Jerusalem-born shamanic dance practitioner and soul healer Parashakti journeyed halfway around the world to find her home in Native American spiritual practice. Her work weaves together textures and threads of ancient wisdom to help modern spiritual seekers come into contact with Spirit as an embodied, felt experience, and as a transformative tool for finding sacredness every day. As the creator of Dance of Liberation™, an ecstatic dance modality that incorporates ritual and shamanic blindfold practices, Parashakti’s work has touched the lives of over 10,000 people across the world.
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Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” ~ Martha Graham
Parashakti also created 7 Foundations, a guide for embodied spiritual connection and vibrant living. After serving as spiritual director of Breathe Life Healing Center, an addiction recovery facility in Hollywood, Parashakti co-created Sanctuary in the City, an outpatient recovery program based on the 7 Foundations. She facilitates trainings for addiction recovery specialists at New York’s Open Center, holds collaborative retreats with the International Kabbalah Centre, and maintains a residency at Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica where Dance of Liberation™ serves as the closing ceremony.
It’s a long way from where she began, although in many ways, she had a sense of where she was headed from an early age. At four years old, Parashakti knew what she was born to do. She wasn’t Parashakti yet, just a big-eyed, energetic girl named Sigalit—the Hebrew word for “violet.” Violets are rich purple with yellow centers—passionate and bright—and she suited that name. Sigalit started ballet class and took to movement right away. From the way she speaks about it, dance felt like her skin. Skin is what encompasses us, stretching to contain all of our inner workings, protecting us from the outside world, and allowing us to bend, curve, and adapt to its pressures.
Some people think that Yoga means standing on your head. But, before you even want to stand on your head, you should be standing firmly on your feet.” ~ Swami Satchidananda
Dance helped Sigalit work through the trauma of her parents’ divorce and her father’s abandonment of the family when he left to pursue Ultra-Orthodox Jewish doctrine. When Sigalit was diagnosed with profound learning disabilities that were made more difficult when her family moved from Israel to California and back, dance was the only language she felt comfortable speaking.
An injury at twenty-two destroyed her dreams of dancing professionally, so Sigalit entered what she has called the “dark night of the soul”: a profound disconnection from her body and connection to source.
Yoga delivered her home, beginning her eventual path to shamanism. Living in several ashrams, studying with Swami Satchidananda and dedicating herself to a life of spiritual discipline, Sigalit became Parashakti and found her way to dance again. This time, it was in the Naraya dance, a ceremonial dance tradition of the indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, where Parashakti began envisioning the 7 Foundations and Dance of Liberation™.
The 7 Foundations are practices intended to ground participants in the physical, tangible practice of spirituality. They include:
- Creating Sacred Space
- The Journey of Intention
- The Blindfold
- The Breath
- The Rhythm
- Dance of Liberation
- Integration and Joyful Service
We invite you to join in this “dance” with Parashakti in this interview about her work, its origins, and what it means to embody spiritual experience.
Stella Marcus: Why 7 Foundations?
Parashakti: The number seven is imbued with sacredness as it has profound and powerful spiritual energy in traditions across the planet. For me, it began with the seven directions of the Native American Medicine Wheel. There’s also significance with seven in the Bible and in the Chakras. There are also the seven days in our week, and the seven sense organs in our heads: two nostrils, two ears, two eyes and one mouth!
SM: The 7 Foundations are in many ways about giving people a roadmap for spiritual experience and discipline. How did they emerge for you?
P: The Native American Medicine Wheel is based on seven directions and has complex symbolism. It contains power animals and relationships with earth and time. I started really inquiring, exploring, and physically dancing with each direction, and through dancing, I received the roadmap. One foundation leads into the next and back and forth. Everything is interrelated, just as it is in the Medicine wheel and the Native American tradition. It’s like storytelling—we’re rewriting the soul’s contract.
SM: There is a real emphasis on practicing spirituality in your value system, not as something one does separate from the rest of life, but something woven into the fabric of life and something that involves doing.
P: Rituals can be as mundane as brushing one’s teeth. On a hygienic level, it makes you feel so much better when you brush your teeth. When you set your mind to a practice and you do it on a regular basis, that’s just what ritual is to me. When you are consistent with this practice, you begin to develop a deeper trust within yourself; a sense that you will follow through. And so, this is about an inner relationship with oneself; about developing a deeper practice, a deeper connection, a deeper source of commitment. And when you take it to the next level of ritualizing and building an altar for example, then take care of that altar everyday, just like you brush your teeth every day. You will start to make a connection with the sacredness of your life. For example, every single morning I will sage my apartment. And that ritualistic piece gives me that that inner sense of a clearing. There’s a cleansing; there’s a purification. And I feel the difference when I don’t sage.
When I lived in the ashram, there was a lot of meditation and meditation is a great gateway. For me personally, I felt a lot of energy being stuck when I was in meditation. And so, the practice of being able to embody and physicalize the work began. The second foundation is the journey of intention: you can have intention and if you don’t stay active with it, it just remains a thought. Thoughts are powerful. They are. And it’s much more powerful to have an intention and to take action from it.
SM: Dance of Liberation™ is different from other ecstatic dance practices in a few ways. It involves ceremony and also incorporates blindfolds. Why the blindfolds?
P: When our eyes are open, we can get distracted and we can dance in a way that is more about an external experience: being seen. Dancers reach levels of intimacy with themselves when they wear a blindfold that otherwise would not be there. When the blindfold comes off, there’s not that neediness; it’s more about being one’s authentic self. I’ve seen it!
SM: You’ve described experiencing the dark night of the soul before arriving in the Ashram at Integral Yoga. How did yogic wisdom help see you through that?
P: What I learned to do that I didn’t know how to do was breathe. There had been a sense of meditation in the years that I danced, though I wouldn’t call it meditation. It was more of an external experience of energy moving through me that was being given to the audience. I wasn’t really experiencing my own spirit. Breath is the physical form of spirit. The journey was about giving and about showing the audience rather than taking the journey inward. And once I started finding that connection to my breath, that’s also when I started a regular yoga practice. That’s also when I started exploring dance in a whole new way. I would put on a music track and I would close my eyes and my body would start moving without the need for any sort of external choreography. It started moving in ways that felt like it was my heart moving and my pulse moving. The blindfold wasn’t introduced yet, but because my eyes were closed, I started going into the darkness, experiencing a lot of healing through my closed eyes. When I would open them, it would go away. And so that’s when the laboratory [for Dance of Liberation™] started. I also found a teacher training, which was Integral Yoga in New York City. After teacher training, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to the practice and to the lifestyle of yoga. That’s when I was accepted to live at the Integral Yoga institute.
SM: What drew you to American indigenous practices—something so far away from your own father’s experience as an Orthodox Jew?
P: Native American spirituality is earth-based wisdom and medicine, and it allowed me to connect more to the wisdom of nature. It’s not religion-based and it’s not book-based. I would attend these ceremonies and even if the chants were not in my language, I would understand them on a level that was beyond language. I would experience deep, deep healing through the ceremonies and not only individual healing; I would experience collective healing. It really attracted me because of my history of having an Ultra Orthodox father and my rebellion against that. That never felt like me. Native practices felt like I was home. I’m home; I’m in this ceremonial expression and way of being, and I’m somewhere that I feel like I can actually learn.
SM: What are you up to now in your life and what collaborations are you excited about?
P: What I love most is co-facilitating and collaborating with visionaries. I’ve been honored to partner with Karen Berg of the Kabbalah Centre, with Rythmia Life Advancement Center, and with Onzie, a brand of yogic wear that has become my uniform and has helped me come out of my ascetic yogini shell with a blast of color. I’m super thrilled to launch Winged Ones, a sacred jewelry line in collaboration with jewelry designer Pitango. It’s been deeply initiated and inspired by the medicine of the eagle, which is the power animal I’ve been dancing with for the past twenty years and which birthed Dance of Liberation™. Pitango is a Seer in his own right; a medicine man.