Skip to content

Leading and Following

Observing is a good way to learn. Listening with stitched lips, wakeful eyes, and quivering ears brings magic into your life.” —Fatima Mernissi, Moroccan feminist scholar, Dreams of Trespass

Leading and Following—powerful, powerful, powerful—is fundamental to Dancemeditation training. It quiets the monkey mind. It teaches us how to hear the Divine. Big claim, but true. 

Turkish ArabesqueTraining and Practice
In training sessions, one person closes her eyes and moves, and other(s) follow. Simple. This process, unassuming from outward appearances, holds internal evolutionary richness. Through Leading and Following, we experience, understand, and practice letting go of the burdensome compulsion to control. We learn this in a relaxing manner. Following a teacher, or another mover, entrains a pattern of ‘following-ness.’ Let the horse carry the rider, the teacher carry the student.

The student follows the teacher.
Then, the student follows her own movement inside herself.
Then, one student follows another student.
Then, the seeker follows the Cosmic Flow passing through her.

What Happens During Leading and Following

During Lead and Follow, monkey mind quiets. When we de-emphasize analytical, cognitive processes—a.k.a. thinking—random, chaotic, non-functional thinking drops away as well. This helps short-circuit the habit of using mind to beat the body into submission. Our body absorbs the amount it can absorb. Most important, through the learning of ‘following-ness’, we pattern the mind to follow body, mind listen to body. We learn how to let our body speak its truth to a custodial mind.


Turkish ArabesqueThe Cue ‘Lead and Follow’
Always take care when choosing words for your body. Words are creatures of the mind, and they have a lot of power. Finding the right word, the helpful word. The helpful word, though not necessarily fancy, is pruned of unhelpful qualities. I like the phrase  ‘Lead and Follow’ for the fundamental practice action. Why? Lead and Follow is plain and simple. It’s what we will do. It doesn’t imply anything other than the activity that we will do. We will lead and follow and have our own experience, without tainting the experience with expectation. As well, the phrase ‘lead and follow’ includes the word ‘and’. We will do both. We will lead. We will follow. Both. This opens inner doors.

What I Don’t Care For and Why
‘Mirroring’—not so helpful.  A mirror is exact. There is a tiny nudge the idea of ‘mirror’ that we should be exact, should catch it all, and that if we don’t we are bad. Not a helpful attitude to bring into healing and evolution processes. It slows us down. Though we may, through development of our inner witness, discover great, dark depths to our habits of deleterious self-criticism, such discoveries may encourage us to dally in personality structure and history. Sufi process goes to the energetic ground as directly as possible. Sufi understands that the energetic ground clears emotional patterns swiftly. So, no directives that activate the ‘should’ word.

‘Follow the Leader’—not so helpful. The noun ‘leader’ implies hierarchy. Immediately we hark back to class ridden societies, dominance and submission. Sexy, perhaps, but not helpful. Instead, we want to cultivate the feeling of give and receive and their reciprocal qualities. For most people, ‘receive’ has to be encouraged. It is part of the instruction to ‘let go’, to surrender—fundamental to all spiritual traditions.


Turkish ArabesqueHow Leading and Following Helps Us Get Where We Are Going
What is the ultimate goal? Intimacy with the Divine. Being One. How are we going to get there? Certainly not by micromanaging our world inside and out. Micromanaging never brought freedom from pain, contentment, inner peace. Never has, never will. We need to learn another way and that way concerns letting go. Surrender. Receiving. We practice and emphasize ‘receive’, listening ever more deeply for an ever more deeply moving Truth.

Ultimately, even when we lead we are following. For teaching, the most developed teacher is the one who can follow with greatest comfort the is-ness within and without. The farthest reach of this pattern is the Divine carrying us all, the Heart and the Path carrying the seeker..



2013 Dervish DM LOGO dancerCome, join me, for the experience ~

Cape Cod Winter Intensive | Dervish Dancemeditation
Feb 16-20
of which you can do a day or two days, etc.




Share the movement...
    1. Anastacia #

      Wow. There is SO much here to unpack, to ponder, to savor.
      Thank you!

      February 7, 2013
    2. You are so very welcome. I finally wrestled this key point into words. Whew! I am sure a lot more can be said, and said better. In time…

      February 7, 2013
    3. Nancy-Laurel Pettersen #

      There’s so much relief in reading what you say about following. It gracefully skirts right around (over? under?) so much need to control. Just even a glimmer of what it might mean to give that up is restful. Needing to rest from that.

      February 8, 2013
    4. Nancy-Laurel, ain’t it so! Thank you for ‘getting’ this. (And just thank you generally. You are amazing.)
      Following is so easily misunderstood. I know I misunderstood it for many many years. I couldn’t find the benefit because my controlling nature blinded me. I now love being carried. And I most love being carried by That Which is Most Subtle, whether mediated by another human or not…

      February 8, 2013
    5. Thank you for your Divine “wrestling” into such very helpful, clarifying words.

      February 8, 2013
    6. Anastasia Blaisdell #

      Wow, Dunya!! I am so grateful that you wrestled and found these words to describe this process a bit…it is sooo helpful to me because this is the part of teaching, especially that first 2o minute time where we lead the group, that has eluded me the most. WHY? do I have to do this part? What is the Real Purpose , honestly of this part? Can’t I just skip it?…I am sure many insights to come as to why I would want to just skip this part…oooh, so now I will ponder this more and feel into this explanation when I practice and teach and see how this understanding will unfold in me. I am excited, thank you for the spark, the insight, so well articulated as always, always!! Thank you.

      February 12, 2013
    7. It is really hard to understand to the core of the method, because it is so difficult to stop controlling. We control because we are afraid. It is natural, at the same time, Path is the process of maturing and integrating the self beyond these limiting habits. I am glad you are inspired to approach the Lead and Follow anew.

      February 12, 2013
    8. karleen #

      Very beautiful….so simple and profound……..I always find lead and follow slows me down; I come in racing and wary, and then I begin to settle into the body. This little awareness about my process is recent. When I first started DM I felt impatient and critical of body that she couldn’t follow every move exactly. After a time, lead and follow became very dear because I knew it calmed me and slowed me. Now, it’s like a romance. I can’t wait to follow its lead.

      February 12, 2013

    Comments are closed.