It’s Been a Long Time Coming – May 2017
Israel and Palestine
I’ve been working in Israel and Palestine the last week for the first time after a break of four or five years. It’s been a very moving time, working with a group of men from the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and then with a group in the North of Israel. On a personal level, I have never found this an easy place to visit but I am told by my guiding spirits that I must keep coming here to make these offerings.
This time, I understood so much more about the pain of my (Jewish) people. After more than two thousand years of oppression, that ‘never again’ attitude is easy to understand. I saw in the mirror of the many brave souls I met the passive aggressive ‘fuck you! Don’t tell me what to do!’ stance that I know so well in myself from so many conflicts that I have been involved in. I saw how important it is to own the rage and the grief of what has happened so that we don’t go on re-creating it again and again in the present. And I saw in so many instances how when we identify with the victim inside ourselves, we miss how much power we have, and are not aware of the effect our un-owned aggression is having on the people around us. As in the micro, so in the macro.
And yet despite all this, the soul runs deep for all the peoples of this land. When the spirit of the dance lands here, it is so colourful, so connected, so powerful and so full of beauty. And in the taxi on the way to the airport this morning, my favourite Hebrew song came on the radio. It’s a song I only play in holy moments and hearing it made my heart burst. My taxi driver, a big and burly Israeli who has lived here his whole life, was so sweet with me. I told him that I had just been called to return and go on making my offering in these lands. He smiled and offered me a tissue. And so it is. It seems that despite my discomforts with the politics of the land, these too are my people and therefore, I make this commitment to return as often as I can and offer whatever I can in these troubled and oh so deep lands.
I want to honour Samar Q’udha and Ben Yeger for all the hard and dedicated work they have been doing in my absence to keep Movement Medicine rooted here. And I also want to thank Aviya Reches for all her years of work to bring our work here in the first place. Finally, a deep thank you to our new organisers, Michal and Liat from Simply Peace (and thank you Ben for finding them). It is a pleasure to work with people who dare to dream as large as I do.
Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart
It’s been a long time coming but within the next few days, I should have my new book physically in my hands. Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart – the Real-Life Initiation of an Everyday Shaman is coming to earth after a long gestation. It was nearly four years ago, at the end of an Initiationworkshop (if you don’t know the Initiation journey, check it out) when we were doing a final round in which all the participants were naming their commitments for the journey ahead, that I made my own commitment public to write this book. It’s been one hell of a journey so far and it looks like continuing for some time.
I’d been carrying this book for several years without making any outward progress but I finally had put a month aside to start it, beginning the week after that Initiation. Every day for a month, I went down to our little lake house and tried to get going. The book was originally called Shaman’s Song.
My intention was to tell the story of my initiation into being a shaman and to share that as honestly and openly as I could. I wrote down all the major events on that initiatory journey on little pieces of paper that I tore from a notebook. Each piece had a story on it and I sat amongst them looking for the pattern that would form the structure of the book. I lit the fire, drummed, prayed and waited. Nothing happened. The blank screen on my computer seemed to be staring at me, daring me to make a start. So I did.
I struggled with every word. Nothing flowed. I realised after a few days that I was suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. I felt under pressure. I only had a month and I’d now made a public commitment and the days seemed to be shorter and shorter as the autumn closed in. I wondered what might be in my way so I did what’s a called a ‘conflicting commitments’ 1exercise to find out. I was astonished by what the process illuminated. Apparently, some part of me was rather afraid of how my book may be received, what meaning people would make of it and what pressure I might put on myself to live up to some external expectation of what being a shaman means. So, I put on some music, danced myself silly and released myself from the unconscious drivers that were in the way of me beginning. In the dance, I also realised that I needed to sharpen my intention and as much as possible, write my book in ceremony. What does that mean? It means that I understood that at the beginning of each writing session, I should drum, re-state my intention, ask for all the help available to me, and then let go and let the book come through. Well that shouldn’t be too hard I thought. Wrong!
Still I struggled. I was trying really hard to find the structure, the skeleton I could then dress with the juicy content of my story. I had my little story papers set out on the floor all around me. I tried fitting them into a tree of life structure with root stories, heart stories and stories to inspire for the branches. I tried a 9 Gateways to Initiation structure and a 5 Dimensions of shamanism structure (which by the way, is a book that Susannah and I have decided to write at some point soon). I tried a four elements structure and although I couldn’t see it then, this is the one that eventually landed. But in the cool air of a damp autumn in the valley of our land, nothing seemed to sing ‘YES!’ In the end, I realised that the method Susannah and I had used to write our first book just wasn’t going to work with this one. So, with Susannah’s love and support behind me, I did a ritual in order to see if I could contact the ‘spirit’ 2 of the book, the dream of it, and ask that dream to lead me so that I could ‘hollow bone’3 it into existence.
I lit the fire, drummed and danced. I called to the spirit of this book and introduced myself. I spoke my intention to bring through a book that explained shamanism not as a weekend workshop pastime in which we all wave our feathers, have visions and then go back to ‘real life’ on Monday morning but as an everyday way of life grounded in the direct experience of our ongoing connection to and responsibility for the web of life on which we depend.
I went very deep in that ritual and for the first time, I ‘saw’ the finished project going out into the world and doing its work. I felt the spirit of this book and I understood that for this project, the only structure that I was going to receive was the structure of making myself available to this dream every time I sat down to write and letting it unfold.
I started to write and by the end of the month, I had an introduction, a prologue and the first four chapters. I sent them off to Michelle, the wonderful commissioning editor at Hay House who had been so supportive of our first book. Even though she’d told me that it was unlikely that they would be able to publish this one, she said that she was happy to read what I had done and give me feedback. In November 2013, I got this feedback from her:
If you are wanting to put it out to your friends and students I think it will work well in the style indicated by the first chapter – but if you are wanting to aim for a broader audience and have it become a work that has insight into the nature of the shamanic experience I think you may need to pause and try a different approach.
Right now it reads strongly to me as you wanting to tell your story and has a cathartic element; that I think is a really important as a process for a writer – but it can be challenging for the reader.
She went on to say that she thought I ought to start again and let the stories speak for themselves, something that Susannah had already been urging me to do. So, I deleted my month’s work and started again. I clearly hadn’t been listening hard enough!
I was now back working with a full schedule and I had already discovered that writing and teaching require a very different mind-set and are not easy to mix. So I let go, got back to work and blocked out some space in my diary to begin again.
It took me two years to reach the same point again during which time, the last chapters of my book to be took place in real time in my day to day existence. I started to understand that this really was an unfolding. Our dear friend, Eva Chapman, had told me on several occasions that writing for her has the effect of a deeper digesting of the things we write about. She told me that she had had to relive and re-examine the events that she so beautifully describes in her powerful book Sasha and Olga. I was beginning to experience this myself. Towards the end of 2015, I was ready to send what I had written to Michelle at Hay House again. A couple of months later, I heard back from her. Her email began with the words:
“People thought your material was beautifully written and would love to see an overall structure to see how the book will develop. Would you be able to put together a chapter breakdown for me please?”
And then a month later: “Everyone here really keen to go ahead.”
I was ecstatic. And after the US office approved the go-ahead, I now had a deadline to write to. Our summer break in 2016 would have to be a writing retreat. I planned out my schedule. Working three hours a day on the book and three hours a day on our land became my dance for the summer of 2016. I started every session as I had been instructed to do by drumming, praying and doing my best to get out of the way and let the story come through. Like Eva, I soon realised that writing my story was going to be a recapitulation on a whole other level than my first recapitulation more than 20 years before. With each experience that I wrote about, I found myself re-living it and recognising the ways in which that story had become an integrated part of who I am. I shared my struggles and my insights as honestly and directly as I could and the writing flowed strongly. For the first time since I was a child at junior school who used to skip his maths class in order to finish the story I was writing, I was enjoying my writing. It was such a good time. As I was doing my project, Susannah was in the studio working on her Torch Songs album which came out just before Christmas. We worked, met for lunch to check in, and then met for the evening to share our creations from the day. Such a wonderful feeling to be creating alongside each other and I pray, an insight into what life may be like when we are travelling less in years to come.
And now here I am, on the verge of being able to share my story with you. I’ve told it just as it happened and with the strong intention that my story will help you to know yours more. And so it is. Spring time, and birthing time for me. Time to stand up inside a whole new level of who I am and make my offering. My life is so rich and extraordinary and I am so in love with life itself in all its complexity, simplicity and mystery and it seems that this is my time to step out a little more and give whatever is mine to give.
I wish you all a wonderful spring. For more details of the whole new level of offerings emerging from the Darling Khan stable, please visit our new web portal: www.darlingkhan.com where you will also find access to my book’s launch page and some very exciting offers (including a money off voucher on our first online course in Everyday Shamanism starting in the autumn). I hope the spring is springing (and the autumn flourishing for our Southern Hemisphere friends) in you too and that you and your family are well.
With 21 Gratitudes and my deepest respect for the one you are.
YDK. May 2017.
Upcoming Workshops with Ya’Acov:
May 15–21: Phoenix Retreat with Ya’Acov. Rill Estate, Devon, UK.
This intensive opens a space for a new and raw connection with essential parts of yourself, some of which so far may have been hidden behind ‘understudies’ – voices and parts that take over certain areas in our psyche, being, action and life. This workshop is also one of the stepping stones towards and apprenticeship with Movement Medicine.
Contact Roland: Roland Wilkinson +44 1803 762255; Roland@RWEvents.co.uk
June 7: Vulnerability and Power in the Shaman’s World
– talk, shamanic journey and launch of Ya’Acov’s new book.
This event includes a reading from Ya’Acov’s new book, a talk, a music led shamanic journey, and a book-signing.
Contact: 020 7287 6711; firstname.lastname@example.org
June 14–18: The Shaman’s Door with Ya’Acov. Warsaw, Poland.
In this weekend the participant and dancer can discover more of who they are today and what the personal medicines are and hold from the past. It invites to connect with that unique individual soul-energy that we carry, and engages the dancer with what is really and truly close to the heart and therefore a part of a future vision to go for.
Contact Olga Mieszczanek: +48 509 774 884; MovementMedicinePoland@gmail.com
June 3–6 July: The Summer Long Dance. Somerset, UK.
This large and annual community gathering of the community of the School of Movement Medicine is the offering of a rich and long lasting ceremony to honour and praise life on earth and all our relations in this. It is a powerful healing and trans-formative experience in which the interconnectedness of all life and all beings, including all the dancers is felt, expressed and celebrated.
Contact Roland: Roland@RWEvents.co.uk
1 A conflicting commitments exercise is designed to show us what may be in the way of us following through on changes we have every intention of following through on. We teach it as part of the Phoenix Process and as part of our Apprenticeship Programme.
2 In many shamanic traditions, the dream of something that is to manifest in the physical world first appears as a spirit in our dreams or altered states.
3 Hollow bone is a shamanic term for channelling information or healing. The shaman has to get out of the way and allow the information to come through.