Let’s dance, put on your red shoes!

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I went to a Nia class this week. Nia is a fusion fitness dance class that combines dance with other healing arts. I felt a bit vulnerable as I stepped on the dance floor. Dancing is not something that I often do except at a wedding or at a formal dance when I was at University. I have no dancing background. This was something new. In stepping on the dance floor I stepped out of my ‘box’ and opened myself to a new experience.

At the beginning my ‘inner judge’ was quite strong. Telling me that I’m not good at this, not in tune with the music or my steps are out. But the more I followed the rhythm of the music I sensed how my body was awakening. My ‘inner judge’ was slowly moving backstage while my ‘inner child’ took up centre stage. Then the magic happened. I was able to tune into my body and expressed the emotions I was feeling in each dance move. I was angry, happy, gentle and seductive… I felt liberated!

Dancing has been part of us since the birth of the earliest humans. It plays an important role in celebrations, entertainment and rituals. Dance as a method of giving form to the unconscious was first introduced in a paper by Jung in 1916. Years later Mary Whitehouse developed dance as a form of psychotherapy in 1960. Since then much research has been done in this field. Studies have shown that dance can improve your physical and mental health. When we dance mindfully the body, mind and soul connect and we realise that we all have a unique creativity waiting to be expressed.

Mary Whitehouse wrote that ‘Movement, to be experienced, has to be ‘found’ in the body, not put on like a dress or coat. There is that in us which has moved from the very beginning: it is that which can liberate us’. (1963/1999, p. 53)

When last have you just played your favourite song and danced to it? Just allowed your body to move to the music? I ask you to join me with the lyrics of David Bowie’s song ‘Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues’.

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Become comfortable with uncertainty

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Black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, in or out, happy or sad. Nowadays it feels as if we constantly need to choose between one or the other. I don’t have a problem with making a decision or choosing what you like or dislike. However, lately I’ve become curious about the type of answers we expect. It sometimes feels so rigid. It feels as if there is no place for flexibility, uncertainty or a range of possibilities. We don’t allow ourselves the time to sit back, to feel our emotions without acting them out, or to observe our thoughts without trying to change them.

Greyish, not yet, maybe, in the middle, confused. How do you feel when you read these words? These words tend to make us uncomfortable. We don’t know where we stand or what action to take next. We can’t take control of the situation. We are uncertain how to deal with these answers or emotions, as it does not fit in a category that we are familiar or comfortable with.

I realised that is something I struggle with. I struggle to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. To feel my emotions without labeling them as either good or bad. To not have all the answers. To move at a different pace. To be able to be flexible without being a pushover.

The image that comes to mind is that of a field of moist green wheat. The wheat stalk stands erect but if you stroke your hand through it, it bends softly. When your hand leaves, it returns to its original position. There is something in that flexibility that draws me. The ability to adapt to the situation without breaking. They can allow themselves to get blown in different directions by the wind but once the wind calms down they are erect, just as strong as before. However, if the wheat stalk is very dry it easily breaks when you try to bend it.

I realised that this is how I am as well. If I keep on nurturing (moisturising) my soul either by taking time for myself to meditate, pray, exercise, read, etc. It is easier for me to bend and not break when the winds of life blow through me. But if I don’t take time to nurture my soul, I become rigid and get stuck in fixed preconceived ideas.

I want to ask you to join me to be curious about the range of emotions we can feel and the variety of answers there are to a question. Learn being more comfortable with uncertainty. Eckhart Tolle said ‘when you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”

Connecting with your heart rate

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Yesterday my dad, brother and I ran the Knysna Marathon. My brother injured his calf muscle and had a slight cold a week before the race. However, at the end he decided to run the marathon with us. The condition was that we take it very slowly. When it comes to sport taking it slow is not something my family is good at. We can be very competitive. Not only with others but also with ourselves.

The strategy was that we were going to keep to my brother’s heart rate. Whenever it would reach a certain rate we would stop running and walk a bit. I am really proud that we managed to listen to our bodies during the marathon. We tend to be too much in our heads and forget about our bodies. We sometimes think that the only purpose of our body is to carry our heads around. However, our bodies speak to us in subtle ways. Pat Ogden writes that ‘the body always leads us home . . . if we can simply learn to trust sensation and stay with it long enough for it to reveal appropriate action, movement, insight, or feeling’.

In listening to our bodies and keeping my brother’s heart rate within a certain range we managed to complete the marathon together. Finishing the marathon together was more important for us than running a fast time. I realised that is also what we value about life. It is more important having someone who can be our companion on the journey, than standing on the pedestal alone. We want someone to share the journey with, a witness for our life.

During the marathon we witnessed how each one struggled with his or her own ‘inner judge’. More we witnessed how in supporting one another we could all reach the finish line together and share in the cheers of our loved ones. A memory that we will treasure in our hearts. Much better than achieving a fast time on your own. At the end our hearts and heads were in harmony. In connecting with our bodies we found our way home.

It takes time and patience to create everlasting value

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A few days ago I visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History to find inspiration. I’m in the process of a career change and am mastering a new profession. I know that I’m on the right track but that does not mean that the journey is always easy. I was becoming impatient with the time it takes to change. The exhibition that amazed me was the ‘Glass Flower’ collection. It is an internationally acclaimed display of about 3 000 glass models of different plants. The flowers are made entirely of glass! It is made with extreme precision. No detail is overseen. As I was admiring the plants and flowers, I could not help but think about the enormous amount of time and patience it took to create these perfect representations.

It took Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf, nearly 50 years to create all the glass models. Professor Goodale commissioned them in 1887, as he wanted life-like representatives of plants to use in teaching Botany at Harvard. I must agree with him it is a perfect way to learn about flowers, as they are three-dimensional and always in bloom! I wished I could have observed them when I had to study Biology at school. What struck me was that these flowers, which were created more than 100 years ago, are still valuable today.

Nowadays it feels as if everything must happen quickly with as little effort possible. We want a quick return on our investment. We want to start our own company but are not willing to give it three years to become financially sustainable. We want to be the best in what we do but become impatient if we don’t improve quickly enough. We want to be valued but are not always willing to invest the time and patience needed in our relationships. We become impatient when things take time. However, learning a new profession, developing a new concept, starting a company and building relationships take time and patience. I do realise that money may play an important role as well. Money can (in certain cases) buy time. Without the financial investment of the Wares the Blaschkas would not have been able to work full time to create the glass flowers. However, they still needed the patience to perfect their craft. They had to try over and over to discover the best method to create the models.

In the end the visit to the museum provided me with the inspiration I needed to carry on with my journey. I realise that if we want to change or create something, we need to bear in mind that it takes time and patience to create everlasting value.