I mentioned that I’ve been working with a bodyworker to help me heal some chronic neck and back pain. About a month ago, we were discussing some ways I might consider exercising, since jogging (my past go-to) is out of the running for a while… He asked if I’d ever considered ecstatic dancing. My eyes rolled, and I immediately burst out laughing. “Hah! God, No…”
Of course, I immediately saw the judgment—I’m not the “type” to ecstatic dance. I don’t wear long flowing outfits, and I don’t identify as a “hippie.”
My bodyworker just looked at me with a silently knowing smirk—a look I often see on Kate’s face every time I find myself connecting with anything remotely “Woo-woo” and yet continue to insist it’s complete bunk.
“Ok, ok… I’ll think about it…”
Cut to: my latest silent meditation retreat. We were in the midst of one of our small group check-in’s, and one of the group members mentioned that he regularly attends ecstatic dance events in Los Angeles. Hmmmm… I noted this at the time—and then made a point to follow up and ask him about it at the end of the retreat after the silence had broken.
“Oh yeah, ecstatic dance – it’s amazing! Such a great way to connect with yourself. And the nicest group of people you’ll ever meet.”
When I got back to LA, I investigated one of the websites he recommended…. Consciously choosing to look passed the rapturous marketing aesthetic…(this was, after-all “ecstatic” dance, I reminded myself), I noted the groups’s monthly gathering coming up that Sunday. So I marked my calendar and decided to give it a try.
When Sunday arrived, I hopped into my car to head to the location. Excited to be connecting with music again—something I hadn’t consciously done in forever—I felt the urge to unearth an old album of my favorite CDs from the 90’s. Leafing through the book, Live’s “Mental Jewelry” caught my eye. So, I popped it in my car’s cd player—and off I went.
Two songs into the album, as I’m about to get on the freeway ramp, I’m singing along to a song I can’t remember the title of—and BAM. A waterfall of tears hits me out of the blue.
(The Tyranny of Tradition)
Heard a lot of talk about the ocean
Heard a lot of talk about the sea
Heard a lot of talk about a lot of things
Never meant that much to me.
Heard a lot of talk about my spirit
Heard a lot of talk about my soul
But I decided that anxiety and pain
Were better friends
So I let it go.
Did you let it go?
Let’s get it back
Let’s get it back, together.
That part about turning away from my spirit and my soul and turning toward anxiety and pain—yah…that. It struck a chord. And hard. Because there was a time in my life when I used to believe in—and feel connected to—something greater than myself: Spirit, The Universe, God, whatever you want to call it…. But then things changed. I let media influence my opinion of what it meant to be someone who “believed” in something greater than myself—it isn’t “cool” to have faith; “Intelligent” people don’t have faith—they’re supposed to “believe” in “facts” and “science” and things that can be “proven,” etc… So, I decided being spiritual and having faith in anything that wasn’t rational didn’t fit me anymore. And, I let it go. Enter: anxiety and pain.
Contemplating all this, it occurred to me… The depression I’ve been teetering in and out of lately—sure, there’s been specific issues I’ve been facing and working through—but at its core, it feels like it might just be a crisis of faith.
I’ve been noticing how the idea of faith has been popping into my thoughts a great deal lately. Wondering what exactly it means to “have” it… Why I always feel so uncomfortable with the idea of it… And then it showed up in a big way during my latest retreat. I experienced some serious doubt during the first few days of the retreat—not seeing the “results” I was expecting right away…But as soon as I recognized the doubt, allowed myself to let go of my expectations, and let myself just BE in the moment—well, that’s when the magic started happening (of course).
And that’s when I realized I truly believe in the retreat process. I’ve been through enough retreats now to see similar outcomes during (and after) every retreat—despite those outcomes not always showing up when and how I expect. It’s the same with my mindfulness practice. I can see how I’ve grown to believe in it because I know it works. Even when I can’t see that it’s working. Even when I don’t feel like it is… That’s “faith,” right?
Maybe I’m closer to getting it back than I realize….
A quick footnote to this week’s post that some of you might find interesting—I Googled the band, “Live” when I got home from the ecstatic dance experience (which was beautiful by the way)—and I found out that the lyrics to their “Mental Jewelry” album were largely influenced by philosopher, J. Krishnamurti (not related to hare krishna in any way). I thought this was interesting because I have the Krishnamurti book, “Total Freedom,” on my shelf at home—a fairly recent addition to my mindfulness library that I’ve been savoring. It’s so funny how things come full circle…
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