Falling gracefully

freefall Toma Flickr
Image: Freefall, Toma, Flickr

In 6th grade, my class took a field trip to Washington, DC in January. It was so cold and windy that we all took special care to bundle up, and not just because the teachers said so. While we were walking from one monument to another, I slipped on a patch of ice and fell on my bum. A friend who was walking with me, giggling, said, “Andrea, I’m just laughing because you even fall gracefully!” Then she helped me up.

This moment has come to mind poignantly over the years, as I remember how embarrassed I was, and angry with myself, yet my friend smiled at the grace with which I fell. How could this be? It reminds me that often we are at our most beautiful when we are vulnerable in others’ eyes. Sitting there on the ice looking up at her, expecting ridicule, I was met with love.

I think falling is something I still resist (or perhaps, failing). In the practice of Contact Improvisation dance, I’ve been lifted dozens of times into the air, and learned to land gracefully. But there is a difference between landing and falling. Landing is something you plan, falling just happens.

When I moved to Toronto 2 years ago, with plans to start a new career, I did everything I could to ensure a smooth landing. But 2 years later, all my careful planning hasn’t yielded much, and I’m now having to drastically re-draft my idea of my future. In this sense, the landing is turning out to be a slow-mo fall – a fall precipitated in many ways, by lack of awareness that I was falling at all.

When we resist our vulnerability, or resist sinking into the “ground” of the present moment, we can so easily miss opportunities to be lifted by circumstance in ways we simply can’t plan or expect. Moving to Toronto has been a free-fall in which I was offered various opportunities for support. Some of them I took, and some, I passed by. Looking back, I could have used them all. But it was my lack of awareness of my need for support that let me miss out. I thought I didn’t need those arms to catch me.

Still, now that I’m admitting how scary and vulnerable it has been to move to this metropolis and try to make a living here, the web of support has appeared and it is so abundant.

In this life, nothing is certain. We are bound to risk, to fail, to fall. But perhaps in admitting we are falling, and admitting how vulnerable we usually are, we can learn to be lifted, and perhaps, even, to bounce back.

The light of appreciation: Equinox dance, 3-21-15

Last night’s Equinox-centered Conscious Dance Party at Yoga Village held a bright moment of inspiration for me. The guided visualizations of “becoming sky” so I could “see” (and hold space for) my sisters, really tuned me in to the uplifting energy of appreciation. While I’ve always been a perceptive person, I err toward noticing flaws and shortcomings more than I like to admit. While I only want to protect myself and others, this kind of thinking can be a heavy burden that holds me back from truly supporting inspired action.

Last night, the energy of appreciating others pierced my heart like warm sunlight as I looked around and saw my brothers and sisters sounding with heartfelt ferocity. It brought back a feeling I’d had about a month ago at another event. I was watching pairs doing contact improv, their dancing especially poignant at the moment. I thought, “who doesn’t yearn for love?” This thought cracked my heart open and I felt a new spring in my step, wishing that everyone, including me, could receive the love they need – if even for a moment. Even if it just means being fully present to another, or to oneself, which dance helps us to do.

When we can suspend the critical mind even for a moment, much of what we see around us is just love and the need for love. Last night, it showed up as the sounding of 80 people, howling at the equinox moon, howling – among other things – a howl of yearning, a howl of affection, a howl of love. I found it pretty inspiring that given total freedom, this is what we choose to express!

This dance also gave me grounding. This week, I needed a lot of it! My life is changing and I’m ever more aware of just how changeable it is. I’ve learned that my mind isn’t much use to me in that regard, as it wanders into realms of over-planning and worry. There are times to settle in, to ponder what’s important; and there are times to get up and move. Winter lifts its veil and suddenly the earth is firm, bare, ready to be trod upon. It’s time to march, to roam, to put your feet down, down until you reach this knowing: that there is nothing to hold onto in this life but the ever-changing flow of now.

Dig your feet into the floor and feel its support. Feel the lightness of surrender. Breathe in the sweetness of appreciation and let it fill you up, all the way up.

Jan. 31, 2015

sunset january

The other day, watching the sunset glowing gold and smoky violet in the sky, I feel such a deep love for winter. I suppose I’ve tried so hard, year in and year out, to love it, that I’ve succeeded… each year I enjoy the pale colors and deep rest more… I find it so very soothing. I wondered then, if we were able to love a season down to its bones… to really let it soak in, perhaps we would tire of things less easily… and perhaps come August, instead of saying how we hated the heat, we’d be letting it lie on us like an old mangy dog, knowing its time had come to leave us, and soaking it up till the last minute… because we had felt its fullness, and been taken in, taken, by its colors and its moods, as if by a lover.

What I Don’t Know

Mike, Ethereal Cloud Formations, Flickr
Credit: Ethereal Cloud Formations, Mike, Flickr

What I don’t know hovers around me like a cloud,

full of stories and tales of the mind.

But I see colors as I breathe: pink in the opening ribcage,

deep blue in the blossoming of the back.

The pathetic fallacy colors all that we can’t grasp –

like clouds, and plans, and time.

I gave up feeling with my mind.

I’d rather wash watercolor

over things I can’t yet name,

or be washed, rather, in pale hues of orange and lime.

January dreams are like seeds

that could bear fruit, or spoil.

The good part is, I think bold strokes can arise

from feeling what is felt,

but not yet known.

The buoyancy of self-love

Scarf blowing in the wind
Photo: Scarf blowing in the wind, Rachel Patterson, Flickr

In yoga class, listening to the teacher’s lilting voice and staring up at a 100-year-old vaulted ceiling, I thought, am I entering the realm of magic? Where the wild fluctuations of self-isolation and wild, desperate clinging, give way to a finer vibration, like a silk scarf waving in the wind?

How many yoga classes I have attended, feeling strangely tense. How many gatherings I have driven to, afraid I might say something wrong. All of that heaviness disappears amidst the upward buoyancy of self-love. The opening of the heart, and the steady commitment to accepting what is happening, every single day.

Am I entering a life where the roughness I once knew, gives way to a soft flow between inner and outer, guided by a well-loved rhythm and purposeful intent? The fingers pinching the scarf, feeling the pull of the wind, holding on just so it won’t blow away.

We will melt (Osho)

Rocky ocean shore at sunset
Image: Kim Seng, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“To go and take a jump into the sea is dangerous.  And remember, we are all men of salt as far as the ocean is concerned–the ocean of life and death. We are men of salt, and we will melt into it because we come from it. We are made by it, we are of it. We will melt!

So the mind is always afraid of going into the ocean – it is made of salt, it is bound to dissolve. It is afraid, so it remains on the shore discussing things, debating, arguing, creating theories–all false, because they are based on fear. A courageous person will take the jump, and will resist accepting any answer which is not known and experienced by himself.

“But the mind is afraid to take the jump, because mind is made of the same stuff as the universe; if you take the jump you will be lost. You will come to know, but you will know only when you are not.”

Osho, 2012. Fear: Understanding and Accepting the Insecurities of Life. New York: St. Martins Griffin. pp 89-90

I have never struggled to love winter.

birch horizontalAs an introvert, winter has always been my excuse to reach for solitude and quiet. I remember one year in high school, there was a big snowstorm at Spring Break. Everyone else was pissed because they couldn’t go outside in shorts, but I was happy to spend time indoors cuddling with my boyfriend and tinkering with the newly-minted Internet.

Spring was my least favorite. Maybe a holdover from my junior-high insecurities about showing my body again, suddenly and provocatively, to the boys. Maybe it was the sudden cold-snaps and desolate colors of March. I remember in college, pondering my dislike for spring. It was Good Friday and I was walking home from class, watching earthworms squirm on the sidewalk next to brownish-yellow grass. It was raining. I decided I definitely preferred the bold colors of fall, and the stark beauty of winter, to this drab, uncertain time.

Over time, I may find that I can learn to appreciate spring, or I may not. Spring holds that ecstatic thrill of the possibility of the coming months, the lusciousness of life.

But for now, winter is welcome, a chance to delve into the inner worlds, a chance to be a seeker of the smallest light. I appreciate nature’s beauty more each day through my camera’s lens. Noticing small things, like the color of birch bark against a blue sky, the black of wet tree branches and the white of snow, my soul is fed. It’s amazing how much beauty there still is, even now.