Meaning Mondays: An Invitation to Dance

You can dance your life, and in dancing your life you can lead the life you want to have.

-Anna Halprin

WHERE IN YOUR LIFE DID YOU STOP DANCING?

If you were here last week, you know I proposed that this question begs us to look in the wings for other metaphorical questions. Questions that stray from the literal, and speak to emotion and energy and essence:

Where did you stop dancing with your creative force, with possibility and imagination?

Where did you stop dancing with your ability to play?

Where did you stop dancing in your interactions with the ones you love?

All of us (even those who strive to make meaning) can become disconnected from our inner metaphorical dancers, those sprites who travel in the flow of life. Those delicate creatures who need care and attention.

Because in this world we come up against disillusionment and overwhelm. We live the same day over and over again. Our metaphorical dancers lose their way. And our bodies become vessels of trapped feelings and emotions, and who knows what to do with all of that?

TO THIS I SAY: DANCE!

Which is exactly where my experiments have taken me. Each morning for the past few weeks, I’ve capitulated to the wisdom of my body, letting it lead the way and express whatever emotions it needs to.

Dancing inside the house and outside in the garden, I’ve moved through joy, sorrow, laziness, curiosity, irritation, excitement, and love. And every single time the original emotion has transformed to a sweet, subtle form of sustenance.

Always, in the end, I feel centered and ready for my day.

I was inspired to take this on after reading The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts and Healing, by Natalie Rogers. In the book Rogers describes how to deepen the experience by adding other art forms, and several times I’ve piggy backed writing and drawing onto my morning dance ritual.

The beauty is that one doesn’t need any particular artistic background to proceed. Expressive art is for your inner growth. No need to judge or critique your efforts. Because the thing that you’re creating is you. Just you. For your eyes and your experience alone.

Obviously, my drawings are rudimentary and childlike. My dance not always graceful. But that’s the point, in some sense: to retrieve that experience, that place, where we no longer need to color within the lines. We talk and talk and talk about doing that, but at some point it becomes clear that words and thoughts won’t get us there.

So I’m delighted to share my experiments. And if you decide to dip your toe in the waters, please know that you’re allowed to lock the door on your inner critic.

A MORNING DANCE WITH WORDS AND PICTURES

I wake up. I feel tired and overwhelmed. Like I’m struggling to hold up a big clod of dirt.

I let my body move to the feeling, arms outstretched, wrists limp, swaying back and forth, turning, turning, creating a cavern of space between my arms and chest.

Then, a new feeling emerges…desire. To be cared for, embraced. My body moves to this feeling and I dance over to the birch trees. Green leaves surround me, embrace me, pull me in. Suddenly I am dancing with the trees. I look up and see a sky of green leaves above me.

Then, another feeling arrives…possibility. My body moves in quick steps and I see a small branch on the ground. I pick it up. It moves with me. It is my companion, my third arm, my walking stick. There to support me. And suddenly, another feeling shows up – curiosity. The branch becomes a divining rod and my body follows it as it pulls me through the garden. It shakes. I shake. Its energy pulses through me. Then finally, Eureka! We hit the spot and water gushes up out of the earth. A beautiful, graceful, flowing fountain.


My body feels complete.

It stretches.

I am tuned in to all my senses.

I am grounded.

I no longer feel tired and overwhelmed.

AN INVITATION TO DANCE

Right now, stop what you’re doing. Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Maybe you’re tired after a long day? Anxious to get over to the next blog? Curious about what I’ve written here?

Whatever it is, observe the sensation in your body. And now, for one minute, simply let the feeling move you. Move your body a lot or a little. Stay in your chair, or get up. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Simply dance.

When you’re finished, notice the feeling again. Has it transformed in any way? What was it like to dance it?

Then, please, dance over to the comments section and share your experiences!

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WHY NOT START NOW?

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34 thoughts on “Meaning Mondays: An Invitation to Dance

  1. Hi Patty, I’ve just gotten out of bed so all I could do was just sit here! :P

    Still, as I focused on the feeling of tiredness, that gradually gave way to a feeling of slow burning alertness (if that makes sense). I may have to try dancing again a little later on when I’m feeling a little less sluggish!

    By the way, your illustrations convey everything you went through in your dancing “experiment” perfectly. I could clearly tell what was happening before I even read your explanations. I also love how your red overwhelmed heart, it seems, was a seed trapped in that clod of dirt. And then it’s a replenishing green seen within you in the next image. And then it blossoms from there! Nice touch. :)

    • Hi Tony – That’s a great start! Even the slightest movement can bring us into awareness of feelings and begin to transform them. So thank you very much for stepping up and being the first to take a crack at it. I appreciate that very much. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, how that little seed blossomed? It was very unexpected when it happened.

  2. Hi Patty,

    I love to dance. I started salsa dancing about 18 months ago and at least once a week I go out salsa dancing. There is so much you can discover in dancing: energy, fun, learning. But most importantly, I see it as a form of self-expression.

    • Hi Eduard – Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I can just feel all that energy flowing in your description of salsa dancing. Very inspiring.

  3. Patty, your post made me sob. I cried tears of sadness that I can no longer physically get up and dance. I cried tears of regret that I did not dance more when I was able to. I cried tears of awareness knowing that I will never again be able to physically get up and dance but that does not necessarily mean that I can no longer dance. I cried tears of joy as I realized that dancing is about the heart, mind and soul. I can hear the music. I can see the movement. I can feel the excitement. I can dance.
    For all those able-bodied people out there — every time you hear your favorite song, get up and dance just because… you can.

    • Yes, yes, yes, Tracy. Beautiful. We all need this reminder. I’ve been dancing every day, letting out my inner sprite, no music needed. (She seems to bring along her own.) And no matter how brief a time we spend together, I always come away grateful that I can do this. I’m so glad, too, that your tears moved you to a place of transformation, where you say “I can dance.” If we can’t move our limbs we can dance with our eyes, our mouths, our hearts, our souls. I think we can even dance with our tears. Thank you.

  4. Hi Patty! I read this post and got up to get more coffee. On my way, I stretched out, twirled and stretched some more. (My dog wondered what the heck?) It was so refreshing – thanks so much for giving me this push – and reminder!
    hugs
    suZen

  5. I admit, I’m not a big dancer. Never have been. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and understand the metaphor of dancing, of listening to your body and expressing your moods. I get it!

    This makes me think about my dog, and how she takes time to S-T-R-E-T-C-H every morning when she gets up. I need to do that more often. Such a nice way to welcome the day, to wake your body, to loosen your muscles and get the blood flowing. Kind of a dance?

    • Hi Eva – Yes, stretching is good, kind of like what I’m talking about. Definitely a start. And then, you could let the stretch move you, let it lead. Curiously follow it to see where it goes (rather than you telling it what to do). I suspect before you know it you would be dancing, a personal dance just for you, no one else. And then you might find you no longer need to say you’re not a big dancer. Because this is a very different kind of dance. So why not start now? (OK, you know I couldn’t resist that, right?)

  6. Beautiful post. I’m happy that I’ve found my way over to your blog. Thank you for your words. I have always been a wary dancer…But just moving, for me, is a lovely idea. A lovely sensation.

    • Hi BPBG – Welcome! I’m so glad you found your way here. Thank you for your comment. You’ve got it exactly – just start to move. Trust it. The movement will carry you, and when you’re finished you’ll no longer be a wary dancer (at least not with this kind of dancing).

  7. The spirit stops expressing as we accumulate fear. And fear is the unnaturalness of being unconscious. As I release fear, the dance–the full engagement with life in the present, begins to come back. Maybe someday it will be abiding.

  8. Hi Patty,

    Love “possibilities”! Pretty colors. squiggles of freedom. Sounds like a good book to read. Will get it.

    I lost my way somewhere between the end of elementary school and when I started singing in my early thirties. There were moments of dance in there. In my night-clubbing days, my sister and danced at clubs several nights a week. Loved it! Always took continuing ed classes. It just all felt disconnected because overall I was following someone else’s path …

    Singing changed my life on every level. It let the “trapped inside creative me” out. I’ve been painting, writing, singing, dancing, drawing, laughing, conversing and rebelling ever since.

    The second time around you cannot put the creative genie back in the bottle! That’s why society doesn’t want it to come out. We’re not that easy to control once we regain our creative powers.

    Giulietta

    • Oh, you delightful rebel, you! I love the thought that you can’t put the creative genie back in the bottle the second time around. I’m going to remember that one. Thanks!

  9. Every once in a while I will feel the urge to do a little step or even a twirl here and there… something dramatic or just fu… something that is dictated by my body over my brain.
    Then I look at my daughter who dances down sidewalks, in stores, in the house… she just dances and wonder if she will stop at some point? Will she find her creativity and freedom repressed out of her awareness of the perceptions or opinions of others?

    She is attending a theater camp next week… maybe the arts are in her blood thus it will be the challenge of others to accept her over her challenge to be herself in a society that likes things, just… so.

    I have been thinking of you and your cat…

    • Aw, thank you for thinking of me and Leo, M. He is actually doing remarkably well right now. I’m a bit stumped by it, thought he would probably have reached the end by now. But I’ll take it. I love the word picture you create of your daughter dancing through life, everywhere. In my own small way, that’s what I’m trying to do. In fact, I’m proposing that we *all* do it. Sweet, spontaneous dancing for no reason. The more I pay attention, the more my I know my body wants this.

  10. Patty -

    I love the idea of your morning dance and creativity ritual. I have started prancing around to some of my favourite tunes, getting to more concerts and brilliant music festivals and generally letting it all hang out. It feels great – lighter, easier, more positive. My energy is up and life is great. Great drawings – its not the skill, its the sentiment and these really convey your feelings. Thanks for sharing!

    Phil

    • Ooooh, I like that image of you, Phil, letting it all hang out. Why not, right? So glad to hear that your energy is up and life is great. Thanks!

  11. Isn’t the body something to cherish and to use as a real companion in life. It is right there for us to receive experiences, knowledge and to embody feelings that otherwise might go unnoticed. I do twirl when I go and pick oranges in the morning but never gave it a thought. Cool that you made me aware and observe what I was doing. Now I can even enjoy my body and its wisdom even more. Ha, what a gift, thank you my friend. xox Wilma

    • What a gift you have given me, my friend. An image of beautiful Wilma dancing through the orange trees. I adore it! xoxo right back at you!

  12. Hi Patty
    “WHERE IN YOUR LIFE DID YOU STOP DANCING?”
    Taking that literally.. I never started but taking it as a metaphor… I dance every day.
    I’m always on the go, working, finding interesting things to do, walking, exercising.
    I’ve always been aware of how doing something physical can have an positive effect on your state of mind.
    Hope I never have to stop dancing.

    • Sounds like you’ve fully embraced your metaphorical dancers, Keith. Wonderful. Thanks so much for the visit and the comment.

  13. Dear Patty,

    I love this post and I love dance as a way to connect. Esalen is having a month long “seminar” on the 5 rhythms (Roth style) in August and I’ve had my eye on it.

    Just a few days ago I spend a couple days at my friend’s cabin here in Pa. My 8-year old nephew jumped off the rope into the creek about a hundred times (smile). We had water balloon battles, canoe rides (with a couple tip overs of course), inner tube floating…all this good stuff that is playful, fun, connected.

    It’s so important to realize talk alone does not heal, movement on the other hand, is magic!

    I love thinking of you dancing and drawing. Thanks for sharing your process and your drawings.

    Big hugs,
    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren – Mmmm, that Esalen seminar sounds delightful. If you go please tell me about it (or better yet, write about it). Your description of your days at the cabin is so full of joy and exuberance, and I totally agree with you about the healing power of such times. Thanks much for your comment. And hugs right back to you!

  14. Hi Patty,
    I have danced my entire life…literally and figuratively..about three years ago I stopped..probably even stopped listen ing for a melody or beat..My spirit was squashed and my Light was dimmed so low… I took two years to heal..and I’m dancing again..pretty much everywhere. And not only dancing, but also playing my djembe drum in circles..definitely reconnected with my inner “beat”…

    • Hi Joy – What a picture you paint of transformation. I’m so glad to hear you’ve retrieved both your inner and outer dancers. It’s inspiring to think of you dancing everywhere. So thanks for dancing my way and leaving your comment!

  15. Hi Patti,
    I’m a week late coming here and I’m thrilled I didn’t miss these wonderful photos. I look at them and see raw spirit! In fact I’d put them in a book for art therapy. Are you related to Julie Cameron? Seriously this post and photos are even better. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hi Tess – You made me laugh! Nope, I’m not related to Ms. Cameron, but that sure is a lovely compliment. I like that you see raw spirit in my drawings (and by extension, in my dancing). Thank you for giving me a smile today.

  16. Thanks for this Patty — the drawings actually remind me of the drawings by holotropic breathwork participants in Stan Grof’s book Psychology of the Future, and perhaps that’s because they come from a place of allowing creativity to emerge rather than trying to categorize and box it in the way we usually do.

    • Hi Chris – There’s such a big difference between those two kinds of creativity, isn’t there? I’m enjoying my experiments with process and expressive creativity, and I appreciate you sharing that book. I’ve heard of it before but never read it. I’ll have to check it out.

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