Ecstatic experience is the oldest form of healing and spiritual practice known with evidence of it dating back over 30,000 years to ancient traditions of shamanism. It is believed that shamans were the first to discover and codify the use and power of rhythm through drumming, dancing, and chanting to carry them on their journeys into a world beyond the ordinary.
The “flight of ecstasy” is an anthropological term given to the shaman’s journey into these non-ordinary realms. In The World is as You Dream It, John Perkins introduces us to “dream change”, a translated term Ecuadorian shamans use to describe this flight of ecstasy and its purpose. The basic tenet of shamanism holds that our physical universe is an emanation, a protrusion, a dream, from this non-ordinary reality that is believed to be the source of all creation.
Dancing through a shamanic portal
Ecstatic dance, which is sometimes referred to as trance dance, is based on the tenets of shamanism and has been used for eons as a method for dream change. It’s a multi-layered experience that takes the dancer on an inner journey to connect him to other sources of guidance, activate abilities to re-invent him, or invite spirit or life force energy to embody and heal him. Actually, the term ’embody’ is a bit misleading, because this life force energy is within each of us, already. The demands, addictions, and over-rational beliefs of the modern world, however, have served to impede its flow and fragment this awareness away from us, taking with it other vital aspects of the self. Ecstatic dance helps restore this vital flow of life force and recover lost parts of the soul in the process. It is a way to re-member and activate the inherent shamanic archetype we each carry within our body-mind complex – an archetype that reveals our interconnections within the greater web of life and seeks to identify and consciously change the dreams that no longer serve our well-being.
Ecstatic dance is a form of active meditation or prayer where music, movement, and the breath are used to shift brain wave patterns from the day-to-day cognitive beta state, to the more meditative and insightful alpha state. The terms trance and altered state of consciousness refer to brain waves resonating at this alpha state, as well as theta and delta. Michael Harner has coined the term shamanic state of consciousness (SSC) to describe this level of awareness. The SSC is what the ecstatic dancer seeks, as well as the shaman, to initiate the dream change process.
Before entering an ecstatic dance journey, the dancer forms an intention for a particular dream change. When the dancer enters an SSC through the dance, the veils that appeared to separate the self into mind, body, and soul in ordinary reality are pulled away so that the dancer can experience herself and her intention at another level. In the landscape of the SSC, she feels an expanded sense of herself in communication with a greater source of being. She may experience her intention as already existing. This is because the SSC connects us with a more transcendent reality beyond the bounds of time and linear existence, as we know it. Not only do the veils that separate aspects of the self fall away, but also those that clearly differentiate past, present, and future. In ecstatic dance, the dream change we desire can be conceived as a pattern of energy that already exists which we then allow ourselves to entrain or resonate with.
With the music on, or drumming in the air, the dancer gently surrenders her body to the rhythms, allowing her movements to express and intuitively entrain to the energy of her intended dream change. The mind remains in a relaxed, yet attentive state, observing the process more than directing it. As the body moves within the SSC, a deeper wisdom begins to stir. … Hidden doors in the psyche open and information in the form of images, sensations, or insights related to the intention arise into conscious awareness, holographically. The dance then becomes a dialogue of sorts between the worlds; the body listening and responding to deeper cues and information through movement, while the mind makes note of journey imagery and interjects a telepathic question or comment now and then. The dance becomes not only a place to express one’s intention through movement, but also to listen for feedback and guidance on that intention from deeper sources of being.
It’s not unusual for ecstatic dance to open up into what people describe as a visionary experience of a mystical or spiritual nature. In these experiences, dancers report such things as communicating with spirit guides, animals, nature spirits, the earth, geometric shapes or symbols, or being immersed in a divine healing light or energy. Information gained in these experiences is frequently described as an instantaneous transmission or downloading of a large chunk of knowledge. Although it may take several pages in a journal to relay the information afterwards, it was all seen, learned, or realized within mere seconds. It also happens that specific information about your journey is not immediately available to you, but may take weeks or even months to rise into conscious awareness. It may take even longer to fully integrate this information into your life, so patience, reflection, diligence, and self-compassion are key. Information gained during ecstatic dance journeys can augment more traditional forms of therapy.
Ecstatic dance sees the body as a holy vessel of the spirit, a sacred kiva (a room used for religious rituals) where we can awaken our greatest talents, healing, and dream change abilities, oftentimes hidden from our sight for years. The dance then becomes a source of revelation and renewal. From this experience our whole being: body, mind, and soul, is honored as sacred and the work of beauty it is. There is a sense of profound sense of sovereignty and sanctity that comes when the body has a time and place to genuinely express this deeper wisdom of the self, without having our socialized sensibilities reprimand or censor its expression. This in itself can be incredibly transformational.
Here is a quote from another website on Ecstatic dancing…
This is a call out to my sacred dancer kin in the Portland and Los Angeles area codes. As a promoter/participant with Ekstasis Dance (www.ekstasisdance.com) on behalf of my friend Luna Ravenchild I am putting it out there about an opportunity to partake in a weekend long intensive in Kundalini Dance(www.kundalini-dance.com). This form, a nice companion to Gabrielle Roth’s Ecstatic Dance continues Luna’s sacred dance facilitation which began with the 5 Rhythms. This system,synthesized in its modern form by Antara Decker, integrates awakening the kundalini and moving it through the chakra’s is melded with the sounds of the electronic underground. Accompanying Luna is her partner DJ Solus. Currently Luna is the sole facilitator of Kundalini Dance journeys in North America.
Festival and event organizers we are also interested in continuing to bring Kundalini Dance shorter workshops to these environments and have done so at Journey of the Shaman (Oracle Gathering), Shambhala Festival (where it returns again this summer),Mage Festival, and the Intention Retreat. Please contact me for an info package.