Friday, June 8, 2007

Belly Dancing Kicks Yoga’s Ass

Chi Kung and Yoga are meditative practices designed to quiet the circus of thought which takes place in people’s heads. As somebody who has a particular addiction to thinking, I decided to get involved with these things. But much of the time I wind up being angry at myself for not being able to stop thinking, or with the instructor because she so often warns us to “watch the mind.” I’d like to have some peace and quiet outside my head if I can’t have it on the inside, thanks.

So one night last week Roja invited me to go to a Belly Dance class with her. I reluctantly agreed. I tried it once before, years ago, but I got so freaked out by the big mirror on the classroom wall that I didn’t go back. I didn’t want to see myself struggle, especially since no one else appeared to be.

But this time, I guess since I’ve had recent experience with Yoga and Chi Kung, I had a whole new experience with Belly Dance. (Mind you, I’m not any better at it, but in this class setting it’s easier to avoid looking at the mirror). Whereas it’s up to my own diligence to end the thinking with Yoga and Tai Chi, in Belly Dance there’s an added deterrent: The second my awareness moves out of my body and up into my head for the thinking festival, I find I can’t do the moves. It can be as simple as a thought like “Hey, this isn’t so bad; I can do this,” and suddenly I can’t do it any more. Sometimes in meditation I realize I’ve been lost in pointless thought for as much as five minutes. In Belly Dance I can tell immediately when I’ve lapsed into thought because suddenly I look and feel like a dumbass.

I can trace some of the stupidest things I’ve ever done back to too much thinking. Too much thinking makes you use logic where you should have used common sense, and makes you rationalize doing dumb things. Really, decisions in life aren’t that hard if you think a little and intuit a little at the same time. But if I’m stressed or I have too much time on my hands, I’ll overanalyze something into a disaster. Otis, a friend of mine who’s in recovery, said alcoholics have do something similar: They overcomplicate things in general and constantly come up with grand storylines about what’s going on in their lives and why. He said his grandmother used to make fun of him because of the answers he’d give when she asked him simple questions. “She’d say, ‘Ask you what time it is and you tell me how to make a watch,’” he said.

I think for entertainment. I need it as a distraction, and I think my addiction to thinking is kind of like Otis’ problem with alcohol. Maybe both problems are the same - perhaps Otis drank because he was trying to shut his head up. Now that I think about it, the basis of our friendship was that we got together to share our grand schemes for the future and encourage each other in those grand schemes. We were enabling each other in escapism instead of encouraging each other to enjoy our lives as they are.

If you learn how to be uncomfortable with life as it is, I think it’s very hard to ever unlearn it. Maybe the reason for that is that sometimes people start to take it personally when things aren’t perfect. They make a transition in their heads from “there is a problem” to “I am a problem,” and then they have to justify why they’re a problem. They don’t want to throw up their hands and say, well I just suck. But at the same time, they do, deep down, underneath all the thinking games or the alcohol or the compulsive shopping or whatever, believe that they are just assholes and that’s really what the problem is. And they’ll do anything do distract themselves from facing that belief.

So then on Wednesday this week, Wyatt and I went to look at a house. You know I’ve been Jonesing for a yard because I want to experiment with Permaculture gardening techniques. Been making big plans, I have. Afterwards I ran into Roja, and she’s in a similar place in that she wants to buy a bigger unit in the building. We talked about all that, and then she reminded me of something important. “I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with buying a house right now,” I said, and she said, “It’s something to focus on.”

Of course. That’s the way I am, and I had forgotten it. I need an upcoming project in the works at all times so my head will have plenty of scheming and planning to do. Roja said that’s the same reason she wants to move, too, because she’s not happy at work, and while she’s at work she can think about what to do to a new place. But if you seek your entertainment that way, you stay overextended. I, for one, need to attend so some pressing dental expenses instead of buy a house. It hasn’t been that long since I finished working on my unit and put it up for sale. Roja just recently finished painting her own place. If we take on new projects, we won’t have had time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. But would we enjoy such time anyway, or would we get antsy and dream up even more projects?

Roja also reminded me of the Law of Conservation of Problems and Assholes, which I wrote about in an earlier entry. If you’re happy at home and with your social life, being happy at work too might rip a hole in the universe. There must be a balance of good and bad in all things. There will always be things to be unhappy about, and if you can’t accept that and react to unpleasantness by thinking too much, shopping, drinking, or undue fretting, it’s just stupid. But just try not doing it.

It’s not like I’m going to quit Yoga. I do get a lot out of the classes. But I think the Belly Dancing/Yoga combination is going to really supercharge my pursuit of enlightenment. I’ll have to drop Chi Kung for a few weeks because of scheduling conflicts, but I want to continue that too.
What a great goal: to complete the project of kicking the addiction to goals. Wish me luck.

The photo up top is of a statue very similar to one which was stolen from the yard here several weeks ago. There's a reward for information leading to its recovery.


Totoro said...

Hey Verona
It's your hairy friend Cheryl (or Totoro the pet guinea pig)from Permaculture training! I've never read anyone's blog before- but I love reading yours (that also means I don't know any of the etiquette). I wanted to say, dang, you and I are on the same vibe- I have been searching for some reason I am so damn unhappy whenever I free some space up in my life from being over extended...and then fill it back up, then free's a nasty cycle. On to happier thoughts...have you checked out (I think that's it?). I bet you could get some serious PC gardening yayas out with some of that. Sending love!

angelala said...

Hello Verona - my name's Angela. I teach bellydance and dance and do walking meditation- you can check me out on

I love your blog- keep it coming. I found you when I was surfing - and I'm so impressed by anyone who appreciates Abba! Fernando still gives me chills.
ecstasy mmm...I am part of the camp who needs to move to get my ecstasy - its definitely in moving my body that I feel alive - and my mind - well it gets ecstatic by just receiving information (without the judgement) When I belly dance I go into a meditative place where my brain gets into my body - like some big organic figure 8. And my brain goes into just receiving and being mode. More like a hunter-gatherer goddess instead of a 21st century survivor of the information age! Anyway - I guess the mind these days is about creating new ways of being in the world - but the body will ALWAYS want to just be!
Enjoy being alive - and please pass by and comment on my website - I'm building new ways of teaching about dance and the body there. And I'd appreciate your intelligence!