April 08, 2015


Over the last month I have been having a love affair.

It started with slipping away from the office once/week …
And then it led to Friday nights out. And then Tuesday nights. And Sunday nights.

You know you’ve got it bad, when it starts creeping into your everyday thoughts.
And dreaming about it at night: a full-blown (and totally unexpected) love affair.

You know how love can swallow you up, heal you, open you up, relax you, exhilarate you and bring you vast amounts of joy? That’s exactly how I feel.

salsa salsa-sketch-by-Sveta-Dorosheva

My love affair is with salsa dancing. Bizarre, but true. Let me tell you why I’m so in love with it … and why I feel I’ve gained some profound and unexpected insights from it.

Like any relationship there are lots of things I’ve learned:

being seen means being vulnerable means being strong

Salsa dancing is a partner dance, that requires you to connect on some level with your partner by looking into their eyes, as well as sensing where they want to go (without any talking).

It involves a lot of spins, turns and movement while remaining connected to your partner by the hands/fingers. Both partners are listening to each other’s body and sensing where they’re going.

So I noticed …

It can dissolve fears. Fears of being seen and seeing into someone. Of joyful connections with strangers. Of having them see into you, right there, as you are.

Who knew that looking at a stranger in the eyes could provoke such a curious response?

When I first starting dancing I noticed a little trepidation or shyness within myself, as a result of having to look at people I didn’t know directly in the eyes.

In some ways it can make you feel a little bit vulnerable. Vulnerable, as in open, receptive, relatable, listening, aware. You’re showing up, 100% as you are, right then and there.

it can heal trust issues

I learned that I have had some trust issues with men. And there are certainly reasons for that. I’ve had several freaky experiences in life.

And it’s not just based on my gender – I’m sure all of us have this on some level, because we’re human, and we’ve had a myriad of crazy experiences in life that shape us.

My point is this: salsa dancing is working that out of me.

Within the community of salsa dancing, the men are extremely respectful. I have never once felt any sleazy, slimy energy or a desire to take advantage of me. And surprisingly, even though salsa can be a sensual dance at times, I never sense sexual or lower chakra energy from my dance partners. If anything, the love comes straight from the heart.

There’s an immense sense of appreciation. Appreciation for whoever you’re dancing with in the moment. You see their character, whether it’s serious, humorous, driven, or just wakefully present.

You can see softness, strength, patience and even discomfort. When I can’t follow properly or get twisted up (I’m a beginner after all), sometimes I see a subtle pained look come across their faces.

When you’re dancing, you are 100% present with the other person. And there’s some kinda magic to being 100% present with another human being who is also 100% present with you.

a posture of confidence creates confidence

I also noticed that my posture sucks.

Now that could be because I’ve sacrificed my body to my business for the last 15 years or so – working as many hours as I could physically bear (because I LOVE what I do!) and not exercising at all (like I used to when I was younger). Or it could be related to some underlying insecurities or shyness.

Whatever the reason, while dancing my shoulders were curling in and down – kinda like an old lady hunching over – and my gaze pointed downward.

The body is an expression of what’s inside and by shifting your body, you actually shift how you feel on the inside. Through the practice of holding my body very upright and looking up/straight ahead during dance classes, it’s carrying over into my everyday composure and how I carry myself on a daily basis.

dancing is like learning a language

If you’ve ever learned a language through immersion, you’ve experienced this phenomenon directly: Some days you feel like you’ve totally got it down, and then the next day you feel like you don’t understand what anyone is saying to you.

I first experienced this when I shipped myself off to Germany at age 16, without knowing any German beyond ‘Good morning’. I had won a scholarship to be an exchange student during my junior year of high school. It took me a full six months to be able to pass the ultimate language learning test, which is understanding jokes within in a big group of people. The same thing happened when I lived in Spain for a year during college.

Learning to dance salsa is just like learning a language through immersion. Some days I think, “I’ve got this!” and then other days I step onto the dance floor and become a baby hippo, feeling heavy and stuck and twisted in the mud.

What helps: every time I dance, I focus on what I’ve learned, and on the small successes – and that fuels me. No wonder the salsa communities are relatively small (but growing!), because it requires a certain amount of discipline and mental strength to keep going.

I believe that entrepreneurs, people who travel the world, people who learn languages and salsa dancers all have a pretty similar skill set that has a lot to do with perseverance and openness.

As someone who’s big into self-awareness and striving to be a better person every day -interestingly, I’ve found salsa dancing to be yet another method that refines inner qualities, and strengthens perseverance, discipline and mindful-awareness with an all-out joyous form of movement. What do you think? What kinds of things do you do to enhance your mindful-awareness and build your character beyond meditation?

Here’s a fun song to dance to:

Happy feet + flower petals,

katie hess flower alchemist

*Gorgeous illustrations by Sveta Dorosheva.

20 Responses


December 06, 2015

I remember that first year discovering salsa (then swing, then tango, then…). It’s magic; addictive, entrancing, so much fun! Enjoy. :)


January 05, 2016

Totally. Totally & utterly addictive. ☺️


April 30, 2015

Thank you, Cherry!


April 30, 2015

Victoria! I had no idea you were so into dance – how fun! Busy lady! Wonderful knowing that about you. I love what you wrote & thanks for the encouragement. Much love.


April 30, 2015

Kaanan, we are happy to ship to India – no problem! ; )


April 17, 2015

So happy you feel inspired by it! ; D Yay!


April 17, 2015

Elizabeth, I agree! I practiced Tai Chi for a while … I want to get back into it because I love it so much. It’s obviously a solitary style of movement, but I know what you mean. Thanks for commenting!


April 14, 2015

Yay! Yes, try! Have fun.


April 17, 2015

Alia, yes! Thanks for sharing. xoxo


April 12, 2015

As I was reading this, I saw how this is exactly the same as learning a martial art. As an acupuncturist, I started practicing ba gua zhang, an internal martial art from China, and have found it so challenging to stay in my body, and to be in such close physical contact with others.

Thanks for sharing!


April 14, 2015

Thank you, Mary! Hope you get your toes back on the dance floor! Much love.


April 11, 2015

Salsa is wonderful! Dancing has always been so healing for me in many ways. Thank you for sharing your experiences here. I’m reminded of how important it is to do something I love. I think it’s time to get my dancing shoes out again! xx


April 12, 2015

Love this! Thanks for sharing it. I’ve been wanting to get back in to dance but hesitating for the vulnerability. Here is the inpspiration I needed!


April 11, 2015

Sounds like so much fun Katie! I might have to try!


April 11, 2015

Thanks for sharing !! Enjoyed your words and the music !


April 11, 2015

I would like to order songs of good stuff. Am fun india is or possible you send it here.


Mary H Anderson

April 11, 2015

Love that you’re dancing, Katie. It’s one of my favorite activities which I have neglected so I’m inspired to join a class to re-activate my passion too. Thank you as always for sharing your intimate thoughts and vulnerabilities…it makes me feel I’m okay with my own self analysis and gives me perspective on how to make changes to “shake up” my limiting beliefs and get my mojo back. Excellent post and I love the music!


April 11, 2015

Yes, dance. My favorite form of excercise.

The week I read your February post I had gone to: Ecstatic (free form) dance – Friday, (Two-Step) partner dance – Sunday, Square Dance – Tuesday, Folk Dance – Wednesday and Line Dance – Thursday! That was the week of our FE call. The week I was sewing up a storm (pictures to follow).

And of course I practice my hula throughout the week.

I was on fire as you said. I was on Horsetail (funny enough, it was the last week of the Year of the Horse [kicking up its heels, flicking its tail]).

Just yesterday I decided to learn “Move Your Body” (letsmove.gov). I only discovered it this past week as I was planning our Earth Day event where I work (the library). I was searching for outdoor activities and stumbled upon letsmove, I’m on the slow train. If I didn’t work at the library, it would seem I lived in a cave.

Yes I love to dance. I will give Salsa a twirl, heehee. I will have to travel a bit of a distance. Square dance is in our next town, line dance is in the town I work in, ecstatic, partner and folk are in the little village I live in.

I won’t be able to commit to salsa. But while I’m there I will be aware as I make the connection with a partner and the room.

Immerse yourself in the affair Katie. Everything else drops away. And everything is there. In the moment.


April 11, 2015

Of course! Feel free! You can wash & dry them and use for oils or herbal extracts – or you can take out the dropper & use it as a bud vase. Cut flowers last longer in that type of glass. ; )

Brooke Wiley

April 11, 2015

Hi LotusWei!
Are you able to re-use the bottles (with dropper tops) once they are emptied? I have a few (yes, love your products!) but I don’t want to throw those nice bottles away.

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