Conversations July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

After 6 AM. As I consider this project in some dismay, I am starting to realize that your goal is as much to get me to move into analytical mode as it is to get out any particular information. Am I right?

Why ask, when you have realized? Of course it is always good to have multiple complementary objectives to be pursued by any line of thought or action. We like efficiency.

Your words about balance being the ability to move certainly struck home with at least one reader, who is herself a dancer, and who explained why it is so.

You might quote some of that e-mail if you wish.

Perhaps. [And here it is]:

“Balance if it is anything is the ability to move. That is, it is freedom from being locked into any one position.”

“Any dancer will tell you that this is absolutely true. If a dancer can’t find his/her “center” (of gravity, i.e. balance) in any given moment of time, he/she simply can’t dance. A dancer is constantly shifting his/her center, moment to moment to moment.  Sometimes large adjustments are required…when landing from a big leap, for example, or going from an upright position to, say, an arabesque penche (standing on one leg with the head/torso tilted towards the floor and the other leg pointed towards the ceiling).  Yet even when standing “still”…or “balancing” in a particular position, the dancer is constantly moving, making a series of miniscule adjustments and re-adjustments.  If you are “holding” or locking your muscles, you can’t move.

“Looking at the other meaning of balance is useful, too.  In dance class, everything is done on both sides/to both directions.  At the barre, you do the exercises with your left hand on the barre and the right leg doing the tendu or rond de jambe combination…and then you immediately turn around and do it with your right hand on the barre and the left leg doing the combination.  Otherwise, you end up lopsided. In the center and across the floor…same thing.  The combination of movements is first done traveling from left to right across the dance floor, and then the combination is reversed.  If this isn’t done, the dancer isn’t balanced and doesn’t have the ability/freedom to move in any direction that is required.

“And yet….every dancer starts out with a natural tendency towards being “right-sided” or “left-sided”, just as each person comes in with the tendency towards right-handedness or left-handedness.  Which means the right (or left) side is stronger both from a physical and learning perspective…it’s easier to do turns to that side or to raise that leg higher in the air or to balance on that leg. However, as I tell my students, it doesn’t mean you can’t do things on your non-dominant side, it simply means that you have to think harder and work harder on that side to bring it into balance with the dominant side.

“The goal is wholeness, a “complete” dancer, with the freedom/ability to move easily through space, adapting to whatever is required of him/her by the choreography.”

You are concerned lest you get in over your head, and you are hopeful that you will get out of sight of the shore. The two go together, of course. But once you’re in over your head, there is no additional risk from added depth, and it’s all profit from then on, and you need only look to seaworthiness and navigation.

I’m waiting to see how far you carry the metaphor.

It’s an analogy, actually, and how far would you like us to carry it? The point is that we know it is uncomfortable to move into new habits and new ways of being, but they offer advantages. Ask Dr. Jung.

I think I know where this is going anyway — it’s another aspect of balance, isn’t it?

You have taken the Myers-Briggs test based on my work, and you know that it is designed to show you your preferences, your preferred or accustomed way of experiencing the world and of relating to it. And you know that I have said that in this as in other things, the ability to respond appropriately is what is desired. It is of no particular use to be strongly intuitive if your surroundings require that you have strong sensory awareness. There is no advantage to being a thinking type or a feeling type in themselves. The ideal is not to prefer this or that but to be able to respond appropriately. And, in light of what was said about balance being the ability to move, perhaps you can see that therefore the smoothing-out of your development enhances your balance, and your balance enhances your ability to function smoothly and comfortably, and this in turn allows you to keep your head in difficult situations, and to respond easily and well to new challenges.

And therefore surely it is obvious that your times demand above all things the ability to respond and to adjust and to perceive what exists and to perceive what is coming into existence, and to determine by thought and feeling — by logic and by intuition — and above all to dance. Your friend Michael Ventura said it years ago and you did hear it — or read it, anyway — and this concept stuck with you. I suggest that you quote the passage here.

All right, I will, assuming I can find it, which I think I can do.

[From Shadow Dancing In The USA, 1985, page 7]:

“… our consciousness is in danger of being overpowered by the surrounding cacophony. We have got to keep awake till the dawn of the new culture that must be taking shape out of all this chaos. Or is that a rash hope? Since only the future can answer us, we must keep faith with that future.

“But faith is too abstract a concept for most of us now. I like to think of it as dancing. For this is a time of tremendous movement, and dancing is the embracing of movement. Within a dance there are many changes and there is the necessity to remain centered within those changes. We dance among shadows and we cast shadows as we dance. And something moves within our movement: the unity of the dancer with what is danced. Such is the dance of the self with the outside world, and the dance of the self with our inner worlds. The thought dance, the love dance, the work dance — the grace we strive for, and the sense of movement that is sometimes all that keeps us alive.

“Survival is a frightened word. Think of it as dancing. The new day starts at midnight. We have to dance till dawn.”

So — if you need to dance, and yet your natural inclination is not to dance, are you not in the position of the Steppenwolf? Harry Haller had to learn to do the things that were least comfortable to his everyday personality — hateful, even — until he could come back to balance, for in balance was all his hope of any form of progress.

Intellectually I see it, of course. No new thought. But it’s one thing to know that we must change, and a different thing to do the changing. This is one area where it is not easier done than said, perhaps.

Au contraire. Change is always easy and is far more continuous than anyone suspects. What you find difficult is change to order. That is, you find it difficult to change in a given direction according to some prescription. But unconsciously driven change proceeds as the most natural thing in the world. Unconsciously driven change is sometimes called (or seen as) growth. What child ever directed his change from child to adult? He doesn’t know the first thing of what is required. He doesn’t even really understand the nature of the goal. Would you think that a grown-up hand-tailored by the child he had been would be a success? In one sense, that’s the point of The Great Gatsby: Jimmy fashioned himself into an ideal held since he was very little, and Jay attempted to make it real. The attendant impossibilities wrecked him and would have wrecked him regardless of which particular circumstances occurred. Yes, Gatsby was fiction, but it is this element of life that renders the fiction alive. That bit of truth feeds people, and so the book lives long, long after it would be merely a period-piece otherwise.

In a sense, I’m getting that consciously directed change may not be so good a thing.

Nothing is wholly good or bad; psychology does not provide “one-size-fits-all” for situations any more than for individuals. But any process is more appropriate for some situations than for others. The point here is that things work smoothest when unconscious and conscious processes work in tandem and in harmony. A conscious endeavor that contradicts strong unconscious trends is swimming against the current, or perhaps swimming in an undertow. When they work together, it is paddling downstream. You understand?

It amounts to saying, go with the flow.

To a certain extent, that is true, but not invariably. What do you do if the current is carrying you over the falls?

So sometimes it is appropriate for us to struggle against what our unconscious tendencies are doing, or where they want to go? This would make sense, of course, but it didn’t seem to be where you were going.

My point is simply this. Conscious change may be very difficult. Sometimes it is difficult because one is swimming against the tide that would carry one over the falls, and so the current must be fought against. But sometimes it is difficult because the tide is carrying one in the direction one’s nature dictates but one’s personality shrinks away from. The same psychological difficulty here has very different meanings, and thus potentially very different consequences.

That is to say, just because a given process is difficult does not say anything about whether it is or is not the proper path — it says only, that it is difficult! It is in the discernment of the nature and tendency of the difficulty that one’s balance is involved.

It would be as crippling to decide in advance to respond to every challenge in the same way, from the same psychological standing-place, as it would be for a child to attempt to determine its future growth according to a plan he set out in advance. Fluidity, freedom, balance, lightness on one’s feet, courage, optimism — these are all aspects of the same attitude. Very helpful always, and particularly in the long-awaited times in which you find yourselves.

So. It is useful to hold an ideal, and it is essential to periodically review your ideal and determine if it continues to express who you are and what you know and what you value. There is no particular virtue in consistency to an ideal that does not represent your deepest being. It may be that that ideal was the best representation you could achieve earlier, and, as a result of subsequent growth, it no longer helps you forward but now holds you back. Fidelity to one’s own essence is the first rule. If you are not true to yourself, what are you? But of course this is not the end but the beginning, for how do you find yourself; how do you know that so much of yourself as you have already learned is representative — a fair representative — of the unknown greater being that must always remain mostly beyond the range of consciousness? This — in the inevitable absence of sensory data and logical conclusions — must always remain the province of intuition, of feeling. And yet these left to themselves and unchecked by your conscious processes could as easily sweep you to destruction as could the blindness that stems from disregarding anything but the sensory and the result of logic.

Balance, you see. Balance. In a world of duality, no extreme ever offers or could offer a safe haven. You might as well attempt to paddle a canoe always from one side. It is true, you can do that, with some difficulty; it is also true that you waste a great deal of energy compensating for what you are doing. Maybe in these times one needs all the energy available, with none to waste.

To return more closely to the point. Conscious choice may lead toward or away from the unconsciously directed goal. To determine whether to work with or against the current, it is helpful to know whether you want to arrive at the place you are being carried to! That is self-knowledge.

To know yourself, it is helpful to be able to perceive the world, and to respond to it, as completely as possible. Thus, it is helpful to have developed both intuitive and sensory functions; to think and to feel; to look inward and look outward. And — the addition to all this — it is useful to be able sometimes to keep one’s options open, and sometimes to decide and act.

Having thus such freedom of action, such freedom of being, you do not survive, but dance, and this is the dance of life.

That sounds like a natural place to pause. I’ll find that Ventura quotation and insert it. Till next time, my thanks as always.

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