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.

New Year’s Resolutions

As 2016 as left us and 2017 has rolled in, I have been contemplating my New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s Day seems to be a good time to reassess your life and set some new goals, or so the world seems to be telling me.

I agree. It’s good to re-evaluate your life once in a while, and New Year’s Day seems to be as good a time as any, but I have learned that I need to be doing this on a continuous basis. I can set a goal, but then I need some steps to achieve that goal. These become my signposts along the way. It’s not just goal setting, it’s goal building. If I don’t have these mini-steps along the way, I’ve learned that I probably won’t achieve my main goal in the end.

Even at that, with a guiding map with significant stops along the way, life will probably throw some curveballs into it that threaten my steady progress. That’s when I stop and re-assess. Perhaps there’s a major storm happening, perhaps the road has crumbled or is under construction, and I have to choose another path. But if I hold true to my chosen destination, I will find another way. It may mean just a short respite from my travelling or I may have to choose a whole new path to circumvent the problem but if the goal was worth setting, it’s worth finding another path to it.

I lie to myself. I realize that there are different ways to try to meet my goals. One way to achieve a goal is to express it as a ‘hope’ – “I HOPE to feel better in my body.” But said this way, it really comes down to me saying to myself, “I INTEND to meet this goal.” These kind of goals have a built-in ‘out’ to them. I’m not committed to anything. I just hope I will achieve it. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I admit it. I ‘intend’ to continue to feel good in my body, which means regular exercise and good dietary choices. This is something I have been working on in the past, but I realize that I can do better. In fact, it seems my body is telling me, I must do better or suffer the consequences. I will go to the gym today and continue to hold this goal in front of me so that I feel better. It seems I have a million interests and obligations that continuously try to sidetrack me from meeting this goal. I need to bring my goal to the forefront and adhere to the regular steps along the way to achieve it fully. That means getting out and exercising at least 150 minutes every week. I need to set the dates and do it with full commitment. If something diverts me from fulfilling that commitment then I need to find another time and day to do it.

Another goal I have set is to give myself a new learning opportunity. It’s a short term goal, the kind I prefer. I tend to be a sprinter in life, and less like a long distance runner. It’s easier for me to fulfill a goal that has an end in sight. I have registered and paid for a week long getaway to attend an international dance camp. In a totally unique way I am looking with interest to improve on the skills I already have in dance, writing, travel and spiritual growth. I see it as the next step in my self-development. This is a goal that will improve me without necessarily knowing where it will lead to next. That’s okay. I’m going to enjoy doing it and I know I will be applying my new-found experience in future projects.

Another way I use to meet my goals is to work backwards and set a final date and goal and claim it publicly. When I set a goal like this, I don’t really know the path it’s going to take to meet it, but by publicly declaring it, I am assured that I will meet it. I am committed. It puts pressure on me. Without asking for it, I have enlisted the help of my community to ensure that I get the job done. For if I don’t meet my goal, I have not only let myself down, but all the people that believe in me. I’ve done this many times in the past by setting dates for future performances and it works well for me. This year I have done it by co-authoring a book called “Good Grief People” and we have set the date of February 28, 2017 as the probable launch date. I say ‘probable’, because we did set this goal before we knew the absolute route it would take to get there but we are aiming for February 28, 2017. I know we will reach our goal. We’re going to do it together.

So, my 2017 goals of ‘feeling good in my body’, ‘building my dance skills’ and ‘writing a book’ are well underway. I hope you have set some goals too. Good luck to all of us.