I was in New York City last week with my wife and grandson. This trip is our gift to each of our grandchildren at the time of their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. We took our granddaughter a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t matter how often I return to my hometown, I feel good when I’m here. This trip could not have come at a better time; I needed a break from my preoccupations with attachments, loss, and backward-looking melancholy.
I love New York—the energy of the City, the exciting pulse of its streets, watching great basketball at corner playgrounds, street performers, hucksters, Central Park, museums, and Broadway. We stayed right in the heart of the Theater District and walked through Times Square every night after the shows.
It’s also a chance to introduce my grandchildren to my New York family. My relatives here maintain an Orthodox lifestyle, but in spite of our differences in religious observances, we revel in our togetherness as relatives. After Sunday brunch, we strolled the old neighborhood together and then joined in with the 50th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade marching down 5th Avenue.
Leading the parade past St. Patrick’s Cathedral were Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Mark Anthony; and the Mayor and Governors of New York and Puerto Rico. In the background was the pulse of the throbbing salsa music. There were floats and bands, Taino Indian drummers, and thousands of costumed dancers. There were tens of thousands who lined the street, transformed by the music into an undulating mass of people in all sizes, shapes, and colors. It was a riotous carnival of colors, food and music.
I felt the rhythm moving through me and joined the dancing mob. The door to my spirit world is opened by dancing (drumming, chanting, sweating, and rocking can also do it). Dancing is the best way I know to get me completely out of my head and into my heart. It’s a feeling that flows through me and grabs me in a way I don’t understand. If I let my body lose control, it moves by itself without my direction. It is in those moments of sublime ecstasy that there is no doubt, no despair, only a sense of transformation. In this state I can move beyond any limitations.
So I brought my grandson on this trip to awaken his soul, and, of course, reawakened my own with a healing dance at a parade down 5th Ave. In my ear, I heard an old Medicine Man whisper, I can teach you my steps but you have to be able to hear your own music….. You can’t heal if you don’t dance.