Of dancing and suppression
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Over the weekend I had some very powerful experiences.
On this beautiful and breezy morning, I’m still trying to sort through it all, but here’s a sneak peek:
*experienced fat phobia unlike anything I’ve felt in quite a while
*Tried exquisite hand crafted chocolate.
*Put an end to a 30+ year friendship
*Attended an ecstatic dance event
*Ate Ethiopian food for the first time
*Noticed my body trying to warn me repeatedly I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
*Went to holy grail for book lovers Powells in Portland, Oregon.
*Met some people who touched my heart in powerful, magical ways.
So I’ll touch on a few of these today, while I sort out the others.
Sunday morning, I went to ecstatic dance. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the Wikipedia definition:
Ecstatic dance is a form of dance in which the dancers, sometimes without the need to follow specific steps, abandon themselves to the rhythm and move freely as the music takes them, leading to trace and a feeling of ecstasy. The effects of ecstatic dance begin with ecstasy itself, which may be experienced in differing degrees. Dancers are described as feeling connected to others, and to their own emotions. The dance serves as a form of meditation, helping people to cope with stress and to attain serenity.
I was in downtown Portland. An old friend had told me about ecstatic dance and it had been a spiritual and healing experience for her. Sunday morning she needed plenty of both, so another friend and I attended with her.
At first, I thought I’d walked into an episode of Portlandia. Every Portland stereotype seemed to be in the room. The music did not move me. I just wanted to sit and watch. My friends were immediately comfortable on the dance floor. I wanted to observe.
Eventually I started to stretch and feeling more and more like I wanted to be on the dance floor. The old ballroom was decorated with lovely layers of flowing cloth and florals. People were smiling, welcoming. As more and more people came in, the collective creek of the old floor boards was less and less noticeable. Around the room there were various stations -- for sitting or cuddling or praying or stretching. There were also alters, I didn’t visit all of them so I don’t know what was on each table. The DJ said there were bells on one table and if you had an epiphany while dancing, you could ring the bell.
After a few warm up songs, we all joined hands and a large circle. The DJ/Host set the intention for the day -- the thing we could focus on while dancing -- It was the first day of fall. The intention: “Fall in love with yourself again.”
The brought up some emotion for me. It was something I needed to hear. The crowd went back to dancing. I found my chair and watched. I wandered over to one of the tables where someone had spread out tarot cards. I picked one up.
I was hoping for something more… i don’t know... uplifting, maybe. But I understood the card. I was suppressing something. In fact, I was suppressing a lot of feelings and thoughts. I just couldn't identify them at the time.
This is what I found online for the meaning of that particular card.
Osho Zen tarot: SUPPRESSION Literally - tied up in knots. The LIGHT still shines within...but...you repressed your own vitality trying to meet so many demands & expectations....given up all your own Power & Vision to be accepted. It is dangerous to keep those inhibitions inside you...buried in the basement.
The music changed a bit. It had a faster beat and I felt ready to join my friends on the dance floor. There were people of all ages. Small children with their families. A few elderly who took tiny and careful steps but moved. There was every size and shape and skin color. People with limited movement and people who seemed to have no limit to their movement at all. Everyone just danced. There was a man who seemed to run in circles around the room. Back in the days before they medicated it out of kids, there was always a kid like that in PE class. They couldn’t follow the rules of any game, they just had to run. This guy reminded me of that. He just ran. There were people who had obviously studied dance and ballet and those who did not appear to hear the rythmn but danced anyway.
Eventually, I let the music move my feet and then the rest of my body. I hadn’t danced like that in years. Without fear of judgement or care, I just followed the patterns my heart sent forth and it was…. Beautiful …. It was truly freeing.
I rarely attend church anymore. I have found spiritual life suffocated in the judgement of others… in the racism displayed by members of my faith community, by the boundaries placed on not only me and my faith but the boundaries placed on God’s love. I’m a firm believer in boundaries. In general, love isn’t the place for fence lines.
In this ballroom, people were free to be who they wanted to be or who they truly are. It is what I believe church is meant to be; an expression of joy in concert with a community.
As I whirled around the room, I felt more spiritually moved than I have ever felt at church. This space more sacred than the structure where I typically worship. On this rainy Sunday morning I felt more love and acceptance than I’d felt in a very long time and it was delicious in its simplicity.
A woman came up to me while I was watching and introduced herself. When I told her my name -- she smiled and then opened her arms and eyes wide with … maybe some kind of awe or understanding. She bowed deeply to me.
This happens to me every so often when I introduce myself. People who know the meaning of the word karma seem to have a reverence for it. It is lovely, but I’m never quite sure how to handle it when it happens.
I told her I’m much better at hugs than bowing and she gave me a rich and warm hug then danced away.
Later out on the dance floor I asked for another hug and she whispered in my ear, “Your name is not an accident. You represent.”
Again, I’ve heard this before and I'm not entirely sure what it means, but it always fills my heart and my soul with love and strength.
For a variety of reasons, my time at the dance was cut short. Apparently there’s another circle at the end where people send each other out to the world with the unconditional love that was in the room. I hope that’s true.
The closest ecstatic dance group is two hours away -- but I’ve been listening to the ecstatic dance playlist on Spotify trying to relive those beautiful minutes where I danced with strangers and attempted to fall in love with my self again…. Where I tried to unleash whatever I was suppressing and let it be free in the music and the movement.
And that is my wish for you today.... to dance and be free and to let go of whatever it is you're suppressing. To dance in joy with a stranger and feel the collective love and power of community to lift you.
What i’m listening to today: Glass Animals by Black Mambo
and Frances Featuring Ritual When it comes to Us
What I'm Reading: Hunger by Roxane Gay