Being Mindful In Movement, Like Dance

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At a young age, I learned through performing arts how to focus my attention in the present moment. The desire was to be my best and focus on how I could improve my performance.

While dancing, my attention was in a constant flow between remembering the choreography, staying in formation with the other dancers, moving to the rhythm of the music, expressing whatever the feel or emotional state of the dance was, and projecting my performance out to the audience.

At the rehearsal level, all of these pieces were choppy and not smoothly connected. It took a lot of practice before it felt like an effortless flow by performance time.

I remember in certain performances I was so completely immersed in what I was doing that I almost felt like I was performing beyond my usual capabilities. And there was a sense of observing all of this in a heightened state as it was happening.

This didn’t happen every performance. Sometimes I was too in my head and feeling fear and performance anxiety. What if I mess up? What if I don’t nail that move? What if I don’t make this audition? Last time I did this dance, I fell after the big leap. The dancers before us were so much better. Last time I danced at this venue, nobody liked it. Whenever I was caught up in this mental/emotional pattern, my performance always lacked that extra special quality. I was too caught up in the fears of the future (what if something bad happens) and the fears of the past (last time something bad happened).

At the time, I couldn’t always predict or influence which state I was going to be in. I just knew sometimes dancing felt magical, but I didn’t know why or how it felt that way. And I knew sometimes I felt overwhelmed with pressure and performance anxiety. I really didn’t know that I had the power to choose which state I wanted to be in.

Later in life, I learned that I could actually practice bringing my attention into the present and then relax into the present moment to free myself from the mental/emotional patterns that were causing unnecessary pain and suffering in my life.

This principle can be applied to every single moment of every single day. Doing anything and everything.

Just like in rehearsal it takes a lot of practice. Some days are going to feel magical, like an effortless flow and some days will feel caught up in fear and anxiety; choppy, unconnected, awkward, and caught up in the melodrama.

Here are some questions to ask to initiate a mindfulness practice:

• Am I completely present and engaged in this moment?
• What am I feeling?
• How can I allow myself to feel more relaxed?
• What is the quality of my breathing?
• Where do I feel tension?
• Can I let go of tension?
• Based on what is happening right now, what decisions can I make that will allow more ease and flow?
• Are my thoughts and feelings adding to this moment or taking away from this moment?
• If something hypothetically bad happens, am I ultimately going to be ok?
• If something bad happened and I now feel afraid that it might happen again, do I ultimately know how to better handle the situation or experience?
• Can I surrender to the natural flow inside of myself without having to control this moment?

These are the questions I keep coming back to when I find myself creating the unnecessary mental-emotional drama. They help me to relax, stay centered, and focus on engaging what is in front of me.

Since I’ve become aware that I can choose my inner focus and be mindful in everyday life, it gives me a wonderful sense of freedom and empowerment. It also allows for greater accountability in knowing those choppy, frustrating days can be a result of my inner state and my lack of mindfulness. Again it takes a lot of practice, but it’s rewarding in many ways.

Have you ever noticed your attention and how it affects your life?

Do you have other mindfulness practices that help you feel more connected, flowing, and free in your life?

Here’s one of my favorite mindful habits…

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