"The search for spirituality is often understood as an inner journey or personal quest. This universal theme is found in religious and mythical tales all over the world. Yet several other metaphors can be used. Spirituality has also been likened to wrestling, struggling, or even dancing. The evolution of matter and life encourages us to imagine the dynamic movement of spirituality in many new ways. We can perceive it as part of the rhythmic pattern of the cosmic dance of energy and life in the universe, and also as the dance of life within us. Our life in the world is an expression of the cosmic dance, animated by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Thomas Merton wrote of 'the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it or not.'
"Comparing the image of a journey with that of a dance, one can think of solitary journeys, but also others undertaken with a companion or friend, or even with a larger group of people. But many journeys are made alone. And a dance can be solitary, too. Yet it is more likely that a dance occurs with two, three, or more people joining. A dance is usually accompanied by music, whose changing beats and rhythms make a dance more dynamic than an ordinary journey. While we dance, we also touch each other closely. We enjoy the sheer presence of another person, grow closer physically and emotionally, feel the sense of energy, delight, and fun that accompany the exuberance of dancing. Thus it seems an appropriate metaphor to speak about the dance of life that involves body, mind, and soul our whole being. And life's dance is always interwoven with the dance of the Spirit.
"The largest setting for life's dance is the vast web of life, the continuously ongoing process of universal becoming. We are part of the immense rhythm of being born and dying, integral to the evolutionary history of the cosmos itself. Usually we tend to see this rhythm of life rather individualistically, yet our personal life can greatly expand in meaning when it is understood as part of this larger, universal pattern.
"The English writer and clergyman Michael Mayne has used the dance image for spirituality in his book Learning to Dance. He shows with much sensitivity how spiritual analogies can be drawn from the dance of the bees to the dance of the cosmos, from nature, genetics, the arts, to human actions of love and forgiveness. He even speaks of the creative dance of language, which he sees as witnessing 'to the godlikeness of the human spirit.' Maria Harris, an American writer, uses the same dance analogy in her book Dance of the Spirit, where she explains the dynamic development of spirituality through the moving steps of a dance. She sees spirituality inclusively related to all of life, as when she writes that 'initially spirituality is seeing. This means not just looking, but seeing what is actually there, seeing into and entering the deep places and centers of things. . . . Our spirituality begins with our cultivating the inner eye that sees everything as capable of being . . saturated with God.'
"Spirituality as part of our deepest inwardness and innermost being is closely interwoven with our awareness, sensibility, and capacity for reflection. Human yearning and will are involved in fostering and nurturing it; the deepest search for human identity, self-understanding, and transcendence is at stake here. Yet the enlivening, dynamic presence and power of the Spirit are ultimately not of our own choosing. They are graciously bestowed on us as many seers, saints, and mystics have personally testified. Thus spirituality is both a tremendous task and a gracious gift.
"There is the cosmic dance, and the dance of nature, but also the closely intertwined dance of the human and divine Spirit based on mutual indwelling, likeness, and loving attraction. Since the human spirit is embodied and earthed, spirituality must be grounded both in the experience of the body and in contemporary earth-consciousness. Yet spirituality is also drawing us to ever-larger worlds beyond ourselves, beyond the horizons of the known. The invitation to join the cosmic dance is deeply alluring, but it is not without risks and trials. Life's dance can be a whirlwind, and dancing with the Spirit can mean walking through an all-transforming fire."