Connie Smith Siegel, Woodacre, California: A Journey of Discovery
My first experience with Sensory Awareness seemed charmed, almost inevitable. In the summer of 1966, weary of the complicated university art world, I had traveled to Monhegan Island, searching for meaning in nature.
Intrigued by an introductory lecture given by Charlotte Selver’s husband, Charles Brooks, I joined a two week course in Sensory Awareness. At the beginning I was skeptical, but as the workshop progressed, my doubts turned to fascination as the sounds, smells, colors and tactile sensations, already heightened by my being on the island, became even more vivid.
As if for the first time, I became aware of the pungent smell of grass mats on the schoolhouse floor, the sound of foghorns on a damp morning. I especially remember an outdoor excursion, walking barefoot in the woods over the soft trails and moss-covered stones. When an afternoon shower interrupted the class, instead of rushing home, we stood together in silence, experiencing the sensation of raindrops, surprisingly warm, touching our clothes and skin. As other people ran past, escaping the rain, I felt the power of our choice to experience, not run away from sensation.
I felt a closeness with the group, along with a very tangible kind of inner peace, more ordinary than what I had imagined spiritual awareness to be, but deeply satisfying.
When the workshop was over I remained on the island. With my sense of seeing renewed, the island revealed itself to me. As I drew the hidden tide pools and the web of plant forms covering the rocks and cliffs I found my creative center again.
In 1972 I finally left the university to join the first nine-month study group with Charlotte Selver. I had eagerly agreed to teach drawing to fellow members but was not prepared for the nervousness I felt at the beginning. As we gathered on an open porch in the small mountain village of Tepotzlan, with roosters crowing, dogs barking, and the wind blowing the drawing paper, I realized I was no longer the all-knowing professor backed up by the credit system and lofty campus buildings. I was just a fellow explorer in a new adventure, destination unknown. The journey of discovery I began that first summer on Monhegan was becoming my whole life.