Bend and Twist

I dreamed last night someone handed me a large coffee table book titled “The Young Dancer”. It was dark with red lettering,  part painted, part smeared blood. This dream came on the tails of a torrent of others, all collecting precious moments of my youth, times when my spirit was most alive and joyous. Many of these dreams were centered on the main occupation of my childhood from age 10 on – performing, especially in dance.

The Young Dancer

Of course the book is about me. My spirit, or the spirits, or both, were pulling me back to the time when my life was guided by one goal – to become a professional dancer. I’m sure many who knew me then would be surprised to know that was my dream. I held it so quietly close to my heart even I was able to pretend it wasn’t there. I held the dreams death even closer.
My last audition for a Ballet West production signaled the beginning of the end. I caused an argument at the table of judges:

{in whispered tones – “but he did great, there’s got to be something…”
“he doesn’t fit into the costume… he’s too big for kids parts and too small for adult parts”…
“screw the costume”…}
     I’d lost roles before, this wasn’t the first time I’d seen that sympathetic-thank-you-smile, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Some part of me knew that was the last time I’d stand before these judges.
Then my knees went. Even back then  Osgood Schlatter’s disease didn’t have to end a dancer’s career, but I was unwilling to stop dancing, unwilling to talk to my parents about the pain until it was too late. The sports doctor tried to fix me with steroids, he’d never treated a male dancer my age before. Dad flipped out over the medications addictive side affects. A few minutes on the phone and my treatment was over. Wasn’t there an operation? Wasn’t there a way to just fix this? No.
     Next came the parental intervention conversation. Mom and Dad tried to be as gentle as they could:
“We think you need to choose a different career for college, you need to think about letting dance go.”
     I became so quietly angry even I didn’t know I was angry. It colored everything, my heart closed out a big part of the world. I could still perform, but not as a dancer. In the end I was not an actor, I wanted to dance. I stopped performing and started to shuffle through life.
     This dream, this remembrance is part of my bridge crossing, I passed the half way mark sometime last week. I’ve been tantalized by glimpses of what waits on the other side – sun dappled dancers-joy just beyond the reach of clear perception, memories of a future not yet realized. It seems I have to immerse myself in this book if I’m to get to that place.
Lavender Hill Live Oaks

As I complete my treck across this bridge I find myself looking at the ways I’ve learned to bend like the Oaks that surround our home. Their beauty is in their spiraling, twisting arms. They remake themselves endlessly to find the light.
Its easy to forget that in this shamanic work the bent limbs that are the most powerful. Some like to compare us to pristine shamanic cultures, to believe we can easily recapture the spirituality so effectively muffled in our own culture, but I think thats not even the point. The most powerful transformation comes when our own kindling feeds the fire. Can I find beauty in my own twisting path, my own bent limbs? Can I release the power thats stored there by reclaiming original joy?
Its time for me to get to know the young dancer again, back before his heart was broken. Of course he’s not dead, he’s alive in the pages of that book and in me. He lives in the ache of my knees that travels with me still today, and the small puddles of dance I still make from time to time.

     Its funny what you miss – the private ritual of stepping up to the resin box, the crunch as I grind my toes into its sap. Next I take a deep breath before stepping from this reality into another. In that place my spirit takes flight, turning my body into beauty. It is the wounded dancers who open gateways to new worlds when they dance again. It is those dancers who fill the world with love.

I’ll be sharing stories about my journey, specifically my work with Core Shamanism at a free lecture this March 29th, 5:30pm at Seaside Yoga Sanctuary, located at 1360 Fremont Blvd, in Seaside CA. Click the image for a flyer.

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