Another Year to Live, Love and Learn on Planet Earth – February 2016
I’m on the road again for the first time this year after spending six weeks working from home. And what a six weeks it has been. My year began with family and friends over New Year. Then our son left on his second vision quest journey and we plunged feet first into our 28th year of teaching.
We began with the first module of our third Professional Training, a 9-day module in which we have the fun of sharing the ‘what, why and how’ of Movement Medicine with a circle of committed travellers who have all completed our apprenticeship programme. These people have all made the choice to learn how to use Movement Medicine professionally, either to teach movement or to integrate the principles and practices of MM into other professions in which they are already trained. Some of them are now already out there making their first offerings and we wish all of them well as they take these first steps. I remember how terrified I was before offering my first movement based teaching in 1989. I spent the week having nightmares about all the things that could go wrong. As Winston Churchill is said to have heard from a dying friend: I was very worried about many things in my life, most of which never happened.’
Teaching others to hold space is a very different process to the privilege of holding space for others. During these 10 days, I found myself again and again recognising the value of a long time spent doing one thing. I have learned and continue to learn SO much from teaching others. As we said again and again to our trainees, the work of doing our best to wake up and be responsible, creative citizens of Planet Earth really begins on a whole new level once you decide to teach. In this kind of work, you can only teach from your own experience. On the few occasions when I have unconsciously found myself trying to teach about something I hadn’t experienced directly, people knew immediately. And for me, it was like running into a brick wall with the words ‘learn something about humility young man’ written large across it in bold letters! Having sophisticated bullshit detectors as part of a well functioning human psyche is a good thing.
One of the things that this training business has forced us to study is the question: what are the implicit foundational principles of Movement Medicine practice? Naturally, for those of you who know us, we came up with a list of 21. I just want to share the first one with you here as I feel it will give you a sense of the ground that Movement Medicine stands on. It says: ‘Life is a Mystery. All attempts to explain life are stories about the mystery. Stories are like vessels on which we can orientate and sail through the unknown. The Great Choreographer (the dance) is an expression of this mystery.’
For me, this is where all I am and do comes from. I have had an ongoing love affair with ‘the mystery of life’ since as far back as I can remember. I used to fall asleep every night for years with the same question filling my heart to overflowing. I used to love to ask in the way only children (or the child inside us) can: ‘if god created all this, like the Rabbi tells me, then what created god?’ And so now, as deeply as I love the story that is Movement Medicine, I know it as a story. As passionate as I am about this work getting out there to do its work in the world in as many places as possible, I know that as another delight of my oh so creative mind. And conversely, as much as this understanding grounds me, it allows me to be fully committed to what I choose to do with my life. One of my first teachers, Batty Thunder Bear (yep, that’s his name), reminded me of what I had known as a child and helped me to take that understanding deeper. He said that ‘a warrior knows that there is no inherent and universal meaning in life whatsoever. A warrior knows that life is a mystery. And the warrior is free to choose the story that matches their spirit.’ Later, Susannah heard from Albrecht Mahr, her constellations teacher, that ‘we don’t know anything for certain. However, as we are anyway going to make up meaning, we may as well make meanings of our experiences that dignifies life. And I would add: ‘………and that offers something back to whatever it is that gives that life to us.’
So, in that spirit, I am travelling again, firstly to Italy, onwards to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and from there, to the East and West Coasts of the USA. I’m delighted to be returning to Italy to teach after a break of a few years.
After the weekend, Susannah and I are travelling back to the Amazon and taking a group of people there along with our dear colleague and friend, David Tucker from the Pachamama Alliance. Once again, we will be in the Amazon at a critical time. We will visit territory, the underground oil rights of which have just been sold to a Chinese petroleum company. Our Sapara friends’ environment, culture and wellbeing are being directly threatened by this action and it is a desperate situation for them and the whole magnificent biosphere of life that would be destroyed by drilling for oil. It’s hard to imagine and it’s heartbreaking to do so. We go there to stand alongside them and to be part of their wish to welcome people from outside so that they can share what they know with us whilst they are still here. Like all peoples, they have very particular knowledge and it is knowledge that I believe is an important part of the fabric of life on this earth. And so we go, to be with, receive from and share with our indigenous hosts a little day-to-day time, a little prayer and healing time. They tell us that our visiting them strengthens them. They tell us that is supports them in their wish to create an alternative and sustainable way of continuing to live in health and in harmony with their ancestral lands for many generations to come. And, I really have no idea how this story will end. Nor do I know how it should. What I know is that I love the forest and the life force that sings and hums and dances so deeply through it. It is primal, fierce and wild. It is an uninterrupted high vibration-fibre-optic-cable of living connection with something that is dying in our world. It is the lungs of life on this earth and it is so much more.
Straight from the Amazon, and for the first time in many years, I will go to teach in the USA. As far as we know, it will be the first time that Movement Medicine will have been taught there. During our professional training module, we talked a lot about one of our central teachers and a strong part of the lineage of Movement Medicine, Gabrielle Roth. We felt it important for people offering Movement Medicine professionally to know something about Gabrielle’s huge contribution to this work. She was the first to teach us that dance is medicine. She was the one who gave us a road to walk down and a form to offer that was simple, juicy, live and direct. The 5 Rhythms practice was born in the USA and I am so happy to be able to return there and make an offering into the ocean of offerings that is now conscious dance practice in the States. Going to teach at Esalen is a little like a pilgrimage back to the place where Gabrielle’s work was born. We once taught there alongside her as her assistants in a workshop in the 1990’s. Much water has flowed under an infinite number of bridges since then but suffice to say, I freely honour and celebrate Gabrielle’s massive impact in my life, both light and shadow, as a simple and super valuable fact of my life.
So this will be my offering over the next six weeks and I feel many things as I am writing to you from the train on the first leg of this journey. I am always sad to leave our land. I am always sad to leave our dog with her second family. I am so glad to be doing the first half of this adventure together with my beloved. I am glad that this is the story of my life right now and that this story gives so much space to give and receive. In our Winter Dream Dance ceremony that we did with a strong circle of apprentices from all three of our apprenticeships so far, I had the experience that I was dancing within a powerful force that felt like a river. I felt this river moving through me. I experienced it as the river of life, a constant circular flow from the mountains, down into the valleys and across the plains and eventually deep into the oceans and back, as evaporation-becoming-clouds, to the mountains where it all began. I felt this eternal circle and for a few magical moments, that’s all I was.
I wish you all a wonderful Imbolc, the old pagan return-of-the-light festival. May the first awakenings of spring (or for you Southerners, the first explosive colours of the autumn) bring you health and wellbeing in body, heart and mind and may we all continue to find out who we truly are and continue to have the opportunity to give all that we can give.
Thanks for reading.
Ya’Acov DK. February 2016