School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: September 2012
Love, Loss and Redemption in the Holy Days of Summer

by Ya'Acov
It’s been quite a summer for us on our personal journeys. We spent two weeks in a pressure cooker (otherwise known as a motor home) travelling in Northern Span and Portugal following the coastal roads, seeking out the sun and landing in some quite stunning locations. We had to admit that we have finally entered the fascinating new world of middle age when ‘wild camping’ has come to mean parking in some remote spot not on a campsite and enjoying the view from a gloriously comfortable double bed!

 We didn’t plan such a fast track learning curve. We planned a holiday but day-by-day, we journeyed deeper and deeper and our holidays became holy days. We knew we wanted some warmth, some sea, some mountains and rivers, and time away from everything. We knew we were tired from another intense year of teaching and learning and that we needed some rest. What we didn’t know was that the Great Choreographer had an adventure in store for us on the inner and outer levels.

 We began exploring the beautiful coastline of Galicia after a 24-hour crossing on the boat from Plymouth to Santander. We were blessed by some beautiful weather and we ended up on a very wild bit of coast called Costa de la Muerte. We should have known from the name that change was on the horizon. We have been astonished over the past few years just how deep the dance of relationship can go. We’ve been together for 26 years now and we are discovering levels of communication, understanding and intimacy that I didn’t even know existed. It’s not that our relationship was second rate before this. If you had asked me, I would certainly have celebrated where we were and how we are a blessing for each other. We have always been committed to each other’s freedom and supporting one another to be the one we are. We found out long ago that commitment is the surest route to freedom and even though we have danced very close to the edge of separation at times, the pledges we made to each other in our wedding ceremony have proved strong enough to see us through. The deeper we go, the closer we come to the core of ourselves and of each other. And naturally, the closer we come to the core, the more sensitive we each are. And the more sensitive we are, the clearer our communication needs to be. This is true for marriage but I also believe it’s true for all our relationships, especially the one we have with our selves.

 The essence of what happened in those days could be described in two words. Being present. We lay in the sun, we swam, we did yoga, we danced on the rocks with a cluster of fishermen entirely unfazed by our drumming, songs and movements, and we played bat and ball with the worst designed beach bat and ball I’ve ever seen. And then each day, we talked. We talked about what was happening now, in the body, in the heart, our thoughts and sensations, our experience of being here in this landscape, with each other. We used the simple practice that we sometimes use in the dance, asking each other: ‘Tell me what you are.’ We discovered so many threads in the space between us that can, in the normal busyness of our day-to-day lives, become invisible until they wind around our hearts, tighten up the body and leave the mind grasping for understanding. In short, we gave each other the kind of attention we give to all our participants when we are teaching. And my goodness, so many things came into the light during this process. We weren’t trying to get somewhere. We were just being together and following the unfolding fascination between us in an atmosphere of love, intimacy and enquiry.

 One day, we found a chapel on the beach. It was dedicated in memory of the many sailors who lost their lives in the shipwreck of HMS Serpent in 1890. The words of Psalm 23 were carved into the memorial: ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’  As we stood reading the beautiful words of the psalm, I became quickly overwhelmed by the images of young men drowning, desperate to be losing their lives and connection with their loved ones so young. I felt their fears. I felt them tormented by thoughts of punishment and the hell they were sure they were headed to. I saw their loved ones back at home stirring in their beds, the body knowing, the heart frozen in shock, the mind refusing to listen. Tears were streaming down my face as I felt their loss. I promised to return later in the day with Susannah and drum for them. At the same time, Susannah had become aware of the huge amount of plastic waste strewn about the rocks, a stark reminder of the loss of soul we collectively suffer from that puts us to sleep and disconnects us from the effects of our actions. We resolved to return, clean up the rocks and then do our little ceremony in memory of the dead. We picked up two huge sacks full of plastic bottles and waste from this tiny section of boulder-strewn beach. And then we drummed. We sang to the sea and asked her to release the souls of any sailors that were still held here in their torment. We sang and drummed and offered our witnessing to those that wanted it. It was a very moving ceremony and a fitting one for what turned out to be the very last time I would use these drums that have become such dear friends to me over these years of Movement Medicine work.

 A week later, having been through storms inside, between us and in the landscape around us, somewhere high in the mountains of Northern Portugal, we were robbed and my beautiful drums were stolen. We both felt so humbled that we had been so deeply involved with each other that we didn’t notice that our van had been broken into and our bags with passports, credit cards and by far the most shocking, my drums, had been taken from us. Once we had dealt with the practicalities of losing our passports and cards, and experienced the miracle that our bags had been found with passports and cards intact, we began the process of grieving our loss. I truly felt as if two very good friends had died suddenly and without warning. It is times like these when we discover how real the ground of our spiritual practice is. The temptation to fall into old stories and clamp down on the pain we both felt was very real. But we didn’t. In my dreams, my wise elder asked me: ‘How does a shaman deal with the loss of his medicine?’ I awoke determined to find out.

 This was the second time this had happened to us. Many years ago, we were dancing in London and had our car stolen with everything in it, including drums, a magnificent Native American pipe that I was working with at the time, all our music and sound system, and all our clothes. At the time, I was upset but my connection to my medicine items at that time was much less strong. This time, I felt that a part of myself had been torn away.

 The next few days were a time of grieving on the one hand, and on the other, leaning into the gift of the time and space the recovery of our passports had given us. If they had been lost, there would have been no option other than to drive a 1000km round trip to Lisbon and back to visit the British Embassy and get hold of some official papers to be able to re-enter the UK. As well as finding the most beautiful spots we had visited so far, I also started to piece together what this loss meant to me. I followed the roots all the way back to the desecration of the temples in Jerusalem, and a profound understanding of a feeling I have had inside me since before I could talk. Earlier in our journey, I had described that feeling to Susannah as being like a circular gap I could sometimes sense in the energy around my torso. I experienced that feeling as a sense of being incomplete, as if something had been stolen. When I connected the feelings of loss for my good friends, my drums, to that experience and realised that the gap I had always felt was exactly the same shape as my drums, something clicked into place. And it was this connection that led me back to my ancestors’ experience and that of all our relations who have had something sacred desecrated, be it the temple or the great Mayan libraries that the Conquistadores burned in their attempts to ‘civilise the savages.’ With Susannah’s support, I called back the spirit energy of both my stolen drums and the soul essence that held the feeling of wholeness for me. I am not my drum. I am not the temple. I am not the library of knowledge burning to the ground. I am complete in myself. The words are easy to write and unexpectedly, so was the work of soul retrieval that this loss has catalysed. Healing, it seems, is all about timing.

 Now, I feel that the loss of my drums was a price I had to pay, a karmic debt for choices I had made in the past that were a mirror of the loss all our ancestors have suffered. Painful as it was, I recognise it as an invitation into the next step on this journey. New drums are already on the way and the man who plays them will be that much more whole for the pain of this experience.

 All this experience of the challenges of breaking through into a new level has given me another level of understanding of the essence of Movement Medicine as I see it. Any true spiritual practice worth its salt will involve times of loss and suffering. And all the medicine items in the world, beautiful and powerful as they may be, are also no more or less than tools to help us to relax into the wholeness and shape that we are. It has taken me a very long time to become comfortable in my own skin and in the realisation of who and what I am. It took a lot of practice, a lot of dancing and sweating and many times of doubt. And no doubt there is more of the same along the way. I asked the Wise Elder to describe this sense. This is what he said: Movement Medicine has been born out of the experience of two passionate people, a man and a woman, who have been bold enough to follow their spirit as it whispers through the language of the dancing heart. It’s been born out of their love and their struggle, out of beauty and pain and it is because these two have danced through this journey and been willing to stretch and stretch again that they have so much faith in their work. After all, it has been what has carried them through so much. And finally, remember that the death of one thing is but the birth of the next.

 So dear dancers, we begin the next year of our work refreshed, humbled and ready. Here we are, dancing at the eye of the storms of change, coming into the last equinox of 2012 with a new sense of balance, energy and commitment to the truth, wherever it leads. If you’re up for the adventure and want to dance as deep as you can, we’ll be seeing you soon.

 With great love and respect for all of us on this very human journey.

Ya’Acov. September. 2012.


Ya’Acov’s Autumn Programme

 September 2012

21      Peace One Day Tripitaka Totnes          Rosie +44 1803 731003

          (available as webinar)                  

22-30  Apprenticeship Module 2 (*)      Rill      Closed Group


12-14  Way of the Dancing Warrior      Johannesburg         Ryan 0825520619


16      Webinar                           Internet based         Roland +44 1803 762 255


19-23  Poetry of Presence                    Orval, Belgium        Roland +44 1803 762 255

          with Charlie Morley                      


9-11   Arc of Time                      Munich         Claudia +49 89 292644

13      Webinar (*)                      Internet based         Roland +44 1803 762 255


16-18  Way of the Dancing Warrior      Hamburg      Jens +49 40 729 100 61

23-25  Poetry of Presence                    Zurich           Kat +41 33 676 2708



7-9     Circle and the Sword                 Manchester   Elaine +44 161 881 2644


11      Webinar                           Internet based         Roland +44 1803 762 255


18-23  Heart of the World (*)      Waldhaus,Switzerland       Roland +44 1803 762 255


(*) = with Susannah

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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.