I’ve always loved dancing.
I was fascinated by how the body would slow down to the rhythm of the music and steadily speed up. Dance is the only art form where the body becomes your own instrument.
I could dance until my pain, anger and stress went away. Dancing allowed me to be free.
But dancing with another person was magical. My childhood eyes were lured into couples dancing on TV, their bodies moving together effortlessly like perfect harmony. Salsa dancing was my favorite. It was a dance that spread infectious happiness to others.
I often go to social dancing venues. It’s where someone asks you to dance and you follow their lead. It’s completely improvised, and it scares a lot of people because there is no dance routine. You just have to listen to the music and follow your dance partner.
The only thing you need to know are the basic steps. With salsa, you have to know when your partner signals you to turn, or to step in front, sideways or backwards, and even which direction to turn.
You have to pay close attention to the other person, and feel the music. Because otherwise you’ll end up falling flat on your face.
But there was one night of salsa dancing that changed me. It taught me an important life lesson — to surrender.
My partner held my neck and wanted me to lean back as far as I could. At first, I was incredibly worried that I would break my neck.
But then, I decided to release all the tension in my body so that my partner would find it easier to lead.
I let the music take over.
I learned to surrender.
Once I stopped worrying, my body started to flow impeccably to the music.
I could close my eyes and immediately know when my partner would take me next. Instead of trying to dance, I had become the dance.
It was the first time that my dance partner told me that I didn’t miss a single step. I had followed all the moves perfectly.
When I was able to surrender to the music, everything flowed effortlessly.
And I felt at one with everything — the steps, the music, the rhythm, my dance partner, the floor, the space, even with time.
This simple yet important lesson I learned from dancing can be applied to life.
The Concept Of Wu Wei, or Effortless Action
In Daoism, this effortless flow which I’ve experienced is called wu wei. This literally translates to ‘non-action’ or ‘non-resistance’. It is a state of mind in which Daoists use to approach life. They believe that everything in the universe has their own natural course, and if unimpeded, can lead to flourishing.
Effortless action or ‘actionless action’ is a method that many athletes and artists use for peak performance.
In today’s society, we often want to control things, so we use force or unnecessary effort to achieve things we want. But when we try to interfere with the natural course of life, we find that we are unhappier, more stressed and desperate. For instance, when you force a key into a lock, you’re either going to break the lock or the key.
The concept of wu wei is often compared to a stream of a river. We shouldn’t swim against the current, but allow ourselves to move in the direction it is flowing.
By releasing control or tension, we will be freer, and happier. And we will perform better.
A great athlete can enter this state of body awareness in which the right movement or stroke happens by itself, effortlessly. In this state of flow, the dancer becomes the dance, the musician becomes the music. The doer effortlessly vanishes into the deed.
Great athletes and dancers trust the intelligence of the body, and become at one with the universe. By allowing their body to magically flow is when they perform beautifully.
When you catch yourself trying to control certain situations, try to stop.
It is when you surrender to the universe that miracles happen.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. — Lao Tzu