Unjudged, accepted, and celebrated

The seven year olds filed into an empty room with their teachers, where they could hear uplifting music play. They were there to learn how to partner dance. One by one the boys were paired up with the girls. I was the tallest girl in my class, and probably the shyest one. Why my teachers paired me up with the shortest boy in the class I will never know!

“This is fun!!” I thought to myself, as we were guided to step forward and back, side to side, doing a little pirouet. The boys were instructed to lift their partner’s hand and twirl them around. Excited to twirl, I forgot to let go of my partner’s hand. As I ducked under his arm and twirled around, I nearly ripped his arm out of its socket!

As I stepped back and looked at him in horror, I could see this poor kid was in a lot of pain, crying as he held his aching shoulder. I felt awful. The teachers thought we were being lazy and yelled at us to keep dancing. Afraid to disobey, I approached him to resume the dance. Being hurt, he refused, got mad and lashed out at me.

I never danced again for 36 years.

It was like there was a big mental block in my brain. Dancing equated to rejection and humiliation. Whenever I tried dancing at weddings I felt petrified, unsure how to move or if I was “doing it right”. School dances invoked panic-inducing fear where I would duck out and run away to safety.

Ironically, some of my favorite TV shows had dancers in them. Solid Gold and Electric Circus mesmerized me. I was in awe of how these dancers moved so freely….so graciously…..with SMILES on their faces! I was secretly jealous with a pang of sadness in the pit of my stomach.Social phobia’s fear had it’s clench on me. My mind so attached to the belief that I wasn’t good enough to dance. So I never tried, paralyzed with fear.

Fast forward to 2014. I was now 42 years old, had recently survived the death of my spouse AND had a life saving surgery to boot. I was gaining my health back. And my confidence. Once day a friend suggested that I try free flow dance style called “Just Dance!”. I was reluctant as the familiar pangs of fear resounded in my stomach. But this time, I was curious to try it. I was in the throws of becoming a different person and wondered how I would do at dancing this time around.

Well. This was not a stereotypical dance, where people partnered up and danced to moves they had memorized. No no. This was freestyle, baby! No judgment. Just dance. People danced on their own. In their own way, at their own time. They observed how their bodies moved in time to the music. I was a robot at first, still unsure how to “do it right”. Observing how others were dancing so i might learn from them. Eventually, my friend came over and said to me “you’re too stiff like a robot! You need to relax and allow the music to move you!” I tried feeling into the music and eventually had a visual of a marionette puppet, where I was a puppet being moved by the music. This helped me greatly to relax and let go into my dance. In addition to that, I was dancing in an environment where I was free to express myself. There was no judgment nor shame here. Only pure self expression, acceptance and celebration of the human spirit. And that helped me to let go of my insecurities.

Since then I have delved much deeper into the experience of conscious dance. A mindful and meditative experience, where I observe and explore my movements, breath and feelings. Bumping up against my edges so I could observe what repressed stuff was still lingering inside my existence. You know, something amazing happens when I do this: I get so wrapped into the flow of dance that I arrive into the present moment, complete and fully alive. This is where sensations, feelings and memories might bubble up to the surface. I do not push them away. I embrace them. They are here to dance with me, so I allow my body to express them. If I’m feeling sad, my body might move slower as I lower my head to gaze at the floor. If I’m feeling old energies release, I might be jumping up and down with loose arms, as if throwing old grime off and purifying myself. Sometimes, where words fail, the body provides a means to express unspoken words and feelings. Like an interpretive dance, where my body speaks for me. There’s no need to form words. Rather, allowing full physical expression of what’s happening in my mind.

This allows me full ownership of my own experience, accepting myself being perfectly imperfect, and letting go of old stories. My beliefs change when I experience the power of conscious dance and how it shifts our mindset from sabotage to empowered. The healing power that happens when we align body, mind and spirit.

Today, I joyfully and freely allow my body, mind, and soul to dance in harmony. Gone are the old feelings of fear, replaced with exuberance and authenticity as I fully own my experience and step into my power.

In these challenging times where “trauma” is the buzzword, and so many people are looking for ways to process their lives and move on. I invite you to explore conscious dance, as a way to experience yourself on a higher plane of existence. A dance that allows you to be mindfully present in this moment as you explore and express yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Where you can come and meet your true self, hiding underneath cloaks of social media and old lingering stories of misbelief. I invite you, to step into your power and become one with the dance. The dance of your lifetime. Unjudged, accepted and celebrated.

-Paula Smith

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