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Find Your Edge

December 10, 2009

“Dancing is surely the most basic and relevant of all forms of expression. Nothing else can so effectively give outward form to an inner experience. Poetry and music exist in time. Painting and architecture are a part of space.  But only the dance lives at once in both space and time.  In it the creator and the thing created, the artist and the expression, are one. Each participant is completely in the other. There could be no better metaphor for an understanding of the…cosmos.”

-Lyall Watson, Gifts of Unknown Things

A couple of months ago I started Nia Dancing – a dance practiced barefoot that combines both structured and free-form expression and that Portland-based co-founders Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas define as “a path to condition, heal and express your self through movement and sensation. A dynamic blend of dance arts, martial arts and healing arts…”

Except for twenty years ago when I was disco dancing, I’ve never really danced.  But when a friend of mine shared with me how dancing had helped him navigate through life hardships, I got really intrigued.  As I embarked in a personal and professional transition and voluntarily moved my life into the unknown, I knew that I needed to do something that would put me in a beginner or learner situation – a situation that can be both exciting but also challenging, yet in a fun and safe context.

As Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky explain “[L]eading adaptive change requires you to step beyond your default behaviors into an unknown situation and to learn something new.  That means experiencing a period of incompetence.  Indeed, if you do not feel that you are operating at the very edge of your talents or even just beyond that edge, then you are probably not attacking an adaptive challenge…To diminish the common experience of disorientation and embarrassment as you move past your frontier of competence, find opportunities to try your hand at developing a set of demanding new skills in a structured, safe environment that has nothing to do with the adaptive challenges in your professional or vocational life.  Find a low-risk context in which to experience being incompetent.”

While I have practiced Yoga on a regular basis for about seven years, I thought I needed to complement my practice with something more fluid that would help me connect my mind and body in a different way.  Yoga is a very personal practice.  In contrast, I felt the urge to engage in an art that would help me connect with others.  In support of my professional goals of being a change agent and process facilitator, I knew I needed to be at ease within my body and my self and comfortable in the world, even in potentially difficult and intense situations.

I had heard of Nia, and so I went to my first class; I very much enjoyed the experience.  As expected, I also felt somewhat awkward, not knowing exactly how to move, not always able to follow the rhythm and somehow very clumsy with my steps.  But I kept at it, going twice a week, and I am amazed at the subtle transformation that is occurring within myself weeks after weeks.

There must be a warrior hidden within myself – a peaceful warrior, I hope – as the Nia’s moves I enjoy the most are the punches and kicks borrowed from martial art such as Tae Kwon Do, and the accompanying shouts “Yes!” “No!” “Ah!” that reinforce the warrior-like expression and help release tension and potentially negative energy trapped within myself.  At the other end of the spectrum, I also enjoy the fluidity and grace of free-flow movement when we are allowed to move randomly in the entire room and to improvise our dance based on the rhythm of the music played.  Improvisation in this case requires much presence and increased awareness of the space and of other dancers in the room.

Overall, Nia is helping me improve my balance, my body and mind coordination while increasing my self-esteem and level of happiness.

So, what will you do to find your edge when you get into a difficult work situation?

Heifetz, Ronald, Grashow Alexander and Linksy Marty (2009). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press, Boston, MA.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2009 7:27 am

    Hi Bea,
    While looking at the menu on my browser, I came across your RSS feed and looked at the response to my comment from 11/6. I enjoyed all you said, then went to these newer posts to see what you have been exploring.
    Your clarity of thought and expression even as your edge opens you – I find this very nurturing in interesting ways.

    I particularly want to hang out a little bit with “Believing impossible things” and “Finding your Edge”.

    Impossible things are my life’s blood even in the midst and mist of doubt and denial. That is the sharp edge I find myself being opened by. Cut is not the word that describes this phenomenon – cut perhaps when I put up a lot of resistance. Opening or pealing works better. And it may be the belief in impossible things that allows us to dance on that edge.

    It’s late and I am not as clear in my thoughts as I would like, however, these two pieces seem to dance in my circle of awareness at this moment, so I will let that happen. I use “dance” somewhat metaphorically, however getting up and moving with my thoughts and letting my body/mind/spirit collaborate on expression is an idea that attracts me. However, I am not quite to the place where I am willing to video a response to your post. What an idea!

    I may have mentioned at Springboard the 3 Einstein quotes that have been “dancing together” in my awareness since the beginning of 09. A true delight for me. And I have felt and, unlike you, resisted the call to actually dance the quotes into the form they are calling forth.

    It goes like this:
    “A reporter once asked Albert Einstein: ‘Dr. Einstein, if you could ask the universe a single question and receive a direct reply, what would you ask?’ His reply came swiftly, as though he had pondered the question for a long time: ‘Is the Universe friendly?’

    Lately, this quote and two others have been dancing playfully in my heart and dreams. The three are:
    1) “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
    2) “Is the Universe friendly?”
    3) “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited”

    As I think and meditate, explore and experience this dance, one will come for forward for a solo move or two, then one or two of the others will come to join it, and then another will come forward as solo, and on the dance goes. I would like to see this as an actual dance

    What is the thinking that was in place as the problems of environment, energy, war, debt, separation etc. were laid down?

    Was the thinking formed by a negative answer to the second quote? “No. The universe is not friendly! ” Does that mean it is unfriendly , or is it neutral? Are these the kinds of thinking we have to choose from in exploring how to emerge into a new model, as Bucky Fuller suggests in the quote of his I use so much? “You never change anything by fighting the existing. To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete.”

    Or will we collaborate a sustainable way to a world that works for us and generations to come by building it on the foundation of a “Yes!” it is friendly even thought my trainings may say that is an “impossible thing” this friendly universe.

    How do I move, talk, sing, think, dance, play, laugh, cry, love, heal, eat, drink, breath, pray in a friendly world? Questions on an edge that certainly open me.

    Thanks for letting me play in your blog space.
    John

    • December 13, 2009 11:32 pm

      John, wow! There is so much richness in your comment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Let me share with you my perspective on the three Einstein’s quotes.

      1) “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This thought is driving my work and research. While the “old” thinking was mechanistic, reductionist, and purely analytical, I believe the new thinking is holistic, collaborative, integrative, and based on living systems principles such as self-organization and emergence. I am not saying that we should eliminate the old approach. After all, the rationalistic and scientific approaches have been quite successful in many ways. But they are also failing us because they are only one lens via which to understand the world. We need to add new lenses to expand and/or reframe our perspectives.

      2) “Is the Universe friendly?” I believe the Universe is “INFINITE LOVE.” And I don’t know if this means it is friendly. What I know, is that our ego – our “little self” – is always getting in the way of us getting connected to the infinite love of the Source and the Inner Self. The more I resist what is, the more miserable I become. And then, it’s so easy to blame the Universe for being so “unfriendly.” But when I let go of control, I have noticed lately that magic happens in my life. I don’t necessarily get what I (or, more exactly, my mind) wanted. Instead, I get what my Being needed to feel completely fulfilled and happy. I don’t know why things in my life happens the way they do (especially the things I don’t like!). But I believe, there must be a larger purpose that I cannot comprehend. This is far from taking a passive attitude. My mantra, lately, has been ” I surrender to the larger Design that I am co-creating (with the Universe).” I love the paradox between surrendering and co-creating and how I am able to do both at the same time. (Surrendering is, of course, always the most difficult.)

      3) “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.” This is so true! Yesterday, I was reading a chapter from Donella Meadows’ book “Thinking in Systems” where she speaks about “bounded rationality.” In it, she quotes Wendell Berry, writer and Kentucky farmer who says: “The trouble…is that we are terrifyingly ignorant. The most learned of us are ignorant…The Acquisition of knowledge always involves the revelation of ignorance – almost is the revelation of ignorance. Our knowledge of the world instructs us first of all that the world is greater than our knowledge of it.” Imagination, in contrast, has not boundary. It is unlimited – at least, in theory, since our education and enculturation are very unfortunately creating artificial limits to our imagination. I often wish I could become a child again…

      Best,
      Beatrice

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