Dancing with the Unknown

I am not sure what it is about dancing but it clarifies the world for me.  If I don’t dance every week, I am not a happy camper.  Today I went to dance with a puzzle inside me that I was trying to solve.  I crave intimacy and connection with others and yet sometimes when I am in my most intimate moments with friends and loved ones, a part of me just wants to escape.  It was a paradox until tonight.  The theme was space, call and response within relationship.  Yes.  The irony was not lost on me.  I had a good chuckle as I was dancing.

At one point in the evening, the instructor invites all 30 of us to only dance in half the space so that half the dance floor is empty.  She asks us to dance in the spaces in a more crowded place.  I immediately felt a bit claustrophobic.  This was surprising in some ways because I have danced Contact Improv and other modalities that require me to literally be all over someone else’s body so I was a bit perplexed at my response.  The part of me that is the observer was smiling at my tactics: dancing on the border and around the edges of the floor, putting my hands up above my head as I navigated the crowd so no one would touch me as I slid by, crawling between someone’s legs to make my get away, and finally, making a beeline for the “empty dance floor” and flying like a bird while I laughed my evil laugh.  My instructor jokingly called me a rebel.

This felt really good to go against the grain and I wondered: Why should I stay in the box?  What is stopping me from being assertive with my needs? Why should we not have space from those we love sometimes?

It doesn’t mean I love the person any less and sometimes, hey, the most authentic thing in the moment is saying, “I need a breather.”

I remembered tonight that as much as I like to socialize and work collaboratively with others, I am really an introvert at heart.  My friends would probably be surprised to hear that, but it is true.  What folks don’t know is that I am constantly navigating the pull inside of me to be with others and to fly solo.  As a kid growing up in a pretty big extended Portuguese family, it was hard to find space and privacy was considered being “secretive.”  In a culture where community and service are such a big focus, hiding out in the bathroom or in my bedroom when family was visiting was considered rude.  Luckily, my mom was a firm believer of outdoor play for kids and she encouraged my sister and I to roam free with the other neighbourhood kids after school until it was dark.  Sometimes I enjoyed playing with my friends and most often, I just took solace in nature.  My favourite place was in the big cedar tree across the street from my house.  If I needed a private moment, I’d climb up to the very top and spend as much time as I needed in order to come back to a centered place.

So lately I’ve been learning how to honour myself first while still being in relationship with others.  It is a continuous hokey pokey and sometimes I feel balanced and sometimes I don’t.  I’ve been resisting that fact of life by doing my knee jerk escape moves.  My Qi Qong teacher once told me: “Jen, being out of balance is actually a part of learning to be in balance.  It is a gift.  How can you possibly know one without the other?”

She’s right.

I think I expected to always be in balance.  I expected relationships to be easy, seamless, and harmonious all the time.  And that isn’t really realistic when we are new moment to moment; peoples’ needs change and the amount of intimacy they can take in varies.  And that is OK.

So then the last song of the evening rolled around and I smiled as I received the answer to my question.  Life is a continuous dance with mystery and the mystical.  Whether in relationship with ourselves, with others, with the planet, or with Spirit, we are always dancing in the unknown- whether we live authentically or not. Here’s to being out of balance sometimes as we are learning to love ourselves and others while we continue on in our journey of being alive and truly living…

“Into the Mystic” cover by Colin James:

My Life Prayer

Great Spirit

Show me how to use my gifts in service of you and all of the beauty you create.

Teach me how to step out of the way so you can move through me like the graceful dancer you are.

Teach me your choreography.

Give me the courage to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.

Continue to surprise me with creativity in unlikely places- I like that.

Teach me how to be present- how to live in awe and wonder like a child.

Keep me curious and open to learning from all kinds of places, people, things, and creatures.

Teach me to treat my process with tenderness.

Remind me to offer gratitude and show me ways to celebrate my victories.

Preserve my tenacity.

Keep me humble.

Keep sending people into my life who love me unconditionally and believe in my work.

Show me how to keep my heart open.

Most of all, show me how to live an artful, harmonious life while simultaneously walking lightly on the Earth.

-Jen Engracio