Dance happens…

After a series of dance shows celebrating my silver jubilee on stage, in January 2007, as I was climbing down the stairs, my left leg simple gave away! It was horrifying! There I was just having completed a successful ‘margazhi season’ and the very next day, rather than a sense of euphoria at the accomplishment I had woken up with a sense of relief. I was not really aware why it was so. But the minute I started climbing down the stairs from my office on the second floor, my left leg stopped supporting my weight and I crumpled on to the floor. Thankfully, no one was around to see me. The event was so sudden, I wasn’t even frightened, it was just too much for me to comprehend. Fear came later, when after a series of tests, they told me I was on the verge of Osteoarthritis, my knee joint had been overused (thanks to 30 years of ‘Aramandi’) and I should forget about dancing and be grateful if I can walk without pain in future! From the moment I held the hands of my dancing inspirations, my dance gurus Narasimhachari & Vasanthalalshmi, at the age of five, ‘not dancing’ was never an option! How could anyone suggest such a thing? Even if you have had a similar experience, I doubt you can imagine what this did to me. Let me tell you why…

Flashback… December 2002. I was attending my very first spiritual camp with my guru Mahatria Ra… Seeing those 49 others at the camp, most of whom had been attending the camp for several years by then, I felt regret. I hadn’t stepped on this path of meditation until a few months ago. I must have missed out on a lot that those others had already experienced. But even before I could proceed on this pattern of thought, the insight dawned – even if the whole world had already experienced unity with the divine, as Gita, only I could experience that unification. And for the divine too experiencing Gita would be a first… This had a profound impact on the way I ever saw things thereafter. I realized, how ever much we interact with others, my primary role is to be ‘me’. I realized the necessity of the individual identity without which there is no striving to experience the universal.

In 2003, I shifted careers moving from media to administering a fitness studio that was launched by my husband as part of his business diversification. Maverick fitness studios, was merely an administrative and financial responsibility for me then. In fact, despite repeated requests from my team to begin some form of strength training, I had firmly declined their offer with the claim as a dancer I got all the exercise I ever needed. When in 2007 my left knee gave away, the only solution offered for recovery was strengthening the leg muscles using stability, balancing and weight bearing exercises. As I sat alone in my balcony, literally brooding over the turn of events, the insight from long before made complete sense. If the purpose of this individual identity was relevant for experiencing divine unification, wasn’t the need for a body all the more relevant and important! Isn’t my first sense of identity born from my body? In that sense then isn’t my first sense of unity with the divine too born from experiencing this body…

Years rolled by. What started as curiosity to understand my body, led me to learn more about traditional yoga and modern day strength training. As a regular meditator I could see the impact of an integrated approach where nutrition, stress management, muscle strengthening, flexibility, stability, posture, right sleep and energy cultivating exercises could literally enhance ones living experience. I started writing a column for infinithoughts on the lines of a dialogue between Science and God titled When Science met God… During my sporadic research I chanced upon Paul Chek’s website. Founder of the C.H.E.K institute in USA, Paul was offering courses that combined all criteria for a holistic living from the bodily perspective. Indeed if the body is our primary vehicle, it deserves to be in good form. Within a short span of one year, I completed five certification programs including the Holistic lifestyle Coach Level 2 when I got to experience Paul for a few days in Toronto. I was inspired by his approach of combining the science of anatomy with the spirit of meditation. It was so in tune with my philosophy that science and spirituality are two sides of the same coin.

Returning back from Canada, I launched my workshop ‘The art of listening to your body’ primarily as my way of reaching out to everybody to motivate them to take care of their body. After all, the body is the only address we have in this lifetime! A friend remarked ‘Indeed in India we are more spiritual than body conscious while in the west they are a lot more body conscious’. I had to correct his perspective. Probably in the west they are more mind conscious for all bodily beautification is related to looking good rather than feeling great. When a person is truly body conscious it would mean he is so in tune with the divine for there is nothing more miraculous than our body. A small drop of protoplasm has the intelligence to become a full human baby in a short span of under 9 months. Every cell from the moment you are born has only one job – to keep you alive! It takes just 9 months to create your body and a whole lifetime to destroy it! Every one of the 70 million odd cells in your body has a specific role to perform and it will do it without any need for interference from you! The body is capable of self healing for that is what differentiates a living human being from a dead body! I truly believe if you are as aware and conscious of your body as you ought to be, you don’t really need any further proof of the grace of the divine. Can one ever treat your body with anything less than dignity if you truly understand its miraculous existence? The sheer magic of the miraculous way our body works is enough to make you simply stand in awe…

‘You have really proved that reversing of age is possible’ whispered my guru close to my 40th birthday. I smiled for it was he who had shown me how every cell in my being is alive when it is in tune with the miracle of existence.

Oh ! And yes of course I dance – not just for a few minutes but for several hours in a row. But the focus has changed. At one time donning the roles of Buddha and Savitri, feeling the pains of separations and bliss of reunion, the trauma of death and the joy of birth, the jealousy of mortals and dignity of the Gods, the wrath of immaturity and the poise of the mature, feeling those million emotions and projecting them through my dance was a satisfying, even exhilarating experience. Seeing my Bhava kindle the right Rasa in my audience always gave me a sense of purpose. But today I want to be just ‘me’.

I used to envy the singers who needed no external orchestration to delve into the magic of music. I used to believe dance is so dependent on the music, the laya, the rhythm, the jathi, the verses, the intonation – to be performed. It still is true when you need to dance to an audience – you cannot miss a beat, you cannot expand on an idea – the music has changed! Just because today you see little krishna in the place of the lover krishna, you cannot suddenly change your choreography as the musicians may not go with it. Very few dancers have managed to achieve that kind of synchronicity with their musicians. I have experienced the magic my aunt Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam weaves with spontaneity in her dance, thanks to my aunt Shyamala Balakrishnan, and my cousin Gayatri Kannan, who are so in sync with her every move that nothing separates the music from the dance nor the musicians from the dancer. That is indeed a very rare happening. However, I realized, dance is dependent on music only when you have a formal audience. Today, I can dance even to silence, and when there is a viewer in tune with my feelings, they don’t need the music either.

The most liberating form of dance is when I delve deep within during my spiritual retreats with my guru Mahatria. I have experienced every cell dance and move in ways I can never comprehend nor believe to be physically capable of, to music I have never ever heard, in perfect synchronicity. It is a feeling of every cell vibrating like the Tambura strings in tune with the one plucked. The realization dawned, we begin by seeking to express, an action performed to kindle a certain emotion. But a day arrives when the feeling is dominant and in turn perhaps triggers certain actions.

Now I prefer to dance in communion with the divine rather than as communication to an audience; I prefer the moonlight to the glaring spotlights; I love the silence rather than the applause; somehow celebrating life seems to be the only expression I want to express. Actually I prefer not to dance but simply let the dance happen…

As tears trickle down my cheeks, I simply witness with awe the dance of existence unfold…

Written by Gita Krishna Raj  |  Published in infinithoughts in June 2014

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