Art in an Emergency
Present Sense №4
Welcome to Present Sense – a weekend curation for your seven senses with a recommendation to SEE, HEAR, SMELL, TASTE, TOUCH, BALANCE and ENVISION. Each week also includes an audio guided meditation. Occasionally, like today, I also share a story. If you rather listen, play the audio reading below.
In many shamanic societies, if you come to a medicine person feeling dispirited, depressed, or disheartened, they’ll ask you:
When was the last time you danced?
When was the last time you sang?
When was the last time you told a story?
When was the last time you sat alone in stillness?
I heard this tale many years ago and I had forgotten the last two questions – most likely because I engage in them regularly. I have a daily meditation practice (sitting alone in stillness), and I also now have a storytelling outlet (writing to you).
But I couldn’t remember the last time I danced or sang. I used to regularly go out dancing with friends, throughout my 20’s. We’d dance at parties and clubs, and later at raves and festivals. Our moves were often fueled by booze and swayed by hormonal youth. But as I got older and my interest in the party scene waned, I stopped dancing. In recent years, I’ve felt the longing again. But I didn’t act on it until this week, when I signed up for a modern dance class.
I went alone, and found myself with a group of 15 strangers with various levels of dance experience. We were there to have fun, the teacher declared. He guided us into a slow warm-up and a few basic moves. We tried our best to follow and flow across the room, often more awkward than gracious. I sweated, I laughed, and even cried.
The shamans are right – the spirit does get revived through dance. But not always in the ways we anticipate. I expected to feel elated, and was surprised by the array and layered emotions that came up to the surface.
Recent studies have shown the ways in which emotions can get lodged in our bodies, evolving into physical pain, ailments or even disease. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the bestselling non-fiction book in recent years has been ‘The Body Keeps the Score.’
A couple years ago, my acupuncturist confirmed that my body holds “emotions I haven’t processed” (especially anger). When I asked him “Are these emotions my own? Ancestral? Collective?,” he answered: “All three.” The antidote he prescribed? Creative expression.
Around the world, dance and song have always been central to spiritual healing, with music as a channel to connect to the divine. Science is finally confirming what traditional cultures have known for millennia –– art heals.
I hope this week’s 7 sensory recommendations inspire you to dance, to sing, to share a story, and to sit in stillness.
I recently collaborated withwho composed beautiful music for the Present Sense meditations. This week, I guide you through a Relaxation Meditation, to help us find ease within our body and mind.