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A Different Sort of Spiritual Practice: Dance like There’s Nobody Watching

Okay, so it’s drawing close to Holy Week and Easter, and it’s about time that I
confessed. I didn’t give up anything for Lent this year. Instead, I took something on. This may sound strange at first, but I took on Zumba for Lent. During my most recent physical, my physician suggested that I become more physically active. For several years my cholesterol level had been borderline high and this year my blood pressure was up so he suggested that I exercise more.

The McCabe Park Community Center is just down the hill from our house, so I began to go work out on the exercise machines while Margaret (my wife) took a Zumba class. Let me say here that I am not particularly inspired by exercise, but I went dutifully each Monday and Friday. Margaret tried to convince me to try a Zumba class, but I declined again and again. She told me that the teacher, Lex Herndon, was patient and encouraging, but I still resisted, until finally (as I always do with Margaret) I gave in.

My first visit to Zumba was so much fun that I have returned every chance I get. Lex was not only patient and encouraging, but she seemed to really enjoy what she was doing which only added to our delight. She told me to watch her feet in order to learn the steps, which I did, but now I also watch her face because her sassy attitude only adds to my enjoyment.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was difficult for me at first, and I could barely make it
through the entire time. But I learned that Zumba was just the right spiritual practice for me this Lent. Here are a few of the things I have learned so far:

First, Zumba offers me the opportunity to be in the minority. I am often the only male in the class (although sometimes one other man shows up). We who are part of the majority culture tend to find it difficult to identify with those who are in the minority. When you are in the minority you have to adapt to at least some of the standards of the majority. For example, a number of the moves in Zumba are decidedly “feminine”. I simply join in as best I can, trying not to be too self-conscious when I do. After all, I am in the minority here. That is an important point for a white, educated, male like me to remember.

Second, it is important to participate in something you are not very good at doing every now and again. I love to do those things at which I excel, especially when others can appreciate my skill. Any of you who have been around me for many period of time, however, know that I am not very agile. In fact, I am downright clumsy most of the time. For me it is a spiritual practice to take part in something I don’t do well (in fact, at which I am really pretty terrible). It is a humbling experience for sure. I just hope this spiritual practice will cultivate in me empathy
for those who find things challenging and difficult that I take for granted.


Finally, it is an important spiritual practice for me to do something that makes me feel foolish from time to time. Margaret and I go to Zumba every Monday and Friday morning (and whenever we are able on Saturday at the East Park Community Center). You see we just follow Lex around wherever she teaches. I guess you could say we are Lex groupies. Do I feel foolish doing Zumba? You bet, but I enjoy it so much. Besides aren’t we called to become God’s fools?


Perhaps if I can learn to make a joyful fool of myself for health, I can also learn to make a joyful fool of myself for the love of God and my neighbor. For now, I’ll just dance like there’s nobody watching!

Michael