The First Cuts are the Scariest: Life lessons from a haircutting adventure

Last night I did something crazy…

I cut off my hair.

Not like, “I went to a salon and had my hair cut,” (although I did that this afternoon…just to tidy things up). Nope. I stuck my hair in 2 bunches, grabbed the scissors, and lopped it off. Seriously.

The last time I did that was when I was 19 an in a major bout of depression. And it SUCKED (the depression AND the haircut). This time? This is something different.

 

…Before…

 

I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed down. Not just by my hair (although I have…had…a HELL of a lot of it), but by all kinds of garbage and limiting beliefs that have built up over the past 2.5 years. “I can’t”s and “I should”s and “I have to”s. Bitterness, resentment, martyrdom, victimhood. It’s been pressing down on me.

Yesterday I was playing guinea pig for a friend’s art therapy session, and my drawing of myself looked like this:

 

See that hair? That hair is the weight of the freaking world, my friend.

 

Last night I had one of those pivotal moments of realization…one of those moments when everything clicks into focus and all my patterns turned into what they really are: not “this is the way it is,” but “this is the way I have been limiting myself, and I’m effing tired of it.” And my hair felt like the embodiment of all of it, just like in my drawing. So I cut it off (honestly, I was this-close to giving myself a buzz cut).

 

…the clippers were RIGHT THERE. It was a near thing!

 

Before I started cutting, I took a deep breath and visualized my hair containing all the limiting beliefs and emotional baggage that was holding me back and weighing me down.

And then…

Snip snip snip.

The minute the scissors hit the hair, I was terrified. There’s a certain “Holy shit, I can’t go back now” to beginning a major transformation (whether it’s a haircut or something bigger). All I could do is keep cutting and hoping that everything would turn out OK in the end.

I kept cutting. The hair came off.

…I’m thinking of donating them. That’s a LOT of hair!

 

It turned out OK…

No…more than OK. It turned out really freaking awesome. It was JUST what I needed!

Eeeeeeee! No regrets whatsoever!

Honestly, I was pretty thrilled with the end results. I felt 10 pounds lighter, and infinitely freer. It was amazing.

And here’s the final cut, after the hairdresser fixed it up a bit.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

And I feel different. More present, less stuck. Ready to make other, bigger transformations.

The moral of the story: The first cuts are the scariest. Everything else is just shaping and trimming.

Dancing with the Hard Bits

*tiptoes back into the room*

Well…that was an unexpected lapse in online presence.

I’m a big fan of regular time off. It can be hard for me to take it, but I do think it’s important. However, this time I didn’t take an intentional digital sabbatical, didn’t announce a leave of absence on my blog or newsletter. And there’s a reason for that: It wasn’t my plan at all. But last week wasn’t business as usual.

Last week kind of felt like a sprinting race where each expected finish line was actually a cosmic punking by the Universe, who kept moving the real finish line ahead a few hundred yards. It was a whole lot of stuff I wasn’t used to, all in one week. Big, life-changing things. Plus a telecircle. And a Fair. And a friend in the hospital.

You get the idea…

And while I’d like to say that I handled it without a single problem, bravely juggling everything and never once losing my cool…that would be a lie. There was stress, there was panic, there were things that slipped through the cracks. There were tears and rages and sniping at my husband.

Fact: sometimes you go through shit and it just throws you for a loop. And sometimes you get so bowled over that it takes a while for things to settle down again. There are things you can try, tools you can use to help you find your center…and 9 times out of 10 they work (I wouldn’t be such a big fan of living room dance parties if they didn’t make me feel better pretty much all of the time).

But that tenth time? It’s not so much that the tools don’t work as it is that you can’t even mentally get to a place where you can try them. And when that happens, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or that you’re weak or damaged somehow. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing worse than anyone else in the world. It doesn’t even mean that this situation is worse than the ones you’re used to. It just means that you need a new frame of reference.

Normally, I use movement to process my issues. This time, for an entire week, I couldn’t move at all. I knew it would help me if I did it, but I just…couldn’t move. My normal collection of tools wasn’t what I needed just then.

I think that, when times like that come around, when everything goes topsy turvy and you don’t know your head from your feet, you just need to go with it. Forget fixing it. Forget how it’s “supposed to” feel or how you’re “supposed to” fix these things. You just ride the waves, hold it together as best you can, take extra-good care of yourself, and remember that it’s OK. It’ll pass.

Each moment only once. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one task at a time, one breath at a time.

That’s what I did. I hunkered down. I dealt with it. I let myself cry when it got bad, and crying felt like sinking into a soft bed, like the hiss of an emergency valve letting off pressure. I didn’t write or film anything at all. I watched movies with a glass of white wine in one hand and a bowl of strawberries in the other. I gave myself permission. I made it through. And I’m slowly starting to find my bearings again.

I’ve been kind of hard on myself this week, telling myself how I “should” (ugh! that word!) have pulled it together by now, and how I “should” (ICK ICK ICK!) sit my ass down and write a damn blog post already. Get back online. Write about something upbeat. Make a plan. But the truth is that this is the post I needed to write, and I needed to wait until now to write it. I needed some perspective. I needed a damn break. I took one.

And that’s OK. 

You have permission: to ride the waves. To break away from your routine and take care of yourself. To feel what you’re feeling. To do the bare minimum. To do whatever it takes. To cry. To let go. To push through. To do what you need to do. And to rest when you’re done.

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. 

I have come to be danced

Finally, after 4 and a half years of wanting to go and not-going, I made it to Barefoot Ecstatic Dance on Saturday. It’s a monthly ecstatic dance event in Halifax, and it was fabulous. Here’s what I wrote the day after the dance: 

 

The room was in twilight, half-lit by strings of multicoloured fairy lights.

We gathered in a circle, 20 or 30 of us. The organizers reminded us of the “rules” (no talking, let your inner dance out). We chanted OM, a continuous loop of sound reverberating through the space.

We spread out in the space, and the music began—slow, soft, pulsing. Some people immediately sank into trance and moved with that special quality of someone letting their body dance them (and not the other way around). Some sat or lay still at the edges of the room. Others, like me, began to move tentatively, warming up to the dance, sinking slowly into it.

Lights by sporkist on Flickr.com
Image by sporkist on Flickr.com

I kept my eyes down. To look up was to become distracted by the dance of another, to activate that inner judging voice comparing myself to them. I didn’t want to do that. Some dancers moved through the room, interacting with other people. I didn’t want to do that either. I feared them. I wanted to disappear, to dance invisibly in my own bubble.

The music grew. It pulsed and throbbed. I stayed more or less in the same area of the dace floor, focusing on the floor and my body. I kept my focus and consciously brought my training into play, grounding my feet and gently moving my joints as I would at the start of my classes. Gradually, my muscles warmed up, my feet found their rhythms. I felt more comfortable. I let go of my control. The music picked up.

And then…I don’t know if it happened gradually or all at once…things changed. Where I had consciously stayed on the edges before, an outsider, I found myself moving deeper into the room. Where I had felt threatened or crowded by the moving bodies around me, I no longer recognized them as “other.”

Light goodies by Georgie*S on Flickr.com
Image by Georgie*S on Flickr.com

As the music pounded through every cell of my body, and coloured lights began to flash through the room, the final vestige of my inhibitions, the last legacy of those years in the ballet studio…released. I was no longer the dancer and the observing inner critic. I was just me. My body felt clearer and more solid than it ever had, my mind was clear and open—still thinking, but with a stream of thoughts flowing through my mind like water.

I was one with the music and the dancers around me. My feet instinctively found the empty spaces in the room, and my hands stretched wide as my hand chakras opened and I sensed the energy that swirled through the space. I’d felt that before, when I first learned Reiki, but it had been a long, long time since then.

My eyes no longer sought the floor. They lifted—now to the play of coloured lights on the high patterned ceiling, now to the face of a nearby dancer, sharing a grin of connection and joy. I beamed…glowed. I shone.

Light painting by kevin dooley on Flickr.com
Image by kevin dooley on Flickr.com

 

It was deep in this trance that the message came. It came in my own voice, ringing through my mind as I danced in the half-dark. It said,

“What if you could be like this, always. Just you. Not afraid, not hesitating. What if you could leap joyously into experience, saying YES when the Universe asks you to dance, instead of freezing in terror. You can move past the fear you’ve been stuck in. It’s so simple. You just have to let go and be brave and be the person you are RIGHT NOW.”

 

A giant smile stretched across my face, and I lifted my gaze to the ceiling in gratitude and amazement. As the music shifted and I lowered my gaze, my eyes fell on the small altar at the side of the room. I went over to investigate what was on it, and I saw a crocheted bag with a note next to it: Reach into the bag and receive a message from nature.

Without thought, my right hand reached into the bag. It knew what to do. It pulled out a smooth, small piece of driftwood with one word on it:

Courage.

It took my breath away. I sat for a moment, imagining the essence of the word infusing my body through the hand that held it. Then I put it gently down. I got up and bowed to the altar. I stepped away and sank back into the dance—hair flying, sweat glistening. Aches and pains that would normally have me seizing up in fear came and went away again as I surrendered to the holy trinity of body, breath, and beat.

On and on I danced, one cell of a single living, dancing organism. The music grew sultry, then softer and lyrical, then quiet. One by one, the dancers moved to the floor and lay still. I kept moving until the very end…I wasn’t ready to stop.

When the music ended, I stood still for a minute in the dark, quiet room. I felt my bigness, the extent of my space in the Universe. I knew that this was only the first of many dances, that I was on the dancing path. And I knew that miracles and magic awaited me, so long as I remembered the message that this night had brought:

Courage.

Catch Light by SodanieChea on Flickr.com
Image by SodanieChea on Flickr.com

 

If you’re interested in checking out a Barefoot Ecstatic Dance event, you can get updates on their Facebook Page. The next event is June 9th at DANSpace on Grafton St, Halifax.

Into the Woods (a picture post)

Last weekend was a long weekend here in Canada.

Usually, we head out of town and stay in a cottage with our friends. This year, we’d been planning to go to Portland instead, but that fell through. So we decided to stay at home. I was OK with it…something told me that we were going to have bigger adventures in our own backyard than we would on a trip.

 

I was right.

 

On Sunday, we picked up some friends and went for a hike at Long Lake Provincial Park. This park is technically in the city (I think), and it’s about a 5-minute drive from our apartment. You wouldn’t know it, though.

 

 

The trail heads through the woods and comes out onto Long Lake itself. We played by the water for a little bit, and Xander threw some rocks.

 

Honestly, I think we could have had a completely satisfactory trip just hanging out by the water…but that wouldn’t have made it an adventure.

 

We walked along the shore for a bit. This was our first truly summery weekend after a LOT of wet, and the plants were making the most of it. This was the weekend that all the leaves came out.

 

Eventually, we climbed back up onto the path that leads around the lake. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and the woods smelled of newly-grown leaves and just-blossoming flowers.

 

Eventually, we headed up a path away from the lake. Well…I say “path”…it had turned into a dried-up creek bed.

 

 

Well…maybe “dried up” was an optimistic term. It was still fun, though. It was like a puzzle, trying to figure out which side of the mess would be easier to walk on.

 

 

After a long, messy slog, we reached a spot where the creek bed ended and a stream began. It curved around and headed back toward the lake.

 

 

This part of the trip made all the time in the mud worth it. We found a path that curved alongside the stream. It was much easier going, and it was stunningly beautiful. We stopped constantly to look at the water.

 

 

At one point, we all sat down on a rock by the water. Our ears were filled with the rushing of the stream, the chattering of a nearby squirrel, the sigh of our own breath. It was peaceful beyond all imagining. It was like we were meditating without even trying.

 

 

Xander picked up on it too. Usually, when we’re walking around our suburb, he’ll complain that he’s tired within 15 minutes. That afternoon, he walked for 3 hours and didn’t mention being tired or hungry until the very end.

 

 

We were getting close to the lake, but the path had one more beautiful sight to show us. We stayed by this waterfall for a long time, taking it in.

 

 

And then we reached the lake. Even though you could see the city in the distance, it felt hundreds of miles away. I felt like any amount of time could have passed…we could have been like the people in stories who go off into the woods and come back months later, thinking no time has passed.

 

 

As I dabbled my feet in the lake water, I was filled with a sense of wonder and well-being. I felt so connected to the earth and to my ancestors who spent their lives walking through woods. I felt the arms of Mama Earth embracing and supporting us. I felt my muscles, tired, yes, but strong and capable…more capable than I’d thought.

 

We picked ourselves up and walked back to the car, full to the brim of sunshine and peace, and already planning our next trip back to the woods.

Sometimes you don’t need to travel far to have adventures. You just need to step outside your door.

What’s Your Sign? (Or, a Magical Productivity System for People Who Have Trouble Finishing Things)

I don’t believe in horoscopes.

Not the “You’re this sign and therefore this exact thing will happen to you today/this week” ones in the magazines and newspapers, anyway.

But I do believe in astrology. I believe that the position of the stars and planets affects us.

I’m also fascinated by the cycle of moons and the wheel of the year, which I’ve been learning about this year

This stuff? Oh yes, I completely believe in it.

And I believe that the way the stars and planets aligned at our birth has an impact on our personality. I think it’s more complicated than your main sign, though…have you read your birth chart lately? A lot of mine is scarily accurate.

So, while I don’t believe what the magazines tell me about my future (can all Libras really have an unlucky/lucky day on the exact same day? And why do they keep telling me I’ll meet someone new when I’m happily married?), I do believe that my sign has a lot to tell me about myself.

For example: Libra. Scales. Balance.

Or…majorly effing indecisive.

Yup, that one rings true.

And so does this one: Libra. Air sign. Mentally oriented and often caught up in thoughts…aka easily distracted and not the best at following through on said thoughts with concrete actions.

This is SO me. Case in point: tiny plate syndrome, where I get distracted by the multitude of possible projects before me and forget the biggest, scariest, most important one.

Other case in point: the fact that on Monday, while I was thinking about my blog and business, I was suddenly seized by the desire to start a brand new blog. NOOOOOO.

Always starting, rarely finishing. That’s my M.O. And that’s why last weekend’s telecircle was such a huge triumph for me…sometimes it feels like I’m struggling against my own nature when I actually FINISH something and make it real (boy, am I awesome at starting things, though!).

Last week Matthew (bless him) pointed out during one of my panicky Libra freakouts that my air-sign mind was busily hopping from thing to thing to thing, but I wasn’t actually finishing anything. Again. And we talked about things I could do to cut that crap out.

Here’s the truth: not getting things done feels crappy, especially when you’ve got an overflowing to-do list. I’d like productivity (actual, results-producing productivity as opposed to frantic busy-work that leads nowhere) to be something that happens every day, not when I’ve committed myself into a corner and am completely panicked.

So I started experimenting with techniques that could help. And it turned out that the magic combination was in my mental toolbox the entire time…I just hadn’t realized it.

Here’s Meg’s Magical Productivity Combo for air signs (or anyone who’s having trouble getting things done).

1. MicroMOVEments

Oh man, I’ve known about SARK’s anti-procrastination technique FOREVER, but it never really stuck for me. Making lists of tiny baby steps with deadlines kind of felt like a giant waste of my time and just another thing to do before I actually tried to do the things on my…to-do…list.

But I was so very, very wrong. MicroMOVEments (or at least their babystep cousins) are what got me organized for my class on Saturday. Instead of a crazy-making, procrastination-inducing list like this:

-Plan class
-Test Vokle
-Send final newsletter

I created a list that went like this:

Plan class:

  •  Pick music
  • Write initial plan
  • Write detailed plan
  • Finalize
  • Practice

Test Vokle:

  • Set up camera
  • Test camera and sound
  • Test speaking over music
  • Test chat window

Send final newsletter:

  • take Vokle screenshots
  • schedule event and get link
  • write newsletter, include link, playlist, screenshots, link to world clock
  • test newsletter
  • send newsletter

You get the idea. Each step, which was initially too large for me to wrap my head around and thus led to intense procrastination and distraction, was broken down into its constituent parts.

It was great, because that way I didn’t forget anything, and I had all the pieces of the puzzle written down in one place, ready to check off. AND (bonus) each task was fairly easy to achieve in a short-ish time period, so I could check more things off as I went. My airy brain LOVED this.

2. The Pomodoro Technique

OK, I admit it, I’ve only tried this for about 36 hours. But I already love it.

If you don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is, the basic principle is that you set a timer and work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Repeat 4 times, and then take a longer break. Etc.

Jamie Ridler has mentioned it a few times, and she recommended it highly. And now I know why.

I think this is going to really work for me. 25 minutes is short enough that I can keep myself working (as opposed to, say, checking Facebook), but long enough that I can actually get something done. On Monday night I managed three 25-minute sessions, and I checked 4 things off my list! On Tuesday afternoon, I did 5 sessions and completed a whole PAGE of babysteps!

The combination is perfect for me. I can’t get over how productive I’ve been!

And here’s the best part:

I’ve been thinking about my airiness as something WRONG with me, but I finally see…this isn’t about needing to “fix” myself. Being an air sign isn’t better or worse than any other sign…it just IS. It’s time to accept that I’m easily distractible and that ideas come more naturally to me than follow through…and it’s time to create some systems to help me balance out the airiness.

I think I’m off to a good start!

What’s YOUR sign? Does it have anything to tell you about the way you work?