A Path is Only a Path

...keep in mind that a path is only a path...and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do.
— Carlos Castenada

Last Friday I was in route to California for a weekend Movement Medicine workshop with Ya'Kov Darling Khan. It was a moment I had been dreaming of for years...an opportunity to immerse myself in the Presence of an accomplished teacher and his work, Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart. It was the "just right" next step on a broader path of continued deepening into and through dance. In short, it felt aligned.

You can imagine my surprise when, upon awakening in the early hours before departure, a clear yet potent "I don't want to go" entered my field. There was no attachment to outcome. No fear or aversion. Just a simple cadence of sounds that carried their way into my awareness, gently whispering "No", again and again. A second whisper immediately retorted, "You're just tired. Get up and start moving. This too shall pass."

I observed these two voices squabble over the next few hours, becoming familiar with their tones and places of rest within my body. I became aware of intrigue and curiosity, as well, about the inner dialogue unfolding as I traveled in route to the airport...as I stood in a slow moving security line, time ticking toward the sure reality of a missed flight...as I ultimately stood at the corridor of choice: Do I push and effort and run to make this flight or am I willing to trust the soft whisper that continues to gently insist on allowing vs. efforting, accepting vs. forcing, honoring the "no" vs. being in control or being "right".

Why was it so difficult to trust the wisdom of my heart?
Why did my mind deem it's cues to be irrational?
What led me to feel I needed some kind of justification or permission to follow its call?

Perhaps these questions are familiar to some of you. Perhaps your orientation toward following a path includes frequent doses of striving and pushing toward your goal to make things happen. Perhaps you, too, were born into a culture and family that valued commitment and responsibility...one that praised the application of single-pointed attention and determination to follow a course to it's end. Perhaps that was the way which was honored. Valued. Seen as successful.

In his book Living an Examined Life Jungian analyst James Hollis addresses these very issues. In a chapter titled, "The Choice Is Yours", he explores the ways in which we are culturally and socially conditioned by family, schooling and society at large to make particular life choices...to choose the concrete path. While these social and communal influences can be supportive, and at times healthy, they may lead us to lose touch with our inner compass and sense of direction, which is equally, if not more important (in my opinion).

The dance has been the most powerful place for me to cultivate inner knowing...to notice my tendencies toward effort and allowing, will and trust, fragmentation and integration...to hear and ultimately trust the whispers of my heart. The more I explore and embody the notion that there is no right or wrong way to dance, the more I strengthen my ability to trust there is no right or wrong path to my life. Moment by moment, the dance teaches me to listen and discern from a place that extends beyond conditioning. And it is from this place that I feel more free. More enlivened. More unabashedly True to Who I Am.

And so I ask each of you:
How might your own dance feel if you freed yourself from the scrutiny of getting it "right"...if your intentions were held without tension on all levels of your being? How might you approach your life goals and choices if you listened to and trusted your inner guidance, regardless of how sensical or non-sensical your mind deemed it's whispers?

Contemplative practices like conscious dance may seem radical in this fast paced culture of accomplishment, yet they are the way toward building our capacity to slow down and enter a process of consciously listening and connecting with our inner world.

I hope you will listen. I hope you will connect. Find your way. I invite you to take the following inquiries into your life of your practice. Explore, experience, and tell me about it! Love, Teresa

  • Pay attention to the tiniest micro-muscular sensations, impressions and barely-perceptible fleeting feelings.

  • Notice what you’re not usually noticing.

  • Listen carefully to the impeccable wisdom carried in birdsong, in the ebb and flow of the sea, in crisp winter air announcing a storm. Listen.

  • If you can’t hear, feel, sense or detect any subtle impulses coming through your form, keep listening, and fine tuning your instrument (your body). Remove anything that may be clogging the system. Nourish your body with pure and excellent fuel and be ruthless in cutting away all that is numbing, dumbing or distracting. Lay on the earth. Spread your body wide and humbly offer up your heart song and your whole being to its service.

  • Honor the whispers as they arise be that image, word, sudden inner clarity of knowing or the world re-arranging itself as if by magic all around you. Note the somatic feeling of "yes-ness" that clicks into alignment, when both feet are the ground.