There is a saying, “May you live in interesting times.” It is purported to be an ancient Chinese curse hiding behind the guise of wishing you well. While no actual Chinese source has ever been found for this saying, we are certainly living in “interesting” times at the moment!

When I zoom way out to a big-picture view of all that is happening, not just in my own country, but also in countries near and far; and then add in the relationships between those countries and their citizens; and then all that is happening in the environment and climate change – wow, that’s a lot!

While I admit that my survival self gets afraid at times, my high-heart, compassionate observer self helps me understand that where we are right now is, in fact, part of a much larger evolutionary process. We are indeed in a period of Great Breaking Open. Every societal system and structure, as well as every tradition, value, and practice, is in flux. For many of us, it is unsettling, to say the least. Yet this breaking open is forcing a new calibration – one that is perhaps long overdue.

Trying to wrap our minds around all of this – approaching it from the intellect – quickly becomes overwhelming. However, wrapping our hearts around it – tapping into our larger heart intelligence as the starting place – can give us some breathing space.

Yet you might say to me, “Alan, I don’t even know what that means. Give me something I can work with – something practical. What do I do with the daily news? What I do with the chaos and uncertainty in my country, in my community, in my company, in my family, and within me?”

We start with a simple fact.

Let’s begin with the simple fact that everything is changing. Change, in and of itself, is simply change. How we interpret that change and what happens as a result is up to us – all of us.

As individuals, we have the power to choose how we look at what is happening, how we will be present with it (or not), what decisions we will make, and what actions we will take. Our habitual perceptions, habits, and choices are influenced by our backgrounds, experiences, and conditioning. Yet we also have the power to re-pattern our habits. The choices we make as individuals combine to shape the choices we make as a collective.

Life is a dance. How we dance determines everything.

Metaphorically speaking, life is a dance. Whether or not we acknowledge it, we are constantly dancing with everything that happens. It’s a dance of co-creation. Consciously or unconsciously, we partner with people, thoughts, circumstances, and situations, to co-create our realities. We co-create with Life.

Life is not a fixed reality. It is fluid—constantly shifting and changing. So we’re constantly co-creating with change. Like it or not, we’re in the dance. Life impacts us and we impact Life. It’s a full-circle dance.

Every change, large or small, has the potential to create both balance and imbalance. The change itself activates the dance. The key question is:

Will it be a reactive dance or a responsive dance?
It’s our choice.

When the dance is reactive, feelings and emotions are stirred. Adrenaline may take over. What may be a multi-layered, complex situation is quickly reduced to “us versus them.” Tensions escalate, tempers flair. And, of course, we are right.

When we are in reaction, there is little or no consideration or awareness of a bigger picture or context. Whatever has just happened in the moment triggers deeper emotions – fear, pain, anger, anxiety – and we react with the first thought, word, or action without thinking.

When we are with others, we may easily get swept up in the “group-think” and jump on the “bandwagon.” Once you’re on the bandwagon, no other perspective or possibility is allowed.

At the moment that something happens, the reactive dance is often the easier choice. However, it’s only easier on the surface. At deeper levels within our individual and collective psyche, there are heavy costs. It drives us even deeper into our set stories, perspectives, and opinions. As a result, the divide between two sides gets even greater. It’s de-stabilizing, unproductive, and exhausting.

A responsive dance, on the other hand, requires ever-present awareness, non-judgment, and willingness to work with what is happening – to listen to it, to feel it, and to sense what the situation itself is asking for. It requires full-on engagement with what is happening on multiple layers of awareness – a rare thing in our current mainstream thinking. It requires being open to discovering what wants to happen next, which may or may not be what you want to happen. It means looking for a next step that serves something bigger than us.

There are messages in everything that happens. Our job is to look for those messages, to sense the greater potential waiting to unfold, and then to steward that potential or higher good into our real-world situation. At one moment, the situation may be asking us to step back and observe – to be still and pay attention. At another moment, it may be asking us for swift action. Often, it is asking for some of both.

Choosing a responsive dance may not feel like the easier choice. It costs us something. It demands something from us. It calls us into personal response-ability. Yet the payoff can be a much greater chance of a productive outcome.

The story of “There’s nothing I can do.”

Sometimes it feels easier to avoid engaging with what is happening by telling ourselves that there is nothing that we can do. Whether it’s a global or national situation, or a situation within our families, we tell ourselves that we have no power to change what is happening – no influence in the situation. Or we tell ourselves that whatever action we take or opinion we hold doesn’t really matter. It won’t make any difference.

However, on an energetic level, that is not true. Every choice we make regarding the situation has an impact. It affects the energetic space around the situation. The quality of our engagement or disengagement – our presence, attitude, and perspective – is a statement in itself and has an influence on how the situation continues to unfold. How we show up or don’t show up matters. No one is off the hook.

What kind of dance do you choose?

So how about you? What is the general pattern in how you dance with Life? Do you tend to be a reactive dancer, or a responsive dancer? What difference could this awareness mean for you in your relationships, in your work, and as a citizen in society?

~ ~ ~

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