(always there, yet to be felt deep within)
To move like the winds, is that being alive? To look through your eyes and see the magic that nature brings, is that being alive? To stand in one’s body as a home, is that being alive?
I ponder these questions that have no vocal answer – perhaps knowing that the best conclusion is felt in our bones, without reasoning, just with pure love.
I was lucky enough to be a helper on the first Awakening To Life Retreat, April 27th – May 1st, 2018. The vision behind this weekend came to Brian without effort, and created itself because it needed to be there. A higher power was felt throughout my experience, understanding that we had all been brought together to heal the collective. Brian held the group with such acceptance, allowing each person to come exactly as they were.
The morning of the retreat arrived more swiftly than expected, and before we knew it, everyone was present and sitting in a big circle.
As each person spoke, my mind attempted to string sentences together, a wonderful friend trying to protect me – I observed this and chose to let it go. When it came around to me I began, “My name is Kiana”.. I then trailed off into a statement of reasoning, realizing afterwards that simply openness without expectation, was really my purpose (and everyone’s) for being there.
When it came around to Brian’s introduction, I was struck by the truth floating out of his mouth. My spine immediately straightened and I knew that my days there would be profound. Teachers are guides, learning with us along the way, but holding a deep strength of knowing that may never be explained; Brian is one of those teachers, and a being that crosses one’s path when you are ready.
As this was a silent retreat, nobody was to talk after the welcoming, until the closing circle in three nights’ time. Silence was one of the greatest gifts; to be able to move seamlessly in and out of a space with others, getting to know them and oneself so deeply without uttering a word. I found myself in admiration of the souls ability to communicate, and the awareness that arises out of the quiet.
The next three days followed a schedule of 6.30am wake up, six hours of dancing a day, three delicious meals a day, yoga nidra, meditation and nature immersion.
“Take your awareness to the furthest sound from you. Let your breathe do the work.” Every morning in the 7am darkness we were given the opportunity to feel into our bodies. Brian led us through an hour of movement with such ease, weaving in a wisdom that only comes with experience. Brian’s deep knowledge and intricate understanding of the human structure, inspired all to delve inward and come home to themselves.
The late mornings and evenings offered us the chance to be alone and explore our incredible surrounds. With the mountains hovering over us as if an imminent hug, I could feel the peace felt by all as we began to see anew. Simplicity was the teacher each day – observing the leaves, looking at the trees – nowhere else to be but present.
The six hours of dancing a day was akin to stepping through a portal and finding oneself at a destination you always felt you needed to go. (I pondered on writing this paragraph in capitals but not even that would capture the immensity of each dance). The music Brian created took us all on a journey that I know for certain, no one was prepared for. There was some fear in the group about the physical stamina required, but this dissipated as each person began to leave their body behind. I do not say this in the sense of unconsciousness, it is in fact the exact opposite. Allowing oneself to succumb to the beat and let the body write its own story – we all hovered above our lives as a soaring bird gaining new perspective. There was the opportunity throughout, to sit down and rest/journal in the nest you created, allowing each person to cultivate an understanding of their personal needs and rhythms. Whenever I felt that the beat might burst my insides, Brian slowed things down and allowed us to be in the chaos of becoming. I cannot express the reverence that I have for him as a facilitator, so beautifully riding the ebb and flow of the room, as if in the belly of us all.
An enlightening exercise was one of being both the witness and dancer; one person sat down and witnessed the other in movement. As we took turns in each role, it was clear that our partner was merely a mirror, and what we were viewing, ever present in us.
The food created by Hearth and Soul nourished our bellies in the perfect way. Each silent meal was filled with abundance and eyes of pleasure as we tucked into a well deserved feast. There is a saying that I always go back to which states, ‘When you eat, you eat. When you sleep, you sleep. When you walk, you walk,’ and so on. Food is inherent to our survival, but eating has become one of the most rushed activities of our day. To notice my chewing and feel each bite glide down my throat and become me, was a blessing that we all need to make more time for.
The last full day consisted of a clay process, which anticipated the ceremony to come. We were instructed to find a solitary spot to form a shape which represented our healing process, and what we wished to manifest. Once finished, these objects were laid out at the front of the dance floor – for all to view their boundless potential throughout the night.
The night slowly dawned and with it the most magnificent full moon. It felt as if she was shining her light on us to guide each person into their purpose. The ceremony consisted of four hours of dancing – by that time everyone was well acquainted in the practice of letting go, and so we watched our tired bodies drop in and be fueled through dance. The atmosphere was emotional and it instilled a peace in me that I am not, and have never been, alone. We whirled and twirled and sweated with expression, each person given the opportunity of release. I had a moment when I looked around the room in awe. I began the weekend stuck in my mind, and had progressed to a point of insignificance. Each person had their pain and in that lay everyone’s freedom. To see a room of people so unapologetically themselves is a cherished picture that I hold dear in my memory — to be raw and real is our true nature, may we embody it without fear.
The ceremony brought a calm in the wake of the last day. The morning consisted of the usual movement and nature immersion, but you could sense an air of transformation. As everyone gathered in the closing circle to share their experience, it was felt that each individual had walked through a door within. Five days of awakening to life had brought everyone closer to their hearts, and each sharing was filled with vulnerability and truth. I remember when I spoke that I cried without shame, because I had risen to a place where who I was, was all that I needed to be.
To dance is a practice integral to being. To move is the way through. There is an energy pulsating and warmly holding us all- this life force which comes with infinite possibility, simply requires stepping into a new layer of living.
To walk with purpose, lift your arm with power, roll your shoulders with knowing; you have arrived in this body home, begin Awakening to your life.
Written by Kiana Neethling
Artist. Yoga teacher. Biodynamic farmer. Movement activist. Explorer. Adventurer. Every-thing. No-thing. Here. Beyond.