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Strange and Wonderful Holy-Days — September 2021

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What a strange, wonderful and uniquely peculiar summer I have had. I do not feel I’ve been on holiday, but I have definitely been in holy-days. Life is teaching me and leading me in such unexpected ways. I feel guided, protected, stretched, challenged and grateful.

There are a few things I really want to share with you, as a lot of life and reflection has happened since we last shared with our wider MM community in this way. So this is going to be a little ride, if you are willing to take it with me. Please get yourself a cup of tea and settle in.

If, however, you would rather listen to the article, here is the link to the audio version of my article.

My 88 years old and rather frail and lovely father is living with us whilst we convert our garage into “Dad’s Den”. Living with Dad is both beautiful and challenging and we are doing well, thanks to Dad’s emotional awareness and lots of listening circles.

Ya’Acov broke his leg (see his article) and both of these circumstances, Ya’Acov’s broken leg and my Dad living with us, have led to me fondly being called “Mrs Legs”. It’s meant a lot of extra doing and fetching for me, which has been good exercise on many levels; body, heart and soul. And the inner processes which Ya’Acov‘s leg break has catalysed within and between us have opened a space and depth of intimacy which I didn’t know was possible. So, I am hugely grateful for this profound shift and therefore to his broken leg.

I thought we had gone as deep as deep could be, but I was wrong. As we travel along together, the spaces keep opening up. So, in the light of the new openings between us after 35 years of being together, I want to sing the praise of long-term relationship. Of course, this deepening of intimacy has not just happened because we stayed together. It requires that work of opening the doors to the closed places, the hurt places, the frightened places, where we are armoured as an original survival mechanism.

‘Spasms’

One of the things we are learning through our own inner work as well as our work with others, is just how early in life this protective inner armour is created which we call a ‘spasm‘ – Self’s Protective Adaptive Survival Mechanism: S.P.A.S.M.

‘Spasms’, as we understand and experience them, operate on the level of the mind, where we make all the assumptions and interpretations of reality. It also operates on the level of the heart, showing where our emotional energy flows and where it doesn’t. They are also reflected on the level of our physical bodies, our holding patterns and how alive, sensate, connected and mobile our bodies are inside, or not.

‘Spasms’ literally colonise our inner bodies with numb spaces. Almost by definition, we are not aware of them, because they are numb. What is normal becomes invisible. This can continue for ever, until something wakes us up in a moment when we have enough resources to dare, to see, to feel to be with what is there. Then, we may have the chance to re-inhabit our bodies and beings and witness ourselves afresh.

In my own personal healing journey as a movement medicine dancer, I’ve often had this kind of experience. Through deep dancing in a context where I feel safe to surrender, a part of my body may start tingling as if an inner numbness is slowly dissolving into sensory fullness, rather like the feeling returning after a dentist’s anaesthetic. In me, this is often accompanied by an emotional release that rises from the depths without being linked to any particular apparent story.

As we continue, step by step, to liberate our own embodied psyches, and to learn how we can support others to do the same, we keep recognising how “spasms” often play themselves out in apparently grown-up activities. However professional, successful or supercool any one of us might seem to be, we are, almost inevitably, at least to some extent, working on assumptions and survival strategies that were laid down very early in our lives. These default modes often have very little to do with current reality, but nevertheless, can swing effortlessly into unconscious operation when we become stressed or afraid. My own ‘favourite’ (ha ha) is the story that “I’ve got to do it all by myself. I am the only responsible person around here”. As is common with such “spasms” it’s embarrassingly untrue and yet can easily ‘run me’ when I feel stressed.

In our experience, it takes courage as well as a deep sense of safety and self-compassion to begin to acknowledge and unlock these old stories and re-write or re-wire them. And it takes good old healthy life energy, also known as movement. That’s a big part of why we love to dance and why our transformational work is rooted in movement as medicine. Movement as medicine rocks. It both energises and uncovers; is dynamic enough to help us wake up and gentle enough to help us dissolve the armour around our stuck and hurt places, and right at the centre, resonates with the transformational light of the phoenix.

Dancing it out

Last Saturday we took part in our own harvest Llamas Tribal Heart online ceremony as dancers. This was the most recent of the Movement Medicine ceremonies we are offering to mark the changing of the seasons (eight times a year) and went out live at the beginning of August. The ceremonies are recorded for those who cannot be there live. And so, strangely and wonderfully, we also have the same opportunity ourselves. We’ve done the last two ceremonies in this way as participants and have had deep personal medicine journeys, not looking at the screen, but infused, rocked, shaken and transformed in the energy of the music and the flow of the guidance, turned up loud on our best speakers.

And although a part of me is always professionally aware, looking for what can be improved, I loved receiving the ceremony that we’d created. I felt connected with the spirit of community. And I had many moments of feeling that I was at the Long Dance, alongside many of us, of you. I went deep and discovered more about my own ‘spasms’ and received guidance for my own next steps which I’m really grateful for and I’m taking with me close to my heart. All the time we were in our living room, surrounded by the things of our lives, with my father downstairs watching the Paralympics. Here is a little video of us speaking after the ceremony ended.

The certainty of uncertainty

So, the pandemic continues and we are all still faced with deep unknowns and the ongoing certainty of uncertainty. We are recognising that “live local and connect globally” is really something we need to go on living into. Even though I have been saying, rather proudly, that even before the pandemic began, I was receiving guidance that “it is time to stay home and connect globally”, I can now see the ways in which I have subliminally still been expecting things to return to ‘normal’. And I know we need NOT to return to normal, and I don’t want to, but still I have been expecting it, without even realising it.

So I am grieving for the loss of being together and sharing the deep, cathartic, expansive, connective joy (and everything else) filled spaces that dancing on Movement Medicine floors, and in Movement Medicine marquees, brings. This longing and missing reminds me of Durkheim writing about the need for what he called ‘collective effervescence’. Yes. I miss our collective effervescence.

And so, as we enter this autumn, I am taking another dose of that medicine; “live local, stay local, dance local, and connect globally”. I’m feeling the grief and the gratitude, the poignant mix of the challenge and the light of this moment in time as I am experiencing it personally. My father is 88 and rather frail and so this really sharpens our awareness of the risks and responsibilities of our choices right now.

Celebrating what IS possible

So, it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere soon. In the light of this I am so glad that, over the years, we have trained an incredible cadre of Movement Medicine professionals who bring all sorts of incredible wisdom and experience with them, and who live in all sorts of places across the world.It is locally that there can be safe or at least safer opportunities to dance together in the flesh. We hear about rooftop Movement Medicine dances in Croatia, forest floor dances in Scotland, and so many more beautiful examples of outdoor, relatively Covid safe situations being created for people to share the medicine of movement and our common humanity. And this co-exists besides the wide spectrum of beautiful online offerings from us all, in many languages and modes. Do see the Movement Medicine Association website for more details of what is being offered by us all.

Alive and online but not on screen

And we are going to continue to offer our beautiful work online. When we dived deep into that ceremony last weekend, I experienced the power and the value of this way of working in a new way for myself. Our work is available. I want to acknowledge that working in this way (online) lands much more responsibility on each participant to show up, turn off distractions and get down to it. That’s more challenging than being a room with the teacher and many others carried by the collective intent, focus and energy. But it’s also real. It’s you in your life, in your context, deciding what you are paying attention to. What you discover through this is fully yours. And through the music and the guidance, not through paying attention to the screen, we each went so deep. It did not feel like an ‘online’ experience, but a deeply personal dance of occupying more of myself as a life dancer in the heart of my own home.

If you are at all interested in movement as medicine I encourage you to try it out. Our next one includes Lua Maria as a guest musician. Lua Maria, whose sublime and powerful music has graced the Long Dance so many times. This time she is bringing her music medicine with the wonderful Josie Wild Goose. And we’ll be sending out the text to her song Wild White Horses so we can all sing along with them.

Tribal Heart ceremonies are free to all 21 Gratitudes Study Hub members. If you are a Hub member, just turn up using the Hub website (go to Events). And if you’re not a Hub member, just buy a ticket from 21Gratitudes.com and we’ll see you there!

The pain of polarisation

I want to share something now about the painful level of polarisation that seems to be subsuming our social world right now, especially on social media. The accusations that are flying around almost inevitably leave those who are exposed to them in a raised state of animal alert vigilance and adrenaline arousal. The effect of this is to make it more difficult to be able to hear others and to feel our common humanity. This can easily push us towards the survival strategy that has been called ‘flock’, as in the survival instincts of “Fight, flight, freeze and flock’. ‘Flock’ in this sense means to come together with others: our herd, our flock, our pack, our gang. This gives us a sense of safety through being together with ‘us’. However, this is where our biology and the needs of the current reality, as I see it, are wildly at odds. In my opinion, what we need now so strongly as a species is deep communication, deep collaboration, deep compassion and deep enquiry beyond the borders of those we identify with.

Counter intuitive strength

The capacity to stand strongly enough in one’s own ground to allow one to extend a warm hand of connection to (different) others is counter intuitive to the scared animal within who wants to ‘flock’. This reminds me of how, in sports like downhill skiing, sky diving and horse riding, one needs to be stronger than the fear impulse. The very natural fear impulse makes one want to curl up and inwards self protectively and this actually makes it more dangerous and can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy of danger. Counter-intuitively, one is actually safer, opening out and long (on a horse) out and wide (in sky diving) or leaning forward into the slope (when skiing). And because this happens on the level of body instinct and very fast reactions, this is deep work to create another reliable pathway of connected strength and trust.

However, the needs and fears that drive the ‘flock’ mechanism for feeling safe as part of a group take us in the opposite direction. One way to feel part of ‘my’ group is to accuse or decry those who are not ‘us’. This easily becomes ‘us and them’ rhetoric using pejorative, accusatory and shaming language to describe ‘them’. Whether ‘they’ are the government, the vaxxers or the anti-vaxxers, the establishment or the anti-establishment, the authorities or those who are anti-authority. The result of this is to confirm the simple polarisation which does nothing to mend, heal or bring us together. It does nothing to see and honour the unique individual mixture of aspects which are in every human being. It does nothing to honour the good in the other, and so does not bring it out. It confirms that we better all sit in our silos, fearful of being turned on if we venture out beyond the bounds of whatever our peer group has decided is correct. Because, though it may name itself as radical or counter-authority, this way of operating tends to be highly conformist within its own terms.

It seems to me that the pejorative language that is used about others is mostly a way to signal to our ‘in group’ that ‘I am really in’. In this way, ‘flock’ can easily become ‘mob’. And when this energy is around, we know instinctively that if we question whatever the orthodoxy of our group is, we will be next to be turned on.

Deep down, we probably all know the fear of being outcast and excommunicated. In evolutionary terms, this would have meant death. So, it makes sense that it’s so scary.

That cocktail!

It seems to me, that there is a potent cocktail of confusion, fear, anger and grief coursing through our human collective right now. Not because we are weak or neurotic, but because we are all facing an unprecedented level of uncertainty and change in our lives on all levels. Between climate change, Covid, social justice uprisings, the difficulty of knowing what or who to believe in social media and the rise of authouritarian government in some part of the world, we are facing a deep and real uncertainty about who we are and what our future will bring. In order to make sense of all these inchoate feelings, unless we can simply acknowledge them, be with them and release them, we tend to look for a focus which legitimises them. This adds further fuel to the ‘polarisation dance’ because, a really bad ‘other’ gives us so much legitimation for our (real) feelings which are asking, needing, longing to be felt, included and allowed to move through our hearts, bodies and beings.

I am mourning

For myself in losing the ease we once had to meet up in big gatherings and dance our way to the heart, to the soul, we have lost a lot. I have. I’ve lost my old work, my way of life and something that brought me profound joy and meaning. In order to let go, I need to mourn. I want all of you who danced with me over the years to know how precious those shared experiences are to me. I keep them with me in my heart. I miss you. And, at the same time I keep listening to the whispers of wide possibilities that are calling me, that are calling us. And with this, I also feel the energy of excitement and the adventure of change and evolution.

I am also mourning the loss of David Tucker, our dear friend who died this summer after a long dance with ALS. David opened up so much for my life and was a true friend. Here is a small film I made to honour his big life. Originally, it was for David himself in his last months. Now that he is gone and on the other side, I’ve adapted to honour his life and memory.

Listening in

Listening to that which guides me in early Covid times led me to create my ‘Embodied Listening’ online course which you can take solo, or with a Study Buddy any time in your own time. Even if I never do anything else, I feel that my life has been worth it, in making this contribution to our shared humanity. I am so grateful for all the support and learning I’ve received that enabled me to make this and so proud that I have been able to bring this work through and share it. My sense is that this teaching of deep listening and deep communication skills, which lead to people feeling seen, heard and understood, is the most valuable contribution I can make right now to life on earth.

As we humans try to work out how to thrive together as part of life, the capacity to communicate responsibly, to listen and to receive each other (and to distinguish between understanding and agreeing) seems to be a special key. I keep hearing about the profound difference that learning these crucial but rarely taught life skills is making to people who take this course.

Please would you help me spread the good medicine of deep listening around by letting people know about this offering that I am so passionate about? If you are willing and feel able to do this, thank you so much! Here is the link.

We are so excited to announce this:

Learning and practising listening Skills is, most favourably, of course, a shared activity. A new collaboration is about to happen to make it possible to take this course as part of a small circle of fellow travellers led and guided by a skilled tutor who is a Movement Medicine professional. This will be done in different particular languages. The 15th September is the magic day when this new possibility opens for the “Embodied Listening” course and for Ya’Acov’s wonderful Encounter (part 1) course.

So what’s the difference between a course and a workshop?

Within the 21 Gratitudes umbrella, what we call “workshops” are live happenings with one of us. For these you have to be there at that moment in time. What we call “courses” are pre-recorded courses with one of us that you can take in your own time. Once you purchase one of these you have ongoing access to it. Some of the workshops (such as Encounter part 1) are distilled and eventually become a course.

All our Movement Medicine online work is available through 21Gratitudes.com If you’re not already on it, do jump on the waitlist to make sure you hear the latest news about what we are offering.

Our sacred garden:

I want to share with you the beauty we have been experiencing as part of the 21 Gratitudes Movement Medicine Study Hub. To me it feels like a beautiful sacred garden populated by a fascinating and varied crew of people from all around the world who sincerely want to practice embodied living, dreaming and dancing our dreams into action.

Through the Hub we are getting to know our work even getter as a tool for supporting a consciously lived, fulfilled life, now, in these times.

Every month we go on a journey with one gateway of the Movement Medicine mandala, with bite sized but nonetheless potent teachings and deep experiential journeys. It’s becoming a wonderful community of embodied souls learning together and supporting each other.

Whether you are already experienced in Movement Medicine, or not at all, if you have got this far in this article, I guess you must be interested in what I am saying. If so, I commend you to come and smell the many roses in our Study Hub garden. The doors to the Hub will open again briefly at the next Tribal Heart, to which you are warmly invited.

A call!

My sense is that right now, there is a process of change that is happening on earth on pretty well every level. In this potential metamorphosis, I sense that the reality is deeply unknown uncertain, molten, fluid and in some way open. There are so many currents happening and interweaving and the complexity of those multiple interaction. Perhaps this means, and of course I cannot be sure about this, that what we each do and say, think, feel and envision and how we each therefore orientate in these times, may have much more power, in this molten place, than we may know. Between us all, and the mysterious intelligence of the dance of life itself, we are creating the future. Let us be awake, therefore, and stand rooted and strong in who we choose to be interconnected with each other and with life and dream a world we can be proud we have been part of midwifing into being. Let’s be clear about the world we choose envisage and take steps to call it into being in our dreams and through our actions. I choose to remember to remember over and over again, that though I may feel insignificant, what I choose to do and how I choose to do it, who I choose to be and how I choose to be is what matters, and is part of this great unfolding. As Bill Twist says, the future is not something that we just live in to, it’s not a pre-given, it depends on what we all choose. And at this incredible time, I am attending as far as I can to keep tuning in and listening to the whispers that guide me and doing my best to show up, fallibly, humanly, passionately and compassionately towards myself and others and this moment of great vulnerability and awesome potentiality individually and collectively and globally, I think.

If you are on the Study Hub, do have a look at the August’s lesson, mini-embodiment practice and Refuge Live class, which is all about this theme of how we relate to the future and our dreams and our roles in midwifing our part of that.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, I’m grateful for the opening that meeting the challenges of our summer have brought for us. I’m grateful to be able to live locally and contribute globally in a way that feels meaningful to me and to be part of ongoing learning communities. I’m grateful for the land I live as part of, for our extended family who live here too, for the animals I share my life with, for my amazing husband, and for YOU reading or listening all this way to the end.

Be well, wishing you every blessing, and I hope to see you somewhere!

With my love and care,

Susannah Darling Khan

Susannah’s offerings:

18 September: Tribal Heart Equinox Ceremony online, with Susannah, Ya’Acov and Lua Maria and Josie Wildgoose and Reuben DK as guests.
Another opportunity to be in ceremony together. Yay. An oportunity to connect, to let our prayers move through our bodies, to let our hearts be washed and moved and our feet dancing the earth with joy. Celebrating Life and our new ways of togetherness. Celebrating Body, Spirit, Community … all that sustains us and makes up Life here on earth.

19-21 November: Communion
Online workshop to learn and practise a skill set for mutually transformative communication skills. It will be advertised in October. Register on the waitlist to get email information once booking is open and for other updates about what S and Y are offering.

Susannah and Ya’Acov offer a regular pulse of their Movement Medicine teachings and experiential journeys in the Study Hub. Register on the waitlist to receive information about next time the gates open, which will be immediately after the Tribal Heart equinox online ceremony.