Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finding Moments of Peace and Presence Through Dancemeditation

Day 8 of Gwen Bell’s December blogging challenge: Prompt: What was a moment of peace for you this year?

I don't need to fly to a beautiful tropical island to find peace, as Gwen Bell convincingly argues in her post on the subject.  But time spent immersed in meditation has made it easier for me to find peace everywhere, even on the streets of New York City.

One day I was walking up Sixth Avenue on my way to my Dancemeditation class, quietly chanting the Peace Prayer, 'Let me be an instrument of thy peace, where there is hatred let me sow love...' when everyone on the sidewalk froze as a man punched another man in the face, hard, and the other man swung back.  No one moved or spoke.  In a deep, authoritative voice, I found myself saying, "Quit it."

The men paused.  One turned and began to walk away. The other ran after him.  "You!"I said. "Stay there. You.  Go."  They did as they were told.  After the first man had disappeared into the subway I went on my way.  A small woman in a ruffly silk skirt, I'd taken charge in the moment because I was fully present.  I have my Dancemeditation practice to thank for that.

I’m a long talker, but when I get back from my yearly two week Dancemeditation Movement Monastery in June and friends ask me how it went, I tend to respond, ‘great.’ Period.  I don't have the desire or the ability to say much more.  If they ask for details I tell them about the simple food, the  Victorian mansion where we sleep, the old mill where we dance, the rushing waterfall behind the mill.

Its a rare gift to have two solid weeks to focus on embodiment, to sensing, moving, and breathing; exploring the space of the body, the space around the body, the space inside the body.

Going into this deep inner place with a supportive community is like paddling out to sea on a big raft.  We can go farther when we navigate through the waters together.  We get to places we could never find alone. 

By the end of the retreat I stretch like a cat, enjoying every sensation.  I'm learning anatomy and physiology from the inside out, articulating movement I wouldn't have thought possible several years ago.

There are usually some hard parts,  times when my brain won't shut up, or my dancing feels leaden, or there is some drama about kale.  Sometimes painful emotions surface.  But the hard parts are forgotten after periods of oneness….. of actually getting to leave the experience of my ego/story for awhile…. These moments are sustaining.  They shift me in subtle, fundamental ways, and they support me when I'm back in the hectic world. There are typically all sorts of little personal epiphanies along the road too.

These words feel entirely inadequate.

Here’s a poem I wrote on my very first retreat in an attempt to capture something I couldn't express through prose.  Incidentally, it was the first poem I had written in years after a long block.

I am in the sea
sinking under Love
past razor junk fish
through light and shadow.
I have begun to understand gratitude.

No words come for it. 

I can say only
that it feels right
to push my head and heart
to the sea floor.
It feels right
to take off my face
and let the water seep inside,
shifting my organs with the sand.

Blood and lymph
bathed in salt tears
become thresholds
for spirit to slip
back into my bones.

Waves lift me,
 rock me,
press me into crevasses,
fold me over myself
until there is nothing
but the folding,
motion creating space between the cells.

I want to become these waves,
foaming into coral,
sliding through the sand,
rising up inside the sky
to shudder down again.

For now I breathe through them,
chest under the blue green water,
head above their purled crests,
until they send me,
charged and weighted,
to the shore.


Sandi Longhurst said...

Kate, the beauty of Presence. Amazingly, I can relate to your story of of dissipating violence with Peace. After whirling in the park one afternoon I noticed a man tossing a softball with his teenage daughter. He was very harsh and critical of her. As I walked by to leave the park he flirtatiously asked how I was doing and I responded, "fine and I would be better if you were more respectful to your daughter." Offended, he said that it was a private affair and none of my business. With unusual courage (as you know I am typically terribly shy)I responded that how women are treated in this world is absolutely my business. It is impossible to know how these seeds grow though I imagine the girl expecting more respect in her world. Peaceful power, a gift of practice.

Kate Temple-West said...

Sandi-- thanks for sharing that story. I am so glad you responded that way. Impossible to know how it effected them, but as you said it in the moment with such non-ego based authority, I imagine it was healing for you personally, me reading this, and so I imagine it very well could have been for those two-- the daughter and possibly even her dad. You named it perfectly --peaceful power. Such a gift.