When I was a girl my dad told me something I’ll never forget.
“Jennifer,” he said, “always dance.”
We were on our way to our first father-daughter dance.
I was never athletic or outgoing, or even close to being popular. I was, however, open to discovering these latent abilities within me.
Because the thing is that now I am pretty darn outgoing. (It turns out, there were pieces inside of me that I kept hidden away: doors waiting to be unlocked.)
I’m also fairly athletic and, while I won’t pretend to be popular, I’ll gladly tell anyone that my dad taught me something that evening that I’ll never forget—that showing up and giving your best effort is more than half the endeavor.
So while I might not have been the coolest kid on that dance floor, I’d wager that I was easily one of the happiest.
I remember looking around at the other (cooler) girls and noticing their down-turned smiles and kind of shy looking dads—and there was mine, out partying on the dance floor with my smiling and only slightly embarrassed self.
And I realized then that life is a dance.
It’s something that you let leak out of your soul and out through your body and then out into the world where other people can see it.
And it’s awkward and sometimes horrible and, at other times, it’s beautiful because you let your real light glow regardless of the filter that you think you should be shining through—and this is synonymous with what I find within my yoga practice.
I’m a truly horrible yoga practitioner.
(Yoga, according to Patanjali, is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.)
My mind fights and flails and routinely waves white flags of defeat—yet I never surrender. I’m the sorry and stubborn general who continually marches on towards a difficult but worthy battle, and this is exactly the same reason why I practice yoga—because I desperately need to.
Because someone has to fight these battles—my battles—in order to win the war.
And so I practice—in and out of days and through weeks—but I’m not a yoga snob.
I’m no longer a vegetarian, much less a vegan. I have a short fuse and an anxious mind. I’m not perfect, and I don’t pretend that I am—but I’ll tell anyone that I think life is all about becoming a better person.
I feel that I’m here to love, to laugh, to learn and share, and I might not always agree with the people around me, but I sincerely try to always listen and hear. My heart is open, even when my head is stubborn—and I practice yoga because it helps me come into my center, into my true and honest being of compassion.
And I’m a writer—by default I share what people think and feel yet never want anyone to know they think and feel.
Writers tell it like it is, at least for them—and one of the very few things that I’ve figured out on this planet Earth is that if one person has a feeling or a thought or a struggle, then there’s at least one more individual out there going through the exact same thing.
So maybe you don’t like that I resumed my meat-eating lifestyle (even if it is mindful), maybe you connect with my forthright admission of cussing like a sailor, or maybe you could care less either way.
The greater acknowledgement is that we have to open ourselves up to our less than desirable traits—because how can you possibly grow as a person if you don’t own up to who you already are?
I still dance in my kitchen.
I dance with my daughter and with my husband and with, quite frankly, anyone who comes over and wants to listen to music and relax.
And I’m thankful that my dad taught me as a very little kid that no one looks amazing all of the time—and that nothing is sadder than hiding because the image of your ideal self inside of your head doesn’t fit the reality of who you actually are.
So maybe you should come out and play and dance, maybe you should dive right in—because not all yogic waters contain angry sharks.
Sure, some are cold and judgmental. They make you feel like their ocean is the only one where you can safely swim—but not all are like this.
Sometimes you’ll find a life preserver tossed your way, your head popping to the surface, right above the waves, just as you thought you might drown.
You’ll hear specifically the right message at precisely the right moment—because all that this particular yogic sea cares about is making sure you’re aware that you can already float.
Because the other thing is, you already knew how to dance.
Your dad grabs your hand and leads you out onto the dance floor where, at first, the other kids intimidate you with their fancy moves—until you discover that you had your own right there, hidden in your back pocket all along.
You can float and you can swim and you can be who want to be—and you don’t want to be a wallflower in the story of your own life.
You don’t require anyone to tell you how to eat or how to move or how to live because you want to feel it for yourself—and the second that you wake up and come alive, you finally understand that no two people dance the same.
What works for him doesn’t work for her. What worked for you at one time doesn’t make any sense for you now.
We’re meant to change, to grow, to evolve and to shift—and this evolution isn’t always performed in a straight line.
You learn to never say never because sometimes we dance in circles or switch partners or head in different directions than our original footsteps intended to take us.
Yet we all come back to the same thing in the end.
They all lead home.
They all dance in the same direction—to the warehouse of your soul.
And this is it. This is life!
You don’t want to sit on the sidelines watching. You want to be right there in the middle, experiencing it for yourself: watching and learning from and with others as they experience it too.
So try to remember, when you see people who appear to have two left feet, not everyone moves exactly the same as you do—and that’s not a bad thing.
Thank God that we all dance to the beat of a different drummer.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
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Ed: B. Bemel