A Summer To Remember – August 2014
This afternoon (Aug 18th), we will begin the third cycle of our Apprenticeship Programme with a very strong circle of new apprentices who are gathering from 17 different countries. I don’t remember ever being so calm and happy about going back to work.
Usually the end of the summer break has been a time tinged with melancholy as the deliciousness of my time being my own has come to an end. But this has been an unusual summer. It’s been a time of such deep learning and revolutionary perspective re-sets most of which has been catalysed by the death of Susannah’s dear mama, Elizabeth. And it’s been a time in which I have had to use everything I have learned on the dance floor and in ceremonies over the past 30 years.
As any of you Dancing Warriors who were at the Summer Long Dance will know, Susannah had to leave early to go and be with her mama. That was a big invitation for a whole group of people to step up and take responsibility for filling Susannah’s shoes. It was quite a challenge for me too. We work so well together. We’ve got 28 years of living and working together under our belts. We know what the other needs and our presence and love for one another is the channel through which Movement Medicine originally came into the world. The Long Dance is a major ceremony. It’s a catalytic journey that takes us to our edges and beyond. Over the years, I have learned to have full faith in the intelligence of life or what we love to call the Great Choreographer, to place the challenges in front of us that offer us the opportunity to learn and deepen the direct experience of who we truly are and what we are truly here for. Sometimes, that catalyst takes months or even years to work its way through. The journey can be rough at times which is why we’re very clear that the Long Dance is for those who feel they have enough steady ground in their lives to be able to take the challenges that a ceremony like this will inevitably bring. None of us, however experienced we are, is exempt from this process. So here I was, my wife and son (who was there for the first time and how wonderful that was for us!) were leaving, and we still had over 24 hours of the ceremony to go. The last night of the Long Dance is dedicated to lifting up the prayer that is our collective intent and sending it out through the Tree if Life into the 8 directions to do its work. It’s an effort and it’s right at the heart of what the Long Dance is about. We add our prayer to all the prayers that are being offered around the world through so many different traditions and in making this offering, we strengthen our place in the circle of life.
I am blessed with stamina and a deep pool of resources but I had reached my limits and I knew that I now needed help. At one point, I lay down on the ground, face down, and prayed for support from all my allies. I felt Susannah come up behind me and start to massage my spine. Susannah is a wonderful healer and her energy felt so nourishing as she worked her fingers into my back to support my praying. After a while, it occurred to me that it may not be Susannah massaging me at all. I wondered if maybe Sarah had seen me praying hand had come over to support me. Whoever it was, the massage was deep and supportive and I continued speaking to my allies and asking them for their support for the ceremony. A minute later, my curiosity got the better of me again. I wanted to know who was offering me their healing touch. I turned around, expecting to see Susannah or Sarah leaning over me. I could still feel their hands on my back but when I turned around, there was nobody there. Or should I say, there was no body there. I gasped and laughed.
From that moment, I knew all would be well. And I knew that I needed human support as well. I asked a group of our apprentices who have been with us a long time to come and sit in circle and I explained what I needed from them. They were more than willing and more than that, they had their own ideas of what might support the ceremony. I was reminded of Lynne Twist’s beautiful words: ‘Together we are a genius,’ and in that moment more than ever before, I knew she was right. Not without its challenges and with the wonderful support of Manari, a visiting Tribal Leader from the Amazon, and the support of everyone present, we lifted up the prayer of the Summer Long Dance 2014. More than that, the ceremony raised close to another £40,000 for a whole host of magnificent, life supporting projects around the world.
I want to tell you what Manari said to us. He has travelled many times from his Amazonian village, but around the fire on the last night, he told us that never before had he felt so at home away from his village that he was able to connect with his spirits and his family back home. He told us it was because the Long Dance was a place where those channels were open and he was delighted to receive the support of all the dancers and their prayers for his people, tradition and land. More than ever, that support is still needed. We will be taking a group into the Ecuadorian Amazon and visiting Manari and his family in their village in January. If you feel the call, please apply to join us.
And so the Long Dance finished and I travelled home, happy and tired and ready for a break. But I knew already that the break would have to wait. I was told as I drummed during the last night of the Long Dance, ‘your place is by Susannah’s side. Go and join her.’ I would like to tell you that I was completely surrendered to this but that would be lying. I was tired after another super intense year, and I was desperate for some quiet time at home. However, I have learned to be obedient to the source of this kind of instruction. And so I drove home, unpacked the Long Dance gear, put on the washing, paid the bills and answered my mails. I then slept for four hours and headed up North to join Susannah, Reuben, her father and her mama in her dying days.
I would have hoped that I would have felt total faith that all would be well, and that eventually, I would receive what I needed after so long of giving. But in truth, I was already in a lather of martydom that’s really wasn’t pretty by the time I arrived at Dr.Kershaw’s Hospice in Oldham. I was convinced, naturally, that Susannah’s difficulty in receiving my support was the source of my background irritation. We went for a walk along the canal. I felt terrible. I’d hardly slept, I wanted a break and I wanted someone to look after me! I was worried that our whole summer would be taken up with Susannah’s mama dying and that we would end up with no break. My vision was thundery with clouds of needs and wants and worries. Susannah was obviously deeply involved in the process of her mama dying and we were in that deep discomfort that can often lead to full scale war in which clear sight has vanished and the past with all its hurts, sufferings and miseries has filled the space between us. Blame and counter blame is the inevitable next step unless someone chooses to change the story. I have to say that in times like these, I am ever more grateful to for all the practice I have had on the dance floor. All of it is for moments like these where life gives us the chance to actually live the experience that we have in our practice. It takes courage to recognise that the story we are in may not be the whole truth!
Recognising that there was a deeper story at work, we sat down and opened our hearts to one another. I recognised that I was struggling to surrender. And as soon as I saw that, something in me let go. I remembered those hands on my back, and I accepted that in no way was I in control of events. By the canal, close to Oldham Athletic’s football stadium, I had an experience of surrender that literally took my breath away. The clouds didn’t just part, they dissolved. I saw clearly what was needed and I felt the deepest joy I had ever felt in the knowledge that I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and that all I had practiced and come into relationship with over the years was available to me. And then from feeling like a victim of the circumstances, I simply understood the privilege of my position and the perfection of the timing. More than that, I knew for certain that I would be looked after, that I have always been looked after and that I will always be looked after in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine. After all this time, it’s still amazing to me how what I choose to focus on changes my perception and experience of life so dramatically.
Amongst shamans the world over as well as in many other traditions, death is known as the great teacher. I can once again attest to that. And I want to say out loud that the dignity, courage and grace with which Susannah’s mama faced death was truly inspiring. Again, I felt privileged to be present and to offer what support I could. My own relationship with death, already strengthened by numerous ceremonies and dialogues and meetings with death over the years, has dropped to anew level of intimacy. And I want you to know that though I did not do this for reward, the rewards that came in the weeks that followed Elizabeth’s death and funeral, have been rich beyond measure.
I have found deep rest in working on our land in a way that I hadn’t expected to be in my life for at least another decade. I have discovered that to be a true husband, I am not just required to look after my wife and family, I am also required to look after land. An image I had of myself has died. I have taken my place and I have to recognise time and time again over the past weeks that Mark Twain so beautifully put it: “Luck is the residue of design.”
All I can say really is this. As deep as we feel we have gone, we have only ever just begun to scratch the surface of the Great Mystery that underlies our existence here. Practice supports a deepening relationship with this mystery. When we are awake or when we are sleeping, the dream we are dreaming is rooted in this relationship. And I have felt called into another level of dreaming and acting in this world. In a word, that new level is called ‘surrender to your responsibility.’ And it is as yet, the greatest joy I have ever known because in order to surrender to responsibility, it is required of me to surrender to love.
Practice works. Movement Medicine works. So do lots of things. I’ll look forward to seeing you soon or meeting you for the first time on my travels in this new term. For now, it’s time to dance.
Ya’Acov DK. August 2014.