Lessons from dance: intentions and working with uncertainty
I took a dance class tonight and took a video of the choreography. When I looked at myself on film, it looked like I didn’t care at all for what I was doing – I would do movements only partly, my arms are limb, and it looks like I’m hesitating. I’ve been told that I lack “intention” when I dance, and I didn’t understand what that meant until now. I thought intention meant having an end goal, having some kind of a story or theme. But I think more simply, it’s just acting like I care. Honestly, half the time I’m having a conversation with myself in my head while I dance.
My mind: “hey, you’re not looking so good. There’s something wrong here. Maybe you should stop.”
Me: “Um, I think I got this.”
My mind: “I mean, it’s probably gonna take forever, so you might as well not do it. And even that’s indefinite.”
Me: “… but I’m here already… ”
My mind: “Are you really going to go through with it and look and feel like an idiot in the meantime? I say, don’t try. You don’t really want this. ”
If what I need to do is not clear in my mind, it’s not going to be clear in my movement.
I can hesitate and search the alternatives to my heart delight, but once I’ve decided on something, I need to honour that decision and trust in it. It’s not a matter of feeling anymore at that point; it’s a matter of commitment. Ideally, that commitment will be reinforced by some kind of feeling of affirmation, but if that’s not the case, I just have to remember why I chose it.
A friend of mine pointed out that he noticed a pattern in my behavior: I’m unsure about the decisions I make. I was indecisive about being in university, about starting dance, about continuing in dance, about what I should major in. I would be at a place and be wondering if I should even be there.
I would battle with my self all the time. And one thing that made deciding more difficult was trying to see into the future, asking about how this one decision would affect the rest of my life. I’ve now learned that the future isn’t for us to know, and questions of “what if” don’t help with anything but add stress and despair. I concluded that if something is on my mind so much that it distracts me from my daily tasks, then the decision has been made already.
My friend also said that when I explore other options, yes it’s helping me to make an informed decision, but ultimately it’s motivated by fears of my decisions failing. I understand fear as anything that restricts movement or action. For example, I can be aware of possible problems that may come up if I continue in dance, and so make preparations for them, but fear would just tell me how wrong I am in attempting.
So, I just have to live a little more, and do so confidently. Life is cumulative, meaning even if something is “wrong”, it’s still valuable if it’s helpful in finding that true course.
Let me close with a quote from Lord of the Rings.
“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”