You are the dance
Once upon a time, as part of my work, I visited a very old Irish woman called Harriette. After admiring the incredible view from her lounge room which overlooked tall gum trees and included glimpses of a river, I did as she bid and sat opposite her in a chair that had seen better days but also had a welcoming feel about it. After chitchat about the weather, and wanting to go deeper, I asked, ‘So, Harriette, what have you done in your life?’
I expected stories about growing up in Ireland, the experience of migrating to Australia with her husband, or perhaps she’d talk about her two sons. She did none of these. Looking as alert as a sparrow she took me deeper than I expected to go. She said, in her lilting Irish accent, ‘I didn’t do things in my life. Life did things with me.’
I sat there, wordless, as the depth contained in that statement settled on me like the warm knitted blanket she had on her lap. She smiled, knowing she’d stopped me in my workaday tracks and taken me to a new view of life. At that point I realised I wasn’t sent to help her. She didn’t need my help. I was sent so she could help me.
Eckhart Tolle has written something similar to what Harriette said, but I doubt she’d read any of his books. With Irish canniness she’d figured it out by herself. In his book, Oneness With All Life, Tolle stated:
There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance.
Before I visited Harriette, I thought that I lived my life. I am the dancer, and I create the dance by what I choose to do or say or be. But Harriette and Tolle disagree.
That short visit with Harriette changed me. As I drove back to the office, her words rang in my head, clear and true. It dissolved my usual urgency to make things happen and uprooted my tendency to grab Life by the throat and make it do what I think it should.
I’m not the driving force. Life is. Life expresses itself through me.
Over the next few weeks I teased out the meaning behind Harriette’s words. Her approach expressed a willingness to participate in something grander than her little self, to relinquish control of everything. She put her heart and soul into whatever Life chose to present to her. I know she rode horses growing up, then she got on a boat with her husband and rode the seas to Australia. Children sprang from her body. Words fell from her lips. Her hands worked on bread dough and soil. I’m sure she made decisions, drew the line at some things and turned her back on other things, but all along she was aware that she was – elementally – an expression of Life. And she was at-one with Life. She accepted it. She didn’t fight it. She worked with it.
Harriette was a physical expression of Oneness in the world, a living lesson for us all.
My visit with Harriette reminded me that I have a choice. I can either allow Life to experience and express itself through me, or I can battle on, never sure what’s going to happen next, but ready to buck it if it’s not what I want. Harriette took the easier path. She aligned herself with the most powerful energy that exists – Life.
At our deepest level we’re already aligned with it because that’s what we are – a physical expression of Life. We are Life made visible. When we act from that source, Life dances exquisitely through us.
It’s up to us how Life dances through us. When we try to stop the natural flow of Life and listen to the endless and inanely repetitive protests from our petty, egoic mind, our steps become awkward, tangled, clumsy, blockish. We figuratively tread on people’s toes, bump into others, or fall right off the stage. When we allow Life to direct the dance we perform, it is more graceful, more giving and more peaceful than any steps we could come up with ourselves.
Be like Harriette. Let Life through in all its beauty.
Let Life express the best possible you.
When I recall Harriette’s face, I recall joy.
With love, Marlane
First published in themindfulword.org