My First Ecstatic Dance
Bicycling to My first Ecstatic DanceOff I go bicycling downhill all the way to downtown Houston Texas. Mmmm, my favorite part, the museum district next to Hermann park on this balmy spring morning. I’m at home here cruising these densely urban narrow streets on Sunday morning. Old trees, old houses, run down apartment districts with screaming kids running around like ‘wild Indians’. Yeah, just like downtown San Antonio where you can actually smell the old wood from the houses as you ride by real slow on your bike. Where in the daytime you go “oh how sweet this neighborhood is…” and then at night the hood is crawling with people in altered states of consciousness. Like as if they were rodents scurrying about and then it doesn’t seem so sweet.
Ecstatic DanceI arrive 11 am on Sunday morning. Sweat Your Prayers. I’ve heard about it for probably a year now from my eating disorder clients who felt moved, more than traditional therapy did for them. They compared it to dance therapy, psychodrama, and art therapy all mixed in one.

They just did a workshop called ‘God, Sex, and the Body’. Anyone who puts those three words in one name, I gotta check this out!

We dance in an old building. It’s made out of concrete, with one round wall full of square blocks of glass. To enter, I climb wide concrete steps turning charcoal gray from years of Houston’s air pollution. Walking through the doors, it’s like I’ve imagined dance studios- rough wood floors, tall ceilings, tight little corridors with black drapes for changing clothes. There’s wall posters plastered everywhere about dance: ballet, modern, ecstatic, African.
I enter the large room toward the right of the entrance with a circular glass wall. It’s bright this Sunday morning. There’s twenty-ish people. Some are stretching and talking. Some are alone and quiet. The dance attire ranges from running tights to dance leotards. One girl’s wearing hot pink ‘butt floss’ and pale pink leotards with cloth ballet shoes. Some people (like me) are wearing running shorts, running shoes, and a baggy t-shirt. (E’hm…it’s 1988.)
A ‘cool’ looking woman wearing a gathered flowery skirt, tights, t-shirt, and bandana across her forehead asks us to huddle up. She describes what we’re doing today. She quickly lists the archetypes that she borrows from her mentor Gabrielle Roth:  Mother, Father, and Maiden. “Archetypes” she says, “we all have inside us.” How does this relate to dancing? I’m curious. Some of the archetypes I balk at like Holy Spirit- Hmph! Way too new agey.

She says “Today we’re dancing the archeytype Wild Boy.” Okay. Now we’re on to something I can relate to. WOOO HOO! We’re dancing Wild Boy!

Ecstatic Dance-Wild BoyMoving through the center of the circle, she demonstrates the ‘rhythms’ we’ll dance through-flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. She moves fluidly, boldly and makes body sounds like wild percussive breath, drooling slobbery sounds, sing song like, and hush shush. I’m entranced. She’s so graceful. I feel welcomed by her risking to expose herself so freely. I look around the room and everyone’s quiet and still, intently watching her too. The dancers age range from mid twenty’s to forty-fifty-ish.
She quickly breaks everyone up into groups telling us we’re now in ‘gangs’.  My heart is pounding. I’m alive. I’m glad I rode my bike. I’m pumped up ready to go! There’s five of us in our gang and there’s four gangs total. Our gang gets the group leader’s bandana and tosses it around to each other. I’m especially attracted to a tall red head woman in our gang as she leaps and lunges across the floor with full force. Her movements and vocal sounds keep me playing hard to keep up with her. We harass and tease the other gangs. Yay! We’re the best! I’m so completely caught up in the activity. I’m in. I’m needed. I’m good. I’m accepted.
I give my gang all I got to keep the the dance leader’s bandana. Then the dance leader stops the music, retrieves her bandana and puts it back on her forehead. Pulling us all together to one side of the room, she sets an imaginary stage. It’s the huge open space on the other side of the room against the glass block wall. She asks each group to create a human sculpture expressing their gang. Each person connecting with another to make one statue. Ugh! I’m shaking. Can I participate in this and have these strange people see me? My jaws tense up, I’m holding my breath.
Wild Boy Ecstatic Dance SculptureMy gang goes into the center of the room first. One by one, they leap onto the stage. The tall red head immediately sprawls belly up to the ceiling- horizontal, long and lithe. She pauses regally while each gang member comes out to join her, touching some part of her body. They slowly make one formation. One unit. One gang expression. I’m last. Gulp! I’m stinging from head to toe. I run toward my gang sculpture and position myself at what feels like the helm of our human sculpture. I stretch out my right fore arm shooting my middle finger-giving the sign-what I do best. Screaming silently “F-CK YOU! DON’T F-CK WITH ME!” and then, Eek! Gads! My heart thumps. I sink into my feet. My head goes light. My shooting finger shrinks back, curls up, disappears into a fist. Bam! Slam! I’m back into the room.  I’m suddenly aware that I’m in the Dance studio. Downtown Houston. I’m a professional. I’m a therapist. Burning red hot, full of shame, I ask myself “Did I offend anyone? What do they think of me?”

After each gang takes their turn, we circle up to share our experiences. I’m mute. I’m wanting to be invisible. I wiggle around sitting nervous, listening to ‘them’ share connections between the dance, their relationships, their work, their life. Sighing heavily and dropping my shoulders, I slip further down to the floor…I get it that there are massage therapists, psychotherapists, artists, all sorts of professional people around me. I feel this softness between us, as I listen to my fellow ‘gang’ members speak from their hearts. Intimate sharing like “I wish I could be that aggressive with my boyfriend.” “I always envied kids in school that were bold like I was today.” “I can’t believe you got us to play in gangs.”

Closing Circle Ecstatic DanceWe share our names going around the circle and the dance is over.
I ride my bike back home. Now it’s up hill all the way. I’m exhausted. All I can do is drag my bike into the garage and flop on the couch. I feel heavy like concrete. I just want to close my eyes and sleep as I recall the dance and judge myself for flipping the sign at everyone. GAWD! At my first dance!

26 years later…I’ve been dancing this path between inside and outside, movement and stillness, violence and prayer. Sweat Your Prayers is my dance of opposites. Dancing tears down the walls between public and private, Self and Other, Human and Spirit. Stone by stone, I rebuild a dance path that leads me to my Wild Spirit, the Heart Whisperer. I thank God and Goddess for Gabrielle Roth and her 5 Rhythms that she brought to Houston Texas in the late 80’s. I now have a form of ‘worship’ I share with others.

I’ve established Ecstatic Dance Communities from Austin Texas (1994), Sante Fe New Mexico (2000), Houston Texas (2003), Ashland Oregon (2005), Medford Oregon (2007), Beaverton (2015) and inspired Ecstatic Dances from the Big Island to San Francisco California.

Carola Marashi M.A. Author, Ecstatic Dance Facilitator Trainer

Carola Marashi M.A. Intuition CounselorAbout Me-Carola Marashi M.A.

I have a Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Psychology and author of 2 books-Sensual Eating, 1992; and Sacred Dance and 22 Deck of Oracle Cards, 2010 2nd Edition Sacred Dance Oracle Guide with Deck of Original Art.

I seduce the subtle. I enchant the awkward. I listen to the heart whisper.

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Carola Marashi M.A. has a Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Psychology and is an Ordained Minister. Her 30 years of Professional Practice serve Intuition and Compassion. Author of 2 Published Books, Sensual Eating, and Sacred Dance Tarot, emphasizing communion with Body, Mind and Soul. She offers Intuitive Counseling, Couples Counseling and Officiates Weddings. Currently she lives simply and close to the earth in Talent Oregon on a permaculture sanctuary. 

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Unleash Your Tongue.Heart Whisper Word-Smithing.

heart whisperer dictionaryDo you sometimes find yourself  crafting words differently than the Common Dictionary? Although some would say I ‘cheat’ at Scrabble, I consider myself extra creative with words. Even today, I spent over an hour perusing a thesarus to build my vocabulary.

Here’s some words that I used today in a Heart Whisperer session.  It’s as if these heart whispers scratched an old layer of ‘out-dated’ meaning-and helped my client hear herself. The following are a Heart Whisperer’s Spin to a few familiar words to help unravel new meanings. Who knows? Maybe this twist will turn you On to New ways to Express your Heart Whisper!

selfish imageSelfish-Choose yourself First when making a decision. You’re an adult. You already know how to consider others. Bah Hum Bug to the New Age-Self-less. Taking your Self second promotes guilt in others. When you actually walk your talk and Responsibly Take the First Step Selfishly-You’re being congruent. Your verbal and non-verbal expression lines up. I learned in Feldenkrais-Your bones carry you, not your muscles. Selfish with accountability is your bones carrying you. New Age Self less is your muscles trying to carry you. That ‘trying to be humble’ is off your center. It’s not authentic. Practicing self-love strengthens your heart muscle. Then you can stretch your capacity to receive love and express love with less fear and apprehension. You can carry five times your body weight when your bones are lined up. There’s no scarcity there! No fear. No injury.

monogamy-me myself and iMonogamy-“You are your own primary partner-til death do you part”  How do you love yourself-the me, myself and I parts of yourself? How do you show up for yourself as your beloved, best friend, or as your primary partner?  How do you shower yourself with un-conditional love when you don’t like your behavior or don’t like the thoughts that run through your head? Like when you’re feeling jealous or afraid? How do you not abandon yourself when you don’t like how you feel?  How do you continue to be the best partner you’ve ever wanted-when you’re feeling angry or disappointed? The Ultimate Abandon is when you abandon yourself.

polyamory many loves imgPoly-Amory- I know the familiar definition is loving more than one. Do we ever stop loving? Maybe it’s just the expression of how we love that changes, rather than we stop loving. I do love more than one. I love Me, Myself, and I. So that’s 3 right there! That’s poly-amory. I continue to love my previous partners.  How I express my love changes from person to person and from day to day. I observe that the words monogamy and polyamory more often create anxiety than create freedom. When words are inflamed or charged like these words-it can be difficult to listen with open ears and open heart. How about using words that truly reflect your intention to be kind, compassionate, affectionate, and honestly open with each other? I prefer using words that are simple. Especially when it comes to articulating my desire to love. So if you’re twisted, tongue tied, or trapped by a ‘complicated’ relationship-I say-drop the lingo! See what’s there when you strip to Naked-Baring your soul. Create your own Heart Whisperer Label. That’s freedom!

beyond toleranceTolerance- Tolerance is like ‘time-out’ when your in the heat of conflict. When you’ve reached the ‘I agree to disagree’, you’re tolerating the difference.  Tolerance is a short term band-aid and lets emotions settle. Tolerance is a kind way to take space for yourself until you’re willing to consciously permeate shadows, triggers and ghosts from the past. If understanding doesn’t come to the rescue-your heart will contract and harden. Band-aids weren’t made for long term healing. Tolerance is to come back SOON to check the ‘ouch’ and keep it clean from infection and inflammation. The old adage that “Time heals all things ” requires tending and gathering information, not forget to forgive. Negligence turns into bitter resentment from a contracted heart or the dull ache of numb.

i like who i'm becomingAcceptance- Understanding leads to compassion. Understanding ourselves helps us continue to fall in-love with ourselves. What? Isn’t that narcissistic? Conceited? From a child’s mind, maybe. From an adult perspective-please keep falling in-love with yourself. Please be the center of your universe. Please know that it is all about you. Then you can honestly share Your space, your intimate heart space with another. Acceptance is  weaving together wisdom, knowledge, and intuition into the finest tapestry that lasts for centuries. Acceptance is your heart wrapper made from your own blood, sweat and tears that cannot be ripped, torn, or pierced. Be the interrogator-ask questions and be curious to develop your intuition and heart wisdom. Coming to…”we’re both right and disagree” is rock solid when it’s grounded in courage to love.

Innocence.innocence Inner Sense. Do we lose innocence with maturity? I want to believe that innocence gets stronger just like our hearts get stronger with every break. In fact our bones get stronger after healing from a break.  Our capacity for joy expands with each dive into sorrow. Our innocence deepens with each betrayal.  We’re born with ‘No Sense’ and develop ‘Inner Sense’ along our human path. We’re conceived in love. Born purely innocent knowing only love. We then begin to forget as we learn duality, good and bad, us and them, you and me. And hopefully we go from No Sense-Oneness, to Non-Sense-Duality, to Inner Sense as we develop compassion and remember spirituality. We’re all in this together.

Naivety.naivety The origin of naive comes from French ‘Naif’ according to Wikipedia…

In early use, the word “naïve” meant natural or innocent, and did not connote ineptitude.

Currently I define naivety as a skin that sheds as we remember who we really are and our authenticity is revealed. Instead of us changing as we ‘drop’ naivety, we ‘become’ more of who we are-returning to our original innocence. As Joseph Campbell describes the Hero Journey, we set out as the Fool and return as the Wise Fool. Through betrayal and challenges along our path in life, we eventually return home with wisdom, stronger innocence, and compassion to serve our community.

My desire is to live from my heart; my squishy-soft heart. I’m learning to breathe and take the time to listen, feel and respond. speak heart OUT! imageWhen my Mom died of congestive heart failure-I felt she infused me with a super elastic and bouncy heart. It gets stronger when I take the risk to love me and love another. My heart doesn’t really break. My words might cut, dice, pierce or bludgeon, but when I speak from my heart, my words find a way to nourish no matter how fierce. I invite you to take a turn at Heart Whisper Word Smithing.  Unleash your tongue and open your heart.

You are a teacher and healer and leader in community. It no longer serves you to ‘bite your tongue’.

Call me NOW to Start Shedding Your Skin! and take advantage of my Super Special Pay it Forward Deal!

heart whisperer dictionary

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 Wouldn’t it be great if someone

could hear you-like really hear what you’re  saying-not just your word content-but hear your soul speak. And who could see you, not just look at you, but see into you-your insides that are perfect. And someone who could feel you-feel your intention to be kind, generous, beyond your expressed emotions-like really get you-your spirit-the god/goddess that flows through you.

That’s what a Heart Whisperer is to me. The person who does listen, see and feel whole heartedly. At some point along my path-I realized I had to become what I desired.  To be the therapist I desired. To be the friend I always wanted. The be the partner I wanted. To be the Mom/Dad/Sister/Brother I always wanted.

Now I’m becoming the Writer’s Coach I always wanted. I am most content when my words mirror what I want to express.

I learned from a a Feldenkrais practioner that our bones carry us, not our muscles.

It took me nearly 15 years of ecstatic dance practice to get what that means.  With Contact Improvisation Dance, when my muscles bear weight of another dancer-I can injure myself. When my bones line up-and I bear the weight of another, my bones get stronger and my core muscles get energized.  When I’m not straining myself or trying too hard I won’t pull a muscle or tear a ligament. It’s like that with words too. When my verbal and non-verbal mirror each other I’m ecstatic! You don’t have to try to understand me, you just ‘get’ me!

When my words line up with what my soul wants to express, I vibrate. Literally I feel an inner hum inside me. Maybe it’s a human purr. I actually salivate and my mouth drools!

It’s my soul purpose to connect-intimately inside and outside, verbally and non-verbally, align completely my mind/body/spirit. No compromise.  What leads me instantly to depression is when I feel disconnected, out of integrity, or simply incongruent.

It’s easy to experience incongruence.

All around me I hear people say “Yeah. No.”  I see people shake their heads no and say out loud “Yes”.

I can travel all around the world on the internet and never leave my seat. I can have thousands of friends on facebook and yet have no one to talk to.  I can love you and not like you.

What is Shedding Skin Writing Practice?

It’s writing from the inside-out. It’s following your heart and writing with your mind simultaneously.

It’s listening to your Heart Whisper and hear your Soul Roar.

The snake rubs up against something sharp to begin the shedding process. The snake will die of suffocation if it doesn’t shed it’s complete skin-even the covering of it’s eyes.

Shedding Skin writing practice includes witness. As your Heart Whisperer, I listen for writing prompts that are personally sharp and pierce fog, cut confusion, rip apart false thinking. Your writing will scratch off dead skin and old beliefs that don’t serve you any longer. Sharing your writing with witness sheds your skin. Being heard-strips off layers and exposes your vulnerability. Even though it might feel like healthy skin coming off while reading your writing, it’s enlivening and necessary for growth of your soul.

Being seen and heard transforms pain into medicine, tragedy into comedy, and death into rebirth.

Sure we can write alone. I do. I write daily morning pages to clear my head and spill ink. You know how ecstatic dance in community is different than dancing privately in a living room. Shedding Skin writing practice is writing for transformation. Listen to your Heart Whisper and your Soul Roar.

Carola Marashi M.A.  Author, Intuitive Counselor, Artist
Phone me. I am ‘all ears’ and Heart Present for you. (512) 925-0625 

Heart Whisperer Carola Marashi M.A. Author, Transpersonal Therapist.

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