Until a few years ago, I was not a newspaper reader or a news watcher. I always had a great aversion to horror movies and could never watch any movie at the cinema that had violence which, definitely, limited the choice of movie. To me, news watching was a similar thing. It’s not that I didn’t care about the world. I cared very much, however, my focus was naturally on the interior world rather than the exterior one; the world of thoughts, emotions, and spirit. I found it relatively easy to read the thoughts and intentions of other people. The thought patterns of humans are very similar, for good and bad. Once we understand one person (ourselves), it is not difficult to understand other people. The energy people put into those different thought patterns does, of course, vary greatly thus the diversity of people.
One would assume dancing is a highly exterior activity as it is all about the body. One of my dance teachers would sometimes ask me how I thought something looked. I would generally reply, “I can’t tell.” I couldn’t seem to be able to tell what something looked like, as an objective observer, despite the many mirrors in a dance studio. That teacher thought I was not in my body enough – which was true. He told me that one of his teachers, Ruud Vermeij, had his own distinct way of recommending to his students how to put themselves squarely into their dancing bodies, “Tell your mind to shut the f*** up!”
Spiritual students have a tendency, over time, to have less of a sense of their separate identity, particularly, as a physical entity. From a spiritual perspective, this is something we value. It means the egoic sense is lessening its hold on us. It means we are a little less driven by the normal egoic tendencies than we were at the beginning of our spiritual dedication. It means we can be trusted a little more to not turn everything into, it’s all about me. It means we can forgive more quickly because there is less of an identity to hold onto resentments. It means we are a little more receptive to instructions from above which is what our initial goal was so many years ago. However, we also need to function in our bodies and in the world.
For the seeker of Truth, the spiritual dimension, over the years, becomes a very strong reality. In order to strengthen the physical dimension so that it remains vital and workable, many spiritual seekers develop concrete and physical interests and habits which reinforce this life and its necessary accompaniments, i.e. the body. Dancing can easily become one of them. Of course, yoga is a natural fit as, in its correct form, it relates to all levels of the being. If we would like to contribute to the world in a spiritual way, we need to stay grounded, intelligent, and connected with the physical world.
These days, I watch the news and read the papers. Amongst the suffering, there are also wonderful things. People are all the same. They want to be happy. They enjoy love stories and find them inspiring. Men will defend women and children with their lives. Women will do whatever it takes to nurture and protect their families. People want a better life. They want to learn and be educated. I am inspired by the great, common driving force – the desire for love, in every form. Love gives life meaning in a way nothing else can. If we focus on the interior world which makes us all the same then the exterior world will not seem in such conflict. It will be enlivening not dividing, enriching not impoverishing, uniting not damaging. We won’t need mirrors to tell us what we are or are not. We will know by virtue of what is inside us.
The Silent Dancer
One day, one of my earlier dance teachers said (as if it had only just occurred to him what he had been doing all these years), “At some point in our dancing life, the mind stops thinking. Everything becomes calm and quiet. After years of training, we don’t have to think about it anymore. Then, it becomes easy. I end up in the right place. My partner ends up in the right place. It all works. I guess, for some people that happens in meditation. For me, it happens in dancing.” After a pause, he said quietly, “The silent dancer.”
We stood silently and, I think, were both moved by that same, touching Silence. Silence is the breeding ground of harmonious, perfect action. It is also the soil from which lovingness grows. Without silence, we can neither know ourselves, another, or the depth of anything beautiful. One has to be able to tolerate seeming nothingness in order to hear the silent rhythm. It warms our heart and stretches us into beautiful forms. It is prayer and its velvety smoothness effortlessly embraces us all.