When Ed was just 16 he won a dance contest on TV's popular Ted Steele's New York Bandstand and became a regular on the show; when he was 19 he won the NYC dance championship. He also won the prestigious Knickerbocker Beer trophy for the Tango, Jive and Mambo. In other words, dancing is in Ed's blood. Whenever he was down and things were looking gloomy Ed danced. It gave him a way to lift himself up and dance his blues away; it connected him to freedom and joy.
A few years age we were eating dinner at a small taverna on the Greek island of Rhodes, when we heard the waitress talking about a dance to be held that night. It was midnight before the entire village had assembled on a flat, grassy outcrop: small children, lanky teenagers, farmers and shopkeepers, grannies and old men clinging to walking sticks, they all came. Tables had been spread with food and drink. A small band began to play, and over the next two hours we watched both the young and old take each others hands and dance, sometimes in circles, sometimes in winding lines, sometimes in pairs or groups of eight. We saw the power of this collective dancing when one of the teenagers with rings in his nose and tattoos covering his arms, who had at first looked completely bored and disinterested, stepped into the middle of the circle and led a snake-like dance around the field, his eyes alight with happiness.
As we dance we feel the gift of life in our veins. This is particularly true of free dance, where the body moves of its own volition, self-consciousness dissolves, enabling our self-imposed limitations, inhibitions, fears and self-obsessions to be released; in their place, we find a greater sense of freedom and joy. Dance can also transform and uplift depression and sadness. As inspirational teacher Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5Rythms and the Moving Center explains, "Mine is the art of inspiring people to turn their suffering into art, their art into awareness, and their awareness into action."
In our book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, Gabrielle shared with us how dance had deeply influenced her life: "In my teens, alone in my bedroom with the radio turned up as loud as possible, I danced my pain--all the sadness and anger that was not allowed or expressed in my family or my culture. Much later, I would realize that I was seeking a way to get out of my head and the fastest way to still my mind was to move my body. Put the psyche in motion and it heals itself. Normally, the mind is thinking one thing, the body is moving in a different direction, and the heart is doing a third thing, so there is a huge disconnect. We live in the chat room above our necks, but we need to find our roots and our center."
Dance is also used throughout many of the spiritual traditions as a form of losing self-centeredness and opening the heart, as seen in Sufi whirling dervishes, Tibetan lama dancing, the ecstatic dance accompanying Hindu devotional chanting, or in Jewish circle dancing.
"In the dance, we can go so deeply into our bodies that we bypass the concept of a separate self and move into the big body that holds us all as one," continues Gabrielle. "We are not in a body, but it is in us, in the amazing unified field of holy otherness that is who we really are. This is my meditation and it moves my memories, my tears, my fears, my instincts--the fragile threads that hold me and you and all of us in a web of divine intelligence. It calls us to extend so far past an individual self that we become everything in one deep, expansive breath."
Dance as Meditation
Little instruction is needed here. Chose your favorite music and let it move you. Try different rhythms: fast, melodic, staccato, soft, and slow. See what it feels like to open your chest, to lift your arms, to spin or bend, to move quickly or slowly. Keep breathing throughout. Let your emotions ebb and flow with the music. Dance your feelings, your relationships, your parents. Dance your illness or your pain. Dance your anger; dance your fear. Then dance your joy and bliss and laughter. Dance who you really are.
And then stop and be still. Stand or sit and just breathe gently and enter the stillness that is always there behind the movement.
Do you have stories of how dance has helped you? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
You can pre-order a copy of our book at: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. It will be published Nov 3.
img alt="2009-07-29-bookcover.jpg" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2009-07-29-bookcover.jpg" width="200" height="295" />
Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Byron Katie, Ed Begley, Gabrielle Roth, Russell Bishop, and others, will be published Nov 3 2009 by Sterling Ethos.
Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See: www.EdandDebShapiro.com
Follow Ed and Deb Shapiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/edanddebshapiro