Late one night, not too long ago, I was slogging away in my office when I was struck with the inexplicable desire to dance. Normally I would get up, stretch, eat chocolate, and sit my ass back down, because I’m serious and never frivolous. But for some reason, today, I decided to listen.
I closed my door, put on my ear buds, played (yes) the Byrds’ Chimes of Freedom and started dancing. As you remember from Part One, I’m not an especially talented dancer. But I wanted to dance, and dance I did, in my own spastic way. I threw my hands up in the air, jumped around, closed my eyes and whipped my hair around. When the song was over, I lay on the ground, feeling a little cheesy, a touch crazy, and totally content and refreshed. The space I was in felt renewed. A new intention had sprouted…the intention to stop pretending, to live and sing and dance like no one was watching.
This much is for sure. I am not first person to discover the power of dance. Thousands of years before dancing was profane, it was sacred.
Across time and culture, dance has long been revered for its power to heal body, mind, and soul, strengthen the bonds of community, and to commune with spirit and nature allowing us to discover deeper aspects of who we are as human beings. Dance is also used as a form of worship, celebration, story-telling and myth-making, and to commemorate important rites of passage. We can glean some of the significance dance held in ancient tribal life, for next to hunting, it is the second most common activity shown in cave paintings. —Karen Berggren.
I did a quick Google search to see whether there were people that practiced sacred and ecstatic dancing today. I found a website…Ecstatic Dance Seattle. The site featured pictures of people whirling around with their eyes closed and stories of healing and community and free-to-be-you-and me. I started passing judgment immediately, but decided I would force myself to check it out anyway.
I showed up awkwardly early on a rainy Sunday and found a fairy-light decorated dance floor. It was just like any other dance studio, with a springy wooden floor and mirrors and barre, but for this class there was a richly decorated altar and drums and tambourines and the lights were turned down low. People started to arrive–older people, a young woman with two adorable little girls, a few college-age women, ladies in belly dancing hip scarves, couples of all ages and sexes, a beautiful woman with cascading dreadlocks. Women and men of all ages and sizes.
John, the facilitator, put us all in a circle and explained the rules. You don’t have to dance with anyone else unless you want to. Don’t run over the little kids. Have a beautiful experience.
And with that, the music started. Slow, “earth beat” music. People started moving. Some swayed, alone or together, some took yoga poses or just moved on the floor. I went to a corner and panicked. I am an adult and I’m supposed to dance around with all these people watching me? And I’m not even drunk or at the club? I felt like an impostor. In no time everyone would figure out that I wasn’t really an open-hearted, free-spirited, new-age person; I was a corporate hack in an overpriced yoga outfit who couldn’t even dance in a dark nightclub after three long island ice teas much less free form dance totally sober on Sunday Morning with a group of strangers!!! I was convinced they would carry me out the door and throw me in to the icy gutter.
I lay down, closed my eyes, and decided to continue panicking in the prone position as this seemed to be an acceptable pose to adopt. The music surged on and little by little, my panic subsided. Everyone seemed to be into their own dance. No one was making fun of anyone, much less throwing them out. I listened to the music a little longer, realizing how beautiful it was when I didn’t judge it. Slowly I stood up.
Still not ready to dance, I knelt by the altar and picked a card out of a spirit animal tarot deck. It was the otter. A book on the altar explained that the otter symbolizes playtime, primal feminine energy, joy, playfulness. I decided that making like an otter and being playful and joyful would be a lot better than leaving or spending the whole time in misery and shame.
The music had picked up a little bit and people were dancing more energetically. Some were belly dancers or classically trained dancers, and they were doing that. Some people were just jumping around. Some were playing drums and tambourines. The little girls were running back and forth giggling and occasionally tackling the lady that brought them.
I started swaying and stomping my feet. The reverberation of the wooden floor felt fantastic on my chronically-injured achilles, so I kept jumping to the drumbeat. A beautiful song started playing, and a kind looking man came up to me. We danced for a little bit, and that was fun. He looked like he was having a great time, and after a little bit, so was I. After a little bit, he folded his hands and bowed and thanked me before dancing away. I did the same.
After that, I didn’t stop dancing. I joined a group of women shimmying and twirling. I joined a raucous conga line, which dissolved into flat out sprinting and laughing across the studio. People danced together and separately in a million different ways, with scarves and tambourines and big skirts, spinning, whirling, leaping, laughing, crying. What I thought would have been embarrassingly awkward, I found joyful and majestic.
The embarrassment and stiffness didn’t leave me, but they didn’t keep me from dancing. Shame, awkwardness, and inability to dance, I realized, didn’t live in my body. They lived in my mind. My body has always known how to dance.
As of this writing, Ecstatic Dance Seattle holds dances @ Dance Underground Studio (downstairs), 340 15th Ave East, Seattle, WA, one block north of Group Health Hospital on Capitol Hill, between East Thomas Street and East Harrison Street 98112. Every SUNDAY morning from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. Every WEDNESDAY evening from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm & The Final FRIDAY evening of every month from 8:30 pm to 11:00 pm. I’ll be going back & hope you will too.
In the spirit of frugality & frivolity, I implore you to save your mason jars! You know…the ones pasta & apple sauce come in (Bertolli has the best ones). You can use them for all your normal storage needs–I use mine to take my favorite smoothies to work & to store dry goods in the kitchen. But if you want to get a little more inspired, check out all these adorable mason jar projects:
Make a cupcake in a jar, according to Kelly.
Kara Pasley teaches fearless would-be electricians how to make a mason jar chandelier (for easier mason-jar lighting projects, scroll down)
Deer in a Bottle rounded up some favorite mason jar drinks:
Life Rearranged makes rainbow cakes in mason jars.
Tip Junkie shows you how to make a wall-hanging mason jar garden. This would be fantastic for flowers & kitchen herbs.
Anaboo’s house has a tutorial for these glorious vintage lanterns:
If you have an office gig, whether it’s the number-crunching-hour-billing type or the reinvent & save the world type, and whether you have a corner office or a cramped cubicle, you deserve comfortable working conditions. Hey, you’re there a minimum of eight hours a day, so why not make yourself as happy, healthy & comfortable as possible there.
1) Use an ergonomic chair.
A bad chair can ruin your day, not to mention your back, so an ergonomic chair is a great investment. There are plenty of slick execu-chairs on the market, but if you want to improve your posture and get a six-pack, consider a stability ball or a stability ball chair. The one above is fantastic (my work buddy has one) and it’s from Gaiam.
2) Adjust for the weather.
If you’re in a place with long, dark winters, this means a Light Therapy Pad to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder. Elsewhere, get a fan if it’s hot & a space heater if it’s cold . The small investment in climate control can make a huge difference in keeping you happy at work.
3) Add music
There are some people that just can’t concentrate with music I’m not one of them. Listening to my ipod, FM radio, or Pandora brightens up my day and boosts my inspiration.
4) Add some inspiration
Display something huge & inspirational: a piece of artwork, a photo of friends and family, anything that will anchor you and remind you of why you work so hard. Even if you’re just punching the time clock saving money for a round the world trip, post something that reminds you where you’re going. When you’re parked in the same (now ergonomic) chair for 160+ hours a month, it’s easy to lose sight of exactly why you are there. Don’t let that happen (The poster is by mae chevrette.)
5) Bring in something living.
Best case scenario is a BYOP (bring your own pet) workplace. If you have a well-behaved pet, perhaps you can lobby for this perk. Your puppy’s adorableness will improve your work satisfaction, reduce stress, and improve your productivity. If you can’t bring your dog to work, a cool plant can also have a similar mood-boosting effect. (You can get the one pictured above at this sweet Etsy shop)
6) Stay Hydrated!
Dehydration leads to headaches, crankiness, drops in productivity and general nastiness. Luckily, it’s very easy to avoid. Stop buying plastic bottles & bring in filtered water from home. If there’s no place to re-fill, bring two or three bottles from home or ask the office to start a water-cooler pool. (This water bottle is engravable).
7) Add some aromatherapy.
I love a gorgeous scented candle. But for those of us that work in places with fire codes, reed diffusers are a great option. Weather & building permitting, there’s no aromatherapy like opening the windows after a rainstorm or during the fall (that wintry smell in the air) or spring (flowers!)
8) Bring in a fresh fruit bowl
On Monday morning bring in a bounty of fresh fruits & veggies. Display those lovely goodies (seasonal fruits & lemons & limes for your water) that don’t need to be refrigerated on your desk. Grab fruit instead of heading for the vending machines whenever you want a workday snack.
9) Stash some serious indulgences.
Hide a bottle of champagne or some dark, dark chocolate, in your bottom drawer, for emergencies only. Under lock & key, if possible.
The idea is to make your workspace so inviting that you are just tickled & delighted to be there every day. You probably spend more time in your office than you do at home, so put up your artwork, put down a cozy rug, bring a meditation cushion & score fresh flowers every week. Whatever it takes. However impermanent the situation might be. Make yourself feel happy & at home there.
Thomas Carlye once said “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.” Many spiritual traditions teach that all lives have equal value, or that all are children of God, or have a divine spark or divine self within. I think we all buy into that at some level. Why, then, don’t we act like it?
I’ve been frustrated lately by seeing this in myself and others around me. We never exchange more than pleasantries with our bosses. We treat children like they’re either a nuisance or an accessory and not much else, and assume old people are irrelevant and senile, tourists are clueless, and teenagers are self-important airheads. We treat terminally ill people like they’re made of glass.
If you’re an introvert, it’s especially easy to stay in a little bubble, assuming that others don’t want to hear from you or you don’t have anything to say that would interest them. But all we accomplish by staying in little bubbles is to make our lives smaller, to learn less and to offer less of our awesome to the world.
In December, I’m challenging myself to have a meaningful conversation with someone I normally wouldn’t have a meaningful conversation with, without awkwardness, stereotypes, or judgment. My only objective will be to learn something.
Interested in joining the December Conversation Challenge? Have a real conversation with someone new; could be:
- A very old person
- A very young person
- Someone much senior to you or someone you admire, such as a boss or a celebrity.
- A person marginalized or judged by society–a homeless person, a person convicted of a crime, or a person affected by addiction.
- A person whose choices or values you disagree with or are uncomfortable with.
- A person you don’t like
- A random stranger on the bus
- A neighbor you’ve exchanged nothing more than pleasantries with for years.
- A terminally ill person
- A person you’ve judged (as closed-minded, stupid, an ass) recently.
- A person from a different country or culture.
Write about your conversation challenge experiment by December 302h & email me your story or link to your blog story at ladypantsdance (at) gmail (dot) com.