Since returning to Canada in 2005 my husband and I have been taking ballroom and latin dance lessons. You might think, “They must be professional dancers by now with all those studio classes under their belts.” Well, you would be wrong. Dancing is one of those things you can study for years and still have much to learn. Becoming professional means dedicating your life to the craft (as in sports and many other art forms) but our aspirations are not that far-reaching–we just love to dance.
And we aren’t getting any younger! Dancing has many benefits, especially as you age. It helps with memory, balance, agility, posture and more. But beyond all this, for me there have been important parallels to everyday life and some insightful lessons learned. Lessons that go far beyond foot placement and floor craft; lessons that have served to reinforce some of those learned all those years ago in Bangkok.
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from dancing (and the one that I struggle with the most) is that of ‘letting go’–immediately if not sooner! What do I mean by that? Well, here is how my initial lesson unfolded:
I am learning a choreographed dance for a showcase performance (our studio invites the public to watch student dance routines twice a year in order to highlight their skills). It is getting close to the big night and I am making some inevitable mistakes during practice sessions. Every time I stumble or make the wrong move it affects the next part of the routine and sometimes the rest of the dance. My teacher stops me and says, “Sharon, you must mentally let go of a mistake as soon as it’s made. Otherwise, it just messes you up going forward. Most problems in dancing are created from a misstep 2 or 3 steps (or more) before the big crash and burn. That misstep, if not forgotten and left behind, will make its destructive way forward.”
What a concept! This was advice about becoming a better dancer but it was such a clear example of the Buddhist practice of ‘living in the moment’. Each of one of us is guilty of not being able to move on from guilt, mistakes, fear, perceived slights, anger… If we zoom out a bit, we can see that, on a global level, so many conflicts, tensions, and even wars are rooted in a past never left behind–never forgotten. That misstep, however big or small, just creates greater and greater havoc going forward.
All this from dance lessons! Time to put on your dancing shoes everyone.