The Radiance of Life Unfolding

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the radiance of life unfolding

…the body is suffused with wild and vital divinity.
…the sensuous is sacred in the deepest sense.
~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

~~~

I go to the side doors of the large room where we are to dance. These double doors are open to the park just across the way letting in the late-summer evening breeze. I lie down on the floor, face up, and gaze up and out the doors. All I see are the branches of the tall pine that stands across the way, branches that fall across the way between the tree and me.

The first music of the night is soft and slow, and I feel my body soften into the floor. I’ve been dancing long enough now that when the music begins my body begins to dance, even if that dance is simply breath meeting beat.

There is so much here in this moment that I love – truly love. Warm soft wind, music with melody and soul, trees, and others surrounding me who’ve come here to move, too.

As the stresses of the day fall away, I begin to feel my flesh and bones against the floor in places where my body meets wood well-worn from years of feet moving across it and bodies sweating over it.

Here in these moments between the heat of the late-summer day and the cool of evening, between the word-soaked moments of my busy life and the ripe silence of moving to music without conversation, I remember, then feel, the words John O’Donohue wrote before his body passed back into the earth:

Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely.
Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light.

Lying here, I feel this beautiful soul-light. Around me. Around the tree. Around the room. Around the others coming and dropping into silence.

As the music shifts and the tempo picks up, my body rises to meet it and I begin to dance.

~~~

I always love the first moments of the evening dance as I move into flow, relaxing into it like easing into a stream. Toes dip in, then legs, and then I slide the rest of my body down into the cool dark waters of the dance. Each time I dance, these waters cleanse me, washing through the layers of soul that suffuse this body. These waters cleanse me of everything I’ve brought in with me, and over the last few weeks each time I come I’ve brought memories and images of generations past.

My sister and I’ve been going through pictures my mother left behind after her passing, and we’ve come across images of great-great-greats. Moving my fingers across these portraits of faces from five generations prior, I touch more than paper and tin-type. I touch people who gave birth to those who would give birth to me. I touch joy and heartache. I touch youth and old age. I touch promise and defeat. I touch my own DNA.

As I dance, it comes to my mind that they are all gone now. Yet I, their offspring, still dance. My body moves with the wild and vital divinity of one who is alive, fully alive, with breath and beat, sweat and heart. I feel the radiance of life unfolding from deep within me, deep in the hidden places of the heart, deep in the dark of my belly.

I notice the soul-light because the music hits soul first, before it enters my ears. The soul suffuses my body, but the music suffuses my soul.

To be touched in this way by rhythm, to have it touch my soul even before it touches my cells, is to be touched by the sacred. Literally touched. Rhythm and beat to soul, and soul to skin. And when, in the heat of the dance, my skin brushes up against the skin of another, our souls have already met prior to skin meeting skin.

Perhaps this is why it is so hard-to-describe the experience of dance when flesh meets flesh. Perhaps this is why life is so sensuous. It isn’t flesh meeting flesh first. It is soul meeting soul.

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Incredibly and Intimately Near

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“I think the beauty of being human is that we are incredibly and intimately near each other, we know about each other, but yet we do not know, or never can know, what it is like inside another person.

It’s amazing. Here am I sitting in front of you. I am looking at your face, and you’re looking at mine, yet neither of us have ever seen our own faces.”     ~ John O’Donohue speaking to Krista Tippett

***

After a wild chaos, the music finds its way to stillness. As the music slows and softens, the blood pumping, sweat dripping that was chaos still vibrates throughout the room.

Stillness brings me face to face with the intensity of my own aliveness. In stillness, while the body might barely move on the outside, inside planets orbit in wide arcs, the ground shakes, and oceans break against shores. In stillness after chaos, there is no doubt I am alive.

And, I am aware of just how alive I am when my skin touches his skin and electricity sparks. We are dancing near each other; yet, it is when our arms barely brush against each other in response to the music that a new channel opens between us, between his soul and mine.

As our forearms slide alongside one another, something within me communicates with something within him, and it happens through our skin. Fluidly, where arms were merely meeting, hands come together and clasp. We are not looking at each other, but we can ‘see’ each other. It’s a seeing that doesn’t rely on eyes. And I am a witness to ‘this dance that is the two of us’. And, he is a witness to the same dance.

I can sense where I end and where ‘this dance that is the two of us’ begins. My fingers begin to travel this new terrain.

Sparks fly.

Cells buzz.

A more shy part of me emerges with fur standing on end and hunger whetted. My heart hungers to touch because it is through touch that my heart can navigate this wise flesh and what lies within it.

And so, I make my way out of my own dark forest and meet him under the moonlit sky.

I am amazed to feel my heart beat against his skin. We are not that close; yet, we are incredibly and intimately near each other. My heart beat travels down my arm, through my fingers, and pulses against his skin. My heart wants to know him but I can never really know him. I can only navigate the land where we come together, where we both feel ‘this dance that is the two of us’.

As this last song of stillness meanders from beginning to end, our bodies move together – arms around waists, cheeks touching cheeks, front to back and back to front – and tears begin to form below the surface of my eyes. They never fall down my cheeks. Instead they flow from ‘this dance that is the two of us’ back up and into my heart.

I can feel ‘we’ in me.

Something in me has had the incredible chance to know something in him. In the depth of a dance. For the length of a song.

And then, the music stops and ‘this dance that is the two of us’ ends. But, I am now different, changed. I know more of myself because I opened and touched and listened. I know more of myself because I navigated the terrain of us. In a few short minutes, I’ve remembered unseen realms and listened to ancient stories.

And, while I can never know what it is like inside of him, maybe, just maybe, out of the shadows of soul I’ve seen a glimpse of my own face.

 

 

 

 

 

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A tsunami doesn’t just stop when the clock strikes midnight!

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Now what?

One Billion Rising is over. And, it has just begun.

I first joined One Billion Rising about a year ago. The day, Feb 14, 2013, seemed so far off. Yet, the vision pulled me in. One Billion women rising. I wondered how that would shift things. I wondered how that would change the feeling on the planet, in our cities, in our hearts.

Altar by Stacey Butcher

Last night, I co-led a beautiful event with Stacey Butcher, a teacher of 5Rhythms. Stacey created a gorgeous dance wave and she led us through it with love and grace. Kim Rosen, a well known spoken-word artist, and a personal friend of Eve Ensler’s, shared two spoken-word treasures that lit a fire in us before we moved into the dance. And, for the last song of the wave, Christine Hodil sang a beautiful song that we all joined in on at the end. Our hearts were opened, moved, fired-up, and lullabied. We were the one billion, and we danced for the one billion. And, there were so many men present, who danced alongside of us, who danced for the women they love, and for the women they don’t even know who continue to face abuse, violence, and harassment.

 

It is jarring to be in a beautiful event such as this, to open our hearts, to invite in the possibility for a world that is different, and then to step back into what seems to be the same old world.

What I do know, now, after witnessing so many women and men across the planet rising and dancing by way of live-streaming and the internet, is that this is no longer the same old world. While on the outside it may look that way, on the inside we are changed. We’ve cracked open the cage. We know something different now. We’ve experienced the fire and joy and creativity that comes when we dance, and come together, and rise.

One Billion Rising IS a new way of life. It’s a new way of being. It’s living unabashedly the fullness of our womanhood.

In practical terms? It’s about allowing out all the parts of ourselves we keep hidden for fear of being abused and harassed.

Our patriarchal conditioning keeps an essential aspect of us locked up in an internal prison…the aspect that is the most powerful and enlivening for our souls. This aspect is nourishing and healing. It is our instinctual, sexual self, that when expressed brings forth playfulness, joy, passion, creativity, and a good dose of fire. It is not easily controllable, meaning our own internal conditioning has to work really hard to control it. It gets exhausting.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you!?

We’ve internalized the oppressor, so we continue the oppression against ourselves, along with the fear of oppression from outside. Eve Ensler so wisely saw that we have to break the chains ourselves, we have to break out of the cage we keep ourselves in, and dancing is a beautiful way to free this instinctive erotic nature that is both organic to our souls and a sacred aspect of life.

Before I go any further, I want to reiterate, that the erotic as it is understood in the current paradigm, is simply a small thin slice of what it truly is. When I shared my thoughts with one man I know and used the word erotic, his response? “That’s porn.” This is what we’ve been conditioned to think eros and the erotic are.

Yet, what the erotic is is a beautiful aspect of life, this aspect that is at the heart of our creative, sensual, sexual, joyful, and loving natures. And because it is at the heart of creativity and embodied love, it is also the channel that will bring about lasting change, and deep nourishment to a world that has been out of balance for far too long.

And, it is exactly what our world hungers for just as it is what we hunger for. How could it be otherwise?

Life is wholeness. When we pretend we aren’t whole, we aren’t really fully living. 

To dance is to unleash joy.

To dance is to step back into the flow, to move that which has been stuck. 

To dance is also to reawaken our natural relationship to the body, to music, to rhythm, and to the beat of the drum, the beat of our blood pressure, the beat of our hearts.

One Billion Rising is “unleashing a feminist tsunami, an energetic rearrangement of our universal chemistry. the biggest volunteer action maybe ever of women across the planet, a seismic collective remembering of who we are, a calling back of our authenticity, a world dance shaking up our original energy and wisdom.” ~ Eve Ensler

 

So what do I now know that I didn’t know before yesterday, V-Day 2013?

I know that we can come together as women to reawaken our wisdom and nature.

I know that we are hungering to rekindle the fire of our erotic nature.

I know that many men all around us want us to do this. They know they cannot. And they know that it is in all of our best interests to do so.

I know that many women fear this aspect, along with many men. And, I know we have the courage to dance through this fear for the sake of life itself.

I know that dance is sacred, that our bodies are sacred, and that it is up to us to embody this truth.

I know that women have something important to do in this new era that men cannot do and it is time we do it.

I know we’ve stepped through a threshold and we cannot turn back.

I know that women across this planet can come together to rise in service to each other, and to all of life.

I know this. We’ve witnessed it. I felt it last night. I feel it today. I feel it right now.

Margaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

If a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world, just imagine what a feminist tsunami of a billion women and men dancing can do. Imagine it. Feel it in your bones. Pray it. Dance it. Paint it. Sing it.

A tsunami doesn’t just stop when the clock strikes midnight!

Take your sisters and brothers by hand and step across the threshold into this new land. And, keep dancing. We must be committed to dancing. We are in this together. Isn’t that a wonderful thing to know! 

::

I’m putting together the pieces I read last night, along with a little something else, into a complimentary ebook for my newsletter subscribers. If you’d like to receive it, be sure to sign up for my newsletter in the top right corner of the page. When it is ready, I’ll send it your way.

::

Here’s the One Billion Rising video from San Francisco. It’s hard to see me, but I’m there. I love seeing myself dancing. I’m so serious here, so passionate. It’s a lovely thing when you FINALLY accept your intensity is a beautiful thing.

 

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Tonight I Danced and Came Alive

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I am feeling a bit shaky, or perhaps a better way to describe it is tender, open, and feeling a multitude of things. There is a shaky quality to it, a quality of hovering in the moment where things feel raw and shaken up.

I began dancing ten years ago this month. I found the 5Rhythms and my life began to change. It was something that was difficult for me…difficult to stay on the dance floor when so much inside of me screamed, “Get me the hell out of here.” For months this battle went on inside. I don’t think anyone I shared the dance floor with could see the battle being waged on my insides. We’re pretty good at hiding our internal battles. Or, maybe that’s not true. Maybe on the dance floor (and in life) these battles show up in how our bodies move: tightness, rigidity, disconnection…all signs that there is something moving inside of us that wants to fight reality, wants to fight the dance.

When I heard that Gabrielle (the creator of 5Rhythms) was moving toward her death, I felt such fullness in my heart. I was walking down the sidewalk late at night, last night, as my friend told me, and the feeling in my heart was so strong. It wasn’t really sadness in a way I might feel for a family member or close friend for I don’t really know Gabrielle closely, having only danced with her a handful of times. What it was, and continues to be, is this immense gratitude and acknowledgment of the gifts my soul has received from her and her artistry; from the courage she has shown to bring something so new into a world where many still don’t understand what this work is about.

Doing this, deep birthing work of things that are new and counter-culture, can be frightening. I am not saying it was for her. I don’t know what it was for her. For me, though, birthing my work has been frightening. Living unabashedly female is a challenge to the status quo. Living the truth of what we are in a world (both external and internal) that is doing everything it can to keep that truth down is an act of courage in and of itself. There are so many quotes that seem to stay in constant social media orbit that speak to this very thing – it’s obviously the human journey to wake up to what we truly are. And this is where I treasure the dance…that in emptying out on the dance floor, what I truly am makes itself known… stillness, emptiness, rhythm, sweat, pure existence, bones, flesh, muscle and heart.

Tonight I Danced

[audio:https://unabashedlyfemale.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Tonight-I-Danced.mp3|titles=Tonight I Danced]

I honor the dance because it has been such an avenue to healing, to trusting something vast and eternal and infinite, to trusting that the very same vastness and eternity is what moves this body and all our earthly, heavenly bodies.

Gabrielle sent this message out just a short bit ago:

‘i’m still here connected to all of you. the channel is open — send me your love and energy.’

May we send her this love and energy.

May we send the earth this love and energy.

May we send each other and all beings this love and energy.

Om Namah Shivaya

 

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Are You Breathing?

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::

I am in class, on the dance floor. Stacey, the teacher, begins to weave her magic and invites us to, “Move from the breath.” I instantly breath more deeply. How simple yet powerful is the reminder to breath.

I move.

And, I move.

And, as I move from the breath my movement deepens, my body opens, a simple joy makes itself known.

The breath carries me into the wave: a wave of rhythm, a wave of pleasure, a wave of release, a wave of not knowing…

My body begins to feel like liquid – liquid breath, liquid love, liquid life – and then I soften, open and receive. I receive everything I need to keep moving, for as long as the Spirit moves me.

::

It isn’t always so simple…or at least I tell myself that is so. But if I’ve learned one thing from dancing the 5Rhythms, it is to always come back to the breath.

When life feels hard, come back to the breath.

When I don’t know anything at all, come back to the breath.

When I’m scared shitless, come back to the breath.

When I’m ungrounded, spinning, and caught in one of those circles of drama, come back to the breath.

When I’m joyously alive and feeling on top of the world, come back to the breath.

When I hate what is happening, come back to the breath.

When I’m flowing, come back to the breath.

When I am mad as hell, come back to the breath.

When I have no idea what to do next, come back to the breath.

Whenever, whatever, wherever, whomever, however… come back to the breath.

I’ve found breathing is a supremely sensuous experience.

I am breathing.

I am moving.

I am dancing.

I am alive…and for this, I am grateful.

::

Photo by bloody marty mix on Flickr | Some rights reserved

5Rhythms is the work of Gabrielle Roth.

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Holy Ground

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Wherever a dancer stands is holy ground. ~Martha Graham

Bare Feet

On the dance floor, something there is an opening for movement, for something to move through me.

It is a holy act.

I began to dance the 5Rhythms nine years ago. The practice has changed my life. It has moved me deeply. It has been a midwife to the rebirth of my soul. It has been the container for the natural move toward wholeness within me.

As a child, I was a figure skater. I skated from the age of seven to sixteen. Looking back, if my mind body connection had been as vibrantly alive as it is now, skating would have been such a joy. Instead, it was always something I felt I had to work hard at, but not hard in a joyous way, hard in a “I’ll never be good enough, so I have to prove myself” kind of way. As a skater, I was never in my body. I was uncomfortable in front of the audience. I was shy. I was stiff. I loved skating, and disliked performing.

When I dance, the performer leaves. There is no performer. There is only the dance and the music, and even when there is a dancer, she isn’t performing, she is joyous in her expression.

I think of dancing in life. How living from the dance could hold just such a shift in everyday life. Dance as the simple, yet profound, metaphor for living my life. Moving as the Mover moves me. Feeling the song that’s playing and surrendering to it, rather than complaining if I don’t like the song, or attempting to take over the DJ’s job.

Image by normalityrelief shared under CC 2.0 AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved

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Solitary Impulse

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Creative Impulse.

This phrase kept running through my awareness as I danced on Sunday morning. Many of you know, since I write about it fairly frequently, that I dance every week, and have for over eight years. My practice is 5Rhythms, and on Sunday mornings 150 of us faithful practitioners come together to ‘Sweat Our Prayers’.

5Rhythms is a moving meditation where you dance the 5 rhythms that Gabrielle Roth discovered are at the heart of being human. In the practice, the mind is invited to let go as the body is invited to move on its own, without the normal constrictions the mind and thoughts place on it.

This past Sunday, I moved. I sweated. I let go. And in the space of these two hours of dance, this phrase kept repeating itself.

Creative Impulse.

Creative Impulse.

Impulse.

Impulse.

As I danced,

I was consciously aware of the impulse that came from somewhere deep within my body.

The impulse came up from the dark space within. When followed, the impulse guided me in a fluid movement, where there was no mover, just movement, just expression.

Deeply dropped in the body, I was aware of the impulse as a free and alive movement of energy, a never-ending stream of pulsation coming into being, then flowing out into expression and falling away into nothingness.

I was aware of the impulse…until I was more aware of my mind. Thinking. Judging. Comparing. Deciding it didn’t like the way I was moving. Deciding I looked clumsy. Deciding it didn’t like the music, or how others danced. Judging, comparing, deciding. Stopping the flow. Stumble. Stepping on my own toe. Ouch.

And what did I do then? I began to move again. Dropped back into the beat. Felt the impulse. Moved.

I’ve danced long enough to know this. But what was important this time, was a really bright awareness of this process of stopping, stumbling, being clumsy.

I came home and

considered what had happened and how it translates to life, because right now I’m stopping myself from allowing this impulse to move through me as it wishes. On the dance floor, I feel safe and comfortable to express, except for those moments when the thoughts come in.

In my life, I don’t feel that safety, even though, in reality, I am just as safe. I mean, who knows what people are thinking of me as I dance. Who knows what judgments are flying, what stories they make up about me? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I feel free there, free to move, to listen, to express.

I know this creative impulse is always here. It’s always moving up and out of the deep darkness of the inner place. When I write I can feel it. And, when I write I can feel the sudden move of the mind behind the impulse that stops it.

As I am known to do,

I looked at the word impulse, because for me an impulse feels like it sounds. It is a pulse that moves out of me, one after another, but so closely together it is fluid.

As I looked up the word in the thesaurus, these other words showed up as synonyms:

Desire.

Drive.

Pulse.

Pulsation.

Thrust.

Beat.

Signal.

Stimulus.

Urge.

Force.

Pressure.

Impetus.

Whim.

Wish.

Itch.

Inclination.

Yen.

Bent.

Spur.

In simply reading them, I feel the impulse. Try it. Read them again, and feel how they feel in your body. Feel the words move through you. What do you discover?

For me, there is a resonance with the feeling of spring, of emergence, of a pushing up through soil, of a seed emerging into the light. There is also a sense of body function, inspiration, breath, pulse, desire…all pointing to a wide open sense of eroticism, of creation at its core giving birth in each moment to a new moment.

The practical side of this,

is seeing of how many ways I stop the flow with minuscule thoughts, tiny aberrations in the fluid movement of time and creation, where I attempt to stop what is happening, where I clog up the pipes, sit back and think rather than stay in the fluid motion of action that comes from within.

The flow stops when I don’t feel safe, for whatever reason. Sometimes, I’m still amazed at how important safety is for the ego, how it looks for that at all costs.

Not that we must be in motion all of the time.

In the dance, there are many moments where the impulse moves in tiny, tiny ways, even to a point of pure stillness, where what is moving is simply respiration, sweat dripping, maybe even a muscle trembling ever so slightly, a finger with a tender pulse, a ever-so-slight movement of the eye.

These moments happen all the time in life, where there is a pause, a breath, maybe even a languishing time of being still, silent, inward-turning.

This impulse is intelligent and wise.

It is the same impulse that moves through us all, yet how it expresses through each of us is different. And, how it expresses through women is different than men, for the female body is different than a man’s body.

This impulse knows something our minds can’t know. And right now, this impulse is guiding us to truthful action if we are willing to trust it to move through us.

I know this is happening in my life. I’m making choices that aren’t comfortable, aren’t cozy, aren’t safe. And in doing so, I find myself stumbling, hesitating, maybe even stepping on my own toes, missing the beat of the music, bumping into others I love and care about.

What is it I trust in

as I move out in directions I don’t know? There is a footing inside, a place that never changes, something I know is there. I don’t have a word for it, really, but Rilke does:

“But your solitude will be a support
and a home for you,
even in the midst of very
unfamiliar circumstances,
and from it you will find all your paths.”
My solitude. That place of aloneness. Only I can feel the impulse, can know its movement, can taste its insistence, can bow to its fortitude. Only I can give breath to it, can trust the pulse inherent in it, can allow it to inspire me forward.
As it is for you. Only you can know this in yourself. It is a place of great aloneness, yet we dance together all the same.

That’s okay. All that matters is that we keep dancing, keep breathing, keep moving our feet, letting the impulse move us, trusting that our own solitude is exactly the footing we are standing on, even when there is nothing underneath our feet.

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Body and Place

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Place.

As I’ve pondered this word (today’s blog challenge prompt is ‘The best place’), I’ve thought of many places I love:

walking in Tilden Park (I live across the street from this wild heaven)

on the dance floor on Sunday mornings at 8:30 in Sausalito with 149 other sweaty and passionate 5Rhythms’ dancers

sitting on the floor in a puppy pile with my three grandchildren, 2 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew on Thanksgiving

doing yoga in my sister’s (the one and only Molly Fox) incredibly physical, and joyously lyrical yoga class

listening intently to my clients on our coaching calls as they share the most intimate details of their ‘one wild and precious life‘ (prostrations to Mary Oliver)

sitting in meditation with the most amazing teachers Lynn Barron, Amma and Adyashanti

simply being with Jeff, the man I share my life with.

I am struck by these things:

how crazy fortunate I am to be living the life I am living

and

how integral being in my body is to the ability to ‘be’ in any place and ‘know’ how it feels to be there. My body is my doorway to place, because I experience place through my senses. I drink place in with my eyes. I touch place with my heart. I feel place through the cells of my body.

and

The ‘best place’ to ‘be’ in is in this body, this sensuous female body that feels deepy and loves completely.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t always been the best place to be. In fact, for many years I wanted nothing to do with this place. I stayed way up in my head, or at times, was nowhere to be found even in the vicinity my body.

Now, after much ‘work’ and lots of great body practices, I know differently. This female body is divine. Not just mine. All female bodies are divine.

I remember being at and Adyashanti retreat when he was speaking about the divine nature of all of life. As I listened, I had an epiphanic experience (fancy way of saying an ephiphany, because I love the word ep⋅i⋅phan⋅ic). I suddenly knew, in the embodied way, that my female body, and all female bodies, are divine. We bring life into life in a myriad of forms. Our female bodies are gateways to this amazing thing we call life. If we are in our bodies, we feel deeply, we connect with the earth.

As this was satsang, when the time came for people to share experiences or ask questions, I raised my hand, was called upon, strode up to the mic, and said, loudly and clearly, “I just got that this body (pointing to mine) is divine”. I suddenly heard a chorus of female gasps arise around the room. I obviously wasn’t the only one who had missed this message growing up.

So in wondering about place, I now see, and taste and touch and hear and feel, that body needs to be in conscious relationship with place, any place, to know it.

As Mary Oliver writes,

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This post is part of Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge
Day 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook? A BODY!

Image credit: Place of Healing, by Mara on Flickr

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Libido, Hana & The Sensuality of Life

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IMG_7319

Today, I’m writing as part of a December blog challenge, The Best of 2009. In this challenge, I’ve been asked to write about a topic each day, a topic that focuses on the ‘best of’ for this year. We’re given a prompt for each day – to use or not – but today’s prompt, What was your best trip in 2009?, is way too juicy for me to pass by…juicy, because my best trip for this year was the two weeks I spent in Maui.

Ahhhhhhhh… Just writing that begins to bring it all back. The sun, the fruit, the amazing water, Haleakalā, and Hana. Oh, and my Libido dance workshop. Yes, all of these delicious things were rolled up into two weeks in paradise. I personally don’t know how anyone lives there and gets a lick of work done.

The trip began when I read about a 5 Rhythms dance workshop on Libido to be held at Studio Maui over three days in July, one of which was my birthday. How could I resist? Maui, libido, dancing, all to celebrate my birthday. When I told my partner Jeff about it, he was in. You see, his birthday is five days after mine. We just happened to be born the same year, five days apart. We always try to find some great place to go and unwind for our birthdays. While Jeff doesn’t dance, he was more than game to find something to do on Maui for those three days that I would be dancing.

We landed a few days before my workshop was to begin, and started out by just lying on the beach in West Maui. The water was divine and I let myself just melt into it, and into the warmth of the sun. We did nothing. For two days. Swam. Slept. Ate. Drank in the sunshine. Then, we packed up and traveled to Haiku, a small town on the North side of the island.

Dancing libido was beyond description. 5 Rhythms has been my main practice for over seven years now, and I know it is what has kept me sane as I have dealt with life’s offerings: death, birth and all the experiences in between. The workshop invited us to open to, and dance, our libido, what Carl Jung refers to as, “…the energy that manifests itself in the life process and is perceived subjectively as striving and desire.” While we usually think of the more narrow definition of libido as sexual desire, it is really so much more. Dancing this energy of desire and sensuality, creativity and expression, was a very powerful way to open to the sensuality of Maui. Little did I know at this point just how sensual a land Maui is.

Dancing the 5Rhythms is such a compassionate and loving way to exlpore realms of self that have been pushed into the shadow, realms that seem to powerful, dark and primal to allow out in everyday life. The dance is a way to let the body bestow its wisdom and ability to heal upon the psyche. Being in a room with so many other dancers exploring this primal and love-filled energy is a gift of major magnitude, for there aren’t many places in our culture where we can learn to be comfortable with this power that rises up from the core of our nature. I emphasize love-filled, for my experience during this workshop was of the magnitude of the power of this love. Love is at the heart of our life-force, the force the is the heart of all creation.

After the workshop was over, we made our way to Mama’s Fish House – very much a touristy restaurant, but an incredible dining experience, too. My birthday dinner there was most memorable, as my entire being was still aglow from my dance experience.

The next morning we made the trek to the top of Haleakalā. Being on top of the island, looking down into the crater is an experience I’ll never forget. The beauty and power of this place is something you can’t describe in words. I’ll just let the pictures speak for me…

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We then made our way back down the mountain and over to the coast, where we picked up the “Road to Hana”…and yes, it is quite a drive! You can buy T-shirts that say, “I survived the road to Hana’. The lush green of the vegetation as we arrived in Hana took my breath away as it lured me into my most animal nature, awakening something very old. I knew I had come home…it was as if I knew I had been here before. The only other time I have felt this totally delectable feeling in my body was when I was in southern India, in Varkala. There is something about the tropical land (Hana is as close as you can get to old Hawaii from what I understand) that just soothes my body and soul and brings me into complete presence with the land.

Each day we were there, we would wake up before the sunrise, walk across the street to Hamoa Beach (yes, our cottage was across the street from one of the top 10 beaches in the world) and swim as the sun rose. Almost every day, we had the beach to ourselves.

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Ever since I was young, I have loved fresh fruit. I could live on it. That’s the other thing I loved about this trip. Each day I feasted on the most luscious fresh fruit that we purchased at roadside stands. We were even served fresh bananas, right off the tree, in Haiku, by the woman we rented our apartment from.

The land in Hana just feels so welcoming. In writing today, I realized how certain cultures seem to know they are part of nature, unlike our culture here in the States, where I hear all the time people say they are going to ‘go spend some time in nature. When I was in southern India, I felt completely one with my surroundings, not just a visitor in nature. I felt this same way here in Hana. I could just breath in and drink up the divine force that is both the creator and creation itself. We don’t have to go to nature. We are nature.

Each morning in Hana, I would sit and feel the warm tropical breeze across all parts of my skin and experience the sensations of my sensual animal nature. The sun, the wind, the water, the fruit, and the earth all fed me in a way that felt as old as earth itself. I felt held by the Great Mother, the Big Womb of Life, and began to know another part of me that had been dormant for so many years, perhaps even lifetimes. It was very simple. And profoundly humbling. The earth still holds us, even though we haven’t been such loving, grateful children to Her. In Hana, they are so respectful of the land, the ‘Aina‘. They get that She holds us and they revere Her.

Upon my return from Maui, I realized I now know myself more deeply, more sensually, and more primal than before. It’s all right here within us, this libido that is our creativity, our sensuality, our primal life force. Oh how we try so hard to deny our nature- that we are nature, that we are animals with a big, over-active, self-reflective brain, and a divinely sensual, loving life-force. This is at the heart of wild creativity.

This was my best trip of 2009.

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To Sweat IS to Glisten

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“Horses Sweat, Men Perspire, Women Glisten” ~ Grandma

Yes, this is what my grandmother would say to me when I was young. You see, I was one of these kids who would go outside to play, and within 10 minutes my coat would be off and I would have a line of sweat all the way across my upper lip. I loved to play and I loved to play hard! There was no doing things half-way for this girl.  Of course, you can imagine what my grandmother thought of that. She was a product of her times. I am sure she was told that women ‘glisten’ by her mother (or come to think of it, maybe her father).

Most of us women learn at some point that it isn’t lady-like to sweat, regardless of what name we give it. But, there’s nothing like a GOOD SWEAT. I was engaged in a delightful email conversation with my good friend Ellie this morning, and we shared what a great sweat we had just enjoyed. She’s a runner and mentioned that she had a wonderful run this morning that was “delicious…fresh air, orange sky & lots of sweat — the stuff that makes me happy most mornings”. I responded to her about my extraordinarily sweaty dance yesterday morning where, once again, I played hard…or I should say danced hard. I ended the two-plus hours of straight dancing INCREDIBLY SWEATY, and I felt absolutely and utterly clean and light from the inside out for the rest of the day.

I dance the 5Rhythms (developed by Gabrielle Roth), and on Sunday mornings I dance with 149 other beautiful souls in a two-hour silent practice called Sweat Your Prayers…and we do. We sweat. I do seem to sweat more than most of the others… something I guess I am used to since childhood, but I notice I sweat a LOT MORE than the other women. This used to bother me, until I realized I was holding myself back from fully diving into my practice.

As I dive deeper into the practice, I realize I am dancing much more deeply grounded, deep down in my legs, pelvis and core. And when I do, I sweat unabashedly. Heat gets generated, toxins are released, and I feel clean and light.

My friend Ellie says, “Isn’t sweating the BEST? It’s so under-appreciated. One of the main reasons I love running is the sweat factor…major cleansing from the inside out!. Funny, I use to sweat a lot during Bikram, but it wasn’t as satisfying a sweat.”

I concur! In my almost two-years of doing Bikram, I loved the sweating, but it wasn’t as satisfying. I wonder if that’s because when I dance, I am generating all the heat from within my body, dancing from deep within my core. The room certainly isn’t heated, although with 149 other people dancing in close proximity, there’s a lot of heat being generated.

So are you wondering yet, why I’m writing about SWEAT on Unabashedly Female? In corresponding with Ellie, I realized how much women are taught, at least in my day, that sweating wasn’t ‘lady-like’. I can STILL hear my grandmother (and mother’s) words.

But, I know how healthy and satisfying a GOOD SWEAT can be; AND, I wasn’t being me, wasn’t really dancing MY dance when I was holding back because of any old leftover worries about being TOO SWEATY. When I dance deeply, I invite others to do the same. When I sweat, I am IN MY BODY, loving the experience.

To sweat IS to glisten!

Being unabashedly sweaty is running/dancing/yogaing/etc. with full-on engagement. It’s about loving life and learning to love ourselves enough to embrace the gift of a GOOD SWEATY GLISTEN.

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