Dance Satori

Our experience of consciousness is, on one level, what happens when we wake up in the morning. But what is higher consciousness, and is it something that is worth developing? At the most basic level, consciousness is awareness and when we talk about humans being conscious, we mean they are self-aware in a way that animals are not.

But when we speak of ‘higher consciousness’, there are other levels of awareness that come into play which are normally lacking in our thought processes. It implies a spiritual awareness, or an understanding that we are more than just a solitary physical body and its associated electro-chemical brain processes.

One way to expand consciousness is through music and dance. From the trance dance of the Bushmen to the whirling dervishes of Sufi mysticism, Hare Krishna temple dances or even ecstatic gospel singing, we humans are able to experience ecstatic states of awareness through sound and body motion.

This ecstatic experience evokes the spiritual dimensions of our being, and hence its appeal for mystical experience. Even in the irreverent environment of the Trance party we may at times be able to reach a level of awareness where we experience a transpersonal state of consciousness, becoming aware of ourselves as part of a greater whole.

This ecstatic state of awareness is much like what Zen Buddhists refer to as “Kensho”, an “awakening” that is not a permanent state of enlightenment, but rather “a clear glimpse of the true nature of creation”. Satori on the other hand is the Zen Buddhist term for permanent enlightenment. The word literally means “to understand” and refers to a state of deep or lasting enlightenment.

Satori can be found in every moment of life. It is inherent in our experience of everyday activities, and to know Satori is to find the essence of being in the moment. Satori is achieved once you perceive the “True-Nature” of things in every moment.

So does that mean that we can achieve enlightenment through partying? Well maybe, but more likely you’ll need something a trifle more challenging than coughing up a few rands for your party ticket and whatever additives you imbibe. There have been many mystics throughout history, and their example shows that it usually requires a lengthy period of spiritual discipline to attain lasting enlightenment.

The experience of Kensho can be likened to the English term epiphany. An epiphany is a feeling, a sudden realisation or understanding of the essence or meaning of something. It’s like finding the last piece of a puzzle and suddenly seeing the whole picture. This new information or experience might be insignificant by itself, but it illuminates a deeper understanding of reality.

Back in the world of dance, the right music mix can lead the dancer to experience the higher levels of his/her own being. As we dance, we can loose our ego awareness and become conscious of our energy body – a period of Kensho that illuminates consciousness.

The energy body is an interconnected system of physiological, psychological and vibrational energy fields that are constantly interacting with each other. This field is for most people invisible, although some psychically talented individuals can see the shimmering layers of these vibrational fields as they extend into higher dimensions of existence.

chakrasThe energy body consists of an aura (energy field), the chakras (energy centres) and the meridians (energy pathways). Just as we eat to nourish the body, so the energy body feeds off natural radiant energy. The human energy field ‘breathes’ this energy through the chakras while the meridians distribute it throughout the body.

Basking in the energy field of music, the energy body senses the vibrational information that flows through the sound. For example, music affects the emotional body so that we experience different emotions depending on the nature of the music.

The energy field is tangible – you can feel it by tuning in to it. Try moving your hands over someone’s back as they lie prone on their stomachs, about 5-10cm from the skin and you should be able to feel the vortices of the chakras. Energy vortices are particularly noticeable in the palms of the hands, which you will discover if you ever swing a pendulum over the centre of your palm.

Awareness of the energy body is a step towards lasting enlightenment. However it is necessary to bring whatever insights you gain through your dance experience back into the everyday world if they are to be really useful and have long-term effect.

Higher consciousness is an expanded awareness of who we are and how we fit into the overall pattern of the universe. By clearing and focusing your mind while dancing, you can experience a higher consciousness that will help you on your path towards enlightenment. Ain’t that something worth partying for?

Originally published in BPM magazine.

Experience: The Difference

261603_10151916781193508_466066408_nI owe Mike Aldridge gratitude for posting this pic on Facebook this morning.

I am sitting in Mugg & Bean, having a Mocca Java .. or two.. three .. Coffee wakes up my need to write.

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience.” Maybe that is the secret in Trance gatherings.

The bit of Trance oneness that I have ‘experienced’ was enough for me to realise that it is all about the experience. You can listen to Trance at home. The tunes are sweet and can Tranceport you to other levels of consciousness, but when you are at a Trance event you are Tranceported to other dimensions. The experience of the oneness Tranceports you wayyy further than the music alone.

In my mind the Trance Tribe is an hugely important part in the Group Mind / Collective Conscieousness of the Universe.

What we as Tribes People think and do as a group, can create a major shift in consciousness. I wonder if our clergy, the DJ’s, know what an important and critical weight they shoulder to direct the Tribe’s thoughts and energy in a pure, positive and appropriate direction.

Preach the gospel, direct the shift !

Please comment on this post. Love to hear your thoughts.

Headscarfs in Psy-spirituality

Something that struck me when getting involved in the outdoor Psytrance party scene was the wearing of headscarfs by quite a few trancers.

(Photo by Charles Heiman – iMedi8 Photographic)

(Photo by Charles Heiman – iMedi8 Photographic)

Me, not being a great fan of the sun and sunburn, saw it as a perfect solution to keep my neck, ears, face etc from getting sunburnt. Yet, a headscarf -to me – is an item that just seems spiritual. There is no particular reason that I base this statement on. It just seems so spiritual.

Headscarfs seem to be a spiritually connected item in middle eastern countries. The Hijab worn by Muslim women must be one of the best known examples. As far as I can see they wear it mostly for reasons of modesty,privacy and morality.

The Keffiyeh worn by many in the Arab world is yet another form of headscarf. This one is mostly worn to provide shade from the sun and keep sand and dust out of the wearers face. However certain designs and colours also identify certain groups, like the well known white and red scarfs that is a symbol of Jordanian heritage.

My perception of Psytrancers were that they are a spiritual Hippy / Gypsey tribe in general. I have subsequently realised that this might only be true about a small percentage of trancers.

It seems that Psytrancers that wear a headscarf do so for various reasons that includes practical (to keep the sun out or dipped in water to cool the head down) and fashionable (being part of the tribe).

Psytrance culture still seem to be underground, allthough less so than a few years ago. I have heard some say that it is now slowly emerging into the mainstream in places. I think that it would be quite cool if the headscarf emerges with it as part of the more spiritual part of the culture.

A lot of Psy-spiritual ideas seem to be eastern in origin and to me it makes perfect sense that some elements of the dress code of those spiritual paths rub off on Psy-culture.

This is just my current opinion or views on this subject. You will most probably differ from me. Or not. Please comments and air your views. Here there are no right or wrong.

Finding the angel within*

Angel merkaba

It may seem strange that the dance scene encourages spirituality – but many people find an uplifting note to parties that inspires a deeper look into the dimensions of being.

That idea is reflected in the names, themes and memes of parties, which speak of a sense of spirituality, eco-awareness and community which is a good fit with the psychedelic, faery-pixie fantasy land of the event.

You might think of spirituality as some vague, esoteric practice that has to do with religion – but actually it is a very down-to-earth aspect of human existence. At the most basic level it is an abstraction: for instance we speak of the spirit of courage, the spirit of defiance, etc. In this sense each one of us has a spiritual aspect to our being that does not pertain to religious dogmas concerning God, morality, life-after-death or any other prophets’ tale.

Through this abstraction we can define spirit as being what is best or noblest within ourselves, our highest vision of what we can be. By this I don’t mean to say that we do not have a ‘soul’, i.e. some divine aspect to our being beyond the physical – just that spirituality is open to everybody, regardless of religion or belief system.

For me, following a spiritual path means living according to my highest intention – that is, making decisions based on my highest potential as a human being rather than on petty or negative motives. Striving to improve myself spiritually doesn’t mean I’m trying to be better than others, but rather to be the best person I can be. In this way I can come to know myself as an ‘angelic’ being in that my innermost self transcends the normal limitations of habit, ego and personality.

FINDING YOUR SELF

Here’s an interesting exercise. Try for a moment to stop thinking. The first thing you will notice is that you don’t go away. In other words although there is no voice in your head narrating thoughts, opinions, beliefs etc. there is still someone who is present or aware.
The voice in your head – your thoughts – is in psychological terms, the ego. The ego consists of all the thought patterns that make up our way of interacting with the world. It is that part of us which frames beliefs about the world based on logic or ideas that we accept from others, which reacts to situations in particular ways and which constitutes our perceived ‘identity’.

The ego is that aspect of ourselves which limits us, constraining us with ingrained concepts and habitual thought patterns, as well as channelling our emotional reactions to events or people. It is the part of us that wants and which is never satisfied. “I would be happy if only I had that car… those clothes… that cellphone, etc.”. But the ego is not the real you – it is the mask that we present to the outside world and which we often mistake as “the real me”.

In fact, being aware of the ego as “the false me” is very liberating and empowering. Awareness of the ego’s reactions to the world – its desires, its resentments, its eternal dissatisfaction – enables us to overcome these limiting reactions and beliefs, to transcend them and so be more liberated and powerful in our essential selves.

For example, to be aware of anger rising in you can enable you to observe it and release it without lapsing into unconscious rage. This is one of the major reasons why meditation is such a useful technique for self-improvement, because by stilling the mind we are able to become aware of the thinker behind the thought.

Being Present in this way enables us to dis-identify with the ego as the central aspect of ‘Self’, and we find the awareness of consciousness – of pure potential in the moment – at a deeper level. Dancing enables us to shed the ego and so loose the ‘self’. We are at one with the vibration of the music and the dancer becomes the dance.

DANCING THROUGH THE GATEWAY

In order to experience this for yourself, if you haven’t already, here’s a trance dance technique that I find useful. Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your energy body – that is the energy field of your physical being. Visualise that field expanding in a golden ball of light until it encompasses the whole dancefloor. Become aware of being part of the collective energy of everyone there, then extend your awareness until it becomes one with the Earth’s energy field.

As you do this visualisation exercise, let your body loose within the soundscape of music, the harmonic vibration which moves your hips and limbs as you ride the waves of sound engulfing you. The sound creates a palpable field which we explore through movement, allowing our bodies to find the flow and rhythm of the wandering frequencies which weave between one another in trance music.

By transmuting the energy of the music through the physical and energetic bodies using correct breathing and visualisation techniques we can raise our state of consciousness to a transcendent level. In that condition we are in our “angelic bodies”, an expanded state of consciousness where we experience the fullness of Being.

Dancing creates a window through which we can glimpse our true potential. Our ability to change our lives lies always in the present moment. We come to know the instant through dance if we focus our awareness on moving in the moment, being totally aware of time and motion in the poetry of dance. It is about being aware of the instant, where the past is left behind and the future is unknown, and nothing else matters but that feeling of infinite potential and diamond consciousness.

The experience on the dancefloor can be ecstatic or releasing, but it is a time of soul contact. We can take that expanded sense of Self back into the everyday world and in so doing grant ourselves a greater ability to be the person we would like to be, moving beyond ego to follow the path of our highest intentions.

We can always be aware of the gifts of the trance dance – the ability to transcend our normal perceptual boundaries and the ecstatic experience of connecting with our higher selves where we sense the divine. Trancing is a peak experience, a counterpoint to the sometimes harsh realities which we have to face in the everyday world. It’s an experience that we can treasure and come back to again and again.

* This is a column that I originally wrote for BPM Magazine – slightly edited to elaborate on some points.

Discovering the magic

English: Photograph taken by Mushin at Gatecra...

For many years I have wondered about just what it is that gives Trance music a spiritual dimension. There is no doubt that there is something special in the music which, together with the experience of dancing, leads to people having spiritual experiences in the setting of a an uninhibited and otherwise hedonistic party event.

My own experience of finding spirituality through dance follows the trajectory of electronic dance music as it evolved from Techno through House to the modern genre of Trance. It was back in the 1990s that I discovered an amazing new phenomenon on the dance floor. I have always liked to dance, finding my outlet in clubs playing the ‘alternative’, indie rock of the ‘80s and even the genres of punk and disco.

But it was in the Techno club and party scene that I really noticed that something new had emerged – it was a really euphoric feeling that came from dancing to the pulsing beat of electronic rhythms and the baroque architecture of the music, weaving its strange melodies though the multi-levelled frequencies of sound.

I remember being on a dark, sweaty dancefloor in Jo’burg’s first Techno club, Fourth World, and feeling those deep, driving rhythms pushing me – and the crowd – to new levels of ecstatic experience. Getting off the dancefloor and thinking, “OMG – what the fuck is happening?”

There seemed to be a distinct difference between the energy on that dancefloor and that which I had previously experienced in clubbing; there was something new, uplifting, ecstatic, energetic – somehow I was not dancing to the music, as I had before, but the music was dancing me, lifting me in its energetic embrace and raising my energy levels, as it did for everyone else in that pulsating, frenzied mass of dancers on the dancefloor.

And I remember my first visionary experience while dancing – it involved an intense neon green colour and the Christian cross – an interesting symbol because I’m not a Christian – but it was something that drifted into my mind in the early hours of the morning, when the sun was rising outside but all was still dark in the club, and we had danced all night to that relentless, frenzied beat that just wouldn’t let us stop moving. It was accompanied by a deep sense of awe and of ecstasy, that sublime state of being which is sheer bliss – a sensation which was qualitatively different from the pleasure I had previously experienced from moving to music.

I had the sense at the time that this was something that was not unique to me, this feeling of ecstasy on the dancefloor – perhaps it was that ‘contact high’ from being in close proximity to people who were tripping on ‘E’, since it was just starting to appear in those early days – but no, there was more to it than that. There was something noumenal about it, a sense that something else was happening and that other people too were feeling it too, although no-one really knew what it was that was happening.

That same sense arose at the early Rave parties that started up around that time – and I’m glad to say that I helped it along by organizing some of those early events – but there was something special about this music, something that had to do with the flow of energy through the body, which was induced by the music or the soundscape which emerged from the amplified vibrations that thundered from the speaker stacks.

I felt the power of love flowing through me, and seeming to burst forth from my heart chakra. Indeed, it was from the experience of dancing in this way that I really became aware of that energy body which is described in eastern teachings such as yoga. Some people are gifted to see this energy field as the ‘aura’ which flickers about us like flames around a wick, and which coalesce around the energy centres of the body, or chakra points. These points represent vortices of energy intake and outflow, which have been mapped by practitioners of yoga and other eastern disciplines.

Remarkably, I found that I had a particular ability to focus and channel this energy, as it manifested through the beat. The resulting ecstatic experience was both personal and general – it was not something that I felt alone, for I could sense that others on the dancefloor were feeling much the same thing, although not all could express it through movement to the extent that I could. I guess there’s some innate talent in my genes which enables me to do this, plus my experience of martial arts, which taught me both body awareness and, most importantly, how to breathe correctly to facilitate the energy flow within the body.

What has followed has been many years of ecstatic experience on the dancefloor – at Techno clubs and parties, at the House Raves of the ‘90s and early 2000s, and then on the Trance dancefloors which took the music out of clammy clubs and windy warehouses, to the majestic mountains, fresh forests and salty sea shores of our beautiful country.

I have tried to understand what it is that is behind this remarkable experience. The search led me to investigate areas such as shamanism, trance states, chaos theory, magic and liminality – all of these things have bearing, but there is still space to explore, for we are as conscious creatures still unpicking the nature of our being and our journey from our instinctual, animal selves into the self-conscious, spiritual beings that we have become – and are still becoming.

I notice that in all this long ramble, I have still not answered the question as to what it is that makes Trance music the gateway to spiritual experience. I think the answer has something to do with the past, with the primeval, rhythmic beats which have entranced humans down through the ages – which we can see in the trance dance of the Bushmen around a fire, the wild, staccato rhythms of the Tarentella dance of Spain, the gyrations of the Vodun of Haiti as they are ridden by the loa, or spirits, which possess them as they dance.

But it also has to do with the future, for it is really at the cutting edge of our modern consciousness as we leverage the power of our technologies – of sound, digitization, psychedelic drugs and cross-cultural amalgamation, to forge new levels of conscious being.

Perhaps by sharing our experiences we can come up with some common understanding of what is happening in the magical environment of the Trance dancefloor – what was your first spiritual experience in that space, or when did you realize that there was something more going on than just feeling happy and having fun at a party?

Follow The White Rabbit …

I am no expert on Trance in any form. I know very little about the Bushmen and their Trance Dances, but I have seen some television footage on it. I know very little about Trance Music, but I have started to listen to it. I know very little about Trance Festivals, but I have been to one and am totally in love with the people I have shared that (ritual) space with. I know a lot about some religions but have chosen to rather be just Spiritual … and Yes, you guessed it, I know very little about being Spiritual …

The Tswaing Crater Gathering 2013 was my Rabbit Hole. I didn’t go all the way to Wonderland, but far enough to make me more curiouser than I have been ever before. I need to meet Absolom and the Cheshire Cat and Neo and a Na’vi Princess … I need to meet them all.

The connection between Alice In Wonderland, The Matrix, Avatar and Psy Trance Culture is one that fascinates me.The ‘psychedelic mushroom’ marking the middle of the Dancefloor at Tswaing made me immediately think about the ‘Tree of Souls’ in the movie Avatar.

The Mushroom or Tree of Souls at Crater Gathering. (Photo by  Charles Heiman - iMedi8 Photographic)

The Mushroom or Tree of Souls at Crater Gathering. (Photo by Charles Heiman – iMedi8 Photographic)

The Tree of Souls or Vitraya Ramunong is a point of extreme spiritual significance to the Na’vi. Likewise the earthen dancefloor seem to hold nearly the same significance to many Trancers, thus I think it quite fitting that the psychedelic tree of souls be the mid point of that space.

Like the Na’vi revere nature and show the utmost respect and reverence to it, the bare feet of many trancers may indicate a close connection to nature in them.

Alice made a choice to follow the White Rabbit. Neo made a choice to take the Red Pill. I made a choice to go to Tswaing with a open mind, and found a group of people there that can only be described as a Friendly Tribe. Like in any tribe there were different sub groupings like the Relaxed Hippies, the Dressers, the Non-Dressers and more – but on the Dancefloor those divisions dissapeared when everyone stomped together, losing themselves in the ritual of Trance Dancing.

I grasp the concept of being ONE, from a quantum physics viewpoint. At Tswaing I have begun to grasp it from a Trance Spiritual viewpoint. I am not there yet, but I will follow the White Rabbit until I am in Wonderland.

P L U R <3