Nature and dance are my gateways to the mystery, where I can bring my worries, exhaustion, prayers, celebrations and gratitude. These gateways open to places deep within and far beyond my perception and imagination. They create an impromptu sacred space that emerges, flexes, stretches, and nurtures, and always ‘meets’ me regardless of my emotional state.
In this post I reflect on the possibilities of danced spirituality in relation to the overarching theme of Feminism and Religion. How does dance relate to our sense of personal expression, freedom and take on life as gender-aware people, and our experience of spiritual intimacy?
Dance is a versatile practice to move through life in an empowered way and to strengthen our connection with the numinous. I truly believe that everyone can dance, and one of my roles as a ceremonial dance facilitator is to help people re-connect with the dancer inside them.
Christmas morning. I don’t usually have Sundays free and our family holiday celebrations lean nontraditional, so I’d come to a special ecstatic dance celebration and brought my 9-year-old daughter with me. As the music started and people all around us began to flow and move, I reached out to touch her hand. As if she’d been doing it for years, she shifted into a beautiful contact improv flow with me, rolling her arm down and across mine as she beamed love and radiance right into my heart.
This child brings up so many feelings in me as I watch her grow.
On many occasions at ecstatic dance, I’ve looked around the room and been overwhelmed by the beauty of the dancers and their joyful embodiment. When delight, peace, and ease are conditioned out of many of our bodily relationships through past traumas, body issues, or simply living in a disembodied or misembodied culture, feeling comfortable in our own skins is simultaneously an intentional act of cultural resistance and a profound act of self-care and self-love. Being present in the ecstatic dance space with lovely people moving confidently in fluid, sensual, emphatic, and silly ways fills my heart to overflowing on any given dance day.
Being present in that space with my daughter, looking around the room and imagining what it must look like through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, gave it a whole new hue of meaning. People danced alone or with partners, men danced with men and women with women, all without shame over their bodies or feelings. The occasional dancer who slipped off to sit on the periphery, nursing tears that flow in the way holidays bring for some, was joined, held, hugged, cried with. My little girl danced with joyful abandon surrounded by men and women of all ages and shapes, present in their bodies and feelings, moving in ways that felt good, glowing with presence and the freedom of acceptance. Continue reading “Present in Our Bodies: Sensuality, Movement, Feelings, and Joy by Chris Ash”
Over the past 20 years, I’ve been blessed with many moments in which fully aware or embodied presence has intersected spiritual transformation, both in my own life and in the lives of others. In my work on a crisis hotline, I’ve held space for strangers to open up and speak freely about pain, grief, and despair. In my work as a minister, I’ve held a couple’s hands as I blessed their marriage, and I’ve held space with the dying and their loved ones.
In my work as a doula, I’ve supported women draped over my arms as they pushed new life into being; I’ve also held crying fathers in hospital hallways while their lovers were being prepped for emergency surgeries. In my rape crisis work, I’ve held the hands of women in hospitals through fear and sorrow, and I’ve facilitated support groups for survivors to reconnect with their own embodied sexuality and the fullness of its complexity as they worked toward greater compassion for themselves and their processes.
I’ve worked to build a practice of presence and compassion in my life that extends beyond my family, even beyond people. Last spring, I was late to a party because I’d stopped to help a stumbling fawn out of the highway. Seeing that it was unable to move, I sat with it at the edge of the woods and sang it to its sleep.