School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: December 2011
Who is this Dancing Warrior anyway?

By Ya'Acov

I am often asked why we use the word warrior in the context of The Way of the Dancing Warrior workshop. Having just spent the last week teaching that workshop in Israel, I wanted to share a little of how I see the role of the warrior in the dance and in life. Early in our shamanic studies, we were taught about a concept called the “warrior’s freedom.”

Our teacher, a large Austrian man named Batty Thunder Bear Gold, taught us that since there is no inherent meaning in life whatsoever, and since as human beings, we are story tellers, we may as well find a story which makes our hearts sing, gets us out of bed in the morning with a spring in our step and generally gives our existence a sense of dignity. Choice of perspective is the warrior’s freedom and it is the warrior who has the commitment, determination and dedication to succeed in setting their perception free.

I remember how I found this perspective very empowering and exciting when I heard it for the first time and I recognise how it has become woven so deeply into the fabric of my day-to-day life. It’s not a nihilistic perspective. If anything, I find that it frees me to trust my own heart more and to commit to the things in life that truly matter to me. The warrior’s freedom concept has given me the feeling that I am dancing with life. As our dancing journey evolved alongside our other studies over these past 24 years, a new story named Movement Medicine gradually, and step by step, emerged in our lives. At the heart of this story is the experience we have had time and time again that the dance of life and the dancer inside us are perfect partners. You might say that they were born to dance together. The Great Choreographer provides us with the score and the dancer has all the tools that they have learned on the dance floor to create with whatever life brings. As we all know, the Great Choreographer likes to drop the odd challenging situation or two along the way. And how we respond to the challenges of life is the territory of the Dancing Warrior.

The Way of the Dancing Warrior intensive workshop maps the journey through a series of archetypal stations along life’s road. We need courage and commitment to be able to dance as deep as we can and enter safely into the shadow realms. The intention of the work is to be able to ritualise in movement the journey from the Unconscious or the unknown, through the Victim/Persecutor dynamic, to the Survivor who stands at the crossroads, able to see what has been, what is, and what may be. It is remarkable that we can survive so much and still be able to make the choice to heal and create something different to the experience we and our ancestors have had so far had of life. It is here that we meet the Artist who recognises the capacity they have to take the ingredients of their life and to truly create with them. Once we have direct experience that the dancer inside us, with the help of deep practice and a strong circle, can dance with and through anything, then we have entered the realm of the Dancing Warrior. Once we know we can, the question remains, will we? The “known” as painful as it sometimes is, has the comfort of being known to us. To challenge the story that we are victims in the situation, or to challenge the cold and distorted “power” of the persecutor who thinks that their violence offers some sort of protection, we need the strength, dedication and total commitment of the warrior. So often, in the very moments when we need to use the medicine we have gathered, we don’t. It is the warrior who gives us both the strength to change this and the compassion to kindly acknowledge when we don’t.

I wish I knew what it was that makes the difference between someone who collapses under the weight of their experience and someone who takes this same experience as the motivation to heal, restore their dignity and make something of their life. To look upon all that has happened as the raw materials that life has given us to create with is not some fluffy, new age fantasy. It takes effort. It takes the willingness to feel the pain of the past and to transform it step by step through your art. It takes an embodied imagination to be able to dream a new outcome through the sweat of the dance. It takes the willingness to keep showing up and to recognise that whatever we meet on the stage of life is a part of the collective theatre of the human drama to which we belong.

When we begin this work, it is remarkable that all the characters that have had a significant role in our lives are there in the room, on the dance floor, waiting to dance with us. Yep, he reminds me of my father, she talks just like that woman who betrayed me, and yes, there are the ghosts of 1000 stories waiting for us to release them. For instance, if we have a challenge with authority, isn’t it amazing how we keep meeting the very challenge we are trying to deal with. I so remember how many vicious police officers I met when I was active in the Peace Movement through non-violent direct actions. Here I was, all sweetness and light and non-violence, and lo and behold, the one who arrested me was always a nutcase who seemed to take a particular dislike to me. I couldn’t understand it until years later, I realised just how much fury was hiding behind by pacifist smile. These men, doing what they were charged to do, became mirrors of my own unexpressed rage. Once I took ownership of it and recognised it for what it was, strangely enough, this particular flavour of encounter disappeared entirely from my life. Make of that what you will.

It is so easy to blame others for our experience. We humans are experts at coming up with all kinds of reasons why what is happening between us must be your fault. We have experienced this a thousand times through the 25-year dance of our own relationship. To create the kind of trust we have now has meant to be willing to take the risk of showing up with each other in our most hurt and vulnerable places. Not just once, but time and time again as the love between us deepened and took us closer to the draw bridges around our hearts. It is the Dance and more precisely, the Warrior inside us who has given us the strength to be vulnerable enough to learn to truly love. And for me, this is the true purpose of getting to know the Dancing Warrior inside us. The Dancing Warrior has a tool kit and keeps it handy and available for all situations. What they learn on the dance floor is a practice for the dance of life. It may take them years to build that bridge. Along the way, they will forget many times. But they will come back to what they know and to the incantation that is tattooed on their soul through thousands of repetitions. Choice is primary. Not in what happens. But in how we dance with what happens.

As Einstein so clearly put it, we cannot solve a problem using the same paradigm that created it. When it comes to the victim/persecutor dance that has been our regular diet for so long, we have to recognise that it is destined to be stuck on repeat for ever until someone has the courage to break the chain. This is true in our relationships with our selves, with each other, and between communities and nations.

If we are fortunate, at some point, we recognise the help that life is offering to us, and we come to recognise that whatever has happened, we are still here, the heart still beats, and the flame of life still burns in our cells. We have survived and the survivor begins to see the slightest of cracks in the story of blame and counter blame and at this ‘eye of the needle moment,’ a new story can begin to be told. How this step happens is a mystery. Some people, maybe most, never take it. Some seem to be propelled forwards in their determination not to repeat the suffering they have experienced. I am reminded of a great woman who I have mentioned before called Grandmother Thunder. She came out of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp as a teenager, a survivor, determined to dedicate her life to peace and to making sure the kind of degradation she had experienced would not be passed on to future generations. What gave her this strength I do not know. I honour her for it. I honour all of us for the times we make this choice and for the times when we are not able to. I honour all the participants on this past workshop in Israel who dared to enter this territory and who knows, may have made more space for the dream of peace to land in this troubled region. And I honour the dancers who came to Beit Jallah, and Ben Yaeger and his colleagues in the Combatants for Peace Movement for organising the dance meeting that happened there after the workshop. They are also truly dancing warriors.

One thing I do know is that Movement Medicine, just like many practices before it, has arisen out of the passion to support people to recognise that they have a choice. The Dancing Warrior inside you knows this. And I hope that one day, if you haven’t already and if it be your will, you will get to know this archetypal force inside you.

As those of you who work with us know, we live by the knowledge that our philosophies and teachings are a story, not the truth. We don’t presume to know what is true for you. We only wish to share our experience in the hope that it may be useful, either because you recognise it as true for you too, or because through disagreement, it takes you closer to what you know to be true for you. I say this here because I recognise how easy it is to ‘blame the victim’ for not being strong enough to change. One thing we do in the intensive version of the Dancing Warrior workshop is to take the victim and the persecutor and hold them in our heart. To exclude them and their reality from the dance is not the art of radical inclusion that we are attempting to practice.

So dear Dancing Warriors, if I may be so bold to call you so, we move towards the end of another year. We have three gigs in December before we take a break over the New Year. Last week, we worked with all the apprentices on the second module of our teacher training. Many of them have already begun taking Movement Medicine out into the world and we are excited to see their excellence and diversity as they grow into their offerings.

We have the last webinar of the 2011 on December 13th. The quality of the last one was so much better and this time, we intend to host a half hour session after the webinar so that you can share your experiences with other dancers around the globe. Our last gig of 2011 will take us back to the Waldhaus in Switzerland for Returning Home.

I wish you a peaceful and creative Winter Solstice time and all good things for the festive season and New Year. As we finally enter the mythical 2012 (and who knows what that will bring!), I wish you the strength to be who you are and the joy of giving what you’ve got. You may as well.

Finally, please raise a glass and join us for the School of Movement Medicine’s 5th Birthday celebration  on January 10th.

With love and deepest respect to one and all.

Ya’Acov. December 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.