Applying nonduality on salsa (or any other skill!)

I often get asked, ‘What do you do?’ in the salsa scene. When I mention nonduality, many people are puzzled. ‘What on earth is nonduality?’ they might wonder. Let’s explore nonduality by applying it to salsa, or any other skill you can imagine. Through nonduality, you’ll come to notice that salsa is much more than just a dance, just like any other skill-based activity.

Short introduction

First and foremost, if you’re not curious about the person behind this text, feel free to skip this section and delve straight into the content. This text isn’t about me, and it’s not about you either. It’s about gaining a clearer perspective on life, using a skill such as salsa as a beautiful gateway.

It’s quite a tiresome trait of mine, but I always have to approach things from a nondual standpoint. That’s because nonduality isn’t just a defined area, it’s life itself. Salsa has now fallen victim to this trait as well, though in a lovely way. It would have been a victim in a negative way if I could no longer surrender to the dance. But this text should do the exact opposite: it should keep you out of your head as much as possible. We’re not going to overthink the dance (or any other skill you’re learning). That would be punishment. Instead, we’re going to further appreciate it and surrender to it. Nonduality is not a way of analysing things. It’s rather a way of living, free of the mind. So please don’t be afraid we’re going to conceptualise salsa; we won’t!

If you knew me before I started dancing, you would have never expected me to pick up salsa. I’m far from a stereotypical salsero, whatever image you might have of that. It still surprises me today that I developed this passion. That clearly proves to me that life can take some unexpected turns. However, I’m not aspiring to become a show dancer. I just found dancing to be fun and liberating. Salsa also provides me with a framework to apply nondual principles.

I don’t view it as my life calling at all. And to be honest, that’s very liberating. It doesn’t carry any weight. I dance purely for the love of dancing, and that’s all. Life doesn’t have to be any more difficult, does it? Perhaps this simplicity is the main attraction. However, simplicity doesn’t exclude complexity. It can be very interesting to dive into deeper layers, just for the sake of appreciating life’s richness. If you don’t feel like doing that, then just don’t. But if you somehow feel attracted to exploring the deeper layers of learning a new skill and picking up a new hobby, such as salsa, this article will speak to you.

It’s crazy: the moment I speak about my love for salsa, I suddenly don’t like it anymore. When I want to quit, I feel most attracted to it. When I consider doing something with it professionally, I may want to run away from it. But if I just observe what’s happening, it all comes so effortlessly. It repeatedly shows me that I’m not in charge. I simply cannot control it, and any attempt to do so is useless. It’s just a matter of surrendering to what life brings you. The mind constantly tries to analyse and interpret the complex expressions of life. I find this process of mental intervention more exhausting than helpful.

The fundamental question is, ‘Do I allow myself to not take any position or draw any conclusion based on what’s happening?’ I think so. For now, I’m not statically identifying myself as a salsa dancer, even though I dance every day. I’m not identifying myself as an author either, despite having written two books. Just as I cannot view myself as a coach, despite having coached dozens of individuals.

As soon as I label myself as a salsa dancer, I feel resistance. I’m also not concluding that I should make a living from my current passion; that would bring resistance as well. I’m just keeping it all open and undecided. Let life decide for me. Things that happen, like writing this text and giving a few workshops about its content, are fun by-products. I honestly don’t care about any of it, probably because I don’t have any aims or expectations attached to it. That’s very freeing. Who knows, the moment I publish this article, my passion for salsa might be completely gone. Thank goodness I don’t have to stick to it. I don’t have to convince anybody of my dedication either. I surrender to life, which brings me to places I couldn’t possibly foresee. That’s it.

Besides dancing a bit of salsa, I run a nondual training agency. Again, it’s not just about nonduality; it’s about applying nondual insights in coaching and leadership. If I only allowed myself to focus solely on nonduality in my work, I would bore myself to death. I need real-world situations and earthly occupations to make nonduality come alive. Otherwise, what’s the point of it?

Disclaimer: As I’ve already pointed out, I’m not a professional salsa dancer. Far from it, really. I simply love social dancing. What defines a professional dancer anyway, besides someone who makes a living from it? To those who don’t dance, I might appear as a professional, but a dedicated teacher possibly sees me as a rookie. Both perceptions are valid and invalid, so does the label truly matter? Perhaps to your ego it does, but beyond that superficial concern, it makes no difference. No salsa dancer holds exclusive rights to the dance, just as no nondual enthusiast has sole ownership of discussing nonduality. Both are accessible to everyone. I’ve found salsa to be a wonderful connector and the ultimate equalizer. When you look at it truthfully, limiting labels cease to exist. This is what we’ll explore abundantly in this article.

Basic definitions

Before we delve into it, let’s first briefly define what I mean by salsa and nonduality. While salsa is more straightforward, it’s still worth mentioning.

Salsa is a Latin dance often symbolised as a celebration of life. I apply nondual insights to salsa due to my coincidental passion for it. However, you can substitute salsa with any other earthly skill, whether personal or work-related. The goal isn’t to learn salsa to understand nonduality, but to appreciate the complementarity between any skill and a nondual perspective. I use salsa as a consistent example, though there may be better examples such as climbing, traveling, cooking, writing, language learning, or even sales. You’ll notice numerous commonalities in applying a nondual perspective to the skill of your choice. Applying nonduality to salsa makes understanding nonduality enjoyable and stimulating, which is equally applicable to any other pursuit.

Nonduality can be understood as life itself, fundamentally whole and unified. It exists beyond the realm of the mind. Nonduality is not an experience; if it were perceived as such, it would simply be called a flow state. Nonduality asserts that life, and therefore your essence, lacks inherent divisions. Any perceived opposites, such as self versus other, exist solely as mental constructs. In many cases, thoughts divert attention from fully experiencing life. When thoughts are no longer taken so seriously, the compulsion to act on distractions tends to fade away, leaving behind a state of blissful being.

Apparent opposites

It’s time now to integrate salsa and nonduality. You might wonder if such a thing is possible. It might even feel like a sacrilege, as if inviting your philosophical mind would somehow detract from salsa’s beauty. Nothing could be further from the truth. For me, there’s no alternative but to combine them. Without this integration, life might feel incomplete. There’s still a clear duality between doing your inner work and simply indulging in distractions. This prevents anyone who seeks truth from fully experiencing life. Therefore, I must integrate them. It’s not even a choice, because who is there to choose? My strong urge to integrate them arises from sensing a profound lack in both realms. If life and my deep appreciation for it aren’t unified, I feel disconnected. Focusing solely on nonduality leaves life devoid of its richness, while ignoring life’s expression makes it feel superficial. It’s about recognising the interconnectedness between these two fields.

Once combined, it’s extremely refreshing for both. From a dual perspective, salsa represents life’s richness, while nonduality embodies life’s profoundness. They complement each other beautifully, even though this connection may seem farfetched at first.

Salsa is often associated with playfulness, connection, vividness, and vibrancy. However, it can also be viewed as shallow, materialistic, volatile, and distracting. On the other hand, nonduality is generally seen as an intriguing mystery, yet it can also be perceived as overly confusing, serious, and boring. Both can serve as an escape from life, but neither necessarily has to. Personally, I find salsa to be somewhat superficial, whereas nonduality seems completely useless unless integrated.

A salsa dancer typically embodies youth and elegance, trying to move through life carefree. In contrast, a nondual philosopher may conjure the image of an older, wise-looking person with grey hair and a beard, deeply questioning life. These images appear quite opposite, don’t they? Yet, combining these two personas creates a wonderful mix where their respective downsides seem to dissolve. The salsa dancer gains authenticity and depth, while the nondual philosopher cultivates playfulness and ventures into new adventures.

Salsa gains real depth through nonduality, and in turn, nonduality finds true excitement through salsa. It almost sounds like a utopian scenario, doesn’t it? Utopian ideas often invite skepticism. Your doubts might question whether living completely in the dualistic world and embracing a total nondual perspective on life can truly coexist. Can they even benefit each other? I believe they can, but don’t just take my word for it. It’s a matter of direct experience. Exploring its validity yourself won’t disappoint.

Different layers

Salsa may appear as a dance done solo or with a partner. That’s the surface view. But is there more to it? Absolutely. It encompasses the entirety of life. I’m not stating this to make a random nondual-sounding statement; it’s a fact. It must be, because how else could it exist? When you dance, you’re fully immersed in living. Only thoughts might deceive you into thinking you’re living partially while dancing salsa. Beyond thought, salsa embodies the essence of life itself, whether experienced briefly or over an extended period. It’s not about the duration of being alive; it’s about the awareness of aliveness in each and every moment.

Salsa partner work is about tapping into the connection between two human beings. I use ‘tapping into’ instead of ‘creating’ because ‘creating’ suggests that you must actively cultivate connection, whereas the connection already exists. With this understanding, it’s simply a matter of surrendering to this fact. Instead of trying to create a connection, you’re opening yourself up to the connection that is already fully present. As soon as you allow it, you’re becoming one with your dance partner.

The beauty of salsa shines when the dance perfectly syncs with the music. This synchronisation forms the foundation. Without music, there is no dance. You can hear the music, but listening to it is a deeper experience. It’s about merging with the music, becoming one with its rhythm. When the music takes over, you dissolve into the dance. Doubts and distracting thoughts vanish because there’s no one left to entertain them. In salsa, you never anticipate every move because you’re not overthinking it. Even your own thoughts surprise you. You surrender completely, experiencing profound liberation. Despair, frustration, and insecurities fade away. You transcend the mind and possibly even the body. It feels like nourishing your soul, allowing it to fully rejuvenate. Dancing gives your body and mind a reset. It gives you a fresh start after every dance.

Liberating yourself

How can you move your body if you’re simultaneously free from it? How can you decide your next move if you’re not thinking about it? These are valid questions. Perhaps you’ve had flow experiences in your life’s passion where everything flowed naturally. You didn’t need to consciously plan your actions. It didn’t matter how it looked; you were simply enjoying yourself. Who are you in the dance deciding what to do? On the surface, it seems clear that the leader initiates combinations for the follower. But is this really the case? Where do these impulses originate? From the brain? From the subconscious mind? Can we accept that movement simply arises, regardless of apparent causes? It may seem obvious that the leader decides the moves, but what about the follower? Just like the follower doesn’t know what’s coming next, neither does the leader. The difference lies in the leader’s belief that they decide, whereas the follower doesn’t have this thought. Beyond thought, both the leader’s and follower’s actions manifest effortlessly.

But why does a leader stick to known moves? How can you explain that from a nondual perspective? In truth, it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow you might learn something new, after a break you might forget something, and sometimes you spontaneously create something new on the spot. It’s all unfolding. Especially in the beginning, you might find it feels somewhat mechanical. You exert effort to recall combinations and execute them at the right moments. Yet, this process is based on a narrative you tell yourself. It doesn’t negate the fact that things are simply unfolding. Salsa beautifully embodies the emergent and dynamic nature of life.

Salsa, like any other activity, presents numerous apparent dualities. The most obvious is that of the leader and the follower. The satisfaction arises from dissolving such dualities, although in practice, we empower them. Complete dissolution occurs when these dualities merge seamlessly. Salsa exemplifies how a single-partner dance cannot fully surrender without acknowledging both roles.

Beyond leading and following, there are countless other dualities in life, you might argue. However, from a nondual standpoint, a specific duality like masculinity versus femininity represents all others. It’s not about the specific form of duality, but the mechanism behind it. If you completely understand one duality and its limitations, you automatically grasp the essence of all life’s dualities.

The interaction between masculinity and femininity mirrors the beautiful interplay of life. At its foundational layer lies the duality between self and other, which fundamentally defines our existence. Who are we beyond our identities? What is our true essence? It may sound surprising, but these profound questions can be explored through dance.

Skill development

For dancing salsa, you ideally need certain skills. Salsa dancing can even be viewed purely as a set of skills. You might have a different passion or area of learning, so don’t fixate on my example of salsa. Developing skills doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? That’s because it’s often not experienced as such. It requires a lot of effort. Developing a skillset is very earthly, while learning a mindset is often considered more spiritual. Isn’t it funny how that works? It seems that the more vague something is, the more spiritual it is labeled. When we talk about powers and energies we cannot see or touch, we’re referring to the most spiritual things. But is that really true? Is there a distinction between earthly and spiritual matters, or are they completely intertwined? Could it be that the more earthly something seems, the more spiritual it actually is? Let me explain. What is spirituality about? Seeing the unseen, right? With that in mind, wouldn’t an earthly challenge be the most spiritual thing there is, simply because you don’t see its spiritual nature?

Learning any skill can be tough. When you surrender to it, you forget about many things that once seemed important. This has to be the case. How else can you develop a challenging skill? Still, the mind tries to intervene. It comes up with clutter, such as telling you that you’re not talented or that it’s a waste of time. The mind tries to trigger you in every way it can. Why? Because the mind leads a life of its own. If you forget about it and neglect its existence because you’re too busy surrendering, it tries to pull you back. This process is endless. It can diminish, but the inner saboteur never truly disappears. At least, not to my knowledge. So, it’s a matter of not taking it as seriously as you once did.

From a nondual point of view, developing skills is the same as possessing them. The apparent difference is whether the skills are expressed internally or externally. You either have an image of them in your mind or they have manifested in the outer world. Is there any real difference? If you clearly see your potential, wouldn’t that be similar to having acted upon it? The only gap is time, but psychological time is just a perception. Developing skills and having them already are present simultaneously. Only thought suggests otherwise, but how reliable is that to draw such a fundamental conclusion? Once we stop taking the contents of our mind so seriously, we might see very clearly. Things suddenly make sense. Not just conceptually, but totally.

It can be confronting to apply nonduality to a skill you’re learning. Sure, it’s interesting and valuable. But the scary part is that it shines a light on your incompetence or ignorance. It shows you the limitations of being human. But isn’t that the whole point? The moment you fully see the limiting nature of the mind, you open yourself up to finally liberate yourself from it. You even see that it’s not necessary to liberate from it, because who liberates from whom? It’s just the mind playing tricks on itself. Perhaps when you see this whole mechanism, it loses its grip on you. You become free.

Mindset development

We could also talk about mindset development. A typical nondual radical ‘expert’ might instantly suggest there’s nobody who develops a mindset. While this is a crucial point, it can also be completely turned around. Not many people are receptive to the idea that there is no self. You might think, ‘Okay, so what?’ Even if the ‘expert’ continues by asking who doubts the value of seeing no-self, it might not lead to anything. But should it lead to anything? Maybe the point is to see that it’s not about something leading to something. That’s just the mind interfering. As you can see, we soon find ourselves in a philosophical discussion. Can we prevent this? For the most part, I believe we can. Instead, we can embrace the act of surrendering to being the creator as a beautiful entrance to see life’s miracle. That sounds more effortless, doesn’t it? It’s still challenging, and it has to be. Being the creator of your skill and mindset is a fact, but the mind tries to dispute this. It shows you that certain things are out of your control. But then ask yourself, out of whose control, exactly?

We often hear that mindset is considered the foundation of your skillset, deemed more important. The mind leads us to believe that certain aspects must be prioritised or developed in a specific order. However, this is misleading. A new mindset can just as easily emerge from developing new skills as vice versa. The mind may argue it’s better to start by focusing on developing the right mindset because it’s actionable now. But how can you cultivate the right mindset without first gaining familiarity with it? You might think, ‘Just by reading the right books and finding proper role models.’ Yes, but isn’t this research already a part of learning the necessary skills to improve in something meaningful to you? Developing the right mindset is essentially another facet of your skillset. Conversely, learning new skills inherently involves adjusting your mindset; they cannot be separated. The development must occur simultaneously. This realisation is quite reassuring, isn’t it? It means the effort required isn’t as daunting as it seems. You may think you’re developing one aspect while the other effortlessly evolves alongside it. That’s the first insight. The subsequent insight would be that both aspects are developing effortlessly because there may not be an individual who develops anything at all.


Nonduality doesn’t provide conclusions or takeaways. It simply embraces what is happening right now, and that’s perfectly fine. In this article, we’ve applied a few nondual principles to salsa. There are many more principles, but covering more of them might be overwhelming. I hope this article has introduced you to nonduality in an exciting way. If you’d like to learn more, you can read my other articles by clicking here.