I mentioned in my last post that I had a lot to say about practicing Shiva Nata at the writer’s retreat I attended this past summer, too much in fact for me to be able to squeeze it in that account of my experience in Taos.
By the way, I fully realise I have started mentioning the Dance of Shiva a while ago on this blog with little more than a very brief explanation as to what it is. I think this happened because I first mentioned it in passing, in a post in which I was writing about something else, and then it had already been mentioned and I didn’t take the time to take a step back and introduce the thing properly. Also, it so happens that the short version – which I have given here – is quite short, and the long one is either too long, or I can’t find the right words for it. So, you have questions about Shiva Nata? Go ahead and ask them in the comments! I’d be happy to answer, and that would give me a terrific starting point to say more (as well as an indication as to whether there is indeed a need to try and explain more, or if I can just keep babbling away).
Here is finally that glimpse into this part of my experience in Taos, and more generally my Shiva Nata practice:
It was absolutely wonderful to get to work with Havi herself, learning some of her destuckifying techniques, doing yoga every afternoon, and starting our days with a Dance of Shiva session. That was a real treat!
On the first day, Havi didn’t even name the Dance of Shiva, presenting it instead as body poetry. That was right on! On the DVD the positions are associated to numbers, but in order to make the practice challenging both for her and for the handful of participants who were already shivanauts, Havi chose to associate words to the eight arm positions. That was purely magical! And yes, poetic.
How poetic? Well, the practice involves both arms, so we always use a pair of words (or numbers, colors, whatever you choose) to identify the arm positions. Since Shiva Nata has been conceived in a way that every possible combinations happen within the various sequences, we’ve heard all the word pairings that could be made using those eight words. Havi also used their inflections, and constructed phrases from the pairings. That gave us gems like:
– grow your gifts – open to receive – ground your senses – accept protection –
…and so much more! We often heard a collective exclamation from the group when a particularly inspiring combo showed up.
One day, Havi asked if we wanted to give it a try with numbers, but the choice was unanimous: we loved the words! Hey, that wasn’t very surprising: the word combos were awesome, and… she was working with a group of writers, after all!
This incredible opportunity to work with Havi came at the right time, as I was stuck in my Shiva Nata practice and was hoping that it would help me get unstuck. I was frustrated to not be getting results – in the shape of the promised hot-buttered epiphanies – at home, and the problem didn’t magically work itself out at the retreat. Epiphanies were had right and left by many of the other participants, but none was coming my way, which made it yet a bit more frustrating.
I’ve discussed it with Havi, and thus learned that the Dance of Shiva can reinforce patterns. That came as a surprise: I had always thought of it as something that helps recognising and deconstructing patterns, but had never realised that the opposite could very well be true. That made sense: I was very clearly working with it within my pattern of having to do everything in order, every step of the way.
In this case, since I couldn’t quite master* level one at high speed, I simply would not let myself go and play with level 2. Going to a specific part of level 2 (the transquarters, for you Shivanauts reading this) was Havi’s first recommendation to me, which she revised the next day, telling me to skip ahead to level 3 instead.
*even though I very well know that trying to master it totally misses the point of the whole thing. I even have a quote that I keep visible at all times on my desk, copied from one of the documents Havi wrote for the starter kit: “You’re not trying to master it, you’re trying to experience it”… Yes, I need the reminder!
Being encouraged to skip ahead was huge for me, and was also kind of a lightbulb moment – Go and mix things up! No one says you have to do every little step in the given order. Challenge your pattern(s)!
Havi has been kind enough to take some time to meet me where I was, listen to me and offer advice, and I was – and still am – hugely thankful for that. More than that: she offered me to do a mini one on one Shiva Nata session one afternoon before yoga.
Shivanauting one on one! With Havi!
That was so, so great! But also: so very intimidating!
Especially since she started by telling me to take the lead, saying she would mirror my movements. Yeah, *that* was intimidating! Interestingly, that was very revealing too: even though she told me that I could do anything, that it didn’t have to be a “real” sequence or formula, I was unable to just go improvisational, I had to follow the level 1 sequence. Alternating between the horizontal and the vertical movements when changing sides was the most I could deviate from the established sequence. My reaction may have had something to do with being intimidated (and wanting to do well), but it showed once again that I have to do stuff “correctly”. It felt like I should have tried going freestyle (and get her lost!) but, sadly, I couldn’t.
She then took the lead and had me do level 3, first with the arms only, then with the legs too – wow! I could mirror her movements without too much difficulty, but it sure was challenging, especially with the legs: I would have needed very wide angle vision to catch everything all at once!
This session didn’t last more than ten minutes, but the souvenir will definitely live on for a very long time. Thank you, Havi, for doing this with me. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to repeat the experience!
Still no epiphanies…
I’ve been back home for quite a while now, have started playing with my practice, working on level three, mixing things up… and I’m still experiencing the same thing regarding the epiphanies, i.e. not much, really. How come can’t I get the Dance of Shiva to work its magic for me, even though I love the practice, I do it regularly, and I’ve now even skipped a whole level in order to try and make it challenging enough? It seems to be working for everyone else, so what’s wrong with me?
Well, I have some ideas regarding this, but this post is quite long already, so I’ll share them next time.
Until then, if you have questions please feel free to send them my way!