Pole Conundrums Part I – Written by Vaidehi Amair Almost every day I am reminded to pursue my “career”. To make sure I stick to my “profession”. By who? By people who don’t understand my vision. Once they know a little more about my spiritual background and my deep interest in spiritual life, they also ask me, wow, you pole dance? But you are also into spiritual life? They are in shock. I assume the shock is coming from the visuals bubbling in their minds. I assume the image they see when I mention pole dance is one of me ripping my clothes off as I walk around the pole like a wanton beast of a woman with my ass hanging out. And then they contrast that with another stereotypical image, a quiet swanlike woman sitting in a temple with palms folded, dressed in all white as plumes of incense dissolve around her face. They turn back to look at me, a wild haired racially ambiguous Mediterranean maybe Indian? Latina woman of some sort and they begin spewing out different versions of the same questions again. “What about your career?” “What about your spiritual practice?” “Are you getting paid?” “How will you make money?” “Can you make money?” “I’m only saying this because I care about you.” The questions, their facial expressions and the intention of their questions echo and temporarily sink into my mind. I sit there and patiently answer away; Coolly bursting the bubbles that emerge from their psyche and hover above their heads before the residue sinks to the ground. Poof. The questions and visuals sink down to the ground. I look at the floor and look back at them and smile. A sparkle glitters in my eyes as I remember how I love to dance. How much I love pole dance.I grew up in a spiritual community, what is known as an ashram, where people from all walks of life live together for a particular spiritually centered lifestyle. We eat together, chant together, and do Seva, or selfless work together. We have other ashrams and temples all over the world. We travel internationally visiting amazing temples to meet our world wide spiritual family. This family isn’t bound by any external designations but rather by an internal consciousness focused on soul and heart; yet with a specific conditioning and decorum that revolves around humility, simplicity and chastity. As a creative child, my mom made sure to put me in music and art classes, writing classes, and dance classes. I was most content when exercising my creative abilities. Over time, as I grew older and knew a few things about myself, I knew that I loved to write, I knew that I loved to sing and that I loved music. Most importantly, it was clear that I LOVED dancing. I used to Samba dance, Belly dance, Salsa, and dabbled in beginner’s Indian classical and Bollywood dance. I would flirt with the basics of ballet every so often but never moved up. Pretty soon I had a spiritual awakening of some sort and decided I needed to live in India. That my purpose was tied to my spiritual practice and I wanted to experience it on a deeper level. I spent my teenage years and mid twenties immersed in this type of life and focused practice and my identity has been shaped by these experiences. I traveled to and lived for a significant amount of time in India, Thailand, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, London, etc., The time spent there revolved around being a spiritual practitioner dedicated to producing multimedia works that somehow described spiritual life or were imprinted by the shadows of the philosophy, when not directly dedicated towards a particular mission. I traveled as a presenter of spiritual topics and yoga whether it was for a large audience, through video or presentations or just through friendships. Although I was focused on spiritual life, learning this spiritual philosophy of Bhakti Yoga and dedicating years of my life to our ashram, dancing was always a part of me. My identity and ability as a dancer wasn’t in the forefront or exercised (although I looked for ways to bring it in), but it was always in my heart and in the back of my mind; Anyone who really knew me knew that I loved to dance. I would dance in my room and listen to music through my headphones while traveling. I would also sometimes dance when we did our kirttans, or large meditation and chanting gatherings where everyone would sing and dance together. So dancing has always been a part of me. Despite the fact that I wasn’t a professional or competitive dancer growing up, I simply loved to dance and wished I could do it every day. There were times when I felt I was going to suffocate or implode if I didn’t get to dance. That I was wasting my life. I was oh so attracted to the idea of being in music videos and just dancing like a rock star for life. These feelings began to swell within me, like the ocean under the influence of the full moon; destined and controlled by the stars. And so it was, I began craving music, craving dance, craving fashion, friends, craving what was inherent to me. I went back to the states to finish my education, always desiring that one day, I would go to a dance retreat of one form of dance or another for six months, or take dance classes again and immerse myself. Time went by, I completed my degree in multimedia communications and film and began working at travel publisher Lonely Planet. I thought becoming a travel multimedia journalist was my goal and I tried and tried to make that happen, only to meet dead ends and disappointment. However, it was at Lonely Planet, through my at first “internship supervisor” and then colleague, that I was introduced to pole dance. Read my next article to see how this journey unfolded and how pole dancing has not only become the center of my life, but how it has been the key to unlocking and fulfilling my dreams.