Kindness Beyond Borders: Lee Worley European Teaching Tour

Emeritus professor Lee Worley has recently returned from a month-long European teaching tour beginning in France and ending in Greece.

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Lee’s workshop (“Mudra: Activating Kindness Beyond Borders”) at the Dechen Chöling Retreat Center (France) brought together a group evenly divided between returning Mudra practitioners and new students, making for an excellent mix of confidence and experimentation in and out of the workshop.

Following the workshop, Evelin Ebinger, a German physiotherapist, journeyed to Turkmenistan to train doctors and nurses, returning to work with the same group she had trained in November. “Developing kindness beyond borders must have unconsciously supported me a lot this time,” wrote Evelin. “Several of the translators remarked that I was much more relaxed and kind than last November while being still as precise and correct. I am aware of that fact only now, after returning home and reflecting a bit.”

From southern France, Lee traveled to the Netherlands to teach “Shamatha: Stillness and the Senses” in Rotterdam. She also offered a Mudra Space Awareness and Presence Intensive (“Tasting the Moment With Body, Mind and Spirit”) in Epe, Netherlands.

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While her group in southern France was multi-national and multilingual, workshop participants in the Netherlands were all Dutch. Lee was impressed with the tremendous enthusiasm and willingness of the group. “The performing was exceptional,” she says, “full of both presence and quirky Dutch humor.”

The tour ended with a 5-day Contemplative Performance Workshop for dancers and other artists at the Isadora Duncan Dance Research Center in Athens, Greece.  This workshop focused on improvisational forms designed to bring an appreciation and facility for embodiment to performance. Many of the exercises featured in the workshop can be found in Lee’s new book, Teaching Presence: Field Notes for Players.

Special thanks to 2010 MFA alumna Anna Tzakou for organizing the workshop in Athens. Anna has been teaching the approaches of psychophysical performance that she trained in at Naropa and when she and Lee met at a conference in England two years ago.

“It seemed only natural to want to do something together,” said Lee. “Anna’s exciting site-specific work in Athens has brought her in touch with many performers and other artists. But sourcing from the body and contemplative approaches to art-making are still under-discovered in Athens.”

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Ann Tzakou, front row, far right.

Three days after the workshop, Anna wrote that she was feeling the impact, “like echoing . . . as if the workshop created space for me to make necessary emotional synapses that had not had a chance so far.” She went on: 

“Lee Worley’s Mudra Space Awareness was a fascinating opportunity for the performance community of Athens. The teachings of Professor Worley enabled us to encounter contemplative practices within the context of psychophysical performance. They demonstrated to us possibilities to practice the art of non-aggression in a disillusioned environment such as the city of Athens in financial and cultural crisis. I hope that the workshop will sow the seed for many others to come, bringing Dharma art to the West as well as to its troubled and confused places.”

Copies of Teaching Presence: Field Notes for Players are available for $20. To purchase your copy, email: worlee1@gmail.com

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