We enter the ward and greet the patient. She is sat upright in her chair looking directly at us.
She holds a custard tart like a small sun resting in her right hand, as we begin dancing she begins eating. As we dance, I look at her face and see her pleasure. Simple pleasure. Her taste buds meeting the sugar yellow, her eyes meet our moving bodies. There was for a moment the thought that she may be able to taste our dancing? Her visitor soon arrives mid dance, and we part an invisible curtain to make way for her. We seem to do this often, making space in space by gesture. The best description or way to illustrate this may be the function of waving. By waving at someone and someone waving back, what emerges between those two separate waving hands is presence. This is what we try to bring to the ward, and that presence can change the feeling of space and ourselves in it.
Gesture and dancing creates an invisible bridge that supports communication and supports a way for us to meet without language.
A nurse looks at us moving “this is what I need to to” and she begins dancing “ I love moving,Always have”
She dances and another nurse turns around to witness this solo spontaneous performance, we keep dancing alongside her, encouraging and drawing out more of her dancing.
A woman gestures and says “this is amazing”, with her two hands in prayer. It is the dance that she sees, but I also sense in her eyes the feeling of space changing.
Something else becomes possible for a moment when clinical environment is re imagined through movement.
Something is possible, you can see it in the way peoples eyes open more, or in some ways shine. Even in the midst of illness, this patient strapped to the oxygen machine pumping air into her nose and mouth, the patient is beaming. This is the gateway to healing.
Potency, possibility and a dosage of awe.
The thought that something becomes possible and the feeling of atmosphere changing is enough to open the door to health. We may begin by shifting the outer space around the body, but soon enough the inner space of the body gets the message in a ripple effect change there are small expansions towards health that ripple through the tissues. It’s like an invisible horizon enters the room and we all stop what we are doing and look out across the vastness, and in the looking, the vastness we see enters us, we let it in, we let ourselves be changed by what we see and what we feel.
We are much more porous than sometimes we would like to admit. The idea of the body contained within a skin is challenged every time I walk on the ward look into a bay and feel the atmosphere and the space.
So often when I sense into the space, what I feel coming back is heavy, sometimes dense with a weight of illness, a confusion, often time airless, and stagnant energy. But as the music enters the ward, a head turns, eyes flicker, things move. We gesture and begin moving, carving something different into the space as someone ushers us in. I
n a way we try to disturb what may have become stagnant, very simply by being there dancing into a moment of the clouds on the ward parting and we enter offering a different weather. Its a small act of hope, one that doesn’t change the circumstance of illness, of a failing body, of the death of a loved one, of tired nurses, of young doctors buckling under responsibility, of the endless glorious mess of being a human. But it offers a moment, and that moment can ripple through the day inside a person like a good poem or a song, and that ripple can be a place of sanctuary, of a felt memory, within a day on the ward.
When I was a patient in hospital for a long period of time, one day the occupational therapist decided to break me of the ward so I could see the sun, and feel the fresh air, and feel my place in relationship to the horizon again.
He must have intuited that it may have helped me. That gesture and choice he made for my healing that day, was in a way everything I needed to feel hope again. it was a profoundly simple gesture, a gesture of hope a remembering of the vastness of what it is to be human.
As we arrived to the nearby beach, we walked shoulder to shoulder in silence, and in that moment the door to something that felt like healing swung open, like a pair of the friendliest arms you can imagine welcoming me back home.