Of course, this is integral to the wisdom of indigenous people everywhere to pray by dancing, to pray with one’s feet.
– Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men
People who habitually go barefoot and expose their bodies to the sun, as they do in many parts of Asia and Africa, have an intuitive awareness of the powers, the sakti in Hindu terms, in the earth, in the air, in the water and in the fire of the sun. They experience those forces of nature acting upon them and have an instinctive knowledge of the powers of nature… The idea of ‘thinking with the blood’ is not an illusion. There is a very profound self-awareness at this deepest level of our being.
– Father Bede Griffiths, The Marriage of East and West
The Minotaur is Dionysus, the Greek God of Ecstasy. If you deny yourself joy, eroticism, love, all his delicious intoxicating gifts that life worth living, he’ll drive you mad. But if you embrace him, you get a life filled with pleasure and grace. The greatest tragedy of this culture is that we’ve lost our ability to honor what he offers… All our sad substitutes for real joy – all the addictions to alcohol and drugs, the materialism, those inside traders in the stock market, the bed-hopping for the initial rush of conquest or romantic love – none of it fills the hole.
– Phyllis Curott, The Love Spell
I will not fear to feel.
Those words concluded a piece I wrote many years ago, reveling in my own sensual defiance of conventionality. The piece was featured in my essay “Barefoot in the Soul” (yes, pun intended), published in the 2003 collection POP! Goes the Witch. Since then, I’ve gone back and forth with that sentiment, sometimes embracing it full-tilt, other times toning things down and sheltering myself (and my loved ones) against its extremes. Now, as spring emerges slowly from winter once again, I find myself reaching back toward the fearless end of the spectrum again.
Not long ago, as my partner Damiana and I left the ecstatic dance group we’d just returned to after all-too-long an absence, she began to put her shoes back on… and then she stopped. “Yay,” she proclaimed, “time to go barefoot again!” Agreed. Although I’ve been known to do so at all times of the year, it’s certainly more comfortable and understandable to lose the shoes once warm weather returns.
That said, life’s not always about comfort, really. Sometimes, the true test of living is to go beyond comfort, to extend defiance to those places where rough patches and broken glass (figurative and real) exist. It’s challenging, though, and often not in the wheee-fun sense of the word. Fear of real and imaginary traps – social ones, physical ones, perils inside, injuries beyond – plague us all too often. Not unreasonably, we draw back and protect ourselves from judgment and hurt.
In doing so, however, we rob ourselves of courage. Grace. Awareness. We stop “thinking with the blood” and let our heads – or worse yet, other people – do our thinking for us instead.
I reject that notion. Within reason, I strive to go beyond fear – to feel.
Which is why I love to dance, to go barefoot, to share those things – and more – with my Beloved and my friends, and with the audience I’ll never truly meet. I love to turn fear back upon itself and inspire other folks to do the same. I love to feel something, even when that feeling is pain. Because raw skin and aching muscles seem better than passivity.
That’s also why I find it all so sexy – defiance, sensuality, bare feet and hints of madness. Daring adds vitality to the constant dance of life.
It’s another cold day in Seattle today. Another day in which I’m sitting behind a screen rather than dancing across the rough concrete. That said, I feel a bit more awake right now, simply because my partner and I shook off our fears and returned to the dance of ecstasy.
May we all “think with the blood.” May we all, more often, dance. May we all embrace a bit of madness and dare, again, to feel.
Because when life’s confined to softness and protection, it’s not really living anymore.