Welcome to Reflections of a Buddhist Pole Dancer!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sometimes You Simply Need to Change the Color of the Boat

My mother, Sandy, is an accomplished lover of life. With unbridled excitement she enrolls in meaningful classes, clubs, and volunteer organizations. In the past year she’s taken dance lessons, photography classes and a cooking class. She’s worked consistently with a trainer at the gym, learned to knit and has committed to speaking at a local Toastmasters club. She’s been on a top fund-raising committee supporting Juvenile Diabetes research. She’s also taken painting classes in which the students explore colors, techniques and different mediums by replicating the work of a master. 
When she started her art class she couldn’t wait to take on one of her favorite artists, Joan Miro. She loved the colors! She loved the freedom of expression! She loved the bold lines! Much like my mother, Miro seemed to break all the rules but he put them back together in such a fanciful way that no one minded. A natural and a novice at the same time, Sandy relished the classes in which she could re-create Miro’s masterpiece. She was modest and pleased with her finished painting -- enjoying the process as much as the product.
The next assignment was a bit more challenging. Different artist (Maurice de Vlamnick). Difficult to emulate. Sandy couldn’t embrace this one. She found she painted just to get it over with, her inner-critic taunting her lack of skill with each stroke. She dreaded the classes and hated facing that scene of acrylic boats...the little mustard one in particular. 

And then she had an idea.. maybe... what if... could she dare? Could she change the color of the the artist’s boat? Would that be too bold, too brazen? Like any good artist she began to think outside of self-imposed constraints.
After careful consideration coupled with permission from her instructor, she re-painted that little boat and in turn she set forth a wonderful chain of events. That simple change of color-- from the disconnect of mustard to a resonating shade of red-- allowed Sandy to get excited about her painting. From there she started enjoying the project and even further on she actually appreciated the final product. All she had to do was change the color of the boat!
Change the color of the boat. 
So often it’s the same in other facets of life. We find a master, emulate their template but somehow it doesn’t quite “fit.” Thinking the master knows best while doubting our inner voice, we struggle against our longing to tweak and twist the template. But tweak and twist we must! We need to “own” it, to personalize it, and make it ours. Otherwise we risk lack of connection and the commitment and success that follow. 
For example, you find a fitness guru you adore, and you modify the workout by incorporating exercise bands instead of free weights. The recipe from your favorite cookbook calls for onions but you substitute your preference of shallots. The artist you learn from painted his or her boat mustard yellow, but you have an empowered vision that sings to your soul. This freedom to personalize respects the expert, while respecting your own expertise, creativity and knowledge of self.
Learn from the best... and include yourself on that list. Masters are to be emulated, though not necessarily carbon-copied!
How can you tailor the lessons of a respected teacher, guru or master to suit your style, preferences and life? Which boat needs a new color? 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why a Buddhist Pole Dancer?

For several years I've secretly labeled myself a Buddhist Pole Dancer -- not that it's my email signature or on my business cards, it's just a personal title that balances my spirit and makes me smile. :)

The Buddhist part reminds me that I am being my best when I am mindful-- one of the core principles of Buddhism. The Pole Dancer part reminds me that I am happiest when I engage in some sort of play. The joy that overcomes me from pole dancing sings to my soul.

While I am not an official Buddhist, I am drawn to its teachings. I love the gentle reminders of who we ALL are (Awakening Buddhas!) and that our suffering is a result of grasping pleasure and running from pain. I love learning about the Middle Place and ways of reaching it through meditation and mastery of thoughts. I love the notion of staying put when things are tough, for those moments are the best teachers. I love the eightfold path and its suggestions for how we might speak, think, act, and earn a living. I love the simplicity of Buddhism and the challenge of the practice at the same time. I find I am a better being when studying it. I am happy when I am here, now, no matter what might be going on here and now. At least I can melt into the middle of it and just be. The happiness doesn't necessarily come from the content of the moment, but from the moment itself.

While I am not an official Pole Dancer (at least not a paid one or one who performs for others!), I love pole dancing. I've been doing it for about six years-- smitten after my very first lesson. My pole is in my living room-- I can swing around with happiness and catch a view of the Monterey Bay at the same time. I love the joy I feel when my body flies effortlessly around the pole. I love the strength achieved from new moves, particularly upside-down push-ups. I love the grace and femininity I feel from dancing and moving to the music with only the pole as my partner. I even love the barrage of bruises that cover my legs when I try to master something new. They're indicators of courage and dedication. With pole dancing I also love the playful mystery that surrounds it all.

So I am neither an official Buddhist nor a professional Pole Dancer, but I call myself a Buddhist Pole Dancer. What gives? I am less attached to labels and more drawn to feelings. Buddhist Pole Dancer resonates deep within. As a barometer of my well being I can usually trace it back to these two indicators: my practice of mindfulness and my willingness to play. When I am at my best I am a Buddhist Pole Dancer. Knowing this about myself gives me easy guidance when I am off track. Am I present in my life, nurturing my spirit? Am I playing on my pole and connecting with my body and my innate need for fun? Whereas an answer of No confirms my funk, an answer of Yes indicates a path of wellness.

What empowering descriptors encourage you to be your best and serve as a guage of balance? I'd love to know!

*No Buddhists or pole dancers were harmed in the making of this moniker. I hope they weren't offended, either. :)