“You must be mad”. I didn’t just think this: I heard it in the reactions of friends and parents when I told them I was going to dance for three days without food and water.
But I found myself in a car bound for the north of Scotland for the first Drum Dance in 1992. I noticed my hand trembling on the car door when we arrived in the pine wood where we were to dance, but Beautiful Painted Arrow’s warm greeting, love and humour soon reassured me.
Also known as Joseph Rael, he is a visionary from the Ute and Pueblo people. One of his inspirations has been to share dance ceremonies like the Drum Dance with anyone interested. The aim is to push the edge of consciousness for the whole of humanity and enable dancers to go beyond limits and connect with the Infinite Self. The vehicle for this expansion of consciousness is the intentional suffering of long-distance dancing without food and water.
Could it be done? I’d been told you couldn’t go for long without water before Death got you. And here I was helping start a huge fire while others prepared the sweatlodge and dance site. I was used to ceremonies so ornate I’d call them Baroque. Beautiful Painted Arrow’s were zen-like in simplicity, but powerfully effective. We were out of the sweatlodge in about five minutes, steaming, pink and already half way out of our ordinary ways of thinking.
Looking back I can say that what seemed crazy to my ego was sanity for my soul. Having been steamed in the sweat we were now slow-cooked through rounds of dancing and resting. It was only afterwards I realised how thoroughly we’d been basted in spirit. We danced to a line of feathers on a ridge. It felt like it could be anywhere, at any time. It felt ancient, timeless: we danced ourselves beyond time and into vast awareness.
We danced ourselves beyond exhaustion and into deep zones of consciousness. These ancient levels of mind aren’t easy to describe in words, because it’s here that the dreaming self becomes active. It’s here that deep transformation takes place, not only for yourself or even for the collective consciousness but probably for all life on Earth. At times I wasn’t sure if I was still dancing, or lying in my tent dreaming I was dancing. It was tough: my body ached, my taste-buds craved food and my tongue longed for liquid. But I dreamed of things from beyond this world, I felt the Heart of Mystery and glimpsed energies that love us beyond all understanding. It was this that made me come back the following year.
Now, many years and many dances later, I’m ready to own my madness. But in a world that’s gone mad, a homeopathic dose of madness can go a long way to bringing sanity.
This year’s Drum Dance will be held at Pluscarden, Scotland. See events