What is Left II
I cannot believe that it is almost exactly six months since the Feb. performance of my piece What is Left. Little did we know that life was going to change so completely a month later. It was also the last performance by MDC, as our March fundraiser was cancelled. Dance classes were cancelled. Life as we knew it; cancelled. An unprecedented time of quarantine, isolation, fear and illness swept our country. It has been, and is still in many ways a terrible, terrible time.
Five months into the pandemic, it is no longer new. The virus and it’s limitations are a way of life; we are masked and sanitized. Here in Vermont we have made great strides. Illness level down, and reopening has been successful. It appears as though Vermont has been able to find the balance, and many have started living their lives again; granted, with far more caution and prudence. Many of us are picking up activities and getting out again. But the offerings seem so sadly limited. I find myself asking again, what is left, and how do we go on when life is no longer what it once was.
The answer again appears to be, accept what is. This continues to be the most annoying answer ever. So simple, yet almost impossible. My mama Maria has provided this lesson for me nearly every day for the past decade or so. I am clearly resistant. Early this week after a particularly aggravating conversation, I hung up and just started laughing. Finally, I realized, I will never outmaneuver my mother; she is too wily, too crafty, too willing and able to bend the truth to win. So I laughed and accepted defeat, and hope to stay in this happy and magical land of Maria acceptance. Because I am a dweller, I started thinking about the other aspects of my life that I am trying to control and wrestle into submission. The list is very long.
Like my mother the universe is wily and crafty, always sending new challenges to address my need for control. This week was no different than most this summer. Crazy. Every day, jammed packed, goals and tasks ready to be checked off; (my love of a list knows no bounds), phone calls check ins, and worries all still there. Dance classes were prepared, yoga course work done, garden blooming, the house clean, three outdoor teaching practice yoga sessions with a student accomplished; a good week.
A good week because I stopped fighting what I couldn’t control. I did as Pema Chodron suggests: Allow, allow, allow.
This coincides perfectly with preparing for my yoga certification. A good yoga practice allows the body to be challenged enough to breathe and help quiet the mind of the seemingly infinite negative self talk. It doesn’t force, it accepts physical limitations, while working with love to create more movement. It is much like the Buddhist philosophy of being perfect in this moment, but always making room for improvement. Acceptance is this kind of wondrous contradiction; we shouldn’t stop trying, but we should know that sometimes the outcomes are out of control, and it’s the effort that brings joy. Cliches are cliches for a reason.
It makes me think it is time for all of us to reframe the circumstances in which we are living. It is no longer unprecedented. It just is. I do not know what is going to happen in the next few weeks. Schools are reopening; college students returning in droves, bringing with them a young adult’s feeling of invincibility, coupled with potential virus spreading behavoirs. All I can do is live my life in this moment fully and with intention.
My summer dance classes have been infused with this intentionality and joy. The dancers who have risked being in the studio have danced with joy and freedom. They are fully appreciating the moment; knowing it can change at any moment, they are all, the youngest to the oldest giving their whole selves to me. I feel their energy and it inspires me every week to create better and better classes. It has been a gift. This is the lesson I want to hold on to: don’t take anything for granted and love what is happening now. I am not a Pollyanna, I don’t think the students are loving every moment of every class. Does anyone love a tedious inner thigh exercise or a super slow adagio, probably not, but we have all been in an attitude ( :) ) of gratitude and even the most boring yet necessary aspects of dance have been met with smiles and humor.
The lessons from this summer have been many; acceptance, gratitude, smiles and humor. Knowing where you are, and loving where you are. I had to make a stand and be very clear about how I would teach at St. Michael’s. I wanted the same level of caution and cleanliness I have at Spotlight. I spoke up and was heard. I hear and understand the dancers who are not yet ready to join in the studio. As soon as this August humidity is over I hope to teach a few classes outside. We all need to love where we are, speak up when we can, accept limitations and give ourselves a big break
It is this feeling I hope to bring to my private yoga practice. On August 30th I am doing my certification final project. I am teaching a class for teen/tween dancers. Not a class for increased flexibility or help with l dance tricks. It is a class to promote and practice self love and acceptance. It is the message I wish I had been given as a young dancer. I wish I had heard that the least important aspect of dance is what is seen in the mirror. The body is secondary to intention, attention, concentration and love of the effort. In class last week I said the challenge of dance is intention without tension. I was being clever, using word play to get my point across; yet, I realized I had inadvertently found the way to best describe my newfound approach to both dance and life. My final project will be a practice of meditation and yoga designed to help free our minds of judgment and anxiety; a way to be generous to ourselves and others. I will have a donation basket and give half the proceeds to Ibutwa and half to Spotlight Vermont Scholarship fund. I am choosing to be optimistic. I am acting as though classes will go on, and hope to help the dancers who find studio time out of reach. I hope to do at least one fundraising practice a month. It is my answer to what can I do in this performance free world. Of course space is limited in this Covid time and the class is almost full. So please consider donating money to either or both of these great causes, and be on the look out for future fundraising classes.
So what is left? I watched my piece again and I see the answer in the beautiful dancers. Dance fully and be completely present. Love the now. Accept where you are, and where others are, with compassion and grace. I will add stop trying to fix everything and laugh as often a possible. Do all you can with Intention and no tension. It’s my new mantra.
I may need T-shirt.