06/06/2012 07:51 am ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Soul Leading, Body Following: Trusting the Guidance to Dance

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take,
but by the moments that take your breath away." -- Author unknown

We are here to serve the purpose of a greater design, expressing spirit whole-heartedly. But how do we "get there" from where we are? How do we galvanize the courage to stop straddling the fence? The answer comes in infinite ways. For some, it speaks through the body.

Soul calling, body listening. However your soul calls you to move forward, do it. Saying "no" leads to complication. Eventually the body gives feedback. It's not a pretty picture. Years ago, when I refused to leave a corporate setting that "cramped my style," my body said "no more" by creating spinal difficulty, requiring hospitalization and down time for five months. Afraid to give up outer security the deeper self kicks in, gives feedback. It is a repeat story in those I know.

Symptoms are our friend. If we listen, they can help us shift the way we creatively express ourselves, to reclaim the original authority of leadership in our own lives. The body does not punish as much as support us to "course correct" along more natural lines, which lead to awe.

When decoded, our symptoms say: "Come. Enter. Enjoy. Dance in the way you love! Memorize the moment. Come home to who you are beneath outgrown rules that suffocate spirit, compress the heart."

The holy nudge toward creative living meets resistance. The head says: "No, don't you dare!" Ego wants to play safe, fighting our best self compelled for growth. To give yourself permission to expand calls up fear. We are social beings, regardless how introverted we may be. The worst pain is to be shunned. No one wants ridicule. But, as Carl Jung once said: "Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." You get to choose.

Awakening to our own metaphorical "dance" entails deepening self-compassion and a sense of humor. We've got to give up our begging bowl. Turns out that the approval cup has a hole in it, anyway. Rule #1 in my group studio puts it this way: "Forget comparing your painting. It is yours, and the world needs your mark." As my mama used to say: "Tend to your own knitting, sister!" Or, as the old Negro spiritual sang: "Keep your eye on the prize!"

Doing so helps restore trust in your inner GPS. Never fear when you are standing on the sidelines of your own life; you can trust your guidance system to sound the clarion call to return to who you are through body, dreams, synchronicities, attractions and upsets.

Nine Habits to Deepen Trust

1. The soul's call seems to cry most audibly through conditions of suffering. When yesterday's shoes get too tight, change them to have free range of motion. We yearn to have freer range of motion. Now, the tricky thing is that the cry is silent, which makes it mighty hard to "hear" if we've allowed ourselves to get caught in the seduction of the world's noisy way of distracting. Let's face it: Ego has a vested interest in towing the line and is superb at fear tactics, (e.g. "What would people think if you moved through life that way?" (See archives: "What to Do While Searching for Your Soul's Misplaced GPS.") Cultivate the habit of trusting something will come to assist you even through suffering.

2. Before you can say "kazam," we forget what we used to know as children We forget whom we are, that we are here to evolve into expansive ways of creatively contributing. Simply put, we forget our original nature. Cultivate the habit of moving toward what brings you simple joy.

3. Recall and reclaim the original meaning of education, which is "to uncover" what is known in the depths. Learning is not about buckling under heavy rules and regulations. This bears little resemblance to the Delphic Oracle, which said: "Know thyself." When we know ourselves beneath the ego, we know the beloved, and we are free. Ask yourself: What can you practice learning that will liberate you from the shackles of who you aren't and launch you into your hidden, unlived life which promises joy? This is your life curriculum.

4. Inner knowing never fails to guide. Cultivate your connection to it. The saving grace comes when, in the heat of profound suffering, an instinct urges awakening by doing what seems impossible to ego: bearing witness to the teachings of fierce love.

By way of example, nanoseconds before hearing the news that my son, 2,000 miles away, had been in a horrific accident that would lead to his death hours later, I felt the strongest nudge to memorize the moment before hearing the messages on the answering machine. Something greater than my little self knew that I'd better do just this. As I "took five" in my car, on a visceral level I could feel a silent presence whispering "what you are about to face will change everything." I did as guided. Ten minutes later, having picked up the message from the hospital, reeling from shock, that same wee small voice, barely audible, urged me to: "Memorize this moment. Witness this suffering. Step aside. Let it wash through. Know what this is. Write from it. Paint it. You will need this later." I realized that the task, simultaneously, was to both experience what was before me, without shirking, while witnessing by being fully present. The call to the beloved was not coming through sugar plum fairies and angels playing harps, but through my own house going up in flames.

5. Your life has been preparing you to meet the unknown. Until that impossible moment, little did I know that meditating for more than 19 years at the time would be the saving thing. Without consciously realizing it, shock had hurled me automatically back into my spiritual practice of focusing on the breath. It was the only thing left. That also goes for prayer. When you are in shock, it is nearly impossible to connect with words, for they are but cobwebs. But connection with soul? That is an entirely different matter. The soul knows, with impeccability, how to lead us back to the dance when we have lost our way. Of course, first we have to ask.

6. Find the practice that's right for you. Devote time to this discovery. No one's way is better than another's. The key is cultivating a lifelong relationship with whatever speaks to your deepest self. My own began with the contemplative through prayer, meditation, leading to engaged meditation through art-making in studio life and garden, and silent retreat. Your way is your way. Those who allow the soul to lead practice whatever deepens faith in the stillness, facilitating dropping down into subterranean levels of being. Trust what comes.

7. The tricky thing is that to take this on, like the shaman, you must be willing to endure worldly suspicion that you have lost your mind. The path is not going to win you, or me, any popularity votes.

As case in point: Nearly 40 years ago, after I had launched my own endeavor to relocate my soul's dancing GPS, it came to me that I needed to make amends to a group of people whom I had judged. As synchronicity would have it, opportunity arose to "set things right" (as opposed to "see things rightly"). An invitation arrived to attend a luncheon with people I'd judged: the country club set. Carpe diem. Immediately following the entertainment, the speaker on gardening called for comments. I should have seen rightly. Ah, well. My moment, or so I believed, had arrived. Taking the microphone, I confessed that I had been a weed in their garden from my judgments, and wished for their forgiveness. They fled faster than rats from the Titanic. By the time I arrived at my mother's, she'd already received a phone call (as had my sister across the country) that surely I must be having a meltdown.

Truth telling is a matter for discernment. As Freud said long ago: "Timing and dosage is everything." Mine was poor. Time and place are vital to consider. While my intention may have been a good one, the address was misdirected. I was young, what can I say? While I did not realize it at the time, the "one" that needed forgiveness was the judging me within myself, the one who kept me doubting my own soul's way of dancing, which was a very different tango than the country club's.

Perhaps, you, too, have "put your foot" in the caca from time to time, tracking it into the house? Tell me I'm not alone.

8. Remember that even what stinks turns out to be compost if we are willing to go with it. When it comes through humiliation, this is our moment to take a breath, witness from a larger perspective, shed ego's need for approval and find our own with humor. There will always be those who point fingers. But the worst offensives are the voices of self-blame that stop us from our own dance. Pride doeth go before dawning the beginner's dancing shoes.

9. Practice the habit of trusting "seeing rightly" rather than rushing out to "set things right." Wisdom takes time. The more we are willing to do this, the more we liberate our lives to create acts of beauty and connection. Nearly 40 years ago, one of my mentors, Elisabeth Kubler Ross said to me during my residency: "If only we would learn to sing and dance together, the world would be in a different place." She said this before her llama farm was burned down by outraged people who refused to accept the work she was doing with babies because they were AIDS babies. Even after the horror of her heartbreak, she confided in me that the answer to all that ails us is that willingness to look foolish, to come into the dance and song with one another, regardless.

The question is, are you willing? Going first risks looking stupid. But, as a resident fool for love, I say, "so what?" Who cares? The joy is in the dance. And, guess what? The real momentum begins in a way you'd never expect. Watch the following and let's get a conversation going. Who's willing to go first, second? The power of joining is stronger than you think. We need not always be first to make a difference.

Be the Love,

Your turn: What helps you enter the dance of life? I'm listening! Thanks for forwarding this to those who want more aliveness.

For those who wish accompaniment, copies of "The Love Project: Coming Home"* are available in second printing. Contact me, below.

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