Lately, the world has been telling me to dance.
It started with the Sufi night at Shah Jamal, which is the tomb of Sufi Saint Baba Shah Jamal. This was trance dance and for me a mostly spectator sport. Every Thursday evening a combination of drumming, hashish smoke and spin dancing Sufis (plus many sweaty men and their accumulated body odor) fill the tiny tomb. Our small party sat on the marble floor on what appeared to be either the roof or just an open, upper platform to witness the drum and dance duo. It was intense! The drumming didn’t really ever appear to begin or end but instead rose and fell in waves that tumbled over one another – when you think it’s ending, it’s beginning or somewhere in the middle, and soon your lost in sounds, which I suppose may be the whole point. Then the Sufis begin to dance, a combination of stomping and swirling and spinning. One dancer had the unnerving ability to whirl his head in figure eights so fast that his face blurred into one solid streak of colour. He looked like the scream from Edvard Munch’s painting on a good day. Another dancer, with dreads down to the backs of his knees, cleared quite a large area by spinning in wide circles. I may have been dread whipped in this process.
There have been other dance opportunities – random dance parties in my classroom and with my girl’s fitness club, a proper Lahori zumba class, light up dance floor parties and Happy Feet playing on T.V.
See? The world is telling me to bust-a-move.
And last, the Art of Living course (http://www.artofliving.org/pk-en) I took the other week. This 6 day course is difficult to summarize but think of instruction in not how to live, but how to live well, and like all things that are done well, the art that goes with it. Yoga, pranayama (a Sanskrit word meaning ‘expansion of breath or life force’ ), meditation, relaxation, food and wellness to create not just people but communities that are happier, healthier and more connected to their inner selves. This involves letting go of judgements, egos, hardened beliefs and instead expanding our personal peace, which was described to me as the space between two thoughts. We, as humans, are most at peace when our minds are focused on the present moment rather than the past or future. And though this is hardly a new thought, it is a difficult one to apply consistently to your life.
But back to the dancing! A part of the Art of Living is movement, and in particular, uninhibited movement to music. I loved this. From Michael Jackson to Bollywood, we started each session with a dance party designed to seriously let loose. There were grannies in there shaking their hips and behinds like they were 50 years younger! And the most straight laced looking of gentlemen who would suddenly burst into wild pelvic thrusting and mosh pit style thrashing! It was exhilarating to see people let go and move without social constraints. As soon as you release the worry about how others will perceive you, the thinking stops and then the dancing can start. I have no qualms about looking, what I’m sure was like a class A idiot and (as my sister likes to call it) “getting my stank face on”. It happens when I dance, along with looking like a spastic chicken, and I’m o.k with it because it feels good!
On the last day of this course, because it was the 100th Art of Living course the instructor had taught, there was a surprise bhangra dance party. This involved drummers randomly entering the hall with their furious beats, throwing rose petals and waving rupee bills in ceremonious circles. We instantly started the bhangra – or everyone else did and I kept doing my spastic chicken. The guy beside me made it his responsibility to teach me the proper moves, and soon I was wagging my shoulders and pointing my fingers in the air like the awkward white woman I am. It was great. “We live in the craziest city in the world!” was the cry of excitement that rang out over the drums and bhangra beats. I agreed but for once it was the ‘good’ kind of crazy rather than the other kind of crazy that Pakistan sometime embodies.
So world, let’s get our dance on.