The Still Point of the Turning World

Barb Heagy Dance in the Park 2015 242-002

This week Wendy Roman, of Rhythmwood Dance Studio, asked her Facebook readers what the phrase “Effortless Effort” means to them through dance. Another reader and dancer, Laine Magidsohn, suggested it be called “Dynamic Ease.” I like both phrases. Both phrases speak of finding that balance between active participation and passive release.

I think ‘Effortless Effort’ and ‘Dynamic Ease’, are both phrases of just stepping aside for a moment to connect with life’s energy force. Letting it flow within, embodying it, giving it room to become one with me and then moving forward together. I don’t just step aside and let it take me over. We work together, side-by-side, internally as one. One body, one flow of energy.

When I was getting my MA in Dance at York University, my thesis centered on finding the relationship between creativity and spirituality. I held a day long workshop of movement and dance, journaling and oral sharing. Later in evaluations of the experience, two of the participants spoke of finding ‘stillness’ in the ‘movement’ while they danced. A paradox. After the event, one of the participants gave me a beautiful hand-made calligraphy copy of an excerpt of T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets – Burnt Norton.” For her, his poem spoke of finding “The Still Point of the Turning World” and acted as a metaphor for her experience.

From T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets – Burnt Norton”:

            “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

            Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

            But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

            Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

            Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

            There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

Finding that balance of stillness and movement is a form of active release. It means standing still for a moment, breathing, centering myself, becoming deeply aware of all that is around me so that I can connect with the movement of life and its energy and begin to move as one with it. It’s becoming as T. S. Eliot calls ‘The Still Point’ so that I become the axis around which my world turns. I am integral to its being. I support it, as I become the stillness from which the movement circulates. The world rotates around me, life happens, but I am always centered and strong, actively a part of it, and deeply aware of the bonded process. It’s finding “The Still Point of the Turning World” within myself.

A Path to Creativity


Back in the mid 90’s I was teaching a Gr. 1 class at a small country school. One of my student’s parents offered to write our Christmas play and so began a new friendship based on our mutual enjoyment of writing. Jane introduced me to a book called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by the author Julia Cameron.

It was a book on the link between creativity and spirituality and included a 12 week program of basic principles and activities that rekindled one’s latent creativity and helped one to overcome problems such as self-esteem, self-criticism, jealousy, guilt and other factors such as worry over time, money or support, all blocks to our creative energies. Cameron believed that we all are creative beings, that there is not one non-creative person alive. She also believed that the universe is naturally creative and creative expression is the natural direction of life. This resonated so deeply within me as, decades before, in my university years in the early ‘70’s I had studied fine arts, modern dance and drama and experienced a new-found confidence in my own creativity abilities. I, too, believed vehemently that we all are creative beings.

During the ‘80’s, my child bearing years, my life had become very busy with family obligations and yet, during this time, I did manage to work professionally with a dance company in Toronto and returned to university in 1988 to earn a Bachelor of Education. Working full-time, raising a family and working through a difficult marriage didn’t leave much time for dance activities any longer. In the early 90’s my husband and I separated and a new life began. I was longing for a new outlet for my creative energies.

Cameron’s book provided me with that. For 12 weeks, I worked through her book, chapter by chapter, every day writing what she called “morning papers.” Each day I sat down with three blank sheets of paper and in a stream-of-consciousness format, I filled those pages. She said to fill them up from beginning to end, even if all I could write was “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” She said, if you kept writing, pretty soon something of value was going to come out on that page. I wrote a lot of garbage back then but there were also many true gems of wisdom. I found by writing this way, it released my creative energies and I often found my soul revealed on the page, answering problems that I had fretted over for weeks.

She also told you to take an “artist date” once a week. It could be anything: go visit a fabric store, walk along a quiet river, visit a museum or go watch a parade. You were allowed to do anything at all that helped to rejuvenate, replenish or inspire you. It was to be done solo, was to be fun and festive and was to be filled with play. She said that we work so hard at being artists that we need to give back to ourselves and find the play in our creative process once again.

At the end of the 12 weeks of exploration, Cameron challenged you to set a creative focus for yourself that would work in your life. You were to set a basic goal, the steps you would go through to achieve that goal, and the time frame it would take you. You were to find a mentor that would encourage, guide and prod you along and you must meet with your mentor once a week until the goal was achieved. I chose to focus on writing, to have something published, even if it was only in a small way and I met with my friend Jane in her home, once a week. I continued to write morning papers and we had a lot of fun giving each other small prompts for creative, spontaneous writing and sharing these with each other. At the end of my weeks with her I did achieve my goal and an article on creativity was published in a provincial drama educator’s newsletter.

Cameron’s book opened up a new world of writing to me. I had always enjoyed writing but she inspired me to explore my writing further and she gave me a means of goal-setting and finding success with my chosen creative field. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels blocked in their creative field. If you are willing to work through her program from beginning to end, you will achieve success – and have a lot of fun doing it. Get those creative juices brewing. Go play.

The Photograph

I stopped in front of the large photograph on the wall of the art gallery. It was a picture of a make-shift table, more a platform, pushed into the corner of a room. On the table was a simple place-setting: one plate, one fork, one knife, one cup. In the corner of the table was a book, partially read and marked with a bookmark. One chair was pulled up to the table, facing the corner. The wall behind the table was unadorned, devoid of any pictures that would draw the eye. That’s all. There was nothing more in the picture.

My friend said, “Now that’s an odd picture.” And moved on.

I lingered. I thought, This person lives alone. Or at least, the photographer knows what it’s like to live alone. The photo had a stark simplicity to it. Although it was in colour, it left me feeling black and white. It was a picture of life stripped down. But, therein, was its purity. It was a picture of the basic nature of a life when everything else is peeled away and someone is left alone. With no distractions other than that person’s own choosing.  After all, there was a partially read book on the table.

Living alone isn’t necessarily a bad life. It has its benefits. I spread eagle my body across my queen size bed every night, taking all the pillows. I wake up when I want to and retire at night whenever I wish. I have total T.V. remote control power. If I want to cook an extravagant meal with garlic shrimp, roasted eggplant, and Portobello mushrooms, I do. Sometimes I eat Kraft dinner. I have the freedom to jump on a plane or hop in the car and head out to see the world whenever I wish to. Life centers round my own needs and interests and desires. The rhythm of life is my own to create and I beat my own drum, loudly and joyfully. Living alone, one needs not be lonely. Family and friends are only a mouse click or text or telephone call away. Or not.

So, Mr. Photographer (or is it Miss or Mrs. or Ms.), I see your photograph of a life lived alone. But I think my own photo would look a little different. There would be a table with at least four chairs in a corner of a room. I would have one place setting facing out, but there would be a stack of plates and placemats and silverware on the opposite corner, ready for meal-time sharing when the opportunity arose. I would have a vase of bright red tulips in the middle of the table and a crystal glass ready to be topped with sparkling wine. The wall behind me would be filled with framed pictures: my daughters, my grandson, laughing faces in tropical settings, kangaroos and cockatoos, snow-covered mountains, and sunsets over the ocean. The sun would be streaming in from an unseen window flooding my little dining corner with golden rays. There wouldn’t be a book on the table. Good food and private musings would be enough for mealtime contemplation. It would be a photograph full of colour and light, potential, and gratitude. It would be a picture of life lived alone, but never lonely.