On slowing down and embracing a new pace this winter
As winter approaches here in the north, I am allowing myself to sit with and embody the themes of the colder seasons.
In a culture that glorifies "the hustle," the daily grind, and maximum productivity all the time, it feels almost revolutionary to be giving myself the space to slow down, to carve out more time to rest, to spend more time in quiet reflection.
Yet this is all very necessary. It is natural. It is the way it should be.
Just look at nature. The sun rises and it sets, creating times of daylight and times of darkness. The seasons change, and with them so does the length of daylight and darkness each day. Our lives should shift and change along with the seasons.
Each night we can gaze upon a different moon--it is never illuminated the same way two days in a row. All bodies of water shift from one moment to the next, depending on the dryness and the rain. Many trees shed their leaves, providing nourishment for their own soil while deepening their roots.
Plants have their own seasons for being planted, for growing, for blooming, for being harvested and for dying. All of nature works in cycles, yet we are taught to think we should be "blooming" all the time. We live as if we were separate from nature. In reality, we are a part of nature. We are nature.
We can try as much as we can to separate ourselves from nature and her cycles, but they are integral parts of us. Nature doesn't worry about productivity. Neither should we. But we can look at how fruitful she is, and recognize that we cannot be fruitful without honoring the natural cycles within us and outside of us.
As a dancer and artist, I've noticed how my best ideas never came to me in the moments that I was overwhelmed, overbooked, and rushing from one commitment to the next. The best ideas come when I've created the space for them to come, and when I'm open enough to receive them.
I've also noticed how trying to work through a problem doesn't usually get me very far, but solutions to my problems arrive on their own when I am calm and not hyperfused on them. Things tend to fall into place very naturally when I'm not actively trying to force a solution.
I recently had the chance to spend a few days at a Buddhist monastery, where I took part in many of their practices. Their sitting meditations, walking meditations, and mindful eating practices are very simple and yet so powerful and transformative.
I noticed how much of my life I've spent rushing. Rushing from one thing to the next. Multi-tasking all the time. Quickly scarfing down my meals while responding to messages. Rushing to finish my work quickly. Getting frustrated at slow drivers in front of me. Feeling anxious about the future. Never enjoying the present moment. What is the big rush?
So many of us live our lives in a big rush. Where are we rushing to? The present moment is all we have. If we can't enjoy the present moment, then what are we living for? Always striving for something in the future, always striving for something out of reach. We work hard to reach a goal, and when we reach it we still aren't satisfied, already moving on to the next. If we can't slow down to appreciate the now, then all we are doing is living our lives rushing to our graves.
I've been thinking of the ways that our cultural obsession with rushing and our desire for quick achievement gets reflected in our mindset towards dance.
We rush through our movements, diminishing the power of the practice. Instead we could slow down, really feel into what we are doing, and allow our bodies to integrate new movements and patterns at their own pace, really internalizing each lesson.
We attach ourselves to end goals like getting a movement "right" and become disappointed when it doesn't happen right away after just a few tries. Instead we could appreciate everything we can already do, enjoy the way the movement and music make us feel, and find joy in the process of learning more.
Dance is not a race... life is not a race! We can take our time to slowly build a solid foundation. We can do it mindfully, and enjoy each step of the way.
May you have a calm, slow and restful season, sowing the seeds for a fruitful practice and life.
Yamê is a Brazilian-American
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