Dharma of Shake It Off

Dharma Talk on Shake it Off



Good Morning everyone,


I want to start off by acknowledging that these are challenging times. The status quo changes almost daily. The nature of relationships is evolving. Things are not what they once were and they may never be the same. It is during such times that our beliefs and faith are challenged and we are tasked with finding new ways of discovering and practicing the dharma. Despite this, or maybe even because of this, I have good news to share. The dharma is everywhere if we have the will… the openness… or maybe the sense of humor to look for it in places we may not be expecting it. It is with that in mind that I bring to you now the dharma lessons of a great sage. Taylor Swift. Yes my friends, I am here to present to you the Dao of Shake it Off.


Now as many of you know, my taste in music generally leads me to the Dao’s of artists and bands of differing genres. However, when truth is uttered, one can either reject it due to misguided pride or one can allow the truth to penetrate their ego’s defenses and… accept it. The choice is there for all of us and I respectfully remind you that wisdom is owned by no genre, no person, no political party, no gender, and no religion… and so


Let us Begin…

Shake it Off vs 1-6


I stay out too late, got nothin' in my brain

That's what people say, mmm hmm, that's what people say, mmm hmm

I go on too many dates, but I can't make 'em stay

At least that's what people say mmm mmm, that's what people say mmm mmm

But I keep cruising, can't stop, won't stop moving

It's like I got this music in my mind, sayin' it's gonna be alright


Here, Ms. Swift opens with a prologue of sorts. Similar to some other religious writers, she is open about what others say about her, highlighting what could be considered detriments. Paul does something similar in several of the epistles as does the Buddha in several sutras. “This is what they say about me”. However, she also declares that she is unaffected because she has accessed something special and has something to share. While she is not ready to reveal it in its entirety, she does leave an appetizer of sorts. “It’s like”. This is her finger pointing at the moon. “its like music in my mind” and that music speaks to her of peace in whatever situation arrises. It kind of like a faith statement of sorts. What they say may be true or not. Doesn’t matter. Because i have this music…


Moving on to Shake it Off vs. 7-14

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

I shake it off, I shake it off

Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break

And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake

Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

I shake it off, I shake it off


Here, Ms. Swift makes the assertion that people do what they are going to do regardless of her participation. What are haters going to do? Well, they are going to hate. Sometimes, people are negative and there is no way to get around that. In addition to this, the types of people she names fit certain paradigms Players can be seen as pleasure seekers. Haters, those caught up in anger and aggression, Heartbreakers are those unconcerned with the emotional well being of others, and fakers could be seen as those caught up in the illusion of the ego and unchanging self. Going further, the way that she responds to these types of people and what they represent is an amazing illustration of the Dharma. She doesn’t let them affect her. She acknowledges them and their actions Realizing she cannot control them or there actions, she shakes it off. In effect, she let’s it go. That’s the dharma.


But how does she do that?


Shake it Off vs. 15-18


I'll never miss a beat, I'm lightning on my feet

And that's what they don't see mmm mmm, that's what they don't see mmm mmm

I'm dancing on my own (dancing on my own), I'll make the moves up as I go (moves up as I go)

And that's what they don't know mmm mmm, that's what they don't know mmm mmm


What she is saying is that she stays present. She doesn’t miss a beat. Lighting is also an allusion for enlightenment. The Dorje, or lighting bolt of enlightenment, is seen in many depictions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. She is enlightenment moving.

Also, for those caught up in the trappings of self and the ever-present distractions presented by the monkey mind, this way of being it is impossible to see. And she knows this and thats why she dances for herself, on her own, and because she dances for no one, she is able to move as she goes. I would argue that this metaphor of dancing is analogous to being completely engaged and present and also being able to respond to life and circumstances as they unfold. Thats what dancing is. Its like being one with the dao. It cannot be seen, known or validated by another, it can only be realized by the individual spontaneously.


Finally, I will conclude with Shake it Off vs. 19-21


Hey, hey, hey

Just think while you've been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats in the world

You could have been getting down to this sick beat


These final verses begin by attempting to draw your attention. Hey! Listen! They then move on to a truth statement and an invitation. You’ve been wrapped up in the trappings of the world. You’ve been getting down with liars and the cheats. What could she mean by this. The lie is that of a self and cheating is living in a world that doesn’t really exist instead of falling in love with what is real: The present. And you can get there. If you can learn to shake things off. If you can learn how to respond instead of react. If you can dance with life as it unfolds. The dharma is like music in your head that tells you that everything is going to be alright. The dharma my friends, is a truly sick beat.


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