Dance like no one is watching

Dance like no one is watching

Excuse the title, it’s kind of accurate, and I couldn’t resist. One day I will write an equally as questionable one titled “Live, Laugh, Love”.

A few weekends back I participated in a workshop called The Initiation with Wild Grace. It was centred around the embodiment of four of the masculine archetypes. Don’t know what that means? cool, neither did I. I only attended it because my good friend insisted that I should give it a go, and I had no idea what to expect. As I signed into the first Zoom call I was extremely apprehensive. I remember coming in feeling all judgemental and gross. Big ego stuff as it tried to protect itself.

I stuck it out and even after the first introduction session I felt some subtle shifts, and now, looking back I’m not sure I can ever look at movement the same again. The time we had to dive into that stagnant energy was inspiring, albeit challenging. The workshop was based around four archetypes, The Lover, The Brother, The Dark Father and the Magician (my favourite). I couldn’t help but laugh, as, at the time of the call, I was deep in some interpretive movement, while my housemates were in the room next door charging down bottles of prosecco and dancing in the lounge. Two very different but arguably quite similar practices.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” ― Rumi

Essentially we were guided through a series of practices over two days which involved tapping into each of these archetypes within ourselves. The practices varied from erotic touch to communication with spirit guides, to interpretive/spirit-led dance. I had a blast, it was so fascinating to witness the changes in state from such simple practices.

When I think of embodiment, it brings to mind the tantruming toddler in the supermarket. Free to let all that stuff out without fear of judgment or consequence. Then moving into the school system where they were punished for such raw expression and expected to use our limited comprehension of language to communicate complex emotions. If we’re lucky, in adulthood, we find some sort of movement such as football, running or yoga, which allows us to dip our toes back into that ecstatic expression and release.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” ― Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The weekend with the amazing facilitators at Wild Grace showed me the power of uninhibited movement and did so in a container in which I felt seen and safe. I’ve often shied away from such liberal movement, even in front of those closest to me. I think that’s probably a reason why I drunk at parties and festivals. I loved to dance, but in order to do so, I needed something to loosen that veil of discomfort and fully allow myself to express the freedom of movement to the visceral beat. For me personally, that has been a journey of allowing myself to be seen while sober in a more full expression in said spaces, trying to drown out the fear of judgement. The weekend helped that feel all the more obtainable and more loose in the manner in which my embodiment is expressed.

The Initiation felt like a welcoming. An offering to dive into all the stored energy interfering with my nervous system and creating consequence throughout my life.

I’m so grateful for the experience to expand my capabilities to go deeper. To experience more fully what I’ve been trying for years with the limits of my dialect. Embodiment may well be the origin of self-expression, from the screaming toddler, to the ceremonies of civilisations of  long since forgotten. So yeah, time to dance like no one is watching.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham

To check out when they are holding their next workshop click here.

Breath in, breath out

Breath in, breath out

I first was introduced to breathwork without even knowing that’s what I was signing up for. I was sitting on the couch one night scrolling Instagram, and a heavily tattooed, fashionably dressed looking brother caught my eye. He was standing next to a guy I follow from the US, a man by the name of Aubrey Marcus, and he appeared warm and genuine. Quite out of character I decided to give this guy (Lukis Mac) a follow. Maybe I could learn something from him? A few weeks later I saw a post in which he said he was currently in managed isolation in NZ, up until this point, I had no idea he was a Kiwi. He mentioned that he and his partner, Hellè, would be holding a workshop. I decided at that moment that no matter what the workshop was I would head along.

Flash forward a few months and I’m in a packed out room in the Ellerslie convention centre with 100 other people and still have no idea what I’m in for. I’ve seen a few of their videos now, people crying, screaming, laughing, so I’m understandably quite nervous. Call it divinely guided, call it whatever you want, somehow I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

Lukis and Helle are beautiful humans and equally amazing facilitators. It’s not often you meet people who can safely hold space for so many people and all manner of trauma. The two-day Owaken workshop was life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly. I learned a lot about myself with the guidance of the Owaken crew and their support team.

“I was able to feel into things from my past that were unresolved and finally fully process, heal and let go of the pain that was holding me back”. – Lukis Mak

In those two days of the Owaken workshop, during these consciously connected breaths (different to yogic breathing (pranayama), or Wim Hoff style), I cried, I laughed, I got t-rex hands (a common and kind of hilarious, albeit painful occasional side effect), met a guardian of the land, was visited by people no longer “with” us, let go of a lot of stuff (“stuff” that I didn’t even know I had!), and I connected more deeply with my intuition and purpose. One thing that came up was that while I was experiencing a great deal of physical pain, the thing which kept coming through was “this is how it feels to not be your true self”. It showed me that that constant pain in my chest I’d been feeling recently was a is a physical manifestation of the amount I hide who I am.

What I love most about breathwork is that it’s all you. You are at no point giving your power away to someone to “heal” you, and that alone is a profound knowing. I would liken aspects of it to the depth you can reach with that of plant medicine, but the best part is, its all under your control, your breath dictates the depth you go, unlike plant medicine in which you are locked in for at least 6 hours you have far less control.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Since the Owaken workshop, I’ve done three more journeys in Auckland, and look forward to doing more. I’ve also incorporated a daily breathwork practise into my morning routine. If you’re interesting this can be found on the Owaken website here. It’s the 10min video halfway down the page. Essentially, while in a seated position with a straight back, you take ten conscious connected breaths through the mouth, then after the outward breath, hold your breath and pause for 10 seconds. Then 20 conscious connected breaths, followed by another pause for 20 seconds on the out-breath, finishing with 30 breaths then holding for as long as feels comfortable. Then just enjoy the ride, maybe ask your intuition if there is anything you need to know. You can do this 3 times in a row to go deeper, and is even more powerful if you practice it in nature. I love going out into the backyard, flicking my shoes off and, with the sun on my face, seeing how deep the practice can take me. That marinating at the end is always pure bliss.

As a side note, more recently I’ve learned that there are some under-qualified facilitators in the industry, those who feel called to help, but have not yet gone deep enough in their own journeys or have the skills needed to guide people safely through their suppressed trauma. Just something to keep in mind when looking to experience breathwork for yourself. When searching, recommendations are great, or if not possible, ensure you feel comfortable and connected with the facilitator. A few local facilitators I’ve worked with here in Auckland, and can recommend, include Fiona Moore and Loren Honey. Feel free to message me if your like more information.

I love that as someone who has been challenged with asthma, the one thing that has had the most profound effect is using my breath. I have often felt this in yoga, and while focusing on embodiment during therapy sessions, and even during my ayahuasca experience, but now even more so in breathwork.

Breathwork changed my perspective on healing. I’ve always been pretty cautious of the term “self-healer” but a breathwork session with an experienced guide will show you that you have all the tools you need to heal your life. And with the daily practice to help cultivate connection, you can keep doing the work on your own, you may not go as deep, but like water flowing over rock, it slowly washes away the hard shell of our deepest wounds.

“Breath in, breath out” – Ludacris

Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

A friend posted this book in her Instagram story, then in the same week it caught my attention at my therapist’s office. I can safely say it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. Bessel van der Kolk has spent the last 30 years working with patients severely affected by trauma, mostly veterans or victims of sexual abuse in this book he outlines what he’s learned and how its informed and developed his practice.

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” – Bessel van der Kolk

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” – Bessel van der Kolk

After noting the way certain traumas were held in the body and finding tradition therapy had its limits he began trialing different methods in which to shift it, using more physical practices including theatre. The book is packed with enthralling anecdotes, brilliant facts, techniques for you to try at home, and is backed with just the right amount of science to not leave the average reader feeling bogged down or out of their depth.
That being said, considering its size, it did take me a month or so to get through as I was frequently left reflecting on what was being said.

I think one thing I found most fascinating was that “economists calculated that every dollar invested in high-quality home visitation, daycare, and preschool programs results in seven dollars of savings on welfare payments, health-care costs, substance abuse treatment, and incarceration, plus higher tax revenues due to better-paying jobs.”

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” – Bessel van der Kolk