30 Days Of Ecstatic Dance

I've just signed up for the Do Magick 30-Day Challenge organized by Andrieh Vitmus. The challenge is to maintain an unbroken magical practice for 30 days focused around the transformation of a serious personal issue. I consider ecstatic dance to be an important part of my practice as both a witch and a musician but sadly it often suffers from my own laziness and inconsistency (hello serious personal issue.) So, I will performing 30 days of ecstatic dance. I will be posting my experiences, daily journal, and research in this blog entry and tweeting about it  if you would like to follow along. If you would like to join me in the challenge you can sign up here. I will be performing the challenge starting March 6 through April 5.

I have created a Spotify playlist for the music I use during the challenge and research period and will add to it as I go.

 

Research

As part of my research I have been reading the writings of author, dancer, and choreographer Alkistis Dimech of Sabbatic Dance. I have been an admirer of her work for some time now and especially her emphasis on embodied practice and what she has termed "the occulted body."

The following quote is from her presentation: Dynamics Of the Occulted Body:

For me, to dance is to to initiate myself into the body’s mysteries, again and again; to know myself in the process of becoming and to know the world in its becoming, through an intertwined corporeal consciousness. Here is the ‘place of enquiry,’ the repository of ancestral knowledge and accumulated individual experience.

In addition, I have read the book Maps To Ecstasy by Gabrielle Roth. Gabrielle Roth is the creator of 5Rhythms, a form of ecstatic dance centered around 5 central "themes" of movement: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. Throughout the book she draws parallels between these movements and aspects of being such as emotions, phases of life, and the various roles we play throughout. She also deeply explores the healing power of movement as well as the importance of renewed connection with the body. I've used several of her videos with great effect and plan on exploring 5Rhythms classes over the course of the 30 days.

JOURNAL

Day 1: March 6, 2017
Today was my first day of the challenge. I have decided to incorporate a short dance practice into my morning meditation so that I ensure an unbroken practice, with longer practices in the evening, schedule permitting. It felt good to move this way in the morning and I can definitely see this potentially becoming a permanent addition to my morning practice. In the evening I incorporated another dance practice into a separate ritual I was performing.

Day 2: March 7 , 2017
I really am enjoying incorporating this into my morning practices because it allows me to take stock of how my mind and body are feeling in a way that differs from sitting meditation. Today I danced after meditation which I think I prefer. I incorporated an evening practice into a separate ritual again. I definuitely experienced a few transcendant and blissful moments where I found myself smiling and wanting to laugh. At night I prefer total darkness save one candle.

Day 3: March 8, 2017
I woke up with vertigo this morning so my practice was slow and subdued like moving underwater. I was able to work through some minor frustration however. My evening practice ended up being more aggressive and energetic than I anticipated. 

Day 4: March 9, 2017
My morning practice was small and subtle in a way. It was slow and close to the body. I have a tendency to over intellectualize and it's amazing to me how through this practice my body lets me know how I'm feeling and how I'm moving through the world that day in a way that completely defies language. In the evening I incorporated practice into a sigil activation ritual.

Day 5: March 10, 2017
I slept very poorly and had difficulty getting moving this morning so I didn't not complete morning practice. It's pretty common for me to have mornings like this occasionally so when it happens I just complete my daily meditation in the evening which is what I did with my dance practice. This time however, I tied it in with music making. I worked on a song and then danced to it to see if it "felt right." I realized this has always been subconsciously part of my creative process I just hadn't really put it together before.

Day 6: March 11, 2017
Felt extremely unwell today physically so practice was short and subdued. It definitely helped though.

Day 7: March 12, 2017
Still unwell today so practice was slow and gentle. I appreciate being in a position where this cannot be used as an excuse. Movement practice is adaptive to our bodies and physical state and can be done sitting or even on the ground if need be.

Day 8: March 13, 2017
My routine continues to be thrown off by being physically unwell but I am still dancing every day regardless which is a victory in itself. Today I learned of the death of John Lever, drummer for the band The Chameleons, so I danced to one of my favorite songs of all time, Second Skin. It was very intense and emotional, agressive and angy at times.

Day 9: March 14, 2017
There was a blizzard in New York today and the whole city felt quiet and still. I attempted to draw that quietness and stillness into my body and my movement.

Day 10: March 15, 2017
I find myself incredibly exhausted and depressed lately so I am exploring ways of making my dance about these feelings and states. What does tired and depressed look like as a dance? I did my practice in the morning and in the evening I came upon the following passage in Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey:

Dance is a form of resistance to the socialised body, whether the de-sexualised automata of industrial culture parodied back as Detroit techno, or the writhing of Nuns celebrating a new covenant with the flesh, or the dancing mania that invaded the churchyards, or the followers of Dionysos and Cybele going majnoon to the cymbals and flute. It is the irrepressible fire that sweeps through the marrow of the bones and articulates them again. It speaks, it raves. Dance is maximum extension, just as death is maximum contraction, the interplay between these states is the immortal moment of the dancing ground.

Day 11: March 16, 2007
Tonight I incorporated practice as part of a cleansing bath ritual. In this practice typically herbs that correspond to your desire are steeped and then the liquid is poured over the body which is then allowed to air dry. I used the dance as a way to both dry myself and also to empower the ritual by performing movements and guestures symbolic my goal, thus utilizing my body in a way as tool of sympathetic magic.

Day 12: March 17, 2017
My practice was sharp and aggressive. It felt like less like dancing and more like martial arts though an argument could be made that they are the same. I sometimes miss the catharsis of MMA. I hope to eventually achieve the same level of anger release through dance.

Day 13: March 18, 2017
This was the first time that I really just did not want to practice. Not much else to say about it other than I did it anyway.

Day 14: March 19, 2017
I haven't been feeling much like myself lately so today I practiced to my own music. I felt disconnected to it on some levels but it helped somewhat.

Day 15: March 20, 2017
Woke up tired but actually managed to perform morning practice after not having the enegy for it in over a week. It gave me a lift and my mood has vastly improved today, possibly due to the equinox and beginning of Aries season. I also began a 9-day novena to Saint Dymphna yesterday in an attempt to alleviate some of the depression I have been experiencing lately. 

Day 16; March 21, 2017
Practice was agressive today. I had a lot of energy to burn off. Tuesday is the day of Mars and it tends to bring out a lot of irritation in me. I did not get my practice in in the morning and did it in the evening instead. I think it's important for me to practice both morning and evening on Tuesdays going forward in order to alleviate the martial energy I feel.

Day 17: March 22, 2017
I continue to struggle with my depression but feel less hopeless about it today. I am allowing it to be. I definitely had some moments of "no-mind" during practice today that were a relief.

Day 18: March 23, 2017
Practice was short today. I feel exhausted to the core.

Day 18: March 24, 2017
Everything continues to be a struggle. I'm glad it's the weekend. I have very few words to say about my practice lately other than I'm doing it every day despite how I feel. I can't really ask much more of it and myself at the moment.

Day 19: March 25, 2017
Today started out poorly but I am determined to turn it around. I started by practicing to one of my favorite artists Gazelle Twin. Her work always inspires. It helped me a lot. Spring can not come fast enough.

Day 20: March 26, 2017
Things are starting to feel better and I know that is at least partially do this this work and more than partially do to the spiritual and magical work I am doing as whole. While I definitely let my practices lapse from time to time for the most part one thing feeling like shit is usually good for is that it usually encourages me to "up my game" as far as my spirituality is concerned. Not as a means of spiritual bypassing but as a toolkit to help me process and work through things. The way out is through, etc etc. I ending up doing a second practice in the evening. I felt called to after meditation.

Day 21: March 27, 2017
I'm feeling better today. Mornings are still hard but once I get going things usually start looking up. My practice felt more energetic than it has lately. It made me feel free and hopeful.  I can't always completely drop my baggage when I'm dancing but today I did for short time at least.

Day 22: March 28, 2017
I'm starting to feel like the alleviation of my depression that I've begun to experience is not a fluke one-off thing but an actually thing that is happening and I am deeply grateful. I felt it in my body today during my practice.

Day 23: March 29, 2017
Actually found myself smiling and laughing during practice. These moments of joy feel so precious after having eluded me for weeks. In retrospect "weeks" isn't a long time but when you're in the throes of depression it feels like an eternity with no end in sight. 

Day 24: March 30, 2017
I felt removed from my practiced today. It felt mechanical, like just another "thing I had to do." The whole day kind of went that way in general.

Day 25: March 31, 2017
Practice was more embodied today. I felt graceful, exhilarated. I don't always feel beautiful moving through life but I did then.

Day 26: April 1, 2017
I went upstate for the weekend and was hoping to practice outdoors but it was still too cold. Practice was quiet and indoors with headphones which was interesting. I was with a friend and wanted to keep this private. It ended up being like a slow moving meditation in a room full of windows surrounded by trees and snow. I really enjoyed it,

Day 27: April 2, 2017
Practice was energetic today. My time in the woods was invigorating as always. I'm grateful that I am able to get out of the city from time to time.

Day 28: April 3, 2017
I was interviewed for a podcast about witchcraft today which was quite an honor but I honestly felt somewhat out of my depth. I am a witch and a practitioner of magic but by no means an expert or authority on the subject. I found myself nervous and unsure of myself afterwards and my practice calmed me and allowed me to get out of my head and into my body.

Day 29: April 4, 2017
My struggles continue but dance continues to be a refuge even when practice is brief. This time it greatly alleviated the anxiety I was having.

Day 30: April 5, 2017
Today is the last day of the challenge and my practice felt incredibly triumphant. The challenge is over but my dance practice will continue with deepened fervor and awareness and I am incredibly grateful for that. Though I struggle and on many days the black dog dances with me, I continue to believe that dance is not only an incredibly healing practice, but a radical and subversive one as well. Thank you to everyone who came along for this ride. Dance every day.