Blog

August 2019: Take residence in yourself!

 

"One thing is necessary here in this hard world

of homeless and outcast people.

Taking residence in yourself.

Walk into the darkness

And clean the soot from the lamp

so that people on the road

can glimpse a light

in your inhabited eyes. “

(Hans Børli)

 

When I was assisting my teachers on an intensive called Initiation this June, a participant shared this poem. In so few words it shares so much about what it means to be alive and to be human at this time on planet Earth.

It makes me reflect on the many moments when I am not present in and for myself or others, when I shut down and choose the seeming comfort and safety of numbness at the expense of my own aliveness. It reminds me how challenging it is to be fully alive, because it means including all of who we are, all of our experience and our feelings. And if we allow ourselves to feel, we feel it all, the joy and the grief, the beauty and the terror, the clear direction and the not knowing. And that can be quite overwhelming and terrifying. We all have our coping strategies, some we consciously choose, some that are habits that kick in without us even thinking about it. Many involve 'checking out' of our bodies because this is the place where we feel. Often, we also withdraw and disconnect from each other because when we are connected, we not only feel our own but also each other's pain.

But the poem also alludes to the medicine for our human condition. It speaks to how much we need each other. We need each other to be present, awake, connected to our own life and light (and by light I don't mean positivity or some new age notion of an enlightened state of equanimity. No, I mean connected to who we are, how we are, and in touch with what animates us, and with our own heart and soul). We need each other more than we would like to admit. We need each other in the same way we need sunlight, water, air. But we have been so deeply conditioned to fear dependence and vulnerability.

Yet, the connection with another who is willing to show up and show themselves like this, in their vulnerability, with all that they are and bring in this moment, their strength and their challenges, their knowing and their questions, can be like coming home after a long time out on the road. A place of arrival, a place of comfort and inspiration. Like water for our parched hearts.

Again and again, on Movement Medicine dancefloors I am reminded how much we need this welcome from each other. How much we long for both the being welcomed and the opportunity to welcome each other. Malidoma Somé, a West African writer and healer, talks about the perverted view we have adopted in the industrial world, that needing others is somehow bad, weak, to be avoided at all cost. Many indigenous societies, including the Dagara tradition Somé comes from, recognize that needing each other is the basis and sign of a healthy community.

In order to create space and possibility for letting others in, for inviting connection, we need to be 'at home', to 'take up residence' in ourselves. For me, it has much to do with moving back into the house of our body and being in touch with the life force that is animating it. More often than not, we are absent, letting the body transport us through life until pain or illness rudely awaken us from taking it for granted.

Movement and embodiment practices play an important role in helping us with this process of 'moving back in' and 'taking residence' in ourselves. They bring into our awareness the level of our disconnection and offer us tools to reweave the connections, to experience ourselves and each other differently. But perhaps even more importantly, if used repeatedly over time, they become regular experiential reminders of the wisdom, support, healing potential and fulfillment that reside within us and of the reality and medicine of our (inter)connectedness. And let's face it, as humans we need all the reminders we can get: we remember and forget, and remember and forget...

So I leave you with these questions I am pondering...
* how can I remember more often to switch on the light and inhabit my eyes fully as I go through my day?
* where do I resist needing others?
* where are the places and people with whom I feel safe to be myself, to acknowledge my needs and ask for support?
* how can I be more generous in my listening to and receiving of others in the expression of their needs

Until we next meet on a dancefloor,
Petra

-----------------

May 2019: Connecting to our own aliveness

"When I was moving, I could feel" (Pina Bausch)

Once, on a barefoot forest walk, a young girl asked me about meditation – how you meditate and what kinds of meditation there are. So, of course I added movement meditation to the list and we spoke about really paying attention to the sensations in our feet as we navigated the path which was at times rocky and dotted with prickly bark and sticks, at other times delightfully squishy cold and wet mud. And it made me think of how good and at the same time how challenging it can be to practice this simple meditation of paying attention to what is there, to what our body communicates to us through our senses, to what the heart is whispering… how easily we get distracted, in no small part of course due to all the stimuli constantly around us and to the time we spend engaging with computers, cellphones, etc where much is about immediacy without presence and where only a very limited part of our senses is being stimulated and asked to engage.

Movement Medicine, at its very heart is a mindfulness meditation, a way to be present more fully to the fullness of who we are in each moment. A way to listen, to put our ear close to the ground of our being and to translate the sensations, feelings, thoughts we receive into embodied expression.

When I return again and again to the basic practices of Movement Medicine, for example Awakening the Dancer (which you will have experienced if you have ever tried Movement Medicine), I am so often surprised at how immediately ‘effective’ a tool it is. Without adding any specific process or focus, it moves so much from the depths of my being to the surface.

What I found that day in the forest and what I often find when I walk, dance, move with awareness in my body, is a kind of spaciousness from which ideas, creativity, new energy flow… and of course alongside, a deep appreciation and awe of life in all its precious beauty- both the life within myself and all around- arises. And that is the nectar that gives me energy, courage and strength to get through the week, to feel and engage with all the suffering, injustice and terror that is also part of the world we live in, without drowning in overwhelm or despair or simply staying numb.

Wishing you connection to the aliveness of your own being.

Until we next meet on a dancefloor,

Petra

-----------------

April 2019: The heart that breaks open...

"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe" (Joanna Macy)

The above lines by Joanna Macy have been with me for many years. And over the years my understanding and experience of this has grown and changed particularly through the dance.

I have been in Europe since mid-February, assisting and working with my teachers Ya'Acov and Susannah Darling Khan at the School of Movement Medicine. On this trip (this particular journey now and this particular trip of life in this world at this time) my heart has been and continues to be stretched, broken and expanded over and over again. Unexpected news and changes, witnessing the illness of a family member, listening to a friend going through a challenging time, feeling humanity struggling to comprehend and take action about the state of the planet, ... the list of things to touch, grip, squeeze the heart never ends... I suspect you know what I am talking about.

What I have learned through many dances with my heart and those of others is that as much as we would like it to, this landscape of the heart does not get quieter or easier to be with. The more we delve into work with our emotions, work with our psyche, work with our individual, ancestral, collective and cultural stories, the more sensitive we get and the more we feel. But we might get more and more resourced, too. We may gain more ground to hold the complexity and seeming tensions between the different emotions we experience, we may be able to create more spaciousness and allow them to be rather than fighting them as wrong, inappropriate or too difficult.

Assisting on a recent workshop about the heart, I was surprised once again at how many different seemingly contradictory things I could feel at the same time. What a thing to acknowledge and let these emotions coexist. The heart is truly a remarkable yogi, able to stretch further than our minds can comprehend. And being alive as a human seems to mean dancing with and through the peaks and troughs of our emotional landscapes again and again and again. But as my teacher Ya'Acov sometimes reminds us, that is what the heart is made for: a heart that flatlines is dead.

As I witnessed last week on and off the dancefloor, sharing the broken, uncomfortable, shy, uncertain, unresolved parts of ourselves , as counter-intuitive and vulnerable as it may be, is a healing balm in and off itself and the way to the kind of connection we long for.

Wishing you breathing space and a keen ear to allow you to listen to your heart's stories. May you be touched by the full spectrum of your own aliveness and that of those you meet.

Until we next meet on a dancefloor,

Petra

-----------------

January 2019: The ordinary and the extraordinary

For a few months now, I have been pondering the relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary. This arose partly out of an experience on the dance floor or rather many experiences in the dance over many years. One of my stories that arises very powerfully in some dances is the sense that I am ‘not quite getting “it”’- it being something I feel I am meant to be getting out of the process we are in, or a specific experience, feeling, ‘download’ I expect to be having because it seems everyone else around me is having a special kind of experience/feeling/download, judging by the looks, sounds, gestures around me. Do you know this story: everyone is in something and you are standing on the sidelines wondering what you are doing ‘wrong’ or how to ‘get in’?

As humans we so often long for the extraordinary and spend our time trying to create it, to get ‘there’… through practices, mind-altering substances, peak experiences, trips to faraway lands, etc. In my own life I can get tangled up in the story of ‘I am not having the experience I am supposed to be having right now, there is something else “out there” that is somehow right or better or would make me feel more like I am really living life’ etc … Obviously all of these stories take me out of the moment and into a disconnection from what is actually happening, into a story of lack both within myself or within the context I am in… And of course this is also a collective story that drives the current consumer craziness which is destroying our world and : for every perceived lack, for every longing that we cannot bear to feel, there is a product, gadget, service, substance etc that promises to make us whole… And then, in a recent dance in ceremony, I was powerfully reminded that this messy awkward being human is, in some ways, all there is… there isn’t anything to be got… this is the place, this is it! Which came initially as a wave of disappointment and shock and then, in its second wave of arriving on the shores of my being, also a feeling of liberation in opening me to the preciousness of each moment…

It may sound like a cliché but I suspect I am not alone in knowing this abstractly, then forgetting and then needing reminding of again and again and again. I find dancing helps to increase the frequency of this sense of the extraordinariness of the ordinary. So does being outdoors, in nature, with non-human beings, or reading poetry… In the Movement Medicine map, we may call this the medicine of the Dancing Fool, an archetype that represents the qualities of curiosity, wonder, innocence and play. The part of us that can connect to the ordinary, for example a body part or a small mark on the floor or a beam of light shining into the space, and is fascinated and dives deep into the moment to find the gateway to awe, to life’s extraordinariness… and to the (in)comprehension of how really quite amazing it is that we are here, that life does what it does, that there are caterpillars and elephants, that our knees bend just so to allow us to dance… Where and how does this interplay of the ordinary and the extraordinary manifest in your life? Where does this way of seeing and experiencing like the Dancing Fool awaken for you? What reminds you to return to the preciousness of this moment, this life that is happening through you right now, again and again, no matter how often you forget?

Wishing you many moments of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Until we next meet on a dancefloor,

Petra

 

 

 

 

Blog
Blog