I am freaking hilarious…

Sometimes I just have to laugh. Really.

What did I just write about? Permission to do or not-do or whatever felt right in the moment, yes?

WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO DO?!

Matthew keeps telling me not to get down on myself about being hurt. That being down on myself about it makes it worse. I know this. I do, I swear. And yet, when I start to move and my knee twinges and then my entire leg seizes up in fear…I slip into that mode. You know the one. The how can you ever teach or inspire other people to dance when you can’t even dance yourself? mode. The this is going to be another ankle problem, only worse because it’s your ENTIRE LEG. WELL DONE, MORON mode.

…the why don’t you go and do something else because this is just too freaking hard and you’re going to get hurt and fail and honestly, I’m just trying to help you here mode.

No. No no no. Just…no.

I have been down this road before. So many times. I am not willing to let this go again.

I just had a very enlightening conversation with my left leg. Does that sound odd to you? welcome to my world.

My left leg has this to say:

I am here because you pushed too hard. You didn’t listen to me.

This is a big and important lesson. You need to listen. You were viewing yourself from the outside and not paying attention.

And I’m here because you’re afraid. You don’t want to move forward because it’s big and new, and this place of stuck and hurting is what you’re used to. You didn’t know how to handle being injury-free after your right ankle got better. So…here. You created this. You did this.

You know what? You need to ask for help. You need to REALLY practice radical self-care and get this looked after properly. This isn’t just in your head. Stop just beating yourself up about it and GO SEE A DOCTOR. GET A MASSAGE. DO SOMETHING. Show me that this dream is important to you.

Use every tool in your arsenal to move through this. If this is really what you want to do with your life, then show me. Honour your body. Listen to your body. Even if it tells you not to move for weeks. Even if it tells you to go to a hot yoga class instead of JourneyDance, or to go…and to ONLY dance within your limits. You know, like you’ve always told your students to.

Well?  Are you going to look after yourself or are you just going to fart around and vaguely hope that things will get better? Hmm? Right now all you’re doing is showing me your resistance.

Ouch. Thanks for that, left leg.

…but really, he’s right (side note: is it weird that I think of my left leg as “he”? It took me by surprise!)

OK OK OK. Yes. I get it. Live the message. Follow the wisdom. Honour the body. All those things I keep saying and writing and writing and saying. And NOT DOING.

Gotcha. Message received. For real. I will call the doctor on Monday. And I will keep talking to you about ways I can listen and honour you. Deal?
Deal.

5Rhythms Friday: You have permission to be a human being.

Oh my.

Oh man.

I think tiny Roman Centurions have set up camp in my brain. Their funny plumed helmets are tickling my nose. Their swords and spears keep poking me in the sinuses. And they’ve been using my throat/lungs as a latrine (like that image? you’re welcome :P).

In short…URGH.

Somehow I feel like being sick today has brought me a lot of perspective about my Friday assignments. Like, how I’m scared to do them. Again.

Here’s the thing: I need to dance. It’s what brings me home, roots me in my own power, and connects me to the Divine. But for years, every time I started dancing regularly I would hurt myself. I would push and push and judge myself by external standards and not pay attention to my body. And I would trigger all of my old injuries plus a couple new ones for good measure. I got to the point where I was afraid to dance at all, where every time I moved at all, even to get off the sofa and walk to the bathroom, I would hurt. I didn’t trust my body, and I shut down my dancing-self. I told myself (in my twenties!!!) that I was too old to dance. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

But still, taking those first steps back to my dancing-self is, has always been, a leap of faith. And the trip is fraught with all of my fears and insecurities. There’s the fear of really letting go in the dance…and hurting myself…and, well, then there’s the fear of stopping.

I was doing so great last month. I actually released the pain in my right ankle. It completely stopped bothering me, and that was so amazing (it still isn’t bothering me). But then the Sunday before last, when I tried to dance out my stress and my other ankle went *ping*…well…it brought all of my fears and body-distrust flooding back. I hurt. I didn’t trust my body. I berated myself for not tuning in and warming up before dancing out my stress (hmm…there’s a lesson in here somewhere…). Now that I think about it, I don’t think I was in my body at all when the injury happened…so blaming my body seems a little silly. Huh. (Yup, definitely a lesson…where, oh where is that lesson?)

Since then I’ve danced…a little. I’ve scratched the surface of emotional-physical unity…a bit. But I haven’t had a real let-everything-go-and-dance session since then. I think I’m afraid to. And now my leg hurts whenever I’m dealing with a major emotional issue (did I mention that there was a lesson in here somewhere?). Oh right, and it hurts if I spend too much time sitting down too.

I’ve been “shoulding” all over myself about this. I’ve been approaching it with my usual hard-hitting, self-whipping all-or-nothing attitude. The attitude that never works. The attitude that leads me to self-sabotage and shutting down. The attitude that is making my leg hurt again right stinking now. Because not only am I afraid of hurting myself when I start…but I’m also afraid to stop. Like I said, it’s the all-or-nothing thing…the complete inability to take a break, but the inability to accept anything less than “perfection” in the doing.

When I was training to be a professional ballerina, I could feel it in my body if I took a single day off. So I basically never did (OK, there was a teensy element of terror of my teacher in there too, but let’s talk about my role in all of it for a change). And now, in all facets of my life, there’s this feeling of if you don’t do/achieve X, Y, or Z every single day, you are a total and utter failure and a quitter and mark my words you will rue the day you took time to rest, you weakling.

URGH.

Maybe the key here is to stop with the whipping on both fronts, and start with the very-super-gentle-baby-steps-back-to-myself.

Seriously. We all have crap weeks. And we all have sick weeks. And we all have times when we go “Oops” and need to start again. That’s because we’re human. Why is it so hard to remember that we all do that?! Why does it feel like it’s just me, and like everyone else has it completely figured out (whatever “it” is)? Human…being. Last time I checked, we were all human…

So here’s the plan. Today, instead of beating myself up for not doing anything and instead of shoulding myself into a corner and forcing myself to do too much, I’m going to do this:

I’m going take 5 or 10 minutes, whatever feels right, and I am going to focus wholeheartedly on being IN my body.

That’s all. Just a little bit of time tuning in and listening and giving myself some love. Frankly, my poor, tired, sick, Roman-Centurion-infested body could use it. And when I feel better, then I will start doing more than that. But I will try to only do what feels right in the moment. And I will try to only do what feels good to my body. Something I’ve found as a recovering-ballerina is that it is STILL super-easy for me to get up in my head and start hating on my body and criticizing myself and pushing pushing pushing without listening. I don’t want that kind of relationship with myself any more. I’m so over that.

That was pretty much the whole point of doing the Rhythms and exploring this kind of dance. And it’s pretty much what I have chosen to do with my life and my career. I love it when life reminds me that I’m living my own lessons too.

To finish, I want to tell you (and me) something:

YOU HAVE PERMISSION.
To start. To half-finish. To not-do. To rest. To push. To step back.
Choose what feels right in this moment, and go with that. And tomorrow you can choose what feels right in that moment. It’s OK. You have permission. It’s your basic right as a human being.

…I am going to go lie down now. Because that’s what my body is asking me to do right now.

I hope your weekend is spectacular.

xox

Meg

5Rhythms Friday: …when everything falls apart

Happy Friday, everyone!

I have had one HELL of a week. Like really stupendously bad. Matthew and I are both at the point where we just want to cut loose, sell all of our belongings, and move somewhere far away…Bali? Italy? India? (we SO should not have watched Eat Pray Love this week!!!).

From the point of view of the 5Rhythms, I think I was in chaos this week. Which was unfortunate, since my knee hurt too much for me to actually dance chaos. And I really REALLY needed to. Boo. Hiss.

This week was all about trying to meet myself where I was and to ride the waves of suckitude, keeping in mind that it was taking me somewhere I needed to go. This was hard. This was FREAKING HARD. I think the fact that I made it through this week at all was a very good sign.

The other day I got the best lesson from Goddess Leonie…possibly the lesson that this week was intended to bring. She said:

All you need to do is *dance*… not just physically, but in your heart and in your life too…

Which brings up the following thoughts: sometimes you just need to let go and ride the waves of your emotions. You need to tell yourself that it’s OK to be angry or sad or lonely or whatever and just feel what you feel. Do your dance through each moment. Have faith that the good is still there even if you can’t see it. Each moment only once. Just breathe through the pain and remind yourself that pain is OK, your feelings are valid, and that you will make it through.

Leonie went on:
You are precious and beautiful… and all you need do is soak in the joy and give yourself glory.

…this is the part that I have trouble with on weeks like this one. Remembering that I’m an awesome person is hard when I have to try with all my might not to completely lose it on my poor can’t-help-that-he’s-two son and when I’m the one acting like the toddler in this relationship. It’s hard as a stay-at-home mama to go “OK, sweetie, you’re burnt out. And you have every right to be. It’s been a hard week. Take it easy on you. You are still a good person. You are still worthy of all good things. I promise.”

This is definitely a work in progress. But I love the idea. And I have a vision of being able to just dance with the ups and down of life as it comes…not fighting or judging myself, but just moving through it.

On the wall of the cottage where we spent our New Years there was a plaque with this motto:

Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.

I think I may need to get that tattooed somewhere very very visible just so I’ll remember it on weeks like this one.

Have a great weekend, my darlings!

5Rhythms Friday: Sometimes you just need to start.

I have a confession to make: I tend to be VERY self-conscious when I’m starting a new movement practice. I remember back in the day when I was trying to lose weight (in Grade 7…oy) and I started doing aerobics videos. I dreaded…DREADED having anyone walk past the living room. Unfortunately, as the living room opened directly onto the dining room and the front hall, it was pretty much inevitable that I would be observed at some point. It was completely impossible for me to enjoy those videos.  Even the one with Cher (ah, the memories).

This trend has continued. Every time I try anything new…forget it. I must not be observed. Actually, it doesn’t have to be new. I was still self-conscious when I was doing that Cher video for the 20th time. Every time I do anything involving movement I feel super self-conscious…with 2 exceptions: regular bopping to pop music (except for the first 18 months of Xander’s life…but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post), and dance performances. Performances don’t really count because they’re obviously intended to be viewed, and because there’s something magical about performing -it’s a different kind of vulnerability and it really doesn’t bother me. And I include teaching dance classes in the “dance performances” category because, to make a completely obvious statement, as the teacher you sort of expect to be looked at. But don’t get me started on anything that requires getting out of my head and just dancing. In front of onlookers? I DON’T THINK SO.

Like, oh I don’t know, an ecstatic/free form dance practice. Up until now I’ve tended to lock myself in a room, draw the blinds, and go nuts, safe in the knowledge that no one can see me. But the other day Matthew was playing Lego with Xander in the living room and…I just didn’t feel like hiding. There’s more space in the living room. So I put on a 5Rhythms play list and just started moving. Right there. Knowing that people would, obviously, see me. I just did not care at all! I still got out of my head! And it was wonderful! It was extra-fun when Xander came and joined me…although his “dancing” was running around in circles and going “Come on, Mummy! This way, Mummy! Yet’s dance, Mummy!” (he says his Ls as Ys).

This marks a very important shift that I’ve noticed this week: not caring so much about being good at things or looking “stupid.” I’ve been trying new things: ecstatic dancing in front of my family, Shiva Nata on a level other than the super-easy one (this marked the first time I have EVER enjoyed doing something truly badly…very freeing, and worth repeating! I couldn’t stop giggling!), flinging open my husband’s office door and dance-ambushing him (HILARIOUS), even trying handstands and jumping and things that I have always either disliked or thought that I couldn’t do (jumping being the thing I disliked, thanks to ballet class, and handstands being the thing I thought I couldn’t do. I still can’t do them, but at least I have fun trying now. Woah…Meg the Perfectionist having fun TRYING something?! Not taking it super-seriously?! Who am I and what have I done with ME?!?!).

I don’t know what’s going on, but I am absolutely loving it. I feel like I’m 6 years old and dancing around the living room again (come to think of it, I never experienced the aforementioned self-consciousness when I was 6). I assume it’s related to all this dancing. Giving myself permission to not care whether I’m observed and to just totally suck at something but still have fun with it is so amazingly unlike my usual routine. Will the world end if I don’t do a handstand ever? No. Will my world change if I keep following this trend and suddenly don’t give two craps WHO sees me dancing my heart out?! Ummm….YES. ABSOLUTELY (I am contemplating a new feature called “Dance in Public”…but I can’t decide if it should be a challenge or a video blog thingy. I’ll keep you posted).

So…sometimes you just need to turn on the music and not care who’s walking by and possibly watching. And sometimes if you stop worrying about achievements and just try something you will have some fun and surprise yourself.

There you go: lessons from the dance floor. You’re welcome 😛

5Rhythms Friday: …I could get used to this…

Wow. I can’t believe it’s Friday again.

So, today I did a free Birth Chart reading thingy at Cafe Astrology. I mention this because of one thing: Mars in Sagittarius. Here’s what it says:

When Mars is in Sagittarius people get angry, they feel like running. They have to do something–not about it, but something else altogether.

The rest of the write-up on this particular astrological aspect was…whooooo….WAY off (I do NOT like debates. I hate them with a passion. I will go a million miles to AVOID a debate.  Etc.), but this one line rang true with a vengeance.

I mention it because it puts into clear, understandable English a pattern that I have been noticing this week: namely, that when I’m angry (or sad or lonely or self-critical or depressed) I am automatically driven to do something else.

Now, for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years that go-to activity has been eating. I’ll admit it: I’m a food druggie. I have downed more than my fair share of anger-induced chocolate cake. And, for someone who -as I discovered last week- has issues with residual anger from decades gone by…that means a LOT of cake. Or chips. Or candy. Or cookies. Or bread. You get the idea.

After my experience last Friday, it seemed like there was an alternative. I was in a rotten mood on Saturday night, and Matthew suggested I go and dance it out. So I did (well, I bit his head off for suggesting it…and then I realized he was totally right…and THEN I danced it out. Sorry, honey). Not only did it help, but afterward I realized that I didn’t want to eat the Mars Bar I had saved for dessert. I just didn’t need it any more.

And here’s the thing: the dancing actually helps me. Eating, I will be the first to admit- has never really helped me. It makes me feel momentarily better, but it’s not just food I’m stuffing down my throat and into my body, it’s whatever negative emotion I happen to be avoiding. That stays inside me. Dancing actually enables me to release the emotion…and if it doesn’t completely release it, it at least helps me to back off and understand what’s going on in my brain. Like meditating…only with music and cardio.

This week, every time I felt down or cranky or indefinably out of sorts, I put down the cookies and turned up the music. I danced alone, I danced with Xander, I danced and cleaned at the same time. Sometimes I danced for a few minutes, other times I danced for longer, and one time I started moving and realized “No, I already danced today and what I really really want is to sit in stillness and read a book.” In every case, the process of dancing (or even just beginning to dance) allowed me to get in touch with my body, my emotions, and my true essence. In every case it helped me to move on.

This feels…Big. This feels life-changing. This feels like the beginning of something absolutely massive. I love it!

And I know I haven’t started moving through the 5Rhythms exercises the way I originally intended…but, to be honest, I never imagined that the mere practice of moving my body every day (or almost every day) would create such changes. I’m not ready to move on from that yet. When I am, I’ll let you know, but until then I’ll keep giving you glimpses into the process.

Have a great weekend!

Meg

5Rhythms Friday: Where were you 13 years ago?!?!

Oh. My.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Somewhere, in an alternate dimension, 17-year-old me went to Barnard College, but instead of being terrified to leave campus and explore the city (and dropping out after 2 months), she hopped on a subway downtown and ended up at a 5Rhythms class. And everything changed. Seriously.

But, as it is, 30-year-old me began a dance practice, toned it down for a week after an old injury cropped up (in case you wondered where I went)…and then suddenly realized that she needed to DANCE.

Here’s the story.

Have you seen this article?
I’m not going to get into the whole parenting debate thing, because even though I am pretty militantly as-far-from-this-mom-as-you-can-be, that’s not what bothered me. A friend of mine posted the article on Facebook, and I read it. And then I read it again. And then I realized that I wasn’t breathing. I was having a massive flashback to dance class when I was a teenager. Because that was my life.

I’m not going to go into how much it sucked. It did suck. A lot. My teacher was a surrogate mother-figure, and my real mom didn’t know enough about what was going on to step in. I’ve talked before about how this is the one thing I want to release this year. And here I was, reading this article, and just drowning in this horrible, heavy, icky feeling.

Oh, how I wanted to get rid of it. I wanted to jump headfirst into a giant bowl of ice cream, to eat my weight in brownies,  to swim in a vat of potato chips until the pain went away…because that’s what I’ve been doing, I realize, for 13 years. This time I didn’t (not much). I sat with it for hours, as much as the mom of a toddler can “sit,” which basically means that I went about my normal business with a black cloud over my head. Matthew asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t really say. I tried out various reasons, but they didn’t feel true. (Side note: this has happened SO MANY TIMES during our relationship, and this is the first time I figured out what was going on). I couldn’t tell him what was wrong because nothing was wrong now -I was remembering things that were wrong then, and they were echoing back in my present mood.

I didn’t figure this out for hours. We were in the food court of the mall having supper when I finally understood. And when we got home I knew what I had to do: I took my laptop into the guest room, closed the blinds, dimmed the lights, and danced.

I’m writing it as a 5Rhythms Friday post because I did technically do the rhythms: I flowed through a warm-up, I got staccato when I started swearing under my breath and beating the sh*t out of the air, I shook myself out and stomped out a chaotic dance of freedom…OK, I admit that during my “lyrical” song I paused and wrote something before I danced for joy (I’ll share that at the end…an edited version, anyway), and then…well, at the end I was ready to stretch. And I left that room about 50 pounds lighter, metaphorically speaking.

Seriously, Universe? Was dancing the answer to my problems all along? Did I have to come full circle in order to heal the past? You prankster, you. Like I said, in an alternate universe 17 year old me found that class and skipped 13 years of agony (and overeating).

And, to finish this very lengthy first-official Friday post…here’s what I wrote. I especially enjoy the way the voice moves from 16-year-old me to 30 year old me. Enjoy!

NO I will not be quiet.  I will not suck it up or swallow my feelings or “buck up.”  I will not meekly take my place in line, bending my will to yours.  I will not submit to hours of torture just so you can feel like you’re doing a good job.  You are not doing a good f*cking job.

I will be as loud as I want.  I will go to school dances.  I will take time to study.  I like studying.  I will take a day off every week.  I will take time off when I’m sick.  I will rest when I need to.  It is not up to you.  It was never up to you.

I will dance.  I will dance MY steps in MY time and to MY music. I will wear what I want. I will sing if I want to sing. I will smile without reference to your moods. If I’m sad, I will cry. If I’m angry, I will yell. And I will dance my own steps in my own way, speak with my own voice, and occupy my own space in this world.

You cannot beat me.  Twelve years later, and I am dancing my own way.  You didn’t beat it out of me. It was always here, deep down. You didn’t change me.

And you know what else? My hip bones are not supposed to stick out. And my natural figure has boobs. And curves. When I “got fat” what I really did was “get healthy”

No more will I allow your words to echo through my head.  No more will I allow your poison to leach into my life. No more will I shove these feelings down. I will exorcise the demon of you, and I will dance away, free at last.

I will fall in love with myself alone. I will seek out people and things that inspire and support me. I will let my voice be heard. I will shout my message from the rooftops. I will dance in crowded rooms and empty spaces and everywhere in between. I will fling my arms wide and breathe the sweet, free air. I will do all of this. And I will look back and forgive your ignorance and your well-meaning abuse from a place of strength and wholeness.

I do forgive you…now. I haven’t yet forgiven you…then.

5Rhythms Friday: Statement of Intention

Five years ago I bought a book called Sweat Your Prayers.  I read it, and every line of it called out to my spirit.  My heart and soul cried “Yes…yes…YES” as I read, and my feet longed to dance.  And for a while they did dance.  But then life and emotional baggage and “shoulds” and “can’ts” got in the way.  So the book went onto my bookshelf and stayed there.  It stayed there as I taught modern/improvisation/meditation-in-motion to ballet students and it stayed there as I developed my YogaDance business.  And it stayed there for all the years in between then and now.  Until last weekend.

I picked up the book and I started reading, and it was “Yes…yes…YES” all over again…only MORE so.  So I decided to do something with it.

Gabrielle Roth’s Moving Center school and its 5Rhythms classes are the ONLY reason I would EVER say the following: “I really wish I lived in NYC”  They don’t have 5Rhythms classes in NS.  Someday I’m going to make it out to a workshop…as soon as I can, in fact.  It’s a dream of mine.  But until then…

I am keeping Sweat Your Prayers off the bookshelf.  I am going to read it and dance it every day.  I am going to learn it by heart and by experience.  And once a week I am going to share part of my experience with you.

(OK, OK, this is an old photo.  Getting new ones is on my to-do list.  But you get the idea.)

Right now I’m just getting started (on Day 4 of daily dancing), but I wanted to state my intention on here…and to share this quote that brought all of my New Years goals into sharp focus:

Mine is a dancing path.  My bible is the body because the body can’t lie.  My master is rhythm.  There is no dogma in the dance.  When you let your body dance you immediately strip away the lies and the dogma until all you’re left with is the spirit of life itself.  Movement is medicine, and I trust that if you put the psyche in motion, it will heal itself.  […]

You have to dance through the dark in order to see the light.  You have to go to the source of all our wounds, the big wound, the divorce of spirit from flesh, and heal this wound if you ever want to fulfill the longing for a real self, a soulful self, a big, huge self, one that sleeps with the Beloved.

Amen, sister.  Here’s to 5Rhythms Fridays!