The Higher Powered Body–It’s All About Flow
The most important instruction I ever received came from a voice on the freeway. Out of the blue the voice said, “These are your three directives– efficiency of energy, clarity of vision, courage to love.”
I already knew that energy was a challenge. My energy runs high and then drops. I get comments that people don’t know how I do so much. They don’t know I’m vulnerable to nervous exhaustion from being over-joyed and that I work to sooth the high currents of energy that feel like anxiety. I am never quite sure if I’m in control of the wild dance of energetic highs and lows, twists and turns in my system or if energy is in control of me.
As a dancer my medium and my science is energy. The minute I start dancing, I feel a hook up to Big Energy. Dancing works with the energy of interactions happening on a vibrational level. Sandra Ingerman, a contemporary teacher of shamanism, asks,
How much are we missing in the dance of Life by not opening to the language of vibration through which humans transmit and receive love? We miss messages from the environment and the exquisite beings with whom we share the planet. We miss the joy of heart to heart conversation.
I am grateful for the gift of dance, and for the trouble that dance gets me into. As an artist, mystic, and human being I know that energy is like food. I can’t eat everything. It’s good to know where energy is coming from, where it’s going, and how to manage my intake and outflow. If I borrow energy from other sources (drugs, heaven, people) I will have to pay it back.
I’m also grateful for the example and lessons of my dad, an electrical engineer whose practical nature drew him to circuits, circuit breakers, fuse boxes, switches, voltage, loads, and amps. My father was a soul-powered mover and shaker who was unabashedly public about his encounters with Spirit and tested his body’s capacity as an ultra runner who powered through 50 and 100-mile races in the mountains. Admittedly, both dad and I are “a bit much.”
A Short Lesson On the Body Electric
Human survival depends on electrochemical systems, especially the nervous system. Our ability to move, see, dream, and think are driven and organized by the same electrical pulses that Walt Whitman surmised in “I sing the body electric.”
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
So, what about the electricity of soul? Mystics and artists who track data about body and soul notice consistent data and patterns in the sensations of grace and soul. Here is what the Dalai Lama notices.
I call the high and light aspects of my being
spirit and the dark and heavy aspects soul.
Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys.
Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow
there. The rivers flow like warm syrup. They
empty into huge oceans of soul.
Spirit is the land of high, white peaks and
glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers.
Life is sparse and sounds travel great distances.
There is soul music, soul food, and soul love…
People need to climb the mountain not simply
because it is there but because the soulful
divinity needs to be mated with the spirit.
Science respects mysterious data as requiring at least as much attention as things that are proven. Albert Einstein, who recognized the Universe’s rational yet impenetrable order realized the need to prioritize intuition if one is to interact with the Unknowable. He said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
What an interesting interplay we have between mystics and scientists. Both attune to the web, the flow, and who or what is in “charge.” It surprises me still that the body electric is not a metaphor. Julia Layton writing for the Huffington Post says,
Everything we do is controlled and enabled by electrical signals running through our bodies. As we learned in intro physics, everything is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, neutrons have a neutral charge, and electrons have a negative charge. When these charges are out of balance, an atom becomes either positively or negatively charged. The switch between one type of charge and the other allows electrons to flow from one atom to another. This flow of electrons, or a negative charge, is what we call electricity. Since our bodies are huge masses of atoms, we can generate electricity.
As electrical systems plug into a higher power source human circuits also regulate flow at the right level for the bodyspirit. Every day you need to shut down, tune out, or open up channels.
Sam Sattel to initiate new engineers wrote in The Humble Circuit, and Its Place in Our World of Electronics three basic rules. The first one stands out. “It’s all about the flow.” “Electricity will always want to flow from a higher voltage to a lower voltage.” He says,
Every electronic circuit needs some a power source, whether that’s from an AA battery that you can pop into your Xbox One controller or something with a bit more force like your wall outlet that can power a large number of devices. The electricity that comes flowing out from these sources is measured in voltage, or volts, or simply V. Regardless of where this power flows from, its purpose is always the same – to get from one area to another, and in the process to do some work, like charging your computer or turning on your lights.
The fundamental component of this flow of power is that electricity will always want to flow from a higher voltage to a lower voltage. Always. This is called potential. You could say that it’s the potential electricity has to move from one area to another.”
Rule 2 says, electricity always has work that needs to be done, meaning that electricity always makes something physical happen, even if we can’t see it with our own eyes. (In my view rest is included as work that needs to be done.)
Rule 3 says electricity always needs a path to travel on. This requires conductive material. Electricity is selective and won’t bother going on paths made up of non-conducive materials.
Playing the Circuit: Dance, Drum, Sing, Tell Stories and Being Still.
Have you witnessed that spark in a person when they hook up to their creative Spirit? I have. It’s a miracle. Not only do their eyes, arms, heart, and body light up, mine do too. Something unlocks and flows in all of us.
It’s my theory that the arts turn on our human circuitry as conductive paths to a higher power. When you plug into your higher power via the arts, you tap data streaming on a vast field, the body of the Universe. Clerk Maxwell theorized that
Interplanetary and interstellar spaces are not empty, but are occupied by a material substance or body, which is certainly the largest, and probably the most uniform body of which we have any knowledge. Whether this vast homogeneous expanse of isotropic matter is fitted not only to be a medium of physical interaction between distant bodies, and to fulfill other physical functions of which, perhaps, we have as yet no conception, but also … to constitute the material organism of beings exercising functions of Life and mind as high or higher than ours are at present – is a question far transcending the limits of physical speculation.
There is no denying that Earth has an energy field or that we abide in an intelligent matrix of matter and energy. You and I cultivate connection and consciousness of the field through physical and spiritual disciplines, sports, and the arts.
Though institutions today rarely speak of the wild, ancient languages of ritual dance, voice, breath, story, fire, star, water, dirt, cave, trance, drum, herb, and Spirit, many of us still believe that spiritual masters could change lives and even history with a word, a look, a touch, a movement, a story, a breath, a song, a parade, a stance, or an embrace. What was in their touch, sound, or breath? Power.
In the Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Healer, Teacher and Visionary anthropologist Angeles Arrien says, “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person, complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.”
Dancing, singing, wordplay, and stillness are our birthrights. They are more than recreation, entertainment, and even “art. Each medium offers a neural pathway that transmits specific types of data, wisdom and connection to the whole. When you coordinate and coalesce all of the arts in ritual play, you get sublime levels of health and original wholeness– peace, joy, awe, humility, grace, and love. The gifts of observation, reasoning, and a consensual process complete the circuitry that regulates all body wisdom.
It’s all about Flow! Sensitive bodies feel Life intensely. To counterbalance the suffering we require creative, soothing, holistic sensations, insights, and Technologies. Beauty is medicine for us.
For More Flow Hook Up Your Birthrights
To what are you hooked up? What if survival depended on it?
To experience your creative flow within the bigger system, you must be continually awakened and initiated.
Flow begins in infancy. How wonderful if you are in a healthy community that dances, sings, speaks wisdom, and supports each child to discover what moves and inspires them. When one feels the surge and intelligence from hooking up through the arts, energy starts “working.” Though a person’s creative intelligence may not look artistic, like conversing with a plant or the soil, what matters is if your ideas and images dance, move, jump, and stream in a sequence or burst in a firework display of illumination. All inner movement is part of the generative physical dance, the Dance of Life.
The question is not whether or not you use your birthrights. They are indigenous. The question is do you enjoy them? As they say in Zimbabwe, “If you can walk, you can dance, and if you can talk, you can sing.” Walking, running, or riding a bike can make you high. It only requires dancing with one hand to join The Cosmic Dance.
You don’t need to open to the whole Universe to feel plugged in. Many people are content to synch up to the social field or nature. That’s why people pay to go to concerts, sports arenas, festivals, protests, and religious events. But, that is not always enough to carry us where we need to go. History warns that our social body lacks ultimate perspective and can turn on us with genocidal frenzy. Life requires us to rise to a higher, more neutral field of love to thrive.
Customize Your Circuitry
Each art is a circuit used for specific information. When we conference them together in ceremonial, artful ways the effect exceeds the voice of a single art.
It is good to know what each art form or genre delivers. Susanne Langer, twentieth-century art philosopher, and author of “Feeling and Form” identified that each art uploads unique experiences irreplaceable by any other art.
Dance Engages & Creates our Sense of Energy & Power
Music Engages and Creates our Sense of Time
Story Engages and Creates our Sense of History
Film Engages and Creates our Sense of the Present
Poetry Engages Creates Our Connection to Memory
Visual Art Engages and Creates our Sense of Space
Architecture Engages & Creates a Sense of Ethnic Domain
Art, then, does not just illustrate experience. Art creates experience. If you need a new sense of power, time, history, present, memory, space, home, ask which art will open the pathway to that which you seek. If you are not active in the art you need, you can enjoy the art vicariously as an audience, witness, or friend of the art.
Is there a creative circuit you resist? How might its gifts bring new treasures and life? Are you open to being initiated by that art? Do you idolize one art, like words or thinking?
Over-focus on any art truncates other energy branches and cause streams of intelligence to stagnate. Moreover, only one art form can lead at a time. Susanne Langer calls this the principle of assimilation. One art form always swallows up another. It’s healthy for an art to shift from being dominant to complimentary. It can happen in a flash or slowly over an era.
Doris Humphrey, twentieth-century choreographer, implored dancers not to be enslaved by music. Music is a powerful shaper. To liberate the dancing body we need to be conscious of music, to interplay with it, and even resist it at times.
I’ve been slowly and gloriously initiated across the arts. I’ve feared and resented words, been unsure about rhythm, incompetent at harmonizing, and incapable of stillness. I learned to turn on each create channel and interplay with it’s wisdom, including those in which I remain incompetent.
Do you give power to one art more than another? Have you lost an art?
To lose dance is to lose connection to personal and collective power.
To lose music or song is to lose agency concerning time.
To lose words or stories is to lose one’s own relation to history.
To lose poetics is to lose your memory of how it is and was.
To lose visual art is to lose the cultural nature of your space.
Be reassured, no art is ever gone, only dormant. We secretly dream with the arts. In their silence beautiful and sometimes terrible secrets cast shadows of creative power across our lives, energies that pulse and pull on us for ill and good. Poet John O’Donohue in The Invisible Embrace of Beauty wrote, “Stillness is the canvas against which movement can become beautiful. We can only appreciate movement against the background of stillness. Were everything kinetic, we could not know what movement is. As sound is sistered to silence, movement is sistered to stillness” (pg. 113)
Even when one can’t find the stillness, as C.S. Lewis says, “In stillness, dancing still.”
Is there something you want more of, a hidden art to re-inspire a dominant way of being. What art do you or your group need? What are you called to invoke?
Initiated in the InterPlay of Form and Content
Why not initiate people to align their words and actions, body and soul, raw materials, and beliefs with artful integrity, authenticity, vitality, and presence? This wisdom is teachable.
InterPlay, an improvisational, playful approach I helped to devise, is a beautiful container for exploring the fundamental wisdom of the arts. People uncover ways that form and content, like matter and Spirit, dance in us all the time. We can learn creative forms, mediums, styles, techniques, and arrangement of elements. Into them, we can pour different kinds of content or meaning. The word content refers to both sensations and subject matter.
Do you pay more attention to the meaning or to the medium? Are you a meaning monger? Or are you content to just dance, tell a story, or sing? Either way, you’ll have meaningful experiences. And as the interplay of form and content become more visible we get to see history swing between their poles. Too much structural form and artists will breakthrough to truth and freer expression. Too much content and people get fatigues. Art for arts sake takes center stage. If the meaning of Life is dragging you down, did you know you could seek joy in play with color, texture, energy, line, dynamics and shape?
To balance the interplay of form and content is a kind of mastery. Mastery is also in letting go of it all and welcoming soul to speak through creativity by including the shadowy opposites of any material or idea.
You Can Regulate Flow
Have you had a divine encounter? Artists and contemplatives enjoy direct, natural, organic experiences of truth and beauty so much that we upload them regularly. In my book Dance: The Sacred Art: The Joy of Movement as Spiritual Practice even one minute of centering in dance can be restorative.
Do you long to be more present, grounded, and feel grace?
- Put on music that you enjoy as you focus on a body part that grounds you in the here and now—feet, hands, belly, legs, heart?
- If it helps to anchor you, bring your hands to this location.
- Take some deep breaths. Visually connect with this place; then move your awareness from there to include the rest of your body.
- Moving, affirm with each breath, “I am here, here, here.”
- Continue connecting with each movement with a focus on your feet. Stepping in rhythm, saying, “Now. Now. Now.”
- Grounded in present time, dance. Enjoy being here, now, releasing all concern about these words.
- When you complete this practice, notice how you feel.
- Savor any feelings of coming into the present time. Plant these sensations deeply in your heart.
- If it feels forced, experiment with dancing to release energy. Dance is one of the best ways to move your built up e-motions.
Resistance Is Your Circuit Breaker
As a sensitive body, even love and beauty can overwhelm us. Annie Dillard says we’d strap ourselves to our pews if we knew what we were in for. Bodies instinctively regulate the flow of data and shut down information if we don’t have enough physical support, tools, and guidance to manage it. You need to be able to manage things you don’t know how to know or how to do what needs to be done once you know it.
There is no rush. Let art arise in its own time. When Life asks will you dance? Will you sing? Will you tell your story? Will you rest in stillness? You can say, “yes, eventually. As said in the beginning, you are the beneficiary of the wild languages of ritual, movement, voice, breath, story, fire, stars, water, dirt, cave, trance, drum, herb, and spirit guides. A vast lexicon of wisdom waits in the wings of your Life. The old superhighways of dance, drum, song, and story will wait for us to reopen the wisdom byways and recalibrate body, mind, heart, and spirit on behalf of individual, communal, and planetary health.
But, why not now? How lovely to no longer resist the dance of Life, the music, the mundane or dramatic story in us. According to old wisdom, “What you resist persists.” It’s no use to say,” I don’t dance.” You always inhabit dancing wisdom. The question is does it flow?
If you have wounds in an art form, you can turn toward your truth without resistance. Become willing to dance with the dancing wound. New wisdom will green up. We will find super-powers hidden in our untapped movement, voice, story, and stillness.
What helps is an affirming community. Scientist Stephen Porgas writing on trauma in The Polyvagal Theory says “to connect and co-regulate with others is our biological imperative. We experience this imperative as an inherent quest for safety that can be reached only through successful social relationships. In which we co-regulate our behavior and physiology.”
Art is a community technology that opens us to Life on fuller and fuller levels. To lose healthy protocols of community practice sadly results in losing a lot of our revelation and insight into a higher power. African wisdom teacher Malidome Patrice Some in The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual and Community, says, “without a ritual structure, people undergoing a natural emergence of spirit within often feel as if they are going crazy or are imagining things…community provides a safety net in which a person can rest until he or she has become reintegrated.”
I see a lot of African American spirituality as mightily plugged into Higher Source. Nothing is left out. Gospel movement, voice, word and story allowed the body memory of enslaved peoples to endure the Unendurable In spite of exterminations of language and culture. Drum, dance, and word relentlessly hookup people up to the Source beyond humankind. When drums were outlawed the rhythm of Life had to be that much more deeply internalized. The same thing happened among Native Americans and Tibetans. The wisdom and connection to Source had to elevate or die.
Challenge Oppression, Reinitiate Community Art
Remember engineering Rule Number 2? Electricity always has work that needs to be done. But, whose work and for what?
If we see the arts as electrically sourcing higher power, can we see the collective loss of our creative birthrights as the health disaster that it is? Cultural suppression physically destroys human nature. It stops the flow of spiritual intelligence. Kill off or trade away dance, language, or song, and we lose our core capacity to cooperate with planetary intelligence. We shut down circuitry.
The body synchs up to group behavioral norms. Because belonging is a survival need, we will prioritize behaviors to match the energy and forms of success espoused by the group. To do this we hide personal “otherness.” We sync up to “colonizing,” hierarchical, mechanistic practices that are not only massively indifferent to individual and cultural artistry they train bodies to resist natural spontaneity and artistic voice. Energy and flow are made to work for “those in control.”
I recognize racist, sexist, and classist behaviors in my thoughts, actions and in my body coming from institutionally embodied forms. Socialization is what happens when bodies impact me. I also contribute to being colonized when I belittle our birthrights in public settings. There will be no dancing the dance, singing a song, or telling a truth. The problem is not shyness. It’s enculturating to oppressive regimes. Perhaps this is why flashmobs are like heaven. Some part of us knows that Life is a musical just waiting for us to be free, joyous, beautiful creatures.
When I travel to dancing cultures, I feel healthier and freer. The dancing body is home. It causes me to ask, what if the antidote to so much disease, disengagement, and cultural malaise is to reengage and affirm our birthrights? They are hardwired into what Dr. Daniel Siegel calls the “Neurobiology of “We.” From the indigenous point of view Malidome Some says, “Community art creates a container for natural abilities that can find no place in a world defined by economics and consumerism-abilities such as artistic talent or shamanistic gifts, healing skills and clairvoyance. These talents are widely recognized in indigenous communities because indigenous people assume that the artist is a priest or priestess through whom the Other World finds an entrance into this world.”
To liberate our birthrights requires new wisdom born of the body politic. It requires teachers and followers to reopen the pathways of dance, song, speech, stillness, plant craft, animal and mineral speech, listening, dreaming alone, and with people.
Does your world-view support encounters with an artful dancing, dynamic reality? Do you need a credo or mantra that uphold the birthrights as engines of spiritual experience? Ted Shawn, modern dance pioneer, offers this one.
I believe that dance is the oldest, noblest and most cogent of the arts.
I believe that dance has the power to heal, mentally, and physically.
I believe that true education in the art of dance is education of the whole person.
I believe that dance is the universal langue and as such, has the power to promote one world.
I believe that dance is a way of Life which will lead humanity into continually higher and greater dimensions of experience.”
Fortunately, artists know how to reintegrate the birthright practices. Just as we practice reading, writing, math, and science and sometimes-religious stories and practices, creative practices acquaint people with their ability to dance the way they dance and think the way they think.
To come home to creative health may be a long journey, or it may be short. In spite of mass cross-pollination from globalization, war, immigration, and the clear-cut of ancient wisdom traditions we do not have to borrow from other cultures. Earth won’t be deterred. Her wisdom is rising. Bodies are wise beyond our imagination. Innovation streams through expressive arts, yoga, mindfulness, and natural healing. Teachers integrate body-wise creative practices in classrooms. Sensitive artist-priest-healer-visionaries with strange intuitions, perpetually ask, “What is missing? What will bring health and relief? What images, ideas, visions, and practices want to manifest?
As you reengage creative embodied movement, vocal play, and storytelling in small ways throughout gatherings, reflections, and celebrations, your original circuitry is not an extra. It’s the power core of Life.
A Note on Joyful Incompetence
To make of Life an artful offering we need creative license and guides who support us to listen, mess around, and be of service. Wise teachers remind us that the highest of all arts is having joyful incompetence in relationship to materials, instincts, and ideas. Prioritize the pleasure of
Practice over perfection
Experimentation and failure over resolution
Curiosity over conclusion
Some folks do this naturally. What a gift! Most of us labor to keep the door open to good enough-ness. The more we do it, the easier it gets. I claim the joy of incompetence.
I’m a bridge. I don’t fit into conventional categories.
Is that the definition of an artist?
I hear voices. I see things. I know stuff.
Is that the definition of an artist?
I am unruly. I disturb and comfort.
Is that the definition of an artist?
I mess around, dance, sing, write, and tell truths and lies, A LOT!!!!
Is that the definition of an artist?
I create made up things as much as real things.
Is that the definition of an artist?
My head is utterly immersed in the sensory world.
Is that the definition of an artist?
I serve beauty and ugliness in all my offerings.
Is that the definition of an artist?
Am I a good artist? If you know, don’t tell me.
Why spoil the fun?