Creating a Listening Bridge, by Susan


When Fivelements co-founder Lahra Tatriele first asked me to become a part of the Fivelements team, I replied, “I’m an educator, not a healer.”

She just smiled and said, ”Come to a meeting of artists. I want to create a Sacred Arts program at Fivelements and I see you as part of the group.”

Lahra had met me within an educational community in Bali and knew of my work in art and education, in particular the arts and holistic learning.

Months later, I found myself at Fivelements’ very first Sacred Arts meeting in Mandala Alit (one of the retreat’s beautiful bamboo studio rooms). I was seated in a circle with a group of different people, many of whom were Balinese. Lahra asked us to go around the circle and share how we came to find healing through the arts. She asked us to share our unique stories and journeys of how the arts touched our lives and brought us healing.

As I listened to each touching journey of how the arts and arts practices came to each person in the room I was deeply moved. Each person’s story was unique, but each one touched on how deeply moving and transforming their arts practices were. Some had rejected their hearts yearning and desire to dance, and lived lives separated from artist exploration and expression. Heart and spirit yearnings brought them serendipitously back into their artistic expression, and as a result deep healing emerged. Others didn’t believe in their gift or their approach to their arts expression and allowed others to dictate what they could and couldn’t do. Eventually coming to terms with the fact that only they could determine their own paths in and through the arts, they found deep healing and were transported to places beyond their imaginations.

I felt deeply honoured to be a part of the meeting of healing artists. I felt that my exploration and practice of dance was deeply healing for me and that it was for others as well. This is my story:

Back when I was living in Canada I decided to take dance training in the US, paying for it myself (all other trainings or courses I’d received a scholarship or bursary). The training was very expensive for me so I was nervous, and during the weeks leading up to the training a voice inside my head (masked as ‘intuition’) was saying, “You’ve made a BIG mistake!” Regardless of the voice, I didn’t cancel but was irked to the bone. On the day of my departure, in the customs line up in the airport, the voice in my head was literally screaming, “TURN BACK NOW”! I wondered if my plane would crash or whether it was a premonition that I was making a big mistake. Even so, I kept going. Sitting on the plane the voice was still screaming!

To my surprise, the minute the plane took off, the voice disappeared completely. It never returned. The training was the most pivotal experience in my life, bringing me deeply in tune with my body and my love of expressive movement. From that day on, I’ve never turned back. The bridge to my body that was created through the expressive dance training has been getting stronger and stronger each year. It is the core with which I have built my awareness and exploration of other art forms, such a storytelling and puppeteering, as well as the starting point to my embarking on a PhD in Holistic Education with the underlying focus on ‘The Body’s Ways of Knowing’.

We all shared and many hours later silence settled in the room.

After that beautiful meeting, I began to share Expressive Arts through Fivelements’ Sacred Arts program. With each and every person I encounter in a healing session, I’m humbled by the power of what happens when we listen to our own bodies and notice our impulses in thought, movement and sounding/speech. In a place of safety and sacred space, we move to the tune of our own unique expression and in doing so build a connection between our bodies and spirits. This ‘listening bridge’ we are creating gets stronger and stronger the more we allow ourselves to tap into what our bodies are telling us and the more we open to express this authentically. The way we move or sound or draw or paint may not be anything we’ve ever encountered in the world before – it is a journey into the unknown. As such, we slowly begin to trust ourselves the more we practice, play and express from who we truly are.

Susan co-founded Yellow Coco Creative Nest, a community-base arts NEST in Bali, which nurtures creative exploration and expression through the arts across ages, cultures and communities. At Fivelements, Susan’s Expressive Arts program is designed to help guests make a connection with their inherent spirit through DansKinetics, drama, storytelling, visual arts and more. A transformative experience, sessions can be anything from quietly graceful to passionately joyful, therapeutically helping to unblock stuck patterns and unleash creative energy.