In October 2006 I traveled to Kingston, Jamaica to visit a "dance" in the Matthew’s Lane area. A dance is where a local DJ sound system plays on the streets to their community with homemade, huge speakers that bellow out music. Standing on the street I could feel the bass like I had never felt it before, a bone rattling heart pounding expression of unity and healing. Everyone from grandparents to little children comes together to move and sway to these legendary Jamaican low frequencies. As I entered the dance, I felt that I had spiritually come home, for this is where the art of DJing was born, before the Jamaican DJ Kool Herc brought his sound system to the South Bronx in the 1970's and before the global dance movement started rocking the clubs, Jamaica was rocking the Streets. As I stood in that dance shaking to the bass and watching a whole community come together, I felt I understood something about dance culture and my own journey towards Kundalini.
Six months before my trip to Jamaica, I had a full spontaneous Kundalini awakening. One of its many effects was the appearance of involuntary asanas that corrected a severe sciatic problem I’d had for years. At one point, this L5-S1 disc issue had me completely immobilized for over a month. I'd tried many different therapies, but nothing worked. However, after my awakening I was able to do two to three hours of spontaneous yoga every night and watched in amazement as my disc slowly moved back into place.
Design by Sameer Patel - painting by the Udaipur Arts Collective
When I first experienced spontaneous movements I had no idea what was happening to me or what I could do about it. The movements seemed to be a cross between spontaneous yoga and a Chinese based martial art. After much research I came across a school that practiced "spontaneous qi gong." This was not far removed from the martial art part of my movement so I began a correspondence with the Sifu, who explained to me that spontaneous qi gong is a 7,000 year old practice where the initiate surrenders to the chi, allowing it to move through him or her — unlike traditional qi gong where one tries to move the chi. Apparently, with this school of qi gong injuries and physiological issues will initially be remedied and then later the energy will move on to "inner" work. This was exactly what happened to me: my sciatica was healed by the spontaneous movement. She didn't understand how this came about because, in her school of thought, spontaneous qi gong required a Sifu to awaken the chi, however she recommended that I continue the practice and thus began a journey that would completely change my life.
DJing has been a major part of my life, first as a hobby and second as a profession. If one observes people dancing — something which I have spent many hours doing — one can begin to see that it works collectively, as if a primal force is moving through the floor uniting people. From the dancer’s perspective they move individually to the rhythm, however, from the DJ's perspective one observes a collectivity that moves and binds spontaneously to the beat — at moments experiencing joy and ecstasy.
One might say that these moments are brief experiences of unity, similar to the concept of "Tawhid" or oneness to the Sufi Whirling Dervish dancers, or even of "Samadhi" to the tantric yogic practitioners. To purveyors of dance music such as Bob Marley or Nas these experiences are called out in their lyrics — "One Love."
When I look back at my life, I can connect the dots that led me to a Kundalini awakening. One of the lines is my being part of a global dance movement and its link to shamanism. I have witnessed shamanic practices around the world, including music, spontaneous dance, and ecstatic states similar to modern dance culture. From the practice of "Santoria" in Cuba to watching "Candomble" in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, I have watched shamans play rhythmic patterns on the drums and people dance spontaneously. For example, in Brazil the shaman explained to me that every time he changed the rhythm the women dance differently because a different spirit entered them. At all times, they were in an ecstatic trance like state; sometimes their eyes rolled back and they fell to the floor writhing.
Most recently I saw something similar in the "Lila" in Morocco where Gnawa practitioners enter into ecstatic states of spontaneous dance for physical and psychological healing. As a DJ, I have seen similar patterns where I'd observe the crowd and, like a shaman, ‘feel’ what the next rhythm should be. Once I mixed in the new record, the beat would change and, as the shaman might see it, a new ‘spirit’ would enter the crowd and they would move differently. If I played Hip Hop at 80 BPM (beats per minute), there would be one dance, however, if I sped it up and changed the beat to 120 - 130 BPM House and Garage, there would be another type of dance. At all times, the crowd would be in various levels of trance like states, spontaneously dancing to the rhythm.
I can see now that the spontaneous movements that emerged after my Kundalini awakening are linked to the spontaneous movements of indigenous shamanic cultures and indeed to dance culture in general. What is spontaneous yoga or spontaneous qi gong but a dance where we allow the spirit to move through us, guide us, and heal us. Where is the Shaman in this case? In my case, and many others where Kundalini has been awakened spontaneously, we are our own shaman or DJ figure, conducting the rhythm that works for us. Our intuition is our internal rhythm that comes from a more organic and subtle sense than sound, but, there is a rhythm and if we can listen to it, we can guide ourselves.
Shamans from around the world claim that spontaneous ecstatic movement and dance can heal us and I have experienced this on the dance floor and through spontaneous yoga and qi gong. We all have access to spirit, whether we call it, chi, prana, ki, ruh or pneuma, and, we have systematic and subconscious ways of moving this energy to heal us, including movement. These processes are anthropologically embedded into our cultures in shamanic rituals. In modern times, I believe we are witnessing this on the dance floors around the world. Spontaneous movement drives the energy through our channels helping us to release blockages on the individual level and if done with the correct intention we can heal collectively and even environmentally — if you see the Earth as an energy system.
In my opinion, the modern global dance movement is contributing to the propensity of spontaneous Kundalini awakenings and other contemporary creative movements we are currently experiencing. Recently, I read accounts of full vs. partial kundalini awakenings where the former is a permanent and continuous process and the latter a one-off experience. If this is the case, perhaps there is such a thing as a micro-Kundalini awakening — a moment where one feels oneness. Multiply that by millions of people every week on club floors around the world, and perhaps this global dance culture should be recognized for its contribution towards the worldwide awakening of humanity's consciousness.
Those who come together on the weekends or special occasions to celebrate the dance are following the patterns of our ancestors. They subconsciously seek individual and collective healing whilst the DJ transmits the guiding beat like the Shaman before him.
May the dance continue or as a Jamaican MC might say 'Sound boy! Pull up that track!'