Insight Newsletter Post

On stillness

What to do if you are lost?

The advice I get is to walk as slowly as I can, putting one foot in front of the other. It makes total sense because I have to be careful as the way ahead is not clear. I need stillness because that’s how I notice things.

A poem called ‘Lost’ was written by David Wagoner in 1971 and I’m reading it today and treasuring it on my daily walks.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here.
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Stand still… the forest knows… let it find you. It is in those precious moments of stillness when the panic of not knowing where I’m going loses its grip on my belly. When I am still, I’m not lost.

What to do if you are lost? The poem tells me: pay attention, to all that you are: even the games you play, even the parts of you that you dislike. Your gifts and your shadows.

In our dances, stillness makes us find each other.

A recent post by Aydan Dunnigan touches on the topic with elegance. It’s worth a read.

It made me reflect on the possibility of a new kind of tango training.

Most of the tango lessons I have had so far are packed with technique and perhaps it is right that at the beginning of your journey, you learn only steps.

Watch the teacher, copy, and repeat. Watch again, copy. Repeat. Until your body learns it. It’s a bit like driving a car, for those who know. You practice and you practice and eventually, sequences become second nature and that’s when the fun starts and that’s when you improvise.

That’s a tested road map, it seems. The apprentice has to be put into the mechanics first.

I wonder.

What if we start the other way around? Instead of watching what another is doing, we gaze inside. Instead of mimicking other people’s moves, we explore paths that our bodies want to follow.

I’m trying to imagine a training setting that emphasizes the ability to listen, yes, to music; yes, to your partner; yes, to instructions, but most of all, to your body. To what your body is thinking and feeling, instead of merely trying to educate her to follow preconceived arrangements.

To know where you are

Maps are needed for navigation, for sure. I use them a lot when I travel, but in my recent trips, I’ve been putting down the device and have dared to get lost and follow some internal compass to guide me.

Many times (oh my, so many times) I go in the “wrong” direction, but sometimes I get amusingly in awe with my random findings.

What I want is to explore the floor differently. Dare to get lost, feel lost, and, also, be curious about where my body wants to be. What if we give room for stillness and improvisation from the very beginning? What if we start relaxing our system, before making it try to do the correct thing?

You will never be lost on the floor when you go into stillness, even if it’s for a few delicious seconds. They are your chance, as Aydan puts it, to “breathe into the moment”. To know where you are.

‘If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.’

No amount of technique will replace the brief pauses we take in our tango to attune, to reassert ourselves, to ground before any next step.

Stay attuned

Jesus S. Acosta

Bringing your whole self to tango

Christopher Neville is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and in this video, he makes a delicious and pertinent analogy with tango.

In the stillness is the dancing

The poetic prose of Aydan Dunnigan takes our hand to see “the essence of the dance… within the nanosecond of a pause between the steps”.

How do you know you are on your path?

The Anglo-Irish poet David Whyte, commenting on the poem ‘Lost’, remarks on the ability for profound silence in the body to overcome fear and walk towards real change in life.

By Jesus Acosta

At heart, I am a story-teller. As a creative writer and designer, I tell stories on the web, on paper, and sometimes I scribble random lines on the dance floor.