A Brief Guide to Ecstatic Dance
Ecstatic dance has meant a great deal to me. There were many years where my life was difficult. Going to ecstatic dance was all I was living for then, but it was enough. To have those brief windows when my spirit flowed freely meant everything. Ecstatic dance also helped me meet cool, loving people, some of whom changed the course of my life.
Ecstatic dance is kind of a fringe hippie activity, though, so I thought I'd share about it a bit. The general concept is it's a moving meditation where you are free-flow dancing to reach a state of flow/trance/ecstasy. The setup is typically a DJ playing world-electronic music. Drugs and alcohol are discouraged, as is talking on the dance floor. You can find ecstatic dance in most major Western metropolitan areas, or most places with a high concentration of hippies. :)
There's nothing wrong with going to ecstatic dance to hang out, dance a bit, meet people, whatever. But for me the point of ecstatic dance really is to reach a state of flow/trance/ecstasy. Reaching that state can be nonintuitive, so here's a few tips:
You have to overcome caring what other people think. If you want to reach ecstasy, your goal is not to be cool or pretty or a good dancer. Move in the way that feels good to you in that very moment. Closing your eyes is the best way to tune out other people and focus on your experience.
You need to reach a state of intense cardio output. Follow the music—the DJ will build the energy to these peaks. Generally I find jumping or doing a sort of run in place is the best way for me to cross the threshold. The more time I get where my feet are off the ground, the faster I reach the ecstatic state. There's an added bonus that this physical exertion allows you to tap into greater energy reserves and overcome fatigue.
There's a few key hindrances on the ecstatic dance path.
You don't like the music. The trick I've found, as I've written about before, is to focus on what you can appreciate about the present moment. However sometimes you really just don't vibe with the DJ. That's ok! Figure out what you can do that you enjoy, and come back next week.
You are tired or just not feeling it. That's ok! Go meditate, people watch, or try some contact improv. There's also nothing wrong with going home. But give it some time, often the music or mood will shift and you'll be able to get into it.
One caveat: Unfortunately not all ecstatic dances are incredible. Some, for whatever reason, never get the right community or space or DJs. But even the best dances can be hit or miss depending on your music preference, so if you don’t have an incredible time, it's worth giving it another shot.
I wish you great bliss and transcendence on the dance floor.
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