Saturday, August 9, 2014

From Where You Are

When you take a dance or strength class (or any class), you have to move from where you are now.  If you try to do something you are not ready to do -- like use a 10lb. weight when you should be starting with 3lbs. -- you compensate in all kinds of ways and don’t really get the benefit of the exercise.  At best, you’ll expend energy without making progress.  You’ll be spinning your wheels.  At worst, you could actually end up hurting yourself.  

On the other hand, if you can accept where you are now, then your progression will be easy and you can enjoy the journey rather than “shoulding” all over yourself. (“I should be able to lift a heavier weight,” I should be able to leap higher,” etc.).

It’s the same in any aspect of life.  Sometimes I think my feelings are just “wrong,” especially if I’m angry or insecure.  These feelings are uncomfortable for me and I usually just deny or bury them altogether.  

Invariably, though, I find that denial, pushing against something rather than allowing it, only causes the feelings to push back or rear up and bite me when I am not looking.

Denial causes me to compensate in all kinds of ways that are not healthy.  Underneath my denial is guilt for having these feelings in the first place.  Then it’s just a big old mess.  I am spinning my wheels and my path gets harder. 

If I can forgo this mental dance, I understand that anything I am feeling is “legitimate” because it is authentic.  The particular emotions at issue may not be pretty, but they are real and should be treated as such.  There are many places in me that need to grow, but I have to go from where I am now.  I can pretend to make a moral, enlightened leap but if I am not truly there yet, I’m going to fall hard.

Accepting my feelings is an act of self-love.  It’s like giving a home to a mangy old dog found unexpectedly on your doorstep.  When I love and accept that dog just as he is, he can transform.  And so can I.  But we still had to start at mangy.  

When our young children are feeling envy or fear, we accept it and let them know that these emotions are a normal part of life.  We love them and let them know their feelings are natural and okay.  Truly, it is how we choose to act in the face of these feelings that matters.  Will we make the decision to be kind to others and ourselves or will we deny our truth and sweep it under the rug – where it only remains to be found later, bigger and uglier than before?

Treat yourself just as you would your beloved child or your dearest friend.  Love yourself enough to accept your uncomfortable feelings and allow yourself to grow from where you are.  

And enjoy the journey.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What's In Your File?

When I am teaching or learning complex choreography, it helps me to break it up into pieces.  So an eight count can be seen as two groups of four or I can accentuate in my mind the similarities of a combination and use that to organize it in my brain.

When I am successful in shifting my perception of the parts, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole, difficult choreography becomes easier and even friendlier.  It’s friendlier because I have become familiar with it.  I have made a code for myself that I can use to refine my movement.

While I would not describe myself as “organized” -- I am quite comfortable with cheerful disarray -- I find that if I can file and categorize anything in my mind, it’s as though a path has opened itself up to me.  It clears things up and jettisons extraneous information.

The problem is that “filing” something under a certain category and reaching a level of understanding about it does not mean you have any control over it.

In the past, I was “stuck” in an unhealthy relationship.  My friends and loved ones told me all the very good reasons to get out, NOW! And I agreed.  I nodded my head and acknowledged that was the only sane thing to do.  But I couldn’t follow through and leave the relationship until I was ready to believe that I deserved better. And that was something I had to do myself. The problem belonged in a working file because I am the only one who can effect a change in myself.  Some people who loved me imagined that if they just talked to me hard enough and long enough, I would see myself as someone who deserved love.

That change had to come from within me, and yes, I could receive moral support, but that file belonged to me alone.  I had to organize my thoughts and develop a code that I could live by to create a happy life.  When I figured out who I was, and I could understand the bad patterns I had manifested, a new path opened up for me.

Knowing what is in your file and what isn’t (what you can control and what you can’t) is a huge lesson, not only for dealing with self-development but also for interaction with others.  When we can look at troubled loved ones and see that they must own their life as they have created it, we allow those we love to find their own way – and their way is not necessarily ours.

I am not speaking of abandoning a person who is still working on a particular file, but we can mistakenly feel attached to someone else’s decisions, as if we have power to make everything all right.  Instead, we can love, be connected, but drop the attachment.

This is especially true when my friends and I fret about our children. We have to constantly remind each other that they are grown and capable of making their own decisions.  Of course, if we had the power to effect change in others, the world would be perfect – at least from our point of view!

I had to find my own way, and so does everyone I love.

I had to work on my own file – grateful for love, understanding, and support from others, but ultimately still on my own.

What file are you working on?

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks