Hallelujah 

The final day of Honouring The Darkness invited me to listen to KD Lang’s wonderful rendition of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. 

I have enjoyed this song for many years. I’ve danced to it, sung along to it. A month ago I toyed with the idea of including it in my public Winter Solstice ceremony. I didn’t but I love that it has come back to me in this way.  

Janelle asked me to reflect on several of the lines from the song… This is going to be personal, and also a rambling of thoughts forming and constellating. 
1 – “The minor fall, the major lift”
When I look back over the last few years, I have been on a wonderful and challenging journey to fully inhabit my Self in the world. It’s been about growing up, becoming the adult I need in my life, relishing my quirks and giving myself permission to fully indulge myself. And at the same time it’s been about coming out into the world, more vulnerable, more open, more connected. Some of that journey has been really uncomfortable, painful even. But every hurt has gifted me the chance to learn how to grow, to heal. 
2 – “The baffled king composing hallelujah”
This blog has been an interesting study in humility. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about my self and the world, knowing that I will have changed my mind at some point in the future. I am always not quite well informed enough, which reminds me of Ken Wilber’s phrase “true, but partial”. Something I learned in Toastmasters is you are never completely ready or fully prepared and it is more important to take a risk, and try something new, than to be completely secure and prepared. Inspiration and creativity comes when I’m trying something potentially silly, foolish, or amateur. Knowing that gives me great freedom. I have more adventure in my life because of it.  
3 – “Your faith was strong but you needed proof”
All the time. And I’m fine with that. I think reality checks are important. We all need support, reassurance about our worth, about our safety. I think this is part of the self care I mentioned earlier. I continue to read inspiring and soul nourishing books even though I’ve heard it all before. They support me and give me “proof” of ideas by showing me them through another’s words and life experience. Just as some days it is perfectly fine and good to occasionally spend all day at home watching funny videos on YouTube, looking for reassurance and proof is fine too. In fact, I would say that proof inspires and supports further faith. 
4 – “And from your lips she drew the hallelujah”
For some reason, I am drawn to the She of this phrase, and to the women who have taught me. In particular, the female 5Rhythms teachers I have had: Barbara, Sarena, Gillian, Caitriona. They held spaces, made magic, and on their dance floors, I have experienced joy, moaned in pleasure and deep sadness, and I have melted, burned, broken open, dissolved, cried in agony and in ecstasy. And I love these women eternally for it. I am the man I am because of their magic.  
5 – “There’s a blaze of light in every word”
I’m a words man. I love words. My teachers are usually authors. When listening to songs it’s the lyrics that fire me. I journal, I blog. I love scripted ceremonies with beautiful words. And yet, the times I have felt the awen burn bright in me have been moments beyond words, before words, when I am fully and wholly embodied. In a deep, erotic dance in 5Rhythms. In the passion of all-shields-down, eyes locked love making. In the simplicity of time with my family. A blaze of light Words so bright and loud I cannot see them, but I burn with love by them. 
6 – “With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah”

Hallelujah.  

As the light returns and the days lengthen and the calendar reads 2017 and onwards, I hope your body is blessed with radiant health, and your heart is blessed with radiant love. 

This post is day ten of my personal responses to ‘Honouring the Darkness’, a ten day reflective period leading up to the winter solstice, facilitated by daily emails from Janelle Hardy at http://www.janellehardy.com/hearthome/ 

Shadows Everywhere

Today’s task asks me to describe my shadows. 

It’s funny how it can seem like I’ve dealt with my stuff and then someone can say something or something can happen and I’m back in an old familiar mental place I thought I’d left behind.  For example,  last night when a colleague tried to describe me when saying why he’d miss me and he ran out of adjectives after “nice” and “quiet”. A part of me became a teenager again, feeling boring and inadequate. But just for a moment, and just a part. Quiet is something I have owned and love now but  I have so many other traits, patterns, and habits that I wish I could leave behind. 
In 5Rhythms practice I learn to move exactly with what is, exactly how I’m feeling now. The way my body feels, the way my limbs move. There’s no point in being embarrassed or ashamed. This is now, this is what’s here. I am here and I am enough.  Whatever I do or don’t do here, is enough.  

I experience the same in my Toastmasters journey. I learn through doing. I stand and speak. Sometimes what I said makes sense. Sometimes I rehearsed enough, but usually there’s an awkward performance, some evidence of growth, and plenty of material for feedback. It’s not comfortable. It’s enjoyable, but when I’m growing and developing, it’s not comfortable. 

I spent a year in therapy. None of it was comfortable. I shone light on my behaviour and not all of it was good and responsible. I sat with my self doubts and fears, and learned tools and skills to move forward in life. But I also learned more about the parts of me that I never wanted to sit and be with. They became familiar.  

My shadows are the parts of myself I turn from. The bits I don’t want to know about. It’s not all shame and regret. There’s some really useful treasure there in the dark recesses. Things I didn’t know would be valuable to me one day. 

I don’t intend to list my wounds and inadequancies. I intend on holding myself safely on this journey. I move with curiousity. This is a journey of gentle discovery, not of fixing myself. I move with my psyche exactly as it is. I wonder what happens when I journal, do morning pages, set myself a 10 day writing challenge, and so on.  

I have learned in this life, through all my journeys, that I am enough, and that I might not always feel it. That I have a right to be here just as I am, and that this journey will continue for only as long as it does. 

This post is day seven of my personal responses to ‘Honouring the Darkness’, a ten day reflective period leading up to the winter solstice, facilitated by daily emails from Janelle Hardy at http://www.janellehardy.com/hearthome/

Staccato

Day 61 of #100Daychallenge

blackout

No. No.
This shape.
This shape.
Breath. Out.
Distinct.
Stamp. Stamp.

Me. You.
This move.
Power.
Force.
Stamp. Stamp.
Stamp.

No further.
This shape.
Breath.
This shape.
Hips.
Stamp. Stamp.

Because I said so.
This shape.
No more.
This shape.
Breath. Ha!
Stamp.

Ha! Ha! Ha!
This shape.
Stamp.
This shape.
No further.
Stamp.

See me.
Hear me.
This shape.
At my biggest.
Ha!
Stamp.

No hiding.
This shape.
Stamp.
This shape.
No!
Stamp!

Bigger.
Stronger.
Harder.
Me.
No!
Stamp.

This shape.
Ha!
You. Me.
This dance.
This shape.
Stamp!

Talk me walking

Day 60 of #100Daychallenge

IMG_6820-EFFECTS

I am prone to anxiety and worry. I am prone to stress. The worst case scenario is my default option. It’s just how I’m built. I’ve always felt this way. The times where I feel completely at peace, and complete safe, are rare. My sleep is easily troubled. If I experience any anxiety at all, I can’t sleep. I dream fitfully. I wake in the dark. My solution is to walk. Walking doesn’t fix things but it gives me and my body something to do.

I grew up in the countryside and my walk was an hour through the fields that connected from ours. I would walk when I had things to think about, or if I wanted to be alone, or if I had to process any emotions be they anger or fear or sadness. As an adult, walking has been my safe place. In times when I’ve had problems in relationships or worries or I have felt emotionally unsafe, I have walked, for hours. Hours.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have emotions to process. I went for a three hour walk. I walked by the sea and the river. The night sky was beautifully clear. I saw mars and venus. I saw gemini, leo, orion, and ursa major. I saw the sky lighten with the dawn. It’s a magical thing to see the world transform.

On the 5Rhythms dancefloor, walking is the basis of all my movement. When there is nothing else I can do, I can walk. My knees can soften, and my feet fall one before the other across the floor. I can relax into the rhythm. In walking, I don’t ever leave my problems behind. I take them with me. I talk to them, about them, around them. In walking I pray, sometimes aloud, sometimes in an inner silence asking for grace. Walking is my way to self-soothe, to find some semblance of peace. I don’t think that will ever change, just as I don’t think I will ever stop being prone to anxiety. I am grateful for walks.

74 is the New 24

I love going to 5Rhythms classes because I get to dance to music from many cultures, and to dance with people of all ages, sizes and gender identities.

I remember at the last workshop I was at, loving the fact that a woman in her 60s was dancing harder to electronic trance music than a less uninhibited person in their 20s would.

This track reminded me of that. This is Giorgio Moroder from his first album in 30 years. He’s 74 now and 74 is the new 24.  I really hope I get to dance to this one at a 5Rhythms workshop.  5Rhythms teachers take note.

How I made a playlist for Galway Dance Co-op

Last night I went to the Galway Dance Co-op.  I don’t get to go very often. I would love to be able to go weekly but Toastmasters is also on Wednesday nights. When I lived in Edinburgh I used to go to 5Rhythms classes once and often twice a week. It has been a huge part of my life. The practice has massively informed my sense of self and given me a great deal of pleasure.  Here in Galway, we don’t have a 5Rhythms teacher or a regular class. What we do have is the Dance Co-op.  A couple of wonderful souls hire out a school class room every Wednesday night. Instead of a teacher, someone puts together a 90 minute playlist. People come from different traditions and with different levels of experience.

I took great pleasure yesterday in putting the playlist together. It’s not often that I put headphones and spent time searching through my music collection. When assembling the playlist, I tried to make sure I had a few strong tracks for each section.  I knew from the start that Work Bitch was going to be in there. I have wanted to dance to that in a group ever since I first heard it.  Most of the rest of the music choices came from my wandering through my iTunes library and selecting tracks that jumped out at me. Like It Or Not was suggested as a great track by my friend Catherine in Edinburgh. We were chatting on Facebook. I wanted to tell her how much fun I was having putting the list together and I sent her a few youtube links for the music I was enjoying.

When putting the music together there were a few tracks I tried to squeeze in.  I had to kill my darlings to make it work. Also, there are few tracks I deleted on the night due to time constraints. I don’t show them here.

Here is the Wave I created:

Image

Every week at the Dance Co-op, the music begins at 7.15 for a 15minute warm up. I played Funky Requiem for that. Once that ended, I stopped the music. We brought a candle to the centre of the room and had a go-round checkin.  I think there were six or so of us to begin with. More dancers arrived during the check in and by the time we were moving there were 13 of us. The music plays until 9pm. I had a full 90minute playlist put together.  The check in took time out of that so I took two tracks from it to make sure we finished on time.

I would change a few pieces if I were to use the same music again. I really like the Snakefood track but I don’t think it gelled very well after the high energy of Work Bitch. I might reverse them but I think I’d find something to replace it.  Also, The Ting Tings didn’t work so well there. In its place I would find something more upbeat and playful.

The tracks that worked most well (judging by the movements of the other dancers) were Galway Rain, Glacier, Lose Yourself to Dance, Work Bitch, and Sweet Nothing.  They all go into my ‘to use again’ bag.  I didn’t intentionally choose a theme to work with but it felt to me like there was one, especially during the first half.  See if you can find a thread.

The night ended with the candle being returned to the centre. We sat in circle, shared silence and then chatted a bit about our experiences.

If you are in or visiting Galway, come along to dance. The dance happens every Wednesday from 7.15pm at St Nicholas Parochial School beside the Town Hall Theatre in Galway. The cost is €7 (€5 concession).

Links

Galway Dance Co-Op on Facebook 

The opening track ‘Galway Rain’ is by the very talented Mister Ebby

My friend Catherine (mentioned above) teaches Movement Medicine in Edinburgh 

This is a piece I wrote in 2012 about movement as prayer and Druidry.

Dancing the 5Rhythms

 

Do you know how to move through a wave of energy? Do you know how to follow your body into prayer?

 

The path I follow is through a map called the 5Rhythms. The rhythms are called Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. Like many of my interests, I discovered 5Rhythms through a book. Ten years ago I was living in Cork and I used to go to the Catholic book shop to buy candles. You can get some great and affordable candles in Catholic stores. A book caught my eye on several visits. That book was ‘Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice’ by Gabrielle Roth.  I bought that book and followed the exercises it offered. Sweat Your Prayers is one of those books that I recommend to everyone. It is a sensuous delight to read. I believe I’m on my sixth copy. Whenever I move house, I give my books away but this one I need to buy again and again to gift and own again and again.

 

To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self. Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past. Sweat is an ancient and universal form of self healing, whether done in the gym, the sauna, or the sweat lodge. I do it on the dance floor. The more you dance, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you come to ecstasy. – Gabrielle Roth

 

For the first year of exploration, 5Rhythms was something I did on my own. There were no classes in the town that I knew of.  Every time I had my shared rented flat to myself, I danced myself into trance states. I danced myself back into my body. I danced to heavy rock and silly pop. When I moved to Edinburgh and then Leeds I tiptoed into classes and found myself at home. The first few times I went to drop-in classes I found it very intimidating at first. Here were wild people, with big dances and loud voices. There was laughter and tears and a sort of emotional freedom that I couldn’t even contemplate. But I moved on the floor. I followed my feet and I fell in love – with the Dance, with dancers and with myself.

 

The basic practice of the 5Rhythms is the Wave. The Wave is the practice of all five of the rhythms in sequence.   To illustrate the practice, I will describe here what happens in a typical class. On arrival, the teacher is usually already playing warm-up music. The type of music will vary from teacher to teacher.   Dancers will arrive, and change into their dancing clothes. Some dancers wear dance shoes but most will be barefoot. The first fifteen minutes of the class is without instruction.  It’s the warm-up where you find your feet, and do what you need to do for yourself to arrive in the space.  Generally, the warm-up is a mini-Wave.

 

The first teaching comes with Body Parts. The teacher guides the class through their body, focusing on movement, breath, and focus on individual body parts building up to a full-body in motion.

 

Flowing

Flowing is the first rhythm. To flow, follow your body in continuos motion. Focus on the in-breath. Take everything in. Follow the feet. Flowing is soft and round.

 

Staccato

With staccato, the music shifts to bring in a beat. Focus on the exhale. Bring your body into shapes with the beat. Follow the movement from the hips. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. Shape, shape, shape, shape.  Staccato dances can get very big.

 

Chaos

The music will shift again to support the peak of the Wave: chaos. In chaos, we surrender. Shift your body weight from foot to foot. Soften and surrender everything. The body part is the spine. Surrender every body part. Energy rises, tears flow, voices cry out.

 

Lyrical

When there is nothing left to let go of, we let go of letting go and the rhythm of lyrical starts to play. Dance is effortless. Follow what happens. Follow the hands. Follow the space and the magic.

 

Stillness

Allow stillness and non-movement into the dance. In stillness, the energy of the dance crystallises. Stillness is breath and silence. Stillness is dancing.

 

The map of the rhythms has dozens of associations. Each rhythm can be associated with an emotion (Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, and Compassion) and with an element (Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Spirit). The map of the rhythms can be used to explore any number of realities. There are workshops that work with sexuality, gender and the life cycle.

 

5Rythms has been part of my spiritual practice for the last ten years. My experiences of reality and my self have been hugely informed by the lessons I have uncovered and played with on the dance-floor. I have found gentleness and acceptance. I have found rage and anger. I have found myself far more playful and joyous than ever before. I have discovered just how intense emotions can get. I have been truly ecstatic.  For me, the practice is a devotional one. At the start of every Wave I offer a prayer. With every rhythm, I offer my self to the dance and to the dancer. And when it’s all over I give thanks for the joy of movement and where I’ve landed.

 

This week I attended two classes in Edinburgh.  It was my absolute joy to return to the space, the practice and the tribe.  Each holds me, loves me and moves me.

 

If you would like to explore the practice:

  • locate your nearest teacher from Gabrielle’s website
  • read some of her books
  • or buy the CD ‘Endless Wave‘ to dance at home.