Dance and movement, throughout time and history, have been a doorway into profound states of consciousness, other realms, and alternate realities. This is a secret that every dancer knows and feels deep inside of their bones. There is a reason why, in a culture that does not support the arts, and where dance in particular is at the very bottom of the totem pole in funding and support, that we, as dancers, continue to have the stamina and desire to do what we do. Those of us who have dedicated our lives in some way to the practice of dance and embodiment studies understand this secret.
There is an ecstasy that is freely available to everyone through the experience, and the sharing of that experience. And through the deeper practices, there is a cellular wisdom within the body that begins to awaken and reveal itself to us, through time. Through the revelation of this embodied knowledge, profound understandings can be accessed through visionary states of being. These visionary and trance states are available for everyone to experience. One needs only the curiosity, open heartedness, and sense of wonder to guide them into the liminal and intuitive space of the dreamer.
This is an ancient knowledge born out of the dawn of human kind. But much of this knowledge has been forgotten in the western world, or pushed underground for centuries and millennia. It is easy to understand why this is the case. For thousands of years most dominant religious traditions have told us that the body is dirty, a reflection of our earthly ties and desires, and that our engagement of it binds us to this earthly realm. In more extreme practices there are whole traditions of bodily denial and self-abuse born directly out of the philosophical ground that the body is tainted, un-spirited, dangerous, and should not be trusted.
But what if the body could actually be experienced as vehicle for self-transformation and transmutation? What if we treated the body truly in this sacred manner? What if within the center of ones earthly body lays a key to unlocking the experience of the majesty and mystery of the self, and the cosmos?
These are not new concepts. These ideas have been with us likely since the dawn of our time, when people gathered and circled around fires. The holders of this sacred knowledge have been the indigenous peoples of all nations. These peoples see the human body as interrelated to the earth, the elements, and the cosmos. There is a central focus on ritual, song, dance and trance within indigenous practices. Across cultures we see the role of the shaman or the medicine man or woman using both song and dance to transport themselves into other realms, bringing back information, healing, and wisdom to the community.
There are universal practices within shamanism that cross all cultural boundaries. This is because, above all, these are human practices that know no boundary. These are practices that are the birthright of every human being, that is to know the true nature of oneself, and to be revealed these truths through the journey and the course of a lifetime.
These shared practices contain the understanding that the world around us is imbued with spirit, and that there are alternate realties existing along side our own, at all times. These shared realities are now referred to in Core Shamanism as the lower, middle and upper worlds. Through dream and journeywork, these realms are readily available for all of us to access. In accessing these realms, we grow relationship to the deeper layers of the self and most importantly, to spirit. This is a direct line and path towards revelation.
This ancient human wisdom that has crossed all cultural boundaries and nations has been largely buried in the western world. Threads of it have existed within the mystic and esoteric traditions. And mystics throughout time have tapped into the understanding that the body can be a used as a vehicle towards self-understanding, profound healing, and transformation. Many of these understandings have innately been under the domain of the woman, the being whose very womb is the life creating force within our natural world. This is the woman’s art.
But the dominant religions of our time, and of the last 2000 years, have violently treated those that would go their own way, and follow any direct path to spirit. We see this through the countless wars that have been waged in the name of religion and power, and the witch-hunts that have been carried out as a part of our western human history. And many of these concepts have been directly or indirectly tied to the subjugation of women.
The woman is the embodiment of the intuitive and creative force of the cosmos, the one who brings life into the world, the one who cycles in relationship to the mystery of the moon and the tides, the one whose body is intricately related to the forces of nature, and whose powers are tied to it as well. The woman is closer to death through the reality that she is the one who gives life. All life flows from her.
Because of a woman’s natural makeup and capacities, through many of the ancient wisdom traditions she is revered as the one who more naturally walks between the worlds, the one whose very body gives her access to unseen truths. According to all great wisdom traditions, each of us contains within us both forces of masculine and feminine, whether we are heterosexual, homosexual, or anything in between. Each of us contains this creative power, this deep, intuitive and generative force. And each of us can use the profound wisdom of the body to tap into this source of creation and to connect directly to spirit.
But this work is not just women's work. This work can be everyone’s work. This work asks us to let go the grip of the logical mind, which through all traditions is correlated to the masculine aspects of the self, and the waking alert state so prized by our western culture and world. To step into this work one must take a leap of faith into the unknown, into the abyss of the space between waking and dream, between conscious and unconscious, between matter and spirit. When we loosen the reigns that grip us so tightly to this single realm of existence, and we remain grounded in the earth of the body, other realms move forward into the sphere of our awareness and reveal themselves through our corporeal experience. The body becomes the terrain where we sense, feel, experience, see, hear, taste, the presence of spirit within us, and within our lives. In communing with spirit in this way, we have the opportunity to create new pathways of being and understanding, and work into the substrata of the mythology of our very lives. All of this, while we remain firmly rooted in the physical realm.
So many of our practices have been about escaping the body; because it is not holy, because it is dirty, because it is tainted, because it is not elevated. Because it is impermanent. It is time to reclaim the body as our own, as a vehicle of spirit, sacred in this light. For the western mind to reclaim the body, we cannot move with the same separatist consciousness that has created this incredible body/mind/spirit schism that we face in the western world. We must shift our consciousness in relationship to it, so that we no longer see the body as something to divide and conquer, or to ignore and bury. This is a divided consciousness ruled by a false sense of ego and the potential tyranny of the intellectual mind. This is the old way.
The new way is the ancient way, guided by reclaiming the wisdom of the divine feminine and integrating it back into the whole. It is the holistic way. It is the way that sees oneself in relationship to all and everything, interconnected to the earth and to the stars and to the entire natural world. It is the way that was never lost by our many indigenous brothers and sisters, but the way that we largely lost in the western world as we cut ourselves off from our own intuitive wisdom, from the deep wisdom of the knowing body, and from the wisdom of our earth. And this way, this path, can be found right in the center of ourselves, in the beautiful and myriad somatic experiences, in the stories and the embodied truths that can be revealed to us, if we are willing to listen.