An Invitation to Be Initiated – June 2015
“The Phoenix is at the centre of our work. It represents the Life-Death-Rebirth cycle and it sits strongly calling us all to rise from the ashes of our suffering and dance as deep as we dare. Conception, birth, childhood, puberty and adolescence, adulthood, maturity and death are present in all our creative projects, especially the big one called life. Learning to recognise where we are in the cycle at any given time is a super helpful way of sensing how things are and what is needed. Our own previous experience of these cycles affects us tremendously in that we are prone as human beings to repeat what we know. Bringing awareness, acceptance and healing to what has been is the core of the Movement Medicine Initiation journey. Learning to parent what we wish to bring into the world and give it space to grow, to experiment, and to come in to its fully-fledged unique existence is the intended outcome of doing this work. And acknowledging death as a great teacher that will in time, take all things back for recycling gives life its enormous sweetness.” Ya’Acov Darling Khan
Dear Dancing Community
Looking out of my window at the stormy weather outside, it’s hard to get that it’s June 1st. Still, I heard a heat wave is on the way and hopefully, it will warm everything up nicely for The Summer Long Dance, which is on the horizon (and less than 10 places left at the time of writing!). After that, it’s time for a summer break for me and the Mrs. No emails, meetings or work for seven weeks. Just time to be home and look after each other and our land.
It’s been a hugely busy year for me. So far I’ve been in Ecuador, South Africa, Poland, Switzerland twice, Japan, France, Germany, and Scotland, as well as teaching several intensives here at the Rill Centre. People sometimes ask me how I manage to do what I do. One of the answers is the summer break we have. It gives us time to let our minds go sideways, really let go, be on the land, and recharge our batteries in all the ways we know how. With the short summer last year due to the illness and death of Susannah’s dear mama, that break was missing in 2014. So I have been stretched and although I am a human being of the variety that enjoys a good stretch, I am nearing readiness for a good, deep in-breath.
When we get back after the summer, our first teaching will be Initiation. Please take this article as your personal invitation to join us (September 4th to 13th). It will take place at the gorgeous Rill Centre, here in Devon. We describe it as an odyssey rather than a workshop and it’s sometimes known by those who have done it as ‘the washing machine workshop. It’s something we’ve been offering for well over 20 years, and each year, it has become more refined. What’s it about? Well, it’s about life, death and rebirth and everything in between! The phoenix appeared to us many years ago and takes a central place in our work. It sits at the centre of the Movement Medicine mandala, the mistress and the master of change. The phoenix is there to remind us of the life-death-rebirth cycle that is such an inherent part of our day-to-day lives.
I recently engaged in some deep enquiry with Susannah in preparation for the recent Phoenix Retreat I taught. I was investigating a part of me that appears in our more stressed times and which is my part in the arguments and fights that sometimes break out between us (yes! Still! After 28 years!). I recognised through the Phoenix process (the extraordinary soul retrieval process that the Phoenix Retreat teaches) a part of me whose story is something like: ‘if you show them they can hurt you, they probably will.’ I was not surprised to see the root of this story in my ancestors’ experiences of persecution that culminated in the holocaust. I have known for a long time how dangerous it is to identify with any one place in the victim-persecutor-rescuer dance that has been and continues to be so much a part of our human experience. The righteous victim is not so easy to let go of. The Phoenix process seeks to bring healing to the root story behind the repetitive actions of our understudies. These understudies or ego characters come into existence to protect us in times of trouble or trauma. Seeing their root and bringing healing to these original events or circumstances that created the necessity for protection helps us to live more in the present. In turn, this supports us to recognise that tiny window of choice that practice gives us before we press play and re-enter the movie we have played out countless times before.
The fact is, the past affects us right now in both useful and outmoded ways. Our ancestors have passed life onto us. We also inherit the undigested stories of their experience and these show up in our own personal journeys. We are part of a very intricate and complex web of experience that dates back to the very beginning The experiences we have had create a certain way of seeing ourselves and the world. There is always the danger of getting lost in endless trails of memory but we have found that the clear intention to heal so that we can be more present and effective NOW helps to keep us on course.
The way we came into this life, our birth, childhood, puberty and adolescence are all strong pre-runners pre-cursors for our experience as adults. In indigenous culture, initiation is intended to help us to know ourselves and our place in this world more deeply. In the mirror of what life offers us, we learn to see ourselves and our offering. In the Initiation journey we offer, the intention is to bring the resources we have as dancers in the present to the archetypal cycles of life. We dance through the choice to incarnate, our birth and childhoods, our puberty and adolescence time. We ritualise the experiences we had in order to extract the medicine from them. Our experiences, owned and digested, become our medicine. And seeing for ourselves how our own life journey has a huge effect on how and what we create as individuals and as a collective is in my view, totally vital to our empowerment and ultimately to the choices we make now that will effect how the future unfolds.
So Initiation is not for the faint-hearted. It’s for those who are bold enough to make the weave of their past into the weave of their own medicine. No matter the experience, the dancer in you has the capacity to make this so and to re-invent your relationship to the 9 Life Cycles that make up this great adventure of living, dying and being reborn. New learning is like a birth. In order for something to be born, the being-in-the-womb state must die. We go through a gateway into a new experience. Something newborn needs good mothering; something stepping into life needs good fathering; and initiation is a must for walking over the bridge from puberty and adolescence into adulthood and maturity. The knowledge that this too will die is the invitation that the Great Mystery gives us to be here and to experience today as it is.
I recently taught a weekend workshop called Beyond Muscle & Bone – Making Death Your Ally in Life. It was the first time I had taught this workshop and I spent quite a long time preparing for it. I was looking at death from several different perspectives. What is our cultural story around death and dying? How aware are we of death as a presence in our everyday life? What’s our personal relationship to the reality of mortality, our own as well as our loved ones?
During my preparation time, I also visited Japan for the very first time. I have been wanting to go there since I was a child. I used to love the films of Akira Kurosawa as an adolescent. And I felt super blessed to have the opportunity to go there and make an offering as well as receive from the depth, beauty and poetry of that land and its people. Megumi Miyata, along with some wonderful support, is holding the flame of Movement Medicine alight in the land she has made her home and it was a such a pleasure to see her in her own home, meet her family and dance with her growing community.
Towards the end of the visit, we went to Fukushima to offer ceremony close to the Daiichi nuclear power station. Before we went, I had to really face my fear of visiting a place where there is no real information about the reality of ongoing contamination levels. I thought of my life, and how much it means to me. I thought of our son, my beloved, and the dreams I still have for this life. I recognised how attached I am to my own existence. And I recognised the presence of death, an invisible presence reminding me not to take anything at all for granted. I went there to offer my support and solidarity to the beautiful people we met there as well as to offer some ceremony for the land. It’s a magnificent place, and the work we did there in the traditional home of a well-known Japanese artist, touched me very deeply indeed. I pray that as a species, we learn to recognise the gift of life before we steal it from the generations yet to come.
If it’s time for you to take the Initiation journey, we will very much look forward to welcoming you as a valued member of the crew. The ship sails in September.
Until then, wishing you all a moment of peace to taste the breath, to honour the body, to let life be expressed through you as it was meant to be.
With my love and respect for the one you are.
Ya’Acov DK, June 2015