Rave as Meditation

In reading a lecture that was given by Alan Watts, I was struck by the similarity of the effects of ecstasy to his explanation of meditation. I read about the Buddhist monk who exclaimed that the ravers' dancing was like walking meditation and indeed it is.

Watts says: "...he doesn't act frantically with the thought that he's going to get somewhere. He acts like he can go into walking meditation at that point, you see, where we walk not because we are in a great, great hurry to get to a destination, but because the walking itself is great. The walking itself is the meditation....there's something about it that isn't hesitant; they're walking just to walk."

This is how I feel when I dance on ecstasy at raves. Sometimes I used to feel obliged to dance at social functions or clubs where you were supposed to "look good" dancing to meet people and stay in your little pod of friends. It all felt self conscious and motivated by something more than just rhythmic movement to the music. In taking ecstasy, I dance just to dance. I realised that the action of dancing and letting go and freely moving is great. Being myself, enjoying the moment and the feelings, ecstasy almost puts you in a meditative trance.

Central to Watts' description is that you must stop thinking in order to meditate: "most westerners start to fidget; they find it very boring to sit for a long time, but the reason they find it boring is that they're still thinking. If you weren't thinking, you wouldn't notice the passage of time, and as a matter of fact, far from being boring, the world when looked at without chatter becomes amazingly interesting."

When I dance at raves I feel very relaxed and close to, if not at, this non-thinking state. I hardly notice the passage of time and I am free of the tension and worries of daily life. The empathogenic quality of ecstasy creates a sort of tender regard for everything - it makes you realise the value of things around you, whether by accentuating the beauty or the grotesqueness of something. I notice the things around me in a closer way: the lights, the people, the all-encompassing vibration of the bass, even the feel of grainy dirt on my palms when I sit down on the floor for a rest.

Lastly, and probably the most importantly for me, is the realisation that "from the standpoint of Buddhism, there is no fundamental difference between the transcendental world and this everyday world. The bodhisattva, you see, who doesn't go off into a nirvana and stays there forever and ever, but comes back and lives ordinary everyday life to help other beings to see through it too, he doesn't come back because he feels he has some sort of solemn duty to help mankind and all that kind of pious cant. He comes back because he sees that the two worlds are the same. "

Not all ravers are bodhisattvas or anything drastic like that, but what is so wonderful about ecstasy is that you can find yourself in a state of ecstasy in ordinary life and you want to spread the vibe to others. Ecstasy doesn't have to just be a drug induced high - the feelings and sensations are always there and you just need to relax to tap them. Relax, keep dancing, and smile. See the good in everybody and let the good energy flow to the people around you. Like the bodhisattvas, people don't take ecstasy and go to those heights of feeling all the time, they have the occasional experience and nourish its positive effeects in between, along with spreading the good attitude to others.

I know, a rave is not a buddhist temple and ravers are not "enlightened" by definition. I certainly don't measure up to the ascetic lifestyle of a monk. But I do think the experience of ecstasy can certainly be equated to the higher state of mind that might be brought on by meditation and one that can be reached in daily life.

Catherine, American, aged 16.

Alan Watts' lecture can be found at http://www.deoxy.org/w_lectur.htm

Write to us

Council on Spiritual Practices Home Page