Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Tragedy of First Position

Here is a video entitled “The Tragedy of First Position.”  It is of a little girl in her ballet class trying so hard to get her feet into first position.  She just can’t seem to do it:  click here to see the video

I feel like this a lot – both figuratively and literally.  The little girl is trying really hard. And the teacher is so kind.  She says, “It’s okay if your shoes aren’t doing it” and “Ohhhh, it’s tricky!”

Sometimes our shoes just don’t seem to take us where we want to go.  We have to learn how to navigate our lives.  We have to somehow accept where we are now and work from there.

In life, I think all of us take the role of both the teacher and the little girl.  There are times we need someone to make us feel better and there are times we need to make others feel better.  Maybe our comforting words are not strictly the truth, but it’s worth a little white lie if it helps someone retain her dignity.  When we see someone struggling, we understand that anyone can be confused, anyone can make a mistake, anyone can just not understand.  

I feel like the little girl when I am trying to execute a dance step I am not familiar with.  I just can’t get my body to go where I want it to.  I watch other people who can do it and will see if I can’t imitate that person’s body in space.  I try to forget about myself and think I am doing exactly what the teacher is doing.  Then when I look in the mirror – not even close.  For those few moments, anyway, I was soaring.  I try to not be disappointed, but just tell myself I’ll practice and I’ll get there.  Plus, the journey is more than half the fun.

Sometimes when I feel lost about how to handle a situation, I look around like that little girl to pick up some clues and see how others are executing any metaphorical first position.  In the video she keeps trying so earnestly to get it right, but she doesn’t seem discouraged or upset. She just wants to get it.  I love that.  Even though the girl is struggling, she has a sense of self-acceptance.

I also hope that I can be as nice as the little girl's teacher -- whether I'm with friends, clients, family, or strangers -- giving words of encouragement and understanding.  It's so important to do that for myself, too, remembering that even as I try to figure things out -- even when I feel utterly at sea -- I can stay afloat by accepting myself just as I am.

It's so important to remind ourselves and others that it’s okay if "getting it" takes some time.

As the teacher, be kind.  As the child, be kind to yourself.  And enjoy the journey.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Near Enemy

In my previous blog, I was talking about letting go. It seems to be a major theme in my life.

When I recently started a new business, I was upset that what was appearing before me was not what I had expected. But then I had a realization -- I was doing what I loved with people I felt connected to. Letting go of my fear enabled me to focus on the happiness that had already manifested in my life.

Before I had this epiphany, I was experiencing “the near enemy.”

I learned about this concept while reading a novel, a “cozy mystery” by Louise Penny. In it, one of the characters talks about the near enemy, which is something undesirable that appears as something good. For example, attachment masquerades as love, callousness masquerades as equanimity, and pity impersonates compassion.

My experience of this was the near enemy of love, since attachment can look like love, but it is not.

Attachment is born of fear – whereas its opposite, connection, springs from love.

In dance, attachment is worrying about what it looks like rather than allowing the connection to freely express what arises organically from the music.

I can be afraid sometimes that my work is not good and that people won’t like it. That causes me to be attached to what I think people might like, which in turn restricts my movement options in choreography. If I listen to music in the spirit of love, I am connected to the music and the movement. I am experiencing love rather than fear. When I move from connection, I am offering something from within myself rather than giving something that doesn’t belong to me – something that resides outside of my connection.

Attachment feels like taking directions from outside yourself (along with a big load of anxiety). Connection is a feeling of being solid, grounded, and happy because it comes from within.

The trick is slowing down enough to identify what’s really motivating our actions.

When in doubt, I (try to) remember to ask myself, “How does this feel?” If it feels fraught with anxiety, I know I am on the wrong track and I have to back up and take a breath. I have to take a moment, breathe, find my connection and begin again.

Are we responding to attachment or connection? Love or fear? Are we expressing the near enemy?

We don’t have to fight the darkness; we merely have to turn on the light.

Acknowledging love and feeling connected unmasks the near enemy, causing it to fall away and allowing us to freely express our truth from within.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Friday, June 13, 2014


We were in class and one of my clients was saying that once she decided to stop looking in the mirror while dancing, she enjoyed the experience much more.  She let go of the self-imposed rules dictating how it should look and let herself just dance from the heart. 

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to achieve certain “lines” when you dance, but it restricts your expression if you can’t allow yourself to dance outside the box of your own making.  There really are no mistakes.  There is only you, expressing yourself in an authentic way and making adjustments according to what feels good to you.  

Once you let go of how something (anything) should look, you open the door to other, maybe even more wonderful ways of being.

In my life, I believe the most powerful therapeutic tool I have used (and continue to use) over and over again is the act of simply deciding to let go. 

The trick is recognizing when I need to do it.  Sometimes that isn’t so clear.

I just started a new business and I had a preconceived notion of what I thought it should look like.  When it didn’t happen the way I thought it would, I became attached to what I thought was the only road to success.  One day while I was teaching and having a quiet internal meltdown, the thought suddenly came to me: “I am doing what I love to do in a place I love to be.  I am grateful for every person who came to dance with me today.  That’s really all I need to know.  I trust that I am doing what I’m meant to do and that if it’s wrong, I will be led to the next right thing.”  

It was as though an anvil was lifted from my back. I felt euphoric. I was freed from attachment.  Instead I was now feeling my connection to dance and the people who dance with me.  

Once I truly let go, everything changed for the better.  Was it a change in me?  Was it a change in circumstances? Or are they the same thing?

Letting go of knowing the outcome and going step-by-step (enjoying the journey) is like releasing yourself from bondage.  Worry and anxiety narrow our field of vision so that only a few options appear to be available.  When you let go, the world expands and shows you where to go next.  

So I think of my life as a dance – I don’t know what choreography is coming next, but I am dancing this way now.  And I like it.