Dancing Through The Pain


Dear Friends,

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.

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