Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dance as a Spiritual Practice: A Student's Perspective

Today I am happy to share a guest post from Grace Judson. I can't remember the initial meeting of Grace, but now it feels like she has just always been around! She participated in my very first online dance sadhana and then also took part in the first Heart on Fire workshop with Ganesh.

She really gets this work. Really gets it. And is one of my go-to peeps when I am trying to understand the next evolution of my work.

Here she is writing about the importance of dance in her practice.

From Grace:

Many teachers in many traditions lead us to focus on the heart and head in our spiritual work.

Heart and head are important, but they’re only two thirds of who and what we are.

How did the body get such a bad reputation? What strange turn have we taken that we forget we’re physical creatures, with a body that responds wonderfully to nurturing and offers so many opportunities for expression and pleasure?

We turn further and further from the need to move physically, sitting at desks, wriggling our fingers over keyboards and across touch-screens, engaging our minds in deep thoughts about high finance, critical-path planning, the global impact of choices we make in business, the environment, and politics, on and on and on.

We lose touch with ourselves. We lose touch with the truth that our emotional responses arise from the body and are bound into the body in ways we don’t even realize. We lose touch with the reality that true intimacy comes when we fully inhabit our own bodies and re-discover how to communicate from ourselves to those people who are over there.  (Try it. It’s amazing!)

For some time now, I’ve been studying with a teacher who acknowledges the full scope of human experience:  heart, head, and body (or, as she puts it, emotion, awareness, and physical sensation). 
I’ve learned to re-inhabit myself, extending my sense of self into the depth and breadth of my body, taking up the full space to which I’m entitled.  I’ve discovered and released old emotional patterns that were trapped in my muscles and fascia and even in my bones. And in this practice of embodiment, I experience the stillness and spaciousness that permeates everything.

All of that is great, wonderful, a huge and beautiful shift in my experience of myself and of life.  Yet the embodiment was often difficult to maintain. As I walked through my days, doing the things I need and want to do, I’d slip out of connection and find myself dis-embodied, moving out of myself as a defensive reaction or in a misguided effort to make connections with others.

Dance was the missing piece. 

In working with Christine’s approach to dance as spiritual practice, I have found myself ever-more-thoroughly anchored in myself, less inclined to move out of my body, and with a growing awareness of my body’s ability for expression and of what it wants and needs.

My evening dance practice has become a time and place to open myself to what’s happened during the day, discovering and releasing emotional responses I might not have been fully aware of, processing experiences physically instead of through laborious intellectual exploration of why things happen.

Dance is meditation-in-movement that grounds me even as it lifts me up, connecting me to the subtle energy flows from the earth that move through me. 

Spiritual practice evolves over time as we evolve.  If we allow it to do so, it becomes deeper, richer, and takes new turns that lead us into new ways of meditation and new ways of expression.

No matter where my journey may take me, dance will be a part of my practice and my life.

Grace L. Judson
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If you want to explore more deeply how to create an at-home dance sadhana (spiritual path) practice, you could join my super secret Facebook group, Inferno of Awesome. This group is invisible until you're added. FIRST, make sure you are my friend on FB, and SECOND, ask me to add you.