School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion
 
Issue: School of MM March 2020

Everything has changed
By Susannah
Since the last newsletter, everything has changed. In the shaking of these times, I feel myself and the human web vibrating with adrenaline as we face the power of this unprecedented global situation and the deep unknown. At the same time, I feel a gentle presence in the midst of the craziness which feels like a powerful nudge from mother earth to get with it and make the changes we need to make.

In saying this I am not wishing in any way to belittle the very real challenges for the overwhelmed health services, now or in the future, and all the people suffering as a result of coronavirus, on so many levels.

In these unusual circumstances, we are offering special event FREE Movement Medicine dancing zoom webinars as a way to stay connected to the pulse of life, to the power of dance and to the sustaining joy of community and connection. They are every Tuesday evening throughout March. The last one in March (31st) will be the launch of Ya’Acov’s powerful new book Shaman. I am sure it’ll prove good company for the time to come.

We have been very touched to see and feel the response and how it feels to be able to see each other and dance together. We’ve experienced and had fed back to us the surprising power of grooving together in this way and letting our hearts unfurl in the warmth of the collective vibration of energy and community. As Wiebke Kohn, who danced on the Hamburg “Source” workshop online meet up, said:

This is a moment to discover how to sense and feel our inter-connectedness (which is real) even when we are in our separate houses, cities, villages and countries- we are still in real reality connected...” Yes.

The sound quality was not great for that first one (or the ones for the people we would have been teaching over this last weekend). Thank you for your patience and understanding. We’ve been working hard on it and we believe we now have it sorted and should be good from here on. For this Tuesday, check it out and get your speakers connected!

The powers of kindness and care are beautifully apparent and at the same time the “me first” energy of panic buying. I understand both and feel both within me. And, as has almost always been the way, we will do better as a species if we co-operate and work together, which is, apparently what the norm for us is, in disasters. Often it is in these difficult situations that the best of us comes out. I love hearing the singing Italians, for instance, or seeing this wonderful caring and creative impulse from a woman in Cornwall. So fascinating to be in a global moment of deep crisis without needing a human “other” for “us” to come together. Could we come together as “us” globally?

Ya’Acov and I were very moved by this TED talk with Alanna Shaikh (global health geek as she describes herself) speaking about two aspects of this disease connected with environmental issues and social justice issues. She was speaking about how our human activities spreading into areas of previously untouched wild territories is meaning that we are inevitably coming into contact with new diseases and that we need to leave those wild territories be. And she was speaking about the need to develop and support health care systems and education everywhere. Yes!

I find that what helps me most right now, is (wait for it……… surprise is) dancing. The high vibration of the unknown, change, fear, excitement and adrenaline that's coursing through me and the world wide web needs to move. At least in me it does. And I feel so much more grounded, present and here when I have. When I hear the music I'm simultaneously held by the beat and the groove and all the goodness in the music and I can more easily connect with the knowledge that you're all out there, maybe dancing too. I feel released, I can find my body, my heart and the ground again and my joy. 

I feel how I NEED music like never before and I NEED to dance like never before and I NEED to connect like never before, bother with human connection and with myself and with the natural world.

As you probably know, we have been working for the last months on setting up “21 Gratitudes” our online Movement Medicine Study Hub. This is a membership portal through which we can offer our work globally whilst staying home. We knew that this felt appropriate for these times, but we had no idea just how appropriate it was going to be.  All of our workshops have been cancelled or postponed for the next few months and so we will be offering our work online. We are looking into changing the price structure to make it as accessible as possible.

The doors open in April (for 1 week only) and on the 18th April the doors of the magical garden open and the first ‘21 Gratitudes’ teachings and classes begin and you can continue your journey of movement, learning, self-acceptance, discovery and growth online as a founding member of this world wide community. We are grateful that we can do this and that we are ready to do this.

On a very personal note, my dear Uncle Arthur has died. Many of you who have worked with me have heard me speak about him and my Aunty Liz, and what I learnt by their sides. Ya’Acov and I were waiting for our bags in Quito airport in Ecuador. I switched on my phone to get a message from my father that Arthur had died. I wrote about him in a previous newsletter and that piece is repeated below. Arthur was buried in his top field and his body was carried to his burial in a wicker coffin in the bucket of his friend’s tractor. Long live his spirit. Exactly as I feel with my mother, I feel proud to stand in his lineage. As my Aunt says, he died knowing how much he was respected and loved by so many people. In this time when our elders are especially vulnerable, it seems a good moment to remember to acknowledge and honour them.

Bless us all as we do our best to show up in solidarity with the life that runs through our veins, with courage and humility and all the not knowing and taking the steps we can with all the kindness we can muster,

For music and guided Movement Medicine journeys we’re here,

Love to us all, and hope to see you tomorrow (Tuesday 17th March) on zoom,

Susannah Darling Khan


Thank You, Uncle Arthur

I was supremely lucky to have an Uncle and Aunt who were some of the first organic farmers of the modern era. Uncle Arthur and Aunty Liz’s small, 35 acre farm was called “Tyllwyd”. From some of the fields you could see the wide stretch of Cardigan Bay, coloured anew each sunset. “Tyllwyd”, which means grey house in Welsh, was an unpainted farm house with a dilapidated outside loo.

Tyllwyd was an oasis to many young people looking for their way. In terms of money Liz and Arthur were poor but, in the soul, they were the richest people I knew. They were interacting with the land, the elements and those beautiful Jersey cows. They were doing what was true and meaningful to them and they were satisfied.

As a child already enraptured with nature, the rich intoxicating smells of earth and hay and cows were enough to keep my soul yearning for more. Each year we would go in the summer to help with the hay harvest and this was my heaven on earth. I loved their small herd of beautiful golden Jersey cows. “Silver Rain” was peaceful, gentle and wise. “Maid Marion”, beautiful and shy, “Razzle Dazzle” huge and wild and a bit frightening. Each of them was tended personally and lovingly as my Uncle attempted to keep his deal with his cows. He had made what I can only call a spiritual agreement with them that, in exchange for their milk, he would look after them well, and keep them long after they were no longer economically viable. They were milked by hand and cared for with natural biodynamic remedies. They kept their natural horns and fierce good looks and, when eventually their life had to end, they were killed cleanly on the farm with no fear, where they would be buried, on the land they had lived on.

In those days there was no premium for organic milk. The Jersey cows gave high butterfat, for which Liz and Arthur got a premium, but “organic” didn’t yet mean anything commercially. So, every day, Tyllwyd’s single churn of the best possible organic hand milked milk would get poured into the vast tank, mixed with all the milk from all the other nearby conventional farms. Uncle Arthur was happy that the consumers were still getting a homeopathic drop of organic, biodynamic goodness in their milk. He prided himself in the knowledge that his milk was the best going into Felun Fach creamery. Indeed it was found to be such at inspection after inspection, not just in terms of its butterfat content, but also in terms of cleanliness (lack of bacteria and dirt) and longevity. So this, as my cousin Jack Darlington said to me last week “was not wasted effort by an eccentric but meaningful work by somebody who knew exactly what he was doing.”

At one point they were totally skint. School uniforms needed to be bought and there was nothing to buy them with. Uncle Arthur was worried. He thought that he might have to break his agreement with the cows. One of them was coming to the end of her life and he knew that if he sold her carcass as dog’s meat rather than bury her on the land as per his promise, he would get £300 for her. He went out to pray in his “church”, a particular fairy ring in a field high up on the farm. He spoke to God and asked for guidance: “I think I am doing what you have asked me to do, but now I am not sure as I am simply not earning enough to live. I do not know any more if I am on the right track. Please send me a sign to guide me and let me know your will.” He was not sure if God had heard him, but the next day a cheque arrived in the post for exactly £300. It was from Anna, a young woman who had sought refuge there at a turning point in her life. She’d suddenly become aware of wanting to say thank you. So the cow stayed on the land, the children had their uniforms and Uncle Arthur had his answer.

Learning to milk was a great joy for me. Silver Rain was the patient, kind teacher cow for beginners such as 8 year old me. Those cups of milk; warm, frothy and direct from her udder were a blessing in my childhood. I feel why cows are sacred in India; their beatific, peaceful and generous nature seems holy to me. I spent many an hour as a child, quiet in the barn, comforted by the calm rhythm of cows eating their hay and chewing the cud.

I would watch my cousins milking, the muscles of their forearms sculpted by long practice. I learnt to milk, and I had enough strength for one cow, but not for the steady stream of them who came to the milking byre every single morning and evening. It’s a job that takes calm, precise, gentle, strong, movements (and incredible commitment – imagine, twice a day EVERY single day of every year) and offers a calm, benevolent peace. It’s rare now for anyone to have this experience of hand milking in the industrialised world. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to experience it. Milking is done, almost everywhere now, by machine and it’s a totally different vibe. I learnt how to tuck the milking stool under me, wash the cow’s udder carefully with warm water, absorbing the sweet smell of oats and molasses as the cow licked her bowl clean and then the satisfying singing of the milk rhythmically jetting into the bucket, the cow peacefully chewing the cud.

Just thinking about Arthur brings, I imagine, his voice to life in your memory. That slightly nasal, powerful brummy twang, salted with laughter, of the earth mixed with tractor grease and the sweet smells of cows and hay. I am comforted and inspired that this man walked the earth, and that I had a chance to walk in his footsteps. He was brilliant, bothersome, wonderful and frustrating, powerful and tender. Liz, I bow to you, and the way you shared, so passionately, his commitment and lived to tell the tale. As my mother once said, Arthur might have been a better farmer if he hadn’t been so busy talking about politics all day. However, another way of viewing it is that his farming was politics of the deepest level. It was his commitment to service, to life on earth, to the future and to the well-being of the people. And when you looked at his cows, you could see the true commitment and accomplishment he had as a farmer. His cows bloomed.

I am blessed to have had this unusual heritage and experience that is rare in our world these days. I am very grateful to Arthur and Liz. I have thought that they might be surprised to know how often I refer to their teachings in my teachings.

Now Uncle Arthur is 92 and is slowly, gently fading. His body is weak, but he is totally there. I was touched and sad and happy to be able to visit him and my Aunty Liz in August with my father (his younger brother) to say thank you once more. Meeting Jack, my cousin, we found we shared so much about land and humanity. When I read him this piece, I thought he might say I was romanticizing Tyllwyd and his parents and all they stood for. Jack knew what it meant to get up on dark freezing cold morning after dark freezing cold morning to help milk the cows before going to school. But he said that this writing was accurate and added those important words (above) about Arthur’s conscious meaningful work. He also said that Arthur had taught him to honour and relish physical labour. I love that being spoken and I feel that too. I had never put this together for myself, how I grew up involved with school and book learning, but also needing to work physically on the land to express something else. That was that!

My father is making a booklet of people’s memories of Arthur and, when I sent him this piece, he asked whether I had sent it to Liz and Arthur. They don’t do computers, so I printed it out big for Arthur, as his sight is better than his hearing. Liz held up the pages and said he read them all avidly. When he had finished, he said a quiet, happy “YES” and sank down to rest contentedly. I am so glad to have been able to communicate this detail to him now.

With love and gratitude, Susannah Darling Khan

 




And then the world was a different place....
By Ya'Acov
Wow! That was quick! Just like that. All change! I remember, we were a small group of 20 of us at Shell airport outside Puyo in Ecuador. We were about to fly into the Amazon forest to go and be with our friends and family there – when, quite suddenly, we were asked to pay attention to a young woman from the Health Ministry who was going to show us how to wash our hands properly.

That was the first time I’d heard mention of Covid-19, the now ultra-famous reality change agent. It’s interesting what gets us to act isn’t it? Apparently, a human being dying every 10 seconds from hunger is not a serious enough virus for us to act. 

That hand-washing demonstration at the tiny airport was like being at the Long Dance again, when our dear friend Agnes, a Movement Medicine Facilitator and medical doctor with years of field experience working in refugee camps, explained to all of us how to wash our hands properly. Since that delightful choreography that Agnes showed us whilst explaining how it had been shown to reduce spread of disease by a massive percentage, I’ve been a fan. And then Reuben told us that he had been taught in his apprenticeship as a chef that washing hands for the length of time it takes to sing a full rendition of ‘happy birthday’ twice was a hygiene necessity. It kind of suits my fussy self to have a reason to wash my hands so many times a day. But my goodness, what a challenging time to be a human living in a body on planet earth. 

For us, the fact that we were already at home together and not travelling far away and having a reason to stay at home whilst the Spring springs, are the silver linings in all this. We decided early on that the most responsible thing to do was to postpone all of our events for the foreseeable future. So we did. And we’ve spent the last week mostly ‘on hold’ as we waited for the over-worked switchboard operators at all the travel companies we use to answer the phone and our questions about postponement and refunds. There are so many things to be scared of, but when a whole host of them land at once and threaten the illusion of certainty that we’ve been invited to hang out in, life can become very overwhelming. 

I’ve been taking the invitation to take a good dose of my own medicine and I’ve been practicing (movement as medicine) in the mornings, and at night, and quite often whilst on the phone. I’ve noticed that, on the whole, people have been going out of their way to be kind to one another and I’ve been floored several times this week by the humanity a shared crisis can engender amongst total strangers. Having said that, surely a radical act of kindness would be to transform the on-hold music that gets played round and round. How about a little Movement Medicine meditation whilst you’re waiting to be answered? Or at the very least, some Bob Marley to lift the spirits. 

Laughter and joking aside, I recognise how blessed I am. And I am very much more blessed than many. So, as always, the most interesting question for us here in the DK household has been, ‘what’s the most creative and generous way to respond to all this?’ We’ve lost our income but not our love for life, and certainly not our love of the practice we’ve created. 

And the news from my front line is that; ‘Yes, it works!’ Whilst in my Movement Medicine practice these past two weeks, I’ve noticed so many things. Like how quickly my heart comes online when I move. Like that uncomfortable icy, cold echo of fear in my guts that turned out to be a not-so-very-old memory from my great-grandparents as they faced a new life as refugees in a country far from home. When I turned to see those teenagers, travelling on a ship in the opposite direction of everything they knew, and I tasted the salty blend of sea air and survival fear, I danced all that deeper to thank them for their courage and yes, I felt them that little bit stronger at my back. 

And in the midst of all this, I have a new book coming out on March 31st. and though I say so myself, it’s making a timely entrance. I know how useful that archetypal force called the Inner Shaman can be and I know that anyone in a body can gain access to what they know should they want to. I’m going to leave the fanfare for the massive effort I’ve poured into this book to the one person in this world without whom I wouldn’t have managed to get to the end of page one, Susannah:

’I have been married to Ya’Acov for over three decades. He is my best friend and much more besides. We have shared so many ups and downs as we learned, loved, fought and brought our work into the world. Over the years, as we have met indigenous groups in different places round the world, over and over again the same thing has happened: out of the blue, elder shamans recognized him and told us that he is a shaman too. These were people who knew nothing about him and who did not have anything to gain from recognizing him in this way. They simply saw who he is.

I’m proud to stand by his side and uphold him, his integrity and this amazing book. It makes clear what a genuine and inspiring shamanic practice, relevant to the wounds, challenges and opportunities of our modern world, can mean.’

Susannah Darling Khan

Thank you sweetheart! Your turn to write now and I’m right here at your side…….

Of course, I was going to do some book launch events in person, but our new world situation means that I’m going to have to offer them online. The good thing about that is there’s no travel costs, hardly a carbon footprint in sight (relatively speaking) and of course, we can record it and you can watch it anywhere at your leisure.

Any of you in touch with us through facebook or our mailing list will know that we’ve decided to take the opportunity to run some free online events. We were blown away by the response from the last ones. 400+ people from around the world joined together to practice together. Amazing grace. And this is just the warm-up.

Tomorrow night, March 17th, we’ll be at it again, shamelessly inviting people into their bodies, their creativity, their ground, themselves, and of course, the power of experiencing this connection through the world-wide-web. The focus will be:

SHAKE IT OUT - SHAKING MEDICINE FOR SHAKY TIMES

Please take this as your personal invitation to come and dance with us (and if you can’t make it, don’t worry, there’ll be a recording in the library.

Finally, our new membership site will be launching over a week-long period in April. We’re currently reviewing the pricing structure to take into account the financial realities many of us are facing. You can sign up for the waitlist here and you’ll be amongst the first to hear our news.

For now, dear Movement Medicine community, stay well. Keep on moving. This is the time to use everything we’ve been practicing. Whilst our hearts still beat. I’ll leave you with a quote from my new book. And see you online. 

With so much love, I’m popping like a birch tree. 

The title of this book is an invocation. And I am drumming and singing it into the eight directions, through the roots, trunk and branches of the Tree of Life: ‘Shaman! Hey! You there! Yes, you! I’m calling to you – you inside your skin, inside your bones. To the ancient memories that are alive in your DNA – the Inner Shaman who remembers your unbreakable connection to the magnificent spirit of life and who you truly are. It’s time to awaken. Your body needs you. The Earth needs you. Your heart needs you. Your dreams need you. You are creation itself in the form of a human, and you have so much to give...’

My intention is to show you that there is an Inner Shaman within you, an archetype that I believe has a powerful role to play in the personal and collective awakening we need to engage in if we are to have a future on Earth. Some say it is already too late for us. But my own experience tells me that we have barely begun to understand the power and intelligence of life itself and the potential power of transformation that is within us, between us and between we humans and the web of life.

Shall we? 

YDK. March 2020  

Garden Practice
By Hannah Mackay
I started the Movement Medicine Apprenticeship in 2018, and I’m still in progress – I was expecting to complete it this year, but like many other things, that has turned into an unknown, because of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m sharing some of my experiences of developing a ‘Creative Garden Practice’ in case it might help other dancers in the current times.

During my Apprenticeship so far, I have found it frustrating that it has been hard to access Movement Medicine spaces, other than the Modules and electives, without travelling internationally. I have managed to get to a couple of workshops, which have been great.

Looking around for different options to practice Movement Medicine, I tried joining in an online practice, but I don’t get on so well with the technology. I have danced in my living room, both free-style, and using guided recordings such as the SEER process. I worked out that one reason why I may not practice at home, is that I feel lonely. So I set myself up with a buddy to check in with when I am practising (Thanks Super Buddy!) and also invited a witness to the session, such as an apple, a stone, a plant.

In the Winter Dream Dance last year, I had a strong dream which included going out into my garden. Following the thread of this dream, over the past year I have been mainly practising in my garden. I have occasionally used music or a guided process on headphones, but mostly I have wanted to have the full sensory experience of being in the garden, including the sounds that are there that day. This practice has been movement based, but has included a variety of other creative practices including most commonly writing poetry, but also painting, drawing, making things, singing, playing my drum (quietly!). The theme of my Apprenticeship project is to engage fully in the Yin and Yang of my creative practice.

 It is a very different experience to dance in your own garden, compared to on a dance floor with other people. I have found some similarities - I still get to notice many things around me; I have plenty of partners who are already in movement (different species than I am used to); I have sights, sounds and my feelings to follow. One big difference is that I don’t have a build-up of human complication around me, except what I bring with me. That makes things simpler for me... It also means I get a different kind of perspective on my experiences. I have really noticed the life that is living in my garden in a different way, through bringing my creative practice to it, engaging with it, being curious and fascinated in what appears to me. I have moved with the reflections in drips hanging off my apple tree; with a bee on a lavender flower; with a flock of long-tailed tits arriving in the garden. I have danced under the tree, and up the tree, on top of rotten apples in the dusk and in strong sunlight that made the tree invisible. I have imagined and practised Mindfulness of the Apple. I have noticed a snail remind me of a friend, I have noticed ivy remind me of myself. I have discovered some of the reasons that I am usually inside, and collective dreams about The Garden. I have given myself the opportunity to dance with these experiences, and write about them, collect them and craft them into objects and artwork that I find beautiful. I have noticed that I don’t need to go anywhere - the Medicine is already here.

Perhaps this is a great time to try out a Creative Garden Practice for yourself, or an adaptation that will fit with your home circumstances – at least with a window open to the sight of clouds and the sound of birds.

 

Collaboration

 

It’s cold in the garden for

bare feet striding and twittering

through wet grass, getting all stuck about

with petals fallen from the apple tree.

Cold feet, wet; cool hands, dry, in the air,

collecting themselves, collecting each other.

I am warm in the centre,

dancing with the smell of bluebells,

the echoes of soft drumming bumping up against

      the alarm call of a blackbird, concerned about his patch.

 

I cultivate this garden, and I see how

it does its own thing. This is not collaboration.

This garden smiles on me, brings fruit,

blossom, beauty, is full of life, leaves, green patchwork;

allows for death – the rosemary bush putting on

a last show of flowers as more and more branches

go leafless; last year’s chilli plant just

brown dryness; my old black cat has sunk down

in his grave now, and the deadwood we collected

sits stacked, lifeless itself,

now a home for life,

fungal, insect, a place for those little guys,

millipedes, woodlice, bacteria.

 

This is a place to be with life, this garden,

to be inside life, even in a small space in Chorlton, Manchester,

with planes overhead and cars beeping on the next street.

Parrots, blue-tits, a small oak tree in a pot,

dandelions in the shade of a table, bay,

worms, slugs, snails, and those

raspberry canes tipping over to get their leaves

angled to the light.

 

 

at home / away

 

If you’re not away, you can be at home.

 

You can step out into your garden every morning

to greet the day, as seasons flow into one another

seamlessly, or abruptly, warm cloudy days, sharp frost.

You can watch the sequence of apples

setting, growing, ripening, falling, rotting,

be surprised again by a full thud as another beauty

hits the shed roof.

Bluebells push up leaves first, taking the advantage of the early riser,

filling their boots with photosynthesis

and opening into sweet scent

while the trees’ leaves are still stretching off their winter’s sleep.

 

You can enjoy difference within sameness,

the clouds or stars in this familiar patch of sky, today,

the squishiness of the lawn, or its ice, or parchedness,

the constant efforts of the privet to put on height.

 

If you’re not at home, you can be away.

You can leave a note on your door, perhaps –

Backson. Bisy. Backson.

 

You can visit three donkeys in a field in Reeth,

that we nicknamed Neddy, Jenny and Donkey-donk

back when the kids were still little.

They always seem to be there,

not waiting in for us, surely –

just eating grass or fallen ash leaves,

looking about to see what’s going on, of interest to a donkey,

lifting furry ears or bending necks,

sometimes playing host to a visiting friendly sheep.

 

You can enjoy sameness within difference –

the way birds’ voices carry, over gardens, over moorland,

messages in air, sky,  water –

the way life lives itself

sea-wise, fish-wise, under the Adriatic;

or strangely,

on the scuttering, falling surface of the Canadian Badlands,

fossils lying undisturbed beneath.

 

You can follow your dream, like the Pedlar of Swaffham,

out into the Far Unknown

where Dream meets Dream,

and in that meeting, find that the treasure’s lying

under the apple tree, at home.

 

 

hannahmackay@hotmail.com

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www. schoolofmovementmedicine.com