Exploring animism, embodiment, deep ecology, vulnerability, and imagination . . .
“The devastation of our inner worlds precedes that of the natural world.” —Stephen Harrod Buhner
I always misspell devastation. Devestation. De-vest-ation. Like taking off a vest. It never made sense.
Vast, on the other hand, is more appropriate. De-vast-ation. Taking away the vastness.
Standing on a cliff in England with tears streaming down my face while a scientist explains the deep time history of earth. And all I could focus on was what was in front of me: the vast ocean spreading out so far to the horizon.
A performance exercise: a thread connects your chest to the horizon, feel the pull, walk towards the horizon.
I deepened this exercise later in one of my own explorations: You enter the stage and there are 4,000 people in the space, all holding and supporting you with unconditional love. You have the space to be completely yourself, fully at ease. (A spreading and deepening spontaneously occurs in the performer, a relaxing of the face muscles, an opening of the breath into the belly.) A thread extends from the chest of each of the 4,000 people, all the threads meet at your sternum. You breathe the audience in with your own breath.
My chest has always been tight, my voice not as full and open as it could be. My breath constricted. Ever since I was eight years old, the time when my mother had cancer, the time when it was not safe to cry.
A book I was lent, The Aware Baby, said children need to be allowed to cry in order to release emotion and stored up tension. Crying allows them to return to dynamic equilibrium, which some people call homeostasis—as if staying at home was all that was needed for balance (but I have personally found life to be more of a balancing act between shores).
Peter Levine calls it pendulating. Other people call it oscillating. When I spent a week learning to walk on a tightrope I called it not falling off. The balance that’s only found in movement.
Movement has been the stubborn call to something I don’t know how to fully accept. A mentor once said to me “learn to do a backflip and then you can be a performer.” It’s a puzzle, this resistance to “technique.”
Choreographer Pina Bausch said of her dancers “it’s not how they move but what moves them.” But all Pina’s dancers had years of training and commitment to their craft. But maybe beautiful movement can be done without atheleticism, maybe you don’t have to have muscular strength to dance from your soul.
I practice ecstatic dance, authentic movement. I reach inside to a still place deep within me, the place where the threads connect, a place which opens me up to the impulses that move me on the floor. I feel in my body then. Embodied. More deeply connected with the “tidal nature of my humanity.” The ebb and flow. Breath. Ocean.
I practice movement that is about listening. Maybe the movement is just a by-product of the listening. Because, it’s not me that is speaking when I listen. Or rather, it’s not the voice I use in daily life. Sometimes it’s not even a voice that speaks in words. It’s an articulation of feeling, of felt meaning deep within me.
This is the place I go to also when mythologies bubble up from deep inside me and fill the pages of my journal with impossible dreams. Inside me, someplace so dark and deep that I can’t sound its depths (unfathomable) is a place into which I find myself tumbling headfirst like Alice down the rabbit hole. We do things differently here.
Some people get pissed off by the word “imagination,” because they say what they experience is not imaginary. Not fantasy. Not childish “let’s pretend” or the making up of stories. What they are really saying is that the images come from somewhere else.
I think that people who have sacred visions are tapping into the same source as artists spinning creations out of imagination. We just call this source a different name. There are different permissions. And perhaps this is because the artist doesn’t look far enough into the abyss, doesn’t question the identity of the something else is that is collaborating with them in the darkness.
Under the stairs in my childhood house was a tiny crawl-space inside which my eyes didn’t work at all and as far as I looked all I could see was the deep. When I hid there it seemed that the darkness was a great cavern that spread out before me for miles.
I hear that when you wear a blindfold for several days in a workshop in Prague with a gypsy singer, only using your voice to sing and never for words, at the end you emerge back into the light with your own voice fully dropped in and released because you have traveled through all the holdings, all the protections that keep your from fully accessing your own power.
“What’s holding you back?” Someone asked me once. My answer to the person was that I’m afraid if I fully step into my power, I will be a lonely person, an outsider. But that statement wasn’t fully accurate, because so often I feel the opposite—like I’m the only person on the inside and it would take just the slightest shift for everyone to meet me there, but they won’t.
A few weeks later, when I was crying, a mentor told me that I could “drown in a glass of water.” My answer, one of those delayed answers that comes to you hours later when you are no longer with the person, is that “a glass of water can be an ocean.”
And later, by myself, the words bubbling up to the surface of the paper before me, unbidden: “my insides are as vast as the ocean.”
My curiousities entwine around the concept of “mythopoiesis" — literally "myth-making" — the creation of mythologies that nourish our interbeing with the earth.
My writing explores the betweenesses of different fields—deep ecology, indigenous wisdom, trauma resilience, living process, cultural transformation, sacred activism, grief rituals, play . . .
I am learning how to become a connoisseur of the felt sense, a savorer of the moments that create meaning and nourishment in the world.
I am apprenticing to traditions that practice compassionate witnessing, creating containers in which it is safe to release into the depths of emotion, to traverse the grief and holdings that must necessarily be released before healing can begin to take place.