In the second installation of this two-part conversation from ‘A Night of Stillness’, Daniel *Sonic* Rojas, creator of Embodied Dance Movement (EDM), shares with us some bits of his life as a professional movement expert, and his passion for finding stillness through the movement and care for the body.
Read on to find out more about how his love for the practice has translated into the energy he’s been putting in to orchestrate An Emergence of Self.
“Through movement, we find stillness, but in stillness is where we find the real purpose of movement.”
As an individual brimming with passion about expressing his stories through many forms of movement, Daniel has been living and breathing movement for over 25 years. In addition to being a professional dancer and movement expert, Daniel also created ‘Embodied Dance Movement’ (EDM), that’s now recognized as one of the most complete art forms offered internationally. His love for creative expressions of the body has also taken him to acclaimed theatre productions, where he took on a role as The Nutcracker in The Hunchback of Notre Dame de Paris, performing his art and dance for royalty and presidents alike.
Krystal: Embodiment can seem like a bit of an abstract concept – how would you explain embodied mindful movement to someone who’s new to this?
Daniel: Well, embodiment is in everything, right? And to be able to be more present with everything, that’s what we use in mindfulness. Mindfulness is just about being present, it’s to be in a moment and coming to present time.
I know when people hear mindfulness, they think ‘Oh, like what are we going to do? Are we about to shed our minds? Are we doing some meditation?’ There will be many questions going through their minds. But actually, mindfulness is simply being in the present time, and embodying the moment. So, embodiment is really just taking it in, using it and working from the inside out and just experiencing it. It is also about being aware of where you are at the moment, and what you really need at the present moment.
Through embodiment mindful movement, I’d say that it’s like an acclimatization and meditation, but using it in movement. I often say, ‘through movement, we find stillness, but in stillness, is where we find the real purpose of movement.’ We feel the most and listen the most when we come into a place of stillness. But to come into a really mindful stillness, into a present stillness, we have to use movement.
Krystal: How do you incorporate your practice into your daily life?
Daniel: When I do two, three hours of very slow, gentle practices, I communicate with my body and really open it up. But sometimes, because of a really packed schedule, I don’t have two to three hours. I may only have an hour or half an hour. So in the morning, one thing that I do, even if I don’t have much time, is to massage my face. It helps to wake up the senses, wake up the body a little bit, and communicate with my breath. I make sure to get up early enough to do that – I’ve got an inner voice that says, ‘Let’s get ready for the day’.
Krystal: Can you tell us a little bit more about building a relationship with the body? Could you share with us some of your own self-care rituals?
Daniel: To me, any type of movement or any type of ritual that you do, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes, is a way of building a relationship with your body, again and again. Take for example, you and your partner. We say you’re building a relationship with them, and this relationship is also about giving each other space to grow, communicate, and bring balance to understand each other. Now, you just have to do the same thing, but with your body.
For myself, I first check in with my body’s needs – ‘do I feel hungry?’ If I do, maybe I’ll drink some apple cider vinegar in the morning. If I can fast, I’ll fast, but if I can’t, I’ll make myself fresh green juice with all the good stuff that I need.
The other thing that I do which is very, very ritualistic – and that I love – is mobility. We are mobile beings, so we have to continue and desire movement. To me, strength without mobility is actually nothing. If you have a lot of mobility in your body, you will strengthen your body. Mobility is a beautiful way to communicate with your body separately. So, if I start moving in a way that brings awareness through effortless movements, and combine them with breathing, I’m allowing a communication to take place within myself.
Krystal: Working from home is now part of the ‘new normal’, and has really affected our mobility.
Daniel: Yes, that’s right. When we are working from home, we are practically staying there like a plant. If we don’t water the plant, or place it in the sun, it’ll probably dry and wither. But, if we make the effort to move, to water it and maybe place it under the sun, we’re bringing it into a state of mobility.
Our body is extremely intelligent, and it will take on the shape and form that you want to give it. If you work on the computer all day and stay there, then you’re going to take on that same shape. You don’t notice this because you’re working so hard all day, until suddenly, your body sends you a really strong signal that you are like, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening? My neck hurts. my lower back hurts.’ It’s because you’re sitting too much, so you need to bring in mobility, right? Move your shoulders, move your neck from side to side.
Daniel notes that people have a lot of tension in their faces as well. He shows us how to do a simple face massage, that can be done at any time of the day, which you can join along here, from 43:23 onwards.
What are some things you want to say to those who are interested in coming for An Emergence of Self?
Daniel: I want people to just come with an open mind and open heart. We can play and have fun, and dive into the journey of movement and connection to the body. Through mindful movement, and through fun, we can come into stillness and embody everything that we experience in the retreat.
To be able to experience movement in its pure form, you need to forget about the technique and go more with the feeling. Forget about technique and the mortal mind.
If it starts to get complicated during the exercise, we will start thinking too much, which will put a strain on our muscle mind. Everything that I offer [in my sessions], I practice and embody myself, and at the end, I feel the effects of it. This will translate it into a session of simplicity, where everybody will be able understand, follow, and relate to in their present moment. It might be the same movement, but everybody’s experience of this movement will be different.
For An Emergence of Self, we will come into silence and stillness, which is where we’re able to listen most deeply. I’m really excited to be a part of this beautiful journey and share some magic. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you and sharing some of my life’s work with everybody who comes to join us on this journey of unfolding.
BSE Tip: If you’re curious about the practice of embodied movement, we’ve found them most meaningful when combined with a staycation or at a neutral space which we can also provide. These sessions can be tailored to any setting, so you can enjoy it solo or with your loved ones, and they can be enjoyed privately at your own desired time and space.
“Just 10 minutes has gone by and I’m like – completely present, in a state of bliss, and feeling so relaxed. I feel like I’ve really tuned into a place of stillness.” — Krystal Tan, Founder
“It was interesting and very revealing for both of us! That session alone revealed many truths about our relationship. Daniel is very observant.” — Steph Tan