Life

overcome obstacles by working with them

Dance, Don’t Scramble

The Man who Make Me Hate Yoga Less
Jess. I love him. I hate him.

Remember Jess from Dirty Yoga, who gave me the very personalized email in response to my question about hernias? A certain part of his email really resonated in my personal quest to overcome obstacles in my yoga practice:

One piece of advice I can give you with yoga is to try to make things look easy when you’re doing it. Keep your face relaxed and your breath smooth. It’s a good gauge to make sure you’re not trying too hard. If you find yourself making faces (grimacing, or clenching parts of your body, or not breathing properly) you’ve gone beyond your current physical limits.

One thing I’ve learned from this month of Dirty Yoga (aside from the fact that it’s going to be difficult to turn yoga into a habit, rather than a practice): that particular piece of advice works in more than just yoga.

Mantra? I Barely Know Ya!

The title to this post actually comes from a goal-setting exercise I did many, many years ago with a partner. One of the parts of the Very Long Exercise (multiple stages, many pauses for meditation, it was intense ) was to come up with three simple themes to carry you through the year. “Dance, don’t scramble,” was one of them, and it’s stuck with me for all the years since.

The idea is that yes, life is going to be hectic, life is going to fast-paced. You can simplify things, but as Einstein said, simplify as much as possible but no further. You could simplify a blues dance by walking out on the floor, hugging someone for four minutes, and then walking off. In some situations, that might even be quite fun. However, you’d be missing a great deal of nuance, communication, the joy of movement and touch and breath and sweat and…you get the idea. The rich complexity of life is something to be cherished, not avoided.

The problem at the time I came up with the mantra was that I had a rich and varied life, but it was complicated. The various parts didn’t really work well together, and in some cases not at all. Life was a constant scramble to try and keep up. My goal was to reach the point where instead of hurtling myself from one thing to the next, I was dancing through them, over them, with them – not obstacles, but partners.

Trying to Overcome Obstacles Like…Gravity

In contact improv dance, you always have two partners: gravity and the ground. Sometimes more, but those two are constant. They are great partners to have, as well, because they are absolutely consistent: gravity always sucks you down, one way, never changing, never getting tired. And the ground is always there, firm, solid, unyielding. As long as you go with these two things, you can use them to do incredible things.

Gray Miller Dancing
Dance taught me to overcome obstacles like gravity.

The problem lies when you try to work against them. Oh, a little resistance is fine – that’s what makes life interesting. But take falling, for instance. When you’re learning how to be lifted, they teach you the rather counter-intuitive skill of falling properly. The instinct is to try and climb up whatever/whoever is supporting you, to prevent the fall. However, as noted, gravity sucks, the ground is hard, and the further you are away from it the more chances of an uncontrolled drop.

So instead you are taught to reach into the the fall, towards the ground that is coming towards you. You’re taught to melt into it with the various parts of your body which are optimally designed with folding hinged joints and muscle and fat deposits to absorb the impact. When you figure that out, you get to the point where you can joyously leap into another person’s arms, no matter the size or velocity, because you know that they’ll either catch and support you or you’ll both be falling to the floor in a heaping gigglepile.

And then you both continue to dance.

The goals I set in that long-ago session have long passed their value in my life. But that one mantra:

Dance, don’t scramble

seems to me to be a worthy goal to pursue, regardless of the circumstances.

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