By Andy, 66. Byron Bay, NSW
After my sister laughed and made a spectacle of my dancing as a 10 year old I swore to never dance again. The shame and embarrassment went to every cell …
Even while taking my young teen children to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Chemical Brothers, my tapping foot was the only body part moving. I was frozen in time, cursed in a self-created prison. People will look and laugh if I so much as flick an arm or move my legs.
Ahh, mid-life. The end of of a long term relationship and kids on their own way, I was left with the eternal question:
Who Am I?
Financially tight, I rented rooms to (mature age) university students. The house was suddenly full of activity and energy I hadn’t experienced for decades. And, of course, experience with chemicals that had been spread world wide by the followers of Osho since the late 80s. MDMA, etc.
The first experience coincided with New Year’s Eve. There was a DJ playing in the main street of our town. I stopped walking and the initial warmth of the high mixed with the deep rhythmic bass went deeper than the shame and embarrassment, and I start to unconsciously move.
Once the door was opened ,I danced everywhere. Bush doofs, nightclubs, drumming circles. Then overseas. Thailand , Indonesia, and finally, India.
By the time I arrived in India, I had lost interest in drugs. Hilariously, I arrived in the Himalayas at charas season (when the locals made a primitive version of hashish which tourists and Sadhus seem to crave). It was early summer and I had been driven off the low lands by the maddening humidity and heat. The first sight of that towering mountain range brought tears to my eyes. Never have I seen such a contrast of snow and sky!
I felt deeply connected to the earth, and the earth was sending energy to me, which flowed out of my head into the Universe …
I lived with a local family and got hypnotised by the daily routine of threshing wheat, grinding the seeds to flour and father hand making fresh chapatis every morning for us all. Daily solitary walks — but with the cautionary words of the daughter ringing in my ears: “Be careful Uncle! There are snow leopards here. My little dog was eaten just last year.”
Finally, the rhythm of that idyllic life was overtaken by the deep desire for rhythmic beats.
The night bus to Manali was memorable, as the road had literally been blasted into the side of a towering cliff by the Indian army. To go around some corners the bus had to go forward, then reverse, then forward again. At one point, I looked out the window and saw a white cotton thread way, way below. It was a large river thousands of feet down.
Dawn brought eye-watering beauty. Groves of stone fruit, sharp, fresh air, icy rivers. On to old Manali.
Asking about, some young men assured me they knew the trail through the mountains to a psychedelic trance party that night. I met them at midnight at the restaurant that they all worked in. We headed out under the blaze of the full moon. No torch required. After numerous “Are we there yet?” grumbles from me, we walked out of the thickets into the expanse of the snow line and possibly a hundred people waiting impatiently for the music to start.
Finally, the sound system arrived via the back of two donkeys and the party started around 2.00am. People came and went, but I never stopped dancing to the pumping base and crazy psychedelic sounds twisting through the dancers and off echoing across the walls of the valley.
I must have been dancing with my eyes closed because I suddenly became aware of the sun rising away off hundreds of miles below on the Punjab. I turned my head and the massive full moon had turned the snow peaks pastel pink. Two orbs in perfect balance. I was in perfect balance. I felt deeply connected to the earth and the earth was sending energy to me which flowed out of my head into the Universe which rained it back down the the earth. The Eternal Wheel. This feeling while dancing has never left.
As a side note, I continued to dance that morning. At one point I opened my eyes to realise all the dancers had stopped and were sitting watching me. My ancient self consciousness crept back and I stopped dancing for a brief moment. That old devil was quickly put to sleep and I returned to the arms of Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva.
At nearly 67, I still dance hard at least once a week and as soon as the beats start I feel that spirit that entered me decades ago start to flow and grow.
Image: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give It Away” music video still. Video directed by Stéphane Sednaoui.