I woke up buoyant this morning. Rose-gold early morning sunlight was just starting to filter through the leaves of the tulip poplars into my bedroom. A few shreds of my dream still lingered, something about dancing in the night, in a clearing. I started to reach for my phone to check the time. Something stopped me.
Instead I noticed the soft weight of my hair on my shoulder. After last night’s sweaty contra dance I celebrated with a long, candlelit shower, pouring rosemary infusion through my hair…now the scent of rosemary lingered there, a fragrance in the morning, mingling with the warmth of my quilt in a sleepy cocoon.
I noticed how clean this cool air feels as I breathe it in, here in the mountains. My feet were tingling from last night’s long barefoot dance. I drew my knees up to my chest and hugged them in, breathing slow.
All of yesterday I sat, and I read. I read the books I’ve been assigned to read and I wrote the articles I’ve been assigned to write. I worked what pleasure into it I could—playing my favorite kirtan music, pausing for herbal infusions and quick calls with friends. But the life I lived yesterday had nothing to do with my body. I had a few soaring ideas and insights that captivated me, and I felt quite productive, but when the time to go dancing rolled around I was a mess. My forehead and lungs felt pinched. My eyes wouldn’t focus right. There was a general feeling of unease and stickiness in my movements. My thoughts were disjointed, dizzying, sharp.
I do not know if I am the only one who does this, but somehow when I get stuck in thought like this, I forget that I have a body. I forget that what characterizes our experience here on earth is that WE HAVE BODIES. That, apparently, having a body is the whole point of coming here. I forget, and I try to fix the imbalance with more thoughts.
I think about how I feel. I pick up another book. I worry over my to-do list in my mind. I consider canceling dancing because I don’t feel so good. I wonder if I should relax by lying down and watching a movie. I call my friends and talk about my thoughts. I write them down and analyze them.
Last night, thank goodness, I went dancing, more out of a sense of social obligation than a real desire. The medicine I need always seems to be the one I’m most reluctant to take. Yet the moment the music started, I remembered. I remembered that the intelligence of the body can only be accessed through the body. I remembered that joy is the union of all of my senses, the participation of every bit of me in this moment of life. I remembered that the more texture, light, sound, scent, heft I am taking in, the more alive I feel. I remembered that I am not my thoughts, that my thoughts are only an overdeveloped sliver of what and who I am. I remembered that any gift I give the world will come through my body.
So this morning was an integration. I took the time for a long, slow yoga practice, and then a qigong. I ran through every kung fu set that I know. I scrubbed my feet in sea salt and lavender and soaked them in warm jewelweed tea. As I did this I understood the concepts I was studying yesterday in new ways. I understood them viscerally, as a being does, as an action, not simply as thoughts in the ether.
The qigong I practiced this morning draws in the energy of the north star. It is there, just above the cup of the big dipper, whether we can see it or not. It is burning even now. Sometimes I place myself up there, looking at space from that consciousness, seeing how this little idea of myself fits in the inconceivable largeness of life. Seeing that my body has a weight and a reality that my thoughts do not. And this is the dance, remembering that we have bodies, remembering that we are more than our bodies, looking down on our selves, fully inhabiting our selves. It’s a dance: really. We’ll know it through our bodies, if it is something we can know.