Encounter: a direct route to empathy

  • Brent Williamson and Christine Havens - Encounter Open Floor workshop
  • Encounter Fundamentals - Open Floor conscious dance

Posted by Open Floor on Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 1:51am

Brent Williamson, a store retail manager from Seattle (USA) has attended several Encounter workshops and ongoing groups with Christine Havens. Here he shares how this embodied movement practice has impacted his life and his ability to relate with other people.

What drew you to the Encounter Fundamentals workshop?

I was excited at the idea of discovering more about myself, in connection to others and in a group. Dance is a language I am comfortable with and  trust. It lowers the anxiety and separation that can exist when I communicate with words. In the Encounter workshop words are invited into the process and come out of the movement itself and bypass the mind. So I move and then use words to describe where I am at that moment.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed the honesty, the self-discovery and the laughter. I came into the group feeling very separate and I expressed that. The response was “ We are here for you.” I was so fully supported in my fear and was held. I don’t know many places you can share and are not judged or marginalized for feelings of fear and aloneness.

What tools, skills and insights are you taking away with you and how will they impact your life off the dance floor?

Encounter is another way to practice presence, with myself and others. I deepened my ability to be an observer or witness, by supporting and listening to others. This practice enables me to empathize consciously with other people. In Encounter I have learned the kind of empathy that the Buddhists talk about which is empathy with detachment. With that empathy,  I feel I can make a difference in the world. Because of that empathy, I can now hold people and do not get drawn into the drama. I can think clearly and take appropriate, helpful action. This makes an enormous difference in my life and how I impact other’s lives.

Why would you recommend an Encounter workshop to other dancers?

I believe everyone in the room is there to enrich their lives. Encounter is about connecting and broadening the community of consciousness on a daily basis. I trust the work we do in Encounter workshops because everyone  is on an exploration of self-discovery and  wants to bring more enlightenment to the conversation they have with themselves and others. Dancing is pre-verbal  communication on a visceral level. With Encounter we include the mind and we witness each other on more levels. It is a very moving, emotional process as we share our feelings and emotions and are supported in a more conscious way. Once you have consciousness and awareness, it is hard to forget it and you are less inclined to live in a repressed and unconscious way. As the crow flies, Encounter is one of the most direct routes to learn to connect consciously with ourselves and others.

Open Floor Encounter is an exhilarating group process containing elements of Gestalt Awareness Practice (GAP), psychodrama, movement and somatic psychotherapy.  The essential practice is to make what we feel and think inside, physically visible. Our actions impact others; other's actions effect us. We come to understand the interdependence of being human -  there is no such thing as an person having an individual experience. Read more about Christine's next Encounter Fundamentals workshop in October 2017