Rachel on Darkness, Dance and the Medicine All Around Us – 053
Healing yourself is possible, even in rich dark nights of the soul. Find out how Ceremonial Botanical Bodywork practitioner Rachel Fisher heals, how she became friends with Rachel Brice, and hear how she got 250,000 followers on social media and then let them go.
Rachel studied with Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes, and I think Zoe Jakes even follows her on Instagram now. The healing work that Rachel practices is Ceremonial Botanical Bodywork which she created weaving acupuncture, Chinese medicine and earth centered shamanism where the focus is working with non psychedelic plant spirit medicine in ceremony with bodywork.
Compassion is a way of life. I am not above or beneath you. We both share darkness and light. I understand the darkness with you. I am not here to heal you. I am here to be with you.
I started dancing at 39, and I was on track to become a professional dancer. I was so in love with dance that I wasn’t sure about who I was anymore.
Showcasing the Diversity in Belly Dance
Back in the early days of Instagram, I was so impressed with a dancer on Vine named Amymarie Gaertner learning from Michael Jackson videos in her basement.
Community was my intention.
I learned how to make clips of amazing dancers on youtube and reposted clips after reaching out to the dancers. I loved that people wrote to me to tell me that my posts inspired them to become a dancer.
And I made a clip of an amazing Russian dancer named Kremushka that was viewed 25 million times. It was a phenomenon. I woke up and my blog had 200,000 friend requests. My love of belly dance clicked around the world and resonated with people and they saw the beauty in it too.
Social media in general is a neutral thing, but how we related to it can be good or bad. For me, it became a sickness. A way to check out.
I had a spiritual awakening when my daughter said “Do you remember when you put down the phone last night and you were with me? Remember you loved that?” It crushed my heart. I realized I wasn’t present and I needed to have a different relationship with social media.
I realized that I prefer being in real life. No followers and no amount of likes is ever going to make that better. Those followers are not going to be at your death bed holding your hand.
The social media world became empty for me. I only wanted to connect on social media if it came from a place of connection or if I was of service in some way.
When I do feel inspired to post now it’s coming from a place of intuition. This might touch someone. Someone might need to hear it.
I had to make a choice between being in the social media world and being present in my own real life family and inner work.
Devoting my life to dance in a technical way with blogging and being part of the circus as a working mother, I had to make a choice with how I balanced my life.
We would do a disservice to say that women can do it all. What that looks like is a very personal choice.
Alicia: …And not enjoying the pipeline of amazing moments in our lives because we think we should be doing more.
Sometimes we go through these dark nights of the soul, and that’s a rich beautiful place to be.
How Did Your Family do with Covid Quarantine?
It was intense. My daughter went through a lot of grief. She is an extrovert, so there was a lot of loss for her. But there was a lot of beauty in it too. We realized that we like being just with our family. But it made us realize we want to live more off of the grid.
Alicia: The morning prayer dance videos posted Instagram as CompassionateDancer are beautiful. It’s just you in your living room, or bathroom dancing with sunlight coming in. You seem to be a woman who is very in touch with ritual. Do you have a Danceable Ritual you would like to share?
Danceable Ritual: Brush Yourself with Plants Before You Dance
Find a plant that speaks to you. Make it an offering and consciously break off of branch or a leaf. Brush yourself with the plant. Hold it to your heart. Crush a leaf and smell it. This can be profound. It can change your mood or open something in you.
Sometimes inedible plants have a healing property from just putting them on your body.
Compassionate plant spirits grow near you for a reason.
There is medicine everywhere. Even if it is just an herb garden you grow in your house.
This is accessible to everybody. We can become our own healer.
If you pay attention to the plant, you can observe what it’s healing nature would be for you.
Make an offering of a stick or stone to the plant before you cut it. Cut the plant in a way that will not hurt the plant. Whisper your gratitude to the plant.
You can go deep with what you think is a weed growing outside your door.
For me, dance has become more of a prayer than technique or performance.
This may seem a little out there, but there is legitimate medicine available in little simple practices.
Learning From Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes
Alicia: You got into Rachel Brice’s 8 Elements and Zoe Jake’s Dance Craft right when you started dancing. What are a few things about dance that you have learned from Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes?
The Elevation Dance Festival has an ambassador program. We take the visiting teacher food shopping, pick them up, etc. I was Rachel Brice’s ambassador. This is Elizabeth Ashner’s creation.
It’s important to have integrity, humility and to honor your teachers. And have a sense of humor. And even Rachel Brice, one of the world’s best dancers, still gets anxious before performing.
If you want to be a dancer at that level, you have to practice. Zoe’s dance drills are the dance drills you practice for forever. It’s like eating your vegetables before you can access the fun parts. They are both very dedicated to their craft. And you don’t get to that level without working your ass off. And they have been doing that for 20 years.
They have a lot of grace when they openly make mistakes. And they work their asses off.
Can it still be meaningful if you are not a star?
I feel in my soul that I am a dancer. But what if suddenly you are not evolving in technique or practicing to perform?
DANCEABLE SONG: Buddaham by Nextro
The lyrics of the Ethnic Trap song Buddaham by Nextro are a sacred chant to Shiva. Offering Shiva a beautiful seat and gifts of jasmine and magnolia flowers, gems and incense from the heart. It says “You are an ocean of compassion”.
We can make offerings to a higher power before we dance and as we dance.
Ratnaih Kaliptam-Aasanam Hima-Jalaih Snaanam Ca
Naanaa-Ratna-Vibhuussitam Mrga-Madaa-Moda-Angkitam Candanam
Shaakaanaam-Ayutam Jalam Rucikaram Karpuura-Khanndd Jivalam
Taambulaam Manasa Mayaa Viracitam Bhaktyaa Prabho Sviikuru
Who is Nextro? Nextro is a 22 year old artist living in Russia.
This video of Kira Habibi from the Ukraine dancing to this song went viral and brought the song to many of us in the dance world.
Here is some popular Arabic Trap song to give you more of a feel for another branch of the trap genre. This artist Freek from UAE says it’s all about creating a vibe for the listener to get lost in:
DANCE MOVE: Pranam
Link to dance ritual: “Pranam” on Datura Online described by Colleena Shakti. Pranam is a sanskrit word for a reverential salutation or greeting. It is a gesture that all Indian dancers perform, regardless of their style of dance.
Make an offering from the heart rather from the head
I am trying to find my connection to a higher power that I lost.
You can pay $2 for one month of renting the Pranam video from Datura online.
Belly Dance for Healing
Alicia: You started belly dancing when you were 38. And belly dance has helped you with postpartum depression and anxiety and disillusionment with motherhood and healing sexual trauma. I have seen you write about embodiment and soul loss and soul retrieval. Would you like to talk about belly dancing as a tool for healing?
My son was around 1 and a half when I went to my first belly dance class. I was so shell shocked from motherhood.
I thought I would be this earth mama who loved it. And I didn’t love it.
Where do you go with that? And then the chemistry on top of that.
Belly dance made me remember a part of myself that I had forgotten. Sensual, sexual and free separate from my baby.
My teacher told me I was not moving my hips. There was a disconnect. In my mind I was shaking like crazy. I still had a lot of disconnect from the lower part of my body. That is our sexual chakra where we feel safe in the world. I was still disconnected from a history of sexual abuse that I have had to heal throughout my life. Constantly unfolding and changing and working with.
I started to connect with my abdomen and pelvis and hips. To feel my feet on the ground and breath from my head to the lower part of abdomen and feet. To feel all of the feelings that were literally being shaken up.
In shamanism, it is called soul loss when a piece of your soul scatters from life’s traumatic events. How do you retrieve those pieces? Belly dance helps us become more embodied.
If we are dissociated, we lose touch with a lot of the truth of who we are. It’s about finding a safe place to connect with what is already stored in our bodies.
The only way to truly heal is working with mind, body and spirit. All of those levels. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Belly dance is an amazing tool for that.
There is a lot of healing that can happen in the movement of the hips and belly.
Belly Dancing in the Circus
Alicia: You belly danced professionally in a circus! It looks like an artsy and beautiful circus, similar to Cirque du Soleil. I want to watch a circus with fusion belly dance in it. What was that like? It looks like an artsy and beautiful circus, similar to Cirque du Soleil. I want to watch a circus with fusion belly dance in it. What did that teach you about performance?
Natalie Brown is the director of Phantom Circus. She is a very skilled dancer, musician, singer and aerialist. Being around these extremely devoted people was amazing. It was a very demanding practice schedule. I think there was only one other member who had a child. It was amazing to have my children come and see me. I loved how it pushed me. I had never done sword dancing before. I had to learn it for a performance in a 3 month time frame.
To work with a sword is powerful.
I had to make a choice between devoting my time to performing or my family.
It is hard that you put all that time in and the performance is short. You are on stage for maybe 5 minutes.
Rachel Brice teaches a lot from The Little Book of Talent. If you practice something very focused for even 2 minutes a day each day, you can master it. It may even be better than practicing something for hours at a time once a week.
Featured Healthy Delicious Whole Food Vegan Ingredient: Watermelon
Watermelon is used for cooling in Chinese medicine. Watermelon frost is used for sores. You pack the watermelon rind with salt and a frost grows on the outside of the rind.
Belly Dance Costume Tip: Send a Message with a Headdress
Headdresses are powerful. Wearing a headdress is a timeless statement. You don’t want to wear a Native American war bonnet, but you can create other adornments for your head. You can find small artists on Etsy who sell head adornments.
You can incorporate animal qualities. Think of Zoe Jake’s deer antler headdress. There’s something magical about it. Zoe did a dance at the Illumination festival where she plucked out the feathers one by one. I saw a woman dancing with an animal head completely covering her eyes. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a great way to become something else in the dance.
Feel Good Look Good Habit: Massage Your Abdomen
There’s a whole world in the abdomen. In many practices there is a focus on the abdomen for healing. It is like a second brain. Energy centers. It can be very releasing, and very scary for some people. People often have a lot of feelings in their abdomen. There’s often emotion stuck there. I believe that we hold emotions in the tissues, and if we do not create flow it can lead to disease. Belly dance can create flow, as well as breathing into the abdomen.
Plants brushing on the abdomen can de-armor the abdomen before touching. It feels safer. And warm rocks can be used as a weight on your abdomen. You can choose an essential oil that moves you, and castor oil, which moves stuck energy and tissue and creates flow.
Certain areas correspond to different emotions.
The sternum between the breasts is one of the grief points in acupuncture. Using weight, plants and/or oils there can release grief.
Under the ribs responds to liver energy. That’s where we can hold a lot of anger, frustration, and unfulfilled desires.
Moving in a circular pattern over the abdomen can help digestion.
Right above the pubic bone is an energetic space where work can be done on menstrual issues, pain, sexual trauma, or even lack of faith in life. A lot of our security comes from here.
Any way you connect with that part of the body can be powerful and restorative and healing. You can connect with the truth of who you are. The messages that connect you to your soul’s path. There’s so much online that can help you with this.
For dancers, when we massage our abdominal muscles we increase flexibility. We can go deep.
Even just a little oil on your finger tips or even cornstarch can make your fingers more slick enough for massage.
Lemon balm is great for plant brushing.
You can also make an elixir out of lemon balm. Put fresh lemon balm in a mason jar. First fill the jar half way with brandy or vodka, and then fill the rest up with local honey. Shake it and leave it in a dark place for 6-8 weeks. It’s a great tincture for anxiety and grief and healing the nervous system. You don’t need to wash the lemon balm first. Honey and alcohol will preserve it. Strain out the lemon balm after about 2 months before you put it in a tincture bottle. You can take it with droppers throughout the day and see how it works for you.
Take a spiritual plant bath. It’s like the dance move pranam! Cut up the lemon balm into small pieces while whispering a prayer and give yourself a foot bath with the lemon balm in it, or take a bath with it, or pour it over your head like a baptism. It is a transformative experience.
Beat your stomach with a bunch of lemon balm like a drum.