The Dance of Life Itself
Evolution represents a drama of unfolding potential. This is true whether we are discussing the evolution of a blade of grass, an animal living within the wild, or a human being. All categories of life are states of consciousness evolving through form toward some higher state of existence. Indeed, evolution is rooted in the spirit’s yearning to actualize the potential inherent within its nature. The life of every human being is truly a dance between one’s innate potential and the actualization of that potential within the crucible of outer living. It is the dance of life itself.
Traditionally, when we consider dance, we think of its many forms and the cultures that have created them. Today we honor and participate in a wide variety of dance expressions. Yet, whether we are considering the many forms of dance, such as Latin, ballet, or modern (to name just a few), we actually are witnessing the out-picturing of various states of consciousness. Dancing is an attempt by an individual (or a culture) to recognize and express some aspect of consciousness. The type of dance a person finds attractive can reveal much about his/her inner life, and what consciousness is seeking to express in the outer world. From the esoteric perspective, that which is built into the fabric of consciousness will always seek outer expression in some form. The art of dance is an example of this. However, more broadly considered, any aspect of life represents the same thing –a facet of consciousness seeking an expressive outlet.
When considering this idea, we must not presume that what is expressed via dance is always evolutionary. As stated earlier, dance is the outer manifestation of an inner condition. This is a notion that is woven into the nature of existence itself, and is therefore good. Yet dance can either be progressive (and therefore supportive of the soul’s evolution needs), or it can hold the soul back from further growth and development. The determining factor has to do with the source that gives impulse to the desire to dance. When using the word “source,” I am speaking of the “self-construct” within each of us. Every human being is dual, in that we each recognize our base nature as well as a lofty part of ourselves. These two parts each have the potential for defining our individual sense of identity. They are both, therefore, centers for the emergence of the self-construct; the person we believe ourselves to be at any given moment. One is the personality, and it indicates the state of consciousness that has been achieved over countless incarnations. The other is indicative of the soul itself. When the soul gives impulse toward a particular form of dance, it will be supportive of one’s spiritual growth. Conversely, when the personality governs the desire to dance, spiritual growth does not occur, for the past is being favored over the future. The impulses coming from the soul will always point to future growth, while those of the personality tend to favor the selfish and/or animal yearnings of the past.
A person’s attraction to music can come in two forms. Either s/he will be drawn to it because of the emotional reaction that it evokes, or through a deep affinity it has to the heart. It is important to realize that feeling states are quite different from experiences coming forth through the heart, though they are often confused for each other. Feelings are governed by the solar plexus chakra and are always self-referencing at their core. Genuine experiences of the heart, on the other hand, are comparatively selfless. When the heart is truly touched, the experience puts a person en rapport with the oneness of all things. Spiritually considered, authentic love is the most impersonal force in creation. It is that which makes it possible for each of us to know and realize that inwardly we are all one. Emotions cannot provide this insight because they are too self-referencing. When the emotions are driving one’s desire to dance, then it is likely that the personality is giving birth to the impulse. It does this by stimulating the solar plexus center. However, when the soul is guiding one’s musical attractions, it utilizes the heart as the chakra of choice. When such is the case, the sense of music and dance will be uplifting and decentralizing at the same time. It is to feel joy while simultaneously “taking the eyes off oneself.” The soul is governed by the principle of selfless love and the essential oneness of life. Conversely, the personality is governed by the principle of individuality and self-engrossment. Herein is a clue to discerning whether the soul or personality is the “director on the stool” in the musical drama of life.
In the ancient esoteric literature we are given to understand that the divine function of music and dance is to lift the spirit toward a higher state of awareness. It might be said that music and dance are gates into the deeper mysteries of existence itself, just as are science, religion and philosophy. When dance is able to give to an individual a deeper sense of spiritual Beingness, its expression is extremely helpful. Such realization through movement is needed in order for a new and emerging aspect of the soul to be realized and integrated into one’s life. This is the nature of evolution. That which is subjective seeks to ground itself in objective expression. Potential demands actualization through form, and this, as a function of evolution itself. Yet, when the personality gives the impulse toward movement and dance, then the evolutionary needs of the soul are not being met. Instead, the personality’s historical desires dominate one’s perception leading to forms of dance that may be satisfying but not spiritually uplifting.
To understand the drama between the soul and personality we must realize that the personality (ego) has had supremacy over the soul for most of a person’s incarnational history. Only toward the later phase of human evolution does the soul become inwardly recognized. Up until this realization, personality consciousness (which is the consciousness inherent in concrete thoughts, feelings and physical sensations) is the focus of development. This is as it should be, in that the soul needs a well-developed personality to work through, or shall I say – dance with? Paradoxically, when the personality has evolved to the point that it is finally able to sense the soul within, it tends to resist the search for it. This is because a fully evolved personality is one that functions in the world quite successfully on its own (seemingly). It therefore tends to resist looking for the soul because it realizes that to find it is to stage an eventual transfer of power and authority to it; an event the personality views as an act of self-diminishment. Even so, the personality must one day realize that it is merely the servant to the eternal soul seated behind the scenes. When this begins to occur, an individual is said to have “stepped onto the Path,” and the journey to enlightenment and liberation is then consciously pursued. No longer does mere faith govern the life. An inner experience of the soul is authentically known, and commitment to it becomes the all-encompassing motive for living life. Indeed, the nature of the dance radically changes. By analogy, when two people dance one will usually lead while the other follows that lead. Metaphorically, this is true when we consider the dance between the soul and personality. For countless ages the personality has led the dance while the soul quietly follows. Yet, when one enters the Path the soul begins to lead and the personality discovers the value of following. The personality gives the dance over the soul, for it now knows that the guiding steps of the soul will reveal more beauty. Movement that gives inspiration, meaning and beauty to life is precisely what occurs when the soul is given the opportunity to lead the dance.
When we consider the subject of dance from a cosmic perspective, the mythologies of the East offer much insight. In particular, the nature of Lord Shiva conveyed within the Hindu Tradition. Shiva represents the dynamic god of fire and power. This cosmic being is a part of the Hindu pantheon, and is roughly equivalent to the Father archetype held by the Trinitarians of the Christian faith. It is the masculine force manifesting throughout all of Creation, and is the dynamic energy of all movement, change and dissolution. As such, this deity is related to the subject at hand, for dance is the manifestation of all movement within form. The universe, with its seemingly endless and complex motion, is evidence of Shiva’s presence. Esoterically considered, evolution is a dance of divine Will (Shiva) interacting with intelligence substance (Divine Mother), leading to the manifestation and evolution of all things. The Hindu notion of the “dance of Shiva” is indicative of this idea. Through His rhythmic motions, consciousness itself emerges and time and space are realized. Dance is therefore a rhythmic art form that symbolizes the act of creation itself. It is therefore not surprising to learn that dance is considered an essential aspect to many magic systems of thought. It is the dance of fiery energy taking form. This is the essential meaning behind the dancing flames that encircle many of the images of Shiva found in Hindu art. It is the One Life manifesting within (and as) the universe and all that is contained within it.
Of practical value is the understanding that every aspect of life is a dance of sorts. Whether considering one’s career interests, friendships, or belief systems, all are dramas of consciousness playing upon the stage of life experience. In each department of life, the question must always be asked – am I living this part of my life according to the rhythm I sense deep within myself? The dance of life in defined by how we live it. The more that we sense the sacred tones and rhythms within the depths of consciousness, the more we are dancing to the soul’s song. In truth, to live life in step with the cadence of the soul is to experience the joy that it confers. Without a doubt, the measure of joy is the litmus test that should be used, for it is unfailingly accurate. When joy is authentically touched, the soul is surely directing the music of one’s life at the moment it is felt. The dance of life is then in harmony with the soul’s expressive intention. When joy spontaneously emerges through life circumstance, there is a sense of knowing (consciously or unconsciously) that a gate leading into the chamber of the soul has been entered.
In this discussion we have considered the art of dance from several perspectives. We have seen that its divine role is to uplift the spirit, and to assist in the actualization of the soul’s inherent potential. When the soul has been completely actualized, its radiant beauty and wisdom are fully expressed within one’s outer life, and this, without encumberment. When able to evoke a reaction within the heart, all forms of art facilitate the evolution of consciousness in this way. Evolution is a dance with meaning and purpose behind it. Indeed, every person’s destiny lies in his/her ability to realize that the soul is seeking to impose its subtle rhythm upon the personality. When the personality begins to conform to the cadence of the soul, the dance becomes anew. The spiritual dance is then known, and life itself is understood as the ballroom for its performance.
© 2004 William Meader
Biographical Information: William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects of Spiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.