Judging from the outward behaviors, it would appear that flamenco and mindfulness meditation couldn’t be more dissimilar. The lived experience of them is not so far apart, I believe. Bear with me and I’ll explain…..
In previous posts, I recounted how this book was written in the peaceful days after a meditation retreat and that mindfulness is a big part of what heals the protagonist. I have also said that Other Wise is inspired by the spirit of flamenco. How could the flavors of such a passionate art form and such a disciplined spiritual practice blend well in the same story?
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not about eliminating strong emotions and thoughts. Meditation cultivates a tolerance for realness and builds an inner ground which is centered enough to withstand the full impact of feelings we might try to avoid ordinarily.
The goal of spiritual practice is not to detach ourselves from the world. It is to become more sensitive to the fact that we are one with it.
Likewise, flamenco has more to it than initially meets the eye. While it does express and evoke very intense emotions, the highly stylized technique, rhythms, intervals, and lyrical metaphors provides a safe container. There is a secret code within gypsy slag which is very reminiscent of eastern spiritual philosophies.
While it may appear dramatically overblown, flamenco is very socially healthy. Typically flamenco is improvised with a group of others people who are participating in the music as well, meaning everyone is in the present moment. This is very intimate and supportive, especially for the singer or the dancer. In flamenco culture, people take turns in this role while others witness and keep the beat. Classical training is not require, but being authentically heartfelt is. As with any form of culture, flamenco renders personal experience universal, evoking compassion, forging connection, fostering reverence, and reflecting grace. These are all goals that yogis strive towards as well.
Flamenco and meditation are polarities which illuminate the human being from opposite directions, one through community and the other through contemplation. Like a lemniscate, both paths converge at the heart, where we find ourselves in others and others in ourselves.
Yogis know that we are buoyed up by our connection to the divine, and we are crushed down by the gravity of desire and ignorance. Flamenco dancers are also trained to embody this tension of gravity and levity, another similarity. Both practices hone the conscience, which is the guiding light located at the solar plexus in the body.
Meditation and flamenco are extreme examples of stillness in movement, simultaneous giving and receiving. They both lend themselves to healing and liberating the practitioner.
Flamenco reveals the archetypal in the individual. Meditation releases the individual to operate consciously as the communal.
Nothing is true without its opposite.
People often think that we retreat into ourselves when we are afraid. Performing arts and solitary meditation could also be misunderstood as masks or ways of hiding. In truth, nothing takes more courage than to feel life from within, roots firmly planted on the earth, chest wide with an open heart, to express skillfully what is present in the soul for the benefit of others. That is the purpose of flamenco and meditation, which both require great precision and restraint, a dedication to timing, and humility.
Nothing is more spacious than inquisitive honesty exposed without shame.
The soul is vast.