I am reflecting now on what has probably been the most beautiful birthday of my life.
For a start, I am in a beautiful place. Casa Saraswati is the retreat of Didier Danthois’ Sacred School of Clowning. This is a place of love, beauty, magic and poetry. A place for meditation, yoga, creative dance and clowning. It sits on the north side of El Teide, the great volcano of Tenerife, with a spectacular 180 degree view of the ocean. We sit 800m up the mountain, on a finca that was previously owned by healers. I feel a powerful healing energy at work here. The climate here is tropical and the farm is full of ripe fruit, organic salads, hundreds of flowers and butterflies the size of your hand. We often see eagles soaring above us.
However, my morning did not start beautifully.
When I awoke, I was sad. This is the first birthday in years I have spent without a partner. I wanted someone to wake up to, to say happy birthday to me and no-one did. In bed I felt a long way away from my friends. During my yoga practice, I found it unusually hard to balance. A deep sadness came up.
I allowed this sadness some space, and continued my practice. My attention was drawn to the blue sky outside, a vivid, pure blue with traces of cloud spread across. My sadness lifted. “This will pass,” I told myself, “Just like those clouds.”
And it did.
Michael from Bavaria came into the rehearsal room and wished me a happy birthday. I lit up. He remembered! And gave me a lovely hug and hoped all my wishes for love, life and luck to come true this year.
Very soon, many people were in the room and wishing me a happy birthday. I cheered up. Now I started to feel like it was my birthday.
Our morning movement session worked much on the hips and chest. This is an area I have to take care of. My chest has a tendency to grow tight and this blocks my expressive energy somewhat. The hip work was lovely; a figure-of-eight shape gently with weight transferring side-to-side on loose knees. The movement developed into a wave, the hips moving from side to side like a little boat on the ocean, with the head following this movement. Amazingly, the head and hips are connected in reflexology; if one is tight, so is the other.
We did a few exercises on being spacious. I imagined myself full of space, going upwards into the sky. Didier asked us to think spacious and down, not up. I did so, by adjusting my stance with bended knees and feet placed right under my hips, and immediately felt my energy change. It felt good to be grounded but spreading outwards, like the roots of a giant oak. It felt like I had left my mind, and entered my body. Didier commented that this was a good exercise for me and how powerful my energy was when centred in my hips. I felt powerful.
The session developed into solo improvisation with music on the theme of opening and closing the body. So wonderful to dance to Jacqueline du Pre’s beautiful cello; you cannot help but be graceful and flow. We were asked to continue the movement but create a dialogue with another, so we continued to move alone we felt until the right moment to join another. I danced with Jacqualene, my roommate and friend in yoga (and chocolate). Jacqualene is a wonderful dancer with warm, strong movement. Our movement was very intimate; leaning on one another, taking each other’s full weight, exploring the spaces between us. The physical contact was pleasurable… and scary. Fear crept in, and then sadness came again. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of not supporting my partner. It feels like a long time since I felt the intimate touch of another woman. I guess this is the source of the sadness. My body was remembering what a loving touch was and how good it felt. Although I enjoyed it very much, I felt how much I had missed another’s warmth, of two creating one beautiful physicality, and the feeling of being able to completely surrender my body to another.
I was sad and scared but also liberated. It is wonderful to experience this degree of intimacy without desire.
We shared our feelings afterwards and we were all frank. It turned out that many people had had a similar experience, of wanting to dance with another but feeling a little rushed int he process. Didier’s advice was to respect our true feelings within movement; if we felt fear, to dance the dance with fear. That we could retreat from a movement dialogue any time we wished.
Jacqualene and I talked afterwards and I shared my feelings about being single, and loss and intimacy, and how wonderful it was to work with someone so warm and strong.
Every day here I feel more connected and more clear about my feelings. The people here are loving souls, with great respect for personal processes of transformation. It is lovely to be able to feel vulnerable and express that.
During lunchtime, Didier drove me to the supermarket. He had to buy a few things and I wanted to get ice cream to go with the rich French chocolate cake I had made for us all to share. We spoke about the lovely small buddha statue he had in his van. I have one exactly the same that I carry everywhere with me. My buddha rattles; it seems to have something inside it and a seal on the bottom with Tibetan writing on it. I asked Didier what this was, and he said that buddha statues are filled with relics. So my little buddha has been blessed and filled with something holy.
In the afternoon, we spent a long time warming up the facial muscles. Amazing to see how loose your neck muscles become after this.
Then we worked on being zombies, on giving in to gravity, on being heavy and feeling the floor. We worked on the floor for forty-five minutes, being heavy, rolling around, stretching and making sounds. Red noses were handed out and in our own time we found our clowns and continued to work on heavy, floor-based movements. I found great delight in puppeteering my feet with my hands; if my hand conducted the foot to point, it would point. I put a whoosh sound to this. I had fun making my feet do as they were told and trying to walk this way too.
Then I found a bench and played with it like a child. It became my TV screen, my drum, my swimming pool, my cage, an axe, a baby, a front door…
Music came and partner work. I found Michael, and we had a lovely time working together. We were both shy at first, and played peek-a-boo round my bench. We spent a lot of time holding hands, resting our heads on one another’s shoulders. Then we noticed Jacqualene and Morten slowly advancing towards us behind their benches. We played peek-a-boo with them, and Jacqualene’s bench became a front door; we knocked and she let us in. Morten drove his bench like a car, and we provided the sound effects. Then he got a ticket from Jacqualene. We changed the scenario, carried the benches around as a group and stacked them up for Jacqualene to climb on them.
The music changed; our pairs separated and Michael and I began a graceful partner dance. I have never danced so beautifully with a man. It was lovely to spin each other around and curl our bodies like swans’ necks upon each other.
Our movement session needed no debrief. We had all been deeply connected to ourselves and each other.
To truly come home to your body, to your presence, is such a gift. I felt open and alive.
A blind duck lives at Casa Saraswati. Every evening he comes down the hill from his pond to be fed. He eats corn, mixed with water, from a bucket. We watched Sara feed the blind duck out of the window. She calls to him, and he answers. It is so lovely to see. The duck had a hard time finding his way back up the hill, so Sara gently herded him back to the pond.
Now it was time for our dinner, a Chinese soup with seaweed and couscous with tofu and peppers. Elisa, the cook here, is so beautiful. Today she put out irises on the dinner table, and prepared a green salad she said was to relax, and was inspired by the energy of our movement. I thanked her for the beautiful food and she looked upwards with a prayer thanked the heavens for the energy.
Everything she cooks is delicious, nutritious and light and filled with a loving energy. She practises karma yoga faithfully, and transfers this loving energy into her cooking. Not only that, but the ingredients are organic and grown here in the healing soil of the Casa Saraswati garden.
I have never tasted such good food.
After dinner we ate the cake that I had made. Actually, Michael and Jacqualene helped make it too. Michael whisked all the egg whites, and Jacqualene was chief chocolate melter (and taster). A girl after my own heart!
Didier lit 34 tealights and brought them in on a tray. Everyone sang happy birthday and I blew out all of my candles and made a wish. I can’t remember the last time I blew out the number of candles for my age… I was maybe twelve or thirteen or so? This was such a lovely treat and really tickled me.
And yes, I did blow them all out at once.
My wishes for 2011 are:
- a life of love, beauty, poetry and magic
- to connect creativity with divinity
- to be grateful for the lovely friends, family and teachers that I have
- to make my vulnerability public
- to express my deepest nature clearly
- to listen and respond to the deepest natures of others
Didier and Sara gave me a beautiful card that I shall keep and read again and again. The words are so inspiring and loving. It feels like they really understand my true heart and what it needs.
Didier gave me a gift of a crystal shaped like a star, to go underneath my buddha he said, and also because I was going to Bethlehem.
This really moved me. This gift was very personal. Didier had really put some thought into a gift dedicated to me and my journey. I feel very emotional about this.
Later that evening, I put my crystal under my buddha. It fits beautifully, and refracts candle light all around, up onto the buddha and out into the room.
When I turned my phone on, I had a lovely surprise – eleven voicemails and messages from friends! I wasn’t expecting that. What a treat. All of the people I care about had texted to wish me well, or say hi on my birthday. When I returned to web-connected society I found that many more people had wished me happy birthday on Facebook. I am so lucky to have so many loving, thoughtful people in my life.
I have had the most beautiful birthday ever, rich with openness, love and meaning.
I started the day feeling a long way away from my friends and family.
I end it feeling very differently.
My friends and family are here with me : )