When I was in college I studied classical dance. I took classes every day at one of the most famous dance studios in the world. I was surrounded by professionals who were on Broadway and people who had spent their entire lives training but I was 23 and just starting out. No dance experience. Zero training. I was nowhere close to being a professional, yet I expected myself to perform as well as they did. I look back now and giggle at this completely unreasonable request. I was out of shape, completely inflexible and couldn’t discern my left from my right. My bold ego had brazenly told me that If I was good enough a dancer in the nightclubs, that I was good enough for professional dance training. Well, it turns out that flailing blissfully on the dance floor at a few rave parties does little for you in a technical Ballet class. I plowed on though, God bless my 23 year old self. I was so determined to be good (immediately) that I had unwittingly set myself up to fail before I even started. Looking back now, I know that I should have started my training at a studio that was beginner friendly but my stubbornness got the better of me.
I took classes that were too advanced for me, experienced students who were ruthlessly competitive and teachers that were less than patient with me. My first few months at the studio were all but disastrous. It was then that a kind gentleman named John (who remains a dear friend) suggested I take a lower level class.
Me? How could I take a lower level class? What would everyone say about me? How could I possibly admit that I had new things to learn? My ego and fear were blocking my way. I was defensive and adamant but there was something in this man’s eyes, a kindness that inspired me to melt my defenses just long enough to hear his advice.
I began taking the most beginner of Jazz classes with an absolutely amazing teacher who encouraged me and patiently taught me the basics. She was very different from the rest of the teachers at the studio. She picked me up when I fell down, applauded me when I got it right and gave me lots of hugs and love. She was and remains a special lady, a heart centered spirit who continues to teach and love her students. It was because of this very exceptional human being that I was able to start doing the classwork and loving my body while connecting to this new language of dance.
It wasn’t easy by any means. I had a lot of bad days where I just wanted to give up. I walked out of a lot of classes and beat my self up a lot. I also spent a lot of time around people who just seemed to take to professional dance like a duck to water. I watched people zoom by me in technique and performance after just taking a few dance classes when I had taken over 80. It most certainly was not fun to watch. With all of the hard work I placed into my passion, it just seemed unfair that someone else was able to excel faster than I. I pouted and beat myself up and silently resented them. When the more advanced dancers would try to help me and support me and move me along, I saw their attempts to reach out as mean, condescending and infantilizing. I was so prideful and afraid of myself that I could not manage actual communication. As you can imagine I was not nice to them.
But there was something about that teacher (Sue) that just melted my defenses. She really gave me the tenderness that I needed to forgive myself for not being perfect or the best. She created the space to allow me to be myself and open my heart long enough to melt the fear in my Ego. I was lucky enough to have the love of my fellow classmates as well. They were so very supportive and it was their own lack of fear that helped me to melt my fearful walls just enough to believe I could actually do this.
The more I let go of my fearful ego the more I fell in love with dance. The rigorous physical training also allowed my body to cleanse itself of toxins, raising my vibration and opening me up to even more support. As my fear waned, the belligerent and defensive false pride that I had clung to so desperately in my first year began to deflate and my Ego blossomed into genuine Respect for myself. I started attracting those people from the advanced classes that I had initially pushed away and they happily helped prepare me for the challenges ahead.
One night, after a particularly rough rehearsal, the captain of our dance crew passed up a chance to go out on the town with a then rising broadway star to help me work on my turns. I asked her, “Why are you here with me? Wouldn’t you rather be with the others?” She smiled and said “ We are a team. What kind of dancer would I be if I let you fall?” Now get up and do that count again.” I blushed, realizing that I was not alone. I now had friends, a sense of community. I pushed onward with a confidence I had never known before. I continued to train hard, taking classes every day, absorbing what I could from those around me and by my second year I was accepted into the conservatory of this prestigious school. I was beside myself! My hard work had paid off!
I continued to train and danced with many wonderful and talented people. I met some of the most brilliant spirits during that training and had some amazing times. I learned how to love my body, to honor it and be patient with my self and most importantly learned to be teachable. If I hadn’t taken the time to listen to my friend John in the beginning or push aside my fearful ego and let these amazing dancers show me how to improve, I never would have made it as far as I did and I never would have fallen in love with dance.
I finished my internship and although I had grown into a solid dancer, I had gained the insight to realize that I lacked the natural talent required to manage the rough world that is New York City theatre. See, throughout this 6 year period of discovery, my ego had matured a bit. I had a healthier relationship with my inner voice and more of an understanding of my limits. So rather than fighting another uphill battle in Broadway’s highly competitive arena I came to accept that I was not meant to dance professionally.
Now that didn’t mean all was for naught! Maybe I wasn’t going to be on Broadway but I could still teach and perform and provide a service that was helpful to myself and others. I hung back and let myself enjoy the things that I had found on this incredible journey: the Love, the Friendship and the Joy. That bold and searching boy had let go of the fear in his ego and grown into a man, more fully aware of what he was capable of and more confident in his direction in life.
Today, I still take class weekly. Dance is something I am very passionate about and use it in my life. Everyday. Those of you who are in my coaching classes will notice that I Always include a little dance into our energy work. Its super fun and the perfect way to raise your vibration and to prepare you for the deep meditations that we do.
Setting out on journey of discovery is a brave thing to do. To learn and discover takes courage and conviction as well as a tremendous amount of Self Love. This can help you to achieve almost anything that your heart desires but this special strength of Self Love falters when you foster an ego that is fearful. If you Live in a place of Fear, Resentment, Self Pity, or feel that the world is unfair it can dampen your journey and make it difficult to continue onward. Now I am not saying that the ego is a bad thing. Our ego can help us stand up for ourselves and can give us the push we need to reach for the things we have worked hard for and deserve. However, it is our relationship with our ego that will shape the experience of our journey and whatever we are trying to learn. If our ego is led by fear instead of love and understanding, we might find it difficult to move forward and may give up before we even start.
So if you are at a standstill in your profession or your passion ask yourself “What am I not doing?” “What do I need to learn” Then find the Courage to Respect yourself and Your Hard Work enough to ask for help from those who are farther along. Try not to villainize them. They are people too and often times they want nothing more than to be supportive and loving. Also, showing respect to others also respects your own work.
So, Take some time today to think about the areas in your life where your ego is fearful and in the way of you improving your experience with something that empassions you. Maybe that co worker of yours is a wiz at managing new clients and you feel he could give you a few pointers. Maybe your sister makes a “bangin” cheesecake and you are dying to know her technique.
Take the chance to hold the proverbial mirror to your face and see what is truly in your heart to Learn, Do, and Be.