Space and Flow (Week 3)
This is my favorite topic and I will try to include really good info and some helpful links. This is what I think about constantly. I think this is the most important one, so read the full thing if you can.
Last year around this time I wrote that I was doing Fall Cleaning, which doesn’t get as much shine as Spring Cleaning, but as we enter colder months and stay home more, I like to think about the environment that I will be in for the winter months. This hibernation time is when I do a lot of writing, creating, and learning new skills, and in the past I even treated it as my own school year where I wrote out a mini syllabus of what I wanted to work on until Spring.
25 years or so of actively pursuing a performance life has brought many lessons, but the main one is that I have to actively learn myself and how I function. Not all advice I come upon applies to me.
An example of some things I now know about myself:
-I can’t focus on art if I am not secure in my living or financial situation, so that is a priority for me. So whether it be a roommate, neighbor or relationship situation, if I feel like I’m walking on eggshells and don’t have peace of mind, I can focus on little else. Carving out a safe space for myself is paramount for me.
-I require space and time. Creativity comes to me when I’m staring at the ceiling, walking through a new town, sitting on a picnic blanket. If I keep my mind occupied with my phone or what everyone else is doing, then all I will do is repeat what I saw, and feel the need to compete in the limited view of whatever the media algorithm gives me, and I never feel like it’s enough. Actually living life and experiencing things from many points of view gives me endless ideas that pop up in times of peace and solitude. I have explored and studied many art forms and techniques, and my brain never stops trying to peace things together.
-I need a lot of rest, and I can’t rest if I feel guilty about needing to rest. I know that I am my own harshest critic, so for my personality it is best to have supportive people around me who just let me figure things out and explore. People who give me unsolicited advice or pressure, only make me question myself and I freeze and procrastinate because it feels wrong. So all of that bootcamp style yelling motivation has the opposite effect on me. I need support. Genuine support.
-As far as fitness and health, one of my main motivators is self-reliance. This is not to say that I don’t accept or ask for help when I need it (even though I don’t necessarily like doing it….) But I know that I would like to be able to do things for myself for as long as I can, and help others when necessary. What if someone needed my help? Am I able to carry a child out of a fire or dangerous situation? Am I able to run from someone or run somewhere to get help? It's a bit dramatic, but then so am I.
As far as space in the schedule… I often feel like I’m not doing enough because I love so many things and want to excel in all of them. If I had more time I’d love to learn how to play piano, actually go back to training in opera, play the drum kit and djembe (all of these things I already did for periods of time) but I just don’t have enough time to practice everything. Focusing on one or two things at a time is necessary for me, while not feeling guilt about the things I’m not doing. I will come back around to those things and with a wider perspective. We talked about this in the MAPsterclass, how different art forms have common elements. If I understand rhythms in music, I am already ahead when I work on rhythms in a new dance style I begin exploring. But most of all, actually living life and having something to say and express is extremely important. A perfectly performed technical display on a musical instrument does not necessarily move an audience if the performer or composer have nothing of themselves in it. And it seems rather pointless to me.
Space in home, in life, in mind, and now: space/flow in body. If something bothers us, it’s hard to focus. It’s something like 70% of people will experience back pain issues. I hear many people say they want to work out but have knee pain. You sneeze and pull a muscle in your ribs. You start a workout regimen and injure yourself on the second day. It’s really testing your patience and resolve. But it’s also very common. It has all happened to me many times. I know this is a very sensitive topic because chronic pain can make us feel helpless. But I think we have to try, and at the end of the day we’re the ones who have to push forward and try to understand as much as possible. Again, just as I am not a dietician, I am not a physical therapist or medical professional of any sort, but along the way I have found some avenues to explore which have helped me and may or may not help you. Here are a few places to start researching and exploring your individual situation.
First, of course, seeing a doctor or specialist to understand your health and bring up any concerns if you feel that's what's needed. If the doctor doesn’t listen, try a different one. This is where space in life comes really helpful, so that you can stay on top of researching options, filling out medicare or insurance applications, waiting on hold… these are all frustrating, but get it over with. Again, I know many of us have medical bills and are fed up, but giving up on your health can’t be the final option. Get mad at me if you need to, then start planning.
But let’s say there’s no underlying health issue. We have to look at the fact that we sit in chairs all day. Some muscles are strong, others have gotten very week. Our bodies need some basic things. Moving. Stretching. Letting the blood and oxygen circulate. Ridding of toxins and waste regularly. Sweating, and having fiber in our diets. Strengthening opposing muscle groups. Ridding of inflammation in the body. Getting nutrition that provides vitamins and minerals to our muscles, bones, eyes, skin, lungs, heart. Breathing fresh air. Reaching in different directions, spine bending in different directions. Strengthening muscles around joints, knees, hips. Mobility in hips, shoulders, elbows. Stability, mobility, flexibility. Unless we have some type of daily routine or pattern in place to help us help our bodies do what they were made to do, how do we decide they’re not functioning properly?
Ok this was a lot. A LOT. But think about it! So many cultures have already figured this out, and created practices and martial arts with patterns and exercises that address these things. You can look into Tai-Chi or Chi-Gong or Philipino Martial Arts or countless others. HIIT classes and other strengthening classes are great. Do a bit of research and pick something that speaks to you and where the instructors are experienced and legit, and you feel excited to try it out. And then keep going after the excitement wears off. Don't worry, there will be more waves of excitement once you see what you're accomplishing. But it takes time. And here is one place to start looking if you want to explore back pain and general mobility a bit:
GMB has a blog where you can get lots of good information for free. I have taken some classes with Jarlo in person and have found him to be very knowledgeable and well rounded (along with his martial arts credentials, Jarlo has also been a Physical Therapist (MPT) since 1998 and is a board certified orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS) with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. He is also a co-founder and COO of GMB Fitness. ) I have no personal stake or affiliation with GMB.
You can also look into inflammatory foods to see if you’re consuming a lot of them, and spoiler, you will find sugar on there which is why we cut some out in the first week.
OK, this was a sh*t ton of information, so here’s how not to get overwhelmed if a lot of it is new to you:
Absorb what you can, come back to read more later. When in doubt, choose peace of mind and less stress. These are avenues to explore when you’re up for it.
Constantly fixing ourselves may not be the flex we think it is. We have to also live and take care of day to day things. Do that. But if creating a small routine in the morning and quick stretch in the evening will make your days better, add it in so that you get used to it. Something you can repeat daily, even if some days you half-a$$ it. The trick for me is to have it set in stone, so that “feelings” don’t sway me and I don’t talk myself out of it. Make a schedule, add a gym or online class 2 or 3 days a week, or whatever works, and just go without thinking yourself out of it. And if the first 37 weeks aren’t perfect, week 38 just might feel right. We are creatures of habit, take the time to create habits you think will improve your life.
If this still feels overwhelming, set a daily alarm where you take 10 or 15 minutes to digest this and plan. Daily 15 minutes where you write down or research or clean out something. Or just sit there. 15 minutes in every day for you to improve all of yours days.
A lot of things might come up. With space, some difficult feelings can surface. Maybe with wanting to heal, you skirt dangerously close to victim mentality. Some days you might do nothing at all. Rest is good. Looking at what you’re avoiding, and why, is good. Sometimes if you feel like you keep putting something off you might realize it’s because you don’t actually want to do it. Maybe it’s the wrong direction for you. And maybe you'll try to walk away and decide you want it after all. We’re not robots, not yet at least lol Figuring out to “human” is quite an experience, hope you’re at least having some fun. I think I am starting to, finally.
You know why I like tea a lot? Once, when I was a teenager, I made hot tea and threw some ice cubes into it. My older brother looked at me with disgust and said something like “you’re already an American, can’t even take the time to sit down and let the tea cool”. I think about that sometimes. I was only thinking about drinking the tea, not about the experience of having the tea. Tea "forces" me to take a few minutes to sit down and maybe let my mind wander. We have to let our minds wander. A lot happens around us that we need to process and make some sense of.
Ok, last thing. If your mind is anything like mine, and it constantly processes and weighs stakes and wanders and you have a hard time getting things done, try actively practicing shortening the time between having an idea and executing it. We did this in one of DiViNCi's Studio Sensei Zoom meetups (which we still have every month and are open to everyone for free), where when someone said "Push-ups!" we'd automatically drop to the floor to do a few push-ups. That went on for a few weeks (we continued this in the Discord group and sometimes had to do push-ups in public places if we were unlucky enough to read the message while in public). That simple thing somehow trained me to make other decisions faster and more decisively in my life. A lot of these skills we practice, will automatically transfer to other parts of our lives. So there's no need to try to control so much. Start with a few adjustments and patterns and allow them to work their magic. And allow me to leave you with a video of DiViNCi explaining the process I described earlier:
He talks about it at the 24-minute mark, but if you have time to watch the whole thing, it's incredibly insightful.
Happy Week 3, hope all is well