Sometimes it’s easy to be sedentary. Content with what we have right now, or even to remain discontent, but live with the status quo. Other times I feel dissatisfied, and ready to make changes.
What might inspire enough restlessness to dislodge an individual — okay, me — from inertia toward change and motion? To me, such restlessness can mean that I’m listening to the Spirit, to something Sacred.
Of course, the motivation to take a step involves the promise of something extraordinary at the other end. In the example below, it might be transforming a single individual or a whole community into divas in veils and cymbals, swirling across the room: powerful and poised. Movement toward a more potent life. And that’s what happened at a Women’s Spirituality retreat a few years ago.
Imagine a gymnasium full of women, spanning the ages of 20-something to 80-something. We’re gathered for our annual retreat. On this day we wear hip scarves in a riot of colors: orange, purple, turquoise. With every footfall, each swish of hips, we glint and jingle, adorned in coins and bells. Lithesome dancers join in. A few women, with recently-replaced hip or knee joints, sway and move more freely than they have in years. Others participate stiffly. Tentatively. Careful of their balance. Some — me included — miss the beat.
Yet we all dance. This feat, to me, embodies the tenacity to try something different, moving as part of a Great Circle. Regardless of where we begin, how slowly or deftly we step, we can learn the pattern. Each woman in that room finds enough equilibrium to take a public risk in this community. We start safely, become risqué.
Clapping hands, snapping fingers, chirruping tongues, we wear courage out loud, swathed in color, light, sound and beauty. Striking. Dignified. Outrageous.
We glide and swish across the room in a series of hip rolls and side steps, shoulders proud, chins lifted. Picture a 70-something woman, hair dyed crimson, joints newly-replaced, hands extended, chortling as she swishes, chimes ringing, across the room among her friends. Imagine a freckled, self-conscious mother in her middle years, nervous of her extra weight and her matronly form, letting go and feeling proud of her curves. So many of us, at many different points in our lives … together we cross the room. Imagine a tall slim woman leading us, who learned this dance during her travels, and loved it so much she chose to become a teacher in order to share it with women like us. Generation by generation, across borders of language and geography, it is passed down.
We reclaim a traditional women’s dance, some as emerging adults, some in the last decade of life. Everyone joins in, unable to resist. Although sensual, belly-dancing originated to prepare muscles for childbirth and to recover from labor and delivery. It’s more fun than kegels, too. (Because we are known to grow ribald and loud, the Catholic order of nuns who hosted our group has scheduled our program for the most remote function hall in their conference center. Eventually they ask us to be more quiet, and suggest we might not want to come back again with such noisy activities! Other Sisters make a point of stopping by to watch the fun, and a few later confess they’d have joined the class if they’d been able.)
Each member comes to this experience “as she is.” Within this context, she connects with herself, a larger community, and something Sacred.
Together we lose our balance, regain stability and recognize dignity. Although we may come with personal histories that have sometimes trapped us into a sense of immobility, through this event, we choreograph a chance for each person to feel the Spirit leaping inside her, liberated to touch, reach, step, pray, and yes, to dance.