The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.

~ Coretta Scott King

Do you belong to a community? Or does your community belong to you? How are belonging and ownership different?

How often have you heard someone say the words “my community”? You’ve probably said it yourself, I know I have. We all play fast and loose with language from time to time, and there’s generally no harm intended.

But is it even possible to apply a possessive pronoun to such a slippery entity in the first place? Communities are amorphous things and if you’re like me, you probably exist in the center of a Venn diagram of several that overlap.

Our lives happen on various planes of communication. Communities used to be limited to the people we could connect with in person, in our neighborhoods, our places of work and worship, or perhaps as far as a horse and buggy could ride.

Nowadays with the magic of modern communication and the miracle of long distance air travel we are able to connect in-person with folks who live far away in person and then maintain those connections at a distance. With the Internet, we are able to cultivate communities around special interests without any physical contact at all.

It’s possible for communities to coalesce around all sorts of causes, recreations, and entertainments. Many of you who are on my list belong to some sort of a dance community or another, or perhaps something similar.

I just got home from a week at Rancho la Puerta, a historical and pioneering retreat center located in the high country of Baja Mexico. I was there with my daughter and long-time creative collaborator Laura Cirolia, we were offering How-To-Spin-Vinyl classes to kids, Analog Awareness to parents, and EFT-in-Motion for families.

We found ourselves part of a diverse group of teachers and facilitators from around the world who come together to teach a wide variety of activities for Family Week , the one time of the year when kids under the age of 14 are welcome there. We formed some great friendships and are looking forward to working with this group again next year. I came home with The Professor’s motto “Siempre Mejor!” (always better!) on my lips. I’m very grateful to feel that I belong to this community of leaders.

The experience gave me time to ponder what it means to be part of a community and how it relates to the space I hold here at home. Dance Jam is the weekly event I host, but calling it “my community” in the sense of ownership would be a misnomer. I’ve heard other organizers phrasing it this way and I feel that there is a subtle distinction.

I hold the reins of responsibility in terms of handling the finances that keep the door open, making sure that we have a good crew each week to set things up and breakdown, promoting the event, and dealing with the various layers of studio managers and building owners whom I have agreements with.

But as a DJ and dance leader, I never feel that I have any ‘control’ over the people who I inspire to move. Rather, I’m in partnership with the dancers on the floor in front of me, and the artists who make the records that I play on the table behind me. I’m in motion at the center of a figure-eight, reading the energy on the floor using my heart and intuition to co-create a safe and loving environment for somatic expression and social connection.

It’s simply one of the many offerings that dancers in the Bay Area community have to choose from, and I feel called to participate with my music and energy on a regular basis. For me, playing records at eye-level for a group of happy dancing people is partnership society action. It’s an atmosphere of choice rather than control, and that’s the difference between belonging to something or owning it.

You can own a car or a piece of land, or you can belong to a community. But a community is not a person. Freedom of choice is as crucial to the human spirit as the sense of belonging. Because people aren’t cattle. Owning people is for despots, slave masters, and cult leaders, all titles deserving of the dustbin of history.

Whenever you find yourself belonging to a healthy community, ask how you can contribute an uplifting offering in a positive way. Some may choose to gravitate towards your offering, others may decide it’s not their cup of tea. If you’re bringing something to the table with good intentions, then it’s an honest contribution with your heart behind it. And if someone is not a match or somehow at odds with you and your values, you always have the choice not to share. You’ll struggle trying to control another person’s actions, but the choice of whether or not to extend an invitation is yours alone.

In many ways, belonging is more valuable than any property or money could ever be. When you feel a sense of belonging to a strong and positive field of energy, it nourishes your soul like nothing else. It invites your participation and contribution. It becomes a part of your identity and raises your consciousness. It provides a supporting foundation of safety and love.

In the dance of metaphysics, it’s important to know which way the energy flows. You may own your objects and physical possessions, but you can only belong to an idea, community, or belief.

Much love till next Monday, may your consciousness spiral ever upward! Siempre mejor!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Member Spotlight:Amara Pagano & The Path of Azul!

This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on Amara Pagano and The Path of Azul! Amara’s name is well-known around the world on the conscious dance circuit, and her signature practice,The Path of Azul is gaining global recognition as one of the foremost somatic movement practices available.

Besides offering a well-rounded roster of retreats and workshops, Azul also provides free guided movement sessions online so that anyone, anywhere can experience the work. All you have to do isvisit the Path of Azul website and get on their mailing list.

Azul Conscious Movement defines itself as “a path of personal transformation.” Amara says, “ I have always felt the evolutionary pull towards growth and healing. It has propelled me in this lifetime. When I discovered at 20 that I could combine my love of dance with healing, a whole world opened. This is the world I have been exploring ever since.

One of the more innovative offerings is the Azul Trilogy . You’ll experience each of the three modules, (Doorways to Love, Portals of Healing, and Lower & Higher Self) in a 6-day conscious dance retreat immersion that provides a deep container for personal healing and transformation.

Amara and her partner Pier Paolo are also the driving force behind the