Stasis

Years ago I wrote a series of poems based on the autobiography and writings of Isadora Duncan. I never did anything with them because I decided (arbitrarily) that there needed to be 16, and I only wrote 11.

One of the poems was called “Stasis,” and it described Isadora’s desolation after the tragic drowning of her two children, Deirdre and Patrick. She was so overcome with grief that she couldn’t dance. Her one passion, her consolation, her solace–it was gone. She couldn’t move a muscle.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that poem lately. Not because I’ve experienced similar tragedy (thank goodness) or even because I’m particularly unhappy, but because I know what she’s talking about. I’ve been in stasis for a while now, and even minus the personal tragedy, it’s the opposite of fun.

I’m a dancer and a writer. I express myself through movement and through the written word. And yet for months I’ve been struggling against inertia. Resistance, perfectionism, stasis…call it whatever you want. It’s been growing and growing until I can barely remember the last time I danced–danced until my brain shut off, anyway–and until my blog no longer feels like a home, but like a giant “should” hanging over me.

I’m exaggerating…a bit. But the essence of the feeling is there: Stasis.

I’m taking steps to change it. I’ve set up a standing desk at work, made a point of stretching and moving my body regularly. I’m listening to music and swaying in place, dancing with Xander, and taking walks when it’s nice out. I’m tweaking my diet to try to find the sweet spot where my legs don’t ache. I’m playing with the look and contents of my blog to make it feel better. I’m writing this blog post after weeks of not-quite-doing-it, and realizing that, actually, I just inadvertently wrote a list of things to write about.

These baby steps are what will take me from stasis to movement again. These baby steps are all part of the journey.

I know that stasis has lessons to share if I look for them. Deep down I know that this experience is important and that I’ll be grateful for it in the future. Something about this process is shaping me, honing my focus, helping me grow. I know that the first step to breaking out of stasis and including more dancing and writing in my life is simply making space for those things.

And I know that even thought it’s simple, it won’t always be easy. Space must be opened up. Choices must be made. “Publish” buttons must be pressed.

I’m breaking out of stasis one baby step at a time.

 

My dream (in more than one sense)

I had a dream last night.

But it wasn’t my average dream. It was practically REAL, and it helped me in ways I’d never expect from a dream…

I ran into a friend of a friend. She was a creative spirit with an exuberant and joyful personality, but she struggled when it came to expressing herself through dance (It took the first half of the dream to establish all this, but I’m trying to keep to the point here!). She was going through a rough phase of personal transition, and she knew that it would really help if she could dance.

I offered to give her an Embodied Movement Coaching session (which is a new one-on-one service I’ve been testing…and which I’ve been terrified to talk about up until now). And I immediately began to plan the session out loud (because, hello, dream!).

“Alright,” I said, “We’ll start with some grounding. Really get your feet grounded on the earth so you’re IN your body. Then we’ll start at your head and we’ll do an exercise to help you warm up and free your body joint by joint all the way to your feet. And then we’ll start at your fingertips and we’ll dance part by part until you’re right at your centre. Then we’ll play with movement and see how it feels. Is there a song that you really want to dance to?”

She picked one, and I asked her to bring it to the session. Which, frankly, has been one part of the coaching concept that’s been worrying me. Solution: found.
And the thing is…as I was thinking out loud in the dream, I was doing the movements I was talking about. And I felt better as I was doing them. And I knew with absolute certainty that this would help her, and that it would work and that it was something came naturally to me…that I could make a plan to help anyone who wanted it.

It was pretty much the best dream ever.

I mean, I’ve left out some things, like how we met at an event to raise money for prostate cancer awareness…where people stood in a crowd and chanted “Prostate prostate prostate”…but yeah.

A dream. In more than one sense.

Have you ever had a dream that helped you deal with something in real life? This is a new experience for me, and I’d LOVE to hear your stories!

 

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.

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. 

Breaking the Silence

Words words words.

My head is stuffed full of words unspoken and words unwritten. I am stifled, smothered, crushed by the weight of unspoken thoughts and untold stories. I am self-censored to the point of utter silence, mired in the shame that comes when you feel that your thoughts and feelings are not worthy of expression.

When you look at me, you might think I look a little sad, a little tired, a little stressed. But I am drowning, lost in a sea of words and stories and emotions, and unable to find my way out.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for days. I kept writing “blog post” on my to-do list and then…checking Facebook, opening tabs for other people’s blogs, obsessively collecting information about the thoughts and feelings of others instead of being in my own head and heart and processing their contents. As if salvation was possible only outside myself, as if other people’s breakthroughs could take the place of my own.

The only expression that has managed to break through the chaos is dancing…brief moments of release and escape from the crowded prison of my brain.

 

Big changes are coming for my family. Big changes for me, the stay-at-home mama. Changes which mean stepping out of my safe little bubble, smashing through my comfort zone, and doing the things I’ve said for ages that I wanted to do…but didn’t make time or space for because I was too afraid. It’s already starting. And I haven’t said one word on this blog or anywhere else on the Internet.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Didn’t want to upset anyone or take the risk and fail. Thought that if I kept quiet and didn’t tell anyone, maybe the Big Scary Changes would wander off and bother someone else.

And that makes me shake my head in disgust, because the second-to-last real post I wrote was about my epiphany: how I didn’t want to live in fear anymore, wanted to live out loud and be 100% me 100% of the time.

“Now look at you,” my inner critic cackles, “Stuck in the mud, quiet and cowed like you always will be.” The untold stories threaten to bury me, to cover my head and suck me down into a life of silence and shame once again.

But, eventually, I stop them. I close down Facebook and all the other browser tabs full of other people’s stories. I open my word processing program. I begin to type this out. And the pressure inside my head and heart begins to ease. I start to feel more like myself again. Like maybe my stories are as worth telling as anyone else’s. Like maybe it would be OK if I just wrote what I was feeling. Like maybe this is only the beginning.

I know me. I know that in a week, or even a day, this collection of sentences won’t remotely resemble what I’m feeling, just as it bears no resemblance to how I was feeling 2 weeks ago. I’m an air sign, as changeable as the breeze. But this is my story right now…and I will tell it. Keeping silent hurts too much.

The words flow out of my head and onto the screen, and I breathe a little deeper, sit a little more solidly in my body, make plans to dance again tomorrow. I remember why I started blogging in the first place, remember the relief of letting my stories out into the Universe. I start to think of new stories to tell, now that the dam is broken.

There are always stories to tell.