EurythmyAlive in Asia Spring 2019
It has been nearly six years since I first began teaching Anthroposophy and Eurythmy in China. On my first visits, I taught in Waldorf Teacher Training Seminars and also Waldorf Community Education programs. Soon, however, a new task became evident, which I have been developing over the past few years.
Again and again, workshop participants have asked me to please move to China and open a eurythmy training. I firmly refused, for I have never had that intention. Yet it is clear that many people are eager to go much more deeply into the authentic study of eurythmy than they can go merely with semi-regular classes. I know that not everyone can, or even should, make the intense commitment to do a professional eurythmy training. But everyone can benefit through a deep immersion into eurythmy.
In eurythmy, every movement is deeply integrative, balancing body, soul and spirit. Nothing is random, nothing is unconscious, and nothing is possible without training in self-development. In eurythmy, we learn to be fully present, aware of ourselves as spiritual beings, centered in inner light and suffused with warmth of heart. We learn to transform the unconscious habits and patterns of the astral, etheric and physical bodies, and use them to move the amazing gestures of song and music in healing art.
As we immerse ourselves in these experiences, I know that we can come to the deepest experiences possible in anthroposophy.
With this in mind, I created EurythmyAlive, a series of 7 5-day courses that I teach to committed students over the course of 2 to 3 years. Every day, students have 3 eurythmy classes and one study class, to create an ever-deepening journey.
As present, I am running EurythmyAlive modules in three cities.
The first course was started in Chengdu: there we have just finished module 6. The students are all women, many of whom travel from other cities to take part. Not all are connected to the Waldorf school movement.
Next was in Taiwan, in conjunction with the CiXing Waldorf school, which could possibly be the biggest Waldorf school in the world, with nearly 1000 students in grades PreK-12. There we have just finished module 4, with 28 committed students. This past month, our theme was a deep study of Occult Science and life between death and rebirth.
The youngest module is in Shanghai, where we just finished module 3 with 18 students. This session offered a study of the planets and a beautiful tone eurythmy project learning intervals with a Celtic song played on the violin.
Experiences of the East
Six years is not a long time to become an expert on China! My language skills are still minimal, and my knowledge of social norms still developing. Yet there are many principles that I know are important for being an effective teacher there.
At every step, I remind myself of the deep and rich cultural history of these countries. I want to understand what the real gifts and the tasks of the ancient people were. This requires a rigorous commitment to humility on my part. Only in this way will I be able to rightly understand the task of anthroposophy in the East.
At the same time, I always am aware that the people who live in the East now have all lived many other lives, in places all over the globe. In the individuals I meet, I must look for their spiritual core and not for the limiting elements they have internalized from the Eastern environment they live in. This awareness makes it possible for me to meet many souls whom I can recognize as Michaelic colleagues.
One thing that often puzzles me in China and Taiwan is my research into the ancient mythologies. In contrast to the other cultures in the world, there is not a rich narrative of a World Creator.
Of course, through the teachings of Lao Tzu, many people have an impression of the TAO, the creative unity that existed in the beginning, and from which the duality of Yin and Yang were later created. But this TAO does not inherently have “being-quality.” And, interestingly, when I speak about the TAO to my students in China, they often ask me to explain to them much more deeply what I know about the TAO, because the current generations were not taught about it during the years of the cultural revolution.
There also is an interesting being in Chinese myyhology called “Panchu.” This being seems to me to be very much like “Adam Kadmon,” an immense Human-Being that existed long ago and from whom all of the life on the earth was created. I cannot find any narrative, however, of his origin.
It remains a challenge to speak of the great creative hierarchies to the Chinese students. Because these gods are absent for them, the world seems to be much more mechanical, materialistic. On the other hand, they recognize the existence of many nature-gods through Taoism, and also honor many spirits who live just beyond the threshold through popular Buddhism.
Any of us who teach in the East have the task of weaving the thoughts of anthroposophy into these cultures in an appropriate way.
Once again, I find that eurythmy is a powerful tool for doing so. A eurythmical study of anthroposophy offers the possibility of it being a genuine experience and not merely a complex of concepts and diagrams!
Impressions of Contemporary Culture
Even in the six short years of my visits to China and Taiwan, I have seen things change. Only seldom do people do double-takes now when they see me, as a foreigner. Most people have become accustomed to seeing westerners on their streets.
The citizens of Taiwan are very different from those in China. Through past historical periods, they had far more contact with other nations–European, Japanese and Polynesian—and they are culturally much more diverse. I can experience this immediately when I teach eurythmy in Taiwan, especially tone eurythmy, for they are more in sync with the evolutionary development familiar to me as a westerner.
China presents many different experiences. Increasingly, the government is investing heavily in infrastructure in the rural areas. I now see roads being built deep into the countryside, reaching places that were previously only services by muddy or dusty tracks.
The cities, on the other hand, are amazing. Many are huge, with over 10 or even 20 million people. And some of these mega-cities, like Shanghai, are truly modern, with spotless subways and an international sophistication equal to Paris, London, or Dubai. Consumerism is rampant. I know people who carry several cell phones with them, for their different businesses. Fashion is fabulous. And all of the modern trends in cultural and spiritual growth can be found there—-personal and business coaching, yoga, sex counseling, raves, ecology movements, up-cycling, and more. My life in Sacramento is really simple, in comparison.
In China, the government surveillance is an ever-constant presence, and growing ominously. In addition, the realization of the impending onslaught of Artificial Intelligence on daily life provided an ever-present background to our eurythmy classes, as I emphasized how important it is to know what it means to be truly present in a human—not mechanical—way.
There are currently several opportunities for Chinese and Taiwanese students to become trained in Eurythmy. There will soon be several dozen native Mandarin speakers available to teach there. We will soon see these new graduates trying out their eurythmy “wings” as they learn to work in Waldorf schools, in public situations and also—excitingly—in their own performing groups! These pioneers will also be at the forefront of discovering how to move the diverse sounds native to their language in eurythmy, and how to cultivate a Chinese eurythmy style appropriate for contemporary poetry and music.
I will continue my work in EurythmyAlive modules. Soon I will begin new modules in these cities I am visiting, even as I am also invited to begin offering new programs in several other places.
The EurythmyAlive Curriculum
Having taught thousands of students over the years, I have learned to develop a very supportive curriculum that focuses less on artistic precision and more on creating experiences of authenticity. I never want to give students the experience that they are doing something “wrong:” instead, I consider it to be my responsibility to speak so clearly and design the movement experiences so carefully that I pave the way for them to discover how the body can learn to speak and sing in harmony with creative forces. My job is to help them succeed!
I generally begin each module with experiences of standing straight, connected to heaven and earth. Then follows the experience of finding the heart-center between these two poles. Through contraction and expansion exercises, the soul begins to find its inner core.
Now that the students can imagine a “crown of light” on the head, and a “golden sun” in the heart, they are ready to sink their feeling all the way into their feet, and learn to talk to the earth through walking.
Once the body has been thus tuned, we continue by building social awareness—for what use is it for a person to find individual excellence if they cannot connect to others around them? With balls and weaving forms, we create a joyful experience of our group.
With this as a foundation, we are ready for all the other myriad experiences of eurythmy. We build agility skills with rods, and spatial orientation with geometric forms.
Module by module, we develop a complete understanding of the living Word as experienced and expressed in eurythmy. Because this is not a training, we are free to choose poems that coordinate with the lecture theme of the modules. We also dive into tone eurythmy, studying many of the scales and all of the intervals. The students find deep joy in working with complex forms for rich musical pieces.
Throughout all the eurythmy classes, we remind ourselves to stay present and centered in the body. It is obvious when a student is looking up, or at the floor, or when the fingers are unpenetrated, or when the sounds are formed with automatic arm gestures and without feeling without learning how to shape space and time, that the spirit is not yet awakened in the body. Developing a genuine sense of presence – without mystical sentimentality –is imperative for eurythmy movement!
As we work our way through the seven modules, the lecture themes take up different topics. The first modules are an introduction to anthroposophy, affirming with the students the meaning of life by looking at body, soul and spirit. We then turn to the four-fold nature of the human being and the natural world, and follow this with Goethean observation of the plant world, to understand the laws of life and change. Other topics include cosmic evolution, planets and constellations as formative forces, karma and reincarnation, and biography work.
It is, thus, my constant commitment to work out of the very core of eurythmy. For us, the essential goal is not in creating eurythmy as a performance art, but rather in healing the self and community by learning to live in our bodies as completely healthy, integrated human beigns.
If you would like to invite a eurythmyalive program to your community, contact me at Cynthia@eurythmyonline.com.
Follow these links to watch short videos of the EurythmyAlive student work from my recent workshops in Taiwan, Chengdu, and Shanghai:
Beethoven in Taiwan: https://youtu.be/URK5ITLt_y4
Bagatelle in Chengdu: https://youtu.be/s-UOvkhbUY4
LittleBird in Shanghai: https://youtu.be/gyT7xWHKx98
I Live my Life in Shanghai: https://youtu.be/YLOMZPdKnHA