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Develop a Holistic Belly Dance Practice for Yourself

Modern Religious Rituals

Chakra Energy in Belly Dance, Part 5
(ZAGHAREET! "For Beginners", Mar/Apr 2007)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Where are we going?

If you’ve been reading this column the last couple of years you may’ve wondered what was driving these topics that might seem unusual fare for “Beginners”.
Here's why I have written so many articles on so called "esoteric" concepts in a beginner belly dance column:
A few years ago a dancer approached me after I taught a workshop on Guedra (a trance-inducing spiritually-focused ritual dance) and told me that she never thought about spiritual things. I replied that incorporating the spirit can powerfully impact one's dancing...but we didn't have time for much more than that. I’m glad she took the time to mention it though–I like to hear what students are thinking.

Her remark (and it’s implications) probably provided the direction of this column over the last two years; as well as the fact that many dancers are using our dance to explore their spirituality. An internet search on “spiritual belly dance” demonstrates that it’s become a subcategory in itself. Personally, skipping my pre-class or pre-performance devotions would be like dancing without physically warming up.

Yet at the same time, could it be that modern scientific exploration of the physical effects of meditation and other religious rituals and experiences (neurotheology etc.) is outdating our traditional religious practices?

Is our religion keeping up with our knowledge? Has our personal philosophy been updated enough to reconcile these two seemingly opposite frameworks? “(M)uch, if not most of what ordinarily passes for genuine religious experience is in actuality the emanations of our material minds coordinated somehow with our lingering notional experiences with our inner false god.”(11)

It’s been said that moral cowards never reach high planes of philosophic thinking, because it requires courage they don’t have to invade those unexplored levels. But I also know people feel they just “don’t have time to think about all this stuff” - it’s confusing! And so, via this column, in 2005 we looked at:
And during 2006 this column began exploring the spiritual facet.* But if my use of Indian terms like “chakra” etc. makes you squirm, consider this:
“It is obvious from the similarity of the various religious traditions of seven levels of spiritual achievement that mankind has been aware of these truths since ancient times.  Each culture interprets the meanings of these levels in a very similar manner, and they share the same purpose: the ascent of the individual from the lowest or physical stage of existence, through the emotional and intellectual levels to divine contact, oneness with Divinity.”(12)

How to develop Holistic Belly Dance *

I suggest we evolve our philosophy, and expand our concept of “practice” in belly dance, using the special tool that connects matter and spirit - our mindUnderstanding what’s happening raises us from the animal level of living and can even take us past the “normal human” experience by reaching up into spirit reality.  (Unfortunately, material tests can only prove the existence of material facts, so it takes a leap of faith to get above the material level.)
Fit all three concepts of spirit, matter, and mind into your daily practice:
  1. Besides your usual technique work or show rehearsal, dance for yourself as a treat for your body; deepen your breath, stretch into comfortable poses...think of this as your moving meditation - mindful and reverent.(13)
  2. See your inner energy as affection (love), flowing out to others who share your space: home, community, world...re-MIND yourself to practice humble compassion toward others - to subdue the ego and open the heart.
  3. Take in energy for yourself besides food, water, rest for your body; refresh your mind and spirit with prayer and meditation - worshipful contemplation, communication with the Divine.
That’s how you “take it to the next level”! **

Even though our dance is often perverted into a commercial tool, an exotic hook with sexual promise as the bait, there’s a deeper reason behind belly dance's current popularity. It draws us with an unspoken promise, offering a healthy release for spiritual energy that's manifesting into the physical level.

Sovatsky says it so well:
“Spirituality is a natural, body-positive aspect of human development, not a derivative of sexuality, a set of techniques, practices, or doctrinal beliefs."
It’s already there for you - just give it room to grow!

* There’s an interesting side note on our dance’s spiritual and cultural connection in my article “The Spirituality of Dance”, in the Articles section on my website.

11. Holley, Peter B.; 'Brain “God”' from his former website, Urantiagate, “...the findings of scientists...engaged in the brain-mapping project can go a long way in helping us recognize which of our religious thoughts and experiences are merely ‘figments of the imagination, illusions of the mortal mind, distortions of false-logic, and the self-deceptive idols of those who create them’...and when these have been disregarded that which remains is more likely to be genuine contact.”

12. Buselli, Linda; The Seven Psychic Circles http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/readers/psychic_circles_lb.htm

13. Sovatsky, Stuart; Words From the Soul, New York, USA: State University of New York Press, 1998, p. 165: Sovatsky also suggests particular yoga asanas: "Yoga mudra, spinal twist, back stretching, fish pose, reverse pose, and cobra pose, is one possible correlation of chakras and asanas."

** 2013 Update: Sharing Shakti's Gift (chakra isolations video)
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