It roots deepest
in the places
July 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm (Uncategorized)
Through a life-long love of dancing and a long-term Yoga practice, I have become increasingly fascinated with movement as a form of meditation and prayer; I have also come to realise what a powerful tool meditative movement is in enabling a greater awareness not only of our life-force but also of our connection to the Divine.
In Druidry we understand this force as Nwyfre; in Yoga as Prana. What I find exciting is that we can connect to this energy in both stillness and movement. In Yoga, postures (Asana) and breathing exercises (Pranayama) are used to increase the presence and free flow of Prana/Nwyfre in the body. You don’t need to have practised Yoga for years to feel how this works – stop reading, take in a deep breath whilst having a good stretch and as you release these, notice how wonderful it feels and be aware of the sudden increase in energy flowing through you. This is Nwyfre. Mostly we ignore this feeling or pass over it quickly but the art of Yoga and other forms of meditative movement is to allow ourselves to become utterly absorbed in this process. In this act of focused fascination – of being totally present in our breath and movement – we come to strongly sense the reality of this energy; we learn to sense when it flows strongly and when it is depleted. Whether we approach the Light Body exercise from a place of stillness or movement actually doesn’t matter; the key is this focused awareness, being utterly present in each and every part of our body. In this vibrant state, we discover that the physical body is the gateway to our deeper selves and ultimately to the Divine.
When we engage with the body spiritually – with a loving and sensitive awareness and acceptance – we give ourselves the space to process things that might otherwise stay locked within us, perhaps sabotaging our attempts to grow. Through the many emotions and sensations that surface within our bodies daily, we are given the opportunity to learn a little more about ourselves and life. Sometimes these sensations and emotions can remain unprocessed and be stored in our bodies – particularly in the muscles – knots of tension that are the physical manifestation of a deeper psychological discomfort; these knots can limit the easy flow of Nwyfre in our systems. In using breath and movement – mindfully stretching and releasing – we help to clear physical and emotional channels, allowing the free movement of energy to flow through us more powerfully, strengthening and energising our whole beings. As we build a greater intimacy with our physical selves, we develop the potential to truly listen to what the body has to say. Both pain and rigidity or even pleasure and ease of movement, will tell us something important about where we find ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The more we listen to the body, the more we recognise the interconnectedness of these states within us.
In my own physical Yoga practice I use a mixture of individual asana and vinyasa. Vinyasa are flowing sequences of postures moving one into the other. These appeal to the dancer in me and illustrate most clearly the powerful links between meditation, prayer, worship and movement. The most well know vinyasa is popularly called Salute to the Sun, or Surya Namaskar to give its Sanskrit name. Sun Salutations honour something dear to all Druids’ hearts: the vitality, joy and life-giving energy of the Sacred Sun. When I fully open myself to the dynamic flow of this vinyasa, I feel that I give praise with my whole body and being, and in doing so, open myself up to the qualities that I am honouring. My body becomes an expression of the sun’s strength, energy and creativity; my body becomes a celebration of life. When the heat of movement and the focus of mind and breath merge in seamless flow, I feel that I am a body of light. It’s important to stress that some days I feel tired and achy, my body heavy and as far away from dynamic flow as it is possible to get! It is then that I can sink into the stillness to feel the gentle hum of that light; there is pleasure in contrast.
I currently feel increasingly inspired to experiment with my own vinyasa, with the understanding that these are invocations from the body, viewing their creation as a kind of spiritual choreography. This spiritual engagement with my body I have come to perceive as a form of Sacred Dance. Like all joys of the body, be it dance, sex, music or song, I truly believe that through deep and ecstatic engagement with our physical selves, we can find a path through to the Divine. Watch children when they dance in that wonderfully unselfconscious way – totally absorbed in the exhilaration of the moment. They seem to glow – it’s as if you can actually see their little light bodies! Some might think that meditative and ecstatic states are very different experiences but for me there is a rather nice paradox here: in movement we come to a place of peaceful stillness and balance; at the heart of that stillness and balance, we feel the unending dance of life coursing through us. Whether we surrender into the stillness or embody the flow, we open to something greater than ourselves.
The beauty of a spirituality that embraces the body is that we are given the opportunity to truly appreciate what a profound privilege it is to be ‘embodied’. In joyful and mindful movement – with gravity our wise and loyal partner in the dance – we are both grounded and boundless; muscle and bone and radiant light.
July 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm (Uncategorized)
As you would expect from a seaside holiday town, there are many little cafes in Sandown. I try to use as many as possible, the seasonal nature of the Island making it so difficult for small businesses to survive. I have my favourites, usually dictated by the places I can get a good cup of strong, fresh coffee. Each café has its regulars, and in one of my own haunts, there is a lady by the name of Julia who visits daily at around three o’clock in the afternoon. She normally has only a cup of tea or coffee and always sits at the little table just inside the door. Julia is old; she struggles with her movement, walking with a stick that her hands cannot hold because they are arthritic and painfully gnarled; the stick is more of a crutch with a sling that she slips her arm through, enabling her fingers to remain free but giving her the support she needs.
Each afternoon, she makes her way slowly down the hill of the high street, unsteadily climbing the couple of steps into the café and resting down, with some relief, in her favoured chair. Almost before she has fully settled the proprietor sets her drink down on her table – so expected and familiar is this daily routine. Julia almost always has the right change.
I had started to worry about whether Julia had people around her; if she was alone in life and that this faithful daily pilgrimage to the café was a search for human company. One afternoon I was cheered to see a friend join Julia at her tiny table by the door, both of them happily chatting.
Our bonds with others are mysterious things. Julia, although we have never spoken, has become part of that inner role call of ‘others’ that work upon my thoughts and feelings, helping to shape and reshape me from day to day. We can never truly know the full extent of our impact on other’s lives, of how much we would be missed if we had not been present. A passing smile or gesture of support for a stranger might change the course of their day, a change that has its own rippling effects in their lives. And if this is possible with only the briefest and transient of encounters, how much more extraordinary and life-altering are those connections that endure.
I do not know for sure if our coming together with other souls is chance or something more inevitable. It might be that each subtle choice or decision we make moves us ever further from some possible encounters whilst ever closer to others. And yet, there are people who enter our worlds whose impact feels undeniably fated, as if no choice or decision we made along that meandering trail of our past could have knocked that meeting off course. All paths lead here, and although they might appear to have spiralled along the way, doubled back or drifted hopelessly off their mark, something about those relationships has an aim as true as the straightest line and when they eventually find their target we are powerless not to be changed by them. Life and circumstance – through a complex thread of events and choices – brings each of us together and can pull us apart in equally mysterious ways. The relationships that are the most potentially transformative will always bring us to a fork on our path, confronting us with possibilities, challenging our fears and waking us from the sleep of our mundane perceptions.
These deep encounters can be ones of undeniable joy or gut churning turmoil – sometimes both. They often bring us into the most shockingly intimate and terrifying encounters with ourselves; all that has laid dormant, hidden or ignored comes startlingly into view; all that we might have banished to the margins or felt only dimly in the periphery, moving into our eye-line, as irresistible as the gaze of Medusa.
Medusa turned her victims to stone with her gaze and these encounters can often make clear the places within us that have ossified; we are forced to break those hardened shells or like the beings frozen by the Gorgon’s stare risk being left painfully suspended and contorted by stasis. Those that touch our lives in the deepest sense reflect back to us the unseen pieces of ourselves, gifting us with the opportunity to uncover a more whole and complete picture; our colours become richer; our definition more firmly drawn; the composition a little more complex and yet paradoxically simpler and truer than before.
There are people in all our lives, both past and present, who by some miracle of circumstance found us. The meeting is only the beginning; whether that encounter is brief or enduring; whether it is loving and helps us to flourish or darkly painful and brings us to our knees, it will surely become a part of the core fabric of who we are. We are at once alone and singularly ourselves and yet woven intimately into the life and beings of others. This strange blending of our aloneness and our closeness can open us utterly, if we let it…and whatever the outcome, we can be sure that we will indeed be changed for good…