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10 things you might know about love by Barbara Fredrickson

1. It can be hard to talk about love in scientific terms because people have strong pre-existing ideas about it.
The vision of love that emerges from the latest science requires a radical shift. I learned that I need to ask people to step back from their current views of love long enough to consider it from a different perspective: their body’s perspective. Love is not romance. It’s not sexual desire. It’s not even that special bond you feel with family or significant others.

And perhaps most challenging of all, love is neither lasting nor unconditional. The radical shift we need to make is this: Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.

2. Love is not exclusive.
We tend to think of love in the same breath as loved ones. When you take these to be only your innermost circle of family and friends, you inadvertently and severely constrain your opportunities for health, growth and well-being.

In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone — whether your soul mate or a stranger. So long as you feel safe and can forge the right kind of connection, the conditions for experiencing the emotion of love are in place.

3. Love doesn’t belong to one person.
We tend to think of emotions as private events, confined to one person’s mind and skin. Upgrading our view of love defies this logic. Evidence suggests that when you really “click” with someone else, a discernible yet momentary synchrony emerges between the two of you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror one another in a pattern I call positivity resonance. Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.

4. Making eye contact is a key gateway for love.
Your body has the built-in ability to “catch” the emotions of those around you, making your prospects for love — defined as micro-moments of positivity resonance — nearly limitless. As hopeful as this sounds, I also learned that you can thwart this natural ability if you don’t make eye contact with the other person. Meeting eyes is a key gatekeeper to neural synchrony.

5. Love fortifies the connection between your brain and your heart, making you healthier.

Decades of research show that people who are more socially connected live longer and healthier lives. Yet precisely how social ties affect health has remained one of the great mysteries of science.

My research team and I recently learned that when we randomly assign one group of people to learn ways to create more micro-moments of love in daily live, we lastingly improve the function of the vagus nerve, a key conduit that connects your brain to your heart. This discovery provides a new window into how micro-moments of love serve as nutrients for your health.

6. Your immune cells reflect your past experiences of love.
Too often, you get the message that your future prospects hinge on your DNA. Yet the ways that your genes get expressed at the cellular level depends mightily on many factors, including whether you consider yourself to be socially connected or chronically lonely.

My team is now investigating the cellular effects of love, testing whether people who build more micro-moments of love in daily life also build healthier immune cells.

7. Small emotional moments can have disproportionately large biological effects.
It can seem surprising that an experience that lasts just a micro-moment can have any lasting effect on your health and longevity. Yet I learned that there’s an important feedback loop at work here, an upward spiral between your social and your physical well-being.

That is, your micro-moments of love not only make you healthier, but being healthier builds your capacity for love. Little by little, love begets love by improving your health. And health begets health by improving your capacity for love.

8. Don’t take a loving marriage for granted.
Writing this book has profoundly changed my personal view of love. I used to uphold love as that constant, steady force that all but defines my marriage. While that constant, steady force still exists, I now see our bond as a product of the many micro-moments of positivity resonance that my husband and I have shared over the years. This shakes me out of any complacency that tempts me to take our love for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day.

9. Love and compassion can be one and the same.
If we reimagine love as micro-moments of shared positivity, it can seem like love requires that you always feel happy. I learned that this isn’t true. You can experience a micro-moment of love even as you or the person with whom you connect suffers.

Love doesn’t require that you ignore or suppress negativity. It simply requires that some element of kindness, empathy or appreciation be added to the mix. Compassion is the form love takes when suffering occurs.

10. Simply upgrading your view of love changes your capacity for it.
The latest science offers new lenses through which to see your every interaction. The people I interviewed for the book shared incredibly moving stories about how they used micro-moments of connection to make dramatic turnarounds in their personal and work lives.

One of the most hopeful things I learned is that when people take just a minute or so each day to think about whether they felt connected and attuned to others, they initiate a cascade of benefits. And this is something you could start doing today, having learned even just this much more about how love works.

Finding Lasting Love on the Dance Floor? by Ken Martini

It is a common lament I hear about how hard it is to find lasting love in our dance community. After spending some time within our community, it’s quickly substantiated – singles prevail. Yet when I ask both men and woman in our community if they would like a long term relationship, the majority answer in the affirmative. If both men and women have similar interests, why don’t we have more happy couples? This is a deep subject, worthy of an entire book. With just these few hundred words, I will try to cover some substantial ground.

This article is not meant to value “long-term relationships” over “short-term relationships” . It is aimed at providing helpful information for those specifically seeking long-term relationships.

I read about the recent discovery of a gene that determines whether we are “family makers” or “heart breakers”. The heart breakers follow the short term inrush of sensation that new love brings. The quickened pulse, the restless energy, the loss of appetite. The chemistry of love. What we’re really talking about are the effects of Dopamine, Adrenaline, and Serotonin being released in the brain. The cycle lasts approximately 6 -14 months, and the body won’t sustain it for more than 18 months. So are these folks, the “heart breakers”, just drug addicts? Moving from relationship to relationship as the high wears off? Every few months the thrill seekers need to find a new juicy thing.

The “family makers” will embrace the second stage of the love chemistry. In the second stage, after the first few months of being awash in the fore mentioned drug cocktail, oxytocin is increased in men and serotonin levels increase in woman. Then, endorphins kick in. We feel a sense of wellbeing and love with this person. “Oxytocin is the foundation of romance. When oxytocin is released in the brain, passion and romance builds, stress is reduced, we become relaxed, and endorphins are released. For men, increased oxytocin levels lead to feelings of love. For women, their serotonin levels are elevated and sustained.”*

Well, so far this discussion may not seem very romantic, but understanding the chemistry is valuable. This kind of awareness does beg the self-reflective question, “Who am I, family maker or heart breaker?” Good thing to know. If you have a short attention span for relationship, then better to have that self-knowledge rather than pining for a long term relationship that you may not be suitably built for.

A long term relationship seeker’s investigation may sound a little different: “I know that I am a long termer, how can I determine the outcome with the person I am dating or about to date?” That is more of a history lesson. If this person has a long list of short term relationships, you can guess where that ship is heading. Of course it is easy to deceive oneself and say that the other person can change. You may feel the love is so strong that it has the power to alter old patterns. In fact those who have a history of short term relationships may often think that “this is the one”. It may not even be dishonest; even with contrary evidence, it still feels true. It is part of the self-deception mechanism that keeps the pattern going.

Chronic “heart breakers” may even invite you to believe in the potential of a long term relationship. Don’t be fooled. It is probably strategic on their part to offer hope – it’s not common for short term relationship people to say “I would love to have a relationship with you for 6 months.”

You’re probably thinking, “Who is this guy? He must be some cynical dude from New York!” Yeah, I am, but I have figured out a few things about relationships.
If you are a long termer by nature, and you find someone who is of the same persuasion, then here are a few things that might help.

People will really see and respond to things differently. You will see behaviors that you do not like, some that your partner is incapable, or unwilling to change. I call these the “non-negotiables”. Think long and hard whether you can live with them, because the relationship will not work unless you can accept them to a large degree.

Boundaries are typically a hot issue for dancers. One person’s boundaries may be intolerable to another. How does it feel when your partner is having an extended dance with that handsome/gorgeous other person? What is OK will vary among couples. A good deal of time should be spent sorting this out, and this is a good time to be really honest with yourself. In the beginning of my 18 year relationship we had a rule for 15 minute dance limit with other partners. This is what made us feel comfortable. After being together many years, that rule faded. A deeper trust has been established.

Get the topic out on the table. Find out what each person honestly needs to feel safe. If you cannot offer that safety to your partner, you may be in for a rough ride. Rules may vary to the degree that hot and swarmy dances are OK with another, just don’t take it off the dance floor (don’t meet that person elsewhere). It may mean don’t engage deeply with another at all. You both have to find your boundary comfort zones, agree to them, and honor them. In this way a safety container is formed.

150 years ago it was of paramount importance for a couple to stick together. Survival worked better as a team. Today, for the most part, people have love partners, not strategic alliances. Contemporary bonds of relationship can be rather thin as witnessed by the overwhelming amount of divorces. People could have more relationship success by spending time learning about relationships and, and understanding themselves, before entering one.

To draw an analogy, a man will spend many days in the process of buying a new car. He will read numerous reports, talk to friends, seek opinions, and take several test drives. When it comes to choosing a relationship, the discernment may dissolve into “at least she is willing to be with me”. That is a very desperate position to be in. How desperate are you in relationships? How much compromise are you willing to accept? If you are compromising yourself in a relationship, sooner or later it will blow up. Of course we have to compromise to some extent to be in relationship. It just depends on how much.

Coming from a position of self-awareness and confidence is always a good bet. Use your discipline and practices to find your center and authenticity. You will know when you are dancing from your core because you will embrace and be transported by the sublime energy that surrounds everything. This will attract many takers who will show up to try and get a taste of that nectar. This will also attract others who are operating from a strong core place and can meet you on the level you currently have evolved to. What is so beautiful about this is that it actually works. The level you are present on is the level you attract.

One more thought, from a male perspective. Kiss that frog. There are many really wonderful, but less confident men in the world. A good deal of the time they are in a self-reinforcing negative loop from being rejected early on. They may not have stellar social skills. Many women see these men as less attractive. Women, try reaching out to a man that you would not normally picture yourself with; you may be surprised to find a prince there, once he feels safe to come out.

You may want to look somewhere other than the dance floor for a long term relationship. However, I personally would stick to the dancers. These are some of the most interesting, creative, spiritually attuned and physically articulate people I have ever met.

Ken Martini

Finding Soul Through An Exploration of Shape in Space by Jim Matto Sheppard PhD

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As a somatic psychologist I have long understood that in the process of identity formation, clear, strong articulations of one’s core identity most often emerge within a regular practice that integrates mindfulness with physical and emotional movement.  But it wasn’t until I found Soul Motion© that I truly immersed full body into practice.  The “landscapes” and distinctions articulated by Soul Motion originator Vinn Marti and my teacher Zuza Engler offers a movement language that is simple, yet brings me into contact with the deeper energies that move through me and others.Through simple articulations of body shaping space, core questions emerge and are addressed.  What do I follow in my life and how does it show up on the floor?  What do I really want?  What is pleasurable in my body?  Am I following the truth of my destiny?All kinds of things show up — of course.  But through regular practice the person that I am, underneath all of the performing, presenting and pacifying, becomes increasingly articulated.  As my life increasingly inhabits my core being and expresses it heartfully, with purpose and clarity, I feel fulfilled and happy.What follows is an expression of my personal exploration through the Soul Motion landscapes.At the center of this dance is a deep and abiding, animal fight for aliveness — which includes the pain of knowing that this me will die — love, desperation, hope, grief, striving, surrendering.  The embodied truth of desperate longing, heart soaring hope and complete defeat.  Practicing the moves of holding myself in the face of the desire to dive into another.  Of loving others even as my heart breaks with impossible aloneness.  Body burning dance — burning away pain — leaving aware aliveness of the moment.A heart that has thrown back the covers, cast off the fetters, and wills itself to burst, knowing that by clenching unto life and surging toward the light, there is an inevitable falling back into the darkness.An Ego poised on the cross, humiliated and tortured, with questions about why I I have been forsaken, but willing to experience the exquisite gamble of prayed for ascension.  Longing, desire, holding, possessing, begging — knowing with the bitter surety of unwanted defeat that the prayer can only be answered in a way that the biggest part of me can never really understand.It is a leaping surrender from the highest cliffs of hope into the thin air of possibility, spreading my arms, my fingers, my body, not knowing or really believing that I will be held up.  Being surprised and delighted by the impossible moments of soaring flight.It is wanting to possess you, to have you, to devour you, a moment stolen from death.  Even in that moment knowing that death will take it back.  Somewhere, in the back of and just above my heart, the squeal of a small animal, as the mother snake, having struck, coils around and loves it to its final death.A dance of belonging.  And not belonging.  The pain of death alone, experienced in my psychic (and probably physical) body in such a way that I am ashamed of who I am.  The experience that every human feels being cast from the garden of innocence.  The shame of a mother (mine) that was alone and afraid and just trying to make her way herself, without enough time or love for me.  Not as much as I needed anyway.  Or maybe there is never enough, really.  And this dance is the dance of acknowledging that.A child with broken heart.  A small boy at bat, every ounce of energy fixed on hitting the the impossibly fast-pitched ball.  A teenager ill-prepared to find the physical and emotional love that his body longs for.  An older man, sculpting moments that can matter, all too often missing their sweetness in the efforting toward a good enough performance.Opening my throat, my body — to the hopeless, grief-filled effulgent ROAR — the sound of life overflowing its boundaries and staking its claim.Feeling the perfect and exquisite pain of wanting without possession.  In that, the sacrifice for family, for love, for rightness, for brotherhood, fatherhood, knighthood.  Romeo and Juliet.  Victory.  Crushing defeat.  Life. Death.Tender acknowledgement of mutually shared pain.  Animal longing contained by caring.  Holding you carefully.  Not quite letting myself feel the barely covered sexual intensitA surrender into the play of life, for the entertainment of the Gods.  Good enough to be the player… just to be seen by eternity.Striking with a red hot iron to burn my brand on what is mine.  Only to discover that it is my hide that cooks in the fire and bears the marks of ownership.Not too much of the civilized slow practiced circling, bowing and curtsying. But surprised toothy grinning forming behind sneers of determined fighting.Aliveness.Animal play, cavorting, running, turning back, biting, holding, surrendering, laughing, crying, the last lustful leap for the throat of ecstasy.Heart breaking with the inevitably not quite perfect play of souls in motion.The pecking at the shell and final push into the cardboard container of life, and the ultimate surrender — boiling in the pot to create a stock to nourish…Everything expressed, nothing more arising, completely letting go, redemption.Nothing left to lose.  Nothing more to gain.  Just this.  This breath.  This ground.  This shifting of weight.  This touch.  This step into now.Jim Matto-Shepard ©12/12

Jim Matto-Shepard, PhD is a somatic psychologist in private practice in Petaluma, CA.  He is in the Soul Motion teacher certification program.  He and his wife Felicia Matto-Shepard lead “Erotic Partnership” retreats in Northern California and Mexico.  (

Sexy on the Dance Floor – by Tim Hartnett Ph.D
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 There is a freedom I feel on the dance floor that I find nowhere else. I can dance my own dance, or invite connections with others. When I want to part, I can simply dance away. When I want to dance sexy, I am free to express myself.
I think we all value this freedom, however we may choose to use it. And we cultivate this freedom together, by the way we approach ecstatic dancing, and by the way we treat each other. We have the power to help make each other feel ecstatically free, but we can also act in ways that leave others feeling unsafe and less free. We, as dancers, create the culture we dance in. So how are we doing?I have had the honor of co-leading large group discussions on sexuality and dance for the last five years at NCDC summer dance camp. There are some common themes that often emerge in these discussions. Among them is both deep gratitude for and deep fear of the freedom to express sexual feelings in dance.The gratitude is understandable, since sex is so widely shamed in our society. Open acceptance of sexual expression can feel very liberating. The fears are also very understandable. When our normal cultural rules about expressing sexuality are altered, what boundaries remain to protect us from sexual advances we do not want? And how might my dance floor behavior mislead others about what I am available for off the dance floor?Honestly talking about these dynamics has been profoundly helpful to many of the dancers at summer camp. And the boogies afterward have benefitted from the increased clarity and insight the discussions help surface. The dancing simultaneously feels juicier and safer. Such is the power of speaking from our hearts and really listening to each other.There are two particular points that always strike a strong resonance. One is that we all feel safer when we all practice great sensitivity toward each other. If you want to connect with another dancer, or move a dance you are sharing into a sexier realm, you must attend carefully to the response you receive to any invitation you offer. What does the other person’s movement tell you about whether your initiative is welcome or not? When we all pay close attention to each other, we can all trust more deeply that the boundaries we spontaneously communicate in our dance will be respected. If we cultivate this trust throughout the dance floor, the whole room can open up. Conversely, when dancers feel they must protect themselves from repeated unwanted advances, the sense of freedom is lost.And secondly, many people express how their sense of freedom is enhanced by the simple phrase, “What happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor.”  By establishing a boundary between the dance floor and the rest of life, the possibilities for connection on the dance floor are enhanced. “Just because I dance sexy with you, doesn’t mean I want to actually f***  you!” is a common refrain. This can be a confusing distinction for those new to ecstatic dance. But understanding this boundary allows dancers the freedom to experience connections that would not happen if the participants were obligated follow up after the dance.There have been many other insightful points from these discussions on sexuality and dance. Too many to cover here. But they all are consistent with the message of the two points above. The more we respect each other’s boundaries, the greater the freedom we all feel to experience expansive and truly ecstatic dance.Tim Hartnett, PhD is author of Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making (2011, New Society Publishers). Tim is a dancer, therapist, and facilitator in Santa Cruz. You can connect with him on the dance floor, but don’t expect him to go home with you.Tim Hartnett
What Happens on the Dance Floor Stays on the Dance Floor by Lisa Wells

The freedom that arises from ‘what happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor’ is phenomenal. It has allowed me to safely explore my sexual expression on the dance floor while remaining in integrity with my monogamous marriage. By being clear with my partner about that boundary, he trusts me on the dance floor and knows that this is a way to enhance our relationship. He occasionally joins me in dance, but is not as strongly drawn to dance as a form of ecstatic expression as I am. When we are on the dance floor together, we both have the same freedom. We dance together and with everyone else. Our commitment to being honest with each other means that we can trust each other to ‘keep it on the dance floor.

I have also had experiences of being stalked on the dance floor. I had to learn to say no clearly out loud as well as with my body language. I appreciate when dancers safely hold the space for each other and serve as a buffer when a ‘stalker’ (or someone who doesn’t understand the decorum of the dance floor) abuses the freedom we have created for each other. I also appreciate strong leaders who will step up if needed to keep the space safe, both sexually and physically.

Lisa Wells Feb 4-2012

How do I enter the dance? Nicki Koethner MA, MFT by Nicki-Koethner

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 Dance is fun. Movement frees. Dance is ecstasy. Movement is bliss. While all of this is true, there is so much more “stuff” that comes up when we move our bodies and enter a new community.  It is a journey that reflects our state of mind and brings forth what is most current in us.  It shows us what brings us joy and also reflects our vulnerabilities and insecurities.  Sometimes the music is exactly what we need and our bodies move automatically to the rhythms, bringing us into a different state of being. Other times it leaves us cold, doesn’t move our bones, and leaves us feeling discontented and unable to find the right grove to move out of our habitual reactions and thoughts.
Dancing with others brings up all the issues we encounter in relationships with others and ourselves – whether we are dancing or not. It is a mirror from which we can learn   about ourselves and what is true about us in the moment.  At times the right synergy moves us freely with each other, enjoying the dance. We’re not thinking much about how we look, but communicating non-verbally with each other, saying hi and good-bye at the right moments without much thought.  The contact moves us, unfolds, ebbs and flows. We are allowing ourselves to be in the moment of this connection without a plan or an agenda. We follow the impulses of our bodies in response to the movements of other(s).Yet, at other times we experience the fear of rejection, of not knowing how to leave or enter a dance. We have feelings of awkwardness, of not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. We feel we are being invaded or not invited. Stories of our unworthiness and inadequacies can get ignited.  Body image issues, boundaries – as we expand them or assert them- often influence our enjoyment of moving and leave us confused or feeling inadequate.When I first went to Dance Jam, which is now called Dance Journey in Berkeley, I had just finished my graduate studies in Expressive Arts Therapy at CIIS. I was excited to move my body, watch others dance, and experience the elation I felt after an evening of moving around just as I pleased. Waking up the next morning I could feel how my energy field had expanded.  I felt lighter and more open, and my senses were intensified.  I was ecstatic and also slightly bruised after having my first contact dance on the floor. I had engaged whole-heartedly without knowing what I was doing, even while wondering if I was doing it ‘right’.I felt the excitement of experiencing firsthand what I had learned about the healing powers of the arts and free expression without concern about technique or how it looked. I wanted all my friends and colleagues to come and experience it too.  This was theory moved into practice, which has been highly valued in my education and experience.  I enjoyed dancing regularly, often with the expectation of experiencing my initial excitement and the sense of greater aliveness.The feeling of not being part of the in-group had occurred in the beginning. But now it became more pronounced, especially when I didn’t make a connection either through dance or words in an evening.  I was also disappointed when I would greet people with a smile that wasn’t returned, or when people who I had seen week after week appeared to not recognize me.  My openness and curiosity had become clouded by expectations and disillusionment.  I didn’t feel connected to others nor fully to myself.  I experienced a lot of mental chatter and ‘stories’, and while I had initially enjoyed watching others dance, I was now confronted with my fears, and a sense of aloneness and isolation.  I thought, “Something must be wrong with me.”“Why are they not dancing with me? Why don’t they look into my eyes? They are so much better – they know what it takes and I don’t have a clue.  I don’t really want to dance with them yet I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I really want to dance with them but they always move away when I come close. I just want to have fun – I’m not hitting on you. Do you like me? Find me attractive? No one is choosing me. No one wants to dance with me. I’m unattractive. I don’t know how to initiate a dance with someone or leave it with grace when I feel complete. I wish someone would invite me, show me how to enter the dance.  I’m just too much, too crazy and wild.”I became more self-conscious. I wondered about my looks.  What made me unattractive?  Why was I so at odds at times, or bored with my own movement, or feeling clumsy?  I started seeing disconnection all around me:  “Everyone just doing their thing but no real connection.”  I also focused on those who appeared to be the ‘in-crowd’. They seemed to know a lot of people, always had someone to dance with, and apparently moved with ease and joy, alone or with others. This made me feel inadequate, left-out and alone. I wondered what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I enter the dance?Then other times I found I was happy when dancing by myself. I was connecting with my body, the space and floor, and following my impulses. I was responding to the music and letting the music move me.  I found I was happy when I didn’t want to engage with anyone yet I challenged myself to take risks by initiating or entering a dance.  Even when I was unsure about it, and even when it was awkward at times, I enjoyed the connection.Now I’ve experienced several years of going to conscious dances and becoming involved as an organizer in the community.  When I speak of my vulnerabilities with others, especially those who have just started coming to the dances, they are surprised to hear that I have shared some of the same fears and insecurities they are experiencing.The stories, the chatter and fears have mostly subsided but are not entirely gone. There are times when I feel connected and times when I feel disconnected.  There are times when a dance just unfolds and times when I wish something would happen but it doesn’t. Now I’ve learned to just let all the feelings move through me and be part of the dance. I also listen more deeply to myself and follow my impulses around whether I want connection or not.  And I’ve found ways of signaling both- sometimes  gracefully and sometimes not. I feel less disheartened when someone doesn’t engage the way I would like. And I’ve also learned to decline a dance when it is not what I want.My journey with the conscious dance movement was concurrent  with getting involved in Authentic Movement , Body Tales, taking contact and dance classes,  beginning to perform and  doing energy healing work.  All of which supported me in a new relationship and comfort with being in my own skin.  This journey has allowed me to follow my impulses and listen deeply to myself and to the non-verbal signals of others. I continue to experience my dance as a reflection of what is currently present in my life, as a gateway to move and transform stuck energy and as an avenue to learn about how I engage and enter the dance of life.The following mantras or as the Buddhists would call it the essence of the beginner’s mind, have been helpful reminders for myself, being in the Dance Journey of Life.ñ  Keeping the curiosity alive: no expectations and no attachment to the outcome
ñ  Moving to what moves me…being authentic and vulnerable
ñ  Staying open to the moment, noticing what arises in me without becoming reactive to, identifying with, or making meaning out of it
ñ  Continue moving or resting, allowing myself to be with what is.
ñ  Experiencing dance as a meditation, a prayer, an exploration, and the freedom to express.
ñ  Asking, “What am I learning about myself, about life and the mystery of all that is?”  Nicki Koethner is one of the Overall Coordinators for NCDC, Executive Co-Chair of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, a priestess at Terra’s Temple and a Multi-media Artist and Psychotherapist. She holds workshops and has a private practice in Oakland. Nicki supports people to connect to their authenticity through expressive arts and play.
Dancing as an Evolutionary Strategy by Sam Vaknin Ph.D
Dances are thinly disguised simulations of sex acts. But there’s more to dancing than bawdy ribaldry. The sweaty proximity allows the partners to exchange an enormous amount of information about their respective bodies: from joint suppleness, through spatial orientation and coordination, and down to the fine details of their immunological systems (such as the major histocompatibility complex MHC) carried by their body odours. In this sense, dancing aids and abets the forces of natural selection and eugenic breeding. Indeed, in many 16th and 17th century textbooks dancing is grouped with hunting, fighting, wrestling, and running.In times past, the dance-hall was the only venue open to prospective partners to gather such fitness data. Indeed, there is reason to believe that dancing was consciously invented and designed to do precisely that. Capriol, a protagonist in Thoinot Arbeau’s dance manual “Orchesography”, complains: “(W)ithout knowledge of dancing, I could not please the damsels.” Arbeau himself is nothing if not brutally explicit:“Dancing is practised to reveal whether lovers are in good health and sound of limb, after which they are permitted to kiss their mistresses in order that they may touch and savour one another, thus to ascertain if they are shapely or emit an unpleasant odour as of bad meat.”Arbeau and dance masters such as Caroso actually named dances to reflect the underlying amorous, matchmaking process. Inevitably, Puritans and other spoilsports targeted the practice and its purveyors repeatedly in both England and its overseas colonies.But dancing, as a form of health-enhancing strenuous exercise, also serves to perpetuate the species. This aspect of dancing was especially important when and where women’s movements were restricted by tradition, social mores, and religion: allowed to indulge in dances, even with their own sex, women have thus secured a modicum of sanatory locomotion.Nowadays, dancing is often thought of as a couple’s activity. But, this is a recent development. Until the nineteenth century, dancing was a social act and the vast majority of dances involved frequently switched multiple partners, as demanded by ballroom etiquette. Thus, dancing and saltation yielded social cohesion; increased social interaction; and enhanced the opportunities for mating and cooperation.Author BioSam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.Visit Sam’s Web site at
Excerpt from “The Pathology of Love” by Sam Vaknin Ph.D
The unpalatable truth is that falling in love is, in some ways, indistinguishable from a severe pathology. Behavior changes are reminiscent of psychosis and, biochemically speaking, passionate love closely imitates substance abuse. Appearing in the BBC series Body Hits on December 4, 2002 Dr. John Marsden, the head of the British National Addiction Center, said that love is addictive, akin to cocaine and speed. Sex is a “booby trap”, intended to bind the partners long enough to bond.Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki of University College in London showed that the same areas of the brain are active when abusing drugs and when in love. The prefrontal cortex – hyperactive in depressed patients – is inactive when besotted. How can this be reconciled with the low levels of serotonin that are the telltale sign of both depression and infatuation – is not known.Other MRI studies, conducted in 2006-7 by Dr. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues, revealed that the caudate and the ventral tegmental, brain areas involved in cravings (e.g., for food) and the secretion of dopamine, are lit up in subjects who view photos of their loved ones. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation. It causes a sensation akin to a substance-induced high.On August 14, 2007, the New Scientist News Service gave the details of a study originally published in the Journal of Adolescent Health earlier that year. Serge Brand of the Psychiatric University Clinics in Basel, Switzerland, and his colleagues interviewed 113 teenagers (17-year old), 65 of whom reported having fallen in love recently.The conclusion? The love-struck adolescents slept less, acted more compulsively more often, had “lots of ideas and creative energy”, and were more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as reckless driving.“‘We were able to demonstrate that adolescents in early-stage intense romantic love did not differ from patients during a hypomanic stage,’ say the researchers. This leads them to conclude that intense romantic love in teenagers is a ‘psychopathologically prominent stage’”.But is it erotic lust or is it love that brings about these cerebral upheavals?As distinct from love, lust is brought on by surges of sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. These induce an indiscriminate scramble for physical gratification. In the brain, the hypothalamus (controls hunger, thirst, and other primordial drives) and the amygdala (the locus of arousal) become active. Attraction transpires once a more-or-less appropriate object is found (with the right body language and speed and tone of voice) and results in a panoply of sleep and eating disorders.A recent study in the University of Chicago demonstrated that testosterone levels shoot up by one third even during a casual chat with a female stranger. The stronger the hormonal reaction, the more marked the changes in behavior, concluded the authors. This loop may be part of a larger “mating response”. In animals, testosterone provokes aggression and recklessness. The hormone’s readings in married men and fathers are markedly lower than in single males still “playing the field”.Still, the long-term outcomes of being in love are lustful. Dopamine, heavily secreted while falling in love, triggers the production of testosterone and sexual attraction then kicks in.Helen Fisher of Rutger University suggests a three-phased model of falling in love. Each stage involves a distinct set of chemicals. The BBC summed it up succinctly and sensationally: “Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness“.Moreover, we are attracted to people with the same genetic makeup and smell (pheromones) of our parents. Dr Martha McClintock of the University of Chicago studied feminine attraction to sweaty T-shirts formerly worn by males. The closer the smell resembled her father’s, the more attracted and aroused the woman became. Falling in love is, therefore, an exercise in proxy incest and a vindication of Freud’s much-maligned Oedipus and Electra complexes.Writing in the February 2004 issue of the journal NeuroImage, Andreas Bartels of University College London’s Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience described identical reactions in the brains of young mothers looking at their babies and in the brains of people looking at their lovers.“Both romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences that are linked to the perpetuation of the species, and consequently have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance” – he told Reuters.This incestuous backdrop of love was further demonstrated by psychologist David Perrett of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The subjects in his experiments preferred their own faces – in other words, the composite of their two parents – when computer-morphed into the opposite sex.Author Bio:
Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.Visit Sam’s Web site at
Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter by Richard Powers by EC
 For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.
Then most recently we’ve heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.  There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Playing golf – 0%
Dancing frequently – 76%.
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary:
“The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses.  Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed.  If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.            Aging and memoryWhen brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there’s only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information.  If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it.  So as we age, we learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks.  (Or maybe we don’t learn to do this, and just become a dimmer bulb.)The key here is Dr. Katzman’s emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses.  More is better.  Do whatever you can to create new neural paths.  The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:The more stepping stones there are across the creek,
the easier it is to cross in your own style.The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution.  But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical.  Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all.  Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one.  Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed.  But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.
            Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:

  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?
  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?That’s where this particular study falls short.  It doesn’t answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn’t a stand-alone study.  It’s one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it’s the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.Some of this is discussed here (the page you may have just came from) which looks at intelligence in dancing.  The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.Then take a dance class, which can be even better.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity.  Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.            What kind of dancing?Let’s go back to the study:
    Bicycling, swimming or playing golf – 0% reduced risk of dementiaBut doesn’t golf require rapid-fire decision-making?  No, not if you’re a long-time player.  You made most of the decisions when you first started playing, years ago.  Now the game is mostly refining your technique.  It can be good physical exercise, but the study showed it led to no improvement in mental acuity.Therefore do the kinds of dance where you must make as many split-second decisions as possible.  That’s key to maintaining true intelligence.Does any kind of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce this benefit.  Not dancing which, like golf or swimming, mostly works on style or retracing the same memorized paths.  The key is the decision-making.  Remember (from this page), Jean Piaget suggested that intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better.  But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980.  Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing — basic foxtrot, swing, waltz and maybe some Latin.I’ve been watching senior citizens dance all of my life, from my parents (who met at a Tommy Dorsey dance), to retirement communities, to the Roseland Ballroom in New York.  I almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor.  I mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow.   But freestyle social dancing isn’t that simple!  It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles.I need to digress here:
    I want to point out that I’m not demonizing memorized sequence dancing or style-focused pattern-based ballroom dancing.  I sometimes enjoy sequence dances myself, and there are stress-reduction benefits of any kind of dancing, cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, and even further benefits of feeling connected to a community of dancers.  So all dancing is good.But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others.  When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.            Who benefits more, women or men?In social dancing, the follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next.  As I mentioned on this page, women don’t “follow”, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.  This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow.  With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables.  This is great for staying smarter longer.But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.  (1) Really notice your partner and what works best for her.  Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which moves are successful with her and what aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations.  That’s rapid-fire split-second decision making.   (2) Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time.  Challenge yourself to try new things.  Make more decisions more often.  Intelligence: use it or lose it.And men, the huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.

                Dance often

    Finally, remember that this study made another suggestion: do it often.  Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week.  If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can.  More is better.

    And do it now, the sooner the better.  It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now.  Some day you’ll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible.  Don’t wait — start building them now.

The Worst Thing Is To Miss It by Richard Powers

A woman was interviewed in a Stanford study of women surviving, or not surviving, cancer.   She mused philosophically,

“You know, the worst thing in life isn’t to die.  The worst thing is to have lived, but missed it.”

This is one of the Big Picture awarenesses of life.  The worst thing is to have lived, but missed it.

Here are six ways that we can miss something:

  • 1) Judging it negatively and pushing it away.
  • 2) Taking it for granted, not really seeing it.
  • 3) Not absorbing it as deeply as we can. Not being as open and receptive as we can be.
  • 4) Comparing the present moment to a better one, thus finding the current one disappointing.
  • 5) Eschatology, the pervasive belief that things will be better in the future, but the present moment isn’t there yet.
  • 6) Sampling mentality dismissiveness. “Been there; done that.”
    This topic is not the same as wanting to be happy all of the time.  It’s not about being a Pollyanna.  It’s about having a sharp and clear perception of what is.  If the event that we’re perceiving is negative, like a social or political injustice, then yes, we also need to experience that, for what it is.But it’s harder to see what is good in life, and in people.  Our culture gives all too much encouragement to disapprove, complain and reject.  So this page describes a few ways to help counter our natural tendency to miss a lot of our lives, including the time we spend dancing.My teachers in life are anyone I’ve found who is alive and receptive to the moment — anyone who has the ability, talent or attitude to appreciate what’s good in art, life and people.Dale Stevens was one of my teachers, although he didn’t know it.  He was a film critic for my city’s newspaper.  He was usually able to point to a wonderful aspect of a film he just saw.  A film might have some shortcomings, but he would point out character nuances or effective cinematography or sheer expanses of beauty.  He would help his readers get more out of their moviewatching experience.  He helped his readers appreciate films more.It’s the opposite of the more typically critical, which was originally titled “Bitchslaps from Scott Weinberg” (which is what most of his reviews are).  He thinks that finding faults is what a professional critic must do.It’s all too easy to us to be influenced by critics’ disapproving attitudes, so it takes some independence to have a receptive approach to life.  Others might even think you’re being too enthusiastic about life, but it’s your life, not theirs.  They’re the ones who have become bitter cynics, missing most of their life by pushing it away.  You can go in the opposite direction.  But it takes practice, to make receptivity a habit.            Comparative thinkingLooking at this dynamic closer, what is the essential process of the disdainful film critic?  Comparative thinking is a part of it, usually comparing the film they watched to the best films they’ve ever seen, and being disappointed that their current experience pales in comparison.We have a glass of wine.  Do we simply enjoy that it tastes good?  Or do we evaluate it as not one of the best wines we’ve had?  If so, we just changed a potentially positive experience into a disappointment.  We missed it.  It’s the same with food.  Is it tasty or nutritious or comforting?  Or is it not the best version of this we’ve had?  Your choice of attitudes affects both your receptivity and your enjoyment.Now if it actually tastes bad, or if an experience is painful, that’s different.  Then we acknowledge that fact.  But many people emotionally push away something good because it’s not as good as a better version they’ve once had.Some do this with their possessions.  “My car isn’t the best version any more – I’m unhappy.”  It’s even worse if we do this with people, instead of appreciating their good qualities.  On the dance floor, you can be disappointed that you don’t have one of the best partners in your arms, or you can find ways of appreciating your partner for who they are, and not missing that moment.You can be disappointed that the DJ isn’t playing your favorite dance, or tune, or that the tempo isn’t the best tempo.  Or you can find aspects of the experience that you can enjoy and appreciate.  It’s your choice.  You can let all of these experiences into your life, or you can push them away.We can turn around the nosedive that our culture puts us into, and start heading back up.  We can consciously intend to miss less of life, and of people, and appreciate more.            EschatologyEschatology (from the Greek eschaton, meaning the end of time) is the fairly common belief, held by various cultures for millennia, that everything will be better in the end, where everything that is imperfect will be made perfect.  That of course presumes that it’s not good now.  The problem with eschatology is that the good days are always deferred to the future.  All goodness, enlightenment, justice and healing is going to come later.  Not today, but when we get there — when we get to the Promised Land, when our ship comes in.One way that we often do this to ourselves is when taking dance classes.  We can spend hours in dance classes feeling that some day we’ll be good at this, but at the moment we’re not there.  But we are there, in the middle of an enjoyable process, with both body and mind fully engaged, and probably with a dance partner in our arms.  What could be better?  Relish these moments.

                Double whammy: Perfectionism

    Yes, wanting something to be perfect combines the worst traits of comparative thinking and eschatology.  This is different from wanting to improve upon something.  Better is better; but perfect is usually impossible.  Chasing after perfection is a prescription for unhappiness and frustration.

    Artists know that there can be true beauty in the imperfect.  And the imperfections are often more interesting than the flawless version.

                Sampling mentality

    Another way that we often dismiss something genuinely good is to complain that we’ve seen it before, or something like it.  “Been there, done that!”  We’ve become a sampling culture, bored with something after we’ve sampled it once.

    Some film critics panned Pixar’s Cars because its story was similar to Doc Hollywood and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  C’mon, this is a kid’s movie, and Doc Hollywood was twenty years ago.  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was seventy years ago.  How is that supposed to disappoint today’s kids?  And besides, what is that repeated story line?  It’s a story is about appreciating the people in front of you instead of pursuing fame elsewhere.  Is it so bad to be reminded of that once every twenty years?  Some critics thought so.

    If something seems overly familiar, try to find a fresh way to look at it, perhaps from a new perspective.  What else can you notice about it?  Develop ways to look afresh at what has been taken for granted or seen before.  Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.  But also appreciate the ordinary.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding ourselves that just because we’ve seen it before doesn’t mean it’s any less important.  If it’s a good thing, take a moment to appreciate its value.


    Now to be the Devil’s Advocate we can ask: is this a selfish approach to life, focusing on our own experiences and wanting them to be richer?  No, and this distinction is important.  It’s not selfish because a large part of our life is how we interact with people, since we’re social animals.  And the result of fully and completely experiencing someone is as good for them as it is for us.

    Do you know about the 100 Blessings?  This Jewish tradition encourages us to make a hundred blessings a day.  That’s a lot of blessings!  By the time the effect of one blessing starts to fade, we would be blessing something else.

    But what does this mean, blessing?

    Blessing is a spiritual or psychological act of recognizing, affirming and re-appreciating.  When we bless something or someone, we are encouraged to become aware of them and acknowledge that this thing or person is good.

    When we bless our food, for instance, we acknowledge its value to us and give thanks for the pleasure and nutrition it provides.  When we bless a person, we see them, admire them, and wish them well.  We make a direct connection with them and bring them into our sphere of consciousness.

    People like to be blessed.  We don’t call it that, of course, but that’s what fans seek when they ask celebrities for autographs.  To be acknowledged, even in such a small way, is a powerful thing.

    We don’t need to be famous or powerful to share our blessings.  We each have the power to share an emotion with other human beings.  We can brighten their day, or we can make them feel bad, by how we interact with them.  When we shine our love on them they feel good, and we in turn benefit because they will reflect love back to us.  In the act of blessing we are blessed.

    This clearly relates to the two-way interaction of dance partnering.  And being in a dance community.


    A part of the process of appreciating something is refraining from pushing it away.  It’s intentionally accepting more of life, especially that which we can’t change. That’s acknowledged in the Serenity Prayer, as some people call it.

    Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
    courage to change the things that should be changed,
    and the wisdom to know the difference.

    Note that acceptance is given first prority, over changing, and also note the specification of things that should be changed.  It’s sometimes tempting to be a busybody, meddling in others’ affairs, trying to change them into the way we think they should be.  But maybe their behavior isn’t something that needs to be changed.  Maybe we can say to ourselves, “I don’t have to catch that ball,” and let others be themselves, including the way they like to dance.


    In addition to not missing so much of life by pushing it away, acceptance also de-stresses our life.  Many books have been written about the harmful effects of stress in our lives, and ways to reduce stress, but the aspect to mention now is that more frequent acceptance of people and events significantly lowers our stress level.

    The tiniest disagreement or glitch in our plans can be made into a big deal if our goal, conscious or unconscious, is to have everything work out in our favor.  But life is rarely exactly the way we want it to be, and people often don’t act the way we would like them to.

    Moment to moment, there are aspects of life that we like and others that we don’t.  There are always going to be people who disagree with us, people who do things differently, and things that don’t work out.  If we fight against this principle of life, we’ll spend most of our life fighting hopeless battles, and be generally unhappy with life.

    What we’re doing, if we choose to live life this way, is allowing others’ behavior to stress us, which not only disrupts our center, throwing us off-balance and making us unhappy, but is a genuine health risk.  Stress is the emotion with the greatest weight of scientific evidence connecting it to cardiovascular disease, a supressed immune system, impaired memory and irrational decision-making.

    Our response to this might be, “But I can’t help it!  My job is stressful!  This relationship is stressful!”

    No, stress isn’t what happens to us (although it usually feels that way).  Stress is how we respond to what’s happening, and we do have some control over that.

    I have a specific suggestion that works.

    Each time that we say to ourselves, “OK, I can live with that” is a victory over stress.  One can retain relative calm peace of mind, and can continue to operate with all channels open.  The other version is, “OK, I can live without that.”

    If you can’t, then you can’t.  But you’ll likely surprise yourself by how often you can say “OK, I can live with that” and be quite happy with the outcome.  And this way you end up stressing other people less at the same time, thereby helping them be healthier as well.

    This response also keeps you smarter.  Saying “OK, I can live with that” is an automatic, instantaneous defuser, to prevent negative emotions from hijacking your mind.  You’ve probably had an experience of doing or saying something stupid while being in a state of being emotionally hijacked, usually with anger.  Your calm mind is much smarter and wiser.  You can always reappraise a situation later, if you’ve succeeded in retaining your mental clarity in the present moment.

    Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly.  Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.  What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind.  Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.     — Henry Miller

Uninhibited Living by Sylvia

Time to get a little crazy.

So often we rein ourselves in in ways that really don’t serve us. We get overly concerned about what other people will think, and in the process we lose opportunities to express ourselves and be a little freer, a little more creative, a little more uniquely ourselves.

It starts early. We want to fit in, so we learn how to dress like others, move like others, eat like others, and speak like others whom we know. On one level, this isn’t bad thing. We do need to learn how to be social in ways that create harmonious environments. However, when we limit our creative potential, our freedom and our authenticity, now that is just a cryin’ shame.

For example, in my workshops, we do a lot of dancing. Dancing is a great way to cut loose release some pent up energy, get a bit creative, and experience the freedom that movement brings. I’m always interested in how people respond to the activity of dance. Some people are totally free when they move, and others are rigid and stuck. I can see how hard it is for them to just move and let their body talk without their mind completely dominating the conversation. We are so acculturated to worry about “how we look”we often totally forget how to move just for the sake of “how it feels.”

Last night I was on a radio show along with SARK, well known for her many books on succulent living. She told this hilarious story about how she was at the airport when her flight was delayed by two hours. Did she get a cup of coffee and read the paper? Did she zone out on front of the TV?

No. She BUILT A FORT with a chair, her luggage carrier and a cape and then crawled into it. This is a grown woman I’m talking about here. Now I’m not saying everyone should build forts in the airport. That may not be your thing. However, what I am saying is, wouldn’t it be great if each of us could free up the need to fit in for long enough to have some fun, draw outside the lines and be creative, even if it wasn’t what everyone else is doing? What if we could love ourselves enough to be authentically who we are in ways that set us free, and give permission for others to be free as well?

Loosen up. Draw outside the lines.  Be free.   and above all

Everyone else is taken.

Michael Gelbart “Boundries on the Dance Floor” Thread: The Questions (part 1)

Michael Gelbart a Psychologist and dancer started this thread on Facebook. It explores boundaries on the dance floor, which is a very interesting subject. Some of the responses are eloquent and nuanced.

Couples Navigating Open-Dance Community Contact:
Where the Boundaries Are ? !

What functional boundaries, parameters and agreements do we make, as individuals and couples, that preserve and deepen intimacy, anchor and assure fidelity and security and allow freedom of expression within an affectionate, loving, contact-full, open-dance community?

How do we, as individuals and couples, establish, navigate, negotiate and communicate these boundaries??

As individuals in our dance world who have coupled/ partnered within this realm, i am interested in collecting our thoughts on this subject. As such, I am conducting an informal survey with the goals of creating dialogue and sharing wisdom, practices and perspectives.

If you’d be willing to answer some questions (below), i will collect responses and write an article on what i find. Answers will be kept confidential, if you prefer, or i could quote you if you are OK with that: (please specify).

Our ecstatic dances, barefoot boogies and freestyle dances welcome singles and couples, monogamous and open-relationship peeps, parents and kids, into a world of connective dance where contact on varied levels, sometimes intimate, occurs. Where do couples in this dance world set their boundaries? How do couples regulate closeness with others? Does one member of the couple dance while the other doesn’t? What is the balance between dancing together and dancing separately?

I am hella’ curious about these questions, having been in this dance world for over 20 years. My first marriage faltered at this alter. My wife got very jealous of my dance and I had to pull it in a lot, feeling restricted, limited and resentful. I couldn’t quite assure her of my fidelity and loyalty to her enough so that she could feel secure with our relationship. This became polarizing, and as I compromised my freedom I became resentful.

In my current relationship, we are navigating this territory. We go together to dances often, and have been practicing contact improvisation with each other. Fariba prefers to dance by herself and with me… I like to balance between my own inner dance, my dances with her, my dances with other dear friends (and yes, past lovers) and my dance with the Tribe. We are communicating through this realm and are finding the territory complex and richly textured.

If you’d like to respond in the body of this text, to generate some meaningful conversation on this subject, please do. If you’d prefer to respond in email form, please send your responses to If you’d like to be taken off of this list, please remove yourself, with a note to me.

If you’d be interested in/ or prefer, an audio interview, or or phone conversation, we can arrange a time for that. i am at 510-908-9355.

I will be posting the questions on some FB Dance Collective Sites as well, but am specifically curious about YOUR responses (some of you are couples and some not).

If you are interested in taking up this project with me and creating a podcast or some suchness, please talk with me. Not sure how big our audience is, but it certainly is a juicy subject, yes?

Thank you for your time!

HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS: (and if you can think of some more precise questions, please submit those to me!)

What do you attend these dances for?
Do you attend dances for the same reasons as your partner/spouse (if currently in relationship)?

Do you talk with your partner about boundaries?
Where and how do you (and your partner) set your boundaries when it comes to dancing and (especially physical) contact with other dance partners?

What are the ground rules, guidelines, parameters and boundaries that you have set, implicitly or explicitly?
What communications have you set up to regulate the boundaries? Do you have signals on the floor?

How do you decide if you are going together or separately to the dances? How do you decide to dance together or separately at the dances?

How do you regulate the balance between solo dancing, dancing with your partner and dancing with other partners or the collective as a whole?

How do you assure the security in your relationship at these dances? Upon what do you base your trust in your spouse?

What might your p/s do that makes you uncomfortable?
How do you deal with moments of discomfort, jealousy and insecurity?

What would you consider a boundary crossing and how do you resolve boundary crossings?

What has made your partnership successful in the realms of open dance: What are your keys to achieving optimum freedom, security and integrity?

Any other questions or comments you would like to pass forward??

Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses!!!!

yours in the dance,

michael g

Michael Gelbart “Boundries on the Dance Floor” Thread: The Responses (part 2)
Lisa Wells Response:The freedom that arises from ‘what happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor’ is phenomenal. It has allowed me to safely explore my sexual expression on the dance floor while remaining in intregrity with my monogamous marriage. By being clear with my partner about that boundary, he trusts me on the dance floor and knows that this is a way to enhance our relationship. He occasionally joins me in dance, but is not as strongly drawn to dance as a form of ecstatic expression as I am. When we are on the dance floor together, we both have the same freedom. We dance together and with everyone else. Our commitment to being honest with each other means that we can trust each other to ‘keep it on the dance floor.’I have also had experiences of being stalked on the dance floor. I had to learn to say no clearly out loud as well as with my body language. I appreciate when dancers safely hold the space for each other and serve as a buffer when a ‘stalker’ (or someone who doesn’t understand the decorum of the dance floor) abuses the freedom we have created for each other. I also appreciate strong leaders who will step up if needed to keep the space safe, both sexually and physically.
Mary Dancer’s response:My partner and I found your questions a fascinating discussion topic. After exploring our thoughts, feelings and opinions, I volunteered to share my thoughts and include his. So here goes…I attend dance for a variety of reasons, my top reason being to let loose! To play, to flirt, to frolic, to get my groove on… My partner used to drive me the hour and a half to dance and wait in the parking lot reading a book until I was done dancing then drive me the hour and a half back home. He was never interested in dancing and drove me there and back so I had company along the way. I am very extroverted and he is very introverted so it really worked out for me to have “people time” and him to have “personal time”. I eventually was able to carpool to the area with others (getting even more people time and allowing him even more introvert time by staying home). I remember lamenting that my partner was not “a dancer”, wishing he could relate to the exhilaration and freedom I felt out on the floor.After 8 years of dancing I finally cajoled my partner into coming to dance with me. During the first dance he spent almost the entire time in the back corner of the room before he ventured out. About once a month he came with me to dance, each time spending less time in the corner and more time on the floor. I knew he was hooked when he went to dance without me one time. He has been dancing for 3 years now. I asked him why he goes to dance and he said he attends dance for the same reasons he plays basketball… “for the fun, sense of community and physical exertion – it is a fun way to exercise”. I can definitely relate to his reasons.As for boundaries, we have talked about boundaries in other contexts but never in regards to the dance floor. The subject has never come up. We have never set any boundaries when it comes to dancing or physical contact on the dance floor with other partners (yes, in case you are wondering… we are monogamous). We love it when we see the other having fun, especially with other dancers. We get to have fun together all of the time. There is no reason to hog each other up on the floor. The dance floor is a safe freedom zone because we both get it that what happens on the floor stay on the floor.The only communication signals we ever have on the dance floor is a “deer in the headlight” look if we are dancing with someone and can’t muster a polite way to disengage; we know that means “come grab me please”!I travel for a living so I try to get to dance as often as possible. If he is not working, we’ll go together. It is a very organic decision whether we go together or not. I think there have been maybe a couple of times that he has wanted to go together but he could tell I really needed/wanted “me time”… which reminds me… when he first started dancing I was thrilled…at last he was part of my wonderful dancing world! But after attending several dances together I found myself wondering, “What the hell was I thinking???” This was MY time- for ME! What have I done?In the beginning, even though we drove there together, I rarely danced with him when we were both on the dance floor. We both understood we were there for ourselves. I already had my “favorite” dancing partners and most people didn’t even know we were in relationship. But in this last year I have been more drawn to his rhythm so we dance together more often. There are still times we dance the entire 2 hours and don’t dance with each other even once. We will debrief on the way home, dissecting and reflecting about how dancing on the floor in community can mirror aspects of life off the floor.It is interesting to experience the shifts in the people I dance with when they know he is in the room (I perceive at times a withholding of energy). I had some discussions with guys after dance who said it was a “guy code” to show respect. Other guys said they don’t like to dance with women that are not single – period. At first I felt a bit wounded and left out of the fun of the “single energy”. I wanted to be perceived as “single” so guys would want to dance with me and fully share their delicious electrical energy. But then I took inventory of my own behavior and realized that I too hold back when I know dancers are in partnership, especially if I fear my actions would be misperceived. Some of my favorite dancers are now in relationship and do not dance with me anything like they used to. It is such a missing for me.Someone mentioned that the length of time one is in partnership perhaps has an influence on their security level and trust. I would have to agree. We have been in relationship 16 years now. I admit that in the earlier years I had one foot out the door. But as our time together increases we both realize we are “keepers” and that jealousy isn’t sexy to either of us. We enjoy seeing the other in joy. We know we cannot be EVERYTHING for each other- that is a big job and a heavy responsibility. Trying to control the behavior of the other person rarely fosters genuine happiness. In a nutshell, we are in charge of our own emotions. Yes, others can trigger something, but ultimately we are in charge of our own emotions. My partner shared that on the rare occasion something gets triggered, he is intimately aware that it is his own perception, his own “stuff” and finds a way to bless me in my happiness – knowing that his butterfly always flies home in the end.