A Container for Initiation

Weller describes the container:

What distinguishes these two things is initiation, what I call the contained encounter with death. The containment was provided by the community, by the elders, by the ancestors, by the rituals, by the space itself. In a sense, you are initiated into a place, not into abstraction. You are actually initiated into the ground beneath your feet. Those are the five things that provided a containment field for that encounter with death, because all initiations require some kind of encounter with death.

Reading this, I realize that Neskaya is a container for initiation.  It totally amazes me that I somehow knew what was needed and created it deliberately. Perhaps it was my indigenous soul that knew, that led me to folk dance, that woke up when I did my first Celtic dance, that sent me to Brittany where I actually danced with a hundred Bretons in a field with live music and a full moon rising.  My indigenous soul that said “Let’s build it!” of the dance hall/dojo my husband and I talked about.  The design, a twelve sided figure made into an 8-sided one by extending the first and third sides, that mirrored the Cross-Quarter days of the Old Nature Religion of Western Europe… which I only realized when I wanted to teach a workshop called “Dancing the Sacred Calendar.”  As we were building Neskaya, every time I drove through Franconia Notch I prayed to the Spirits of the Notch to help us build a building that would raise the consciousness of every one who entered it.  When the foundation was being poured, I sat on the hill above and chanted to Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

A statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion has been in Neskaya since the very beginning. It started at the south end of the east wall, and moved around, at one point on top of the east wall, and finally settled at the north end of the east wall, and just seemed to remain there.  One year, as the sun was setting on the Summer Solstice, I noticed that its light was shining through the northwest window directly onto the bodhisattva.  Since then, some trees have grown up on the neighboring property and there’s a refrigerator in the way, but the alignment is still true.  Curious, I paid attention to the sun at the Winter Solstice, and found it shone through the second floor south window directly onto the Bodhisattva.  Maybe she’s been in charge all along…

Neskaya was deliberately built as sacred space, for movement arts that are also sacred practices: such as sacred dance, martial arts, and yoga. This is one component of the container Weller talks about.

For me, the “elders” are people like Bernard Wosien, who believed that the folk dances of Eastern Europe encoded esoteric wisdom.  He made a collection of such dances and took them to Findhorn, where they were eagerly received, and new dances began to be choreographed.  Also people like Laura Shannon, who has studied the oldest women’s dances from Greece, Bulgaria, Armenia, and other nearby countries.  She went to the villages to learn the oldest versions of the dances, still being danced by women in hidden places, usually out in nature.  She teaches a training in Women’s Traditional Ritual Dances.

“Ancestors” are always present when we dance these old dances.  Many times I’ve had the feeling that “we’ve been doing these dances for thousands of years,” and I can sense circle after circle going back into the past. Even some of the new dances call the ancestors.

“Ceremony.” One of my favorite things to do when teaching two hours of Sacred Circle Dance on Sunday evenings at Neskaya, and especially for the holidays, is create a sequence of dances that reflects the energy of the holiday, the season of the year.  I sometimes say, only half joking, “If we didn’t do these dances, spring would never come.” Sometimes, especially if there is something going on in the world, we do dances to help shift the energy, or direct it toward health, peace, reconciliation.

It wasn’t until I moved to Kendal, found I no longer had the energy to teach the dances, and ceased to be part of the container, that I was able to appreciate what I had built, and that the building had made possible the growth of a community.  The energy of all the dances that we have done for over twenty years fills the building. Many people say they can feel the energy of welcome, of homecoming, of feeling completely accepted for who they are, as soon as they walk through the door.


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