Sunday, September 30, 2012

Love and Choice

Love of dance -- or anything that is a deep part of you -- is an essential aspect of your being.  No one has to force you to do it.  Dancers dance because they have to.  Writers write because they feel compelled to.  Painters paint because there is no other choice for them.  Actually, all people are compelled to express what’s closest to their heart. 

Even though I love dance, I still have to accept that there are things I just can’t do.  You know, like the tumbling stuff—flips and spectacularly high leaps.  I can let that go and just do what feels right.  But I’ll never stop, because dance, for me, is a truth. 

Love is like that.  Sometimes we just have to accept that it doesn’t look the way we would wish (or dream) but it’s the best we can do.  We can only do what we can do.

It’s not like we can decide to love (or not love) certain people -- like our parents or our children.  We just do.  There is no choice.  And if there were a choice, would we continue to choose love?  

I think so.

Because love is the truth.

Where there is difficult love, we always seem to cherish hope, whether we are conscious of it or not. 

I often think (and have had the experience) that a roller coaster of conditional on-again-off-again love and abuse is almost worse than abuse you can count on.  

I have a friend who cannot wrap his brain around the fact of his mother’s dementia.  She was not a good mother.  He experienced alternating love and abuse.  Even now he so wants to believe that she can improve.  Part of him, after so many decades of the same experience, knows that is not possible, especially now.  But there is a part of him that is still hoping.   He still loves her, no matter what abuse he had to put up with because there were good times, too.  And that’s what we all hold onto.  The promise that the bad stuff will go away and what we know is in there, will rise to the surface.

When water-deprived rats are placed in Skinner boxes, they learn that every time they push a lever, they’ll get water.  Experimenters put the rats on different schedules, too.  Sometimes water is dispensed only after 10 pushes on the lever, for instance.  After a while, the experimenters stop the water in order to “extinguish” the rat’s behavior.  The rat stops pushing the lever when he realizes that the water is no longer coming.  This means the rat’s behavior has reached “extinction.” The most difficult schedule to extinguish is when the water comes out randomly—after 2 pushes, then after 18, then after 5, and so on.  The rat just keeps trying because it cannot anticipate when the water’s coming—that rat just keeps trying and hoping.

Much like my friend hoping for maternal love.  Or myself in past relationships that were emotionally abusive —you keep going back because you know the love is there.  You’ve experienced it before, so it must be real. There must be more, right?

Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you stop loving yourself—and abuse is incompatible with real love. 

But is love ever completely extinguished for a difficult loved one?

I don’t think so.  I think it is beyond our power.  But that is a good thing.  

It is possible to love even as you disengage from abuse.

You dance, write, create because you have to.

You love because there really is no other choice.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


When I am trying to do new choreography, it happens sometimes that NOTHING is coming to me.  Even if I relax and allow myself to be led, every so often in my mind is -- nothing.  Crickets. Tumbleweeds. The sound of a lonely wind.  
I kept getting ideas about what I would write this week, all incomplete. 

But here is something I was thinking about that maybe you’ll find interesting.  

There was a philosopher named Boethius who wrote in the years around 500 AD.  He was a wealthy Roman consul who believed in goodness and charity.  He also believed that the Universe (or God or All That Is) is based on goodness.  He said that it is through love that the natural and human forces of the universe are guided.  Boethius also believed what quantum physics tells us is true, that time does not move through us—time just is.  We move through time.  All That Is is the tree and man is an ant that moves up the trunk and out to the branches.  Every possibility (each branch and leaf) is already there, but we choose which path or branch to take as the outcome we experience. 

It makes me think about how truth is always the truth.   

I used to wonder what it meant when I read in spiritual books that our relationships really never end, despite separation, divorce, death and apparently even intense dislike.   I still don’t know whether it’s a reference to the nature of time (everything happens at once, therefore the past is still happening) or whether love is not destructible. 

I think maybe it’s both of those.

Love is the truth and never dies. 

So what is deep within us is our truth.  Our truth really never changes. The innocence we were born with is still within us.  

We dance because we have to.  We create because there’s no choice.  And we continue to love whether we want to or not.  

The truth knows no time, and neither does the deepest part of you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pushed or Led?

When I am choreographing a song, I have a number of goals: 1) I want the movement to express the music. 2) I want it to be fun.  3) I want it to be easy enough so that anyone can do it without too much of a learning curve, yet be challenging enough for my regulars.  And 4) I also want the movement to cause a really good sweat.  

Sometimes I’ll put pressure on myself to make the dance combinations more complex because I’m afraid that my class is losing steam.  So instead of allowing the music to lead me, I feel “pushed” by my fear to create something that is different than what would come naturally to me.  I actually ignore what feels right because I’ve convinced myself that it’s not good enough.  When this happens, I am reaching for movement that does not make sense with the music or with my goals.

On the other hand, if I relax and trust, the music will take me on a ride that allows me to accomplish my goals.  I will be led to choreography that makes sense and fulfills my objectives.

That feeling of pushing is very real.  It feels like I am out of synch with myself.  It is actually quite stress-inducing.  And generally it doesn’t end well.

Being led feels to me like quiet, calm, and loving direction.

In my life, I realize that I can do the same sort of thing when I am having a fit of feeling incompetent.  In that state, I think a particular situation should look a certain way, so I’ll structure a path to get where I think I ought to be.  I feel pushed by my anxiety.  And the path is constructed by fear, which is not any path I really want to be on.

Being led is like having the path appear one step at a time.  I don’t know what’s going to be at the end of that path, but I tell myself that it could be something I’ve never dreamed of. 

I had a painful experience with a loved one, when I had to follow my instincts and just let go.  I was “forced” to do this because I had done everything that I could imagine and nothing changed the situation.  I had hit the wall.  I simply had to stop scaring myself about what could happen if I truly released this person.  So I took the path one step at a time, trusting each individual step and not knowing how it was going to look at the end of it all.  It was hard, but the outcome turned out to be more than I could have hoped for.

Now if only I could trust, every day, without having to hit the wall first.  (I’m working on it.)

When you trust the little steps, the big leaps take care of themselves.

And every really good leap uses momentum from the smaller steps before it.

Trust the music.  

One step at a time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oxygen Mask

When you are dancing, your intention can be many things—you may want to express the music through your body, you may want to be in the moment so you forget everything that you are anxious about, you may want to burn calories.  Whatever your intention is, one of these things or all of these things or something completely different, the underlying truth of your intention to dance is the fact that in some way you are taking care of yourself.  

And when you take care of yourself, it is an act of self-love. 

Many times when I would go to dance class as a student, I would run into criticism—“Don’t you have other things to do that are more important right now?” “You seem tired, are you sure this is the best thing for you to do?” (Surely everyone else knows what’s best for me) “I could really use your help right now!”  Sometimes, in the past, I would succumb to the shame (since, obviously, there were no other times – other than during my dance class -- that I could help someone); other times I would slink away to guiltily get my dance fix.  

And try to not look so happy when I got home. 

Over the years I have heard from some clients that their partners were a little jealous of their taking time to go to dance class.  Others have told me that when they get a little bitchy at home, their partners will say, gently, “Gee honey, maybe it’s time for you to go to dance class?  Can I drive you…?”  These partners understand that joy begets joy and refueling in dance class means that the whole family can breathe a sigh of relief.

When we love ourselves, it is not selfish.  It is not a form of conceit or of not caring about anyone else.  Loving ourselves is the reason we can love others.  Selfishness is an attribute of self-loathing.  Loving ourselves makes us more generous, not less generous with our time.  

When you are on an airplane and the oxygen mask unfurls, you need to put it on yourself first.  Even the airlines know you have to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else. 

For me, dance is my oxygen mask.

What’s yours?