20 February 2024
15 min read

I wrote a piece called 'Death on the Doorstep' nearly 20 years ago, just before my 40th. The very sweet guy who was putting up a party tent in our back garden had a heart attack and died on our doorstep. It was quite a welcome to my 40’s. The paradox of my own blessings and the beauty and cruelties of the world is very much with me as I sit down to write, just 10 weeks before I turn 60.

happy valentine's?

I hope so but Valentine’s Day is a pale imposter day when compared to the original fertility rites that it comes from. One day a year to celebrate love? Better than zero yes. But really? Wrong priorities comes to mind.

I prefer the older concept of ritual designed to trance myself into an embodied remembrance of the sacred, of the season, of the marvellous and powerful gift of fertility and the awakening of life as winter’s end is close. A time to be together to dream of the spring and what we may grow, and to pray, meaning as Arkan Lushwala so clearly put it, to be in direct relationship with that which we are praying to.

I guess my prayers and yours may have a lot in common. I pray for good health and security for my loved ones, wellbeing, an end to war, peace and justice for all who respect that basic human right for others, freedom, adventure, soul-deep purpose, a fulfilling life, being able to make a positive difference, and an end to human-created suffering. And in these most barren months of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, for the continued fertility of the land and of life. 

Threshold incoming

As I approach 60, every day has a growing sense of being gifted with something exceptional and rare. I live in peace and have food in the fridge. I have a wife who continues to astonish me with her courageous, precise, humorous, spirit-filled, body awake, and gorgeous woman-ness. My family are safe. I have work that is meaningful to me. I am more and more content and fulfilled. I am blessed and I know it. 

Alongside this, I have a sense of being both stronger than ever before and more vulnerable at the same time. The passing years have brought a new sense of actually listening to the intelligence that lives my body, something I’ve been teaching others to do since my early 20’s 😂. And this brings more sensitivity. And this in turn creates a new water mark on the agony and the ecstasy of being alive. And I experience plenty of both. 

mindfulness in motion

Movement Medicine is my primary practice. Sometimes we call it mindfulness in motion. I am super grateful for what it brings. Honouring my commitment to do something as a beginner each year, I started to formally study sitting meditation for the first time. In a recent session, in the last minute of practice, the teacher encouraged us to open our eyes. He suggested we see everything as part of the same consciousness we’d been practicing being awake to. I opened my eyes and became aware of the two old oak trees I see from our living room. We call them the dancing oaks. They are slowly starting to bud up but their shape is still visible in their splendid winter nakedness. I felt them in the shape of my lungs. The filigreed connections moving in the wind and with my breath. And our dog, stretched out in her basket beside us. And my wife, in her own practice. For a moment, time stopped and there was no sense of separation from any of it. 

When that door of perception opens, as it does often, in so many ways, it’s not all nirvana and light in there. Experiencing the reality of interconnection makes life sharper in all its paradoxes. The miracle and the mess, the kindness and the cruelty, the strength and the fragility – it all becomes more real. Gabrielle Roth used to call this state ‘disappearing in the dance.’ It’s like a little death. Practice for the big one.


I have had the privilege, one of many, of knowing and working with so many people who suffered beyond imagination, through childhood or circumstance. People who have transformed that suffering into a magnificent response, refusing to identify themselves as powerless, and dedicating their lives to zero-glory service. My life, for the most part, has been a kindness. And the older I get, and the more I find the way to be present here, the past, my own and my ancestors’, becomes more vivid. Its echoes are present in my body, heart and mind. It vibrates through the fibres of life we are all part of.

Extract of Alex Grey's Universal Mind Lattice

As Alex Grey's extraordinary painting Universal Mind Lattice depicts, we exist in that interconnected latticework of choices and consequences that bridge the arc of time. We are all engaged in making memories and creating the future.

poetry and war

I recently met the wonderful David Whyte, an internationally renowned poet and author. I’ve listened to his poetry for years. His poetry is precise, challenging and speaks to the very core of being human. In the talk we were at, he shared his poem Coleman’s Bed with us. I'll share part of it here: 

“Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come…….,

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world

Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

…….become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember.” 

War is not a new phenomenon. What is new is how in touch we are with the horrors that our fellow humans, the animals, and nature, are living and dying through right now. And there is a difference between war and the wilful massacre of innocent human beings, whichever flag or God they live with. Israel stands accused by the highest of human courts of committing genocide right now. Every day that the killing of innocents goes on is not only wrong now, it will have untold consequences for decades.

David Whyte again:

Become the ancestor of it all. 

And each of us is faced with the challenge of finding an authentic and honest response to the many tragedies unfolding right now. 

Live in this place as you were meant to.

And I know for myself how hard that that has been, to ty to articulate what it feels like to me as a Jew, being so in touch with the vicious cruelties of this war. Beyond the obvious ‘NO!’ to the killing of any innocents, my responses to this level of pain are on many layers. I feel pulled and stretched by my own tribal loyalties. And equally, by being committed to the Movement Medicine spaces we hold being able to continue to hold people with radically different perspectives, views and feelings. 

Alongside the violent social media furore that demands that we all take sides or be damned, too much awareness of the big picture our tiny lives exist within can easily overwhelm our lives and make us a burden on those around us. But what is happening right now in our world, in Ukraine, and particularly in Gaza and Israel, colours every conversation, every dream, every moment of blessing. It's a difficult balance. And I certainly do not advocate the futile attempt to turn away. At the same time, to be of any use in the world, we need to remember the multiple anonymous acts of courage and kindness going on everywhere. And we need to remember and receive, even more so, the miracle of life (*)

War is hungry. It magnetises the very life force to its core, swallows it whole, and never loses its appetite. It gets into us like a virus that makes it easy to join in the vengeful, lashing out that is war itself, hurling our frustrations and furies at anyone who disagrees with us. After the horrors of October 7th, and before the escalating horrors that have followed, we read the chilling words that headed an article written by journalist Jonathan Freedland: ‘After the pogrom in Israel, the angel of death is licking his lips.How right he was.

A Call to prayer

We've decided to make our Equinox Online ceremony on March 22nd a fund-raiser for Combatants for Peace, an extraordinary group of ex-fighters, people on the ground who continue to have the courage, despite everything, to remain in dialogue, guided by their vision: We believe in a future where all people live in peace with dignity, justice, and liberty.

spirituality is not an escape from reality

Spirituality is not an escape from life or responsibility. Sometimes we humans believe, in the name of one God or another, that what was done to us justifies what we now do to others. Killing innocents, which ever God they pray to, is wrong, illegal and stupidly counter-productive. We continue to stand for an internationally backed ceasefire, and the protection and dignity of all innocents. Without it, this horror has no end. As David writes, we are: 

make(-ing) a nesting nowa place to which the birds can (or can’t - YDK) come.  

Despite the absurd, selfish, self-righteous, violent shadow sides of our human adolescence, I believe in our species. We are much more than horrors. We are extraordinary. Our kindness, bravery, compassion and care for each other and the life that sustains us is still present on this earth. We can, and must recover from war. It is our duty to the future to seek out impossible and unimaginable solutions. We are really dam good at that when we turn our attention to it. We mend. We heal. We invent ad re-invent. And as Gabrielle Roth put it: ‘We make art from our suffering.’ 

Beauty still Exists in Our World

I’ve been conscious of Gabrielle a lot over the past few months of creating the new online portal for our work which we launched in time for the New Moon and the Chinese New Year of the Dragon. Please read Susannah’s latest blog for more on the richness and journey with that. I remember Gabrielle saying she would pray for us when we told her we were starting a School to pass on to others what we’d been learning with her and many others for so long. She said it with genuine compassion. She knew many of the challenges of making our dreams visible, of being a pioneer and standing up for the artistry and soul of being human. It’s complex, and it’s a shitload of deeply satisfying work. And like anything else, the leadership road is paved with potholes-a-plenty. 

One of my teachers, Batty Thunder Bear, told me that it’s good to learn from our teachers’ mistakes and the mistakes of the past. Sometimes, I do. I could do better. Couldn’t we all? Confucius advises us across the millennia to ‘study the past if you (we) would define the future.’

rising from the ashes

That’s my prayer for life. To do better. And it’s the essence of Movement Medicine too. Our new website reflects the prayer that everyone living, given enough resources, can rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of their suffering and tell a new story. Healing is not ‘alternative.’ If we wish to evolve as a species, there is no alternative. We have to find the courage to heal the wounds of the past:

if we would define (a better) future.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that God or spirituality descended from on high, already fully formed. Spirituality comes into being through the choices we make. It means caring for self and others, not just our own tribe. It emerges from the growing awareness of our interconnection, that each of us is a dance, a note, a never-to-be-repeated tiny thread in that universal mind lattice. It grows stronger when we remember and honour where we come from, and that the power we have developed brings with it an equal amount of responsibility. And it becomes more real each time we recognise the power of the stories we tell and take responsibility for the actions they lead to. The dogmas we create have so little to do with the laws of nature and life itself. 

I pray for the health and strength to go on teaching Movement Medicine for decades to come. It’s the best response I’ve got to what I perceive to be happening and it’s designed for these times. Human beings have always needed spaces for ritual, to return to ashes, to let go, to remember resource, and reconnect.

When we dance, I mean really hand ourselves over to the beat, to that ancient current of Ecstasis, there is every chance we might disappear. As hollow bone, we become far less full of ourselves. We become empty. And, in that current, we can receive the genuine guidance we long for through our direct, embodied relationship with the Unbroken Spirit of life. 

Integration matters a great deal to us. And an important part of that to share whatever guidance we have received and have it reflected on by a community that knows it will become stronger the stronger and more empowered you become. Always good to check that kind of guidance with your mates and if at all possible, with someone further down the particular road you’re dancing down. None of us are infallible. 


I’ll leave you with the words of a wonderful example of a woman who walks her talk, A woman whose work I have admired for decades, ever since her book The Wounded Healer appeared on our reading list in our training. Joan Halifax is in her 80’s and she’s full of beans. We saw her talk and teach in person recently. She gave us good advice, good advice for anyone who is willing to turn towards and be with the suffering of the world. If we are not to be eaten up and spat out, brittle and burned-out, we must not forget the responsibility we have to take care of ourselves too. In meditation, she invited us to feel our backs and backbones as strong, and bubbling with the joy of life. In this way, we could be so much more present in our turning towards that suffering with a soft front, connected to it but in our own spines. Supported by our practice and therefore much more able to contribute something useful.

I thought as I heard her say this: ‘Ah yes, this is why we dance.’

Wishing you all and your loved ones the benefits of practice. And I look forward to meeting you online or on the road. 

YDK. February 2024.


I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend and colleague and I want to let you know about his work. John Lockley is a traditionally trained African Shaman or Sangoma from South Africa. He is the author of ‘Leopard Warrior’, which highlights his 10-year traditional initiation into becoming a Sangoma. To find out more about his work, visit www.johnlockley.com

(*) We often edit and update our blogs as we go on learning from many different perspectives. This is most especially true when we are writing about such emotionally charged subjects. We are all students of life on this planet. We learn, often through making mistakes. And we make plenty. So it is.

YDK Equinox 2024

Ya’Acov DK

Ya’Acov Darling Khan, is the author of ‘Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart...