A Body Dancing is an Ear to the Cosmos
‘Pretty, fit , and fun’—that is how we value dance in our culture. Part of me always cringes at this pimping. We pimp dance because it is in a body and it is bodies the culture pimps. Anyway, I did that, danced and dug into that mud, wringing as much as I could from ‘pretty, fit, and fun’ all the while yearning and fumblingly dancing into my earthy darkness to visit my secret heart. I found my heart’s dance. I know how to get there and take my inevitable rustling and rooting in ever-new undergrowth in stride. Because of this, I champion all bodies who yearn. Some of us are intuitively drawn to dance beyond ‘pretty, fit, and fun’, even if we aren’t sure why, or how it will be. Dance is the language belonging to everything bodily and, in this incarnation, there is nothing that isn’t bodily. A body dancing is an Ear to the Cosmos. If I stopped moving and dancing, I would grow deaf and blind and senseless.
I unwind the term ‘dance’ and let it breathe and it naturally expands into meditation. (Though, when I mention Dancemeditation to an inquiring stranger, they are momentarily intrigued. Something deeper and swifter than thought-forms spark, then I see that shadow cross their face—meditation is something serious, respectable, soothing, and spiritual, and dance is hilarity. The synthesis term makes no sense for them.) When we let dance be a way into the self, we exit a tiny, horrid corner with only a dozen allowable gestures and enter a big place. The self is enormous, and the moving self is far, far more enormous than the sitting self.
For years, I clung to my ideas of how practice should be. ‘Pretty, fit, and fun’ kept me chained and made practice a labor, but despite mounting frustration, I was reluctant to give up my known dance self. When I now observe others struggling to sustain a practice, I suspect they are also reluctant to relinquish something they hold dearly about dance, some little bit of ‘pretty, fit, fun.’ This isn’t to say we won’t have fun or be fit or pretty, because of course we will, but it has to be dropped as the reason why. Without a doubt, we will have to give up the reasons why, in the ordinary world, we have danced in order to delve beyond imagination into our heart and all it knows. Assumption and expectation for our dance veils its reality. It sets the bar too low.
A daily movement practice aimed at ‘pretty, fit, fun’ isn’t so much a practice as an expectation. To not assume and to not expect, which is easy to say and gives people a sense of superiority to say it, is extraordinarily difficult to do because the brain is built to assume and expect. However, assuming and expecting rush us past a window to an inner sky. In our daily Dancemeditation practice, we hypnotize our mind to get beyond its proclivity as quickly as possible. We close our eyes and move and breathe. Feel what we are doing. Gentle, repetitive movement activates our parasympathetic nervous system which is slower and more open to moment-by-moment sensation. Opening the door into embodiment brings us to presentness. Naturally, our brains dither, try to control, or wander while we yank the rug out from under the thought shapes. And we continue to move and breathe in our dark.
For many meditators, the ground of encounter is the mind; for me, it is mostly the body. My sober words are fueled by my sluggish personal progress—years and years of clinging to an old me. I’m frustrated that I’m such a slow learner, and I suppose, as a teacher and writer about meditation, I unrealistically hope that others can move swiftly through things that have taken me so long. Yet I know this is unlikely. Not only do we have bossy brains, we have also been educated to disavow our bodies. We share the mass delusion about body, and we share the need to reclaim our embodiment. Body by body, on individual mats, our private bones take on a massive cultural problem. We come to terms with repressions and outright enslavement, and struggle with pain and trauma.
Even if we lived in a healthy society, every human must eventually accept that incarnation is a limited arc of gain and loss. Somehow, we have congealed into human form. I am not convinced we have arrived for a purpose, or to find our purpose, or to forge purpose, nor to discover meaning, all of which are the most celebrated life pursuits, but I am convinced, at the very least, that since we are here as participants, conscious embodiment—moving, dancing, feeling, breathing into the Moment—is an exploration of this opportunity. It’s the best we can do. The opportunity of a lifetime.
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.