Last night I had a dream about dancing. It seems to me there was an interesting message in this dream.
I was sitting in a bar after last call on a Tuesday night or, rather, it was nearly 2:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. My girlfriend was an exotic dancer. We were at a table keeping two of her co-workers company until their rides home showed up.
I knew the other girls, but I didn’t know them very well. Still, it was easy to tell one of them was down. It wasn’t just because it was just another slow Tuesday night. She wasn’t feeling good about what she was doing.
I decided to try to pick up her spirits.
Are you going to be doing this the rest of your life? “I sure as hell hope not.”
So it’s a temporary job. What’s the purpose of a business? “To make money.”
Well, not exactly. The purpose of a business is to attract customers and keep them coming back. If a business does that well, it makes a profit.
Is this place a legitimate business? Is what happens here legal? “Yes.”
Do you do anything immoral here, anything wrong? “No.”
So your temporary job is to attract customers to this legitimate business and you don’t do it in a sleazy way. It’s honest, if unusual, work. I know you work hard and are far from overpaid. Am I right so far? “Yes.” I can’t imagine the toll working in high heels takes on your feet.
I assume some of your family members or friends aren’t happy about what you are doing. So what? If they were in your position, they’d be doing exactly the same thing.
O.K. So what do we have? You are paid to attract customers who drink and eat here. They come back if they enjoyed themselves here, especially if they enjoyed your performances.
Some of them are creeps or drunks, but creeps and drunks are humans like the rest of us. Others are lonely or lustful or curious or whatever. People.
When you aren’t on stage you sit and talk with them. Maybe you’re the only person who ever listens to them or pays any attention to them. In fact, really listening to someone, even to a relative stranger for a few minutes, is one of the best things we can ever do for each other.
When you are on stage, they lust after you. So? They can see but they can’t touch. They’d rather watch you live than on television or in the movies or online. Maybe you give them hope, and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Besides, is it always only lust? You’re a good dancer, and you work hard to be a better one. In fact, you work really hard. You do your best, even on Tuesdays when this place can be dead. Right? “Yeah.”
Each one of you isn’t just a beautiful young woman. Each of you is good at dancing. That’s important. Don’t underestimate it. What you do can be beautiful.
What if everyone were really good at what they do?
What if everyone, every day, performed their work as well as possible?
Besides, some nights you really hit the dancing right, don’t you? When you learn a new move, you work on it until it becomes habitual, automatic. You really have to work at it over and over and over again, even if you have a lot of natural talent for dancing.
Sometimes, and this is my main point, you aren’t just trying to do it anymore, sometimes you are the dancing. That’s what I mean by hitting it: there’s no difference between you and dancing. There’s perfect alignment, the “how” is perfect. It may not happen frequently, but you know what I’m talking about, right? “Yeah.”
Well, the magic is in those moments. Quality doesn’t come from thinking; quality comes from being what you are doing. When the “how” is perfectly right, you can really feel it, right? “Yes.”
And it feels really, really good, doesn’t it? “Yes.”
It’s liberating and joyful. Time seems to disappear. It has nothing to do with the audience or anyone else: it’s just the music and you being what you are doing.
Look, I sure as hell can’t do what you guys do. You make it look so easy that I once tried it. In private, fortunately! (They giggled.) You make it look so easy I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t.
So, big picture, you don’t control whether or not this business is successful. You don’t control whether or not there are many customers in here on a given night. You don’t control what other people think about what you do. Why worry about what you don’t control?
Worry only about what you control. For now, your work is dancing. Be the best you are able to be. Master dancing as often as possible, get the “how” right, get the alignment right.
Learn the great lesson from dancing: if you are going to do it at all, do it wholeheartedly.
My dream about dancing ended abruptly as I woke up.
I immediately thought of what The Buddha once said: “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”
Just be whatever you do.