Poems from Earthdance
Men's Authentic Movement Workshops

(Some of these have appeared in A Moving Journal)

by Tom Murray

tmurray@cs.umass.edu, www.tommurray.us

About Authentic Movement

Each Spring since 1993 the Earthdance workshop and retreat center in Plainfield Massachusetts has hosted an Authentic Movement workshop for men. Among the ten to fifteen who show up, most are part of a core group who have been meeting consistently these many years.  The events are both energizing and relaxing for me, as I take time out of normal life, held in the company of an unusual group of truly wonderful men.  During these weekends many of us take time to write or draw. Below are four poems that I have written following movement sessions.

Authentic movement is a form of contemplative movement done in groups.  It can take many forms or structures, but usually participants are in a role of either mover or witness, with movers having eyes closed.  Movement periods are for predetermined lengths, which could be from two minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the format, usually with a bell signaling the end. The movement is an expression of the inner world of the mover, an experienced landscape that can be of feelings, images, memories, kinesthetic impulses, sudden sublime insights--whatever.  Usually during movement sounds are allowed but speech is not. Movement is not done as a show or an expression for others to see, but in the spirit of allowing the body to move in response or resonance to the inner landscape. Like the unselfconscious stretch of the arms that comes with a yawn in the privacy of one's home.  While the focus of the mover is inward, the presence of caring and attentive witnesses adds an energy and depth to the mover's experience. 

The role and experience of the witness is just as important as that of the mover.  The witnesses create a silent, non-judgmental, and compassionate container for the movers, but also bring the same consciousness of witnessing to their own internal process, noticing what the mover(s) evokes within them. Authentic Movement is a contemplative practice for both roles. For most formats after the movement periods there is time for movers and witnesses to privately process the experience through writing, drawing, or reflection, and then a period for pairs or groups to verbally share. 

Though movers have their eyes closed and are in a very personal space (though they may be interacting with others), as a witness one often sees surprising patterns of synchronicity or harmony, or a story context will emerge in the imagination that links the movement elements together.  The poems below are written from the perspective of one witnessing others move, after extended movement structures that allowed one to alternate between witnessing and moving freely over the course of about on hour.

For more information about Authentic Movement, see www.movingjournal.org.


[Fall 1996]

A Blossom of Men 

A man with a bandanna covering his eyes is lying naked on the smooth wood floor, next to a large window where the sun streams in and over him.

A man is standing in the corner of the room with a blanket over his head that reaches to his ankles, softly humming beautiful operatic melodies.

A man faces the empty white wall and repeats the same bouncy jiggly movements for a very long time.

Two men stand in the middle of the room in a gentle, firm embrace, swaying from side to side.

A large man wanders aimlessly around, weaving among but not acknowledging the others, gesticulating and mumbling single phrase non-sequiturs.

A man is laying on his stomach as if asleep in the midst of the others.

A sweating man alternately laughs and sobs as he writhes on the floor.

A man takes on a series of grotesque and graceful exaggerated poses with his limbs and fingers off in every direction, his mouth gaping and stretching in as many directions.

A man sits near the edge in lotus position, facing the center, as if seeing everything, but his eyes are closed and he seems about ready to do something entirely different.

Two men wrestle and tussle, wordless, like bear cubs, tugging at each other's arms and legs and heads and ears.  Their eyes are closed.

These are my friends---just being themselves.  They reach deep and together form the blossom of the witnessed.

A man slaps the floor ten times hard;  another man responds with a loud bark.  This seems to signal the end.


[March 2003]

How we do it here

The men with the anger are here in this room.

The men with violent thoughts are here.

The confused men.  The lonely, the forgotten,

The mis-fathered and tired men, the self loathing and cynical.

The addicted men who do not know what they desire,

acting impulsively, constantly moving, wanting,

owning without having. 

Yes, they are also outside of this room,

opening wallets, wearing badges, carrying briefcases

flying helicopters,

reading newspapers, plotting on maps,

hunting each other down.

But they are here too.  They are inside me, and

they are traveling among the dream-bodies and hidden longings of

my friends in this room.

See what we do.

We let the sad, the fearful, the angry men out for a little stroll.

We witness and hold them.

Give them new rules of engagement.

We take them seriously, but we don't take them out of our sight.

We let them out so that they can teach us--

get some respect and speak without fear of annihilation, humiliation, or castration.

And hardly anybody gets killed that way.

That is how we do it here.


[March, 2004]

The truck has come by

A truck has come by, slowed down to a crawl, and

one by one

6 or 8 men were thrown out onto the roadside.

These men have completed their contracts with the machine

of profitable work, and can no longer be used.

The women do not want them either (apparently),

tossed and mostly still in the dusty roadside turf of early spring.

Real men, with testicles and penises, but with their pasts stolen or worn to a nub,

and their futures lost or hidden.

Or, at least I think this is what has happened.

Because here in front of me in the near distance is a ragged line of men,

sprawled out in random positions, looking lost, weary, all with eyes closed.

They begin to move, slowly,

as if finding themselves--

creating themselves from the compost of their own decay.

One man has fingers and toes that seem animated in fits of some memory.

One holds his head gently and rocks.

Another has stood up, seemingly against all odds, and wanders with a blind,

uncertain gait, arms outstretched.

One man flat on his back hums a long lost tune under his breath.

Another remains curled in a fetal pose, sides rising in deep breaths.

A man squirms across the ground, while another starts pounding dull fists at the end of big, slow arms.

Some memories return....and....ahhh....I am one of them--

the first thrown out of the truck perhaps.

Gradually we begin to find one another, and wonder together what questions to ask of this new world.


[March 2006]

[Final movement of the weekend; most movers lying in sunlight.]


Is it sunlight that feeds

the hearts of men as

they leave the womb of each other's solid


to return.

Is is a quiet nuclear

reaction in the heart

that tells men who rest together

that now is the time

to return.

Is it the blaze of early Spring

roaring through silent eyes

that moves men to notice

what they have always been

to return.