Photo by Moonsign Magic
Every morning I start the day the same way: I wake up, and when the voices in my head get too noisy, I get out of bed, start the kettle, put on my headphones, and do a lapdance for god.
Before I even get started, I feel like I have to clarify that the “god” I’m referring to here is the secular concept of universal force, the energy that drives entropy, the non-dualistic stuff of molecules and chemistry. While I’m sure there are Christians, Jews, and other theists who do lapdances for God-with-an-uppercase-G, that’s not me so I can’t share that perspective.
These morning lapdances are sometimes only a song long, but if my son is away at his father’s house, they sometimes stretch into half an hour. I stretch my arms up, I bend over, I crack my ankles, I roll around on the floor, I see what hurts.
Here in my mid-40s, generally something always hurts and I suspect that’s not just bodies, that’s humans. Pain just tells you something needs attention and love, and isn’t there always something that needs attention and love? I think my body was always in conversation with me, I just didn’t bother notice when I was younger.
Coming of age in the ’90s hippie raver scene on the West Coast, I spent a lot of time at gatherings that revolved around DJs playing thumpy electronic music, and people in the dark, moving around. Sometimes it was the dark of a forest or a beach or a desert, sometimes it was the dark of a crumbling warehouse or gallery. (For me at least, it was almost never the dark of a bar.)
These gatherings sometimes were named after cycles of the moon, or fairies, or tarot cards. We were ravers, but we were on the West Coast so we were pretty woo, too. We worked at record stores and sold drugs, but we also went to grad school and had corporate jobs. We went to gatherings that we insisted weren’t just raves or parties, they were something more.
Some of these kinds of gatherings were interrupted around midnight for something called “Prayerformances” For half an hour, an array of lovely young women (and sometimes men, but mostly women) would snake around a half-lit stage, carrying candles or bowls of water, waving fire fingers, or swirling fabric around themselves. There would be a sort-of plot, but it was always a little opaque (or maybe just unfocused? I never knew.) At the time, my younger self felt the performances were mostly a way of saying “Everyone sit down and watch us be precious and spiritual.”
And yet it occurs to me: this old judgement was mostly just a way of othering myself (I am different, therefore better) and likely steeped in shame. Is this why I feel the need to mostly dance with myself in my home, alone? Shh: nobody look.
Or does this just make the joke on me? Because here I am over two decades later, and I wake up every morning and I put on my headphones and I pray with my body. I pray through my body. I pray to my body.
If you’re paying attention, your body is dying. And if you start thinking of time as an illusion (which I do sometimes), then basically you’re already dead.
I’ve found this to be oddly a relief. I still can’t accept it, but when I stare at it every day, it’s less scary. I reduce the fear: it’s already happening! You’re gonna die! You can’t fight it, you can only enjoy where you’re at in the cycle, and the way you enjoy is by paying attention.
That’s really all I’m doing when I’m doing my morning laps in the pool of presence, these dances for the divine. I’m just trying to pay attention to where I’m at, and the way I like to pay attention is by seducing god.
The two lenses of worth
I suppose this odd translation of spirituality makes sense for a woo-woo late bloomer like myself. Based on the completely agnostic first 40 years of my life, I’m inclined to understand the world through two lenses: interpersonal relationships, and business development.
So is it really any wonder that when it came to finding my way to my own sense of spirituality, and my daily practice would end up being sort of dance sensual movement for a deiine partner.
I have a lifetime of trying to feel my way around the edges of my worth, which I’ve done through my two favorite lenses: human relationships, and entrepreneurship. Both ladders I’ve climbed have had the same narrative: Do you like it? What’s the value?
These are questions I’ve asked any number of men, women, corporations, ad clients, annual sponsors, consultants, therapists, teachers, abusers, and mentors. These worth questions are my poor ego’s fixation. (Enneagram 3s, y’all feel me?) They’re old patterns, so I suppose it would make sense that they’d show up in my life here, too.
When I do my lapdances for god, I’m finally feeling my worth in the presence of the only entity that matters: the divine, of which I am a slice, and of which you are a slice, and all of us are just different eddies and currents of the same soup that flows around through us.
I dance alone at home, with only myself to keep me company, but when I close my eyes and feel the momentum of life in me and moving through me, I understand that I’m not alone. Absolutely everyone everywhere is within in, and without, and it boggles the fucking mind!
My beliefs run non-dual, which means most simply that everything is one. As above, so below. As without, so within. When I’m doing lapdances for god, I’m finally answering the question, “What’s it worth?” and then answer is “It’s a life god gets to live itself through — what small-mindedness to question its worth!”
I dance alone because it’s mostly just a prayer for the slice of god that’s in me, but then sometimes I film it. These aren’t good videos — the lighting is questionable, the audio quality is muddy, I’m usually wearing some version of pajamas crossed with yesterday’s gym clothes.
Sometimes I share 15 second clips with the internet, and then other godslices get to witness itselves through a tiny little slice of themselves reaching out through the ether. I get amazing DMs from folks telling me how these 15 second slices have inspired them to move around their own homes, start movement practices, become circus performers (!?), workout, get embodied, feel more alive, cry on the floor more without feeling bad about it. That’s why I share. I want everyone to find their worthiness in their own vessels. A daily devotional practice is such a nice way of paying attention to your present moment! I’ll share mine in tiny 15 second slices if it helps you build a few minutes of your own movement into your day.
Sometimes I think I only share 15 seconds because the sensation of the universe witnessing itself is too overwhelming to tolerate for much longer. I know social media has sliced us up and diced us to be sold to each other for the price of our attention (the most valuable currency we have, when you think about it… why are we so careless with it?), but if you’re actually paying attention, the moments of connection can be breathtaking.
That’s what sucks about social media… like so many shitshows, it’s a blend of horrific and beautiful. The connections can be profound. The digital divination tool can be pretty great, using the algorithms as a kind of tarot deck — which card will come up today?
But we all know the deck is stacked.
I can’t solve this problem. I love sharing my tiny lapdances for the other slices who enjoy such things. My writing is my mind, but my dance is my soul, and I like being able to share it… not because me, Ariel, wants you, viewer to sit down and watch me. That’s what always bugged me about the prayerformances: we had to sit down. The dancing stopped. We were told to sit and watch.
I don’t want you sitting and watching me. I want us moving together.
So, where are you going with this, Stallings?
The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out about this new platform yet is how to use it for my more visual medium of dance. I love my shortform video, my half-lit photography, the kind of relationships that you can develop around expirable content that can’t be binge-consumed. Insta Stories, is what I’m saying. I hate them, and yet I also love them.
I think I’m going to try doing what an artist I support on Patreon has been doing: she adds her supporters to her “close friends” list on Instagram. Then, she posts most of her Insta Stories to her close friends only.
Basically, she’s using Patreon to turn Instagram into OnlyFans. (GOD I love the concept of OnlyFans, but their user buckets just didn’t work with my content. I will likely write more about this later.)
I wish OnlyFans worked for me, because this supporters & “close friends” thing is a kludgey hack. Insta isn’t set up to allow followers to financially support creators, so third-party platforms get involved (hi, Patreon and Substack!) and then it’s kind of a manual fiddly thing that doesn’t scale very well. (Am I going to update my “close friends” list every month to manually remove folks who stop paying on Substack?! Yikes. We’ll see how this goes!)
So, here’s what I’m proposing: If you’re a supporter who’s subscribed to my newsletter and you would like to follow along with my lapdances for god on Insta, leave a comment with your handle and I will manually add you to my close friends list:
Only folks who are paid subscribers can leave comments, so if you’re a free follower and this is what makes you want to subscribe, you can do that here:
Ok, so what if you want to lapdances on Insta, but you don’t want more emails cluttering up your inbox? That’s cool: subscribe here, I’ll add your handle on insta, and then you can just click the “unsubscribe from emails” in your next newsletter. You’ll still be a subscriber here and added on Insta, but you won’t get the emails. My feelings won’t be hurt. I like writing. I like dancing. You can join in for either one, both, or neither.
I’m still figuring out how all this might work, and this newsletter is likely riddled with typos because I’m too excited to edit it a third time. Subscribers, I hope you’ll leave comments. Free followers, hit reply and ask questions.
PS: I’ll probably be adding folks realtime to Insta tonight, because tomorrow is new moon, and I’ve got weirding out to do!