Thursday, December 26, 2013

How are you?

Today I rolled out my yoga mat.  For the first time in a long time.

Yoga for me has been a wonderful physical and spiritual practice through our the years. But, since my horrendous back injury (over a year ago), it has been near absent in my life.  I have always incorporated yoga into my dance warm ups, but laying out the yoga mat for an explicit practice has not been part of my routine. 

I rolled it out today, because being on vacation I was tired of the bike machine down in the gym and needed a little bit of variety.  Hence, the mat.

I didn't know what my practice would look like.  I didn't know how it would go after so much time.  More specifically I didn't know how I would go (or be). As I lay folded in child's pose, I wondered exactly this.

How am I?  We use the question to mean the state in which we exist. How are you? I'm fine. I'm ok. I'm great! I'm wretched.  But, how is not merely about a state of being. It is also describes the way we exist. The way we do things. The way we navigate the world and our experiences. 

How do I do it?
How would I know?
How should I respond?
How am I standing? How am I lunging, folding, reaching, sitting?  What is the way I do what I do? 

Becoming aware of who we are is really becoming aware of how we are.  And, being aware means asking ourselves this question at every turn.  How do I eat my breakfast? How do I respond to an upset friend, family member, student? 

But, being aware is just the first step.  Being how you are (That's just how I am!) is not an excuse for poor behavior or unskillful practices.  We have the ability to change how we are in the world.  That is the sweetness of being human.  We get to choose whether our behaviors or actions serve us or not.  The new year is a time when many people, who may otherwise not be aware of how they are, look at themselves in the mirror and ask the million dollar question.  How am I? 

The winter solstice is behind us.  The days will now get longer, and we will come closer to the sun with each passing moment.  We have the chance to use this time to examine how we are in this world.  How we are with each other. How we are on the yoga mat or walking down the street. 

This time of quiet, of darkness and reflection is key to really understanding our nature. 

But, the real work comes later.  Discovering how we are is not a one shot deal.  We get to discover how we are every single day we walk this earth.  We get to discover how we are in all that we do.

So the next time you are asked How are you? Take a moment and ask yourself the deeper question of awareness so that you can continue the practice of self discovery with each step, with each moment. 

May you have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Leaders, Titles, and Britches. Oh My!

I made an amazing discovery this week about my understanding of leadership and leaders.

I grew up in a very supportive and trusting home environment. My parents were and still are role models of compassion, frugality, understanding, logic and enrichment.  In school I had the same experience with my teachers, Ms. Lindert especially, who greeting us in the morning in a variety of languages, encouraged us as individuals and supported us in our unique journeys through the Montessori system.  In the dance classroom, I was under the tutelage of strong ballet dancers who cared not just for the performance but for our well being as individuals ("Have you eaten today?").

In short, the leaders in my formative years were: AWESOME!  

And, thus began my aggrandizement of all leaders.  I didn't know that leaders are people who have problems. I didn't know that leaders make bad decisions. I didn't know that leadership is an imperfect practice.  It just seemed so easy from the outside as a child that I didn't think twice about it.

But, now, I am in a leadership position, and I am scared.

I don't feel like I know enough to be a leader. I don't feel like I have enough presence to be a leader.  I don't feel like I have a pass into the "leader" club with the swanky leather chairs and cigars.  I don't feel like anything other than Beth, trying to make her way through the world. 

And, yet, I am realizing: This is it.  This is what I get. This is what I have to work with. Being a leader is about surrounding yourself with people you trust, gathering as much of the (inevitably) incomplete) information as you can and then following your gut. We talk about leaders being too big for their britches.  Well, I had sewn my britches for a giant who doesn't exist, and there is no way I will ever fit in them.  So, I guess I continue to wear my dance leggings. 

On the other hand, I am slowly learning that the leaders I had placed on the pedestal of perfection, wisdom and power are just a pair of skinny legs too (figuratively speaking).  These people I had placed in the "Leader Club" with the velvet curtains and brandy decanters are just people.  And, there is no reason I (or anyone else) can't have a place at the table.

Titles are words. Labels are not power.  Leaders are just people and people will never be their labels or their titles.  What's that children's book? Everyone Poops?  Well, whatever it is, it helps me humanize those with whom I need to work on behalf of the future of dance and reminds me that I too am a simple human being who will make mistakes, feel small, suffer doubt and ultimately endure.

I have a feeling this isn't going to be pretty. But, I hope my journey will be effective. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Welcome Guest Blogger Dan!

I know none of you were clamoring for the Poetess’ other half to chime in, but here it goes anyway.

One of the fascinating things about our relationship is how different we are in so many ways- and this morning one of them was revealed.

Beth may not have shared, but she is not really a morning person. She works so hard every day, on so many different things, that she is generally worn out at the end of the day, and needs her proper rest to recover. So when the alarm goes off in the morning…snooze bar!

This morning, while Beth soaked up a few more precious moments of rest, I decided to make the traditional Sunday morning oatmeal, after first checking with Beth to make sure I had the recipe right. (1 cup of oatmeal, 3 cups water, on the stovetop).

I thought I was being extra chef-like, and added the raisins, crushed pecans, maple syrup, and soy milk creamer into the perfectly cooked oatmeal on the stove, stirred and heated through. Just the way I like it- and assuredly, the way Beth would prefer it too. Right? Wrong!

I was quite surprised when I was fishing for complements about my wonderful preparation, when Beth revealed how she truly prefers it.
Here is how Beth likes her oatmeal- with all those good bits floating on the top- so that the first couple of bites are mostly cold soy milk creamer and maple syrup. Then later, she pushes aside some pecans for last, so that she has a few left for the very last bite or two. It’s fine with her that some of the middle bites are just plain oatmeal. In a thousand years I never would have imagined it!

Beth was careful to complement my effort so my spirit would not be crushed- but to also to make sure I knew how she really preferred it and why. I have seen Beth eat oatmeal 50 times in her preferred way- but I always assumed it was a way to shorten the cooking time to not be late on her way to rehearsal, and no other reason.

I look forward to many more years of discovery, and challenging my own assumptions about even the simple things in life.

So there you have it. The first ever guest writer installment of Musings of a Dancing Poetess has spoken. Have a great holiday season and go Warriors!