I’ve been teaching a dance in the Candlelight Ballet series in which one of the moves involves a slow, heavily articulated back leg lift that arcs around behind the dancer. To perform the move without tumbling, you need to be really connected to your core and engage your sources of inner strength. It’s very easy to see when you’ve performed the move without this connection to center…there’s a lot of wobbling, the arms don’t quite make it up into their intended position, and often the dancer kind of just falls into the subsequent movement. Conversely, when the dancer is fully connected to her core, completely present within the movement, and engaged with her own deep strength; she performs the movement beautifully with grace and impact.
There are countless moves in the art of ballet which require this type of presence and connection to perform well. And it’s so easy to forget our center and our strength, not be as fully present in the movement as we could be, and consequently not perform the movement as well as we’re able. But the dance floor is not the only space where this concept plays out. How often in our lives do we fall away from our deepest truth, best intentions, and highest self and act, speak, or contribute with something less than our fullest presence?
I have left plenty of conversations and experiences knowing well that the person who had just engaged with life was not my best self. We seem to constantly teeter at the fine line that our fullest presence rests upon. Yet, if engaged in the process of noticing, we can easily see and feel when we have gotten away from that sweet spot where our highest self is maneuvering through the world versus the version of us that may be acting out of fear, anger, or insecurity. We wobble and flail and fall through our movements rather than articulate them with grace, purpose, and quiet power.
This practice of recognizing that we’ve fallen away from our best self and then doing the necessary work to bring ourselves home requires copious amounts of both humility and strength. Our humility allows us to own our imperfection which enabling us to see more quickly when we are not acting with our fullest presence. Our strength offers us the ability to pull ourselves back to center and then inevitably continue to put ourselves in the same situations over and over again hoping for better results. It’s a practice of skills that improve with time. Just as it becomes more natural to engage in slow, difficult, articulating dance moves with full presence and deep connection to our core strength, so to does it become easier and more natural to engage with life in the same way.
The best dancers will tell you that these are skills that constantly need to be practiced and perfected. Not one thing that happens within a dance can be learned once and then tucked away in some sort of magic arsenal. We will constantly be confronted with experiences that pull us out of our center and away from our best selves. Our practice, however, can help us reconnect and come back into our fullest presence quicker and with less hardship.
May we have both the strength and humility necessary to recognize when we have fallen away from our fullest presence and do the work necessary to reconnect with our highest self and best intentions.
THE BODY IN FULL PRESENCE by David Whyte
The body in full presence
holds its first creative essence
in the pen that touches paper.
Lifting the glass that holds the wine,
this beckoning uncertainty is mine.
I’ll follow my line to an early death,
feeling out rhythm in the spoken breath
and startled by flame
this arrogance shall be my moth,
flying with his burning cloth.
Then humility will rise
out of poetry’s deep surmise,
and I will have confidence in my powers;
wanting this presence, burnt by the past,
I’ll die in the first line – and become the last.