“Like God is in heaven and you can trust the benevolence of the universe and ourselves… Is that how you felt when you did something that made little sense at the time and was a bit fearful, but later, maybe even years later, you understood why you were moved to do it? Humor me and take just a moment to acknowledge yourself for your faith and courage. From what place do we get that nudge? I call it the divine unknowing (Intuition, instinct…it’s all the same.) I’d like to share with you a story about that shimmering place and my spiritual teacher at the time.
As a child and even a teen I had little fear of dancing. In a remote all- girls‘ boarding school, I had the only boyfriend for miles, the nurse’s son. The big appeal of him? He could dance. But then I moved to New York and dated a professional Broadway dancer who always moved in perfect rhythm… to even the beat of the subway train! In comparison I felt frozen, stymied, like a 13-year-old boy at his first dance. I started counting beats to dance at all.
I walked into a real dance class in New York city with all my southern guilelessness and beamed wide at the rather stiff looking ballerinas in the mirror. They looked me up and down in what I’m sure was not hip attire, averted their eyes and ignored me. I would never dance in public again after that.
However, years later, I took a trip to the far east with my teacher., John-Roger. I stood upon the temple of Philae, Egypt meditating and at once I felt under my bare feet, a heartbeat. If felt like the Lord to which the temple was resurrected was inviting me to move in concert to this primordial rhythm, to come into the bliss I felt must surely live on the heaven side of my fear. I started spontaneously dancing on that temple and every other all through Egypt and then Israel…
Dance became my unlikely conduit to greater spiritual awareness. When I got back to the states, though I hardly felt qualified, I started a free-form dance class which I named Soul Dance to assist others to find that same freedom-to leave their cares about what they looked like among their otherworldly belongings- outside the door. I started the class from a place of complete unknowing. An inner calling proved to me that we don’t need to understand why we are doing something to do it. Rather, understanding comes from aligned doing.
A few years into facilitating Soul Dance, I was attending a meditation retreat at Asilomar conference center. One of the facilitators, who had attended Soul Dance, challenged me to endeavor to embody the magic of ecstatic dance in a performance (rather than just being an anonymous dancer in a darkened classroom) I was terrified of the idea but knew this was my next stretch. The only rehearsal was the next day, the day of the performance.
Most folks had known for a while that they would be performing and had come prepared. My only preparation that morning was to get very nervous, change outfits, get more nervous, attempt dance moves in front of the only mirror- a sliding glass door that reflected the wild Pacific Ocean behind me, ugly cry, reassure my toddlers, “Mommy is fine” and then to repeat the whole process.
I mean, dancing with the divine unknowing works swimmingly in the darkened sanctuary of a large group but is quite another thing on a brightly lit stage by oneself in front of an impartial audience. Especially, when I was supposed to be doing the very thing I encouraged folks not to do at Soul Dance-which is to entertain. At the rehearsal/sound check the next day, a professional dancer had just finished performing his perfectly executed choreographed act right before I shakily walked up the steps to the stage for my turn. Perfect. The M.C. commenced to loudly congratulate him on how amazing his choreography was as I cued my music and started dancing entirely free-form. The M.C., a former dance teacher come therapist, my former therapist, dismissed me with “Okay, we got it. That’s enough,” after just a few moments. A cold sweat walked its unwelcome fingers down my back as a hot flush cupped my cheeks and I shamefully stumbled off the stage, choking back tears of humiliation.
My spiritual teacher happened to be watching in the back of the room. I walked up to him and mumbled apologetically that I should have taken real dance classes before even thinking of facilitating Soul Dance, let alone performing! He informed me that, actually, I should not have taken real dance classes, and that if I had I would only follow pre-planned choreography instead of surrendering and allowing Spirit, not my mind or conditioning, to move me, to dance me.
That I would be loyal to my pre-planned steps instead of to divinely inspired ones. I knew how what he was describing, complete with a simple drawn illustration, was how I wanted to dance and more, how I wanted to live. I wanted to be led by the palm of the Lord upon the small of my back, guiding me onward. To truly follow God’s lead, not man’s.