I go walking, almost daily. I like to walk uphill. It’s great exercise and the view of Salt Lake Valley (from what I call the Top Of The World) is fantastic. Here’s my routine: A familiar play list of music and a consistent path. This path leads me to the City Cemetery. This is where I go for my daily dose of dancing with the dead.
Walking keeps my limbs and joints in shape. My heart pumping. My mind conscious. But mostly it keeps my spirit fully aware of my state of being. It allows me to take an inventory of situations, relationships, habits and environments that are not serving my highest purpose. In the cemetery I can transform negative energy and free myself of that which I can’t control—which, frankly, is just about everything.
For me, the cemetary certainly is not morbid or sad. It’s exquisitely transformative, and very much alive.
The energy below my feet is transitioning. The ancestors are decaying, becoming a part of the earth. The energy around me is that of love for those who continue to dwell in the dream of life, those who have pledged to live more fully because death has shown them how transient life really is. It is the energy of the dream, the dream of creation, of life and death. The energy above me is filled with spirit, energy that electrifies my creative being. It’s a triad of transition, mysticism and creation.
I’m often burdened with worries. Sometimes I’m full of anxiety about where my next creative job will come from. Or I am saddened by an aspect of a relationship.
I don’t like to carry these burdens with me. As a matter of fact, I like to release them on a daily basis, to free my mind, thus freeing my body and spirit of people, places or things I can’t control.
This is where my Daily Dancing with the Dead comes in.
As I power walk, prance and dance through the cemetery I ask out loud, “What would all of you do about the worrisome anxiety that is plaguing my mind?” And always, inevitably, an answer comes.
“Let it go! Free your heart and soul of that which is out of your control.”
If my worry is about a massive life change, such as reinventing who I am in my craft, or moving or the fear of traveling to foreign places alone, I may find a sculpture inscribed with inspirational words. The answer is clear. “Let that go. You have no control over what lies ahead. Keep your mind free. Set your intention and visualize what you want. Life will unfold. Stay open and unattached to outcome.”
If my heart is heavy with stories of prejudice, injustice and bigotry in the world, I say, “Hey all you dead people… in the end, is any of this hatred worth it?” The answer is always clear. “No! Life is so short. Why carry around that burden? It’s a waste of energy.”
When I’m anxious about a troubling relationship, I may see a headstone with that person’s name on it. I can sit by it, have a good cry, reconnect the pieces of my heart and center back into myself. I take all the angst I am feeling and lay it to rest. Right there I ask out loud, “Is this person worth all of this stress and sadness?” The answer is always clear. “No. You can’t control anyone. Let it be. Let it go. Free your heart for the power of love to always guide you.”
This message is clear in the cemetery: “Always let the power of love guide you.” Dancing with the dead is an amazing way to stay clear, free, creative and emotionally present.
Literally dancing. I’ve danced through the cemetery on so many occasions. I can visualize the steps and patterns for the ice skating productions and solos that I choreograph. While I am dancing I can feel the energy of all that has passed, all that’s present and all that is possible. While dancing, I feel the heartbeat of life, the pulse of energy that lives within us for such a short time. I can be a channel for creative energy. The beauty and peacefulness of the cemetery always brings me comfort. Honoring the lives that have passed brings me into the present moment. Being in the present always brings me one overwhelming, humble feeling: gratitude. Gratitude for this life.
And honestly… I always get a sensation that the spirits hanging around are dancing with me! Or at least getting a kick out of the fact that I am dancing.
Dancing among the rows of headstones, I feel the transience of my own life. I know I’m only stewarding my little piece of the world for a brief time. I’m concerned with what little actions I can take to make my world a better place. When I die, I want to be buried in a biodegradable urn that mixes my ashes with the seed of a fragrant bush, which grows next to a curving stream, in a garden of sumptuous fruits. That would be awesome.
So, if you are feeling burdened by emotional baggage, worried about that which you can’t control, stuck in a creative rut, saddened by world conditions to the point that you no longer can have a positive outlook or heartbroken by the transitions of life… head to your nearest cemetery. Try dancing with the dead. It might be just what you, too, need.
Stephanee Grosscup is a Salt Lake City-based figure skater, coach and choreographer whose career spans four decades. She is a longtime dear friend to CATALYST. http://overtheedges.com