Coming home: a strategy for re-inhabiting the body

One of my core beliefs is that the body and the mind are completely intertwined. We cannot live fully, cannot fully express our creativity and passion, if we live up in our heads all the time. My mission in life, I’ve come to realize, is to help people get back down in their bodies and rediscover the magic of embodied living.

So it helps when I myself am embodied. Funny thing about that…

I’ve been really quiet on the blog lately. There’s been so much stress and worry and house-buying and stress and epiphanies and mental whirls…I’ve been almost entirely up in my head. I basically stopped moving apart from outside time with Xander.

I completely stopped stretching. I started sitting at LOT more, and not in healthy ways. And I started noticing last week that when I get up in the mornings or get up from the sofa, my calves are starting to hurt because they’re so tight. Again. And my back has started hurting. Again. And now I have a nagging issue in one hip. Again.

This is what happens to me when I stop moving expressively, stop taking care of my body, and start living up in my head. I know because it feels all too familiar (although it used to be worse because I used to wear shoes with heels, so my legs were even tighter).

I’m glad I finally noticed what was going on. Because now I can take steps to cut it the heck out. And I can share the process with you.

Here’s my plan (some of it I’ve already implemented, some of it I plan to, and most of it I’ve done in the past and just got away from when things got tough…which is, of course, when it’s most needed):

1. Ditch the chairs.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year about how sitting and chairs are horrible for our bodies. And I know that I feel really tight and awful after a long night of working in a chair or on the sofa. So I’m replacing them. I have two options: Standing up, like I am now (added bonus, I can stretch out my super-tight calves and do all kinds of other fun stretches while I work), or sitting on the floor (here are some awesome suggestions for this).

2. Stretch stretch stretch

I already mentioned the calf stretch. I’m also going to add a hamstring stretch, a psoas stretch, and an abdominal release or a spinal twist. Oh, and eventually I want to be able to squat.

3. Get grounded

For someone as air-sign-y as I am, not to mention someone who KNOWS that grounding helps me 99% of the time, I sure spend a lot of my time with my feet several inches above the ground. Clearly, spending significantly more time standing will give me more opportunities to ground myself, but I still wanted to give it its own item on the list because it’s just that important. Here are a couple of techniques I’d like to incorporate into my week.

4. Breathe consciously

At the worst of this busy period, I found myself getting actual dizzy spells from not-breathing. Seriously. That’s not good, people. I want to move through my day with an awareness of how I’m breathing. I also want to explore different breath-centred meditations (if you have any favourites, I’d love to see them). And I would LOVE to get back into yoga…that always helps me breathe.

5. Be gentle

An embodied life, to me, is a life focused on sensations in the body, accessing the body’s wisdom instead of ruling it with the mind. That means moving when you want to move, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, paying attention to the body’s requests for rest and nourishing activities like stretching or baths. It means playing and exploring and feeling things out. It means feeling emotions and expressing things physically.

To me, it’s a life full of more textures, tastes, smells, sights, and sounds than my thinking mind can comprehend. That’s what the body experiences. That’s how I want to live.

(Expect to hear more about this!)

Transformation

Image by puuikibeach on Flickr.com

 

It will not always feel good,
This growing.
This stretching beyond the boundaries of the known,
The comfortable.

It will not always feel safe,
This learning and relearning of your own abilities
This reexamining of beliefs

This pushing of envelopes
This breaking through enclosing walls.

You will shiver.

You will doubt.

You will want to run home.

Back behind walls of safety.

This walk to the edge will not
Feel good, safe, or comfortable,
But there is no faster way to learn.
There is no other way to grow.

So step out.
Leave your home base
Your comfort zone
Your cocoon

Acknowledge the fear and discomfort

But step out all the same.

With each step you take,
Your world expands
Your caterpillar mind will
Strain to comprehend the unbounded vastness of the sky.

Step out.

Step…step…step.

Unfurl your wings.

Fly.

 

Image by Emmett Tullos III on Flickr.com

 

(I wrote this for me…but it feels like it was meant for you too. If you know someone else who needs this, please pass it on)

Dancing on the Edge

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I went to a Contact Improv workshop/jam on Saturday.

Contact improv is a form of movement improvisation where 2 or more people dance together and use a point of contact between their bodies to shape the dance. As far as I can tell, the only rules are to take care of your own body (don’t let yourself get hurt) and to be as generous as you can to your partner (support them as much as you can) while still abiding by the first rule.

For a brief idea of what it can look like, check out this video:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/S23AXtFW6qs)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/zQRF2sLK1vY)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/ED8hNoulZv4)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/zkreiRt8GEY)

I could keep going indefinitely. There’s no single way to do contact improv, no definitive “this is how it should look.” In fact, I get the feeling that no two sessions will be the same: the energy you bring to the practice will change, the way you experience the physical sensations will change, and these elements will affect the movement. Even if you danced with the same partner day in and day out, you would both bring new things to the table every single time.

It’s a practice that I find simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

Much like the dance I’ve been exploring and teaching in my classes, contact improv isn’t something you can do “right” or “wrong.” It’s experience-focused, not appearance-focused (although, I have to say, it looks really cool too). The point isn’t to “get it right,” the point is to be fully embodied and aware of the play of sensation and emotion as you move through the practice.

As our teacher, Sara Coffin, told us in class on Saturday, if you’re asking yourself “am I getting this?” you’re actually putting up a roadblock to your own progress. Instead, ask yourself how the practice feels in the moment, and allow your emotional and physical experience to be expressed in the dance.

It gave me chills, because she nailed exactly what I was asking myself…even though it’s exactly what I tell people NOT to do in my own classes. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but outside my own discipline…not so much.

As you can see from the videos, contact improv is very much about connection and trust—trust in yourself and trust in your partner(s). And it’s also about unspoken communication—sensing your partner’s energy and intention and honouring it, while simultaneously shaping the dance with your own energy and intention.

It’s the unspoken interaction that fascinates me. The requisite release of control—how you can’t make a decision to do something and force your partner to go along with it, but need to create a new path that honours both of you. The way you need to trust yourself as well as your partner. The way you really need to release into the flow of movement, without holding back. The way you need to keep from over-thinking because the body knows better than the mind.

These things are also what scare me. The practice brought me face to face with my own issues: my tensed-up, frightened need to control things, my reluctance to release into the care of another, my fear that my body wouldn’t be strong or flexible enough to support me, my self-consciousness about being bigger than the other dancers (when I dance solo, this is SO not an issue. Dancing with a partner really brought this out for me).

It was not a comfortable 2 hours.

But it was a necessary 2 hours. It was an awakening for me, this foreign-but-familiar, fascinating-but-terrifying dance. It had me walking my edge with a vengeance

and that’s a good thing. Beyond that edge I sense the possibility of experiences I didn’t know existed. The possibility of freedom from these limiting beliefs I didn’t know I carried. The possibility of connection and play and release and flow and lightness. Strength and trust and confidence. More than ever before.

In the past six years, I’ve broken through many boundaries, healed many wounds, walked many edges, leaped and been caught, trusted and tried and learned. For some reason, I thought I was done the bulk of it. But of course I wasn’t.

I’m beginning to see that we’re never done. There’s always another edge to walk. We find a new one and glimpse a life that’s bigger than we knew was possible. And that’s amazing, because it means that we can keep evolving and growing and healing and getting ourselves further and further into the flow of things.

There’s always another edge to walk, another inner landscape to explore. Saturday’s workshop showed me mine, and it’s a major one. If you need me, I’ll be hanging out here, dancing on the edge, peering over the edge of my comfort zone, and staring at the magical possibilities that await me.

Image by Peer Lawther (Flickr.com)

In My Own Backyard (Greetings from Not-Portland, Part 2)

Well, it’s official: I made it to all of the workshops I mentioned in my not-Portland post! Hooray!

Last weekend I went to yoga and to Barefoot Ecstatic Dance, and they were incredible. And on Saturday I went to a Contact Improv workshop taught by Mocean Dance Interim Artistic Director, Sara Coffin. It was scary and challenging and intriguing, and it brought up a lot of my “stuff.” It could be life-changing.

I’m going to have a lot to say about the workshop soon, I promise. But before I even start, I want to take some time to celebrate the fact that I did these things. It’s a Big Deal! I spent so long (YEARS) staying at home and not exploring the community around me. And then I finally stepped out my front door (instead of driving to Maine) and I discovered new communities, met amazing people, challenged myself, and learned SO MUCH.

I was right. I didn’t need to cross the border or even leave the city to find new experiences and learn new things. In fact, I think I challenged myself more by staying here. I didn’t realize how much I was resisting going out and meeting people in Halifax. People at workshops in other cities or countries? You never (or rarely) see them again. But people in Halifax? Way scarier to me. What if they didn’t like me? Or laughed at me? What if they thought I was too big or weak or awkward or scared?

(Yes, I have these fears too. I didn’t realize how strong they still were until this past weekend). 

But (and here’s the key) I went out and took the classes anyway. And nothing bad happened. Everyone was amazing. I had fun…and even when I didn’t have fun, I learned a LOT.

And, best of all, now that I’ve opened up to the possibility of exploring Halifax’s community, new opportunities keep showing up.

There’s another Barefoot Ecstatic Dance on Saturday, and at least 2 of my friends are going with me. There’s going to be another one at the end of July with live music. Sara Coffin is planning at least one more Contact Improv jam before the end of the summer, and there was even talk of making it a weekly thing. And there is a series of contemporary dance performances scheduled in Halifax in the fall that I am DYING to go to. There’s more out there, too…a lot more.

I’m so glad I stayed in Halifax. It’s like spreading the joy and growth of a $1000 trip to Maine through the whole year…for 1/5th of the price, and with the added bonus of finding my own place in the community and learning about myself through that process. I feel like a kid in a candy store…I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Is there a class or event that you’ve been meaning to get to? Go. Trust me. Go. You never know what will come of it. 

Greetings from not-Portland-Maine (and why it’s a good thing)

Today I was supposed to be in Portland, Maine.

I was. Last winter, I promised myself that I would go to the Authentic Movement workshop that’s happening there this weekend. Matthew and Xander were going to come too (to Portland, not the workshop). Friends of ours were going to come along for the trip. It was going to be an awesome vacation and, for me, a big, splashy return to the world of dancing with new people and learning new things “out there.”

And then life happened.

My husband left his office job (and his regular paycheque). We cut expenses drastically. I started actually doing all the business-y stuff I talked about doing before he left the office.

And then it was the end of April, and there was just no way in hell it was happening.

So, there it is. The Authentic Movement workshop will happen (technically, it’s happening right now, since there was a Friday night session), without me.

But you know what? That’s OK.

It would have been a really cool experience. But it would have cost well over $1000 (probably $1500 or higher) between transportation and accommodation and everything else. And, frankly, I would rather take that money and use it to cover bills and buy myself some time in which I can focus completely on building my business. I’ve already started, and it’s been fabulous.

Plus, there are a lot of opportunities right here.

Next weekend there’s a Barefoot Ecstatic Dance (which I’ve meant to go to since Xander turned 2, and STILL haven’t made it to). There’s also an open house at a local yoga studio, and that means free yoga classes (which I’ve meant to go to since Xander turned 2 and STILL haven’t made it to). And the weekend after next, there’s a contact improv workshop at the studio space where I teach DansKinetics (the idea of going terrifies me, but in that good “walking my edge” kind of way).

I can go to all three for $25, plus bus/cab fare if necessary. I’ll be walking my edge, challenging myself in the best possible way. And I’ll be making connections and learning and growing in the community where I live. There’s something to be said for that.

Growing...breaking through walls...

I feel like I had to not-go to the workshop in Maine in order to truly appreciate all the possibilities there are right here. I’ll be keeping my eyes open from now on, making an effort to get out to events and experience new things here in Halifax…and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m looking forward to having new movement experiences to blog about 🙂

Making space for the Universe to flow in

I did my first telecircle on Saturday.

I did it.

After more than a year of “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly”-ing, a month of “I’ve announced this, now how the hell will I pull this off?”-ing and a week-long delay when the Universe had other plans…it’s done.

And it was lovely. The technology worked out, the plan came together, and my friend and I had a wonderful dance (thank you! <3). It actually happened! For real! It was incredible to know for that hour and a half that I was doing something that I had dismissed as impossible only months before.

As I danced the 45 minutes of free movement between the opening and closing of our circle…

…space opened up…the space in my heart and my brain where this dream had lived cleared out…and the Universe flowed in.

A dozen new ideas bloomed in the space left by this one…and I realized something important:

I’ve been quiet for a long time. Not that I haven’t written on my blog or spoken in person, but…I’ve held things back. I’ve been terrified that if I shared everything that I had to share, there would be nothing left. If I released my creations into the world, nothing would come to replace them. If I blogged every idea I had, I would run out of things to say.

So I held them back. I stored them for special occasions, or until I could “make them perfect” (which never happened). I got distracted by new projects before old ones were complete (more on this in an upcoming post). I hung on to never-started ideas because it was safer than trying.

But what came to me as I made this one dream real…was just how wrong that belief was. As I danced, things shifted in my mind, and possibilities blossomed. I took my next step into readiness.

And I thought…”I’m ready to DO this. I’m can share what I create, and there will always be more where that came from.”

So here I am…I’m sharing. (It still feels a little scary, but I’m doing it anyway)

I have a gift for you

Spirit Moves Dance – The Dance of Breath

This is my first-ever moving meditation. I created it about a month ago, and I was too afraid to tell you. I’m not afraid anymore

(It’s a link to the mp3, so you should be able to right-click to download…help yourself, it’s yours for free, and if you like it, please spread the word. This is my thank you to you for reading my words and sharing my space…I love so much that we can connect this way and that I can share with you)

There are more where that came from. There are more telecircles too. And there are projects I haven’t even thought of yet. I understand now…I have to make them real and let them go, and then the Universe will flow into the space left behind. I will grow, and I will be able to create new things.

There is infinite possibility…just so long as I don’t hold back.

 

…I’m ready to let the Universe in and see what happens…

What I Really, Really Want

I’ve been dealing with computer issues and feeling melancholy about postponing my first-ever telecircle (until next Saturday)…and then I remembered that I had this awesome list to share with you, and it made me feel better. Big thanks to Angel at My Mosaic Life for being the glowing inspiration she is. (And if you want to check out my very first telecircle experiment, you can sign up here for all the details)

Beautiful Angel at My Mosaic Life posted a few days ago about wanting what she wants, and what her true, heartfelt desires are.

You should go read it, because it’s fabulous.

And it got me thinking…what do I want? What are MY true desires?

Desire can be a tough feeling. I know that for me, it’s accompanied with a “but I don’t really need that, it’s not important” or “but I totally can’t afford it and it’s silly to still be harping on it.” There’s pain along with the wanting, because there’s a belief that what I want is unrealistic and selfish, and sometimes impossible (short of a winning lottery ticket). That’s how it is for me, anyway, and I get the feeling I’m not alone here.

But Angel has inspired me, and I’m going to write and share a list of the things I truly want. I’ll leave it here for you to see, and I won’t add any “but I totally can’t afford that”s or “maybe when the kid is older”s, for once.

Here are my true and heartfelt desires:

-I want to actually go out and do the things I’ve been half-heartedly planning and then putting off. These include, but are not limited to, going to the monthly Barefoot Ecstatic Dance gathering downtown, seeing local dance performances, trying Nia, and taking a yoga class.

-I want to go to the Nia White Belt training in New Glasgow next month. If not that one, a different one sometime this year. I don’t know if I want to *teach* Nia, but I’ve read the book, and I want to experience their philosophy of movement firsthand.

-While we’re on the topic, I want to go to a 5Rhythms workshop, an authentic movement workshop, an advanced DansKinetics training, and a drumming/dancing circle.

-Basically, I want to have a whole spectrum of healing dance techniques that I can teach and/or combine and draw from. I want to play and explore and keep learning. There’s so much out there that I haven’t experienced.

-I want to play Minecraft and hang out with my friends regularly, without feeling guilty for “wasting my time” not-working.

-I want to cuddle and connect with Matthew every night. We got away from that since Xander was born, and we’re only just noticing the different it makes when we do it.

-I want time to sit quietly and just be still, even for 5 minutes, every day

-I want to choreograph again, and to perform my own choreography. I used to be really really good. I miss it SO MUCH.

-I want some new, brightly-coloured shirts to wear when I dance and teach classes. My black shirts are really nice, but I’d rather be in colour.

-I want a house with a yard. I want one that’s actually ours, and not rented. I want a vegetable garden and a swingset in the backyard, and I want a big room to dance in, a nice kitchen, and some office space. And a woodstove…just because. I want it to feel 100% Us and 100% Home.

-I want a daily yoga and dance practice. I want to feel strong and trust my body again. I’m feeling a difference after only 2 weeks of teaching DansKinetics, but it makes me want MORE MORE MORE!

-I want to earn money from home. I want to build TWO businesses: my dance business, and an editing business. Did you know I officially edited two versions of a real live book? I did! I totally rocked it! I love helping people polish their writing so that it clearly communicates their message…LOVE it. I also love working with people to help clarify just what they’re trying to say. (So if you need an editor, or know of someone who does…you know who to contact 😉 )

-Someday, I want to be a coach/counsellor and combine that with movement. I don’t know exactly what to do or how, but I do know that when I help my friends untangle a problem and get some perspective, I feel immensely satisfied.

And finally,

-I want to totally rock my telecircle next weekend and be able to build something really cool and unique with them.

There. That’s what I want.

How about you? I’d love to know! You can share it in comments, on your own blog, or on Angel’s original post. <3