School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: September Newsletter
Of Dartmoor, the Amazon and “Torch Songs”

By Susannah
On my 53rd birthday, on July 18th I went to spend a night up on the hill on whose flanks we live. The sun set over Dartmoor in a deepening blue sky to the west, as the moon rose over the sea in the east. The light of the moon accompanied me all night as I saw in the landscape below me a mirror of the life I have led up to now and the possibilities of the time that is to come before my river runs into the sea. My recurring feeling and prayer was one of immense gratitude.

I feel thankful for so many aspects of this life I live: my amazing husband and our family, this land, and that I found a way to make a contribution to life that has meaning for me and that uses who I am.

We have been home in our summer holy-days working with deep pleasure on our projects. Ya'Acov has been working on his book “Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart” which will be published by Hay House next June, and I’ve been working on my new album “Torch Songs.” Each evening, after we have stopped work, Ya'Acov read his work of the day to me, and I shared a latest mix with him. Hearing my beloved's life story through his own words, hearing his recounting of experiences many of which I lived through by his side, has brought so much into focus, and given our lives a new sense of context. It moves me greatly to see more clearly the amazing being I am with, and at the same time to understand my own story more. Through these sharings, there has been a rich and unexpected dialogue weaving back and forth between the two of us about the meaning of our lives. I am looking forward to the sharing of these treasures.

Over the last few days of our holidays I was down to the line with time. Thanks to the magnificent musicians, singers and a beloved shaman who have graced this music, the songs feel like beautiful birds ready to spread their bright wings and fly. To me they are Torch Songs; songs to light the way in these turbulent and challenging times. I finished my work, ready to hand it over to the young producer who is mixing it ½ an hour before I had to. Yeah! The same day Ya’Acov got to the same point with his book and sent it to his publisher, giving us a whole afternoon to go to the beach and celebrate. That’s when we made that funny little “We did it!” video you may have seen on our facebook page.

One song in my new album is a song Ya’Acov and I wrote in the Amazon rainforest 2 years ago. It’s the first song we ever wrote together. We’d been in the forest for one journey with the Pachamama Alliance, and had come out for a breather before going back in for a personal journey this time with David Tucker from the Pachamama Alliance. I had a little time alone one day, and me and my guitar found a melody and chord sequence that would not let me go. I was singing and singing, and the song was one of love for the spirit of the forest. As sang out my love, simultaneously I felt the forest loving and supporting me. But I couldn’t find any words. Ya’Acov came in some hours later, heard the song, and simply started singing the words that some of you already know so well. The “Force of the Forest” had arrived. Later, around a fire in a hut in an Achuar village, David Tucker translated it into Spanish and the full version was born.

This year during our journey in the Amazon we were at Tinkias. Tinkias is a beautiful, simple space for guests consisting of traditional open sided huts on stilts, joined by walkways above the forest floor, the jungle close and intimate all around. The day before we arrived a jaguar’s fresh footprints were found on the path. This is deep jungle. 20 minutes walk from here is Tinkias village where the old grandmother who showed us how to spin lives. I wrote about her in a previous newsletter article.

The evening before we left Tinkias, we’d been invited to an Achuar feast in the village. Eating fish and plantains baked in the fire, I listened as dusk fell and the sounds of children played in the clearing mixed with the sounds of the forest. As full darkness came the children went to their homes to bed. Every now and again a baby would cry for a few moments or someone‘s laughter would fill the air softly across the clearing. There was such peace. I realised on another level that this is their life, their precious life. These children grow up in this connection; with community, with the forest. We go away, but night after night children are playing here in peace. In these quiet moments of dusk I felt my heart understanding another level about the preciousness of this way of life. Later, we walked back in the dark, gladly accompanied by some Achuar guides.

The next day as we prepared to leave there was the traditional “cultural exchange”. The Achuar women sung and danced for us traditional ananns (song-prayers) in their high pitched keening voices. The men showed us their warrior greetings. Our group shared a traditional Swiss song in 3-part harmony, the Hustle dance, a children’s song from Slovenia and then we sang the “Force of the Forest”. As we sang, I felt a forest vibration shimmering through our voices and I was told later that many of the Achuar women were crying. Afterwards many of them came to hug and kiss me. Normally the Achuar women are very reserved and shy. Normally it’s the men who come forward to communicate and represent their people. But this was different. Cuqui, our Ecuadorian guide who has worked with the Achuar for over 20 years, explained to me that she felt the women had heard in this song that we recognised the spirit of the forest as they do, and it was this that had moved them so much.

So I knew that this song had to feature on my new album “Torch Songs” and will always be sold in aid of the Pachamama Alliance. Phil Berthoud and I recorded the basic structure of the song. For some reason the violin affects the Achuar very deeply. We’ve seen them become deeply still, enrapt and shiny eyed when a violin is played, so I knew this song needed the violin. When Phil played he played with such emotion from his own love of the earth I knew his heart would reach them through the poignant lilting sounds that his bow offered up. Lua Maria added her beautiful harmonies and passion for the forest. I invited Sarah Patterson (who is singing on two of the other songs) to do the same.

Sarah told me that she didn’t hear her voice on it; she heard a chorus of young people standing with us and with the forest. I agreed and started tentatively to invite some music makers of the younger generation to come and sing in solidarity with the forest. Their positive, happy response has warmed my heart. Thank you Lua Maria, Reuben Darling Khan, Helen Knight, Joseph Rose, Jasmine Kia, Ayla Schafer, Susie Ro Prater, Eliza Kenyon and Benjamin Tree. I invited them to feel the support of the forest for them and for life as they sang simultaneously letting their singing be a giving back to the forest. Remembering the importance of this mutuality of giving and receiving feels urgent right now as the threat of oil exploitation grows and the indigenous people of the forest call for allies from all over the world to stand with them to protect the forest for the sake of life everywhere.

I thank Sarah Patterson for this reflection of her musicianship and generous wisdom, to know when NOT to make a noise oneself, but to hear what needs to be there for the good of the whole, whether that whole be the song or something beyond them.

Last to add his voice to this song and this album was Ya’Acov, who, nearing the end of editing the first draft of his book came down to the studio one afternoon, tuned in, and in one “first take wonder” after another cast his light and powerful magic over these songs. Thank you beloved!

When I was looking for the title of the album I asked myself which words in which songs are most important for me, Immediately I knew; it’s the line: “I am proud to stand tall in your lineage, torch of life burning strong in my hand” which comes from the song “Let Her Go” which we sang at my mother’s funeral.

So “Torch Songs” arrived. It seems fitting that, given this title, there is an inter-generational aspect to this offering. I hope it will be available before Christmas. Do check out our new online shop which has some tasty new offerings for you.

Wishing you a creative, beautiful autumn, and the joy of feeling useful in a meaningful way of giving and receiving. I hope to share with you in some way, be it a workshop, a webinar or a smile on FB,

With love

Susannah Darling Khan

September 2016


Upcoming Workshops with Susannah:

10 18 September: Initiation, with Susannah and Ya’Acov. Rill, Devon, UK.
An intensive 10-day retreat
which guides you through your life cycle from birth to death, in a moving, creative, embodied and dancing way. This workshop is an extraordinary, life-changing, challenging, profound and deeply rewarding journey.
Contact Roland: +44 1803 762255;

21st October: Dan-Sing, with Susannah. Zagreb, Croatia.
In this workshop Susannah
shares her ways of combining dance and song, body and voice, and with that guides the dancer and singer back to that innate source of creation, connection and communitcation. Dive in, dance and sing. You do not have to be a confident singer or dancer.
Lucija +385 91 5325587;

2223 October: Power of the Heart, with Susannah, Zagreb, Croatia.
Exploring the great beauty and power of the heart. Dancing and moving with and from your own heart, identifying it as your personal guide, and learning about and dancing through your full emotional landscape.
Contact Lucija: +385 91 5325587;

2930 October: Ceremony in the City, with Susannah. Paris, France.
With preceding Move! Evening on 28
th October.
Be invited to a vision quest in the wilds of the city, giving space to personal questions of next steps or choices or purpose. Dancing deep into our selves and into our cells we find the core and the strength that can support us on this quest. Dance with your whole self, with your questions, with your visions, dance with your knowing.
Contact Pierre-Henri:
+ 33 615 325 816;

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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.