How Dance Helps Me Find Freedom With Chronic Pain

“Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance, in the middle of the fighting.

Dance, in your blood.

Dance, when you’re perfectly free.”

Dance through pain? Why would I?

Because dance can move stuck energy. It moves our attitudes into someplace higher, it gets our blood flowing to where it’s needed, it moves oxygen through the body, and it moves our intention to heal throughout our body too.

OK, but I can barely get through the day. How can I dance?

Maybe not ballroom or ballet or salsa. But dance can be any movement you make with intention to express. Dance is the heart expressing itself through the body. Dance is the desire for freedom expressing itself in the body. And dance can be the intention to heal moving through the body.

Redefining Dance

Those of us living with pain can redefine what dance is for us as we must redefine who we are in our bodies. We can make dance our own.

Maybe our dance is a dance of moving through pain, with pain, and perhaps even as pain in expression.

Dance can be as small as the wave of your hand, or the wiggle of your eyebrows, or the curve of your lips.

Our dance becomes moving in any way we can with the intention of freedom, grace, beauty and self-expression. Even if it’s limited in physical scope – making small gestures with our arms in the air or swaying from side to side if that’s all we can do. And this dance, our dance, is a movement with intention toward releasing pain, toward expressing who we really are, toward healing.

I believe strongly in the importance of dance and other creative expressions as avenues for expressing and relieving pain because they have worked for me. We may fear we might be creating more pain by moving, but we move within our limits with intention and grace, and we start small. Each time we create a dance in any part of our body we connect with our inner selves, connect with the heart of healing.

It’s a physical act, but it’s also a metaphor for our healing process, for reconnecting with ourselves, for reconnecting with our bodies. Metaphor and reality – dance and pain – intertwine and inform each other. We dance in our pain. We dance with our pain. We dance out our pain.

Remembering Who We Are

The poem below by Rumi always speaks to me strongly about this. It inspires me to find my own dance through life with pain, in my own way, and to honor the movements I can do, no matter how small or stilted they may seem in the moment. If I can’t dance the way I want to right now, I can complete the movement in my mind, I can make the gestures grander with my imagination, and I can put my heart’s intent into even the smallest movement toward healing.

Dance can be any movement with a sense of freedom in it. We can dance through doing the dishes, we can dance through taking care of our bodies, we can dance through physical therapy.

When we remember to dance, we remember who we really are beyond our pain and limitations.

“Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance, in the middle of the fighting.

Dance, in your blood.

Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

Struck, the dancers hear a tambourine inside them, as a wave turns to foam at its very top, begin.

Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine, or the tree leaves clapping time.

Close the ears on your head that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.

There are other things to hear and see:

dance, music, and a brilliant city inside the Soul”

-Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (13th century Persian poet)

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