Originally published on StartAgain Media
“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”
Dancing is one of the many outlets that we, as helpers, healers, and people on the road of recovery have at our disposal for emotional cleansing. For me, it’s been the ultimate channel for self-care and burnout prevention. Let share a very personal story of how I experienced the benefits of mindfulness practice, specifically dancing mindfulness practice, to cope with a loss in my own life. Loss is a wound, a trauma, which needs healing attention like any other wound, especially losses that shake us to the cores of our being. When I had almost a decade sober, many years of practice as a trauma counselor, and a great deal of experience practicing yoga, I experienced a loss that, at the time, I thought could not be healed... all while I was expected to keep up a busy schedule working and teaching. Shortly after my first marriage ended, I reconnected with an old high school boyfriend, a dear figure from my past who I long regarded as the one who got away. We had a passionate, fiery love affair for the better part of a year, and everything in me really believed that some cosmic force was bringing each other back into our lives. The way I was able to open my heart up to him again surprised even me, so when he made it very clear to me that he could not commit to giving me what I wanted because he never saw himself getting married or having children, I was crushed. It was the ultimate case of two people who loved each other very deeply, but could not be together because of who we, respectively, were as people. The grief I experienced when this relationship crumbled was unlike any I had ever experienced; worse than any death, even worse than my divorce. At one point I feel into a very deep depressive episode that seriously got in the way of my ability to function in my work life. I remember using my support network a great deal during this period, being honest about my perceived professional impairment, and the support was imperative for getting me through—plus some much needed down time to just do the bare minimum of work and let myself grieve.
Looking back at it now, I can clearly identify that my work with mindfulness practices, especially moving mindfulness meditations like yoga and dance, and even the simple practices like breath work helped me to ride out this loss and adapt to it without letting it destroy me. When the feelings came, I surfed the waves of emotion, breathing through my tears, making a commitment not to judge myself at any juncture for feeling what I was feeling. The dancing mindfulness I practiced, even prior to formally developing the Dancing Mindfulness practice helped me transform my grief into beauty, and from this I was able to move forward. In the spare room at my house, which once served as my ex-husband’s office, I committed to dancing each night in a mindful way, choosing music that helped me dig into the emotion and be with it. At times, I moved with silence or sat in silent contemplation, allowing a healing fusion to take place. Indeed, the easiest way out of the emotional storm was through it. I practiced letting go of that great love of my life, and as a result, the path was cleared and the heart was open for my current husband to come into my life. We share a passionate love and a complementary vision of life, a manifestation of the trust I developed in practicing mindfulness. As much as I believe in formal psychotherapy, I don’t think that anything could have helped me grieve the loss of that relationship as effectively as mindfulness practice did.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity