I choose to write this week about Dancing. Now you might wonder what this has to do with shamanism, but it is a tried and true technique for accessing inner power and for reaching the shamanic worlds.
I’ve always enjoyed music: I played musical instruments in school and I taught myself to sing. Both pursuits bring me a great deal of joy, but especially singing because I feel I am creating an energetic vibration with no props, just me. However, my love for music took an incredible turn when I turned 21. I walked into my first my gay bar and as they say, “the rest is history.” Talk about a rite of passage! There on the bar, just inside the entrance, was a vision of manhood, dancing his ass off to excellent music. I remember thinking, “I have arrived.”
There were of course many “firsts” that night, but the biggest takeaway, one that still resonates at a high level, is moving my body. The more tribal the beat, the better. This may sound a little crazy but it was as if my body knew what to do on an instinctual level. Granted, I already had an outstanding sense of rhythm, but even back then, I understood that I could enter a state of altered consciousness just by letting my Self go, allowing the DJ to take me on journey into my inner landscape. I would close my eyes and dance for hours, transported to a magical world that I could feel was shared by everyone around me. So what is it about body movement that causes such a shift?
Dancing has been a path to the sacred since before the dim and misty. From the earliest times, cultures the world over recognized the special power that dance holds over our bodies. There’s something primal that gets activated through dance. My brain shuts down and the active chatter of ordinary consciousness flows away, allowing me to connect deeply with my divine spark. When I touch that, I touch the Gods.
Dance is a very potent and expressive Art. Through ritual dance, the observer can catch a glimpse of the natural world and states of being. The performer learns how to tap into the very essence of animals, plants, stars, birth and death.
Because our minds can become more still, dancing allows us to feel our emotions in a much deeper way. Joy, Hatred, Ecstasy and Despair are given creative expression in a ritualized context, which can free us from the old fears such as “Am I good enough?”. The wise men and women of old recognized this unique characteristic, this ability to embody something outside of ourselves, and used it to heal our broken spirits. They would ask:
When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? ~Gabrielle Roth
I have both laughed and cried on the dance floor, swept up by the music until the raw feelings just come pouring out. Cher sings in The Music’s No Good Without You, “I pray that a DJ will lift my Heart.” Indeed. I recently chatted with a DJ from Los Angeles, Ryan Jones, who said that he was once told to “find the God in your work.” He understands his role in helping us to pray while celebrating the joys of being alive. Check out his Soundcloud to listen to what I mean.
My favorite poem by Jewel Mathieson said it best:
WE have come to be danced
not the nice invisible, self conscious shuffle
but the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
the strip us from our casings, return our wings
sharpen our claws & tongues dance
the shed dead cells and slip into
the luminous skin of love dance
Through dance, we can access our most hidden aspects, the parts of us which do not always wish to come to light. For those who follow the Unnamed Path, we know that this “shadow” work, which I will touch upon more in a future post, is essential to to finding our true power. At my Initiation, I used dance as the vehicle to open me up to deep possessory work, allowing my patron deity to “ride” me into ecstasy. Easily the most advanced technique that we work with, possession would not have been possible if I had not been able to shake things loose through dance. I simply could not wrap my brain around such a working, but my body knew instinctively what to do.
You don’t have to aspire to a possessory experience to reap the shamanic benefits of dancing. The next time you are feeling called to expand your mind via meditation or journeying, try warming up first with some dancing. Put on some good music and let your body move! Alternatively, find out if a Sunday T-Dance is still happening in your area. If I happen to see you out on the dance floor, I’ll not only be gyrating like crazy, I’ll also be channeling energy to the crowd, a fun exercise that Eddy taught me. Together, we can let our hair down and do that “shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance”. No one else has to know. But we will.