The Four Ways Salsa Dancing Brings You Closer to Enlightenment

We all have that naval gazing facebook friend who built an entire personality around being “spiritual.” Symptoms include drinking kimbutcha, instagramming yoga poses, or sharing articles bashing capitalism.

Classic College Liberal

These people have really just constructed an ego around being “enlightened” while getting away from the wisdom that has stood the test of time.

But if buying organic essential oils won’t lead you down a spiritual path, what will?

Like with most things “spiritual” talk doesn’t mean much. It’s all about personal experience. For me, these experiences came as a white boy dancing salsa.

Salsa Forces You to Be Present to the Moment

I’m white. Boat shoes level white. So when I started dancing salsa, I looked like special needs child that had just been stung by a bee. To be remotely passable, I needed to bring Adderall level focus.

Three years into leading, the better I get, the more of a challenge I feel to connect to the music and my partner.

Psychologists call this a “flow state activity” — something where the challenge rises to meets your skill level, leaving you completely absorbed.

Spiritual leaders for centuries have touted the importance of staying in the present moment.

Yet most of my time is spent worrying about an arbitrary work deadline or coming up with the perfect comeback for an argument that I got into three weeks ago.

By doing something I completely suck at, I’m forced to focus.

Salsa Emphasizes Interconnectedness

Like many introverted millennials, my defaults setting is to spend Friday night going down some Youtube rabbit-hole while cycling through Facebook, Reddit and Instagram.

This is all kind of a masturbatory — I end up just scratching whatever itch pops into my head.

Salsa snaps you out of these loops by forcing you to actually engage with another human being. You need to feel music vibrate through you as you connect with your partner.

Any experienced social dancer knows the feeling of “losing oneself.” All thoughts just kind of disappear.

Yogis call it a santori experience. Psychologists call it “flipping the hive switch.” Buddhists call it “no-self.” I call it a great dance.

Salsa Teaches You To Let Go

When I was first learning to salsa, I would only ask old ladies to dance. They tend to be kinder and more appreciative.

One night when I was feeling particularly in the zone, I worked up the courage to ask a pretty girl my age to dance. She sneered, looked down dismissively, and mumbled “no thanks.”

At that moment every bit of me wanted to go sit in the corner and think about what a colossal bitch that girl was.

But I had another option, one that I’ve learned through dancing. I decided to give zero fucks.

It’s impossible to dance and think at the same time. Any work issues, any relationship problems, any bit of self-conciousness — dancing forces you to let all that shit go. You have no choice but to put your problems aside and just flow with the music.

Dancing Teaches You That Nothing Lasts for Ever

When you ask thousands of people to dance each year, it’s inevitable that you’ll reach some pretty intense highs. I’ve hit states of consciousness I thought were only possible with drugs. It’s an intense mix of euphoria and intimacy that’s like nothing else.

But inevitably, these dances end. Songs only last a few minutes.

And while these experiences are no less deep for being ephemeral you learn that no dance lasts forever.

I keep an Evernote of dances that I find particularly memorable. It includes things like my first dance ever, the first time I ever danced to live music, and the first time I ever danced with my girlfriend.

The Evernote has hundreds of dances on it by this point.

I won’t be able to dance forever. My ankles are already starting to give out. But if I’ve learned anything from salsa, it’s to appreciate the moments that I’ve had.