Asking For What We Want
Some years ago, I was thrilled to be accepted for lessons by a ballroom teacher who was an accomplished dancer and a lovely man. He was fully booked and only gave half-hour lessons. I was grateful to be able to have lessons with him at all, however, half an hour, once a week, was just not enough for me. I was used to longer lessons and it was my only opportunity to dance ballroom in a way that I enjoyed. At the end of my first lesson, I decided to be brave and ask for what I wanted.
I was at the bottom of the heap; a brand new student of his and an inexperienced ballroom dancer. Nevertheless, I thought that if I didn’t ask, he wouldn’t even know what I wanted. When I asked him, he actually laughed out loud. He was a polite person and didn’t mean to laugh but the idea seemed ridiculous and he looked at me oddly and shook his head. He said quietly but definitely, “Ah…no.” I took it in my stride. I knew the risk of asking. We have to be willing to take a No or a Not at this time or an I’ll think about it but probably not. We have to be willing to be embarrassed. We have to have enough push or life-force so that we can move forward in life.
Three weeks later, at the end of the lesson, my teacher said without warning, “Did you say you wanted an hour lesson?”
I looked at him in surprise and ventured a hesitant but expectant, “Yes?”
“Starting from next week,” he replied with a calm and unreadable face, “you can have four till five.”
I got what I wanted and in the short space of three weeks. It gave me the opportunity to progress much more quickly than I otherwise would have. Besides, it was great fun.
Over my years of latin and ballroom dancing, I developed certain ways of approaching each style. In both, I tried to have lessons with the best dancers available to me, weighted with my feeling of compatibility with the teacher’s nature. When I danced with my ballroom teacher, I would deliberately try to meld with their physical movement and with their energy as a person. Ballroom hold means that the man and woman are dancing body-to-body and moving as one unit. I would, in large part, use my teacher’s confidence, experience, and power as a male dancer to compensate for my own dancing shortcomings. Of course, as a dancer, one has to outgrow this reliance on the other person. Skilled female ballroom dancers are highly capable in their own right and very centred in their own body. Nevertheless, it is how I tried to overcome my inexperience, improve most quickly by getting a feel for the flow of the movement, and have the best interim experience. And I think it did all of that.
Latin was a different story. It is not body-on-body contact. One has to stand on one’s own two feet or one foot as the case may be. I always had a barely concealed feeling of being, frankly, pathetic, even though, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I actually was. No amount of reasoning seemed to alter this perception. My latin teacher must have felt that he was dragging me through quicksand for years.
Eventually, something in me changed. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, All in all, it’s not that bad. I stood up straighter, put my shoulders down, put my weight into my standing leg, and moved. All of these are important for being grounded in latin. From that moment on, my progress took a different curve. Latin became a love, not a struggle, and I never again felt that I couldn’t do it.
Confidence in Life
Similarly, in life, if we keep telling ourselves that we are incompetent then we will not be able to approach life in a grounded and confident manner. We will not be able to put our weight squarely into anything if we are silently telling ourselves, Be careful. Don’t commit too heavily to that. You already look stupid. Other people are so much better than you. Come now, you don’t really trust yourself to be in that position.
To be genuinely confident is important. Confidence is important in ourselves and also in those we let into our inner circle. Although we may have to pay the price for someone else’s strong ego, a weak one is worse. A weak ego is very vulnerable to intimidation, flattery, and seduction in all their endless forms. By virtue of our closeness to a vulnerable individual, the gate is thereby left open for these damaging entities to come into our own life. If an enemy finds it difficult to attack us personally, the next place they will go is any weakness that is accessible to them in our loved ones and close friends.
Surrender and Our Soul
Although crucial to our development, a strong ego will only get us so far. There is so much in life that cannot be altered, in the slightest, by a healthy and vibrant ego. Learning the limits of the ego and when to put it in its place is pivotal to happiness and long-term success. Surrender (humility) makes life more peaceful and harmonious. Insisting, reacting, blaming, and holding onto things prevent life from evolving. They make us get stuck.
Surrender says, I don’t know everything. It’s quite possible that I even know very little. Perhaps, I can let the higher power of life help and take over the direction of my life, that of my loved ones, and even that of my enemies.
Surrender says yes to life rather than the million nos that tumble out of our consciousness. A healthy amount of No is a way of protecting our ego and its boundaries. However, too much no and the yes of life gets lost in the armed and dangerous force of the no-army.
Surrender also stops asking the question, Why is this happening? It stops asking for explanations and accepts what is until what is changes into another what is. Surrender is how we move from a strong ego to that nameless quality which makes some people beautiful, resilient, unusual, and powerful in a nonegoic way.
This article is from Dance: A Spiritual Affair