Asking For What We Want
Some years ago, I was thrilled to be accepted for lessons by a ballroom teacher who was an accomplished ballroom competitor, a sensitive dancer, and a lovely man. He was very busy with life, fully booked as a dance teacher, 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. I was a brand new student of his and an inexperienced ballroom dancer. Also, he was in high demand. 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 have developed certain ways of approaching both. I have always tried to have lessons with the best ballroom dancers that were 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 also 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 teachers’ 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, in fact, highly capable in their own right and very centred in their own body and dancing. 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 as a dancing combination and functioning whole. And I think it did all of that.
Latin was a different story. It is not body-on-body contact. Unquestionably, 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, incapable and pathetic, even though, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I was actually either. No amount of reasoning seemed to alter this perception. My latin teacher must have felt like he was dragging me through quicksand for years.
Life changes and, one day, I looked at myself in the mirror at the dance studio and said, All in all, it’s not that bad. I looked up, stood up straighter, put my shoulders down, put my weight squarely into my standing leg and then I moved. All of these are very important for being grounded in Latin. From that moment on, my progress took a different curve.
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. It is important in our own being and it is important in those we let into our inner circle. Although we may have to pay the price of 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 life as well. 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.
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 personal ego and when to put it in its place is pivotal to life working well and unfolding in the best possible way. Surrender, or humility, has the capacity to make life more peaceful and harmonious. It helps us to release things so that life can move forward. 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, 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 more of that nameless quality which makes some people beautiful, resilient, unusual, and powerful in a nonegoic way. It is based on the practised ability to say yes to life rather than the million nos that try to tumble out of our consciousness. No is a way of protecting our ego and its boundaries, but too much no and the yes of life gets lost in the armed and dangerous force of the no-army.
This article is from Love’s Longing