Inspired, Tired and Grateful for Hiding

I’ve had a heavenly week – got a Reader’s Favorite, five star review of my book Joy Ride: My One Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, helped facilitate a fun improvisational dance workshop, “Start Where You Are”, as part of the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation (SFDI), and saw three amazing, enlightening performances of an ongoing, mixed-media performance piece called Intersecting Bodies, a collaboration between writer/dancer Farhad Bahram and dancer/choreographer Shannon Mockli. Honestly, a week of immersion in all things I love.

So how come I feel so wiped out? I expected all that inspiration, good news, fun and, play to buoy me, have me floating on a cloud with an open heart, and render me ready to move graciously through everything with endless, easy energy. HA! Not today anyway.

Here’s the scoop.

I think I should be doing more. I should spend hours each day immersed in planning for the next thing, writing blogs and FB posts, sharing every thought and feeling I have with myself and the universal soul. I should know exactly what I want to do next and be gung-ho on getting it done. But, I’m not doing that – I can’t or I don’t want to. I want to rest. I want to go inside and slow down, listen, retreat from the endless hot sun, emails, social media, and even from the fun, exciting world of performance and book reviews.

To my good fortune, I happened to read this excerpt from David Whyte’s book Consolations. It presented itself as part of a weekly astrology email, and it’s exactly what my soul needs to remember today. I so eagerly beat up on myself for hiding (may have even written a few posts on the subject), though I know deep in my cells that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for lots of previous, very productive periods of hiding. I take this stuff to heart, it buoys me. I’m grateful it popped up to greet me today.

HIDING
By David Whyte

HIDING is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until
we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves
can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding
is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the
natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held
bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the
hibernating bear.

Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb
until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted
world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the
immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future
emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat
from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways
where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.

We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our
thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too
early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world
already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of
self and our sense of others.

What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to
be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows
what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known
by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others,
especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and
private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with
no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for
absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control.

Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we
have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us
completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely
managed.

Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside
interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of
itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into
the light of a proper human future.

Excerpted from ‘HIDING’ in “CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and
Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words”
– 2015 © David Whyte

 

What Does It Mean to Show Up?

I watched the annual Fourth of July Butte to Butte 10k race from my balcony this morning and had a heartwarming sense of being a part of the event, even though I was three stories above the ground the runners’ feet pounded. I sat at the wide-open French doors smiling, taking in the exhilaration, exhaustion (my apartment is near the end of the race), camaraderie, and sheer joy that comes with being a part of something with other humans. It felt as if all my pores were wide-open, inviting in whatever vibes were emanating from the crowds below. I wasn’t lamenting about how my one-legged body never took to running, or berating my self for not trying harder to make it happen if I really wanted it. I wasn’t calling myself names like lazy or jealous. And, I was reminded of my previous week of traveling and performing with two different groups of dancer friends where I enjoyed the same sense of well-being, though I showed up in much more of a participatory way. How could the two different experiences generate the same inner contentment?

Early in the previous week, I traveled five hours by train to Seattle to perform in Joy Ride Unavoidable, an event sponsored by the Northwest Film Forum. We were a group of five performers who’ve been working together for a few years. The event was a multi-art extravaganza, showcasing four films by four artists, and an audience participation performance of Pina Bausch’s Nelken Line by a group of Dance 4 Parkinson’s dancers. I presented a short summary of my book, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, read a few short excerpts while dancing around the audience in my wheelchair, and then passed the reading on to a fellow dancer. I made my way onto an eight-by-eight foot stage set on three-foot risers and began a duet with another much-loved dancer. The reading and our movement interactions informed our ten-minute improvisation. The three of us had rehearsed briefly a few hours before the show. And, although we’ve known each other for many years, together we’d never before done anything like what we did that night. We were open to the possibilities, and invited our audience to join in the surprises.

Later in the week, I traveled south, to Ashland, OR, to perform with DanceAbility International on the Green Stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A fully choreographed show, and a piece I’d performed many times before with my current dance partner, this event was different from the one in Seattle. We all knew what to expect…or did we? Sure, we each knew our routines, the flow of the pieces, how we’d begin and end, and since we’d been there before, we had a sense of the staff and audience. Yet, it seems all of that is just a small part of what happens during an event or a performance. It’s always something of an improvisation between the players and the watchers – the anticipation, expectations, surprises. The energy exchange. The love – dare I say?

Maybe that’s exactly it – the love, the sum total of myself I’m willing to share as either a participant/performer or watcher/audience is what brings that heartwarming sense of well-being. The runners making their way past my balcony this morning were inviting me into their experience. They were revealing themselves as participants in life, living fully in each moment while carrying on with their fellow travelers. I was a part of something I wasn’t really participating in because they opened themselves to me.

It’s my hope that I can do the same – invite others to share in my living in all spheres. It’s not that I aim to share everything I think and do with others – more just the sense of being alive with an openness that invites others into the spirit of my life. It’s why I took the time to write a memoir. And I hope I can find ways to join in the spirit of others’ lives. Seems to me this is the way we grow, and learn to accept and love. Maybe even be happy – whatever that much-overrated state of being encompasses.

Here’s a picture of the DanceAbility crew in our civvies after the Oregon Shakespeare Festival performance. That’s me in the middle in the yellow shirt.

IMG_0285

Dancing a Life

Becoming Who I Was is a 2017 documentary about a Buddhist boy in the highlands of northern India who discovers that he is the reincarnation of a centuries-old Tibetan monk. He and his godfather embark on a journey to discover his past. I saw the film this week, and the journey is truly a fantastic one. They travel on foot, with minimal supplies and no way to summon help, for more than two months, crossing the great mountains of India and Tibet. The scenery is awesome, and their relationship, already beautifully captured in the first part of the film, is the epitome of love and respect. I sat in the theater mesmerized, in love with the people and the place. Yet it was something more subtle, something I’m ever curious about, that struck me the most.

As I watched, I saw people who were dancing through everything in their lives. Their bodies were alive, in stillness and in movement, with the beautiful nuances the physical body expresses on it’s own, without intention, pre-conception, anticipation, or even awareness. We all move in our lives, frequently in ways that we’ve scripted for ourselves, ways that leave little room for the spirit to move us. And often we’re not even aware we’re moving, we don’t feel our bodies as they carry out the awesome tasks of daily living. We don’t acknowledge or find curious the way our fingers glide across the keyboard as we write, or the way our legs maneuver as we take each step. Many of us analyze our actions, and the shape and size of our bodies, yet fail to notice the grace and beauty in our unique contours and our unconscious gestures.

The dancing I witnessed in the film was a continual flow of individual bodies contacting other bodies, both physically and spatially, without body to body contact per se, but with powerful connections between bodies over the space that separated them. Bodies were alive and in communication – words and physical touching seemed secondary to the energetic and spirit connections. All of it seemed entirely spontaneous – there was no need for choreography – the bodies intrinsically knew how to dance their lives, solo and in relationship.

Celebrating the art, the beauty, and the profound wisdom of the body has been a growing passion of mine for many years. In my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, I write about the beginnings of that passion. I came late to an awareness of my body as a vessel for knowledge, beauty and joy, having spent the first half of my life hating, berating and abusing my body in oh-so-many ways. Gradually, I’m finding a home in her, and as that comfort grows, I’m aware of what an incredible creation she is. She not only performs a myriad of tasks without any hint of conscious input from me (something I’ve been trying to change by paying more attention, and thanking her more for doing so much for me), but she is my connection to the incredible world of nature and beings of all sorts. I find when I bring my grateful awareness into the realm of my physical activities, my body is more animated and more open to the limitless universe of human experience.

In the film, I felt that grateful awareness of all manner of experience emanating from the bodies of the people. Their words were simple and brief. There were no monologues or even anything close. There weren’t even conversations as we know them. Their bodies, like open vessels comfortably infused with spirit, communicated as if they were one with the all-encompassing universe.

I’m still entranced by the feeling of the film. I hope I can keep it alive inside of me. After all, life IS a dance, and I want to be dancing with my whole self.

Massage Magic

I spent the morning at the keyboard wanting to write a post but coming up blank. No inspiration. I had only a few hours before a scheduled massage and the time tick-tocked away with nothing to show for it. I left the house asking the powers that be to send me something – some kernel of something that might jumpstart a post.

My masseuse is a friend and my yoga teacher. We always spend the first fifteen or so minutes catching up. Although I didn’t mention my wish for an inspiration to her, I hoped that what frequently happens – the experience of being showered with positive energy and the movement of healing hands over my body – would open the channels for something.

As she worked my muscles soft, I drifted to places mostly not remembered. Then, toward the end of the hour, I had an overwhelming sense of myself as “a being in a body” and sensed a connection to one of themes in my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance. While still under the spell, I began to repeat the phrase “a being in a body” and add other phrases, like “two arms, two hands, ten fingers – last I looked.” All the while in the semi-trance state that frequently occurs when I succumb to the whole enchilada of a massage experience. I mused about how it might grow into a poem – maybe even story – and began to remember the various body-centered experiences I’ve had that slowly, over the course of a few decades, created the pathway that has allowed me to be “a being in a body.” Things like swimming, skiing, sailing, even painting, and fooling with clay – and most especially improvisational dancing, which I began in my forties. In my first few years exploring Authentic Movement, (a form of dance featuring eyes-closed movement that’s witnessed, then written about or expressed in some other artistic way, and finally shared verbally, in a specific structure, with the witness) I would sometimes just move into a physical shape and immediately begin sobbing. The outpouring would be a huge release, and a mix of pleasure and curiosity. I understood it to mean that some emotion was caught up in the cells of my body – maybe pushed way down by my inability or unwillingness to feel it. During the movement, my cells released whatever it was, and the space that had been clogged with it for who knows how long, was finally clear, and free to experience something else. I’ve been dancing in similar ways since – eyes open and closed, sometimes with choreography, though more often improvisational-ly inside various loose structures designed to provide a focus, while leaving the mover free to play around with whatever desire and curiosity arises.

This ties in to one of my most recent desires and fears. At the end of June, I’ll be a part of an event in Seattle produced by the North West Film Forum. Along with four fantastic, diverse dance films featuring creative, inspirational dancers, I’ll be reading from my book and moving solo, and with others, to my words as others read. I want to find my way to a place where improvisational dance performance excites me more than it scares me. In workshops and informal groups, I’m more than comfortable as “a being in a body” dancing itself silly and seriously, with all of it’s altered shape and quirkiness. Somehow within the workshop venue I feel I can hide – I’m not showing myself with an intention or specific purpose. But, dancing solo, to my words, in front of a group of people who have come to be entertained – YIKES! That feels scary – and I want to do it.

I told my masseuse pal about this before I left her place. One thing I said pops out as the truest in all of it. I want to feel this desire to move for others – whether to my words, or to some other inspiration, whether alone or with others – as coming from the heart and soul of the “being in this body.” The one it took so long to embrace. The one that shines when I allow it to, without censoring or restricting or judging. The “being in this body” who is connected to the universal body and all the other “beings in bodies” wherever they may be.

Here’s a link to the NWFF event in Seattle at the end of June. Take a look…

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/joy-ride-screened-alive-adventures-unavoidable-embodiment/

A Few Details about Joy Ride

I’ve been wrestling with whether I’m doing enough to promote my recently published book, and so I thought I’d post a short synopsis and excerpt here. Sometimes just doing something helps settle whatever restless beast is stirring things up inside.

Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance tells my story of losing my right leg to cancer at age 11 in the 1960s. This was an era when “cripple” was an accepted word to refer to someone like me, and the choice for the disabled to live either as a “cripple’ or as “normal” was a difficult one either way. 

I chose “normal” and how my life unfolded after that is my story.  I would look for love in all the wrong places, and it would surprise me in the right places, too. I would meet generous people of all abilities along the way, ski, sail, and swim with self-referred “gimps,” and create opportunities for career and travel. 

And yet I kept important parts of myself hidden from those around me, and especially from myself.

When I discovered improvisational dance and began work with Karen Nelson and later with Alito Alessi, I found my inspiration and the life I was meant to live, one without secrets.  I found the courage to shine the light on those hidden and terrifying places.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement and share its extraordinary gifts of joy and freedom.

And I wrote because I hope others would find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

Thanks for reading. I leave you with this. I’m following Mary – heading out to dance! XOIMG_0264

 

 

I am.

Those two words are true–I am . Simple, and yet enormously difficult to comprehend. I want to add words that describe me, or what I want, or what I’m working on, or hope for. Essentially, how I want to be different from, or apologize for, or know, right now in total, all of who/what I am.

I ran into one of my DanceAbility friends at a local event last week and asked him what he’s been up to . He’s a man with cerebral palsy who rolls around in a wheelchair, and has aides who help him with activities of daily living. His response to my question?

“I live,” he said with an enormous smile. Nothing more, nothing less. In truth, he thrives: he makes music and art on a computer; he rides a bike more than ten miles most days; he always has at least one dog who is devoted to him; he’s loved at the yearly Oregon Country Fair for the Flamingo Taxi he pedals around after hours, picking up those who had a little bit too much fun partying. But he never tells people what he does, or what he is, or thinks. He just is – himself. I’ve danced and been in DanceAbility workshops he’s taught many times over the years. His words of wisdom to all participants and spectators always are: “Have fun!” He utters them with a wide grin as his body involuntarily contracts and spasms.

Another friend I met at a Diverse Dance workshop in 1994 uttered the same “I live” when I asked her what she did. She’s a paraplegic, dancer, bike rider, world traveler, a fantastic cook, and vibrant party hostess. She’s always impeccably dressed and ready for the next adventure. She is herself, lives her life, and feels no need to embellish her existence.

I mention these two friends because, like me, they have altered physical abilities – sometimes referred to as disabilities – and I’ve been thinking about something I heard at the amputee event I attended last week. Could it be that having physical challenges opens people to other abilities that are not so readily visible? Maybe empathy and compassion are more keenly honed in folks with altered bodies. Maybe we’re more skilled at improvisation, or seeing things for what they are. Maybe we’re less concerned about what others think, and more willing to pursue what matters to us. Maybe we know we’re lucky to be alive, and that makes many things easier to bear.

Like all creatures, I am and I live, until I die. “Who am I?” is an open question, a curiosity – maybe ever changing, maybe something I’m awakening to in each moment, consciously and unconsciously. I am, and I live are realities that I can relax into, words I can say to simplify.

Here’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius (AD121-AD180):

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive–to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

It’s enough to be, and to live.