When Season 6 of the AMC modern classic Mad Men drew to a close, audiences found the tortured protagonist Don Draper at a crossroads. The consequences of his alcoholism led to an indefinite suspension from his lucrative career in advertising, a career that seemed to narcissistically fuel the fire of unhealed childhood trauma and relational turmoil.
As a trauma and addiction psychotherapist, I found myself transfixed with the character of Don Draper throughout the show’s run. From this clinical perspective, I lamented at the damage I saw Don do to his children. Yet Don Draper, marvelously portrayed by Jon Hamm, as created by Matthew Weiner, demonstrated that behavior we can so easily write off as misogynistic and abusive can have roots in deep, deep pain. At the end of Season 6, I found myself completely empathetic to Don Draper. My best TV buddy Joe and I discussed what we saw coming for Season 7.
As I shared with Joe, “I’m not sure if it will make for what AMC sees as good TV, but I want to see redemption. I want to see Don find some type of recovery.”
The wishful thinking clinician, yogi, dancer, and recovery ambassador that is me put that out there—and I was not disappointed.
To read the whole article, click HERE to go to Yoganonymous.
“I think it’s wonderful when people find God. What I don’t think is wonderful is when people assume this excuses them from working on their shit.” Without even knowing it, my first recovery sponsor Janet gave me a fabulously potent warning about the dangers of spiritual bypass. She was not one to use a curse word, so when she dropped that bomb, I was sure to listen!
When I began my own journey along the path of recovery and wellness fourteen years ago, I had the privilege of working in a well-known pilgrimage site in the Catholic world (Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina). Seekers came from around the world to this mystical place searching for healing and for answers. During my three years of service, I saw a lot. I witnessed people working in the village become impassioned about their faith… and then fall apart when the reality of life smacked them in the face. I saw numerous problems with addiction and mental illness amongst the seekers. I even noticed myself falling prey to the “If I could just be a good enough Catholic then all of my issues will clear up.” Fortunately, Janet’s wise mentorship entered my life. She taught me that I could still pursue a spiritual path while digging into the painful work of addressing my issues.
To read the rest, click HERE to go to Yoganonymous.
Healing Spiritual Wounds with Creativity: A Journey in Dance, Music, and Ditching "The Box" (from Yoganonymous)
One of my personal working definitions of creativity is the pursuit of thinking, feeling and living outside of the proverbial box.Those boxes are imposed on us by a variety of societal constructs – legal, political, cultural, religious, and ethical. I am the first to admit that some of these boundaries are productive in keeping others and myself safe. For instance, as a psychotherapist I am charged by ethics to keep appropriate boundaries with my clients. “Thou shalt not kill” is a commandment that I, for one, take seriously. Yet most of the “boxes” I’ve been shamed into, especially by religion, popular culture metrics (e.g., “Thinner women are most desirable”), and professional standards (e.g., “Quantitative empirical research holds more scientific value than qualitative experience”) suffocate me.
To read the full article on Yoganonymous, click HERE.
Like many teachers of conscious dance, I look to Martha Graham as a role model.Her inspirational sayings, such as, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul,” regularly make their way around social media pages and other promotional materials.
Recognized as the mother of what we now refer to as modern or contemporary dance, Graham (1984-1991) imparted a great deal of wisdom about the mind-body connection in her own performances and in her teaching of others.
Motivated by what is arguably her most famous quote, I picked up her autobiography, Blood Memory (1991) and blissfully encountered a treasure trove of insight about embodiment, integration and holistic living. Here are some nuggets from Martha that I find particularly relevant to my own mindful, conscious practices.
I am proud to consider her one of my spiritual teachers. As a teacher of practices like conscious dance, meditation, yoga and psychotherapy, I find her guidance refreshing:
Read the entire article on Elephant Journal by clicking HERE
Thanks to Yoganonymous for publishing another of Jamie's pieces!
To read her poem, "Blessed are the Rebels," please visit Yoganonymous directly:
I have this vivid memory from when I was about four years old of me laying on the grass in my backyard. My arms were spread out to the sides and my legs were slightly apart. It was summer and I had shorts and a t-shirt on. I could feel the grass on my arms and legs, could smell the flowers from the garden, and had this amazing feeling of being content and connected. I imagined in my head the world spinning and knew that I was a part of that, that everything was completely in harmony around me. The feeling in my body was light and I could feel a slight tingle. It felt almost like I was moving on a gentle wave. The entire world felt right and I knew that my place in the world was to be a part of the connection of everything. Some may call this a g-d moment while others would argue that I just had an amazing imagination.
It makes no difference to me what others think. The important part was how I felt. I have spent a lot of my life trying to recreate this feeling, but the only time I could even come close was when I was dancing. I started dance classes at age seven, going on eight. By this point, the world had tainted my feelings of pure content and connectedness. I was watching my godmother die of breast cancer, beginning to really understand the term "being bullied," and had an overwhelming sense of being horribly different from my classmates. In spite of my troubles, I quickly learned I LOVED dancing more than I ever thought. From the time I could walk I knew that life was better with a little saunter in my step. Joining a dance class and being surrounded by others laughing and dancing was pure joy for me. The only thing missing was that feeling of connectedness that I just couldn’t seem to grasp again.
Fast forward a decade. I was now a well-versed mental health client, full-fledged self-injurer, and budding alcoholic/addict. Dance class still brought amazing joy to my life, but was no longer enough to break through the darkness that took over my life when I left the studio. I threw myself into theatre at school, and that helped, but my overall joyous outlook on life was gone. I was living a double life- out as a lesbian at school and straight at home, the "perfect" CCD student in church and devout pagan with friends, and happy at dance and drama club, but miserable the rest of the time. Leaving high school, I knew I would probably never live to see my 30th birthday.
I spent years searching for the answer. I came out of the closet fully, I moved across country (and then back), I tried new religions, and I got married. All the while still dealing with depression, self-injury, and avoidance-based substance abuse. After a particularly bad time in my life, I decided that I would do anything to find myself and be happy. On a whim, I signed up for a retreat in Pennsylvania. Living in New Jersey I thought, "how far could it be?"
Six hours on the road, and several stops at beloved convenience store, later and I found just how far Pennsylvania goes. I did quite poorly in geography and so I found out the hard way that it borders Ohio. That first night of the retreat I rekindled my love for dance, which had gone by the wayside for years. The first experience of Dancing Mindfulness I had was powerful. I had tears in my eyes as the opening dance session came to a close. I knew I had found something I needed. Within the three days of the retreat I made closer friend connections than I had ever experienced before and spent hours deep in conversation with Lexie, a woman who I now fondly call my twin.
Somehow between Lexie and Jamie (founder of Dancing Mindfulness and co-leader of that retreat), I left the retreat with plans to be trained as a Dancing Mindfulness facilitator. I didn't have my BA (I had been working on it for 10 years at this point) yet and didn't consider myself a valid part of the mental health world, regardless of my years of work in the field. I couldn't understand how anyone would think I was capable of facilitating such a deep practice.
Facilitator training changed my life. I came out of it with a deep passion for a part of the practice known as Dance Chapel. It's a non-facilitated practice and the way I experienced it during that training brought me back to my youth, when dancing and laying in the grass brought me comfort. The world was blocked out and it was just me and the music. I didn't realize it then, but I was beginning to feel that universal connection again.
I took the concept of Dance Chapel and ran with it. At first I attempted to start a community class and offer a public Dance Chapel once a month. When my small following began to dwindle and the relationship between the studio hosting me and I ended, I turned to my private Dancing Mindfulness practice. I found solace in making playlists for myself and playing with what songs fit where. I woke up at 4.30 am during the summer and drove to the shore to dance my playlists as the sun came up. I played music and danced everywhere. Finally I began to feel that comfort that I had felt as a four year old laying in the grass.
This feeling continued to grow as my relationships with those in my Dancing Mindfulness family deepened. I learned to accept support and love. When I finally realized I was abusing substances, my Dancing Mindfulness family was there to support and help me through the process. I learned to dance through withdrawal, hard emotions, pain, and success. I have danced into sobriety, out of my marriage, and into the unknown. Mindfulness is now a part of my life; I am aware of what I am doing in every moment instead of distracting myself from reality. My body, my mind, my soul, and my image of Spirit are all now connected by the power of being able to connect to my emotions through dance and movement.
It has been almost three years since my first experience of Dancing Mindfulness at that fateful retreat. I dance every day in whatever way I can. Sometimes I set aside time to dance a full playlist and sometimes I just dance around wherever I am (home, car, store, et cetera). I have found myself again. With the help of Dancing Mindfulness, and the family I have found in this community, I have celebrated my 30th birthday, found sobriety, and created a life I am excited to live.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity