A time to mourn, and a time to dance. ECCLESIASTES 3:4 ESV
The room sat full of people busily drinking their specialty coffees and eating delicious food. Off to the side, a duo played violins. The mood rang festive as smiles and laughter dotted life’s canvas with delight. That’s when I saw her. A young girl, not more than four. She danced in the middle of the room, never wasting a move. Every beat. Every tune. Every chorus. She just kept dancing, oblivious to the hustle, bustle, and activities all around her. Her parents sat off to the side, smiling whenever she looked their way. Watching her made me want to dance too. I’m sure it made a lot of us want to. But, sigh, we adults drank our coffees and stayed put.
We can learn a lot from kids. Did you know that dancing can be a form of emotional healing? Dancing falls into a category known as “somatic therapy.” Somatic therapy seeks to work stuck energy through your body to release it. You do this in a variety of ways like dancing, running cold water through your hands, jumping, stretching, or holding your breath for a number of seconds and then letting it out. Anything that helps you focus on movement in your body can help your emotions move through you.
If you’ve ever seen a wildlife documentary where they used a stun gun to temporarily immobilize a dangerous animal in order to tag or treat them, you’ll recall the animal shaking when it wakes up. They shake their legs, head, and entire body. This is because the adrenaline once coursing through their body during the chase became stuck during immobilization. Stuck adrenaline needs somewhere to go. If too much of it remains in a body, it becomes harmful. Thus, the animal shakes itself to release it.
This is where we get our phrase “shake it off.” You’ve probably heard that phrase at least once when you experienced a difﬁculty or even a small injury. It’s actually a biologically accurate statement. To shake—dance—shufﬂe and essentially work with your body is to move stuck emotions and chemicals through you so they don’t accumulate, creating harm.
In fact, our word “emotion” comes from the Latin word emovere. This literally means “to move out” or “to move through.” Emotions were never intended to become stuck. Like water standing stagnant, you’ll develop emotional fungus and bacteria if you don’t accept them and move them through. Emotional bacteria manifests as bitterness, fear, shame, blame, doubt, and more. Ecclesiastes 3:4 lists dancing directly after mourning. That’s deep wisdom. Movement heals. A sedentary lifestyle can lend itself to increased emotional stress. Intentional movement helps replace grief with peace and presence. Whether it’s a hike or a jig, it’s important to intentionally move your body as you work through emotional healing.
Jesus, inspire and empower me to dance more. Amen.
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