Sensory Awareness Foundation


Charlotte’s 100th Birthday an Essay by Lee Klinger Lesser

On April 4, 2001 Charlotte Selver turned 100 years old.  For a long time, Charlotte vacillated about what to do on her birthday.  She knew it was a momentous occasion and at the same time it seemed to be overwhelming and too important to everyone.  It was after all simply another day in her life. Finally, she agreed to let us have a small dinner party with some close friends.  Earlier in the day she drove up to Hope Cottage for lunch.  Hope Cottage is a small stone cottage at the top of one of the hills above Green Gulch.  It was built by George Wheelwright as a retreat for his wife, Hope. It overlooks the wide Green Gulch Valley and faces the ocean.  The view is expansive and stunning.  The drive up is very steep and rugged, but from what I hear, Charlotte enjoyed the journey and the visit.

At around 7:00 p.m. Charlotte arrived at Sara Gordon’s house where about 20 friends were gathered.  Many old time friends were there, including four of us from Charlotte’s first nine-month Study Group in 1972-1973, Seymour Carter, Kate Skinner, Connie Smith and myself.  Charlotte said back then that this was going to be her first and last Study Group.  There has probably been one almost every year since then.

People drank champagne and had individual moments with Charlotte.  We ate a lovely potluck dinner, and then we gathered in a circle to speak with Charlotte so that she could hear us, and we would all be concentrated in one conversation.  She put on her hearing equipment and we passed the microphone around for people to share special moments with Charlotte.  Charlotte wanted to know how we met her, or came to the work.  There were some funny and loving stories as usual.  As we were all gathered around, I presented Charlotte with her special “Birthday Cake” of letters from the Guild and friends.  They were in a beautiful round box with raised letters wishing Charlotte a Happy 100th Birthday.  The box itself was beautiful, and inside were many moments of how the work has touched people.  Charlotte asked me to read some of them and I did.  It was just “her dish” as Charlotte likes to say.  It means a lot to her to know about how the work, works in people.  I would say that is one of the most important and interesting things in her life.  She did not want to make such a personal big deal out of herself and her birthday…but hearing about the work and how it touches people, that is very rich.   After a number of stories from people and Charlotte, and the sharing of her paper birthday cake….we brought in a huge strawberry shortcake covered with 101 sparkling candles.  All the lights were turned off and it was quite magical to see the moving flames of so many candles representing each year of Charlotte’s life.  When I told her there were 101 candles, one for good luck…she smiled and with a twinkle in her eyes, said, “You haven’t given up on me!”  With a little help from her friends, she blew out all of the candles and all on her own she ate a huge piece of cake.

Being with everyone and being at this event, asked a lot of Charlotte.  She turned herself over to it and rallied her energy and then she was ready to go home.  Quick good byes were said and Charlotte almost flew out the door walking intently with her two canes.  It was a lovely event and it was enough.

About one month later, at the end of the first week of the Study Group, Charlotte got pneumonia.  She became very ill and many of us thought that Charlotte was dying.  Charlotte began to say very lucid and heartfelt good byes to people.  She was very clear and also very calm.  I was grateful to see her so peaceful and so accepting of her life and of her perhaps arriving death.  She seemed to be quite interested and open for what was going to happen.  On Monday night about six of Charlotte’s closest nearby friends were gathered together in a vigil, to be there with her and for her in whatever happened.  We were all fully present and open to be there with Charlotte, as she seemed to be on her way to dying.  She was hardly eating or drinking anything and she was very weak.  At one point she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I am going to die tonight”.  A very lovely doctor who lives at Muir Beach came up to the house many times to check on Charlotte and to help her understand what she could do if she wanted to die (not drink or eat) and what she could do if she wanted to live (drink and eat).  Her lungs were quite congested.

I decided to stay there with Charlotte at the house and just be there for whatever was going to happen.  I had been with people before as they were dying and it seemed as though Charlotte already had one foot on the road out of this life.  A few days later, after many discussions about death and also Charlotte’s good bye instructions for me, Charlotte looked over at me and said, “I don’t want to disappoint you.  What will you do if I don’t die now?” I responded that I would celebrate!  For a few weeks, Charlotte seemed to straddle the fence between staying or leaving, and then one day she was back. Both feet were planted here in this life for whatever was next and possible. Her energy changed and she was engaged again in a different way.  She was extremely present and gentle and open as she was sick and feeling her way into living or dying.  She was living that time fully and living each of those moments and connections…and yet when she came back, her interest and energy expanded. Two weeks later she was packed and getting ready to leave for Europe.  It was overwhelming and somewhat stunning to be leaving her home in Muir Beach and heading off to so many new places.  Just before she left for the airport, she called her doctor to say goodbye and to tell him she was leaving for Europe.  If she came back in the fall she would look forward to seeing him.  I stood there shaking my head inside myself….amazed at the journeys of the past few weeks and smiling at Charlotte’s message to the doctor.  I would never have imagined that conversation three weeks before.  I am smiling still as I think of it.  I stood outside Charlotte’s house waving goodbye as she, Jill and Peter drove off to the airport.  Waving until she was out of sight, and seeing her hand still waving as she headed off down the driveway.  A few days later I received an e-mail dictated to Stefan from his parents garden where Charlotte was sitting, experimenting:

“We are sitting in the garden of Stefan’s parent and I am trying to raise one knee after the other into the air, so that the foot could come to hanging but my feet are not as permissive as they should be. So I have to wait in the air a little until the feet come to more hanging. It’s wishful thinking! They are still very reluctant. Here is beautiful sunshine and the earth and the grass are so warm, much warmer than my feet. But still it is very nice to meet the earth and the grass and become a little more hanging and giving with my feet. Tomorrow the great weekend will start where I will speak about my experience with Elsa Gindler and with my own stubborn organism.

PS: The grass is also green here and the sun warm. I thought I would come to no man’ s land but there is always something familiar around.”

I have heard that Charlotte’s talk about Elsa Gindler and the work went very well, and now she continues on her journey to new workshops and new moments.   And we each continue to live with the many moments that Charlotte has offered and continues to offer us through her presence and the work she has shared.

We are very lucky, I think.

West Coast Workshop Schedule, May 13 – 15, 2016

Sensory Awareness:  Embracing Your True Nature
May 13 – 15, 2016

The whole community will attend the opening session with Lee Klinger Lesser and the closing session with Stefan Laeng Gilliatt. The rest of the sessions are offered two at a time. Participants choose one or the other.
Both silent (Leader TBA) and guided meditation (Eugene Tashima) sessions are offered on Saturday and Sunday mornings 7 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. During lunch on Saturday, there is a special opportunity to explore Sensory Awareness and eating with Sara Bragin.

7 – 7:45 a.m.
Eugene Tashima

Guided Meditation

Silent Meditation (Leader TBA)

Friday, May 13, 2016: Check in 4 – 6 p.m., Dinner 6 – 7 p.m.

Beginning Right Where We Are, Right Now
Opening 7:15 – 9:00 p.m.

Lee Klinger Lesser, MA
As we begin, let’s slow down and open to the natural responsiveness waiting right here for us. We don’t have to do anything, or be any certain way. Just offer our attention and curiosity to our experience and discover how we meet what is needed within ourselves and in connection to those around us.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

7 – 7:45 a.m. 
Eugene Tashima
Guided Meditation

Silent Meditation (Leader TBA)

Our Natural Responsiveness
9:15 – 11:15 a.m.

Richard Lowe, MA, LMFT
What is it to be moved or touched or relieved by something? In this experiential session we’ll explore sensing the inner flow of changes in ourselves as we encounter the world around us. We may discover old habits of resistance in ourselves. How might we then meet such habits with acceptance and love?

Jill Harris, MA, CMT
In the process of “growing up”, the sensory nature of direct experience is often overshadowed by the effects of training, expectations and habit. We will explore aspects of sensory experience individually and in relation to another, including a sense of oneself as a whole.

Break: 12:00 – 3:00 Lunch: a special opportunity to explore Sensory Awareness and eating with Sara Bragin.
Time on
to explore Sensing on your own.

The Art of Pausing
3:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Connie Smith-Siegel, MFA
Through a combination of Sensory Awareness, drawing, and movement we can discover the rich diversity of our inner nature as it changes, moment to moment. Through spontaneous improvisations with shape, line and color we can connect more deeply with what we see and feel around us.

Penny Smith
Allowing time between one activity and another gives us the space to experience what is happening within, deepening our inner sense of when we are ready to meet the next activity. Being aware of our breathing and how we are connected to the support of the earth renews our ability to meet the experiences of living. Exploring standing, walking and lying through various experiments with weight and gravity awakens possibilities for new awareness.

Saturday Night
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Wondering Together
Discussion and questions about Sensory Awareness with members of the Leaders’ Guild.

Sensory Awareness and Psychotherapy
Richard Lowe, LMFT
An exploration of the practice of Sensory Awareness as it relates to psychotherapy and wellness.

8:15 – 10:00 p.m.
Leader TBA
In the Library, sensing movement exploration to music.  Art materials will also be available. A ‘café’’ (or should we say SAFé) will be available for socializing in the dining hall.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 – 7:45 a.m.
Eugene Tashima

Guided Meditation

Silent Meditation (Leader TBA)

9:45 – 11:45 a.m.

Finding Support in Our Own Nature
Ray Fowler, MS
While exploring the nature of breath, you may begin to notice how habitual conditioning affects this fundamental life function. Breathing provides a powerful link to hidden ways in which we control behavior. You will begin to feel how breathing has its own path. Noticing breath’s own way will gradually allow you to let go of behaviors and habits which no longer serve you. Embracing your own nature comes simply by itself, since it is already there!

Patricia Baxter, MA, CMT
In listening to breath and our natural responses to life’s demands we come to know ourselves. We will explore concepts of inspiration, enthusiasm, response-ability and the tendency to “should” ourselves. These concepts will be explored through Sensing experiments that help distinguish between what we sense and what we emote and how the two lead us through life.

Closing: Stepping Into Life
Stefan Laeng Gilliatt
When we leave the supportive atmosphere of the workshop to step back into everyday life, we quickly realize that life’s fast pace and unpredictability challenges our newly gained insights. How can we integrate Sensory Awareness into our lives so that the practice supports us in our many activities and encounters? We’ll explore this question in playful and in quiet ways, interacting with other people and with everyday things to rediscover the new and fresh in the ordinary.


Sensory Awareness: The Art of Living Fully

81714By Judyth O. Weaver, PhD

Sensory Awareness is the practice of coming more in touch with oneself. Not attached to any theory or method, the work transcends dogmas, disciplines, and forms. It brings us to immediate, direct experience through which we can rediscover and return to our own natural ways of being – to our birthrights.

How can we know another until we know ourselves? If we do not fully experience our own feelings, how can we understand the feelings of others? Through practical sensing experiences with our everyday activities, we relearn to accept ourselves and others, and begin to understand the importance of this kind of attention. We can then bring this attention to self-awareness, individual growth, interpersonal relations, societal and ecological issues, and therapeutic applications.

The work is not didactic; it is practice. It may begin with an experiment as simple as standing and becoming aware of our own weight and the way the floor supports us. Such a simple thing, but we may never have done it with full awareness. Discovering our connection with our breath, energies, and senses brings us to greater understanding of ourselves and how we function in the world.

Sensory Awareness offers deep learning regarding stress reduction, energy conservation, structural economy, and more natural ways of being. The approach is through each person’s unique organism as a whole – the living totality within which all our faculties arise. This experience of exploring, freeing, and deepening our innate potentials can, if we follow through, have far-reaching consequences in all spheres of our lives.

Sometimes this work feels like child’s play. Much of what we do is simple, unsophisticated, exploratory, and often it brings us to become more spontaneous. One of the differences between a Sensory Awareness session and a child’s play is the fact that we pause during these exploratory sessions and we simply, non-judgmentally share our experiences. (Of course, children do this also, spontaneously.) This simple/ not-so-easy task of relating our experiences serves an important role of bringing the deep, non-verbal experiences of our senses into the more left-brained experience of speaking and relating and integrating the two. This very simple step of experiencing our being a full-person alone and then entering body and mind into relationship (which is never separated anyway) and sharing is addressed on many levels of this work of Sensory Awareness and then it supports us as we continue our relating into the world.

Sensory Awareness is available to anyone who wants to become more whole and integrated. For teachers, it offers clarity of position that informs a sense of self, as well as more direct and less interfering connections between people. For therapists, it also enhances the connection between the client and allows transference and counter-transference issues to become clearer.

Through Sensory Awareness, we are able to live more fully in the world, rediscovering the wisdom and interconnection of our bodies and our minds – our whole selves and reclaiming our natural being.


From: Sensory Awareness: The Heart of Somatic Psychotherapy & More Background about Sensory Awareness by Judyth O. Weaver, PhD
See more articles and many beautiful photos on Judyth Weaver’s website: