Friday, November 30th, 2007

Uncomfortable and Scared

For the last few months and weeks, I've been feeling uncomfortable and scared, almost constantly.

In addition to moving to a new city, maintaining and expanding my client base and website, teaching and writing, I am working on the creation of a dance piece, full-length, with 4-5 other dancers, a set, custom-composed music and video projection to be performed mid-2008.

This is so far on the ambitious side of things, I might even call myself crazy.

Yesterday, when I realized for how long my discomfort and fright had been going on, I began to think, "LiYana, this is madness! Why do I always do this to myself? Why do I always take on huge, immense, nearly impossible tasks that put me way, way outside my comfort zone? This is not fun! When do I get to feel like things are normal?"

And then the words of a zen meditation teacher of mine come to mind – words that always bring me such relief and mirth at the same time: "The body is not made to be eternal comfortable. Sometimes comfortable, sometimes uncomfortable. Such a worry and a stress always to be searching for comfortable."

And then I also realize that I will never stop setting myself up to create things way outside my comfort zone. And so, it would be good to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I choose a life – as I have – where I want to constantly learn, grow, expand, shift and create, I'm going to be uncomfortable and scared a majority of the time.

So, yes, I am still uncomfortable, and still scared… But somehow noticing that I did it on purpose re-frames it not as an indication of something wrong, but actually of something just quite right.

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Posted by LiYana at 12:23 am  | 1 Comment

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Dinner on Tuesday

I was trained in a big way to present as if and always if I had my shit together, that I was on top of things; if I'd gone through a hard patch, it was way in the past, and certainly wasn't now. I was just telling a friend tonight how I've relearned over the past couple of years how important it is to come from a human place and share just as much what's not working, the ways I mess up, fall down or forget. I ran into one of these such humbling moments two evenings ago.

I was having dinner with a friend and he was talking about a new relationship he is in and some of the issues with it — mostly to talk about it, but partly to get my thoughts on it all. He said it was hard to hear when she, a single mom of 3, expressed to him at times she gets so overwhelmed, her kids feel to her like an obligation and she isn't even sure if she loves them. It was something he just couldn't understand. I listened and asked a bunch of questions and then started talking a bit about what I thought would make a difference. I started to explain that understanding something doesn't always have to mean agreeing with it. I explained that she could be feeling badly herself and concerned about being judged, but that if she felt she was being perceived as OK and good anyways, it would open up some space and have her feel less defensive and closed about it all. And then I went on to explaining what "finding something right" means – when a little warning light went off in me.

Here I was explaining about finding some thing or someone right, and I had been finding him wrong all night.

I took a breath, paused for a second, and took a moment to really look at him and take him in. I eased up so the voices of criticism could fade and there was more space to see and hear him. I took note of all that I found right and good about him, right here in the now. And then I continued talking.

I felt better immediately and started having a much better time. And from that point, the quality of our conversation shifted, opened up and lightened up. As we were paying the bill, he said, "You know, I've been telling you all the problems I have with her, but there are so many things that are great." And went on to list them.

Finding someone right can be a nice concept, but what does it mean, or how do we actually DO it? On my walk up the hill this Thanksgiving day, I tried to break it down into a few steps to make it a bit easier to practice:

1. Notice you are finding the person or thing "wrong."
2. Interrupt or press pause on the thoughts about the "wrongness."
3. Let them fade into the background, so there is more space, more quiet.
4. Notice what is "right" or "good" already about this person.

Note: Don't pretend that the things you found "wrong" are suddenly "right." That's just bullshitting yourself. Authentically and genuinely, notice what is "good" and "right" about this person or thing, right here, right now.

Another note: Something quite profound can happen in this space, which is a space with an ABSENCE of judgment: you can see even the thing/quality/person you found "wrong" a moment ago, now simply just to be SO. When you see the "wrongness" without the judgment of "wrong" it can simply just BE AS IT IS. And suddenly isn't so wrong after all. And then there is space for all that is right to emerge.

That's it. This is the beautiful simplicity of finding something or someone right. And from this starting point, hearts open, connections are made, humanity is shared, conversations blossom, and both people have a better time.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

Posted by LiYana at 8:47 pm  Comments Off on Dinner on Tuesday

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

What Do You Have Left?

An extraordinary lesson for all of us, from a friend and mentor across the seas:

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible t o play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone –

"You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

Posted by LiYana at 11:07 pm  Comments Off on What Do You Have Left?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Praise and Parents

This month of giving thanks (at least in the USA), a lot is brewing – the magic of gratitude and praise. It is impossible to be miserable, or focused on some aspect of ourself that is miserable, when we are in gratitude, or in praise.

I realized my parents were my first example of extraordinary relationship, in two ways:

They taught me to trust that I would have deep, clear knowing of love. When I asked how they knew they wanted to be together (after a previous divorce each), they both said, "I just knew."

They showed me you can arrange a relationship any way you wish, so as to have it be an expression of the people in it. After the kids moved out, they moved into separate places, one mile down the road from each other. They are still very much
together, but have different living and working spaces. They also share meals and go over for movies and sleep-overs at the other's house.

After a recent tele-class I taught that my mom and dad were on, my mom wrote me this:

"Thank YOU for making your knowledge and skill available to us. Dad is very excited about what he learned. And already we have put some things into practice and it really works; less frustration and more understanding of one another and some great breakthroughs. We both have more openness to communicating. So thank you again."

Praise from the very people who were my first example of extraordinary relationship.

So to extend some of that praise back to our parents, check out this excerpt from David Deida's recent book, "Instant Enlightenment: Fast, Deep, and Sexy":

"Imagine praising the next person you see. Praise him or her as fully as possible, so you are embarrassed you are so praiseful. What praise would you give? Picture someone you know – anyone – and feel what is the most magnanimous praise you can offer them.

Remember your mother and father as you offer this praise. Imagine doing so now. How do you feel? You have probably chosen a career and sought an intimate partner in reaction to the praise you never got from your parents. Take time to remember what you didn't get from your mother and father, and look at what you seek through your career and intimate relationship.

What do you wish your parents had told you more? Really feel into your childhood. Feel, as a child, what your parents said or didn't say to you. What do you wish your parents had given you more of? What do you wish your parents had said to you?

To the next person you see, silently give the praise you didn't get enough of from your parents but wish you had. Give this praise silently to everyone you see for the next three days. In your imagination, give this praise silently to your parents, right now. How does it feel to offer the praise you never got, but wished you had?

Holding back praise limits all the love you are willing to give – through speech, sex, and touch. It also restrains the love you could offer through your life's work.

Give the praise that you wish your parents had given you more of. Give it silently to everyone, and give it out loud to your lover, whether you feel they deserve it or not. Find out what happens when you do. Discover the full offering you were born to give, as a gift, to everyone."

Posted by LiYana at 11:58 am  Comments Off on Praise and Parents

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