“Let me tell you a story.” Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen opened with this invitation after lunch break, every imaginable student body imprint sprawled over Asian rugs. The story of the egg poured equally over us all. The egg that lived in your mother, inside your grandmother, the egg that became you. The valiant brotherhood of sperm, one triumphant. The first division to yolk sac and amniotic cavity, evolving into front body and back body. The front giving rise to breath and digest, the back enveloping skin, sense organs. One side to nourish, the other to protect. Front and back melting downward, meeting, invaginating upward to create middle body. Mesoderm differentiating into bone, flesh, heart, miracle organs. Primitive streak, perineal body rising out of the root. Primitive knot, future pituitary at crown yearning downward, meeting, stretching into notocord, future spinal column.
It is the poetry of dream, elements miraculous, nonsensical, fantastic…until we begin to move. Alone at first, sensing, breathing, moving from front body to back body to front body. Feeling the ancient cellular down drift, the rise up the center growing to create mesoderm, palpably extending out to side body. Moving from all three at once, meeting a partner from this place. The sense of fully embodied presence. From dream to embodied reality. It is what I came for.
A workshop like this, exquisite mix of new information and old remembrances, is a tender reminder that knowledge is almost a shedding, that wisdom grows in a fertile field of not knowing. But in so many ways this event fortifies one certainty: an embodied practice, indeed an embodied life, is the ground, the seed, the root from which awareness grows. We have all periodically tasted the goods and we want more: insight, aha moments, transcendent states, regular stretches of being awake and knowing it, enlightenment, intuition, clear seeing, wisdom, soul, spirit. The juicy stuff. And here’s the unavoidable catch: without the body, we are bound to endlessly flounder in story, dream, wishful thinking.
Experiences like this workshop serve to renew my dedication to bringing embodied practice to community. Regular physical practice reliably delivers us to the pragmatic hands on language of embodiment. There are no shortcuts. You cannot read about weight, gravity and fluidity and become fluent. Only somatic practice will lay the foundation for breath awareness, physical understanding of center, deep sensing of pulse, harnessing of power. Regular repeating experiences of release and alignment and stillness bring these notions out of the dream realm into our tangible, touchable world. This is the grounded medicine that ultimately delivers authentic prescriptive meaning. This is the underlying baseline for transformative shamanic experience.
The third workshop day frustrated me. First hour plus, so much open-ended talk, unfocused sharing, so heady. And though amazing key concepts were presented, the rest of the day lacked the embodied nectar I needed to anchor the conceptual. As fate would have it, a participant announced a Berkeley conscious dance class that evening. My yearning body landed on that floor with so much gratitude. All the dream, the concepts, the story enlivened their way into reality. Each breath, each step, each gesture turned abstraction to actuality: fluid weight; front, middle, back body; skin, flesh, bone; root, notocord, crown. There was a quality of presence from moment to moment that was novel yet remembered, ancient and fresh at once. Then it was gone, then it was back, nothing to hang on to but so clearly, unavoidably anchored in practice.
Everyday we have opportunity to turn our dreams into reality. It begins right there with that breath. Feel it enter and open you to the miracle that is you. Let it go and make a contribution to the miracle that is us.
Blessed to be right here, right now.