My Spiral Dance of Re-Birth
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
*Original letter published in September 2022
― Gabrielle Roth
I’m writing to you again after many months, but what feels like a small lifetime later. My role as a mama has been in the forefront these last 2 years with my focus on the preparation for, the arrival of, and the very full-time presence with my second child, Leila Luz.
Change is indeed the only constant, but as of recently my family and I have closed an important life chapter and begun a new one where we are now settling into a new living space in the neighboring Ain department of France (Ecorans est un petit hameau un pied du Jura). And aside from the actual logistics and paperwork of moving to a new country, this means a new school for our eldest, Caelan Sol (he’s turning 8 this month !! … maybe you even remember my letters dating from those early days) and with Leila we are undergoing the big (and emotional) period where she is now spending several days at a lovely daycare. I feel immense gratitude for the fact that both institutions are in alignment with our own personal values.
This time of separation and change for my family certainly has its challenges for my mama’s heart and mind. And at the same time, there's another part of my identity that’s been also calling for my attention and fuller presence. It’s another facet of my creative soul that’s yearning to be nourished and to express itself with more space and freedom. And now is the time for me to meet this part of myself which, inevitably, has been directly influenced and inspired by all of the life experiences I’ve gained over these last 2 years.
I had the joy of spending last weekend at the magical Mamajah gardens (Bernex, CH) and had a whole day for myself where I excitedly dove into transformative and healing workshops such as Vocal Liberation, Breath Alchemy, a women’s circle around the Sacred Fire and a Kundalini Yoga class. I fully appreciated being able to move through the day at my own rhythm, listen to - and therefore more easily honor - my needs and desires as well as benefit greatly from being on the receiving end and being in the place of the participant for the rich offerings mentioned above. I was reminded of how good it feels to be in a space where there are so many of us gathering together in the name of healing, sharing, transmitting and co-creating. And how ready I am to return more actively to my own little world of contributing to the creation of these truly sacred spaces that help us to live well and with greater harmony and to indeed heal the big and small wounds within our hearts.
There’s a piece of this work that I find naturally therapeutic and healing. As an intention before each of my yoga classes, each circle, each workshop, I set my focus on making the space and activities of service to the highest good for all. Then I let go and trust that what needs to unfold will indeed happen.
Despite this affirmation of inner and outer forces at work, I’m able to say to you today that I’ve heard a voice within that doesn’t dare name this therapeutic and healing effect for what it is. An inner voice that remains shy and reserved.. and not only out of deep respect for the participants, because that is justly fundamental.. but rather rooted somewhere in a deep fear of criticism and non-acceptance of my own ability to be a guide and facilitator for healing. The conventional sources of credibility just aren’t there. However, in an even deeper part of myself, I know that the real sources of this credibility are all invisible … experience and wisdom, instinct and intuition, energy and sensations. Finally, these have been my primary teachers of the true power of these practices, the innate potential of these techniques combined with the safe and benevolent space that holds and contains this sacred inner work for each one and collectively.
My journey of therapeutic movement actually began before I knew it could be considered as such with consistent dance classes from ages 5 to 18. There wasn’t a strong competitive component that was encouraged in our dance studio environment which meant that it was focused on pleasure and friendships, personal, emotional and conceptual expression, and practicing a classical (and ancient) form of creative art through the vehicle of the body
I knew that I wouldn’t be pursuing a professional dance career - not entirely out of disinterest, but surely based on an overly-critical assessment of my skill level and a false belief that making a career out of the arts is for an exceptional few. And so at university, I gradually found myself defining my area of study as Public Health - a broad and general program which covers many subjects but without great depth, all of which are focused on the health and wellness of individuals and communities, from mental to environmental health, disease prevention to counseling techniques, and much in between. My chosen internships included nutrition education for children in under-served neighborhoods and paving the way for collaborations with Philadelphia’s botanic and historic gardens (and included compost education for the community).
During these university years, the next step of therapeutic movement emerged (still unknowingly) as I essentially discovered yoga by testing out all of the free yoga classes offered for new students in the studios all over Philadelphia (PA, USA) where I was living. I was immediately drawn to this approach to mindfully and intentionally meeting oneself through movement in a meditative way and it certainly helped that I had already developed a fair level of body awareness so that there was a facility to re-create the shapes and forms that were guided. There was a return to what I had developped in my dancing years : mental focus, self-discipline, attentiveness to sensation and personal expression that I was happy to re-discover with this new form of movement. Naturally (and even too quickly says the inner voice of resistance and doubt), I seized opportunities to guide others (gratitude to my roommates of the Green House) in these practices of yoga that I sensed were so beneficial. I appreciated the balance between movement and stillness, the doing and being and I loved how I felt after each class, so naturally I was enthusiastic to share the experience with my loved ones.
It happened that I worked at my uni’s recreational center which offered trainings for group fitness leaders. That led me to several weekend-long certification programs over the years which served as a base for safely guiding others in various physical exercise classes. Designing these sorts of work-out choreographies set to music and then guiding a class through the sessions up until the post-workout bliss became one of my side jobs. Yoga became one of these group fitness activities I was trained for and in 2009 I spent my last semester teaching yoga classes to friends and family, to fellow uni students and in a local studio back home.
It seems that for most western yogis, the practice begins with the body.. which besides simply being that which it is, it sounds quite normal as it’s the part of ourselves which is visible and made of solid matter. In our culture at least, there’s a big piece of our identity associated with our physical appearance. And then, even if it’s not intended as such, it seems like the magic of this centuries-old practice and philosophy starts to become more present and evident for the practitioner and deeper levels of the self start to become unveiled.
Always having an interest in human psychology, I became aware of just how much depth there was to this whole “yoga iceberg” and I dove in enthusiastically by participating in classes whenever possible and reading books and articles that informed and inspired not only how to approach the practice, but how to approach life itself.
Upon completing my degree in Public Health, I traveled through 20-odd countries which offered a sort of bachelor’s equivalent from the University of Life. During this time, I practiced yoga in studios from New York to California, in centers in San Cristobal de la Casa (Mexico) and Berlin, and just as importantly, found myself again and again each morning with wafts of Nag Champa incense dancing through the air while on my basic blue yoga mat that accompanied me on terraces, in tiny hotel rooms, on beaches, in the jungle and on rooftops. This became my personal anchor throughout my travels to accompany the ever changing scenery and the fluctuating emotional and mental states I was experiencing. My yoga was one of the only constants. The only thing that seemed sure and within my control. For the longest time Iyengar’s Light on Yoga and a Sivananda Yoga book were my guides. Those morning practices offered me stability and tranquility, a sense of centeredness and calm amidst all of the unknowns.
During this period I met my cheri and in 2012, got married and settled in Geneva as my new home base and set out on the path of self-employment. This sets the beginning for the third part of this “movement as healing journey” as I claimed (even if timidly) and chose full-time work as a yoga teacher in 2013. Four years have passed since that mini, basically symbolic, yoga teacher certification and hundreds of hours of practice later and I’m set on earning a living from doing something I love.
My personal “why” for this very personally-carved out path was rather simple… It was frankly time to get working and I couldn’t really imagine doing anything else with my time and energy other than practice and share yoga. There was a distinct condition, though. There were already enough yoga teachers around and so it wasn’t enough to just be another yoga teacher. I held myself strictly accountable to make my contribution with high quality and beneficial experiences for those participating. I realigned my mind with this heart-intention of offering a space and practice of service to health and well-being (still not ready to say “healing”) whenever my stress from public speaking peaked.
Insecurities, a sense of imposter-syndrome and poor French weren’t the most comfortable company for my early years of teaching in Geneva. I practiced and prepared my classes for hours. I self-assessed critically what should be improved or modified and then applied effectively as I actively created and taught classes for kids, teens, adults and seniors. I seized and received opportunities to teach classes in community spaces, parks, studios, banks, international organizations, retirement homes, private homes and festivals. I remain forever grateful for the opportunities where I was entrusted to fill in as a substitute for my own teachers in Geneva as well as to everyone who tolerated my struggles with the language and who accompanied all the personal growth that I was undergoing. Over these past 9 years (with pauses carved out for the family we’ve grown since) I’ve guided thousands of hours of yoga and meditation. And I’ve absolutely recharged my own inspiration batteries with workshops, weekends and classes with admirable teachers both in the US and in Switzerland.
In 2015, my creative soul called for richer exchanges and more freedom to explore techniques and activities that nourish, inspire and re-connect with oneself, with others and Mother Nature. My initiation into motherhood in 2014 also fed the fire I felt to develop spaces dedicated to individual and collective health and well-being namely through women’s circles, pregnancy-themed circles and personalized rituals along with workshops and retreats where we dance and create, express and witness, empower and experience that which is necessary for our personal growth and healing. And my palette of workshops has more recently expanded to include stress-management and examining eco-anxiety for teenagers.
The richness of these authentic, artistic and therapeutic spaces has brought me to a place that I feel fortunate to know and that I crave to explore more deeply. As I’m writing this today, a new chapter for my personal-professional projects is on the horizon. The dust is slowly settling from our recent changes and more space will soon open up and allow me to settle, center and listen to how it may take specific shape and form.
My intention and desire is to continue to weave together ancient wisdom with personal intuition and to create and guide experiences for individuals and groups to find a greater sense of harmony and healing, both internally and externally.
Already, right now, a little bit of space has opened. The writer’s spark glows and the desire to share with you, dear weaver, is genuine. Because I know that I’m inspired by your story, to know of your deepest challenges and brightest joys, because I feel that it opens my heart and my mind to the sameness of us all and the interwovenness of all things. The richness of the human experience is fascinating and it’s good to remember sometimes that every single emotion and circumstance indeed has its place on the rainbow spectrum of being alive. And therefore in a vast and cosmic way, it belongs and it too shall pass.
May this sharing simply be a way to build deeper connections and serve as a mirror for your own healing heart. This is the beauty of sharing a practice with you. We can share the space together and each explore and discover what needs to be heard, affirmed or honored in the present moment.
I still feel the distinct call to share with you what my movement meditation looks like today. In its own way, it includes everything I’ve experienced. It tends to be fluid yet is more and more grounded. It’s a meditative dance with precious pauses for listening and being. It’s a unique choreography each time that unfolds in the present moment. Even the same movement tomorrow would be a different experience.
I borrow poetic gestures from Qi Gong. I incorporate techniques originating from Do-In, a form of self-massage. Both of these add a rich dimension of the energetic meridians and their corresponding organs, emotions and seasons allow for a growing awareness of the effects of what we are doing. I plan and intend my classes but have also refined my intuitive teaching. And I'm excited to continue on my path of supporting loved ones and a larger community not only with therapeutic movement and meditation techniques but also creative expression, singing and sound, nature's medicine cabinet of herbs, oils, essences, stones and beyond. I have a deep craving for regaining the earth-based knowledge and wisdom that supported humanity since primitive times. For me these sessions are therapeutic alone in their potential for deepening a sense of community and relatedness with all there is. Finally, it's a feeling or illusion of dis-connect is at the core of much of the suffering that we witness within ourselves, others and which is directed toward the living entity of Mother Earth.
This is the least I can do for my part. Create spaces for myself and others to re-connect.. To listen, feel and tune in more deeply.. To honor and heal what’s needed. This is what healing and therapeutic effects mean for me. My heart is still focused on lovingly and skillfully constructing these containers where we can integrate our life lessons, grow from them and then passionately, if not joyfully, move into the next moment feeling more confident, empowered and perfectly imperfect as we are right now.
Sometimes we need to remember where we’ve been and recall our own story in order to fully realize where we are and to help us know where we’d like to go from here. I think this can bring clarity on uncovering our deepest dreams and desires as well as recognizing and valuing our personal gifts and medicine. Thank you for being a part of this process for me in whatever way you are. And if you’d like to continue on this journey with me as well as support me in a very meaningful way, you can join one of my upcoming practices or workshops... details below !
Finally, as this new chapter opens for me with an air of renaissance, I am sending out the message that I am also looking for new opportunities, places and spaces for sharing my practices and growing into my fullest potential. If you would like to connect directly and see if my palette and possibilities of offerings could be of service to your personal path or your space, either in an individual or group setting, I would love to hear from you ! Finally, if you know of or are a part of an existing project that could benefit from my offerings, collaborations are one of my favorite ways to work, so let's co-create something wonderful and healing !
Again and again, may what and how I share today be of service to the highest good possible.
Sent to you riding on pure love and light,
Kasey Anne (Kipp) Sallurday Barbey