Spacial Dynamics: The Movement Path that Educates and Heals
A Fresh Approach To Movement Builds An International Language
Each time I open the book, The Fourfold Path To Healing(1), I find something new that provides a fresh way of looking at a question I’ve been pondering in my daily work. Last week, not only did I wish I had the book in front of me, I wished it were in Chinese!
I was in Chengdu with Dr. Allegra Alessandri-Pfeifer, winding up a two-week course we were presenting for high school teachers. I was introducing them to the movement education of Spacial Dynamics®, as much for their own personal transformation as for renewed experiences of adolescence and risk-taking. Allegra was leading the academic side of our course, and we guided this new program together. We met an amazingly talented group of pioneering individuals who took all their studies, including movement, seriously. There was laughter and some tears, not only in the active lessons, but in studying, writing and presenting their essays about movement principles and curriculum.
After intensive movement training sessions, the students peppered me with questions. Foremost among them was, “Can you tell us more about Spacial Dynamics?” and “Will you tell us more about the Spacial Dynamics movement therapy?” They were on fire to discuss this.
We began by giving language to some key principles: that we are not just a physical body, that we have a “spacial” body too. We can also understand that we have a life-force body (“Ah, chi!,” one exclaimed, and all nodded), an emotional body, and a mental body. Each has their own character, laws, and movements in and around our physical body.
The students were serious about Movement Studies
With XiaoV’s instant but careful translation and lots of gestures and sound effects, we had a lively discussion about the principles of space as we had experienced them in our movement. We recalled gravity and levity in the games and exercises; we supplemented our studies of Spacial Dynamics by moving in the planes of space with lovely Bothmer Gymnastics exercises, and were treated to a Chinese translation of the Foreword to Bothmer’s Gymnastic Education (2). Each night we gathered the essence of our work in gesture and in writing, renewing all that we had moved with our bodies throughout the day.
We spoke again about one of the important universal laws of movement: that what we appear to do (stand up, throw a javelin forward, wrestle with a partner or an idea) is the result of another invisible movement in the opposite direction. In The Fourfold Path To Healing, Jaimen McMillan calls this “primary and secondary movement” and “displacement”(3).
McMillan clarifies this. “What one sees is the result of the movement, not the movement itself. What is visible is the secondary movement, the displacement of the body. This displacement is created through the primary movement, which is actually a counter-movement to what is seen. The counter-movement is over-looked because it is not physical. It is, however, a movement one can learn to perceive and experience in space.”
It was this primary movement which became the international language which connected us all – differing cultures united through shared space.
Drawing by Olive Whicher
When the students asked about applications of Spacial Dynamics in therapy, I spoke about illness, and trauma, and how these attacks on the spacial body can be helped and even healed with this approach. Slowly and objectively, the exercises and hands-on, somatic, mind-body movement techniques are learned and practiced; with rhythm and repetition, quietly and deeply shifting the individual’s relationship to his or her own spaces and those of others. Around the room heads nodded, expressions thoughtful, as the students sensed their own experiences of the past days. Later, after our discussion, we practiced some key exercises: The Dipole, The Wrestling Stance, The Tides, The Sundial, and The Wellspring with new insight.
These exercises, and more, are described in the chapter, Movement: Healing the Emotional Body, by Jaimen McMillan, and elsewhere in The Fourfold Path To Healing.
On page 42, McMillan introduces Spacial Dynamics:
“Spacial Dynamics is the study and discipline of enhancing the growing human being’s relationship to his or her body and surrounding space through appropriate movements and gestures. These spacially oriented movements are used worldwide in therapy, stress management, movement ergonomics, educational and artistic support, world peace efforts and personal transformation.”
He goes on,
“The adjective for space has two accepted spellings, “spatial” and “spacial.” We use the lesser-known spelling, spacial with a “c” throughout, to call attention to this new area of research. This unique approach to exercise can help form the Physical Body, re-form the Life-Force Body, transform the Emotional Body, and inform the Mental Body.”
Jaimen McMillan, Founder of Spacial Dynamics
McMillan developed these exercises after he “discovered the fact that every disorder has a corresponding spacial/movement pattern”(4). The healing forms, relationships, and dynamics of the Spacial Dynamics approach helps to integrate the patterns of our bodies to work together in a healing way with the surrounding spacial forces. Where a person might feel stuck or damaged by illness, stress, injury, trauma, or a lifetime of unhelpful habits, these exercises can be immensely helpful to them for creating new, more healthful patterns. Throughout his work in this book (and in his live courses around the world), McMillan offers insights in moving towards health and shares many exercises that move the mind and space as much as the physical body.
Benefit from these movement exercises is not limited to individuals. Businesses, schools, health clinics, spas, and care facilities for the elderly can benefit, not only for their clients or patients, but for the leadership teams as well. Spacial Dynamics works with groups – of teachers, of caregivers, of managers – working together. How we live in the space around us affects how the group or company lives and works in community. We experienced this strongly and positively in our recent course in Chengdu as we wrestled, fenced, jumped, played, and practiced moving in balance and harmony – with all our bodies.
In 2013, I’ll be partnering with Heather Lanier for a series of Dynamic Wellness workshops and retreats: March 15-16, 2013 in San Francisco; April 12-14 in Big Sur. Details and registration links on our home page.
If you’re not in the Bay Area, check out this List of Spacial Dynamics Practitioners for someone who might be offering private sessions or group classes in your area. Whether in North or South America, or Europe, there’s a Spacial Dynamics Movement Therapist near you.
If you’re in China, I’ll be back in 2013 and 2014. (Maybe a Chinese edition of The Fourfold Path To Healing will be ready by then!) Here are our fun blogs from China, November 2011
The 2013 Fourfold Path To Healing Conference will be held in Long Beach, CA aboard the Queen Mary, February 8 – 10, 2013.
The Fourfold Path To Healing
1 Tom Cowan, Sally Fallon, and Jaimen McMillan, (Washington DC: New Trends Publishing, 2007).
2 Fritz Graf von Bothmer, Gymnastic Education (NY: Mercury Press, 2001) 5.
3 Tom Cowan, Sally Fallon, and Jaimen McMillan, (Washington DC: New Trends Publishing, 2007) 48.
4 Tom Cowan, Sally Fallon, and Jaimen McMillan, (Washington DC: New Trends Publishing, 2007), 436.