I love dancing. I love music. I love the deep, heavy, loud beats that make your feet start to stomp and shuffle, your hips sway and wiggle, and your arms wave hypnotically. I love movement and the way that it gets me out of my head and into my body. Making me feel fully present and connected. When my head stops its nonstop chatter – or I stop listening – inspiration can come. Answers to questions. Ideas.
Dancing is as old as humanity and every culture has their version and reason. Dances tell stories, worship gods and goddesses, act as prayers and blessings, and communicate attraction between two lovers. It’s a way to burn up energy, express feelings, and get in touch with a deep inner self. The ancients knew this. And we still use it today.
I went to Ecstatic Dance. This is not the dancing you see in the clubs – no one is dressed up, wearing impossibly tall heels, short skirts, or make-up. Yoga pants, t-shirts, and bare feet are the “dress code” for the night. It is held at Yoga Tree of Boise, a beautiful studio in Boise’s North End. All the lights are shut off, candles are lit, there’s an altar set up with three sets of cards to help you find the answers you seek. A light projector spins a dazzling array of green dots of light slowly and methodically around the room. And the music is THUMPIN’. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. But the best part is, in my opinion, the intention with which we come together. The leader of Ecstatic Dance, Jodeen Revere, will gather us together in a circle where we all hold hands as she expresses her gratitude and the “rules” for the night. There is only one rule – no talking. You can make noise – whoop, holler, laugh, cry, scream – but all talking must be taken outside. The dancing is meant to just reflect what you feel in your body. So it can sometimes look odd, maybe a little off-beat. Sometimes people will go through yoga poses, or lie on the floor, sit in meditation, move just their feet or just their arms. It’s not about shaking your ass for attention. I think most of us closed our eyes for a large portion of the night. I know I did. I only had them open when I was actually moving around the room and didn’t want to crash into someone. Before we begin we bless and seal the space, making it a safe space for all. And then the music begins.
Saturday, with the first song, Jodeen had us lie down on our backs in the shape of a giant X. She gave us a visual – when we look at stationary maps that lead us on a trail, there will be an X that says “You Are Here”. She encouraged us to feel that. And to see where “here” is. Where in our life, on our journey, are we? And I also took it as being fully present in my body and in the moment – which is something I’ve struggled with in recent months.
I have a hard time not going into things without sometimes huge expectations. It’s difficult for me not to go to a class like this and not hope for all my questions to be answered, my hopes realized, my Karma burned. I’ve had amazing experiences like that, so why not expect them every single time?
Shiva, The Lord of the Dance, is a beautiful symbol of what dancing can do for us. He comes in as the destroyer in preparation for new creation. One of my friends had a beautiful Shiva pendant on that night, which reminded me of this idea. That before creation, there has to be destruction. That I was truly there to dance it (inside) out. To tear myself apart at the seams, and see what I found.
As the music started and I thought of myself as an X on a map, as I felt my total presence, I released the expectations I had come with and allowed the music to guide me. I realized very quickly though that I did not want to come up. I stayed on the floor for awhile moving in cat-like stretches feeling into each and every corner of my body. And when I finally did place my feet on the ground, I still could not bring myself up to a full standing position. My desire for grounding was so strong, so primal that I could only sway through my hips with my spine and head hanging down to the floor, fingers dragging from one side to the other, feet firmly rooted. At one point, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to uncurl my spine and reach up, coming into a full standing position, feet still wide, knees bent. And the powerful dislike of being upright hit me like a ton of bricks. Now don’t misunderstand – I was not light-headed or woozy from being in a forward fold. It was a feeling I had more on my skin coupled with a general feeling of unease. So I folded over again. Grounding, rooting, connecting first to my core, and then to the Earth.
At some point it felt right to move and so I did. I came up to standing and began to dance. But even then my feet wanted to stay planted so the dancing happened from the knees up. Knees, hips, spine, shoulders, arms and head all moving in their own unique way, with feet still firmly planted on the ground.
Eventually the need to wander around the room arose and my feet started moving of their own accord. And gradually, as they did, an idea, an inspiration, an answer came to me – “Trust Yourself” it said. That’s it. Nothing more. And I realized in that moment that I hadn’t trusted myself – maybe ever. I always looked to others for approval and validation. I needed others’ guidance to work through problems and make decisions. I hadn’t done some of the things I thought I wanted to do because I just didn’t trust myself to first make the right decision, and second to actually execute it. I could easily see in my mind’s eye this pattern I had built up of not trusting myself. It became clear. And with that clarity came the relief, the release, and the realization that I CAN trust myself. That I and only I have the answers that I seek.
About half way through the hour and a half long session I took a break to sit at the altar, pondering this new idea and searching for a bit more clarity. How does one go about trusting themselves when they’ve never done it before? What does that look like? I drew a card from the deck in the center. These cards are simply paintings. Although they are of an obvious scene of some sort, there is a quality about them that leaves them open to interpretation. A fuzziness around the edges. The picture I drew was of a figure looking over the ocean at the full moon, holding a mask in their right hand. I heard/felt “Take off the mask. Be authentic.” Ok, wow. That resonated and I felt also provided an answer to my question. The second deck is a different type. I drew a card that said “Deliverance”. And then explained it as “relief, release, a fresh start.” Double wow. And from the third deck I drew the Isis and Osiris card. On the back it tells the story of Isis – the great Creator of everything – and her deep love for Osiris. The moral of her story? That even the greatest goddess has and SHOWS her emotion as made evidence by her tear over Osiris’s death that flooded the Nile. WOW does not even convey the depth of my reaction to that.
I got up and danced some more but I could never get the big fast movements that are typical for me. That’s just not what my body wanted. I wasn’t tired. Physically I felt fine. I finally went and sat against a wall and closed my eyes and let the music and the energy of the other dancers wash over me. And that’s when I heard it, “Be still.” Just that. And I realized that most of my life is spent going, moving, and doing. I never stop and just ALLOW things to come up. Emotions get set aside, buried, not expressed. I don’t trust myself and my own strength to handle them. I’m fearful of being still and silent and must keep up the facade that I have created which has me running running running – from myself. But all I need is to sit still, listen, and trust. Myself.
I felt like I had started putting the pieces of me back together. Creating something, or someone new. Someone stronger, more real, more authentic, more compassionate, more full of LIFE and LOVE. What was broken was coming back together, even more beautifully than before.
Dive deep into the middle of your heart and dance yourself to the surface and see what you find.
This is your dance, your way.
Dance like no one is watching.
Dance your heart (inside) out.
If you’re in Boise and interested in experiencing an Ecstatic Dance session, contact Jodeen Revere of Creative Yogic Arts. They are held every second and fourth Saturday nights at Yoga Tree of Boise. And they are truly a magical experience.