With all the stress people have been under lately, I've decided to share my primary daily practice for creating a magnetic center of deeply embodied peace in my life. Though I certainly get bounced about by the waves of human conflict and suffering sometimes, both energetically and because I genuinely care about others, I thankfully have some tools in my toolset that lead me back to the way of feeling and being in the world that I want.
Here I'm going to do my best to teach you the #1 method I use. It's called Ecstatic Dance.
I used to teach this in person in Bali more than a decade ago. Since leaving there I've only done it as a personal practice and not taught. (Random fact: I was actually the first owner of the dotcom website of that name.)
When I taught I focused on moving energy up the chakras, starting with the root chakra at the base of the spine and ending at the crown chakra. There might be a couple songs for each chakra. The practice that I've wound up doing the most though is something created by a woman named Gabrielle Roth and named 5 Rhythms. That's the approach to ecstatic dance I'm going to teach you in this post, but I encourage you to experiment with a chakra focus sometime if you already do chakra based energy practices.
Ecstatic dance is a practice that I believe will help you embody a wide awake peace, then move into your action in the world grounded in that. In this way each person gets to live out their Spirit's path for them in the world in whatever they are doing.
I want you to feel peace in your complete body being. I want you to feel it so clearly that you emit powerful waves of it in your wake. I want you to know who you are as spirit fully embodied.
If you've never done ecstatic dance before, let me give you some basic instructions below.
Ecstatic Dance Instructions - 5 Rhythms Method
First set out your songs in a playlist. These days I use Spotify on my laptop, with speakers plugged into my laptop to fill the room with sound, but you can use whatever you're already using to listen to music.
The songs just need to be arranged from slow, to fast, to slow. The less words the better, but the first few songs and the first slow song following the fast songs can have uplifting words if you so choose. Select the music by what feels the way you want to feel. Slow, fast, slow. Then begin to dance with the following ideas in mind.
(It is probably a good idea to create a practice playlist with just 5 songs in it, one for each of the following rhythms, so you can get used to the rhythms without having to guess which one you're in. Once you're use to the sequence you should put in enough songs to get a full workout. For me that's 2-4 songs per rhythm. The aerobic workout is an important part of the mental health practice.)
1 - (slow Here's a good sample song) The first few songs are flowing. They are meant to start bringing the feeling of the music into your body, helping you to reconnect with the emotions flowing through your body. Feel the ground with your feet and lower body, as you move from foot to foot, side to side, allowing the rest of the body to flow in response as you loosen up and ground. You can do more if you wish, but that's enough to get the benefit of that first rhythm.
2 - (faster Here's a good sample song) The next set of songs are staccato. They are about intentional action. You decide. You make clear lines with defined destinations at a point. There is no confusion, only powerful clarity. Your movement reflects this commitment to each motion. (
3 - (fast Here's a good sample song) The next set are chaos. It is in sharp contrast to the strong, clear intention of the previous step. Now you are a ragdoll being tossed about in strong winds. You let yourself be danced. The head shakes. The upper body shakes. The arms and hands shake. The hips shake. No shake, no shaman. Let go.
4 - (slower Here's a good sample song) The next few songs are increasingly light and airy, lyrical. Some can be with uplifting words, some instrumental. (Piano or acoustic guitar can be good here.) Allow yourself to float on the music. Let your body move upward with it. Open your heart. Move from your heart and your upper chakras. Feel into whatever is present.
5 - (slow Here's a good sample song) The final songs are stillness. Ideally they should be instrumental only. Or perhaps mantras set to music. (Devi Goodchild is a great artist to get songs from for this rhythm.) If you want to lie down and just let the last song wash through you, do so. If you want to see what it feels like to offer your body to your spirit and allow it to move you without any intentionality or effort from your mind, give it a try. Whichever you choose, moving or lying still, after the final song remain moving/lying for another couple minutes, allowing the silence to be your music.
After a few minutes of silence, say a short prayer to your guides, ancestors and angels for clarity about what is the first thing you should do upon rising. Then whatever that impulse is, do it. It doesn't matter if it seems like something important. In fact, the smaller and more irrelevant it may seem the better.
You are simply training yourself to ask spirit for guidance, hear that guidance, then follow it. Create a habit of doing that on the small things and you will be shown the bigger things that give your life the meaning you need to turn this period of intense stress into growth and fulfillment instead of exhaustion.
Pay attention to what your body can and cannot do throughout. There is no teacher there watching you, so you have to pace yourself. I would only ask that you try to stay standing and moving, however gently, until you get to the last 2 songs.
During this period of turmoil, grief, and longing for something better, let this musical journey move you from free (flowing) emotion, through intentional action (staccato), ragdoll in strong winds (chaos), elevation and surrender (lyrical), and into stillness in motion and repose.
What is human?
(All text and images (except the AT logo) are by the author, unless otherwise credited. This is original content, created expressly for HIVE.)