The Survival Dance and The Sacred Dance
Harley Swift Deer, a Native American teacher, says that each of us has a survival dance and a sacred dance, but the survival dance must come first. Our survival dance, a foundational component of self-reliance, is what we do for a living—our way of supporting ourselves physically and economically. For most people, this means a paid job. For members of a religious community like a monastery, it means social or spiritual labors that contribute to the community’s well-being. For others, it means creating a home and raising children, finding a patron for one’s art, or living as a hunter or gatherer. Everybody has to have a survival dance. Finding and creating one is our first task upon leaving our parents’ or guardians’ home.
Once you have your survival dance established, you can wander, inwardly and outwardly, searching for clues to your sacred dance, the work you were born to do. This work may have no relation to your job. Your sacred dance sparks your greatest fulfillment and extends your truest service to others. You know you’ve found it when there’s little else you’d rather be doing. Getting paid for it is superfluous. You would gladly pay others, if necessary, for the opportunity.
Hence, the importance of self-reliance, not merely the economic kind implied by a survival dance but also of the social, psychological, and spiritual kind. To find your sacred dance, after all, you will need to take significant risks. You might need to move against the grain of your family and friends. By honing psychological self-reliance, you will find it easier to keep focused on your goals in the face of resistance or incomprehension, initial failure or setbacks, or economic or organizational obstacles. And spiritual self-reliance will maintain your connection with the deepest truths and what you’ve learned about how the world works.
Swift Deer says that once you discover your sacred dance and learn effective ways of embodying it, the world will support you in doing just that.
What your soul wants is what the world also wants (and needs). Your human community will say yes to your soul work and will, in effect, pay you to do it. Gradually, your sacred dance becomes what you do and your former survival dance is no longer need. Now you have only one dance as the world supports you to do what is most fulfilling for you. How do you get there? The first step is creating a foundation of self-reliance: a survival dance of integrity that allows you to be in the world in a good way—a way that is psychologically sustaining, economically adequate, socially responsible, and environmentally sound. Cultivating right livelihood, as the Buddhist call it, is essential training and foundation for your soul work; it’s not a step that can be skipped.
[Bonus Link:] “The Sex & Cash Theory”, gapingvoid, 2004.