Planting Ourselves into the Universe
“It is a question, practically of relationship. We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe…… For the truth is, we are perishing for lack of fulfillment of our greater needs, we are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal sources which flow eternally in the universe. Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air. We must plant ourselves in the universe”
– D.H. Lawrence
I felt uprooted when I woke up this morning. Creeping existential dread was there to greet me. My energy was low, my body felt tight. And then Double Dutch came on the radio, and with wild abandon, a sense of freedom took over and I let go. I found myself, in my room, fingers tingling, energy pulsing through me. There was nowhere else I wanted to be, no other thoughts racing around in my head. My heart shattered through a cage of fear. The trance of the dance snapped me out of a trance of disassociation with my here and now.
This time last year, a friend of mine finished up his career as a Visual DJ. For twenty years, he toured with DJs and bands generating the visuals to bounce along with the music. He was the magician to bring the energy of the crowd together. He took the music, mixed it with lights, holographs, and visual motives, and guided people into the suspension of disbelief. The disbelief that they could not dance. He could tell the moment the crowd was about to let go and dance in unison. His eyes always scanning for that one person who swayed from side-to-side, feeling the music and the energy. Their eyes would close and slowly, they would take in the music. Bit by bit, let go. People danced like nobody was watching, which, for most of us, is difficult at the best of times.
Except for now. Last year, I discovered Ryan Heffington on Instagram. A choreographer based in Los Angeles, he ran 5 classes a week during the first lockdown and I attended most of them. The first week was awkward. I was afraid that my computer would be hacked, the camera opened and a viral video of me dancing around my sitting room would go viral. (totally rational!)
As the weeks progressed, I released more of myself to the music. It became integral to taking care of my mental health in 2020.
Dance was something I loved as a child. And then, with everything that goes with becoming a teenager, I gave it up. I grew to be ashamed of my body instead of embracing what it could do for me. When I wanted to dance, I didn’t. I compartmentalised the freedom movement could give my body as something that didn’t work for me. And the journey back to befriend my body and the space it takes up has taken time.
In a mindfulness practice I led last week, I spoke about coming back into the body and afterward, a person new to the group asked me How?
When I was training for my Yoga Teacher Training certificate in India, we studied the philosophy of yoga. Every evening, we sat for an hour or two guided meditation. When I sat with my breath, I was fine, I could do that. Using my breath as an anchor was ok for me. When I had to bring my awareness back into my body, I balked. Bringing awareness to the sensations and feelings I felt in my body was a part of the practice that I could not understand. Also, I did not want to go there. There was a sense of fear and the unknown about it. If I went here, then what? What would I unleash? I was encouraged to be with these feelings and get to know them. Again, this made no sense to me. Despite having a strong asana practice, I had a weak mind-body connection. The result of this lack of awareness is that we regularly leave our body and skim life’s surface in a trance of overthinking and over-analysing. Our attention is drawn to random external things and pulled in directions outside of us.
Coming back into our body is to train our attention to return home, to ourselves, again and again. And this can be scary. Bringing this attention within makes us work with the physical and emotional pain that resides in all of us. The reward is we are rewarded with the gifts of love, creativity, and aliveness that arise as we learn to fully inhabit our bodies and be open to all of our senses. As I danced along to Ryan Heffington’s classes, I began to come back to my body.
In 1928, D.H. Lawrence found himself in a world devastated by war and a culture suffering from a radical disconnect between their mind and body. Nearly one hundred years later, these words have lost none of their urgency.
Dancing with wild abandon, with no regard for an outcome, is present moment living. It has let me take my roots and dance them into the universe, into myself, which is somewhere I am happy to be. What can you do, for yourself, that will bring you to a place where you are happy to be?
Mindfulness Practices that can help you build the mind-body connection are:
- The Body Scan
- Loving-Kindness meditations
- Sitting with your breath and placing your right hand over your heart.
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