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Mindful Belly Dancing and Moving Meditation

How To Deal With Ego

Chakra Energy in Belly dance, Part 4
(ZAGHAREET! "For Beginners", Jan/Feb 2007)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

The previous article reviewed our journey into transformative belly dance--now we’ll see how belly dance, as the physical component of “practice”, fits into a holistic approach to personal growth.

Remember, just as the Performance Space magnifies whatever happens in it–because of the focused energy of the audience–belly dance itself magnifies all your inner issues because it’s raising the energy levels system-wide - throughout your whole being.

Where’s YOUR extra energy going?

Physical growth is easy to see & measure, as is intellectual progress.  But what about our spirit? If we are growing spiritually, what's the evidence?   

That would be our attitude: our responses to the challenges of class, or our dance community, or the world at large. Yes, our responses to other people and their actions.

So look at how you handle the extra ego-energy dancing generates. Are you using it for growth or is it “making you crazy?” (We’ll see what the “yang mind” is in a moment.) Are you stuck whirling around in your emotional and mental conflicts, or evolving and adjusting to new perceptions of reality? You can’t dance well if you’re off-balance.

What creates this sense of imbalance is an inner denial of reality--persistent belief in 'non-reality'–it can even result in madness.
The attitude of the well-balanced dancer is one of love and compassion.

Subdue the Ego

Last issue we mentioned “ego as interpreter”, a form of self-deception. Gerald May defines this as "spiritual narcissism":  when the ego takes pride in instigating or achieving spiritual growth. As he puts it, "It is a subtle turnabout in which ego manages to identify self-image with 'trying to become holy' or--worse yet--with actually having become holy, thus making the spiritual quest a self-aggrandizing process rather than a journey of deepening humility."(9)

How ironic! Bonnie Greenwell concurs: "...when striving for perfection, accomplishment and superiority the egoic mind can be greatly inhibited in achieving spiritual progress: traditionally seekers are expected to develop modesty, humility, and egoic surrender.”

Modesty, humility, and egoic surrender - interesting concepts for the dance world! It does require humility to:
Fortunately, there are always opportunities to subdue your ego and develop compassion. You can:
Mariana Caplan writes,
"The point of spiritual practice is to know the ego, to become intimately familiar with its workings, and to diminish or strengthen it as needed in order to be able to handle the power of the forces one is likely to encounter as spiritual work deepens."

Expand Your Concept of “Practice”

Dancers already practice outside of the classroom, setting aside their own special time to focus on class material. But practicing ONLY the physical aspects of belly dance leads to imbalance. (Remember all that extra energy?)

Speaking of a similar physical discipline, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming says, the "proper amount of practice will maintain your health . . . and too much practice will make your body too Yang . . . "(10).  He also says a Yang mind is "emotional, scattered, and excited".  Maybe you feel this way, or know someone who does?  Those eastern folks have been at this a long time - I think they may be on to something!  Besides the active physical disciplines, eastern teachers not only bring the mind into the physical practice; they also advocate the mental discipline of sitting in meditation.

Remember in “yang energy” we are talking about physical techniques divorced from inner meaning and awareness, for the purpose of public ego-strokes. Belly dance should be much more than that - more than just the body, the physical image. Complete the picture: get regular spirit and mind exercise to keep up with the body.

Roxanne Gupta (A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance; Inner Traditions, 2000) explains this three-fold aspect as it pertains to yoga: "While for discussion's sake we can separate out the physical, the psychic, and the spiritual objectives and techniques of yoga, in reality there is no such separation: the three levels overlap and interpenetrate one another. Our experience of their disunity is in direct proportion to the extent to which we are all living unbalanced lives."

We know that now, don’t we?

In an interest contrast, Western religions have long advocated the practice of prayer and meditation to renew spiritual energy; and just recently, some are finally exploring “Liturgical Dance”--although it’s usually done by a select group within the congregation. But it’s a start - at least dance now has “a foot in the door”!

Thankfully, as belly dancers we’re already WAY into dance, so to bring it up to a holistic, powerfully transforming practice, try mindful belly dancing (being present in the moment, aware that changes are taking place, fully experiencing the movements) - in addition to normal class material that focuses on physical technique & skill development. And then balance that with relaxation and contemplation - experiencing the presence of God. That’s refueling your whole being - body, mind, and spirit.

Next: Part 5, How to Develop a Holistic Belly Dance Practice

9. May, Gerald; Will and Spirit, New York USA: Harper Collins, 1982. p. 115: May further states that "The gentlest form of spiritual narcissism is the idea that one can accomplish one's own spiritual growth....(it) works to deny the realization that our spirituality comes from God."

10. Yang, Jwing-Ming; The Root of Chinese Chi Kung, Jamaica Plains, MA: Yang’s Martial Arts Association, 1989. p. 55.

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