Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking the Stage

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.  ~ Rumi

 I love to dance. I love it from a soul place. It is my canvass, I paint with rhythm and movement. Dance lifts me up, connects me to my joy, it is my magic and my passion. When I am dancing I find myself. Everything else disappears, there is just me, pure and whole. I love other things too, but nothing goes right to the heart of me like dancing does. It sets me free.

When I am anywhere, and I mean anywhere, where there is music that moves me, and even a tiny space to to accommodate that movement, I find the magnetic lure, the call to the dance, irresistible.My inner impulse to dance overrides any shyness, any sense of propriety, any fear of embarrassment. POOF! My brain empties out and my body and soul are in command.

I recently put head phones on in an Apple Store here in Shanghai and the music got its hooks in me. I found myself dancing with abandon through the store. These were wireless headphones, I might add, so I could roam freely. Even more interesting than me, was the fact that all the locals in the store just ignored me, the crazy dancing foreign lady. Weird and awesomely liberating!

When I go to a club, which is once in a blue moon, I don't care if no one else is on the dance floor, I will get my groove on solo, I don't mind, more dance floor for me! Sure people might think I am audacious, or an attention seeker, I do admittedly have a strong performer archetype, people might judge me, but my love of dance is stronger than fear. What deep medicine it is!

Just this past weekend I went to an Oktoberfest celebration with my husband Stephen, and another couple. We donned our traditional German threads and proceeded to the festivities with gusto. We ate, drank the customary brew, and the band began to play. My friend and I made our way to the dance floor, the energy of the crowd and the music was big and boisterous, we entered the funky flow. We danced, and laughed, and danced some more.

As the evening was wrapping up I was high on the vibe, I felt like I could dance through the night. The band started to play 99 Red Balloons (or 99 Luftballoons), and that song hits a sentimental chord from my youth. I was swept up in it immediately. A woman near me suggested I should get up on stage. I immediately thought, "Wow! Yeah, what a great idea! I would love to be up there!" I got the attention of a band member in front of me and gestured to ask permission to come up, he shook his head no, so I was ready to let go of the idea, but a few moments later he was signalling to me to go ahead and come up.  A few helping hands boosted me up, and there I was dancing on stage! This felt amazing, so I took it upon myself to encourage other ladies, including my beautiful friend who I came with, to come up and join me. I am not sure if the band loved that part, but anyway, it all ended with me and my friend plus a number of other women up on stage having a ball! We finally made our way to exit stage left and allow the band to take back the entertainment.

Once we were back down there, one woman approached me and said, "Thank you so much, that was so fun and when I saw you get up there I thought, "I want to be like her.", and then I did it, I got up on stage! I would never have done that if you didn't go up there first." We hugged and parted ways. I probably will never see that woman again, but I will never forget her. Some friendships are momentary, but transformational.

The big deal of life is to know what we love and do it boldly. It is good to step out of our comfort zones and be a little wild, a little crazy. This is about being fully expressed as human beings, and not dulling down what lights us up, or makes us shine, for fear of what people will think. When one of us takes the stage, it gives others the permission and courage to go there too.

What stage is calling for you to come on up? In the moment, do you listen to your inner voice that is telling you to go for it, whatever your "it" is? We all must risk stepping out of the shadows and into the light in order to truly grow.  This is it, your life, dance on!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Ultimate Question

This summer I was fortunate to be able to get back home to The United States and attend a retreat with my yoga sangha or family. We really are a family, we know the ins and outs of each other, we hold loving space for the light and dark sides of our beings, we have shared our skeletons as well as our sparkle and shine. We love each other no matter what. More than amazing, and yet so simply human.

Our humanness that holds our infinite soul nature. We explore that together.

One of the experiences we shared during that retreat was a powerful look into the concept of identity. At the core of yoga is the question "Who am I?". Even if you don't do, or care to ever do yoga, this is the ultimate question of a lifetime, for all of us. Isn't it? What more could we be here to do than to experience this amazing life, and day by day, come to know ourselves. To know and express oneself fully is ultimate realization.

Who do you think you are?

No, actually beyond thought. Who are you? Who are you, really?

In the experience we spent a length of time looking into the eyes of partners, who would change at intervals,  and asked each other to "tell me who you are". We each had time to speak and we each had a turn to listen. We did this for three hours.

I found this exercise compelling, difficult, illuminating, frustrating, transformational, cathartic, joyful, above all mind blowing. As I spoke in a stream of consciousness manner I found so many pieces of my identity bubbling up to the surface, all these parts of my persona wanting validation, air time, so to speak. I heard myself talking about being a mother, wife, teacher, thinker, feeler, experiencer of so much. I gave voice to my inner little girl and paid visitation to my joys and my sorrows, my love and my anger, desire and grief. How fascinating, all the things that came through my field of awareness as expressions of my identity. I was quite shocked at moments at the very words spilling out of me, words freeing pieces of me I had disconnected from or denied my attention.

When I listened to my partners I felt such deep compassion and connection. Each person in front of me, so vulnerable, raw, honest and perfectly beautiful. I saw that person, their eyes, their deep soul nature and I saw myself reflected back. In speaking and listening, witnessing the energy moving through each moment of response, it was like watching the slow unfolding of a beautiful lotus flower. Every tender moment of offering, each emotion or sudden recognition like petals peeling back to unveil the core, the very heart of it, the deep unwavering center point. There in that point of origin resides the true self. Infinite, eternal and whole, love without limit, freedom.

Our true nature is love, we must endeavor to go inward and discover it. We must be willing to brave the stormy waters of our deeply wounded parts and fully appreciate and own our phenomenally joyful, intelligent, divine aspects as well. We are called to shine the bright light of compassionate consciousness into every corner and hidden alleyway of ourselves, leaving no part left in exile. Yoga, Kripalu Yoga in particular, gives us a path to directly experience our true nature. It takes dedication, it takes practice. It is the journey of a lifetime and beyond.

I carry this question with me now. The question "Who am I?" is becoming my constant companion. Sometimes it is in my back pocket and sometimes I bring it right back to that close contact eye gaze, deeply looking, intentionally seeking. I hear it whispering to me when I get off balance or wander into murky territory, moments when fear is getting the best of me.

I am continuing this question as a directed practice. There is a meditation on this very same question that anyone can do. Here is some simple instruction.

Arrange your body in a comfortable position, perhaps sitting on a chair or on a cushion with an upright spine. Feel your body and notice your breath. After a few moments of settling in, begin to drop the question "Who am I?" into your field of awareness. Drop it in without any expectation of receiving an answer. The idea is to use the mind to pause the mind, to begin to pierce through the thought identity, in order to connect with the deeper self that is beyond thought and definition.

Many ideas and images might come up, acknowledge them and let them go. Return to the breath, and again drop the question in, "Who am I?" Practicing this self inquiry meditation can take you to the essence of what is here beyond thinking, like that lotus flower opening slowly to reveal the beautiful essence of the self.

This journey takes time and practice as I have said. I am at the point where I still get lost in my thoughts and ideas, but every once in awhile I arrive into moments of clarity and deep peace. Those moments inspire me to want to continue. I want to continue to expand my light and step by step make the pilgrimage home to my true self, to the love that is at the center, the deep well of my own heart and soul.