Random Acts of Grace

While the material aspects of existence have been troubling, over the last four months I’ve had sublime experiences in the spiritual realm.

Since starting hypnotherapy full-time in January, the practice has been a financial disaster. I won’t go into the details, except to say that it appears that destiny is testing my commitment. By stretching out my credit cards and pulling down my 401(k), I should be able to make it through to September, at which point I’m going to have to throw myself on the mercy of strangers.

But hypnotherapy is only a metaphor for the greater work, and having freed myself from the projections of anger and greed contingent upon my employment, what emanates from me now stimulates grace-filled events.

When walking to Ecstatic Dance LA on Easter, a drunken youth waiting with three friends at a bus stop calls upon me for a blessing.

During a conversation with a new friend, I ask if she would mind if I projected the song she had offered to play for me. It resonates powerfully on the right side of my mind, and my female friends in the office building whisper and bow their heads to me the next day.

Having overcome the political cabal that has sought to suppress my business, female friends start showing up at Dance Tribe on Sunday. In the early morning hours, I have a terrible dream about trying to research hypnotherapy on the web. While one of them waits in the background as a passive support, I can’t type the terms into the search box. Another female presence tries to push me toward her, but I cry out to heaven, “Father! Help me! I can’t do it any more!” I wake up and announce to the air “You’re just trying to beat me down,” while I fix my attention on the female Chinese hypnotherapists that had set up the scenario.

And again today at Ecstatic Dance LA, where on Easter I first called the Tree of Life from the center of the floor. A graceful young beauty appears for the first time. She assumes that I’m trying to seduce her until I project that I’ve got far more important things to worry about. We skirt each other for two hours until the end of the dance, when I hold space for her as she winds herself into my energy. Assured, I reach down and raise the Tree of Life over the gathering. While I project the broad canopy from my outstretched palms, she starts to dip toward the floor before flinging her arm imperiously upward. And suddenly my heart cracks open and I scream in grief – two long agonizing cries before I realize that multitudes of men are escaping my heart. Men that died for love, now seeking healing among the leaves.

I guess that I’ve got your attention, ladies. What happens next?

Goddesses

I woke up in the wee hours yesterday morning to the sound of gusting wind, crystallizing my plans for the day. The coastal arteries (US 101 and the Amtrak line) run on the seaward edge of Montecito. The tongues of the Thomas Fire had been licking its edges for the last week, and some of the fire team had predicted that if the winds ramped back up to 60 mph gust, the fire would burn all the way to the coast.

Not wanting to go three weeks without dancing, I resolved to reverse course and spend the day down in Westwood, where Ecstatic Dance was beginning its year-end celebration at 3 PM.

The day built through sublime moments. I always enjoy services at the University Catholic Center – the minds and hearts of college students are receptive. They were on holiday break, of course, but behind the fount a toddler delivered a joyous sermon of discovery throughout the mass.

At the Getty Center, a difficult moment: standing before four of Boticelli’s renderings of the Crucifixion, the woman next to me caught sight of my Love Returns logo and thought “Who is this man?” The passionate grief of that experience threatened to submerge me.

But the signature for the day was proclaimed by Ataseia at Ecstatic Dance. For the yoga warm-up, the foam puzzle mat had been set up in the middle of the floor. As the room filled up, Ataseia began to encourage us to join him there. Seeing people with rolled-up mats standing against the walls, he became more direct. “Really, people, I don’t need all this space for myself!” I was stretching my hamstrings, but heard feet padding onto the foam. Ataseia, famously gay, proclaimed, “Here come my goddesses!”

I haven’t been down to Ecstatic Dance LA since the Trump election. In that era, the ladies were young and timorous, and the crowd was smaller.

The dance was packed yesterday, which forced me into some restraint. That may have had some influence, but…something else was at work in the community.

As is typically for these events, the ladies outnumbered the men about three to one. They didn’t seem to care. They flaunted their sensuality for each other. When a man floated by, the ladies flirted, but didn’t get catty about it.

I didn’t recognize the change until about the midpoint of the celebration. When the energy begins to spin a little into the dirty, I’ll stop and raise my palm to the ceiling, focusing and projecting good will into the celebration. After a longish spell of such, I opened my eyes to start dancing again, and found a woman standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, eyes closed in concentration.

That was novel.

So I went back into that space and enjoyed the feeling of sharing it with her. We danced a little together, and then floated off. She found another woman and starting dancing side-by-side with her.

The boys did get wild on occasion. For most of the celebration, the women held the center of the floor, but as I made my way through, my friend Adam confronted me. We began winding it up, leaping and lunging around each other, and the floor cleared a little. I was tired at that point, and didn’t last long, but by the time I wandered off, he had absorbed a couple of other men. When they were four, I couldn’t resist, and rushed back into the scrum. The floor opened up, a circle about fifteen feet across, and we went into Jedi mode, spinning and lunging, avoiding collision and injury only because we were one body. The ladies turned toward us, swaying, some coupled with arms around waists, smiling.

I was reduced to crawling across the floor to collapse on the pads in front of the altar.

Most important to me, however, was that the first meditative connection wasn’t the only time I found a woman creating space for me during the dance. Again and again I found myself connecting with a lady who just decided to hold her space while I moved through it.

The last experience was at the very end. A statuesque woman, showing a dancer’s tone and outrageous orange hair, confronted me solemnly from ten feet away. I had skipped past her several times, and she made it clear that she was ready to engage, slowly raising her hands above her head.

We began without contact, simply clearing the ether. Goddess or not, all woman I encounter have wounded hearts, and I ended up with my right palm hovering over the top of her breastbone. My left hand gently activated the upper three chakras. Her eyes were closed in concentration, but as I lowered them, they opened with a gentle smile.

I stepped in and whispered “Yes, you are beautiful. Believe in yourself.”

Dropping to my right knee reverentially, my palms hovered over her feet, and then my fingertips pressed into the floor, grounding her into the earth. Looking up to see how she was responding, I was rewarded by the most regal of attitudes.

I stood and we embraced. I felt her looking into my heart sympathetically, and I allowed myself to collapse against her. Eventually we knelt on the floor, ears pressed together, one arm over and one arm under; then switching to the other side. As we melted together, her forearms and palms glided slowly and tenderly over the perspiration on my back.

For the first time in my life I felt that in the presence of a woman neither she nor I had anything to prove. I was something infinitely precious. To be molded by her was a joy.

Oh, Gosh

One of the joys of dancing is that in caressing the air around people, they eventually come to realize that I’m clearing a space for them to manifest their strength and beauty. The most precious moments for me are those when I’ve lost track of the effort, just kind of puttering around the floor playing with my elbows, hips and knees, and I find myself wandering into a space where someone is really focused on understanding what is happening.

Usually they are off to the side, or sitting in lotus, or lying on the floor – but always with their eyes closed and a look of intense concentration on their faces. I come into their orbit and it’s like a force field comes up and I’m just compelled to address them.

It happened several times today – I had a really great experience at MovinGround and Ecstatic Dance LA. It was a lot of energy – roughly 4 hours on my feet, with another hour of rest. I also stubbed the nail on my right big toe, hard enough that it bled and looks completely ready to come off (it was pretty loose anyways).

But one encounter rises above the rest. The woman obviously had trained, her elegant features alight with pleasure as she moved the strong and slender body of a dancer. But she hooked me as I was puttering around, gliding through the other dancers. Noticing her attitude, I turned to face her from about four feet away, raised me hands to the heavens, and invoked my retinue. Slowly lowering my hands, I draped them all around her, opening my eyes to make certain that she was assimilating it well, and caught her peeking at me under her lashes. She quickly closed them in submission, and so I really went to work.

It starts with the motor sulci, a raising and lowering, stretching until the crown chakra opens. At this point I drop down into the heart, and I often get a surge of sexual energy, but I lift it back up until the heart and prefrontal lobe are enmeshed, then lift the crown chakra until it merges with my retinue.

I usually slip away at that point, but she stepped into the space I vacated. We didn’t flirt with our eyes, but followed the flow of energy leaving the fingers and running up our spines.

One of the joys of engaging a skilled dancer is that you can get really, really close without worrying about incongruous bumping and grinding. We got pretty deeply enmeshed, so I stretched it out around those that were close to us, finally flirting a little bit. We went on for several minutes until I found myself behind her, hand just millimeters from her back, caressing her heart chakra, and she just spread her arms and blocked my way. I stretched my arms as I dropped into a shallow lunge behind her, and she lowered her forearms until they rested against mine.

Contact dance can be physical or sublime, and this was definitely the latter. Just one or two points, a shoulder against the back, hips coming into contact as she pivoted behind me. Finally, when she lifted her leg to get around my crouch, I grabbed it and pressed her foot into my hip bone, reaching out with my left hand to accept her grip. She smiled in bemusement, not expecting this from an amateur, but rose to stand with both feet on my hips. Gripping her lower back, I stood.

It went on from there, never becoming overtly sexual. When we were done, I offered, “You’re an incredibly transparent person. Energy moves gracefully through you – you don’t grab on to it.” After she recognized the compliment, I said “No, thank-you for being you.”

Maybe I’ll see her again. I don’t know why, but most of the time, they don’t come back.

It’s in the Cards

Father’s Day and the Summer Solstice coincided for me down at Ecstatic Dance LA on Sunday. My devotion to that practice is encapsulated in this wisdom from Devdutt Patnaik, from Seven Secrets of Shiva:

Lord Shiva taught through dance because words are too literal to capture the essence of the intangible nirguna. One needs symbols that dance is best able to communicate. A book occupies space but not time, a discourse occupies time but not space, a dance occupies both space and time.

The workshop was an introduction to sensual Salsa that was focused with a declaration of spiritual intention. We were asked to choose from a deck of the feminine avatars. I waited, torn, until the other participants had settled back to their mats. Then a card called clearly to me, and I found myself holding “Isolt”:

Undying Love: No matter the situation, the love that you share is eternal.

When I read it to the facilitator, all she had to offer was “Thank-you.”

From that moment of clarity, the dance unfolded into the usual confusion and chaos. Whether the sexy temptress that tried to attach me to her sister, any of five young ladies crying out for love in exchange for passion, or the woman that reminded me of the lost love I offered to Persephone’s manifestation, I found myself wondering why it is so hard for women to understand that the power that surrounds me is not intended to make people feel good, but rather to make them stronger. That became clear in my interaction with Atasiea – after we finished rolling over each other on the floor, I touched his crown and suggested timidly “Say hello to my little friends.” With their affirmation, I then knelt to take his skull in my hands and ordered, “Now say hello to my bigger friends,” as I raised his mind to the sky. Trying to make certain that he didn’t get detached, I pressed my thumbs into his palms and feet and pulled on his arms, stretching him to his full extent so that they might clearly apprehend the limits of his body.

So it was only at the end that I was able to refocus. As we sat in a circle, each affirming in turn the joys found in the dance and the glory of the light, I hesitated before offering:

I came here today to plead with the light. To plead with it to be gentle with us. To be gentle with us through the summer and winter. To be gentle with all the living things.

A terrible sorrow filled me then. While Robin took the time to say that he liked what I had said, it is clear that we haven’t learned our lesson yet. It will unfold as it must.