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When Dance Becomes Meditation...

Aditi S Divatia

Author: Aditi S Divatia

Date: Mon, 2017-09-04 14:34

“Close your eyes, relax, breathe, concentrate within…be aware of your forehead, your eyes, your lips, your ears, next focus on your throat, your neck, your spine, your thighs, your calves, your feet. Draw your attention to your chest, your breathing, your abdomen, your upper arms, forearms and your hands, one by one.” This is what my meditation instructor tells me – “look within, let the thoughts flowing in your mind slowly go away – pull your attention back within”. And with every bit of me concentrating on doing this – I finally am able to achieve ten minutes of complete solitude and peace, focusing within, being aware of myself, my body parts, my breathing. A certain calmness takes over and I am completely steady and still for a while. I have connected with myself within. This gives me the energy to kick start my day which stands before me abuzz with activity – mental and physical.

 Surprisingly dance has the same effect on me.  I connect with myself within.

A difficult day in terms of rushing around, emotional turbulences, mentally exhausting, physically draining, or a dull feeling at the start of a day for no particular reason – don’t we all go through such days once in a while?

How do I handle such a day? What do I do? Fifteen minutes stolen from my routine…I close myself in a room, put on some invigorating music and let my mind and body listen to it…and then just let myself go…it has the same effect like meditation. My attention is on my body, my breathing, the accompanying movements along with the flowing music. I am aware of my lit up face, the slowly emerging smile on it. I am aware of my chest, my breathing, my abdomen movement, my legs tapping to the music, my upper arms, forearms and my swaying hands, one by one…..This is exactly what my meditation instructor tells me! A certain calmness takes over and I am completely steady and still for a while. I have connected with myself within. This gives me the energy to kick start my day which stands before me abuzz with activity – mental and physical.

Lo Behold!….is this dance or is it meditation?

Prof. Divatia (second from right) during Teachers' Day celebrations 

The two seem to be so closely connected…..a spiritual feel – which takes you within – calms you, steadies you. Although the best time for meditation is considered to be in the morning, I believe that a ten minute break for meditation anytime in the day is effective – just being with yourself for rejuvenation –  like dance. Anytime is dance time – it does not matter when you dance – it is what it does to you. The adrenalin, the energy boost, the cloud burst in your mind driving away the dullness is transformational!

 Management students today are hard pressed for time due to the multitude of things they are expected to do. They are multitaskers, continuous consumers of internet and social media resulting in their lower thresholds of patience and much needed listening skills. They need some steady time, a connect to the self within. Management schools now have embedded courses on meditation to help them. The millennials may believe that meditation is only for the yogis or for people in another generation and not in sync with who they are – exuberant, entrepreneurial, technologically savvy, confident, unafraid and educated!  

So hey – you can’t sit still for meditation? Can’t lock your mind off thinking for ten minutes? Try dancing….dance and discover your connect within. Take that fifteen minute break and do a jig to feel energised for the day ahead.   

 

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Such a beautiful write-up Ma'am. It was a pleasure starting my day with this blog, thank you for the same! I appreciate the way you related dancing to meditating and that you spoke from your very personal experience makes it even more appealing. Incidentally, I had recently read an article on how dancing can fight depression. It mentioned how dancing is like moving meditation which can soothe the mind and body and avoids getting distracted by depression inertia. Dancing, as you mentioned, helps one connect to one's inner self and hence can also help one feel better about oneself. I have been dancing since the age of 3 and it has been an endearing experience. Just like you and million other dancers of the world, I have found solitude in dancing. I have danced through happiness, love, stress, anger and the way it has helped me bare my emotions is inexplicable. Dancing has liberated me in many ways. There was a time when I used to be very stressed with academics and I was under the constant pressure of being a rank holder. This stress kept building on and I had to do something to escape from it. I had taken a break from my dance classes during that time. One day I saw a group practising hip-hop in the college foyer for an upcoming competition and that’s when I knew what was missing in my life. I re-joined my class. And then it was just a matter of 2 hrs as I began to destress myself and started feeling lighter. Not only did I started feeling better about myself and could feel the connection with my inner self, I also started doing much better in my academics. As you rightly pointed out Ma’am, management students today, hard pressed for time, should be involved in one such activity. It can be aerobics, Zumba or even simple rhythmic exercise can bring a breath of fresh air into their hectic lives. In the daily continuous activities of a management student, a moment to stop, breathe, reflect into oneself and connect with the self within is of utmost importance because in this rat race to become the best, we sometimes forget who we are at the core. It was delightful to see that someone among the faculty at a top B-school thinks that meditation is not restricted to deep breathing and staying still, that even dancing can be a form of meditation, that letting yourself loose can be a form of meditation. That the idea of meditation itself is malleable. That it isn’t bound by any dictionary definition. That actually, anything, any form of exercise or activity, when performed with true feelings and passion, can be a form of meditation. And this very meditation is what will bring a person closer to his/her true inner self.

An intriguing piece of article Ma’am. Thank you for writing about this. Dance has been very close to my heart since childhood and I have been able to relate all the good I have achieved in life somehow to my involvement in dancing. I am fascinated by the fact that you could relate dancing to meditation. You have beautifully described how dance can be closely connected to the spiritual feel and how it calms you by rejuvenating you at the very same time. Dance has been called a moving meditation as it is intimately connected with spiritual practice and religious worship since ages. It liberates us as we are fully aware of our body and therefore the dancer becomes the dance itself. Studies say that dance has proven to be therapeutic as the hormones that bring us the feel good factor suddenly start moving rapidly and give life to each and every cell in the body. This is what enlightens our body when we dance. I have been dancing since the age of 4 and it has helped me maintain a balance in life throughout. I find peace, I find joy in dancing and I’m sure millions of dancers across the world would feel the same. It gives me clarity of mind and encourages positivity in me. To me, dance is the concentrating power. It is like a detox which uplifts my outlook toward life and I feel energized while dancing. You have rightly mentioned about pressures faced by management students due to the multitude of things they are expected to do. In SPJIMR, we were introduced to Yoga classes which I believed was very helpful for all of us. Yoga helped us take our mind off of all the day to day pressures and helped us link to our inner selves. It released me from all my mental pressure and helped me be aware of each and every sense in my body. Dance does the same to me. So, I try to take out 15 minutes when Im having a stressful day to just feel the music sync in and just let go of everything else. I dance my heart out and it actually helps uplift my mood and increases my strength and concentration to work better and effectively. I believe dance or yoga or any other form of exercise which helps you take a break from your daily monotonous routine should be encouraged. It helps you reconnect with yourself, it makes you feel alive. Happiness is the key to life and I found my happiness in dance. It is medication, meditation and everything else possible to me.

Beautiful article Ma’am. It is really wonderful to see meditation linked with dance. It is true indeed that dance can help a person connect with his inner self and achieve complete solitude and peace. This is something I also experience every time I dance. I personally feel that dance is a far more superior form of meditation. I can only talk about my experience and I have been trying to meditate for the last 4- 5 years and never been able to successfully concentrate on my breath and find peace of mind. The simple reason being the current generation is exposed to so many aspects of life at a time and that too at an early age to which I am no exception. I feel it is bound to happen that our minds are occupied with so many thoughts and situations that it is barely possible for us to remain calm in the true sense. Hence the liberty to comment that dance is a far more superior form of meditation was made. When people dance, they let go of their fears and insecurities about being judged and become a free soul just swinging to the music. It’s like you are trying scuba diving for the first time and you realize there is the world that we don’t know and moments where you can feel each every breath of yours. That serenity, calmness, and silence are what I experience when I dance. This analogy can’t just be limited to dance but also any form of arts/ activity that one is passionate about. For an instance, I am a drummer and I have a similar feeling when I am playing drums. While playing a beat, I could literally feel my hands and legs moving to a tempo, can feel every muscle moving and my mind conscious about the next beat. When my ears are hearing the minute of the sounds the drum kit makes, that’s when I feel peaceful and calm. I guess that is the form of meditation I want and will keep me calm throughout the day. For any person, that one interest or that one thing which he is passionate about and he do it to make himself happy is the thing that he should always do because only that thing can give him tranquillity and peace of mind. No one can practice a greater form of meditation than doing something that gives them happiness. In my case, it is dancing and playing drums that make me not think about anything that is happening in my immediate environment, the one thing that keeps me away from thinking about the uncertain future and irrelevant past. So, I believe that everyone should introspect on that one thing that serves the purpose of meditation. Till that time, one may practice the actual meditation and wait until the moment of awakening. Lastly, thank you so much for the thought –provoking article ma'am, it gives extreme bliss to read something that makes you realize how passionate you are about the things you love and how important they are to you.

Dear Ma’am, Such an intriguing write-up. The title itself at once made me retrospect and introspect. I appreciate the way you merged meditation and your passion for dancing. Indeed there is much more to meditation than chanting Om. I completely agree with your point of view. Meditation is all about self-discovery and connecting with your inner self. It is all about relating to oneself and connecting the dots to find answers to the unanswered questions and dilemmas. Although sometimes it may not at all about seeking answers. In my opinion, meditation has various forms. There might be a peace seeking soul who would find a silent room an apt place to sit and meditate while another might find peace in any activity. For various people, the meaning of meditation is same though the path taken is often different. While for some chanting devotional chants might be meditation, there might be others who meditate when they dance, cook, eat, sometimes even sleep. For some meditation is 12 minutes of breath in… breathe out. While for some it may be a 10-minute jog, a 5-minute conversation over the phone with a friend. Meditation is like saving money, it’s one of those things which offer a plethora of benefits. Closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths has its advantages; so does sitting in solace, but what about people who have the constraint of space. Do they have no right to meditate? Do people who stay busy all the time have no right to meditate? Of course, they do. Everyone has the right to meditate and each one of us has a different approach towards it too. Personally speaking being brought up in a believer family; I have always seen my parents meditating in the small room trying to concentrate on a red dot while chanting OM. As I grew up they did try to influence me into it but to their utter disbelief, I complained of not being able to concentrate for more than a minute. I never understood meditation till I found my own version of it; that is Baking. Meditation is when my entire energy is concentrated on that one task in hand. That happens when I bake a cake. While I am baking a cake I feel disconnected from the outer world and I connect with my inner self. For that fraction of the time, I don’t care what the world says and thinks. My entire energy and effort are focused on making that cake the best possible cake on all parameters. I realize that trance state of concentration and happiness when I bake. For that some time I just forget what, who, where. All I do is just focus and make the best cake possible. And indeed that moment is so surreal and enriching that perhaps that, in my opinion, is meditation.

Dear Prof. Divatia, I really enjoyed reading this beautifully written piece. Your views on dance and meditation are really intriguing and got me thinking about their role in my life. Being a dancer myself, I could really connect with your blog. Connection with the life of management students makes this blog even more close to my heart. Like you, I also feel energized, even after an exhaustive dance routine. Like you, I can also connect with myself through dance. Dance is a great stress buster. I am sure that all management students can agree that they are under pressure and time constraint. I’m from PGP-1 and my Div students have also realized the same. We have started doing Zumba 15 minutes before a morning class. This jolts us out of the morning hypnotized state. Scientists believe that energy can neither by created and nor be destroyed. I believe that dance can CREATE energy. I would like to share my views on dance and meditation. For me, dance has the opposite effect when compared to meditation. Dance excites me and gives me an adrenaline rush whereas meditation reduces the adrenaline and calms me down. While dancing, alone in a room, I am rarely aware of my body, hands and breath. If I’m dancing and I create or learn a new step, I get all hopped up. I can’t just sit after that, I feel energetic and want to stay physically active. Meditation helps me to earth this energy. Though, different effects but like you mentioned both helps me connect with myself within. I have been dancing since the age of five. I am Kathak diploma holder as well. I have discovered few more benefits which I would like to share with you. Dance enhanced my understanding of beats and rhythms. Patience and discipline became a part of my life, since learning classical dance in a slow process and my Guruji was very strict. My primary physical exercise has been dancing. Every dance performance gets me back in shape due to the rigorous practice sessions. Group dances have another important benefit, social interaction and bonding. Every dance team has to go through a lot together, which may develop very strong relationships. In the beautiful picture you have attached, the smiling faces show a sense of accomplishment. Every artist, academician, business owner, all the people toil for this sense of accomplishment. The audience is another source of happiness and energy. While I’m dancing on stage and audience appreciates it through claps, my energy level skyrockets. The appreciation received after the performance further gives me confidence and motivation. To prove our experience and views and add more benefits of dance, I would like to share results of few studies in this domain. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine conducted in 2003, by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine concluded that dance can significantly improve brain health. It can help lower the risk of dementia. Another study by North Dakota’s Minot State University researchers found that Zumba can improve mood and certain cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making. There have been numerous other studies as well proving how dance can reduce stress and increase levels of serotonin (happiness hormone). Recently researchers have also discovered that new neural connections are formed because of dance. These connections are especially in regions of the brain which is involved in executive function, long-term memory and spatial recognition. Thus, developing these functions as well. I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity through your blog to deep dive into my thoughts and analyze the effect of dance and meditation.

Thank You so much for this beautiful write-up, ma’am. As soon as I read the title, I formed a certain idea about what this blog would be all about. The first paragraph itself gave a clear message to stop guessing and start enjoying this linkage between dance and meditation. Though not a pro at it, dancing is something which I have been enjoying since my childhood. I used to believe that meditation was all about closing the eyes and relaxing. Basically, not doing anything that consumes body energy and tires me. I realized how wrong I was. It's more to do with peace of mind, something which we all want but fail to make that extra effort to achieve it. After going through this blog, I understood how deeply dancing impacts you as a person and I asked myself if it’s the same for me. The answer to my own surprise contradicted my theory of meditation. Before knowing that I enjoy dancing, I realized something else. I realized how much I loved playing sports, especially Badminton. I remember how I used to play for hours and my parents had to force me to stop playing and get back home. I used to get so tired after every session. But it also made me very happy every time. The feeling of hitting those smashes correctly, confusing the opponent with the drop shots or getting annoyed on losing a game, it all worked as meditation for me. No matter how exhausting the sport is, it made me connect to myself during those matches. All that I think that time is to ensure that I have correct body posture, maintain balance, be alert, push myself that extra yard and ultimately give my best. It is my ‘me’ time which gives me a feeling of satisfaction and content. After my graduation, I took up various professional courses and then joined SPJIMR. Basically, I was away from the court for years. Recently, I decided to play at Andheri Sports Complex and I realized how much this game affects me. I could relate to each and every movement of my body. My smashes, drop shots, though not perfect, gave me that same feeling of belonging and happiness. It acted like the perfect stress buster. Even though I was dead tired after playing, I was happy and I felt like going back to the court again. Yes, this tight schedule of management studies restricts my chances of playing more and more but it is something I look forward to every week. Everyone has their own method of meditating. I am happy I found mine and realized its importance in my life. So, it needn’t be something creative like dancing. It can also be as fast and fierce like Badminton. What really matters is how as an individual, we relate to it and what purpose it fulfills.

Thank you, Ma'am, for the lovely blog. I am not a dancer but yes, I too take out those fifteen minutes break and do a jig to feel energized for the day ahead. Many companies and organizations like Raahgiri and Zorba to name a few have started this initiative to connect us back to your -“inner-self” from our fast moving lives. Dance, aerobics, Zumba or any rhythmic exercise is the best stress-buster for me. This is actually something that makes me feel liberated and lost in my world of dreams. Dance in every possible form for me is a key intersection between spirituality and physical fun. It lets my body flow to my inner core and connect with the highest form of divinity – Nataraj. Lord Shiva is considered as the cosmic ecstatic dancer and his dance is believed to be the most intoxicating dance form. There have been times that I have tried to amplify myself as a dancer like Lord Shiva and I find myself in the oblivious of the conscious reality that surrounds me. It has helped me overcome my migraine, control temper and release the negative energies back to the cosmos. I believe dance is the most useful meditation practice for an active mind and a process for expanding self-awareness. The power of dance for me is a therapy connecting my body, heart, and mind. I don’t think one needs to become a yogi or go to mountains or divine places to uplift their inner selves but try dance to give them a sense of power to transform things around them. Even in many workplaces, people are made to dance daily for just 5 minutes before they start with their long day as people now believe dance to be not only religious but to life is momentarily beyond ourselves and make us rethink about all things around us mindlessly. “It is paying attention in a different way”. It is like sometimes we don’t need intellectual talks to know what we must do or entertainment to enjoy but actually to flow out our emotions freely by this moving form of meditation. Dance is meditation in motion that “uses the robust energy of the physical body to enhance the refined energies of our mind and emotions in order to make a transcendent state”. And, so I dance like there’s no tomorrow, for dance is my passion and a perfect form to express my inner-self to me.

Thank you, ma’am, for sharing this thought. With the fast pace life and increasing stress to balance every aspect of it meditation has become both a necessity and trend in modern world. But there is lot of confusion around what is meditation. I have often seen people using meditation and yoga as synonyms. My research on various portals and my own practices have made me believe that meditation is a state of consciousness, deep peace when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and is calm and silent yet completely alert. It helps us transform and takes us to higher level of awareness. But, is yoga is the only form of meditation? I have had arguments previously with many people and believe that to reach the state of peace and awareness, performing any type of art can help. The art should help you empty your mind and synchronize it towards one goal. Dancing, singing, painting, gardening, poetry and yoga are some of the ways by which people perform meditation. If these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation. Breathing in yoga, coordination of body movements in dance, catching the beats while singing and feeling the plants while gardening has the same effect on a person which generally our mediation teachers teaches. I had started dancing at the age of 6. From then till now, whenever I dance it brings a different energy in me. With every thumping of my feet in coordination with my hand and eye movements made me realize that it empties my mind. It fills me with the peace and positive energy which I require after a tiring day. My mother used to always force me to do yoga as I was short tempered and had hard time controlling my emotions. But dancing, I believe has transformed me without performing yoga. Dance not only brings grace but also a confidence in you. And for the matter of fact, any art you perform with passion, transforms you as a human. I have seen similar transformation in people who paint and sketch. The emotions they have while mixing the colors to paint the canvas is like the dancer who sways on the entire stage to paint it with her dance steps. As you mentioned, today the management schools have started courses on meditation to help students cope with the hectic schedule. But I believe, apart from performing just breathing exercises and yoga, we should go one step ahead and have a time slot for the students to perform the art which helps them meditate. I believe it can be transformation in terms of the experience the teachers and students will have.

Why do we dance? Why do we meditate? Two separate questions with wildly different answers, if you ask someone. But as so eloquently put in this blog, maybe the two aren’t so different after all. Dance is an activity which humans share with only a handful of other animals in the world. Throughout our history, we have danced to perform rituals, intimidate our enemies, attract and bond with people or to simply express ourselves. There is another aspect, however, which most people do not think of when they think of dancing - Dance as a method to heal ourselves. A way to stitch back the tears in our souls and mind, resulting from the rat race which our lives have become, and isn’t this also the outcome of meditation. Two names, same purpose. We dance when we feel happy, we dance when we are at our lowest and we dance when language is no longer able to express what our hearts scream. Words become superfluous. Our bodies, moving in rhythm with the pulse of music, strive to connect to something higher than us. Classical dancers, street performers with their dance battles or even tap dancers will tell you what dancing has done for them. It is the ultimate form of meditation in my opinion. Whether I am dancing in a group or alone in my locked room, I can feel the flow of energy. I become one with myself, all of my senses attuned to my soul and the joy which comes from knowing that no one can steal this feeling from me. I can never close my eyes and concentrate enough to meditate because the outside stimuli is always too hard for me to ignore. But while dancing, all those distractions become a background buzz merging with the music. I let go of all of my pent up rage, frustrations, resentments, and even though I may get tired, my soul is refreshed. Whether done in the morning, or late in the evening, dancing never fails to stimulate my mind. Meditation results in a cohesive mind and so does dance. All the erratic thoughts, feelings, ideas inside of me coalesce and are expressed by my dance. I find that I am able to focus on my other tasks better, deal with people in a more calm manner and feel good about myself. Dance has been used in many cultures as means to reach a trance state, a higher state of consciousness. Another promise of meditation fulfilled by the immensely entertaining art of dance. Shiva, the eternal yogi, whose name has become synonym with meditation and is chanted by thousands across the world, is often depicted in his Nataraj form – the cosmic ecstatic dancer. Dancing, in my belief, connects us to the universe in ways even meditation cannot. We may not dance under the stars to appease the gods and bring about rain anymore, but we should definitely dance to appease our souls, wrap them in happiness and be the gods of our own lives.

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