Find Your Edge
“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.