Here’s a quirky little fact about me; I love reading about mountain climbing. Bouldering, 8000 meter peak epics, Nepal, Everest, K2, The Eiger Wall, and The White Spider are just a few of my favorite subjects. I’m mildly obsessed. For whatever reason I am enthralled by the journey, internally and externally, of those who risk their lives to reach the highest peaks and scale the most technical climbs in the world.
I think in many ways mountain-climbing parallels high-level dancing, maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it. Both pursuits require determination, discipline, and practice. Both are beautiful. I think I like ballroom better because I don’t have to risk my very existence to explore my vulnerabilities and limitations. I am challenged quite enough two and a half inches off the floor, thank you very much! Lol.
Anyways, one mountaineer-author I particularly enjoy (there are many) is Ed Viesturs. You may recall him from the IMAX movie about Everest (which rocked my world in high school when I saw it on that eight-story screen – seriously, Khumbu Icefall? You may pee your pants seeing how they traverse it using aluminum ladders lashed together to cross cravasses) and the 1996 Mount Everest disaster documented in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” He’s a world-class high-altitude athlete and he is the first American to summit all 14 of the 8000-meter-er’s – the 14 highest mountains on Earth. As you might imagine, it’s an exclusive club.
Things I appreciate about Ed are that he is pragmatic, level-headed, he trains like a madman, he climbs with an ethos, and he lives by the credo, “Getting to the top is optional, returning home is compulsory.” He pushes his personal limits while at the same time lives in a personally responsible manner. He even takes on further responsibility when others are in need around him because that’s who he is.
Well, anyways, I’ve enjoyed reading about Ed’s pursuits and I’ve learned a lot about being human from his books (as well as other mountaineers). Honestly, I think that is why they do such extreme feats – to get to the core of their selves, to come right up against their limitations, demons, and boundaries, and to test their mettle, to discover who they are.
I’m no adrenaline junkie, but I can relate to the journey of self-discovery. For me, as I’ve mentioned before, dance is my practice. It is my walking, moving, bodily meditation. It helps me integrate all aspects of self: mind, body, spirit, physical, anatomical, atomic, subatomic, and energetic. It also helps me connect with myself, others, the universe, God. I am a drop in the ocean and the entire ocean in a drop. I can go just as deeply into myself through dance as Ed does when he climbs high into the clouds. In a way, we are on the same journey, it just looks different externally. Internally, we are coming up against our core selves with every step.
This is why I came to Damir.
This is the work we are doing.
It is deeply personal and internal. And it’s a big shift. And that’s why I haven’t felt so much like blogging about every new awareness, because they are coming at light-speed. It’s like drinking from a fire-hydrant. And I’m not even sure I could explain or describe the work we are doing, anyways. It’s beyond dancing. It’s beyond the movements. It’s the metaphor of the dancing and it is the actual dancing, and it is so much more at the same time.
Everything is changing.
It’s not obvious.
People are going to be able to tell that I have changed when I’m through on the other side of this leg of the journey, but they may not know what I did exactly.
This is the work I am doing with Damir. It is all of the invisible stuff, all of the internal dancing that happens between sinew, muscle, bone, and energy. It is rewiring my neurons to fire differently. It is retraining my muscle memory and placing my awareness in long-neglected cells of my body, in forgotten pockets of DNA. It is changing my structure, my elasticitity. It is allowing me to be stable and to stretch. It is helping me find beauty in opposition, for only in using opposing forces can we move.
I’m learning it isn’t actually ideal to be completely balanced 100% because if you are, there is absolutely no movement; there is only stillness. To create movement, there must be an imbalance, even if it is ever-so-slight. And with this new level of rooting deep into the earth, this new level of stability, my bodily movement is so much more under my control, I can be so much more deliberate about it. Trust me, there’s still lots of work to do, but already it is improved exponentially.
This work changes everything. It is transforming me and I will emerge on a different level. From the outside, it looks like nothing has changed, or even maybe that I’ve “regressed” because it is so “ordinary,” as Damir puts it. But I know the truth. I know that internally I will never be the same.
Here’s a good analogy; I don’t care if you have a Rolex dripping in diamonds if it fails to tell accurate, reliable time, if it fails to fulfill its purpose. I’d take a practical Casio calculator watch over it any day. The faulty Rolex, however, is shiny and appears beautiful on the outside. Dancing can be like this. Right now I’m working to become a Casio.
With Damir, I’m learning to balance my Yin and Yang energies, my Masculine and Feminine.
I’m learning to stand on my own feet
I’m learning to hold and control my own space.
I’m learning to be present.
I have not learned any specific new dancing technique. I have not learned one new step or one new way to style my arms. I have not danced anything more than Rumba boxes, forward and back steps, delayed steps, hip turns or spirals. No new figures. No routines. Only fundamentals. They apply to EVERYTHING. It is AWESOME.
I totally trust that I’ve made the correct move. This is exactly where I need to be.
I miss Ivan and I do hope we can partner again. That’s mostly up to him. I’m committed to do my work regardless. But I have a deep knowingness that Damir is a coach, not a partner, at least at this point in time. I also have a deep knowingness that I have no need to worry about this, that the right person will show up when I’m ready and he’s ready, be it Ivan, or no.
So that’s what’s going on with me. I’ve no competitions in my sights. I am committed to doing the work. And the work is, well, mundane, ordinary, and basic. It is learning my body, feeling it spatially, and understanding how it works. I’m honing my instrument in a way I’ve never had access to before.
I feel settled. If that even makes any sense. I feel grounded and secure. And I need this like no kidding to stretch beyond my current limitations. That is part of why I had to make the change. I could go no further without finding my center. I needed a space where it was safe to explore my shortcomings. With Damir, it’s encouraged. We bring my imbalances to light and in this way dissolve them.
The work I’m doing is to find and embody the paradox; to find the stillness, calmness, steadiness in the frenzied movement of a Cha-Cha. In this way I can be my most authentic self. What a blessing to have found a guide and coach for this next leg of the journey. I am becoming who I am, a little closer to my authentic self every day.
Dancing cannot fail to change a person if they take it up as their practice. It is as potent and transformative as any practice, be it Yoga, or Soccer, Bible study or Mountain climbing.
And just like in Mountain climbing, I’m discovering that there are no short cuts to the top. This is the title of one of Ed’s books and I think it reflects his philosophy, and a truth of life. I am grateful to be in the place where I’m ready, willing, and able to do the work. For me, it looks like this: eating clean, getting workouts in, continuing consistent coaching with Damir, practicing the basics. It looks like putting in the time, doing the mundane process, and repeating until complete. There are no short cuts to a body fat percent of 20% or less, or a balanced spiral turn. There are no elevators to the top of Mount Everest.
And you know what? Hooray for that! I’m coming to know who I am more and more deeply and securely with each choice, with each pitfall, with each interaction. I am building the foundation of who I am so as to be unshakeable. And I’m not only after knowing who I am, I’m after loving who I am, reveling in who I am! I’m going to get to be me, 100% me and I can’t wait.
Hooray for no longer striving and pushing and going to extremes. Hooray for settling into do the work. It may take time, but time is going to pass anyways. It’s simply up to me to be a consistent Casio, at this point. Tic toc tic toc tic toc…..and soon enough the humble yet reliable Casio will be worthy of adorning the trappings of a Rolex.
loved this blog posting. i enjoy all your writings..
Why, thank you!
I really applaud you! When you look at a great master in any discipline, they possess the calm and centered energy you’re working towards. Isn’t it amazing how actually living and moving from that place changes everything? Big round of applause to you, and wishing you joy and discovery 🙂
Steph – I’m so happy for you! You’re in a new chapter of the Book-of-Steph…and it’s a great one, fer sure.
I clicked the “like” button on this immediately because – well, why wouldn’t I? But then I had to walk away and let it rattle around in my brain for a few days. One of those days included our first lessons in a couple of months and they were intense, and the day after was our practice to absorb the work of the lessons.
Then I was ready to read it again. Fantastic! I have an Everest junkie at my house and watching those climbs can be very inspiring when it isn’t flat out terrifying. As a side note, I spend a lot of time worrying about the people holding the cameras for those crazy climbers.
We all need to do the foundational work of course, and we need a certain drive or energy, but we also need the pin-point focus and the inner stillness even at the moment of maximum motion. Dance, climbing, yoga, life. Good lessons for all of us. Thanks:-)