School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: May 2012
The Body

By Ya'Acov

I know it sounds obvious, and I know I've been teaching this stuff for the past quarter of a century and I really ought to know by now. But after a particularly splendid evening spent playing music with Susannah and some of the other members of Tripitaka (the band we did the Shamantics night with), my dreams were full of the simplest of instructions: “Ya’Acov,” the teacher in my dream said to me, “it's all about the body.” Yes, I know, it’s an amazing revelation! Perhaps I should go into a little more detail.

Movement Medicine, though a relatively new practice, is rooted in a fusion of ancient techniques and earth based wisdom with cutting-edge modern discoveries in neuroscience and the understanding of human consciousness. Susannah and I love spending time together discussing our latest discoveries in our work. The mandala we work with is such a deep and all-encompassing koan and the more we work with it, the deeper the rabbit hole seems to go. We've just taken a week off to celebrate my birthday, and to check-in with how we, and our year, are progressing. We like to take time in ceremony for regular check-ins to make sure that we are as on track as we can be. In the busyness of day-to-day life, when decisions often have to be made under some pressure, we find it extremely necessary and useful to support each other in making sure that our actions and our choices remain in line with our deepest intentions. The way we do that is to set up a ceremonial space and to dance through the 21 stations of the Movement Medicine mandala. We hold this space often throughout the year for others, especially through the Summer Long Dance, so it’s a very good thing for us to do this simply for our selves from time to time.

During the ceremony, we will often ask each other questions to help us to deepen our enquiry. It feels very important to me to take this time to be held by the energetic field that is the heart and the core of our work. You will often hear us describing this energetic field as the Movement Medicine mesa. I love the word mesa. It translates simply as ‘table’ and it comes from the shamanic traditions of Southern America. What it means in the shamanic sense is the energetic space that a shaman or shamans have worked to create in which other people may be held and supported on their journey. As those of you who've worked with us intensively will know, we spend a lot of time in workshops supporting participants to get a sense of what it means to dance at the centre of their own circle. In essence, this is the groundwork of creating your own personal mesa. And what is at the very centre of the experience of dancing at the centre of your own circle? Yes, you guessed it. It's the body, the extraordinary vehicle that has taken millennia to evolve. The body is a gift from the Earth that we have been loaned for a short time in order to experience what it is to be a human being.

I would say that the most important contribution that teachers such as Anna Halprin and Gabrielle Roth have made over the past 50 years, is this call to reconnect with the wisdom of the body. There is absolutely no way that Movement Medicine would have come into being without the years and years of micro detailed embodiment work that Susannah and I both did (and continue to do) with Helen Poyner, our movement mentor for the past 20 years. Helen spent many years training with Anna Halprin as well as Suprapto Suryodarmo. She has helped me in so many ways. For instance, in my younger days as a fledgling movement practitioner, when I was one of those young men who preferred to travel far and wide in the land of spirit and as far away from the body as possible, Helen would often spend a whole session encouraging me to simply connect with my body. I say simply, but of course as you will know, if the body has not been a place of security or safety, then coming back to it means the willingness to clear the emotional debris of the past. In my mid-20s, it has to be said that I wasn't very willing. But life has a way so often of bringing us to the lessons we need. And so my classroom became the body. My syllabus became the material world. How to live? How to earn a living? How to not separate my spiritual dreams and visions with the everyday reality of paying the bills? In the end, I was too frightened not to face the stories and emotions that made my body feel like it belonged to the past. It became clear to me that the things that matter most to me would never see the light of day if I didn't engage fully with my own healing process. Fear it seems, sometimes has its uses.

One of the challenges of building bridges between the spirit world and the physical world is that in this material world, things take time to come into form. In the dream world, visions remain pristine. They are untouched by the limitations of this earthly realm. They are safe but ultimately useless. Worse than that, they can become an excuse to not engage with the realities of living in this world. And yet, within every dream is the blueprint for the fully realised version of itself. In the dream of the seed we plant in the earth is the reality of a healthy, mature, fruit-bearing tree. This is the language of nature and this too is the language of the body. So, paradoxically, the very road I was avoiding was the very road I needed to dance down in order to manifest my dreams. Knowing where we come from and making peace with that is a crucial Initiation for those who wish to bring their visions to earth.

The body knows about rhythms and cycles. The body feels the seasons turning. The body knows how to heal, how to resource itself as it sleeps, how to dream. The body is the temple and the playground for the spirit. I was listening to the radio the other day. There was a report about physical education in schools. Many distressed people of my generation phoned in to talk about the dreadful experiences they had in school gymnasiums across Europe. And many young people too called in to talk about how physical exertion and sweat just ruin make-up and hair and are simply not cool. In the past, the religious and political idea of overcoming the body and of dominating nature were indeed a pair of terrible twins. Losing contact with the wisdom of the body has had a quite devastating impact on us as individuals, on us as a species, and on the whole natural world.

There is a momentum in the way we live and the stories we tell. When we come into the dance studio, and we start to listen and tune in to the dancer inside us, it is not surprising that we often meet resistance. Nor is it surprising that it is difficult to maintain the inspiration that soon awakens as we engage with the dance and surrender to the creativity of the body, heart, and mind working in unison. This is a challenge for us all. How do we dare to look reality in the eye? How not to flinch as we recognise the intense suffering that exists in our world? Where does the strength come from that enables us to dare to dream? What gives us the stability and the faith to turn against the dominant tide that has us marching blindly towards our own destruction? Well in our experience, and what else do we have, it is the intelligence of the dancer that has the capacity to remind us who we are. One of the greatest sources of inspiration in my own life is that I get to see very often how quickly somebody, anybody, can transform. I am happy to report that breaking out of the trance, the sleepwalk of endless consumption is not so very difficult. I see it every week in people of all shapes and sizes, of all ages and backgrounds; I see it in you. I know it in myself.

And so as I grow older, a space to practice, and a space to remember become increasingly more important for me. To invoke and then be held by the very mesa that we have given birth to, was a profoundly moving experience this past week. As we went through the first few gateways, I found myself moving little and thinking much. The mandala was in my head. As I breathed more deeply and began to let the dance find me, the dancer inside me woke up once again. And as the body moved, I heard that ‘teacher’ voice speaking to me as clear as a bell: “you are inside the mesa now. Relax. Let it hold you.” What a different reality! The tiny world of disembodied mind popped like a bubble as my bones and muscles warmed to the invitation of the dance. All of a sudden I was connected from the inside to the space around me. I was connected to the energy of our work as an enormous and safe space in which to let go and dream.

And why am I telling you this? Well, in truth this is all a rather elaborate invitation to this year's Summer Long Dance. And specifically, it's an invitation to the dancer inside you. It's an invitation to that part of you that has never forgotten that it is already and always connected. It's an invitation to that part of you that remembers who you truly are. It's an invitation to remember what our ancestors knew. To create what we want as individuals and as a society, we need to take time out. We need to step off the treadmill. We need to dream, to remember, to give thanks, and to dance our socks off for the things that matter most to us. And the Summer Long Dance is an extraordinary community event. It raises a whole heap of money and energy for a host our beautiful and worthwhile projects. This year, our collective fundraising will be for the Pachamama Alliance’s Achuar Fund. The Summer Long Dance is a place to remember that your whole life is one long creative project made up of many seasons and many cycles. It is a place to stretch beyond your normal ideas about what you are capable of individually and collectively. It is a place to join the past with the present and to connect to the many hundreds of thousands of people around this world who care and act for future generations. It is a place to meet and work with a circle of equally committed dancing lunatics and freedom freaks and together, to weave a blanket of prayer that will warm the hearts of all that we care for. The circle is already more than half full. If you feel that one of the remaining places has your name on it, please get in touch with Roland fast and we will see you on 5th July in the middle of a field in Somerset.

Before then, I have a very full program and I'm looking forward to meeting many of you on the road. I hope you have a moment to receive the sweet, virgin greens of the spring or the riotous colours of the autumn.

Finally, we are delighted to announce that we now have the dates for the next round of Apprenticeship and Teacher Training which will begin in August 2014. Please check the website for details and prerequisites.

With love to you whatever your state and whatever your condition. As the world turns and we dance through the unpredictable landscape of the shift of the ages, please join me in taking a moment to thank this magnificent set of conditions that has given rise to the body you’re living in.

From in here to out there and back again.

Ya’Acov. May 2012.


Ya’Acov’s Spring/Summer Programme


11-13  For All Our Relations   Dublin Kate  + 353 83 370 3601

15      Bringing the Dance Back Home   Webinar     Roland +44 1803 762 255                                                                               

17      Ascension    Thun Kat +41 33 676 2708 

18-20  The Way of the Dancing Warrior  Luzern  Kat +41 33 676 2708

25-27  Fire in the Heart   London  Alex + 44 7868842219


1-3    Poetry of Presence   Amsterdam   Frank +31 71 8893253 

5    Bringing the Dance Back Home   Webinar  Roland +44 1803 762 255                                                                               

8-15   Movement Medicine Vision Quest Devon, UK    Roland +44 1803 762 255                                                                                


1-4     Apprenticeship Community Gathering     Rill, Devon    Closed Group

5-9     Summer Long Dance  Somerset, UK  Roland +44 1803 762 255                                                                                

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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.