Finding Your Own Rhythm – Monica Myers

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Dancing has saved me many times. I have danced through pain, confusion, insecurity and the blues. I have danced through lost friendships, unemployment, miscarriages, and a broken heart. I have danced alone, and I have danced in community. And of course, I have also danced in celebration, as an expression of joy.

 

I have not always danced. It took my ego a while—probably until my mid-twenties– to get over itself. I was self-conscious about the way I looked. I told myself that I didn’t know how to dance, or that I wasn’t a “good” dancer.  I imagined that everyone was watching and judging me. I sabotaged my body’s natural ability to move by convincing myself that I was awkward. The result was, not surprisingly, self-constraint and awkwardness. But I know now, that the presence or absence of awkwardness is beside the point. Movement invites the expression of the full range of human emotions and experience, and in this way, taps into our aliveness. When we feel our bodies, we are feeling life.

 

We live in a culture that suggests that the arts, including dance, are reserved for a small group of innately talented individuals.  I had to unlearn this cultural myth, in order to remember how to dance. If you have ever watched a small child dance, you can’t help but smile. And you can see very plainly that the impulse to dance is innate within us all. There is a simple joy and a freedom in the physical act of movement. It becomes clear that physical movement is key to unlocking the spirit.

 

Our individual rhythm connects us to the flow of all of life, so that there are no separations or distinctions and we experience a deep sense of belonging and communion.

 

Humans, both children and adults alike, have been dancing for as long as they have been in existence. When I was an undergraduate student, I studied anthropology. Among my discoveries was the prevalence of ritualistic and community dance across all historical tribal cultures. “In many shamanic societies,” Gabrielle Roth stated, “if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed,” they would often ask: “When did you stop dancing?”

 

This begs the question today: Have we stopped dancing? In our modern times we lead a dangerously disembodied life.  From our sedentary lifestyles and our addiction to the passive entertainment of TV and the Internet, to chronic health issues like alcoholism, obesity, and eating disorders, there are many manifestations of this. Our achievement-oriented culture encourages us to be more often in our heads than in our bodies; we want to put mind and spirit above body, not fully aware that the two are intimately related.  When we are overly identified with our thoughts and our minds–with rational, scientific and dualistic thought, we neglect our bodies, including the heart. In his article, “Disillusionment and Hope,” Stephen Bennett states, “We might say that as we have become evermore indoctrinated by centuries of rational, scientific binary thought, we have lost our awareness of the heart as an organ of perception” (Bennett, Human Development, 2010).  And when we lose our connection with our hearts and our bodies, we lose our connection with our basic humanness.

 

The wisdom of our ancestors reminds us that the way to wholeness is to fully embrace our incarnated lives, not to attempt to overcome them.

 

“Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth,” Gabrielle Roth wrote. Its not just entertainment, it’s a path in itself, leading beyond our habitual ways of thinking and being. It’s a creative process that reveals a map to the soul. Ultimately, what we experience somatically is the mirror image of what we experience psychologically. By engaging in movement, we come to understand what areas of our bodies and psyches need attention and healing. As James Hillman suggests in his book, The Soul’s Code, listening to the body represents “a call from the soul already in full comprehension of our path, beckoning us to some understanding still secret to the ego.”

 

Now, if you are wondering, I am definitely not a professional dancer, and I have never even taken a formal dance class. But in my lived experience, music and dance are tremendously healing and transformative forces—dancing in my living room, dancing at concerts, and more recently, dancing in intentional movement groups.

 

Dancing is a way to get in touch with your deeper self. On the simplest and most basic level, I’ve come to appreciate dance as a form of play. Play is not just for kids, but as adults, many of us are seriously lacking in play time. To tap into that childlike spirit of play is essential to the renewal of spirit. When is the last time you danced? If you need a little inspiration, check out the father and daughter in this YouTube video:

 

Monica uses body awareness with her clients and is currently facilitating a therapeutic movement group for young women. She welcomes your comments, questions, and requests for more information. Please email monimyers69@gmail.com.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth