Life Is A Circle Dance

heart015Lori Mac and friends led us in a Sacred Dance Workshop after Sunday service. The dances were from Sufi, Native American, and Celtic traditions. Maybe it was because it was St. Patrick’s Day, or because Lori did such a great job,  but I came away believing that circles are magic. 

Think about it. We see the image of the circle in Nature, in Spirit and in Art. Consider apple pie, mothers, Easter eggs, gift exchanges, hugging, halos, polka dots, and circle dancing, and you will see only perfection.

The circle appears over and over again in the art of all cultures. Drawing circles begins early and we are such proud parents when our child’s random lines begin to complete themselves and look more like lopsided circles. In my college art education classes I learned that a child’s intelligence can be measured by how early she closes her lines and creates her first primitive circle.

Circle dances are a part of every culture I know about. I love the old movies where the natives are dressed in wild costumes and they beat their drums and jump up and down and stomp around in a circle. Those movies were set in Africa, India or in the American West. The covered wagon pioneers in the Westerns also stomped around in circles but for some reason that was called square dancing.

Shaker dances were mostly circles, so were polkas, and Marie Antoinette’s minuet. The Busby Berkley musicals used circles to illustrate it all; magic, perfection, connection and creative energy. So do the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall fame.

By the way, Lori was a Rockette for many years before becoming a Religious Science practitioner and ministerial student. And watching our circle dances yesterday taught me why all those Rockettes needed to be regulated for height. Our dance participants came in all sizes so some of the moves between a five foot two dancer and her six foot two partner were quite a stretch.

Dance is not the only art form that depends on the circle.  Visual arts abound with circular images.Consider the nudes by Rubens. Those ladies are all soft pink circles. So are the apples and peaches in a Cezanne still life.

The gorgeous mandalas of Asian art are examples of perfection and the connection they celebrate is with Spirit. One of the best known images in Western Renaissance paintings is Mother Mary holding her child; if you reduce those paintings to basic forms you see circles of color and light travelling over the canvas.

Circles are everywhere. In the bullseye target on the archery field, in King Arthur’s Court, in the giant pot that three witches stir as they predict McBeth’s future. Today, just for fun, look around and see how many circles you can count. Start with our shrinking world.

The circle also means means respect and sharing as equals – whether in the tribal council of wise men or the family intervention meeting re: Uncle’s drinking. We instinctively know a circle means equality of responsibility and respect.

Sitting in the round, whether in large or small circles, infers equality of opinion in all times and in all places of the world. I wish more political meetings started in a circle instead of a head table with speakers and an audience. I think the world would be better.

Generally speaking, circles feel safer than rows. Generally speaking, conversation flows easier in circles. Generally speaking, love is easier to express, either silently or aloud. It’s all about the energy flow. Energy moves from one to the other more easily when we are connected in a circle. Loving energy is God expressing through our connection to each other and we need to express and enjoy God. That is our true purpose.

As I watched Lori and my other friends dance, I felt included even if I couldn’t dance. Their loving energy was swirling all around the room and it included we few who were not dancing. None of us was left outside the magical God’s Energy Circle.

I could see the love moving around the room. One of the leaders said, “This is a participation dance, not a performance” and that defined the precious feeling of the event. If someone missed a beat, no one missed a second beat by reacting.  No laughter. No frowns. Just acceptance and catching up. I would like to feel that acceptance everywhere I go.Wouldn’t you?

What if we could bring that loving energy to our freeways? Of course, anyone who has ever been on one of those circular freeway patterns in the center of some strange city knows that not all circles are happy places. But the potential is there. That’s good to know. And the seed is planted. Moving on.

Love and cooperation are part of circle magic. Another part is a sense of brotherhood or sisterhood or union with each other.  It can be very strengthening to join hands in solidarity. There is magic in standing up for what you believe as a group. The sum instantly becomes greater than its parts. The old hymn, “Let the circle be unbroken” expresses that magic very well.

Completion is inherent in a circle although it does not necessarily mean an end or finish. Actually, a strong circle is never ending and it can have eternal, ever-widening impact on others. I think of the way the Transcendentalist Circle ripples out over our times almost two hundred years later.

Circles are unending and they can also be forever flexible. Our sacred dance circle was able to expand or contract easily. People did come and go and they were accepted and released. My favorite dance was Celtic and we sang the words, “Merry come and Merry part and Merry meet again.” It seemed like a perfect model for relationships.

Circles also mean creation. The religions that depend on the feminine creative principle make much of the circle. It is the Chalice of life, the Holy Grail and the true center of life.  Certainly life begins with an egg and although it also requires a wiggling sperm, the circle image is reinforced in the coupling.

I enjoyed every moment of the Sacred Dance Workshop and I thank Lori for bringing it to the Center. It helped me appreciate life even more and I remembered that someone once told me Hindus say that what we call life is actually the Gods dancing. If so, I’m sure they are dancing in a circle.

Ask Yourself

What are the important circles in your life?

Would you like to expand any of your circles?

Would you like to create any new circles?


11 Comments on “Life Is A Circle Dance”

  1. Hi Jane……

    My name is Eleanor Bentley, and I am a Unity Minister in Florida. There must be something in the air…….I have been talking about the “Circles of Life” all month long……I am taking the liberty of adding your name to our e-mail blast which contains my Sunday talks…….thanks for your blog…I have passed it along to many of my congregants……

    Blessings to you and your work.


    the Life Force, both inside ourselves and in the greater world around us. We are now entering the time that some religious scholars say is the most important in the World of Christianity……Easter.
    Just as there are many traditions surrounding the celebration of Easter, there are many stories and legends surrounding the origin of the word Easter. To some, it is the history and celebration of spring; for others it is a day to remember deliverance; for many it is the celebration of new life in Christ. In the next few weeks, leading up to the day of Easter, I present just a couple of those ideas….Some say that the day was named for Eostre – a pagan Anglo-Saxon Goddess. This mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring. She is the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The direction of the sunrise, East, is named for her.
    Another idea involves the history of the Frankish church (Germans who settled in Rome during the fifth century). Their the celebration of Christ’s resurrection included the word alba, which means white (the color of the robes worn during the resurrection festival). Alba also meant sunrise. So when the name of the festival was translated into German, the sunrise meaning, ostern, was selected, likely in error. One theory is that Ostern is the origin of the word Easter. Another theory comes from the world of Christianity:
    Throughout Scripture, God speaks of the Sacrificial Lamb. Beginning in Genesis 22, we read of God’s command to Abraham that he sacrifice his son Isaac, the son of God’s promise. When Abraham obediently raises his hand to sacrifice Isaac, God stops him. He is satisfied that Abraham is a man of great faith. When Isaac asks his father “where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”, Abraham replies, “God will provide Himself the sacrifice.” Many believe this was the first foreshadowing of the time when God Himself would become the sacrifice for all the sin of man, through the person of Jesus Christ. Many traditional Christians believe the deeper meaning of the Passover involves this sacrifice, as Jesus himself was crucified on the Friday of Passover week and resurrected on Passover Sunday. Because He is seen as the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb, anyone who accepts the gift of His sacrifice is said to have His blood on the doorposts of their hearts. Therefore, when the final judgment comes, God will pass them over. In Christ, those who believe are set free from the power and penalty of sin.
    Metaphysically, spiritually, we always go back to the root word…..which, in our western translation is East…which refers to “the within”….The I Am Presence in each of us……Last Sunday Logan and I presented the poem by James Dillet Freeman “I Am” and many of you said to me that it spoke directly to the heart and was very poignant. That is because anytime we use the term “I Am” from a place of pure love, the heart is opened…and we tune in to the Circle of Life….that force inside us that is always waiting to be heard and felt.
    Today, we being a three part series dedicated to the deeper meaning of this Easter Season.
    This morning I invite you to stretch the boundaries of your thinking to include the entire process of all living creatures including yourself. In our culture when we speak of the Circle of Life we usually think of being born, living, and dying…….and I’d like to illustrate that circle with a story:
    This story was sent to me by Debbie McGinnis, and it is a true story: Old Guy And A Bucket Of Shrimp
    It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

    Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier.. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now.
    Everybody’s gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts…and his bucket of shrimp. Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier.

    Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’

    In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.
    When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

    If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like ‘a funny old duck,’ as my dad used to say. To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

    To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant..maybe even a lot of nonsense. Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of others. .

    Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down here in Florida . That’s too bad. They’d do well to know him better.

    His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.

    Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were. They needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple
    devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.. Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull!

    Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck.. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal – a very slight meal for eight men – of it. Then they used the intestines for bait.. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait…….and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued (after 24 days at sea..).
    Eddie Rickenbacker (whom we remember as the pilot who started Eastern Airlines) lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull…
    And he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’ That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude

    In the native american tradition, life and death are part of the natural circle of life. Life and death are the two most creative processes we can experience. And yet both are filled with mystery and superstition. Life is difficult for most to understand and death is difficult for most humans to accept. We have built a tremendous fear around it. The processes involved in both life and death are complex. Birth and death are the greatest changes we can encounter, but they are not the only ones.
    When we examine birth and death, we want to view them as changes or transitions, not as final states. Change occurs on m any levels and at many different times in our lives. Changes are blessings. They are signal flares of new growth. Loss and gain are relative terms, but is is always our fear of death or change that prevents us from exploring new ways. The changes we go through on a daily basis are miniature mirrors of the entire life, death and rebirth process.
    The Rock and The Eagle Speaks
    All is a circle and a hoop within me.
    If I speak in the language you taught me,I am all but one.
    Look inside the circle and the hoop and You will see your relation and nations.
    Your relation to the four legged And the two legged
    And the winged ones And to the mother earth
    The grandfather sun ,The grandmother moon The direction and the sacred seasons. And the universe
    You will find love for your relation.
    Look further inside the sacred circle, And the sacred hoop
    In the center of the circle and the hoop
    You will feel the spirit Of the great creator in the center of everything
    Learn about what you are By observing what you are not.
    A Circle and Hoop Within Me

  2. Lori McMacken says:

    Hi Dr. Jane,

    This Blog was beautiful, perfect timing, I will cherish it forever and send it with my application for the Asilomar. Thank you for the wonderful thoughts of wisdom.

    Dancing in Joy,

    Lori Mac 🙂

  3. oops……..part of my talk went to your blog comment…..


  4. Terry Drew Karanen/CSLCV says:

    At 6’2″ I could never have been a Rockette.

    Well, that and the fact that I’m a man, but you can’t have everything!


  5. I so enjoyed your epiphany of the simple circle. We can always see with new eyes the world we live in and the world we are. Love, Marvis

  6. sdgboard says:

    Reblogged this on SACRED DANCE TRENDS and commented:
    Many traditions dancing in circles, an Ancient trend..

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