From an article written by Melissa Michaels
The Children of the World are Calling
“Will you help me create a degree program in Movement and Education?” a young woman recently asked me at the end of one of my Dancing Beyond Boundaries workshops at the University of Colorado.
“Sure,” I responded without hesitation, looking her straight in the eye.
For thirty years since I graduated from that very same university, I have been preparing to answer that question.
How can we create a moving education that will birth embodied leaders, grounded and inspired individuals who are attuned to humanity and to our Earth in these times of great change?
At the age of twenty-one, with my undergraduate studies completed, I hungered for something I had not found in the classrooms of academia. Longing for connection with something bigger than the world as I knew it, I chose to journey far away from the safety and routine of my life. Airlifted by fate, I landed in a small village in South India. For months, I taught dozens of Tamil children, ranging from 4 – 8 years old. Our classes were held in the embrace of the branches of a huge Banyan tree. With no knowledge of their language, I turned to the only vehicle for communication we had in common … our bodies
Each morning, bright-eyed children delighted to imitate my every gesture greeted me. I found myself moving in ways I never imagined possible. Using my body for anything other than numbing my pain was a real stretch. Yet, my enthusiasm guided me to jump and roll, to do whatever it took to explain to these curious young learners the basics of addition and subtraction. I would contort my body into funny shapes, creating moving images to describe their vocabulary words.
Meanwhile, my young Tamil “students” were busy teaching me. Their nimble hands crafted beautiful dolls from scraps, as they learned to sew and weave with their mamas. They constantly tended to one another, brushing each other’s hair with great devotion. Out of nowhere, their voices would spontaneously rise up together in the middle of cooking their meal of local grains, simply because someone felt like singing. These young people were naturally embodied; a state of being that I, as a Western girl, would take years to access.
One particular morning when I was alone with the children and completely lost in my work of trying to explain things with my antics, a demanding voice began speaking to me from within. Disoriented, I leaned onto a wide root of our Banyan tree as this wave of intense energy washed through me. I felt like I was hearing the cries of the children all over the world. Images of wide-open, color full faces were moving before me as if the children from all directions were literally calling. Their hunger and innocence was so intense that I could barely stand. A message was being delivered intravenously into my soul:
“The Children of the world are calling. You will help raise the children that will help raise the children of the world.”
This mandate has guided my journey ever since.
In that poignant moment far from the shores of the familiar, I came home to myself like I never had before. A date with destiny was made. Not only were the children of the world calling, but my soul was calling too. I knew that the universal language of movement was where our conversation would begin.
Decades have passed since that fateful day. Over the years, I have responded to the call by creating movement-based educational programs for diverse people throughout the life cycle. What began as Small World Dancers for elementary school-aged children; then grew into the Dance of Birth for families in the birth cycle; to the Women’s Blossom Project for maidens transforming into women; to Surfing The Creative, a rite of passage process for diverse youth on the path to adulthood; to Shakti Sisterhood, a process where women of all ages and stages come together to open into the majesty and responsibility of being visionary leaders, social entrepreneurs, and positive change agents in these vulnerable and powerful times. Over the years, these foundational programs expanded. Trilogy thrives now, three gender events unfolding concurrently. Along with Shakti Sisterhood, Divine Siblinghood and Benevolent Brotherhood are our gender focused community offerings.
Responding to the evolving needs of my students, I now have the privilege of training and working with these gifted and dedicated emerging leaders around the world, many who also aim to serve children, women, youth, diverse peoples in their unique communities through the arts of body, heart, and soul.
Some of these students will never see a university; their classrooms are nestled on the red soils of their villages in India, on the underserved reservation in Pine Ridge, or on the crowded streets of their townships in South Africa. Others have master’s degrees in somatic psychology or social work but want to learn how to bring the body more effectively into places ranging from their public-school classrooms to hospitals, and community centers around our nation.
For all of these dedicated people, movement has been key in helping them move out of their own suffering into their authentic service. They are aware that so many of their peers and friends are living physically inactive lifestyles, predisposing them to depression and other chronic, even deadly habits. They see their families and communities immobilized by the impacts of oppression of all kinds. These emerging leaders want to help. They intimately know the power that movement has in stimulating and developing the brain in critical ways, ways that both improve achievement and help people connect – within, interpersonally, and with something greater than themselves.
Because dance has been the most powerful portal to their own healing and actualization at all levels of their beings ~ physically, emotionally, socially, creatively, mentally, and spiritually, these emerging leaders are now translating their dances from the personal to the professional.
Answering the Call
In response to this collective longing, I have developed SomaSource, a path of practice, study, and service that has an initiatory arc. This process honors the body as a force for individual and collective repair and empowerment. Developed organically over decades, this work is about midwifing individuals home to themselves and into their communities as leaders. SomaSource is a rite of passage process that births embodied global visionaries, people from around the world called to lead in their communities as educators, artists, healers, and activists. Navigating through the contractions of their own healing, maturation, and development, these mighty leaders emerge dedicated to their personal work, their ever-deepening connections with one another, and the Spirit moving all of life. Their hallmark is their dedication to service in the world, seeing the inner and the outer as one unified whole.
These embodied global leaders by nature are open-hearted, brave souls, willing to show up and stand up for what they love. Through their deep work of inner excavation, they become consciously attuned to the people and environment around them, feeling all of life through their senses and sensations. They are leaders who have cultivated a powerful intuition rising up from the soils of their cells and their creative souls. Aligned with truth moment by moment as it pulsates through their bodies, these leaders have learned to listen to their guidance and to rise up into action on behalf of those who may have less privilege or are vulnerable in some developmental way.
The work we are doing in SomaSource is part of a collective movement. Dancing and dedicated, together we are seeding a new school, an education for embodied global leaders, visionary change agents who are connected within and mobilized in the world.
This collective movement is responding to the evolutionary needs of these times. Over the years, I have noticed that every young person who comes to me seeking mentorship, comes with some sense of how he, she, or they would like to show up to serve. Each has the hope of being some kind of somatic educator, activist, healer, or artist. In order to become an inspired leader in one of these fields, I suggest that we each need to awaken our capacities in all of these realms. Each of us has one natural point of entry. For example, some people know that their primary medium of leadership is to be an educator or to be an artist. And, to be an inspired educator, the artist within is needed, the one who is able to creatively improvise curriculum or innovatively address the social dynamics of their groups. Additionally, to be an effective healer, it helps to have the inner activist awakened, the one who sensitively addresses the dynamics of power and privilege as individual and collective voices are liberated and amplified.
We each have a unique journey to make along this dancing path of awakening. Yet there are some basic steps to follow that likely will lead us onto the sacred soils of our own souls and our service in this world. The first step is to say YES. Yes, it is my intention to fully feel, live, and serve life. Yes.
Moving into Action
In the early years of my teaching, my first “yes” was about my own inner healing and the call to liberate all that is wild and natural in each of us. Recognizing that so many people around the world, starting with myself, had lost connection with their instincts, with their authentic ways of expression, and ultimately with their soul’s missions and their will to actualize their dreams, I dedicated my work to the rebirth of our instinctual consciousness, our capacities to feel life fully and to love deeply as a result of that. When we are vibrantly connected to ourselves and all of life, it becomes natural to create rather than destroy.
So, I named my business WildLife Productions…
Honoring the power of Re-Wilding Humanity.
And as my work evolved and I matured, my vision expanded. It became very clear that my work was to build bridges of love, of peace, and practical collaboration across race, class, age, gender, culture, ability, and religion. I began my formal schooling as a civil engineer, knowing that I was here to build bridges. It took a few decades for me to realize that these bridges were to be built across divides that unite hearts, gardens, schools, and other creative initiatives. Respectful of this call to action, I birthed our not-for-profit, Golden Bridge.
Since Golden Bridge was born, many beloved programs and initiatives have been emerged. The world keeps changing and so do we. To learn more about our Social Justice work, our Gender work, our work with Teens in transition, or Golden Girls Global, our weekly community Movement Mass, our work with refugees, folks facing cancer, and Elders for a few, please dive into our web site and learn with us.
We welcome your reflections and hope to dance with you one day in the many seasons to come.
Here’s to mobilizing humanity for the essential work of now!