with Susan Harper and Sharon Weil
Frightened by the uncertainty of pandemic events? Susan Harper, somatic educator and founder of Continuum Montage speaks about how to create a tender relationship with our fears that, at the same time, opens us to new possibilities of vision and wholeness. Our breath and movement are the indicators and portals for returning to balance beneath the usual habits of orientation that have been so disrupted.
Self-care Through Touch with Emma Destrubé and Sharon Weil
When you don’t have access to therapeutic touch, using your own touch can build immunity, create calm and promote healing. Emma Destrubé, acupuncturist, herbalist and somatic therapist, tells us how to use acupressure points and self-soothing touch to take care of our own health, wellbeing, and sense of connection.
Turning to Beauty with Elaine Colandrea and Sharon Weil
In troubled times, turn to beauty in order to refresh your emotions, spirit and soul. Elaine Colandrea, movement artist, somatic Continuum educator, and artistic director of Watermark Arts, talks about how receiving beauty, natural beauty and art can give us the kind of pleasure that can be potent medicine for these unsettled times.
Moving Through a Panic Attack with Kim Brodey and Sharon Weil
Anxiety and panic can grip the body in response to uncertainty and fear, real or imagined. It causes sleeplessness, a racing heart, and tight breathing. Kim Brodey, midwife, musician and Continuum somatic educator, talks about how to use our own breath and movement to meet the panic response where it resides in the body, and eventually, how to return to a sense of balance and calm.
Immunity, Nourishment, and Empowered Self-care with Emma Destrubé and Sharon Weil
How can we stay healthy in the time of pandemic when there’s limited medical care available? Emma Destrubé, acupuncturist, herbalists and somatic therapist offers the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, informed by nature’s processes, as to how we can best nourish our health and become empowered agents of our own wellbeing, right now.
Forming a Relationship with the Unseen World with Suzanne Wright Crain and Sharon Weil
Forming a reciprocal relationship with the seen and unseen world can provide us with a rich sense of connection that enhances our sense of safety and belonging. Visual artist and Continuum somatic educator, Suzanne Wright Crain, uses play theory and the imaginal realms in her art, in her teaching, and in her life. She looks and listens for cues that can become guidance for greater health and wellbeing, and encourage lightheartedness, even in times of stress and uncertainty.
Start a Personal Practice, Now—When You Need It Most with Priscilla Stanton Auchincloss, Beth Penttengill Riley & Sharon Weil
Whether for movement or meditation, there’s no better time than now to begin or refine a personal practice for being with yourself while you must distance from others. Priscilla Stanton Auchincloss and Beth Pettengill Riley, authors of A Moving Inquiry, The Art of Personal Practice, show you how to create the time, space, and interest to begin enjoyable daily explorations of your own inner landscape. Bringing your practiced attention to the nuanced movement of your breath and body prepares you to better meet our ever-changing world with more resource and ease.
From Me to We with Sabine Mead and Sharon Weil
Can we reframe our worldview from the primacy of the individual to one that includes all species and living elementals in thriving balance? Sabine Mead, somatic movement artist, teacher, and practitioner, shows us how to create an intimate relationship between our own inner landscape and the ones we live in through our felt-sense experience and the way we use language. Feeling our larger unity becomes the perfect medicine for soothing, regulating, trust, and hopeful repurposing.
The Dynamic Potency in Stillness with Marcella Bottero and Sharon Weil
The coronavirus quarantine has put us all on pause. Marcella Bottero, fitness expert, biodynamic craniosacral therapist and Continuum somatic educator, talks about how we can create a rich and fertile pause within the pause, discovering our own personal resiliency and the possibility of rediscovering ourselves.
Recovering from COVID-19 Using Somatic Tools with Bobbie Ellis and Sharon Weil
Some of us have fallen ill to COVID-19, or will. Bobbie Ellis, creator of Soma Yoga ™, Continuum somatic educator, and bodyworker, navigated the severe symptoms of the virus to recovery. She shares the body-based practices of breath and sense awareness tracking that navigated her healing.
The Supports That We Need Are With Us At All Times with Rebecca Amis Lawson and Sharon Weil
Would you like to feel a sense of expansive freedom, movement and interactive engagement even while sheltering at home? Rebecca Amis Lawson, psychotherapist, dance movement therapist and Continuum somatic educator talks about how to use our perception of space and ground to help us locate and renew our relationships to ourselves, our environment, and to our sense of safety and wellbeing. The portals of our senses nourish our receptivity and provide inherent support that lifts us out of worry and future-fear into an immediate sense of presence anywhere and everywhere that we are.
From Inside to Outside— What Nourishes Us in the Transition? with Megan Bathory-Peeler and Sharon Weil
Inside? Outside? Are you ready to go back out from your coronavirus shelter? Maybe not so, for some. Megan Bathory-Peeler, movement artist, bodywork therapist and Continuum somatic educator, talks about the challenges of making the transition from inside to outside and what supports we need in order to carry a sense of spacious wellbeing out into a larger, face-paced world—now that we can.
Leading From The Heart with Linda Rabin and Sharon Weil
Whether for raising your voice in protest and solidarity, or for finding expansive calm during social isolation, Linda Rabin, dance and movement pioneer, and Continuum somatic educator, talks about Leading from the Heart. It’s not just a metaphor; it’s a somatic practice that brings levity to the spaces around the heart, and a feeling of wellbeing so that our effective actions come from a sense of true connection and not from fear.
Turning Sheltering-at-Home Into Sanctuary with Volker Moritz and Sharon Weil
Volker Moritz, psychotherapist, sexologist and Continuum somatic educator, talks about turning shelter into sanctuary by creating sacred space anywhere that we are. As we begin to emerge from our quarantine, how can we slow down—even as we are speeding back up—in order to retain connection with ourselves and the natural world that we are a part of?
Staying The Course When The Course is Shifting with Bonnie Gintis DO and Sharon Weil
How can we stay the course of our lives when the course is drastically shifting due to coronavirus response? How do we wait for the unknown? Bonnie Gintis, osteopathic physician, Continuum somatic educator and author of Engaging the Movement of Life: Exploring Health and Embodiment, talks about how to find moment-to-moment stability in uncertainty, and how to maintain your good health through ongoing creative inquiry.
What Can We Learn by Navigating Uncertainty? with Sharon Weil
Passing 4 Normal podcast host, Sharon Weil, reflects upon lessons learned from this season’s interviews with somatic experts for navigating the unprecedented change and uncertainty of these coronavirus times. Harvesting the gems of their wisdom, she talks about how to find ground in a shifting scene by using our own inner-resources of breath, movement and felt-sense presence to transform illness, fear, and isolation into true connection and holistic wellbeing.
Words & Waves with Rebecca Mark and Sharon Weil
Rebecca shares her unique way of unearthing writing through movement. The results are unexpected stories that come from creative depths that anyone can plumb.
The Breathable Body with Robert Litman and Sharon Weil
Breath is our most essential nourishment, yet we only pay attention when something is wrong. Learn how to change your entire health just by changing the way you breathe.
The Anatomy of Anxiety with Robert Litman and Sharon Weil
The physiology, emotions, and sensations of anxiety are triggered by locked patterns of breathing. Soothe your anxiety by changing your breathing.
Nature photos of skies and waters
A compilation of inspirational skies and waters.
Movement and Consciousness: The King Facing God on the Reliefs of the Temple of Ramses III in Medinet Habu (12th c. BCE), Egypt
Abstract to the thesis for the degree of “Doctor of Philosophy” presented by Batyah Schachter to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Continuum sound Theta tutorial with Kori Tolbert
In this video Continuum Teacher Kori Tolbert offers a demo and tutorial for the Theta Breath. Taught in English.
Continuum sound Shhhh tutorial with Kori Tolbert
In this video Continuum Teacher Kori Tolbert offers a demo and tutorial for the Shhhhh Sound. Taught in English.
Continuum sound Puffed O tutorial with Kori Tolbert
Continuum Teacher Kori Tolbert teaches and demonstrates the Puffed O Continuum sound. This video was created as a tutorial to accompany one of Kori's virtual Continuum series. The Puffed O is a great way to wake up our face and open our bodies to resonant sound.
Continuum for Living with more Freedom and Ease with Cystic Fibrosis
This video discusses some of the benefits of using Continuum for increased breath capacity and freedom as a Cystic Fibrosis patient. In English
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Amber Elizabeth Lynn Gray
From Darfur to her clinic in New Mexico, human rights psychotherapist Amber Gray blends dance therapy and Continuum in her recovery work with refugees. Amber shares the story of a client, a survivor from Iraq who had lived her whole life with the fear that anybody in her family could disappear. This woman really wanted to find her body again and therapy wasn't helping enough. After doing lunar breaths together she opened her eyes and looked at Amber. “This is what a body is supposed to feel like?!", she said. "I’m home.” Continuum has also helped Amber personally in moving away from job burnout and — even in hostile places — into a sense of peace and wholeness.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Ashima Kahrs
As a young woman Ashima Kahrs had a stroke, an event that deeply impacted her life. Decades later Continuum entered her life and allowed new levels of recovery. Continuum teacher and author of “The Cosmic Stroke,” Ashima Kahrs says that we just don't know the potential we have. After meeting wheelchair-bound artist Barbara Mindell in her early Continuum journey Ashima's mind was opened to the possibility that she may regain sensation of the paralyzed right side of her body. She goes to her Continuum practice instead of a doctor to find out how to move forward, a creative endeavor she loves sharing with others.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Val Leoffler
Continuum teacher and bodyworker Val Leoffler discusses a creative approach to healing in her work with clients, as well as her own recovery from a brain tumor. Val sees Continuum as an essential tool in building a nourishing relationship with ourselves. She talks about the uncertainty and overwhelm she experienced after having surgery. Continuum became a way of holding the different pieces of herself creatively and patiently. Val learned to seek out the "greenbelt" of her own interior, the places that yearned for regeneration. It isn't about fixing, she says, it's all about listening with love. At the end of the interview she shares an image of hope and compassion.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell
Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell shares her vision for weaving somatic practices into public education. Continuum profoundly helped Elisabeth's pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience on a biological and psychological level. As a movement educator and mother, she is passionate about finding ways to bring Continuum to younger people and into the educational system at large. The sooner we are introduced to a practice which can help us forge new neurological connections the greater the long-term benefit, especially for those coming from challenging biographical backgrounds, says Elisabeth, for whom creativity, movement and elementary education are natural allies.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Megan Bathory-Peeler
The “artistry of healing” inspires the work of Continuum teacher, bodyworker & dancer Megan Bathory-Peeler. Having come to her work through injury and curiosity Megan feels called to connect people with the artistry of their own self-healing. To her, creativity is one of the most healing things we can engage in. In her practice she has seen the importance of dropping into sensing and feeling as a way of bringing us into the deeper territory we need to access for transformation and change.
A moving inquiry training program Berlin 2020-23
Continuum Training program in Berlin.
Continuum Voices #2: Jeanne Jensen
Jeanne speaks about her life path with Continuum.
Continuum Voices #3: Susan Harper part 1
Susan Harper, founder of Continuum Montage, talks about her early years with Continuum Movement founder Emilie Conrad. In this interview, Susan invites us to shift our cultural human perspective into a somatic worldview by questioning how movement is at the center of interpersonal relationships and in close connection with the larger context of nature.
Continuum Voices #3: Susan Harper part 2
Susan Harper, co-developer of the somatic practice of Continuum with founder Emilie Conrad, continues in this second part to speak of how Continuum is a relational practice with all that is alive within and around us. She speaks specifically to the next generations of Continuum teachers, as well as to our current cultural challenges and their potential overcome. She offers in this interview a vision to open our minds and hearts to the forces of nature and the resources we hold within that may not yet have arisen to our consciousness.
Transformational Self-care with Bonnie Gintis, DO and Sharon Weil
The human body is a creative process, with many portals to health and well-being. Dr. Bonnie Gintis, DO, uniquely combines osteopathy, mindfulness, Continuum, and other body-awareness practices to expand the possibilities of deeply caring for ourselves and others—becoming full participants in our own health and healing.
The Power in Choosing with Kori Tolbert and Sharon Weil
Kori Tolbert is a health coach and patient advocate who has transformed her own life-long journey with a debilitating illness into teaching young patients to empower themselves and improve their health outcomes by maximizing choice in how they perceive and receive treatment.
Trusting the Unknown: Dancer Ellen Cohen on Continuum & Creativity
Continuum teacher and improvisational dancer Ellen Cohen talks about how learning to stay present in her body from moment to moment in Continuum has enabled her to trust the unknown. This sense of safety becomes helpful in Ellen's varied occupations, such as choreography, bodywork and psychotherapy. The intrinsic artistry of the body's natural movements becomes a source of inspiration. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
The Diamond Essence of Dance: Dancer Linda Rabin on Continuum & Creativity
Canadian dance pioneer and international workshop leader Linda Rabin considers Continuum the "diamond essence" of dance — in contrast to the "artifice" of dance in its conventional sense. The biological origins of movement inherent in the practice can create deep nourishment, as well as open the door to creativity. Linda describes the mystery of her Continuum experience which led her to the realization that life and beauty are one. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Authenticity and Courage: Poet Bobbie Ellis on Continuum & Creativity
Bobbie Ellis says that the somatic practice of Continuum awakened her to creative writing and performance. In this interview she describes the process from diving to the page and how feeling herself more fully in Continuum ultimately allowed greater authenticity and courage in her life. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Expressing More of My Heart: Dancer Nicole Sclafani on Continuum & Creativity
Nicole Sclafani from Robin Becker Dance reveals what the somatic practice of Continuum offers dancers. The organic, spontaneous movement of the body was something completely new to her. Combining her training with Continuum has given her access to a full body 360 awareness, which in turn enhances the power of connection with others. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Music, Mindfulness and Continuum: Musician Cory Blake on Continuum & Creativity
Musician and Continuum teacher Cory Blake on how Continuum changed his experience of playing classical guitar and of creating music. He extends the conversation by addressing the potent interface of Continuum and mindfulness in everyday life, whether it's speaking, breathing or making music with people. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
The Deeper Level: Poet Beth Riley on Continuum & Creativity
Beth Riley says that with Continuum and creative expression she found home. While she had been a writer from an early age, the practice of Continuum brought her work to a much deeper level. Beth describes the process of the two practices intertwining and the transformative result she sees in how she experiences her life. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Accessing One’s Deepest Being: Dancer Robin Becker on Continuum & Creativity
Robin Becker, Artistic Director at Robin Becker Dance, speaks about the somatic practice of Continuum as "a way of accessing one's deepest being as a resource" for creativity. Robin's insights are applicable to all creative processes, to all of life, and have to do with trust and discovery. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Navigating Change: Writer Sharon Weil on Continuum & Creativity
"Navigating change is the new stability," says author and Continuum teacher Sharon Weil. She shares how the practice of Continuum supports the writing process, as well as life in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
The Intersection of Science and Creativity: Artist Suzanne Wright Crain on Continuum & Creativity
Artist and Continuum teacher Suzanne Wright Crain was brought to Continuum by an injury. She talks about the intersection of health, science, creativity and Continuum, and shares a moment of revelation. The video, produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts, includes many images of Suzanne's Living Water paintings.
Slowing Down to Increase Awareness: Dancer Melanie Gambino on Continuum & Creativity
This interview with Continuum teacher, dancer and choreographer Melanie Gambino includes footage of her Continuum-inspired performances. As Continuum helps us to slow down and open up to greater awareness, it reminds us that all the answers of who we are and whether we're okay are right here. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Tapping our Creative Capacities: Artist Mary Abrams on Continuum & Creativity Summary
Are we tapping all of our creative capacities? On awakening imagination with the biological awareness practice of Continuum from Continuum teacher, dancer and visual artist Mary Abrams. Video produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Bonnie Gintis
“On so many levels, I am convinced my practice of Continuum is what has allowed me to live for 9 years with a fairly advanced level cancer diagnosis.” Bonnie Gintis, osteopath, author and Continuum teacher learned how to have a relationship with cancer. This ability, fostered by her Continuum practice, has changed both of them. To Bonnie, health is no longer the opposite of disease, it’s not about resolving something that’s wrong in the body. Health is the full expression of the nature of the body, which is movement. In her early days of osteopathy school she embarked on a self-directed curriculum of finding in her own body what she was being taught to feel in other people’s bodies. This did not only bring her studies alive, it also helped her make connections with people and beyond. Healing adaptability is no different in what happens in the planetary process and the human body. A form of health care that understands and can work in accord with the way nature expresses itself through the body, opens up tremendous potential.
Continuum and The Creativity of Health Interview by Watermark Arts: with Kori Tolbert
Kori Tolbert on how the practice of Continuum allows her to keep “growing and expanding in breath — something unheard of with cystic fibrosis. Kori was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects all the mucous membranes in the body, particularly the lungs. Through the practice of Continuum she has found access to her lungs and created significant expansions unavailable in other ways. In this talk she mentions the specific breaths she finds essential in accompanying her through acute situations, such as surgery. By practicing Continuum in a group Kori has had palpable proof of receiving nourishment and information from a larger field — a field that holds wisdom beyond the capabilities of just one single body. In reflection of this gift, Kori shares her own intention when practicing Continuum.
Filmed by Hanna Heiting, Alphabet charts the process of “Words and Waves” - somatic movement and creative writing workshops led by Rebecca Mark and Emma Destrubé. It is a window into their unique, expressive worlds, and into their devoted exploration of how the movement practice of Continuum can cue the creative process.
The Continuum of Uncertainty
Bonnie Gintis, Continuum Teacher and Osteopathic Physician explores uncertainty as a process she explored with Emilie Conrad around living with each of their cancer diagnoses. Together, they explored how curiosity, open-ended inquiry, acceptance, not confusing the map with the territory, connection to something “greater”, and consciousness of dying are important aspects of self-care, and allows us to address the unexpected questions that creatively arise when confronted with what seems at first to be “impossible” to face.
The Continuum of Uncertainty
"Being confronted with the impossible makes us ask unexpected questions." — Emilie Conrad
We all live along a spectrum of uncertainty, but usually only realize this in retrospect. We have plans and ideas about what our life is about and where we think we are headed. And it can all change in a moment: a drunk driver can head right at us with nowhere to escape his impact, soldiers can go on a rampage in our village without warning, a flash flood can wash away our home, but for Emilie Conrad and me, it was metastatic cancer that suddenly announced the change of trajectory of our lives and brought an acute awareness of the uncertainty that had always been there. Emilie and I both faced a sudden, unexpected diagnosis of advanced stage cancer that had already spread far beyond its site of origin at initial diagnosis. What follows are some of the things we pondered together during the last year of her life (2014).
I did not think I'd live long enough to ask some of the questions I'm asking these days. It's been many years since I was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer (2009) and told that I would most likely die within a year or two. I'm living outside the realm of probability and therefore, inside the realm of possibility, and within this mysterious domain I am challenged with a deluge of unexpected questions. I am living proof of the unfolding of Emilie's statement about being confronted with the impossible.
What are some of these “unexpected questions”? Asking this question, in and of itself, aside from any other potential questions or answers, is an expression of curiosity. When confronted with what seems impossible, unworkable, and undoable we have a choice. We can “play dead,” shut down and go into denial; we can act out and lash out in violent reactive protest; or we can find a way to meet the unfolding moment and become curious. This is easier said than done, especially when faced with impending decrepitude and death, and during these challenging times, Continuum practice formally provides a container for us to enter the unknown and explore the possibilities that present themselves when we engage breath, movement, sensation, sound, and the awareness that dwells at the still center of our turning worlds. Curiosity about our embodied process can flourish even as the body disintegrates and dies.
Continuum is an open-ended inquiry that has the potential to improve the quality of people's lives, not because it cures illness, creates bliss or enlightenment, but because it allows people to be attentive to and informed by the necessity of the moment. In this domain of open awareness, as we are informed by what’s going on in our bodies, we are offered the possibilities of either making conscious choices or trusting in the unfolding of an unconscious process. It’s this trust in the wisdom of the body’s intelligence, outside of our conscious control that allows us to be carried to our end without flailing.
Open-ended Exploration Leads To Unexpected Wonder
Continuum is an inquiry, not a method of solving problems or treating diseases. The potential benefits of Continuum get distorted when people practice it in order to accomplish something specific. Although many people are called to Continuum practice because of illness, injury, trauma, bodily dysfunction, or dissatisfaction in life, the expectation that practice will cure or change something specific is a limiting belief. Being diagnosed with a cancer that has already spread can feel a bit like being out at sea on a leaky boat. Continuum practice encourages us to identify with the ocean rather than the boat and appreciate our resonance with and connection to the universal or cosmic fluid body as our small body declines. When we learn to trust the fluid intelligence of the body, of life itself, it can lead us all to unexpected wonder.
A woman attended a class series I taught once that explored the eyes. She had had an unsuccessful laser eye surgery and was left with pain and severely compromised vision in one eye. She desperately wanted to improve her ability to see. The class ended and she experienced no change in her eyes. She was profoundly disappointed, but she had been enchanted with the mysterious aspects of Continuum practice and decided to enroll in my next class, which explored the heart. She was willing and able to attend to her heart non-judgmentally because she had no fear that there was something wrong with it. Unexpectedly, while in a 2-hour Continuum dive exploring the swirling movement of blood through her heart, she felt a stabbing pain and a sensation she described as “unfurling” behind her eye. It was momentarily painful, but she didn’t panic because she could suddenly see clearly from her affected eye. She sat in open attention with both eyes open for the rest of the dive feeling curiosity and gratitude for the unexpected benefit. She had the insight that staring at her problem with fear, despair, anger, and judgment did not nurture her awareness. She was finally able to experience the inherent wisdom of her body when she let go of fighting with her apparently damaged eye. Her body found its own way to heal and creatively compensate for her altered eye, as she allowed exploration without an agenda.
Acceptance Informs Being Vs. Doing
Desperation fosters an emotional state that prevents listening. Despair might temporarily cease when the person feeling it gets what they think they want, but more often than not, it turns out to not be what they need, and despair returns with a vengeance. Despair can also be dissolved by choosing to let go or let things be as they are. Desperate negative thinking limits the field of exploration. Desperate positive thinking can turn into denial, and cloud the field with grasping for an expectation that is impossible to achieve. Hope might open the realm of possibilities, but expectation severely limits potential outcomes. Only acceptance of what actually is, can tap into the source of wisdom that is necessary to guide us to an alternative pathway of being.
As Emilie was making decisions about medical and alternative treatment options, we explored the question of being versus doing. What is the right balance? When do we take action and intervene? When do we be patient and wait to see what happens without willfully choosing a particular course? Being doesn't get me to my airport departure gate on time. I need to do something to catch my plane. If I fracture my arm, I don't want to sit in open attention; I want an orthopedic surgeon to do something about it, to "fix" it. There's nothing wrong with goal-oriented action. It is sometimes necessary.
How might our final days be different if we arrive at a state of acceptance of the inevitability of death, be with the recognition of the inexorable, and become curious about it? Continuum practice helps us cultivate insight to discern when to choose being versus doing and to have a chance to live without flailing up until the moment our life ends.
Explore The Territory; Don’t Just Follow The Map
Although Continuum can be used to explore certain areas, systems, or conditions of the body, I don't believe in Continuum "treatment protocols." Protocols and treatment plans are tools of western mainstream medicine, as well as some other structured systems of alternative or complementary health care. Mainstream medicine looks for answers. The search is automatically narrowed when you think you know the question. Emilie occasionally chose to use the word “protocol” because she felt it helped people get into the neighborhood of the domain they wished to explore. She equated a protocol with a map and hoped that people would appreciate that exploring the territory was more important than taking the map literally and following the protocol.
Connection To Something Other Than Ourselves
As we develop nuanced embodied perception, we begin to know the difference between what we feel inside our bodies as opposed to what arises from outside our bodies. We become able to distinguish mental activity from physical states and can articulate and communicate this sensory vocabulary to ourselves and to others. Our sense of connection to something other than ourselves offers solace during times when what we call our “self” is struggling with the agony of disintegration. Whether this connectedness is to something we consider “greater,” such as the natural world, the cosmos, or the Divine, or is more mundane, such as our connection to loved ones, animals, or community, we can choose to seek refuge from our suffering through connection to something other than our small sense of self.
Consciousness & Dying
Emilie and I pondered the lack of control that is inevitable at the end of life. So many people struggle with feeling undignified when control is lost, and yet, this inability to control the body as we die is a ubiquitous human experience. This is one of the many impossible situations she spoke of in her last few months. “Being confronted with the impossible makes us ask unexpected questions” was her response to what felt like the most difficult challenge of her life – how to remain conscious during the excruciating process of dying and not impatiently plead for it all to end. Before she lost conscious self-awareness, Emilie acknowledged the difficulty of having been devoted throughout her life to consciousness exploration and being forced to yield to the effects of cancer spreading through her brain, altering her ability to engage her own consciousness.
We need to tread lightly and not stare at our diseases and dysfunctions. Death will not allow us to fix our gaze upon its unfolding. There is an organic sort of shyness that can trigger us into protective hiding when stared at. I don't mean social or emotional shyness, the feeling of self-consciousness when looked at. This shyness is not personal; it is more like the expression of shyness that we find in the natural world - the way a bird is scared off by staring at it, or the way animals in the wild run and hide if they know they’ve been spotted. The danger is that our overly focused attention could trigger a compensatory response in which the body goes into “decoy mode” hiding the real area in need and showing us another irrelevant symptom on which it feels safe to focus. This is a great example of the wisdom of our survival instinct in action. Continuum has the ability to “fly under the radar,” as Emilie loved to describe it, and sneak in the back door to bypass the filter of our hypervigilant over-protective survival mechanism. Continuum allows us to care for ourselves gently, and gradually and titrate our tolerance for vulnerability.
We all need to cultivate caring for ourselves simply because we yearn to be cared for, and not because it alleviates the fear of disease, or the disease itself. If you eat a certain way because you're afraid of developing cancer or heart disease - your efforts are fear-based and they will eventually backfire. If you have a mammogram because you are afraid of breast cancer, don't think you can exterminate that fear, or avoid the disease by checking it off your list. If you do your daily Continuum practice because you are afraid of a disease and you think you are somehow cleansing yourself by doing it, it won't work. The fear is stronger, more paralyzing, especially if you are not conscious of your motivation. As long as you practice from a place of trying to change things, or not accepting things exactly as they are in your body, you will fool yourself and not respond from the deepest, clearest place of inquiring and discovering what you need.
Being confronted with the impossible offers us a rarified opportunity to live into the endless stream of questions that emerge as we approach the horizon of our consciousness and realize that it constantly moves ahead of us. Continuum offers a powerful way for each individual to explore open-endedly and to search for questions, not answers. The answer to these questions lives differently in each one of us, and presence with curiosity spurs us on to endlessly explore the constantly unfolding unexpected questions of our lives.
The Many Faces
The Many Faces, a film by Hanna Heiting, is a portrait of visionary teacher Emilie Conrad, that emerges from intimate interviews with people whose lives she deeply touched. Filmed shortly after her passing, these raw, personal narratives offer a window into the heart of Emilie Conrad’s work, her teaching, her personality and her vision.
Seeing with the Eyes of Wonder with Susan Harper and Sharon Weil
Susan Harper, founder of Continuum Montage, creates experiential contexts for perception and movement awareness, and creative expression. Susan and Sharon discuss how to engage the world as if for the first time through “eyes of wonder”, and how to find the safety required to take the risks involved in meeting the unknown.
Continuum Body’s Natal Human Design
Paper written by Continuum teacher Ellen Cohen describes briefly how the Continuum Teachers Association came into form in January, 2016, initially as Continuum Body. She drew up a Human Design chart of that moment and presents its uncannily accurate and significant aspects. The chart describes a communal entity that will bring innovation and renewal to the world and convince people that evolution is an ongoing process.
We gave birth to the newborn teachers’ organization, Continuum Body*, at our teacher meeting at Seven Oaks, on January 15th, 2016 at 3:30 PM. By ‘gave birth’ I mean that we all stood in a circle and stepped in, in full support of the name and the general mission of our new creation. With strong emotion, we celebrated by sounding around our altar, which included the fetus stone we’d been using as our speaking stick.
The process had taken several days and everyone’s undivided attention, mind, heart, body and spirit. For some of us, however, this creation had taken a year to be born. When the Membrane formed at the end of the January 2015 teachers’ meeting, it was intended as a first step toward developing some organism that would hold and express our common interests.
Since Sabine knew I’d been studying the Human Design system for many years, she asked me to draw up natal chart of Continuum Body (‘CB’). I did, and have been excited by what I found. I want to share it with the community at large, as it is incredibly affirming of what we are doing. I have done my best to synthesize the information so that it’s succinct, accessible and understandable. I am not using this forum to prove the accuracy of Human Design or explain how I know what I’ll be telling you. I will be primarily quoting from Human Design, by L. Bunnell and Ra Uru Hu. Much of what follows is verbatim, and hence dense with meaning. You may be surprised at the aptness & specificity of the language.
CB is a highly ‘individual’ entity. Its knowing isn’t based on proven facts or experiential learning, but on intuition and/or the inspiration in the moment. This makes it not fit into society so easily. Hence it is imperative and advantageous for it to be able to communicate its inspiration and what it knows to be true in order to facilitate its effectiveness as an agent for change.
CB embodies a pressure to bring innovation and renewal to the world, an endless movement between chaos and order. This mutative energy will influence all aspects of its being, and will repeatedly happen suddenly, unexpectedly.
For CB, initiation into individuation becomes an art. As a ‘specially gifted innocent,’ it can survive the quantum leap into the void. By its doing what is correct for itself, CB can empower others to love themselves and to follow their own unique path.
CB has a driving mutative force compelling individuation towards its ultimate expression of uniqueness. It will bring mutation in the form of a change in the direction of the status quo. It will engage in the struggle to convince people that evolution is an on-going process, and one worth struggling for.
CB is also a communal entity that will develop depth through clarity over time and has the will power to succeed. It requires a strong, adaptable and clear path of progression and people working side by side. Investment is focused on one another and the needs of the whole group. This is the highest ideal of community, and there is little evidence of hierarchy.
The true purpose of any being is to make a unique contribution to the whole. CB’s purpose is about attaining its full potential for transformation and awareness. Specifically, “its inspired knowledge of the hidden inner truths and universal principals can bring out the details about absolute and universal laws which might otherwise be missed.”
In conclusion, the elements of this chart indicate the vast and specific potential of this new ‘baby,’ Continuum Body, to embody both in content and process the innovation, creativity, diversity and true community “that our hearts know is possible,” to quote Charles Eisenstein.
*in the spring of 2017 we changed our name to the Continuum Teachers Association.
Courting Change: Living Ritual & Elemental Theater with Susan Harper and Sharon Weil
Living Rituals are contexts designed to shift consciousness from the habitual into a much larger perspective and experience of the possibility of interconnected living. Through participation with the elements, dreams, and living symbols, these contexts open doors to personal understanding, making the unknown more visible, and allowing meaningful change to occur.
A Tool Kit for Post Election Distress Syndrome with Amber Gray and Sharon Weil
Have you felt immobilized by the results of this presidential election? Shut down? Off-balance? Amber Gray talks with Sharon Weil about how real and imagined terror and fear affect the body, creating either a shutting down response or an impulse towards fight or flight action. She provides essential and helpful insight and tools for finding calm, restoration, and a return to mobility and social engagement after difficult events. These tools apply to any stressful, shocking, or life-altering change. Listen and find comfort in her words.
Interview with Continuum teacher Volker Moritz on Polish Internet TV
Interview with Continuum teacher Volker Moritz on Polish Internet TV.
Trauma, Fear and Restoring Resilience with Amber Gray and Sharon Weil
Amber Gray helps restore resilience in the most extreme circumstances through body-based therapy and education. As a somatic therapist and psychotherapist, she works with extreme interpersonal and social trauma where bodies have been made to lock down in fear or terror.
Marks On Paper
Filmed by Hanna Heiting, Words & Waves, developed by Rebecca Mark, explores sourcing mark-making (creative writing / drawing / lines on paper) in the somatic movement practice of Continuum.
How can our stories emerge from our felt-sense?
How can we write from our bodies and not only from our minds?
Alchemy of breath in a world of lead
This article speaks about Sylvain's early meeting with Continuum and Emilie Conrad.
Continuum, Emotion, & Affective Freedom
This chapter written by Continuum teacher Mary Abrams was for the Continuum Anthology. Her auto-ethonographic writing invites the reader to sense, feel, breathe and move their way with the author, on a journey exploring the significance of Continuum as it awakens and enlivens the flow of emotion at the biological level where the affective system is at play. The author proposes that humans are fluid moving body stories: Dancing with the past, in the breathing moment of now, tending hopes, dreams, and unknowns toward our moving future.
Who is the Egyptian Dancer
Any attempt to define the notion of ‘dance’ or ‘dancer’ is fraught with difficulties; this is the case even today, when we come to examine dance that we can witness or execute. This renders the study of dance in ancient Egypt all the more problematic, since the only documentation we have about dance in ancient Egypt is only that of plastic representations; as such, defining notions of ‘dance’ or ‘dancer’ is largely a matter of speculation and interpretation. This is further complicated by the fact that ancient Egyptian documentation of dance and dancers was not intended to record realistic information. Rather, it had to submit to clear rules of representation, presenting sufficient information for viewers to identify and recognise events known to them. This paper will attempt to formulate a definition of dance, while describing the principles of ancient Egyptian representation of the body and movement; using these tools, I will try to provide an analysis of dance scenes in ancient Egyptian art.
The Five Facets of Movement
In the quest to understand the body, or more to the point, how to live in one’s body, it is helpful to distinguish five ways of “seeing” the body: the body as (1) location of here-and-now-experience; (2) holder of personal and socio-cultural history/identity; (3) part of earth’s evolutionary continuum; (4) part of the physical, space-time universe; and (5) connection to a greater Self, or Oneness.
These may be regarded as frameworks to guide inquiry into the more essential and elusive mystery of being. While no single facet is complete, and all are connected, somatic modalities tend to center on one, or fold them all in together. Recognizing physicality as able to reflect multiple dimensions at once may avoid unnecessary conflict or confusion, while liberating awareness and expression.
An interview with Emilie Conrad
Rolfing and the Buteyko Breathing Method
Authors Robert Litman (Continuum and Breathing teacher) and Helen Luce (Advanced Rolfer) discuss the Buteyko Breathing Method, the physiology of respiration and the effects of Rolfing on the health of breathing.
Filmmaker Hanna Heiting creates a poetic tribute to the life and work of Emilie Conrad, visionary founder of Continuum, a somatic movement practice. Em Moves is an intimate love letter to a life-long teacher, an astute commentary on life and art, and an intellectually sophisticated tribute to the vision of this extraordinary pioneer. Hanna's artistic decisions are those of an insider who lives the movement she is filming. Her visual compositions, her informed stillness, her directorial attention, all mirror and follow Emilie Conrad's life-long exploration of movement in an unfolding call and response. There is a pulsing life rhythm to the film's orchestration that awakens the viewer's own somatic awareness.
My Body, The Wetland
In "My Body, The Wetland" Continuum teacher Elaine Colandrea reflects on both her nature explorations by canoe and her practice of Continuum, revealing the similarities between natural wetlands and the human body. As the spiraling pathways of water in a wetland help nutrients to accumulate and toxins to be filtered out, the biological awareness and fluid movement practice of Continuum allows our muscles to relax, organs to decompress and increases circulation in the human body. Experiences in natural environments and in Continuum practice open the door to perceiving the interconnectedness of all things. Once we see our bodies as whole, living organisms that are extensions of the earth's body, our relationship to its ecosystem, as well as our own self care, may be forever altered.
My Body, The Wetland
For the past 30 years, I have waded, paddled a canoe, and camped in wetland environments, traveling with my biologist husband in the United States, Canada, and the British Isles. We have explored fresh and saltwater marshes, fens, bogs, and swamps in all kinds of weather and at all times of the year. These experiences have informed my work as a dancer, massage therapist, and movement teacher in rich and varied ways, as I have explored the similarities between wetlands and the human body. Those similarities have been most notable in my practice of Continuum, a form of inquiry founded on the biological reality that the human body is mainly fluid. Continuum uses breath, sound, and movement to access and stimulate cerebrospinal fluid, blood, lymph, and interstitial fluid, as well as the fluids within cells. My Continuum experiences in my own internal wetland, my body, parallel my experience of being in natural wetland environments; each has enriched the other.
The Vital Role of Fluids
Wetlands are the part of the landscape where water and land commingle. My favorite way to travel in a wetland is by canoe; the meandering channels that make up the water route are often the easiest way to navigate the marshy landscape. But whether you go by land or by water, there is rarely a straight line in a natural wetland. Rather, travel must follow a complex network of channels that sometimes appear directionless. The curving pathways of a wetland slow the movement of the water, allowing sediments to settle and nutrients to accumulate, and offering a safe space for fish and amphibians to lay eggs and birds to nest. Because of their wandering pathways, wetlands are fertile and nutrient-rich areas of the landscape.
In Continuum, I explore fluid movement with my body, in curving, spiraling, waving, undulating motions that rarely follow a straight line. In the torso and spine, invoking fluidity will lead to undulations; in the arms and legs, fluid motion may look more like the tentacle movement of an octopus or the movement of seaweed in water. Tracking fluid motion as it travels through me, I cannot help but feel myself following the curving, meandering pathways of the marsh, only now the waterways I follow are internal.
As I move in this fluid way, tight muscles begin to soften, sore muscles are eased by the increase in circulation. Internal organs decompress and bones reacquaint themselves with their malleable nature. The increase in circulation nourishes every cell in my body. I become more aware of the continuous, spiraling web of connective tissue that surrounds each organ, bone, and muscle, a web that would reveal the shape of my body even if all my skin and internal structures were to disappear. As I attune to my fluidity, my mutable nature becomes apparent to me. I shift my sense of density and form, like a wetland absorbing what flood waters it can and releasing the overflow to surrounding areas.
Wetland waterways, in their natural state, create an effective filtration system that removes toxins and debris from the water that passes through it, as well as allowing nutrients to settle out. Water revitalizes itself by moving slowly in circuitous pathways. This system is so effective that some communities are building marshes to treat sewage. Our bodies have a parallel system of filtration and purification. The amazing fluid-filled network of veins, arteries, and lymphatic vessels that brings oxygen and other vital nutrients to the trillions of cells in the human body also carries off carbon dioxide and other by-products of cellular metabolism.
Circulation is propelled by movement—the movement of the waters in the wetlands and of blood and lymph, among others, in the human body. Many of the breaths, sounds, and movements in Continuum are intended to animate the circulatory system, enhancing its natural function and making it more dynamic. The Hu breath, for instance, is a pumping breath in which the inhalation and exhalation are equal. The Hu breath vitalizes the fluids in a body, moving them in and out, in the same way that a rain shower or tidal fluctuation refreshes a wetland.
Fluid Explorations, Internal and External
Exploring the waterways, whether of a marsh or of my own body, engenders a sense of discovery. Finding a path to follow through a wetland can be challenging—even the well-traveled canoe routes through the Okeefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia change seasonally and vary with weather conditions. Erik and I have paddled through here for days, camping at day’s end on platforms that were often the only solid surface for miles. These routes require great attention not only to the manmade trail markers, but also to the nature of the moving water itself. Changing water levels, shifting peat masses, and the alligators that settle onto the camping platforms for a nap are unknowns to be met and navigated.
Not quite knowing where I am going as I follow the winding channels of the marsh or the flowing movements of a Continuum exploration, I encounter a kind of dissolving. My attention becomes more fluid, going inward and outward simultaneously; the boundary between myself and the environment becomes less clear, the way land and water intermingle in the marsh. A state of open attentiveness to myself and my world, including what I cannot completely know, informs my consciousness, and I am led to meet the unknown from a deeply inhabited sense of self. Refining my experience of my inner world increases my sensitivity to the world beyond my own skin, the environment I inhabit. My experience is paradoxical: the more I quietly settle into myself, whether in a Continuum exploration or on a sunset paddle in the marsh, the more I become aware of my connectedness to everything around me, and the interconnectedness of all things.
Building a Perspective of Wholeness
The miraculous sense of interconnectedness that Continuum restores to me has profound repercussions. As a massage therapist, I have been trained to distinguish specific identities and separations between muscle and bone, nerve and blood, cranium and sacrum, to name a few. My massage training is based on a mechanical model of the body, one that breaks the human body down into discrete systems. But this approach leads to fragmented knowledge and isolated treatment. Thus, when someone develops carpal tunnel syndrome, the forearm and hand are treated as a unit separate from the rest of the body. The shoulder, torso, alignment, breath, and movement of the individual are largely ignored, though these factors may all have important effects on what happens with the hand and arm.
In fact, no injury or chronic pain problem can be resolved without regarding the body as a holistic system operating in a complex context. Healing, as opposed to simple treatment, requires looking at the individual’s interactions with her body and her environment. To recognize, as Continuum practice does, that our bodies—like the weather, like the landscape, like the seasons—are always changing, ever mutable and capable of adaptation, supports a holistic approach to any condition. From the perspective of Continuum, the key to health is awareness: one needs to slow down, explore options in multiple directions, and remain in inquiry. Often, there is not cultural support for this approach to health.
Unfamiliarity with such a holistic perspective extends to how we view—and treat—the earth's body. Often, human choices are made without regard for the wholeness of the body of the earth. At times, these choices lead to surprise, shock, and feelings of disassociation, along with economic distress. Human disasters, like the loss of homes inappropriately located on an unstable hillside further destabilized by heavy rains or the destructive flooding of a beachside community during a hurricane, are examples of the cost of our failure to grasp the relationship between all the many aspects of the earth. Understanding the complexity of the interrelationships between land and water could lead to different choices that might minimize the effects of natural disasters.
There are many less dramatic cases. For example, runoff from a development site at the edge of a wetland can have disastrous consequences. The additional material flowing into the wetland from the construction represents a loss of valuable topsoil from upland environments. It is also degrading to the wetlands, where it can cause siltation, filling in the wetland and robbing it of its ecological value.
When the interconnection of land and water is understood, measures can be taken to develop land in more sensitive ways. Intelligent planning can occur when communities, government agencies, and developers understand the biology of the landscape they live in and interact with. This requires a holistic view of the environment, one that acknowledges the intricate relationship human activity has to the environment and the complexity of the environment itself.
How can I as a living, growing organism learn to function from a perspective of wholeness rather than fragmentation, and help others to do so? How can an outlook that honors the interconnectedness of all things inform my relationships with my body and with others, my professional work, and my interactions with the natural world I inhabit? Continuum offers a way to experience and embody our interconnectedness. By encouraging us to directly experience the biological nature of our internal landscape, Continuum allows us to see our bodies as whole, living systems and as organisms that are extensions of the earth’s body. The experience of Continuum can alter how we live in relationship to the earth’s ecosystem.
Awakening Perception Internally and Externally
Whether I am paddling in a wetland or moving through the depths of a Continuum exploration, I enter a quiet, slowed, attentive state that both makes me acutely aware of my physical self and dissolves the boundaries between my self and my environment.
In the wetland, there is no choice but to slow down; the water is shallow and the curving routes don’t allow speed. Personal silence is rewarded. Speed and noise are prevalent in the everyday world, but in the marsh, moving slowly and quietly allows the wonders of this watery world to reveal themselves. The soft clucking of a mallard hidden in the reeds, the distant splash of an osprey diving for its dinner, the quick submergence of the muskrat as I round a bend can be missed all too easily in the absence of quiet, focused attention.
As I slow down and listen to my own internal, marsh-like world, my nervous system calms and distracting thoughts fade away. I tune into my body’s primary language, the language of sensation. I notice the movement of my breath, its depth, speed, and quality. I notice where I feel internally spacious or compressed. I experience a plethora of other sensations. My perceptual capacity broadens and my sensory systems stimulate each other. Synesthesia, or commingling of the senses, may occur. Other internal realities emerge and I begin to learn about my own vastness of being. At times, as I move, it is like I am following a scent internally, at other times it is an internal sound. It is not so different in the marsh; sometimes the sound of wings beating draws my attention skyward to a flock of ducks, or a musky odor tells me a mammal is nearby. With focused attention, I become an observer of both inner and outer worlds.
Like the earth’s marshes, my body is a world in which fluids are primary. Spending time in marshes has opened my eyes to the nature of the universe and the earth’s body. Continuum has helped me realize the wetland nature of my body and understand how, with my own fluid movement, I am closely related to the earth’s body. My body, the wetland.
The Breathable Body and Continuum
Robert Litman – Breathing Educator and Continuum teacher and co-creator with Emilie Conrad of Continuum Wellsprings Practitioner Program writes about the breathing body, the history of Mitochondria, breathing anatomy and physiology and how the practice of Continuum facilitates the entry into the felt sense of breathing and how it supports breathing’s ability to nourish and sustain health.
Honoring the Masters Ceremony at Lake Arrowhead: Emilie Conrad introduced by Robert Litman
Emilie Conrad was being honored at the Honoring the Masters Ceremony at Lake Arrowhead. Robert Litman was Emile's chaperon and introduced her at the ceremony.
Application de l'éducation somatique dans une démarche artistique
Le potentiel créateur auto-émergeant de L'éducation somatique joue un rôle crucial dans la démarche artistique de Line Nault. Analyse de l’influence du Continuum Movement dans 3 oeuvres performatives réalisées entre 2003 et 2005. Texte rédigé par Line Nault, artiste interdisciplinaire et enseignante en éducation somatique, dans le cadre du diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisé en Education somatique à l’université du Québec à Montréal.
Summary in English: The self-emerging creative potential of somatic education plays a crucial role in Line Nault’s artistic approach. This paper is an analysis of Continuum’s influence on 3 performance pieces created and presented between 2003 and 2005. Text written by Line Nault, interdisciplinary artist and somatic educator, in the context of a graduate degree program specializing in Somatics at UQAM (l’Université du Québec à Montréal).
Le Continuum et les trois anatomies
Présentation du concept des trois anatomies d’Émilie Conrad, pour le mettre en relief avec différents postulats philosophiques du corps.Texte rédigé par Line Nault , artiste interdisciplinaire et enseignante en éducation somatique, dans le cadre du programme d'Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées en éducation somatique à l’Université du Québec à Montréal.
Summary in English: This paper presents the concept of Emilie Conrad’s Three Anatomies through the lens of different philosophical hypotheses on the human body. Text is by Line Nault, interdisciplinary artist and somatic educator, written in the context of a graduate studies program, specializing in Somatics, at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)
Buddha and the Snake: Embodied Meditation
There is a greenish, copper-tinted garden sculpture hanging on the sidewall of my balcony. She is a Buddha, a dakini, sitting in meditation on the roiling bodies of five cobras, the nagas. Their hoods and heads rise up around her, forming a canopy behind and over her head. Almost every time I look at her directly, I am stirred.
The dakini speaks to me of the double helix of life and death. I see the mysterious potency of form arising from emptiness and dissolving back to emptiness again. I am called to feel how this occurs, simultaneously, always, in each moment. She calls me back to the fundamental exploration of what I am, what This Is that is going on here.
She also represents, for me, the interpenetration of my own two basic spiritual practices: Continuum and sitting meditation. After thirty years of following my curiosity about the nature of reality, and my need to work with suffering, I find myself spiraling around these two arts, with a healthy amount of therapy and spiritual inquiry practice for balance.
Of course, there are many ways to meditate. My sitting tends to constellate around practices arising from Buddhism. Although meditation is traditionally thought of as a sitting practice, it feels to me that almost anything can be meditation. Any practice or activity that is intended to open the way to the truth in the direct experience of the moment, that fosters the willingness to follow whatever spontaneously surfaces, and that has a container that allows the process to come to fruition within the security of a container, can serve as a kind of meditation. Art, organizational development, cooking—all can be meditation.
Continuum is, among other things, a deep, powerful moving meditation, that for me serves as a counterpoint to sitting meditation. When used in tandem, rotated, played with, Continuum and sitting meditation inform each other. They become extensions and mirrors of each other, intertwining just as the two snakes spiral around each other in the caduceus.
Continuum brings the vitality of the body to sitting practice. The deeply sensual expression of eros in the feminine qualities of Continuum sparks the stillness and spaciousness that can arise through sitting. The constantly moving flow of biological intelligence that Continuum accesses brings the dynamism of the life force into the inner space realms that are the domain of sitting meditation. Woven together, Continuum and sitting meditation create a potent context for opening embodied consciousness.
Continuum as Meditation
Continuum practice includes different uses of breath, sound, and fluid movement to encourage us to open, follow, and explore fluid intelligence by immersing in the body as the field of inquiry. We use the sensing capacity of our biology to open consciousness by refining and expanding our ability to feel, and to follow the movement of that feeling as it unfolds.
For example, we might use a particular breath or an odd shaping of the mouth to create an unusual sound. The breath and sound spark energy. That energy is a movement. The movement causes sensation. As we breathe and make sound, the energetic frequency of that movement begins to shift the whole organism—the body/mind/energy—into a slower and slower vibration, finding a more natural biological speed than that created by the pace of daily life in Western culture. Thus, relaxation can then ease in, and more sensation becomes available. Awareness opens with increasing subtlety and pleasure. In the internal landscape, the field of sensation spreads and time begins to suspend. Awareness drops into moment-to-moment experience. Attention begins to shift from a technique to open the body’s tissues, a “doing,” into simply feeling the flow of sensation, of energy, of a streaming that is cellular and spacious.
From this feeling, absorption in direct experience can arise. The separate self that was directing activity, focused on doing, becomes that which is moving and feeling, shifting and radiating. There is stillness and there is also movement, simultaneously. What will happen next—what bubbling or vibration or heat or settling will arise, what texture of feeling or spaciousness, light, sound—is unknown. There is an experience of being that is moving, yet without doing. Being becomes an effortless unfolding.
Personal history, personal image dissipate into the moving, dissolving, and creating of the flow of form. As in sitting meditation, almost anything can arise along the way—thought, emotion, varieties of sensation, stillness—and, as in sitting meditation, layers of awareness, habitual repetition, reactivity, numbness, diversion peel away, freeing us to discover again a depth of presence.
With many spiritual practices, including some sitting meditation work, more value is often placed on transcendence—a kind of leaving the body, the earth, form—than on the direct, moment-to-moment experience of the body and form. Practitioners seek an experience of spacious emptiness or refined states of light and sound. Those states are wonderful, blissful—and valuable—and yet they can foster a kind of longing to transcend, to be out of the body.
This longing is mirrored and supported by the history in Western culture of denying and disregarding the body as the sacred ground of eros, except in the narrow, sexual context of tantra. The Feminine—body centered, unpredictable, fluid, ever-changing, loving, sensual, wild—has also been denied and disregarded. In contrast, Continuum as meditation becomes a direct experience of presence that includes the body. Continuum rides and rests on the current of eros in the body, bringing eros, and the deeply feminine, into the practice of meditation.
Continuum calls the practitioner to explore the opening of living presence from within the body, from within form as it moves. Continuum practice seeks a directly lived experience of the body moving and transforming. Refined states arise, but they are grounded not in an escape from body but in the aliveness of breath and sound and movement, in the livingness that is the constant change and flow of form. There is an inherent unpredictability that keeps inviting the mind to relax and follow eros.
Eros here is the pleasure of sensation, the devotion to tending the sensuality of our biology, which is the doorway to a direct experience of the truth of who we are. In following eros, we discover a loving that is the nature of movement. Fear contracts; love eases and expands. Fluid movement opens, coaxes, seduces us into feeling how love moves.
When we encounter contraction during a Continuum session—from fear, discomfort, anger, or pain—we use the experience of sensual pleasure to support our venture into feelings that are unknown or difficult. We acknowledge what has arisen, the contraction, the fear, the discomfort, but rotate back to rest in the comfort of what is pleasurable, cultivating that pleasure as ground and resource. As we learn to trust in our ability to care for ourselves in this way, we increase our capacity to “feel” our way into new territories of sensate experience. We are increasingly able to be with and be in that which may have been repressed or denied, that which is painful or uncomfortable or fearful, as well as that which is remarkable and beautiful. This makes possible new experiences, bringing alive subtle nuances and feelings.
As in any meditation process, as each new venture is met and felt, confidence rises, and with it our willingness to explore further. Eros is that creative drive, the love that urges us toward new experiences and expressions. It is also the love that unconditionally accepts and attends to whatever arises in our explorations.
Sitting and Moving—Moving and Sitting
In this way, Continuum and sitting meditation are both means to inquire, experiment, and discover what it means to be alive, what reality is. Both are alchemical processes of containing energy and being with whatever arises in that container, all in the service of discovery and exploration. Both practices work with attention in the moment, and both can be useful ways for beginners to start to focus inward. Experienced practitioners can benefit from using them in tandem and also combined, one flowing from the other.
For me, sitting is an easier way to collect attention and work with thought and emotional patterns. Inquiry, in the form of questions such as “Who Am I?” or “What Is This?”, can more easily be held and seen in subtle responses and openings once mindfulness has been concentrated. The emphasis on the stillness of the body supports the focus of attention.
Continuum, on the other hand, is a more direct way for me to actually feel energy shift and move in my body. The insubstantiality of thought becomes apparent as it drops away or flits on the surface when I am breathing and moving. In Continuum, I feel the visceral fullness of energetic reality as my body flows.
I find sitting to be useful when I have been overstimulated, and I need a strong container of stillness in a more stationary posture that supports attentive wakefulness. At other times, I find I become unconsciously attached to that still form; I become frozen. In those moments, I need the sensual aliveness that comes with the breath, sound, and movement of Continuum. I need to be called back into the sensate world, with its pleasure, pain, and unpredictable shifting and changing—all still contained within the impersonal world of creative flow defined by the “dive” of Continuum.
There are times when I find I also repress or deny uncomfortable emotions when I sit—a kind of attachment to spaciousness arises. The same can be true when I move, but often, once I begin to move, the emotions come to the surface and flow through. Yet sometimes I find it important to stop and simply sit with those emotions, to see through them to the beliefs that underlie their apparent fixity.
Thus, both practices can become stuck in form. Each can be used as an escape from the other—yet they inform and enrich each other. Continuum is an exquisite practice of supporting and affirming the goodness and the reality of our sensual existence, our inextricable interconnection with and within the environment. Through Continuum, we discover that we are living, moving threads, currents within the larger body of the natural world. To swim in Continuum is to taste that knowing directly. At the same time, as we explore even more deeply through Continuum, we also find that which is discovered and affirmed with sitting: we are also space. There is no movement without space. We work with the paradox of sensing space, of moving within space and as space, of discovering the richness of the felt experience of being that emptiness.
In that paradox, within the context of a particular Continuum exploration, we often come to stillness and sitting. The sitting is part of the overall flow, dipped into and then moved out from, a part of the whole current. Thus, Continuum actually includes sitting alongside the unpredictable, embodied flow. It brings us into embodied inquiry and fosters the exploration of embodied meditation.
One Intimate Whole
One of my own deepest drives is for intimacy and connection. At core, we all want real contact—to see and be seen, to know and be known. We want this with ourselves, with others, with nature, and within our daily lives. We have an often- unconscious intuition that we are all connected—and a longing to know, feel, and experience this truth directly and consciously. In this context, we can see suffering arising from a mistaken or too-limited identity that creates a sense of separateness. When I know myself only through my personality within a familial or cultural definition, I get caught in the narrowness of that identity. I view myself as separate, as not connected. Trapped in that perspective, the desire for connection translates into strategy and manipulation, to see how I can get what I want and need from “the other.” Conflict then arises between all the separate parts—between different internal emotional states and between myself and others I see as external, like family members or work mates.
Meditation, both sitting and Continuum, offers a way to restore connectedness and open relationship. In meditation, we set aside time to enter the sacred dimension in which, in the nature of our practice, all is included. There is no goal except to be with what is. The connection with self and body is restored as the field of intimacy to be explored. Personal healing can then take place within this shift of attention to the larger inclusivity. As each thing arises to consciousness—thought, emotion, sensation, resistance, grasping, comfort, bliss—there is a continual discovery that not only are all included, but each rises, moves, and dissolves within the largeness of being. Each impulse, thought, feeling can be intimately known and accepted, and when so met, it can move, change, and dissolve. There is an intelligence to that movement that is far greater, far more powerful, than our attempts at conscious strategizing.
Yet nothing is predictable or fixed. In meditation, we learn that intimacy rests upon alive, real, moment-to-moment contact. Each moment of connection can only arise from not knowing what will come next. Insecurity and fear also become part of the ongoing movement, and we meet those also. In the process, we learn that all elements of experience arise and then settle back into a spaciousness that holds everything, always. We increasingly taste the reality of the Unconditional as we follow the lead of our fluid intelligence.
This touching into direct experience, actually being the flow that is paradoxically also the still eternal, fosters trust in the unknown. It reinforces our capacity to be open and tolerate our vulnerability in that openness. We develop faith in our ability to move with and receive, directly and intimately, the experience of life unfolding. As we experience our bodies becoming porous and open through the breath, sound, and fluid movement of Continuum, we begin to feel ourselves as currents within the environment. We find we are a part of the environment, unified with it. We come to know this as a shift into a larger and more inclusive identity, that of a oneness with life itself. We fall in love, more and more deeply, with the visceral, sensual, direct experience of living.
From this practice, daily life becomes known as sacred. The body, and all that we are, is revealed as sacred—and each encounter, each lived moment is an opportunity for intimate contact with the unknown to be the movement of revelation, of embodied presence.
Continuum and sitting meditation, then, are doorways into experiencing the Mystery of the One, access points that can be explored together or separately. Using these two practices together offers a unique avenue to heal and uncover deep, felt sense understanding of our connection and intimacy with Source.
Opening to and exploring embodied experience as the entry into the mystery that is the nature of Source is a lifelong pursuit. The path is unknown, discovered in each moment’s life movement. There can be confusion, unsettledness, pain, and despair on the way, as well as illumination and bliss. We need reassurance and inspiration to keep us steady and on course. Buddhism speaks of taking refuge to help us on our path. Continuum also offers refuge.
The word refuge brings me comfort. It evokes shelter, protection, aid. Buddhism offers three refuges, the three jewels, all of them deeply comforting, leading me to relax and settle. The first jewel is the Buddha, the practice of taking refuge in our true nature and in the nature of reality. The second is the dharma, taking refuge in learning and abiding in the laws or principles of the way things are, how things work. The third is the sangha, taking refuge in each other. We take shelter, find help and comfort in the community, in those who mirror and support our particular spiritual practices, but also in the larger community, as we learn again and again that we are all in this together. Each of these refuges has its counterpart in Continuum practice as well as many other spiritual practices. These “refuges” of the nature of reality, of the way things work and the support of community and our ultimate oneness with each other, provide the foundation upon which we can depend.
We live in a culture where the pace of life is intense. Change is endemic, even reaching to the basics of planetary weather patterns and all of the consequences spilling out from that. As we struggle to find balance between adjusting to the continual forward thrust of global culture and finding ground in the moment, relaxing into what actually is, cultivating compassion and well-being, we actually find refuge in the touchstone of our practice. It becomes a resource to call us home, centering us in our bodies and in the eternal aliveness, providing a taste of the underlying peace that can be found right here, right now.
When the Buddha realized enlightenment, he reached down and touched the earth. We are the Buddha who sits in meditation, and we are the life force of the earth, the fluid intelligence and energy of the snake as we move with Continuum. We are the unique living body that is streaming, and we are the Eternal. When we open to the mystery of exploring this truth in our body—each day fresh, each day willing to see what’s here today—we literally re-member the truth of our existence. We are then truly available again for new inspiration, to be informed and carried by the intelligence of the whole. Our bodies become our resource, the doorway to the dimension of absolute potential, the ground from which we arise and the fluidity that expresses itself effortlessly and continuously in form.
When we return from that dimension, we bring back into our busy lives an infusion of peace and creative power. We are reassured, informed, inspired, opened again to the possibility of Being, in and with our world. Our meditation practices, the woven tapestry of Continuum and sitting, become the tools and resources of our transformation into conscious Being. That recognition of Being is a healing of ourselves, a gift and immense service to the whole.
Robert Litman at Wellsprings June 2008 with Emilie Conrad
This short video was taken at the 2000 Continuum Wellsprings Practitioner Program with Emilie Conrad. Together we created this program in 2006 to support the use of Continuum Movement in the practice of body work. Emilie is sitting to my right while I talk about the importance of Breath and how I became interested in breathing and bringing this knowledge to Continuum Movement with Emilie support.