Challenging the ‘Voice of Reason’ Within

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Feeling like the Voice of Reason has built huge structures within me and is shooting down beauty, spirituality, and grace. I can’t imagine connecting to devotion because I’m running, looking for shelter. But there is no shelter within because my land has been occupied.

This is what the Voice of Reason is telling me:
Dance is not important. Doesn’t change the world. It’s extracurricular. It’s selfish, being there on stage seeking everyone’s attention.
Bharata Natyam is not relevant. It’s outdated. You have nothing to contribute. Your desire to dance is a foolish dream. Wake up to reality.

All I can say in response to the Voice of Reason is that “I don’t like you!” Because the Voice of Reason speaks with authority and finality, it’s hard to ignore. But maybe I should rename it the Voice of Smashing Down, the Dreams Terminator, the Hater and Subjugator. When and how did I allow this Voice to take over so much of my territory? This is how I think of it. That Voice is not me. I’m in a constant battle against it. Yet isn’t that it’s victory, that I engage in the fight at all!

Considering my inner battlefield, no wonder it’s a struggle to find an incentive to dance. The spiritual feeling, the deep devotion, the soothing rhythms, the bone-deep exhaustion, all feel like a distant far-off dream. Another lifetime.

Part of the problem, I think, is that dance has been so merged with performing that the two have become synonymous. The goal of Bharata Natyam is to perform. To share in front of others. I’m contemplating the difference between professional dancing and devotional dancing. If dance was a ritual dance done for the pleasure of the Lord, where has that aspect of it gone? Yes, I do believe God is present everywhere and able to look trough the eyes of the audience. Still, dancing on a stage for people is no longer the simple act of devotion that dance may have once been. Of course, I’m not sure what it was in the past. It’s all too easy to glorify and deify a “golden past” and dismiss the complexity that was present even then, when the Temple girls danced in the rituals of worship. Truly, I’m not one to have nostalgia for a glorious past; life on earth has always been complicated (just read a few pages of Ramayana or Mahabharata!). Nevertheless, I wonder: what does it mean to dance for God, for the Divine, to use dance as a form of worship?

It could just be me (or the Voice of Reason!), but I feel that a stage-performance isn’t simply worship; it’s also a spectacle, a show, a performance. Yes, I have been deeply moved by stage-performances, and they can be incredibly deep and powerful. Still I wonder where the line is, if there is a line, between being a professional dancer and a dancing servant of the Lord?

I don’t know if my question is clear, or if I’m entirely sure what I’m even asking here. But I remember recently, Anapayini, a dancer I love a lot, enacting a prayer to Nrishingadev at the Alachua Krishna temple. Somehow it was in between other activities and there was a lot of chaos in the temple-room with people standing around and talking. I myself walked in about half-way through but was immediately captivated. Unmindful of the chaos around her, Ani’s focus was on the altar, on offering her dance to Nrishingadev. She chose not to let peoples’ talking disrupt her dance-prayer. She wasn’t dancing for any of us, but for the Lord. It was incredibly sweet and beautiful. I felt like I was privy to an intimate prayer which wasn’t really meant for my eyes but that I got to see anyway. That, to me, was an example of dancing for God alone, an aspect of dance that is otherwise absent.

Hm, how did I go from my battle with the Voice of Reason to philosophizing on dance? From one type of reasoning to another!

I better just get out of my head and get up and DANCE right now! As one of my friends used to say, just shut up and DANCE!

I imagine that I’m looking across this pond and dancing to the sunrise, just me, nature and the rising sun.

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