Dance, Partners

October 3, 2009

We danced that one time,
(was it Salsa?)
taking turns with the roles
naturally curious, both of us explorers.
Then talking as we drove home
reflections on the instructor, the other students, ourselves.
“I’m surprised…following was better for me.”
A clear contradiction to my normal way in the world.
And you?
Leading came with such grace – we both felt it.
Sometimes a yes is so clear, the question ceases to exist
(serving only to birth more questions)
This one stands before me now:
how is it that your lead, my follow, is our most awkward movement?
(something so natural – why are we so damn bad at it?)
Is it as simple as inexperience?  as pathological as resistance?
are we hopelessly mismatched despite all our dreams?

There is no escaping the demand for our mastery:
your expertise, your desires, your boundaries, your vision,
each day asks only more.
[It’s so tempting to think:
I could follow if only you would…]

But back to Salsa (or was it a Rumba?)
What did I learn?
…seek my excellence in the steps that are mine
…be substance to your flow (that’s how we are form)
…ask only this:  what is this beauty we create?
Curiosity, exploration – there is no other way.
How do I remember this now
with deadlines and anxieties
and the misdirections of my mind?

If the deadlines are the tempo
and our goals are the beat
and you are the lead
how do I know my part?

Those dance lessons…they weren’t Tango or Foxtrot or Waltz.
(or did we waltz, for just a bit?)
But the lessons – what were they?  Samba maybe?
I cannot recall.

But that day –
that day I knew.
And that day – we danced.
Once again, the lesson is the same:  it helps to know intent.
(It’s the music that’s the cue.)


The Paradox of Perception

January 27, 2009

I’m struck these days by a new understanding of a familiar awareness: perception is everything. I would like to think that, for the most part, I experience the world as it’s really happening – objectively, neutrally. But my experience says that isn’t so. A small example…

When I was younger, just the sight of a police car would trigger an anxiety response in me – shallow breathing, increased blood pressure, tunnel focus on where they were, what they might be thinking about me, what might happen next (i.e., was I in trouble?). And this was not because I was trying to get away with anything – I was far too entrenched in the ‘good girl’ category for that. Indeed, the one time I did have something to hide (details withheld to protect the innocuous), my anxiety response was actually lower. Rather than reacting, I paid attention to what was really going on so that I could deal with whatever evolved.

Then recently I had an experience that turned out to be a kid’s prank but could have been much more serious – and the police response was noticeably absent. Suddenly I realized how much I unconsciously deferred to the police, expecting them always to be the authority and the law, and how little that attitude served me. I magnified the role of the police and ignored the ways I need to be in a collaborative role with law enforcement: being a part of the solution rather than imagining and creating my own problems.

This shifted my perception from the fear-inducing “what if I’m in trouble” approach to a much more useful set of questions: how do I need to protect myself? what is a reasonable expectation for the role of the police? how do I hold myself and law enforcement accountable? In short, a much more reality-focused set of questions: what are we up against, and what can I do about it?

Yesterday I drove past a cop car and didn’t automatically go into my defensive worry and anxiety. Instead, I saw them more as equals, with a sense that we each have our job and that the first relevant question was how well we were each showing up to those responsibilities.

The paradox in this is that my experience of reality now is as fully determined by my perception as it was with the anxiety response – and yet, it’s also true that not all perceptions are equal. Some take us into the moment, while some just take us into la la land.

There was something to learn from my anxiety response – it had its roots in childhood and told me something about what I had learned then. But that story is ultimately boring – I know the ending. Here’s to stalking the perceptions that take us into the now where the moment is unfolding and creation is ours for the making.

Doing Things the Wrong Way

January 12, 2009

We were worked on falls and rolls during martial arts class today. There came a point where I decided to watch instead of roll because of current stiffness and inflammation in my neck and back.

After class, when the floor was open and there were no external distractions, I slowly felt my way into the rolling. Placing my feet and knees, arms and shoulders, chin and eyes in the ways we’d been instructed, I started playing with the technique to understand how it applied to my body at this point in time.

Turns out, I could do it pretty easily rolling over my left shoulder. But when I tried rolling to the right – the direction where I’ve been having some considerable challenges lately – it was a very different experience. The physics were different, the balance point was different – it didn’t work to do it the right way. So, I did it the wrong way.

That’s when my sensei descended upon me.

My sensei is an accomplished martial artist who has the capacity to be both a demanding and a gentle teacher. He is very committed to the students in our dojo. And he is committed to us getting things right. He quickly and accurately diagnosed what I was doing wrong and proceeded to demonstrate and instruct me in what I should do.

Because our dojo has a policy of speaking directly and honestly, and because it was after class and just the two of us, I did my best to explain that he wasn’t helping me – not that I did it gracefully, mind you, but it was the best I had at the time. And he got the point, and gave me some space – essentially, giving me space to do it my way: do it wrong.

This is a tricky thing, this right/wrong balance. The right way is there because it will most likely achieve the exact result I was looking for: not injuring myself. But that’s the thing with probabilities – a high probability describes most realities, not all of them.

So, what do you do if you’re in one of the realities where the rules are different? Or what if you’re not even sure whether the rules apply exactly that way to you and you need to test them out a little? There’s nothing else to it but to do things wrong – feel them out, learn from them.

Here’s where trust comes in – trusting that there is a place within the essence of my experience that there is no right and wrong. There is just experience, and the ability to pay attention to it and learn from it. And it’s my commitment to that – to creating the experiences I most need and desire to have, showing up to them 100%, and taking full responsibility for them – that has meaning and substance in my life.

Doing it right, doing it wrong – those are just reference points. I’m the one who’s got to find my way.

Inspiration and Commitment

January 7, 2009

That 3000 mile roadtrip in my last post was Karen’s doing. The choice and plan was my own, but the original idea, the inspiration, had a lot to do with Karen. It’s through hanging around her that I’ve developed my own interest and courage in traveling, especially by car. Her love of such journeys, and the ease with which she takes them, have helped me glimpse possibilities I had not imagined for myself, and have been instrumental as I’ve taken those scary first steps into the unknown.

Less important, but relevant to the specifics of this trip, I had anticipated that we would meet up along the way – a detail that seemed relevant just because it would be fun…until she canceled her plans. Then the panic set in.

“You’ve inspired me to do this, and then you’re not even going to show up?!?” I (asked? accused? wailed?). “You can’t do that!”

“Well, of course I can!” she calmly countered. “It would be a pretty sad life if our inspirations always depended on others – if we could only go where others will go with us.”

I stood there sputtering, knowing that she was exactly and terrifyingly right – restricting ourselves to living only in consensual realities is the makings of complacency, mediocrity, and repression (not to mention the necessity of group trips to the ladies room). Canceling my trip just because she wasn’t going on hers would be ludicrous.

But I just couldn’t shake a feeling of dismay. Somehow this one interaction had let loose a whole cascade of questions about inspiration and partnership and commitment that quickly transcended the details of this trip.

To a large extent, the questions are still bouncing around my mind, but they’ve started to coalesce around two nodes. The first one I found in the dictionary.

There amidst words like stimulation and motivation was the phrase “divine guidance.” That made it all make more sense: when God inspires me into new territory my willingness to act on that inspiration is totally based on trust that God will be there along the way.

So, I can see where I can easily get that mixed up, and that it’s a much more appropriate assumption to make about God than Karen, even if she is my business partner. But it still leaves me with questions – especially ones about how the face of God is something we learn to see with and through human relationships. How can we live the truth of that whilst reconciling the differences?

And then there’s the other gathering node for my musings: a wondering about what really creates longevity in human relationships. As I drove alone across the vast stretches of Texas, I found myself thinking about other times where the very people who had inspired me did not continue on the journey with me.

There were many examples – most notably, the significant love relationships I’ve had in my adult life. In each case, it was the relationship itself that fostered my growth and discovery, and in each case that growth resulted in an understanding of myself that no longer fit that relationship.

Because of all I’ve learned and gained, and the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to love, I have only gratitude for those relationships – just like the delight I now have (after the fact) that my travels to Texas were the exact adventure they were. And as I tell my travel adventure stories to Karen now, it’s clear that there’s continuity even amidst the discontinuities, just as I have found as past lovers have become intimate friends and family.

But still I have questions…is there another level to relationship longevity that I have not yet glimpsed, not yet mastered? Is there a way that our individual journeys and edges and evolutionary paths do become more synchronized with another’s, or many others’? What does it look like to simultaneously say, “I have to do this for me,” and “we’re in this together”? What does it take to sustain that through any situation and across time?

Something tells me that I live that answer every day, even as I continue to seek new expressions and depths of it.  But knowing that seems only to deepen the questions.