School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: February 2011
Indolence, Discipline & the Dancing Warrior

By Ya'Acov

We were recently in India studying to become Laughter Professors (I kid you not) with Dr.Madan Kataria, the Founder of the International School of Laughter Yoga. Having heard about Laughter Yoga for years, we finally took the plunge after a delightful evening workshop in Totnes where we laughed so hard, I actually managed to pull a muscle in my back. Going to India to laugh seemed so leftfield and preposterous that we just had to follow the golden thread. We both had the sense that we were going to India for an as yet hidden purpose.

In the weeks before we left, I had already started to dream about an old guy from the Tibetan Bon tradition who was singing to me from his homestead somewhere in the Himalayas. I wondered if I was going to meet him. Even more than that, everyone we told about our upcoming journey burst into laughter when we told them about the purpose of our visit Ė the medicine was working already it seemed.

After such a busy year, we also needed a little down time so we booked into an ayurvedic treatment centre for some good food, yoga and massage. What a beautiful place it turned out to be. In effect, it was a spiritual community posing as an ayurvedic spa. It used to be a farm and was bought by a high-flying Indian business man who had discovered that there is more to life than making as much money as possible. He transformed the farm into a beautiful centre, capable of producing most of its own organic food. All the farm workers were employed and in the seven years it has been in existence, it has become a place of deep tranquillity that contributes in many ways to the communities close by through water-harvesting projects, and other community based initiatives.

Amazingly, the manager of the centre had looked at our website before we got there and had decided that because of the work we do, he would give us a discount! He also asked us if we would offer a Movement Medicine session to the staff. We were delighted to be able to be able to give something back for the great care they took of us and so we ran an hour-long session for the staff team. Almost everyone turned up from the cooks and gardeners to the admin team, yoga instructors, doctors and therapists, and how they danced. It was fantastic for us to experience Movement Medicine in another culture and we were so inspired by the feeling of what Movement Medicine may be able to contribute as it grows. As a result of the session, we were invited to the communityís daily meditation and chanting session. We were led into a large room with a huge picture of their guru on one wall, and offered cushions. They began to chant, all of them in harmony. The power of their practice was astonishing. So clear, full of devotion, a harmony of purpose to awaken and a light-handed discipline which touched me to my very core. Here was the heart of their work, their practice, their offering. As they chanted, I fell deeper and deeper into a golden silence and watched in amazement as I saw a beautiful fire take shape in the centre of the room, burning brightly with shapes and symbols, a forceful manifestation of the fire of their practice. It was humbling, inspiring and I have to say, a bit of a wake-up call. Even though I am relatively disciplined, taking time most days to practice, I felt the power of their collective purpose which wasnít just manifest in prayer but also in their everyday actions. And after all, isnít the purpose of practice the actualisation and transfer of the states of consciousness we achieve in our practice into the everyday moments and actions of our lives? In comparison, I became aware of the indolence of my own level of practice and consequently have felt inspired to step my own discipline up a level. Good outcome!

In Movement Medicine, we talk about the dance of polarity that sits around the centre of our mandala. Key to this is the relationship between acceptance and intention. In my own life, I have noticed how there is a constant dance and movement between a more yin and surrendered approach and a more yang and active approach to my life. Many of us come to spiritual practice with negative associations with the concept of discipline. Thatís not surprising when we recognise that in our culture, discipline is often associated with punishment or penance. We need a deep sense of acceptance for who and where we are and not to continue to beat our own backs with the rod of negativity that so many of us have experienced in our educations. However, too much acceptance and we will become complacent and lose our edge. Too much disciplined intent and we will become brittle parodies of our selves.

It all depends where the edge arises for us. If we are being driven by feelings of not being good enough as we are or the feeling that we need to prove ourselves, we will without doubt end up in the spiral of suffering and disappointment which characterises so many of our failed good intentions. However for me, to be disciplined means to be inspired, truly so, to follow the golden thread of the soulís maturation journey. It means to know that there is a being inside who needs the attention of an artist in order to find its most natural shape and expression in the world. To me, the point of our practice is to create an oasis in which we remember who we are, where we are from, what we are connected to, what matters most to us and where we are going. And this remembrance becomes useful when it becomes the resource and the reference point from which all that we are and all that we do in the world flows. In Movement Medicine, this all arises in the magical space that the mandala holds. I keep on finding myself somewhat astounded at its potency.

As I look within and around me and see the shadow side of the luxuries of modern life, I see how itís so very easy to give in to our indolence and to accept a second-rate version of our capacity and potential to be who are and give what weíve got in this world. I was just walking down the platform to get on the Eurostar carrying my luggage when I noticed a young man up ahead of me. Without thinking about it, my mind was already categorising him in his pencil tight black trousers and dark glasses and within a couple of seconds, that part of me had dismissed him. Not only that, another part of me was determined to get on the train before him and was determinedly racing him up the platform. Depending on perspective, thatís either hilarious or very sad. In a workshop space, there is a collective intention to bring the shadow into the light. And the structure of mandala holds this intention, just like any other practice has its forms. The trick is to bring this intention out of the workshop, into our home life and out into the world. These are the moments where integration either happens or it doesnít.

In that moment on walking along the platform at St.Pancras International, I was so grateful that something else was present too, the part of me that gets fed by practice, who was paying attention and who noticed. I stopped, took a breath, laughed at myself, released the understudy who is so insecure in his own originality that he has to dismiss anyone elseís in theirs, and remembered myself as a teenager wearing pencil tight trousers trying to be so very cool. Those trousers were so tight that it took my digestion years to recover. I sent my teenage self some love and finally, had a very sweet moment with the young man, as he boarded the train ahead of me. This all happened in matter of seconds and in itself, itís nothing to write home about. But when I consider that our reality is made up by the thousands of choices we make every day about what we choose to give our attention to, then this little cameo becomes a perfect example of the benefits of practice; to judge or to love, to accept or to deny, to open our eyes and see or to keep them closed and look from a safe distance? Practice gives us access to a minimal moment of choice. It sharpens our awareness and just like any other muscle, awareness gets stronger through use.

I have recently become re-acquainted with the maps connected to the workshop we call the Way of the Dancing Warrior. That workshop takes us on a journey that re-acquaints us with this wonderful archetypal companion. Who is the Dancing Warrior? They are that part of us who has surrendered to our own highest purpose. They are deeply connected to their roots and the power of the unconscious and the unknown. They have recognised the disempowered places within themselves that identify with being the victim of lifeís happenings. They have landed in the shining intensity of the present moment and in a simple way, understood the capacity we all have to survive. And they have taken their stories and the stories of the time and weaved together something new Ė they have discovered the artist inside them for whom the whole of life is the greatest canvas there is on which to co-create. They have committed themselves to the journey. The choice has been made and they know beyond doubt that whatever the Great Choreographer puts before them, they will dance with it and through their dance, offer it back, illuminated and transformed into something with heart, dignity and strength.

So, on the eve of the ancient festival of Imbolc, as we enter the beginning of a new season of growth, and the buds begin to freshen with rising sap, maybe itís time to sharpen the blade of our intention as individuals and collectively. A workshop, at its best, is a place to do just that. And personal practice is the place where we make it our own.

For myself, I feel ready for the next step. We just completed our first apprenticeship programme and we are now in the process of reading applications for the second as well as preparing for our first teacher training later this year. Together with Roland and Susanne and our organisers, we have assembled another fine array of dancing possibilities for the year ahead. If youíre ready for another step of the Movement Medicine variety, then maybe weíll meet somewhere on the journey. And if you want to meet the Dancing Warrior and access their tremendous capacity for life, there are several opportunities coming up. Finally, donít forget the Summer Long Dance, an event thatís all about gratitude for life. A little thank you goes a long way. A big thank you may just take you all the way!

To end, I return to the extraordinary land of India that seems to have worked its way into my bones. I wonder if Iíll find that man in the Himalayas. One thing I know for sure. If I do, heíll be laughing. They say that the whole of existence is just the out breath of the Great Mystery and when she breathes in again, we and all of it will simply return to the great emptiness for a few billion years. Until then, letís dance whilst we can.

With the greatest respect for this growing community of movement medicine practitioners,

YaíAcov Darling Khan

February 2011

p.s. Susannahís new Elemental CD is now available to support you in your personal practice and we have two more CDís planned for this year. The Long Dance CD, 21 Gratitudes, is almost ready, and weíll begin work on Morning Prayers in March.

p.p.s. Weíre also looking into running a series of webinars later this year. Watch this space.



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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.