This is the official beginning of The Ananda Project wherein I will explore 12 different paths to bliss over the twelve months of 2012, and this January I have decided to DANCE. There wasn't a lot of dancing in my house when I was growing up, although I wouldn't say there was no dancing.   Music and athletics were my parents' main inspirations, so I did dance but minimally, and never in a class or in any formal way.  I think some part of me wanted to dance more, but now I long to dance.

This awakened in me most after the birth of my son in 2004.  After a good many years of enjoying, abusing, and taking for granted the health and strength of an active body I experienced the stress of pregnancy weight gain, some emotional trauma, and finally an emergency cesarean which left me in an unbearable amount of physical discomfort.

There are women who weather a pregnancy easily and bounce back immediately--and then there are the rest of us.

My body was a house of pain.  I felt as if I'd been split in half.  Split Open, a song I wrote in 2002, seemed to be a prophecy come true.  In my eyes a web of pink scars across my foreign belly and a mutilated midriff remained in place of a once smooth palette.  I couldn't bend or touch there without a stab of regret and shame.

And then, the most unlikely thing happened.  I signed up for a free jazzercise class.

I know, you are probably all , WTF Heidi!, but they had childcare and they were the only ones in town with that necessity.   I have to tell you that first day sweating it out and shaking it to Britney Spears' "toxic" I literally broke down and cried with joy.  All the tension and numbness and swelling and hurting down to the nuclei in my cells came pouring out of me in that goddamn step ball change grapevine combo.

You see, my body was a stranger to me.  I couldn't stand being inside of it, let alone connect with it.  Movement was painful, and to add insult to injury, I was supposed to feel blessed and happy.  I couldn't feel that if I paid attention to the pain so I tried not to pay attention.  I was disconnected and felt an emptiness in my center that was both physical and emotional.

Jazzercise may seem cheesy to you, but that day it was pure enlightenment.  I felt my body come alive again and with it my soul awoke tiny bits at a time.

This is the gift of dance, that we can live wholly in our bodies and awaken the soul.  Dance heals.  Dance enlightens.  Dance is ecstasy.

I dare you not to be inspired by this:


and this: [youtube]

Stay tuned while I explore different dance experiences this month, the first of which is pole dancing.  What is your relationship to dance?  How do you practice it and can you share your most memorable dance experience?  Feel free to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.