When one year comes to an end and another begins, I am called to take an inventory of my blessings. The time of transition is perfect for this task. As 2014 becomes 2015, one major blessing warms my heart more beautifully than any other: Dancing Mindfulness. Although I am credited as the founder of the formal class-based practice, my gratitude is not that I developed it… quite the opposite. My heart brims with gratitude for those in my life who have taught me how to dance mindfully this year. When I developed the class-based practice in 2012, my original vision was for little separation between facilitators and dancers. I wanted to cultivate a true community where we are inspired to learn from each other. This vision truly came to fruition in 2014, and for that, I thank you!
In 2014, even though my team and I worked hard to offer seven live facilitator trainings across the U.S. and launch a distance-based program to those interested internationally in the practice, my most precious gratitude came when people shared with me how they are cultivating personal dance practices in their lives. To me, having a personal dancing mindfulness practice, just like we might have a personal yoga or sitting meditation practice, is a critical component of facilitator success. Of course, personal practices are open to everyone! My heart radiated as I heard people share with me stories of going to beaches and public places with their iPod docks, blasting music, and letting the dance of now cultivate mindfulness and its attitudes. My heart sang as I heard tales of people carving out personal spaces in their house to take a mindful journey, and sharing the attitudes and elements of dancing mindfulness with their children during play. My heart wept with tears of such pure joy when we were in Puerto Rico a month ago. My team’s mission for this trip was to train a group of 10 local women in Puerto Rico as facilitators. Yet during the practice class, as these trainees moved so effortlessly and mindfully to the music of artists from their homeland and helped me to do the same, something became very clear to me. These women didn’t need me to teach them Dancing Mindfulness, these women are dancing mindfulness… in their hearts, in their souls, and in the beauty of their heritage that they so generously shared. In one beautiful moment at Centro Buen Pastor in Guaynabo (the location of our training/retreat), as we moved in the group practice and I listened to the women singing along around me, it struck me: Dancing Mindfulness belongs to all of us. It is a practice we can all access, even if we haven’t realized it yet. Dancing Mindfulness is not only a practice, but a way of life that makes sense to so many of us. For many of us Dancing Mindfulness offers a template for exploring, for moving past our zones of comfort. For others, to dance mindfully offers a path of liberation from the inside-the-box ways of practicing spirituality and meditation that so many of us feel pressured to accept. Whatever Dancing Mindfulness may mean to you, know that it belongs to you.
I had the privilege of visiting with my dear friend and collaborator Mandy Hinkle a few days ago. Mandy went through the facilitator training program, although the birth of her beautiful daughter Sofia earlier this year became the major focus of her life. There is no doubt in my mind that Mandy is going to continue to do amazing things as both a yoga teacher and a Dancing Mindfulness facilitator in the coming years. Mandy shared with me that she sometimes gets down on herself because she doesn’t craft time to formally go into her yoga space at her house to practice Dancing Mindfulness, and getting to classes has been nearly impossible. Yet when we discussed this idea of dancing mindfulness as a way of life, something resonated. She shared that she does dance around the house, in her kitchen, moving from place-to-place; she dances with the radiant Sofia. The dancing offers her an anchor in joy, and that is perhaps the most vital part of what in means to practice dancing mindfulness…no matter how specifically you are practicing it.
Some of the greatest moments I’ve experienced this year have also come in what people have shared with me online. People, either in my professional or circles of acquaintances or people who have stumbled onto our pages online, are becoming inspired to move. I had another one of those tear-filled, spiritual goose bump moments the other night when Andy, a professional psychologist friend of mine shared that even though he is an introvert who doesn’t dance, he is inspired to follow our leads and give organic movement a try, to simply respond to music that resonates with him. Andy wrote, “Dancing is always a good idea.”
Dancing is always a good idea… for those of you who can embrace that and use it as a path to present-centered living, wonderful! Keep it up into 2015. For those of you who are scared of organic movement, like Andy identified… know that you can always start with your breath. That is the foundation of dancing mindfulness practice. Consider that your breath is part of a larger dance, and by connecting with that breath, you are connecting with the dance. Cultivate curiosity and see where it takes you in the new year. Maybe you’ll catch yourself moving along to a certain sound or piece of music that comes on…that’s your start. Just be in the moment with it and release judgment. The exhale is always available to you to release judgment. If you’ve had a horrible experience in the past with dance or if it’s a trigger to you in any way, feel free to reach out to us on the main Dancing Mindfulness facebook page…the community is here to offer you ideas for support.
As 2015 unfolds, I look forward to connecting with all of you who dance mindfully. Whether you are formally part of one of our groups, or if , like Andy, you are inspired to experiment with your own personal explorations and wish to connect with us online…I honor your journey with dancing mindfully. Let’s make “dancing is always a good idea” our mantra for the new year!
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity