practice and my personal sanity

I insist that practice keeps me sane. I love dance, so I practice dance. 

Alas, truth bomb: I started struggling in my practice sometime around November of last year. 

I have continued to show up and work, almost as much as ever. I love dance more now than I ever have. I've made dances, collaborated on dances, worked my technique, taught, and studied. My heart has still been in it 100%. But sometime last fall, the purity of my focus got lost, and that has been hard.

It's been especially difficult because there was no reason for it. I am happy, and although life has its stresses, I haven't been upset or anxious. I just stopped connecting to that thing.

I've almost always been able to get lost in drilling easily, to get to an awesome mental and physical alignment where my only conscious thoughts were about what I was trying to do with my body. It's not that I necessarily am better in that state, it just makes the crazy practice schedule I like sustainable.

Showing up day after day when my mind just whirs and buzzes and wanders has been tough. I wanted my meditative emptiness, but kept bumping up against thoughts instead.

My identity in belly dance is the "hard worker". I've never felt like the cool one who makes friends easily, or the naturally talented one who just up and dances like an angel. I'm just a girl who shows up, works, and achieves some moderate results, sometimes. Which has always been easy because doing the work blisses me out so much. 

When practicing started to drain me, I got scared. I worry that if it had continued, I'd have started to look to other sources to validate my dancing. Compliments from others, invitations to festivals, shiny things, YouTube views... I can't have that. For me, dance is the sum of my practice--not just its contents, but its quality--and the sense of being disconnected from any part of that was painful, almost.

In the end it felt like healing an injury, in a way. It got better a little at a time, until it stopped bothering me entirely. One day, in class not too long ago, the world went away for a few minutes while working a 4/4 shimmy with some finger cymbals. I forget to think about anything else. After that, it came back more and more often until I lost my worry when I began my practice because I knew I'd get my empty brain time. 

I guess I wanted to write this down somewhere because I am sure this will happen again someday, and I want to remind myself that it will pass, and maybe some of the things that seemed to help me:


  • Simplifying. I've made a lot of crazy dances lately, and drilled a lot of bananas technique. Meditating on fundamentals is necessary not just for mastery but for my sanity.
  • Specificity. I often feel like a bad choreographer if I'm not making constantly, or a bad technician if I'm not drilling all the time. I can only bloom one kind of flower at any given moment.
  • Letting the familiarity of practice improve good days, and comfort me on bad ones. If I'm feeling great, a good practice is going to push that day into "perfect" territory. If I'm sad, angry, or sick, dance brings me back and anchors me to normalcy. Let dance do its job.
  • Write it down. As I became more distressed about how I felt after practice, I became less inclined to write it down, which probably made everything worse. 
So dear future Heather, don't worry if you stop connecting with your practice in that special way. It'll come back. It always comes back.

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