Mindful Dance is not a very verbal process! But I have been enjoying talking to some women and men who have been coming to classes or retreats about their experiences of dancing in general and of Mindful Dance. Mindful Dance, unlike some other forms, is a free style – it’s about sensing into how our bodies want to move and then expressing that freely, at the pace that feels right to you, without judgment.
I’d like to share parts of our conversations with you, without disclosing anyone’s identity (and I have got permission from everyone involved). I’ve put the stories and conversations into eight sections, which I find are some of the major ways that this practice transforms people’s lives. After years of doing and teaching Mindful Dance, I believe its gifts will help anyone fall in love with life again, which is why I do it! Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences with me.
I don’t think of myself as ‘a dancer’. I’ve watched a huge amount of dance… I love what bodies can do, how expressive… I wish I’d discovered this years ago. I can really move a lot! It feels a very real part of who I am.
I like eclectic music. I don’t like ‘contact dance’ and I don’t want to have to explain myself.
I used to be a bit ‘crazy’, because well I was actually really unsure of myself and I didn’t know how to ‘be’. There’s a lot of shame about how I behaved, still. When stuff comes up, I know this isn’t therapy, so I just move and I can just give it space… I know this is a supportive atmosphere. I don’t have to do anything with it. It’s very helpful to have it and be good to myself.
I can be loud or I can be gentle. I like that I don’t have to be a certain way here.
There’s all sorts of issues about my body. I didn’t want to be visible, but in the end I didn’t care anymore!
I notice who the good dancers are, but it doesn’t matter – I can move however I like and no-one minds, and I don’t mind.
I went to Ballet from the age of three and I really hated it – also tap and contemporary. . . I felt like the sore thumb. I was always very aware of my size…. that I didn’t fit in. I was the fat one. In end of term shows, I got to be a ‘tree’ or something… it was humiliating. I really didn’t want to do it. My mum told me much later it was the worst thing she ever did, sending me. She regretted it.
When I discovered Disco… there was more enjoyment in my body. It was free, not movements I had to learn… but then there was judgement again. I went on the dance floor and danced with my mate, just however I wanted: we just lost ourselves in the music, it was great. But then the slow dances came on, and you know, you had to make a run for it: I realised it was all about performance after all and being picked by the boys, so… that was uncomfortable.
I hadn’t been on a dance floor for a long time… I can get very conscious of how I’m moving and of being watched… but everyone was in their own zone and I loved it. I got very emotional and it was good. It was just what I needed because my friend had just died.
I didn’t dance for years. There are the things I try to ignore and avoid: moving lets me know what’s there – I can’t avoid it! Otherwise I’m in my head a lot. When I move I can’t ignore the stuff I need to look at, because it’s in my body. I’m very aware of it when I dance. You talk about ‘armouring’ – yes, I get in touch with what I’ve not been feeling… I’m aware of body limitations: weight, stiffness… and why they’re there.
When we do drawing after moving, it helps bring it out for me. It’s beginning to make sense of the movement journey I’ve been on. I find it very helpful: I get lots of images, and though I ‘can’t draw’ I just go with it. It’s very integrating.
I feel more alive when I dance! It’s great!!
I notice afterwards I am just more direct with people – not in a bad way – just not ‘walking on egg shells’. I have to watch myself! I’m direct, in a good way!
I can allow emotion to move out of me without even knowing what they are: it’s a process of opening, particularly the heart. It’s a very different process for me. I have so much more energy because of it!
I get out of my head! I need to move my body, to take exercise… When I’ve been dancing, I feel I AM a body, rather than looking down and I ‘have’ a body. Does that make sense?
I always feel better for it, even if I don’t want to do it beforehand… Life feels simpler much afterwards.
I had a huge amount of grief. I was very able to understand it in my head, but I was still holding onto it. I needed to drop down into my body. I knew that was the key, but it took me a while to find the way in.
I’m not very in my body and I do want to be, but I don’t think I know how to. You encouraged us to stay where we can feel, so I didn’t push myself, which is what I usually do. It was very different for me.
I’ve been to some Five Rhythms… where I live they were quite cliquey. I don’t like all the sweaty bodies: they were very into getting all sweaty together, and that’s not me…
I don’t have to move a lot if I don’t want to. I can lie down. I have a lot of physical pain… I have pain all of the time, most of the time, regardless of what I’m doing. But I can be in my body and enjoy it for the first time. I can’t tell you – that’s beyond words for me.
I was so used to placing my body in ways that were not comfortable, but I didn’t any longer even know it… It just was pain. Ballet is not a natural movement… it’s not good for us on any level. When I stopped… this is finding my own place, in a very different way. It’s much more beautiful! It’s the body deciding, not my ‘vision’ of how to move. It’s allowing it to happen: its own pace, for its own reasons.
I tried Ecstatic Dance: that was good too. I notice I move my arms a lot but not my legs. The teacher suggested just gliding my feet across the floor, and it was good – it was very different as a way of moving my body.
I wouldn’t have expected to feel so much sadness and so much fun in one session! I was really blissed out by the end of it… very open, touched and grateful…
When I left home I went a bit wild… drugs, partying: I was a party girl and I was out of my skull… But I couldn’t be with myself for five minutes. It’s been a long journey to come to my body. I’ve needed to find a practice that supports me to open my heart, gently…
I can check in with my body and I know it knows what I need.
I didn’t know I could move! I don’t know what it means… It’s a new me…
With the nature sounds you played… I became much more aware of my body, my breathing, what I was feeling – more interior. Listening to different levels of sound… you talked to us about brainwaves… it was different levels of consciousness… It definitely changed the levels of consciousness. There was more imagery. It was very interesting to experience it.
I try to notice where in my body resonates with each sound. Sometimes it’s just like a big spaciousness opens…
I found a deep connection to my past, in a way I didn’t expect to. I saw family members and it was very comforting… it’s not possible to explain what happened, they were just all there, behind me. It didn’t expect it… it was very positive.
I learn so much from Mindful Dance students about how to fall in love with life. Through the free body movements, we can reconnect with the inner and outer richness – the textures, the flavours, the ups and downs, the passion of being. Mindful Dance gives us a way not just to be with it all, but to be it all – all the ups, downs, light and dark of life’s journey. We learn to flow through all the beautiful panoply of life.