Movement of the Soul

In many ways, I see a successful day as one that has led me to dance. Whether it is on a crowded dance floor or in a packed subway car, if I can get my body moving, I have accomplished another well-lived moment of life. I am addicted to dancing. Something about the way music awakens my entire experience keeps me yearning for more. It certainly is an addiction worth having.

Dancing has been an important part of existence since the first person rhythmically pounded one object against another. Cultures across time have celebrated, mourned, and communicated through dance. Dancing has existed throughout every society from the Heliconian Muses of ancient Greece to the cosmic dancing form of Shiva, the Nataraja. The body has painted pictures long before our words ever could.

I only bust out this hard on really good days

The secrets of motion captured by the body allow expression where words fail. In the heart of dance is communication. In forms of celestial, communal, and personal exploration, dance brings together both the society of individuals and of the universe.

In many cultures, dance is the greatest form of expression. In Hawaiian culture, the hula is the language of the soul expressed in motion. In the aboriginal tradition of Ojibwa in Southern Ontario, dancing celebrates the sun and the changing of the seasons. Their famous Morning Dance is a tribute to the tree of life, giver of all creation. Native American cultures have used dance to form prayers for healing and gratitude to Mother Earth. In the Sufi tradition, whirling or Sama—a form of active meditation—is performed to reach kemal or the source of all perfection by transcending the ego. Dance has universally been enacted to communicate otherwise incommunicable emotions.

Meditation in motion

Personally, I know when I dance I reach a state of extreme ecstasy. It is by no coincidence that the drug named after this emotion is most associated with dancing. Yet even without substances, dancing can take on the form of an active meditation, a holistic expression of the soul that can transcend the normal guidelines of everyday life.

When I am most entranced in dancing, I am transported to a timeless realm of potentiality. Freeform motion is creatively unrestrained and my limbs become brushes for which I can paint the picture of my existence, changing moment to moment in an ever-evolving pattern of infinity. Dancing is a language best spoken with liberty.

If you’d like, you can come join me and many others in NYC this weekend as we dance our spirits into the night at Ecstatic Dance in the well-known Jivamukti yoga center Saturday night (3/24). Here’s the link.

I’ll leave with you with an amazing quote:

“When you understand who and what you are, your radiance projects into the universal radiance and everything around you becomes creative and full of opportunity.”

I think Yogi Bhajan understood the power of dance.

An Amazing Display of Love

I read this story yesterday and it really moved me. It is the quintessential exemplar of the dawning of a new age, an age filled with love.

I’ve reposted the article below. Here is the link to the original post. It was written by Kirsten Wolfe, a 20 year-old student and retail manager.

Dear Customer who stuck up for his little brother, you thought I didn’t really notice. But I did. I wanted to high-five you.

Yesterday I had a pair of brothers in my store. One was maybe between 15-17. He was a wrestler at the local high school. Kind of tall, stocky and handsome. He had a younger brother, who was maybe about 10-12 years old. The only way to describe him was scrawny, neat, and very clean for a boy his age. They were talking about finding a game for the younger one, and he was absolutely insisting it be one with a female character. I don’t know how many of y’all play games, but that isn’t exactly easy. Eventually, I helped the brothers pick a game called Mirror’s Edge. The youngest was pretty excited about the game, and then he specifically asked me.. “Do you have any girl color controllers?” I directed him to the only colored controllers we have which includes pink and purple ones. He grabbed the purple one, and informed me purple was his FAVORITE.

The boys had been taking awhile, so their father eventually comes in. He see’s the game, and the controller, and starts in on the youngest about how he needs to pick something different. Something more manly. Something with guns and fighting, and certainly not a purple controller. He tries to convince him to get the new Zombie game “Dead Island.” and the little boy just stands there repeating “Dad, this is what I want, ok?” Eventually it turns into a full blown argument complete with Dad threatening to whoop his son if he doesn’t choose different items.

That’s when big brother stepped in. He said to his Dad “It’s my money, it’s my gift to him, if it’s what he wants I’m getting it for him, and if your going to hit anyone for it, it’s going to be me.” Dad just gives his oldest son a strong stern stare down, and then leaves the store. Little brother is crying quietly, I walk over and ruffle his hair (yes this happened all in front of me.) I say “I’m a girl, and I like the color blue, and I like shooting games. There’s nothing wrong with what you like. Even if it’s different than what people think you should.” I smile, he smiles back (my heart melts!) Big brother then leans down, kisses little brother on the head, and says “Don’t worry dude.” They check out and leave, and all I can think is how awesome big brother is, how sweet little brother is, and how Dad ought to be ashamed for trying to make his son any other way.

Evening in Manhattan

We walked through the crowded city streets. Water floated in the air, neither falling nor climbing, merely hanging. I imagined this suspended rain to be the home decor of one whose head lived in the clouds. It would certainly be a dreary way to experience life, constantly running into droplets of water.

As we made our way through the East Village my head swayed on its swivel. 695 was the magic number. We’d been searching for this Japanese place for only a few minutes, but it was unimaginably difficult paying attention to addresses. All we wanted to do was laugh. But alas, we were stuck searching for numbers in a sea of words. Or at least it would seem accordingly so, despite the widespread lack of numerals found on the storefronts and frontdoors of the buildings on 5th Street.

720. Damn. We turned around and laughed some more. We agreed we’d have to pay attention now because we were both beginning to crave supper. We counted down like a dyslexic couple on New Year’s, celebrating loudly at 695. I opened the door for the lady and we took our coats off. The place was small, but obviously upscale. The decor was modern and the lines along the walls stretched symmetrically, further than the eye cared to see. Immediately, the comforting aroma of homemade miso made its way to my nose. I smiled and looked for the waiter.

A taught, strict, and ponytailed Japanese man seated us in our recently assembled “custom” table. No more than a wedge behind the cash register, our seat was a semi-obtrusive, lane-blocking last minute addition to an already skinny restaurant. We didn’t care. In fact, we laughed.

The meal came and it went. Descriptions were unnecessary because really we weren’t paying attention. All we wanted was a plane ticket to anywhere, a trip for an evening, maybe a few days. Just some respite from the city. The lonely city filled with millions. We could relax. Joke. Even banter. We gawked and criticized, poked and profiled. We took in all the sights. By the time our check came we were one foot out the door, money tossed on the table.

I held out my arm and she threaded it like a needled. We swayed up and down the avenue. Hideout to hideout.

It wasn’t ever about the destination. It was always about the ride.

The Inner Salt March

There are very few people who enjoy being sad. There are many less who will welcome its arrival. There are even fewer who will marvel at its perfection. Yet, with all those opposed to sadness, there is a great wealth to be found in learning to love the “negative”. And as today is the anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, there is no better teacher than the powerful and compassionate Mahatma Gandhi.

We tend to undervalue the role negativity plays in our lives. Negative experiences are truly only as negative as we make them. In fact, all emotions are only the product of the assigned value we attach to them. It is in our minds that we create the perception of good or bad.

We perceive what feels good and what feels bad by our decision to adhere to these declarations. This does not mean that a punch to the face feels any different from what it actually feels like. Instead, it reveals that the mind’s reaction to that feeling is what creates our judgment, our perception. Experience is placed on a human-emotional narrative; where judgment is made, creating a system of likes and dislikes.

Doesn't look like that felt too good.

And although the punch always feels like a punch, it does not need to invoke a negative response. Imagine getting punched in the face and feeling nothing but compassion for your assailant.  Without doubt, the amount of emotional pain needed to make one person punch another is quite unbearable. This understanding paves a path to feeling an overwhelming sense of love in the midst of conflict.  From this perspective, we can see how there is always a choice.

It is this concept that has driven the peaceful protests of millions across the world. Gandhi’s famous satyagraha, loosely translated as truth force, is based on the principle that universal truth rather than passive resistance will conquer opposition. In this regard, we can relate the idea of satyagraha to our personal lives. It is an inward pressure that accepts “negative” emotion and reacts with love. And although Gandhi’s movement had a very obvious and directed purpose, his philosophy of the force of the soul was that the opponent must not be attacked or ignored, but showered with compassion and patience.

Are we not all opposed to ourselves? A battle of the mind contra the heart. The positive versus the negative. There is a constant inner battle in each of us that assigns biased judgments, which labels emotions and feelings as something more than what they truly are. In applying this definition of satyagraha to our personal battle we use compassion and patience in dealing with all emotions. It is here that the secret nature of emotions is revealed.

All emotions serve but one purpose, and that is to experience. Life is one great, unfathomable experience, constantly unfolding and evolving. Our minds are our vehicles for transmitting and decoding experience. We choose to create a world of good and bad, but in the same breath with the same amount of energy, we can choose to see every experience as an expansion of our universal awareness. Be it ecstatic or terrible, enlightening or ignorant, every possible occurrence that takes place is solely manifested to show us the extent of our creative possibility.

Life is an ocean. When we choose to experience life sailing on the waves, out boat sails smoothly and also rocks violently. When we choose to experience life from the bottom of the ocean floor, the waves cannot leave their impression. Instead, in the calmness we are able to watch our boat rock without attachment. We are able to ascertain, experience, and enjoy everything without judgment. Action is revealed as experience—not better or worse than any other emotion.

And in this stripping of judgment and value, one can truly experience the beauty of all aspects of life.

We are here for our enjoyment.