Since I am still working on the rest of the story about our move to the new flat, here is an excerpt from an e-mail to my good friend Mark. He recently moved to LA to pursue a career as an actor and a model, and we have great conversations about "what is home?", how do you know when you have found the right career or right place to live, the right relationship, etc. Here is part of an e-mail that I wrote to him last week - in addition to some philosophical musings, it gives an idea of what the Nia intensive was like...
I, too, am a searcher. I haven't stayed in the same spot for more than a year and a half since I was 15. All this moving around has taken me to 2 places in Brasil, Austin, ABQ twice, and now 2 places in Mozambique. I feel a compelling need to keep moving forward, to have new experiences and meet new people, all with the idea that out of it all I will gain some life lesson essential to my time here on earth.
What I've learned from it all is the following:
- the huge revelations and life lessons never come at the time or place where you expect them to.
- the boring, sedentary times can actually be those revelations in disguise, and you only realize it later.
- every part of the journey serves a purpose. You are where you need to be now, and you will end up where you need to be when it's time.
- at some point it becomes obvious that it is time to stop searching, at least in terms of moving around to new places or changing careers. How do you know when you've found what you're looking for? Your body will tell you. Not your mind, your body. I know this sounds strange, but I'll try to explain what I mean in a litte bit.
- being happy and feeling satisfied with life will happen, but it's not at all the way you imagine it should feel like, and it is still rife with ups and downs and depressed periods. The difference is that you feel an overwhelming sense of calm and grounded-ness that rides you through the uncertain parts of life and always leads you back where you need to be. I always found that to be missing when I was in an intense " searching" phase. I would just search and search and at the end of the day feel very unsettled. Excited by life and in love with the people around me, but unsettled.
I can tell you I've been through fabulous times and also some very terrible ones. Many people have criticized the way I've lived my life, but I don't regret anything. But recently, I've received a loud and clear message that it's time for me to stop. I need to put down some roots, have some stability in my life, stay in one spot for a while.
Several things pointed me to this conclusion at the same time. The first was having lived for 9 months in Chimoio sharing a house with 5 other people. It was one of the hardest things I've done, for several different reasons. It undoubtedly brought out the worst in me. I wanted to run out of that situation after about month 2, but I made myself sit still and ride it out. I learned a lot. At the end of nearly a year, I decided that it was time to move on. Not because I was running away, but because a very wise voice inside me said I'd gotten all I needed out of the situation and it was okay to recognize that I was in a bad place for me.
The second thing was the Nia intensive training that I did in Cape Town. Nia is basically a way of finding health and healing through movement. It combines dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts to help each person find exactly what his/her body needs. Nia is very much about getting in touch with the body, doing what your body naturally tells you it needs. When the body is healed, the mind will also be healed. It involves a lot of philosophy about mind-body connectivity. So at the training, we did an intensive week of Nia and at the end all the participants became certified to be Nia teachers.
I love Nia, but the intensive was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I found myself very, very resistant in the first few days. I even plotted how I could make an excuse to leave the training after day 2. But again I made myself sit through the uncomfortableness of the situation. I got physically ill on day 3, and then it was like I'd crossed over to another place. I became acceptant of the process and made it through the rest of the training. I learned how to get in touch with my feelings, feel how they affect my body, and move my body the way I am called to move to help heal the feelings. It has been life-changing.
I know it may sound like a lot of hoo-haw, but it reminds me a lot of what you said about accessing your feelings to become a good actor. In Nia, you have to access your feelings and let them move your body to truly get the most out of dance. You only become a good Nia teacher when you access those parts of yourself.
I learned that I have been living my life completely in my mind. I have a fabulous life in my mind - I write, I think, I read - and I am recognized because of my mind - my work - and I let my mind make my life decisions - mostly rational and "thought out". But the mind can many times lead you astray, and a life lived wholly through the mind is an unbalanced one. I am learning how to live through my body again, and the body will never guide you wrong.
Let me give you an example:
Our Nia teacher told a story about a friend who was agonizing over whether or not to marry her boyfriend. This woman asked all her friends for advice, made lists of the pro's and con's of marrying this man, went to a psychologist, discussed it with her family, etc. And she still couldn't make a decision as to what was right for her life. So when she finally asked our Nia teacher what she should do, the teacher said to sit in a quiet place for 30 minutes and think about her boyfriend. Then, she said for the friend to notice what she felt in her body. So the next day, the friend came back and said that she'd sat for 30 minutes and thought about the man she was considering marrying. The teacher asked what she felt in her body, and her friend said that she felt her throat closing up, like she was being strangled. That was the unmistakeable message from her body that marrying this man was not the right thing to do.
So all through the rest of the Nia training, I tried to reconnect with my body and stop analyzing everything. I just danced and moved and meditated, doing everything my body wanted. All of a sudden, I became overwhelmed with a feeling that I needed to grow roots. I wanted to stay in the same place, be grounded. I felt this both in my dance, as well as in a larger way in my life. Interestingly, when we would do evaluations and feedback for each other as part of the training, everyone commented that my energy was not grounded, that it seemed as if I was dancing on air. Quite literally, the physical manifestation of what I need in my life right now.
I want to settle down, stop moving around, and grow my roots. Ricardo and I moved away from Chimoio in January and finally found an apartment in Maputo, the capital, at the beginning of March. We are now living together in an environment that I feel is good for me, where I can concentrate on my life and work and be a happy person at the same time. When I think about settling down, everything in my body feels joy. That's how I know this is the right thing...