Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ohhhh, The Sky Is BLUE!!!

When I’m taking another teacher’s class, it’s hard for me to catch on quickly to someone else’s choreography.  I find that the more I try to internalize it, the more it eludes me.  It happens to me when I’m teaching, too.  Even if I’ve danced a particular song hundreds of times, if I think, “Uh-oh, what’s next?”---it’s over.   Unless I can let go of my brain, I stop dead in my tracks and look around the room for help -- which I always get, because so many people know what comes next!

I am enthralled by the book, Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani.  It is about her Near Death Experience and what she learned from it.  One of the things she says is that we must love ourselves.  Okay, I know we’ve all heard it before.   But it is a central theme of her experience and I have struggled with that all my life.  Just when I think I’m okay (deserving of good), something happens (like reading Moorjani's book) and all my self-loathing comes roaring to the surface.
Anita also talks about “allowing.”  Instead of chasing what we want, whether it’s a job, a relationship, a dance step, or love, we can know that it is already there and allow it to come into our experience.  Chasing something, by definition, means it’s running away from us.

I read an interview of Bruce Springsteen by Jon Stewart in Rolling Stone.  Springsteen says that after he wrote “The River,” he worried that he had peaked, so he focused obsessively on his work.  His wife complained that he was not spending enough time with their children.  Springsteen realized that she was right.  He had it backwards: his children were going to grow up, but the music and words would always be in the ether and available to him.

 I love that.  It’s all available to us; we just have to know it.  Not believe, but know.

I know that in dance, the choreography is available to me if I just acknowledge it.  I understood today (finally!) that self-love is available to me if I just allow it.  I realized that I (all of us) are love. Love is who we are.  I don’t have to try to love myself.  I only have to allow myself to be who I am.  Loving oneself is natural.  Not loving oneself is what takes work.

Duh. (Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the sky is BLUE!!)

All we have to do is take a deep breath, stop judging ourselves, and just allow ourselves to be.  What a relief to finally stop trying and doing.

So dance your dance and be who you already are!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is This Normal?

When creating choreography, if I have to stop and ask myself-- “Does this really work?” -- just the fact that I have to ask myself this question means that, no, it’s not right.  There’s something about that question that lets me know my process in that moment is not organic.  It’s desperation born of creative block, not true creativity.

No matter how strange our families might have been -- you know, like mine, much like The Addams Family -- we all have a gut that tells us when things are wrong; even if we can’t put it into words.  My gut shoots the question into my brain, “Is this normal?”  If I’m thinking that, I know it’s really bad.

I have, and I suspect most of us have, very wide what-is-normal parameters.  We have high “weird” thresholds.  I actually embrace the weird.  I have been called weird.  It’s really okay with me.

However, when weird gets to be mean and you are forced for particular reasons to deal with it in a personal way, you do have to strengthen your boundaries.  You have to decide what you will and will not do.  You must practice Birthday Cake.**

Or run away.  Far away. 

We had a difficult house guest staying with us and I was trying to be accommodating.  I thought to myself, after an entire evening of what seemed like jumping through hoops, “Is this normal?”  Then I thought back to all the other times in my life when I’ve had that exact thought. (There were many.)  In hindsight I can say -- NO, those incidents were never normal.  So when you ask yourself, “Is this normal?” the answer is NO!  Again, my advice is: RUN AWAY, FAR AWAY!  It’s not any “normal” you want to be involved with anyway.   And if you think it’s weird, it is.

Countless times I pushed that question out of my mind. That is the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and saying, “lalalala, I can’t hear you!”  Not anymore.  I trust my gut and if it looks like a duck……well, you know.

My point is this: if you think it’s weird, it’s weird.  You must then make sure not to give yourself away by putting energy into changing the weirdness.  It doesn’t work. 

“Normal” is what YOU think it is.  Trust your gut.  It’s as” normal” as you’re ever going to get.

And it’s perfect.

**Birthday Cake:  The process by which one makes dog poop look like a birthday cake; the act you put on when you are smiling to indicate, “I’m so happy” when you are really miserable. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Age Is Only in Your Mind, Part II

Dance is healing in many ways.  If I am really stressed, dance is an enormous antidote.  It has, literally, saved me over the years.  But it only helps if I can shut out of my mind what I’m freaking out about and stay in the moment.  When I have been extremely upset, dance can be an escape.  In those tough times my only choice is being present while dancing; otherwise I would be unable to move at all. When we are present and engaged in what we are doing, it is truly medicinal.

Often I find being in the moment challenging.  I’m thinking about what I have to do next, or who I need to talk to or what phone call I have to make.  I have to really force myself to stay present.  Honestly, half the time I am not successful.  This is why it’s called a practice, I guess.

The researchers, Calvin Harley and Elissa Epel, have studied telomeres.**  These are structures on the ends of our chromosomes.  Stress is one of the main reasons that telomeres shorten.  This shortening causes cell replication to slow down and also causes the cell to be unstable.  Non-replication and cell instability cause breakages in the chromosomes which, in turn, cause tissue damage.  The result of this is what we see as “decline.”   Epel says, “Stress is time travel.”  We are upset about what happened in the past and worried about what may happen in the future.  We are not engaged fully in the moment.

Stress causes the mind and the body to react in unhealthy ways.  It can literally spin us out of our bodies.  That is when we get lost.  When we are not in our bodies, we are not in present time. 

They found that telomeres can resist deterioration by the practice of being in the moment.  And this is science!  Meditation is a wonderful tool for the practice of being in the now; however it can seem daunting.  You can use anything: dance, walking in nature, conversation with a friend, etc., to practice being present.   It all counts.

The body’s job is to always remain balanced.  When you overheat, you sweat.  When you’re cold, you shiver to create more heat.  When you get a cut, the body immediately begins a healing process.  If stressful thoughts and feelings contribute to telomere shortening, why can’t positive thoughts and feelings promote telomere re-growth?  I don’t know, but it seems reasonable to me.  And fair, dammit!

If no one around us talked about how age causes degeneration, and if we didn’t see the result of all this talk encouraging the expectation of decline with age, and  if we weren’t constantly bombarded with the collective thoughts of the culture that age means deterioration, how would we age? 

I’m willing to bet that in all of us there is an 18-25 year old person who just doesn’t believe that she won’t be able to do x or y because of age. 

That’s where I want to live.

The power is within you to decide how old you want to be. 

The great news here is, even if you don’t believe that you have this power, if you practice being in the moment, the quality of your life and relationships rises because you are really here. Now.

**Here are Calvin Harley and Elissa Epel, the researchers lecturing at TedMed:  (Click on the Q&A, too, it’s very interesting!)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Age Is Only in Your Mind Part I

After you have danced, really present in the moment, it can feel like no time has passed.  When we are absorbed in a conversation or very present while reading a book, time seems to evaporate.  When we are done, it’s as though only a moment has gone by.  

Quantum physics has shown that linear time is an illusion.  Time just is.  We move through time; time doesn’t move through us.  Our human brains can only perceive time as linear.  But in ultimate reality there is no past or future; everything is happening in the present moment.  Now is all there is. 

Maybe it’s because I am vain, maybe it’s because I don’t like what “age” means in our society, but I don’t want to hear all the negativity about age.  Age should mean that we know MORE and that we are KINDER because of it.  It should mean that, because we’ve had a lot of practice, we are BETTER at being human than we were when we were younger.  It should mean that we are more tolerant.  As we age, all of our mistakes pile up, but also what we learned from those mistakes makes us who we are now.  It makes us humbler, more compassionate, and better at what we do.  I’m planning to dance forever.

In Biology 101 we learned that all of our cells replicate our same DNA over and over again.  That is the job of the cells, to replicate exactly.  There is no reason age should mean decline, unless we think it does. 

I know an elderly man who said, in a fit of temper, “I’m going to get dementia!”  He was perfectly in his right mind until he convinced himself that it wouldn’t last.  His body and mind believed his words and I watched as he declined.   

I don’t believe in decline.  I believe in practice.  When we practice compassion, physicality, joy, love—practice makes us better at it.     

The question is not how many years you have been in this body on this planet, but how old do you feel?

You are your spirit and your spirit is ageless.

You are ageless.