War & Peace
37 Years of Marriage and the Road to Peace
Greetings dear Movement Medicine Tribe,
I’ve been travelling and teaching in Paris and Zurich over the past two weeks. I am super grateful to have such meaningful work which allows me to integrate what is happening in the wider world into the ceremonies that are always part of my weekends. And, I have been struck by the massive gap between my own freedom to travel and the peaceful scenes I travel through and the horrific next chapter of conflict in Israel and Palestine. Watching the green fields of Autumnal England passing by, so peaceful and quiet and wet, I find myself wondering about the delicate and vulnerable tapestry of life, love, and the boundless potential for war and peace that rests within each of us. Unsurprisingly, war and peace are the subjects I’m with more than any other recently.
37 Years of Sacred Union
The horrors unfolding in the Middle East have affected me more than any of the numerous other conflicts and challenges we seem to create. And at the same time, I’ve been deeply immersed in the harvest of 37 years of marriage with Susannah, the most tangible result of which is a passionate peace between a man and a woman. The war between the sexes has been going on longer than any other. To have found that peace is perhaps the thing I’m proudest of in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. We are far from perfect. We have our little skirmishes when time is short, and the heat is on. However, the honeycomb nectared delicacy and power of that private space between us is far beyond anything I ever imagined to be possible.
And the truth is, the enormous levels of safety, trust, courage and consciousness that are required not to fall back into acting out the wounds of the past, have made me realise how hard genuine peace between apparent opposites is to achieve. We think of relationship as the most intense spiritual practice. Sure, being peaceful in a beautiful place by oneself may have its challenges. But living with someone for what is now approaching four decades and working together for a shared purpose – now that’s where the shit becomes visible on its way to hitting the fan. And it’s a simple fact that the refuge that is the space between us is the strongest source of anything I manage to achieve in this world.
War & Peace
After a break of seven years, we recently ran our Movement Medicine for couple workshop, Forging Understanding, Communication & Kinship (or F.U.C.K. for short) in the Space Between Us. Some brave people have seen fit to challenge our use of the word F.U.C.K, finding it to be offensive. But for us, it absolutely isn’t in any way glib or meant to offend. Making love is sacred. Or at least, it can be. And much as many in the modern world like to celebrate the soft, yin aspects of life and criticise the hard, yang aspects of life – for us, this is entirely a matter of war or peace. It’s certainly true that yin and yang, just like everything else, when out of balance with one another, tend towards the shadowlands. And it’s true that for many relationships, the constant undermining of one another, the undercover sniping and the lack of listening, tend to end up in the violence of a slow death by compromise.
But imagine this. Yin, in all of us, celebrated, honoured, relaxed and released into its watery depths, protected so honestly that flowering is the most obvious and effortless of choices. Yang, in all if us, protective, upheld, upright, shining with the light of fiery, outgoing, physical desire. Imagine these within you, and between you and a lover. And then imagine the blessing and the creativity and the prayer of what we mean by making love. In long-term relationship, if the intimacy isn’t deepening, then the sex isn’t getting better. If the sex isn’t getting better year by year, the older you get, then something, somewhere is out of sorts. And what better way to work with that than with the embodied, shamanic practice of Movement Medicine.
Our philosophy means that we treat past emotional wounds and life’s inevitable challenges as gateways to empowerment, dignity and responsibility, rather than as excuses for ongoing bad behaviour, blame and revenge. Simply put, if we don’t heal the past, we will repeat it. If we continue to identify ourselves as powerless victims of other people’s aggression, we are giving in to the conditions necessary that lead to war. Yes, really bad things have and are happening. And justice is worth giving our all for. And the past needs to be honoured, remembered and heard. But the meaning we make from it. That’s a job for the soul. That’s the raw material from which we create war or art. And in making art from our suffering, we change our relationship to it and create the ground for peace.
This is challenging enough between people who know and are in the continuing journey of learning to trust one another. In situations where trauma has boiled over into revenge upon revenge, where the trauma vortex is in its full hell on earth eruption, these words become almost meaningless, reserved only for those privileged enough to have the time and resources to wonder why.
As this latest round of more visible violence has erupted in the Middle East, I’m sure like many of you, I’ve found It devastating. I feel ripped to shreds by the suffering. I have felt the fury that could so easily lead to revenge. I have felt the wounds of the holocaust and the 1000 years of antisemitic racism that preceded it, opened up wide by the horrors of October 7th. And I felt such deep shame that my people, in the form of the government of Israel, has seen fit to administer a collective punishment that has resulted in the deaths of more than 3000 children. I understand the wish to destroy Hamas. I may certainly feel the same if I had a group living next door bent on my family’s destruction, whatever the situation.
However, history shows again and again, that attempting to destroy your enemy in this way is generally the best recruitment campaign for future enemies. Peace and security for two peoples has to be the goal. And the murder of innocent children on both sides takes us further and further away from that outcome.
I get that it’s impossible for me to really understand the threads of geopolitical intrigue that also have their oars in this muddy water, stirring this way and that. And I get that begging the Israeli government for a humanitarian ceasefire only sounds to them like a recipe for Hammas to re-arm. This is the issue. Two peoples, each bearing ancient and very recent scars, and each carrying genuine claims and rights, need the powers outside of the situation to drop any other agenda than doing absolutely everything in their powers to create peace. It seems impossible. And it would take the kind of bravery and courage shown by the Parent’s Circleand Extend, to make the impossible possible.
I will never stop praying and working for that. Despair is an inevitable feeling. But we must not allow it take over. There is so much beauty, ingenuity and soulfulness in our species. I see that every weekend I teach and on our Study Hub.
The Road to Peace: John and Yoko were right (make love not war)
Peace starts at the micro-level. With individual hearts and the courage to communicate and to listen. Dance as prayer, dance as physical release, dance as healing for trauma, movement as medicine – this is what our work is all about.
Relationship as spiritual practice is a tool for peace. By learning to navigate the turbulent waters of human emotion, ego, and vulnerability within the consensual, co-created ground of sacred union, we discover two things. One, making love in a passionately peaceful yin-loves-yang-loves-yin creates, literally forges love that wasn’t there before – and that is not just procreation. It is a sacred act of creation. And two, the refuge and the healing this provides, and the work that it takes to make this space a reality, teaches us and prepares us for the quest for making more peace in a world wrought with chaos and unhealed trauma. I recently read the true story of the Tattooist of Auschwitz. The protagonist, Lale, not only managed to survive, but he also managed to find his soul mate in Auschwitz. Even in that hellhole, love flourished for Lale and Gita. Unbelievably, they refused to dim the fire of their passion for each other and lived to tell the tale and have decades together afterwards. If they could, so can we.
Peace is a verb. It’s a state of being and it’s active – requiring us to make conscious choices, take responsibility, and most importantly, extend our understanding and compassion beyond our immediate circles. Peace isn’t just the absence of conflict but the presence of justice, of love, in a more universal form. It moves us beyond caring only for our own. It brings us to the possibility these times are crying out for. The evolution of Homo Sapiens Sapiens into what we have started to invoke as Homo Sapiens Benevolus.
Thank you for walking this path with me today, even if it’s just for a few moments in the world of words. May your own journeys be filled with the same sense of wonder, love, and the endless possibility for peace.
In kinship and spirit,
Ya’Acov Darling Khan. November 2023
P.S. Prayers Up. Every morning at 7am, we will be sitting in prayer simply to stand alongside the people suffering in war and I invite you to join us. Thank you.