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Deal with Emotional Pain

Embodying Joy Through Mindful Dancing

Dancing Benefits

I talk a great deal about bringing mindfulness towards painful experiences and emotional states. I am getting better at doing this. But having been through loss in all forms over the past few years, I didn’t open myself up to feeling true joy when the opportunities presented themselves. The only times I’d felt joy were when I spent time with my nephews and during vacation. But during these instances, I wasn’t allowing myself to feel this emotion to its fullest extent because I had been in states of fight, flight and freeze for far too long. I got used to dealing with many emotionally traumatic and trying times; that joy wasn’t allowed because, God forbid, it would be taken away from me at any moment.

What good is my life if I let myself be present with and feel all the unpleasant emotions, except for the pleasant ones? I found it interesting that I didn’t want to go there. It sounds counterintuitive, I know.

So a few months ago, I made it a personal goal to immerse myself in the state of joy, every day deliberately.


Freestyle dancing.

I do not engage in traditional mindful movement methods like yoga, Pilates, tai chi, etc. The rebel in me will inevitably want to do her own thing.

I do notice, however, that my body delightfully responds to Spanish music. I can often be caught in my jammies in the wee hours of the morning, or any time during the day, moving my body to the likes of Reggaeton, Salsa and Bachata. And when I need a big energy boost and mood uplift? I dance to the songs of the man I wish was my boyfriend, “Romeo Santos,” also known as The King of Bachata. This man’s voice and music light me up in a way no one and nothing else can. Whenever I’ve felt depressed and remembered that listening to music was an option to improving my mood, Romeo Santos’ voice often did the trick of pulling me out of a funk. I can’t say he cured my depression, but his music functioned much like an anti-depressant, which says a lot about his music’s impact on me.

Most days of the week, for half an hour or more, I move to the music paying attention to the beats, the rhythm, the different instruments, the bass, treble, the pitch, tone and pace of the singer’s voice, all while noticing how my body responds. I take notice of my heartbeat rising, my body warming up, my face getting flushed, the damp feel of sweat at the nape of my neck, and when I start feeling the chronic pain kick up as it often does, I simply invite it to be there. Much to my surprise, I am startled that I have come to the point where pain and joy can co-mingle within my body, mind, heart, and soul. Of course, the endorphins are released as well, so that helps.

I have to confess that I get pulled into hot fantasies of Romeo Santos and I dancing sensual bachata together. I am not obsessed with him. LOL. (But seriously, Romeo Santos, in the craziest off chance that you come across this post, I love you, and I am so grateful I got to see you at the Golden Tour concert in Toronto, 2018).

Wait, where was I?

Oh yes!

In those moments when I notice my tendencies to escape into fantasyland, I bring myself back into the present, listening to his voice, feeling my hips groove to the music, and feel the way my feet move on the floor, lightly, slowly etc. When I am in this state, I am fully aware of how much I find this music healing to my soul, how much I shamelessly lip-sync to Spanish words I don’t know (and need to learn, like, yesterday), how joy swells in my heart, and how lucky I am to be alive.

It is such a relief to be out of my head as well. All the worries disappear, my fears can kiss my ass, sadness melts away, and I am in a state of pure bliss.

And no, I never feel silly or self-conscious about dancing alone or around people at all hours of the day with or without music!

I am learning to appreciate all the pleasant emotions in their full (and fleeting) intensity in other situations. For now, freestyle dancing is my way of mindfully embodying joy, fully being vulnerable to it and appreciating it when it is present. It is no longer muted or in the distant background, but rather, its volume is turned up on full blast; in the same way, I enjoy listening to my favourite tunes.

So tell me, what brings you joy?

What physical activity could you engage in (non-addictive, harmless to self and others) that would help you embody joy?
What music puts you in a good mood and uplifts your soul?

I’d love to hear from you.