The Coronavirus of 2020 is bringing the world to its knees. Literally. Travel has slowed to a complete stop, events were canceled, and millions of people have been confined to their homes to self-isolate and “flatten the curve” of illness. Social distancing is the name of the game to keep the illness at bay, keep the medical facilities functional, and protect its most vulnerable citizens (elderly and immunocompromised individuals).
Personally, I’ve had a hard time navigating the space between the breakdown and the breakthrough of this virus. I suspect I’m not alone and I know this time will linger for far longer than we expect, challenging us to hold tight. The caterpillar must become goo before it can become a butterfly. While we’re swimming in goo, I want to remind you of the power of a pause and pivot.
Life—and healing especially—isn’t a straight line. I’ve come to a place in recovery where I’m tired. As often as I want to throw in the towel, I know living, recovering, and accessing higher levels of consciousness is worth it. At the same time, the awakened life isn’t for the faint of heart. Healing is sometimes exhausting; it’s also messy. It’s arduous, painful, and relentless. When we think we’re solving one problem, we often find more to solve—or come to find out that the problem we thought we solved, has resurfaced in a new way—sometimes repeatedly and with vengeance.
While many think of recovery in terms of stopping an addiction, it’s my belief that everyone is recovering from something—which may very well be an addiction, but not necessarily in the traditional sense of one who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. I wasn’t addicted to one substance over another. Rather, I have addictive behaviors and tendencies toward numbing rather than acknowledging and processing my own feelings. I was frequently distracted, and often searched for things outside of myself to make me feel whole and complete.
I’m recovering from many things: among them are depression, suicidal ideation, trauma, neglect, critical illness, and more traditional addictions with substances, food, and sex. The more I learn about recovery, the more I understand the things we often blame as catalysts for recovery in the first place—like a traumatic childhood, a narcissistic lover, and feeling unloved—are often exacerbated by our internal state of mind. More accurately stated, we can get lost in our perception of a circumstance, without taking the time to heal and understand the reality of it. When that happens, it’s nearly impossible to take responsibility for the ways we contributed to the problem(s) and do the work to heal matters of the heart, mind, and soul.
Taking personal responsibility and staying committed to self-improvement is not easy—especially once I realized I’m my own biggest challenge. However, that doesn’t make it any less important or worthwhile. Two concepts from dance that I revisit frequently during my own recovery journey are the pivot and the pause.
A pivot is defined as a “turn or twist.” You’ll hear later about my obsessions with fancy turns. For now, know that a pivot to me is a sometimes-subtle movement used to change your trajectory. When we’re evaluating our environment and not getting the results we desire, a pivot is used to change things up. We do this in business all the time. Growing up in direct mail (yes, back in the day before email and the internet) pivots were the name of the game to score better results from direct mail offers. Our team obsessively analyzed data and made sometimes minuscule adjustments like changing the envelope color, choosing a different return address, or using a slightly different copy variation. Each test was measured against a control package to see which one performed the best. Once new packages were deemed “winners” by achieving a greater response rate, we never stopped testing. The new winner became the control package, and all-new variations were tested against the new winner.
I believe that’s what we should do in life. Even when things are working and going well, there’s always room for improvement. We should consistently be evaluating ways to make incremental improvements and find new “winning” strategies.
While the pivot comes naturally for me, the pause has been a bit more challenging. Recently, in dance class while I was learning a new move, I could not stay with my partner. As we broke down the steps, we realized I was moving through the pause, which totally threw things off. That particular sequence required a short pause before the finish and my failure to heed the pause made it challenging for me to stay in sync with my partner.
My failure to take a proper pause in life caused similar challenges. What is a proper pause? For me, it’s resting without guilt, getting enough sleep, taking care of my personal life and business while also making space for fun. It seems most of us were conditioned to continue moving forward at all costs—particularly in the entrepreneurial space. There’s glory in “the hustle.” Only it’s my belief that hustling comes from a place of lack.
Everyone is hustling for their dreams, but are they really? I now believe hustle kills dreams. Hustle is not the same as working harder, or more importantly, working smarter. Work is always required to make your dreams come true. But you know what else is required? Relaxation, self-care, stillness, downtime, and joy as an integral part of the equation. These gifts are often found while dancing, meditating, connecting with others, and just BEing ourselves.
Hustle wakes me up in the middle of the night to work. Hustle keeps me up all night and avoiding my body’s need for sleep. Hustle keeps me at the computer on social media while friends and family are standing by—longing for company. Hustle keeps me meeting the needs of others while my own needs fall by the wayside. Hustling has me multitasking at a rate that defies comprehension. Hustling worries whether or not the payments will come through in time. Hustling often means people-pleasing. Full stop.
Hustling comes from a place of lack. Hustling is rooted in the belief that we must get ours before it runs out. Hustling represents a lack of trust. Stopping the hustle subscribes to a position of abundance, strength, and worth. Stopping the hustle demonstrates commitment, courage, and determination. Stopping the hustle requires owning your power and using it ways that add value while balancing it with life. Stopping the hustle requires establishment of systems, processes, and networks of people to serve yourself and others. Stopping the hustle begins with a commitment to who you are and protecting that valuable asset at all costs.
For me, I think the fear of pausing comes back to a fear that I will stop. I don’t ever want to go back to my depressed days where I couldn’t get out of bed and while failing to claim my own worth over the worth of others. My dance instructor, Stephen balances the dance pause beautifully, stating:
When we pause in dancing, we never actually stop completely. We change the energy to slow down and almost come to a complete stop, but we keep a slight movement as we continue the weight transfer and slow down the reaction through the body. With the slightest bit of movement still alive in the body, and hardly noticeable to the eye, it enables us to move fluidly into the next step or movement without losing rhythm or losing the beat. We are magicians employing many tools and tricks including variable speed to create dynamics and illusions.
The message is clear: a pause is a dynamic, yet slower movement that creates a more fluid overall experience. Pausing doesn’t mean working on your job until you’re abruptly forced to stop because of illness; instead it’s simply acknowledging a necessary energy change. Not only is our purpose alive and well, it will bounce back higher and with more intent after an effective pause.
The above was an excerpt from TranscenDANCE: Lessons from Living, Loving, and Dancing.