Questions to the Sick II: When is the last time you danced?

A daily devotional I use by Mark Nepo introduced me to a series of questions Native America medicine men ask of the sick: When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you told your story? These questions would be put to the sick and dying by the tribe’s medicine man. In my recovery journey, I’m learning it’s just as important to ask these questions of the living. (

Question II popped up again this week as I cycle through the book a second time, so I’ve been more aware of this lesson. And, I can actually think of two recent contrasting experiences that taught me an even deeper lesson.

Last month, I was at an outdoor concert of Jennie DeVoe, a regional musician whose work has been a discovered gift since I started this journey. There in the open venue, I jumped up, stood by our table and let myself go — dancing and swaying to one of my favorite songs from my muse. I let the joyful release of the music flow through me, unphased by what others might think of me.

Last night, I was at another outdoor venue, listening to a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. His storytelling and weekly radio broadcast have been a part of my story since I was in my twenties. But, in my final years of active addiction, my Higher Power used several broadcasts in particular to speak to my broken spirit. I knew then I’d be ok even if I didn’t know when and how. So, one of my bucket list items was to see him broadcast live. With that context, again, it’s no surprise I felt the same joyful release well up inside me. I SO wanted to jump up and dance — but I held back. It was still an amazing performance, with laughter and tears and healing. But, I wasn’t able to live as authentically as I wanted.

As I reflected today on the way I chose to react so differently during those two cathartic situations, I asked myself — why? I realized the level of safety created by the company I was with was a key factor.

I’m human, and know that much of my life has been driven by fear and shame. In one situation, I knew I would be understood and my joy celebrated. In the other, I feared ridicule and shame.

What a difference the company we choose can make. And today, I do have choices. It doesn’t make one set of people “good” and one “bad.” But, it does mean I can make choices to be around that which celebrates living authentically and openly. And being able to make those choices doesn’t make me better than. It simply is what I choose to do.

Of course, I hope that in the future, I’m able to let go regardless…unphased by the reaction of others, driven instead by the deep connectedness I’m having at that moment with the music, my feelings, my true self…and the universe.

But, this is a journey – I strive for progress, not perfection.

Today, I’m simply grateful for the awareness and growth.

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I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

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