Encounters With Life
By Ya’Acov Darling Khan
Hey guys, we’ve just passed the darkest night of the year, the dark moon closest to the Winter Solstice which always coincides with the 4th night of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of light. As we hurtle ever onwards on this mysterious (and perhaps increasingly so) journey as human beings on earth, I’m here to share a few thoughts as we cross the bridge into 2021.
There’s no doubt that this has been a year in which I’ve been glad for all those years of disciplined practice. Whether it was T’ai Ch’i, 5Rhythms, Ch’i Kung, ceremony and of course Movement Medicine, I’ve been digging deep into all that flow, all those tears, all those prayers, all those mornings when I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. I recently challenged our community of apprentices to be doing a minimum of an hour of practice a day. I’ve been doing on average two. Not to push myself or to impress anyone. But because I’ve needed it.
The physical stability that embodiment practice brings gives much more ground for emotional fluidity. I’ve cried more this year than ever before. Sometimes out of the sheer agony of the ways we hurt each other and call it justice. Sometimes out of the pain of recognising my own stubborn holding on to ideas and stories that are always on the look-out for any whisper of a hook to hang them on. At some point with Susannah recently, I was in the theatre piece of cold, cut-off menacing quiet, digging my heels in about some issue or another and I just woke up, like getting lucid in a dream. ‘Yes, it’s true. I’m hurting. And so are you. And I think I’ve been over this ground enough now. I’m going to be responsible for that pain I feel and make my love for you more important.’ What a liberation! Perhaps at the ripe old age of 56 and eight months, fast approaching the age that my papa died (56 and 11 months) I’m actually starting to grow up.
I’ve been challenged to my core at times but what I kept on discovering is that who I am is right there, at my core. And life just has this way of providing the perfect petty tyrants who are button hunters – just looking for any sore spots to mess with. Well, if we teach that Movement Medicine is all about learning to dance WITH whatever life brings, then we’d better be practising it.
I like the at home version of myself. I get up at 6am. Susannah and I share our dreams and our plans for the day with a little tea ceremony. This is now infused with the oxytocin of puppy life. Our little Moxi is up and raring to go at 6am too. And we’re both learning how to make space for what she brings and what we all need. She’s a medicine dog for me – of course she is. She’s such a teacher about consistent leadership and clarity. I’m having to learn a whole new language and I’m so blessed to have Susannah at my side, with her years of learning from her ponies and her teenage dog training experience – I know I’d be making a mess of this without her. I am learning so much about myself. It’s rare that I have any crisis of confidence these days but little Moxi has managed to find those places that still need wrapping up and bringing home.
After tea, functional movement practice for strength and fitness. Then Movement Medicine and Chi’Kung, followed by cleaning out the chickens, collecting eggs and then a run down the field with puppy racing ahead and a cold-water meditation in the lake. Shower prayers follow – how holy is that warm water after the Wim Hof dip! Breakfast is followed by walking Moxi. I see myself walking our land, walking down the magnificent River Erme valley and I wonder at who I’ve become. I don’t know who I thought I’d be when I grew up. But I know that my reality has far exceeded my dreams.
My life now is much closer to the indigenous shamans I’ve worked with. Everyday rituals and simple prayer. In my practice, I feel my love for my family, our community, our apprentices and the wider community and it shapes me in simple prayer. I am consistently aware of death at my shoulder and how precious this day is. And twice a week, Susannah and I make each other our number one priority and we catch up and light each other up with where we’re at. Getting to know one person so very well and love them more and more deeply is the biggest blessing in my life.
And ceremonies arise when they need to. And they do. The pain in the world shouts at me through my shoulders, through my wrists and legs. I have to sing so loud and dance so deep to find the strength to be with the tensions and the suffering that is present. The illusion that we were on some merry-go-round fairy-tale trip to material Shangri-La has somewhat shattered for so many. What’s left is a shit storm of opposing ideologies, and opposing ideologies have usually led us onto the battle ground. Have we learned our lessons yet? Are we able to do little Daniel Schmachtenberger style sense-making yet? Dare we think and feel a little beyond our conditioned reactivities and certainties?
I can feel how much at times I want to withdraw. And one day I will. Who knows what creates change in this world – running around trying to change the world or being peace? I’ve done plenty of one. I’m discovering more about the other. My vocation means that there is nowhere to run to and there is nowhere to hide. The agony and the ecstasy dance side by side. Do you know what I mean? Again, I give thanks for the foundation of practice, practice, practice.
On the work front, we are continuing to discover so much more about Movement Medicine and these 21 gateways. Though I miss working in the room with you guys and I’m so looking forward to those ceremonies that are going to blow the roof off wherever it is we eventually get to be together again, I am totally loving the discovery of working online. Making short lessons for our 21 Gratitudes Study Hub keeps me on my toes creatively. Yes, we could put out what we knew last year. But now is the time and now is different than then. We’ve got several offerings for the Solstice and New Year. We know many of you are having to tough it out and we’re so glad that technology has given us the means to stay in touch.
Holiday Season Events Coming Up:
We’ve got our Tribal Heart solstice gig on 19th December from 19.00-22.00 (UK time) with special guest, the extraordinary Estas Tonne.
On the 29th December, we’re offering a special evening to help birth the new Kaylo platform into the world alongside Eliza Kenyon, Ben Tree and Maaianne Knuth from the Kufunda community in Zimbabwe. It’s FREE. Please check it out here.
And on January 2nd, we’re offering a special New Year’s event called Re-Generation from 15.30-17.00. The information for this event will be available here on December 20th after the Solstice event.
Special Event Online Study Workshop Coming Up in February:
Encounter – The Inner Shaman in the Modern World Part One
I’ve been dreaming of how to bring my own particular predilection of working with the Inner Shaman to you guys more deeply and I’m delighted I’ve found a way. I’m going to be offering an intensive (I do mean intense – it’s not for the faint of heart) 6-week course from Thursday 25th February to April 1st.
This will be Part One of a 4-part series working deeply with the four parts of my book Shaman – Invoking Power Purpose and Presence at the Core of Who YOU Are (Hay House 2020). Entrance to the course will be by interview. I’ve got a strong team of 15 assistants and you’ll be able to see full details at www.21gratitudes.com in the New Year.
Here’s a little excerpt from the write-up:
The course has limited numbers and is for committed seekers. It is for people who are determined to make the very most of their lives, by embracing their biography, their ancestry and using it all as material to create with. It is not for space cadets who think of shamanism as a competitive journey to have the most far out experiences as often as possible. It’s for people who wish to know who they are, where they come from, what their medicine is and most importantly, wish to make a positive contribution in these changing times.
In short, this course may be for you if you wish to:
- Stand Up – and be more of who you are in this world
- Grow Up – and take more responsibility for your life
- Play Your Role – and be more of service to the evolution of our species
- Build a solid and useful bridge between your sense of the mystery of life and your day-to-day
OK dear fellow humans, this is from my heart to yours. May the season bring the power of peace to you and your families and to all our relations. The Mystery really is Great and the time is now. One of the beautiful things about this past year for me has been to discover more of the dignity and strength of my own Jewish ancestry. And so, to end, here are some words from the Talmud that I have found particularly helpful in these last months.
With love and 21 Gratitudes for the chance at another journey around the sun.
YDK. December 2020.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Walk humbly now. You are not required to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it.”