In a wide-open, candlelit room at Casa Bagus on Clayton Rd., world techno music plays as several people shake their bodies with no discernible order. They don't move in coordination with the music nor each other. They just shake, at moments gently, at others wildly, and every few minutes a chant or a grunt is heard.
This is bio-energy meditation, or "shaking" meditation as it's more commonly known, a fairly new practice that has just arrived in St. Louis.
"[Shaking meditation] is about connecting to an energy that's available to everybody," Dieter Pauwels, a life coach and business consultant who leads the class, tells Daily RFT.
Pauwels tells students to slightly bend their knees, keep their feet in place, put hands forward, and use the small of their back to push their body into a shaking motion that's is reminiscent of somebody twerking passionately in a very enclosed space. As students shake, they're encouraged to chant - this helps them stay focused.
They're also encouraged to keep their eyes open and stare at something, such as a photo of Ratu Bagus, a Balinese guru who is believed to have paranormal powers and is credited with creating shaking meditation. In the photo, which is displayed prominently at the front of the room, Bagus points at you, as if he's saying, "You! Shake."
The class goes on for about an hour and students shake nonstop. At the end of the hour, everyone kneels down for a few minutes, and when the music stops, they form a circle and talk about their experience.
"I love it," says one of the students. "I've been doing it for a few weeks now and I feel great. The energy is terrific."
Another student says she enjoys it so much that she has started shaking at home - and she uses her Christmas tree for her visual focus.
"I can just focus on the lights," she says.
Feelings of more positive energy, less "blocks" on the mind, and a greater sense of calm are some of the effects shaking meditation is supposed to have. There's also the physical aspect: the body moves for an extended period of time, blood flows through the body, sweat glands open, and probably a few endorphins due to the body's gyration.
A group of people shaking in a dark, candlelit room with techno music and incense might look like a bunch of indecisive ravers unable to figure out if they want to dance or stand still, but the point of shaking is to stop thinking so much, Pauwels says.
"It's amazing when you go into any kind of meditation, the mind takes you places that makes you very aware how your mind runs your life," Pauwels says. "The mind is the problem. The mind, beliefs, ego, self - it all gets in the way. This is a practice about liberating yourself from all that."
Pauwels laughs when people refer to shaking as "weird," and he says he understands the sentiment. But, he adds, it's something that has been around for a long time.
"People have been shaking to heal in many cultures for centuries," he says, recommending the book, Shaking Medicine to prove his point. "The Kalahari Bushmen do it, it's done in Japan, and in America, there are the Quakers who have done it."
Pauwels first got turned onto shaking meditation three years ago by his mother, who operates a shaking meditation center in Belgium, where he is originally from. After becoming more curious about the practice, he went to Bali to study under Ratu Bagus.
Bagus, a teacher and healer believed to have "extraordinary paranormal abilities," according to a book about him called Shaking the Foundations, created the practice in its current form about 20 years ago. Since then, he has generated a strong following in Europe. Shaking classes abound in England and popular retreats are held in Rome each year. And in Bali, hundreds of Westerners come to his ashram each year to immerse themselves in month-long retreats where they shaking meditate for six hours a day.
Skip to 4:55 to see Bagus' powers in action...
But in the U.S., only a handful of cities have formal classes, including Seattle, New York, and now St. Louis, Pauwels says, where he has been holding classes at the newly-opened Casa Bagus for about three months.
Pauwels hopes shaking meditation grows in St. Louis. And who knows? Maybe it will be the next yoga - something most Americans thought was weird at first, but after a while, everyone and their mother had a yoga mat tucked under their armpit.
For more information on shaking meditation, contact Casa Bagus.
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