I found myself explaining to the group about the importance of death in Continuum. The snake or serpent informs us. Letting go, dying to the past, is essential for meeting the present. Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum, in whose honor this three-day event occurred, would remind us that a molting snake needs to drink plenty of water for its skin to fall off. In Continuum, we deepen into liquidity, where the effects of the past can melt away, leaving us free, naked and fluid to meet what arises.
With our scars melted, their stories may emerge. As our tissues soften their guard, we may feel the pain they have been protecting. Our grief, fear, anger, resistance to life in its many forms, our deepest beliefs, patterns, habits, addictions all may come to the surface as the waters clear.
Here, I am informed by my many years of Vipassana meditation. I was trained to understand that clarity, purification and our deepest essence of love become available when we observe all that arises, pleasant or unpleasant, with equanimity. Our tendency is to yearn for pleasant sensations and avoid unpleasant.
In Continuum, which I see more as an exploration in mindfulness than movement, we practice being with what we experience. We call this “open attention.” We do something to stir the waters first, a vocalized sound, a breath, a subtle intentional movement, and then we listen. How does the body receive the gift we just offered it? Usually, the gifts are aligned with fluid’s natural expression through waves, pulsations and spirals. For example, we might move our elbows, like wings or fins, in a slow pulsatory fashion, while making a soft sound. The vibration of the sound in the tissues can loosen them a bit. Where they have become tight and dense due to the speed and focus of everyday life, compounded by unresolved trauma and shock from the past, they begin to move. We begin to emerge from a frozen, paralytic state into the movement of life.
As we begin to thaw and melt, the past may haunt us. Our frozenness may even present itself more clearly. Somewhere along the path of deepening into being, we undoubtedly will encounter a sense of death. We may find ourselves lying in a stillness we craved or avoided unconsciously for years. Where it may have been associated with danger in the past, our terror may arise. We want to run out of the room, go listen to music, answer emails, watch television, do a quick text, run for a mile, dance madly, anything to get away. We might ask, “if this is a movement workshop, why am I just lying here?”
Sometimes, the deepest, most important movement is in stillness.
What emerges from the stillness? Can we let the fear go enough to be in curiosity? Even for a moment? This is a sign of mindfulness. Witness state gives us space to be. Being with rather than being our fear or our past enables us to move on. Movement arises. Life arises. Like the phoenix arising from its ashes, something new is born.
Nothing can be born without something dying. A new baby is born when the pregnancy dies. Life in
Even if we long to return to the womb, or to have had a better time there, our mission and purpose is beyond it. We will not be happy until we have let go of the placenta, for only then can we fully embrace life after birth.
Letting go can feel like hell! When pain and discomfort arise in Continuum, it can be surprising and
confusing. The slow, subtle spirals and stretches arising as our tissues melt can be so delicious! How can something that feels so good also include such unpleasantness? The important question may be, how can it not?
Years ago, I studied with body-centered psychotherapists, Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. One of the many lessons I learned from them was about what they call “The Upper Limits Problem.” The idea is that we all have limits to how much of a good thing we can allow ourselves to experience, because of various influences. When we get too close to our limit, we tend to sabotage ourselves. We might become ill, go blank or foggy, have an urgent crisis arise in our lives, suddenly remember an work deadline we must attend to, discover we don’t have enough money to do what we were about to do, or our back goes out and we can’t move. Whatever form the sabotage takes, it stops us from going beyond the limit. It keeps us in our familiar comfort zone.
I have seen these kinds of events arise so often for people wanting to attend a Continuum workshop! Within a workshop or a dive, I have experienced in my own body and seen in others, on a more somatic level, how we can interrupt the pleasure of a deep flow by focusing in on what arises within it.
Perhaps the biggest, most important challenge in Continuum (and in life) is to float what we experience within the larger ocean of being. Can we be with what arises? Can we be? Can we allow? Can we be curious? Can we ask ourselves in the moment of questioning, “what else is possible here?”
In that moment, through the very act of wondering, our pattern can die a little more and something else is born.