When I was a little girl, growing up on 150 acres in British Columbia's wild interior, there is nothing I loved more than spring. For with spring came newborn lambs and baby goats and fluffy yellow chicks. Spring painted the hillsides with yellow buttercups and the ridge at the edge of the wood with purple violets.
When spring came, one could abandon shoes and wooly layers and spend short-sleeved days walking in the mountains with a paper crown, and an entourage of goat and sheep friends.
Spring also meant that indoor life was over for a time, and that days spent by the fireside reading stories of other worlds would have to wait until the days turned cold again, and the frost returned to the fields. Yes, when spring came, the volumes of fairytales that my sister and I spent our days pouring over as the snow-piled up at the door, were returned to the bookshelf, for spring was not a time to be reading stories, but a time for making them!
And so, those 150 acres of forest and mountain and meadow became our storied world, where witches collected the first yellow flowers of skunk cabbage for important spells, and knights, on serious quests, rode white horses through the fir-wood. We soon recognized the knights because they watered their horses at our magical spring, and we were fairly convinced (my sister and I) that those armoured noblemen also knew of the springs secret power, that is, if you mixed the sacred water with three mint leaves and a handful of lilac flowers, you would remain young forever.
Not far from the witch wood was a field, and at its edge a little thatched house stood, containing a magical trunk of ballgowns (which, when worn in combination with the right words spoken, could transport you into another time). On the hillside above that thatched house, were many little villages, inhabited by small creatures with tiny wings, who made their homes on moss logs hidden among lacy white toadstools. It was near to where they lived that my sister and I once discovered a delicate pink orchid, known to grown-ups as a "lady-slipper," which we delightfully picked for our mother, only to find out later that these endangered flowers are extremely precious, and are not to be plucked from their shady woodland home under any circumstance. We spent many days after that trying to make it up to the wee forest people, having stolen their most holy of flowers, and wondering what they might do to punish us?
Luckily, we knew a friendly bear who lived in an very cozy underground house, who would be willing help us, in exchange for fifteen wild strawberries and a hug, that is, should we get into any sort of trouble with the small people. And these are just a few of the ones who showed themselves as we travelled on foot through the woods with our dogs, or along the edge of the field, riding our pony Webber (who could turn into a silver unicorn on the full moon).
Yes, stories and spring, for me they go together, and so this next dance session is an invitation to consider the stories that rise out of the mythic territory of the inner-life, and to step into the imaginal field as it is prompted by spring. Let us reconnect with the wisdom of childhood that has not lost the extraordinary power of imagination and story, or the awe that comes from gazing into the centre of a daffodil, to see the sleeping bumblebee napping there. Miester Eckhart once said that “When the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and then enters into her own image.” These stories then, our stories, the ones that rise from the depths within, they are the images of ourselves, born of our imagination, conceived by our deep soul. To move amidst this storied landscape then, is surely a worthy exploration, as spring unfurls all around us, inviting us into waking and calling us into the dance of rebirth.
"Outward circumstances are no substitute for the inner experience...I can understand myself only in the light of inner happenings." C.G Jung, from his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
I first came across this quote 2 springs ago, sometime in the midst of April, when the last of the tulips were widening under the warming sun, and just after the cherries had finished blossoming. I remember that I read it while sitting cross-legged on the grass preparing to teach a class on the Wild Woman Archetype. I remember feeling the heat of the sun for the first time that year, and the urge to take my socks off and to scrunch my pale winter toes into the new grass. There was something surging and alive moving inside my body, an invisible current that mirrored the waking, rising, blossoming earth. An aliveness that I had not felt in some years.
In my dreams, nuns were abandoning traditional habits in order to tie their hair back with colourful scarves, and at least once a week I would dream that I was discovering new walks, through deep woods, on hidden pathways, that apparently were there all along, but that I had never seen before. Jung, might have said that these were the inner happenings of my life.
Of course, my outer life would not mirror these inner happenings for sometime, as my conscious mind was doing everything in it's power to keep the inner happenings from disturbing the status-quo of my daily routine. And so, when my outer life at last changed in radical ways, I must admit, I was surprised at first. That is, until, I began to recall the many ways in which my psyche/soul was asking me to look all along, and revealing to me that my inner experience was trying desperately to align with my outer experience.
The changes that occurred in my life as the inner and outer worlds merged are not mentioned here, because they are not the focus of this exploration. What has meaning for me now, is the process itself, and if I had to describe the essence of the dance work that I have offered for almost 20 years now, I would say it is a way for the inner-life and the outer-life to meet, a physical practice that brings awareness to these inner happenings through the wisdom of the body. To dance freely invites the inner-life to come forward for expression, and sometimes this part of the self needs to be gently coaxed, like calling a shy and thirsty animal to water, while at other times, the invitation alone is enough, sometimes the energy needs no coaxing at all, just an opportunity to move without obstruction. More often than not, it's like taking the lid off a pressure cooker, and freeing the steam horses trapped within.
For many years, I studied The Osteopahtic Field of Awareness, and my wise teachers would say to me over and over again, that health is movement, and that sickness is the result of stagnation. "Just think of the water in a flowing river, they would say, verses that of stagnant pond." And so a great part of the prescription for health, is to keep moving, and this means physically as well as emotionally, for as we are coming to recognize at this modern time, we are much more than our physicality. We are whole beings with bodies and hearts and feelings and refined nervous systems, and cells that hold the experiences of our ancestors.There is a great wisdom to be found in conversing with our wise and knowing bodies, and dance is a profound way of entering into these conversations, for in the field of movement, the inner-life and the outer-life come together as one.
When we let go into the body, into the dance, we can peer into the landscape of soul and begin to bring the inner experience ( our inner happenings) into the light of consciousness. And this process for me, well, it is a kind of alchemy, it is an essential practice and a luminous gift. There are many good reasons why every culture, in every part of the world, since time immemorial have danced, and I cannot conceive of my human life without the practice of movement. Yes, as far as I can tell, I shall keep moving this body until the day I die, and surely, even death is just another kind of dance.