“Did I talk about how a comfortable path for me would be Tibetan Buddhism but that being a self-arising shaman is apparently the path of most self growth in this [lifetime] because I really have to believe in myself.”
~ Nancy Sherwood
Here beside the lake, where yarrow, golden rod and wild aster grow, where the eagle passes overhead, the loon calls and dragonflies dance - here lives Nancy ‘Dancing Light’ Sherwood, my shamanic teacher.
A hidden Elder of the Earth: she sits beside the ice and dragonfly dreams of a lake, in the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia. A treasure, kept here. She is precious: like a subtly faceted stone, formed by the aeons, so that whispers of her spirit’s journey shine through. She is a Golden Shining One, her gentle brown eyes and native beauty: a beauty woven by lifetimes of wild, graceful and reverent practice until she is distilled to this: like a strand of goldenrod growing beside the lake, so natural.
Here, between the highway and the lake, is Serenity, her home. It has a veranda of grape vines and weathered shingles. Within are African spirit dolls, laden bookshelves, bark-crafted lanterns created by her husband David Cameron. Surrounding the house is a wild herb garden, at its centre a white arch trained with honeysuckle and clematis. At the water’s edge there stands a white bear spirit statue, and rose quartz on a meditation platform. There is the well at the back, beneath the highway, where the air is full of ancestors and prayers, a statue of Tara. Wind chimes.
Nova Scotia is one of the eastern maritime provinces of Canada. It is a land of intricate coastline and inland lakes - ancient whittled down mountains, red rivers, a glacial landscape of exposed granite rock, forest and farmland. For thousands years it has been home to the Mi’kmaq and First Nations people. And here, centuries ago, the Gaelic peoples of Ireland and Scotland came in tens of thousands, bringing their Celtic languages, traditions and culture. Nancy herself embodies this union ~ her ancestors hale from Ireland and from the Abenaki peoples.
The strands of Celtic and First Nations ancestry are woven together in her being and her work. This is a synthesis she represents in her very essence. When one sees her dance, one is aware of witnessing a shaman of pure native soul. In her is preserved a pure and earth-loving spirituality. She is earthy and otherworldly all at once: she dances with the ancestors. The threads of lineage weave their way through her every gesture, one can feel the resonant field of her reverence, the depth of her attention.
Nancy ‘Dancing Light’
Nancy Sherwood was born 5th October, 1947 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. As a child she moved from Canada to a home near Niagara Falls, where she grew up. She went on to become an art teacher, and then through ever deepening experiences with transcendental meditation came into the initiatory experience that awakened her shamanic abilities. She and her husband raised their family in the forest, living very simply on the land, before becoming guardians of The Ovens natural park in Nova Scotia. She had always been empathic and sensitive, with a love of music, art, dance and nature. Following her initiatory experience, she awoke to find herself able to ‘dance the light’. Her sensitivity to the energy of the universe, to the natural world, had become acute. She discovered that she could dance the invisible, the Light of Creation. She explored this gift quietly for many years, learning from the powerful natural energies of the ocean and sea caves of The Ovens. Here she was taught directly by the earth and the primal dragon energies of nature. This land, once a ceremonial site of the native people, veined with gold, drew her deeper into her gift.
Following these years, Nancy and her husband David founded the shamanic eco-community of EarthSea. Founded on a site of earth, sea and sky ~ it was a place of living shamanism that drew many folk as a legendary and magical place where the principles of earth stewardship, permaculture, and shamanic ceremony were lived and breathed.
Woven into her own deep and immediate energetic experience, are the ceremonial practices and pilgrimages that connect to her ancestral lineages, both Celtic and First Nations. She has danced the Sundance many times over, in both the Blackfoot and Mik’maq traditions. And amidst this have been her trips to the British Isles, and the reclamation of her own Celtic spiritual heritage. She founded Traveller’s Joy, through which she facilitates shamanic pilgrimages, and has travelled to Ireland, Scotland and Wales many times over, bringing others with her on quests to reconnect to the ancestral wisdom of those lands. She holds a deep connection to Brigit, the Irish goddess of the sacred fire, and it was on a pilgrimage to Ireland dedicated to Brigit’s Sacred Flame that I first travelled with Nancy.
However, it was in Wales, in the spring of 2007, that we first met. A meeting so sudden and unexpected, and yet that, for me, held the threads of destiny and awakening.
Meeting My Teacher
In the spring of 2007, I was deep in the early phases of writing Silver Wheel ~ reading early medieval Welsh texts, playing the harp, listening to the quartz crystals and beginning to trace the echoes of the Shining Ones through the cycles of the moonlight and in my walks upon the land. It was a reclusive and contemplative time in my life. I had learnt to make shamanic journeys, and when I heard that there was a shaman soon to visit Lampeter in Wales where I was living, I was magnetized by the prospect of meeting with her.
I remember the first moment I saw Nancy. She stood in a darkened Welsh kitchen, an illumined figure coming towards me. Despite being in her sixties, I saw her as a young woman with golden hair, coming towards me out of the darkness.
She was to be holding a workshop on the Four Elements, and I joined up for it. This was the first time I saw Nancy dance. We each sat quietly meditating on a rock, and our connection with the Earth. Nancy said that she would come around and give each of us a ‘Soul greeting,’ to which we could respond if we wished. She then came to each of us in turn, and danced before us. I say danced. This was a captivating form of movement that seemed full of animal and bird gestures and sounds, and that had a compelling depth to it. There was a grace, flowing, and also a playfulness. She made bird and animal noises, and spoke in strange language I had never heard before. I was completely startled. Some people in the circle were able to respond to her, and entered into a playful response of movement and sound. I sat frozen, convinced that I could not respond on this level. When she came to me, she began a little spinning dance, turning around and around on the spot. I was now caught completely off-guard. She was dancing the very dance I had danced in my meditation with the stone. This was how I had seen myself in my mind’s eye. I had never experienced anyone gaining direct access to my inner world before. I managed to wiggle a foot in response, all the while my eyes pouring out an anguished apology for my lack of courage. I understood the simplicity for which she asked, and yet it was as though iron bands contained me and bound me in. I could not join her in this courageous place she existed. Yet I knew my own responsibility, I knew that this was a choice.
This moment haunted me for the next year and a half. I felt so much frustration, and a terrible sense of having let something precious slip by. For the rest of Nancy’s trip I had avoided her. I felt brittle and intensely fragile, and in her presence I felt a terrifying Light that could See me. This being Seen was so entirely frightening to me. I had never experienced anything like this intensity. It was as though Light poured from her, and I was afraid of being drawn in and losing my bearings.
It took me a year and a half to contact her. I finally realised that nothing would move forward for me unless I did so. I had discovered that she was leading a pilgrimage to Ireland that spring, and I asked if I could join.
As soon as I set off to meet Nancy at the Hill of Tara, I was assailed by merciless feelings of unworthiness. I felt terribly constricted and small, obsessed with insecurity. I had hoped for a magical and enchanting spiritual experience, and instead I just felt awful about myself. I managed to pull myself together and act ‘normal’ when I met with Nancy. But I felt like I was sustaining an acrobatic performance, and that I might fall off my wire at any moment. I remember the happy moment of walking across the Hill of Tara with her. She was so sweet, with such a deep sweetness. I felt as though I had fallen into a happy dream, walking with my sweet golden mother across the enchanted hill. I felt absurd and happy, like a gawky duckling, all awkward and without grace, yet so at home at the same time. I had one desire burning in my heart, one intention, to ask her if she would be my Teacher. Yet I didn’t ask her during that happy walk on the Hill of Tara. I didn’t ask her as we chatted late into the night. I said everything but this, and it burned away behind my every thought. It was my true reason for being there, it was my soul’s hope. It was so overwhelmingly important to me, and yet I was so terrified of rejection, of her saying no. The other members of the pilgrimage arrived, and my precious moments alone with Nancy had passed. I felt the tearing grief of a lost opportunity as we left the Hill of Tara.
In Sligo, we visited the grave of William Butler Yeats. Standing in front of his grave, I found myself pulled through to the Otherworld, and there in the realms of Light I danced with William Yeats. It was a slow waltz, old-fashioned. He told me that I was to carry on this work, this legacy, of bringing the realms of the Shining Ones into the world through the written word, through poetry. I felt deep emotion at this communication, and it was with reluctance that I returned to this this world, called by my companions on the pilgrimage, hearing the call of my name that summoned me back. For the rest of the journey, I sat in the back seat, thumbing my copy of his selected poems. An image of a harp began to glow golden within me as we drove across the land of Ireland, tracing a counter-clockwise mandala that carried us from Dublin on the east coast, to Sligo, and thence down along the west coast to Galway, crossing over by ferry to the Arran Islands.
Nancy now seemed an aloof figure to me, pulled by what seemed like the miraculous thread of her intuition, drawing us from place to place. We danced our way into spontaneous ceremonies. The Hill of Maeve was one such site. I was determined not to freeze again, as I had done on that first occasion of meeting Nancy. I knew the spontaneous level of improvisation that would be called from me, I knew how afraid I would feel. I was ready to step beyond this fear. Three of us climbed the Hill, while one remained below. Brenda played her drum atop the rubble of the summit, while Nancy and I danced just beneath her. I remember Nancy saying, ‘Don’t be afraid of travelling too far out. You can go all the way to the stars. Let yourself go.’ I took her literally, and my body became a banner, a ribbon blown in the wind, flung across the hilltop, tracing the paths of an invisible map of movement to the stars. I remember her saying afterwards, ‘It’s as though you’ve always been doing this.’ This meant so much to me.
Still, I hung back from asking the question that burned within me. At every moment I was ready to ask her, and yet at no moment did I actually do it. This made for a very uncomfortable trip. By the time we crossed over into the Arran Islands, I was miserable. I remember sitting on the ferry, in a state of deep trance, my mind travelling beneath the waves, charting our trail over the waters. Some deep intention was at work within me, some intense focus. We slept the night in a youth hostel, and I dreamt that night that I wore a turquoise bracelet on my wrist, and that I asked Nancy to be my teacher. The following morning, I felt over swept by gales of visceral terror. I shared this feeling with the group, and as we sat around the breakfast table, we linked hands, and I felt them take my fear, and howl and express it, so that the energy blossomed and howled amongst us, like wailing banshees. I felt myself in the presence of great wisdom, this stunning response of acknowledgement and the capacity to channel this wild energy into wisdom and transmutation. This is so emblematic of Nancy’s work. No moment is safe from this ‘crossing over’, the safe lines of ordinary reality are not drawn here, the boundaries are not obeyed. I remember wondering what the other people in the hostel would think, but they never came. Nancy got us each to draw a picture of what had come through. I remember that mine was surrounded with the yellow spirit light that I saw Nancy as carrying.
We then went to a well on the island. I descended down to the water, that lay down a a short spiral of worn stone steps. I knelt by the water, and following an endless pause as I battled with the fear, I asked my question. I asked if she would be my teacher. Brenda had lent me a turquoise hairband that I wore around my wrist. It was the most heart-palpitating moment of surrender. Nancy seemed to sway with sudden surprise. And then she came and embraced me. Peace descended into my heart, I knew I had done what I was meant to do. At last the long battle with myself was over, and I had committed to the journey that was destined.
Ceremonies of the Land
I associate my work with Nancy with the waterfalls, stone circles, burial mounds, churches, wells and forests, the lakes and ocean shores of the British Isles and Canada. Here we have drummed and rattled, danced and chanted into the wind. Here are some of the most beautiful and challenging moments of my existence as I have moved beyond my own brittle resistance to transformation, my own fear, laziness and hesitation. I have moved out of the frozen forgetfulness of one who clings to the edge of a world where they can never belong, yet to whose paradigm they have become wedded. This is my own inertia, my own forgetfulness and unwillingness to change. Yet in these sacred places, with Nancy at my side, I have become connected and interfused with something else. An elemental dance has poured through me. I have found the sacred movements, the glyphs and gestures of lost lifetimes. I have discovered that my own humanity is not what it seemed.
I have a few especially pivotal memories of such moments with Nancy. There was our quest to find the stone circle above the waterfall of Pistyll Rhaeadr, ranging across the moorland, through reeds and heather. Quite lost, we paused on the mountainside and Nancy made a call with the Eagle bone whistle. I remember the feeling as she did so, of the great eagles swooping in over the landscape, lending their vision. As we walked back down the mountain, there, deep in the heather and bracken, we found the circle, and in a dance with its ancient architecture, I felt the Silver Wheel and its vast, sapphire Guardians of Light anchoring onto the earth for the first time. They were the royal and timeless Guardians, the Shining Ones, and a part of my spirit stood by in wonderment as I witnessed them descend. I remember Nancy’s words, affirming the Reality of the Light Dance, ‘You are quite an architect!’ It wasn’t a sense of achievement that moved me, because it felt so beyond any self that I could take ownership of, but rather the shared awareness, the shared witnessing of an unseen reality. Such moments alter the perception forever. It is one of the most precious aspects of working with a teacher and an Elder, this being thus witnessed, and discovering that these realms of perception and experience go beyond the individual.
There is the moment when I curled into Nancy’s arms after a sweat lodge ceremony in the Wicklow mountains. A tipi shone in the darkness, as we sat beside the fire, and all my resistance and separation melted away. All my unworthiness finally burnt away as I allowed myself this surrender to Love.
There was the drumming in the Preseli mountains, beside the stone circle in the drizzling rain ~ a vision of eagle feathers, of an ancient companionship recovered. Feeling the overlap of lifetimes of companionship. I remember hearing Nancy’s drumming arising over the ancient, Druid woods of Ty Canol, calling me back from the Otherworld, calling me back from lifetimes of memory. It was a Grandmother command, compelling, steady and wise. I remember each of us entering the burial chamber of Pentre Ifan, where Nancy awaited as the hooded crone, there to embrace our transformation, there to mirror us, and to usher us back into this world when it was done. There was the dancing beside the ocean at the cove of Cwm Sidi, becoming a whirling warrior on the wet sands, remembering the blue fire of passionate strength and freedom. And the two of us dancing together in the deep woods of Cwm Cych, opening the ancient Faerie portal so that the weary spirit warriors could pass through, so that legacy of the Shining Ones could emerge once more.
Again and again, reweaving the sacred alliance of the land, with the Light. Over and again taking up an ancient and concealed inheritance of relationship with the subtle realms
I have been trained by Nancy over the years to receive energetic transmissions and wisdom teachings from the Earth and the Stars in the places of wild nature. This is a time-honoured human practice, as seen in shamanic and indigenous traditions the world over. It requires inner purification, clear intention and radical trust. In spiritual practices whose archeological records date to 35,000 years ago, humans have sought this path of natural enlightenment, wisdom and healing. They have understood that if we go to the power places of the Earth, we can receive energetic transmissions that align us to Universal Love and a multi-layered realm of Divine Order. We are able to discover our own divine purpose and calling.
The Moving Mandala
~ Nancy Dancing Light
A key aspect to Nancy’s work is the Moving Mandala. She received this practice in a vision, and has since implemented it many times over, teaching it internationally. It is a cosmic architecture composed of a twelve-pointed star, within which fall seven dances, each aligned with a colour, element and chakra. It is a mandala that literally facilitates movement from one state of being to another, allowing the celestial template to be received into creation and anchored as a manifest potential. The dances are timed in accordance with the seasonal portals of the year, and happen upon sacred land, in a co-creation with the sacred energies there present.
It is a structured container, and yet it guides you into a space beyond structure ~ you are guided to spontaneously dance and sound the constellations of the infinite, and to release those frozen patterns that prevent this arrival. You become the one who dances in the unknown ~ entering the realm of the Dakini of Space, as it is known in the Tibetan tradition, the sky dancer. The Dakini is the feminine spiritual principle that is the dancing light emergent from the void, from infinite spaciousness. To walk the path of the dakini, or to enter the initiations of the dakini is to surrender to the initiations of the Light itself, that teach through the encodments of what is directly known and felt. It is to enter the mystery, the void, the spaciousness. To be the one who, instead of inhabiting known and frozen forms of thought and behaviour, is able to enter the vortex of the unknown, of the edge, of spaciousness, allowing through the dancing light of new celestial inspiration and infusion. You become the dancing light, and its process of grounding and descending into relationship with that which we are. Ultimately, the practice of the Moving Mandala trains one to inhabit this spaciousness in any and every moment, becoming once more part of the natural, universal cycles of the ever-altering light. As Nancy says ‘re-defining, infinitely’, and thus coming into deep harmony, interconnection and relationship with all beings, in an expression of self that serves the highest good.
“Moving along the edge, moving into the unknown, moving into spaciousness, these are ways to receive direct transmission of energy from the universe, and it is tempered by practice, just like a muscle memory. When the time comes for a shift, if there has been practice in surrender within a safe container, it is then second nature to surrender to the changing light, the moving energy of life.Through spontaneous dance and sound, the form becomes the result of creation entering time, and infinity becoming structured space, with appropriate relationships with all beings and the next stage of our collective evolution.
“The mandala is one such structured container that holds the diversity of expression that is needed for the creative next steps, and pulls the celestial template into ordinary time with integration of the energy of creative expression within the heart-minds of those inside the container. The Moving Mandala is intended to ground dancing light and is a hologram of change for those who enter that circle. Participants who merge with the template of the mandala awaken to wholeness. Its potential is to transform possible energetic blocks into useable, directed energy for the benefit all our relations, the community of earth.”
~ Nancy ‘Dancing Light’ Sherwood
In the spring of 2009, I danced the Moving Mandala for the first time. I danced it alone in my caravan, in the Cambrian mountains of West Wales. The ceremonies were designed in timed connection with those dancing in Nova Scotia and other parts of the British Isles.
I had no idea what the mandala really was. I knew that it was pivotal aspect of Nancy’s work, and that it involved connection to others. I knew that I would be dancing, and I could feel the touch of what I can only describe as a vast starry sky. For me, this was an introduction to a cosmic level of consciousness and intention. It changed everything.
As I danced each dance, each of my chakras reconfigured with the incoming celestial template of my soul, that held the pattern of a much vaster self than anything I had previously lived from. I altered from a smaller, self-protective template founded in wounds that came up for release, into a greater pattern of destiny that belongs to the interconnected whole. Each chakra, one by one, through the dances, within the cosmic portal of the mandala, received the vision and directive of this greater self and destiny, flowering with a pattern that had been lost, forgotten, veiled until that time.
The form of the Moving Mandala dissolved and fell away as a transparent casing, in the fulfillment of its purpose. It left me with a radiant medicine shield of self-awareness and luminous calling. And the final practice involved the painting of this medicine shield. I knew that I was to paint mine onto my drum ~ and this medicine shield, with its totems and shining gold, has since travelled the world with me, holding the ceremonies of the Silver Wheel from North America to the Himalayas.
The Moving Mandala is a direct and subtle practice because of the radical trust it places in the individual to dance, sound and move their way back to their own vibratory origin in Source. There is a radical trust in the unveiling of the invisible path within each of us. The mandala is a container that enshrines this discovery, a practice that leaves little residue but that of our own path between Earth and Sky. We need such containers, such practices that are so without residue. They guide us back to ourselves, without leaving us dependent on spiritual practices and forms that lie outside of the Self. There is a form that is gifted, that emerges from the dance, and this is the sacred mandala of wholeness that is the elemental and celestial template of our own light manifestation at this time, in interconnection with all the realms.
It is a practice easily embraced by artists, musicians, writers and all other creative folk - allowing them to birth their own sacred, visionary, celestial template into this world.
It takes us to a pure and ecstatic place of vision. We work through Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, Archetype, Light and Infinity. The high vibration of the container allows us to access a vast and pure place of vision. We are birthing, visioning our future. We are accessing very high levels of information.
Nancy is a true spiritual Elder, who has a natural grace and authority that one is simply aware of in her presence. There is a vastness in her work, a magnificence. It stretches all the way to the stars of deep space, to the rustling strands of grass at our feet. There is a love for this planet, a profound appreciation of the gift of life in this dimension, and an anchoring into the spiritual dimensions that infuse and ground the harmonics of the world we see.
I see her stepping through starry space, carrying in her arms the holographic template of the Moving Mandala, bringing this gift to earth. She has brought with her the cosmic architecture of a portal of deep transformation, that allows the future to step forward on this planet.
Going Beyond Ceremony
In autumn of 2011, I fulfilled my long-held wish of visiting Nancy in Nova Scotia. It was September, and I spent that autumn month at her home, taking my eighteen month old son with me. We slept in a small caravan beside the lake, the white pines and spruce trees towering around us. We were on the grounds of Serenity, Nancy and David’s lakeside home.
Serenity is a wooden cabin with weathered shingles, the porch in September cascading with bunches of grapes and tendrils of leafy vine. All around us is the tangle of a herb garden running riot. Everywhere there are stands of autumn wildflowers, yarrow, wild aster and golden rod. In the midst of the herb garden stands a white arch with honeysuckle and clematis clambering up it, a narrow path tracing a circuit through the herbs. I come with the dream that I shall spend hours shamanic dancing and journeying with Nancy, deepening my apprenticeship. I am sure that I am ready for this full immersion. But something quite different happens.
It becomes clear that my son will not be separated from me, and that I cannot leave him for the deep spaces of ceremony. Instead our days are spent beside the lake with Nancy and David, eating together, playing, and in long conversation. I had felt ready to immerse myself in my shamanic practice, and yet something else transpires. The practice is stripped away, and there is the life. With Nancy and David, I find myself beckoned into a moment to moment spacious and echoing consciousness. It is a subtle, layered, vibratory world, the dimensions shimmering all around us. It is an immersion. David tells me, the ceremony is just the outer form, the aspiration is this perpetual state of shamanic consciousness, day to day, throughout our ordinary lives. We are always journeying. There are the hours spent with my son, playing with his toy train across the wooden floor of the cabin, scrubbing his nappies in a bucket behind the house, hanging them out to dry. There are the laundry trips into town, the supermarket shopping. Woven through all of this is the shimmering depth of that life beside the lake. I feel woven into nuances of other lifetimes, Mayan, Tibetan and Celtic. The dreams of the local native people, the Mic Mac, quest through my consciousness. As I walk about, I can feel the echo of dragonfly ceremonies, the haunting calls of loon and coyote across the waters of the lake. And all the time they are teaching me. It is a restoration into my cosmic family, into a warmth and otherworldliness. In the evenings our meals are lit by the magical lanterns David has created from pine bark, and always we talk and talk. We explore over and again the concept and reality of the ephemeral, lost lineage of Dakini wisdom, the feminine principle in Tibetan tradition, the one who dances in spaciousness, the sky dancer. We explore this original, essential consciousness and its dimensions. They tell me their stories, and I feel honoured to be entrusted with their tales of personal transformation and discovery. Of all the courage, the heartbreak, the betrayals, disappointments, the sculpting of time and tide. ‘We have both changed a lot’ they tell me.
We swim in the lake, and on my birthday they take me across the waters in the canoe. We cross to the forested far shore, and the ancient hemlock trees whose memories hold records of precolonial times. I remember leaning back against an ancient hemlock tree, her enormous girth, and being given my birthday transmission. There are blue stars travelling down the ancient hemlock, travelling through me, bringing guidance. I remember Nancy crouched by the crooked stream that zigzags amongst the trees, her fingers questing in the mud and rocks for ochre, and knowing that she has suddenly shape shifted into the elemental spirit of the place. We drum our way across the waters, Nancy and David paddling at either end of the canoe, every gesture a retrieval of ancient memory, every gesture nuanced with Spirit. They chant, and we sit between them, my son and I, being carried deeper and deeper into ourselves. The threads of many lifetimes are drawn together - Celtic, Native American, Mayan, Tibetan. And there is the hint of something more primordial, more ancient even than any of this. Haunting beneath everything are the stellar, elemental lights of arrival. The cloaks of lifetimes swirling around this epiphany, of soul light arrival to the planet. Of our beginning here.
We have been together in the forest, we have been the delicately veined petals of flowers. We have been snow leopards, pacing the high steppes. We have grown slowly, throughout seasons, throughout aeons, tracing the slow life of rain and mist, the whorls in bark. We have been the moss in the quiet cloud forests, shades of emerald, paling with mist and and starlight. Together we have grown through the slow seasons of consciousness upon Earth, choosing this experience - to become, to breathe, to bring the crystalline ecstasies of form into this dimension, the ecstasies of light’s exploration, spilling into every elemental direction. We have taken every form, we have danced between incarnations, bearing the truth of this simplicity through every manifestation.
Sometimes someone arrives who alters the dimensional qualities of your life; a portal to the beyond opens up, and you are beckoned through; aware that you are meeting perspectives, motivations greater than you have known. Nancy opens the portal, not just to energetic transformation, but to the greater motivations of the heart. She embodies care and compassion, a compassion that vibrates at an unfamiliar depth, calling one into a deeper vision, a deeper aspiration. A greater context merges: a sense of cosmic time and cycles, a horizon line stretching deeply forward and backward of which we are participants.
There is greater significance, a sense of resonant destiny and timing. It is this significance that situates Nancy’s work, that sets the stage of spiritual intention. This is the frame of the work, and it is vast. It is the frame of the Infinite, of destinies that spiral into the heart of silence itself. We are anchored in this by the framework of sacred place, the architecture of the mandala, of the ancient sites, and the natural cosmic timing of the sacred celestial and earth portals of the seasons. We are tied into a greater narrative: our transformation exists in service to this greater narrative.
I remember Nancy saying in Glastonbury, ‘the Ancient Ones saw that this time would come, and they were ok with it. ‘ She sits there cross legged in her black velvet hat, under the memorial cross in the centre of Glastonbury, a small and yet cosmic figure, holding the vision of a non-dualistic heart, an embodiment of compassionate non-judgement. Through this lens she sees the rushing streets of the holy place, with its traffic of shoppers and spiritual seekers. She sees through the densities and the fog, and where some would pray for purity, and reject this surface manifestation, she sees the perfection.
Being around Nancy is a distinct experience. There is as much discomfort involved as wonder. She has an incredible gentleness, but also an eagle-like acuity. She is commanding at moments: dignified and regal. She emanates a natural authority, and also a gentle, radiant hilarity.
Her presence can be strange, dissonant, as though standing in a different flow to that of the ordinary moment, her attention cast at a different slant. It makes the mask of the conventional feel very awkward, if one tries to sustain it. You can hear your voice echoing around her, hollow, and you have a strange sense that she is not meeting you there. It is challenging. It challenges the veil of self-protection to be stripped away. It is a challenge to authenticity.
In her presence, there is a never-ending depth of connection to the elemental realms, to the whispering of the soul, to a pervading space and stillness. In her presence, I become more subtle and graceful and kind. I become sensitive and I listen. I slip towards an endless and non-judgemental mind. She guides me out of the abrasive, the robotic, the shutdown.
Part of her work is simply standing aside, and letting all one’s attempts to give away power, to gain instructions, dissolve away, until finally one stands in the truth of self-arising Vision. She does, in short, offer the potential of the self-arising shaman within each of us. This is the legacy and the archetype she carries, and mirrors to those who meet her. Of course this is scary at first! It goes against every ounce of our conditioning ~ the impetus that guides us, despite ourselves, to look for ground other than our own to stand upon. There is a chaos element inherent to the Moving Mandala, which is the experience of all of this breaking up and falling away. The false ground dissolves, and one is left in the unknown. Nothing is asked, and yet everything is asked. It is a profound responsibility, to take this up. And yet it is so light. It is the lightest mantle of all. It is the innocence of the child, who dances around the Sacred Tree at the heart of the work. It is this self-arising rainbow dance that Nancy re-introduces to the heart that has forgotten.
I remember when I ‘got it’. I finally understood, in myself, this self-arising dance of Light. We were in the Kildare churchyard of Brigit, in Ireland. There was a sunken area, and we four pilgrims danced in there, passing an orange marigold between us. I suddenly clicked into this profound mode of sacred play. I felt the radiance, as I had in childhood, of a Light that wishes to be danced, to move, to become. All that was in me, awkwardly waiting to learn the rules of this new game, faded away. I suddenly understood that there were no rules. I understood the realm in which these dancers dwelt. This was the mesmerising improvisation and response of the reverent heart. I knew this dance! What more beautiful, what more longed for, what more natural! I remember holding the orange marigold, and going to the centre of the sunken square, with the other dancers at the edge all around, and kneeling and offering the flower to the Light, and the movements all unfolded like a contained map of Light within me, written somewhere deep within. This level of communication, this level of action. We find it bizarre because it surpasses the mental realm. We are unused to tracking the Light, becoming the Light. And yet when we surrender, we remember that this is what we did as children, this was our most original and natural activity, before we had to explain anything to ourselves, before we froze, before our bodies and our hearts stiffened with uncertainty and we no longer knew which way to turn, which gesture to make in the Dance of Light.
‘The teaching of the whispered lineage is the Dakini’s breath.’
Nancy Dancing Light is a Grandmother of the Future. What does this mean? She shows a pathway of true potential into the future. It is grounded in the true nature and existence of Earth, thus it is a viable pathway. It links the ancient past, with the present and the future, creating a holistic timeline.
And what does the future hold for Nancy’s work? She has been told
“Stop seeking, You are the Dakini of Space.”
At the end of my stay in Nova Scotia, Nancy takes me to Lake Kejimkujik, a site long sacred to the native peoples. It’s name is a Mi’kmaq word believed to mean “land where fairies abound."
We walk through the old growth forests, beside the lake. Nancy wears soft moccasins, and as so often, I know myself in the presence of an embodied Elder, one who has long and lightly walked the earth.
We come to the rocks at water’s edge, that slant out into the waters. Here, there are Mi’kmaq petroglyphs etched into the slate. And here, at last, I come to the final sigil of my journey.
There, in the soft rock at the water’s edge, is etched a caribou.
I know, as I gaze down at the lines, that it is for this I have come. This is my path, this is my calling.
And this is her gift to me.
It is a shamanism that has the power to re-access the lost lineages of Light, the deer trails of a wisdom that has never left this earth.
It is said that the ones who carry the flame of the New Dawn shall seek out the Elders, and shall receive from them their wise practices, teachings and remembrance.
As Nancy enters her seventies, I believe that many will come to find her, to seek out an Elder, a Dakini of Space, who holds the cosmic portal through which their higher calling can enter this world, and truly be gifted.
“And I do want people to know that I do this for all my relations or all sentient beings and dedicate my life and work with that intention.”
~ Nancy Dancing Light, January 2018
To find out more about Nancy's work, you can visit her website here www.travellersjoy.ca