Movement as Mother Tongue and the Balm of Belonging

Oracles, get ready. Channelling Season is upon us and

the ancestors are coming in hot.

When my blood sister invited, wooed, and eventually paid for me to go to Burning Man back in 2007, and woke my 26-year-old-granny self up in the middle of the night to drag me out onto the dance floor with the words “They thing is happening!” it was, I believe, for one reason. To have me experience something transcendent and precious and hard to explain. Something that only occurred late in the night, something she felt was worth hundreds of dollars out of her pocket for me to see. Somehow, some way, she and her friends had against all odds, without necessarily even trying, rediscovered a reliable way to deal with their petty differences and conflicts- to get beyond their personas and differences and be a part of a whole different conversation that was happening on another level. They were remembering how to pray with their whole bodies, and channel the ancestors through dance. Sometimes we really just can’t get there through words, speaking so many different languages, but body language- body language is allllllllllllll of our Mother Tongues.

 At every phase of my journey there have been some unlikely healing angels inviting me back to the dance floor to pray, to get weird, to cure whatever was ailing me. These folks and others have helped me heal the body shaming and self domination of early ballet training and lack of movement that was my strategy for hiding when getting attention meant getting bullied or harassed. Dance as prayer (mostly alone in the middle of the night) has been a big part of my path of reclaiming my body’s innate wisdom and self healing intelligence. How did our ancestors survive attempted genocide when these days it seems we can barely tolerate not getting the job or the girl or the co-op being out of guar gum free coconut milk? Is it even possible to heal the layers upon layers of heartbreak represented by the loss of land and language, the loss of our very identity, our food and our skilled craftspeople?


My own maternal ancestors are actually biologically Native Americans, having an PTSD fueled identity crisis. Many of them are still bleaching their hair blonde, straightening it with toxic chemicals, and walking around insisting that they are “of pure Spanish blood” despite hard evidence to the contrary. Many still live in denial, stemming from their parents and grandparents very real fears of being systematically hunted, humiliated, killed, hidden or erased and assimilated. I was so proud of my sister when she reported her white male co-worker at work for teasing her saying “What, are you trying to look like you have dreadlocks or something?” when she took a break from the time consuming task of taming of her naturally knappy hair, referred to on the island as “Pelo Malo” or “Bad Hair” because it gave away your Native or African roots that everyone had agreed to hide in order to survive. In a successful oppression campaign, the people will eventually opress themselves leaving the original oppressors free to move on to other conquests. My sister has always been able to use her words and say “I am not trying to look like anything. This is my hair. Maybe you didn’t know that all the women in our family feel they have to straighten their hair to be perceived as “more professional.” She was able to articulate that in the moment as many of us can not, and illustrate that in fact his comment was just straight up racist.

Last week, I experienced an enormous blessing, being invited to The Warrior Spirit Conference for Healing Historical Trauma, a gathering of the tribes that occurred on the Kumayey Reservation here in San Diego, CA. I was able, maybe for the first time to truly feel pride to be descended from The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Boriken, the "Great People of the Sacred High Waters.” We were gathered together to among other things have respected Native professionals in the fields of mental health, education, and sovereign tribal government illuminate for us once and for all how our addictions, abuses perpetrated and endured, suicide attempts, physical illnesses and more are not proof of our genetic inferiority or just being lazy or weird, as we have often been told. They are the very trackable trajectory of peoples who have survived a recent attempted genocide, only to have the attempted holocaust and sterilization of our souls completely denied and ignored by the majority of the people we interact with day to day, even our own families. I believe this counts as massive scale gas lighting, to have your inner devastation and the knowledge of its causes outright denied. “No, no, the undiagnosable physical and emotional pain and chronic illnesses experienced by you, your mother, your grandmother- they have nothing at all to do with the fact that one day a random dude showed up on your beautiful peaceful island on a big boat and despite being welcomed with respect and even writing home to say how benevolent and peaceful y’all were, started feeding your sons to his dogs in front of you. Don’t be so negative! Stop complaining. All you do is complain. We don’t understand and furthermore no one will ever understand why you are such a miserable person. Your beautiful. You even look white so you should smile more and consider yourself lucky and just be positive. Happiness is a choice! All this opportunity could be yours, if you just keep quiet about what happened and how it feels inside to be here now. Keep quiet and keep contributing and we will tolerate your existence now, you’re welcome.” 

I know it sounds heavy, but that’s the thing- it is! There is a lot of density here on the earth plane needing to be addressed for those not content to simply “ascend” beyond it and leave our messes of the past for someone else to deal with.

We are on a path with ancestor plants and yes there are some that will take you to the stars, but if you go deep enough on that journey at some point they will spin you around and say now go home and address what is happening on your beautiful planet. It’s not too late.

So that’s where I’m at, sitting with the Fungi teachers who never stop working on undoing the destruction of the big clueless two legged ones. Listening, trying to get a clue, doing as I’m told. I trust them more than any government to look out for not only me but all of us. And these days they are showing me how I have avoided any identification with my Boriken family and ancestors for so long because it felt like a box full of pain that I was happy to keep closed. I thought that if I opened that box, I would drown in the pain. In fact, my devices, like our government, don’t actually acknowledge the existence of the Sovereign Tribal Nation of Boriken, and auto correct me each time I claim this word in writing to say “Broken”. Only by choosing to attend this conference and spend 3 days contemplating the reality of my tribal affiliation did I have an important epiphany about the error of this logic. If it is in fact science that we inherit the traumas and triggers of our parents nervous systems, and we are still within 7 generations of a full blown genocide attempt, then we don’t actually need to identify with the culture or eat the food or speak the language or tell the stories to be triggered into a PTSD episode of reliving the trauma. All those programs and triggers came pre-installed. In short, avoiding our roots and ancestry to avoid the pain doesn’t work. If we disassociate from our cultural identity to avoid the pain, it has the opposite affect- severing us from the medicine and the balm of belonging and leaving us with nothing but the pain. Now despite all this talk about pain, one of my favorite moments of the conference was the woman who stood in the most incredible shimmering garment of embroidery and tiny metal bells, and explain that both her dress and the dance she was about to perform were received by an elder wisdom keeper in ceremony as a kind of prescription, specifically for healing pain, and that is much more what this gathering was about. Sharing medicine. It was actually a very uplifting 3 days, marked by a focus on what factors enable us to heal and what life circumstances foster the innate resilience of the human spirit when unspeakable injustices occur. Of course there are many factors that foster resilience. Love. Community. Culture. But somehow I always forget the first step and they brought it home, real simple.

It is an open secret. Children do it naturally as do animals in the wild who narrowly escape the jaws of death and are flooded with adrenaline that comes from any unexpected interruption of our trance of safety.  Even Taylor Swift knows this secret.

We. Have. Got. To. Shake. It. Off

Literally. Shaking is a primary way we as primal creatures can release energy from our body. Without it we end up in a cauldesac of sorrows and resentments, going round and round recirculating the same old stories generation after generation and getting nowhere. The story I heard over and over from my grandfather growing up was “ Life is hard, Erinita. Very Very Hard.” Never “You are strong, Erinita, Very Very Strong” which is of course also true. The trauma experts at the conference shared the scientific mechanisms through which our pain travels through families until there is someone willing to feel it and resourced enough and brave enough to take their own healing very seriously as a gift and responsibility to the next 7 generations.

So is it worth a try? To put down the phone and turn up the music and let it carry you into the illogical purgative paroxysms that will surely come if you but call them? When I danced in the Garifuna temple with my Arawak elder Arzu Mountain, she gave me but one instruction- “Go Where the Drum Takes You” and so I pass that most simple, most powerful advice on to you. The drum exists on every continent of this beautiful planet, in every culture. It is the heartbeat that exists to help all children of earth find their way home after a great storm has touched down, and finally, we are collectively acknowledging that  in fact, a great storm has touched down.

Dance as prayer and medicine is part of the basic covenant of life, written in our bones, our blood, our DNA. In just a few weeks Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, the celebration of the ancestors is coming, so, you know, we need to get ready, because if they are of the light, then when they arrive, through tears and tremors and unexpected invitations to MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, your body will be the first to know! When they get here, you will want to be well rested, well fed, dressed in your very best or nothing at all, ready to celebrate that we are still here, still breathing, still dancing the dance that turns the wheel, the dance of life, open to receive the guidance, of where to go from where we have been, of how to compost and make nourishment out of all we have experienced.


So If you are local, and in need of a little guidance and encouragement for different ways to move your body, read on to enjoy a list of opportunities to explore, lovingly compiled for us by Medicine Mandala 2017 Graduate Myah Miraoff…for yourself, your community, for the planet, for the next 7 generations! Taino-ti’ !!! (May the Great Good Spirit be with you)

Movement and Dance Opportunities in

San Diego, CA


(Traditional Puerto Rican Dance)

Bomba Liberté 

Centro Cultural de la Raza 2004 Park Blvd, San Diego, 92101

Saturday at 11am

$5 donation based

Facebook: Bomba Liberté

Belly Dance

“ Belly dance has been so life changing for me because it has helped me connect with my body in ways I never thought were even possible.  The isolated and sensual movements have really helped me gain a deeper connection with my whole self.” ~Mayah

Leilainia Marcus 

Sunrise Sunset Studio 2183 Bacon St, San Diego, 92107

Mondays 7pm-8pm

$20 drop in/ $90 for six week session

Madame Raine 

WorldBeat Cultural Center 2100 Park Blvd, San Diego, 92101

Mondays at 7pm

$15 drop in/ class cards available

IG: @madameraine

Amanda Olah

Ginseng Gfit 2985 Beech St, San Diego, 92102

Mondays at 7:30pm and 

8:30pm starting October 15th 2018 (six week course)

IG: @olahcalifornia1

Kim Pelt

Metro Dance 1221 Cushman Ave, San Diego, 92110

Tuesdays (October 2nd 2018 to November 6th 2018)

$15 drop in/ $10 with class card

Info at


The Dance House 2180 Chatsworth Blvd, San Diego, 92107

Thursdays 6pm (beginner) and 7pm (intermediate/advanced)

$15 drop in/ class card $40

IG: @elizamoondancer


Datura online is a place where you can find belly dance videos from many great teachers for a monthly fee: 

Fusion Styles

“I have been following these next women around San Diego for a while now because every class they offer they give their whole heart and they all have amazing, uplifting energy!” ~Mayah

Kirti and Golden

These beauties offer amazing movement workshops on and off throughout the year.

IG: @dilse.kirtidance and @goldenawakening

Cybele- Latin Fusion

Culture Shock Dance Center 2110 Hancock St #200, San Diego, 92110

Wednesdays 9:30am and 7:30pm

IG: @cybeledancemama 

Angie- Afro Cardio

Body’s In Rhythm 1079 C 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, 91911

Thursdays at 7:30

$15 drop in/ 4 for $55

IG: @danceangiedance) 


Luanr Rhythm    

Afro Cuban

“This class feeds my soul every week!  It is so grounding and fun.  On Saturday’s there are live drums which make it even better!”

Juan Carlos Blanco

Stage 7 3980 30th St, San Diego, 92104 

Thursdays at 7:15-8:45pm

Saturdays at 3:30-5pm

Sundays at 1-2pm and Drum class at 2-3pm

$15 (drum class $20) 

IG: @omo.ache

West African

Different traditional dance teachers from local areas at: 

Dance Encinitas 535 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, 92024

Fridays at 7pm (check schedule because class is not every Friday)

IG: @dancenorthcounty

Facebook: Encinitas West African Dance

“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche