Creating a safe(r) space is an art form.
It is an intentional practice.
Below is a short culmination of some of my go-to methods for creating a sense of belonging, acceptance and liberation in educational and transformative spaces--particularly keen to dance, expressive arts, embodiment and arts integration settings.
It's been studied, written about and I have learned from some of the greatest masters. The person who I accredit much of my current work to helping me know and how to do this, is my esteemed mentor and global leader, Dr. Melissa Michaels.
Her book Youth on Fire: Birthing a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders is a tribute to the system which I seek to implement in all of my programming. It is a must read for anyone working to also break systems of oppression and facilitate transformative embodied experiences and events for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
I've created many of my own systems which have been refined over time. From running a dance studio, to getting theatre kids to dance and be comfortable in their bodies, working with youth whose first language is not English, and getting a lot of hesitant, afraid, reluctant young and older people to find freedom of expression through their body is a huge part of my life's work.
Becoming a master facilitator has taken a good three decades with a lot of learning curves along the way. I've created spaces for all ages and levels of movers. From women's empowerment experiences, to ecstatic dances, flash mobs, retreats, conferences, and festivals in different communities and parts of the world- I take pride in being able to create an energy where people feel totally free, protected, accepted and able to shine in their truest forms.
It is also imperative to me that my spaces are devoted to inclusion and representation. As a bridge builder and light bringer, it is a gift to the Universe to be intentional in how we create the spaces we seek to inspire, inform and educate within.
After decades of trial and error, routines and rituals, light and shadow work--I've discovered many majestic ways from myriads of teachers to help people be more at ease within themselves and within a space.
I'd love to share my top 11 ways to create safer spaces to help people reconnect to their authentic selves and build community. May these methods be of use or serve as reminders for your sacred spaces of learning and transformation.
1. State the intention(s) of your space. This is for you and the community and/or classroom culture that you are building. Ask yourself what you want to see, feel from this? What kind of outcomes are you desiring? State intentions for the people who are participating. Explicitly accept people and let them know that they are welcome as they are. People go through so much. Give them a chance to be what they need to be in their own way.
2. Acknowledge people. See people. People who enter creative and expressive arts spaces tend to carry vulnerability as it is--it takes a lot of courage to say yes, to show up, or sometimes even being forced to do something. A simple hello, warm smile, or ask for a hug can go so far with someone feeling safety and acceptance.
3. Accessibility. Acquaint people with the space. Be explicit in asking what will help them feel more comfortable. Let them know there are gender neutral bathrooms, where water sources are, where they can put their belongings, etc. etc.
4. Create a vibe. Really imagine and feel what you want people to experience when they enter your space--whether its a classroom, conference room retreat space, or dance studio. Use all of your senses to create the energetic flow you want people to feel. Think about the five senses.
5. Circles, Circles, Circles. Create a container for your space. Always begin in a circle where everyone in the room can see and be seen. It also helps to end in circles with some kind of individual expression/reflection/offering.
6. Allow space for people to share parts of their identity. Whether it is the name they like to be called, pronouns, likes, dislikes, culture--depending on what you are leading, think about what is important to be shared, what knowledge about each other will make it more helpful for everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and appreciated. It really helps people to know whose in the room and something about them--whether this is shared through words or improvised expression--Name + __________ does miracles for comfort levels.
7. Lead by example. Be goofy. Be willing to take risks. Push your own limits of expression and communication by doing things that allow people to see that its okay to make mistakes and be imperfect.
8. Bonding Activities. It's a huge part that never gets old--incorporate icebreakers and community building activities into the mix of anything you're going to do with a new group of people.
9. Smaller group pairings. If your class or workshop allows time, get people paired up or in smaller groups--give them a prompt that allows connection.
10. Group risk-taking. Bring everybody together to do something improvised through a shared prompt. E.g. sculptures, sound ball, mirroring, etc.
11. Be intentional about inclusion. Always ask yourself whose in the room, whose not and why or why not? What kind of space do you want to create and is it inclusive to people of all backgrounds, genders, and cultures? What language are you using or not using? How do people know that they are entering a safe space that includes them? At this point in the 21st century, holding space in the U.S. requires facilitators to go above and beyond to create explicit safe spaces--this includes language around gender and racial classifications. If you are not sure, please ask how to do this. Language is a fluid form, is ever changing and we are all living and learning--its okay to make mistakes.
If you've made it this far. I just want to say that you are awesome. I hope you get the chance to create spaces that offer people a safe space to express themselves. Whether or not you are in the arts, these concepts can be applied to your organization or business.
Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions in the comments below.
May these tools to aid you in your process.
Axé (ah-shay / I feel the spirit / It is so)
she l hers l they l them
Founder/Leader of Sol Vida Worldwide
Sol Vida Worldwide is shifting normalcy from systemic oppression to radical freedom leading transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. Tune in to tune in.
It is my firm belief that in order to change the world, the systems, and shift normalcy we have to start with us. Nothing will get better unless we commit to mental, spiritual and physical wellness.
When you are well, we will be well.
Here are my Top 10 Ways to Practice Radical Self-Love for the Revolution:
1. Believe in yourself and your wildest dreams. That crazy feeling you have about something that seems so "crazy," do that, be that. That is what is calling you. Listen to it. So many people are ill and depressed because they refuse to live in their personal truth. Do not get stuck in your fear. It is okay to be afraid, but take one step at a time to get closer to living that absolute dream feeling.
2. Drink Water. Just do it. Carry a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go, fill it and drank it. If you're in a bad mood or achy or feeling the big weird, drink a bunch of water.
3. Meditate. Stop your brain and focus on universal light and energy. If its hard for you to do on your own, there are a ton of resources, you can google a meditation for just about any ailment. Do this first thing in the morning and before you go to bed--you will feel so much more sourced, connected, grounded and ready.
4. Spend Time Outside Everyday. Seems simple enough, but for a lot of people, especially if you drive everywhere everyday, you are missing one of the most divine connections available. There is nothing like going outside, taking a walk and just being. Choose to take the bus or subway instead of driving or ride-sharing. Take 10 minutes of a break to walk around. Make yourself do this everyday.
5. Unplug at certain times everyday, every season. In order to break the systems and step out of the program, we have to consciously stop ourselves from playing this man made game that will have us believe we are in "FOMO," or that we need so many likes to be okay. Trust that it's all good and what's happening is what's supposed to be happening. You do not need to be locked into your technology every hour of everyday.
6. Allow yourself to rest. You are not lazy, I guarantee it. You need more rest than you probably think you do. You want to sleep for 12 hours for 4 weeks, fine. You want to take a siesta everyday for a few hours, awesome. Listen to your body. Western mentality will have us believing that we are not doing enough and thus makes us afraid to stop. Trust me, when you listen to your body, you will realize you have phases. Sometimes you may be up all night long, sometimes you may be up at the crack of dawn. Allow it to be.
7. Say nice things to yourself. If there was a recording for how many times we negate ourselves, put ourselves down, or allow ourselves to believe that things aren't possible, we'd be very disappointed in ourselves. Try replacing one "I can't, won't, shouldn't, never," with an "I can, I will, I totally should, yes please more!!!
8. Do nice things for yourself. So whether you have a self-care budget or not, think about working towards one. Schedule treats for yourself at least once a month: acupuncture, massage, hot springs, beach trip, going out dancing, mani pedi, etc... If it's not in your budget right now, do things to pamper yourself at home: take a bath, make a facial, light a candle, eat food rich with nutrients.
9.Play! Stop taking yourself so seriously, there aren't a million playgrounds in this world for nothing. Next time you see one, stop and do the thing that makes you feel giddy. Be spontaneous, do some cartwheels, try a handstand, play patty cake, make up a song, anything that you would do as a kid is super Bueno!
10. Dance like you mean it! You know I had to say it. There is no better way to release feelings and celebrate this vessel than to allow yourself to dance. When you dance, you are taking care of you on so many levels--you're practicing risk-taking, creativity, connection with your higher self and the divine, you are circulating the body, removing stagnancy from the being and shifting your mood and energy. It's amazing and there's nothing like it.
There it is...do these things consistently and you will be sourced, grounded, and ready for anything. Taking care of yourself is the greatest thing you can do if you are hoping to impact change in this universe.
It has to start with you so that you can be all of you, the person who we so desperately need as your total you in this world.
I love you,
Axé, Founder/Leader, Sol Vida Worldwide
(Ah-shay / I feel the spirit / It is so)
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Want more tools, resources or advice for your life? Book a 30-minute Positive Energy Session with Axé.
I frequently encourage people to count their blessings, it is a sure fire way for me to get a grip on what's actually happening or happened.
I am in utter awe of the impact we have managed to make in the first year of being committed to Sol Vida Worldwide, a nomadic company dedicated to shifting normalcy through transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. There have been so many things to define, cultivate and create.
At the beginning of the year, I knew this was going to be a year of discovery. I had to try out a whole bunch of things to figure out what I loved as the leader of this entity and what has the power to impact as many people globally as possible.
Starting the year in Colombia, spending four months in New York, going to California and spending the rest of the year in Colorado has taught me so much and I feel so blessed for all the experiences that I've got to share with so many people from around the world.
I am because of you.
SOL VIDA: 18 INFINITE BLESSINGS:
I have heard some of the best things I've ever heard in my total career as a holistic dance educator and choreographer. People are begging me not to leave Colorado, to puh-lease come back to New York. It makes me feel like I chose the right thing--leaving my role as director of Dance at a high school and traveling with the wind to discover what really wants to live.
I have used the power of presence and intention to build this work from a place of channeled visions. With a dream to help as many people as possible release their minds, have fun, say something and get free in the body, we are doing the work and it is only going to get better and better.
Thank you for traveling with me on the way, encouraging me, saying yes, showing up, and singing Axé Axé Axé!!!!
This year of discovery and infinite blessings
Save the Dates:
SOL VIDA 7 DAYS OF KWANZAA, December 26-January 1
GET FREE January 5-February 19, 6-week online motivational coaching with Axé,
EMBODIED PATHWAYS, 6-8 pm, January 9, 2019, one woman show, Art Gym Denver
ONE SOL DANCE FESTIVAL, August 7-11, multiple venues, Denver, Colorado, USA
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If you want to learn about or practice the 7 days of Kwanzaa no matter your culture or beliefs, please join us in our private Facebook Group: A Self-Love Supreme, we will be focusing on an embodied study of the principles which are great to live by in general. We will talk about creating the life of your dreams, the collective work of radical self-love, free #SVXLive class, SOL VIDA playlist of the year and more!!!
Here's the Link to Get in the Group. Just ask to become a member and you'll get to celebrate Kwanzaa with so many people from around the world, it's gonna be real good. We are going out with a bang, and getting even more vibrant than before 2019. See you there!
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I hope you had many blessings, and if not, that you take a moment to breathe, pause and give thanks for anything you can. The more we acknowledge the good that is happening, the more likely we are to receive more. Count all the blessings.
Happy Holidays! SOL VIDA 7 DAYS OF KWANZAA runs December 26-January 1!
Love you long time,
Axé (Ah-Shay/ I Feel the Spirit / It is So)