Accelerated Learning in the Ever-Expanding Unknown
Three weeks ago, I broke my leg. It was a wet, misty Devon morning and I was feeling good after my morning practice. I was running down to the lake where I swim every morning. My dog, Moxi, was at my side. We were enjoying the exuberance and joy of physicality. And then I slipped. My foot went out from underneath me and I heard the bone breaking, not a noise I ever want to hear again!
I knew I’d broken it, but I was two thirds of the way down the hill. Susannah had the radio on and could not hear my calls, and no-one else was around. So, I crawled back up the hill on my knees, the waves of pain shocking in their intensity. Moxi stayed with me all the way. I am usually very calm in situations like this and yet it’s amazing where the mind goes in emergency. I was super present in my body and really upset at the same time. Susannah was already stretched taking care of her dear Papa who has been living with us since May. And now this. The last thing I wanted was to put more on her plate.
I noticed the meaning maker in me already scrabbling for the deeper strands of the dream I was in. I felt like a wounded soldier back on those bloody battle fields, crawling through the mud, the pain like bullets in my leg. I got back home and knocked on the back door. I cried loudly and without shame. Alongside ice and arnica, with Susannah’s encouragement, I gave full permission to the broken being inside me to let rip. And that was just the beginning.
The broken and the unbroken.
A few days after my break, my dear friend Jake gave me these words. They touched me deeply and made me laugh too – always good medicine. I share them here as I suspect they will resonate for many of you as they certainly did for me:
“However, I know it is part of a bigger picture of the universe telling you to slow down and take stock. I think I am in the middle of a similar process that goes something like: ‘you should notice this; hey take notice of this; HEY bloody take notice of this; since you are still going full tilt take this and lie down; if you persist any more I’ll break your leg – or your neck!!’ I wonder whether your community would benefit from knowing about this bigger picture and the way that the universe persists at telling silly buggers like you and me about what we have to pay attention to.”
It’s been an extraordinary 18 months for us. The most powerful, challenging, painful and beautiful time of our lives. Like many others, we faced the Covid-induced collapse of our way of working with a determined clarity to create out of the debris. We accepted the possibility of losing our home. We have counted our many blessings every day. We felt a personal and collective rise in anxiety, and we needed our practice more than ever. And we have had the opportunity to practice everything we’ve ever learnt on the dance floor in this ever-changing reality of the dance we are in. Best of all, we have got to know each other on a level that I never dreamed was possible.
Over this time, we have taken the time to listen deeply to the increasingly disturbed noise of the world and created spaces where we can be with the unknown and invite embodied clarity to arise. Like many, our learning curve has been sharp. But 18 months in, we are confident that the work we offered on the road for more than three decades translates very powerfully onto the screen. We have created the 21Gratitudes Movement Medicine Study Hub which we are very proud of. It’s a global community of movers and shakers studying and moving our way around the 21 gateways of the Movement Medicine mandala in what feels like an ongoing long dance. We have also created three self-study courses, the latest of which Encounter – Your Inner Shaman in the Modern World will be released on sale on 15th September.
We are also offering Movement Medicine ceremonies every six weeks to dance deep, acknowledge what is, and celebrate and align with the cycle of the year. The ceremonies have become more and more focused and strong. Last Saturday night, we took part as participants in the recorded version of the Lammas Tribal Heart ceremony we offered at the beginning of August. It was so powerful, and we experienced a visceral sense of connection with the community we are part of.
Our next ceremony, on September 18th (19:00–22.00 BST) will celebrate the Equinox with special guests: Lua Maria, Josie Wildgoose and DJ Reuben DK.
As well as all the external work we’ve been doing, it’s been a deep dive into the next layers of our personal work. I’ll do my best to share the essence of where I’ve landed. Since I was a child, I’ve been into the great mystery of life. When I was 7, I wanted to be a Rabbi. I have always known this sense of a greater power, a place of profound peace, quiet and wellbeing. An eternal sense of self, a refuge. At the same time, my experience of this mystery is that it is also completely fluid, changing and evolving through time. This sense of a divine intelligence in life itself is the same as the Unbroken that I experience within me and imagine in you and sense in the nature around me. I became aware of it first in the Amazon and that awareness has sensitised me to it everywhere.
I am comforted by a thought shared with me recently that our very universe is rather young and immature compared to other universes that have been around a lot longer. There really is no end to the mystery and there is nothing set in stone except the law that we are born, and we will die. This vastness exists as a tiny spark inside everything that lives. And it is the only place I know within me that is big enough to embrace the extremities of ecstasy and agony that are such an integral aspect of life in a body on earth. I have always felt them both and they are part and parcel of anyone’s experience who is prepared to love.
I’m telling you this to give a little of this 5th Dimension (*) context to the rest of what I am going to say. These are definitely difficult times. In ceremony, I usually have to pass through a kind of fog or perceptual chaos as all the different realities and stories that are part of our world vie for my attention. Ceremonies for me are very much like lucid dreams. That is, I become aware that I am dreaming and whatever I give my attention to grows in influence. There are an infinity of stories competing for our attention. And in my world, they are not all equally worthy of my attention. And that becomes more and more true the older I get and the more precious my time becomes. Just because something exists in a spiritual realm, or on the web for that matter, it is not necessarily wise, healthy or true.
As you can imagine, many people have tried to convince us that COVID is a scam, that vaccines are part of a sinister plot to exert more and more control on us, and that climate change is part of the Elite’s plan to further disempower and control us. I am aware that the world is full of all kinds of people, many of whom do not have your care or mine at the top of their agenda. But after spending some years listening to my elders, both indigenous and from within our own culture, learning a little about researching internet ‘proof’ and algo-rhythms and how they work, I have come to the conclusion that those stories are untrue and not worthy of any more of my attention.
In the great unknown of these times, I see many of us searching for certainty and it can be tempting, even strangely comforting to imagine a big, bad group of people out there carefully planning our demise. Believe me, I’ve looked deep into that rabbit hole through all the means I know. In the end, I saw that the dream of such a global conspiracy is as good a bypass of the challenges of reality as I’ve ever seen. It absolves me of my responsibility and sucks the very life force out of me.
In ceremony, the energy of those stories appear to me as a wormhole, sucking as much energy into it as possible, supporting disempowerment, irresponsibility, and creating a cosy sense that ‘we’ are the good and righteous fighting ‘they’, the bad. I’m done with that. When I look at the world, I see that it’s our everyday uncoinsciousness that is destroying the forests. I see how we throw around our fears and furies on social media as if the medium itself absolves us of any responsibility for the effect we are having. I have made a choice not to engage in those conversations anymore.
Life is woven from many strands and we all have to make our choices and live and die by them. I have fought for my originality, individuality and my place in the world for my whole life. I enjoyed the fight. In recent times, not least in work with our dear friend David Tucker who died recently, I have discovered something more of the power of peace. That power is my new benchmark. I see a problem with the adolescent idea that everyone is only responsible for themselves. The lack of care and understanding for social responsibility is a sad thread in the dream of the modern world.
Alongside this, I experience again and again that life is a miracle and that human beings are absolutely incredible. It’s extraordinary that we get to be here at all to experience any of this. Life is infinitely mysterious and yet we all have it within us to develop the power to choose the future we create. I love us humans and our immense creativity. Look around you. See what we’ve imagined and created. I believe we have it within us collectively to imagine and creatively find our way through our current dilemmas and crises. That is the dream that I have committed the rest of my life to.
Having said that, transformation and initiation are not easy. Because of my own biography, my ancestral traumas and the modality of the times, it’s hard for me to really let life in. I’ve been well trained in dissatisfaction. My attention was hijacked long ago by the hidden hungry ghosts of my own shadow. Yes, there are bad people over there. But the same tunes that play loudly in the consciousness of those ‘over there’ people, also play in my own head. Greed is in me. My capacity to eat life so fast that I don’t taste it and remain hungry astounds me. Shadow work isn’t popular. I don’t mean a few sessions or a weekend of it. I mean the consistent dirty work of owning our everyday shadows in how we treat ourselves, each other and the environment that I believe are the real thing that’s killing us and this magnificent biosphere. To do that, we might need to stop taking ourselves so seriously, discover another level of collective courage and learn to navigate our own hearts. I believe that there are boulders of fear, wildfires of fury, rivers of grief and the unleashed uproar of laughter in all of us. We have bodies and hearts and they were made to dance.
And so here I am. As long as I can, I will go on offering safe spaces (online for the moment) where people can resource themselves, discover and strengthen the gift they are, and find and develop the personal power to share those gifts. Spaces where people can keep on feeding the dream that we can come through the initiation ceremony of our times, wiser, better able to listen to one another and to life itself.
Ceremonies in which we can forge a more awake human presence aware of how far we’ve come and how powerful we are. People who are more able to take responsibility for that power by recognising the effect we are having. Spaces that encourage the joy of movement, the blessing of the breath and the power of peace, the gift of a community in which we can learn together to take responsibility for our shadows. I remain deeply humbled by the accelerated learning I have experienced over this pandemic time about both who I am and, my own blind domains. And I am aware that it is these everyday shadows that are the most difficult to see. I am amazed by my capacity to forget what life is giving me and I am grateful that my work and my choices give me opportunities each day to remember.
We miss dancing in the room together hugely. But until it is genuinely safe for us to do so, with all the joy, strength and creativity we can muster, we will continue with our work online. And when the time comes, and may that be soon, we will be very clear about what we need from participants in terms of protecting the more vulnerable people in our communities. These needs will be non-negotiable. So it is.
Finally, a massive thanks to Hanna for all her work over the years editing this newsletter. She is now moving on with her new project – travel well!
You find her and her writing here.
I send you my love and appreciation for reading this. I wish you well in your great adventure of life on earth. Only a power greater than us can hold the paradoxes of it all. In the end, all my certainties fade into the black shining light of the mystery and the unknown opens wide, evolving into an ever expanding mystery.
YDK. September ‘21