Express Yourself: Dancing the Fifth Chakra

May 10, 2010

“I missed the freedom of expression,” a dancer answers when I ask how they feel about the fifth chakra dance session we’d just concluded. Hmmm… I was hoping to create a context where greater creativity of movement could be fostered. Suddenly the demons of creative insecurity raise their ugly heads wanting to engulf me… perfect. We had danced a piece on expanding self-expression: I had gone out on a creative limb with the structure of the evening’s session and this feedback touches the core of my own self-expression.

Many people have received very little positive feedback for their creative endeavors and experiments in their lives. We started the session sharing stories of the messages we’ve been given about our artistic abilities: being told we can’t sing, that we had poor fashion sense, that we couldn’t cook, and so forth. Scholastic achievement gets much more attention; art, writing, decorating is just that “cute” thing you do. My mother was always hoping that I’d grow out of my love of theater and become a business major… the prevailing idea being that you can’t make money with art. Granted, it’s challenging in a society that doesn’t value it highly. Never did make a living with it but I have never regretted the enriching experience of following my heart and doing what I loved.

The fifth chakra deals with expressing one’s truth, being authentic in communication, The idea with the dance session was to cycle through different body parts, letting them express their story in their own language. For example, I’d call out, “Feet,” and everyone would explore their feet, first on their own and then with other dancers.  My intention was to encourage everyone to break out of their patterns and expand their movement vocabulary. Ecstatic dance usually has very little structure so I was taking a big risk departing from the norm and what the dancers were used to. I came to the session excited to play with this creative experiment. I was going to draw outside the lines…

What was curious though, was that the structure I imposed on the dance seemed to get some people more in their heads than breaking barriers. Conversely, other dancers totally moved beyond their comfort zones into fresh new territory and expansion. What was the challenge here? Observing the participants, I really could see how differently people approach creativity. For some, the task of dancing a particular body part opened the door to adventure; they relished the problem-solving quality of the exercise. There was something specific to work with, just enough of a parameter to use as a foundation to jump into the unknown. Without the invitation to intimately delve into their feet, they would not have necessarily gone there on their own and missed this rich experience. For others, structure became a head-trip, a nuisance, and closed down their self-expression. These folks operate more fluidly with an empty canvas. The blank page terrorizes others….

“I missed the freedom of expression,” says the dancer. “Ah, but what might be interesting to see,” I answer, “is that the invitation is for feet AND freedom of expression, spine AND freedom, hands AND freedom. They don’t exclude each other. Just see how your resistance to structure  prevents your flow when it is there actually to help. ” I remember hearing Osho, the Indian spiritual master, give a talk about creativity and how we could approach and engage in the most mundane acts as artists…. things like washing the dishes, doing the laundry, shopping. It really is a question of being present to whatever act you are doing and enjoying it. You will never wipe the windows in the same manner again…. you are dancing over the pane with the cloth, swirling this way and that, zig-zagging, making wide sweeping gestures. Next time you do this same act, you will probably do it differently. The window becomes your blank canvas. Windows AND freedom. Creativity is that simple and we all are artists. Take a risk and draw outside the lines. Express yourself!


One comment

  1. Sharing comments from another Conscious Deejay:

    I am very picky about lyrics and am basically looking for the ring of truth…does the vocalist really speak to my heart. The quality of emotion the lyrics evoke may not always be positive (whatever that means) but I use songs with lyrics very sparsely, peppering an experience and not overdoing it. Personally, I feel overwhelmed and vaguely, sometimes not so vaguely, manipulated when I am being held on a dance floor that uses a ton of lyrics. Then I am simply having to dance with my resistance and that gets pretty tiring after awhile.
    Lyrics tend to put me into my head and my practice thrives better when I step down from thinking into my heart and body.

    Thank you for this comment:
    “Every day I get to “Process” life experiences, not just at a Dance. I have
    Transformed at Dances, in fact I spent 2 hours processing at one of Jo’s
    dances at Dance camp. I even process sometimes at my own dance. But it is a 24/7 job – “Living Consciously” ”

    The following is from the newsletter I wrote for our community last week:

    So moved by a student’s question this week: “Sometimes I come to class wanting to explore a personal issue. Instruction gets in the way of my processing. How can I show up with integrity and resolve this?”

    This goes to the heart of what we are practicing and what I am holding space for on a 5Rhythms floor (or for that matter on a yoga mat). We are meditating. This means we are gently and relentlessly training our minds to come back to the present moment. It is quite simple and mostly very difficult.

    Instruction offered in 5Rhythms or yoga is fairly specific, a particular way to deepen our body awareness. Interestingly enough, this often yields up a byproduct of personal meaning for our hearts and minds. But the particular agenda is only a surface reason for instruction. The deeper reason I give instruction never varies. If we actually stay present with instruction, if we manage to drop our personal stuff at the door then we invest in deepening our meditative skill, our life enhancing ability to stay present in each and every moment.

    “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” Albert Einstein

    Don’t get me wrong. Dancing on the floor of our room or having a cup of tea and daydreaming are incredibly effective arenas for contemplation, reflection, gaining clarity on direction, planning, rehearsing, re-hashing. All great mental activites for honing wisdom. But when we come to class or come to the cushion and practice meditation, which is a whole different animal, we sharpen an incredible life skill. A capability, an aptitude that makes those other processes more effective and spills over into day to day life experience in so many supportive and beneficial ways. Don’t take my word for it. Just show up, be present, check it out for yourself.

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