School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: March Newsletter
Interview with David Mooney

This is the first of a series of interviews with the faculty teachers of the School of Movement Medicine, who play an important part in the School through their teaching and coaching and their support. Enjoy, as you are finding out just a little more about them and their relationship to dance, embodiment and Movement Medicine.
Questions by Hanna and Patricia.

What is your own personal definition of Movement Medicine? How would you describe this practice to a complete outsider?

Movement Medicine is a dance practice for healing and dreaming. Through this practice you will find the resources to support you to heal your relationship with yourself, your past and others and dream in new ways to be in relationship with life on all levels. It is a practice that supports you to be connected, in integrity and fully alive in body, heart and mind so you can give what you have to give in this lifetime. Movement Medicine was developed by Ya’Acov and Susannah Darling Khan, it has roots in ecstatic dance, particularly the work of Gabrielle Roth, indigenous shamanic wisdom and contemporary therapeutic modalities such as Gestalt and latest developments in neuroscience.

What has been your personal path in relation to embodiment, dance and movement; and how did MM come into your life?

Many of my best childhood memories are of being in nature. I was lucky to grow up in an area where there was lots of fields and trees to explore, and I spent hours negotiating my way through thickets getting mucky and climbing trees. I loved it, however most of my childhood hours were spent on a triangle field in front of our home playing football. This was my oasis, without knowing it as a child, this is where embodiment became my way to move all the pent up energy within me from growing up in a home where there was active addiction. There was a lot of love in our family growing up and at the same time, as anyone who has grown up with a parent in addiction will know it can be frightening, maddening, confusing and a myriad of other things that a little one can have difficulty making sense of and processing. We would play football until we couldn’t see the ball in front of us. To have the space every day to run off all that energy inside was a blessing.

At the same time it didn’t get to the heart of the pain, trauma and defences built up over the years. I didn’t have the resources or safety to feel, express and release the emotions, thoughts and trauma within. I grew patterns of dissociation, defence and suppression to ‘manage’ these difficult experiences and feelings, which was very intelligent of my psyche, but I was left becoming more disconnected from my body and heart, with my head working overtime to process all the backlog of energy within. The unexpressed rage turned to self criticism and shame, the fear turned to worry, ruminating and trying to figure things out and control what was inside and outside, the unmet grief turned to times of depression.

This brought me to one to one therapy when I was 20 and onto the Hoffman Process when I was 22. This was the first place I was not only given permission, but encouraged to embody, express and release deep fury and grief in a safe space. I had thought that if I really released all the anger I would hurt myself or someone else and that if I really surrendered to the grief, it would never stop. Given the resources, safety and support I was met in these places. It was a revelation. It was through the Hoffman process that I found out about 5 Rhythms. I went to a workshop with Ya’Acov in Dublin later that year and to a workshop with Susannah a few months later. After meeting both of them I knew they were my teachers. So a few days after meeting Susannah in Dublin, I found myself in a circle at the beginning of a year ongoing group in Somerset. During that first dance there was a very still quiet internal moment of knowing that this was my path, I had found my way home. I found the same encouragement and safety to ‘let rip’ and allow the dam to overflow, their holding and the medicine of the dance allowed years of grief, fury, fear and untapped joy to be felt, expressed and released in the dance. It wasn’t as if these feelings had suddenly disappeared but I had found a way to move with and through them. This was such a relief, deeply liberating and empowering. On the dance floor, over the years, I have learned, and am still learning, to befriend these states of being as medicine and life force. I have learned to not only to give movement to all the backlog in my life, but also to offer this opportunity to my ancestors.

In the following years Movement Medicine was born from fertile ground of 5 Rhythms, indigenous shamanic wisdom and contemporary therapeutic modalities such as Gestalt and developments in neuroscience. During the following years Movement Medicine was also born inside of me, the maps slowly came alive in me through the apprenticeship and teacher training. The maps of MM strongly orient my being in this life and my relationships on all levels. Being in a position to offer this work and teach is something that deeply resonates in my heart, lands my soul here and awakens my spirit. The depth of satisfaction and gratitude for this is beyond words. Its one of the greatest gifts I have in my life.

What is the most precious gift you discovered through MM?

When I was seven years old I had a very strong meeting with Spirit. I was blown open by it and left in a place of wonder and awe. It took a long time to come to terms with it. I had a similar experience when I was twelve. I didn’t have any language for this or way of contextualising or expressing these experiences because there was no language or references around me in my life for these experiences. There was nobody talking about these kinds of experiences and the only place where anything close was mentioned was in the catholic church. What I heard and experienced in the weekly mass left me furious and frustrated. I wanted to speak up, what are you doing!!! Why are you talking about God like this. I was twelve and having had these two experiences of God I couldn’t come to terms with the priest telling me I couldn’t have a direct embodied connection with God, I had to go through the priest, through the church. Not only this but I had to feel shame for being me, for being in my body, for being human. That was not my experience of meeting God.

It was only when I danced deep into the maps of MM that I discovered the gift of the imminent spiritual path, this direct relationship with the full spectrum of life and God, the embodied sacred space, this is where I rediscovered prayer. Movement Medicine has given me the capacity to empty out enough of a backlog of emotions and experiences to dive into the maps and meet Spirit through the gateways of the practice. For me a key gift I have received and continue to deepen is the capacity to be in relationship with the Great Mystery, myself and others. I remember many times of connecting and calling home into my heart spirit animals in the dance, this is a profoundly personal experience and has changed my relationship with life and the unseen. Just as there has been a lot of unprocessed material in my life, the same is true for my ancestors, it has been a real gift to offer this medicine to my ancestors to resource where there may not have been resources for healing. During the MM ceremony in the recent CDP module I met with my grandmother in the ancestors round, she past away 10 years ago. The veil of the hardship of her life had lifted and I met the medicine woman she is and was able to honour her as such. The dance work I had done allowed me to see through the pain of the past, collective and personal, to see her as she really was. That was and is a gift and I give thanks for this relationship in my life.

Some of the deepest healings I have experienced have been through the encounters with others on the dance floor and the developing and deepening of friendships I have through dance. Some of my closest friends are the long term relationships I have been lucky enough to co-create with brothers and sisters within this community. I was also lucky enough to meet my wife, Yasia, on the dance floor! One of the many harvests of the long term cultivation of these relationships is being in ceremony together, being in a place to pray together. Being in ceremony with people I love... this is gold for me.

What would you say, is the unique and personal flavour that you bring into your offerings of MM, of your own passion and your journey?

I am deeply informed by the healing journey I have had and have on my dancing path. Often I offer the medicine I have experienced over the years in my own healing journey within Movement Medicine. So I tune into the medicine I have received from the dance and offer that out from my heart as I am teaching. This is also true for places where I have deeply connected to spirit, I tune into this and welcome this connection into the Mesa I am working in. The premise of this is that it opens the gateways for dancers to tune into the medicine within themselves, this part of the MM philosophy deeply resonates: that everyone has the capacity to heal and everyone has the medicine within for their own wounds, that everyone has a direct relationship with this and with God.

One of my passions in life is music. I really resonate with the title of Albert Ayers album 'Music is the healing force of the universe'.

In my teens and early twenties, music was the healing force in my life, it still is. I would listen to Daft Punk, Prodigy, Orbital, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Beethoven, Mozart, to access different emotional places within and dance like crazy. The first time I experienced a collective Meta dance was at an Orbital DJ gig in Dublin when I was 16. It was in the early days of the rave scene in Dublin.

It blew my mind, the sense of togetherness and oneness in this full hearted wildness of dance will stay with me as long as I live. I experienced a deep, sweaty, embodied surrender and aliveness in the dance. It opened my heart and mind in new ways. I found a new home to bring my wildness and pent up teenage feelings. I experienced ecstatic dance for the first time without taking any drugs during these nights, the gateways were open in the collective dance and this was a powerful teaching for me. This is where I recognised the medicine of the DJ and healing of collective dancing for the first time. It was when I was in the dance nightclubs and dance festivals of Cologne, Berlin and Munich in my mid twenties that I really learned to journey on the music and in the spirit of the dance.

However, the more personal work I did, the more I sensitized and became aware of the energetic impact of being with lots of people taking drugs who were not always conscious of what they were moving or releasing, also, as the drugs taken in the clubs grew harder, the atmosphere grew heavier and it was no longer possible to open to the spirit of the collective in the same way. I fell in love with dance and journeying on dance, but stopped going to nightclubs, it felt like a big loss in my life.

So, deeply inspired by a party set up by Ya'Acov and Susannah in the Ariel Centre in Totnes, where there was no alcohol, no drugs, but a sense of connection to spirit in a nightclub context, as well as chill out areas and visuals, I planted the seeds of dreaming for a conscious nightclub in Ireland. Now I look back on many wild, beautiful, heart opening memories of running and DJing at Funky Seomra, the alcohol and drug free nightclub I created, with the help of many, where 35,000 people have danced free and connected without drugs or alcohol over the past 9 years in Ireland. DJing for 600 sober ecstatic people is another golden memory! The archetype of the DJ and music as medicine are central to my work and offerings as a Movement Medicine teacher.

I have spent a number of years training and working as a psychotherapist. The understanding of the therapeutic maps deeply inform my work: Freud (unconscious and defence mechanisms), Jung (unconscious and archetypes), Rogers (fundamentals of holding space) , Winnicott and Bowlby (attachment), Perlz (gestalt) , Bradshaw (shame, family dynamics), Levine and Van Der Kolk (working with trauma) and Doidge (neuroscience). Underpinning all of my work is the relationship between creating safety and stretch/ growth. Heart work is key to my teaching and these therapeutic maps and experiences working one to one with children teens and adults over the past twelve years has been a deep apprenticeship in holding space for healing and understanding developmental stages of life, it continues to inform how and what I teach in Movement Medicine.

My MM work is also deeply informed by my own work with shamans and teachers from Canada and South America in ceremony and in my daily life. I am on the Red Path and work with the Lakota from Canada, this is central to my Movement Medicine work now and I can see it informing my work over many years to come. It is particularly central to the dreaming and ceremony pathways within Movement Medicine work I teach. Most of the workshops I teach include MM ceremony and my Red Path work with the Lakota deeply supports and inspires the ceremonies. Also the medicine and spirit of the land I was born on and grew up on in Ireland is always with me. I am developing a connection with the ancient relationship with the trees in the indigenous ways here on these lands, where trees were seen as the wisdom keepers and medicine carriers, where trees were royalty and the written language of my ancient ancestors, Ogham, was based on the trees and plants of the land.

Four years ago I was fortunate enough to study with Joanna Macy. The spirit of her work and her maps of The Work That Reconnects are very much in my teachings. The warriors' work of facing into our current reality as humans and finding out what each of our unique and collective offerings are in the world is a passion for me and awakens a deep place of spirit within me.

Is there any current project you are busy with? Please share.

Deeply inspired by the latest Movement Medicine CPD Module on Heart and Seer work as well as trainings in various therapeutic modalities, I am teaching a series of Presence of Heart workshops in Europe. I can’t describe the fulfilment this brings to my life, it is such a privilege to witness the courage, healing and change that takes place on the Movement Medicine dance floor. I am currently developing a new workshop to include the Seer process, recapitulation and tools and practices inspired by latest understandings in neuroplasticity and transforming the original messages we tell ourselves. In connection with the upcoming CPD Module on Ceremony and Working with Ritual I am developing a new workshop based on ceremony and working with ancestors.

Also I am developing a new workshop which will be an integration of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects and Movement Medicine. As, probably all of you reading this, on a daily basis I am acutely aware of the collective human impact on life on earth and the unsustainable way we are living on this earth. Joanna Macy’s fearless and heartful Work That Reconnects is strongly resonant with the maps and philosophies of Movement Medicine to support us to be and dance with the depth of our responses to what is happening in our lifetime and what our individual and collective calls to action are to come into a more balanced mutually beneficial relationship with all of life is the underlying intention of the workshop and actually, all of my work.

The front picture of this article is of the Glendalough glacial lakes in the mountains in the Wicklow near where I live. I've been lucky enough to swim in the lake, which, beneath the surface, is a deep golden colour when lit by the suns rays. This is an important place of connection for me where I go to pray and resource. I've had many strong experiences by the lakes and in the woods and offered many prayers of love and gratitude here to the community of Movement Medicine over the years.

I look forward to seeing you on a dance floor somewhere.

Big love,

David;; +353 860546556

Anyone interested in organizing a workshop with David Mooney, please get in touch with David directly (contact see above) or with Roland:

Forthcoming workshops with David:

April 7–9: Resource with David Mooney. Budapest, Hungary.
Awakening the Dancer on April 7.
However fast the word or the outside may be changing and moving, there is this great Resource we hold inside, which can keep us connected to our inner wisdom, intuition and to the deep knowledge of our heart and soul. This weekend is an invitation for the dancers to strengthen and widen this inner ground of centre and stability.
Contact Patricia: Patricia Mihályi +36 70 545 7811,

April 29–30: Presence of Heart with David Mooney. Berlin, Germany.
With Move! Evening on April 28.
Two whole days to come home to your heart, to honour and to learn from your heart. In times of shifts, challenges and constant changes, staying connected with and centered in your heart, brings you a long way, and together with various Movement Medicine practices will strengthen your circle of feeling, expressing, of truth and of being.
Contact Kathrin Keller:
+49 30 28458820;

April 10: Dance Evening. Zagreb, Croatia. 

April 11: Dance Evening. Graz, Austria. 

June 23: Awakening the Dancer. Antwerp, Belgium.

June 24–25: Resource. Antwerp, Belgium.

November 26–27: Seer Process. Czech Republic. 

December 8–10: Presence of Heart. Zagreb, Croatia.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.