Report from the National Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, Kentucky
“Spirit is never without matter: matter never without spirit.”
These words by Rudolf Steiner were never far from our minds at last week’s biannual National Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, KY, attended by 600-700 farmers, gardeners, physicians, microbiologists, pharmacists, ecologists, and economists. We were a mixed crowd of barefoot farmers, urban sophisticates and small-town families, gathered to address the urgent needs of our planet, our soils, our food systems and our bodies. Our focus was profound question of how to use the anthroposophically inspired insights of BD to teach us how to bring spirit and matter into right relationship. My husband and I were both presenters at the conference, offering eurythmy, lectures and workshops.
A “sister movement” to Eurythmy, Biodynamic agriculture is a way of farming that understands how to work with the dynamic interplay of spirit and matter to create truly healthy ecosystems. Biodynamics has techniques far beyond the ethos of “do-no-harm:” it actually heals and revitalizes impoverished soils and enables plants, animals and humans to thrive.
One of the fundamental understandings that inspires my work with eurythmy is the consideration of how spirit and matter are interrelated. Spirit is close to source, full of fire, consciousness and original creative intent. Matter is its image, its complement: matter is spirit that has evolved through time and space to become independent, cool and dense.
In our eurythmy practice, we learn to ground ourselves in spirit self-awareness, and work out of that mindfulness into our body to create health and well-being. Through the practices of Biodynamics, we find other techniques to bring spirit and matter into balance. For instance, BD practitioners understand how to use the rhythmic interplay of spirit and matter that are revealed in the rhythms of the seasons, of day and night, of the moon and planets. They work with the forces of light and darkness, of crystals and manures, to enhance the effects of sunlight and photosynthesis and of darkness and soil heath.
They also understand how to work with the forces of life, a field that is not yet accessible to conventional scientists. To be truly healthy, a plant must be filled with life forces, so it will have strong cells, build stems that can stand up in wind and rain, have long shelf lives and impart true vitality to animals and humans. This health is only created if the plant grows in healthy soil, rich in the microbial milieu created through the use of Biodynamic practices. Then the plant can perceive and absorb what is needs through the roots and transform light through the leaves. Soils treated with artificial chemicals and pesticides, on the other hand, create plants that are weak and sickly.
My husband is a specialist in the making and use of compost, understanding how to take decaying plant and animal waste and turn it into rich, loamy humus, augmented by the powerful biodynamic compost preparations that inoculate the piles with homeopathic herbal remedies. His compost piles remind me of a holy altar, and he works with them like a priest, at the threshold of life and death. Plants grown in his soil feel confident in their ability to pick up soil nutrients through their root hairs: they grow strong and green and vital.
This conference powerfully underscored the need for such an agriculture to address the needs of planetary ecosystems. Not only the airs and the oceans, but also the soils are collapsing: scientists are speaking of a “silent spring of the microbial world.” This collapse has a statistically direct correspondence with the rise in allergies in children and adults. What we are doing to our soils is immediately revealed in what happens in our stomach. Conventionally grown food no longer offers true nutrition: I heard in this conference that we now must eat 5 oranges to receive the same nutritive value that our grandparents could get from one orange!
It is not only bodily health that we get from food: Rudolf Steiner was once asked why is it so difficult for human beings to do their spiritual work? And his answer—almost 100 years ago—was that the food itself did not impart the strength people need for their consciousness.
My husband and I are so lucky to be able to share our life work in the parallel tasks of Eurythmy and Biodynamics. We are both stewards of the forces of life: I through the movement art of eurythmy and he through the tremendous art of service to the land in biodynamic agriculture.
It was hugely inspiring to be able to share conversations, workshops, and friendship with this fellowship of BD practitioners. Whether in poverty or wealth, in cities or on the land, they share a deep commitment to serve the planet, including its soils, its plants, its animals, and its humans, through their loving hard labor.
And I believe that through our consciousness of giving thanks when we eat, we sanctify the food and the spirit that has made it.
Please join me in giving thanks for the web of spirit and matter, the foundation of our human existence.
About Eurythmy Trainings
Thank you to everyone, around the globe, for your enthusiastic support of this website. I’ve received over a hundred messages of thanks and gratitude, and they warm my heart. I hope that slowly but surely we all together will be able to grow a new culture of eurythmy for the planet!
A few of you who have written have asked if this curriculum can be the equivalent of a partial eurythmy training. The short answer is: no. This website is created to give you the inspiration and the possibility of creating your own eurythmy practice— Eurythmy as a Personal Practice. My students and my patients have been telling me for many years that their eurythmy practice makes such a difference in their lives. This was the inspiration for me to look for a way to make it possible for people around the world to do eurythmy at home, even if they never meet a eurythmy teacher. I also want to make it possible for people who have taken a few classes to be able to remember what they have done in class. A eurythmy training, however, is a completely different level of work and commitment. A eurythmy training asks everything of its students, and changes their lives completely. A classical eurythmy training takes a minimum of four years. That is: four years of a full-time training, five days a week, 5-8 hours a day, 9-10 months a year. A eurythmy training is rigorous as a training in a musical conservatory, as an art degree, as a pre-med major.
If you did a full-time training, you would typically have one hour-long (or more) class on speech eurythmy and one hour-long (or more) class on tone eurythmy each day. You would also have equally long practice periods for each of them, each day. In addition, you would have classes to work on rod exercises and moving forms. And then an earnest student will continue the practice at home, working for an hour or two in the evening as well.
Then again, you would have classes on all the adjunct subjects. You would have classes in the humanity’s, inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s work, including the Nature of the Human Being, the Evolution of Consciousness, and Philosophy of Freedom. You would also have anatomy and physiology, studying how the human body works and how it moves. You would have wonderful opportunities to immerse yourself in the artistic history of humanity, including studies of sculpture and painting from the ancient history to the present day. You would have classes in painting, speech and articulation, drama, singing, poetics and music theory. All these are the basis of a very solid and well-rounded liberal arts education.
But the most important work is done in the eurythmy classes themselves. They begin with the basic warm-up exercises that I have gathered in this online curriculum here. Of course, the work is much more intense when done in a group than when done alone, because students learn to work not only with the personal etheric but with the shared etheric field of everyone working together.
By the end of the first year, you would have worked so intensely that your physical body would be able to move with fluid grace. The rod exercises, three-fold walking, contraction/expansion, and spatial exercises will have already begun to work into your whole constitution so you no longer move your body mechanically, but begin to move in etheric fields. You would have learned all the vowels and all the consonants, and begun to move your first poems with your classmates. You would also learn the gestures for the tones of the musical scales and been able to do simple pieces by Mozart or Haydn or other early composers.
In the subsequent years, you would move increasingly complex poems. You would learn to move poems from different periods: ballads, lyrical, romantic, epic poems. You would eventually learn to move fairy tales and stories. You would learn to move together with your classmates in complex forms, to move in close relationships in duos and trios. In tone eurythmy you would learn gestures for all the whole-tones and half-tones of the musical scales, and could show any scale in movement. You would learn the gestures for musical intervals. You could show all the dynamics of music, and make any piece of music visible. You would progress from simple 16- or 32-bar pieces of music to elaborate symphonies. With luck, you would even work with a chamber orchestra, learning to move with your classmates to an ensemble of different instruments. And you would discover a composition from a master composer to do as your graduation solo.
In your growth, you would not only become more graceful. Year by year, you would find your consciousness growing. You would find yourself becoming sensitive to every sound and color. You would learn to open your inner soul to be able to listen deeply to the world and to express it authentically through gestures. You would learn to think with your body as much as through your head. The changes you would go through in a eurythmy training are more profound than a lay person can imagine.
And you would also struggle! As you and your classmates work so closely together, you affect each other like sandpaper, struggling, sometimes resenting, sometimes back-biting, but ultimately helping each other—usually unconsciously—to let go of bad habits of thinking and feeling, and learning to become less judgmental, more forgiving. In a eurythmy training, nothing can be hidden! Everything becomes visible, everything counts. In the end, a group of eurythmists must learn to move together with the mutual support of a flock of birds or a school of fish.
A eurythmist emerges from the four-year training a changed person. The training gives them the foundation to become a performing artist. Most importantly, it develops a profound artistic sensitivity, which serves as the absolutely essential basis for later becoming a eurythmy therapist or teacher.
And so I welcome you to enjoy this website to the fullest, and use it to enter the stream of eurythmy movement. Share some of your enthusiasm with your friends, and invite them to sign up as well and learn some exercises (not merely by copying you, but by listening to the guided words of my lessons). Seek out live classes wherever you can! And then, if you discover that you would like to go deeper with the study of eurythmy, find your way to one of the dozen or so eurythmy trainings in the world! It is an unforgettable journey.
Thank you for joining the Eurythmyonline Community!
Eurythmyonline.com was launched only two weeks ago. It has been a very busy period for me, as I have balanced the emails and the inquiries and tried to get the word about the site out to as many people as possible. I’m thrilled that over 750 people have looked at the site in these weeks, and they have spent an average of over 6 minutes on the site! Over 400 of you have tried the freebie lessons that I have offered.
The most heartwarming response I have received so far is from a physician working in Lebanon, who writes how grateful she is for this work. She has shared the Peace Exercise (freebie #1) with her friends and colleagues there, and says it is so important there because life is so chaotic and complicated. In my heart I feel that such a response confirms for me the great importance of the whole project! Were it not for this website, these people would never have the possibility of experiencing what eurythmy can offer the world.
Most of the responses to the site have been very positive. People have been grateful for the material, and encouraging to me for the vision I had to create this new initiative. There has also been a lot of praise for the design and layout, and I continue to be really grateful for my designer and my programmer, two wonderful helpers!
I have also had a very interesting time communicating with my friends in China. I have travelled there twice in the past two years to teach eurythmy and to lecture, and many people are interested in learning more about eurythmy. However, they do not always have unrestricted access to international websites, and I am getting mixed information from the users there about how much they are able to see. My team and I will have to determine whether to tell our friends there how to use a “proxy server” to get into the site, or whether we will decide to make a concerted effort to build a specific site for our Chinese friends.
Meanwhile, if you have been one of my visitors, I would love to hear from you. Have you found the exercises inspiring and clear? What can we do better?
On another note, I have been busy teaching classes to the Teacher Education students at Rudolf Steiner College this month, seeing clients in my private practice, working with school children and offering a public workshop on Spiritual Perspective on Life Before Birth and Life After Death.
I would like to share a favorite poem from the class, celebrating the sacredness of the human body that we in-dwell for the decades of our life on earth.
I was born of the shining of distant stars,
I drew their beams with me from afar.
I was born of the radiant sun,
Of the light of the world ere the earth begun.
Born I was of the silver eye,
Of the guardian moon keeping watch on high.
Born of the wild wing roaming free,
Born of the flame’s intensity.
Born of the waves that lap the shore,
And the rock that hides the glistening ore.
Born I was from out of the whole,
I bear the world within my soul.
It seems like only yesterday that I thought it would be madness to ever consider creating an online eurythmy website.
Why? Eurythmy is all about living, moving presence. And that simply isn’t communicable through the computer. For all their bells and whistles, their fabulous color effects and images, and their capacity to transmit gazillion-bytes of information faster than the speed of thought, computers only give the appearance of reality. Computers live on the surface of things: they perpetuate the world of maya. They cannot give us the true experience of being in the warm presence of another person.
Eurythmy, on the other hand, opens the door for each of us to celebrate communion with our own spirit-selves, and with the world-spirit that has created all. And every instance of eurythmy must be permeated with presence: with your presence, with spirit presence.
When I teach live classes, one of my most important responsibilities is that I am fully present throughout the lesson to witness the best and highest in each one of my students. In honoring the fact that each person is a child of God, an active spirit presence awakening to their infinite spirit potential, I am inwardly attentive, patient, supportive and generous. And through this act of witnessing, I see that everyone is beautiful when they do eurythmy.
And so: when I decided to create EurythmyOnline.com, I had some tough questions to face.
Would it be possible to create recordings that were so carefully crafted that I and my students would be able to overcome the electronic media? Searching for a solution, I carefully instruct people to watch the videos only as long as they need to, to internalize the material I am teaching and then to turn off the recordings and work in silence. In that silence, I know that they can awaken to their own experience of spirit presence.
And then I had to decide: what sequence of instruction should I offer? Should I require that students all start at the very beginning exercises (weight and light, contraction-expansion, threefold walking) before proceeding to learn how to do the sounds of language? Or should I allow people to enter the curriculum at their own level, and choose for themselves where to begin? I took many month of design for me to come to my present solution, in which I encourage people to do the whole curriculum, but also break the content down into modules so people can take smaller chunks if they prefer.
And then came the question of money, for eurythmy is actually priceless. And, because it is my ardent wish that everyone should be able to do eurythmy, how could I charge anything for it? On the other hand, I have had real costs in building this website and in sustaining it. And through paying money for the lessons, students allow me to continue to live and teach and serve spirit in all the ways that life asks of me.
I know that I will be asked: Why did I do it? And I will answer: Because the “Spirit of Eurythmy” is longing to be relevant, to bring its refreshing liveliness to our age.
Why? because I am aware of the millions of people in the world who will never have a chance to meet a eurythmist in person, but who may have heard of eurythmy, in real life or through their Waldorf connections or even in their dreams, and who want to learn about it and try it.
Why? Because I know that if we as eurythmists don’t find a way to step into the culture of electronic media, we will become increasingly invisible and, unfortunately, irrelevant.
It is my real hope that this work will help eurythmy to grow in the world. I hope more people will come to know about it. I hope that my subscribers will invite me to come to visit them in their home communities so I can offer live workshops, and take their work to the next level. I hope they will come to visit me, wherever I travel and give classes, so they can see how much energy and joy arises in group classes. And I hope that they will use my list of eurythmy teachers to seek out the eurythmy workshops closest to them, wherever they live.
And so I ask of you, my friends and website visitors, to look kindly on my attempt, knowing that I have done my conscientious best to offer the gift of my life’s work!