Since the beginning of this year I have been wrestling with the question of what I do. Who am I and what do I do? Well, to be honest, I have been wrestling with this question for a lot longer than that, but this year, my 45th journey around the sun, the question percolated to the surface and became articulate. I actually openly asked the question: what do I do?
How do I call myself? When asked to fill out an official document what do I write on the line that asks for Occupation?
(Actually, now that I think about it, when a document asks for my employer, for the last decade I have written "Self". That could very well be my occupation as well, couldn't it?)
I have been a Graphic Artist, an Editor and Proofreader. I have been a Handyman and a Carpenter, and I've painted, I've plumbed, I've wired and masoned. I worked my way through college by cooking, and in that role I have grilled and sauteed, I've sauced and souped, I've tossed salads and pizzas, I've gotten up ass-early in the morning to bake bread, muffins, croissants, cookies and cupcakes. For the last ten years I have taught Yogasana, Pranayama, Meditation and Mantra. I am a writer, a poet and a philosopher. I am a painter and illustrator. I am a singer, a percussionist and a dabbler in several other instruments. As a Dancer, trained in the Japanese Post-modern style of Ankoku Butoh, (the Dance of the Dark Soul) I have performed in New York City, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and throughout the Bay Area.
I am not one of these things more than another. I am not more or less passionate for any one of these activities. On a certain level I feel they are all Yoga. In one way or another all these actions, all these gestures seek to overcome separation. At least that was my intention while doing them. More or less.
But this year, struggling with self-esteem, self-worth it felt necessary to really look at what it is I do, and where I'm going with it. It occurred to me that maybe success eludes me because I lack a clear vision of what it is I am successful at.
I went to this play last week, Crazymaking. A production at the Pomona College in Claremont this play interweaves dramatic narrative, with chanting, sacred sound, and dance. The story of a half-hawaiian woman who struggles with cultural identity and a spiritual connection to ancestry in a material world, the dramatic movements utilized were Hula and Qigung.
I have been studying Qigung, and Gung Fu influenced Hatha Yoga for many years now, but I have only watched Hula. As a dancer I have been moved by the performance of the men's traditional Hula, which is powerful and Yang, full of Warrior Spirit, and although it has called me, I have never had the opportunity to study or practice.
At one point in the middle of the play everyone on stage, including the two young performers who had been practicing Qigung forms at the sides, begins to dance hula. The sweeping, wavelike arm movements of the hula, movements that express wave and wind, echo the movements of qigung. I hear my teacher Zhander Remete, founder of Shadow Yoga, saying "Certain movements of the hands direct the flow of prana through the subtle channels in the body." It suddenly strikes me that Hula and Qigung are the same. Then I remember that the traditional, ceremonial dances of Indonesia, Bali, Java are also believed to be purification practices. They too are Qigung.
At another point in the play the main character is being assailed by demonic spirits that essentially seek to possess her. She is visited by an apparition of Pele, the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess, who is both Destroyer and Creatrix. Pele begins to teach her a very simple Hula form. Casana, the heroine, scoffs at first saying "Really, I don't have time for this. I'm being attacked by demons! Can you help me, please?!"
Without speaking, Pele indicates that Casana is to duplicate her movements, which include a solid but gentle stomping of the feet with a sweeping of the arms. As Casana begins to imitate the movements of the Goddess the demons are swept aside and dispelled. Spirit teaches her a dance that defends. The soft sweeping arm movements, that look like Palm Trees gently swaying in an Island Breeze, are exactly the same as simple blocking movements from Tai Chi and Gong Fu.
Not only do the movements of hands and feet direct the movement of energy inside the Body, inside the energy field, they are also able to affect the movements of energy outside the individuals energy field.
Of course. Duh, I think.
In that moment I think "that's it! I am a DANCER! That's what I am!" I can be a healer, and an artist, a spiritual devotee, and a ritual mover. I am a Dancer. Dancing encapsulates everything: the journey from birth to death, expansion and contraction, bloom and decay, the exchange of energy between to Souls, the heavenly waltz of Planets and Moons and Stars, the oscillation of particles at a microcosmic level, the ridiculous, heart-breaking-open dosey-do of Man and Creator.
Then, immediately I think, "I need to find a Hula teacher", and "I need to study more Qigung"
It took my partner, Jaqueline Marie, who provided the Sacred Sound for Crazymaking, to remind me that the point of that scene where Pele visits Casana is not that Hula is Qigung. The point is that Spirit showed her what to do. It was necessary for Casana to trust Spirit, to trust herself and her intuition enough to receive the message from spirit that saved her life.
I knew that. I saw that. But my distrust of myself caused me to jump forward to seeking someone else, whom I deemed to have authority to teach me how to move my body, teach me how to move my Qi, teach me how to save my life.
I have the tools already. I have the arm, the leg. I have the Qi. I know how to get the Qi moving. What I lack is the discipline just to show up with Self and do it. I have been holding out for a Certified Grandmaster of some kind, with a big stick with which to hit me over the head and make me do my homework.
I keep waiting for a Buddha to show up and show me how to be a Buddha. This is why they say "If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill him." As long as the Master is continually perceived else where, outside me, not-I, that idea of the Master becomes the greatest stumbling block to my mastery. The ideas I have of Buddhahood, which tend to be a long list of qualities I don't have, hold me back from Buddhahood.
Please say it with me,
I already know how to Dance, I already know how to Save my Life. I already know everything I need to know to be a master, to be a buddha, to save the world. I already know who I am. I have always known this. Amen
No one is looking
I swallow deserts and clouds
and chew on mountains knowing
they are sweet
When no one is looking and I want
I just lift my own hand