School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Dancing with Bones & Rainbows

By Jayne Bullen
A while back I went on my first bone-throwing session with a local Sangoma (a South African Shaman). Sangomas work with bones and actual parts of animals they throw them as a divination tool. Whilst there are parts of Sangomaism that I love and have worked with for many years, for some reason I had avoided having the bones thrown for me.

It had a ‘Muti’ stigma to it for me that linked into the many very damaging stories in Africa of inappropriate use of animal skins, horns and bones and sometimes human parts, for what sangomas call Muti. This isn’t a regulated industry and sadly the few bad eggs in it damage the sentiment for all the amazing work that sangomas do. Despite this, off I went, nervous about this mysterious process and eager to learn and experience something new. The session was profound for me. After the sangoma sang in tongues and called in the spirits to support this offering, he took out what looked like a wild cat skin and shook it around, chucking its contents out on the rug in between us. What followed was one of the most profound, exquisite and accurate explanations of my life to date,  current condition and advice on how to work with the elements in my life that I am still drawing from on a daily basis.

My inner skeptic was calmed and he explained to me that the ‘bones’ are like a microcosm of the real world and that a session like this, in unspoilt wilderness could be done with a walk around in nature instead and that the actual real animals that the bone represent will offer themselves in this way.  Yes, but unlikely I thought to myself that in an hour you would encounter buffalo, snake, rhino and many other animals lurking around waiting to send you a special personal message. But I kept the thought to myself and danced off enjoying and absorbing all I had learnt in this session, expanded by it.

The relationship between Movement Medicine and the natural world exemplifies and connects my love for the dance with the natural world in a way I never understood before and had only felt. It helps me to better contextualise the dance into my own life and the planet at large. I remember many years ago on the Alchemy of Stillness workshop with Ya’Acov finally feeling in my body for the first time the dance between the dance space and the garden outside. He had told us to not talk during one of the breaks and to go and find a quite spot alone in nature to ‘be’. An hour later, hanging from my secret tree in the garden of Croydon Hall, it really hit me clearly in my body that the dance floor is just simply an analogy for the world and life. A ritualised space like the bones that the sangoma throws, created by us to represent the world and nature, to allow us to do the work we need to do in a safely contained space near to where we live. We don’t have to go alone to the wilderness to reconnect often. Like a theatrical stage, the dance floor presents itself to us time and time again as a ritualised ‘place’ we can come to better understand our own humanity within the context of our animal bodies. Instead of heading out to wilderness alone on a vision quest invoking nature in, it gives us a city-based, tangible and accessible way to bring nature back to us and to bring the wild within us into movement.

So there I was, hanging from this tree and my breathe doing a stillness dance with it. Back later that day on the dance floor I did my first Really Rooted dance. That tree has stuck with me since then. Its stance and majesty danced with me that day and I got something intangible and remembered how Gabrielle used to say something like ‘if you think this is really about dancing you have missed the point’.

Since starting to teach Movement Medicine, I have been reminded of this conversation with this sangoma and my tree experience on Ya’Acov’s workshop. It’s been an exquisite journey into the incidental world of animal symbolism for me and as I deepen my connection to nature, some extraordinary creatures have been very clearly coming into my life in new ways and wanting to interact with me in new ways.

It started on my first class as a new apprentice teacher. Earth seemed like the right element to start with. On the way to the class I was driving quite fast eager to get there and a tortoise crossed in front of my car, Very slowly. I got out and helped it along to keep it safe and watched it slowly walk away, taking on board what I needed from its appearance into my life, I slowed WAY down and sunk into the ground of my first class. Literally a hundred metres later, a wild rabbit hopped out in front of the car.

Next came a workshop about Re-Balancing and Re-Connection through the integration of yin and yang. I got up early to get ready and pack the car and guess who was waiting for me inside my house on the stairs: a snake. Just hanging out and watching me. I defaulted to slight panic (it’s hard to tell the difference in my area between the mole snake and the lethal cape cobra) and got her outside the door and chased her off with a broom. After a beautiful morning, I get home and there she was again. Just waiting at the door for me. Very calm n cool. Hanging out. I never saw her again after that day.

Next class involved a lot of butterfly medicine and when I go into my car this magnificent creature in the pic of this post, was on my dashboard. It stayed there for a long time and wouldn’t leave.

Last week I was teaching my first City-based class and on the way into the city I had a big moment of doubt about my decision to teach in the city: I have always taught in beautiful, held places in nature and wondered if a new city venue on the fourth floor of a big concrete building was suited for me or Movement Medicine. As these thoughts came in, a massive, crisp, clear rainbow opened across the sky in front of me for just a few seconds. It was so beautiful it was pic-worthy and deserved to be shared and seen but as I grabbed for my phone to snap it, it was gone. Just for me only no one else that rainbow had been.

So now I see it clearly. How nature is always there, no matter how far removed we are from actual evidence of it. Offering me advice and guiding me in the direction I need to go. Often I have simply not noticed, shut nature out, not listened, not seen and been numb to her endless, constant teachings. I have done the same to my body too at times, ignoring obvious messages and having another cup of coffee instead to get through a gruelling work day. In the city there is still the sky above us and earth deeper down through the concrete slabs. We have access wherever we are to whatever we need if we choose to invite it in, to squash our inner skeptic. And to believe.

So, for now I will teach one City class a month, and one Nature class a month. Hout Bay the last Tuesday of each month and in Salt River on the first Thursday of every month. I will keep listening and looking for what nature has to tell me. Join me!


from Cape Town

Here is my FB page if you wish to find my local classes and connect.!/movingbodyjayne




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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.