Embodied Transformation & Evolution

We Came to Dance ~ Rewiring our lives through rhythm

Posted by on Jun 12, 2018 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 2 comments

We Came to Dance ~ Rewiring our lives through rhythm

At a Compassionate Inquiry weekend training a few weeks ago with Gabor Mate, I watched him working with a beautiful young woman. She was anxious and very brave, speaking with him nakedly in front of three hundred and fifty of us, plus a large online audience. Gabor kept noticing that her legs seemed to want to move. She confirmed that they were feeling pretty jumpy.

“Do you dance?” he asked her.

“Sometimes.” she said

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“I guess so….” she said, and then picking up on where he was going with his questions, she folded her arms across her chest and said, “Oh no, I’m not going to dance here, NO WAY.”

There was a short pause.

“Okay, fine,”  said Gabor quite cheerfully. “You don’t have to dance, but the rest of us are going to,” and he stood up and went over to his computer, to put the music on.

As soon as moved, we were all on our feet, raring to go. Gabor turned “Jailhouse Rock” on, and we danced. After almost two full days of intense trauma work, it felt so good to dance. The jubilant feeling of moving freely filled the whole room. The young woman lasted about two minutes, sitting on her chair, until she got swept up by the energy, by the collective joy, by the insistence of the rhythm. She stood, went to the edge of the stage, and started pulling people up on stage to dance with her. We all cheered and danced even harder.

We Came To Dance

I’ve lived so many wild and beautiful moments like this, and I intend to live many many more. Dance is now a practice for me, a sacred ritual,  and an essential part of being human. But it wasn’t always like that for me. Like many white people, I didn’t know how to dance when I was young. I had to move through many layers of fear, hiding deep in my body, before I could dance freely. And I’m still learning. If I forget to dance for a while, I get rusty all over again- the old inhibitions creep back in. Not so strongly as before, but I can feel them, holding me back.

I know now, that to be fully alive, to be human, to really be here on this earth, flowing, moving and celebrating the simplicity of my existence, totally connected with your existence, is not something that comes naturally to white people. It’s something we have to learn. As I say this, I am aware that there’s really no such thing as ‘whiteness’. As an absolute concept, it doesn’t exist. I’m talking about a way of being that is by its very nature, disembodied. Disconnected from the earth, from the breath, from the pelvis, and from life.

There is an excellent article about this right here:  http://selfishactivist.com/why-white-people-cant-dance-theyre-traumatized/

Right now, I am in the process of separating from my partner, after fourteen years. It is as loving and conscious a separation as we can possibly engage in together. And still it’s very challenging, and full of grief, dislocation, and feelings of being thrown out of the nest. Finally, the other night, I put on some music and we danced. We danced our grief and our regret and our feelings of having failed, of being lost and alone. And in that dancing we connected. I don’t even know with what-we were simply not the same, after dancing. Because dancing heals, dancing transforms, dancing is an ancient alchemical practice, known to humans since they first discovered fire.

I feel so grateful to have the secret of dancing living inside me. The secret being that I can do it anytime, and in any damn way that I please. And dancing with others, that’s the way to come together, in true joy. There’s nothing like it.

We are living in hard times right now-there is a lot of darkness. I weep often when I watch what is happening and what is not happening, on our planet. Let’s remember what Alice Walker said, “Hard times require furious dancing.” Let’s remember that we were born in motion; we came here to dance.



with love,


Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Michelle Wilsdon

    I crossed the ocean to dance
    with 100’s of others
    fully aware
    some tried to stop me
    couldn’t be denied
    connected to self
    at last

  2. Kirsten

    Shayla – this one touched me like no other. Also trying to find a way to move through grief, despair, letting go- the image of you dancing with your partner spoke to my heart. I have danced over the death of a tree but not over the transformation of a relationship. I am moved by the 2 of you dancing into the 3 – whatever that means. “we came here to dance.” I am movement, I am life. thank you

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