I am an earth worshiper and I love to dance my inspiration and expression respectively.
I recently went to my home state of Wisconsin to hang with my family and run in an extreme trail marathon called, “Dances With Dirt.” Many of my friends told me this race had my name on it.
I knew the course would be challenging and beautiful, a promise of steep bluff climbs and descents, rocks, roots and rugged terrain. Stunning and dangerous, the juxtaposition of nature. I love this because it is so intense and intimate, all my senses buzzing and heightened, the pure state of being alive.
Waiting for the race to begin, my heart was beating quickly. I felt a potent surge of adrenaline and anticipation mingled with fear. The back of the race shirt quoted the first line of the waiver I had signed, “I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death.”
Alright, clearly this was done to make us participants feel sufficiently bad ass and now we even had a shirt to prove it. Unlike any other event I have done, this one put its money where its mouth is.
Hot weather, rugged terrain, at one point running quite close to cliffs with no fence, not even a rope barrier. The element of danger was not overwhelming, but not fictitious either.
I was dancing with fear, dancing with my mind and emotions.
Toward the end of the race, I was so tired I resorted to singing a medley of LMFAO songs just to give my mind something to chew on, but quickly stopped as the momentary distraction resulted in a couple near falls. Mind over matter, focus on the what is, let go of the story, let go of resistance and embrace tired, embrace pain, find strength in spirit. Powerful. I am powerful.
Upon reflection, I can say I discovered that trail running really is a dance with dirt. It has rhythm and pulse; every step is crucial and expressive. It requires deep feeling and intuition in order to sense and respond in each moment to my dance partner, Earth.
At times, we would be moving fluid and at other times, staccato steps or small leaps and bounds, often having to surrender to earth’s superiority and walking instead. A complex melody of movement, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending, perhaps falling. I had to be vigilant and focused to anticipate the next step while entrained simultaneously in this one, the feeling of speeding on the razor’s edge, but also each moment so vast in experience—endless, infinite.
Dances of inner and outer worlds conjoined, harmonious, exhilarating. I felt dazzled and yet comfortably at home, content, just as I do on a dance floor.
I find trail running to be a deep meditation as well. To run the trail requires ultimate focus and presence, each footfall and each breath are critical and precise. Distraction is dangerous on the trail. Death no longer a distant and denied presence, but striding right there alongside the pumping thrill of life. There is nowhere else to be, nothing to do but take a next step, the next breath, no one to be.
Here on the trail there is no identity, no responsibility, no status. I find myself in awe, humbled, in a deep reconnection to earth and sky, animals and plants, water and wind. I feel deeply that I am not separate from these things—none of us are. To imagine that we stand apart from this sacred temple of the earth is a grand delusion.
If meditation is a path to self-realization that strips away illusion and shines the light of consciousness on truth, then trail running serves that purpose for me (this is a personal statement and most certainly is not every ones experience).
I finished that day empty and yet full, blistered and raw both physically and energetically. But I also finished that day empowered and bursting with deep joy and gratitude for all that the dance with dirt had gifted me: courage and humility, endurance and presence, seeing beauty in all, and feeling connected to people and land, one with the trees and the very dirt, a harmony and wholeness only possible when one learns to relish all experience and savor even the moments of struggle and exhaustion.
I came away with a greater respect, appreciation and understanding of myself. Dancing with dirt I unearthed yet another layer of me, and the dance goes on…
I intend to dance with dirt many more times.
Jyotika Jean Skeels is a Professional Level Kripalu Yoga Teacher as well as a Let Your Yoga Dance teacher. She is an artist, writer, recreational athlete, and mother of four amazing children. Jyotika is a truth seeker, spiritual teacher and soul dancer. She writes a blog called The Magnificent Mess which includes her thoughts and insights on yoga, parenting, and life in general.
Editor: April Hayes