Another MWP event, another insight; this time brought about by the highlights of a 10-hour, sunshine day spent with almost 40 colleagues. I won’t go into the details of the day, but for those wishing to know more about MWP and what makes these experiences so special, there are seven other pieces going back almost five years listed at the end of this one. (Suffice it to say that the usual words apply: connection, joy, gratitude, depth, fun, insight, potential, future…)
The highlights were two contradictory experiences, each of which demonstrated a wholly different relationship we can have with our body. The first involved dancing (of course, it did!), the second an ice bath.
We met at 5 o’clock in the morning, at the same location as the previous post – a peaceful place of fruit trees, open sky, and palpable, restorative harmony. Upon arrival, we were instructed to remain silent, be with ourselves, and make our way to the yurt where, four months previously I had experienced a deeply moving connection to those closest to me. Surprisingly, what awaited me this time was loud music. A disco in the darkness, and an invitation to join the ever-growing family of like-minded people whose calling is to support and nurture.
The Dance Master
Jan Pieter van Lieshout is an immediately engaging man with a disarming lightness of being, whom I met before the sun had even risen. It was a brief yet revealing introduction to someone I would later discover refers to himself (quite rightly, it emerged) as the Dance Master.
When his time came, late morning, following breathing exercises, small-group discussions, and impromptu theatre, he explained and demonstrated how easy it is to inhabit another person’s entire being. That, at least, is my interpretation of what I witnessed and experienced, because it turns out that simply copying the way another person dances, creates a profound and instant connection, within which we are effortlessly able to offer an astonishingly accurate and detailed vignette of who they are.
Again in small groups, we danced for each other, copied each other’s movements, and proclaimed, as instructed, ‘When I dance like this, I feel…’ My first attempt was constricted and unsure; but the second, third and fourth experiences blew me away. As I mimicked how others danced, the words and feelings came instantly. All I had to do was relay them in the feedback round: ‘When I dance like this, I feel grounded… In fact, I must ground myself in order to proceed… and then I discover I have everything I need… I can finally go out into the world and express myself… I have done the work and stand on a solid foundation… I am in the flow of life…’
With each word I delivered, I felt that flow myself, and you could see the grateful relief of recognition – of being seen – in the faces of those I addressed. In the middle of all of this, of course, it had been my turn to dance and to receive the wisdom of others. Self-conscious as I almost always am on any dance floor, I wondered whether there was anything for my colleagues to intuit in my movements.
Furthermore, as I watched them imitate me, I felt slight embarrassment; especially as, out of the corner of my eye, I had witnessed the flamboyance and apparent freedom of other dancing groups around me. (Comparisons!)
But of course there was something: that same depth I had felt in them; the richness we all unknowingly possess. I was taken aback by the accuracy of their appraisal. Sure, they know me a little, but their words were delivered with the same assuredness I had felt when delivering my own. ‘… in the detail… yet observant… caring… making sure others are okay… whilst simultaneously needing to go my own way.’
It can be argued that all the feedback was somewhat generic and easily applied or twisted to fit. But the fact remains, I felt seen.
The lesson for me was clear: the movement and mimicry of the dancing creates an immediately intimate connection. It allows us to tune deeply and easily into the heart of another human being and sense who and where they are in life. We are transported beyond mere observation, to a place where listening is all there is to do.
The ice-bath was the opposite. The lesson this time was that there is value in not listening to what the body is saying. As I immersed myself in the cold water, my body sent immediate and obvious signals to the world that it was in danger. The smooth, background nature of my breath was uncontrollably replaced by a desperate need to inhale. No matter how much I tried to follow the facilitator’s appeal for a long out-breath, my body had other ideas. It’s message was simple: ‘This is dangerous to our well-being. Get out of the water!’
However, within, say, 15 seconds I had calmed myself just by forcing a long exhale. In the days that followed, I saw how that irrefutable experience means that whenever I am anxious, nervous or worried and my body is telling me to get out, give up, or disappear, I can reassure myself with my breath. I can refuse to listen to the body’s conditioned response, evolved for a different purpose; and instead choose an alternative perspective, and thereby create a new reality.
We are unquestionably able to control our mind with our body, just as we can control our body with our mind, and when the two work together, with the same ease and persistence I experienced that day, life is rich and joyful, with a bewitching, breathtaking simplicity, and a readiness to reveal its profound nature to those who are willing to listen… or not.