First Summer Movement Monastery at Ravenrock
My beloved crew has departed after a two week retreat that was in some respects a simple continuation of the past 25 years. As usual we did our daily sessions of movement, breathing, dance, chanting, writing, but this year we did it at Ravenrock, a place of my choosing and cultivating.
After many years of renting beautiful centers, places that were created to accommodate other traditions and different needs and in the process eliminating important features or aspects of Dancemeditation training, it was good to be Home. In the past, I always had to chose a center that had a good dance floor, often sacrificing the cooking and eating, or the schedule or access to nature. At Ravenrock, the practice fell into place despite the fact that it was the first year and who knew how it would go.
I felt it was prudent to invite a small and seasoned group of practitioners knowing that nature up on the Apache Mesa is not trivial. That was a sensible a choice. The group who attended knew work well and was ready for an adventure. And needed to be because our first visit to the beautiful East Rim on Day Two brought our first encounter with an elegant rattle snake. There were at least five sightings of rattlers over the course of the retreat. Everyone did the right thing: stop in your tracks, go wide around, or let the snake smoothly move away from you. Give it space as it mostly doesn’t want to be stepped on and certainly doesn’t want to waste its venom, which it needs for its dinner, on you, which is not dinner.
Everyone was really good about keeping a clean camp to not attract bears which the Game Warden had warned might be out. We didn’t see any bears, or a bobcat. Nothing big and scary.
A surprise came on the second evening when I foolishly trotted across the Barn floor barefoot in the dark and stepped on a scorpion. We packed me into the Toyota Tundra and Ric barreled across the mesa dirt road in the black night, Anastasia calling 911 to have the ambulance meet us at the bottom of the mesa while I focused on keeping very very calm as the venom moved through my system. We got to the hospital, a very nice hospital, and because scorpion bite is so uncommon in this area, the nurses and doctors were Googling both the creature (we brought it with us in a plastic bag–Bark Scorpion) and the treatment. Basically, we did all the right things—ice, keep it low, keep calm, Benedril. The real danger is if you are allergic to the sting, which I wasn’t. Mainly it was an expensive way to test our emergency preparedness, which was good. As to the sting…it was strange and nontrivial, but I was back teaching the next morning.
The scorpions, which are nocturnal, continued to be present at night in the Barn. We tracked them with a black light flashlight in which they glow bright white like a Halloween rubbery toy, and killed them. They never came out in the day so our sessions tucked into daylight time. By next summer, we will have moved them on.
The Barn floor is the best dance floor we all agreed that we have ever been on. Perfect for whirling, and if you’ve whirled you know how rare that is. And buoyant and smooth, perfect for dancing, rolling around, and everything! It is is elegant perfection surrounded by a metal skin that is partly insulated but has a ways to go before finished. It was lovely to hear the Barn sing in the wind–we chanted Allahu the last day and the barn huuuu-ed along with us. This may disappear along with visiting arachnida, when it is papercreted and plastered to seal it against extreme temperatures. The screen bug doors helped with flies. There are always flies in August in the Wild West.
The Rim and Forest
Ravenrock has a long winding rock rim shaped like the prow of a ship with different facings. The southeasterly facing is a steep vertical rock drop overlooking a seemingly never-ending canyon vista. The northerly side is footed by tall Ponderosa pines which shoot up beyond the rock height; sitting on the rocks is like being in a tree house, watching the birds flit below. It smells of vanilla from the pine bark and long sweet soughs sing.
One evening as part of the session, we all sat on the East Rim in a strong wind. I felt I was on a huge vessel sailing into the unknown. My back was warm on the rock, my face cool in the wild air. Light moved the shadows slowly.
There was witness dancing, slow movement, rolling and rocking, hand dances, dance circles, chanting, healing circles, moving with the grasses and trees, writing, drawing, watching sunsets, sunrises, and moonrises, feeling and breathing, stopping thoughts and encountering thoughts and tolerating thoughts and allowing thoughts, working through injury and learning about injury, discovery, crying, laughing. There was Radhi and Tawakuul. There was becoming conscious and awake. And sinking into automatic over and over.
There was this:
To feel our shape and proportion at all moments, with trajectories passing through us and magnetism gluing us together, all of which has been given and all of which is passing and will pass away, is Awakening.
I thank the group who so gamely and lovingly came this first year, hunkered contentedly into their tents, enjoyed no electricity, cooked Simple Sufi food, washed in rain water, and absorbed into the Work without complaint, with supportive, energetic camaraderie which made the first foray into our Dervish Dancemeditation home a joy, a quiet excitement, an inspiration, a spiritual unfolding, and a manifestation of vision that, in all its imperfections, is seldom as perfect.
Love imposes impossible tasks.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
But never more than any heart asks.
Thanks for reading and for sharing this with friends.
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