Category Archives: Dance

For Love

It is better to do things because you love to do them, without regard to whether you will get big.

Morenasso Sensualonda tells a story of when he was teaching kizomba (a dance originating in Angola) in France. To help popularize it, he would visit parties that advertised themselves as playing salsa, bachata, and kizomba music. He would arrive and there would be salsa music playing, and he would wait. “Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata…. Kizomba! and I would dance!, and then it would be over, and I would wait. Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, bachata, bachata, bachata… Kizomba! The whole time the DJ would play only one Kizomba song an hour! And you couldn’t blame him. He was watching the dance floor, and if when he plays Kizomba, I am the only one on the dance floor, then he will not play that much Kizomba. In fact, if he played more Kizomba, people would be mad at him for not be doing his job!”

It can take a long time to teach and cultivate a circle of friends, who can then grow to a population of people who can dance. Kizomba is is now widely danced in Europe. I do not know whether Morenasso had set out to create a population of people would could dance to music that he loved, but I believe that had fashion not gone his way – that he would still be dancing it out of love.

If we do things for popularity, if we never get popular,  or if we fall in popularity, then we have nothing. If we do things out of love – it’s the only reason we need.

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Intersection of Dreams

People come and go.
For love of music, we are here.
Tomorrow we go back to fight it out with the world.
Home gives us strength and love.
Let us shelter each other here for a song.
Simple in giving.
We give each other this dance.
From different places.
To different places.
Here now together at a beautiful and fragile intersection of dreams.

Entering the Fray

Monday morning, I am poised on the cusp of entering the fray. I imagine that my ancestors would have felt something similar in anticipation of the hunt. What will it bring?

We are at war with perceptions: customers that can never be satisfied, advertisers that seek to disrupt our tranquility to take away our money, Pokemon fantasies that hook into ancient warrior instincts to vy for our attention. The latter are as intrusive or meaningless as pornography, a super normal stimulus that hijacks our instincts. Intrusive when it is a picture of a beautiful woman, meaningless when you see it as a piece of paper.

We are seeking the completion and fulfillment of desire. Breathe and feel safe. Modern battles are waged in a largely abstracted environment, along battlefields that we can largely select. 

Once, I was enamoured of retirement, decided to try it for a year, and quit my job. I soon got so bored that I started training martial arts every day, something that I reveled in, but had not planned. Did I really believe that I could retire from the din of the world?

A bone without stress grow porous and brittle. An unworked muscle withers. An unused bicycle goes to rust.

So then I found myself on the roofs and sides of buildings in Tokyo, erecting and dismantling scaffolding, learning to be in harmony with danger – danger that sharpens the senses. Life happens fast. Pay attention. “Yang!” I would hear, and look to catch a bracket thrown my way. Every afternoon at three the supervisor would yell 「一服!」 (breather!) which we would transmit by shouting to the next man along the wall, and more than once from where I stood, I breathed and looked out over rooftops, and thought – “I am building this city,” before climbing down to have a coffee.

What is the purpose of a break than to become stronger?

A mentor once taught me a story: a young man walked up the mountain to seek out an ascetic. He found the old man carrying firewood on his back. 

The young man asked:”Teacher, please tell me about enlightenment.” 

The ascetic placed the bundle of firewood down, stood straight, and stretched. “This,” he said, “is enlightenment.”

Excited, the young man asked. “What comes next?”

Whereupon, the ascetic took up the bundle of firewood again, and continued on his way.

My mentor’s point was to teach me to ask “What comes next?” so as to keep from becoming fixated on a goal.

I have been looking for the source of this story on the internet, but cannot find it. Instead, there is a similar attested teaching of Zen that the path to enlightenment is「運水搬柴」, literally “to carry water and bring firewood,” which in ancient times were the main chores of the day, which is to say that the path to enlightenment is doing ordinary things.

There are meditations that take us out of the world, and there are meditations that take us into the world, and the goal of becoming human is to be able to wake up not just in the dojo, the dance floor, or the yoga studio, but in the course of the mundane – while we are engaged in our Work.

What comes next after enlightenment? Picking up the firewood again. After the weekend? Going back to Work. After a sabbatical year? Going back to Work. Our souls may stretch to a higher plane, but we are physical beings, and after a time we find ourselves standing where we are, finding the laundry must be done, the furniture dusted, the floor swept.

My biggest spiritual challenge now is to learn better to harmonize with difficulty. I recall several times when I have been in a meeting where someone was being rude, and saw another respond with firmly with respect, and after some back and forth, the rude person volunteered help. The strong harmonizer is my model. Life would be less interesting without rude people.
Harmonizing, not fighting, is the right feeling. Difficulty and danger are ingredients, not waste products. The danger, adrenaline, and exertion of being on the scaffolding let me sleep better, let me better taste my food, and gave me morning wood like I hadn’t hadron with high school. While my white-collar friends paid for gym memberships and cross-fit classes to resurrect atrophied muscle and correct bad posture, buying fitness watches to feel more motivated to walk or climb stairs, I was getting paid to do full body resistance and coordination training, more intense than martial arts boot camps  I have attended, and more spirited in team work. My enthusiasm at the time is well-captured in this Craigslist posting. The posting got us a new teammate for a few weeks, of whom the team leader said 「あいつは日本語が下手過ぎて、面白かった。」 “that guy’s Japanese sucked so bad, it was hilarious” – again, smiling and harmonizing with danger. Laughing, crying, and looking out for each other.

By and by, after a year and a half away, I returned to desk work, but I am nostalgic for scaffolding. In the three and a half years since, I have lost muscle, and my posture is not as good. Can I have both an exercised mind and exercised body?
I began this post this morning on a bus to work. I am ending it this evening over a beer at home. One of my teachers touched off this train of thought because she just left for a month-long trip away from Taiwan to reconnect with people and to reflect, so I dedicate this to her.

Enlightenment is setting down our burden. What comes next is also enlightenment. Can I hold on to this clarity? Probably not. But next time, when faced with a difficult situation or person, maybe I can smile a little inside, and say “That’s interesting. What comes next?”

in plain sight

“How is work?” My friend asked.
“Work is long – I’ve been able to pace customer’s expectations, but some things just take time.”
“Well, you look tired.”
“Oh – that’s because… I lowered my voice. I danced until 2am last night. Nine hours.”
My coworker smiled, and put a finger to his lips. “Shhh.” He whispered.

To those who share this little secret hiding in plain sight, sweet dreams tonight.

言少卻談深

「你跳的,少一個東西。」她說。
「少個什麽?」我問。
「少個身體的帶動。感覺上你用手,沒用動身體 。」她師範帶動了幾步。
「了解 。」
「只是一個小推薦。」
「沒有,我覺得很好。」

其實彼一日不順。朝畫趕忙,心情浮漂,足未落地,而果動作比平小。吾覺確如吾友所言。且吾友又能短時內覺得,並提改方之意。

心與體行。心者現於體,體亦響於心。 吾友覺吾作之異,是不只覺得吾心態,且示調之之道。

言少,卻談深。

Communion

This is a picture this morning of a tree growing from the fourth floor of an apartment near where I live. Note the person on the ground, for scale. I have a line of sight to this tree every time I enter or leave my apartment.

20160628-004116a

Not a bush. A tree. Apparently, despite my walking by that apartment every day for the past half year, I had not looked up.

Yesterday I had martial arts and dance practice. I was so happy going home that I must have been looking up. Walking differently, carrying myself differently

How simple is the communion of two people engaged in Aikido or dance. It is pure individualized giving – irreducible, clear, truthful, creative, playful, and utterly fleeting. For a time, we can raise each other up to where timing and place are perfect, where mind and body are one, and help each other to be better, fitter, happier people.

Correcting Duck Feet

Since I was a kid, I’ve had outward-turned feet – duck feet. Years of Aikido and dance have helped me to improve my posture, but it’s never gone away. I’ve been experimenting this week with a method that I developed.

When going to bed, get a web-belt, place feet shoulder-width apart, and secure the belt just above the knees. Sleep on your back with feet pointed up. Normally, the feet would be relaxed and splayed out, but with the feet unable to splay out this way,  other parts of the body have to accommodate. Outward rotation of the legs is controlled by contraction of the Sartorius muscle, and the inability to relax it completely can cause duck feet.

Satorius Muscle

from kenhub.com

 

Improper alignment of the legs will cause tension in other parts of the body, because you are no longer balanced on your skeletal structure, but having to use muscle to stand and move. I noticed tension in my shoulders, upper and lower back. The idea is to relax these during sleep and allow them to stretch.

I have also noticed when I sleep  with the web belt affixed this way that I have a tendency to flex my getanden (下丹田) when I shift during the night.

 

getanden

from hkgalden.com

The getanden is the muscle between the navel and the pubic bone. Flexing this muscle is important when doing certain martial arts movements, as it promotes a relaxed upper body, good breathing, and good posture.

So, I conclude that if the Sartorius cannot be fully relaxed, the legs will turn outward. Simply turning them in will pull on the Sartorius and cause anterior pelvic tilt, meaning that your butt will stick out, resulting in more curvature of the lower back (lumbar lordosis ) as you try to compensate. Everything is above continues to build on top of that, so there will be tension in the shoulders and neck.

Gently constraining the legs with the web belt puts the lower body in the right alignment. The Sartorius will be gently stretched as everything else tries to find alignment. Flexing the getanden will then use the extra stretch in the Sartorius to bring the pelvis into vertical alignment, correcting excessive lower-back curvature. This brings the spine into alignment, and the shoulder muscles can relax. I can feel my Trapezius relaxed – I must have been pulling my shoulders up and forward.