Archive for August 2011

D is for Dancing

August 31, 2011

D is for Dancing.

It’s all about relationships.

I’ve come to realize that my definition of relationship has to do with anyone and everything that I notice, pay attention to, avoid, celebrate, and otherwise invest even a minimal amount of energy toward. In other words all experiences are relationships in one form or another. If I am aware of someone or something then I am in a relationship.

Now the quality, nature and intensity of that relationship varies hugely, but I’m sticking with this as a working hypothesis. At this moment I am having a relationship with my computer screen, and the thoughts and words that I am forming in my mind and typing on this keyboard. When I shift my awareness to my cell phone that is lying on the desk next to my computer I have begun a relationship with it. Then I note the ball point pen and the glass of iced tea and the sensations at the tips of my fingers as I type and the ache in my back because I am slouching. Then my dog walks into the room and curls up next to me. That reminds me that my wife and I will take him for a walk later. Well you get the idea.

What I also begin to notice is that as I relate to each of these things I have to take energy away from one relationship in order to invest it in the new relationship. On the good days I can broaden my awareness and be in relationship with more than one person, thing, or thought, but the quality of the relationship is diluted. This dynamic, this dance seems to apply equally to inner and outer experiences.

I am saying that there is a direct link between attention and relationship. By this definition you can’t have a relationship without awareness, and whatever I am aware of I am in relationship with. So, what happens to all the relationships in my life experience when I am not paying attention to them? It’s as if they go “off stage” for a time until they are brought back by some cue that I am mostly unaware of.

My theory about that is that I pay attention to, and have more or less conscious and aware relationships based on the amount of energy that I experience in the “others” I am aware of. I believe there is a basic spectrum related to the things I pay attention to that goes from positive and desirable on one end and negative and terrifying on the other. It is a form of carrots and sticks. For the record I like carrots better than sticks. Of course there is a lot of stuff in the middle that doesn’t get much energy from me because it is not carroty or sticky enough. (See earlier blog: B is for Boredom).

What does this have to do with D is for Dancing you might well ask. Put simply, I finally got that all relationships, and I mean ALL, are a kind of dance. Let me say quickly that I know this implies an attitude of dualism. But, since I have not yet achieved enlightenment I still operate most of the time in relationship with what has been called the “Not-I”. This applies to my experiences of myself in a bizarre form of schizophrenia. You know where “you” are arguing with “you”. “Eat the cookie!”, says you. “Don’t eat the cookie!”, says you. If that’s not a dance I don’t know what is.

The first key to this perspective is that the dances are never static. Go ahead, try and pay attention to something, anything, and have it be static. Not possible. All my experiences/relationships have been and are in motion. Now the motion may not be easily discerned, but I have found the second key: listen for the music. Just as there is always motion, there is always music. The music for the dance of life begins in the womb with the heartbeats between mother and child. The next step (no pun intended) is the breath which, with heartbeat, is the dance of life. Pay attention and you will hear the music and that will lead you to the steps of that dance at that moment.

Of course I don’t always like the music and I may not immediately recognize what steps go with the music, but if I am willing to risk it and practice my whole world changes.

That is another aspect of the dance, it is about holding and being held. No, it’s not particularly about who is leading. Rather it is about being willing to invest our attentional energies as consciously as possible. As I practice this way of being present I notice how easily I can over and under fund my relationships. This has to do with how I choose to spend my attention. This can be tricky. Sometimes I want to dance with everyone and everything, and sometimes I want only one partner. Sometimes I feel like the wallflower at the high school dance, but even that is a dance with its own music.
It takes practice to learn how to diversify our relational portfolios. We have to notice our carrots and our sticks and how we tend to be reactive to them. This is a necessary stage in stepping (sorry, I can’t help myself) across a threshold of responding to new music and new steps.

This all showed up even as I was being stingy with the relational energy I anticipated needing to sit down and dance with this topic and get it written down. Finally I started tapping my foot, or keyboard in this case, and then I really got into the rhythm. Now I notice this music coming to an end and I want it to stay a little longer. But, I know there is always other music and a new partner to dance with.

The beat goes on.