Karen Marie Griffin Jensen '08

Major: Theatre/Dance

Karen is currently in her third year of graduate school at Naropa University in the Somatic Counseling Psychology Program in Boulder, Colorado. She is writing my master's paper on the interface of reflex integration and dance/movement therapy, and is interning at Mental Health Partners, a community mental health services provider, where she clinically works with children, adolescents, families and adults in individual and group settings. Through this work she is constantly assisting others in becoming more aware of their bodies and how they show up in the world. 

Upon entering the Theatre/Dance program, and specifically the Movement Fundamentals (MF) curriculum, what were your initial reactions/feelings/thoughts? Upon leaving?

My decision to attend Luther College was highly due to the Theatre/Dance program, and specifically the MF curriculum and visiting with Jane Hawley before my senior year in High School. I was looking for the possibility of being able to major in dance and was interested in being in a program that had a more holistic view on dance and what dance looks like and feels like. I dove deep into the curriculum and the T/D program upon my 1st year at Luther and stayed extremely involved in many aspects throughout my 4 years at Luther. I was in love with this curriculum from the get-go, even though I had some frustrations as I would in starting anything new.

I appreciated how the curriculum informed me as a dancer, artist and choreographer. I lived for this curriculum and the majority of my time at Luther College was spent in the Center for the Arts. The curriculum expanded my view on what it meant to be an artist; it continued to help me be curious about how I was experiencing my body and my environment. The curriculum allowed much time and space for me to be aware of how I related to myself, others and my environment. Sometimes my awareness was a bit too heightened and I needed to be reminded to stay curious and let go a judgment, which the curriculum supported as well.

When I left the program I was frustrated, feeling ready to break away from what I had been immersed in for 4 years, wanting to figure out what I really believed rather than being the product of my environment. I was ready to graduate and take a break from the curriculum and the department.

What is your current career/life path?

In the Fall 2011, I am attending Naropa University in Boulder, CO to receive of Master of Arts in Somatic Counseling Psychology. I will be graduating in the Spring 2014 and will have the opportunity to become a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dance/Movement Therapist through the Dance/Movement Therapy Association.

How does the MF curriculum inform this career/path...how do you use MF in your day-to-day life?

I desire to work psychotherapeutically with the human body because I fully believe in, and have experienced, the intelligence that the body stores. I want to be able to provide similar opportunities for others to access their full intelligence and increase awareness of body-mind connections.

My background has taught me that people can live life more authentically when they come back to their containers, and this act provides people with a solid foundation for health, honesty, openness and compassion.

My intention for my life practice, as well as my career path, is to continue to be aware and awake to my authentic self, and provide time and space for people to practice this as well. I want to help people honor and learn from their individual life experiences by providing tools to access their bodies’ intelligence for healing and growth. I am not willing to disregard the power, humbleness, growth, healing and authenticity I have personally gained from my experience within somatic practices, especially those gained from the MF curriculum. I am committed to experiencing and learning about somatic practices and how they can best serve people wherever they are on their life journey. My experience with the MF curriculum allowed me to gain information on how to stay true to my authentic self and because of this exposure to the curriculum I am following my passions, I am curious about how to stay true to my authentic self and at the same time give back to others. In my day-to-day life the MF curriculum helps me to listen to my whole being, notice sensations that arise and stay present in order to allow the process to continually unfold. It is through the MF curriculum that I experientially practice the following and continue to feel empowered to do so in my day-to-day life:

  • Active listening
  • Staying present
  • Attuning to (new) situations
  • Connecting to breath
  • Listing to my body and the information it is providing me
  • Acknowledging everyone’s personal experience in valid
  • Tapping into my authentic self
  • Taking time to take care of myself
  • Continuing to stay curious about my relationship to myself, my body, others and my environment
  • Releasing judgment
  • Constructive Rest

All of these practices provide opportunities to be fully present with my whole being and to acknowledge how I am feeling and what I am experiencing. Continuing to increase my self-awareness and be honest with myself about my patterns helps me to stay grounded within chaos and the unknown.

The MF curriculum specifically helped me to fully practice acknowledging where I was on a day to day, moment to moment, basis, releasing any judgment I had around these experiences and to stay curious on how I was forming and continuing to form, not only as a mover or an artist, but as a person in this world.

In a paragraph, how would you describe the core philosophy of the MF curriculum at Luther?

The core philosophy of the MF curriculum is based on the knowledge and ability of the body, as it is, as it has been and it continues to form. Change is constant. Curiosity is necessary and important for growth, development, and honoring each person where they are in their life path.

Allow things to unfold. Release judgment, stay curious, play, experiment, practice the work, honor what each individual brings to the experience. The body is intelligent, it can inform one’s self of what is happening and what can potentially change in order to increase ease, function, creativeness. Explore, experiment.

What part of the curriculum was most valuable to you?

Getting to really know myself on a somatic level. Experiential anatomy. Self-exploration and discovery. Really learning my body as a creative tool and accepting where I am and being curious about else I am capable of doing/creating/exploring. Constructive Rest.

Is there anything else you want to share?

Throughout my life I have been interested in movement, human behavior, relationships and exploring connections between the body and mind. My undergraduate training introduced me to the importance of somatic education and the field of somatic psychology. Without this training I do not know if (or when) I would have learned about Somatic Psychology. The MF curriculum expanded my world exponentially and because of this I continued to learn about myself, and the importance of honoring myself and following my passions. The MF curriculum allowed me the time and space to tap into my bliss and be on the path that will continue to empower me in order to take care of myself and within that, I am able to give more to others and my environment.

Throughout my experience in the MF curriculum I witnessed myself in uncomfortable situations, practiced staying present and noticing sensations arise. My awareness increased in how I related to others, the environment and myself. I also witnessed other students become vulnerable by exploring their individual patterns of relating to themselves and their environment. I was excited and humbled to hear how people increased self-awareness through the MF curriculum because of a choice to take time to pause and reflect honestly and openly.

The MF Curriculum fosters the ability for each person involved in the curriculum to gain insight on each person’s individual path, on a very somatic level. A heightened awareness occurs of one’s tendencies and patterns and within all of this a lot of frustration and self-deprecation can take place. However, through the MF curriculum there is continued support for self-discovery, and acknowledgment and self-worth. Through getting to know one’s body in this way there is the ability for each student to find their bliss and go with it. And through this discovery excitement, empowerment, curiosity, and honoring emerge. I would not be on the path I am today if it wasn’t for this curriculum.