Shay, my niece’s 36-year-old fiancé, reached down from the rocky incline above me. I was stuck, afraid to move. “Grab my wrist,” he said calmly, cheerfully. “Put your foot there.” I saw where. I grabbed and stepped and he hauled me up. My legs, which were not strong enough on their own after surgical rebuilds, suddenly had a memory of their former mountain goat selves bounding up similar inclines. Up we went, step by step. My legs struggled but slid into play. A rhythm, a flow. Shay’s abundant strength poured through his arm into mine. It ignited my determination to not give up, not slough off. No. Reach. Try. He imparted physical courage and this reawakened the fiery field of courage in which I have lived my entire previous life. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Personal Practice’
The curve prepares itself in me.
Rousing Back Roll
Back Roll is a basic piece of my daily practice. I have done Back Rolls since the Sufi get-go with Adnan. He loved them. He would start crossed legs, put on some rousing, boisterous Iraqi drumming, roll back to Shoulder Stand then forward to crossed legs. We followed him. We were a large group, all snuggly pie-pieced into one another on raying blankets. We’d hike forward on our blankets, cast a quick glance over our shoulder to avoid crashing into someone else, and roll back. He’d go on and on, and we with him. Somewhere along the way as we picked up speed, he’d reach out a hand to the sound system beside him and turn up the music–fuel on the fire. The energy built, more force, more speed. Back Rolls were easier done faster because of momentum. Our backs found the perfect rocking curvature until the rise to standing was almost inevitable. Some days we rolled up into a jump then back down to shoulder stand, a wide lively pendulum, like being on the swing set on the playground.
Gentle Back Roll
These winter months I do a different version. I sit crosslegged and rock forward and back gently on my sitz bones which are like little rocking chair rockers. It is a small motion. My psoas shifts my viscera and buttocks press along the rug under me. I go slowly for a while, watching my spine responsively arc into a curvature, my weighty head dropping forward then righting. I feel like a sailor on a sea swells. The curve prepares itself in me. At some point, I roll back effortlessly, hovering briefly on the wide upper back fascial pad where my shoulders are tightest, my feet and legs hover in space high above, their weight funneling down to press my resistant shoulders into the ground. Then I roll back, bending forward into the shadow my body casts over crossed ankles and folded calves. My hands have caught my knees in cupped palms, elbows akimbo. Sometimes I hang forward here, feeling my buttocks and outer thighs lengthen, my low back and my outer ankle open. Because one leg is crossed forward of the other, I know I’ll roll back again to return with the other leg in front, stretching both sides equally though my body’s inherent asymmetry will make the stretch feel like another body-world. Gradually, after several passes, I feel my shoulders wake up. Sometimes, I stay in Shoulder Stand. Sometimes, I roll up and down for a while. Sometimes, I grab my toes, stay on my back, my legs partly or fully extended, like a baby or like a baby bear, and use the floor under me as a rolling pin, smooshing my skin and sinews and fascia and fluid and all the flesh. I love this.
This piece contains an excerpt from my new book, ‘Dancing into the Deep: When Dance is Your Meditation.’ Coming soon!
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America, a nonprofit organization helping people realize their human and spiritual potential by honoring their body and its movement ways using evolutionary Sufi Dancemeditation practices. Thank you for your gift. It’s tax-deductible! DONATE
Structural Integration specialist, Mary Bond, says of breathing, “There is no one correct way to breathe.” (I always listen very carefully to what Mary says; she speaks from deepest mastery, dispensing wisdom nuggets in manageable doggie bag size.) What I take from her remark is liberation from the urge to control. It seems that the minute we become aware of Autonomic Nervous System functions like heartbeat or breathing which normally chug along unnoticed, we launch into spasms of controlling-ness and self-criticism. Mary’s comment says, exactly, that we need not make one way right and another wrong yet does not infer stuffing awareness of our breathing back into the closet of unconsciousness. In Dancemeditation, our breathing instigates, inspires, and supports dancing. As well, breathing is its own kind of dancing as a variable as any other kind of movement with as many shapes, timbres, paces, and efforts. Mary Bond would call these ‘special breaths.’ I call them Breath Dances. Read more
Every autumn, I spend three solitary weeks at Ravenrock because—this is my incapacity—I feel my depth best when ‘worldly’ cacophony is diminished. The most sensitive dimension of self /non-self eludes me unless I’m away from wifi, news, traffic, etc. Here is one of my Solitude Writings.
It began raining at sunset. I went to bed soon after but woke, worrying, at 11pm. I put on my sheepskin jacket, boots, and a headlamp, everything but pants, and trod bare-legged across the Studio out onto the Stone Porch. A dense mist filled my headlamp light with a befuddling, edgeless miasma. Read more
As I continue to delve into the significance and apperception of embodiment, the gap between sensorial terrain and day-to-day living’s emphasis on appearance widens. It is almost a schizophrenia.
This morning I admired the elegant, understated attire of the female finches at my feeder. Devoid of their mates’ fancy crimson headwash, their long deep brown side stripes are neat but not fastidious. They look well-put together. Shortly after birdwatching, I read Virginia Woolf’s adept, scathing review of ‘‘The Belle of the 50s’ (‘The Essays, Volume I’), Read more
‘Pretty, fit , and fun’—that is how we value dance in our culture. Part of me always cringes at this pimping. We pimp dance because it is in a body and it is bodies the culture pimps. Anyway, I did that, danced and dug into that mud, wringing as much as I could from ‘pretty, fit, and fun’ all the while yearning and fumblingly dancing into my earthy darkness to visit my secret heart. I found my heart’s dance. I know how to get there and take my inevitable rustling and rooting in ever-new undergrowth in stride. Because of this, I champion all bodies who yearn. Read more
The cycle of light and dark means we are turning as Earth—a dervish—faces the sun then the wide cosmos. The salubrity in light and dark is a matter of degree; bright light and blinding light, soft dark and blinded dark. Dusk. Closed eyes. Sleep. Hiding. Beneath a crust of autumn leaves tiny shoots grow. In shadowed places are freedom, gestation, peace, recovery, quiet, liberation, respite. Read more
My practice yesterday evening…
The sun had just set. Outside, a frigid wind pummeled the house. Inside, I danced for 40 minutes then lay down under a pile of sheepskins while dance tracks—Sheesha Lounge—bounced softly around. Out of nowhere, a casual, offhand invitation arose for one of my most significant sexual partners (why was he still lingering in me?) to leave my body. Then a sequence of invitations—please, I invite you to leave words came on their own yet from me to what was, apparently, in me. Long-term boyfriends, one night stands, two ex-husbands, and finally, after a bit of coaxing, abusive partners. Each went in a faint puff of the relationship’s predominant tone. One by one by one by one…I had to be patient with this ceremonial retinue of fleshy intimacies. The occupying armies departing after many years. Read more
Thoughts on meditating—an oxymoron.
I recently came across the term ‘constructed self’ and felt how well it catches the sense of personal identity we all more or less consciously cobble together. Ego, persona, astrological sign, enneagram type, and any other system of human definition can be tossed right in there. We maneuver through the world using constructed self to deal, choosing shoes, jackets, apples or pasta, homes, partners, jobs, hobbies, pets. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Read more
In case you are meeting me for the first time, I tend to write about my Dancemeditation practice and Path—what comes up, what happens inside me, why I resist, etc. At the moment, it’s about how to survive in troubled times with a little help…
Surviving in Troubled Times
I’ve always loved sheepskins. They are some sort of perfect. For the past few years I have depended on them at Ravenrock which has no thermostat. When temperatures abruptly drop, I stoke the wood stove and curl up on my cozy sheepskin. This winter I am on Cape Cod—cold, damp bone-chill. I bought a quarto (four sheepskins sewn together) to do my practice. Read more