Ep. 80 – Sandy Oshiro Rosen – Get Dancing/Get Healing
- How to attend to our emotions with helpful motions
- Why dance reduces the incidence of dementia by 76%
- The necessity of ‘giving voice’ to trauma
This episode explores the healing power of movement with dance director and author of Bare – The Misplaced Art of Grieving and Dance, Sandy Oshiro Rosen.
North American society notoriously gears us up to power-through vital messages from our bodies – sensations that should signal the need for our attention, but we ignore. When these messages are left unaddressed for prolonged periods, chronic ailments and mental illness can result.
Movement is a powerful method for paying attention, discovering the messages, and finding rest and healing.
Join us for this thought and movement-provoking conversation.
Sandy Oshiro RosenSandy Oshiro Rosen is a Canadian west coast author and the owner and creative director of Bez Arts Hub, a dance studio, and live performance venue focused on mentorship, embodiment and wellness for children, teens and adults.
Through her work and books, including her newest, Bare: The Misplaced Art of Grieving and Dance, Sandy curates space for the discovery and expression of grief and emotions that get misplaced when we don’t or can’t take the time to slow down and lament the losses in our lives.
Sandy and her musician husband Russ have travelled the world using the arts as an expression of hope and community. They have 3 adult daughters who are also artists. Additional Resources:
Ep. 80 – Sandy Oshiro Rosen – Get Dancing/Get Healing
In this episode we reference the stillbirth of a child, please listen with sensitivity to triggers and grief.
Rachel Cram – Well, family360 podcast listeners, I have a treat for you today. I’m introducing you to one of my oldest friends I’ve ever had. Sandy Rosen.
Sandy Rosen – I’m that old hey?
RC – No. But Sandy and I have been friends since our teen years, working at camp. You seemed way older and wiser than me at that point. You were, like, five years older but I feel like I have looked up and respected you for all my adult life.
SR – Oh, that’s very kind of you to say that.
RC – I mean, you’re an incredible leader. An incredible leader.
And I’m excited to talk to you today about the area of healing through movement, because that’s a life that you’ve gone into really, since I’ve known you.
SR – Mm hmm. Yeah and I think it all stems from where we started in caring for people’s lives, specifically kids, and really wanting to know what goes on in them internally. What started to happen when we were involved with camp is the arts became a really important part of that. Started with music for my husband and I.
RC – At camp, yeah.
SR – At camp. And dance was always something that was on the back burner for me. It’s something that I did through university. I was in SFU contemporary dance program also taking psychology and kinesiology. And so I did dance through my college years, but then started having kids. And it wasn’t until we returned from all our years of travel.
RC – And that was with music, right?
SR – Was with mostly music, although we also had dance that went with it as well. And it was when we returned to our home base that I recognized that my kids needed something that was their thing. And so I enrolled them in a local school of dance and went to the recital and was appalled at how much sexualized sensual movement there was for these kids.
RC – Who were like under ten, right?
SR – Yeah, well lots of the kids in the academy were under the age of ten. Mine were probably ten and 13, something like that. And I was bothered by that and I thought we can do this better. And so I started a hip hop dance class in my home with my kids and a few of their friends. And within a year and a half it became 11 dance classes.
RC – It’s amazing how that all exploded. I remember watching it from afar going, “What is she doing?”
SR -Yeah, and our family life would shut down on Tuesdays and Thursdays and so eventually we renovated the barn that was on the property we were renting and started to run a full on dance studio.
RC – Called The Dance Barn, right?
SR -Called The Dance Barn, yeah.
RC – I heard about you everywhere. I wasn’t really seeing you much during those years because our lives were in different directions. But I remember people saying, it’s a different kind of dancing.
SR – We really knew at that point that we had to start to run dance classes that cared for the whole person. And not just in terms of making sure we listen to their emotions, but also the competitive aspect of it, for some students it really began to hurt them.
RC – The competitive part of it?
SR – The competitive part of it. So at age 13 and 14, we were getting these kids who’d grown up in the studios say, “Can we just dance?” Can we do something that isn’t all about me being on stage and having to be the best? Can I just dance and do well at dancing?”
To still become excellent at it. There’s no problem with that. But that extra pressure of the competition, really, we needed to just remove that for a lot of these students. Yeah.
RC – So where did the healing part start to come into that?
SR – I started a mentorship program and it started to happen with adult students who were starting to deal with some of the more emotional things in their lives, caring for one another, supporting each other. Some of them would be standing there in a ballet class and just be doing their exercises and burst into tears because suddenly they’re remembering an abuse or they’re remembering a wound or something that had transpired over the course of their life history. And it was things very often that had been completely suppressed that they didn’t even recognize were still issues or they didn’t even realize it had happened.
And within our second year of running that mentorship program, one of our staff was pregnant and she lost her baby a week before it was due to be born. So she was having to give birth to this stillborn baby. But interesting at the same moment across the hallway was her sister giving birth to her live baby?
And the juxtaposition of these two unbelievable scenarios became the source in many ways of me starting to become aware of real grief. And what’s interesting about that dance instructor is the second day or so in the hospital after delivering her stillborn baby, she called me up and she said, “All night last night, all I could picture were all these dance productions that would begin to express all the aspects of my grief.
So over the course of that year, that’s exactly what she did. She actually said, “I don’t know if I can teach this year.”
And I said, “Look, whatever you’re feeling on that day, we will just join you in responding to that stage of your grief. So if you want to just cry, we’re going to sit and cry with you and we’ll dance over you or whatever you need, we will do. And so that’s what we did for a year. And between those moments of just crying with her and her creating out of the grief she was experiencing, the following year, we then launched that whole production called Pause. And it was her way of processing that grief.
RC – Is what you are describing a well recognized quality of dance? That it taps into deeper parts of who we are beyond enjoyment and pleasure?
SR – Yeah. Many, many other cultures have embraced this.
I was watching a documentary about this culture in New Guinea, that they have no violence, no conflict in their culture, because what they do is if a couple of siblings are arguing about something, the whole tribe gets up and starts dancing together so that everybody kind of dials down from it and the joy comes back and and something is restored. So there’s something that we have lost as a North American culture where dance is not something that we do as an expression of, harvest, or celebrating a child being born or celebrating a hunt. We’ve kind of lost any sense of that. And not only that, dance has become something that’s for elite athletes only. The average person wouldn’t dare to dance because you have to be trained since you were three years old in order to dance. No, no, no, we are meant to dance. It’s part of who we are and our makeup. You see it in children since the day they’re born. You turn on music and they start dancing. And so how do we lose that as we grow older as being part of just who we are? And part of it is we’ve removed the avenues through which we can just dance for the sake of whatever reasons.
RC – Yeah, I have to admit, I am not a comfortable dancer. I can enjoy a scripted dances, like line-dancing or, you know, the kind of dancing you see in movies like Shakespeare In Love or Pride And Prejudice, not that I ever do dance like that, but, where everyone knows what they are supposed to do, you’re all doing the same moves, and you’re not required to create movement on your own. That’s what I find really tricky. Like Square Dancing. I can do that.
But, in the faith tradition you and I grew up in, unlike the documentary you saw on New Guinea, and I’m not sure about your parents, but dance was not something I saw people embrace, or experience, or encourage. It was taboo in some mindsets.
SR – Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I grew up as a Baptist pastor’s kid, but thankfully my dad was a swing dancer when he was in his teens and so he always had a heart for us to be dancing and didn’t squelch that. He just was cautious that when you know, I told him that I felt like this was a career I was going into, and he kind of went, “How does that work?”
And I said, “I don’t know.”
RC – And it has.
SR – Yeah, it has, it has gone in lots of directions that I didn’t expect.
RC – Well, let’s talk about those directions.
SR – Okay.
RC – I would love that.
SR – Okay.
Musical Interlude #1
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RC – Well, you start your book with the story you just shared about your friend’s loss and grief, and what an incredible year to spend with somebody grieving, that is just such an amazing story. Like what a gift to her. What a gift she gave to you I’m sensing, to get to experience that together. You created a metaphor right after your introduction with that story, that sets up this whole conversation about healing really well. And I just want to read it. You said, “With miscarriage, the slightest bit of residual fetal tissue can cause a serious infection. Similarly, grief not properly addressed can propagate a progressive affliction of the emotions, and can paint a life with enduring darkness, aching and anxiety.”
What were you seeing about what movement could do and what dance would do for a healing process?
SR – Well, the main thing that I started to delve into is that I felt like there were probably some exercises as a dance teacher that I could develop in order to draw out some of those things in a more intentional way for people. So I had developed a program called Dancing for Healing that was a series of about 40 exercises that I take students through one a week that begins to help them start to listen to what might be going on in their bodies.
Obviously, with my friend, she already knew how to translate the things she was feeling into movement. But that’s not typical of most people.
RC – Yeah. So what kinds of exercises do you typically start with then?
SR – So we do a lot of breathing because breathing helps us to focus in on what’s happening in our bodies, which a lot of us don’t always recognize, and then to respond to things that we might be feeling in our body. So often I will talk about a place in our body that might be tight or heavy, and as we continue to breathe, to start to feel what emotion might be connected to that. And those places of tightness or heaviness are actually often where we’re carrying unhealed feeling, grief, those kinds of things. And when you go to that place and begin to understand, ‘Okay, there’s an emotion of fear that happens to be connected to that.’
And then I encourage people to respond to that with a movement that would be connected to that feeling.
RC – Like, what do you mean? Like kids when they’re happy they naturally clap their hands or jump up and down, like, are you talking like that kind of movement?
SR – Yeah, that kind of thing. Or even if your kid is upset about something and they suddenly start stomping their feet and flailing. Those are innate movements connected to our fight or flight response to things that threaten us.
RC – Oh, I love that you’re bringing that up because there’s so much conversation, we’ve had episodes on this of saying, “That’s why you don’t want to stop your child from doing that. That’s the harm of saying, “Stop it. Get off the ground.” Is because it is a natural way of expressing what we’re feeling, isn’t it?
SR – Yeah. Well, and even the number of people that I’ve talked to who were told that they should stop crying.
RC – Yeah.
SR – Like it’s done now. You should stop crying.
RC – Or, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
SR – Right. Yeah. Yeah. Innately our bodies, that is our main way of beginning to release some of those emotions. And so for some people, you know, it is crying. And in my dancing for healing classes, we have a lot of just tears. One of my, one of my students said that her husband always says every week, “So are you going to breathe and cry class today?”
But these are the ways that we begin to hone in on what’s happening in our bodies, which we typically don’t. We keep going until something snaps in terms of physical health or mental health, we just keep going. But the important thing is to find those moments when we can breathe and begin to focus in on what’s happening in my body and begin to listen to what it has to say.
RC – What would let someone know that they would be a candidate? Is that even the right question? Who would know that movement is what they need?
SR – I would suggest that all of us.
RC – I know you’re going to say that.
SR – Because all of us do. I have a chronic right shoulder tension. I know it’s connected to stress. And I recognize that every couple of months I could really use a breathe-and-cry, class. And just begin to find out, okay, what is it that I’ve been carrying? And generally, when we talk about stress, a lot of what underlies the stress is actually grief or unhealed feeling. And our body holds on to not being able to deal with it with muscle tension. I’ve heard a number of people say that they’ve gone for massage therapy and they will start weeping as the massage therapist hits a shoulder muscle. And that is evidence that we’re holding emotion in our bodies all the time. The fact is, is that we have such a society of ‘power through’. “You know, you’ve just got to think positively. You’ve just got to power through. You just got to keep going and it’ll be fine.”
And for those of us who have any spiritual backgrounds, it’s all, “God will take care of it. So you don’t have to worry about it. It’s all done.”
And we short circuit the actual communication that is needing to happen in our body that helps us to resolve those things.
I know that you’ve had Hillary on recently.
RC – Yeah, she’s the episode right before this.
SR – Yeah. And Hillary will often talk about the fact that trauma is open-ended. And so until we deal with that trauma, our body responds as though that trauma is ongoing. Every situation that seems similar to the original trauma will continue to feel like an extension of that previous trauma. And so there’s ways in which we need to resolve that.
RC – Can you give an example?
SR – Yeah. So if perhaps, say, someone has been in a circumstance where they are being threatened and the inclination when we’re threatened or being abused is to run. “Get me out of here. I’m running.”
And what they are now finding from lots of embodiment type of therapies, is that to have a person run, it’ll actually help to bring that memory into a place of closure. So they go, “Okay, I have my agency back, I have a voice. I have the ability to not be a victim of this circumstance, and I have the ability to restore and heal from that memory.”
RC – To find healing, do you have to come knowing what the circumstance is?
SR – No, No.
RC – Okay.
SR – And what’s wonderful about it for me is that I’m not the therapist. This is all self-discovery. These people are finding these things out for themselves and responding to them themselves.
RC – And does it actually land on a pinpointed thing? Like, “Oh, this emotion that I’m feeling or this movement that I feel I must experience, it comes down to grade seven when I was left out. Like, does it come down to
SR – Very very often
RC – Do people recognize the specific?
SR – Yeah, very, very often.
RC – And could it be memories that they hadn’t even been aware of?
SR – Yeah,
RC – That’s remarkable.
SR – Yeah. Yeah. That’s what’s most significant and, and the wonderful thing too is that we’re in a situation where they are open to share those things, but they don’t have to. And when they do share it, it gives them the opportunity to give voice to what that thing was and sometimes just being able to express it physically will help to heal it. Sometimes it takes weeks before that thing heals and they bring it up again and they bring it up again. But a lot of times it’s because there’s layers of wounding that have gone on that they need to focus in on.
And what’s interesting, too, is that they might come in and say, “The thing that keeps coming up for me is my conflict with my daughter.”
And they’ll focus on that for a number of weeks until then, layers are pulled off that and they realize, “No, actually the wound is connected to my mother. This is how my mother was with me.”
And they’ll start to diagnose some of that for themselves. And what’s interesting, too, is that some of these people have been through years and years of talk therapy and have not tapped into this territory because, and this is an interesting thing because you work with preschoolers through Wind and Tide, and what happens is that a lot of trauma and unhealed feeling happens to us before we are very verbal or where we are not verbal in terms of our emotions. We don’t have the ability to communicate that. So what’s interesting is that to begin to heal those things or to deal with those traumas, a physical expression is often one of the easiest ways for that child, you know, for
RC – The child inside of you still?
SR – The child inside of you still, to go back and begin to deal with that, because that child wouldn’t have the language to say what it was, but they can now attend to it,
RC – Because you’re giving your inner child access to movement.
SR – Yeah. Exactly.
RC – Sandy, do you have an example of somebody where you can show how that works? Like they had the childhood experience before they could express, and then how that came out in their adulthood? Because I think an example just helps to land the picture of this.
SR – Yeah, sure. So there was someone who had the death of a parent happen when she was three years old. And at the time, the adults around the situation concluded she doesn’t really know what has happened or the seriousness of it. And her other parent isn’t doing very well. So we’ll just kind of remove her from the situation and we’ll let her have a happy childhood.
And for many years, she had, kind of I don’t know all the scenarios, but just a lot of emotional stuff that just wasn’t resolving itself for her. And in one of my classes, we were going through these exercises, and she felt a physical sense of tightness in her throat.
RC – In these classes, are you asking people to let you know or to speak out loud when something’s happening for them like that?
SR – No, no, they don’t say it out loud. They just experience it. They just are laying on a mat. And we’ve got quiet music happening and they are just processing it for themselves. And they may journal it afterwards, and they may share what they’ve journals afterwards, or they may share it as they show movement if they want to.
RC – So they’re laying there just really paying attention to their body.
SR – Just paying attention to what’s going on in them. And there was a tightness in her throat that she felt. And there was a sense of voicelessness, but a grief connected to it. And I suggested then, is there a movement that would express what that feels like or would be a response to that feeling in you? And she began to thrash her hands and push out with her hands.
RC – Does that happen uncontrollably? Or is she just letting yourself be free to do what? Okay.
SR – Yeah. Not an out of control. Definitely her just doing it. You know, if we see our kids kicking their feet, those kinds of things.
RC – It’s what your body wants to do.
SR – Yeah. Yeah. It was kind of that responding to what her body wanted to do and when she then journaled then shared, she said it was connected to this deep, deep grief that was in me when I was a little girl at three years old when my parent had passed away and nobody let me express that emotion.
RC – How does she know that’s what it was linked to?
SR – She just knew. And after doing it, there was a release for her from that, from some of the things that had hounded her most of her life. Yeah.
RC – As you described that, I think part of the tension for me with dance, or even with expressive movement, is that it takes such a vulnerability to let your body do what it wants to do. Like I think of so often, I’ve said this so many times, I don’t dance, I can’t dance. It’s too vulnerable really, for me to do that. That’s why I don’t.
SR – Yeah, yeah. And it is. Dance is a very vulnerable thing because it is the full expression of us in all of our weaknesses in many ways. But this is the re embodying of ourselves, it is about reconnecting us to what we do. And the solidarity to say we’re with you is actually very, very important.
RC – From the others around us. Watching us move.
SR – Yeah. And one of the parts of the exercises is that sometimes we create phrases of movement that are connected to something that someone has felt. I will sometimes have the other students learn that movement phrase from the person so that then the person who it comes out of their emotions and they’ve created this movement series, then gets to watch someone else do that movement for them. And the amazing response pretty much every single time is that people say it feels like somebody fully knows what I feel, even though those who’ve just learned the movement, they actually have no idea what the actual feelings are connected to it. But just by doing the movement, it speaks to the person that there is complete empathy, complete understanding of what they’ve gone through or what they’re feeling just by doing the movement.
RC – The person that mirrors the movement back. Would there be an expectation that that movement for that person might release something as well? Or are you really doing it purely for the sake of the person?
SR – Purely for the sake of the other person. Yeah. Yeah. It’s actually fascinating. And the other people, they want to care for that person, but most often there’s virtually no emotional attachment for the person that’s mirroring it back to them. It’s really interesting. So that way too, we’re not carrying each other’s burdens like that. It really is, “I’m serving you, but without any real cost to me. I’m just giving you something back.”
And pretty much each time there’s a deep, deep emotional response in tears just because someone understood what I feel by movement. It’s fascinating.
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RC – When someone comes to you to want to explore healing, do they more typically come because of an emotional feeling or lack of emotional feeling or because of a chronic pain? Like I’ve got aches and pains in my joints or you were saying your shoulder. What typically draws someone to want to pursue healing through movement
SR – Most often it’s that people know that something is not releasing itself from them. They know that they carry around a constant something that they haven’t been able to get to and they do recognize that it manifests in their body.
Very few people come because of a physical ailment, particularly because we’ve been so doctor-focused. And so they’ll keep going to their doctor. And probably the real tragedy is that our doctor’s therapies rarely are preventative or get to the source. They just deal with the symptoms. There’s not a tool by which to go in the other direction. This is coming now more from the whole wellness focus of what is happening now in the Western world, where probably more in the Eastern world they’ve always known this connection. But in the Western world, we’ve been very slow to draw these connections.
RC – I think we’re getting way more open to Eastern thinking now, probably largely because we’ve recognized how disconnected we’ve become from our bodies in the Western world.
SR – Yeah, yeah.
RC – You mentioned that our previous episode was with Hillary McBride. The episode before Hillary’s was with Dr. Lori Brotto, and she was talking about the lack of synchronicity between how many women think they’re body is responding to situations, in her case it’s with sexual desire, and how their body is actually responding when it’s monitored and recorded. We feel like, “I’m not finding this pleasurable. My body is not responding to this.” And biologically, we are responding to it, we’re just not feeling it.
And I wonder if that disconnect makes finding that “constant something that we haven’t been able to get to,” that you were just describing part of the challenge for women?
SR – Yeah. And also there’s a disembodied part of how our culture functions where when you just have to power through, women have gotten used to ignoring what’s going on in their bodies in order to keep experiencing whatever’s happening.
So a lot of times in my class, I talk about your body, your emotions and your spirit all being linked by an elastic. And then what happens as you keep going with your body and spirit, your emotions got stuck way back when something traumatic happened. And that elastic starts to stretch and stretch until it snaps and you suddenly have a health break or a mental health break.
And so I encourage people to come back and go at the speed of their emotions because we start to put motion on our emotion rather than pausing to let the emotion slowly release what it needs to. So slow movement often is something that can help to keep the emotions tracking with movement because especially pained emotions, unhealed emotions are slow. And so I think that’s important to recognize, is that all of our activity sometimes inhibits what happens with our emotions.
RC – Okay. Sandy, do you think you could take me through one or two basic exercises that can be explained in an audio way with people not seeing you that would give listeners an example of what this could look like? I’m happy to do it here with you if I can pull it off and override my insecurities.
Is this something we can do in the privacy of our own homes, or do we need a group and do we need a trained movement therapist?
SR – No, it’s something for sure you can do on your own. And as a matter of fact, a lot of my students take my exercises and do them at home as well at certain moments. It’s helpful to do it in a group because part of what is needing to come forward is, you know, if you went through a traumatic experience, one of the main things that didn’t happen is you didn’t get to use your voice. And what it does when you’re with a group of people is it actually gives you voice that somebody heard you and somebody has empathy for you. And that’s all part of the healing.
But for sure, some of these are exercises you could walk through on your own, just not as well-supported as you go through it.
I’ll keep it simple though, because. Okay, other exercise really requires you being flat out on the floor for a good 15 minutes of feeling something. This is the simpler version.
So, Rachel, I’ll just ask you to maybe just close your eyes and begin to kind of scan through your body and start to become aware of any places in your body that are feeling tight or heavy, and maybe even place a hand on that spot in your body where you might feel that. And now begin to get a sense as you breathe into that place.
RC – I’m putting my hands on my shoulders just because people can’t see it.
SR – Yeah. What emotion do you feel is connected to that feeling in your shoulders right now? And you don’t have to say anything.
RC – Okay.
SR – And then if you were to do a movement that is an expression of that feeling or a response to that feeling, what would that movement be? And it can just be a posture or it can be a physical movement of sorts.
RC – I better describe it because people won’t know.
I feel like I would fling my arms open. Not fast but kind of slowly.
SR – Okay. Do that. Yeah. And what is the sensation now that you feel by being able to do that?
RC – I feel like I can take air down into my stomach. More. Yeah.
SR – And what was the feeling that you had in your shoulders?
RC – Well, when you asked me that, I just realized I was holding them up like they were almost like a shrug position.
SR – Hmm. Yeah. What’s the feeling that you had?
RC -Yeah. There is a feeling of, I’m thinking tension, but more than tension. It feels like anxiety.
SR – Anxiety. Huh. And probably just doing a podcast with me is going to do that.
RC – I’m actually feeling very relaxed with you. But I am.
I do know I have anxiety right now, but I didn’t. I just was not thinking about that. No. It surprised me that my shoulders were that tense.
SR – Huh? And so what we’ll often do too, to make this physical connection is, I would get you to do that, you know, flinging your arms open. And then and everybody would stand in a circle to now do the movement that that you’ve done. And so right away, you’ve got an immediate connection of compassion and empathy for what you’re feeling, because now it’s not just you feeling it or needing to do that movement, but now, other people responding and having empathy for what you’ve done.
RC – Do you find these people in groups all want to become friends? Like even those you’re just describing that I feel like if somebody is doing that beside me, I’d be like, “Oh, be my friend.”
Even as you’re describing that, I think I would feel really seen.
SR – Yeah. And I think that’s the most important thing. And this is why, you know, we’re carrying around all these hidden emotions in us is because for whatever reason, there was a point at which that particular emotion we felt like we had to not say anything about or we had to keep living life. You know, you’ve got kids, you’ve got family, you’ve got job that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to just keep it quiet and go through it. Right.
RC – Well, you used the phrase earlier on, “You got to power on through.”
I feel like that all the time. Like there’s just not time. And I don’t even know how to get around that.
SR – Yeah. But this is where our experience with the pandemic caused us all to take a look at when we slow down our lives we start to pay attention to more of the things that are going on. And the number of people that I know that have dropped out of their busyness, that have dropped out of certain jobs that were too much pressure on them. Even people that have dropped out of church because church was demanding too much of them. Lots of things that people suddenly went, “Oh, I just need to slow down and take stock of what’s going on in me, in my family,” I think it’s really crucial
RC – Yeah, well I find in my experiences with people, we’re supporting each other so much more than we might have in the past with those kinds of shifts. It’s like covid triggered this awareness alert to our constant productivity and pressure. I think we’ve become much more supportive when we hear someone say, “No, I can’t do this..” whatever it is, night out, or whatever, “I need a night at home.”
Or, “I’m cutting back my hours, or, dropping off of this committee,” or whatever it is.
If we can support each other in respecting what our bodies are telling us, wow!
SR – Yeah, it can be very profound and very deep and very connecting.
RC – I also think just as you did that exercise with me, is it feels like you’re actually bringing your body to somebody, like just not your brain. Which feels incredibly vulnerable. Telling others what’s happening in our bodies. What we need.
But, I don’t think we’re used to doing that.
SR – No, no. I think there is a vulnerability that we’ve lost because we are so encouraged to be courageous. “Oh, they had this huge loss, but they were so courageous. They didn’t even cry.” That that is actually a value we have is kind of strange. And our bodily bringing ourselves keeps us embodied because we do have to disconnect ourselves from our bodies in order to keep going. And by continuing to sit in that with one another and hold each other and weep with each other and, you know, all those things that many other cultures do that we don’t, it’s actually something to find again for us as a culture.
RC – I’m wanting to pause a moment to take in what you are saying. You said, “We have to disconnect ourselves from our bodies in order to keep going.”
When we make that decision, “I’ve just got to keep going,” That’s kind of what we’re doing, we’re unhinging ourselves from our body.
SR – We have to.
RC – And leaving that behind.
SR – Yeah. Actually, C.S. Lewis says this, “Nobody told me about the laziness of grief.”
And what we have been slow to recognize is that those emotions make you want to just not do anything. But we are given maybe a day or two off if we’ve had a loss and then we have to get back to work, get on with things. And what happens to all that grief? Well, all that grief continues to reside in our body? And if we don’t ever take the time to deal with it, then it becomes other things; physical ailments, emotional breakdowns. Not always obviously, but but there is an inclination in that direction. And there’s enough evidence that we’re now uncovering to say that our emotional state does produce physical, mental problems for us in the long run if we don’t address it.
Musical Interlude #3
Thanks for listening to family360 and our conversation with Sandy Oshiro Rosen.
For our next episode we’re zooming across the world to the wonderful land of Australia and the wise words of Dr. Kristy Goodwin. Kristy is a media commentator focused on research-based strategies for sustainable and healthy tech-usage plans. As parents we’re constantly alerted by headlines warning us of the harmful effects of technology.
Kristy believes there is no benefit to techno guilt. Digital realities are here to stay, to be understood, and to be navigated. Banning and avoiding technology is not a viable solution. In this conversation, Kristy introduces a practical and realistic framework for creating a wise technology plan that applies to everyone – tots to teens and right on through to adulthood.
And now, back to Sandy with some examples of how stress calls to us for attention and how we listen.
RC – So, looking at the time Sandy, we need to be heading towards an ending to our conversation. You’ve talked about the woman who lost her child, but I’m wondering if I should ask you more about more every day tensions our bodies try to tell us about?
SR – Yeah. Yeah, that would be a good question.
RC – Okay. All right. Let me say that then. Can you give some examples of the types of situations that would cause tension in bodies? Just to give broad examples.
SR – Sure. My book is addressing grief but very often grief is not just in the context of someone died or that I had an experience of abuse, but it actually goes into things like I’m having to deal with a chronic illness or the chronic illness of a child, or it’s in the direction of loss of dreams, something that I had hoped for that never ended up transpiring.
A lot of these things that happen in our lives are our true deaths and losses that very often we don’t give permission to grieve. And yet, in our bodies and in our emotions they are as though something died and there’s a real need to pause and to pay attention to those things, and stopping so that we have the time to address what those things are.
And sometimes it’s coming out as, I just feel stressed all the time. I can’t ever cease my stress. And we would think that it’s because we’re busy. But funny, my stress still stays with me even when I slow down. Why is that?
RC – Yeah, why is that? That doesn’t feel right.
SR – Well, most often it’s because we need to slow down to a degree that we can start to listen to what’s actually happening to my emotions. You know, for me, as an example, when I was 11 years old, I had a group of friends that rejected me. And that was a huge loss because for a whole year, my best friends didn’t talk to me. But interesting that it wasn’t until I was in my forties that suddenly I realized that my fear of being with women and trusting women in relationships was actually connected to this this sense of loss or this childhood trauma. And so I went for counseling and that was the thing that came up was this thing when I was a child and it’s something that thankfully I was able to deal with. And then it changed. My trajectory of being able to live in a world where I could trust women again. There are all kinds of those hidden things that we aren’t aware of that happen to us, and especially when we’re young that we don’t necessarily have words for and movement can then become a means by which we can begin to express and deal with that.
RC – I imagine ‘rejection trauma’ of some sort is there for most of us, ones we inflicted on other people too, which is absolutely horrible to think about.
SR – Absolutely.
RC – And a conversion for another time, because we do need to think about that.
SR – Absolutely.
RC – Ok, well Sandy, as we start to move towards an ending, can you give some practical examples of ways to access the healing power of movement in everyday life? Like, what kinds of movements can we do on our own if we can’t get to someone like you, that help us address grief and unhealed feelings? Or we can’t afford councelling.
SR – Well, studies scientifically are now showing that dance is incomparable to many other forms of things that keep our wellbeing going. And there was a particular study done at the Albert Einstein University, it was a 21 year study of senior citizens about the risk of dementia. Whether or not they did physical things like golfing, swimming, cycling, whether they were doing mental activities like crossword puzzles and reading and creative writing, and then dancing also being another one of those things. And they discovered that in terms of reducing the incidence of dementia, golfing, swimming, cycling, physical activities did not decrease it at all. Mental activities like crosswords, etc. did decrease it somewhere between 34 and I think 47%. But dance reduced the incidence of dementia by 76%.
RC – Oh my goodness. Wow!
SR – By 76%. So the key thing is with cycling and swimming and golfing, those are all repeated neural pathways. But with dance, it’s always creating new neural pathways and that’s why, reducing the risk of dementia, it’s creating pathways around any of those blocked neural pathways. So from that end of things, get dancing. It is going to help you no matter what.
And probably one of the other things is play. What we did when we were children where there’s a lot of creative activity and creative responses to the things that are going on in our minds. As adults, we kind of lose that ability to play for the sake of playing. It’s a working out of the things that you’re actually feeling. Kids are doing that. So I think if we can tap into that as adults as well, using play to deal with things that are going on inside of us and getting physical with the things that we want to express, creating new neural pathways. All of those experiences help with dealing with those internal emotions.
RC – I’m just thinking, with play, when you say, “Kids are doing that,” there is huge concern right now, that kids aren’t doing that, that kids are no longer experiencing enough play either. So, it’s not just adults.
SR – Yeah. I think we’ve pushed our kids and ourselves so strongly in the direction of competitiveness and striving that the pleasure of our bodies being able to just enjoy movement for the sake of enjoying movement is actually becoming a more rare thing. Competitiveness actually drives something else in our body. It can be good for sure, but there are lots of detrimental aspects to it. It actually brings out more of the fight or flight kind of response, the adrenaline response. But play releases us from that and play actually can become a restorative version of movement.
RC – There’s a lot of conversation right now of taking competitiveness out of some sports and is so foreign to our way of thinking that people do push back. What’s the fun of soccer? What’s the point of football if you don’t have a winner or loser? But I really think if you went back to kids and just said, “We’re going to play soccer today, we’re going to play football, or we’re just going to be out there enjoying this ball and having fun together.”
I wonder if that might entice more people to get out there and play with the competition piece gone?
SR – Well, I think it’s got, its importance and it’s good but it’s interesting, I remember listening to the Olympic reports on the Norwegians one Winter Olympics that they kept winning everything.
RC – I think this is fascinating. Yeah. Keep going.
SR – And the question was when do Norwegian kids start entering competitive sports. And they say at 17.
RC – Amazing. Yeah
SR – So until then, they are playing at that sport and just becoming good at it because they are playing in it. And then at the moment that they need to enter competition they’ll just do it for a short period of their life because then they’ll just go back to playing with it as they go through their adulthood. And I think that’s kind of an important key. And not that we can’t do the competitive part, but I think we’ve made it the primary, and I don’t think that that’s been healthy for us. Competition is great to pursue that, you know, higher level of excellence. But when it becomes too crucial we’ve lost a whole part of what those physical activities are meant to give us.
RC – Well, and people stop doing them because they can’t make the team.
SR – Exactly. Or they didn’t win and.
RC – Or they didn’t get on to the highest level that they could. Yeah.
SR – Or they destroyed their body in order to hit that next level, next level, next level. And they stumble into their twenties with injury after injury after injury. And that’s not helpful either. So there’s a better way to do it for sure.
RC – Humm. Well, let’s end on that potentially provocative note for some people. But it’s important to keep thinking about what we’re doing, why, and how we all keep ourselves moving, so I’m glad you brought that up.
Sandy, I’ve loved this chance to read your book, to talk about the healing power of movement, and to catch up with you.
Thank you so much for your time. This is very fun to get to talk to you.
SR – Very welcome. Yeah, Great to be here.
“There is a vitality, a life force,
a quickening that is translated through YOU into action,
and there is only one of YOU in all time,
this expression is unique,
and if you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not YOUR business to determine how good it is,
not how it compares with other expression.
It is YOUR business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction,
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.”
How does a grieving mother recover from the loss of her baby when the birth of her sister’s son is being celebrated? Vanessa finds herself facing this agony when she discovers that at the same moment the doctor was telling her that her baby had died, her sister was giving birth across the corridor. This true story catapults us into a very personal exploration of grief and grieving in a culture that has misplaced its ability to lament losses of all sorts—stillborn projects, miscarried relationships, life-threatening illnesses and ruined finances. Sandy Rosen not only offers a passionate and stirring commentary on everyday casualties, balancing stories of personal loss with professional perspectives on the grieving process, but also brings a unique approach to the subject by adding an undercurrent of the body-and-soul-relieving effects of dance. She teaches us that the often awkward process of grief is both natural and critical.