School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

Back to contents

Issue: July 2012 Newsletter
Chasing Monks & Dancing Trees

By Ya'Acov

As we were running through the Dartington Hall gardens, chasing a group of fast walking Tibetan monks, I had to stop for a moment just to laugh at the surreal nature of life sometimes.

We were at the Dartington Home Festival for the day. We’d gone there to see a local band we’ve become very fond of called Matthew & Me. We had no idea what an adventure we were in for as we left the house under the usual grey skies of late. What an incredible feast, and right here, on our doorstep! We met some amazing musicians, including the legendary Patrick Duff who we have invited to come and sing some of his no-nonsense heart to heart ballads at this year’s Long Dance. We saw some good friends, took part in an Ethiopian dance class and got invited onto to the stage to dance with the teachers, watched an extraordinary African dance group called Ballet Nimba, and spent some time hanging out with the Tashi Lhunpo Monks from Tibet. They had created a beautiful Peace Mandala and we saw them finishing it off and then blessing it. Their chanting was so strong. I felt transported to the mountains. I felt and saw the Deities they were praying to – what a strong lineage and what a beautifully complex ritual. No sooner had they blessed the mandala than the head monk destroyed it with a brush, sweeping the coloured marble powder into the centre and then taking most of it to the river where they offered it to the water to the sound of horns, bells and chanting. The English presenter had warned us that they like to walk fast and hence, after the long queue of people had wound their way down the stairs and outside again, we found ourselves playing ‘chase the monk,’ through the gardens. I felt deeply reverent and moved by their exquisite attention to detail and the dedication of so many years of practice and generations of understanding. Some of the blessed mandala sand was offered to everyone there. Our friend Sarah Patterson picked some up for us to bring to the Long Dance. Incidentally, we are delighted to say that Sarah has decided to join us again in her role supporting us to hold the energetic space clear for the Long Dance ceremony. Her beautiful new CD, Songs from Nandita’s Dream, which is part of a much wider project, is available from the Movement Medicine shop and will also be available at the Long Dance.

As we ran after the monks, I saw the funny side of the whole human dance – how complex we humans are. How many stories we tell in order to remind ourselves who we are and weave ourselves into the fabric of creation. Not surprisingly, as we are now in our final week of preparation for the Community Gathering and Long Dance, I found myself reflecting on the Movement Medicine story. As you may or may not know, the 21 stations of the Movement Medicine are a Creation Story. They invite you, the dancer, to find your own way within it, approaching and learning from each gateway through movement, feeling and story. The more that Susannah and I work with it, the deeper and wider it seems to go. I wonder where it will all lead? And like any child growing up, and Movement Medicine is only 5 years old as a practice, it will doubtless meet many challenges and unforeseen experiences along the road. The more we work, and the more mature we become in our work, the more joy it brings us. Over the years, through experience and research, we have stumbled across the insight again and again that it is through finding the way to share who we are with the wider community that we find the deepest fulfilment as human beings. And this is why we put so much emphasis on this aspect of human being in all our work, especially the Apprenticeship Programme.

Before the Long Dance, we will host our first Community Gathering that will bring together the current apprenticeship circle with apprentices from the first apprenticeship journey. As well as the dance, and the bringing together of two groups of people into a coherent team for the Long Dance, there will also be time for community meetings.  The steering group, who have been working very hard since the end of the Training to bring together everything needed to set up the Movement Medicine Association, will be reporting back and making suggestions to the community about how the Association will work. The Association will be the Professional Body that oversees all Movement Medicine Teachers and Facilitators in their work, including us. Susannah has recently been part of the Steering Group and I am very grateful to her and to all the members of that circle who have given so much time to making sure that the practicalities of how things develop are in line with the spirit of Movement Medicine practice. One practical outcome of all their work will be a website on which you will be able to find the growing number of classes and events being offered by apprentices from the first training who are now stepping out into the world as Movement Medicine Teachers and Facilitators. We had a meeting with a group of Facilitators last week and we were so touched and happy to hear about the variety of ways that this young practice is going out into the world from working with young offenders to social work situations and community art projects. In the meeting, we reflected on the sense that the timing is good and things that may have been seen as too far out a short time ago, are being welcomed as part of a growing trend of looking for new ways of working and being in the world. In our solstice rituals last week, we felt the deep tremors of change that are rumbling just beneath the surface as we come to terms with old ways no longer working, systems stretching beyond their limit and the simple realisation that if we are to survive, we have to change.

Since I last wrote for this newsletter, I took a courageous circle of dancers up on to Dartmoor for the Vision Quest. We were extraordinarily lucky with the weather given the general weather pattern in the UK at the moment. We only had two major downpours and a few heavy showers in nearly three days out in nature. Whilst out there, I unexpectedly met a beautiful new teacher in the form of a beautiful rowan tree. It was facing the southwest, the direction from which a lot of our wilder weather comes from. It had been shaped by its dance with the weather, so much so that its trunk had been hollowed out and its branches opened up as if in a wide embrace with the wind and the rain. I sat with this tree, staff in hand, looking out across the landscape, singing to the wind and begging it to carry the fast moving clouds over us without dropping their cargo of water. At one point, I felt very deeply merged with the tree. I felt its nature, its own unique form and expression and I felt how it had been shaped by everything it had faced and that its current beauty was the result of this marriage of being itself and surrendering to what life has brought it. As I ran my hands over its magically twisting branches, I felt how long it had taken for this tree to become what it is now. And of course, I was then asked by my Wise Elder, ‘so dear Ya’Acov, could you say the same thing for yourself?’ I tried it. I spoke with the wind. ‘I have been shaped by everything I have faced and my current beauty is the result of the marriage of being myself and surrendering to what life has brought me. And yes, it has taken a long time.’  I wonder if the same is true for you. I wonder how different our lives would be if we were taught to listen to nature and our own true natures as children. I wonder how much suffering we would avoid if we recognised that things of great value take time to come into being.

As I move into my late 40’s, I notice how my relationship to time is changing. I remember how a day (or even 10 minutes when I was stuck in a Latin lesson as a teenager at school) could seem like an eternity. Now, a day, a week, even a year can flash by and yet underneath it all, is a place I might call ‘no time.’ A sense of eternity or the eternal dance is never far beneath the surface. I am so grateful for the time we have had to develop our work and that in its childhood, it is so alive and creative and full of the knowledge and experience of so many teachers and teachings that went into its creation.

The teachings of the 9 cycles of life and what they bring have been part of the Initiation workshop we have offered for nearly two decades. I have learnt so much from holding this journey with Susannah for all this time and the lessons learned are becoming more and more present in our day-to-day lives as well as our professional life. There is a saying from Papua New Guinea that a participant in Initiation offered us many years ago. It says: ‘Knowledge is just a rumour until it’s in the muscle.’ Yes! I couldn’t agree more. And for something to land in the muscles, it must be walked, danced, lived and moved over many a season. As well as being an integral part of preparation for the Apprenticeship Journey, Initiation is a deep journey in its own right and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I truly believe that it should be part of the human curriculum to know where we come from, to strengthen our parenting skills for the lost children inside and all around us, to remember the tenderness and wild edged beings that stumbled though our puberty and adolescence and of course, to meet death as the great teacher it is. I hope you can join us for the next Initiation journey that begins after our summer break, on August 31st.  

Movement Medicine is 5½ years old and dance-by-dance, step-by-step, it is growing up. Thank you for being on the journey with us, in whatever way you are. It is time for me to sign off for the summer. We will take our normal downtime over July and August in order to go and stare at the sea and watch the clouds drift by and refresh ourselves for the 2012 run-in. At around that time or just afterwards, if you are on our postal mailing list, you will be receiving our beautiful new brochure through your letterbox with our programme for 2012-2013. We are excited about producing a brochure that describes the Movement Medicine curriculum that we offer as a whole. In it, you will find details of the next Apprenticeship Programme that will start in August 2014 along with all the prerequisites you will need to apply. To give you a taste, here’s what one of our apprentices said about the apprenticeship journey:

One of the kindest, most respectful, challenging, healing and enriching ways I know of to grow...if you're looking for unconditional respect and support, a place to build trust in your own Power, The Apprenticeship program certainly offers a powerful container for getting closer to who you are, whilst engaging more deeply with the world.’ Yasia Leiserach.

If you are not on our mailing list and want to receive a copy, please be in touch with Roland and he will be happy to send you one with the mailing in early September.

So dear dancers, may the sun shine in and on you. Wishing you and all of us a fine season and all that we need to give what we’ve got.

Ya’Acov. July 2012.

Back to contents

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.