Lenten Devotion: Interview with Barbara Bell


Two Sundays ago,

I sat down with Advent member, Barbara Bell after worship to talk about sustainable transportation — not so much hybrid cars and public transit, but instead from an angle you might not expect. What about a mode of transportation that requires no machine and zero nonrenewable energy?

Barbara is a dance therapist and a former dancer. My hope was that her experience with movement could lend a unique perspective on how we get from place to place.

“Thanks again for doing this interview,” I said.

“Absolutely," Barbara said. "You know, the other day I was waiting for the bus, and then I said, I’m not waiting for the bus — inspired by this carbon fast and your email about this interview -- I thought, I don’t have to wait for the bus. I have time. I can walk. It was great. I felt great about it.

“And I look forward to the daily emails. I was a little disappointed that you didn’t do one today,” she added, jokingly. (As you know, we’ve been reserving Sunday as a day of worship and rest.)


Ok, getting to the point:

Tell us a little more about dance therapy.

“Movement heals. Dance therapy uses movement as a healer like psychotherapy uses words. And interestingly, just like movement is about getting yourself physically from one place to another, dance therapy is also about getting yourself from one place to another in your life.”


Do you think using our bodies for transportation instead of relying on machines has a positive impact on our mental health?

“Without a doubt. Because I’ve seen the changes movement can create in people’s lives. As a dance therapist, I have seen these huge changes in people that offers them another way of seeing the world -- all from movement.

“In dance therapy, we look at the smallest things. Like, say someone’s hand is all crunched up in a fist, and that’s characteristically how they are. So then the movement challenge is to get them to open their hands a little bit — and what does that represent for them when they finally get it?

“People with schizophrenia tend to be particularly rigid in their movement, so we try to get them to go to different places places movement-wise with the idea that they can go different places in their lives. And it works. And we see this with all kinds of people, not only those with unique mental conditions.”


Why should we consider walking whenever possible instead of using a car, bus, or train?

“When we walk, we are transporting ourselves in a given space, instead of using a car. We're using our own power to get wherever we're going.

“And this can change us a great deal, both in terms of our own physical, mental, spiritual well-being, as well as our relationship to the natural world and our environment.

“Movement is life. Life is movement. And when we walk, we’re a part of that.”


So this week, consider making at least one of your commutes a walk. I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it.

Try to be conscientious about all your transportation choices this week. Biking is another great option. Beyond that, try to use the subway whenever possible. NYC's electric-powered subway trains have a smaller carbon footprint than a bus or car. Your next best option is the bus.

As for cars (including taxis) -- try to stay away. I mean, do what you have to do, but if do you find yourself needing to use a car, take a moment to interrogate that perceived need.

If I've learned one thing in this carbon fast so far, it's that changing my routines to be mindful and loving of all of God's creation requires a reckoning of my real needs versus my justified conveniences and comfortable habits. I encourage you to continue exploring this sometimes difficult and uncomfortable terrain of challenging your routines and reorienting your perspective. Once you step out, there are great lessons to be learned in this wilderness.

Good luck this week. And remember that God is with you as you go.

Advent Lutheran Church