Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Patience for Change

How often it is that we desire change? And equally often we desire things to stay the same?  I find that when I am sick, I can not wait to feel better.  I so badly want my condition to change that I am doubly miserable beyond the fact that my nose is running or my stomach hurts.  Likewise, when I am  lounging in bed in the morning, I so desperately want time to stand still so I can linger endlessly among my pillows. 

Buddhism is based on the principle that everything is always changing and yet (in its very Zen way) that everything is ultimately the same. Ugh. This doesn't help clarify life at all!

But, the idea does encompass the quandary of our subjective experience of time and how we suffer when things change and suffer when things stay the same.  Today I was feeling somewhat unwell and I wanted desperately to feel better FAST! But, I had taken the medicine and all I could do was wait.  I needed time to pass in order for my condition to change.  I couldn't speed it up (nor of course could I slow it down). Life moves along at its own pace.  Our bodies take time to heal, medicine takes time to work, and beautiful sunsets will come to an end. 

When I ask myself for patience, I am asking myself for two things really: 

First, I am reminding myself that change takes time. I remind myself that I can trust in the inevitability of change and rest assured that circumstances and the current experience will change. 

Secondly, I want to feel at ease during my wait.  Having patience for me doesn't mean suffering every second that I feel terrible until I feel better.  Having patience means having compassion for my current state while I am experiencing said challenge or discomfort. 

By observing my sensations and my inner experience, I notice that while I may not feel great, I don't have to suffer dually in my desire for change. I can watch myself and allow the process to take its course with understanding, acceptance and forgiveness.  It is a practice. As all aspects of Buddhism and life are.  We detach from the desire for change (or non change) in order to find ease in the way things are.  By seeing things as they are, we have a better chance of responding with sensitivity, compassion and resilience.  

Have you practiced patience today?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Translating Yield

The concept of yielding surfaces time and time again in modern and contemporary dance training.  When learning to roll the the floor, one must learn to yield one's weight to gravity in such a way that the descent is soft and easy.  When dancing with a partner in contact improvisation, one must learn to yield in order to feel support and offer support in return. 

I am currently teaching at a summer dance intensive in Puebla, Mexico and the idea of yielding came up in class today.  In trying to encourage the dancers to soften their legs into plié during a flexion and extension exploration, I discovered that it is not a matter of asking them to simply bend their knees, I wanted to them to feel the weight of their bones against the floor, to soften the joints and muscles so they become responsive.  I wanted them to yield.  But, I didn't know the word for it, and I couldn't come up with a clear explanation of it either English or Spanish that was understandable. 

I took a moment with a dictionary tonight after class to translate it. The best option I came up with was ceder (to hand over, to part with, to give up).  I will be sure to take this word into class tomorrow.  But, the word is not enough, there is something intangible and un-namable about the idea of yielding.  When we experience yielding we soften not only our exterior but our interior. Yielding is a process of allowing.  We allow gravity to work upon us.  We meter out our softness and our strength in response to the demands of momentum.  We must also soften our thinking, so we can listen with all of our senses (not only our ears).

Yielding is the experience of opening up our pores to the world.  We yield our grip on our sense of self. We part with our ego in order to receive the gifts around us.  But, in order to do any of this, we must find self trust.  We must trust our experience and our sensations.  For many dancers, technique class can seem like the exact opposite experience.  In technique we often desensitize ourselves in order to "work through it" or even better to "get it right."  In some cases we may have completely trained out our ability to soften, listen and yield to our inner experiences. 

A plié is not a mere bending of the knees. Plié is the experience of yielding. It is the place from which we can push off the earth with power and conviction.  And, this metaphor extends easily into all aspects of life.  How are we yielding to an experience?  Are we holding ourselves rigid for fear of crumbling?  Can we soften a little more in order to sense our surroundings, the place, the information, the people? What happens to our experience of life when we allow ourselves to soften a bit more?  What is keeping us from allowing this happen?

Yielding like anything takes practice. I too am practicing yielding in life and in dance.  If you like we can practice together. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Speaking Your Truth

My Tuesday meditation group has been working on a very tough but important practice of "Speaking Your Truth."  Many of the participants in the group are in what is called Jubilee time, around the age of 50, and having sent their children off to college are rediscovering what they have to offer the world (beyond the courage act of parenting). These women are strong, intelligent, compassionate and kind.  They have so much to offer, but it requires our being able to speak our truths!

The lesson of speaking your truth is one that we can ask at any age. Speaking your truth doesn't mean running around town blabbing about local gossip, or chattering about the latest fashions and who looks good in what, nor is it casually commenting about the weather over a glass of wine.  Speaking your truth is a practice that requires mindfulness, integrity, strength and compassion.

When speaking your truth one must do so with utmost care.  Is it hurtful?  Is it timely? Is it necessary?  Many things are true that don't need to be said, or don't need to be said immediately. On other occasions something will need to be said that may hurt someone, but by speaking our truth to someone we can actually honor them and their integrity.

But, how do we share our truth? Here are a few things I like to remind myself:

1.  Compassion:  Am I coming from a place of compassion? Is my investment in what I have to say for personal benefits or for a greater good?  Is it to help gain clarity or to cause injury? When we speak from a place of compassion, we take care with the words we use. We take care that we are clear while still speaking from the heart.  

2.  Expectations: What do I expect in return?  This is the tricky one for me.  When we speak our truth we give the other person (people) the right to react in whatever way they may.  They might agree, but that is not a given.  That person might lash out in return if they do not have skill or experience in nonviolent communication.  That person has the right to react in anyway, because that is their right as a person with inherent dignity and integrity.  When we remember that, we can detach from the outcome more readily.

We all have the potential to change the world, and speaking our truth is our opportunity to do so with a sense of clarity and purpose that is grounded in loving kindness.  We get to speak our truth to ourselves, to those we love and to those who challenge us. We aren't always perfect in our attempts to speak our truth. It takes practice, and we stumble over our words a lot and get ensnared in our personal misperceptions.  But, if our intention is for good, then we will get better and with time we get clearer for ourselves and others.  We can speak out for justice, for peace, for understanding, for love. 

Are you ready to practice speaking your truth?