How I heal through music and ecstatic dance
We’re told sitting in stillness is the fastest way to connect with Spirit, but what if I told you that movement can help you achieve the same thing? I’d heard this concept before in yoga (also known as a moving meditation), and read about ecstatic dance in a book by Paul Coelho called The Witch of Portobello, but I never thought I’d go as far as trying this myself. That is, until a few months ago when I received an aggressive invitation from a friend.
It was probably the worst Monday I’d experienced in months when my best friend, Margherita, invited me to join an ecstatic dance event that same evening. Now, let me describe how the odds were not working in my favour that day: it was raining, I was sore from returning to the gym for the first time in months and I barely slept the night before. My instinct was to decline her invitation, but Margherita wouldn’t have it. She insisted and persisted until it got awkward (bless her). And even though dancing was the last thing I wanted to do that evening, there was something I just couldn’t ignore.
You see, I always take Margherita’s advice seriously, even if I’m skeptical when she delivers it. That’s because her strongest psychic gift is claircognisanze - what many refer to as “clear knowing.” Her ability to just “know” things made it impossible to ignore her invitation. I couldn’t rest easy knowing I was passing up divine guidance, and frankly I just trust her wholeheartedly. So, after much resistance, I pulled myself together, put on some harem pants, and got in my devilishly happy friend’s car.
I walked into the room feeling mega awkward. It was filled with free spirits, stretching and swaying in advance of the musical journey we were about to embark on as a collective. I was aware of my own discomfort. My last ballet class was 20 years ago, I don’t know how to dance and I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I decided to keep an open mind. The leader called the group into a circle and we took park in a group meditation to set our intentions for the evening. The guest DJ shared my favourite Rumi quote, so I took it as a sign that I was in the right place. One of the facilitators asked new members to raise their hand. I was one of three, and we received a roaring cheer and applause. “I could get used to this,” I thought to myself. I noticed Margherita’s excitement in my periphery.
We started by laying on the floor as the DJ took his place at the front of the room. There wasn’t any movement around me for the first little while, so I remained glued in place, carefully looking over to my neighbours to see when they would start dancing. But they didn’t. Instead, to my surprise, they began to roll around on the floor and crawl like animals. I opted to sit in meditation and observe my surroundings before getting up to participate. I was psyching myself up to get into it and that’s when I felt it, clear as day: judgement, the fear of looking stupid. My hesitation had nothing to do with my willingness to participate, and everything to do with my fear how I would be perceived if I let go and became a raw expression of myself. And that’s the beauty of it all: the point is to connect to the music and move as you wish without the need or desire to look good or coordinated. Counterintuitive.
As I scanned the room, I saw a woman caught in an invisible current, a man shaking his entire being while looking up with a smile, and friends parading in circles with childlike grins. These people were too busy to judge me. So, I got up, I began to move my limbs without planning or thinking. I stepped right into vulnerability. What happened next is a complete blur of bliss and freedom. We danced for three hours, and in that time I connected to something greater than myself. Turns out previous dance experience is irrelevant.
How it works
Our bodies are made up of energy, flowing from chakra to chakra . This energy interacts with our environment and can change based on circumstance. Sometimes this energy gets stuck; movement (or intention) restores flow. When our energy is in flow, we are open and able to give and receive love, and connect with the universe around us. When we are blocked, the opposite is true. Is it any wonder our ancestors used dance and song for rituals, celebration, initiations and prayer among other things?
This concept is as old as time, and also not new to therapy. Dance/movement therapy, usually referred to simply as dance therapy or DMT, is a type of therapy that uses movement to help individuals achieve emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. In general, dance therapy promotes self-awareness, self-esteem, and a safe space for the expression of feelings (goodtherapy.org) This is ecstatic dance.
I said earlier that movement helps you connect to Spirit. Here’s what I mean: Being receptive to love means releasing the barriers that hold us back. When we move with no concern for rules or coordination, we allow a natural flow to occur, and with that we are able to connect to Spirit with ease. It’s universally understood among mystics that in spiritual and psychic development, the better you feel, the easier it is to connect.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” - Rumi (my favourite Rumi quote)
How I apply this in my life
I can’t always make it to this community, so I’ve started to practice what I call “full body” expression right from home. Sometimes it’s solely dance, freestyle yoga with music, but lately I’ve connected to singing as well. I find a song that I connect with deeply and I blast it. I listen with my eyes closed and I start to move, or sing if there are lyrics, however my body feels like moving and however my voice feels like manifesting. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, but most of the time it’s just plain healing and beautifully energizing.
We each have a creative force inside of us waiting to be unleashed; do not let judgement stand in the way. Let yours free.