Can it really be December already? Time seems to go by faster the older I get – my mum tells me that is not unusual. As we come to the end of the year, we always take the time to take stock. Returning Home in Switzerland and our work on the Study Hub are the places where we offer these spaces to you.
For me, this was the year we saw Susannah’s father through his last days. The gift of the way he died, full blood moon shining, peacefully surrendered to the end of his days, will stay with me and us always. During that same time, we were also able to complete the Summer Long Dance ceremony for the first time in 4 years. And throughout the year, we have been continuing to work with the Movement Medicine™ refresh and I am excited to tell you that our new, one-stop portal for all things Movement Medicine, is close to being birthed into the world.
In the last month, I have also been working hard on the final chapter of my online self-study trilogy, Encounter – An Embodied, contemporary, step-by-step shamanic initiation through Movement Medicine. It is specifically designed to guide you, step-by-step, through all the practices & ceremonies in my book, Shaman. And I am delighted to be able to share with you that the whole trilogy is on special sale from now until December 23.
On a more personal note, as my 60th birthday fast approaches, I’m finding myself able to let the miracle of life in more as my own death both accompanies me in my days and waves at me from somewhere down the line. To be more precise, there is this melody in my blood when I wake up in the morning that feels like wonder. The appreciation I have for the food, warmth and shelter I do not take for granted is a felt sense – a spacious, deep breath sigh that shimmers in my fingertips and toes. Though I am busier than ever, I am no longer in a hurry. When I say goodbye to my sweetheart to go and lead the Movement Medicine events I am blessed to call my work, the knowledge that goodbye may actually be goodbye makes me catch my breath. The rose and the thorn of daring to love, ever sweeter, and ever sharper.
My capacity for love has grown so much stronger this year. And alongside that, the capacity to be bigger than my petty hurts has finally outdistanced the persistent stories of complaint that life in the modern world trains us so well in. The story of ‘never enough-ness,’ the addiction to dissatisfaction and comparison, the mythos of ‘I’ll be happy when………’ – all these hurt human inheritances that I gave so much of my power to, although they are not silent, have finally given way to the reality of my life. I have arrived in that landscape that, even as a young child, I always knew was there. Maybe that’s why my private answer to the often asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question was ‘I want to be old.’ I think for the child in me, being 60 was definitely old! And, if my old friend ‘benevolent death’ agrees with me, I’ll reach that milestone in April.
I want to call that place the power of peace. Mentioning peace means acknowledging the polarity of the extreme blessing of my life and the peace of the Dartmoor hills, and the wars that continues to rage in the Middle East, Yemen, the Congo and elsewhere. The truth for me is right now that the war in Gaza and Israel colours everything. Maybe like you, the hurt that I feel in my body in the face of the brutality of war, especially one that involves my own people, is extreme. As a Jew, to bear witness to the massive complexity and history that has led to this latest visible eruption of violence is devastating, whichever way I look at it.
I have taken a very long time to listen to a great many people on this subject and to develop a little more historical knowledge on the situation. Many people have written to me asking me to stand up for one point of view or another. My main work in life is to continue to make the Movement Medicine space a safe space for people with radically different views of reality to dance, soften their certainties, listen deeper, be heard, and dance their freaking socks off. Having said that, I will try to be clear as I am right now about this awful situation.
Firstly, I am humbled by the complexity of the situation. I have been getting information from so many opposing narratives – all of them certain that they are right. In the full recognition that my opinion will not make the tiniest shred of difference to the outcome of global events, this is where I have landed so far. I expect my views to change the deeper I listen to whatever it is in the human psyche that feeds war. I have many blind spots and misunderstandings I’m sure. My deepest religion is the mystery of life. Always has been. Always will be.
Do I wish for a ceasefire? Of course I do. Do I see the power imbalance between the Israeli state and the Palestinians? Of course I do. Do I pray for the release of all hostages and prisoners unfairly incarcerated? Of course I do. Do I criticise Israel and especially the more extreme 'settler' mentality that makes the occupation worse year by year? Yes, of course I do. Do I criticise how Israel came into being? Yes, of course I do. Do I criticise Hamas? Of course I do.
And do I know the answers for a secure peace for two indigenous peoples who both have genuine rights to that tiny piece of land? No I do not. I bear witness to the horrible suffering of war and in our morning prayers for the living and the recently killed, I am consistently shattered. And I bear witness to the magnificently human courage of those parents who have lost children and refuse to engage in revenge. They show us one of the fundamental human qualities that will be needed if there is ever to be a just peace in the Middle East and elsewhere in the times ahead. If that peace is ever to prevail, enormous courage will be needed from every one of us to move past the endless vicious cycle of revenge.
I have to go on praying that this is one of those dark nights of the soul out of which deeper understanding arises. They say that it’s always darkest and coldest just before dawn. May it be so.
Although this war did not begin on October 7th, what happened then and what has happened since are such horrific events that I believe anyone who can bear witness is traumatised to some degree by the level of mutual hate and violence and revenge. My body hurts, my heart screams ‘No!’ when I witness the killing or kidnapping, or harming in any way of children, or peaceful civilians, whoever they are and wherever they are and by whatever means. Though I understand the motives for revenge, I do not see that violence like this will create security or peace for anyone.
I understand that this war has deep roots. And whatever the rights and the wrongs of the creation of Israel, and there are many, Israel is here to stay and as a Jew, I am glad for that. This is a non-negotiable reality and anyone who has studied the history of the Jewish people that led up to the holocaust will understand that. And, the Palestinian people have suffered immensely partly as a result of the holocaust, a history that is in no way their fault.
How Israel was brought into being, the ongoing occupation and illegal settler expansion, alongside the global community who have ignored Palestinian pleas for support is a tragedy on a grand scale and in my opinion, is wrong. We teach that in conflict between equals, responsibility lies equally on all sides. This war is clearly not between two equal sides. Nevertheless, Hamas are not without power and nor are they without blame for the continuation of this war. They have made their position clear again and again.
Both Netanyahu and Hamas have shown themselves to have no regard for their own people nor for peace. I hope that as a result of these terrible ongoing tragedies, the international community sees this and removes support of any kind for the extreme parties, be they religious or political, on either side. A two-state solution where all people can live in dignity, with security and self-determination is the only outcome I can see that will bring about peace in the region and all efforts should go towards acknowledging the suffering of the past and the present, and then moving forward towards this reality. For good measure, if I had any say in the matter, I would hand over the entire city of Jerusalem to the United Nations to hold and take care of as an international city where all religions feel safe to practice and learn from one another side by side.
I believe it is the responsibility of the international community to acknowledge the trauma and violence of both sides, regardless of the amount of power each has, and to do everything within its collective power to support and move forwards with human beings who actually want peace and security for their peoples.
Bottom line? Killing children in war or peace is wrong. Full stop. Killing innocent people is wrong. Full stop. There is no excuse for indiscriminate revenge of any kind. Full stop. If we want peace, we must stand up together outside of the situation for the co-existence of two peoples in two states, both self-determining, secure and just.
I wish to acknowledge the many brave people who are working for this right now in so many ways and my prayers every day are for them, the dead, the dying, the traumatised, the dislocated, the Jewish and Palestinian peoples as a whole. I give thanks for the voice of Layla Moran in the UK and all the voices who care to have a more nuanced view that goes beyond a simplistic good against evil scenario of events and sees suffering where there is suffering and works to bring people together.
My wish is that we humans learn to listen to one another more deeply and to bravely attempt this with people who hold different views. There is little or no point in attempting this with religious extremists anywhere. In my world, religious and political certainty are the enemies of peace. There is so much we remain unaware of. But we can stand together, I would hope even in our differences, for human evolution, for a better future and for dignity and safety for all those who wish that for each other. For everyone else, I have no idea what to say. However, I will leave you with the words of the late, great Desmond Tutu who said:
“I have heard and seen many examples of the cruelty that we are able to visit on one another during my time. . . I have also seen incredible forgiveness and compassion. Yes, each of us has the capacity for great evil. But for every act of evil there are a dozen acts of goodness in our world that go unnoticed. It is only because we believe that people should be good that we despair when they are not. Indeed, if people condoned the evil, we would be justified in losing hope. But most of the world does not. We know that we are meant for better.”
May it be so.
Finally, please join us on December 22nd for our next online Movement Medicine ceremony so we can dance together for the strength to go on bringing the best of ourselves into this world. Let's hand our heads and hearts back to the beat. Our words can be so easily misunderstood. And in the dance, we can go so much deeper. And we need spaces where we can empty out, remember who we are, what holds us, and of course, find the resources we need to go on. See you there!
Wherever you are, I wish you peace, safety and resilience for you and your families. May healing come to all places where there is such deep hurt. Without it, we are destined to remain in the vicious circle for a long time to come. With it, there is no limit to how far we can evolve.
YDK December 2023.
"*" indicates required fields