The Dance

Hope in doing nothing?

Kent Mitchell
6 min readMay 15, 2023

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The teacher at Esalen played guitar for each of the body’s chakras. When he reached the heart, I had a realization, a heartfelt conviction that I didn’t need to bring intention into encounters with others, or even into my encounter with the world. I realized I could open up to others’ energy as a way of navigating life. Why not let others influence my direction? Did I have somewhere more important I needed to be? Rather than trying to be in control, I could work with what came to me. I could make another person’s energy the focus of my attention in the moment.

Another instructor at the retreat had us focus on each other as subjects of meditation. Months later t’s starting to sink in that this isn’t just my own realization — the whole program was set up to get us to open up to each other’s energy.

In the past I’ve always tried to push my own energy onto the world. Now I had a chance to be myself in a new way, to be myself in reference to someone else. It felt like a ray of sunlight and hope — and the sun had, at the moment of the strumming guitar with the teacher taking about the heart chakra, break through the clouds and shine on us listening on the hardwood floor of the seminar room.

My wife and I are meant to be supporters of others. I thought I needed to find my work and focus, yet my best self seems to be supporting others in theirs. How does that work for someone who’s so often lost in his own thoughts? For her, it makes sense. For me? And only now I realize as a parent I am supporting my children, as well as my wife and other people I know or meet, constantly.

It’s not just accepting others’ energy, but also dancing with them. I feel moments of it during my day, even if I’m not doing a dance exercise at a retreat. The other person and I may not even be enjoying the dance, but every interaction still is a dance. And my interaction with my whole environment and even within myself is a dance too. What are your intentions, Sir? To dance, of course!

There was a cashier at a cafe recently whom I was polite towards but felt no interest in until I saw her face in profile and saw her smile. Then I began noticing her, still polite to her while perhaps talking a little more to her than strictly needed, but still not too much. She was businesslike. Her all-business aloofness told me she either noticed the attention and was communicating that she didn’t want more, or she was doing her own thing and blithely ignoring me as a matter of course. Yet I felt her attention on me as she did whatever she did behind the counter. Our parts in the dance. And all the while she held my attention — respectful attention, polite words — until I had my drink and snack and was headed back to my table.

How did I miss the importance of enjoying the dance itself as opposed to having intentions for a relationship? I’ve suffered, making my desire for connection with others into an effort to draw them into my own plans when I’ve never really had any plans! Wasn’t there a scene in an 80's movie (Pretty in Pink, Heathers, Repo Man…Say Anything?) where a guy has a coffin in his room as a coffee table and says it’s a chick magnet? That’s it exactly: our plan for how someone else gets drawn into our life is probably silly. How can I have a plan for someone else, an ulterior motive, and still dance with them? That wouldn’t be much of a dance, would it? It would be contrived and difficult, and I’d lose the benefit of connecting with them because I’d be connecting with an image of them cooked up in my own brain…

It makes sense to appreciate someone else, but I dare not have a plan, given I have no idea, in advance, where a relationship will lead. A relationship has already begun the moment I become aware of someone else and them of me. Connection is a dance; to dance is to relate.

Still, what am I doing? Trying to dance through life, following others’ lead at least some of the time. But they’re as lost as I am. The chaos of pain I often feel, and that I sense in others, belies my words of found purpose and joy and leaves me breathless, exhausted, despairing...in certain moments afraid for my own survival, even. Afraid I’m failing to achieve the connections I crave and will simultaneously fail to maintain the systems I’ve set up to bring food to the table and shelter for me and my loved ones. What hope is there against this chaos and pain I feel from failing to dance with everything and everyone in my life but instead trying to control, to hide, to do anything but face the music that is playing, to dance with it?

The Fibonacci Constant acknowledges that many natural things grow in an aesthetically consistent pattern. An underlying order similar to the Fibonacci Constant might make my life not only endurable but even joyful even in my moments of blind fear. Because of an underlying order. God, I hope so.

Kent Mitchell, Big Sur, CA March 2023

I did a dance a couple of days later where I followed others’ lead. Normally I would have focused on my own feelings, my own body, my own energy, in trying to engage in dance with others, and would‘be been self-conscious. This time I looked to others as I moved around the room. Instead of trying not to care what they thought of me and push my own energy I looked at them almost out of the corner of my eye, noticing their actions and movements, copying them a little, moved while watching, moving past one to the next. No commitment but also less hiding, a little more playful and less self-conscious because I wasn’t focusing primarily on myself.

I was more myself when following others than when allowing self-consciousness to dominate

Glide path. The dance is real and yet I doubt, I fear it is but a dance of death, humans preying upon each other until we’re all consumed. So I meditate, when I can remember, so that there may be another chance to close my eyes and dance. Or maybe I can see others out of the corner of my eye, move past them with openness to their energy.

If I choose to be open, dance with what I find in others, can I let go of the fear that I’m doing it all wrong?

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