I woke up in the wee hours yesterday morning to the sound of gusting wind, crystallizing my plans for the day. The coastal arteries (US 101 and the Amtrak line) run on the seaward edge of Montecito. The tongues of the Thomas Fire had been licking its edges for the last week, and some of the fire team had predicted that if the winds ramped back up to 60 mph gust, the fire would burn all the way to the coast.
Not wanting to go three weeks without dancing, I resolved to reverse course and spend the day down in Westwood, where Ecstatic Dance was beginning its year-end celebration at 3 PM.
The day built through sublime moments. I always enjoy services at the University Catholic Center – the minds and hearts of college students are receptive. They were on holiday break, of course, but behind the fount a toddler delivered a joyous sermon of discovery throughout the mass.
At the Getty Center, a difficult moment: standing before four of Boticelli’s renderings of the Crucifixion, the woman next to me caught sight of my Love Returns logo and thought “Who is this man?” The passionate grief of that experience threatened to submerge me.
But the signature for the day was proclaimed by Ataseia at Ecstatic Dance. For the yoga warm-up, the foam puzzle mat had been set up in the middle of the floor. As the room filled up, Ataseia began to encourage us to join him there. Seeing people with rolled-up mats standing against the walls, he became more direct. “Really, people, I don’t need all this space for myself!” I was stretching my hamstrings, but heard feet padding onto the foam. Ataseia, famously gay, proclaimed, “Here come my goddesses!”
I haven’t been down to Ecstatic Dance LA since the Trump election. In that era, the ladies were young and timorous, and the crowd was smaller.
The dance was packed yesterday, which forced me into some restraint. That may have had some influence, but…something else was at work in the community.
As is typically for these events, the ladies outnumbered the men about three to one. They didn’t seem to care. They flaunted their sensuality for each other. When a man floated by, the ladies flirted, but didn’t get catty about it.
I didn’t recognize the change until about the midpoint of the celebration. When the energy begins to spin a little into the dirty, I’ll stop and raise my palm to the ceiling, focusing and projecting good will into the celebration. After a longish spell of such, I opened my eyes to start dancing again, and found a woman standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me, eyes closed in concentration.
That was novel.
So I went back into that space and enjoyed the feeling of sharing it with her. We danced a little together, and then floated off. She found another woman and starting dancing side-by-side with her.
The boys did get wild on occasion. For most of the celebration, the women held the center of the floor, but as I made my way through, my friend Adam confronted me. We began winding it up, leaping and lunging around each other, and the floor cleared a little. I was tired at that point, and didn’t last long, but by the time I wandered off, he had absorbed a couple of other men. When they were four, I couldn’t resist, and rushed back into the scrum. The floor opened up, a circle about fifteen feet across, and we went into Jedi mode, spinning and lunging, avoiding collision and injury only because we were one body. The ladies turned toward us, swaying, some coupled with arms around waists, smiling.
I was reduced to crawling across the floor to collapse on the pads in front of the altar.
Most important to me, however, was that the first meditative connection wasn’t the only time I found a woman creating space for me during the dance. Again and again I found myself connecting with a lady who just decided to hold her space while I moved through it.
The last experience was at the very end. A statuesque woman, showing a dancer’s tone and outrageous orange hair, confronted me solemnly from ten feet away. I had skipped past her several times, and she made it clear that she was ready to engage, slowly raising her hands above her head.
We began without contact, simply clearing the ether. Goddess or not, all woman I encounter have wounded hearts, and I ended up with my right palm hovering over the top of her breastbone. My left hand gently activated the upper three chakras. Her eyes were closed in concentration, but as I lowered them, they opened with a gentle smile.
I stepped in and whispered “Yes, you are beautiful. Believe in yourself.”
Dropping to my right knee reverentially, my palms hovered over her feet, and then my fingertips pressed into the floor, grounding her into the earth. Looking up to see how she was responding, I was rewarded by the most regal of attitudes.
I stood and we embraced. I felt her looking into my heart sympathetically, and I allowed myself to collapse against her. Eventually we knelt on the floor, ears pressed together, one arm over and one arm under; then switching to the other side. As we melted together, her forearms and palms glided slowly and tenderly over the perspiration on my back.
For the first time in my life I felt that in the presence of a woman neither she nor I had anything to prove. I was something infinitely precious. To be molded by her was a joy.