“Look at this beautiful human being, I need to take a picture.”
I am not accustomed to hearing these words spoken about me.
Growing up the shy, weird, geeky kid that I was, I only ever heard encouraging statements like this from my mom. And yet, as much as the younger me would have swooned over this type of validation, in that moment, it hardly registered. I was so completely engrossed in the feeling of being myself that those words, which easily could have triggered a rush of ego-centric mental activity, instead just washed over me.
Let me provide the context: I was at Envision, Costa Rica’s answer to Burning Man. I’m not sure exactly what time it was, maybe around 2am? I was reclining in a giant hammock-like net stretched between trees in the Village, the central hub of the festival grounds.
A rockin band had just finished playing at the nearby stage, named Kombo Style. Their jam was mix of Cumbia and other Afro-Latin music, and I was pleasantly exhausted from dancing like madman. More than that, I was basking in the glow of feeling fully inhabited in my body, because I had never before felt so wholly self-expressive while dancing.
For a few years now, dancing in front of other people has served as a sort of barometer for my ability to feel comfortable expressing myself in public. Growing up, the world taught me to repress myself. I learned from an early age that expressing myself elicited derision for being weird, for not knowing how to fit in like most other people seem to do instinctually. It’s been a long journey learning to let the real me show through the cement façade I had constructed around myself.
Dancing has been an outlet for self-expression. When I’m fully comfortable in my skin and immersed in music that resonates with me, my thinking mind goes away and I feel like my body moves itself in a direct translation of the music. It’s a wonderfully liberating feeling, but often it’s difficult to quiet my thoughts when I can feel the eyes of others upon me.
At the Kombo Style show, I felt completely comfortable dancing like a lunatic. I was right in front of the stage next to a few other dancers, a few moving as wildly as me, others more restrained. Behind us a small crowd swayed to the music. This was a small show, I don’t think the band is well known. In the background, the night thumped with beats of EDM and house music cranking on the other big stages. But I wound up at this small show having my moment of self-discovery with a little-known band from Columbia. As I said before, I’m weird…
During the show, I felt free, I felt my body moving through space in time with the music, no thought, just reacting, observing, witnessing my body move. Witnessing my imperviousness to eyes behind me. While my body gyrated madly, internally I felt totally calm, at peace. Just being. Existing as my expression of the music, in constant movement, yet perfectly still.
It felt like a breakthrough: totally unrestrained self-expression in public.
After the show, this is the glow in which I was luxuriating when a group of friends wandered up and joined me on the hammock. Then Fabien, a new friend of a friend, told me I was beautiful and took the picture above.
In retrospect, these words are immensely validating, but not in the sense of “Yay, people like me, people finally like me!!” Instead, it’s validation that I’m on the right path of finding myself, expressing my inner beauty. Healing the childhood trauma inflicted upon me by society.
It’s always beautiful when we can express ourselves, and I think we all want to see this beauty in others. The beauty of someone completely, shamelessly inhabiting their body and letting their Light shine through. Yet the dominant cultural norms in the US tend to squash individual expression in favor of conformity with group.
An environment like Envision can provide an ideal framework to cultivate self-expression, to find oneself. The days are filled with yoga classes, healing workshops, and a wide range of other containers suitable for self-discovery. It seems like everywhere, people are discussing topics of self-acceptance and healing. Self-expression is not just welcomed and encouraged, but actively celebrated!
And then at night most people are so wacked out on drugs no one raises an eyebrow at anything, unusual behavior is the norm. It’s a giant playground, a great setting to experiment with yourself, your appearance, how you present yourself to the world.
We can all benefit from environments that celebrate self-expression. Especially those of us who learned to hide from the world. If this sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to seek out the closest Ecstatic Dance, many cities throughout across the globe have them. They are a great opportunity to find yourself, to express yourself in a safe, welcoming context. Go for it, the results feel wonderful!
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