What is your particular alchemy during these challenging times? Where, in your life, are you committing to the unfathomable process of creating something “more than” seems possible from the stirring together of mismatched ingredients (like finding joy in the midst of times that are supposedly dire)? That’s to say, you take one thing that feels harsh, unyielding and uncomfortable and another that is its very opposite and you somehow mix them together to become (inside yourself, as yourself) much more than the sum of their parts, transforming yourself along the way?
If that all sounds very complicated then wait up, you’re probably doing it already without even noticing what magic you are creating. Those of us that have been on a long trek through unfathomable health issues will be familiar with the process…and, generally, far more masterly at it than we allow ourselves to own. Well, now is the time to own it. These are the very times this innate skill was made for and no better time to make the practice regular and diligent and determined, in the face of any distractions. Determination, as in to self-determine your own path regardless of choppy waters, is a topic that’s come up for me a great deal lately and our determination can be an important seasoning in the pot of great alchemy. Just remembering how very determined we are can be enough to turn on our engine and set us off on this momentous process; reclaiming the innate power that would otherwise continue to be syphoned from our tanks without us even noticing (you know what I’m saying).
And that alchemy can take many different forms…as many different forms as there are people. I know, for instance, two women who are performing extraordinary alchemy through the planting and growing of seeds, the “mere” task of tending to gardens and staying present with the natural cycles, during this phase which, for them, marks a seeming switch-down of gear from their ordinarily more “outward facing” lives and yet now is not the time to measure our traction by how extraverted we are being. Very often, this kind of alchemy finds itself being much most potent and transformative in the more introverted domains, where there is no audience to witness them take place and yet…
It’s somewhat the same as how I came to become a painter, all those years ago and continuing only, now, the alchemical process seemed to call for some other, more demonstratively physical kind of alchemy or a seemingly more demanding task (perhaps a measure of the demanding times we are in); ironic, given its the same year in which I discovered I have hypermobility type EDS. Yet, somehow, I knew I needed to work up a sweat, to raise some kundalini fire, to ground myself much more, simultaneous with connecting more directly and ritualistically with multi-dimensions. So, for me, this alchemy is now taking the form of a daily dance practice, incongruous as this sounds with my recent track record.
Incongruous because, just a few months ago, I found myself unable to move very much at all (which was when the EDS came to light) and, in fact, this has seemed like one of the most physically broken years of my life. That began to shift when I took up Nordic walking in February (see my post on that), something I continue most days, on my own or with my husband, even though I don’t get to meet-up with a group (for now). Beginning that, in itself, was so powerful that I can’t even keep up with the physical, emotional and other changes set in motion by doing it yet that in itself wasn’t enough to keep my movements from being fairly limited, stiff, small and painful for much of the time when I am not walking.
Then came lockdown and something in me, that had been wanting to birth for years (remember my foiled attempt at joining a dance class a few years ago? and then I started a sort of dance-yoga for a short time after that?) yet which I kept stalling with, came up in a not-to-be-argued-with kind of way. The final push came from doing the Elevate online course with Lee Harris in which he was talking about how important it is for creative, sensitive types who, like me, balk at routine, to find at least one thing that gives them enough enjoyment to make it into a regular habit, as a way of setting the day off on the right foot; especially, of course, if physical embodiment is an issue. He suggested that rooting around in what used to make us innately happy, perhaps as long ago as childhood, can offer the clue as to what this thing is so to let that “thing” arise in our minds without directing or judging the innate thought that comes up.
Well, I always loved to dance…but not with other people. For me, it was always a deep, inner pursuit because I kind-of had to or seize up emotionally (it was a way of expressing emotions for which I lacked the words and I now understand that so much more in light of Asperger’s), even on the dancefloors of young adulthood, where I would lose myself utterly to dance and forget all about everyone else in the room. Then, of course, we reach the age where we think we need to be “shown how” to do everything that once used to be innate, or to be sociable about doing that thing, pressurised to be (as with all our interests…) in a group of others of the same age / type / aspiration to learn or engage in said task as a socially-oriented “pack”…yet, of course, none of this has ever resonated with me, so I didn’t get very far with it during the “sensible” adult years. Now, I was beyond the age of going to nightclubs or dancing unselfconsciously around the room as I did when my daughter was little (I could do that then because she was too young to have judgement about what I did), so it all slipped away. Our social conditioning is such that we tend to feel embarrassment to do things we would really love to do even when no one is watching, so we police ourselves into not doing what is deemed societally “odd” even when alone. Yet it is these very things that so often hold the key to discovering, thus empowering, our true selves…
In short, I had been holding myself back with the belief that, in order to dance, I had to take part in some sort of group activity or learn a particular method, also that I needed to be much fitter than I currently was. No! I just needed to trust in myself and the sheer persistence of the urge to move my body to music!
The clues were always there in my extreme responsiveness to music. In my hypermobile joints which make me, paradoxically, as fluid as can be…when I am not rigid with pain through lack of movement. In my propensity to feel things that are way too immense and unfathomable to limit to the mediums of words or even paint. In my extreme introversion. In my default position in favour of “free-styling” everything that I do; which means to say, no two recipes or paintings or anything that I set about making or arranging are ever the same and I mix things up across diverse influences and styles. In the fact that everything I’ve ever done that’s turned out to be worthwhile has been self-taught and risen up from some innate pool of “just knowing” how it was to be done (such as my untutored art practice or the way I have taught myself to play instruments through trial and error).
When I lose myself in a task that I love, I like to be all alone…to have boundaries only set by me around that creative space, to honour my own built-in need to spend time with myself, figuring things out my own unique way; and not always expected to default to the assumption that others know better than I do, which is the false premise of mainstream life and contemporary schooling. We arrive in these bodies with far more innate knowledge than we ever get to explore and to do so we need time and space to ourselves; I’ve always known that and guarded such time-space vehemently and now I knew I needed to create such a space in my life again. With any such tasks, I understand how I need, as a lifestyle priority, the self-nurturance of precious time spent experimenting and exploring without any pre-existing premise of “what’s right” asserting its dominance over me because it is louder or more established than my fledgling ideas are as they first come through from the ether where inspiration hovers. So, working in teams, having someone watch over me or having to study before I can apply myself only entangles me in such a profound feeling of frustrated and limited creativity that it kills all the joy of the task and that’s how I have always been; the way I am made.
So, one morning around my birthday, I put on some music and started to dance to it and that was that. I was astonished (yet, conversely, I also find that I am not…) how innate and fluid those movements I make already are, going much further than my body’s normal capacity to flex, stretch and fill space, as though I already know those moves so well or as though they are a fluent language I have for interpreting frequencies that I am already working with. On that note, I am most particular about the growing playlist I am putting together since music itself carries frequency so I will have nothing that is not healing and/or empowering, across a broad spectrum of cultural influences; and creating that playlist is another of my new passions.
There is no doubt that dance is (or can be…) seen as a complex symbolic “language” of the body and the way I feel compelled to use it to express something otherwise unseen, although perhaps amplified by the music I choose to dance to, feels closely linked to my synesthesia as it involves translating feelings I am party to into that language, almost with me as the bystander but then more fully “receiving” or “processing”, as in to “unpack”, my own delivery…which takes me deeper into the music but also the feelings for which they have served as a bridge. It feels somewhat like channelling and this feels consistent with the fact that its almost as though I am almost on loan of a different body during the time I dance; which is to say it is more fluid and capable of a broader range of movement for that window of activity than it is at other times during the same day…though that’s not to say I am not steadily getting fitter as a result (I most certainly am). And if it really is as though I inhabit a whole different body when I dance, one that works far better than the one I take back into life once its over, then I gradually, steadily, plan to move over to that body!
Its also as though my deficit of proprioception (meaning “perception or awareness of position or movement of the body”), which is a classic trait of Asperger’s, is no longer an issue when I dance; I go from being physically awkward at times to fluid and graceful since there is, quite literally, no need for ideas of where I should be or what I should be doing to get in my way. I am also so-aware that I am using my whole body during these ad-hoc performances and this, to me, is of great interest as the kind of exercises that isolate or favour certain body parts over others have never appealed, in the same way that I am seldom interested in looking at a topic from one angle. Not only every muscle but the whole of my fascia is getting on-board, and fascia itself is a whole-body matter, a head to toe thing. Not only that but it stores emotional memory and, in someone with EDS, may well prove to be a weak link during that phase of life when we have processed many of our old-stuck emotions and gone through menopause. If we are not respectful of its need for purpose (having been deprived of its old hobby of storing those traumas we used to keep hidden away but which we have now cleared out through our mindfulness practices) it can suddenly turn into the inner support garment with drastically weakened elastic, as mine did last year…but only if not presented with a new objective to fulfil; which, for me, is that of keeping my organs in place when I dance!
So I now have a daily practice that almost nothing would keep me from and its not wooden, or stereotypical, its not to a format or a set of dance moves, nor is it self-conscious, in fact I often close my eyes, but its POWERFUL and its expressive, it shifts entire universes in my body and, from there, my manifest day gets started in a whole new way (with emphasis on “whole”). My body has become an instrument through which I express myself, just as I have always done through paint and words yet, whilst those two activities allowed me to reside in head and heart, I would often forget all about limbs…for hours and hours at a time. Now, my body has become deeply attached to me…and me to it; and so a powerful level of healing, and grounding, has begun. After just a month of this, people have started commenting on how differently I hold myself…upright and strong, on my increased flexibility and dexterity, my ability to stand for far longer to carry out physical tasks, my generally trimmer and much more toned shape, on my increased confidence and the evident uprising of life-force and determination in my personality; and these are just a hint of the immeasurable shifts that I can feel occurring on the inside. Using this alchemy, I can physically shift things pretty much whenever I choose. For instance, this morning, my body (and mood) felt like concrete as I stood up from my yoga mat…so I picked my most demanding, most powerful, most beautifully fiery track and danced to it twice and everything turned around; I transformed it!
This is where physical, expressive kinds of alchemy come into their own in times like these. It’s like finding a savings account that we had long-ago forgotten about when we discover we have access to such an unexpected pool of stored energy in the body. The sheer power of this reclaimed energy, now unleashed as a positive force in our lives, rather than stockpiled as frustrated, inverted energy that only burdens and hurts us on the inside, has to be experienced to be believed and makes sense of all the years that we tucked our surplus away for a rainy day…which is now. Suddenly, we realise we have been a walking power-house of such energy and our seeming brokenness was just a sign that it was time to unleash it into the world to make a difference. Those very traits that seemed most inverted to us are suddenly righted when we do this work, such as my hypermobility coming into its own as the extremely fluid instrument of expression that it now is through my daily dancing practice. I can now see this trait for its perfection, to suit “the way I am” and how I choose to express the unfathomable feelings that had always sought some other outlet, but now I have this ideal instrument of expression at my disposal and it brings me such joy to use it (the clue to our alchemy, as I keep saying, is in the joy…often the original joy we experienced much earlier in our lives). My body makes more sense to me now than it ever did, so I have reached a whole new level of wholeness; and as we each do, so does the world…
Because, I’m sure I don’t need to reiterate the point that I always make, that what we transform within is equal to what we transform without; our key contribution to the quantum field, where our consciousness becomes part of the consciousness evolution that is currently taking shape. So, as we practice our particular version of alchemy, we can be sure (its good to know) that we also do this other “externally” powerful work at the same time…but our focus isn’t on that but (necessarily) on the personal task that brings us the release, the rebalancing, the harmony and the joy each day and that, quite frankly, is more than enough. We owe it to ourselves to…finally…focus there because its where we do our best work.