In remembrance of Gabrielle Roth: freedom is our holy work

One of the significant teachers in my life died yesterday, and I’ve struggled with writing about it. I find myself getting too heady, and yet this loss is actually so profound that when I took a nap yesterday, I dreamed I was balancing upside down on my head on a dance floor, surrounded by lively, active children.

When I woke, I could feel the pressure on the crown of my head.

Headstand is definitely about changing perspective.

I stumbled into ecstatic dance 18 years ago, first encountering the 5 rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and Sweat Your Prayers after I left church as something I could no longer take part in with integrity.

I found a tribe, a practice, and a way of experiencing myself and the world as energy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that the latter is the change in perspective that I’m integrating with this shock of loss and review of Gabrielle’s influence on my life, that it’s all just energy all the time, and it’s always changing, always dancing. The best I can ever do is to be centered, grounded, embodied, and ready to meet it. What’s solid is awareness.

I’ve had issues and struggles at times with that tribe, practice, and worldview, and they have deeply shaped me. I keep coming back.

Here’s what ecstatic dance is to me: being free, feeling joy, being embodied, clearing, cleansing, breathing, sweating, extending myself, being aware, taking care of my body, pushing to my edge and beyond, being in the moment, sharing, delighting, inquiring, discovering, connecting, having compassion, being inspired, seeing, allowing, playing, surrendering, breaking myself open, feeling what comes up, being danced, letting go, grieving, dancing with other versions of me, dancing with the entire room including the space, letting life and everything flow through me, being totally and completely alive, being fully present, blowing all the blocks out of my energy channels.

I feel so grateful to have found this and that I am able to do this.

Thank you, Gabrielle Roth, for your life’s work. Thank you, dancing tribe.

Here’s Gabrielle in her own words.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.

Seeding the winter solstice

Today is the shortest day/longest night of the year. Before any organized religions existed, people celebrated this day as the returning of the light after a season of shorter days. It’s the end of harvest and the beginning of the yin-most season, winter. It’s the season of facing mortality, of gathering seeds with intention to plant new beginnings.

Ancient ruins show us that cultures around the world (from native Americans both north and south to Irish and British to Mediterranean and more, I’m sure) were savvy enough to build structures to mark and hold ceremonies for the solstices and equinoxes.

In those times, communities were more tenuous, and starvation in winter was a real possibility. Gatherings on winter solstice must have included the last feast before winter began in earnest, prayers for survival, requests for blessings from the higher powers, and of course, recognition of our complete dependence on nature, on Gaia, on the mysterious ways of the Universe that brought this astronomical event every year without fail but left so much more seemingly to chance, in somewhat random cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

When the religions came into existence, not being able to compete with astronomical, seasonal facts of solstice celebrations, they supplanted winter solstice observances by piling on their own holidays — Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. (For a full listing of winter solstice observances, read the Wikipedia entry for winter solstice.)

In many ways, the new year actually begins today. This day may well be the most powerful day of the year for looking at your present life and allowing your intent for the coming year to make itself clear — bringing light into the darkness.

What do you intend for the coming year? What do you want to learn? What do you want to create? What direction will your life path take you?

Much of the future, of course, must remain dark. What fun would it be if we knew everything that would happen? No surprises, no trusting (or fearing) the universe will bring you just what you need. No challenges to help you rise to the occasion, to assist you to define and refine your character and expand your resourcefulness.

Recently I posted about beauty, and this is one of the 50 reasons why you are beautiful:

3. Beauty is a daring action. One that is built on your authentic intention instead of being attached to the outcome.

Being attached to the outcome leaves no room for the unknown and invites disappointment. Consider that the unknown making itself known may reveal even more beauty than you can possibly imagine.

Building on your authentic intention creates a direction that your actions can then follow, until it’s time to change direction.

Please let yourself dream today, and get in touch with the silent stillness that’s always available — just an intention away. Tapping into the silent stillness allows intentions to arise and clarify. Intentions are the seeds of action. What kind of new year can you intend for yourself?

I went to high school naked and people danced because I watched

Tonight at my book group, we read about the relationship between the Absolute and Creation, and it triggered the memory of a dream I had a few years back, maybe eight years ago, that I haven’t thought of for a long time.

I still think this was one of the most remarkable dreams I’ve had, and I want to share it. If you’ve ever had a dream like this, I would love to hear about it in the comments or via email. The dream just reeks of clarity.

In part 1 of the dream, I am back in high school. I am older and a high school student at the same time. I live off-campus in my own apartment. I go to class when I want to, and I actually do go to school because I want to learn.

In the dream, I don’t give a damn about the rules. Remember how many rules there were in high school? If I’m tardy, I miss out. If you want to penalize me further, that’s your stuff, not mine. I’m there to learn.

There is some problem with my schedule that I try to resolve with administrators, to no avail. I get very clear in my thinking that if people make something too difficult, that is, they let their power run away with them, I don’t have to get upset. I can just opt out or set my own course. And if people enjoy making things complicated for others, as administrators sometimes do, fuck them. (Pardon my language, but it was that kind of dream.)

I decide to blow off a class I’m supposed to be taking because somehow, taking it has gotten incredibly complicated, and I’m just not going to suffer about it. I feel confident that I’ll pick up what I need to know when I need to know it.

Also, I’m naked. I arrive at school naked, walk down the halls naked, sit in class naked, and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t seem to have any clothes, and it’s not a problem. To me, anyway.

I do have long hair that keeps growing in the dream, brushing down my back as I walk. It feels pleasant, sensual.

I notice that most of the students have clothes on, and they are pretending not to notice naked me. They don’t talk to me. I probably scare them. A few other students are naked too. We see each other, recognize each other, feel a kinship, but don’t talk. I’m there for class.

Then a shift in scene occurs. I am standing outside the school looking toward a covered walkway on which a group of students are standing. They begin to move in unison, beautifully, silently. I am transfixed, watching them.

I realize that they are dancing because I’m watching, and that I’m watching because they’re dancing. The dancers and I feed each other in this way, joined into a holy union through mutual acts of attention and respect.

And that’s when the dream fades.

The first part of this dream showed me how I had changed over the course of my adult life. It showed me that I could live with a healthy attitude about learning and being myself and making decisions. Although I do wear clothes!

The second part of the dream I now understand as an invitation to explore how I use my attention and how I relate, and I have actually done that since I had this dream!

This part of the dream is like a koan. It’s about presence and awareness, and it’s not linear. This is the part of the dream that I first remembered from our reading about the Absolute and Creation and their relationship to each other.

Interestingly, dancing in unison is part of Gurdjieff’s legacy, and my book group is studying The Work too. I occasionally do ecstatic dance myself, and it is a great pleasure.

My naked self in the dream may very well represent my essential self. Or perhaps be my essential self.

Anyway, it’s totally worth sharing this dream, which still delights me years later. And now, I’m going to put my clothes back on.