Sunday, January 24, 2016

digging out and into into vulnerability

This weekend the weather provided the East Coast with "The Blizzard of the Century". Albeit, the Century isn't that far into her progression, but "Jonas" was a doozy and shut down the Mid-Atlantic  - from DC to NYC - for Saturday and most of Sunday.

As I'm preparing for KYL/D's upcoming performances, NGCB's upcoming performances, and the presentation of my own work, the metaphor of "digging out" is not lost on me.

Katherine Kiefer Stark in (in)visible veins. Original photo by Bicking Photography
Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a sort of "digging out" of myself and past habits that are scary and vulnerable. I described the feeling to a good friend as shedding several layers of skin, but never actually molting out of them. A snake (and a horseshoe crab...) will grow within their old skin and eventually molt that skin, moving out of it and leaving it behind. During that initial time, they are vulnerable, but eventually their new skin hardens and with time and growth, they will molt again.

(Embed this metaphor with the digging out of snow... comments welcomed and encouraged! Digging out of trenches, life, unexpected circumstances, things out of our control...)

I know that I've grown in the past few years, but I don't feel as if I've completely let go. In the past few weeks, I've felt as though some of my several layers of too-small-skin have been molting off in unpleasant chunks, leaving parts of me vulnerable and others well protected. (I envision an iceberg, but also a warrior princess of sorts with parts falling off and others becoming strong. Doesn't some culture have a myth for this process of which I'm not aware?)

I've been able to process this through my analytical-brain, but not through my body-brain, just yet. Perhaps, there's a majority of me still trying to molt and heal.

What does my body-brain look like and how do I know that she's not molting? Or, that she is?

I identify my body-brain as the dancing body that shouldn't "think" or get stuck in the analytical process. My body-brain is the part that demands I move. My body-brain is the part that understands and empathizes when I need (or I advise a friend or student) to move away from the computer screen and into the gym or studio. Personally, I need to take a class or go for a walk or do a workout or roll out with a tennis ball or a foam roller when I feel my analytical-brain taking over my body-brain.

My body-brain knows when my analytical-brain needs a break; my body brain can process from a lived experience, from an empathetic perspective.

My analytical-brain often asks, "what does the research suggest to 'fix' this"? My body-brain often (craves) asks(ing), instead, "How can I move around and with this? How can this experience make me stronger and more flexible?"

My body-brain often knows that nothing needs "fixing". I, and the situation need only time, patience, and embodiment. (My analytical brain recognizes this as part of the human experience, but she also wants to quantify it, somehow).

And herein lies the process of embodying vulnerability.

Over the past few years, I've noticed that I habitually tighten my chest. Physiologically, socially, and anthropologically the protection of the chest/ heart is a normal reaction to feeling threatened.

I've noticed that I don't initiate from my upper torso/ heart center, often, when I'm dancing and improvising. I thought this was something I could move through over time. Further research demonstrated that I was protecting my heart as a way to protect my own vulnerability.

I've been losing chunks of my molts over the past few months and I can see the difference in my artistry, both as a performer and as a creator. I witness the moments when I am willing to be vulnerable and when I shut off and rely on aspects I've developed as "strengths" - technique, physical strength, awareness, sensitivity to others... (but not always to myself).

As the Universe often does, It's pointed me in a direction of finding answers.

I encourage you to watch Brene Brown's Ted Talk.

It's not a step-by-step guide to harnessing the power in vulnerability. But, Brown's witness gave me some courage.

What are some reflections on your own journey?

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