“….ALL WAS IN SUSPENSE, ALL CALM, IN SILENCE: ALL MOTIONLESS….”
Eurythmy belongs to the world—not only to artists, children, or fervent students of Anthroposophy, but to those whose hearts yearn to find a modern spiritual movement path. Born out of the heart of Anthroposophy, Eurythmy allows the conceptual understanding of spirituality to be warmed through the heart and grounded in the body. Having taught eurythmy to thousands of people, I know this to be a powerful reality. And my commitment to share eurythmy wherever it is asked for has brought me to diverse communities around the country and around the world.
In addition to writing about eurythmy itself, this blog page offers a place for me to share with you the experiences of bringing this work to the diverse communities I visit.
This week, I am happy to describe recent experiences in Central America. My husband and I have just returned from a 4-week trip to Guatemala. The images are still vivid in me when I close my eyes: soaring volcanoes on every horizon; deep greens in vibrant forests; the brilliant colors of tropical flowers, echoed in cloths woven into clothing, hammocks, blankets and more; the noise and bustle and people-press of the market places; the sweaty jostling of bodies crushed together into the chicken-buses (public transport buses) rattling across hundreds of kilometers of pot-holed roads; fields of coffee, cacao, spices, sugar cane and bananas. And most precious of all: the serenity of Lake Atitlan, one of the so-called “planetary vortices,” a large and beautiful mountain lake rich with spiritual energy.
Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries, and has the largest economy, yet it is the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Its infrastructure is poorly funded, as taxation accounts for only 10% of the GDP and corruption bleeds the nation of much-needed finance. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is extreme. The public education system is woefully inadequate, while social instability and gang violence wreak havoc on the nation.
There are approximately 18 million Guatemalans, of which about 48 percent are mixed-race Ladinos and another 48 percent indigenous Mayan people,scattered throughout the highlands of this vast and rugged land. Having been isolated from one another for thousands of years, what might once have been one common language uniting the Mayans has been splintered into about two dozen distinct languages.
Even as the Egyptians were building their pyramids as burial or initiation structures in northern Africa, the highly sophisticated Mayan people were building their own pyramids in their jungles. The scale and grandeur of some Mayan cities rivaled that of their European contemporaries in the period from about 200 BC to 800 AD. It is estimated that there were over ten million people living in the area now known as Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan by 800 AD.
Beginning with their decline through overpopulation in the ninth century, and continuing through the years of the Spanish conquest, and even unto the contemporary influx of ex-Pats and gringos (including us!) the Mayan culture shows little of its ancient sovereignty. Yet in the past few decades the indigenous people have begun to re-claim their own self-knowledge and taken steps to learn of their cultural roots.
The Spirituality of the Mayans
It is possible that the Mayans, the first people of Guatemala, traveled across the Bering straits millennia ago, bringing with them the ancient spiritual wisdom still found in the Tibetan traditions. Traces of this can be found in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayans. There, the creation story begins thus:
“This is the account of how all was in suspense, all calm,in silence; all motionless….
[…..] Then Tepeu and Gucumatz came together; then they conferred about life and light, what they would do so that there would be light and dawn, who it would be who would provide food and substance. Thus let it be done! Let the emptiness be filled! Let the water recede and make a void, let the earth appear and become solid; let it be done. Thus they spoke. ‘Let there be light, let there be dawn in the sky and on the earth! There shall be neither glory nor grandeur in our creation and formation until the human being is made, man is formed.”
In the centuries of colonization, the proselytizing missionaries soon brought their version of Christianity to the Guatemalans, teaching their doctrine and building their churches, often on top of the sacred ceremonial and burial sites of the Mayans. What has evolved out of this is a unique blend of indigenous and Catholic religiosity. One often sees statues of the Crucified one as a black man nailed to the cross. There are statues in the churches of the Madonna holding two children in her arms, symbolizing the two twin brother-heroes of the Mayan creation myth. Indigenous shaman-priests often hold ceremonies on both the interior steps and the inner aisles of the churches to sanctify their dead, swinging incense burners and offering flowers, fruits and abundant candles, to honor the souls of their departed elders.
It was deeply moving to see the fervent piety of the worshippers who visited the churches all day long. Again and again, people crawled the long length of the church on their knees until they reached to front altar. There they would pray with passionate gestures and uttered prayers, obviously experiencing a personal closeness to the divine world, invoking a mood of soul seldom encountered in much of the modern world.
Working with Waldorf Education
There are two growing Waldorf schools in Guatemala, and I was able to teach eurythmy and anthroposophy to the faculty in both of them this summer.
The younger of the two schools is “Colegio Waldorf” in Guatemala City. It was founded just three years ago, by a woman who saw clearly that the only viable path to a new future in her country was through education. As the granddaughter of an anthroposophist, she committed herself with a clear vision and dedication to the creation a Waldorf School in the capital. Unconventionally, the school opened only three years ago with grades K-6, double-tracked in each grade. Today the school has full classes through 9th grade, and will soon run through high school. Unfortunately, few of the teachers are adequately trained in Waldorf understanding and methods, so there is an urgent need to work with them intensively. I was privileged to work with three highly capable training colleagues for a week this summer, and have committed myself to building a five year curriculum for teachers with my colleagues.
The other school is smaller, yet older. Escuela Caracol, in the highlands of Lake Atitlan, was founded a decade ago to serve the largely indigenous population of the region with Waldorf education. Its social commitment is truly inspiring: 75% of the students are low-income indigenous children, and their tuition is paid largely by donors from first-world countries. (Check out their website to get involved!) The members of the faculty study anthroposophy weekly, nourishing themselves through deep work together.
Among my many impressions of the schools I worked with, there remains this thought: Waldorf education is so inherently true and flexible, that it can exist in a vast number of different forms. It can serve the most humble and modest communities and well as the wealthy and privileged. The essential question: “what does it mean to be a spiritual human being?” can be cultivated and developed in every circumstance.
Contained within the task of creating Waldorf schools is included the question of how to find right relationships to economic and social relationships. How can a strong school be built even before teachers are adequately trained? Because private Waldorf schools are tuition-based, can one ensure that the motives for forming a school are clean and not profit-driven?
In Guatemala as in China, we find the need to contextualize Waldorf education, so it can take root in its own soil and not exist merely as a European transplant. I have found it fascinating to see the parallels between the work in China and in Guatemala. Both are new territories for Waldorf education. In both countries, the need for new educational models is urgent. Waldorf offers a way to create a bridge to the future.
A New Certificate Course in
Eurythmy and Anthroposophy as Life Practices
A Series of IntensiveWorkshop Modules with Cynthia Hoven
Seven Modules—-5 Days Each—–1-3 years
Eurythmy Alive a series of modular workshops to bring the enlivening gifts of eurythmy and anthroposophy in a new and fresh way. Thousands of people have felt the magic of eurythmy, but are unable to take a full, four-year training. These workshops will offer a non-professional course to people who want to go deeper without becoming professional eurythmists.
Over the course of one to three years, Cynthia will offer a series of seven 5-day workshops modules that will build upon each other. Participants are encouraged to attend all seven courses, because the exercises that are developed in each module will be increasingly difficult, so that earnest students can truly develop their eurythmy skills. Those who attend all seven courses and practice diligently at home in between classes will receive a certificate of completion.* Gifted students may be recognized as capable of sharing in small circles with family and friends, as part of a new movement to expand eurythmy into general community life.
*This certificate is no substitute for a full training, and does not certify students to charge money for their work, nor to teach children or do therapy.
All courses will consist of 4.5 hours of eurythmy each day, plus one lecture on the workshop theme, concentration exercises, and conversation.
Contact Cynthia Hoven at firstname.lastname@example.org www.eurythmyonline.com & www.cynthiahoven.com
The Eurythmy Curriculum:
What you’ll learn
- Social exercises: Learning to move as a group
- Eurythmy with balls, Learning to be aware of others while you move, Coordinating geometrical forms with others, Coordinating poetry and music forms with others
- Warm-up Exercises:
- The 3 dimensions of space, Standing and posture development, Threefold (eurythmical) Walking—in different speeds, Contraction and expansion, The 7 basic rod exercises
- The Heart of Eurythmy: Sounds of Language
- The 7 primary vowels, Diphthongs, long vowels and short vowels, Over 22 primary consonants
- Eurythmy as Living Poetry
- In each module, 3 new poems will be learned
- Sacred Eurythmy
- Halleluiah, IAO, TIAOAIT
- Eurythmy for Health and Healing
- Eurythmy exercises that can support your energetic and emotional health
- Cosmic Archetypes
- The seven planets and the vowels, The twelve constellations and the consonants
- Colors and eurythmy gestures
- Colors as gesture and movement quality in eurythmy
Languages and eurythmy
- Each language can be moved in a different way. Explore at least two different languages, their sounds and qualities
- The human soul and eurythmy
- Thinking, feeling and willing forms
- Rhythms and eurythmy
- The role of rhythms as cosmic-earthly archetypes, The archetypal rhythms in movement: rising rhythms, falling rhythms, balanced rhythms
- The Human Being and Music
- An Introduction to the basic musical elements in eurythmy: Beat, Rhythm, Pitch, Tones, Intervals and Melody
Your other Artistic Courses
- Speech formation
- Drawing from the book of nature
- Form Drawing
A Different Topic each Session
- The Nature of the Human Being: Body, Soul and Spirit
- The Four-fold Human Being: Physical, Etheric, Astral, I-Am
- Nature Observation
- Phases of Life: the Seven-year Cycles and Personal Biography
- Cosmic Evolution: Finding our place in Time and Space
- Life before Birth and after Death, and the Meaning of Karma
- Epistemology: the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Living ThinkiThe Mo
*Subject to Change in Accordance with the Needs of Students
Module Number 1:The Human Being between Heaven and earth
- Social exercises
- Geometric forms
- 7 vowels
- 3 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- The spiritual meaning of eurythmy
- Spiritual traditions of different cultures: East and West
- The 7 fold human being
- Looking up, looking down, looking within
- Inner work, outer deeds
- Concentration exercises
Module Number 2: The Human Being and the natural world
- All the above plus:
- Rod exercises
- Consonants, evolution series
- Auftakts (group forms)
- 3 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- Nature observation
- The kingdoms of nature
- Drawing nature
Module Number 3: The Human Being and the Soul World Part 1
- All the above plus:
- Geometric forms, straight lines and curves
- Look into yourself, look into the world
- 2 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- Communication skills
- Biography part 1: Life Cycles
Module Number 4: The Human Being and Soul World Part 2
- All the above plus:
- Thinking, feeling and willing
Lecture and Discussion topics
- Communication skills
- Child Development
- Biography/Fairy Tales
- Speech or Painting
Module Number 5: Cosmic Evolutions—Finding meaning in Existence
- All the above plus:
- The Healing Nature of Eurythmy
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- Cosmic Evolution
- The Cosmic-Creative Word
- Life before Birth and after Death
Module Number 6: The Human Being and Consciousness: How do we know?
- All the above plus:
- Poems and music
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- The Spiritual meaning of eurythmy, part 2
- Philosophy of Freedom
Module Number 7:The Human Being and the Universe
- All the above plus:
- Planets and constellations
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- The Philosophy of Freedom
- Living thinking
Because in eurythmy, we truly become Human Beings. Eurythmy is
a beautiful, unique spiritual-physical practice that brings us into the heart of Anthroposophy, into the heart of our selves. We overcome the cold, hardening forces of consumerism and intellectuality, and unite body, soul and spirit into a beautiful harmony.
In our age, everyone suffers under the pressure of intellectualism. We may be clever, but are we loving? We may be successful, but are we in touch with our spiritual source? Anthroposophy, Spiritual Science, is a modern and active way of learning to bring cosmic light and warmth into our thinking, feeling and willing. This involves personal examination, dedication, practice and work, because our powerful spiritual core lies sleeping within us, and we ourselves must do the work of awakening it. But through this journey, we discover the true joy of being alive, of being human.
With the study of anthroposophical lectures, we transform our thinking, entering into a new relationship to heaven, earth and our social life.
Yet all thinking can have the potential of remaining cold and abstract if it does not become alive! We must learn how to overcome “automatic” or “dead” thinking, so we can connect our mental activity with warmth of heart.
In creating the new art of Eurythmy, Rudolf Steiner gave us tools to become fully present and active, not only in our minds and feelings, but all the way into our bodies! In Eurythmy, our Soul-Spirit overcomes the robot-like habits of modern life. Every thought, every feeling, every gesture, every step in eurythmy is developed not according to earthly laws, but in harmony with the divine-cosmic archetypes out of which we are born and which make us truly human.
Contact Cynthia Hoven at email@example.com
www.eurythmyonline.com & www.cynthiahoven.com
China is a land of speed and vigor, of ancient wisdom and modern consumerism, of fabulous wealth and desperate poverty, of top-notch intellectuals, scientists and financial wizards as well as of the laborers in the urban shadow economy, the stooped rice farmers of the hilled terraces, and the millions of minority tribes, some of which still practice the ancient ways of their elders.
I have just returned from my seventh trip to China in the past four years, where I am active as a lecturer and workshop leader, specializing in Eurythmy as a Personal Practice and Anthroposophical topics. In this last trip, my husband Harald was able to join me, teaching Plant Observation and also consulting with various growers about how to grow biodynamic crops.
Through my semi-regular trips to the East, I am able to keep my finger on the rapidly evolving societal and cultural developments I have experienced, even though I know that through my insights I can only scratch the surface of this ancient and complex land.
In this last trip, my husband Harald was able to join me, teaching Plant Observation and also consulting with various growers about how to grow biodynamic crops.
First: China is vast. That which is modern is far more modern that what I know of from the US. In Shanghai, which I consider the world’s greatest mega-city, the subways are super-fast and clean. Mile after (seemingly) endless mile of skyscrapers fill the skyline, from the south of PuDong to the north of PuXi, and the super-high skyscrapers are lit each night from top to bottom with magical LED lights. Traffic is riotous, and no westerner in their right mind would dare to drive some of the roads here. Conversations are bright and intelligent, and life fast-paced and stressful. Yet even in the midst of the fabulously wealthy and well-heeled newly-rich, job-seeking immigrants from distant cities live in abject poverty.
China is, however, a large country (roughly the same size as the US), and there are great differences between the regions. Those who live in the first-world consciousness of the mega-cities lead completely different lives that do those who dwell in country villages still largely untouched by the rush and stress of the modern world.
Through my workshops and lectures on Anthroposophy and Eurythmy, I have visited many of the major cities. I have taught in Beijing in the north, Xi’an in the middle, Chengdu in the west, Guangzhou in the south, and QingDao, Shanghai and Nanjing in the East. Recently I have also begun teaching in Taiwan, (which presents a strong counter-point to mainland China, and deserves an entire blog on its own). I have vacationed in Yuunan, and, most recently, in Guilin, the land of the fables karst mountains, where thousands of single limsestone peaks rise up from the plains as fingers of God pointing heavenwards.
There are ever fewer places in rural China that are untouched by modern life. Roads have reached most of the distant villages, even those more easily accessed by foot. Horses, as beasts of burdens, carry the supplies of the modern world, but so also do diesel-spewing trucks. Tourist industries have helped fan the hunger of the villagers for an easier, more “comfortable” life. I have seen this myself, and talked to guides and hosts in distant places who have their finger on the pulse of the regions they serve. And as much as I may rue the disappearance of the old, romantic lifestyle of such figures as the rice famer with water buffaloes, I must acknowledge that the winds of change are also bringing positive benefits to these communities.
Wherever I went in China, nearly everyone I saw was technologically “plugged in.” Even in the most remote valleys that I have visited, I have been able to access 4G on my cell phone, and in the big cities 9 out of 10 people on the street are negotiating phones as they walk. In my experience, the consumer and the tech industries in China are “on steroids.” People have dozens (perhaps 6 or 7 dozen) different cell phone models to choose from, each one classier than the last. Everyone wants a bigger and better television/ stereo system/ home security system/ smart car than the one they bought last year. In these things, they are leaving the rest of the world “in the dust.”
Pollution is pervasive, and I fear that the environmental consciousness has not yet awakened. Only a few of my friends here know that GMO crops are being planted everywhere in China (and are present in the daily food of most citizens), the fisheries in the oceans are dying, trash that is being (illegally) dumped all around the cities is poisoning the soil, and schools are being built on top of toxic dumps. The skies are mostly gray, and the stars can seldom be seen. I hope we will see big changes in ecological consciousness soon!
TEACHING IN CHINA
As the rising Chinese middle class evolves out of survival mode into a bit of a leisure-society, hundreds of thousands –perhaps millions—of people have begun to examine their lives and values on deeper levels. Self-help groups, meditation groups, NVC workshops, family-constellation and yoga and tai chi lessons abound in the new China: the possibilities seem endless.
And in the midst of all this, there is a vigorous movement examining the educational systems of China. There exist quite a few alternative education models, with Waldorf education one of the most sought-after, with hundreds of school initiatives across the country. Their challenges are many: how can there be enough trained teachers? How can their teachers be helped to connect deeply with the roots of Waldorf principles? And very importantly: can they collaborate and cooperate so that the term “Waldorf” always refers to a vibrant and rigorous education and not an improvised system? How can they contextualize Waldorf education so that the richness of their own cultural heritage finds its rightful and valuable place in the curriculum? And, equally importantly, what do we, as Westerners, have to learn from the heritage of the Chinese people? What have they been given to carry into our time, what wisdom have they been guardians of? I find it fascinating to observe that, as the movement grows, there is an increasing number of schools that are including finding ways to integrate Chinese arts, history, philosophy and values into the Waldorf sol.
Much of the pioneer teacher training work in Waldorf education was begun through dedicated teachers from the English-speaking world, but I am finding an increasing number of German teachers who are carrying the teacher training work in the larger centers.
However, nearly every school that I know of aspires to run their own teacher-training program. While I am excited at the idea of seeing vibrant teacher mentoring programs as well as parent-education initiatives, I am concerned when resources for teacher training are scattered and educators are not deeply enough trained to be able to have a deep understanding of the underlying principles of anthroposophy, the philosophy that underlies the work.
My own work, meanwhile, is focusing on students who have been inspired by my workshops with Eurythmy and Anthroposophy. In addition to short courses, in various cities, I have also started a EurythmyAlive, a certificate course for serious students. In seven 5-day long consecutive eurythmy modules, we focus on deepening themes: Nature of the Human Being, Biography classes, Nature Observation, Karma and Reincarnation, Planets and Constellations, and the like. These 5-day modules are spread out over the course of 2-3 years, and committed students get together in the intervals between modules to practice together. These courses are running in Taiwan and in Chengdu, and are scheduled to begin in Shanghai in the fall.
WEST MEETS EAST MEETS WEST
I find that my greatest personal challenge when teaching in China is understanding the deep levels of the collective unconscious that lives in the foundations of Chinese culture. Eastern wisdom is ancient, resting on primal dualistic philosophies of the Yin and the Yang. These understandings still color all of daily life, reaching into habits of food and medicine and clothing and architecture. In the bedrock of the culture are also the expectations of respect and duty. For China, the most important value was always the thriving of the community, even at the expense of the individual.
Most of the ancient wisdom was, however, ruthlessly destroyed during the 20th century. Much of the ancient insights have now faded into what I experience to be tradition or even superstition. And it is upon this phenomenon that the intense modern drive for individuation arises.
My Chinese friends and colleagues are beautiful, loving people, and I hold them in high esteem. It is an honor to be invited to work with them. Anthroposophy and Eurythmy have sprung from a universal philosophy, yet were rooted in the Western world. Those of us who teach these subjects in China carry a great responsibility to discover how this modern mystery wisdom can find its right relationship to the cultural tasks of the people of the East.
Special Offer for April 2017
EXPERIENCING THE COLORS OF THE SOUL THROUGH EURYTHMY
50 % DISCOUNT with COUPON CODE “Vowels”
Here in California, spring has sprung!
Spring has sprung in all of its glory. The bulbs have bloomed— and faded; the flowering trees are heavy with blossoms; the trees are thick with fresh new spring-green foliage.
Yet, standing before the mystery of the sacred year, we have not yet reached the point of Easter, the point at which the yearning human soul finds the certainty that Spirit is stronger than Matter, Life is stronger than Death.
In the week ahead, known as “Holy Week,” the spiritual seeker can go through a deeply cathartic journey by studying and contemplating the seven archetypal aspects of the human soul.
Although contemporary world-views may urge us to believe that our souls are merely the creation of our body chemistry or our animal nature, in fact our souls are born of pure, radiant spirit. Our souls have been created through the activity of the world-spirits, the singing of the seven planetary spheres.
Each planet has its own “Color,” such as RED for Mars, or GREEN for Venus. By deepening our experience of these, we grow to understand the colors of our soul, and also how to use the powers of each color when and as we need them.
Yet in EURYTHMY, we have a powerful and unique opportunity to understand the soul even more deeply through the gifts of language, for each Planet stands as an archetype behind one of the seven primary vowel sounds. Red Mars is the power behind Ā, the sound of boundaries: Green Venus is the power behind Ah, the source of wonder.
To accompany you in your journey, this monthI am offering a 50% discount (coupon code Vowels” on the VOWEL MODULE in my website, http://eurythmyonline.com/product/the-heart-of-eurythmy-part-1-the-vowels/.
Please enjoy these lessons as you read the daily Holy Week essays from my blog Archive, which will be sent to you daily in the coming week.
More about Vowels: The Sounds of the Soul
Life is a constant interplay between the external and the internal, the world that surrounds us and our inner world.
These two dynamics are reflected in language in the contrast between consonants and vowels.
Whereas the former speak of the world around us, its landscapes and shapes and forces, the vowels sing our from our heart to express how we are experiencing the world, in joy or pain or love or sorrow. They express our thoughts and feelings, as well as our impulses to do things in the world. Vowels are truly the language of the soul, and each of the vowels expresses one of the pure, archetypal human feelings. An exploration of the vowels can open up a whole treasure box of experiences for us. For many people, the feeling life is turbulent: for others it is flattened and dull. When we learn to feel deeply the power of each of the different vowels, it is as if we meet the blessing fairy godmothers whom we heard about in children’s stories, each of which gave one gift to the small child.
Indeed, as we enter the world of the vowels in eurythmy and speech, we realize how the vowels are the signature of the truly human. The depth of experience that we experience in the vowels is a world that will never be available to machines. The journey through the vowels is one more way in which eurythmy helps us know what we really are as human beings: human spirits living consciously in the physical-material world.
Each of the vowels has a special correspondence to one of the planets. The fairy godmothers I mentioned are like the gods or goddesses of the planets who have given to the human being mythological soul archetypes. These archetypes live in our feeling life and in the organs of our body. They support us as we learn to stand in our selves and develop our biographies on earth. They guide the different life cycles we pass through as we grow, leading us through archetypal life patterns in harmony with the planets. Nothing, however, is predetermined, and as we grow and develop, we also separate ourselves from the general human-consciousness, and become individuated ego beings. This entire story is revealed in the vowels.
In these essays I will concentrate on only seven major sounds, corresponding to seven major planets. I will, however, have to omit most of the diphthongs, or combination vowels, such as au, i, oi, and the like. Nor will I go into the differences between long vowels and short vowels.
Remember that any sound that can be made by the mouth can also be expressed in movement: the sounding and the movement are identical in nature. It requires a bit of practice, however, to be able to perceive how to vary a sound to express its unique coloring. In English we have what is called a “vowel cloud,” in that in addition to the archetypal vowel sounds, we have almost infinite variations on all of them. Linguists acknowledge, for instance, that the sound A (ah) is a basic archetypal sound, but in English we vary that to include uh and æ and many more sounds that exist as combinations between A (ah) and E (ā) or O (ō).
The most beautiful way to introduce the vowels is to bring them in the order that they appear in the classical romance languages, namely, AEIO and U (in English, ah, ā, ē, ō and oo). In this sequence, they tell a beautiful story of the unfolding and the maturing of our soul life. They can tell us the story of the evolution of a human being from birth to death, or the evolution of a loving relationship from wonder through separation to higher union. Essentially, they tell the great story of humanity, who has evolved from innocence through pain to self-conscious individuation, rising to love, from which the fruits of our biography can be offered back to our Creator, on a dearer and higher level.
These vowels bring love and clarity and grounded-ness to us. Enjoy your journey!
I hold that every human being bears within him or herself the seeds of the divine. All of creation is waiting for us to awaken to this realization. The differences that stem from being born into different nationalities, races, or creeds are only garments that determine how an individual biography unfolds. Yet each person is brother-sister to me, and it is my spiritual obligation to support their unfolding journey towards love in freedom.
Although as a young person I lived through the tumult of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, it seem to me that these times are among the most chaotic I have ever experienced. And yet, as difficult as chaos is, it brings with it not only danger but also opportunity. I fervently hope that we human beings can evolve through this passage of history with wisdom and compassion.
At every point in history, it is vital that we learn to look below the surface to develop the understanding of what is really at stake, no matter where we may stand on the political spectrum. Here we must ask the questions of what the meaning and purpose of human life really is. Why do we find ourselves here on the earth, in bodies? What is the meaning of suffering, of privilege? And how can we be in right relationship to the worlds of nature, to our fellow human beings, and to whatever spiritual beings we can divine? The way we conduct ourselves in the web of interconnectedness depends fully on how we value human life.
Are we merely material beings? If so, then we are no more than machines.
Are we automated, programmable? Then we are manipulate-able, gullible, disposable consumers.
Are our thinking and feelings mere neuro-chemical phenomena? Then the content of our personality can be only a physiological illusion.
Are we in fact animals, perhaps higher primates? Then we are at the mercy of our instincts and desires, unpredictable forces that lead us to fight one another for sex, territory and power.
But might we perhaps be spiritual beings? Then we have unlimited potential for love, wisdom, and goodness.
Or: are we perhaps all of these?
I hold that the human being is a miraculous creature. We are spiritual beings, and we wear our personalities, our thoughts, our habits and our living bodies like garments.
Before birth, we lived in a non-spatial dimension, immersed in the great sphere of spirit. In that state, we were not yet spiritually awake or creative, but rather harmoniously and unconsciously obedient to the will of the Creator.
At the moment of our birth each one of us slipped out of that divine sleep-state, and, as a magnificent spiritual human being, entered into the tiny body that holds us for the duration of our life. There, we soon forgot where we came from, as we began to learn how to navigate inside this little body in the fixed laws of the material world.
It is our challenge to remember or rediscover our spiritual nature in this world of matter.
Until we remember, we are prisoners in this world of matter, dreaming that we are awake but without any real power. We can be manipulated by our feelings and our desires, our thinking operates only on the level of brain physiology and is subject to great error. However great our spiritual longing might be, we are essentially dead to the creative-spiritual world.
We can only escape this kind of spiritual death by awakening. We must we willing to challenge our own thinking, feeling and willing. We must learn to observe our errors and courageously correct them. We must discover the power of the inner I-Am, the self within the self. Out of that center, we can create truly meaningful values. We learn that the real purpose of life is to become creative. And the real responsibility we feel is the commitment to be of service. We soon learn that knowledge of higher worlds is worthless if we are not expressing our spiritual self through deeds of loving kindness.
Thus the great teachers of humanity have shown us how to overcome the “death” of matter by learning to practice non-attachment and loving service to all of mankind and to the earth.
In this, we learn that the true goal of humanity is to develop Love in Freedom.
Special March Discount
As much as we may long to unite ourselves with the spirit through prayer or meditation, as long as we are living as human beings on the earth we have a task to balance our spiritual strivings with our earthly responsibilities. We can strengthen our ability to connect ourselves with both Heaven and Earth through the Eurythmy exercise called “Weight bears downward, Light streams upward,” derived from an ancient Rosicrucian meditation.
Use this coupon code for a 50% discount on this lesson from Eurythmyonline.com: Weight/Light. Find your lesson at http://eurythmyonline.com/product/weight-and-light/
Staying connected to our Spiritual Path
I always begin and end my eurythmy lessons with the vision: we have come to earth to awaken, in freedom, to our spiritual identity. Through the greatest gift imaginable, we have been given this gift of life: an earth to walk upon, air to breathe and food to eat, animals for companions. And we have been given bodies, to sense and perceive and receive the world, and through it to become conscious. Here we may awaken to our true human-ness. And when we have truly learned to Love, we will be able to give this precious earth back to the Creator in a response worthy of the gift we have been given.
It has taken unspeakably long ages to come to this point in evolution. Now we have arrived at the stage when anyone can deny God. It is possible to grasp this gift in selfishness, to use it and abuse it, and in the process participate in the exhaustion of the planet.
Rudolf Steiner cautions us: the “old creation has come to an end.” What happens from here on out is up to us. As we enter what is now being called the “Post-Truth” era, and the age of synthetic (aka “virtual”) reality, we must even wonder how long we can expect that the gift of clear consciousness will be gifted to us. From here on out we will be expected to work even for the capacity to think clearly.
This age has been called the Age of the Consciousness Soul, and it is now that we must really begin to accomplish our tasks as human beings.
As we enter 2017, we can see with ever more clarity what we shall need to accomplish! In every single exchange with the God-given world—mineral, plant, animal, human—we canlearn to perceive the handwork of the spirit speaking mutely to us, longing to be recognized, redeemed and lifted. When we actually experience the sacredness of our world, we will live be in right relationship to it. Right actions and right deeds will follow.
I believe the spiritual world hopes that each one of us wanderers on this journey towards self-realization will find the tools and the teachers that will give us the strength and direction we need for this beautiful and fierce journey.
Meditation exercises and the development of living thinking are part of the journey.
Love and deeds of kindness are part of the journey.
And for those of us who wish to grow and deepen our practice through a loving discipline of living meditative movement, I know of nothing as regenerative as eurythmy.
With humility, gratitude and love I want to share eurythmy whenever and wherever I can. In that spirit I travel the world, teaching workshops and self-development, especially for adult learners. And the Eurythmy Online project is one part of this global project. Eurythmy Alive is my newest project: more news about that will follow soon!
Beholding the year(s) ahead of us, I decided to offer a 50% on the three beautiful sequences from the online curriculum. (And if you really would like to work with these exercises but cannot even afford the price I ask, write to me and we can see what is possible!)
|A Sequence to Open to the Spirit|
January Sale: $75
Built around the Ah-reverence exercise, this sequence is created especially for those who are overwhelmed by the senses and who feel as if they are being “ground down” by the sense world.
It is especially recommended to help people who have a hard time falling asleep at night, who spend too much time at the computer or in cares, or who are highly susceptible to catching colds from others.
This 15 minute sequence contains 6 beautiful exercises.
|A Sequence for Deep Grounding|
January Sale: $75
Built around the Hope-U exercise, this sequence is created especially for those who feel that their lower body is weak or unpenetrated. They may not eat well, they may not feel that they stand firmly on the earth. Their legs may be cold, or their digestion weak.
This 15 minute sequence contains 6 beautiful exercises.
|A Sequence for a Peaceful Heart|
January Sale: $75
Built around the Love-Ā exercise, this sequence is created especially for those who want to work towards finding equanimity in the heart chakra. It is especially helpful for people who tend to have high or low blood pressure, who carry stress in their hearts, who are weary by giving away too much energy and cannot find peace. This 15 minute sequence contains 8 balancing exercises.
Local Sacramento friends may join me for two Eurythmy classes: Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 from 7:15-8:45 pm. These classes will focus on the fourth panel of the Foundation Stone Meditation.
Contact me for details.
How do we work with Elemental Beings?
On Thanksgiving Day, millions of Americans will sit at their tables together, fold their hands in prayer, and give thanks to their Creator for the gifts of food and shelter.
Their prayers will in turn be nourishment for the Beings who invisibly live and weave around us, in the web of being that is our material world. Our gratitude is food for them, and helps them to bless our world in turn.
Last week, my husband and I attended the 5-day national Bio-Dynamic conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a state that is rightly called the “Land of Enchantment.” The workshop we offered there, called “Working with the Elemental Beings,” was so well attended that there was standing room only for attendees.
I spoke of how in Eurythmy we can experience that we live in no merely mechanical, lifeless world. We move through a living web of dynamic beings, including the spirits of nature, also known as the elemental beings. Every single movement that we make, as well as every thought we think and every word we speak affects them.
I have often experienced how through eurythmy we exert a very healing effect on the space we work in. I am certain that our eurythmy practice, as a conscious etheric practice, offers to them a kind of nourishment and a conversation (even as certain dances, rituals and prayers handed down to humanity for millennia did so). I have even felt that elemental spirits are strongly desirous of eurythmy, and gather around me to see what I am doing.
Harald, a master bio-dynamic farmer whose very being radiates kindness and love for the natural world, spoke of how he experiences these elementals. Although he does not directly see them with physical eyes, he knows that the farm that he has created and lovingly cultivated for the past 30 years has only been possible because of the work and service of these elemental beings.
These beings are offshoots of even greater creative beings, who have allowed part of their spiritual essence to be carried into this dimension that we live in, thereby creating a world that we humans can perceive with our physical senses.
Four major groups of beings live in the earth, water, air and fire elements. Different cultures around the world have given them different names, but their characteristics are relatively consistent.
Earth beings (gnomes) live in rocks and mineral veins, and are helpful to miners. Being bound to the realm of greatest density, they long to escape back to spirit. In the realm of plants, they help the seed to push against the forces of gravity and grow upwards into the watery realm.
Water beings (undines, nymphs) live in water, and especially there where it interfaces with the air, as in river rapids and waterfalls. They, too, feel the heaviness of gravity, and long to become light-filled. In the plants, they unfold their activities in the leaves.
Air beings (sylphs) are free from gravity, and dart about freely in the air. Their activity can be sensed in the murmuration of a flock of birds, or in the dance of dragonflies and butterflies. In the plants, they weave around the color-filled blossoms, or the fragrances of the etheric oils.
Fire beings (salamanders) live at the lively interface between matter and spirit. In the natural world, they can be found there where human beings interact with their animals—the shepherd and the sheep, the rider and the horse, the beekeepers and the hives.
In the lecture we gave together, Harald borrowed a term from the modern lexicon and called these beings his “Business Partners.”
Of course, he said, no business partner likes to work without a reciprocal relationship, but one needs to know what kind of exchange is appropriate. In the gardening world, one of the most deadly currencies is money. Whenever a farmer is compelled to work only to create financial profit by forcing the earth to bring forth ever greater yields, the elemental being turn their backs. The food they bring forth thereby loses vitality ad health.
What these elemental beings ask of us is that we work with them. We cannot merely take from them: we need above all to appreciate them and understand how to nourish them. That will help them to “stick around” and make a robust, healthy farm organism.
No one can simply want to see the elemental beings, as creatures of little bodies and forms. We are in fact “seeing” them all the time in their manifestations. Every leaf, every flower is their creation, even as every dance in the river or every flickering flame is their moving body. We may not see them through using our normal visual sense, but we can open other channels of perception. We can possibly hear them, smell them, feel them.
What is essential, however, is that we must be open to the possibility that they exist. For only through our openness can we appreciate them. With open hearts and open gaze we can re-learn that we exist in a dynamic, living world.
There are, of course, countless levels of Beings that surround us. From the Great Spirit-Creator God through all the levels of existence, Beings are creating every level of the manifest world. These beings, great and small, go largely unnoticed by modern human beings, for in our current level of consciousness, most people function at a level in which they can only perceive the reality of the sense-perceptible world. For the materialist, only that which can be measured, weighed or counted has reality: everything else is subjective, and therefore unreliable.
Archeological and mythological records, however, clearly show that people lived in a different level of consciousness. Through stories, dances and rituals, they cultivated a daily conversation with the Creator-Spirit-God.
In our present age, modern humans have relinquished that sacred connection, taking from nature without asking, without giving thanks. We have forgotten that we are indebted to our Creator for everything: our bodies, our minds, our breath, our food—Everything.
Harald makes a practice of always walking through the garden every week with his apprentices, and observing the changes and growth in every crop. In doing so, he is watching the dynamic, changing world that is being woven by the nature beings.
He watches carefully to know when a new bed of crops is ready to be harvested. However, before he allows anyone to initiate the harvesting of a new bed, he stands with them in reverence and gratitude and thanksgiving before the bed.
On Thanksgiving morning, before we sit at our table with our apprentices and dear friends, we will gather in the garden he has tended for 30 years and give thanks for the gifts of the spiritual world, of the earth and the rain and the sun, of the elemental beings in their continual dance between spirit and matter, and of the living being of Raphael Garden who has come to be the guardian angel of this garden. We will give thanks to the Spirit of Love, he whom we call the Cosmic Christ, Lord of the Elements on Earth, praying that the gift of the spirits will help us find the way to evolve towards our rightful future as godly-human beings.
I have heard people call this age the time of the Great Turning. We will once again come to know the beings that live enchanted in the world of manifest world we dwell in. The wheel of evolution tells us: it is time for our consciousness to make the next shift. Out of freedom, we will learn to love.
The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be,
But this is no winter now,
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,
The thunder is the thunder of the floes. The thaw, the flood, the upstart spring—
Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up to face us everywhere!
Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul-sized.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are YOU making for?
It takes so many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?
Quoted from Christopher Frye’s Sleep of Prisoners
One week ago, I was still in Shanghai as mainland United States was counting its Tuesday night votes. Hour by hour we watched from thousands of miles away as the poles closed, and the votes of one state after another were tallied up.
I had planned to write an in-depth report of my workshops in China and my impressions of a changing country this weekend, as soon as I recovered from jetlag. I still intend to write that report, for there is much to share. Today, however, I must first reflect on my considerations of what is happening, and where we will all go from here.
Having just returned from another culture, another country, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am trying to read the body language, the attitudes of the people I meet in the aftermath of the election. I am reading a lot on the internet, in both the mainstream and alternate press as well as social media, and also discovering essays of writers and bloggers struggling to make sense of what is going on.
Full disclosure: I loved Bernie, because I felt he was genuine and a truth-speaker. I considered him to be a bit of a utopian, but I wanted to world he strives for to become real. When he dropped out of the race, I turned to Hilary, not because she is a woman, nor because I condone how entangled she is with the big corporations. Rather, I considered that she would be a safer bet, because the world is in a precarious place right now. Here I am thinking of international relations in the far east, the middle east, the refugee crises, energy crises, global warming and environmental disasters.
As we neared election day, however, I began to read more and more about the possibility of civil war. Even as it became clear to me that there is truly a sharp division in this country, I was pained to realize how many people were ready to explode with racial, religious, sexual hate and bigotry.
And now. Here we are, one week later, and the new story is already unfolding.
I am not nearly as concerned with the protests on the streets as I am with the dozens of reports of personal attacks, property damage, hate crimes and even murder that have been committed in the past three weeks.
This is where my deep questioning leads me.
In my community, we have a weekly study to consider leading thoughts of Anthropsophy. This autumn, as we studied Rudolf Steiner’s lecture series called “From Symptom to Reality,” I was struck by a leading thought that he presented. He said that it is the central task of our age to come to terms with evil. In our age, even as we awaken more and more to our spiritual maturity, we will have to recognize that each of us bears within ourselves not only great goodness but also the forces of the great hindrances to evolution. Any one of us could, if we succumbed to our base natures and instincts, commit the great or small transgressions against one another.
Small transgressions including petty littering, or straining our environment a little bit by using too much plastic. Larger transgressions contribute to the collapse of entire ecosystems or outright murder.
Where do I really monitor my own behavior?
My own “small evils” begin with my impatience or dismissal of another’s worth. As a consciously striving woman, I wish I could always be as consistently good as my intentions are. I could be kind and helpful and generous in all my thoughts and actions. Even my subtle violence bears within itself the seeds of the great violence that lives in the psyche of a person who neglects to so his or her self-regulation.
I am reminded of the late Sir Laurens van der Post, a South African author whose childhood was molded in equal parts by his family, British landholders in the African bush, and his caretakers and life-teachers, the bushpeople and the Maori. He perceived from an early age how those who were considered to be the primitive folk of Africa actually carried extraordinary wisdom and knowledge that was inaccessible to his intellectual comrades. When World War II broke out, it seemed to him that the horrible crimes being perpetrated against the minority peoples –in that case, the Jews in Central Europe—were only possibly because the perpetrators of hate had lost their own connection to the good and true forces. This schism in the soul, he said, is a direct result of the tyranny of intellectuality, of people’s alienation from their capacity for love, and the loss of an authentic relationship to nature and to spirit. In this, he became a Jungian, and spoke of the shadow of the collective unconscious that was driving the madness of the war years.
My thoughts? In the hate movements of our age, that which is less-than-human, the shadow of our lower selves, our beastiality has been unleashed. This crisis is of our own making, and none of us is so evolved yet that we don’t bear part of the shadow in ourselves. Those hate crimes and acts of bigotry and violence that we see are born out of the way that we have become alienated from our own higher selves. Do I carry even the smallest possibility of such hatred in myself, in some judgmental part of my soul? How did that possibly take root in me? My education? Consumerism? Egotism?
What feeds my shadows and makes me less than human?
By daring to write these painful words in the first person, I insist of myself that I look my own shadow in the face. And in looking, I look for the healing that will help me overcome the shadow.
How can I evolve, to be in Right Relationship to the earth, to my fellow humans, to my Creator?
I hold that Love is truly a Being, a god who has united him/herself with our earth. Love lives both in the heights of heaven and in the depths of our souls. This Godly Being of Love will not command us, but his/her ways are uncompromising, and waits to be sought for, greeted, and welcomed.
This Being of Love, whom I will name God-become-Human, stands with us, ever present, as the living archetype of the fully evolved human being. Where that Sun shines in our souls, we find the inspiration and the power to choose Love instead of hate.
Rudolf Steiner urges us to seek to understand the nature of evil, as it lives in our souls and in our world.
As human beings we are still a “work in progress:” we are still evolving towards our godly future. On this journey we must learn to recognize that which is “not-god” within us, and be willing to renounce whatever petty joys our grudges, spitefullness, laziness, prejudices, fear, hate, love of comfort (please, continue the list yourself) may afford us.
In the great journey of human-earthly-godly evolution, I hope we can follow the words of the playwrite quote above.
“It takes so many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?”
In the aftermath of this election, as a new phase in American life begins to evolve, I am heartened to read the voices of some of my friends and heroes, great writers of our age who call upon us to use this phase of history to take the next step of evolution. If you are interested, please check out some of the following articles.
By Otto Sharmer: On the Making of Trump: the Blindspot that Created Him http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58264d03e4b02b1f5257a1ca?timestamp=1478908400601
By Charles Eisentein: The Election: of Hate, Grief and a New Story
By Adebayo Akomolafe: On Trump: An Open Letter to the Brokenhearted
Persephone, Michaelmas and the Need for Living Thinking
As the days grow short again, and the year cycles around to the season of autumn, we stand once more in the autumn of the year. The fruits have of summer have ripened, and nature has given us of her abundance.
In Greek mythology, the richness of summer was brought forth, year after year, by the goddess Demeter. She is the archetypal earth-mother, and from her womb spring all the gifts of nature.
In time, Demeter brought forth a beloved daughter, Persephone, fathered by Zeus. The god of the underworld, Pluto desired this beautiful child, kidnapped her, and took her to Hades, his underworld kingdom. Demeter deeply grieved her absence, and forbade any living thing to grow on the earth. In time, Persephone was released, but because she had eaten pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she was now compelled to live part of each year in the underworld. Her return in springtime enables vegetation to spring forth anew, having lain in the depths of the earth through the months of winter.
Yet when the time comes for her to return to the underworld in the autumn, the forces of nature withdraw, and the world turns brown, gray and bleak.
As with all true mythologies, this tells a story that is true on many levels and resounds in harmony with other creation myths. Just as the Bible tells of a paradisiacal past in the Garden of Eden, Demeter reigned during the Springtime of humanity. Then, when human beings left the Garden of Paradise, are were “exiled” to walk in the earth, told we would need to earn our food with the fruit of our brow.
Still, even in our exile, Nature continued to give generously to us, and we lived in the sweet Summertime of the planet.
We have now stepped into a new world age. The return of Persephone each spring becomes less certain each year, for Demeter, Natura, has grown old. Increasingly, we can see that we have harmed her and wounded her, and her illnesses are many.
The myth of Persephone also speaks of the human soul. We humans are children of both Heaven and Earth. And as we took our first steps on earth in the innocence of the Garden, we lived with the blessed confidence of hunters and gatherers, trusting that Nature would provide.
Now, however, it is our higher selves that have been kidnapped by the spirit of materialism. Our souls are held hostage by the forces of the underworld, surrounded by the forces of death and evil, even as we go about the affairs of our daily lives.
This is the root cause of our current societal and environment ills. All around the globe, the shadows of Mordor—as the dark kingdom is named in The Lord of the Rings—is spreading, manifesting in the rise of hate and fear-mongering in many segments of our national psyche. We need not look far to see the seeds of fascism sprouting. We see, too, the tragedy of the refugees who dare to seek a land of light, escaping the violence of war zones and famines, and we see eco-systems devastated by climate change, melting ice caps, melting aquifers.
Emil Bock, a noted theologian of the Christian Community movement, called his age—the decades following World War II–the “Autumn of Earth Evolution.”
Yet because I believe in the mystery of mid-winter, the mystery of the spirit-birth of Christmas and the infinite possibilities of the human being, I face these days with steadfastness and courage. I know that evolution must take its next step—can only take its next positive step—if we human beings learn something new as a result of going through these dark times.
Where can we human beings turn for a new vision in this age?
With all of its microscopic and macroscopic intelligence, the natural sciences will not solve for us the urgent questions of morality we are facing. Nor can any religion that asks for blind faith give us a sure light to guide us through this darkness.
In this age, we can turn our gaze to another cosmic imagination, the presence of the Archangel Michael, the ruler of our age. He has been recognized and celebrated in many cultures under many names since the most ancient of days, for he has committed himself to supporting the evolution of human beings, the children of the universe.
Michaelmas, the annual feast day honoring his activity, is September 29. It falls rightly in the fall, shortly after the equinox, for he is the bearer of the spiritual forces that we need in this cosmic Autumn season. He, who believes deeply in the human being, is the archetypal hero of the knight who fights the demonic dragon that lurks everywhere in hate, death and destruction. In contemplating his bearing as a cosmic protective being, we can perceive the shortcomings of our own thinking. When our thoughts are “automatic,” non-creative and reactive, they bear none of the spirit consciousness that we are capable of. In this age, we are charged with the challenge to learn how to cultivate cosmically accurate thoughts with our consciousness. We must learn to reach beyond mere earth-thoughts and develop the capacity to understand things with the insights of the Gods. Michael-inspired thoughts and actions defend and protect the cosmic intelligence, in heaven as well as on earth.
Rudolf Steiner wrote that “the first creation has come to an end: the new creation begins with the Human Being.” Having lived with these powerful words for decades, I understand that only when we humans learn to transform the evil and death-bearing forces that live in our own souls can we create participate in creating a future as infinitely beautiful as the Garden once was.
And to do that, we must take hold of all the things that have been given to us “for free” by virtue simply of having been born. We must sanctify our bodies, we must transform the shadows in our feeling life, and we must learn to think in a completely new way. The old way of thinking can lead only to an increasingly death-affirming world. unless we can warm our thoughts with love and compassion.
What we must learn now is to “think with the heart.”
We must learn to how living thinking must become a practice that replaces automatic thinking. We must learn to warm our thoughts with love and compassion, born in our hearts as a result of our journey through the dark halls of Hades.
This is the message of this season, Michaelmas. In this year, with so much social-political-economic-ecological chaos, there is no place left to turn but to the deep resources of the heart, to those seed-forces that can be fructified by the very real love and wisdom of the universe. Such living thinking is literally not capable of being self-deluding and self-serving: such thinking shows us the way to actions that will sanctify this human race.
In this season of Michael, we can focus our meditations on the courage and insights we need to live rightly in this season of world-autumn. We will discover the right way to find the Sun forces that live on the earth, in the soul.
This, my favorite autumn poem, speaks of the beautiful and awful tumult we are all compelled to live through in this season of the Cosmic Autumn.
World dust, whirled dust, tossed and torn from trees,
No more do they labor for life,
no more shelter of green glade,
shade of apples under leaf,
Lifted in air they soar, no longer leaves.
What, wind that bears me, am I about to be?
Will water draw me down amidst its multitudes?
Earth, will I return?
Will I return to the trees?
Or by water go further from myself than I now can know
Today I would like to share with you two of the inspiring emails I have received from people who have used Eurythmy for their own healing journey. The first is a woman recovering from cancer: the second is a vet who writes about how he used eurythmy while stationed in Afghanistan. I hope you will enjoy these writings.
I just want to drop you a note of appreciation for creating online Eurythmy. I so love the feelings I am able to access- and these grace filled movements. My husband so loves the space I come from in doing it that he has created a calendar he checks off for doing my practice when we see each other at the end of his workday. Together we celebrate the great job I am doing.
My practice is now up to an hour a day. I love all of these gestures- they have become beloved family members to me. I can’t imagine not visiting and spending time with them everyday.
You would be proud. I started The Sister Goddess Marriage Club. At the end of our salon we girls- married and dating all do Eurythmy for the health of our marriages and relationships with men.
On the note of health- mine is coming along beautifully. Eurythmy is my “radiation and chemo” treatment. I attain a magnificent state of being are unparalleled to any meditative practice I have done. I am soaring with the angels! No comparison to what the doctors want me to do! Eurythmy is my medicine- my pills- my chemo- my radiation- that gratefully I take every morning- rain or shine- whether I feel like it or not.
(Note from Cynthia: I applaud this woman’s dedication, but her decision to chose eurythmy over medications was hers, not mine! Each person must find their own way!)
My Experience with Eurythmy in a War Zone
I am a 47 year old man who has been active for many years in the Waldorf and BD initiatives in the high desert near my home in Reno, Nevada, where I live with my wife and two daughters. Life had settled into a predictable and comfortable rhythm for our family. Two winters ago, however, I was quite unexpectedly notified that as a reservist in the US Navy I was going to be mobilized in the upcoming spring. I would be called to serve for one year in order to support a military unit in Afghanistan. The notification told me that I had about three months to prepare. Needless to say, many thoughts and emotions immediately flooded into my consciousness. My consciousness suddenly became more heightened, and I grew aware of every aspect of my life.
My immediate response was to focus on putting all of my affairs in as good an order as possible. Due to the training and preparation I had received I found this to actually be a fairly straightforward process. It included taking letting my employer know I was going to be gone for a year, completing a whole lot of pre-mobilization training and ensuring for the care of my family in their transition from a civilian family to an active duty military family. These things were fairly easily accomplished.
However, when I was visiting my Anthroposophical physician about one month prior to my mobilization, it was suggested that I see about learning some eurythmy exercises that might help me through the course of my impending journey and separation from my family. I had of course heard of eurythmy and had even practiced eurythmy at some events and classes that I had taken in the past. I immediately thought to myself, “Yes!!! I need to look into this”. So I contacted Cynthia Hoven, explained my situation, set an appointment, took a day off from work, and drove to Sacramento to the Rudolf Steiner College for my first session. In this and two more sessions Cynthia taught me several exercises that I could do for my own personal practice. These included what I will call warmups, threefold walking, contraction and expansion, and of course the Halleluiah exercise. I diligently practiced these exercises between each of our sessions so that I could ensure that I could remember them with my body and mind prior to my departure. I did this because I knew that I was going to have many demands, changes, challenges placed on me over the next year and I would not have too much opportunity to try and “remember” the exercises later. This initial commitment turned out to be very helpful.
When I first mobilized I did not immediately go to Afghanistan, but rather spent a month preparing and training in the United States. I took this time to make a nearly daily practice of incorporating the exercises into my personal practice. I managed to do them well over 90% of the time, even when this required me to wake up early before my fellow shipmates to be able to spend 15-20 minutes in the large open bay barracks in the dark. This room was a large space lined with bunk beds and lockers. Many people sleep and live in the barracks, yet is a very military environment.
Before long my preparations were complete, and I was on my way to Afghanistan with a brief stop in Germany and a couple of days stop in Kyrgyzstan along the way. I did not get any chances to do my exercises while I was travelling, but upon arriving in Afghanistan I was able to finally get some time and made a priority to resume my practice. It was at this time that I first became aware of a noticeable shift in my consciousness while doing these exercises. I felt how they enabled me to become more centered and more at peace with my surroundings. This was especially important to me now, for one of the many emotions that I had been experiencing was fear. This was the first time I actually had entered a “war zone.” I was surrounded by lots of armed people, given specific training on what to do in the event of an attack, and I had my own full body armor and helmet to wear, complete with my own personal arms to bear.
The next couple of weeks were a blur as I had to catch yet another flight to my final duty location, introduce myself to the folks who I would be working with, set up my accommodations, receive a full load of ammunition, recover from jet lag, start learning my new job, and acclimate myself to the higher altitudes of the Hindu Kush. As soon as possible, I also needed to find a time for physical training. I discovered I was able to incorporate my Eurythmy exercises in a quiet place after my “gym” time. I soon discovered that the best place for my eurythmy practice was my own room when my roommates were at work. Thank goodness that I did, because already within the first month I experienced the cacophony of a fire fight within a quarter mile of my location. I heard the full barrage of bombs, machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades. The eurythmy practice helped me to keep my equanimity.
I also faced other difficulties there. Several personalities made me uncomfortable in many different ways, my living accommodations were certainly less than what I was accustomed to, my ability to communicate with family back home was limited, and I was generally even less comfortable than I was even in the training prior to my actual deployment. I was struck by the realization that this was going to be my reality for the next 11 months, and pained by the thought that I was going to experience a near complete turn of the seasons in which I was going to miss every birthday, anniversary, and holiday at home with my family and friends. I knew that I had to choose how I was going to respond to this situation and that I could either work to be conscious in the situation or not. This was coupled with my personal belief that I had learned in studying the Hawaiian Ho’ Oponopono tradition, that everything around me was a result of my own creation or a reflection of some part of me. On some level, I had chosen to be in this world of discomfort, fear, exhaustion, different personalities, and imminent danger, through the culmination of my own thoughts and subsequent actions leading up to these moments.
I was tired at many levels and this provided many opportunities for what I call negative thoughts and emotions to manifest themselves in my consciousness. I soon experienced that the Eurythmy exercises were becoming a necessary part of what I call my soul and spiritual practice. I started to notice that when I did not do my “daily” practice I became more agitated and experienced a sort of disconnectedness from my body and immediate reality– whether I liked this reality or not.
One of the practices that Cynthia taught me was to do a series of three “Halleluiah’s:” one for myself, one for my spaces, and one for those who had crossed to the other side. My experience in the war zone provided me many opportunities to do this Halleluiah numerous times with what I call necessary conviction. I found myself grateful for the chance to ground myself, expand into my spaces and as well spaces of loved ones back home, and to release the impact of being near and around the death of many people. When I was doing these exercises I found myself mentally back at the Rudolf Steiner College in the small Eurythmy room grateful for the brief time away from my present circumstances.
I can most vividly remember doing these exercises right after receiving the news of death of others. One time in particular stands out for me. I had just arrived at a small base when reports of an attack that had just happened arrived. I witnessed what happened when the news was delivered, and even spoke with some of the people directly. Three service members had been killed, young men whose death was especially tragic. I could not wait to get back to my “quiet” place and do my exercise. This kind of experience occurred several times, and I have become more and more grateful for the opportunity to have the tools to do this.
Many times I felt myself wanting to go negative in terms of my thoughts and actions with the people I was working with or for, and in the past I would have become angry or bitter in similar circumstances. In my months in the war zone, I committed myself to work to not do this. The Halleluiah came to my rescue many times, because it enabled me to clear the spaces where I would meet with people in my mind. I have found it to be incredibly relieving and inspiring in my dealings in these uncomfortable situations to do Halleluiah’s both before and after these meetings. I was also able to allay some of my fears and concerns regarding my family by holding an image of my home during this exercise as well. I was also able to become more conscious of my own personal feelings and physical reactions while doing my exercises.
I would like to say that I have become a perfect practitioner, however, as it always seems to be when one climbs a hill I can see that there are many more hills to climb. I continue to make a regular practice of doing my exercises and see no reason to stop especially now that I am learning how to reintegrate back into my home life a changed person. The eurythmic exercises have withstood the forge and anvil of war and I can think of no good reason not to use them as I move forward.
Thoughts for St. John’s Tide (June 24)
To lofty summer heights,
The gleaming being of the Sun ascends;
It takes my human feeling
Along with it to space expanses.
In boding, there stirs with my being
A sensation, dimly heralding,
One day you will discern:
A godly being sensed in you.
From Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul, June 9-15
It’s heating up here where I live, in Sacramento. Temperatures are peaking above 100 degrees, and we anticipate about 30 days of 3-digit heat this summer. The sun’s course across the sky approaches the absolute zenith, and the quality of the light is searing and relentless.
I am not a summer person, neither by inclination nor by constitution. The intense outer light and heat bore into me, and I find it hard to study and stay focused on my studying or consciousness work. I feel the sun burning into my crown chakra and I seek places of shade for respite.
At this season of the year, the marriage of the Sun with the Soul of the Earth has created the marvelous, multi-colored, multi-fragranced World of Nature. The seeds that were buried in the earth throughout the winter have left the nest of darkness, and the plants are daily drawn higher and higher, away from the earth. The Earth Soul now clothes herself in all the colors, fragrances, essential oils of the plant. These are enveloped by the frenzied dances of the birds, the dragonfies, the honeybees. The soul of the earth is ecstatic, as she celebrates a kind of sacred matrimony with the Sun. She holds nothing back, and loses herself in a divine cosmic union. It is said that the Earth is asleep in summer’s heat, and her sleep is in the arms of the sun.
How different this is from the depths of winter, when the soul of the earth chastely withdraws into herself! In the cold, dark time of the year, the Earth Soul is awake, covering herself with a blanket of snow and tending her seeds deep within in a sacred silence. In winter, it is the Sun who must go seeking, to find the soul of the earth in a different kind of marriage, deep in the hidden inner places.
In each season of the year, we humans are drawn into the recurring courtship of the sun and the earth. In winter, we draw inwards even as the Earth Soul does. We light candles for Christmas, and listen for the warmth of the heart fire.
At the summer solstice, however, we must open ourselves even as the Earth Soul does to the sources of life. Like the plants, we open ourselves to the cosmos. We are “turned inside out.”
And here, says Rudolf Steiner, is the true significance of the midsummer festival. This season is sacred to the Archangel Uriel, along with those spiritual beings close to him. This great spiritual being beholds US, in the naked openness of our inside-out souls.
In this season, our thoughts, our feelings, and, most importantly of all, THE EFFECTS OF ALL OF OUR DEEDS are “read” by the spiritual beings. It is in this season that the spiritual beings who are connected with earth clearly perceive what we are doing with our lives and with our planet. And the colors and fragrance that they perceive are the colors and fragrances of our morality.
If this is true—–what will be the response? If their dispassionate gaze sees us and our deeds clearly, what will they reflect back to us to help us evolve towards our human-earthly future?
In the Christian tradition, the festival of St. John is celebrated on June 24, three days after the solstice. John the Baptist was known as the “last prophet,” the hermit in the desert who baptized the man Jesus so that he could become the bearer of the Christ. John, they say, was a tremendous orator. Clothed in animal skins and eating only the food of the desert, he must have been a wild site to behold. He could perhaps have exalted his own personality so that people would worship and idolize himself.
But John the Baptist made himself subservient to a higher calling, and through his words we perceive the gesture of the midsummer sun. John said of Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” The midsummer sun will soon decrease so that the Inner Sun can appear in midwinter. And John, a radiant sun-like being, is willing to let his own light fade, so that he can make room for a new kind of spiritual awakening on the earth. He can foresee the mantra, “Not I, but Christ in me.”
Passing through the heart of summer, our answer to the Uriel challenge can be: “My I, my small all-too-human I, must decrease. so that the greater cosmic I-AM may live through me, aligning and guiding my personal biography and morality with the great Cosmic I-Am.
The beauty of the world
Compels me from the depth of soul
That I release to cosmic flight
The godly force of my own life:
To leave myself below
And trusting, seek myself
In cosmic light and cosmic warmth.
From Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the soul, June 24
China May 2016: Teaching in China
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have just returned from my second trip to China this spring, my sixth trip in the past 3 years. In this issue, I would like to describe some of the communities I have been working with there.
There has been an enormous growth in Waldorf education in China, beginning in the early 2000’s. The Canadian-Chinese Harry Lee was one of the first inaugurators, who helped start the first school in Chengdu, in the heartland of China. Australian Ben Cherry and his wife have since stepped in to play a very important role in helping school communities around the country get started. (A parallel but independent movement has also been growing in Taiwan, with perhaps one of the largest Waldorf schools in the world: this merits a full essay on its own someday!)
Contemporary public school education in China is very tight. Students study extremely long hours each day, often continuing their studies in “cram schools” late into the evenings. The curriculum is very much oriented towards training the students to successfully pass the highly competitive college-entrance exams, and students live under a great deal of stress. Of course, this kind of education emphasizes multiple-choice tests and answers, and has the real danger of stifling original, creative thinking.
The citizens who have found Waldorf education hope it will help shift this paradigm. There are Waldorf Schools popping up all over the country, and almost all are illegal or at least “outside of the law.” (Several schools, however, are currently being supported by their district heads of education, which is a hopeful development.) At last count I had heard of over 400 Waldorf-inspired kindergartens and small schools, and one developing high school. Numbers are slippery, however, and I am fairly certain that no one knows how many initiatives there are.
Unfortunately, there is no way that there could be enough teachers to fill all these schools.
With the rapid growth of the Waldorf movement, schools are growing far faster than it is possible for teachers to be trained. Despite everyone’s best effort, trainings are, of necessity, short and fast. For this reason, I perceive a huge challenge for teachers to learn the basic philosophical underpinnings of anthroposophy. And if this foundation cannot be laid, teachers only work out of techniques, and not out of insight into how and why it works. Only if foundation studies can be developed that help really understand what they are doing will they be able to work creatively with Waldorf education. The consistent problem that I meet in China is that the enthusiasm for Waldorf Education is not supported by sufficient anthroposophically-rooted work.
In short: the schools are in grave danger of only giving the appearance of being Waldorf schools without developing the skills necessary for future autonomy or for building a contextualized currciculum. Some schools are carried by eager but inadequately trained parents, and some by financial speculators who hope to make a tidy business by funding Waldorf kindergartens.
In almost every school I visit, teachers want to organize their own local, in-house teacher training. However, this only compounds the difficulties of establishing a sufficiently deep basis for common understanding among schools.
Because I meet these challenges wherever I go, I am vigorously trying to encourage the schools that I come into contact with to consolidate their teacher training programs into several main centers, and also to develop consistent Waldorf school standards to certify that the schools have enough qualified teachers to ensure high quality schools.
Currently, the Chinese Waldorf movement is trying to focus on developing certification programs in four or five major centers.
- Beijing, in the north, is the capital city; it has a no-nonsense executive flair.
- Xi’an, in the middle, was the ancient home of the Qi dynasty, where the terra-cotta warriors were created. It feels old and culturally dense.
- Chengdu, in the west, is the home of the first (and largest) Waldorf school, and reminds me of the American heartland.
- Guangzhou, in the south, is only miles from HongKong, and one can feel a breathe of international openness there.
- The eastern coast also needs a Waldorf training center, but it isn’t clear yet, if one might be created in the fast-moving megapolis Shanghai or in the ancient capital city nearby, Nanjing.
Support for this initiative towards centralization is met in part by skepticism, because schools seem to be afraid of any possible element of “dogmatism.” I engage in many conversations trying to overcome this kind of resistance.
Building on my background as a Eurythmist and lecturer for Foundation Studies, most of my own teaching work in China focuses on the basic principles of anthroposophy, enlivened by really accessible eurythmy experiences. I have done this as part of the teacher trainings, and also as part of general community outreach work. I often work with the parents and community members as well as with teachers. I have been to all five of the major cities, but also work with some of the smaller schools as well. (On this last trip, for instance, I visited the coastal city of QingDao. which quickly became my favorite city in China, with its clean beaches, its bay ideally suited for the 2008 Olympics sailing events, and its surrounding mountains.)
I have cultivated a special offering for the communities where I teach, enlivening foundation studies through movement practices. Having taught these for over 25 years, I offer many things: Eurythmy, the Nature of the Human Being, Yin/Yang and Creation Myths in conjunction with Cosmic and Human Evolution, Life before Birth and after Death, Human Biography and Life Cycles, Developing Etheric Vision, Fundamentals of Biodynamics (with Harald), Group Processes and Coaching. Due to my background in the sciences, my experiences in the East and my studies of eastern philosophy, I understand the Eastern mind and paradigms. I am committed to helping bridge the Eastern and Western mind.
I seek above all to bring the teachings to people in a way that they feel moved in the hearts and understand what it means to “wake up.” I avoid what students tell me they often get: “cook-book anthroposophy that teaches the head but not the heart.” (This is what I teach around the world, including in many communities in the US.)
“Please help us to become more human”
Twelve months ago, I taught a two-week course in the Chengdu Community Education program. In the second week of that work, we began to speak of the eternal nature of the human spirit, and looked at the story of life before birth and after death. In time, the women dared to ask me, “What happens when we abort a child?” Knowing that many, if not most, Chinese women have had one or more abortions, I delicately found my way into this exploration of their deep wound. This work opened new levels of intimacy and candor I could not have anticipated.
This past year, these same women wrote to me with the request to begin a new work with them. They asked if I could come and offer a full training on Eurythmy, inner work and biography, saying, “We feel that we are becoming hardened, like robots. Please help us to become more human.” This request touched me deeply, and I knew that the unique gift of Eurythmy as a Personal Practice, combined with practices from self-transformation workshops and coaching would be able to answer their need.
This May we held our first five-day workshop, focusing on questions such as: What are the archetypes of man and woman? How do we meditate? What is biography work? With two lecture periods a day and two eurythmy classes, they could feel themselves getting out of their heads and into their hearts and bodiesBased on the success of this workshop, we are planning for more in the future.
My journey in China has many installments in the years to come. I also look forward to sharing more of these journeys with my husband Harald in the future. And although I am sure I will not move to China, I plan to return to offer the gifts that Rudolf Steiner offered to the world.
(PS: My husband and I are currently preparing to bring our workshops to two or three cities in Mexico next month. Life is full of surprises.)