School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: September 2011
Back on the laptop and back on the road

By Ya'Acov

After a summer of subtle changes and simple adventures at home, we are back on the road again and beginning another term of teaching. As we began this past weekend in Jersey, the leaves on the trees outside had already started to turn from the fresh full greens of the summer to the wild oranges, yellows and reds of the autumn. The weather too has been a perfect blend of summer and autumn. Beautiful sunsets on the beach followed by strong winds and rain.

As I am writing now, staying at the house of the mother of a good friend, the song of the sea and the breaking of waves is accompanying me. I love the ocean and I always have. I used to go and sit on the beach with my dog when I was a boy and contemplate the mysteries of life. If I don’t get enough time by the sea, I’m just not myself. And so it’s been lovely to have time to watch the waves and hang out with Susannah with nothing to do. As we watched the sun set over the sea on the last day of our holidays, my old early September friend sweet melancholy descended as some kind of ‘going back to school’ leftover. This time, however, there was a difference.

As Susannah has written about in her article, her parents have both been in hospital over the summer. For the most part, in our modern culture, we are rarely aware of the cycle of life and death that we are part of. Since the very first time I worked with shamans, death became a strong presence in my life. I was taught in many ceremonies to ‘make friends with death’ and to ‘ask death to be my teacher.’ Next week, I will run the burial of the warrior ceremony again in Orval. As is usually true for this workshop, numbers are small. It seems that the idea of digging one’s own grave and spending the night in dialogue with death is perhaps one step too far for most of our participants! I don’t blame anyone for that. Why invite the presence of death into our awareness before it comes knocking by itself?

One of the mini-adventures we had this summer was a dream workshop that we participated in and blessings of blessings, it took place in our own living room! We found a teacher whose name kept coming up and we both felt attracted to working with him. We invited a few friends over and very much enjoyed receiving some beautiful dream teachings from a Tibetan dream yoga perspective. Why mention it now? Well, in the story that was so beautifully weaved for us by our new teacher, he told us that for the Tibetans, falling asleep is much like dying. We were invited not to fall asleep but to try to abseil gently into sleep so that we could keep our awareness awake as our bodies fell to sleep. We were told that the lucidity that one can achieve in practice through dreaming is a wonderful practice for dying (and therefore crossing the bardoes) lucidly. I’ve always been a fan of dreaming and lucidity has come and gone for me for years in my night time adventures. To have a teacher again guiding us has been a beautiful addition to our daytime adventures and we are enjoying this new approach to dreaming very much. In essence, abseiling into a lucid dreaming state is very much how I might have described my own experience of the burial ceremony and the deeply moving and transformative conversations I was able to have with the reality of my own mortality that followed. What a difference to my life that ceremony and the many other burial ceremonies that followed it made to my life. Death has the habit of focusing us on what truly matters and since that first grave I dug in the hot sun and baked earth of La Val Dieu, I have been very much focused on what matters most to me in my life.

When it comes down to it, I love living here on earth. I love the adventure of it all. I love the art of life. The way the moon and the water dance together and the way the currents cross, creating racing white horses of foam as the tide turns. So, there we were, watching the sun setting, our summer holy days coming to a close. I was feeling closer to Susannah than ever before (and still amazed that love is truly a never-ending adventure that just takes us deeper beyond depth). We had just said goodbye again to our son and his girlfriend as they headed off up the coast on their own adventure. It was a perfect evening. For the last hour, we’d been watching some masterful kite surfers playing in the wild Atlantic surf. As the sun began its final approach to kiss the horizon good night, a young surfer went out into the growing surf. We both hoped that he was wasn’t suicidal as, to our eyes, the ocean looked like she was in no mood to play. But he too was masterful and we both watched in amazement as he dived under the waves and with impeccable timing, arrived quickly in the place he wanted to be. He rode wave after wave with such poise, strength and finesse. What a dance! What courage in the face of the unpredictable rise and fall of the ocean! And guess what I found myself thinking? I found myself asking if I could manage that. I wondered if I would have the courage to commit to that vertical drop down the face of the wave. Earlier in the day, I’d had my first go at paddle surfing on a big board. I fell off again and again before I finally caught a wave. Well, I say I caught it but it was more like it caught me! And looking down the face of the wave and clueless about what came next was quite a moment. Needless to say, I lost my balance and fell into the white water. The wave was strong enough to tumble me a few times and the board and its sharp fin dangerous enough to have me protecting my skull! But part of this year’s dosage of autumnal melancholia was the realisation that what those kite surfers were doing and what that young surfer on the sunset shift was up to may well and truly be beyond me. I am noticing a shift and some parts of me ain’t that delighted!

Some of our best friends are in their mid 60’s. They’ve been complaining about the rigours and demands of growing old (with great humour!) since we met them. Well, here I am, in my late 40’s and just getting the first whiff of what they’re complaining about. I don’t want to lose my strength. I don’t want to wear glasses when I’m typing but guess what? I am! And more than that, much more than that, I don’t want to lose touch with my beloved Susannah, our son, family and friends when death comes calling. And yes, as the years pass, death comes little bit by little bit more into focus. The thought that I might just fall asleep when I die and lose contact with those who I love is driving force enough to have me practicing lucidity with new determination. And the dance certainly helps. Dreaming lucidly is of course a practice for living lucidly which is practice for dying lucidly. And who knows, digging those graves and beginning the long conversation with the impermanence of this body may just help a little too.

Well there we go dear dancers, this is this year’s last invitation to pick up your shovel and dig and as the leaves do their autumn jig, look at your life with the help of death’s benevolent presence. I wish you and all of us a fine abseil into autumn. I’m looking forward to all our projects this Autumn beginning with our first webinar, and including trips to Belgium, Holland, London, Cape Town, Israel and Switzerland. We also have the second module of our first teacher training on the horizon and that means a whole juicy crop of Movement Medicine teachers and facilitators stepping out into the world to share their love of the dance, maybe with you. May your harvest be rich and your preparations for the winter kindly. All power to you dear crazy dancers and dreamers of the MM community. I hope to see you soon I on some dance floor or other.

Ya’Acov. September 2011.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.