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Dancing as spiritual practice & titrating flow (aka having good boundaries with God)

Today I had the immense pleasure of being danced, in much the same way I described beholding yesterday. I attended a fundraiser for Honk! Texas that got me all nostalgic for my time dancing in the original Honk! Fest in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The first year I joined, I drug my heels. It was a group assignment for an anthropology seminar called Festival & Politics. Our class was to form a political satire troupe for the Honk! parade, in the spirit of the comparsa tradition of Latin America. The prep was a blast -- coming up with a name (Endangered Species with Lipstick), creating a flag, choosing a theme (this was our flagship year, so we went as endangered species, with lipstick), building a float to drag along with us, and making costumes for everyone, including anyone outside the class that might like to join us that day. When that day came, I adjusted the straps on my turtle shell and rolled my eyes. A part of me was saying "What the hell...I have to spend my Sunday out here for school? I don't even know or like these people and I have to march in a parade with them?" I felt stupid, self conscious, and anxious.

The music began -- the catching rhythmic melodies of second line brass that seem to bypass the ears and flow directly into the body. The parade started rolling. Slowly I found myself inside an experience I did not at all expect and completely loved. My body just moved. I think I had imagined something like Macy's Day Parade, or smaller local versions I'd seen, where the people just hold things and walk. But here, there was irresistible music and ground to cover, and I danced, danced, danced. Several blocks into fully enjoying myself, my professor passed me a flask. It was that moment that something clicked in me. My consciousness woke up to the fact that this was not an assignment at all, but perhaps an anthropologist-gone-wild's attempt to invite his students into something of the numinous, the liminal, the limitless.

I felt as if I'd been sucked up into God's mouth, where I was swished around, tumbling in the bliss of tongue and spit, before being spewed out in Harvard Square, never the same again. It was my first direct experience of the out beyond, the larger field of love that holds me. If I had experiences like that as a child, I don't remember them.

It was that feeling that compelled me to continue organizing the troupe for years to come, always with that same professor and one other classmate. And Honk! never failed to deliver, the marching bands always picking up my hanging strings and puppeteering me.

Today I had an uncommon experience. It is often that I find myself wishing for the flow state, the experience of being danced, as if I am a puppet, and not knowing how to get there. I didn't will it today either, but I did adjust its flow. I grooved to the beloved Minor Mishap shaking my hips, swirling the arms, making turns, dipping dips. And I held back. Something about the feel of the crowd. It didn't seem right to let totally loose. Plus I was afraid. Especially of being seen as putting on a show, or worse, trying to steal it. I dance that exuberantly. And I was aware of the lustful stares of men, and even in their absence, judgmental glances from women. So I titrated. Some songs the valve couldn't help but open more, though never fully. Others, just a trickle joined, like the one flautist who's breathy ethereal notes were quickly weighed down by sousaphone, saxophone, trumpet and trombone.

I think you'd call that boundaries. In my experiences with Mystery or God, I've not been so good at them. "I'm yours," I said, with no pre-play negotiations. Actually, even with dancing my boundaries have been bad. Last time I heard Minor Mishap I was sunning myself at Barton Springs after a cooling swim. I had worked out that day for maybe the second time since high school and I was BEAT. But when I heard a low note from a tuba, a sax running scales, I sprung right up. My sixth sense, second line sniffing, catching a whiff. I legitimately ran to the band, which I assumed others would be doing had they known what was to come. And sure, people gathered once they started playing, circling the park in celebration of the anniversary of Save Our Springs. But it was only me and one other brave woman who danced.

I was so excited to be with my dear lover that I tossed all precautions to the wind, pushed through fatigue, took a quick dip when I got too hot in the blazing Texas sun, and just kept dancing. There was no limiter on that flow. When the band stopped I moaned, as if really good foreplay wouldn't end in intercourse. I felt high and SO alive. And then I felt dizzy. I realized I'd been running on something thin, vapor even. I took deep breaths, trying to ground. My vision grew spotty, blotchy, strobing. Fearfully, I drove myself home, where closing my eyes was even more terrifying, as if something dangerous was unfolding in a dark room. A migraine was soon to follow.

Come to think of it, I struggle with boundaries in sex too. Sometimes I can get so taken by the carnal search for pleasure, so ravenous, riding with abandon, that I exhaust myself, or rush to the end, or forget everything else. Bless my attuned lover who feels this, and orders me to slow and breathe. And I also have a history of not speaking up in sex -- knowing what I want, but not sharing it, or even worse, not admitting when something doesn't feel right, or hurts. That's changed a lot these past few months, which is something I hope to write about yet.

I'm healing and growing, sexually and spiritually, by learning to titrate.

And -- I'm still thirsty for you, God.



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