Practicing body poetry with Havi

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:

Body poetry

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!

Getting help

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!

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10 Responses to Practicing body poetry with Havi

  1. celine says:

    even though I know next to nothing about yoga and everything related to it, I would suggest you quit thinking that not getting epiphanies automatically means that you are either doing it wrong, or that there is something wrong with you. sometimes, things take time. it doesn’t mean you are damaged or slower, but the way it is supposed to be.
    just my two cents, take them for what they’re worth, ma puce.

  2. Willie Hewes says:

    I have a similar problem: when I first started Dance of Shiva, it really helped me focus and was clearly having an effect on my mind. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I worked my way through level 1 fairly quickly, and now I’m doing level 2. It’s mostly a physical practice for me now though, I’m just keeping it up in the hope that sense of focus and flow comes back. :|

  3. Josiane says:

    @Celine: You know your two cents are always extremely valuable over here! Thank you for adding to the conversation, and giving me food for thought.

    @Willie: I’m glad you took the time to stop by and let me know you are facing the same kind of challenge with the Dance of Shiva – when I’ve read your comment, it felt kind of comforting to have confirmation that I am not alone in dealing with this. If you decide to skip ahead to level 3, I’d be curious to know how it goes for you. Maybe we could try and come up with ways to make it harder that we could share? You may have ideas I hadn’t thought of that would work great for me (and vice versa)! Sharing challenges and support could be neat!

  4. Willie Hewes says:

    Yeah, sure, I’m all for the exchanging of ideas and experience. I’m actually working on a little download that has some worksheets, different ways of visualising and explaining the pattern of level one. One of the things I tried early on was use long vowels instead of numbers, so the level one sequence starts: aya, oyo, ooyoo (like in ‘who’), eeh-yee. It’s fun to make the sounds at the same time as doing the moves, but it really slows me down a lot and I find it frustrating. (Hey, wait. Wasn’t it supposed to be frustrating?)

    Another thing I’ve been practicing a little is mixing up the pattern so it’s:
    So instead of Forward, Reverse, Arms Opposite Rotation, Reverse, you do: Forward, Arms Opposite Rotation, Both arms backwards, Arms Opposite Rotation Reversed. I found that on the ‘net somewhere but I haven’t got the bookmark here. Anyway, I added you on Twitter, so, we’ll talk, yes? :)

  5. Josiane says:

    @Willie: Thank you for sharing these ideas! I’ve got to try the vowel thing. It’s a bit like using words or colors: it’s one more way to force ourselves to learn new associations for the arm positions. As for the formula you suggested, I tried it briefly this afternoon – it’s interesting! It gave me ideas for other ways to mix things up!

  6. elizabeth says:

    I clicked over from The Fluent Self because I like reading stories about Shiva Nata. :) Thank you for sharing this .. I don’t feel like I’ve been getting the epiphanies either – which sometimes frustrates me no end. I can tell it’s muddling my brain because I am pretty tuned into my energy and I can feel it going crazy afterwards .. but there is maybe only one or two things that I can point to and say “that was an epiphany”. I was just wondering if they’re maybe more subtle ..? Anyway, I’m going to have to try the ideas that you and @Willie mentioned. I’ve been skipping around levels but it’s hard to not feel like you have to do them in order, even if (yes) the point is not to master them. :)

  7. Josiane says:

    @Elizabeth: Thanks for letting me know that you stopped by – I love meeting other Shivanauts! Also, thank you for telling me you’re at pretty much the same place I am with regards to the epiphanies. I’m happy that my sharing this brought you and Willie to say you were experimenting something similar: we hear all the time about people getting amazing breakthroughs, but not so much from those who don’t get them. Knowing I’m not alone really helps! I’m looking forward to exchanging more ideas with you. :)

  8. Inge says:

    Another commenter flying in from the Shiva Nata website… it is so nice to virtually meet other Shivanauts!
    Very interesting to read about your process, and the comments are also very useful. I’m going to try mixing up the sequences, like Willie showed.

    In the beginning, I was also wondering where the epiphanies were hiding. Like you and other commenters before me, I noticed things were happening in my brain, but no epiphanies. And then I realised it was in the word ‘epiphany’: to me it signifies something huge, a light turned on and something that rocks your world. In the meantime, I had been noticing all kinds of patterns in my life and finding creative ways to change them. Small somethings, realisations if you will. And here’s the first epiphany: the noticing and finding solutions to break patterns? That’s the epiphany part! (For me at least.)

    So, it might just be a question of definition. Hope this helps!

  9. Nancy says:

    Love your blog! Sounds like we have a lot in common with traveling, yoga, and searching out great vegan food! :) And you’ve piqued my interest about Shiva Nata; it sounds really cool. I’m going to go check out the website! :)

  10. Josiane says:

    @Inge: It’s so nice meeting you! I, too, love meeting other Shivanauts. :)
    Thank you for sharing your experience, I really appreciate it. It touches on something I’ve been thinking about; ‘epiphany’ does indeed sound like something huge, and you’re absolutely right, it may be tainting our expectations. Some more food for thought…

    @Nancy: Hey there! It’s cool you’ve found me on Twitter, because yeah, it looks like we have quite a bit in common!
    Shiva Nata *is* really cool! Despite the slight frustration I mentioned in this post, I sincerely love it, as can attest anyone who’s been subjected to my going on and on about it… ;)

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