By Mahshid Hager
I love to dance! It makes me feel alive. A few nights ago, I had an amazing dance experience in Sydney, Australia. I attended an event hosted by No Lights No Lycra with some friends. NLNL is a dance community, promoting and supporting dancers from all walks of life. Their website states:
At the heart of No Lights No Lycra (NLNL) is the belief that everyone can dance. NLNL is a global dance community providing an inclusive and non-judgmental place for people to explore this notion.
Their events are simple and brilliant: You show up, pay a small fee and enter an auditorium. Lights go off, music starts blasting and you dance. You dance your heart out in nearly pitch black darkness with about 150 other dancers.
Photo supplied by www.timeout.com
It is a thrilling, one-of-a-kind experience. I’m not sure if I have ever felt this free. I consider myself an enthusiastic dancer. When I hear music that moves me, I hit the dance floor without much hesitation. Yet the darkness added an unexpected benefit. What I realized at this event is how (even though we might not be fully conscious of it) we still cater to others or adjust our selves to avoid judgment from others. There is something about being engulfed in total darkness that allowed me to follow the impulse of my body, to move in whichever way IT wanted to. I kept catching myself with a huge smile on my face, looking around at the dark shapes of other dancers around me, imagining that they also felt this free. It was exhilarating. All of us left the event beaming from ear to ear. I felt like I was glowing with joy. One friend noted that they felt like “the most beautiful version” of themselves. When I walked out into the street, I felt like I was floating on air. I went to bed with a giant grin on my face, still filled with joy.
I woke up in the morning and noticed right away that my body was sore from the night before. All that jumping and stomping and shaking had left a mark and it made me smile. I made the mistake (as I often do) of grabbing my phone and scanning the headlines from news sources from around the world. “Terror attack at Manchester Arena”…..”….22 Dead, Many Wounded”, ….”….Ariana Grande Concert….Children Among The Victims”
My heart dropped. How could this be? How could so much evil exist in the same world that contains so much joy and beauty? With this event, like many others before, my first thought is always with the family members; The horror of the news hitting them, the frantic attempts at trying to connect to their loved ones and for some, the unbearable grief of a senseless loss. My second thought (and this is really hard to admit) is: “I hope the attacker is not Muslim.” I feel some shame associated with this thought, because it shouldn’t matter. Innocent lives have been lost, I shouldn’t care WHO caused this unspeakable attack. But I do. Because it effects me.
Photo credit: Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency
It turns out that the attacker was in fact a Muslim man from Libyan descent and ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the event. Once again, my heart breaks that this violent attack is being carried out in the name of a religion and once again I feel like I need to repent for a sin I did not commit. I don’t want to speak for my entire community but I doubt that I’m alone in feeling this way. Every time something like this happens we all sigh a big breath and know that all those preconceptions about how Islam breeds extremism will be reinforced over the coming days and weeks. There is a sense of responsibility put upon the entire Muslim community that feels so unjust. Within days Piers Morgan urged the Muslims around the world to “do more” to fight Islamist extremism. A sheriff in Texas warned Americans in a statement: “This is what happens when you allow these radicals to travel to Afghanistan and Iran and simply let them back in.” Even the musician Morrissey took the opportunity to attack politicians over their immigration policies, ignoring the fact that the attacker was born in Britain and grew up in Manchester.
On this particular morning, I was struck by the fact that I have to live with extreme opposites in this world. I can live in a world that offers me great joy and freedom and that same world carries the sorrow and pain of grieving mothers and the violence of terrorism. How can I hold both? The work I do as a trauma therapist believes in the innate capacity of our bodies to recover from and repair past trauma and hurt. It is based in the idea that even the most chaotic systems can self organize periodically. Our work lies in reinforcing those periods of self organization. If that’s true, than my only option is to grieve the loss or injustice, but continue to engage the joy and the freedom. I find myself fighting two extremes: Either be consumed by outrage and sorrow, or engage fully in the ‘All Is Good In The World” spiritual bypass. I realize more and more that my learning edge is how to hold space for both.
This is one of my favorite Rumi quotes:
Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
I think it speaks to this very concept. There is good and evil in this world. We are all in it together. Where do we want to spend our time and energy? Can we take a step back and see the full picture? Can we hold space for all this hurt in the world and still choose to dance?
I’m planning to. Will join me?