Using the word ecstasy can conjure up all manner of thoughts and feelings. Is it to do with drugs? Sex? A good feeling? Well, according to Wikipedia; Ecstasy (emotion) is a trance or trance-like state in which an individual transcends normal consciousness.
Religious ecstasy is a state of consciousness characterized by expanded spiritual awareness, visions or absolute euphoria.
Ecstasy (philosophy), a term used to mean “outside-of-itself”.
But how do we actually find these states in ourselves? And I am using the word ‘in’ here.
I only have my own experience of ecstasy. Mostly done on the dance floor, because that has been my medium for healing, exercise, for embodiment and change in my life. It has changed me many times allowing me to die those mini deaths each time. Letting go of past stories and stepping into brighter futures. I’ve never taken drugs, rarely drank alcohol,well I managed to experience too much drink twice in my life at a party and swore never to do it again, what a horrible experience it was! No, for me it is about reaching those wonderful euphoric states of bliss without ending up with my head down a toilet. Without a hang-over, lack of money wondering where it could all of gone, or by being too tired to face the next day with a thundering head ache and a down grumpy mood. I have been witness to some of this and have really wondered what the attraction is to it! But please do not think of me as a puritan. We all have our ‘medicine’ in the world and I love to share my way and love to help others find the joy of dance that I have found in my 51 years.
So the experience of ecstatic dance felt like a good topic to share today. Especially as the word ecstatic does seem to need some explaining.
There are many techniques that talk of out-of-body experiences being ecstasy, but in my own experience this is not really the case, nor is it really of any great value to us as humans. ‘Out of body’ to me literally means disconnection, becoming ungrounded and living in some ‘other worldly dimension’ that does not serve us in this day and age. I knew this place once, it was kind of comfortable and dreamy, I did not have to feel very much or engage with anything that made me feel uncomfortable. As I began to explore the world of ecstatic dance and its true roots, I saw a very different world inside me as well as around me and my re-actions to it all changed quite dramatically. There are cultures who make really good use of the ‘out-of-body’ experience but this tends to be from a very grounded and rooted practice and way of being in the world. Some thing we as westerners have lost.
My learning is that in order to find that state of ecstasy, I need to include all of who I am. That literally means I need to include my body, my heart, my mind and my spirit and soul. As well as if at all possible, my history, my story, who I have come to be and what has made me into who I am. My relationships, my challenges, my suffering. It all has value in the dance. In order to fully step into the great ecstatic mystery of life, all of this needs to be included.
So meeting with the ecstatic nature of dance begins with the body, bringing focus to the bones and the flesh the muscle and ligaments. The flowing of blood and the beating of my heart. The internal organs and the skeletal system that supports me. Even my cellular structure has its dance, so I include the whole body, stretching, breathing deeply, giving attention to each limb, including my fingers and my toes, my wrists and ankles. Even the head and neck, the rib cage, the pubic area and everything that is inside me. The dancer needs the body to bring it to life and the body needs the dancer to truly find its freedom, it is a relationship between the two, ultimately becoming the one.
This body and dancer then becomes a container for everything else that is going on. Once connected fully to that dance it will support me to find my own true nature and to explore the healing work that needs to begin to unfold. As the body moves and finds its free dancer letting go of inhibitions, softly exploring its own intimacy, sensuality and even its sex, the heart begins to open. When the heart begins to open, feelings arise. To melt, to let go of holding onto the boundaries that keep it safe and prevent it from feeling all that it could feel. Don’t we just know how at times how we have been holding back these emotions, choking back tears because often we feel ashamed to be seen to cry or to be angry. To show any expression that does not seem to fit with others needs of how we should be. We may feel extraordinary joy, we may want to sing and shout. But conditioning and fear of judgement may prevent those sounds from emminating from our bodies. Often it is the fear of being seen and heard that holds us back. But once the dancer and the body are connected and moving together in relationship, then there is a strong enough container for the emotions and the heart to express freely with out the fear of inhibition or judgement from others. Without the fear that we may collapse and fall apart, that life will be over as we know it, yet it will be over, because this release will change us, so we need to be prepared to allow for those changes and accept what the great mystery has in store for us, as we empty out the old making way for something new to come into our lives!
This ‘container’ supports what ever needs to be expressed in a safe way, without a need for drama, re-enactment of the past or with a need to justify any of it. This dance is then including the heart in what ever state it is in, in that moment. Body breath and heart are all moving as one. The energy of one is affecting the other, they are in relationship together. There is no separation of body and heart.
So what happens to the mind? We spend a lot of time thinking. Obviously a great advantage to being human. But sometimes this thinking mind can take over our lives and be more in control than we would like it to be. The dance of ecstasy demands that we are very present here and now with ourselves. We need to focus on the movement of our bodies and the feelings in our heart. So if there are thoughts, which most likely there will be, they need to be connected to what is happening in that moment. How is the body moving? How is the heart feeling? Are any memories from the past seeping in causing visions and feelings we would rather dismiss? These memories are so important, can you recall the powerful song by Sinead O’Connor; Famine, she sings the words, ‘when there is remembering, there is healing’ It is so true, we re-call those memories not to re-enact them or find ourselves in the drama of them, but to transmute the pain we endured, to release the grip they may have on us by changing old patterns of behavior that hold us in the eternal grip of our past, creating the same old challenges and difficulties that seem to return over and over again.
Sinead also sings about children learning to get themselves ‘out of their heads’ in order not to feel! This of course continues into adult life. Drug abuse, alcohol and such like serve these patterns and assist in the dysfunctional behaviour that stops us from growing up to be mature responsible adults. Letting the dance begin to transmute these painful stories combines again the whole being. Body, heart, mind and story.
These parts of us when addressed are what make us soulful human beings. When we face this whole being with integrity, knowing what is right to do, being honest with who we are and being authentic about our whole life, not trying to be anything that we are not, begins to retrieve the soul and all its many parts to become whole once more.
We ‘lose soul’ during trauma and when engaging with that trauma we are able to draw back to us what was once lost. This again takes sheer focus, concentration and determination to be really here in our bodies, on this earth. We find our soul once again and live as a more whole-some being.
The fire burns within us as it purifies this soul creating in us the dance of the phoenix to be reborn from the ashes of life. The heat of the dance creating changes in our cells, opening our pores ready for the mightiest of releases.
There is a free spirit that belongs to all of us. It is a collective energy, not separate. It is the meta of our existence. The spiritual force is all around us, within us and each other. The soul is more personal, but the spirit is the bigger picture connecting us to all things where there is no separation. So we embody our own soul and connect to spirit, dancing our bodies and our hearts into motion awakening the dancer and the dreamer where all things become possible. This is the state of ecstasy where nothing is left out, nothing is left behind, we are whole and united in our love for ourselves and for each other, for all beings and the earth, the universe.
This to me is the greatest of feelings, we are not ‘spaced out’ we are not having an ‘out-of-body’ experience, more like we are right here ‘in our bodies,’ drawing remarkable energy from the spiritual force and from the support of the earth, here we are whole. There is immense energy in this moment and we are able to literally lift our wings, flying with our feet firmly on the ground. There is nowhere to go, no one to be, it is all perfect within that one moment. We know exactly what we are doing, what is going on around us and the focus that we stay with continues to feed this energy, burning any debris away, shedding any skins that serve us no more, releasing us from the past, our histories and our pain body.
The heart is able to open up more and more, recoiling from the great lake of time and illusion as the river of life opens its mighty gate ways and floods through us cleansing away the blockages and the dams of disillusionment and disappointment. Those mighty rivers that swell from the stillness, pouring through this land to take us further and further into the depths of the eternal ocean. The ocean that will hold us in her arms, as we pray for her cleansing as well as our own.
Pure ecstasy begins to heal us. To offer us up as a channel between heaven and earth. Once fully embodied we open ourselves up to receive. This can come in visual experiences, sounds, or kinesthetic experiences. We can find ourselves in touch with a much deeper part of ourselves that knows very clearly what it needs to do, the next steps in our lives to take and on it goes, serving us with the deepest truths. We seek, we learn, we open up to our own innate wisdom, the heart speaks out reminding us who we really are. Re-membering our whole selves, what we came here to do and what our own true-full soul purpose is.
So our awareness is expanded, our mind becomes more open, we are less limited by inhibition, thought process or trying to analyze something that is happening. We can visualize whether in an awakened state or by deepening our own dream time states once resting again. These may feel like an out-of-body experience but actually comes from within us.
A true shaman is very conscious of what is going on in these moments, he/she can see into any situation and act accordingly. A medium generally is not aware of what is going on and is more ‘outside of his or her self.’ This makes a clear distinction between the art of ecstasy and medium-ship.
The dance has no need of any drugs or stimulants to induce these states of ecstasy, yet within the body as the energy rises and the body is moved, a stimulant is released quite naturally. Once this natural chemical is released through the experience of the dance it can give us the same effect that particular drugs can give us. Of course without the side effects that un-natural drugs can give.Although I have heard that too much can be ‘dangerous’ to the mind. I’ve reached this state many times and never ‘lost the plot’ yet. I’ve experienced depression and melancholic states in my life and I know exactly what benefits it and moves me away from feeling that way!
This dance of ecstasy has been a practice for literally thousands of years, by shamanic dancers, practitioners and tribal people connecting to the spirit world. In those cultures the people are much more grounded than those of us in western civilization, so it can take less effort to engage with this art. Here we need to engage again more fully with the earth and with the elements and natural forces around us. This is what makes it so much more natural for those tribal people’s, who make it an every day occurence to meet with the ecstatic nature of their spirituality, their healing’s and their communication with nature and their own wisdom. In our forgetting that we need to be connected to nature for this experience we have become drawn to finding chemical ways to create this ‘fix’ cheating our way to a more fake spiritual existence of getting high.
And when the body is not included, the heart is not open and the story not embraced, there is little room for the soul to find its way home or the feeling of spiritual connection to remain with us after the drug induced euphoria has come to its end.
May we ‘die’ many times on the dance floor, surrendering ourselves back to the elements, giving up what no longer serves any purpose, may we do it with responsibility towards our bodies, as a connecting force to those around us and a blessing for all of life.
If you would like to try it out, please be in touch, the dance floor awaits you 🙂