Friday, November 20, 2009

The Joy Diet - It takes two to... connect

This is a photo of my very first dance in Buenos Aires. I don't know the man I'm dancing with, nor did I get his name. I do know this was preceded by a silent meeting of gazes at what was my first milonga in the birthplace of tango.

This week we are discussing the chapter in the Joy Diet about Connection. While I didn't practice Martha Beck's suggestions much this week, I did think a lot about what connection feels like. Tango is a useful analogy for me. For me the best tango experiences are not about sex appeal and flashy moves. They're about that feeling of being together in a shared moment, a moment that flows like our best Nothing experiences, and feeling mutually held in an attitude of caring.

When I saw this picture of myself dancing, I was struck by how it seems I am embracing an old friend. I think this is rather like Martha's suggestion to start by being in the Nothing place with strangers. Many of my most memorable tango experiences have been dancing with strangers. There is truly something magical about encountering another person without preconceptions or expectations. I believe that being in this space with people you know, or people you love is an extremely difficult but worthwhile practice to seek to master. I know my skills at this are modest at best, but reading this chapter reminded me how rewarding the experience can be.

This week I had what could be one of the most difficult situations in which to attempt this connection practice. It involved dinner with an ex-paramour. I didn't succeed at nothing-doing at all. Ok, I'll be truthful. My inner experience was a disaster. There was too much noise in my head: anxieties about my own future, dissections of our shared past, trying to not be judged, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Why is it so hard to get out of our own heads?!

On the flip side, my experience of sharing my truths (including the not so pretty ones) with my close friends and my wonderful guy has led me to feel deeper connection with them. I guess I did do some work with this chapter after all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Joy Diet - Laughing well

I had fun this week "working at" discovering what makes me laugh most. Here then is a list, by no means exhaustive and by no means foolproof (especially when I'm counting laughs), and in no particular order...

1. My man's silly miming
2. Monty Python
3. Movie musicals
4. Meals out with friends
5. Movement improv
6. Musical improv
7. Making silly faces
8. Bowling
9. Ping pong
10. Participating in any sports I'm woefully unskilled at
11. Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censorship
12. Flight of the Conchords

I found the easiest laughs come when I'm with others, the least reliable when I try to go to one of my media sources of guffaws and giggles. I think I got a good dose of 25 laughs in the few hours I spent at dinner with friends. That day was easily well beyond the recommended minimum. Other days, where I spent almost the entire day alone, I was unable to reach the minimum threshold of 30 even with the help of funny videos. I guess real people I know are the best way to keep a smile on my face. For those dull days when I'm not around others I've thought about trying laughter yoga. Have any of you tried it? What have I missed? What funny bone ticklers do you prefer?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Joy Diet - Exploring Play

You can listen to my musical response to exploring play while you read this post by clicking the play button below.

An Eagle on the Precipice - improvisation#2 on C# (for "see sharp")
Helen Yee - violin, vox ©2009

As I've been going through the Joy Diet, I have experienced a wide range of emotions. This week was extreme. In fact, I don't feel like writing much about it yet, as I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I used Martha Beck's suggestions for uncovering what my "real career" is (again, a weird choice of terminology but I'll play along for now). The lumpy nuggets, still to be carved into greater focus, revolve around realms of my Big Desire and beyond: connection with loved ones and others, changing people's perspectives and consciousness, adding beauty and art to the world, traveling and experiencing the world.

Why do I have to keep learning and relearning the lessons of the Fool? In the Creativity chapter, I had already struggled to be light and playful about the big things in my life. Martha's suggestion to recognize the things we do in service of our "real career" as "games" has been difficult for me to absorb and practice. I've historically been a rather strict critic to myself, expecting to know the right answers, expecting perfect compliance with plans whether small or grand, chastising myself for slipping. This week, I tried to be a more gentle and nurturing caretaker of my slightly tattered spirit. Here are a few of my aha moments:

1. My soul wants desperately to dance. I obliged. This week I watched Dancing with the Stars, danced along with Gabrielle Roth's "The Wave" DVD, and discovered the value of regular "James Brown dance breaks" in the living room. Dance lifts my spirits and helps me feel "in my own skin."

2. I enjoy making delicious food. On my most vulnerable day this week I had a birthday party to go to, and I had promised to bake some Pan de Muertos, a traditional bread for the Mexican Day of the Dead. Okay, so maybe this was more highly symbolic than the other food I prepared this week, but this is the kind of synchronicity I've been noticing lately. (By the way, the bread came out beautifully and was given a thumbs up from the sole Mexicana at the party.)

3. Making music is a "flow" thing for me. When I can completely immerse myself in the moment when making music with others, or when practicing on my own, I lose myself in the task at hand, perform to the edges of my ability, feel growing mastery, and can look back at the experience satisfied. By the way, regarding the soundtrack to this post, C# is not a very violin-friendly key, but the pun was too tempting too pass up!

4. The eagle vision and mouse vision exercise lessens my anxiety. I found that most of the mouse things I spend my time on do fit with the eagle's vision. That surprised me. The recasting of "real career" as activities that allow me to achieve and experience my lifetime goals/desires helped me see that the shape of my life is more on track than I had assumed it was.

5. Lightening up is highly useful for me. Maybe if I keep practicing on the small things I'll be able to look at my "real career" as a game, too.