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Issue: Spring Extra Movement Medicine Newsletter
Return from the Forest

By Ya'Acov
We had some good friends over for dinner this week. They wanted to know the ‘full version’ of the story of our recent trip to Ecuador. ‘Are you sure?’ we asked. ‘Absolutely, every detail please.’ Five hours later, at 1am, we brought the telling to a close.

During those hours, I had once again felt the soft dark earth of the forest under my feet, smelt the fresh bright air of the Amazonian dawn and tasted salty tears as we recounted stories of deepening friendship and of the heartbreaking beauty and dignity of the people we met.

We’ve been visiting the Amazon regularly for the past 10 years. For the past three, we have been there with the Pachamama Alliance. We went first as travellers and in the last two years, we returned as journey leaders on our annual Dancing with the Heart of the World collaboration with our good friend David Tucker, the Director of the Pachamama Journeys Programme. The strength and medicine we have received from the Amazon is woven into the very roots, trunk and branches of Movement Medicine practice. As strong as our connection had been prior to this visit, we were not prepared for the quantum shift in the depth of relationship that we experienced with our brothers and sisters in the forest this time around.

The thing that is so extraordinary and in my view unique about visiting the great forest through the Pachamama Alliance, can be found in the way the Alliance came into being. Don Rafael Taish, an elder Achuar shaman, started having visions more than 20 years ago of the threat that he and his people were facing from the encroachment of so called civilisation and especially from our thirst for oil. The Achuar are a warrior people who have never been defeated, not even by the might of the Spanish Conquistadores. Their philosophy is simple. If something frightens you, approach it and investigate it. And that’s what the Achuar did. They put out a call and the call was heard by Lynne and Bill Twist and John Perkins and through that, at the request of the Achuar, the Pachamama Alliance was formed. The work that has been done over the past 20 years is phenomenal but as you no doubt know, the threat of oil has not gone away. Far from it and right now, these magnificent guardians of the lungs of the earth are once again facing the very real threat from oil companies who wish to remove the oil from their ancestral homelands and in the process trash one of the most biodiverse sanctuaries for life on earth. The Achuar and their neighbouring tribes understand very well that the Amazon Rainforest is the lungs of our planet and that their stand for life is vital therefore not just to them but to us all. They are standing for all of us.

When we first went to visit them, we already had experience of the beauty and raw power of the forest. The thing is, it’s just as it was created. It hasn’t been interrupted or interfered with and therefore, the channel to the force of creation itself is completely wide open under the great canopy of green. And the Achuar live in total connection to their environment. According to the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, the Achuar are an impoverished and ignorant people who need saving from their poverty and life of misery in the forest. Nothing could be further from the truth. A more dignified people I have never met. The forest provides everything they need and they are carefully choosing what they wish to integrate from the modern world. They are very clear that the answer to the crisis of the times we live in is to integrate the best of traditional wisdom and knowledge with the very best of modern wisdom and knowledge, including technology. In several villages, solar panels and satellites provide access to facebook so that the people can stay in touch with their friends around the world and keep them updated about what is happening.

This year, we met Don Rafael for the third time. He’s quite a character and an absolute force of nature. We were also very blessed to meet two other elder shamans from the Achuar, Jimpickit, who we met last year as well, and Tsumpa, who we met for the first time. Tsumpa is in his eighties and is building a new home. When we arrived, Roman, an Achuar man travelling with us who had seen me working and doing healings in his village, introduced me as a shaman. We asked Tsumpa when we arrived there if there was any help we could offer him or his people. The next day, with the help of a little cheecha, the local beverage, he had us carrying huge piles of palm fronds on our backs through the jungle that would be used to complete the roof. The Achuar are a practical people.

We began our journey in the forest this year with a visit to the community of Sharamensa, where we were formally greeted, Achuar style, by the young President of the community, Augustine, and his colleagues, all traditionally dressed and holding large spears.  They told us that they were very happy that we had come at this time. They knew that President Correa had recently shut down Fundacion Pachamama, the Ecuadorian organisation that has been so effective in working with the Pachamama Alliance to protect the forest. They were worried that people wouldn’t be able to come and visit them. They told us how this forest had been their home for countless generations and how they wished it to remain so. They told us that they wished to protect it so that their children and children’s children could enjoy it as they had. And they told us without bravado and with full heart that they were all united in their intention to protect it on behalf of all the people of earth (that’s you and me folks) and would do so ‘to the very last consequence.’ Over the time of our visit with the Achuar and with their neighbours, the beautiful Sapara people, we were given this message time and time again. ‘This is our home. We say no to oil. And if necessary, we will die to protect it on behalf of all of life on earth.’ When we first visited the forest, we knew how important it was to protect it. Later, the Achuar people themselves became the focus of our support. That was strong but now, as a result of the extraordinarily profound exchanges we had with them, these people have become our brothers and sisters, our family. Amongst the Sapara people, there is a beautiful three-year old shaman-in-training. Susannah and I were asked to be his godparents and we agreed. His name is Manari. He already has the capacity to accurately predict the weather and see illness in the people that visit their community. His Grandfather was a very famous shaman also called Manari, whose wife, Mukusawa, is still living. She’s what the Japanese might call a living national treasure! When we got off the small plane that had skidded to a halt on their short and muddy runway, she came up to us all and greeted us each with a big hug!

On this visit, I was authorised by the shamans we visited to work in their ceremonies and offer healing to our brothers and sisters that needed it. This may seem like a straightforward thing but the level of trust involved in this is huge. They know us not as tourists but as allies and friends and we are the beneficiaries of all the years of groundbreaking down to earth work that the Pachamama Alliance has done to make this new level of connection and partnership possible. 

I would like to take this opportunity to formally invite you to participate in this year’s Summer Long Dance. It’s a an extraordinary event and I hope you can either make it yourself or feel moved to support one of the dancers or the Achuar by donating to the fund raising for the Pachamama Alliance that is so central to the Long Dance.

If you would like to see our friends from the Amazon giving their message directly, then go to:

Maria Speaks

Mukasawa Speaks

Jose Speaks

Jorge Speaks

2014 mark a very big year for us. In this year, shockingly soon actually, I will be 50. In October, Susannah and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and 28 years of being together. And as we step out on the road to begin teaching again, we are celebrating 25 years of teaching movement as a spiritual practice. Those of you that know us will recognise that for us, spiritual practice is a pretty down-to-earth kind of gig. And in the last seven years of Movement Medicine’s rapid evolution, we have been able to distil our philosophy down into 9 words: be who you are and give everything you’ve got. Those simple 9 words are a gateway into the rich landscape that is Movement Medicine practice. We are absolutely delighted by the range of work now being offered by the ever-growing circle of Movement Medicine Professionals who we are training, with the help of a lot of excellent input from the circle. You can take a look for yourself by checking out the Movement Medicine Association website. The Association is the professional body that has been set up, in consultation with us, by the circle of teachers and facilitators, to be the central hub where you can find out what’s being offered through the Movement Medicine network worldwide. We feel proud of the quality of our apprenticeship and training and of the beautiful variety of teachers, facilitators and practitioners that are the fruit of it. Like any project, there are many people involved in the day-to-day business of making all of this happen. As we begin a new term of teaching, I wish to honour and celebrate the work of the many people behind the scene who are making the healthy development of Movement Medicine a manifest reality. We have been working with Roland in one capacity or another since we met him in 1989. Susanne, his partner is, as you might expect, the power behind his throne. Our staff, David Rose, Sue Kuhn and Jo Hardy, have been a great source of support in these initial years and continue to offer their excellent one-to-one mentoring for all our apprentices. They have been recently joined by Caroline Carey, Christian de Sousa, and Mark Boylan who have taken up their roles as pathfinders again as we continue to look for the best ways to pass our work on. Our network of local organisers are the ones who make it possible for us to bring our work to you in the many different venues we visit each year. We are very blessed to have such good people around us and on top of that, we have a wonderful circle of mentors and guides who help us to stay as close as possible to the core principles that guide our lives and work.

I find it remarkable how this whole thing is unfolding. Looking back over the past 25 years of work, I see how everything we have learned as students and as teachers has prepared us for this time. 

And so dear friends, as the wheel of the year begins to turn towards the return of the light here in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope to meet you and dance with you at one of our many offerings this spring. Here’s a link to our calendar so you can check out what’s on offer. We’ll be sharing a talk and slideshow about our recent journey to the Amazon at most of our workshops in the early part of the year. And finally, this is the final week to get your applications in for the next apprenticeship programme that begins in August.

Wishing you all the sweet contentment of being and becoming and offering all you’ve got.

Ya’Acov Darling Khan

March 2014

Susannah and Y'a'Acov will be leading their next journey to the Amazon with the Pachamama Alliance next January. For more information go to the journeys section of

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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.