Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman

Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Passage
by Gabrielle Roth


New World Library, 1998. ISBN 1577310454).
Penguin USA, 1998. ISBN 0874779596).
Reviewed by Paulette Rees-Denis
Posted on 01/08/2001

Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration; Nonfiction: Body Language; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

We've excerpted this piece from a "musing" sent to us by Dancer Paulette Rees-Denis. It originally appeared in her newsletter Caravan Trails, which she edits for the Northwest Tribal Bellydancing Community. Not strictly a book review, Paulette's musing is an evocative tribute to Roth's writing and teaching, showing how we can integrate the wisdom of books into our lives and reminding us that creativity inspires the body as well as the soul.

I brought up Gabrielle Roth's second book, Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spritual Practice, in the last issue [of Caravan Trails]. It's a fabulous book and I encourage all of you to read it. In her first book, Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman, Gabrielle talks about five levels of consciousness, from the purely physical to the highest spiritual potential and (as I see it) the five stages of artistic development: inertia, imitation, intuition, imagination, inspiration. The first level is inertia, which is non-movement, having stuck energy, not getting anything done, being unconscious. The next level is imitation. We want something more in our lives and start moving. When we see someone or something that inspires us, that moves us, it gets us up and doing. But we can't stay in imitation. In order to grow, we continue to change and develop. The next layer is intuition—hearing our own voice, feeling our own thoughts, desiring our own style. And as we continue to express ourselves, we move into our own imagination, bringing together our spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental energies for spontaneous expression. When we transcend conscious effort, when we can live, dance, and create on the ecstatic level, we are touching our soul. We are living on the level of inspiration.

These ideas of consciousness can work on different levels of living, on the day-to-day life of just getting to work or dance class, to the overall picture of our life, career, goals, ect. I really can see these levels in myself as an artist and dancer. And as I watch my students develop, from their first class on, it's so wonderful to see each dancer develop into her/his own, as women (some men), as dancers. First, just to learn to dance, for whatever that personal reason is, then to let it act as a catalyst for empowerment, to let it drive through each of our own lives—daily, weekly, monthly. Remember when you were first learning to dance, watching your teacher, or the woman next to you, or viewing the advanced class. What were you thinking? Did you want to do that too? Be just like that woman? Wear costumes just like that? And you did. And you became stronger—physically, mentally—more aware of your body, your thoughts, your clothes. What else? Everything around you changed, I bet; maybe your friends, your romance, your job. Do these five levels make sense to you? Do you recognize them in your dance, in yourself?...

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