All creation dances. The stars turn in their vast patterns, and on Earth all creatures move in their own inimitable ways. Trees grow in a slow, slow dance shaping the intricate architecture of their branches. Grass bends in the wind. Flowers open their hearts to the sun. Water shapes itself with liquid beauty into stream, lake, ocean wave.
The creatures dance. The snake slithers sinuously. Dolphin leap and spin. Cats of all sizes stalk with elegant grace. Birds soar on the wind. Under water, fish flick their tails and ripple in harmony with their world.
All, in their dance, give back praise to the Love that creates and enfolds them.
From our earliest beginnings, we humans have also danced. Before words there was gesture. Throughout human history, in almost all cultures, dance has been the language of celebration and prayer. It is true, some religions prohibited dancing, indeed declared it was a sin, but that did not stop most of humanity from dancing.
When I was a little girl, I danced to the music my parents played on the big victrola in the corner of our living room. Later I enjoyed small-town ballet, tap, and acrobatic classes; but it wasn’t until I was fifteen and met Barbara Mettler that I first felt dance as connection to Spirit. Barbara insisted that dance was a human birthright, that everyone should dance. She taught an improvisational, creative approach that was available to people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and abilities. Under her guidance my heart opened, my kinesthetic sense flowered, and I felt for the first time a quality of ecstasy that has lured me all my life.
Now, looking back, I realize that dance has always been my deepest way of praying. Coming to that understanding has been a long journey through many forms:
Leading a liturgical dance choir under the guidance of Howard Thurman, dean of the chapel at Boston University, when I was a student there in the 50’s.
Yoga. The deep dance of moving from one posture to the next, the song of the breath, each pose a mudra connecting to a different aspect of the Divine.
Sufi dancing. Whirling, meeting others in the circle, touching hearts. God is Love, Lover, and Beloved.
Ceremonial dance. Praying with the Earth, the trees, the sky, through all the cycles of the day and night, the cycles of the year. The center pole the mediator between Heaven and Earth.
Continuum. Blending with the rippling flow of breath, sound, and the movement in all Creation. Boundaries dissolving.
Most recently Subud. The discipline of surrender. Being guided by Spirit to move and to sound.
Some forms of dance/prayer take long years of training and discipline. Years ago, a troupe of whirling dervishes came to Boulder to teach and perform. I sat high on the bleachers in the gym where they danced, looking down on the perfect flow of the patterns of whirling bodies. The beauty of it, the sense of centeredness and peace, was unforgettable.
But one does not have to take on a difficult physical discipline to dance one’s prayer. We can all lift our arms, bow our heads. Spirit connects to the physical world through vibration. Vibration is movement. The simplest movement, when it comes from the heart, can connect to Spirit. The tree, the snake, and the dolphin know.
It is a paradox, that my body, the densest form of my being, can be imbued with Spirit. The whole concept of Spirit is turned inside out. It is not only an elusive floating thing out there, but here in my body, making every cell shine, as I dance my love back to Love.
My wish for you: may Spirit dance in you.