I think it was this woman named Pauline who took me to ecstatic dance for the first time. She remarked that I was a natural. I danced wildly with lots of people, I hugged sweaty men wearing heavy coatings of essential oils, I accidentally kicked Pauline's boyfriend in the mouth--I got carried away. I remember being on the dance floor and noticing a group of people doing contact improv movement (a kind of dance that looks like a combination of dry humping and being an airplane on someone's feet.) Everything seemed really right and really wrong somehow. I had the first lines
of Dante's Inferno go through my head,
"Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost."
It wasn't because I felt like I was in a bad place, but because I knew I had made an irrevocable step into the world of MOVEMENT, that I had inhabited my body in a way that it had always wanted to be inhabited. I was sweaty and I liked it. I was doing weird gestures and made up dances and I liked it. I was rolling around on the floor with two women in their 70's and I liked it. I felt like I had finally found the place I never even knew I NEEDED, or that the kinds of physical NEEDS I had could be shared with a bunch of hippie strangers. Once, I was in the grocery store and I was overcome with the desire to rub my face on all of the tomatoes, maybe my whole body, just climb up there and writhe around on the produce. I did not do it. Something about ecstatic dance felt like the thing I wanted from rubbing myself on the fruits and vegetables at the market.
As time went on, I became less interested in dancing around men or in such a big group. I like men and they are fun dancers, but sometimes, I felt the junior high feeling of only having the creepy patchouli dude wanting to dance with me and the sexy cool guy didn't come within five feet of me. It made me self conscious and distracted me. I tried other kinds of movement groups including wonderful Lisa Deland's Dancing Fire Lizard 5Rhythms classes. I loved those so much. It was always a tiny group with only a few sweetie pie men completely absorbed in their own journey. It felt so good to be all alone together. There was room to spin around and run and kick without hitting anybody in the jaw. We started by lying on the floor and as the music changed and got more intense, we shifted to standing and jumping, then all-out freakshow wildness, then waltzy and sweet swirling around, then deep and contemplative stillness. Every way I moved my body offered up something I hadn't ever thought of--an insight into my childhood, a new creative idea, a solution to a problem, or simply a quiet feeling of being at home within myself.
At some point, I landed in the movement group I'm in now. I mentioned it in my FFW post about Elissa Shapiro. It is called Women's Movement Meditation. It has elements of ecstatic dance, 5Rhythms, and Authentic Movement. Authentic Movement is a practice that involves two people--a mover and a witness. There isn't music to lead the movement, only the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) impulses from the body.
Women's Movement Meditation also involves a lot of hugging, some crying, and always laughing. Elissa invites us to try different things but we are never commanded to do anything. I have gone to WMM and curled up in a ball on the floor the entire time. Occasionally someone would come by and rub my back or pet my hair, but mostly I was just there getting what my body needed from the floor. After the dance there is always SHARING. Ecstatic dance has sharing, 5Rhythms has sharing, Authentic Movement has sharing. People talk about their experience-- what insight they received or a powerful moment in the dance. Sometimes there is journaling. I almost always get new wisdom or awareness about myself generally or my body or mind specifically. At last weekend's workshop, I discovered that an owl lives in my heart and I have not been caring for it as well, or as kindly as I could. Here is a picture of her/him from my journal:
Is the heart owl a real organ? I don't know. I think about how the body has organs, each with a different job or jobs. The liver cleans your blood, the bladder holds your pee, the brain lets you drive cars, do math, and talk to people. I imagine that the mind/psyche has organs that are just as real and have important jobs for healing and regulating our emotional and spiritual lives. I think the heart owl is a real organ in my mind. I'm not totally sure what its job is yet, but now that I know of it, I will learn about it and do whatever it means to care for it well. I think there is a god organ (actually, I think it's a muscle that you develop through meditation, art, prayer, and being nice). I've discovered these organs through movement. This last year, I've been doing kettlebell training. It's a macho sport--Russian endurance weightlifting. I am discovering a new mind organ, it has to do with pushing through discomfort or learning not to be afraid of it. I haven't "seen" it yet, but you know that as soon as I do, I will draw it and post it here for you.
How weird and wonderful to have a body! How nuts that I can do such silly shit with it! How incredible to learn what it wants to tell me! I am so grateful.