Wizzle -- Luxus

Dancemeditation Practices

part of: Dancemeditation

by Teresa Dunyati-Long

What is a dancemeditation practice? Dancemeditation practices are just that – practices, like brushing your teeth is a practice—they are for our health and must be done daily. These health practices are body and attention-based techniques that produce sensations of relaxation, hone observation skills, and integrate information contained in the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Each serves a particular function. All work synergistically with each other over time to cultivate different aspects of the body and mind, as well as unite them into a seamless, functional whole. In general these practices can be done with any or a combination of the following underlying intentions: deep release, to energize, purification, trance, to encounter paradox, attention, integration, imagination, witness, and consolidation. These practices come from the Shattari method of Sufi moving meditation as practiced by the Dunyati lineage. Founded by Dunya McPherson, this is a contemporary, integrative and creative lineage serving the needs of citizens in an increasingly hectic, information blitzed-out, globalized world. This is a form of embodied spiritual dance. Such dance was preserved for millenia along the silk route through central Asia, Anatolia, eastern Europe and the Levant. I am trained as a Teacher of these practices.

We define spirituality as those activites aimed at broadening our perspective to include all points of view—yes, virtual infinity imagined as a neurophenomenological construct rooted in the findings of contemporary neuroscientists. I imagine I am inflagrante due to my many bodacious statements which really should really be written as hypotheses, with accompanying literature and methods. I’m working on it.

Winging On

Amoeba – This is a powerful attention practice. Execute it while reclining on the floor. Begin a tiny, barely visible motion in one part of your body. Let that motion move smoothly, like an amoeba moves, out and through your whole body. For instance, move your right ankle, let the movement ooze up your right leg into your right hip, from your right hip up into your chest, from your chest into your left shoulder, from your left shoulder down your left arm, etc. Move in this fashion all through your body. A variation is to let your breath initiate these tiny movements. Exploring how to make this so is a powerful integration practice.

Angles—This is an imagination practice. Make angles in space with each part of your body, up to and including your full body.

Arrhythmic—This is an attention practice. Move deliberately against or without rhythm – not as easy as it sounds!

Body Follows the Mind – This is an imagination practice. Let an image of a particular movement form in your imagination. Attempt to actually execute this movement. Figure out what it will take in terms of coordination and training to achieve this movement.

Breathwork.

CAVEAT: If you have high blood pressure or glaucoma do NOT hold your breath in during breath-holding portions of the following exercises—merely suspend your breath – you aren’t actively breathing, you are just letting your lungs be idle for several moments.

Anuloma Viloma—NOTE: this breathing not recommended for persons with high blood pressure. This is an integration practice. This is a form of alternate nostril breathing. Sitting comfortably in easy pose or half lotus, bring your right hand up to your nose. You will alternately cover one nostril and then the other with the fingers of the right hand. Cover your left nostril, breathe in through your right nostril for 3 counts. Cover both nostrils. Hold your breath in for 12 counts. Release your left nostril. Exhale for six counts. Immediately breathe in through your left nostril for 3 counts. Cover both nostrils. Hold your breath in for 12 counts. Uncover the right nostril. Exhale for six counts. Immediately breathe in for 3 counts. Continue until you have repeated this cycle 12 times. Sit in easy pose with your eyes closed, breathing deeply, exhaling completely for 1 minute. You may alter the ratios above to explore the ways in which counted breathing affects your mind and body.

Breath of Fire—This is a purification practice. Continuous rapid breath through the nose only. The focus of your attention is at your naval. To inhale, let your lower abdomen relax which will allow the diaphragm to extend down, causing your breath to come into your lungs almost automatically. To exhale squeeze the navel sharply back toward the spine. Release this quickly, which will pull the diaphragm down, causing inhalation. Gradually build up to two or three breaths per second for 1 to 3 minutes, then (unless you have high blood pressure—in which case, do not execute the next part of this exercise) breath in deeply and hold the breath in with a “root” lock (see Muscle Lock explanations below).

Deep Abdominal Breathing: This is a deep release practice. Begin your inhalation by expanding your deep abdomen, then your intercostal muscles (the little muscles of your ribs), then your high chest muscles around your clavicles. So, you inhale into the deep lobes of your lungs, then your mid-lobes, then your top lobes. To exhale, contract the deep abdominal muscles, then the intercostal muscles of the ribs, then the high chest muscles around the clavicles, evacuating the lungs from the bottom lobes to the top lobes. Continue in this fashion for as long as you like. You may coordinate this form of inhalation and exhalation with various movements.

Kapalabathi—This is an energizing practice. Sitting comfortably in easy pose or half lotus, let your attention come to your diaphragm as you do deep abdominal breathing. Let your diaphragm relax down, causing air to rush into your lungs. Let the inhalation be through your nose. Swiftly contract your deep abdominal muscles, expelling the air through your mouth. This kind of inhalation and exhalation is called a “pumping.” Do ten pumpings then several deep abdominal breaths. Do three sets of ten pumpings, then (unless you have high blood pressure—in which case, do not execute the next part of this exercise) breathe in deeply and hold your breath in with a “root” lock (see Muscle Lock explanations below).

Breathing with movement – This is an integration practice. Let movements proceed from your breath – i.e. as you exhale let your arm fall, as you inhale allow it to rise.

Rhythmic breathing – This is a trance practice. Breath directly on the rhythm of music or in a particular rhythm. You may coordinate this breath with rhythmic movements.

Counted breathing – This is an attention practice. Breath in for a certain number of counts, hold for a certain number of counts, exhale for a certain number of counts. You may coordinate this breath with rhythmic movements.

Muscle Locks – These are consolidation practices.

1. Root Lock (Mulabandha) Take a deep breath. Hold it in. Contract your anal sphincter, pull your pelvic floor muscles up toward your heart and your navel point toward your spine. Hold these deep muscle contractions for as long as you like.

2. Diaphragm Lock (Uddiyana bhand) Take a deep breath. Hold it in. Lift your diaphragm up toward your heart. Your rib cages will fan out. Let them. Then lift your stomach muscles up underneath your ribs. Hold these deep muscle contractions for as long as you like.

3. Neck Lock (Jalandara bhand)- Take a deep breath. Hold it in. Pull your chin in strongly. The underside of your chin will be pressed against your upper chest. Squeeze your attention up from the base of your spine to the top of your skull and down the surface of your face to the point of your chin as though to curl your chin into the space between the top lobes of your lungs. Let your attention enter your chest, brush past the top of your heart, exit the space between your shoulder blades, course up your spine, across the top of your head then down the surface of your face to the point of your chin…continue cycling your attention in this fashion as you hold your breath in for as long as you like.

Circles—This is an imagination practice. Make circles in space with all parts of your body, up to and including your full body.

Complex visualizations – This obviously is an imagination practice. Use your imagination to create experiences purely within your mind. Don’t be afraid, coy, or shy. Go for the gusto and create experiences within. Live them fully. Let them exit into movement as you see fit.

Continuous flow—This is a powerful integration and attention practice. Move slowly and smoothly with no breaks. This is used particularly when moving from reclining to standing – the challenge is to do this smoothly with no breaks. This practice develops intense strength, focus, proprioception, and kinesthetic awareness.

Directed Attention— Obviously an attention practice. Has deeply integrative properties as well. Pay complete attention to different parts of your body – the goal is to eventually develop a powerful, sensitive, gestalt proprioceptive awareness. Example: While in corpse pose, place your attention on the sensations in the soles of your feet. Draw your attention from there up over the mountains of your toes to the front of your feet. Carefully and mindfully move your attention up the front of your body to the top of your head (don’t forget your hands and arms), then cycle it down your back, returning to the soles of your feet. You are walking your attention carefully through the sensation fields in each micrometer of your body in this systematic fashion—in essence, you are deliberately and consciously mapping this aspect of yourself.

Distillation—In this practice, one opens into pure watching and lets the watching move one extremely slowly with intense focus. Let the watching fill you. Become The Watching. Let a motion begin. Watch it as it unfolds minutely, micrometer by micrometer. Do this for a long while, watching the unfoldment of your deepest currents as they express themselves in motion.

Evolution—This is an integrative and attention practice. Let a motion unfold and grow organically, one movement proceeding logically from the previous movement.

Hand Dance—This is a witness practice. Let your hands dance with each other. You can begin with just one hand, then let that hand fall still and move the other hand. You can let one hand lead the other, then switch lead hands. You can do evolution movement with your hands, vibrations, continuous flow, mind follows the body, body follows the mind, angles, circles, and undulations with your hands.

Listening – This is a witness practice. This means attending to the information coming not just from your auditory sense, but from the proprioceptors throughout your body.

Mind follows the Body – This is one of the most powerful of the integration practices, which has elements of witness as well. Come into supine awareness (see below). Become the Watching. From this place, let your body dictate what motions you execute while your mind simply watches.

Mirror work – This is a deep witness practice. It is a form of self-exploration and self love. You can do various movement exercises while watching yourself in a mirror. You may also simply gaze into your own eyes and explore your inner dimensions, as you might the inner dimensions of a beloved friend.

Moving – This is the second of the cardinal paradoxical practices. It can be done with any of the underlying practice intentions: purification, trance, paradox, attention, integration, consolidation, deep release, imagination, to energize, and to promote witness. For the simple reason that you are completely free to choose to do absolutely anything you wish, it becomes immensely difficult to choose what to do at all.

Partner – This is a powerful witness practice. Two or more people choose to execute motor cognitive practices together. This can include choosing to keep contact between designated parts of bodies or mirroring each other, or follow the leader, or taking turns witnessing each other performing any of the practices described here.

Perpetual Motion – This is a paradoxical trance practice. Trance practices are designed to relax your entire nervous system, indeed to reset your default mode to active, exquisitely responsive relaxation. Keep all parts of your body in motion at the same time. You will find that in order to be perpetually in motion, you must establish a ‘still spot’ within your body from which motion arises.

Repetition—This is a trance practice. Choose a motion, any motion. Repeat it over and over until you feel like a body of water lapping gently within and against the container of your skin.

Running – This is an energizing integration practice. The goal here is to develop the gait of power. This means you coordinate your breath, your stride length, and the frequency of your ‘leg strokes’ with the beat of your heart. Achieving this degree of coordination is no small endeavor. In the end, this becomes a trance practice.

Rhythmic – This is a trance practice. Move any part of your body or your entire body in a rhythmic manner.

Sitting – This is the first of the cardinal paradoxical practices. It sounds so simple to sit. It is not. Sitting requires great strength. You must lift your entire body up off the floor with the deep muscles around your bones. Ideally, when your strength is adequate, you will feel no strain or pressure in your knees, ankles, feet, sacrum or hips. Explore this very difficult practice quite actively. Only when your physical strength is adequate to permit you to sit with absolute peace in your body (no more pain or strain anywhere), can your mind reliably soar as you sit.

Sleep – This is a paradoxical, deep release, and consolidation practice. To sleep implies a cessation of activity, but this is only partly true. During sleep, as modern neuroscience is beginning to demonstrate, memories are consolidated. In addition, deep release into pure rest occurs as the conscious effectors of our nervous and muscular systems quiet. There is both activity then, and no activity, depending on which physiological system one considers.

Spirals—This is an imagination practice. Make spirals in space with all parts of your body, up to and including your full body.

Standing – Another paradoxical practice. Standing implies stasis. Nothing could be further from the truth. Standing is vertical amoebic motion. Be in mountain pose. Begin a microscopic undulating motion with your whole body. You are shifting your weight almost imperceptibly from one foot to the other—do this side to side and back to front.

Standard Flow Opening Sequence—Be in easy pose with your right leg in front. Feel your sitbones directly underneath your shoulders, your weight distributed evenly between your sitbones. Breathe deeply, exhale completely and let your attention come softly down through your whole body. Become aware of yourself as a unit in space.

Breathe in deeply as you stretch your arms way up over your head. Exhale as you slowly extend your torso out over your folded legs. Inhale as you roll up from the base of your spine.

Exhale as you: Unfold your legs. Place the soles of your feet on the floor in front of you, let your knees be bent. Reach behind your shoulders, place your palms on the floor a foot or so behind your shoulders. Let your fingers be facing towards your legs. Sink back, rounding your spine as you take the weight of your torso into your palms, stretching your arms, shoulders and spine.

Lengthen your spine again, stretch your shoulders and wrists gloriously, then press forward. Lift your torso into a vertical position.

Breathe in deeply as you stretch your arms way up over your head. Exhale as you slowly extend your torso out over your folded legs. Inhale as you roll up from the base of your spine.

Exhale as you: Unfold your legs. Place the soles of your feet on the floor in front of you, let your knees be bent. Reach behind your shoulders, place your palms on the floor a foot or so behind your shoulders. Let your fingers be facing towards your legs. Sink back, rounding your spine as you take the weight of your torso into your palms, stretching your arms, shoulders and spine.

Repeat this sequence six times – three times with the right leg in front, three times with the left leg in front then reach back into the rounded back position. This time, instead of coming right back up into easy pose, stay there. Breathe in as you arch your back strongly. Keep your palms on the floor as much as possible. Exhale as you press your navel against your spine and walk a contraction in your abdominals up from your pelvis to your chest. Alternate this arch and contraction with the breathing twelve times.

Use your back button to return to the meditation from which you came.

Static Poses (Hatha yoga) These are all consolidation practices. Take class with a reputable local instructor.

Supine – Another paradoxical practice. To be supine on the floor implies cessation of activity. That is the practice of sleep. In this practice, close your eyes. Extend your attention from the very center of your skull out and beyond the limits of your skull. Let your attention extend down your spine. Let it radiate out from your spine, following the pathways of your peripheral nerves out through the limits of your skin. At first you may find the field of your attention cannot encompass that much internal space or its intersection with the fields of sensation generated by your body’s intersection with external space. The first thing to know is that this is a soft field of attention, not one-pointed focus. Initially you may find this difficult. Do not worry. Keep working until you can expand the field of your attention until all of your experiences shimmer inside you like a hologram. Become that hologram intersecting with the lives of all beings with whom you have come, are coming, and may come into contact.

Vibrations—This is a purification and deep release practice. Tiny shaking motions in any part of your body (shoulders and hips usually, but up to and including your full body). Purification practices cleanse body tissues and require complete release of top-down, mental control.

Walking

Basic walking: This is a trance practice. Be in mountain pose, feeling the air caress your skin. Shift your attention deep into your body and let your attention become soft, so you feel yourself as a unit in space. Now begin to walk, being careful to deliberately place each foot on the ground, heel first, then roll through the ball of your foot, pressing your toes against the earth to press off with each step. Feel the balance between your moving legs as it is produced by the relationship between your feet, knees, femur heads, pelvic blades, sacrum, spine, chest, and skull.

Before you begin this practice explore these relationships. Place your hands on the front of your pelvis. You will feel two parallel bones along the outer edge of your hips. These are your hip blades. Follow these bones down toward your legs. Where they end is approximately where your femurs insert into your pelvis.

Keep your knees in line with your femur heads and your ankles in line with your knees as you walk. Make sure your feet point straight forward, not out to one side or the other. This stabilizes the forces acting through the hips down into the earth and utilizes your muscles most efficiently. If you feel your weight rolling from the very center of your heel through the centerline of your foot into the center of the ball of your foot and in the bottoms of all five toes, you will be in perfect alignment.

Lift up through the core of your pelvis as you walk. Let your shoulders be directly over your pelvis, your head directly over your shoulders. Your hips will feel light and easy floating above your legs, your legs will swing freely from your hip sockets. Let your arms swing freely.

Walking backwards: This is an attention practice. Most people find walking backwards awkward at first. The key is to keep your attention in your pelvis and let its trajectory guide you. Let your legs swing freely from your hip sockets, your arms swing as they do when you are moving forward. Reach back with your toes, roll through the balls of your feet to your heels.

Patterned walking: These are attention practices. Here are two very distinct patterns for walking that strongly condition the feet, legs, proprioception and kinesthetic awareness:

Up up down down – this is done to a 4/4 rhythm. Step up onto the ball of your right foot (your leg will be straight), then the ball of your left foot (your leg will be straight), then step down onto your whole right foot as you deeply bend your knee, then your whole left foot as you deeply bend your left knee, then back up onto the ball of your right foot (straight leg), the ball of your left foot (straight leg), then back down again, etc. Do this for as long as you wish.

Down up down or up down up – this is done to a ¾ rhythm. This is called a “triplet.” Step down onto your entire right foot with the leg bent, then up onto the ball of your left foot (your leg will be straight) then down onto your right foot (leg bent). You can reverse this and start with your left foot. In fact, one should alternate the starting foot. The reverse variation of the triplet is to start by stepping up onto the ball of your right foot (leg straight), then down onto your entire left foot (leg bent), then up onto the ball of your right foot (leg straight). Then you repeat this starting with your left foot.

Evolution walking: This is an integration practice. Begin walking. Let your movements evolve naturally – this might involve weaving side to side, walking backwards and then forwards, raising your arms and lowering them, or swinging them, executing turns, etc. The important thing is to let your movements evolve smoothly and incrementally without preplanning, to do whatever evolves in an unforced way.

Undulations—This is an attention practice. Undulations are flowing serpentine motions in space with different parts of your body, up to and including your full body.

Workspace—This is both an inner and outer space we deliberately create within which to work on our minds and bodies. For a detailed explanation of what this means and how to create this space, read Creativity as Lifepath (http://oraculartree.com/works/creativity-lifepath).