What do we think about our body? Rather, do we actually think of our bodies? Rarely are we aware of how we give and/or receive a touch, a thought, an emotion, through our own bodies. Rarely are we aware that we are, in fact, constantly learning through our bodies, through the imprints we impart and receive. That bringing this awareness opens up so many possibilities of learning from and communicating with each other. But we know better now, thanks to Rachel Wise, Actor, Dancer and Playwright, and most of all, a beautiful soul. She had visited Touching Lives for the first time, while on her previous trip to India, two years ago. She loved being here and felt a deep connect with the people and the work they do. She knew she would visit again. Two years on, she felt a calling to come and spend time with the mentors and in some way contribute to their lives.
On the 12th and 13th of December 2016, Rachel Wise held a two-day Body and Movement Workshop for the mentors of Touching Lives.
The workshop was about taking something that is most familiar to us and actually looking at it, feeling its many contexts and responses in different scenarios, and ultimately, an insight into the juxtaposition of our own inner and outer worlds. She precisely sums up the essence of her Body and Movement Workshop with us, We explored how we could give, and develop, and challenge ourselves, as mentors, and what tools we could use as mentors or facilitators. We learned about the different ways to access movement and body, applying different topics, looking at our objectives, secret objectives, the techniques that we put in our toolbox as mentors, and what techniques and tools we put into our children’s toolboxes as well. We learned how we can develop and allow them to create growth, both in mind, body and spirit.
She taught us what happens when we are loving, and gentle, to and through our own body. The Mentors who participated in the workshop eagerly share their inputs about the workshop and what they learned during the two days. Aditi, who is the brilliant HR head of Touching Lives lovingly reflects, Rachel is so comfortable and confident with her body. She is agile and active and constantly moving. Watching her move, and be, is in itself an inspiration, a learning. It makes all the difference when your mentor/facilitator is so aware, present, and comfortable with her own body. The learning, then, flows naturally through observation and reflection. We grew a lot as individuals and as a group, and rediscovered our own bodies and movements to be such a great resource of learning and teaching.
Indeed it is quite an irony that a lot of us tend to be so sensitive about our bodies that we barely move enough. Rubina, the most experienced and resourceful Mentor of Touching Lives says about Rachel and her workshop, Well, through both the days of our workshop, we moved so much, we were exhausted! And we learned so much too. For the first time, I realized how we hardly move, that just like our minds, our use of our bodies is restricted and task specific. We need to move much more and we can and it is so easy! We need to teach our children to move.
Continuing to talk about her learning, she says, “As compared to the other teaching techniques we use, for a theme-based classroom, the body and its movement comes across as a highly effective resource and tool. We reflected and observed a lot and it came quite naturally.”
Interestingly, a common phrase we throw at our children comes to the mind,You need to be present not only physically but also mentally. Here, it was the other way round, Be present not only with your mind but with your body. Rachel took the mentors through a journey of experiencing the space around them, sensing it and shaping it, with their own energy, giving it shape and color, and pouring their imagination into it. In this moving journey of movement, they could pass on a kind thought, a loving word, just by looking someone in the eye and passing a ball to them. A simple and fun ball-game became an exercise in compassion. They could feel the rhythm of their breath, build a collective energy by consciously breathing together. They found that one can paint the entire space around oneself, in a classroom or at home, with love, understanding and kindness. It is so important to allow children to experience all this, to experience the touch of love and kindness.
The talented Teaching Fellow of the AfterSchool Class and the youngest member of the crew, Syadla, found many insights to help her reform her teaching techniques. She notes, “It was interesting to find out how we can sensitively use our own bodies and the space in the class. It adds so much quality to the process of teaching and learning. Rachel’s method was simple and fun and offered a variety of contexts. Each one of us got a chance to test our own skills as mentors.”
Then the philosophical and beautiful Transit Class mentor Tanvi, who is also a Kathak dancer, shares her excitement of the many possibilities this has opened up for her, “This is surely one of the most landmark workshops we have had here at Touching Lives. My entire perspective of teaching has surpassed to a new level, especially since I have always looked for ways to use the body to teach. I have children in my class who refuse to move their bodies. Now I have a way of working with them. We learned so many techniques to cope with the body. I know that these insights are a part of me now, and I am eager to go back to my class because I have so much more to offer to my children!”
Undoubtedly, Rachel has left Touching Lives more vibrant and active with her passion for movement. Shifting comfortably through themes such as touch, compassion, story-boarding, and coping with anger, the journey felt like a smooth sail yet managed to drive home some profound insights. Each one of us had the chance to apply what we learned, presenting our own take on body movement. Her feedback was systematic and heartfelt and most of all, ascribed due respect to each one’s work.There was no dearth of humor and everyone certainly had a wonderful time. Rachel has transformed the learning space within Touching Lives, in no uncertain terms and the children are sure to enjoy the fruits of this transformation. Team Touching Lives will always be grateful for her presence and cherish the beautiful connect with her.