Dancing into Life


“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
its about learning to dance in the rain.”
~ Anonymous

Throughout most of my life, I’ve associated dancing as something one does when at a party or social gathering, as a wonderful form of expression when celebrating a special occasion. However, in my teens and early 20’s I became self-conscious about my body and did not like to dance in public. This discomfort was accompanied by the beginnings of a pattern in my life of taking my body for granted, of ignoring its needs.

I’m not sure what happened along the way, as in my early teens I loved experiencing the ecstasy and flow of my body while playing baseball and racing motorcycles across the desert with my father. In a similar vein, with nature as inspiration, I’ve always been transfixed by the power and beauty of Orca whales and love the experience of swimming in most any body of water.

Thankfully, over the last few years I’ve begun re-discovering the power of movement and dance as a powerful avenue of expression — and central part of my personal and spiritual growth. Rather than remaining stagnant whenever I am suffering or in pain, I now recognize that it is precisely at these times of contraction that I most need to move my body and dance through the challenging thoughts and feelings I am experiencing.

by Bill E. Goldberg

At first self-conscious,
I dance until
my sweat becomes a river,
that takes me to my soul.

Eyes closed,
I disappear
into the waves,
and all that’s left
is rhythm.

Laughter ripples through my body.
Joy arises
past walls that were there
just moments before.

Moving until
my sweat erodes
those walls
that surround my heart.

Beyond those walls,
is life,
real life.

We each have our own ways of opening to the experience of the sacred in our physical bodies, with Obama’s preference being basketball. More and more, I’m integrating movement and dance — as well as yoga practices, breathing and chanting — into my morning and evening spiritual practice (as well as into the flow of my Sacred Passages workshops). Someday I hope to have the experience of being a whirling dervish, one of the Sufi devotional practices.

Gabrielle Roth, in her book, Sweat Your Prayers, beautifully captures the healing process of embracing movement as spiritual practice:

“Surfers find that connection in the ocean. Skiers on the mountain.
Monks in the chant. Actors on the stage. Drummers in the beat.
I find it in the dance. I feel my soul in my body when I dance.
when I make love, and most times in between. And when I watch
my students dance, I see the soul in their bodies as well.
Its light, however, is most often dimmed by veils of inertia.
But I know that to reach the light we first have to travel
into the heart of darkness. Rhythm is our mother tongue.
As I have surrendered to the wild, ecstatic embrace of the dance,
I’ve found a language of patterns I can trust to deliver us into
universal truths, truths older than time. In the rhythm of the body
we can trace our holiness, states of being where all identities
dissolve into an eternal flow of energy.”

Please indulge me for an additional poem on this theme. I just discovered this one and it is currently my favorite. It speaks to the extraordinary and often-overlooked power of experiencing our body as holy:

by Hafiz

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.

But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.

You can stay that way
And even bloom!

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter.

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.

Whenever you say God’s name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!

O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!

In celebration for the rich dance of life, Gavin

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Your Comments

  1. Cindy Schell says:

    As a woman exploring the experience of the divine in her body through dance and nature, your beautiful words and images resonate deeply. Each post I have read is rich, real, and radiating with Beauty. I feel like I have discovered a lovely and luscious summer feast for my soul. Looking forward to reading more!

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