Fixing Boundaries?

boundary mountain water - smallIn our culture of split second communication around the Earth, and easy push-button access to infinite amounts of knowledge under any topic, ideas around the concept of boundaries are becoming too easy to question. Go ahead, Google “boundaries”.

Perhaps the time is ripe to start a conversation about the many layers of what boundaries have come to mean for you, for me, for those who have no boundaries, for those who are totally shut down and imprisoned by static boundaries and especially for those (of us) feeling a bit blurry on the topic.

How do we create something that is not always tangible? How do boundaries impact our connections with people and ideas? What is the difference between boundaries and connections? Opposite sides of the same coin? What is that coin? How do we choose what realm to build our wall, fence, veil, doorway, idea, in? Is a boundary a passageway or a line? What are the realms we can build boundaries in? Time? Space? Transcendental? Virtual? ………….?

In a recent interview with CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti, Douglas Coupland talks about the pre-internet brain of those dinosaurs among us who were roaming the earth before the internet. It is a bit shocking to think that the brains of our children are wiring differently simply because of computers. This implies boundaries from generation to generation, as well as the potential for stronger, inter-generational connections. Could it also imply that our children may have a very different set of criteria for creating boundaries and connections?

Freud said the loss of conscious boundaries can occur when an individual is caught up in a unified, fast-moving crowd. Can Pop Culture and the World Wide Web be considered a unified, fast moving crowd? My answer would be, yes, sometimes. In this context, perhaps exercising one’s boundaries and being deliberate about whom to connect with, suggests the element of choice as well as the idea of self-regulation.

This is the beginning of an inquiry for those of us who are curious and/or have experience in trauma, grief, physical health, the immune system, dreaming, living and whatever other experiences relate to the idea of creating healthy boundaries and dynamic connections.

I welcome your feedback, thoughts and ideas as I work though this multifaceted topic over the coming weeks (and months).


Decoding the Body

Articulating how I work is as simple as separating the dancer from the dance or the musician from the music.

I was once asked to teach a three-hour workshop on how to teach one on one to a group of yoga teacher trainees. One day I will teach that workshop again but really, there are many questions to ask oneself before, “How do I teach one on one?”

Each time a person walks into my studio I am assessing where they at energetically by a combination of clues: what they choose to talk about, where they place themselves in the room, where they place their things in the room, their use of language, their appearance – skin colour (not ethnic)/complexion, how they walk, expression on their face, muscle tone, breath, physical alignment, how they manage that day with new as well as familiar exercises, and so much more.

Of course all of this interfaces with where I am at that day. Simple tasks from my personal hygiene to mantra and stretching and strengthening practices, as well as creating clarity with my family around my work hours, nourishing and hydrating myself properly. I cannot overemphasize the value of being as clear as possible a template within myself in order to serve my clients needs. To add to that, it is my wish that the personal template I work within be ever expanding and deepening. In other words, I strive to be open to learning new things/ideas in every situation. I also place myself in learning intensives once or twice a year where I get to be with and serve a master in the field of human potential.

I have been teaching movement disciplines for over twenty-five years. I danced through my elementary school years, rode and trained horses in my adolescence and travelled the world to pursue my studies in my early twenties.

Brain science has proven that we learn new physical skills, create new myelin pathways of movement skill in two ways – through repetition (a lot of repetition!) and through touch. This rings true for me because of my experience learning various movement forms and physical skills throughout my life.

We do not thrive without physical contact. There are valid reasons why touch can be a controversial topic, which is why I am very sensitive to each individual’s personal physical boundaries.

Our bodies speak a language that doesn’t know how to lie. We are all complex maps in need of a compass. My skill is in decoding this partially non-verbal, yet incredibly complex language. There is evidence that illustrates how our verbal language grows out of and with our physical movement experience.

It is my wish that more people are able to explore their realms of sensation where words, emotions, physicality, pain, pleasure, humour, boredom, curiosity all intersect. That is where some magical metaphors live that can be very real keys to moving each individual forward on a rich path of fully embodied self-discovery.


The Grace of (Threading) the Guru(’s Garland)

When my Guru brought another Guru to town, on the day of his arrival, I was asked to help with some of the last minute preparations. I jumped in, not really knowing why, wholeheartedly, and suspecting I would be going to the airport to meet the entourage after these preparations were complete. The tasks might be considered far less than glamourous yet it was actually a sweet opportunity to connect with the other person who was helping in an atmosphere of pure service. That sounds so cliché to my ears but, in this case, words fail the experience. Through the course of the next few days the word seva acquired a much deeper meaning for me.

I chose to let myself believe that being asked to make the garland that my teacher would be placing, upon arrival at airport baggage pick up, over this esteemed guest’s head was one of the ultimate honours I, or anyone, would ever be bestowed in this life.

I had brought a change of clothes to change into appropriate for a kind and respectful welcoming of such a yogic dignitary. I didn’t want to show up at the airport in my sweaty rehearsal/cleaning clothes and apron.

All these details of the evening are somehow insignificant yet important.

Upon arrival at the airport I easily located my teacher and a few more of his students. He had the garland that I had so carefully threaded, well protected in the plastic bag that I had put it in. As the “dignitary” entered the baggage claim area there was a small flurry of energy among us and, “but are we allowed to go past this point?”, “don’t take the plastic bag!!”, “Odette, put it the empty bag in the garbage.” We each flowed forward at our own comfort level towards this teacher of ancient knowledge. I realized that I might get to witness the moment of my Guru lovingly placing the garland over the visiting sadhu (Guru). A potentially loaded moment since I had made, and was so attached to the idea, that I had made that garland. My mind was taking me on quite a ride! By the time I had ‘flowed forward’ towards the entire honoured entourage my teacher had already arrived amongst them much earlier. At least two minutes earlier than I! Well, maybe one minute. I noticed that one of the esteemed one’s helper’s was carrying the garland haphazardly in one hand. Weird. Everyone gradually, in their own time , while waiting for luggage, began to get acquainted. Baggage conveyor belt jam. More time to get acquainted. At some point I got talking with two of the kirtan singers from France. It was utter sweetness for me to have an opportunity to converse in French with such sweet women. They were so generous and authentically kind.

The Guru’s garland was no longer on my mind.

Later, in the flow of the evening my Guru quietly appeared by my side. He explained to me that being given a gift or an honour, in this tradition, is not about about keeping it, or grasping. It is about that beautiful moment of exchange. If one keeps it, the essence of that moment is lost. So, in this tradition, one must pass the thing on. It’s not the thing, the garland, that is important. It is the exchange, the acknowledgement, the presence. I hope I am conveying that teaching accurately.

Shortly thereafter I was assigned to drive two yogic travellers to their hotel. We had a lovely conversation in the car but the words, in hindsight, were external points of connection that were the tip of deeper feeling.

By the time I got home it was after midnight. The house was dark. My precious family all silently settled in bed. I passed the message of gratitude on to my beloved as we were half asleep, half awake, from my Guru and his beloved of their thanks to him for parenting and so much more, while I was not.

In the morning I awoke, before everyone as usual to shower and do Sadhana. What was that dream? I am swimming in such a vivid essence of something. What is that feeling that a dream can create, to haunt your day, good or bad? But it wasn’t a dream and I must thank my Guru again, again, again, again……


The Magic that Shows Up Daily

As I begin my first ever blog post I wonder what I want to share that is relevant, inspiring and perhaps controversial. I want to share the magic that shows up in my life daily and the actions and choices that are fertile ground for noticing this magic. I have no doubt that there is ALWAYS magic present. The trick is to be able to notice that cosmic dance, not just swirling around us, but that we are actually a part of. Deep wounds, that we may or may not be aware of, inhibit our participation in this amazing vortex we call life.

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate as the mother of two beautiful, strong, healthy, willful girls who both got to experience their own birth into this world peacefully at home. Now don’t get me wrong! Birth is a very intense experience for all present!  I love the idea that, in anything we do, we can be fully engaged and at ease at the same time. Ahimsa, the first quality of the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbed Yoga) means non-violence. I choose, to the best of my ability, to live peacefully and with clear intent.

I also have an adult son and a three year old grandson. My son is actually my stepson but I have recently taken to introducing him as my son because I love him that much and he is also a vital part of our family. I have helped raise him since he was 10 and now am his only living mother. That is another story though and I would only tell it with his permission. I have only physically given birth to two children yet I thrive on the feeling of having four children in my busy home. Two part-time and two full-time.

I met Ron, my partner in life, almost twenty-five years ago in a dance studio in Vancouver. It was NOT love at first sight! We worked together for about five years before we started dating. He is the drummer, I am the dancer. He says I started it, I say he started it. We’ll never know. Or maybe we are both right. I love metaphors. It is hard to believe so much time has passed already. And again, I am not trying to sugar coat anything. I thrive on intensity. It’s not always easy. I suppose we stick with it because we know how to laugh and cry and have fun and grieve and whatever else it takes to heal those damn wounds…..