You know when you’re with someone and the “with” feels so alive? You can taste it, grateful it’s not a surface thing. There’s a difference between nourishing conversation and chit chat, just like there’s a difference between goat cheese and Velveeta or The Great Gatsby and Fifty Shades of Grey. When we’re in touch with our essential nature and the way it soulfully meets another, we’re connecting in the mystery. The essay that follows is about the mystery. Not coincidentally, the landscape of Essence Revealed November 2-4 with Madhuma Thompson. It’s a rare opportunity to have 3 dancing days right here in our hometown. No matter what the focus of the workshop— extended days of moving in community will reveal essence unfolding in all its glory. Early bird is October 17. We have three scholarships available.
This is what Gabrielle Roth had to say about the mystery:
“Each of us is a moving center, a space of divine mystery. And though we spend most of our time on the surface in the daily details of ordinary existence, most us hunger to connect to this space within, to break through to bliss, to be swept away into something bigger than us. Surrender to the mystery that you are.”
I didn’t know it yet, but I was well en route to the space of divine mystery when I stepped on that New York dance floor as September ended. In the course of eight days I was swept away several times. From here, looking back from the clarity of retrospect, I see how autumn 2018, a season of synthesis, primed me to dive into something bigger than us. Several internal tributaries were just ready to empty into the larger sea. The vastness in which I’ve landed feels new and old at the same time.
Here’s what’s old: I’m intimate with this place of mystery. Arriving there is sometimes a result of practice. Also landing in the zone can be spontaneous, whimsical even. This timeless shift into a deeper being. Here’s what’s new: embodied clarity regarding a map that might more reliably deliver us to the mystery. It was a gift to have such extended and supported time in the dance to feel into it for myself. I’ve had the opportunity to use this quasi-new map in several teaching environments, appreciate its simplicity, witness its power to connect us with this place and invite surrender. That feels new.
I’ve just never been a teacher that speaks directly to the mystery. When I’m truly in my right work and not trying to be someone other than Bella, I’m pretty solid holding a clear pathway for students and patients to step down from thinking and, in a myriad of delightful ways, cultivate bodily awareness. Oh I’m well aware of the potential slide into the mystery from somatic experience. Sacred and ineffable. Deep trust that this territory, whatever individual form it takes—flashes of insight, intuitive hits, revelatory connections, oh so much more—will be authentic for each individual. My job is simply to invite us from mind into body and not be so presumptuous to suggest what might result.
What feels new is an internal sense of the trajectory downward of this path—from mind to body to mystery. A vertical route that makes landing in the zone a bit more accessible, maybe even more predictable. I didn’t know how prepared I was for New York, but if you’re a regular reader you know. Jonathon Horan, Gabrielle’s son, articulated the same territory I’d been cruising through before arriving. He spoke about coming down from thinking. Which can be a frustratingly simplistic invitation. This was so illuminated for me by Michael Pollan’s writing on default mode network Remember? The obsess and ruminate mind…brain monopolizer…“me network”…adept separate-self hypnotist. If we’re unaware of this very human state, we’re caught up 24/7. EEG studies of experienced meditators, people who know how to move underneath the default mode network, clearly demonstrate the network can be super-quiet and off-line. This information really affected my own practice and teaching by giving more specific language and metaphor and support for “coming down from thinking”.
And then Jonathon continued with coming down from thinking and into the body. This is my world, right? But this territory was also freshly fleshed out for me right before I left by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s definition of embodiment. Harnessing sensory experience with visualization as guide and the twin witnesses of tactile sensation and kinesthesia. Right here I bring attention to the sensation of laptop on thighs, cool morning studio temperature, warmth of coffee on tongue, inner experience of fingers floating along keyboard, sensory experience of breath moving through me. Witnessing sensation invites this downward journey from mind to body. Her specific breakdown of these skills is deeply affecting my practice and teaching.
One thing that feels new lately is the experience of my body as kind of “holding zone” between mind and mystery. A place I can reliably land and hang out. Oh yeah, it’s a quick jump upward from body back up to thinking mind. But practice skill is develop-able to travel again and again and again down the path from thinking mind to body holding zone. Jonathon Horan’s guidance felt like it was arising for me right out of Pollan and Bainbridge Cohen.
When we consciously take the journey from thinking into the body, when we officially take up comfortable residence there and drop all expectations, a shamanic place can open beyond the bounds of mind and body. We can’t arrive there on purpose. We can’t think ourselves there. We patiently allow direct experience to unfold and sometimes we land. No sooner do we realize we’re there, then we’re gone. This is not new for me. I just felt the journey in a new way and the path felt well lit.
With this specific articulation and sense of the territory, I’ve experienced gentle ease in my own practice and a fresh clarity in teaching. I totally feel this downward passage to the big whatever. It is the fruit of a juicy practice. Make no mistake; in the blink of an eye we zoom upward from mystery to thought. And personally I have no experience of the reverse: moving from thought to mystery, although reports of transcendent experience have that flavor.
It’s not complicated. It does require showing up. Let’s keep traveling downward together…..