The Work that Reconnects : Somatic Awareness, Democracy and Freedom

Can you think of one place when you were happiest as a child? I was recently asked this question during a workshop of ‘The Work That Reconnects’[1]

Can you think of one place when you were happiest as a child?

I was recently asked this question during a workshop of ‘The Work That Reconnects’[1] and I was struck by how difficult I found this. We were informed that most of us appear to remember a place in nature and I do have a happy memory of being at the seaside for the first time. However my deepest memory of happiness was when dancing on a stage at a dance school performance, and I remember I used to dream of being an aerial artist with a circus.

This question had really got me thinking, because I was reminded of how, at a mere 8 or 9 years old, I had decided I couldn’t follow my dreams. A gym teacher had told me I was too stiff. I didn’t believe I was good enough. Conditioning starts young and I had always been steered to take the path of sensibility

Do you remember the hopes and dreams you had as a child?

Does this sound familiar at all?

How many of us are thwarted from the hope, optimism and innocence of our childhood aspirations as we become adults in shaped and formed by our families, environment and cultural zeitgeist?

For those young people who are emerging adults in this new, dare I say it – post apocalyptic world - my son included- their hopes and dreams need to be nurtured more than ever. As our liberties have been restrained over these last 18 months, we have had to explore new concepts of freedom.

Coming from Chinese ancestry, it was my father, who in his mid twenties took the plunge to take a boat from Hong Kong to a foreign land to forge a new life. He followed his dreams to seek a better life. Later he brought my mother over and a year after that gave birth to me. My father has worked incredibly hard all his life, and it was ironic that after he had left Hong Kong, the colony started to flourish while in comparison the uk economy paled. Now the lens is different. Hong Kong is going back into the folds of China, a great Superpower, but at what price?

They say the best things in life are free - love, laughter, good health and our personal liberties. I remember how affected I was by the student led protests in the Tianamen square uprisings in Beijing in 1989. I would have been there had I not have grown up in the UK, a land of democracy and freedom.

Now freedom has taken a different perspective, and one way to reclaim it is through somatic awareness, our bodies and dance. Yes that is right. Dance can tap into a vitality and energy that can forge new pathways in our brain and can ignite new idea

When we move and dance, our brain waves slow down – they move from the busy beta state and drop into alpha state. When we are focussed on goal orientated tasks we are in beta state, the state of doing, of getting things done. Whilst this state is very necessary for us to be outwardly productive, it often comes with an accompanying sense of stress, as we are in our sympathetic nervous system - a low level ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ which can wreak havoc with our adrenals and is in part why we can feel so tired.

When we are in alpha state, this is characteristic of being in a ‘wakeful rest’[2], and also occurs during light meditation and mindfulness. And it is the same with dance; because as we freely move the brain is relieved of intense cognitive activity, it is allowed to wander. Thoughts and emotions are observed but then allowed to pass. In alpha state our left and right brain hemispheres are more balanced, our thinking left brain slows down to feel more calm, peaceful and grounded, and instead we can become more lucid and reflective, as our awareness becomes slightly diffused. In this alpha state our depression is said to be reduced, and serotonin production increased.

If we then bring our awareness into our bodies, and allow our bodies to express and move without any agenda, its reciprocal somatic communication with the brain will enhance our proclivity for creative exploration.

If we continue to move and dance, to drop into a deeper meditative state, then we may drop down to that threshold of alpha-theta state (4-7.5Hz), sometimes called the light meditation & sleeping wave.

Dropping from Alpha to Theta and our brain waves are aligned for deep meditation and light sleep, including the all-important REM dream state. It is the realm of our subconsciousness and only experienced momentarily when we drift off to sleep from Alpha or when we wake from deep sleep and Delta state.

So when we move and drop into an extended dance, we can be in a waking dream state, not only of calm and relaxation, but of one where we are taken on an inner journey of discovery, and there is a potential for treasures to find. As we slowly shed our tension and protective bodily armouring, we in turn allow ourselves to release outmoded beliefs. Here new ideas can emerge, new insights and inspirations. Perhaps that is why dance has been banned in strict authoritarian regimes in the past. Rather than being a licentious activity, there is the possibility of a real awakening which can take place.

When we are young, the world seems so full of possibilities, with so many exciting avenues to explore. As we ‘mature’ into adulthood our choices seem to shrink considerably. In embarking on an inner journey through somatic awareness and embodiment, and especially when we allow ourselves to move freely and liberate our tension through dance, true transformation is possible.

And it begins with the ability to connect to our hopes and our dreams. Arguably any art form has the potential to do this (and we could probably have an extended discussion about what constitutes an art form). Dance is unique in that we are in fact creating art when we move (and remember there are many styles of art, it is a subjective experience where aestheticism may not be part of the equation) And We Are The Art.

So if you are reading this and have always considered yourself a non-dancer, then I urge you to think again, and consider embracing this art in your life, and reconnecting to your hopes and dreams.

After all, what have you really got to lose?

Categories: ancestors, dance, meditation, mental health, science, spirituality, travel