Movement & Meditation in the Garden

Notes from the facilitator, Ann Wingate


Movement and Meditation in the Garden is designed to connect us to nature, ourselves, and to one another, in ways both soothing and stimulating. This class incorporates three healing traditions: dance/movement therapy, eco-therapy, and mindfulness meditation; all are based on physical experience through the body. As a dance/movement therapist, I work to weave together the body wisdom of each of these.

Dance/movement therapy is both a form of psychotherapy and one of the creative arts therapies. In the context of this class, approaches from dance/movement therapy are used to create this therapeutic (vs. therapy) experience.

Dance/movement therapy integrates body, mind and spirit, supporting the inner sensations of movement and the emotions that arise from them in relationship to ourselves and others. Dance/movement therapy has ancient roots in the early shamanic dances of healing, communal dances, and folk dance. Today recent research in neuroscience emphasizes the role of movement and non-verbal approaches to healing from trauma (Daniel Siegel, Bruce Perry, Bessel van der Kolk) and can be seen to support the practices of dance/movement therapy. Our country has a national organization, the American Dance/Movement Therapy Association, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Eco-therapy is a field that draws on the relationship between nature and our mental health. Although I have only had an introductory training in eco-therapy I have read fairly extensively in this area and have always had an affinity to the healing power of nature. I draw on this in my work as a dance/movement therapist frequently. Research supports various aspects of eco-therapy including the role of scents in nature on emotional balance and also the effect of the level of bio-diversity on mental health. Eco-therapy works to develop awareness of nature around us in all forms and awareness of how our physical sensations and states of being can be positively affected by the natural environment.

Although many may think of “mindful meditation” as a cognitive process it too is based in the body. The brain is an integral part of our bodies and plays a role in receiving and making sense of the many incoming messages from our external and internal environments: our sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and movement (kinesthetic sense). Mindful meditation uses focus on the physicality of the rhythm and flow of our breath into and out from our bodies to promote a state of presence as we practice letting go of our minds being driven by our thoughts. Staying present to our breath and moment-to-moment awareness of our experience –both physical and mental, and internal and external, allows our minds a non-linear/non-judgemental experience.

With attention to our moment-to-moment awareness of our physical existence we can be more fully alive and express this aliveness through our dance. The beauty of Olbrich Botanical Gardens provides a feast for our senses, a deep support for our mindfulness and inspiration for our creativity.

Welcome to Movement and Mediation in the Garden. I look forward to meeting you soon.

Please bring the following to class:

  • A sense of playfulness
  • Something to tell time (watch preferred, electronic device okay)
  • Yoga mat or thick towel if desired for sitting on the ground (facilitator will provide a limited number for those unable to bring their own).
  • Insect repellent as desired/needed
  • And, please dress comfortably and with mindfulness for the weather –we will be outdoors (if rain we will meet indoors).  The temperatures in July can vary in the evening from quite warm to beginning to cool.

Suggested resources for those interested in learning more~

Dance/Movement Therapy:  Theory, Research and Practice, edited by Helen Payne the website for Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy contains video,  podcasts and links related to dance/movement therapy the website for the American Dance/Movement Therapy Association

the American Journal of Dance Therapy

Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder  by Richard Louv

“A prescription for Nature” by Dr. Daphne Miller in National Parks magazine, spring 2014 the website for dance/movement therapist-eco-therapist Ariana Candell, contains radio interview with Ariana and two others about eco-therapy

Breathing through the Whole Body by Will Johnson

The Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh by Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by  Shunryu Suzuki

The Emotional Life of the Brain by Richard Davidson

Anything by the Dalai Lama

Nature-inspired authors such as Aldo Leopold, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Anne Murrow Lindbergh (Between the Sea and the Stars), Mary Oliver

“Be aware of all that is alive.  Be in natural wonder.  It is the place of peace.”  Gunilla Norris,  A Mystic Garden, Working with the Soil, Attending to the Soul.