It is always bigger than you, yet paradoxically, also you. It is always part of the larger experience of self that includes your inner awareness and the intelligence of what is outside of you. (It’s something you can source for yourself, and it’s something you can rest into when you need a friend.) The way you see and describe it may shift upon your context – who you are talking to, and what part of that experience you are trying to express.
Dance is my first medicine. I started dancing when I was 13, locking myself in the wresting room at my highschool to create dances about war and peace, relationship and spiritual states beyond name and form. It healed me. It made my life make sense. It made life possible.
And, because it is a true medicine, because the dance was my first true teacher and has shown me everything about life and love and community, I created Dancing Freedom. These days, I teach all over the world, and train others to spread this work around the planet for healing, awakening and evolution.
But, I’ll confess…
Every once in a while, I begin to doubt this practice. I look around our world at all the challenges we face, at global warming and species extinction, at clear cutting and factory farming, at injustice and inequities of all kinds, and I think, is this enough? Are we contributing enough to this magical, broken world that so desperately needs healing? Are we giving people the tools and the skills needed to mend the broken hoop? Are WE helping to mend that hoop?
Then I pull my thoughts back into mindful stillness. I pause, take a deep, dissolving breath of clear air, and listen. And, in my way, I pray.
Every time, guaranteed, I get the same answer: the world needs this dance. The world needs this medicine. The world needs people who are alive in this way.
The answer comes not from thinking, but in the quiet spaces in between thoughts – from the space where god makes a home in my body and soul. The answer comes from the whispering trees, from the rushing stream, from the moist soil, from the frogs- all celebrating the way the dance opens my heart and cells more deeply in communion. And it comes almost daily, in email after email, Facebook post after Facebook post, from people like you, telling me that this practice has changed their lives. Often they say things like this, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this practice is different. It’s special. Thank you. It’s the best thing in my life.”
When I say “medicine” I don’t mean it in the limited way that Western Medicine uses the word, but in the ancient sense, referring to anything and everything that wishes us well, and the deep things in creation that we can align and co-create with in order to live a more full, loving, divine and human life. The word medicine used in this way refers to the animating force within creation that is amplified through our right relationship with specific objects, practices and ways of being. The most basic medicine is love. Other medicines that may be familiar to you include sage, sweetgrass, cedar, tobacco, Grandfather Peyote and Grandmother Ayahuasca.
I was overcome with this truth today as I prayed with water and sage and the slow dancing of rain. I felt all those who are dancing and teaching all over the world. And I knew – we are remembering the old ways and creating new ones as we go.
Dance is an original medicine. The first peoples danced and sang to create the world. They danced and sang to heal, to thank, to align, to sustain, to destroy. They danced with the Ancestors and with the Circle of All Beings to remember and sustain wholeness. They danced to be one with Spirit. This is the essence of Dancing Freedom – freedom to belong fully to life.
We came to this earth with Original Instructions. The instructions we received from those who sent us were simple. We are here to care for and steward the Earth. We are here to tend and propagate the plants. We are here to befriend and support harmony with the animals. We are here to live in alignment with these universal instructions, and to give the unique gifts each of us has been given as a soul. And, we are here to create beauty.
Dancing Freedom, first and foremost, is a creation of beauty, disappearing just as soon as it arises. It is also a space that supports both universal and personal alignment with these instructions. As you dance and pray, the very nature of the practice reminds you of how to harmonize your life and actions in integrity with the Earth and All of Your Relations. At the same time, it is fruitful ground to receive very specific reflection and instructions for your Unique Self and purpose in the world.
Because it can do all of this, it is medicine. And, while it is not a panacea, it helps. So, begin here. Come dance.
The dance, as with all true medicines, will help you take the very next step. And that step is the only step that can possibly set you free.
Saturday March 22nd is International World Water Day.
I invite us to WALK this prayer together. The most powerful prayers are directly linked to action. They are not merely energetic, they are soulfully engaged. Water, being the cause of life itself, craves this engagement. After all, action is the essence of sacred relationship. So, here’s the
Top 10 Things You Can Do to Engage and Heal Your Relationship with Water:
1.) Build a simple rainwater catchment system harvesting water using the roof runoff from your home or apartment. Use it to water plants and gardens.
2.) Re-use your greywater! You can re-route showers, bathtubs, wash machines, even kitchen sinks, to water your yards and gardens.
3.) Grow a garden. Use the water you harvest from your roof and/or greywater system to grow your own vegetables.
4.) Plant trees. Green things attract rain.
5.) Stop drinking bottled water. The process of bottling water takes water from existing healthy watersheds where it serves the natural ecology, people and farmers and redistributes it (plus a lot of new plastic pollutants for purchase to consumers. It’s cheaper, easier, healthier and more environmentally sane to purchase a water filter and re-use your water bottle. (FYI, plastic recycling takes seven times the amount of water it takes to produce the original plastic object.)
6.) Eat locally raised, organic produce, grains, legumes and meats & use your financial power to pay the real price of your food. This supports small farmers who have good relationships with the water, soil and ecology of your bioregion.
7.) Stop eating factory-farmed meats. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to raise one pound of meat, not to mention the hormones, antibiotics and waste that leaches into ground water and watersheds due to factory-farming practices. 8% of global domestic water usage goes to factory farmed livestock.
8.) Engage with local, state and federal levels of your government to preserve and conserve mature ecosystems and old growth in your bioregion. Healthy, mature ecosystems are the foundation of healthy aquifers.
9.) Slow it. Sink it. Spread it. Create swales and ponds on your land that keep rainwater where it falls and spread it into the earth where it can replentish your local watertable. Check out this video on keyline water systems to see what is possible. This can be done on a very small scale in side yards and parking lots using appropriate filter-feeding plants.
10.)Start or become a part of a wetland restoration or creek daylighting project in your city or neighborhood.
Samantha Sweetwater: founder of Dancing Freedom, permaculturalist, life coach & priestess
More info & inspiration + LIVE EVENTS can be found at UNIFY.ORG.
To Your Independence
They all hold in common that the arbiter of their actions is not located out in the world, but in a deep and personal connection to inner guidance and listening to a greater intelligence navigating their lives. Of course, this means that there is absolutely nothing I can do to control them. It’s impossible for such people to be fully themselves in the context of control. They navigate by an authority that is divine, human and entirely emergent through their own listening. It’s terrifying to love such a person – because one never knows what they will decide or what God will decide for them. But, it is this kind of love that shows us what love really is, not on romantic human terms, but on the terms the universe offers us to understand what life and love and consciousness really are.
To love such a person is to really love, to love unconditionally, to love as an art of setting another free.
In my experience, this unconditionality is both a prerequisite to and an ongoing foundational practice within any relationship that “works”. It’s not easy. It’s the hardest thing, and the most beautiful thing. The pleasure it offers is it’s own reward. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s just that, if you want a relationship that is really honest and true, courageous and surrendered, and authentic to your soul, it’s the only way to go. It’s the only path to soul level, sustained intimacy, whether with a lover, a friend, a child, a parent or a colleague. Unconditional love empowers each person to be wholly themselves. It supports each person to engage the other and the relationship itself (which is a third intelligence) from what is truly present rather than from what is past or what is projected into the future.
It takes a lot of maturity, softness and courage to create a relationship that lives in the present moment – a lot – because you don’t get to lean on future guarantees or projections based in past experience. You don’t get to create contracts to control each other or keep the other safe from experiences projected into the relationship from the past or onto the future because the past was scary. Rather, you operate from a primary contract to protect and uphold each others’ liberation. You get to gather yourselves into the present moment continuously as you do the healing work that inevitably comes up around the past and around what shows up on the path of your relating in the present.
This is the only true union – a moment by moment dissolution into love, honesty, co-creation, trust, presence, vulnerability and all the pleasure, pain, wonder, stillness, inspiration, awareness and responsibility that arises when we give ourselves totally.
Why would we do this? Simply because we can. Simply because we are given to do so. Simply because we need each other in order to truly know what it is to be free.
Travelling is learning. Whenever we venture into foreign lands, some part of us wants to grow. We want to expand our horizons, test our edges, and experience greater unity with our global human family. Sometimes this connection comes in obvious ways – in a smile, a kind gesture, in the convergence of a pod of people standing together in awe of a rainbow or a sunset or a soaring bird, in the laughter or tears of a child, in something given, in something received.
In my experience, this learning rarely comes in the ways I expect… Human beings are preferential creatures. I, like just about everyone, am a creature of habit. We gravitate towards what is comfortable and easy. But, travel can be testing. It’s a shake-up of the norm. Growth often comes when I don’t get what I thought I wanted or intended – when a bus gets delayed for 5 hours in the heat of an Indian afternoon, or the tickets to Machu Pichu are sold out, or I get stuck in the Brazilian jungle for an extra week with two strangers and a misanthropic Royal Parrot named Ed. I find that, if I allow space in my heart for the bumps and the kinks, I always get what I need to soften and open more fully to love.
I’ve been travelling in South and Central America for two months, now. I’m saturated in the colors, flavors, smells of this land of mysterious and diverse cultures and climes. Like a stone in the river of life, my edges have been polished by the rolling, sometimes disjointed, rhythm of constant movement. I started this trip in the windswept Sacred Valley of Vilabamba, Ecuador, then headed North up to the technicolor lakes, jungle volcanoes and tribal textiles of Guatemala, Belize and Southern Mexico for a 20 day tour of the Mayan Heartland and a week at Lago Atitlan. Then, I flew back down to Peru, where I am now, high in the mountains above Cusco, at over 11,500 feet above sea level (wow!). I’m travelling with a Peruvian friend and staying at the home of one of his mentors and teachers. We are living life en Español… a language I’ve never studied and am only now beginning to stutter into. What a challenge. What an opportunity – an opportunity to let go of all my ideas about what I think love and loving is and to live more quietly and wholly into something real and practical and responsive – something I recognized this morning as unconditional love. It’s really ridiculously simple… and very worth taking note.
Given that we are, by nature, preferential beings. It seems to me that living unconditionally is about shaping my preferences according to the natural patterns of unconditionality. God, I love paradox!
8 Keys to Living Unconditional Love:
1.) Love who you are with.
The person or people in front of you are your opportunity to love. Period. Right now, there is no one else with whom to give and receive that mysterious currency called love. So, turn towards who ever you are with and give them your eyes, your awareness, your listening, your curiosity and compassion and see what happens. You don’t always get to choose your company, but you always get to choose how you attend to and respond to them.
2.) Let love be it’s own language.
Giving and receiving requires no words. Presence requires no language. Gestures form a complete language. And, in the absence of language, it is easy to feel the heart. It’s as simple as a smile, a gaze, a giggle, an exhale in the face of stress. Let it be light. Let it flow. It will grow!
3.) Learning is a way of loving.
Whether traveling internationally or connecting with a new friend or lover in your hometown… everyone has a different language of love. We ALL want to connect, to share, to understand and be understood, and we all do this differently. So, love motivates us to learn how to observe and to communicate. It’s really helpful to learn the language and customs of our new friends so that we can more fully understand and be understood, give and receive. And, regardless of shared language, we can observe the habits of another with curiosity and respect to discover the non-verbal and gestural language beneath language. We can also ASK QUESTIONS. With observation, communication and questions, we can respond more coherently to our friends day by day. Love invites us to rest into observation and learning BEFORE imposing our own ideas, opinions and preferences on a person, a people and a place.
4.) Love is a stillness.
Sometimes there is nothing to do. Have you ever noticed those old couples who sit together in easy silence? Non-doing is a place where shared peace, contentment, presence and delight are available. Chill out. As an American, I can be rather obsessed with optimal experience, with getting somewhere and gettingh things done. In these South American (and many indigenous cultures) the value of not doing is penultimate. People value relaxation and enjoying the moment above achievement and efficiency. This can really confront the ego program that says “I am valuable because I achieve.” Yeah! By sitting still… we simply are OK. Tranquillo….
5.) Love waits.
“Patience, my love.” In the absence of shared language, we have to be patient with our selves and our companions. Relaxed, patient presence is one of the greatest things we can give or receive. It takes time to look up that one key word in the dictionary… it’s worth it. The greatest suffering when travelling generally arises through our impatience, the frustration of not being able to communicate or immediately get what we want, and the shame that we don’t have all the answers. Travelling sometimes implies the bumpy process of communicating at the level of a 5 year old. It implies letting other people do things for you, which means not being in control. It’s a fantastic opportunity for ego death – for letting go of more ideas, opinions and preferences and being grateful for what is available in the moment. Patience then, becomes a foundation for peace and enjoyment.
6.) Love does not need to “be understood.”
Words can really get in the way of loving. Our obsession with understanding and being understood is often the biggest block to simply sharing love. I’ve been recognizing that I generally enter into relating with a perceived need to “be understood” as a prerequisite to that relationship working. And, that what I really mean by this is that I want to have my worldview and my private inner world affirmed. I’m realizing that this perceived need is more a function of insecurity than of love and loving. If I am secure and grounded in myself, sharing is easy. And, I don’t project an imagined need to be affirmed into the space of the relationship. I mean, really…. It’s not the responsibility of my friends to understand all my little distinctions and the specific details of my perceptions. This is just a projection of my ego desire not to feel alone. Understanding can come in the silence, in the patience and in the gestures. It really isn’t necessary to “be understood” in order to love and be loved.
7.) Love acts/responds.
It’s the little things. Every mother in the world is overworked. Everybody appreciates getting a little shoulder rub, or having a cup of coffee poured. Every person in the world appreciates a humble bit of help. Whether you speak the language or not, you can clean the kitchen, do the laundry, hold the baby, fold the towels or give an old man a ride down the hill. Love is a poetry of action.
8.) Love let’s go.
“If you love someone, set them free.” When travelling, we often love more freely and fully when we know that the connection is temporary. We’ve all had that experience – the fierce, beautiful and fleeting love that will not last but that fills us with memories to last a lifetime. This, in and of itself, is delicious. But, the grace here is the capacity to hold lightly and wholly the object of our love. If I can translate this to ALL of my relationships – to hold and to let go, to pour myself into the precious moment and hold the outcomes loosely – then I can really love!
~s.s. November, 2012
WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?
EVERYTHING IS CHANGING.
I CAN’T DEPEND ON ANYTHING.
NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.
I’M TOTALLY COMING APART.
IT ALL SEEMS TO BE OK.
I FEEL HAPPY AND CONNECTED.
LIFE IS REALLY VIBRANT.
EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE A NEW OPPORTUNITY.
SOMETHING REALLY RADICAL IS HAPPENING:
The world and society as we have known it is coming completely unraveled. As without so within ~ almost every person I talk to these days is in the midst of massive change, transition, upheaval and re-creation.
It’s time to make a MAJOR CHOICE:
Are you here to SURVIVE or are you here to THRIVE?
We are currently rewriting the patterns and programs through which we manifest our lives, our relationships, our work and our love. It can be pretty disorienting. But, it’s THE ONLY THING IT MATTERS. It’s the Path of Awakening. IT’S THE PATH TO THRIVING.
It’s THE CHOICE as stand at the threshold of a new world. Choose contraction or choose expansion. Choose protection or choose co-creation. Choose “the box” of the old behaviors, old personalities, old stories, or open to the wild, super-engaged vibrancy of SOUL.
We’re entering the AGE OF SOULVIVAL.
Can you name one pattern in your life – like resistance, judgment, arrogance, neediness, isolation, showing-off, protectiveness or distance – that you are ready to let go of?
What is this patter GIVING YOU? In other words, what DO YOU GET by holding onto it?
WHAT WILL YOU GET BY LETTING IT GO?
Chances are, letting go will allow you to be more in harmony with YOUR SELF, with life, love and CHANGE.
Can you name a new, more harmonic and higher functioning pattern to replace an old one? Can you support this new pattern through an affirmation of your new world-view and/or a mindfullness practice? This will help you to cultivate not only a new STATE of being, but a new and permanent TRAIT OF BEING that will affect long-term shifts in the ways you behave, make choices and engage relationships.
Example: My resistance has been a way to stay safe within the narrow confines of my own experience. It has helped that introvert in me to maintain her aloneness, but it has also prevented me from SO much growth, connection and learning. This shows me that I could choose to be more curious. I now meet resistance as a wise friend who lets me know that I need to move slowly with awareness and openness.
Example: My arrogance has been a way of protecting myself from “being wrong”. It has trapped me in a stance of invulnerability where I feel like I need to defend being right in order to maintain control. When I RELEASE arrogance and the need to be right, a lot of amazing things happen. I get to be more connected, curious and intimate with a lot of people. I get to be equal. I get to LEARN. I get to follow. I get to be “a part.” And, I get the vast PLEASURE of being changed by the love and intelligence of my fellow community members, friends and colleagues. WOW! New traits: engaged humility and curious fellowship.
Please post comments and share your insights.
Where The Rubber Hits the Road in Transformation, or Why TRAITS Matter.
I return again and again to this form as a foundation for skillful surrender, luminous awareness, nourishing intimacy, authentic expression, play and non-violent communication. In this dance/art/sport/healing form I constantly see the resonant potential of TRUE INTIMACY, supple listening and liquidity in form.