Janet Adler (1941-2023)

This obituary was released by Janet Adler’s family, with assistance from Bonnie Morrissey and Paula Sager.


Janet Rosalyn Adler, wife of Philip Buller, mother of Paul and Joshua (Vanessa), and grandmother of Paloma, died on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. She was 82. Janet died peacefully at home on Retreat Cove, on Galiano Island, BC, Canada, with the windows open, the sound of the sea outside, surrounded by her family.


It is always hard to find language to describe a life, to even begin to encompass something that feels so mysterious, vast, and multidimensional. Jewish tradition tries to name this by saying each life is the equivalent of a whole world. Janet’s life indeed was a world and her death feels like the loss of that world, yet simultaneously, because of who she was and how we knew her, in important ways that world, and our access to it, is not gone. The fullness of her life’s offering is not elsewhere, but right here.


As the founder of the Discipline of Authentic Movement, Janet’s qualities of being and teaching touched generations of students. She was first introduced to movement as a manifestation of the unconscious by Dance Movement Therapy pioneer Marian Chace. She was then introduced to authentic movement becoming conscious by Mary Whitehouse, and to somatic epistemology by John Weir. She integrated these early teachings with her unanticipated experience of initiation (1979-1986), wherein direct experiences of energetic phenomena such as vibration and light were received with great intensity directly in and through her body.


Since 1970, through her on-going teaching practice, Janet offered retreats, seminars, and lectures in private and public institutions, retreat centers, universities, and clinics in North America and Europe. Her teaching developed into what has become the Discipline of Authentic Movement, a contemporary mystical practice, offering a path that others can follow towards the evolution of embodied consciousness.


Janet was the founder and director of the Mary Starks Whitehouse Institute, in Northampton, Massachusetts (1981-1983), the first school devoted to the study and practice of Authentic Movement. In 2019 she returned to Northampton to be honored at the Somatics Festival for her 50 years of devoted work within the field.


Janet’s teaching practice in Northern California (1986-2006) welcomed individuals and groups into a full engagement of the practice of the Discipline of Authentic Movement. Her work in these twenty years focused on the relationship between the discipline and other distinct realms including mystical text, the process of initiation, Jewish Mysticism, and Zen. During these years she also travelled to her students in European countries (1992-2001), seeding a strong, intercontinental collective of participants which continues to further the development of the Discipline of Authentic Movement.


Beginning in 2006, Janet received international teachers for advanced study and practice of the discipline into her kiva studio on Galiano Island. In 2013, she founded Circles of Four, a post-graduate level program preparing those who wish to teach the Discipline of Authentic Movement.


Janet’s unique contribution to the field of consciousness studies brings a new dimension of human potential into view, as a result of her radically deep and intricate investigation of spirit as consciousness manifesting through the body. Her work is sourced from the wellsprings of dance, healing, and mysticism, and integrates knowledge at the intersections between the fields of dance, somatics, psychology, and contemplative studies.


Janet received a Doctorate in Mysticism from the Union Institute (1992). Her early work with autistic children was documented in her award-winning film "Looking for Me" (1968). She also produced and directed "Still Looking," a film about Authentic Movement (1988). Near the end of her life, she was a collaborator and the subject of a short film: "LIGHT | Five Days with Janet Adler" by Jens Wazel (2023).


Janet is the author of "Intimacy in Emptiness: An Evolution of Embodied Consciousness", co-edited by Bonnie Morrissey and Paula Sager (2022). She also authored "Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement" (2002) and "Arching Backward: The Mystical Initiation of a Contemporary Woman" (1995). Her archives will be housed and made available at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library.


Since moving to Galiano – which she considered her spiritual home – in 2006, Janet co-founded and directed the island hospice program, Transitions in Dying and Grieving. Janet was also part of the leadership group that welcomed refugees to the island.


Beyond all outer ways of naming, it feels appropriate to say that Janet’s life was one devoted to presence. Even meeting her once could feel like a transmission, inviting each person in their own way to be seen, and then in turn, to see.


She will be profoundly missed. May her memory be for a blessing always.

Photos: Jens Wazel