Stefan Laeng-Gilliatt, Santa Fe, New Mexico
It seems that I came to Charlotte Selver in kind of a reverse order. She was my last Sensory Awareness teacher, aside from my little son Julian, that is. When I met her in 1991 in the Austrian alps, I had already studied with a number of Sensory Awareness teachers, knowingly and unknowingly. Unknowingly, in the early 80s, when I studied Eutony with Barbara Ocusono in Switzerland; Eutony is a close relative of our work but what I didn’t know then was that Barbara had worked with Charlotte and Charles – and with my first ‘official’ Sensory Awareness teacher Seymour Carter too.
In 1983 I became a Buddhist practitioner and it was a Buddhist teacher who first told me about Sensory Awareness in 1989. I knew that this practice was it for me after the first class with Seymour in Zurich. It was a big turning point: Here was a Western practice that brought inquiry into the human condition and a path of awakening away from the cushion into my everyday existence in an instant. Even more, it seemed to integrate everything I had studied so far. I had, for example, been trained in Gestalt Therapy and Bioenergetics out of which had come the desire to go further into what I then called body work. Little did I know that Sensory Awareness would take me far beyond that – and far away from my home in Switzerland.
In 1994, after my second study group in California, Charlotte asked me if I would come and help her in her daily life, her work etc. – in other words (as Charlotte would say) , I soon moved in with her, leaving my home in Switzerland. That I did not live with Charlotte as long as I thought I would is a story that shall be told another time. However, it would have never crossed my mind that I would end up staying in the USA for good – and I certainly never thought that I would become the president and manager of the SAF. I feel incredibly honored and fortunate to have been able to serve this practice for all these years and especially in this time of transition.
Because now, with Charlotte gone, the explorations continue in ever new ways. For many years, I was offering the work not only in regular settings, but also in prisons when I lived in New Mexico. Worlds away from the gentle beauty of the Swiss countryside, I worked with men who got caught in a system of dehumanization. Silently, we listened to the ever present prison noise, quietly we walked together, playfully we tossed balls in a circle.
Thank you, Charlotte.
Stefan’s Website: www.pathwaysofsensoryawareness.org