Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Aikido life lessons.

Me, after my Aikido instructor complimented me on a specific technique:  “I get that I got that, I just don’t know if I can do it like that again.”

Him: “Hopefully, you never will, because every attack and every partner will be different. Even if any of us [gestures around the room] attack at another point, it could be totally different, and you’d need to react differently.”

Me: “Oh…”

So, sure, there’s repetition and technique.

And there’s also knowing that, in this case (and perhaps many others), it’s not about being exact. It’s mainly about knowing how to respond appropriately — and recognizing that that may never look the same.

Trying out the movement forms: Contemporary Dance.

Nia is based on the energies and movement forms of the dance arts, healing arts, and martial arts.
I have been curious if trying out some of these movement forms individually would help me gain insight and more body awareness in my Nia practice, and possibly help me on the whole. The dance arts include modern dance, jazz dance, and Duncan dance. In January, I tried a contemporary dance class.

I had taken a few modern dance classes before, but it was more of a sampling: a few in sixth grade, a lesson as part of my Dance History course in college, and a class with my expressive arts movement teacher.

The contemporary dance class I took over a month ago was the first I’d taken since before I started taking Nia classes. I vaguely remembered my experiences before: it was sometimes challenging for me to feel fluid and present in the moves. I remember feeling self-conscious as I moved across the floor.
This time around, I was in better physical shape and could keep up better. When the teacher talked about the 8-count, I could hear it in the music. I have more body awareness.

We started with a 20-minute warm-up. I realized then that while I could keep up to a certain extent, I wasn’t in that kind of shape. I haven’t done that kind of intense conditioning, at least not consistently. Also, a big part of the class was learning a section of a routine. Since it was a mixed-level class, there were varying degrees of skill and experience. I felt like I was straining to keep up.  Also, I’m still not that familiar with modern dance/ballet terms.

Nia allows more freedom; this dance class required more precision. Having to learn parts of a routine within a short period of time also makes it feel more performance-based. Nia involves more simultaneous leading and following; this class involved a demonstration, trying it out, more demonstrating, and trying it out again.

Overall, I care less than I did before about whether I do things right or wrong. I know from my experience in learning Nia routines that repetition is key, and sometimes I will repeat movements again and again and again until I get it, and sometimes that’s after many times of fumbling. I have to throw away thoughts of good or bad and be with what is. My perfectionist tendencies can get in the way of moving freely, so I often acknowledge the thoughts and then push them to the side and continue moving. Overall, this meant that I was less hesitant about trying the movements. I was still somewhat self-conscious, but I went into it and did the best that I could.

I would say that that particular class wasn’t the best fit for me. If I could find a beginning contemporary/modern dance class, that might be more my style. It would be ideal for me begin closer to the beginning, to be able to keep up more easily with others in the class. What I did take away was that more warm-up and conditioning could be helpful for me in my regular movement practice.

Stepping through and past stuck-ness.

I remember taking Intro to Drawing in college. I went to a college with a block plan, which meant I took one class intensively for three and a half weeks. That meant my mornings were filled with instruction and demonstrations, and I spent my afternoons and evenings doing homework.

At some point in the middle of the course, as we were working on drawing boxes with dimensions, shading, and foreshortening, I began to feel stuck. I wasn’t the only one; the professor commented that many of us seemed stuck within the technique. We weren’t necessarily having fun. I know that I was focused on getting it “right,” and there wasn’t a lot of joy in it.

So my professor gave us a creative assignment, to draw whatever we liked, to draw without a subject, be abstract, whatever we needed to be. For me, it had the effect of shaking off the previous weight and allowing me learn the techniques while being a little less attached to the final result, and most of all, enjoying the process of working with the materials, such as ink and charcoal.

Sometimes, as I continue to deepen my practice of Nia and learn how to teach, I get caught in getting in wanting to be accurate, precise. I’ll get some feedback, I’ll think about it, I’ll take it into my movements. And maybe, as I practice, my movements will become more precise. But sometimes in this process, I lose the sense of pleasure in my movement. And since White Belt Principle #1 in Nia is the Joy of Movement, and Nia is something I genuinely enjoy, this feels problematic and counterproductive. During these times, I feel stuck in a similar way that I did in my college drawing class — in short, creatively stymied.

The other night, I went searching through emails from Nia Headquarters, trying to find a specific phrase that another teacher had referenced. Instead, I found this, a section from a newsletter written by Debbie Rosas, co-founder of Nia:

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know this – feeling overwhelmed comes from believing that you have to perform a certain way and at a certain time….Learning Nia has never been about performing. It is about connecting, relationships, joy, meaning, purpose, health, and well-being. And about saying what you sense and know. The result of doing Nia has always been the gift of self-healing and conditioning.

“I’m here to tell you: I don’t care if you miss the music cue or you cue between the three and the six. It is okay if you can’t do all the moves perfectly. It is okay if you can’t find the beat. What is not okay is if you deny what you know and don’t know. That keeps you down and stops you from getting where you want to go and be…”

I read this and felt relieved almost instantly. Yes, it’s important that I continue to learn and improve. It is absolutely essential that I continue to play, be creative, and enjoy what I do. Yesterday, I danced through a routine and focused only on finding and sharing what I sense. I gave myself permission to Free Dance through parts of it, too.  Afterward, I felt both more grounded and more joyful. It was good reminder for myself that I don’t have to tackle a bunch of approaches at once; one or two at a time can be more than enough, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to look a certain way.

And some more encouragement for me: Today, I talked to a studio owner about teaching Nia there, and I’m planning to teach a series (likely in April!) to try it out. So here’s to taking steps towards what I want to do.

 

A night of inspiration.

One day, Glennon Doyle Melton told her husband that she knew what she was meant to be: a truth teller. He paused and said, “Damn. Don’t you have any other marketable skills?”

When Glennon Doyle Melton started speaking at the First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque on Friday, she began with stories with anecdotes that made the audience laugh. And perhaps her anxiety may have contributed to her zany openness, and perhaps that is how and who she is: Storyteller. Truth teller. Someone who adds humor, vulnerability, and emotional range and depth to what she shares.

I admire her generosity and her uncensoredness. Personally, she inspires me to be real, genuine; to have faith that I grow and create myself; to have my own path of living and healing; choose where and when to be vulnerable.
Sometimes it’s about voicing deep thoughts
or helping others in heartbreaking situations
or about shaking on the bathroom floor, and deciding to live
and redefining myself again and again and again until I come to the truest place
which sometimes involves more unbecoming than becoming
and throwing out the messages about perfection and hiding emotions
and deciding to allow human-ness through
and creating spaces to share where I can tell give the real answer to the question and not the one I’m supposed to say.

As I drive away that night

I’m so grateful for this night of laughter and depth and vulnerability
that inspires me to think:
I feel lucky to be me.

Other notes from the evening, so I can remember what she shared:

Self-betrayal is when you hear that voice of knowing – that still small voice – and do not do what it says.

“We should not be afraid of our pain, we should be afraid of our easy buttons.”

“We stop caring what we want because were are working hard to be wanted.”
Unbecome the things you thought you were to become a truer version of yourself

“When you ask a woman who she is, she often answers with
who she loves and who she serves.”
Crisis comes from a word meaning “to sift.”
Through rock bottom, we find what is left over when all else falls through.

It’s not the pain that takes us out. It’s the shame about the pain takes us out of the game.

“I decided to write like someone who has never heard of shame and believes she is forgiven.”

Beginning.

The Fool card

The Fool card from my Oracle Card deck

The Fool: Beginner’s Mind. Stepping into the Unknown. Spontaneity. Trusting the process.

It’s challenging for me to be a beginner. To acknowledge my mistakes and use them as learning tools, instead of weapons. I’m a recovering perfectionist with high standards. While I have generally learned to adjust my standards to a more realistic level, I still sometimes find myself doubting my abilities when I’m learning something new.

I step into teaching Nia and I am determined. I practice often, I watch the DVD to review the moves and cueing. When I don’t get something the first or fourth time, I listen, watch, and try again.

I step into teaching and I am vulnerable. After class, I sometimes have this feeling like I’ve just shared an important piece of myself. It’s vulnerable to show where I am in the learning process. I’m not exactly polished; there is a rawness to some of my movements. I I stumble at times, which sometimes causes the students to stumble or pause. In those moments, I make a mental note and keep going.

I’ve been given a gift: One of my Nia teachers, who teaches three classes a week, needed a little bit of a break. She offered me one of her weekly classes for the next two months, which is most of my remaining time here before my wedding and move. Yes, I have to pay rent to the studio, but I don’t have to promote my own class. I can still dance with my regular early morning Nia community – I get to teach people I know.  While subbing for my teachers, I appreciate the experience, and it’s not consistent enough. In order to learn to teach, I need to teach regularly. For the next two months, I’ll be teaching every Monday.

Now, I have the opportunity to practice. I get to practice being a beginner. I get to practice hearing my doubts, the voices that speak to frustration. I’m learning to hear what they have to say, take any useful feedback, and keep going.

I’m learning. I’m beginning. There’s something beautiful and raw about a time where not knowing gradually becomes knowing. Where doing something new slowly becomes an intentional practice. And hopefully, where teaching Nia becomes a vital and regular part of my life.

Vision therapy update, Week 16

I remember an experience I had in my 3-D design class my sophomore year of college. An alum, an architect, came as a guest for a day and showed us a method for sketching small blocks (as if they were part of a model). I remember sitting there for a long time trying to connect the lines to create the image of stacked blocks. I ended up asking a friend to help me; she could see the connections.

I was convinced it was just something my brain couldn’t do.

I have joked for years that I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler.

“It’s not how you think,” the optometrist told me at my last binocular vision exam. “It’s how you see.”

I am now over 16 weeks into my 35 week vision therapy program.
Recent exercises:

The Brock string is the most widely known tool in vision therapy. A string, which can be attached to the door, with several brightly colored beads. The first exercise: Hold the string to the bridge of your nose with beads spaced out. Concentrating on one bead at a time, look for the x (when focusing on one point with another thing in sight, the second thing naturally doubles. There is such thing as normal double vision).

I trace mazes just using my eyes, then trace the path I found with my finger.

Sometimes, I do an exercise, struggle, and feel frustrated. It’s like my eyes won’t cooperate. And then I repeat the exercise on another day, and then another, and it gets easier. In my weekly appointments, I demonstrate the past week’s exercises. I show improvement.

I have fewer moments where it seems like my vision is shifting and adjusting. I am still quite aware of when it seems like I am estimating distances instead of perceiving them.

I am more conscious of how I read, which resembles speed reading but I now know that it’s more like quickly scanning and taking in most of the information. My reading comprehension is high, and I also miss small details. One of my regular exercises requires reading with multiple lenses (wearing colored glasses, switching from near to far lenses) and I find that it requires me to slow down. I notice more when I skip ahead a few words and bring myself back.

Changes:

Recently, I was driving at night and noticed that the lights seemed a little less bright. The headlights and cars and streetlights were still a lot to take in, but it was as if the light beams took up less space. Overall, I felt more relaxed.

I’ve noticed my feet aren’t falling asleep as often. To me, indicates that I’m sitting on them less. I attribute this to increased body awareness – I notice more when something feels uncomfortable and shift my position. Also, I rarely sit in a “W” position with legs splayed out behind me anymore, and I recently heard that some sensory kids do that to compensate for vestibular issues. So, maybe it also has something to do with feeling more balanced. This may be due to a combination of factors – my vision therapy also includes exercises that affect my vestibular system; how the listening program affects my senses; and/or how my Nia practice continues to bring me more into my body.

Overall, I feel more grounded, and more connected to myself.

Natural Time

As I mentioned in this post, I’m currently focusing on one Nia White Belt principle per month as part of a self-study/continuing education process.

This past month, I focused on Nia Principle #2, Natural Time and Movement Forms.

I’ll start with Natural Time.

Natural time incorporates measurement – the measurement of time and space, of movement.  It calls to attention the 13 main joints of the body and the 20 digits (fingers and toes). It involves one’s pace and staying true to what feels natural (for that particular day, period of life, etc).  We live in a world where time is often rigidly scheduled and regimented. Natural Time gives us permission to let go of that when we can.

When I think of natural time, I think of my own internal rhythm.  I think of slowing down when I need to; not rushing.  I think of being out in nature, where time is relative to the position of the sun and the amount of light.

I think of noticing my pace, how fast I am moving.  How far can I leap?  Or how little?

Rushing does not necessarily help but being conscious and present does.

Natural time helps me be more aware of my joints, how they bend and stretch.  It gives me a better since of the distance between things as I move across the dance floor and through life.  It allows me to become more aware of my own nervous system, and how it needs its own time and space to adapt.  Natural time gives me permission to move, learn, and heal at my own pace.