Music is the exaltation of poetry, composer Henry Purcell said some few hundred years ago.
Then dance must be the exaltation of music, I reply.
One of the unfortunate messages of my childhood was that I could not be a dancer. One of the parts of myself I gave up as I moved into parenthood was singing. Here I am, left with poetry.
I went to a dance class for the first time in years a few days ago.
It was a very low-key affair: a drop-in gathering at my local UU church for “expressive movement” or something like that. There were five of us, plus the teacher, a tiny woman with a generous wide mouth and a big, bubbly laugh.
Coming in a minute or two late, she sat down on the floor and proceeded to cut a wire coat hanger into pieces. She picked up the two corner pieces and said, “Today I’m going to dowse your auras.” Debussy’s Claire de lune was on the CD player.
When she got around to me, the only newcomer, she asked, “Is this too out there for you? Because I’m really fine with people who just don’t want to do this kind of thing. It’s okay.”
“I blog as a polytheist on a pagan website,” I told her. “I just finished taking a shapeshifting class. Trust me, I’m fine with this.”
There is no one, no one in my family that I can think of, and very, very few people among my friends, who would be able and willing to stand with me in this room while someone holds two ends of a coat hanger up and walks around me in a slow circle, feeling for my aura. How did I get here, anyway?
In his book Crossing the Unknown Sea, poet David Whyte writes:
Freedom is perhaps the ultimate spiritual longing of an individual human being, but freedom is only really appreciated when it falls within the parameters of a larger sense of belonging. In freedom is the wish to belong to structure in our own particular way.
We often think of freedom as a surficial, horizontal motion that aims for the horizon, and belonging as a depth dimension (to put down roots somewhere). But I have come to believe that there can be such a thing as “deep freedom” too. I think it may be true that no life is fully lived that doesn’t dare those depths: to ask the largest questions… and risk the answers.
So, swimming in a deeper element, I named myself anew and started writing again. I admitted that I feel spirits in the corners, that the universe may be shaped like a tree and that I would love it if it was, so why not, that deity is approachable (at least some of them) and real and multiple. And here I am, alone with these women I don’t yet know, as the piano music continues to unspool from the CD player.
Turns out my aura is not so big as some, but remarkably evenly distributed.
What do I believe?
I believe to do this work, to do any work, takes time, sensitivity, practice, and the right tools. I’m skeptical of the coathangers. I’m skeptical this can be effective, given that we’re all shuffling around this too-small room in the corner of the church while she tries to isolate the aura of each of us. But even as I allow those doubts to surface, I’m completely willing to join in the exercise if it gets us thinking about personal space, personal boundaries, self-expression through the body and how our personalities, confidence, fatigue levels, etc. etc. influence our impact on others. Influence how we move into and through the hours of the day. I’m willing to use words like “aura” to talk about these things.
At this moment, I can say that apparently my own particular way of living in the world includes dowsing for auras with coat hangers, if that’s what is available. Using what is at hand, being open to the possible and the ridiculous all at once, and the living, unique, prickly and amazing beings all around us (whether human or other than human)…that’s a pretty good description of my religion, whatever you want to call it. Over at the new site, www.polytheist.com, Julian Betkowski offers this passage:
If we are in love with difference, in love with the individual and unique, and if we allow love to reveal reality to us, then we must accept the multiform and various as innate features of the world. We must be willing to see the experiences of others as profoundly True in a way that we, perhaps, may never fully comprehend. If we really love others as they themselves are, then we realize just how necessary they are for us to understand the complexity and richness of the world. Through love, Truth shatters apart, and its single center opens up to reveal an endless array. Truth, in fact, becomes a process, and open ended procedure: the practice of love.
So that’s what I’m doing here, with my metaphorical coathangers, as I sashay and spin and stretch my way into the music. I’m using my body, my senses, and my pen—all the tools at my disposal—to dowse not only for auras, but for the quickpoints of truth, of love, the zany and breathtaking and completely unbelievable (and yet it really happens) ways this world unfolds each minute. This is my practice of love.