Practicing the Dance of Shiva we learn to know both where we are and where we want to go. We do this by knowing what position our arms are in and also knowing what position we are moving them to. We also know the movement we are going to use to get there. By knowing where we are and where we are going to we can practice being present.
Knowing where we are heading in the next moment in time we can go there.
Riding a motorcycle I learned how to be present by “Looking to the Horizon”. The horizon isn’t so much the horizon of the earth but the horizon of the “Now”.
On a bike, especially when I am going fast, the horizon is the furthest point of the road ahead that I can see.
As more of the road ahead becomes apparent, my Horizon changes, sometimes a little closer, sometimes further away, but always ahead of me, leading me on.
Riding I find that there is a point just above that part of the road that seems to work well as my horizon. And I don’t just look to the horizon, I sense all of the road between myself and it. This is my now.
For the longest time I used to be scared when riding a bike fast, especially while going around corners. I then found that if I positioned myself so that I cold see around the corner as far as possible and look at that point just above the surface of the road, as far ahead as I can see, then I feel comfortable going faster. I position myself for the best view of the way ahead. I give myself the biggest now possible. I can go smoothly from one corner to the next.
If I am riding in traffic, I can look for the gaps to flow through and I can give “unconscious drivers” the space they need so that I can keep myself and them safe from harm.
And rather than letting myself get tangled up in thoughts of who is a good driver or more particularly who is less than good, I can focus on the path that I am trying to follow.
A similiar thing happens when I practice asian calligraphy. When I’ve learned the brush strokes of the character I am painting, I can flow from one to the next meanwhile staying aware of both what I have painted and the room I have left to paint within so that the piece I am painting as a whole has a beautiful flow.
The better I know a whole series of characters that I am painting the easier it is to flow from one to the next. And when i get really good I’ll be able to simply compose on the fly, deciding what characters to paint as I paint them, their meaning guiding me from one brush stroke to the next from one character to the next.
Alas, to get to that point I have to practice. I have to learn the brush strokes.
But if apply the same mindset to learning brush strokes as I do to painting characters I can learn to flow while learning and the feeling can be just as pleasant, just as present as while actually composing on the fly.
The key is to focus on learning small bits at a time, focusing on “sensible ideas,” smaller units that have meaning in and off themselves. Learning characters, those sensible units can be brush strokes or they can be smaller component characters that together in combination make up the bigger characters.
Riding a bike on a set course it might be practicing one corner over and over again. Doing yoga it can be doing the same pose over and over again.
Learning or practicing a small idea, a sensible idea, if we do our practice with rhythm, doing and then resting and then doing again the rhythm of doing and resting, of simple repetition can be soothing, and although it is the same idea we are doing over and over again, if we practice sensing that idea, looking ahead towards it, we can learn to flow that much faster. Then when we add that small idea to the other small ideas we’ve learned we can learn to flow from one to the other with much greater ease. Doing becomes like learning and learning like doing. In both cases we flow.
How does this apply to the dance of shiva, (or anything else for that matter when we are doing a preset sequence of moves?) By learning the moves so that they are a part of ourselves we don’t have to think about what comes next, instead we just know. As a result instead of thinking about the movement we are doing now we can let ourselves do it (because we know it) meanwhile we can “think” ahead to the move that is coming up next. It’s as if the horizon that we are looking towards is within ourselves.

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