Sometimes I dance in my kitchen. I close my eyes and listen carefully to a beat in my head. Tap. Tap. Tap. My body sways slightly and muscles strain, lifting me up on my toes. I reach one arm out in a fluid motion and then the other. I stack my spine, sliding each vertebrae into place with a resounding crackle. I ignore the sound and I move forward, pointing and flexing, and positioning body parts in increasing succession. One minute goes by and then three. Every muscle is burning inside my body and I feel like I am dancing inside flames. I continue though, focusing on each and every sensation in my body, calculating moves to avoid acute injury. There is pain, but there is peace.
Dancing, for me, is a way to practice mindfulness where movement is a form of meditation. It is a way of being fully present within my own body, even when I would rather escape. Admittedly, this is not easy. Also, it is not an approach that is desirable or possible for everyone.* I think of this practice as sitting with my pain and reaching a mutual understanding. It is very loosely based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is a therapy technique that is shown to increase self-compassion. It is easy to stop extending compassion to yourself when you feel as if your body has betrayed you. It is also easy to hate your pain. Though my chronic pain and I aren’t friends, at least I have moved past all-consuming hatred. This is progress, on any day.
*Disclaimer: Choosing this particular path must be done with an extraordinary amount of caution. It is not something I am actually suggesting for you and your situation. I am incredibly introspective and have a lot of experience with mindfulness and compassion-based therapies. I never dance on flare days or when the weather patterns are unstable. I know the difference between a temporary increase in pain levels and pushing my body past its limits. I make sure to rest and utilize proper post-movement care. If you choose to attempt the activities I have discussed in this post, be forewarned that you do so at your own risk and I will not be liable for any harm caused to you. TLDR: Don’t do this just because I do.