Anxiety and Clarity

thai forest

I am raising a sensitive child.  He’s beautifully aware of so much all at once.  I see myself in him sometimes and it triggers the remembrances of the hardships and pain that being a deeply feeling being in our world can lend the soul.  I was recently listening to a Zen podcast that was gifted to me by a friend on the Buddhist concepts of samvega and pasada. Samvega according to Thanisarro Bhikkhu is this:  the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.  So in other words, when we turn off laptops, pull out our earbuds and put down our phones, and we allow ourselves to become aware of the depth of suffering and pain the world contains, we get appropriately anxious. The beauty of the unrest of samvega is that this discomfort can become the driving force to deeper practice and spiritual investigation.  And eventually if enough of us do this, I think humans may have a chance at survival. “For saṃvega to be an effective drive to practice, it must be accompanied by another emotion called pasada, a “clarity and serene confidence.”  Unexpectedly, we find it is our anxiety that can become a rich source of energy for developing our own clarity.  In my life, this has absolutely been true. Developing this flow between samvega and pasada has taken time and great amounts of mindfulness practices.  I write this piece as a warning because I think there is so much out there attempting to lead us away from our anxiety and fears. Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, meditation retreats, Facebook, shopping, religion, righteousness, (this list goes on forever) all offering us a chance to be free from fear and dismay. There is simply so much in place culturally to numb us to the extraordinary force of our own discomfort.  I am working daily to simply recognize when it is there and to not run. I currently take tiny sips of the news and human suffering. I feel for my planet, her waters and all her children as I can handle in any given moment. It’s pretty intense for me still. And, thankfully, I have my practices to bring me mindfully back to what is in front of me in this very moment. The feeling of the keyboard beneath my fingertips, the support of my chair.  My warm cup of tea next to me. It sounds so simple right? But my ability to pull my mind where I’d like it to look has been much like training a wild horse. Sometimes I get to ride and more often I get to simply observe the beauty of my wildness. In closing, I want to see us as a culture learn to trust our fears and discomfort. To not immediately turn away from them and yet, be gentle with myself when I need to do exactly this. This has been my experience of these beautiful concepts.  This is what I am teaching my child. 

Deep tenderness to you.  To our fears. May they serve our highest good.  

Informed Consent

Informed consent is paramount to entering any healing experience.  This is a term you may recognize from allopathic medicine and has been an active area of interest for me.  This week I have been curious about what informed consent looks like for a beginner to conscious dance? How in the world does someone make an informed agreement to participate in something they have never done before?  
The bravery the beginner dance student brings will hold me in awe likely the rest of my days.  To step literally into the unknown, as someone asks you to surrender the protection of your thinking mind with your shoes at the door, this folks takes some serious cajones.

So this is my informed consent to the Dance thus far:

Conscious dance may shock, soothe, heal, crack and ultimately, embody you.  These things can happen in any order or rotation and most likely the beautiful spiral will never stop.  Are you ready to come home? We act shocked at what’s there but you know. Are you ready to face what’s there?  Dancing can leave you lighter than where you started and sometimes a deep dance can leave you heavier for a bit.  Sometimes it will make you smile so hard it hurts. Sometimes it may be so quiet. Really, beautifully quiet. Sometimes there are tears, grief and nausea.  You will make good friends. Make sure you’re ready for that. You will never be as alone as you once were. You are becoming part of global tribe.

Community is part of this deal.  

Last Summer Sundays we dance 7:30-9pm @alamocityyoga

June 30th, July 28th, August 25th      

Age of Algorithms

Algorithmic thinking is the work of deeply powerful and protective impulses. Within human cognition lays beautiful and poetic fast flowing maps which we rely upon to process and determine answers to complex questions presented to us in our work and daily lives.  The power of this type of thinking being uniquely human has led our species to our relatively fast ascent into Earth domination. And, it is exactly this type of thinking that may lead to our fast demise as well if we don’t free ourselves from cognitive slavery and find balance between head and heart.  We have become “heartless” in our relationship to Earth, each other and at the very root, to ourselves.

Human evolution thus far has resulted in enslavement to our thinking minds.  We have gone so far now as to create computer realities that merely mimic our ego mind’s need for algorithmic solutions.  We are living in what I have heard called the Age of Algorithms. Every time I hear that name, it makes me giggle a little.  Of course we are. Until we free ourselves from our own algorithmic mind control, this will continue to be reality. The outer world merely mirrors the inner world.

Dancing this week I have simply been noticing with gentle curiosity where I use algorithmic thinking in the dance space.  Not in a making myself right or wrong way, but simply noticing to learn more about myself. This gentle attention is the healing art of mindfulness.  What I’ve learned so far is I use algorithms to make decisions about my safety in a room and my safety in relation to other dancers.  I use them to make decisions about the safety of my own dance movement. I can choose now to dance the algorithms because I am aware of them, or I can choose to step out into something totally new.  Without knowing they are there, we can unconsciously find ourselves dancing the algorithmic list of acceptable movement and feelings on repeat without our deeper creative sources getting much room to groove.

As humans we are so sensitive and vulnerable.  We have no stiff fur, nor big claws and are relatively puny creatures.  All we have is our minds to keep us safe. What I’ve learned about myself is, my thinking, algorithmic mind is deeply tied to my sense of safety.

Through embodiment work I am discovering my untapped human superpowers are not so much in my powerful mind acting alone, but instead within my heart as guiding system administrator.  Humans have the ability to feel and love in a way that no other creature ever has before.  But for most of us, it looks like the Grinch in there. Our hearts are starved and shriveled from lack of attention and nourishment.  Our mind is so dang busy sucking up all the energy keeping us safe and employed, our hearts barely have a chance to be seen nor fed. Our prudish, brain-based culture is the result of our deep fears.  As Zhen Dao’s work shows, we have lost our connection to our human superpower Eros. In this, we have lost connection to our greatest attribute as humans, our ability to love and truly be with one another.

For the world to heal, we have to be willing sometimes to give up our sense of safety.  We get to risk being hurt. We get to risk looking foolish to others. And we get to Love.  We get to do the hard work of unconditionally loving ourselves.

To stand fully grounded in unconditional Love my work currently is in saying yes to all that I am and have been. Uffa, and YES again and again until I return to that instinctual embodied version of Self that I abandoned in childhood in order to fit in with the other brains on legs.

My antidote to falling prey to the loneliness and despair of the Age of Algorithms is embodiment practices.  There are multitudes. For me currently, healing is in the Dance. Join me this summer if you’re curious or feel called.  See the calendar for more details.

Art/Poetry Credit -Mary Oliver

Deactivating Facebook

So as someone who produces dance events and has a flourishing business that was born from the powerful influence of Facebook, deactivating my FB account felt like both a risk and a betrayal. I was one of the lucky ones that built a business immediately before the algorithms changed. Without paying a single advertising dollar, by the very virtue of what I was offering and the value that others gave me by posting and sharing my writing, my private practice exploded into existence. Facebook served me beautifully until one day, it simply didn’t. Something changed. Well, we both changed.

They call this the age of algorithms and I am becoming rapidly aware of both the emotional and spiritual risks we face. Over the past few years the intention/algorithms of Facebook have become clearly monetary and social manipulation has entered the picture. What was once a fun idea for social exchange has become a power onto it’s own. As a child of the 80’s, we were taught by Calvin and Hobbes and many brilliant others to be wary of the television sucking us into mental slavery. However, now we and our children face even a greater risk in what is a personalized attack on our consciousness. We have given the Facebook App on our phones permission to watch and record us to better manipulate us and use us as it sees fit. Have you noticed? You will be talking about something with a friend and then magically a related advertisement will pop up in your feed, conveniently urging you to purchase things you likely will never need. This is the most mild of the risks. The models and methods of thought control utilized go much deeper and unfortunately writings about them will not pop up in the top of your feed. As dollars now direct the content of your Facebook feed, imagine the usual suspects of the wealthiest and most powerful who are sourcing what you are seeing and you unwittingly servicing their nasty greedy motives with each click or scroll. Guh, yuck.

As I am working daily to bring forward a greater sense of embodiment and mindfulness, Facebook started to make less sense. As I watched myself scroll mindlessly, habitually, I carefully jotted mental notes that this was likely not a healthy part of my life. I noticed the “relationships” and how empty they felt and yet I continued to post my heart, my love and my vulnerability which others “loved”. Unfortunately, Facebook valued this as well. What I was posting was the perfect fodder as Facebook “click and stay fuel”. The soulless algorithms, were using my energy to capture folks reading my words with an advertising/cultural prerogative that was absolutely not in alignment with my own.

Ironically, a Netflix show, featuring chef and monk Jeong Kwan, proved to be the last push in my movement toward freedom. My husband had been bugging me to watch her episode of Chef’s Table (season 3, episode 1) on Netflix. In my usual resistance to shows, I was slow to do this. But finally, I did. And, in beholding her and deeply listening to her message, I woke up and landed a bit more in myself. I wanted what she’s living and I can tell you, I doubt Facebook is any part of her daily routine. In that moment of clarity, my marriage to Facebook was cleanly over. I immediately deactivated my account with zero regrets. It simply made no sense to continue. Beautifully, I was able to keep Messenger as a form of direct and true communication with those I care about.

I am still able to directly network with those I am in alignment with via text and Messenger. I still have a growing practice and beautifully have more energy than I know what to do with. I never realized what a drain Facebook had been on me spiritually. I am able to write with more honesty and clarity, knowing it will be read by those who already support me rather than some crazy random out there who feels passionately about their version of the truth. Emotionally, being off Facebook means being willing to feel things like loneliness sometimes. I can tell you, it’s a worthwhile feeling. The digital world numbness has worn off and I feel more alive than I have in a long, long time. And, yes, sometimes I feel utterly alone. But again, I think that discomfort is absolutely worth it.

I am not anti-Facebook by any means. I haven’t even deleted my account. But I am snug and comfy in a deactivated state. For me, at this time, “the feed” does not feed me. And, my time is too precious and my soul’s mission is immediate and in direct relationship with those who feel ready to form real community and relationships.

I have a lit a beacon in my heart. Those who resonate, will find me again and again. I am urging myself to have real conversations with real human beings about embodiment especially when folks ask what I do. Pediatrician was always the safest answer and they always looked at me knowing there was more I wasn’t telling them. My embodiment work and my mindfulness practice show up and make me shiny in a both an esoteric and a truly physical way. It makes folks curious. I am nervous and excited to begin to share my love of this moving meditation practice with others. For it is really, the biggest how behind who I am, in this now.