For months now, I’ve been drawing and painting circles. I’ve found the activity both calming and centering. My mandalas are pretty sloppy and primitive especially when you compare them to work like this. (Not that there’s anything wrong with sloppy and primitive. I prefer art that looks like anybody can do it, and am often turned off by highly technical expertise.) Today, however, I decided to add a dimension of precision to my work.
I bought a protractor and attempted to follow directions for creating a six-radiation mandala from Baily Cunningham’s beautful book: Mandala, Journey to the Center. It’s been a while since I tried following someone else’s directions, and I found it nearly impossible to complete the mandala as instructed. I blame it on the math.
I’ve always hated math in school, and things like numbers and protractors and compasses are, for me, instruments of torture. Still, adding a little geometry and measurement to the creative art opened a new process for me. I could actually feel the unused parts of my brain getting a workout. I thought about the inevitability of geometry, and the universality of numberic relationships and ratios. I wondered how different my life would be if, as a child, I had not been so afraid of math. The mathematical language of the universe may have revealed truths I will never access.
Maybe in working with the arcs and the angles in my mandalas, I’ll catch a glimpse of the secrets of math without having to understand it. As I color my circles, I can at least appreciate of the value of balance with a renewed appreciation for measurement and precision.
Today I took a quick run along the river bike way. It’s been cold, so there weren’t many other people out.
I like running in the cold. It helps me feel superior to my other self who likes to stay inside and eat cookies. I was about halfway into my run, when I saw this older looking man (who is probably my age) jogging slowly along. His face was wrapped in layers of wool with only his shaggy mustache and his downcast eyes visible. I felt comfortably superior since I was nearly bareheaded and keeping a pace about twice his. Poor guy, I thought. He probably wishes he were as strong and fast as me. I thought I’d make him feel better about his pitiful condition by saying something friendly like, “Beautiful day, don’t you think?” He nodded, apparently unable to catch his breath. I continued on, not thinking any more about it.
Just as I was finishing my last stretch, a car pulled next to me and the mustachioed jogger was yelling something friendly at me. I smiled and waved. He stopped his car and continued talking to me, so I pulled out my earphones . “I said, how far are you running today?”
“Oh. Only four. I just finished five. Have a good day.”
That really pissed me off. So, of course, I had to run a couple extra miles just to show him before I could go to my warm house and feed my other self some cookies.
Every Monday we get together and we dance (see video). I delight in playing the role of alchemist as I spin tunes from my computer. When the play list works, the result is magical. The energy rises and falls in seamless waves. We move with a freedom that brings us deep into our bodies and out of ourselves. The best is when the collective energy lifts us out of our ordinary lives, and, for a few precious moments, everything is perfect and everything is whole. The effect is nothing less than transformational.
Over the years, I spent many hours dancing. Sometimes I’d dance with my children or at a party or a club, but most often I’d be alone. Dancing was a private affair that felt great, gave me some exercise, but was lacking what I really wanted.
I wanted synergy. I wanted community. I wanted a chance to play with other people and for other people to play with me. I longed for the rush of endorphins and the disequilibrium of spinning with a whole room full of dancers pushing their own limits. Now, at last, I’m dancing with other people like I once dreamed.
All too often, we engage in exercise only in order to have something else for some future self. We exercise because we’re dissatisfied with the way we look, or we want to lose weight, or build muscle, or be healthy by next summer. We suffer now so that we can enjoy our bodies somehow, somewhere, someday. Unless you are a child, it’s rare to participate in exercise simply for the joy of it. But that’s what we do when we dance. We dance to be present. We dance because it feels good. We dance to celebrate the miraculous accident of our biology. When we dance, we have no goal other than to dance. We dance for now.
“Teaching, in my estimation, is a vastly over-rated function…Having made such a statement, I scurry to the dictionary to see if I really mean what I say. Teaching means “to instruct.” Personally I am not much interested in instructing another in what he should know or think. “To impart knowlege or skill” My reaction is, why not be more efficient, using a book or programmed learning? “To make or know.” Here my hackles rise. I have no wish to make anyone know something. “To show, guide, direct.” As I see it, too many people have been shown, guided, directed. So I come to the conclusion that I do mean what I said. Teaching is, for me, a relatively unimportant and vastly overvalued activity.”–Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn, 1969.