EPL and Sacramento

Here’s a blog I wrote a few days ago when I was still in Cali and never posted:

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations.

I went into this trip trying not to have any. But the longer I’m here, the more I realize I did have some preconceived ideas about this trip.

After the first month of EPL, I remember having this feeling that the goal I had at the beginning of the month and the result I had at the end were so different from one another. I remember thinking, “Well, in Month 2, there’s no way I’ll be doing anything but training hard. I’m going to California and New York to dance, and I’ll only have 8 days in January when I’m even in Columbia.”

But this trip, while I have danced a LOT and I still have a few days at Shoebox and a day at the mothership with Suhaila, the most important things I have learned so far have been outside of the dance studio. I’ve learned so much about hard work from these women and men. I’ve learned what a healthy, functional dance community looks and operates like. Amy sets the bar REALLY high for these dancers choreographically and interpersonally, and it shows.

Some of the best experiences I have had here have been outside of Hot Pot, even! On Sunday, we went to a Japanese bath house in downtown San Francisco called Kabuki. The first thing you see when you walk in are these beautiful shower stations. Everyone sits down and bathes, and then you enter the main room.  There was a hot pool, a cool dip pool, a wet sauna, and a dry sauna. You’re not allowed to talk loudly and you just slowly drift between the different pools and saunas for as long as you want. When I got out, I felt so cleansed and restored. It was absolutely beautiful. After we got sushi, some sort of crepe-ice cream sundae and walked Haight-Asbury in San Francisco.

EPL: End of Month 1/Beginning of Month 2

January has arrived. Month 1 of my “Eat, Pray, Love” Experiment is officially over.

My goal last month was to foster creativity and become more productive at creating art.

So how did I do, you might ask?

…Well, I have mixed feelings about how “successful” I was. At the beginning of the month, my goal was to really work hard on a large project I’m working on. Now, there’s no quantitative way to measure how much you’ve worked on your creativity, but you could measure it by how much art I’ve created… and if you measured it by that criteria, I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked. I made very little progress on that particular project.

But I do feel like I have accomplished a lot this month: I created a vision board that is currently hanging above my desk. I researched a lot of videos, choreographers, dance styles, movies, etc. and surprisingly, I feel like I accidentally identified really crucial elements that I want to bring to my dancing — both on a performance level and an instructional level. I have felt more goal-oriented and productive recently — I am starting to fall into a regular exercise routine, I’m getting some much-needed “business work” done, and I’m starting to use my time more productively. I definitely feel that this has been a result of this experiment, of sitting down and thinking to myself, “I have one month to focus on one part of myself.”

I think I’ve learned a few things: One, life can sometimes get in the way. Partway through the month I received some news that forced me to slightly change my focus (stay tuned 😉 ). I also learned that goals have a way of mutating into new goals. I went into this experiment with the mindset that if it wasn’t working, I would modify it until it worked — so while I wasn’t as successful in the areas I originally wanted to focus on, I made a lot of personal progress.

But Month 2 I think is going to be a little different.

Month 2 is my training month. I will be leaving on Tuesday to spend two weeks with the incredible Amy Sigil of Unmata. While I’m there, I’m hoping to stop by several other instructors’ studios: Cera Byer, Mira Betz, Ariellah, SUHAILA!, and Fat Chance Bellydance, if all goes according to plan.

To prepare for it, I am working my ass off the next few days so that I will be able to operate optimally:

  • I got a free week trial at a gym. I’ve discovered I do a lot better when I have a place to GO as opposed to trying to work out at home. I’m researching affordable gym memberships or perhaps applying for a gym scholarship
  • Vitamin D supplements work wonders for me. I get super depressed and lethargic in the winter. I think Mark thinks it’s all in my head, but I feel more inclined to work out when I am taking the supplements (I don’t care if it IS me imagining it — if it gets me to the gym, I’ll take it!) And read what the Vitamin D Council has to say: “Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.”
  • Eating right. I’m sick of putting crap in my body and feeling like crap, so I’m not doing that anymore.
  • Drinking plenty of water.

Throughout my travels in January, I am going to make more of a point of trying to blog — even if it’s really short, just blogging SOMETHING. I’m hoping to be more present on the EPL tribe. I’ve been so inspired reading everyone’s individual journeys 🙂

So stay tuned!

EPL: A Little Update!

I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I would liked to recently, but it’s a good thing. I have been working hard on my goal of creating, and I have made several strides:

1) Inspiration board is up. I finally finished my inspiration board, and oddly enough, a few things on it have come to pass!

2) Focusing on different forms of inspiration, not just belly dance. Since I no longer have access to regular belly dance classes, I have lately been focusing on other dance forms. My ballet, modern dance, and Odissi classes ended for the semester, but I have been working hard on working out every day and working on exercises I picked up in those classes. I also have been trying to research modern and contemporary dance videos lately, some of which I’ve been trying to post here.

3) Reading! I get in this bad habit of rereading books that I’ve read a billion times before. I have been trying to branch out and read more books specifically on subjects that help inform my dance.

4) Learning my creative habits. I have noticed I tend to be more productive in particular types of situations. I have learned I can’t really choreograph at home or anywhere where I can find an excuse to surf the internet. I tend to get a lot more accomplished if I pack up all my crap and go SOMEWHERE to work – usually the Stephens College dance studio (big thank you to the Stephens College dance department!)

5) Building a creative training plan. I sat down one day and made two lists – my physical training plans and my creative training plan. On my creative plan: books I want to finish, research I want to complete, exhibits and shows I want to visit.

EPL: Surrounding Yourself With Inspiration

My Christmas last year was spent circling over Chicago in a plane, unable to land because of fog, and ultimately flying back directly where I came from — Memphis (Columbia Regional Airport flies to the Memphis hub).

While I was grumpily eating Burger King in the Memphis airport, I missed a very cool family moment — my sister (who managed to make it home) and my mom ended up making vision boards. Vision boards are essentially collages with visual representations — pictures of yourself where you’re healthy and happy, magazine cut-outs of places you want to visit, a snapshot of a person who  possesses attributes you admire — of goals you want to accomplish and things you want to be reminded of year-round.

I was talking to my sister recently about her vision board, and she told me that most of the things she had put on her vision board had actually had come to pass. And it got me thinking:

The longer I live, the more I see that we have the power to manifest what we want in life. If we work hard, put positive energy out into the universe and trust that our lives are unfolding exactly as they should, there is no way we can be defeated, even if seemingly bad things happen to us. I don’t spend enough time appreciating the present. I have spent too much of my life brooding about the past or worrying about the future, and I refuse to do it anymore. I’ll be the first to admit it — I have played the victim card before. And it really doesn’t change anything or make me feel better. So new strategy: Anytime I want to feel sorry for myself or play victim to what is happening to me, I am now trying to see the positive in it, roll with it, and keep my eyes focused on enjoying life NOW. As a good friend said to me recently, “You could die TOMORRROW. Do you really want to spend your last days on Earth worrying?”

I can’t tell you how much happier I have been lately, just living in the present. It was incredibly hard for me to do at first — bad habits are hard to kick — but the more I try to practice this every day, the better I feel and the more natural it becomes.

I feel like a vision board might really help me not distract myself with the past or future — it will manifest positive energy while still forcing me to live in the present. Think about it– what if I created a visual representation of all that I want to accomplish, place it somewhere where I see it constantly, and every time I see it, I visualize it happening and put good energy in the universe? I see it as a very powerful tool.

So, in the next few days, I am going to create a vision board, and I am going to make sure to include elements that relate to the project I am working on. Every day I am going to remind myself what my goals are and where I want to end up… and I am going to live every day in the present, focusing on making those goals happen.

The other goal that I am starting this week and continuing through my month of creativity expands off of the idea of the vision board. This month, I am surrounding myself with inspiration. I plan on seeing as many plays, exhibits, and concerts as possible. I am going to read as many books as I can. I am finally going to put something on the walls of my house that have been empty for a year.

I’m off to a good start — I saw a Japanese dance exhibition today, and right now I’m off to see “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” which is the musical that we have been designing costumes for for the past few weeks at work (I work in a costume shop at a performing arts college).

I think one of the best ways to tackle a new goal is (as others on the message board have mentioned) to set small, managable goals that you can slowly turn into positive habits. So my mini-goal is this: surround yourself with inspiration. Anyone taking part in the experiment can do the same — invest in a fruit bowl and some new cookbooks, check out some books on meditation, or buy a new piece for your altar. I challenge you to think of a way to surround yourself with positive inspiration for whatever goal you’re tackling.

EPL: Day 1 and 2

The very first day of the Eat, Pray, Love experiment, I drank barely no water, I didn’t eat breakfast, and I capped off my evening with a gas station muffin and a ton of Pepsi.

… whoops.

Yeah, I basically displayed flagrant disregard for what I put in my body, which directly contradicts what I have been promoting this entire time. But, in keeping with the experiment’s code, I am not beating myself up or calling myself a failure.

I wondered why the first day was so rocky, and I remembered the rules I set for myself about modifying your experiment is things seem to be heading south. After some thought, I came to these conclusions:

1) I am still very much excited to work on my goals, and I like to eat healthy. But I realized that right now, I am not excited about food. I want to tackle it, but not first. I need to focus on another of my goals first.

2) I have been given some extra time off from my job, so I have lots of time. I want to use this time pursuing creative endeavors.

So two days in, I am switching up the order of my goals. I believe that this is the month that I have to finally get this big project I’ve been contemplating off the ground. I am a huge procrastinator, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll create distractions for myself instead of actually tackling what I need to be tackling. So this is the month — no more excuses, no more distractions. I am creating this month.

I also created a tribe for all of us experimenters. A link to the tribe can also be found under the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Experimenters” menu to the right on my blog. This is a message board where we can share as a community our goals and progress. It is free — all you have to do is create an account (I have never had a problem with spam or anything — the site is legit). Posting on the message board is completely optional but strongly encouraged. Occasionally there are problems with the site being down, but I prefer this type of message board to google groups or yahoo groups.

If you are keeping track of your journey on a personal blog, I’d love to link to you! Comment on this post and respond with your blog’s url.

The “Eat, Pray, Love” Experiment

I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way, but every time change comes in to my life, I try to read a really life-changing book (I know, I know… I take nerd-dom to a new level). I have had a few people recommend the book “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert to me, so I picked it up the other day from the library. In this autiobiographical account, Elizabeth details her year-long quest for true spiritual enlightment. — 4 months in Italy, eating good food, learning the language, and seeking pleasure in life; 4 months in India, studying yoga and spirituality at a yoga Ashram with a guru; and 4 months learning life lessons from a Balinese medicine man in Indonesia.

Well, I definitely picked a life-changing book to read.  It’s honest, really well-written, and dripping with wisdom.

It got me thinking… I think people do not take nearly enough time in our culture to work on their own happiness and spirit. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I went on my own journey pursuing three things I wanted to develop or experience to make me a better, more enlightened person? And what if I could work on my passion, dancing, like Elizabeth pursued a relationship with God? I think it’s safe to say that I am a preacher of the dance gospel — maybe that makes it my religion (“Please open your Bibles to the gospel of Martha Graham, please…” ).

So I’m doing it! Starting in December, I am going to spend one month focusing on eating, nutrition, and keeping my body at optimum health. I am going to try to make meals for myself more, try new food, and learning as much as I can about taking care of my body. I will be traveling to Chicago during this time for Christmas — resisting my mom’s fudge will be an interesting challenge. I’m hoping to explore the city with this new mindset.

Come January, my focus turns to training. I’m hoping for bootcamp-style, constant dancing and studying as many dance styles with as many dance teachers as possible (even as a kid I always loved the montage where the dancer is training feverishly). I will be in Sacramento to study with Amy Sigil and other belly dance teachers in the area for the first half of January, and I’m planning to continue studying Indian dance, modern, ballet, and explore some new dance styles.

February is going to be the month where I am going to focus on creating. I am surrounding myself with as much inspiration as possible, collaborating with other artists to achieve my goals, and work on some pieces. I am hopefully going to be traveling to Atlanta for Tribal Con during this period, which I am really looking forward to for a lot of inspiration.

And I think you should do it to!

I’m calling it the “Eat, Pray, Love” experiment. Who would be interested in focusing on three passions, three things-you-always-wanted-to-do, three do-your-soul-some-good things; spending some time pursuing each one (it could be a day, a week, several months — however long you want your experiment to last); and sharing our experiences as a community? When going through huge changes, sometimes it can really be great to have a community of people supporting you doing something good for yourself. It’s also great to hear about one another, and it will keep us all motivated to keep with the experiment. If you’re interested, post a response to this blog.

EPL… On Hold Due to February Sucking.

I try to stay positive most of the time — really, I do. But can I just say, man, this is my worst February in awhile.

Usually it’s not too bad. Sure, I don’t particularly like Valentine’s Day (I much prefer the day after Valentine’s Day, actually — discount Valetine’s Day candy makes me happy). And by the time February rolls around, I’m so DONE with winter that I want to scream; but usually it’s bearable.

I think the thing that REALLY tipped the scale this month was the fact that I had to completely put dancing on hold because of this stupid hamstring/glute injury. I’m so frustrated that I haven’t been able to train and keep in the shape that I was in when I left New York. But as my mother wisely said, “Injury is the universe’s way to kindly tell you to slow down.”

I felt like I went from working really hard every day to sitting, worrying, and eating constantly. Blah!

It could not come at a worse time, since I finally figured out the focus of my last month of EPL: I want to focus on combining what I’ve been studying the past two months and moving forward from there. In a word, this is my work month. I’ve gotten a lot of new training and life experiences. I looked for inspiration everywhere I could the month before. Now it’s time to create.

However, I feel like most of the month is already gone. So I am changing the rules of my experiment, and I will be tackling my last goal starting in March.

I have some exciting things coming up — a couple of projects with some really great performers, I am teaching a workshop tentatively in Kirksville on April 10, and I will definitely be attending the Amy Sigil workshop in Kansas City. I’m working on getting my big project I’ve been mulling over for awhile into motion, as well.

How have your EPL experiments been going? What are this month’s goals?