The other Saturday I had a day out in London with Sophie. We started with a Guild of Pastoral Psychology workshop on David Holt, a Jungian analyst who died nine years ago. I liked the title ‘Surprised by words’ and I guess I really decided to go because I had been impressed by his widow, a potter/artist who attended the Guild weekend on the Wisdom of the Body. I liked the way she was at my yoga session. There was something very grounded, thoughtful and warm about her, and in our brief discussion, I’d gained the impression that her link with this Jungian group had been through her husband and that somehow she was now a friend of the group.
It is very strange attending a memoriam (if that is what it was) for someone you’ve never met, or in this case never read either, when most of the attendees were friends, close or distant colleagues. My worthy intentions of exploring the website in advance had fallen by the wayside, so I arrived with some vague impression of Holt’s work and a perhaps erroneous idea that he’d written something on the breath. What struck me about the occasion was, first and once again, the warmth, welcome, human kindness of the Guild members. They are unlike other groups in the way they take in outsiders. You just don’t feel like an outsider (well, I’m not anymore). And what struck me about Holt was – he might be unreadable; you had to know him to feel his presence; he was fascinated by stumbling across surprises; he explored what was uncomfortable and particularly embarrassing (something I admire) including his own stutter; and he asked questions, wrestled with meanings, and maybe left people who wanted answers uncomfortable. There were people there who had been supervised by him, and surprised by him, and the lasting impact he made was visible in their demeanour.
The liberation of attending a memoriam for someone you don’t know is that you can absorb and select what you want to take away from the experience without any complicating emotions around what you feel you may have lost or gained. So for me it validated my desire to retain and develop my loose connection with the Guild and even gave me ideas about how to strengthen it. An affirmation.
From there we went on to a performance of the dance, which was a trip back to the end of 2010 and a huge leap forward into 2011.
Last December I attended a workshop led by Giovanni Felicioni at the Siobhan Davies dance studios in South London. On the Friday of the first snowy week we’ve had this extraordinary early winter, I picked my way through icy patches stuck to the pavement near the Elephant and Castle tube station. It was the last day of Giovanni’s week entitled ‘nobody not even the rain has such small hands’…well, maybe only the frost delicately etched on dull buildings in this grimy part of London.
The title of the workshop, whose familiar words surprised me when I stumbled across them, comes from an ee cummings poem which was one of my favourites when I first came across cummings, one of my mother’s preferred poets. I can still see the well-worn copy of his collected poems on her bookshelves. Giovanni says: ‘That line from ee cummings resonates with truth and beauty, for me, because it hints at an embodied awareness of how fully we inhabit ourselves and our world (as clearly as when we have been drenched by rain) and yet when we try to take a look, to say what we perceive, all the traces seem to have been made with such small hands smaller hands than those of the rain drops drenching us.’
I always experience movement and inhabit myself in new ways when I go to one of Giovanni’s workshops. In the grey icy light of a dim midwinter snowy London day we spiralled, circled and extended ourselves in the vast open space of the dance studio, itself a wooden spiral of flowing space. I laughed as I haven’t for a long time when working with Francesca, a scientist turned dancer whose insight and vitality – and especially her laugh – are contagious.
I always feel somehow longer and looser and freer at the end of such a workshop. I feel I have been on a long journey, deep into the heart of the land of myself, and discovered a new continent.
The walls were covered with quotes and comments capturing the cumulative experiences of the week. I felt a little like a gatecrasher arriving at the end – yet as the experience is in the unfolding process so I could only reap a partial harvest.
The day was full of loosening movements, uncovering and unfolding hidden holdings and patterns in the way we meet the world. To quote Giovanni again, ‘Patterns are not always problems. Patterns can also be resourceful. Patterns can be rivers of information that are about how we have the potential to relate… Patterns can help us connect our structure (the obvious body) to our capacity to be coordinated (to be in movement), to perceive and to create or stumble on meaning as we move between older and newer patterns.’
Wending my way back to the tube I felt, as always, I had stumbled on and uncovered new meanings and there was a new pattern emerging. And then Antonella Adorisio’s video Mysterium arrived to capture the essence of the experience in yet another pattern. And then again, on New Year’s day, another gift arrived.
I received an e-mail from another participant on the workshop, Keren Or Pezard, a dance choreographer, who has produced a piece called ‘Heart of Ice’ inspired by Giovanni’s workshop. The dancer, another participant, moves to the wondrous interwoven complexity of Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium, a choral piece for 40 singers which I first heard at St John’s Smith’s Square, absolutely the most perfect setting for it, with voices entering and exiting all around and above. The words, the images, the links to snow, continents, Shackleton’s journey to Antarctica, all drew me to Keren’s website. There I found a brief video which tells the story of her choreography and how it came together on those grimy slippery London streets, as a deep journey into the spirit, into the Self.
I watched video clips of the dancer travelling at speed, with grace, and more lingeringly across the dance floor. I saw the sternum stretching to the heavens and I felt a response deep within. Moving with ease from the sublime to the ridiculous, I took this response with me to my local leisure centre, a place at least as grimy as those South London streets, and also at that time covered in purifying snow. And surrounded by materialistic impulses and worship of the body beautiful, I held on to the aspiration of the sternum; and discovered how a simple touch, a different focus, can lift everyday movement and experience out of its unthinking patterns.
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
My finger was poised on ‘Publish’ when I decided to open today’s post. The more mysterious of the two envelopes turned out to be, synchronously, a leaflet commemorating David Holt. Having read it, my interest in his work has been refuelled. I liked this quotation particularly from Michael Whan:
When we read David Holt’s writings we are indeed put ‘through a surprising process’. We are processed alongside our processing of them. It is this being ‘caught up in’ that David Holt exemplifies in the way he spoke, thought and lived psychology’; not so much a follower or apostate of Jung, but as someone gripped by that spirit that took hold of Jung.