I’m aware after 38 years of dancing I’m past the prime of my physical abilities. I returned from my latest tour to attend yoga at my favorite home studio yesterday. My body responds differently after 10 days on tour, sitting on airplanes, adjusting time zones… As I stood at the front of the mat and closed my eyes I had a sweet moment of realizing that I am rebuilding strength, I am always tending to my body, my instrument, but I’ve already passed my peak. I’ve just visited my parents and I’m tenderly aware of aging and instead of feeling sad I started to sense something other than physical strength in my body. I started to sense this warm soft compassion in my body. I started to feel so incredibly grateful for the ride I have been on with my body. There was a sweetness in not back bending as far. There was a gentleness in not stretching as deep. I have not hit the peak of my compassion yet, it’s growing stronger now than ever. My body has been my greatest teacher for devotion, focus, resilience, healing… and now it is starting to teach me about savoring, aging, dying, limits and a whole new kind of love.
Dear ones most of my life I’ve focused on how I can be an ally for others, people of color, elders, people with different abilities, people who are neurodivergent… It’s new, tender and vulnerable for me to ask for support from you as an ally. I kind of wish we already lived in a culture that sees and honors who I am. After touring many places and cultures this year I’ve become aware that I need to ask for your support with this because my liberation and your liberation are the same thing. So I made this list because I’d love to have more success experiences in my relationships and it feels easier to write this here than to interrupt our conversation to make a request.
- My pronouns are: They/Them. Use them. Please don’t call me a girl, woman, ma’am, daughter or other gender assigned noun. I’m gender transcendent. If you notice other people misgendering me please interrupt them and remind them.
- Remember that gender is a social construction. There’s nothing new about gender diversity. On 6 of the 7 continents there are cultures who have recognized and honored more than two genders. Begin to learn about them here and be willing to dismantle what you have learned about the gender binary.
- Be more interested in who people really are and the gender expression that empowers them, rather than maintaining a familiar construct of only men or women.
- Don’t assume someone’s pronouns, including your own. Ask.
- Get curious about how you’ve been socialized as a man or woman and how that may be shaping your sense of power, safety, sexuality, how you share your voice, and the kind of social impact you can create. The more you can re-educate who you are, the more possible it is for you to see who others are.
- Be mindful not to make sweeping statements like, “men are…women are…”
- Notice when spaces are superimposing a binary (ie men and women bathrooms or having to pick man or woman on an ID) and imagine what it might be like to be asked to choose between two identities that are not yours. Then say something or do something that reflects human beings are way more creative and diverse than those options.
- I didn’t choose to be an activist around gender. Sometimes it takes up more focus in conversations than I want it to. If you’re curious to learn more read my books or take my workshops. I love supporting others to explore themselves through those offerings. I don’t always want to have a conversation about gender. Please check in and ask if connecting about it would be energizing for our relationship in the moment.
- Be mindful that sex and gender are not the same thing. Your sex is your physical bits and your gender is your how you experience and express your energy. Gender may be fluid and dynamic moment to moment.
It’s 1:30 am after the community grief ritual. The song of the grief ritual is so resonnant in my body. My body is the song more than it is sleep. I feel softness, exhaustion, a tender heart in a way that gives me strength.
My body is more alive and connected after a day of grieving. I’ve been in a village space that I crave deeply in my soul. I feel close to Sobonfu Some and to my ancestors. I felt a peace I didn’t know I could feel after she left.
I’ve been to 4 grief rituals since her passing this year looking for the medicine she carried. I felt a solidness and peace in me. The altered state of the rhythm and voice held us for hours. Where does the energy come from to sing for hours? The energy to sing keeps coming. There’s a buoyancy and steadiness in it while the rise and fall of deep emotions and pain move through us.
It’s like tapping a heart beat on the root of a tree while saying a prayer, it changes our brain to have that rhythm. I feel I’m not alone in a really deep way. That’s why I hunger for this ritual. There’s somthing so ancient in us that this ritual acknowledges. There’s an altar for ancestors, an altar for forgiveness, an altar for grief, an area for drumming, an area for resting, an area for welcoming people home who are returning from grieving… It is a “playground” of different energetic states and we deepen our intuition as we move between them as we feel called. We are in trance. It’s not a trance that moves us away from physical reality. It is a trance that brings us closer to connection with each other and to steadniess in the face of the things that hurt us the most. It’s a compelling and gentle space.
As I heal from feeling violated I find a softness. It is not a softness that makes me small, it’s a softness that makes me bigger. It’s a groundedness of knowing my body, my space, my land, my relation to the earth and to who I come from and to my village. This deep sense of belonging and orientation allows the pain of those moments to be with me in a way that doesn’t shake me anymore.
Thank you Briony Greenhill and Carolina Grace Lorenzo for holding this space. Thank you to everyone who showed up this weekend and who has shown up to this courageous ritual over the years. Thank you Sobonfu Some for dedicating your life to bring this medicine from the Dagara Tribe to the West. I dream of having a grief ritual in the Bay Area every month. Who wants to create this with me?
The field of intimacy, sexuality, and community building is not a regulated field. There are many facilitators who desire to cultivate leadership skills and hunger for a place to develop your unique content, to develop meaningful offerings, to create results for your community with consistency. This is a 45 min recorded workshop introducing mindset and somatic tools to get unstuck! Fill out this form to view the Facilitator Monkey Mind document.
Years ago I was taking an embryology class with the amazing Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of Body Mind Centering. I remember her showing us an image of a fetus at 8 weeks with an enormous heart and tiny arms just starting to sprout around it. She passed the photo around the room and asked us to look at how huge the heart is.
She said we start out this way and we spend the rest of our lives trying to return to this state. I’ve never forgotten that image. I found a similar one for this blog.
For years I’ve been teaching pelvis workshops and everytime I show images of genitals I always include this one which shows how all genders start with the same structures. (I love how it’s color coded to make it easy to see the correlations!)
Last night as I experienced my erotic energy moving through my whole being something shifted. I often feel energy move through my pussy and my energetic cock simultaneously. But last night my body “remembered” the experience of being undifferentiated. Just as I remembered being a huge heart with tiny twigs of arms, I had the felt sense of existing before my genitals became “differentiated.” For a moment it felt that everyone, regardless of how we identify now, had some common experience of being a huge heart and having all the seeds of all the genders in our blossoming body as our soul started to inhabit this space that has become us now. Nothing to explain… simply remembering.
“If the labels don’t shame you enough,
We have medication to numb you,
If that doesn’t work we’ll entertain you…”
These words took my breath away. They came from Sobonfu Some during our 3 day grief ritual. We came together to cleanse our hearts, to name, feel, and release the things that eat at our soul and yet we rarely speak about. It was one of the most courageous and honest groups of people I have gathered with. I share this experience with you because I want to include you in the healing in the “not alone-ing.”
Many of us in the room identified as “black sheep.” We are the ones that see and say what is often avoided and although we may not create the problems, the discomfort that voicing them brings to others can often create tension. I related to this deeply and over the 3 days I started to see how common this role was for many of us in the room. I mean who else takes time to go grieve? What was so inspiring was that Sobonfu shared how for the Dagara people of Burkina Faso this role is recognized and honored. The entire community will have a grieving ritual for 72 hours on a regular basis! Wow, this is how they tend to their “faucet” of the heart. Let it flow!
The ritual included 3 altars, one for ancestors, one for forgiveness, and one for grief. We sang a song, played drums, and the waves of the rhythm washed our grief from our memories and hearts onto the grief altar. Each time we were ready to grieve we simply walked toward the grief altar and someone from the group would have our back and sit with us to witness. Sometimes they simply sat behind us and sang. Sometimes they held and rocked us, or we crawled into their lap. They stayed with us until we were done… and if they needed someone from the group to replace them they simply signaled and a new person came in. The feeling of having full permission to grieve in the loving presence of a witness until we were done… that was one of the most profound parts of the ritual for me. So often I interrupt my grief because I’m worried I’m burdening the other person or the community. Yet here the structure of the ritual was such that the witness was fully in choice to be there. In fact they were honored, we were all honored to bear witness to each others’ grief as it returned our spirit back to us. As I took in the gift of this community support I grieved the times I have felt isolated or I have hidden the deep distress in my heart thinking I was sparing my friends or loved ones.
I started to have a taste of what it feels like to be in a community courageous enough to hold and transform our global history so our children can be free to live and to love!
Sobonfu said “pain gives language to what the soul is still carrying.” We were unloading our pain. We are asking “What did my ancestors know how to take responsibility for? What did they not know how to take responsibility for that I am willing to grieve?”
What were we grieving? We each had a story and the more we shared them the clearer it became how similar our pain was. I was grieving the loss of my partnership with my fiancé, the loss of our dreams to start a family, the loss of the false hope that our partnership would somehow protect me from ever feeling isolated in a way that haunted my soul. This separation opened in me a river of grief, an access to personal and collective grief that I had not been able to release before. Sobonfu told us “grief is not an individual experience, it comes from the source we all drink from, and you have been chosen as a voice.” Making the world a sustainable place is deeply connected to our ability to grieve together, because this is what creates sustainability for the human soul. The Dagara people do not ask if you are done grieving. They ask “have you grieved enough? If not, there’s something in you that needs to be brought back to life.”
“Tears are for love.
Tears show I care.
Tears show I’m standing by you.
Tears say I want to be alive.
Tears feed the ancestors.
Tears cut unhealthy ties…”
On the third day we started to call out collective griefs. “I’m grieving domestic violence,” half the room raised their hand. “I’m grieving someone who was murdered,” about a third of the room raised their hand and suddenly a wave of heat rushed through me as I remembered two dear friends of mine who had been murdered. “I’m grieving addiction,” almost the entire room raised their hand. Wow, so many people have been carrying this too. “I’m grieving mental illness…” I have never been in a group so available to feel, not just think about, but truly feel the pain and commit to transforming it. What stunning courageous souls gathered here. Thank you for being one of them by reading and feeling in this moment.
There is so much more to share. Here are some seeds I will plant soon:
• Intimacy for entertainment vs. opening the “faucet” in purposeful intimacy (polyamory, addiction to pleasure)
• Artists are one of the few socially acceptable ways to open the “faucet” in the U.S. A.
• Anger based identities that limit social change movements and how grief can transform our wounds to gifts for powerful leadership
• Healing our ancestors’ relationship to time and money
• Gender transcendence: how grief dissolves limitations, opens possibilities and allowed me to move beyond “female.”
Sobonfu Some has generously given us the blessing to share about this experience and wisdom from the Dagara people of Burkina Faso. Please check out her books, rituals, and magnificent soul at http://www.sobonfu.com.
I had the recent pleasure of meeting Rachel Dwight, a radical self-love advocate and the founder of Validity – the first body-inclusive sex-gear store. What is “body-inclusive?” For years I have trained to teach yoga, pilates, tantra, dance, and to give bodywork. While I would like to feel confident in working with most bodies, connecting with Rachel made me aware of some of the blind spots in these professional embodiment trainings. For Rachel “body-inclusive” means providing resources for people of all sizes, physical abilities, ages and anatomies to have great sex.
Listen to our interview here as we explore: What is the role of healthy sexuality in social change How can I be more aware and inclusive as an educator, lover, or friend of people of all sizes and abilities? The creation of a new store that provides education, resources, and gear to a radically inclusive audience. Check it out and support RespectOurSex.com!
Amy Baldwin and her mom, Janis Baldwin, co-own Pure Pleasure, a sex shop in Santa Cruz, CA. Their mission is to provide a comfortable place where people can shop for sex toys, as well as access resources to enhance sexual pleasure and wellbeing. I had the honor of interviewing them for Mother’s Day. Listen here as they share their story and inspiration for mothers and daughters who want to have empowering communication about their sexual lives.
A spirited thread of fb posts ignited after I posted the Alchemy of Sex & Spirit for Women. I made this video to address some of the core concerns that came up in a way that does not polarize the dance community and the sex positive community.
You may see the fb thread here. Thank you for all the support and love that emerged in this conversation.
The first time my body experiences something it has never felt before, I feel wonder about being. Last night was one of those firsts. My body opened with a profound trust I had never experienced before. My hips, my lips, my vulva, the walls of my womb, my heart… and as I expanded open the universe held me, welcomed me to this bigger me. Awe, complete awe, and then, I wondered how many people get to feel this loved, this open, this full. I knew from the look in their eyes, and the joy in their laugh, and the way they dreamed about what was to come… now I could understand that some of them had felt this too. I knew that as my body opened, my life was opening. I lay there wondering if I could truly receive all the love that my partner embodied and offered me. I started to drink it in slowly and with more ease than I expected in deep long inhales that could only be accompanied by cooing exhales and gentle nods of silent yes.
I remember the first time I pirouetted. I remember learning a new move in the hip hop dance class I attended last night. I remember my first bee sting. Part of it is the sensation that draws me so undeniably into my body, and part of it is tasting a little more of the collective human body experience. Somehow I feel like I belong here that much more. I trust everything more, because this is one of those things that I did not know to wish for and yet as it happens oh universe, how did you know this is exactly what I desired?
Michael Brown Meditation (works best in Safari browser)
This is a meditation to connect to our hearts. This is not about getting rid of anger or sadness, but rather how to not be consumed by our emotions. For those of us in the sex positive and tantra communitites we often explore cultivating big energy (orgasm) for transformation. We can use these same skills to transform big anger and big grief.
Many of the posts I share in this blog relate directly to dance, healing, healthy sexuality, and transformational rituals. At the root of these is a great awe for life and a love for people. Nobody has inspired this awe and love more deeply in me than my grandma. She is one of the main reasons I spent 15 years in New York City and I want to share this with you, having just visited her at the age of 96 and not knowing if I’ll see her again. (Written during Yom Kipur, the time of year when the veil between the worlds of life and death thins.)
This afternoon as my plane ascended I got a glimpse of NYC from heaven…
While visiting midtown Manhattan with Grandma I was tickled by how much she LOVES people. She waved, her smile beaming, “Hello Mistah,” waving her whole hand from the wrist. Purple nails, red hair, blue rimmed sunglasses (over her reading glasses.) She tilts her head back, “I’m going incognito.” “Barely!” my aunt chuckles.
She can’t go three minutes without exclaiming, “Isn’t it beautiful here?!” We drive down Fifth Ave. The sidewalks are packed and bustling. “Look at all the people, nobody’s hurting each other, nobody’s hating each other. We don’t need policemen or soldiers…Isn’t it beautiful here?!”
We had come to say goodbye, bringing Grandma to the love of her life, Manhattan, the city that would never die, not even sleep. And she waived all day, but it wasn’t a goodbye… “Hello Mistah.”
Grandma is already in heaven right here on 42nd st and Fifth Ave. She’s innocent and mischievous. She seems both older and younger that everyone we pass. And she’s so delighted they are here.
She loves the buildings because people made them. She loves the traffic because so many people have come to this place everyone wants to be. “I’m so happy I could die right here on this block!” My aunt says, “at least wait til I part the car.” I can’t tell if Grandma knows this is her last visit to the city. We are her caravan of angels today taking her to visit one of her last living friends this morning, and now to lunch at the Bryant Park Grill.
“No, dying is too expensive in the city,” she says. “Yeah, let’s just go for lunch Grandma,” I say. “Oh look at the trees in Central Park. They’re older than me, they’re so tall,” she says. I ask if she wants us to bury her ashes in Central Park. “Or Bloommingdales,” my aunt chimes in from the driver’s seat. “Bergdorf Goodman!” Grandma names the big stores along Fifth Ave. Yes, we can sprinkle your ashes in all these places.
It feels like Grandma already owns the city. There’s nothing like a woman on her land who will soon be returning to it. Grandma belongs. She belongs in the ritzy stores. She belongs at the protests in the street. She belongs in the communist bookstores. She belongs in the 4th grade classrooms “teaching tolerance,” and she belongs at City College auditing political classes. Grandma taught me to belong to a world of abundance and a world of the working class. She belongs right here with us and she belongs in heaven with Seymore, her beloved husband. And this afternoon Grandma has made New York City and heaven become the same place.
In response to my recent article, Getting Your Sexxy On While White, featured by the Body is Not an Apology, I have been receiving many questions and comments, thank you! I would love to engage this dialogue by sharing more about why I created Love Making Dances and how I see connections between sexual empowerment and healing racism.
I want to celebrate the love and sexual energy in women’s bodies. The World Health Organization reports that more than a third of all women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in 2013. Mind you, this is counting only the ones that have been reported, not to mention the violent experiences of other genders including men. This is an epidemic that begs the opportunity for us to not only end sexual violence, but to discover and respect the power we have as sexual beings.
The media and pop culture set the tone for our self-exploration. But the incredible nature of our sexuality is much more expansive, cosmic, and regenerative than most of what we see. Love Making Dances is about recognizing sexuality as the intersection of body and spirit — that set up this agreement for us to be here in a body — and that can be resourced to deepen our purpose and our passion for it.
Earned sexual power (the soul gifts, discipline and expression we cultivate) is distinctly different from Unearned sexual power (socially constructed privilege, which is dictated by visibility in the media/pop culture.) Love Making Dances focuses on our Earned sexual power, because this life force power is independent of the power systems based on class, race, and gender! The potential here is much greater than amazing orgasms.
I want each generation of women to have increasingly more trust, love, and passion in their body and in their intimate relationships. I know that this can “refinance” our inner resources and by doing so increase our external resources. When we have an open heart and personal power in our sexual energy, we have more energy available to give to our friends, family, community, and financial ventures.
I have yet to meet someone who felt their family was a healthy model for sexually, spiritually, nourishing relationships. So the opportunity for us right now is to change the legacy of the next generation by cultivating our true expression.
When a woman can listen to the wisdom of her womb and her body, she can transgress society’s messages not only about her value, but also about every aspect of her life because she now has a felt sense of her ALIVENESS. The heart and womb know how to heal, how to create life, how to connect. When we honor these regenerating organs we are transforming the future of our healing, creativity, and connection. This is the world I cannot wait to share with you!
Love Making Dances moves people into the highest energy states of gratitude and ecstasy. The archetypes of the victim, oppressor, and martyr cannot co-exist when we are in states of gratitude and ecstasy. I have seen (in years of activist and anti-racism work) what happens when women try to shift the power dynamics solely from a political or theoretical place. Love Making Dances is a visceral way to transform from the inside out, from the body, which directly changes the beliefs, relationships, and visions that we live.
What I see in my own journey (as a white woman) and many of my clients is that until we truly learn our roots, accept them, forgive our family for all the things they didn’t teach us that would have made it sooo much easier, we aren’t going to clean up all this cultural appropriation. Believe me, it’s easier to be angry than to take responsibility to accept our white history no matter how much we would have wanted to write a different story. But there is nothing else to do but that, ACCEPT our history. Sometimes we need to experience the wisdom of other cultures to understand what needs healing in our own culture. Not just mimicking the dances, but learning their source and intention and creating relationships with the communities that choose to share them with us.
West African dance was part of my realization about the lack of sexual expression in ballet, modern, and yoga (often appropriated when taught as fitness and divorced from its traditional roots). These were all movement cultures that white western culture had directed me to.
Different West African dances have unique purposes and cultures of origin. Sunu is a rite of passage into adulthood, and it’s also a courtship process amongst the Mandingo people in Mali. Dundungba is a demonstration of strength by the men, as the women support (traditionally in a hetero-normative context) and a harvest festival dance in Guinea. Mandiani is an initiation for adolescents and also a wedding dance in Mali, Guinea, and Senegal… to name a few traditional dances. These examples already demonstrate that there is a value of coming into your adult body with celebration, with ritual, and in the presence of community.
Let’s just say that after 20 years of ballet I had not learned these values through my community and nobody had taught me how dance can be engaged for a powerful initiation ritual. It wasn’t just the movements of the hips, but the comfort and acceptance people in the classes had with their own sensuality that allowed me to realize how I had been socialized to not express this energy. As I traveled to different continents and cultures dance became how I experienced the values and possibilities a community created. I realized that Love Making Dances could use dance to create the values and possibilities I want to live by: celebrating the love and sexual energy in our bodies to deepen trust, passion, and creativity.
And yes, for the white folks reading this, unless you are an emotional virtuoso that probably means moving through the stages of grief (credited to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.) They are the same stages when you lose a person and when you lose an identity – which is what happens when we break down whiteness. The goal is to acknowledge and move through these stages with commitment, dance and community ritual is a powerful way to do so! This is part of the collective cultural racism detox!
1. Shock & denial (What do you mean once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination for employment/housing/right to vote/educational opportunity/food stamps apply, just like these same discriminations used to apply to being African American?!)
2. Guilt (I feel bad my family paid for most of my college, and I’ve always had a safety net.)
3. Anger (ok, I hate that the black men my age don’t have role models in their family because everyone is either dead or in prison by their 30’s and so now they haven’t been dreaming about what’s next! Trayvon? Don’t even…)
4. Bargaining (well, maybe racism is in full force but it’s also hard being a woman/queer/Jewish…)
5. Depression (maybe this is breaking my heart, how come everyone else seems to be ok?)
6. Acceptance & hope (got it, I’m paying attention, it’s time to cultivate trust in ourselves and in others, independent of the ways white culture teaches us self definition, sexuality, and self worth)
While this is some of the journey for white people with this work, the Love Making Dances community is very diverse across race, age, body type, sexual orientation, relationship lifestyle (poly/bdsm/monogamous…), experience (virgins, professional dominatrix, sexual shamans). By nature of who comes and the shared commitment to authenticity it provides a space for us to get vulnerable, honest, and courageously curious about each other in a way that cuts through invisibility politics and main stream messages.
Some of our recent community conversations have explored the complexity of how pop culture represents the sexuality of African American women. Some voices spoke of feeling hyper sexualized experiencing a dual narrative of the pure white under expressed sexuality and a narrative of the impure sexually deviant person of color. While other voices spoke about the minimization/reductionism of African American sexuality being underrepresented in the kink community, in the adult entertainment industry, in the sex worker professions. The visibility of white sexual identities and lifestyles (i.e., queer, kinky, sacred prostitute) being more prevalent in media and pop culture than of other races represented with a variety of sexual identities and lifestyles. Part of what we do in Love Making Dances is create erotic self portraits to express how we want to be represented, and to discover what sexual fantasies we are most thrilled and terrified to own…and why?
Exploring our true sexuality, not the one we are socially or racially dictated to express, but the one at the core of our humanity is the focus of the Love Making Dances movement! My goal is to support women of all racial identities (without being color blind to the complexities of race) to reclaim our sexuality and its representation in connection with our heart and spirit. Love Making Dances is about reconnecting our sexual energy to source energy and healing the fragmentation within us and between us. The true power of sexual life force is independent of the power systems based on race, class, and gender. I think that’s part of why the old paradigm is afraid of sexual empowerment because knowing our Earned power (the soul gifts and discipline we cultivate) will make our Unearned Power (socially constructed privilege) irrelevant.
The Love Making Dances community is committed to the next generation having trust, love, and passion in their bodies and relationships. We can heal these lineages, I see women doing this work every day. Nothing turns me on more. We would love to invite you to the conversation. Join our newsletter for articles, upcoming events, and learn more about performances, coaching, dance classes, workshops and bodywork with Zahava Griss.
A lot of men have been asking me “how do I fit in to women’s empowerment?” Well, I want to acknowledge that you already are! (Many of the women I work with learned about me through the men in their lives, thank you!) While I offer courses that focus on women here are some ways all genders can engage:
I offer these because when I see clients connect to their body and emotions it invites the loved ones in their lives to do the same and it makes us get more real with each other. There’s a difference between Earned power (the soul gifts and discipline we cultivate) and Unearned power (socially constructed privilege). When I hear men asking what do I do (with my unearned power) it’s really not as relevant as you discovering and expressing your Earned power.
I’m not so interested in speaking on behalf of women about how men can “help” us. I’m DONE with the flavor of feminism that has allowed women to remain small, to blame men for our dissatisfaction and the cultural permission for us to avoid forgiveness and taking responsibility. The truth is we NEED EACH OTHER. (and I’m not just talking about heteronormative relationships.)
I want to break down the belief that women are the only ones doing personal work. It’s just not true. So what feels most authentic for me is to introduce you to some of the incredible men in my community who I love, respect, and see as valuable collaborators in co-empowerment to continue the conversation:
Meet Micah BlackLight: “I sat in a rocking chair daughter in my lap.. singing her to sleep while my unmarried wife readied for bed. And I thought in that moment, of the sight I must make: black father, in a rocking chair.. singing his baby girl to sleep, and I wondered how rare a thing that might be. I almost choked on tears at the thought of how many fathers must have wanted to show their children that kind of love, but felt they could not, because they were trapped within the confines of the “manbox” they were raised within. How many wounds am I healing within our collective conscious every time I sing my lil baby to sleep, every time I kiss her precious little forehead and whisper that I love her, and I’m incredibly happy she was born?
How many children would have given a limb to hear those words from their fathers? I sat and let the tears stream out of my eyes and down my cheeks and took a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to raise my child on love; to address through my family, so many of the rifts of pain that etch our collective past.. to be an intentional beacon for people who have been given too few.
This is what the beginning of change can look like. This is where shifts begin: in our homes. with OUR children.. one questioning step at a time. Love…
I think a males’ single biggest role in co-creating an empowering community at present, and I stress the words at present, is to work his hardest to foster an environment where females and males alike feel safe-from other males. In other words, I think the first thing we as males can do to co-create EMPOWERING communities is to strive to comport ourselves in ways that leave no one feeling threatened. This necessarily creates the need for us to let go of ninety percent of what we’ve been taught it means to be a “man”, particularly in urban environments, but also beyond.” Learn about Micah BlackLight and his Empowerment Coaching at I-Am-Catalyst.com and contact him at Speak@I-am-catalyst.com.
Meet Tony Rezac, creator of Body and Soul for Men, writes of the Hero`s Journey, men`s personal growth, and planetary transformation. When I raised this conversation with him he responded…
“I see more wisdom being brought to the masculine body. Rather than just taking a conventional approach to fitness, I`m seeing more interest in the subtle aspects of the body. Things like chi hung and movement and the “felt” arts are no longer off limits for men. Men are discovering what women have been gently pointing to for years: that if we could slow down, breathe, and feel what is happening, health and grace can naturally unfold…The archetypal Hero is available to both men and women. The Hero leaves the herd to find the spiritual truths that will allow the Kingdom to thrive. Hero`s transform the world. They stare down the status quo and say “not on my watch.”
…Every day you ask yourself, “What does my human family need? What is my Hero`s call today?” Because our human family needs everyday Hero`s. Because women are counting on us. Because it is honorable and dignified to play this game with as much heart and guts and tears as you can muster. Because this is what you came here to do.” Read more in his post, “Women are Counting on Us.” Visit Tony at www.BodyandSoulforMen.com and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Emile Svitzer: “As an African American, the question of how I see my role as a man in empowering women evoked in me an immediate response. I imagine the answer to this question would be the same as if one were to ask of white Americans, at any point in history, how they see their role in empowering blacks: Basically, stop being in the way.
Power can be granted, bestowed or taken by others. But Empowerment can only be realized and enjoyed by one’s self. The only genuine empowerment is self-empowerment. More clearly, I believe the best way a man (or woman) can participate in co-creating an empowering community is to develop his awareness of where and how his thoughts, words or actions are disempowering or obstructive to the inherent, already held though perhaps unrealized, self-empowerment of others and work on changing these causes and their manifest effects.” Emile Svitzer, co-facilitates with Anton Richard Diaz www.NYC.manevolve.com.
Meet Josh Van Vliet: “The purpose of my work as a life and leadership coach is to empower men to live authentic, joyful, connected lives. I support men to identify and live from what’s most important to them to create relationships they love. As men, the first step we can take to support the empowerment of women is to courageously shine a conscious light on all of the places in our lives where we are acting from old scripts and outdated ideas about who we should be as men. This means intentionally, actively questioning the traditional definitions of male gender roles, and lovingly interrupting patterns of oppression, as we observe them in action in our own behavior and in the behavior of the men around us. The moment we are willing to be in this conversation is the moment new possibilities open up – for ourselves, for our relationships, and for our society.” Josh is a life and leadership coach, visit his site at ExpandWhatsPossible.org and contact him at Josh@ExpandWhatsPossible.org.
Just in case your heart isn’t overflowing yet with these beautiful souls, here’s some awesome resources shared via Josh:
Men, I love you. I love co-creating what’s powerful for all of us. I love being here with you as we all grow and heal one profound connection at a time. (For this conversation, I chose to stick with the gender binary language knowing that gender is far more fluid. And that my friends, is a whole other blog post :)) Until then, I hope to dance with you, share bodywork, and please…I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments welcome!
Over the past year I have had the incredible opportunity to join the Artist Dream Family, a performance ritual group that reminds the audience we are all creators of our lives. This IS the dream. This weekend we experienced a powerful exchange with a community, watch a clip of it here! I am realizing that they showed us the dream. I have always dreamed of the ultimate performance ritual where the audience shows up as complete collaborators in a celebration of life. Last night I was sharing photos of our performance this weekend with a dear friend of mine… and then started to talk about my life long dream to ultimately have a touring dance company that leads community rituals for transformation. My friend stopped me and pointed out that it’s already happening, “you just showed me the photos.”
I got still. Every little piece of me that questions if my dreams are possible was poised and I realized that while I had been carrying a very specific idea of what this would look like in the future, I suddenly could not explain the difference between my dream and what had occurred. I received the magic of the performance on a deeper level.
This happening that occured this weekend had every aspect of my dream… I am totally in love with the performers, they are my spirit tribe: Evan Worldwind on the didj, Kevin Nathaniel on the shakere, and my dancing sistars DeeArah Wright and Sunder Ashni. (And in spirit with us Zen Marie Holmes, co-founder of Arstist Dream, and Rajeeyah Finnie, the fourth member of our Goddess Manifest Circle.)
I have known each of them for years, and we each LIVE for our art. We all have a relaxed and deeply committed relationship to our dance or our music. We truly truly want to see empowerment in communities through art. Oh, and I kept dreaming that we would be outside. We were under the sky, I kept watching the stars as my spine arched and the air moved through the bamboo leaves. We were in the Healing Spirit Garden at Wall St. International. Now let me just say, that entering this community was a pure gift. There were golden lion statues in the vegetable garden, what?! Ok dream casters, you really know what lights me up. (Can I even tell you how nature moves me with the existence of this creature!)
There were tables of crystals, and people who knew their healing properties. There were beautiful clothes, mudclothes, jewelry and lavendar sandalwood massage lotions. There were several massage tables positioned over the garden where people were giving and receiving life energy. All of this was happening while the music medicine moved through the garden. As we arrived, a family of 3 young brothers performed together. The youngest was 4. Impeccable. Clear, singing, playing the guitar, spitting words about the world we have given them and their readiness to take it on. Now when a 4 year old is singing about the life ahead of him with these positive vibes… the world changes, and we adults are looking at each other with wet eyes, trembling lips, the light shining so bright. We literally had a rainbow over the stage, Goddess/God, thank you for your light design and I don’t just mean in the sky.
When we went into the audience to invite them to dance, a circle formed. They entered one at a time, and bathed in the life force of the community, it was ON. Gravity was playing with us as men flipped, hips shook, cries of ecstasy rose percussively from our mouths, babies came in some with Mamas and some solo. The ancestors danced through us, the future generations danced through us. “Heal thy self, heal thy self, heal thy self!” The circle chanted, not because we lead them, but because the healing gave us these words to join our voices. One of the “audience” members came up onstage and took the mic and started rapping, 2 drummers came up onstage with a djembe and conga, one woman started playing Kevin’s shakere. There was no “audience” and “performer,” there was no “dream” and “dreamer,” we were One.
One of my sisters Dee Arah, has been organizing her community for years with such devotion and I’ve been watching it change her dancing. We joined some of the “audience” members on the stage and I don’t think it was a coincidence that they pulled Dee Arah into a duet. It was a true embodiment of the “audience” and “performers” co-creating. At one point the 3 of us became the “back up” dancers to the “audience” solos. Watch the video of the audience taking over the mic!
When we brought our sweating, breathing, healing bodies to a stillness the organizer of the event, Professor, called us into a healing circle. He orchestrated the energy that was buzzing through us into a circle of our 50 bodies and we positioned our hands, our hearts, our chanting for community healing. What blew me away, was not only the power of the energy moving through our bodies, but the fact that the entire community was participating. So this is what it feels like when the whole community knows how to ground, how to intend, how to breath together and connect with spirit. Then Professor invited those who wished to receive healing to enter the circle. The healing of the community came from within us, we became stronger, more focused, more powerful as we channeled our energy into the center.
A few days have come and gone since this event, and I am feeling closer and closer to those that I experienced it with. Rather than thinking the Dream will be happening in the future. I am tingling as I realize the power we are and the way dance and music become the medium of our life force and the artistry of being together.
Thank you Michelle Jolene for taking photos and videos of this magical night!
Several people have been encouraging me to explore Continuum given it’s similarities to my work. I’m discovering that Emilie Conrad, who founded Continuum in 1967, engages the same elements of breath, sound, movement, sensation, and pleasure. We also share a background of dancing with Katherine Dunham, feeling the incredible undulations and rhythms Dunham shared from Haitian prayers. I’m thrilled to discover the similarities and look forward to studying with her this Fall. I am also reminded once again of how consciousness moves through us collectively, even when we think we are discovering something new in our own body.
I’ve been reading and watching some of Emilie’s videos and my experience is already starting to shift. During a sex meditation it occurred to me that the “opening the chakras” vision I often play with was taking on a new dimension. I have been focusing a lot on breathing this week, including assisting the amazing Barbara Carrellas in a full day workshop on breath and energy orgasms. I’ve been feeling the movements of the breathing diaphragm and realize that when the chakra “opens” there is a felt sense of the breath moving more and more of the body in the area of the chakra. For example, the belly (power chakra) swelling with energy literally became heat and the diaphragm started moving in a bigger range of motion, the ribs were moving more, the inner organs gliding with these deep impulses. The nature of life moving through us started accessing my body in a deeper way and this naturally increased the orgasm.
These are different than the voluntary musculoskeletal movements but rather have the healing and reorganizing power of a deep cry, laughgasms, and perhaps the most commonly identified physical experience that connects us to life force itself… orgasm. Emilie is one of the few somatic educators I have seen who understands the profound role of pleasure and spirituality. She says, “Sensations of pleasure create an inviting climate for self-renewal.” I’ve also noticed with my daily practice and when my students create a daily practice with pleasure, that the “pain body” Eckart Tolle describes as “the accumulation of old emotion” cannot thrive. We develop a new point of reference, we are not our emotions, thoughts, or even our movements. We are the exploration and experience of life energy. We have infinite creativity as we surrender to this mystery.
Often after a performance people will come up to me and share, not about the movements they saw, but about my spirit. I was really moved at a recent performance when a woman ran up to me repeating “There is no limit on your spirit! There is no limit on your spirit!” It is such a blessing to be witnessed this deeply. Dance across time has been medicine for self renewal, embodying the spirit, preparing for birth, healing… not because of the physical range of motion but because it restores our relationship with possibility and awe.
This weekend I got a taste of the world I have been visioning. Dancers came together for healing and raising feminine consciousness.
There was an honest conversation about money and how to create a group…each panelist had a really different perspective on this topic but hey, I was so relieved we were discussing it! We also spoke about social change, bringing dance and professional mentorship to women who become leaders in their communities. There is a larger context for women with eating disorders, women who have experienced sexual abuse, women who don’t have a strong visceral connection to their cultural identity… and dance, yes, DANCE, as a way to reconnect and heal.
I was deeply moved to hear one of the panelist, Hanan, speaking on healing our maternal lineage. This is the first time I have heard other dance teachers focusing on healing trauma across generations. I was trembling with gratitude. Since I started Love Making Dances in 2006, I have not found the companionship in values that I experienced at the Pure Bellydance Conference. I’m so grateful to Kaeshi Chai for organizing this inspiring weekend with a team of phenomenal teachers.
One of the teachers, Antonina Canal, from Columbia has a school with over 5000 students! She offered a workshop on the Chakras. We spoke our intentions and engaged the consciousness of each chakra through movement. She really called on us to use our eyes to communicate the essence of the chakras. She embodied a lightness, an ease in her beauty. She kept speaking about the lifestyle, not just the dance, but living as part of a revolution of feminine consciousness.
What is becoming clear for me is the direct connection between our emotional, spiritual resources and the external financial, social, community resources. What an incredible time to be a woman right now and feel the international movement that recognizes the medicine of dance.
The body is a map for our consciousness. The first chakra (just in front of the anus), is the physical place in the body where we hold the victim archetype which releases us from feeling responsible for our feeling, healing, and actions. I was so heartful to see the weekend focus on feminine consciousness without being victims!!! The dances cleanse our energy system, including the first chakra, and give us the vitality to feel responsible. Our power is proportional to our sense of responsibility.
I just had an incredible time performing and teaching at the Theatrical Bellydance Conference meeting dancers from around the world. Over the past few days many dancers came to me with questions about the pelvis, sexuality, and the difference between moving the body and being present in the body… I was drooling over these questions. I know what it’s like to train the body technically. My first 20 years in ballet really gave me the opportunity to “control,” my body. When I started working with energy healers, Sufi dance meditation, and Esalen massage, I began to actually tune into the sensations in my body. It was more of a surrendering and listening, rather than telling my body HOW to move. I started to experience that sensations know how to complete themselves and heal when I put loving attention on them, AND that sensation brings us into presence. This is a big key for performance!
I’ve really been watching how dance has the power to connect us to ourselves and the divine, just as much as it has the power to disconnect us from ourselves. It all depends on how the dance is taught or performed. Dance is healing if we heal our connection to the dance. (I would say the same of sex.)
When I was originally training there was a value placed on a specific kind of beauty, strength, flexibility, and ability to memorize and perform choreographed movement. In my attempt to excel in these ways I often chose to override my body’s intuition and creativity.
Many dancers where I trained were struggling with anorexia, bulemia, depression, and deep self criticism. I sense that these are indicative of the culture where there was no emphasis on exploring our unique body and creative spirit. These are not just about food, this is about seeing the value in WHO we are feeding. Now, decades later I see that most dancers started to follow 1 of 3 paths…
One, dancers left dance and went to yoga for healing and for the most part left the creative process. Two, dancers just left moving all together, but never resolved their dynamic with dance. Three, dancers started transforming and using dance for healing, restoring the power of dance and of ourselves! This is the sweetness of LOVE making dances and I can tell that it’s happening because we all start falling in love when we see a dancer move from the depth of her soul.
The first retreat in my Sacred Woman Alchemy 6 Month Program was dedicated to a full day of Grounding. I am inspired to share some of it with you here as I witness the impact it has made in our group. Look out NYC, we are about to engage with the Earth on a whole new level!
I am noticing that many of the clients coming to me right now are deeply passionate, high energy, highly intuitive, and that Grounding is important for them to have ease in their physcial, sexual, and financial life. Grounding supports a consistency in their priorities that brings ideas into real actions. Faith is inspiring, but grounded faith is inspiring and accountable.
I remember that several years into my “shamanic” and energy trainings I started studying bioenergetics with Teeni Dakini. She pointed out how many trainings explore the advanced energy skills without first mastering basic grounding. My life has not been the same since. Thank you, Teeni!
Grounding is a state that becomes easier to access the more we practice. In fact, it’s worth noting that some things like drugs, alcohol, compulsive sex can feel enjoyable and the more we engage them, the more we want more of them. Now with Grounding, it may take a while to really drop in when we start. But once we learn this new state, it takes less and less to access this rejuvenating state. You know the feeling when you are running around the city in rush hour and you feel hungry, you have to pee, and then you finally get to your doorstep, and you are HOME. Imagine if we could feel at home in our body at any time. This is Grounding.
Nobody can tell you what it feels like to be Grounded. Each of us has a unique felt sense of Grounding, and it can change from time to time. Often when my clients experience Grounding for the first time they have a lot of uncomfortable sensations that their body has been waiting to communicate with them. I consider Grounding energetic hygiene. Think what you might discover if you clean your room for the first time in a few years.
While it can seem safer to tune out and disassociate, especially in response to trauma, we are actually the most safe when we are present in the sensations of our body here now.
Grounding is the foundation for cultivating attention and intention. In this information age, especially for those of us living in an urban setting, it is revolutionary. The things we can collectively envision and transform will be completely different in a Grounded society. The trauma’s we can release from our bodies, and the pleasure we can be present for in our lives will be on a whole new level. I have been hearing that we collectively are becoming more intuitive. If this is true, we need the skills to integrate in our physical being, relationships, and actions this new “download” of energy and information.
Our relationship to the Earth will become an embodied experience, rather than a strategy we sometimes think about when a “natural disaster” hits.
This is the subtle revolution.
As the founder of Love Making Dances, I am interested in how we need to stand on the Earth together to evolve the legacy of love and sexuality. I am struck by the recent statistics demonstrating a rise in c-sections and breech babies resulting from the computer posture our mama’s have today. This trend in major surgery upon the birthing of the next generation has stemmed from the narrowing of our pelvic cavity as a culture, tucking our tales under in seats at a desk. Fetuses are actually flipping so they have room higher in the torso which leads to a more challenging birthing process. Imagine that when we ground, when we broaden the basin of our pelvis and allow our energy to descend all the way down our legs… not only can babies have space inside us, WE can have space inside us.
Now that was the big picture. I’m going to drop down into a very concrete voice as we venture deep into the soles of our feet.
How can we tell when we are not grounded?
Often we will feel headaches, spacy, tranced out, disoriented in our life. This can feel enjoyable temporarily but then it’s difficult to transition to the next activity after a peak experience. We can also feel a sense of energetic collapse after ungrounded ecstasy. I’ve noticed that without Grounding we can lose a sense of a container and this feeds consumerism and materialism because we lose the felt sense of having and being full.
In the Grounding Training
In the Grounding training we work with the 26 bones of each foot. We venture deep into the architecture of our bones, our breath, and our dynamic relating with gravity. We release tension in the physical body, unclumping and refining our experience of each muscle. We feel and surrender the muscles so they can be supported by the bones. We learn the muscles that habitually come to the rescue to hold us up and redirect that extra energy as they learn to release and trust. Grounding changes the neuromuscular system and the energetic body to be more efficient and supported. It taught me that I had been confusing adrenaline for life force energy.
I feel inspired to share this quote from Anodea Judith whom I have had the pleasure of studying with:
“Many people who cannot find their true path in life have simply not yet found their ground. Sometimes they are busy looking up instead of down, where the feet meet the path…”
To learn about upcoming trainings, online courses, and teleconferences on Grounding and Energy Skills visit www.LoveMakingDances.com. A powerful way to Ground is Esalen Massage, to learn more about this art or schedule a session click here.
I recently attended a day long conference with the most inspiring creative entrepreneurs. This “Mastermind” event was hosted by Move the Crowd, an entrepreneurial training company dedicated to helping the next generation “stay true, get paid, and do good.”
Now let me tell you that most of the folks in this room are like me, artists, healers, social visionaries, activists… This is not your regular business training crowd. AND let me also say that the presenters and facilitators have been selected because they speak their truth and they are undeniably living in alignment with their soul gifts. To say that my relationship to money has transformed since joining this community, would be an understatement. My relationship to… who I am, my awareness of my soul gifts, and my refinement of how I want to create an impact on the world around me… have transformed.
What moves me the most about this community is the genuine curiosity about who each other are. Now I’ve been teaching naked yoga classes for years. And the level of trust and vulnerability in this room is a whole other level of naked. This is when we show up and share what we dare to care so deeply about, the essence of why we are here. As Barbara Stanny posed the question, “What would give me the greatest pleasure to be remember for?” This is not just a financial revolution happening amongst my peers, this is our new spiritual practice, Barbara says. The room was listening from our core, we knew that the legacy opportunities before us were about to be taken to the next level. My God how we listened. We became so beautiful as we shared our ventures, our challenges, our goals, our feedback and creative suggestions. I felt like a kid in the candy store and we are the candy.
I want to say something about Love. I am more clear than ever that Love moves people and touches people through me. This is why I am here. I am restoring the lineage of dance as a ritual for transformation and community health. I am restoring the lineage of sex as the intersection of body and spirit — that set up this agreement for us to be here — and that can be resourced to deepen our purpose and our passion for it. This is the root of my offerings through LOVE MAKING DANCES.
I have been reflecting on my communities of performing artists and sexuality educators. I am contemplating the 3 stages of financial development that Barbara mentioned:
I’m realizing that these stages are not just about individuals. These stages can also be applied to my communities. I would say that often we have been relating to each other from the Surivival paradigm. I’m visioning deeply what we can offer when we are living with affluence. I’m visioning the performances we will create and the presence we will have with our clients. I am visioning the commitment we will have to each others’ success, the time we will invest in getting to truly know each other, and the creativity that will abound in our curriculum.
Thank you Rha Goddess for creating Move the Crowd. Thank you for showing me a template for community with deep inner resources and such love.
I’m noticing that the women in my Sacred Woman Alchemy program are shifting. What started as a personal journey about self care has evolved into a converesation about how we want to share and direct this life force energy we are cultivating. I trust this process so deeply.
I am seeing 3 parallel stages:
- Survival in the body
- Safety in the body
- Body as an instrument of life force and creative expression
As we release the impact of trauma on the nervous system and learn how to direct our energy, we are naturally stepping into a generous inquiry about what we are here to contribute.
I am discovering something I am now calling a “connection point.”
One of my clients told me that the night after receiving bodywork from me, she experienced me working on her body throughout her entire dreamtime. “That’s wonderful!” I said. I’m noticing that the deep receptive place we drop into through Esalen massage often has “connection points” with our dreamtime. The visions and experiences actually have a continuity when we drop in through activites like orgasm rituals, massage, dream, and meditation.
I used to experience these visions in a random way. But I am starting to experience a thruline between them. I am noticing that my clients are as well. For example, the same scene with the same people appears when I drop in through dream as it does when I drop in through a yoga posture. It is becoming conjurable and more integrated with my conscious mind.
Yesterday while giving bodywork I started having flashes to dreams from several years ago. After the session my client said that she was remembering dreams from several years ago as well. It seems that we tapped into the same dream timing.
I am fascinated by these “connection points.” My understanding of yoga is that the asanas originated from poses that people discovered while in meditation. These became physical anchors for certain consciousness. Similarly the “connection points” seem to be anchors for certain states of the psyche.
I am curious how many of us are having these experiences. I’d love to hear what you’re noticing. Today my client got off the table after I explored the landscape, mobility and energy of his being and said, “Zahava, if you were living in the 1700s you would be exploring the Amazon. You are an adventurer.” For me, today’s frontier is how we embody our soul and our love. I am amazed at how vibrant and creative people become after receiving an hour or two of love through bodywork.