Encounters on the Road to Balance II: Body Poetry, Hot Chocolate and Connecting the Dots of Life
22nd November 2019
As a movement artist, the name alone called out to me. I had previously visited the space as one of their first artists in residence in May 2018. If you’d like to know more about this enriching experience, you can read about it here and here or watch the videos that were created in the process
During my artistic residence, the Nomadways community had given me so much support, love and most of all a safe space to explore, be creative, let go and eat as many walnuts as I possibly could that I had decided to come back and volunteer for one of their projects this year.
Since the space makes me feel safe, it also grants me the opportunity to surrender some of the control I so happily hold on to most of the time. So after a period of injury and struggle, my eye-opening encounter with Jan and carrying with me a desperate urge to connect the dots of my life in a way that made any kind of sense, I found myself once more at Homade, surrounded by kind, caring, colourful souls – in the middle of what is probably best described as a nervous breakdown marathon of a solid 10 days, a tiring biochemical body-workout in and of itself!
The facilitators Jordan Herreros, Gabriel Vivas Martinez, Melania Limón and their photographer Rooswere understanding and supportive throughout, as were the unique characters I met during this beautiful programme…
In terms of connecting the dots, Body Poetry couldn’t have been more powerful or come at a better moment. The workshops, held by youth workers and embodied arts facilitators from all over Europe, reminded me of my childhood while reaching into my present and beyond.
Nowadays, and as the last post “Encounters on the Road to Balance I: Serendipity in Prague” details, I can get quite focused on the athletic aspects of my training. I can be rather analytical in terms of exercise, self-development, learning languages and other intellectual tasks, so much so that I have been heavily neglecting, ignoring and overruling my more feminine, creative, intuitive and softer side, buying into the common but entirely false belief that the soft and feminine is weak, the spiritual is but bogus for yogis whose shoulders sink in their handstands, whose lines are poor and who don’t work out remotely hard enough.
I became defensive, rigid, stubborn and judgemental towards my soft, my feminine, my spiritual side: it had been hurt. It had been condemned as weak. And while deep down I knew that the reason I had been hurt so badly was because I had ignored the clear-cut voice of my intuition, I figured that simply being harder, stronger and more resilient would fix it all.
I grew up knowing, like most every child, that magic was real. I subsequently grew up to forget, and then to remember, that this is still true.
Unlike most children, I grew up a daughter of shamans. Now this isn’t as mystical and out-of-the-ordinary as you might think, as we were still pretty normal people living in a medium-sized one family house in neither rural nor urban Germany. My parents held down regular(ish) jobs and I went to school like everyone else. And then there were the bits that maybe were a little bit uncommon. The bits where I walked on glowing embers at age 9, where I went on week-long shamanic retreats, talked to my spirit animals and met people of all ages, all walks of life, and made more friends among the adults than I ever did people of my own age.
My dad used to teach shamanic seminars. He would chant powerful hymns to call upon the spirits of the North, the South, the East and West. My mother would cook spicy, potent curries, paint the most extraordinary pictures in pastels and aquarelle, listen carefully to her girlfriends’ sorrows in sweat lodges and cry, sing and write when she needed to.
My father, not unlike me, used to climb mountains, travel the world and write books. He came to shamanism through doubt and defiance, attending his first shamanic seminar with the sole intention of debunking the charlatanry that, according to him, was shamanism. Then he experienced something deeper, and ended up a teacher of the shamanic practice himself.
As a well-known author, facilitator of shamanic seminars and spokesperson for an association for highly intelligent individuals in Germany, my father eventually decided to dedicate one evening per week to visitors, friends and curious folk of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
What started out as maths tutoring sessions for a bunch of family friends soon became an intellectual, shamanic potluck that attracted people from anywhere and everywhere and, to a degree, still does today. For years, on a Friday night, our quiet living room would fill up with the most remarkable, egregious characters: a world-class chess-player would drink beer with a prostitute while a bunch of esoterics were discussing breathing techniques and playing the didgeridoo; inappropriate jokes were interrupted by the rhythmical beating of the Irish Bodhran to which my mother and father did shamanic work for a desperate family whose only daughter was dying of cancer; someone would play the only sporadically tuned piano in the corner of the room adjacent to our living room while others were smoking and chatting away on the balcony about cake recipes, work, the price of fresh fruit in the local supermarket or other mundane topics. Someone’s dogs eventually gave up chasing my pet rats on the sofa.
While I didn’t have an unhappy childhood, I always had trouble connecting with other children – maybe because my experience often differed from theirs so much, maybe because my way of thinking was different or maybe because I was always a bit timid, scared of rejection behind my big glasses and the extra weight I carried. While my parents taught me many extraordinary things that I am eternally grateful for, I am not sure that love, per se, was one of them. Then again, is that even something that can be taught?
Body Poetry reminded me in many ways of the shamanic circles of my childhood, opening and closing movement sessions in a round of energy, love and the rare moment of adults holding hands, allowing themselves to connect, felt profoundly familiar. Body Poetry was the missing link between my artletic (yes, it’s a portmanteau of athletic and artistic, get over it!) endeavours and my spiritual upbringing, a step to overcoming physical and emotional trauma and seeing that it doesn’t negate my being a strong, capable woman with a body that moves and flows freely, that in fact, my vulnerability, my openness, is the force needed to promote healing and overcome trauma.
As a woman, I have found that it is easy to internalize the false belief that abuse happens to us so often because we are naturally the “weaker sex” – however, when I talk to other survivors of violence and abuse, to friends, acquaintances and family members, I often find myself talking to very strong individuals, physically as well as mentally.
It seems to rather be our penchant for empathy, our enormous resilience, our receptiveness and our readiness to suffer for love, that can drive us to accept poor treatment, abuse and violence. It is, in fact, one of our greatest strengths that, when not used in our favour, causes us to get hurt. During Body Poetry, I realized that it doesn’t matter how kind or trustworthy – or, on the contrary, how suspicious, aggressive or deceptive – those around me are. The one thing that matters in feeling safe is how much trust I place in myself to set my boundaries and defend myself when necessary.
There were simply too many unique, magnificent encounters during Body Poetry to list all of them here. I could write a chapter on each and everyone of you, and it wouldn’t feel right to only list some of you.
While I wish that I had been more present, more open to the little moments of connection, I had a lot to process: I was still looking for home, inside myself and out. I was overcoming the physical remnants of trauma, trying to reconcile with my parents who had given me so much and whom I had a hard time forgiving for simply letting their adventures, their stories, their memories, knowledge and physical possessions waste away. I felt guilty for not doing anything to save what they had given me, either: I was no longer in touch with shamanism or spirituality, I had neglected my relationship with them and continued to negate my roots on an almost daily basis, whenever I was asked where I was from. I had a hard time settling, establishing a routine or building anything permanent, much as I craved it.
So one evening, after a particularly brutal day, I decided to do something that usually calmed me and often provided me with answers. It may sound silly or small to some, but to me, it is the magic of childhood, safe spaces, divination, kitchen witchcraft and cocoa-fueled happiness all rolled into one:
It has been a while that I’ve promised you my hot chocolate recipe, so here goes.
1. This hot chocolate tends to taste best with almond milk, but soy or oat works just as well.
Measure the plant-based milk according to the number of cups you want to make and add a little bit of water to each one (85% milk 15% water for each cup I’d say, like this it is less likely to burn and helps dissolve all the cocoa we’re going to use).
2. Take a big mortar with a heavy pestle and grind spices. My favourite selection includes:
– Cinnamon (always)
– Black Pepper
– Cardamom, both black and green (peel them because the peels are very fibrous and don’t mix well with the smooth texture of the chocolate)
– Cloves (Clou de Girofle in French, don’t overuse this aristocratic spice)
– Chillies (the amount depends somewhat on the taste of those the chocolate is destined for – also a great aphrodisiac!)
– Tonka bean (don’t overuse – slightly toxic but adds a wonderful smell)
– anything and everything you think goes well with you and your hot chocolate
3. Put the measured plant-milk on the stove and add between 1.5 and 2 heaped tablespoons (not teaspoons!) of cocoa powder per cup you want to make.
I recommend to also add some sugar as we are using pure cocoa powder.
4. Leave your chocolate on low heat and begin stirring. Keep stirring until your chocolate is ready, it is one of the most important parts.
5. While you are stirring, think positive. This is not the time to worry but to set positive intentions for your hot chocolate: what do you wish for those you are making hot chocolate for and for your relationship with them? What do you wish for yourself?
Consciously add love to your hot chocolate. Watch your hot chocolate with tenderness and see the cocoa lumps finally dissolve. Make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot or its walls. It should still not quite be boiling.
6. You can crush the lumps of cocoa against the walls of the pot to help dissolve them some more. Once the lumps finally dissolve and a thin white sheen appears on the surface, add your spices and stir some more.
7. You can turn up the heat during the last minute to bring it to a gentle boil. Once you see the first bubbles come up, turn off the heat and distribute the hot chocolate. The last cup is for you. Place small spoons inside as the chocolate will be thick and people may want to spoon it out like pudding. Dust with more cinnamon and serve with love and affection. This is an important step as well if it is for no-one else but yourself!
8. Observe with curiosity what happens next.
That evening, as I was making a hot chocolate for myself, I humbly asked for a sign as to where I should go after Body Poetry: should I stay in Brivezac for a while? Should I return to the Auvergne, where I had taught circus until the beginning of July and felt a little at home? Should I go further east, to Mulhouse, to begin a cooperation with another circus school and live still in France, but closer to my ageing parents? Should I return to Germany, and if so, to Cologne, to Berlin, perhaps? I felt deeply lost without the voice of intuition speaking to me and relying on my chocolate ritual calmed me immensely.
The sign I had asked for reached me promptly that same evening.
More on how I ended up facilitating a full-moon ritual, consulting the tarot and hitchhiking East in the next installment of Encounters on the Road to Balance – in the meantime, have a delicious hot chocolate and don’t forget to connect all the dots in your favour!