Breaking the Grip of Self-Consciousness

The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 1995 | Go to article overview

Breaking the Grip of Self-Consciousness


I was taking a class of improvisational tap dance. I loved it-and I dreaded it. Winged feet were what I wanted, but whenever my turn came, they seemed barely animate.

Early in the course, the teacher asked each of us to choose a familiar jazz standard and to think of the tune while tapping it improvisationally with our feet. During every class, one or two students tapped out their choices while the rest of us guessed the tunes. When the course was almost over, I still hadn't mustered the courage to do mine.

I was so tired of being tied up in knots with anxiety about dancing in front of people; I finally prayed. I thought of how talents, abilities, and inspiration all have their source in God. The notion of Almighty God being nervous about anything struck me as ludicrous. I saw that if I really acknowledged Him as the source of my grace, rhythm, and spontaneity, these qualities would characterize my movement. After all, I don't have more power than God, so how could I obstruct what He is doing?

I started carrying a quotation in my wallet so that I could think about it during spare moments. It builds on the Biblical theme of our having been made in God's image and likeness. It was written by a woman who found the Bible immensely practical in dealing with every challenge of human experience, Mary Baker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy founded the Christian Science Church to help others discover the Bible's healing impact in their own lives. She states in her Miscellaneous Writings: "Man is free born: he is neither the slave of sense, nor a silly ambler to the so-called pleasures and pains of self-conscious matter. Man is God's image and likeness; whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God's reflection" (p. 183).

The statement struck a chord with me, because I felt like "a silly ambler" on the dance floor. I realized that if I tried to be impressive while thinking of myself as self-conscious matter, I was drawing from very limited resources. But if I claimed my God-given freedom, my ability as His image and likeness to reflect all that He is-if I thought about expressing God instead of impressing the teacher-the possibilities of what could be achieved on the dance floor would be unlimited. …

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