Desert Rose

Each day begins with a yoga session, facilitated by myself and Sara. As we have both been very busy leading up to the conference, our yoga plan is minimal apart from a few basic ideas we both come with from our combined yoga experience. Sara’s experience is with Shadow Yoga, mine with Yoga Chi Gung and more Chinese Philosophy- based yogas. We decide to work organically with both of these yogic backgrounds and see what occurs on a day to day basis. I am also keen to contribute some meditation techniques I have learnt by a very special teacher I have, whom is presently dying. I had brought my written notes from years of her workshops, intending to use them at the conference, however sadly (and perhaps serendipitously) leave the folder on the plane, arriving at Soapy Bore with nothing but myself, and memory.

Once in Alice, we have a long, straight, red-earthed drive out to Soapy Bore in which to start the process of remembering, and as we drive directly into the big red heart of the Australian Desert, I begin to recall one of my teacher’s meditations focused on the heart energy within the body.

The premise of the meditation is to imagine a rose in the heart area of the body, and breathing in, allow the rose to expand slightly in size, colour and scent, and breathing out, to expand this energy in one of 10 directions at a time, each of which relates to different aspects of self, others and time. Since our conference’s aim is to ‘explore the heart of dreaming’, I decide this meditation may be a good place to start, to help activate and synchronize with the heart of this trip. I wonder how the physical yoga sessions each morning can best support the task of our workshop, namely to open ourselves to dreaming, to recall the information dreaming presents and to investigate the heart of dreaming.

We arrive at Soapy Bore, what at first seems a deserted, sandy, dried over riverbank, with a few tents scattered across the river edge by Peter, another conference member who has gone before us to set up the necessities. A water truck has also been driven in, outdoor shower hooked up to the back, which will be our supply for the 5 days. There is also a temporary kitchen tent in the process of getting set up, and we meet our cook for the week, Roy.

I head over to choose a tent, contemplating the dried over riverbed, thinking about the relationship between fire and water in the tradition of Chinese Medical Theory and Philosophy, which I largely adopted as my own philosophy after studying Shiatsu and Oriental Medicine a few years ago. As it turns out, Water and fire were to become significant themes within our dreaming and time at Soapy Bore.

The Chinese Philosophy theory of the Five Elements is based on nature and its cycles, and is reflected in the human organism. The harmony (or disharmony) of these elements underpin health and wellbeing. Within this system, Fire and Water have a unique and symbiotic relationship, upon which the body and mind rely on for balance. The Fire Element includes the Heart energies (brightness, heat and consciousness) and Water includes the Kidney energies (darkness, cool and subconscious). Fire keeps the water warm and water in return cools the Fire.

The Heart houses the ‘Shen’ the Chinese concept of mind and spirit. The Shen is like the spirit or consciousness within blood that is governed and moved by the heart). When Shen is settled there is a presence and shine to the eyes, a calmess of spirit that brings natural joy and restful sleep. When Shen is unbalanced, the mind is restless, the spirit absent, bringing confusion, mania, insomnia and unhappiness.

The Kidney energies are the seat of will-power and memory, responsible for reproduction, and the portal to our ancestral memory, our grounding energy, and the primitive waters of our subconscious. This energy is the pool from which dreaming arises. If the kidney energy is balanced there is a strong will, sense of self and good memory. If imbalanced, there is a feeling of ungroundedness, lack of support and fear.

As we settle into our camp that afternoon, I decide it is probably more appropriate to leave the ‘heart opening’ meditation for later in the week, and to start with some more grounding exercises to stimulate these deeper kidney energies, particularly considering one of our first events (Origins Event) was to be the sharing of our personal and family histories leading to our landing in, or realisation of, ourselves in Australia.

Our first Yoga session begins with a warm-up from Sara using Shadow Yoga exercises, followed by some exercises designed to ‘ground’ the body’s energies, connect with the new land we are on, and hopefully stimulate the subconscious for strong dreaming. As the Kidney energy runs strongest through the inner legs and soles of the feet, we spend time massaging and sinking our bare feet into the cool sand of the desert morning. Some Yoga- Chi gung squats wake up our legs, as does gentle pummelling along the kidney meridian and some soft poses. We explore the riverbed with a barefoot walking meditation and finish with one focused on our spines and all that is behind us, remembering the past with all its experience, people that have shaped us, supported us, believed in us and nurtured us ie. the backbone of our growth.

We continue this kidney (memory subconscious, grounding) focus for the next day’s yoga as well to support dreaming and the Origins Event.

On the third (and middle) day of the conference, with our origins event and a couple of solid night’s dreaming behind us, we introduce a focus on the Heart energies into the morning’s yoga session.

We start with Sara’s Shadow Yoga warm-up again and then my intention is to go through some lung and heart opening exercises of the upper body after this. Our plans are laid askew however, when a short way into the session, we hear and see the aboriginal kids from Soapy Bore community come flying over the hill and in a swarm of liveliness and joy, descend upon us to join in our ‘game’. There is nothing to do but abandon our plans and go with the flow of the moment....we quickly pair the kids up, each with an adult and set about sharing a yoga massage of sorts, pummelling each other’s backs, sitting on each other to aid stretches, shaking and rocking each other’s limbs and torso’s, all in the spirit of play and spontaneity, yet still as much as possible with a focus on heart energy and meridians. We finished up the yoga session in time for breakfast, our hearts suddenly singing with the joy of play and the children’s zest for living.

This was a pivotal moment for the group, and I wondered about the feeling this unexpected session had awoken in us, if perhaps it was the very space from which dreaming arises. A space of spontaneous play, flow and creativity (much like a river?) - a place where ‘mind’ follows flow, opposed to flow following mind (which seems to dominate in the waking world).

Could the heart of dreaming be more a moving space than a particular point? I had always considered the heart of something to be at a singular centre, a pinpointed spot that could be identified, pin the tail on the donkey style.

I began to feel the heart of dreaming more as this playful, unforced, moving space rather than the fixed place I had originally imagined.

The night is full of strong dreams again, and in the morning we decide to walk and find a new physical space away from the riverbed for our morning yoga session. It seems appropriate now, after yesterday’s session that we can practice the heart opening Rose Meditation. It also seems appropriate to imagine this rose not as the cottage garden variety of my notes, but as a Desert Rose, appropriate to our place.

The memory of my dear teacher’s meditation comes easily to me now after four days of grounding, dreaming, eating and opening, and coupled with the new sense of heart as moving space, rather than a fixed place, offers a sense of ease, expansion and soft joy. I am able to sit very still now, and in stillness, to hear the things around me. I recall that the kidney energies are strongest in stillness, and flow up through the body’s meridians out into the ears. I feel the connection between the heart and kidney energies has been established now, and listening sharply to the desert sounds, a sense of wholeness pervades.

It is our last day at Utopia and as we all pack for home, the dirty clothes, laughter and glowing faces of the social dreaming group and hosts, continues to unburden and warm me.I am delighted by the power of what we have grown here. I have discovered the light-ness of group- ness, the space of dreaming and the joy of feeling, and my lost yoga notes seem minor now to the richness of experience and retrieval of spirit that has been gained with the social dreaming group in Utopia, the middle of everywhere.

Michelle Boyde