I'm done shopping and wrapping and shipping gifts for this year. And I don't have anything on my wish list that I would like to receive. It's not that I'm one of those people who has everything. It's that what I want to give and get isn't a "thing."
The research on happiness confirms what most of us past a certain age already know, it's relationships and experiences that bring happiness. And I'm fairly sure that putting the two together is an unbeatable combination. What is priceless to me now are the memories of several holiday family ski trips to New Mexico, where we stayed in a house so special it had its own name, "Toad Hall."
I smile just thinking about another December when we drove from Cancun to ancient ruins nearby, seven of us family members squashed into a 15 year old broken down Valarie. And yes, we sang the song, "Valarie, oh, oh, oh, oh."
I'm glad I knew this early, about the importance of experiences and relationships to a person's happiness. It seems I've always known it, but reading the article, To Dance is a Radical Act, by Kimerer LaMothe in a recent Psychology Today told me what I can credit for this wisdom.
"Dance challenges the values that fund modern western culture," according to Kimerer. Since I've been dancing since I was three years old, I didn't get totally caught in the mind over body value. "When you dance, you know we are not minds in containers called bodies. We are bodies. And movements are what enable us to think and feel and act" - in other words to experience.
"You can have your experience, even it you can't fully articulate it." This InterPlay principle gets at the truth that many of our most cherished or profound experiences cannot be communicated in words. Against the value of the primacy of words in western culture, Rimerer describes dance as radical because dancing "implies that there are forms of knowing that cannot be mediated to us in words, which give words their meaning."
Taking this a step further, a dancer friend, Cynthia Winton-Henry, sent me a TEDxBrussels presentation by scientist John Bohannon.
Bohannon uses a dance company to help him describe the interactions of lasers, photons, atoms, and super fluids. "If you are trying to give someone the big picture of a complex idea, the fewer words you use the better - in fact the ideal would be to use no words at all. " This belief has caused him to establish a contest, Dance Your PHD that looks to award the best dance interpretation of scientific doctoral work.
On this occasion of the ending of one year and the beginning of another, we can begin again to have more of the happiness that comes from relationships and fully embodied experiences. I wish this for you and for myself. As Rimerer says it, "Dance for the span of the universe that you are... to play with the movement that is making us." And have a happy, healthy, dancing 2012.
Sheila K. Collins © 2011