Dance as Meditation

Someone once said to me “A bird can sing with a broken wing but not a broken heart.” And what about us? Can we dance or sing when the body is whole but the heart is not? I believe we can because song and dance are a medium of the heart’s stirrings but also a medium by which that same heart is healed and made whole again.

When I dance as a form of meditation, I experience not only the soaring ecstasy of the bird’s flight but also the tumbling dive experienced by Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (Jonathan Livingstone Seagull – Richard Bach) which left him bruised and bewildered. Both the heights and depths touch upon the Divine with me.

The movements of the dance symbolize this two-fold rhythm by which I am transformed. My feet are firmly grounded on the earth, while my body stretches upward and outward. The pattern and variety of the dance necessitates always a return to the earth before flowing out again to a different physical level. As the weaving shape of my body flows in time and space, I touch upon my truest centre where God is and my spirit is stilled.

Like Jonathan, who felt the stirrings of something new striving to be born within him, for a long time I danced alone. Perhaps my experience is best articulated in the words of the lyrics of Neil Diamond which describes Jonathan’s creative vision.

…And we dance to a whispered voice/Overheard by the soul/Undertook by the heart…

The dance is of itself, like all creative expression, a journey toward our centre. It is a dangerous journey because it takes me not only into the ecstasy of the skies but deep into the dark underground places of my own alienations where the spirit is remoulded and made new. Because it is a spiritual journey, the dance is a transformative force and must of necessity, spiral out again into the human circle. There I reconnect in compassion to all that is and a sense of responsibility and commitment is born. The gift must be breathed out again into the universe in gratitude, birthing beauty and calling to life the Divine within the other. Jonathan passed on his gift because it belonged, not to him alone, but to the whole flock. So he exhorted his pupil “…Night bird find your way/for none may know it just as you may/seek out your harbour of light/let your song be heard…” (Richard Bach)

Sacred meditation dance is a special mode of this expression. Every dance expresses a spiritual essence hidden within an outer form. The dance seeks to shape the dancer’s own inner reality, while at the same time, communicating this reality. Together we create a sacred space wherein the Divinity is touched. In this sacred space, we look together into the well of our being and find reflected there the image of God.

 

I Hope You’ll Dance…

We all know the story of Chicken Little. She stands under a tree and gets bonked on the head by an acorn. Off she goes running across the farmyard screaming in panic,”The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” It doesn’t take long before the news spreads and farmyard animals start asking why she is running in such panic. Can’t they see the sky is falling!

“How do you know the sky is falling?”

” Are you blind? Can’t you see the bump on my head!”  And so with that bit of clear evidence, the story spreads. Drama is great fun, so the story goes viral on Farmyard Facebook and Farmyard Twitter (not the birds). Soon Chicken Little is leading an entourage of panicked animals focused on letting the Big Boss know of the terrible danger approaching. He will surely rescue them from this calamity. That’s what Big Bosses are for, isn’t it? Of course we know the end of the story: the fear and  unthinking, unquestioning acceptance of this bit of sensational news leads the animals right into the maw of the wily fox who has a Masters in manipulation from the University of Exploitation. He knows how to feed into this panic and fear and keep his belly full.

Then there is the story of Zorba the Greek. He is a feisty, irreverent, gregarious workman, who links up with an uptight (and no doubt politically correct) English man who has come to Crete to take up an inherited business. A salt of the earth type of human being, Alexis Zorba surrenders with passion to whatever life throws at him, both good and bad. He copes by surrendering to the dance with mind and body and soul. In the final scene, both Greek and English man see their dreams come literally hurtling down the mountain in a spectacular, thundering, catastrophic crash. The English man, devastated, asks Zorba to teach him to dance in the face of this loss and so he does. That is how the story ends in joy and surrender to what is.

These two stories are two different perspectives on how we can deal with the darkness of life’s tragedies. Zorba’s dance is both a physical and emotional release but also a creative response to disaster. No-one escapes pain or struggle in life but how we perceive difficult events will influence our experience  of those events. Zorba celebrated life, the whole of it, not just the easy comfortable bits because both as essential. If our perspective of life is based solely on the daily diet of disasters presented by the media, then we miss out on the glorious richness and colour of life’s dance.

There is no doubt about it, chaos abounds in our world and we would be naive indeed to pretend otherwise. But chaos has a purpose at an individual, national and international level. This purpose is to raise our awareness and  wake us up to what needs to change. We are living in a time of massive social transformation. As a species, we are undergoing a profound paradigm shift, as old ways of being are challenged and new paradigms take root in our world. Change, evolution,and creativity are usually preceded by some level of chaos, causing fear of the Chicken Little variety. But there is no need to fear because the Universe knows what it is doing. We are all evolving whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable. In unsettling times of transition, a strong spirituality can strengthen and guide us and keep us steady on the bumpy ride. Add a dollop of humour to that to add a little extra richness to the experience. Every  trial and tribulation is a challenge thrown down by God, (your Higher Self, your Soul, the Universe, whatever you want to call it ) to become our essential selves, to let go of fear based Chicken Little thinking (The terrorists are coming! The terrosists are coming! ) and live in love. What happens in the world is influenced by what happens within each of us. I can’t stop terrorism but I can rid my own heart of hatred and intolerance by word and deed. Each act of love adds to the critical mass and that is how the world is changed.

We have a choice. Will we screech in fear that the sky is falling or will we dance with passionate involvement in the richness of the life we have been given. I hope you’ll dance.