Scroll down to continue reading my essay “Southpaw Belly Dancer” from The beautiful Iris Literary Journal. It has been the seed of a beautiful project in the making….!
Warning! Anxiety is Contagious
This week you channeled yourself right down to my feet and re-taught me a valuable lesson. As I guided my way around three flat hula-hoops on the balls of my feet, you reminded me to check in with not only my current physical balance, but also my mental and energetic balance. As I hip kicked the air, I felt my energy subside the slightest bit. Why can’t I skootch along faster? I thought. But with only a few days of a meditation routine under my coin belt, I was able to let go of that A.N.T. or Automatic Negative Thought as soon as it arrived. Just let it pass. My energy is where it is, I told myself. I have a day without a migraine, without being dehydrated, I love the song I am moving to (In fact, I have it on repeat!), this is all that counts in the moment. This is the wisdom I can give to myself, well, the wisdom that Dance can contribute to my slow moving body.
So I skootch along. And along…and al…
And here comes another thought to distract me. Wait, why does my slow moving body need to be a bad thing? One part of beauty within Belly dance IS moving slowly and gracefully. This is still part of the practice even if it’s not cardio. The slow movement is actually more challenging and works the muscles more. So, I’m not losing out on anything by moving forward slowly. A few images of people I know pop up as I round the middle hula-hoop. I wish they could see that they don’t actually lose out by moving more slowly in their day-to-day lives. These are the people who have told me that yoga is too slow for them. Have you ever noticed how anxiety can be contagious? A co-worker pulls open the door to the office with a heavy sigh- about what you don’t know- but your heart rate jumps a bit for a few moments.
I work my way from dancing around hula hoops to visiting my three slim mirrors where I take my time exploring hip kicks and pelvic tilts.
My movement and energy, when quickening my pace with the tempo, is not bad! For whatever reason, I’m programmed to believe that to get an appropriately healthy cardio workout that doctors suggest, I need to move as fast as I can…and get my intuitive dance steps perfectly right.
Hmm…There’s so much wrong with that…Well, taking the judgment out ( which is a healthy practice in and of itself)… I challenge this thought after my workout. What’s going on here?
I need to shift this perspective. So, I ask Google “What is cardio exercise?” It is any exercise that raises your heart rate. Okay, that’s all the comfort I need; I don’t need to escalate my heart beat from, say a 1 to a 10 and flat line across my hula hoops. Now, I also do not need to be assuming that my steps need to be perfect. Especially if they’re based on intuition! Where is perfection in using intuitive senses? Where is perfection in dance “Practice”? This calls for a Dear Meditation…Please take “Perfection” away next time the image or word moves along my mental reel. I’ll be on the lookout for getting rid of it, too, but I’m just saying….
So thank you, Dance. And Meditation. Within this first week, you both certainly have allowed me to re-balance my mind and energy. I have to say, not to let it get to your egos, that the best kind of teacher is one who teaches inside and outside the classroom ( or studio!)
Note: If you know of anyone who spreads anxiety, this letter is for him/her/them. And if you suffer from that strain that makes its round, then this is also for you. Because guess what? Slowing down is also contagious! And speeding up to the point of keeling over just because we hear it’s the thing to do, whether at work or at the gym, is non-informative suicide. So let it be known here: you’ve been informed!
Thank you for allowing my toes to press evenly into the ground as my heels lift. Quite the seesaw. I dance to the left on my tippy toes on an imaginary line. This is leveling, the first thing that I fell in love with in belly dance and one of the first things I inadvertently discovered the night of my first lesson. I felt more comfortable and excited playing with the heights in this dance, not so much dancing flat on my feet across the studio floor. The other women were content with their heel, arch, and toes on the cold surface but I was a bit bored.
At one point, I caught the eye of my petite and sweet instructor, Zazil. Her eyes lit up upon watching me. “That’s very advanced!” she yelled across the space. I guess I forgot to be self-conscious in this space and just moved along as I had never moved before, literally (I know, that word is used nearly everywhere, but in this case it appropriately fits!). All those years as a child where my mother would tell me to practice doing tippy toes to strengthen my legs and feet were now actually coming in handy—and instead of loathing the pressure on the ball of each foot, I absolutely loved it!
I had always been scared and uncomfortable doing any physical activity because of my cerebral palsy on my right side, but that night, I found a new love and we were so in sync, it was undeniable.
And I am grateful that that love is still here with me and for me. It takes care of me, even though I feel as though I abandon it at times; feeling stuck in a rut with a migraine or just mentally defeated after a long day or week, I chose stillness in lieu of movement. But showing my gratitude in fragments may just bring me back to moving more frequently.
So thank you, my Dear Dance. Thank you for being present when I am not. You’re in my thoughts. And we know how powerful the mind is. So maybe soon I will visit you.