this post may sound a bit rough - that's how i feel at the moment. i'm sitting with the resonances of a pretty massive learning, and it's still digesting. i want to put my ignorance on full display, because it's a lesson that's worth sharing.
for anyone out there who's read my past writings, i should have said these things before:
1. thank you
2. know that my tendency is to think that i've got it figured out, and then cling to that idea, right up until life smacks me across the face with my own misunderstanding. so bear that in mind whenever you read anything of mine
here's the latest 'smacked-across-the-face' story.
if you didn't know already, i'm in australia - alice springs, specifically. i came here to complete a TaKeTiNa teacher-training, and also to 'find myself.' (TaKeTiNa is this shamanic-rhythmic-meditativey thing. it's totally awesome.)
i'm currently a poor bastard with no money to my name and a tourist visa that's expiring soon, so at the moment i've got a powerful need to earn some dough and fly myself back to the states. with limited options, i've been kicking around one idea after idea, none of which have worked out yet.
also, i love dancing. dancing has always been my number 1, sure-fire way of getting out of my head as well helping me to process stuff and feel empowered. so when i found out there was a 24-hour dance marathon happening here in alice springs, it was an immediate "yes!"
as the marathon approached and i still hadn't earned my airfare home, i had an idea: i would use the marathon as a fundraiser! after all, that was part of the point - people could fundraise if they wanted to, the team i was on wasn't fundraising for anything else, and dancing for 24-hours is pretty epic. if nothing else, even if i only made a little money, i figured it would kick-start the dough-earning process.
plus, our team had had our picture in the local paper, with a little headline that read: "Heart Full of Dance."
perfect! i figured i'd snag that photo, make up little fliers with a short explanation of my story, and pass them out to as many people as possible while shaking my shit for a full day. even if only a few people felt connected to my story, at least i was taking action, on the move, trying to make it happen.
so i made up little fliers and printed up a bunch. i posted the flyer on facebook and announced what i was up to, and that post got a bunch of comments and 30-something 'likes.' people said it was epic, someone called me a dance hero, friends and family back home were totally supportive.
i figured this was a good omen - all signs pointed to "mission accomplished."
the morning of the marathon i showed up and started dancing, and the vibe was awesome. families, randoms, a crew of developmentally disabled people totally getting down on the dancefloor... from hour # 1 it was one of the best, most egalitarian dance floors i've ever been on. i figured i'd start passing out flyers once it had been going on for awhile, but something about my plan wasn't sitting right. i had another look at the flyer and realized the obvious - that picture from the paper wasn't just a picture of me, it was a picture of me and 3 other people. whoops.
so i checked in with my team members, one at a time, and found out that they were cool with me passing out their picture. ok, sweet - game on.
but something still wasn't sitting right. i kept looking around wondering how to start engaging people, but everyone was having a seriously awesome time already. trying to talk to someone who's joyfully dancing their butt off about my money-story seemed, well... lame.
talking to my teammates also made me realize i hadn't checked in with the event organizers, either. i'd been told i could fundraise when i registered, and my idea had made sense in my head, but now, here at the marathon, my idea didn't seem to fit. so i asked the organizer who was on-duty at the time: "i totally get it." she said. she said she understood my situation, and she was cool with me fundraising, but she just needed to check in with her co-organizer, who would be there in an hour or two.
ok, good... maybe this will work out after all. because i need to get home, right? and i don't have a lot of options... my time to make money is running out, quick. i've got like 10 days left in alice springs before i go to sydney for another taketina teacher-training, and after that my visa expires, so fuckin fuck: now is the time!
fast forward a few hours - the other organizer shows up, hears the story, and says "no way."
patiently, she explained it to me: nobody is allowed to fundraise for personal gain. if i wanted to fundraise for a charitable organization, cool - i should've gotten pledges beforehand. too late now, and i can't ask for personal money anyway - this event is about the community coming together and having fun, not about me.
"but..." i said.
she explained it to me again. patiently.
"but..." i said.
so she explained it again.
and i got it. i mean, i didn't REALLY get it - not that full-bodied sort of "OH!" of understanding that rings true in every cell. i didn't get it that way, because i was still clinging to this idea that this marathon was going to jump-start my getting home goal. i knew everything she was saying was right on - she was so right. but i did not want to hear it.
she even apologized, and said that she could understand my situation - but this event just wasn't about me. it was about the community.
at that point, still feeling resistant and selfish, i think the last thing i said to her was: "ok, thank you. it's your event." then i went back inside to the dancefloor.
we were on like hour number 4, and my balloon had totally deflated. all i could think about was my need to get home - my need to somehow make that airfare money in the next 10 days. i shrank down into the tiny space in my own head, and while all around me there were happy, dancing people, i was feeling small and sullen. i stayed on for a few more hours, faking it, until i couldn't fake it anymore and i left.
i had blasted this announcement off to friends and family everywhere - "i'm gonna dance for 24 hours as part of my getting home mission, please support me!" and they totally had, sending huge encouragement and positivity. and now it's only hour # 6 and here i am, riding away because, honestly, i don't want to face the massive, ugly truth staring me in the face: it's just not about me.
i couldn't make that event about me. i wasn't allowed to do that, because it's just not cool. doesn't matter what my personal story is, or how much i'm freaking out trying to figure out how things are going to be ok a month from now. nothing gives me the right to turn that communal event into an individual one.
i got back, sat down and started eating, and lost it. i'm used to crying (i do it a lot) but this was intense even for me. what was going on, at some deep level, was a really intense conflict between a recognition that making it about me = lame, and a fear that not making it about me = i don't get what i need.
and it wasn't just about this dance marathon, either... this was a fundamental worldview issue. i've been blogging about how we're all one, about unity, about how we need to hold the simultaneous understanding that, somehow, we're both individuals and we're all one thing... and yet when it came right down to it and i this event organizer was basically telling me the same thing i've written about, i didn't want to hear it.
so i bawled. and then i started shouting. i think my prayer circuits get used so often that talking to god has just become a regular thing - it wasn't a big leap to start yelling. i shouted that it was bullshit, and that it wasn't fair. i ranted about how hard it is, and how the hell am i supposed to be able to let go of getting what i need, even for this 24 dance marathon, and still have everything work out ok?
i was being invited, by life, to let go of some deep-level selfishness - a fundamental piece of programming within me, a piece that determines a lot of the ways i think, speak, and act in my relationships. and i didn't want to.
more than that, actually - i was terrified to. i was terrified that if i truly let go of this selfishness, even for just a short time, i won't get what i need and the the basic necessities of my life won't be provided.
but the lesson was absolutely clear - it doesn't get much more obvious than this.
at the end of my shouting, i was curled up into a ball on the floor, pretty much whimpering - wanting to let go, but afraid. i asked how i would get what i need if i let go, and the answer was just a little feeling inside: "trust me."
well, shit. that little feeling inside was just about the clearest response i've ever gotten from god - usually when i finish a prayer and start listening for a response, all that happens is the wind blows, or a dog barks, or i have gas. if god's trying to tell me something via my farts, i have yet to figure out what it is - unless she's saying: "less garlic."
so i got up, finished lunch, did the dishes, took a shower, and went back to the marathon. i left all the little fliers at home, and decided i was going to do the best i could to forget about my individual problems for the next few hours.
when i got back they were on hour # 10, and the dancefloor was awesome. so many people, from alice springs and beyond, all shaking their shit together. the event organizers were righteous - every hour or so they'd get everybody together and lead a little something to get people involved. make a circle and take turns leading a move, or dance in front of the window for the audience, or something fun.
i started looking at everyone around me. i mean really looking at them, not how i normally look. (i'm not sure how i normally look, but this was different.) looking like: "are they having fun? are they ok?"
because i'd had to commit to letting go of my "me me me" story in order to come back, i experienced that dancefloor like i've never experienced any other before. usually i'm on the dancefloor totally focused on processing my own shit and expressing myself. if i connect to someone and we share a dance, cool... but because dance has always been my therapy, when i'm dancing, i'm dancing for me.
it wasn't easy to do it a new way - if i wasn't dancing for me, then what was i dancing for? and gradually, hour after hour, it dawned on me - i was dancing for us.
it wasn't about me, it was about us. i'm not from alice springs, i don't live here. (although i'm starting to wish i did.) but during that marathon, i was a part of that 'us' on the dancefloor. i started looking around at people, and wondering what i could do to help everyone have a better time - to help everyone feel connected, relaxed, and happy.
the answer wasn't anything profound - mostly it wasn't about doing anything in particular. just being silly with other people sometimes, and fully participating 100% whenever somebody was leading a dance or an activity. more than anything else it was about letting go of selfishness... which, on a deeper level, meant letting go of fear. in order to let go of being selfish, i had to decide to trust that i can let "what i need" go (at least for a while) and everything will still be ok.
and here's the happy ending - this marathon was, by far, the most incredible dance experience i've ever had. i've had so many dance experiences - ecstatic, profound, tantric, sacred, divine, epic, and victorious. and this topped them all. it wasn't easy for me to let go of being selfish, it's a pretty strong tendency. but by that 23rd hour, i had - and i don't think i've ever been so happy.
my broke-ness didn't matter anymore - all my personal problems didn't bother me. they were still there, but it was ok - for those few hours i was a part of a group much bigger than myself and, collectively, we were ok. so that fact that "I" wasn't ok wasn't important anymore... because i was part of a "we." and that "we" was totally cool. more than totally cool - beautifully amazing. joyful. so happy, and so full of life.
i missed out on that experience away because i was so consumed with trying to figure my life out. i still am, obviously - i mean, not 'figure my life out,' but at least get myself on a plane back home before my visa expires. but i had lost sight of the bigger picture. for all my blog posts and poems and fancy words, i wasn't getting it. when that event organizer told me that it wasn't about me, i didn't want to listen.
i approached her after it was over, and thanked her, and told her it was a really important lesson for me. she seemed genuinely happy i had been a part of it.
sometimes i can be a slow learner. not when it comes to the simple stuff, like facts and figures, but this kind of stuff: the lessons that really count - the learnings that have the potential to change our entire life, if we let them.
this post represents a new approach for me. usually i write when i think i've figured something out and i and want to share it. after this experience, i'm thinking that i should start writing more about my mistakes, my fuckups, and my misunderstandings. i'm not so proud of those things, but it feels like the only real way forward is to open up the lid of my dark little box of stuff i'm not proud of and talk about it. because i want to learn, and i don't want to be selfish... it's hard for me to believe anyone would actually want to be selfish. but it's also hard for me to change. i don't find it easy, like: "oh, ok... now i won't be selfish anymore." i find it confronting. i find it hard to listen when someone else is correcting me, and i find myself coming up with all sorts of reasons why they're wrong.
so... the end.