I am Dancer

I am Dancer
This is who I am
First and foremost – I am Dancer
Before even being woman, mother, lover, community organizer…
I am dancer

And when I let myself dance
The dance flows, jumps, moves into all my roles
All my states of being
Enlivening, Enriching where it goes
And where it opens

I marvel that this knowing could have been lost to me for so many years
For decades it lay in my forgetting
An education
Filling me with many arbitrary facts and figures
Ideas of what success is and how to strive for it
But little space for my Soul to speak and be heard

Thankfully our return to Africa, to Mama Africa, when I was still a young teenager
helped break through into the beginning of a listening
A listening for heart and meaning
A listening for soul

That brought me to co-create
a trans-local learning community of pioneers with friends
And then Kufunda Village with friends and family
And still it was to be years for the listening to finally bring me
from the rich journey of arriving into the work of my heart
To the Movement of my soul

As Dancer

Dancing my Lifeforce
My Prayers
My Grief
My Joy
My Love

I am Dancer

Will you dance with me?

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Letting go of a 1000 day commitment…

I have let go of my 1000 day of dance.

Eeek.

Yes I have.

As I write this I feel my heart beating faster, my face flushing.
A part of me is so not okay with this.
A part of me wants me to continue the 1000 day commitment.
To go ALL the Way.
This is also the part of me that I am learning to embrace, hold gently,
allowing her to experience resting on the earth,
rather than trying to carry the world on her shoulders.

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I recently completed my Apprenticeship with the School of Movement Medicine.
I will continue to be in learning with them for years, but the first formal apprenticeship is over.

A big part of my journey has been to discover a little girl inside me
who has learnt that to survive
she needs to rescue the world.

I have danced with her

I have danced with her into my brokeness
I have danced with her into my wholeness

In the dancing, I have also discovered
that Mamma Earth, Mamma Africa,
and the Ancestors at my back
don’t need to be rescued
(this came as something of a surprise!)
and especially not by a little girl.

They are here to support me.
(imagine that!)

They want to support me.

They invite me into an equal partnership.
They invite me to step into my Power
not to rescue Earth or Africa or Ancestor as victim
but to learn to dance with them,

to dance with a being, a force of equal Power
in my power, and my vulnerability
We are really One

In trying to rescue, I am separating myself from that force.
In trying to rescue I close myself off from receiving support and nourishment
of Mamma
of Life

My journey towards 1000 days of dance ( 767 days on the road) have been an invaluable gift of Life
And had become in a way – a holding up of the world
A compulsion

Dare I trust that I can rest even from this gift?
My beating heart and flushed face aren’t sure..

But in the shift I already see new gifts.
Unexpected gifts of community

Instead of waking a 5 am to dance before the beginning of my day
I am waking at 6 with my children,
Then, after they have left for school
I go down to Kufunda and do my morning practice in the Dare (place of meeting)
with whomever wishes to join me.
Together we dance, 5-10 people, greeting the new day, in community
We dance like this perhaps 3-4 times a week
Creating joy and light and spaciousness together

Yesterday in leaving the Dare and the dance
I realised that for something new to be born, something always has to die
Releasing my solo commitment to a 1000 days
has opened a new possibility of a lighter
and just as delightful
collective coming together in dance

So here I am curious
curious and hopeful
And the little girl is learning
ever so slowly
to release the weight of the world
and begin to trust
that the world is in fact
holding her

As we are, such are the times

I recently read a thought-provoking article titled ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.’ It was about a high profile woman (first female director of policy planning at the State Department in the US), who after two years in Washington, decided to return home to her husband and two teenage sons, because there was not enough time in a day, or a week or a month for the demands of the job as well as being the kind of mother or partner that she wishes to be. She spoke of how many of her female friends had scorned her decision, and several of her feminist friends, had lamented her inability to prove that women can indeed ‘have it all.’

I can’t begin to imagine why anyone would want the kind of job she described, rising daily at 4.20 to get to the office, and working til late into the night. For two years she only saw her family on weekends, and during vacation amounting to six days a year(!).

Soon after reading this article, I came upon a quote by Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430). He stated that:

“If we live good lives, the times are also good.
As we are such are the times.”

As we are such are the times… I believe that a part of our challenge is that we are trying to figure out how to run the world, fix the world, make the world as we would like it to be – in a way that will ultimately not lead to anything but more of the same. I believe that the quality of what we create is determined directly by the quality of the act of creation. I wrote about this recently in ‘What if being human is enough?‘. I quote from that post:

“Wholeness cannot be in what we create, if it is not in the process of creation. Thus the future is not divorced from the present, the end cannot justify the means, if it is not carried out in the same spirit of that which we are seeking. As we dive whole-heartedly into our change initiatives, many of them are characterized by an absence of wholeness, an absence of balance, and an absence of sustainable vibrant aliveness. How then can we create that which we long for – if we are not learning to live it today?”

It is similar in many respects to Peter Block’s work with citizenship, in which each gathering has to become a lived example of the future we wish to create, and also architect Christopher Alexander’s work in which wholeness, which has an inherent quality of aliveness has to be present in each step of the design and process of forward movement, for it to be present in the final product (or building as is the work of Alexander).

Wholeness to me is not waking a 4.20 each morning, and only seeing my family on weekends, and having 6 days of vacation in a year. Thus if stepping away from this is equal to not having it all, or to being a failure – then by all means let me ‘fail’.

As soon as I say that, I do wish to revoke it though by saying that it is not a failure. It is perhaps the first step towards a more whole world, a world which many of us believe to be possible. A world which we know to be on her way.

“Another world is not only possible,
she is on her way,
and on a quiet day, if you really listen,
you can hear her coming.”
Arundhati Roy

“If you are looking for the new, look to the edges”

Peter Senge

My experience is increasingly of learning to trust a different kind of wisdom as we move to a more whole world.

I recently co-hosted a workshop with 10 amazing women. It was a workshop of slowing down, of reconnecting with ourselves, each other, the natural world of which we are a part and our stories. The intention was to be able to – in that place of deeper connection – find the clarity of our voice, and our self. To reconnect with the deeper truth of who we are and why we are here. (Read Bev’s wonderful poem of that rich time). Several of the women spoke of feeling a little self-indulgent in taking this time. Even I did not expect it to be a very practically minded workshop – it was about reconnecting after all – and yet what I found as we journeyed together was that the fruit of this time were incredibly practical inclinations towards a future we long for.

We found ourselves entering questions of how to preserve a wetland in our city, which has been demarcated for ‘development; of how to break the chain of factory schooling, which may well keep our children in the same rut as so much of society is finding itself today; of how to release ourselves from the limitations of money in enabling us to live our dreams; of how to build community in an urban environment around good, organic, local food… and more. Not that we returned with answers or clear plans, but it was the beginning of a conversation, which will undoubtedly spark and stimulate initiatives, and collaboration. And it was a conversation that sprung from a different place than problem solving. Thus I noted that from a place of stillness and deep connection arose impulses for different forms of connected action, that is ultimately based on our hearts’ deepest desire.

To the outside world, perhaps having stepped out of the track of career (I suppose I may have never really entered that realm :), living on a farm in rural Zimbabwe, and choosing to live more slowly – even as I work for change – may seem like a cop-out. To me, in this place, with these people, many of whom live lives that can best be described as being on the fringe, it seems that we have a possibility to create something fresh, something new, something sacred.

“Are we so broken, that we would aspire to anything less than a sacred world?”

Charles Eisenstein.

It seems to me, that at this time, or perhaps for as long as we can remember, the feminine impulse (which resides more strongly in women, but is not exclusive to them), is one that intuits, senses, and knows how to build in accordance with life. We are lost – as a world – so terribly lost, and so we try to work harder, faster, with less and less clarity, with less and less success. I could – but I shan’t dredge up the stats of how the income gap has grown steadily during the last decades, or how the planet is suffering under our aim for relentless growth, or how children are dying in every corner of the earth, although food and medicine actually exist in abundance. Faster is obviously not the answer to our challenge.

“Wholeness cannot be in what we create, if it is not in the process of creation.”

My son Joseph collecting beets in our garden

Thus as I sit in my circle of women, moving my body to the slow motions of Tai Chi, listening to the stories and questions of my sisters and friends, as I am learning once more to grow my own food, and to make my own medicine, I know that there is something here, that is needed in the world. And it makes me want to call more circles – initially of women – but eventually with anyone who is willing to learn to listen to the wisdom of the feminine impulse, and begin to discern what it has to say to us about the very real challenges that we are facing.

It cannot be an intellectual exercise. The feminine principle does not reside in the intellect. It is a whole body, multi-generational, connected to nature, communal exercise. It will be messy. It will be sweet.

It feels like it is learning to move a muscle that we did not even know was there.

And so as our former Director of Policy Planning leaves the white house to be with her family – in essence seeking more ‘wholeness’, I say let’s celebrate. Let us take it not as a failure, but as yet another human being listening to the wisdom of her heart. Seeking to live a life that accords with the clarity of her soul.

“As we are such are the times.”

I am not belittling the need for wider systems change, for us to redesign our monetary systems and our systems of governance, etc.. Not at all – this is indeed needed. But as we learn our way into what is needed, I am asking us to not belittle or disregard our inner voices of wisdom, even as they goes against the grain of our modern culture which hails growth, and defines success as something that can be measured by dollars and cents and titles. This will not take us to where our hearts are biding us to go.

I am inviting others to join the growing multitudes as we make our small – and large – experiments of what is needed to live with wholeness and beauty and joy today.

Stay tuned as we share our lessons 🙂

This post is also on a new blog of a community of women in Zimbabwe sharing stories of our lives and journeys towards wholeness: www.spiralsoflife.net

What if being fully human is enough?

I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday. We have been out of touch for a long time, and reconnecting after years was sweet and surprising. We realized that we are both – though of course the same – also very very different today. It is like something quite fundamental has shifted, and something quite elemental is going on inside us. A deepening, an awakening, a quickening. I don’t know what words to put on it. It is an experience of a fuller, a more vibrant and yet also quiet experience of life all at once. Perhaps it is simply – getting to know ourselves more fully – in connection with all of life.  Not in isolation.

It seems that many of those around us are in similar places, with similar experiences. They are not all sweet. Some are painful, of waking up to being well and truly lost. But to be found, we must first be lost. So it is a good place to be. To be healed, the alcoholic must first acknowledge that he has a problem. To wake, requires to realize and acknowledge we were fast asleep. How many problems in this world would shift if more of us would wake to the possibility that we are lost. That we don’t know the way home.

As I write I can feel the sun on my face as it is entering my office, from across the fields, through the trees, the window, and onto my cheek. Caressing me, this morning. How can I not feel loved in a moment like this?

We wondered together, yesterday in our conversation, about our work in the world. We shared in particular moments of vitality and flow, those moments where we experience how it is when everything is in flow, when life is in harmony. When the mundane falls away – although for someone looking in, what we are up to might look mundane. Moments of play with the children, or deep connection as a group of friends jam together, song, dance, instruments, spirit all mingle to create pure magic. “This is it – this is the real thing!” we find ourselves thinking with surprise and excitement. And then everything else that our lives are made up of lands on top of it, and clutters, and gets in the way of staying open to this moment, and the flow that is and exists all around and through us; the flow that we shut off from, more often than not in our busy pre-occupied lives.

It was our sense that during this time, more of the people we know are accessing those experiences. And as I sit here this morning, and as I went to bed last night, and looked up at the starry skies, I realized that in a way my present experience is one of being called. And let us not worry so much about who is doing the calling. Sometimes as we try to be pragmatic about these things, we kill them, and shut them down.

So without going into too much analysis I can simply say that in the last few months I have been called into being more of who I am. I am being called into being me. It is quite a glorious place to be. At home in myself. At least for moments – and more and more of them.

I know what it is like to not be able to be myself. To have landed in a place where I feel that who I am is not appropriate. And then to begin to censor myself….. It is a lonely and painful place to be. So what a joy to begin to notice this beckoning to become more of me, and to dare to follow it.

I am being called into the forest. Quite literally through a longing and desire to spend more time with the trees, just as I am being called to work with the land, to put my hands in the soil, and to be part of nature as together we grow something here, in my garden.

I am being called to move my body – to dance! To play with meditative movement.

I am called back to sit on my cushion each morning, after years of young children distracting me from that basic practice.

I am called to write.

And to connect to people from that place of knowing that each one of us is a miracle to be discovered. In that perhaps we can remind each other of this, as we so often forget it. Many of us have never believed it. How then can we live our lives as though this were true?

I recognize how incredible my life will be if I learn to heed my calls. Not easy, not comfortable, not problem-free. No. But it will be Incredible. Joyful. Challenging. Gritty. Magical.

Being called and responding to the call are of course two different things.

If we never show up – our call will diminish, and eventually we won’t hear it anymore. I speak again from experience.

But if we begin to heed it, tentatively at first (you want me to leave my job?), increasingly more courageously, and then it becomes an intuitive muscle, that we hear much more clearly, and can begin to follow much more easily.

Perhaps I am no longer speaking entirely from experience, although I do have a sense that my listening, my intuitive sense of what I need, is growing stronger. It has not yet become easy to simply follow it. Old habits, and past lives get in the way. Time. Ideas about what I should be doing with my time, keep me from walking into the forest when I feel the need. I know deep down that good things would come from being out there more. From listening to what my deeper self knows to be good and true and nourishing – whatever that might be.

The more nourished, and clear and alive I am – the more I can offer my light and joy to others.

We wondered in our call yesterday, whether it is enough, at this time, to practice simply being more fully human? Whether it is enough, in the words of my friend, to bring to every encounter our full presence and balance? What if that alone were enough?

We recognized that one of the deeper shifts that has occurred between now and ten years ago is that we no longer believe that at an essential level we are going to change anything. It’s not like we are going to fundamentally change the world :). That doesn’t mean we don’t work for the kinds of changes we long for in our world.  We do, every day we do. But we don’t work fuelled by a need for outcomes. Suffering and challenge is a part of the human condition. We may solve one challenge and bring on another. Or we may not even solve one, and still bring on another. Of course the possibility exists, that we may rise to another level of consciousness and have a much different global order, in which much of what is today will no longer be acceptable, and yet even in that, we will have other challenges. So – it is not to say let us not strive for our dreams, especially those that come knocking through the window of our soul. By all means – But let us not become so caught by them that we kill ourselves in the process.

The world we are looking for, begins right here, with us. It is not a fixed destination that we are driving towards. In line with the work of Christopher Alexander, the quality of each step that we take today, will determine what actually unfolds. His work through the physical realm, has uncovered the basic building blocks of what he calls Wholeness, which holds a quality of aliveness inherent in it. Wholeness – and thus aliveness – must be present in each step of the design and process of forward movement, for it to be present in the final product (or building as is the work of Alexander). Wholeness cannot be in what we create, if it is not in the process of creation. Thus the future is not divorced from the present, the end cannot justify the means, if it is not carried out in the same spirit of that which we are seeking. As we dive whole-heartedly into our change initiatives, many of them are characterized by an absence of wholeness, an absence of balance, and an absence of sustainable vibrant aliveness. How then can we create that which we long for – if we are not learning to live it today?

Learning to live it today.

Fundamental building blocks – in my words now, not Alexander’s – are how we show up in our world, our presence; the quality of our engagement with others, and out of that the quality of what we can create with them.

In this I recognize that time in the forest, and in the garden, in making or enjoying music, or playing with my children, must be an integral part of the journey – for that is a part of the world I long for. One in which all of me can show up. I can no longer wait for the rest of my world or context to live and breathe this way. I can begin now in how I allow myself to  inhabit my world . And thankfully there is a part of me, a wild and wonderful part, that knows this intrinsically, and is beckoning, calling, drawing me into a richer world. A fuller world. A fuller me.

May you join me. May you join us.