Spaciousness: Life Lessons from Dancing

 

Having abundant space or roominess. Being large in range or scope.

These qualities have been my focus for quite awhile for my dancing and teaching dance.  Taking up more space when we move and constantly striving for the most expansive range of movement within our bodies–those are two ways to create exciting dance that is full of possibility.

Spacious dancing.

Recently, I’ve realized that this somewhat obvious notion of capaciousness is only part of the picture.  That roominess in our minds, in our thought processes, are at least as important.

For instance, when we take dance class, if we keep our minds and hearts more open, more available, we can learn new ways of moving, of both “the steps” and how to execute them.  We are also more efficient in our learning because we haven’t boxed ourselves into a smaller place, a place of “no” or “I can’t,” which we then have to work to extricate ourselves from. Or, worse, we stay trapped in that limited space and don’t grow in our art.  Spaciousness allows ideas and emotions room to breathe and multiply.

So, lately, when I teach and talk about spaciousness, I make sure I invite the dancers to sustain a roominess in their approach to class.  I remind myself, too.

These reminders came back to me today when a loved one was digging her heels in on trying something new that was likely going to make her life easier, more pleasurable. Looking back on the conversation, I can even see her body language reflect restriction, constriction.

I know how challenging and even scary it can be to cultivate expansiveness.  We’re not sure we will like something or be good at it or will understand it or recognize ourselves in our new territory.  In dance, I’ve seen time and again dancers build a wall, whether consciously or not, where no wall was needed.  And they ended up walled off, walled in, instead of bursting out into the sunlight and fresh air of possibility.

You can sense the limitations in dancing like this.  It’s small, somehow.  Whether cramped spatially or conceptually or soulfully.

I’ve come to understand that the same can be said of living.  Sure, it takes courage and doggedness and awareness and practice to plumb vastness.  The result is a greater vibrancy.

Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!

Photo credits–2nd from top courtesy of Nikki Cararra © 2016; bottom–Christina Goldberg; Sculpture–Gil Boro

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Kindness: It’s Contagious!

I read a moving letter in an advice column from a lonely widower who had been the surprised beneficiary of a generous act of kindness from two strangers.  His tale lodged a lump of emotion in my throat and filled my eyes with tears.

His wife of 40 years had died suddenly, unexpectedly.  When he was finally able to venture out for dinner at a favorite restaurant to ease some of his grief and loneliness, the couple at the table next to his had struck up a conversation with him, providing welcome companionship.  He was moved to tears when he learned that they had paid for his meal on their way out of the establishment.

How lovely! It warmed my heart.

And, not surprisingly, it made me want to go out and be kind!  That’s some of the magic of kindness.  When we human types witness others’ displays of compassion, generosity, heart, we are more likely to follow suit.

I remind myself of this when I am not feeling as expansive as I might like. The knowledge that my positivity will not only affect the direct recipient of my gestures, but also the people around us, galvanizes me to get my kindness game face on :).

Unfortunately, as we know, the reverse is also true.  Take yesterday, when I was picking up a cup of tea in between errands.  I walked into the lovely tea shop with its extensive array of teas and imbibed the calming ambience and aromatic scents of the free tea samples brewing on the table.  The young woman assisting me had given me a warm welcome and we chatted and joked as I made my selection under her guidance.

As I was waiting at the counter, another woman came in and ranted about not receiving some rewards points.  The staffer gently and patiently reassured the complaining woman, who finally realized she had been mistaken, that there was no problem.  Yet, she continued to harumph.

She and her harangue had palpably poisoned the vibe of the small shop.  The employee, who had also been preparing my drink, was discombobulated, as was her colleague.  Other customers stepped away from the negative one, and returned my smile nervously.

When my tea was finally ready, I tossed my Santa Hat back on, walked up to the counter and volubly thanked the young employee for her generous advice and wished her a lovely holiday. I turned and nodded at Ms. Negativo, who did a doubletake when she saw my hat and actually managed to mutter something about the holidays.  The salesperson threw me a grateful look.

It reminds me of the wise words of neuroscientist Dr. James Doty:

“…What we forget sometimes is, even smiling at another person, which takes very little effort — for that person who receives that, it can mean an immense amount. And not to forget that these small, little actions, these little ripples, can actually end up creating a tsunami if each of us engage in them. Remember — and we know this from the science — when a person sees another person engage in a positive behavior, they’re many, many times more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. When they see another person act with kindness and with generosity and with gratitude…”

May abundant kindness be yours.

 

Media credit: 2nd from top–@scriptfancy

 

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Kindness, Kindness, Kindness

And, as I am ruminating over for my next post, kindness is infectious. Our gift of kindness just keeps on giving…and giving…and giving….

Sirena Tales

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I think about kindness a lot.  Kindness is redemptive, heartwarming, inspiring, infectious, transformative–whether we are its witness, donor or recipient.  And we all know how a simple act of kindness can offer hope, light the way, save a life… or many lives.

Kindness is a radiant miracle.

As someone who practices kindness and has been blessed to receive and witness countless acts of kindness over the years,  I appreciate the enormous, magical power it carries.  But I get it now even more than I did  a week ago.

I had been slogging through a rough day–the anniversary of my dad’s death and the anniversary of my late mom’s birthday.  Yep–the same day.

Stumbling along, doing the best I could.  So, when someone I had thought was a friend launched into an unprovoked and stinging verbal attack on me, I was not only shocked, but also flattened.

I am sure she…

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small potatoes

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”~Martha Graham

I am a mere

droplet

in a bucket

a teeny tiny

minnow in a grand ocean,

I am a blip

a hiccup

in a rippling eternity

yes, I am very small

potatoes

this limited and flawed

(sometime fraud)

spud:

ephemeral, forgettable

sometimes a dud, and also

a paradox

because like you

I am potential

pulsing transition

a limited edition

ineffable, not replicable

embodied possibility

and with acrobatic hearts

we can cartwheel kindness

spangle dreams

cascade grace

across a rippling eternity

changed forever

by our echoing trace

(how ’bout them French fries?)

From the archives. Written awhile ago…and the message bears repeating.  However limited and inconsequential we may feel we are, we and what we have to offer are wondrously unique.  And we need to share ourselves with an always hungry world, as  modern dance pioneer Martha Graham famously advised. Shine on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit-Top–Daniel Eugene Photography

 

 

 

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Gift For A Stranger

 

Today, I delivered some cookies I had made to the local soup kitchen in time for the lunch service.  I’ve done this a number of times since we moved here and plan to make it a more frequent practice now that some other projects are finished.

Since I dropped the cookies off, I’ve been mulling over the special place this type of gift giving has in my heart.  During the holidays, and at other times as well, we so often focus on gifts we wish to give our families, our friends, our kiddos’ teachers and maybe the mail carrier or other service providers.  The people we know, even superficially.

And that’s all grand.

This cookie baking practice is different.  Like the cookies I’ve made before for folks in shelters, for firefighters in another city, for people who receive support from a social service agency, the goodies today were made and given expressly for people I’ve never seen, let alone met.  Nor ever will meet, knowingly anyway.

I purposely leave the cookies with the volunteers (surprised and highly appreciative) long before any of the guests arrive.  Mostly to respect the attendees’ privacy, and partly to keep the giving pure.

As I leave the platter on the table of other desserts, very nice desserts, I notice that mine are the only homemade offering.  And maybe that’s where the meaningfulness lies for me.  In that I make these small gifts when I can, and include dollops of love and joy in each recipe.  Asking for and expecting nothing in return but the fulfillment of the hope that for at least a moment, life is a little sweeter for the recipients.

Connection and joy.  From my heart to theirs.  And back again.

 

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Your Shimmering Treasures

What a rocky start to the week.  Very sad family news one day followed by a day of heightened anxiety about a distressing local emergency.  Both mornings, I sat with my head in my hands, stopped in my tracks.

I had planned to start wearing the Santa Hat and also to go dancing.  Neither felt possible with the cold lead weighing down my legs and my heart.  As I tried to find some solace and figure out what to do with my plans, which now seemed daunting, the rich wisdom of Saint Teresa’s prayer sounded in my mind.  Especially the part that offers: “May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.”

Ah, yes.

When in doubt–and when not in doubt–let’s call forth our gifts and share them!  That is the hero journey we are all on.  As Joseph Campbell explains:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: Fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man….”

We plumb our depths and pursue our practices to discover and then strengthen our inner bounty.  And then we share with the world what only we can–our inimitable treasures.

For me, dancing is the practice that has provided immeasurable joy, challenge, inspiration, transcendence to me.  And I have been told repeatedly, offers inspiration and joy to others. My Santa Hat practice of the past decade or more helps foster connection and cultivate joy and lightness.

Was I really going to forego contributing what I can?

I packed my dance bag, tossed on the Santa Hat and headed off.  And am so glad I did.  For, as usual, the impromptu conversations with passersby and other strangers stimulated by my Hat provided moments glowing with connection, humor, joy.  The dance class was both a bit of a struggle and…home.

Long story short, if we each bestow on the world the sparkly gifts of own unique selves, what a shimmering world we will create!

Photo credit: Middle–Rich Davis

 

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Precious Cracks: A Message Of Resilience

Ruminating over the luminous interview of healer, physician, visionary Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen on the podcast On Being, I am reminded again of the profound value of our wounds. The very wounds that make us feel vulnerable are the same ones that can be of priceless service to others, to the universe. https://onbeing.org

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Dr. Remen sagely explains: “…It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you…what if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?” She goes on to note that so often we ask “how can I make a difference when I’m so wounded, myself? How can I make a difference when I feel so not-enough?” But it’s our very wounds that enable us to make a difference. We are the right people, just as we are. For example, my own wounds, my own sufferings, have enabled me to feel compassion for the sufferings of others.…” May your wounds heal…in you, in others….

Sirena Tales

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.“~ L.R. Knost

A friend told me that this quotation in my post the other day reminded her of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, the practice of joining fragments of shattered pottery with precious metals that not only salvages the piece, but also enhances it.  She sent me a lovely article which explains that because pottery breaks so randomly, each item’s gleaming cracks are unique, as is each rejuvenated object.

The author wisely encourages us to follow this practice with ourselves and our “cracks,” learning from and highlighting them.  They heighten how each one of us is unique with our own inimitable treasures to share…

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