A wee note of explain-ey-ness: I kind of talk a lot about Dance of Shiva today, which is weird because that’s the topic of my other blog, right? It’s just that I’m not really talking about the practice itself.
I’m talking about shifting thoughts, recognizing patterns, backing up, rephrasing, re-explaining, re-evaluating and maybe even saying “I was wrong, but not the way you think I am.”
There. How’s that for not actually explaining anything?
So I invented a wacky system to help people figure out how to mindfully destuckify things and work on their stuff in non-annoying ways.
That’s old news, of course. My duck and I have been teaching this stuff for five years and we use pieces of it with private clients and at the Kitchen Table and at events and retreats and whatever.
And one of techniques that I recommend people use while doing this work is Shiva Nata — the Dance of Shiva — because
it’s insane it’s insanely great it makes the whole process faster.
By facilitating moments of bing. Yes, bing. Otherwise known as moments of ohmygod I just saw a pattern.
Sometimes we call these hot buttered epiphanies.
Anyway, some of my people have been talking about not getting epiphanies. Or not getting the ones they wanted.
Normally I would just give them the dude, you’re not doing it wrong enough because you have to do it really, really wrong to get the epiphanies lecture.
But there’s something else going on here. We need to throw out the epiphanies.
So I’m thinking I need to shift the emphasis somehow. Or re-explain.
Because I hate to see people missing the good stuff — both the good stuff that’s actually happening as well as the good stuff that’s still to come — because they’re so distracted by the anticipation.
And because those Gigantic Awakening Life-Changing Epiphanies … they kind of aren’t the point.
It’s not that these extraordinary oh boy I’ve been wrong about everything I’ve ever thought moments of bing and zing don’t happen.
Because they do.
It’s just more that the big crazy ones ultimately aren’t as important as the growing/coagulating/piling-on-top-of-each other pull of tiny little insights and the delicate synaptic clicks of mini-understandings.
I’ll take that one step further.
It is the accumulation of these little bits of understanding happening on different levels — these microscopic physical-mental-emotional connections — that elicits the Big Ones.
You work up to the big understandings as the little ones start snowballing and interacting with each other.
I think we need some examples.
Like recently when a friend of mine was trying to figure out how she could teach something without having to travel to do it. She did her Dance of Shiva ten minutes of flailing, and the next day she mapped out a series of local workshops.
It just happened. And it seemed so completely obvious that the realization didn’t feel like an epiphany. It just felt like something painfully clear that she just hadn’t thought of before.
Or Frank seeing his skeleton.
Or when I used Shiva Nata to quit smoking.
Each day I’d get a new realization about some small aspect of my relationship with addiction in general, and with this addiction in particular.
One day I realized that I was afraid to take time for myself, and that smoking was a form of permission.
And one day I realized that I used smoking as something to do to gird myself up for Uncomfortable Things That Had To Be Done. Like arguing with my boss at the bar about money.
So yeah. None of these were huge realizations. If you had told them to me in words, I would have said that I already knew those things.
The difference was that now I really knew them. Like, knew them in my body.
That kind of “knew them”.
Which was big. And because of that, I was finally able to see how my patterns worked, and what my options were for shifting bits and pieces of them.
And then I was done. I wasn’t a smoker anymore. And I didn’t miss it.
So if it’s not about epiphanies, how come I talk about epiphanies all the time, huh? HUH?
Backtrack a few years with me. Scooby doo noises.
Back to before my duck was internet famous. Before we were in the New York Times. Back when my Gentleman Friend had to run his own business instead of being on my pirate crew.
I was on the phone with my business mentor, complaining bitterly about my total lack of ability to make money with this thing that I was soooooo insanely passionate about.
About how devastating it was to love something so much, to know that it coould change people’s lives and help them destuckify so much faster.
But only once they do it. And I couldn’t get them to do it.
Because I’d meet these interesting people who could totally be happy Shivanauts and they’d want to know “So what is this thing you teach?” and then the conversations would fall apart in the explain-ey bits.
Me: Okay. It’s basically a movement form that changes your brain. It’s based on yoga and …
Interesting person: Oh, I don’t like yoga.
Me: It’s about using the body to make new neural connections so you can learn stuff about your patterns and then change them.
Interesting person: Why do I want to change my patterns?
Me: It makes you insanely coordinated. Like, you will never drop anything ever again.
Interesting person: Oh, I’m not coordinated.
Me: No, you don’t have to be. It makes you that way. Never mind.
Me: It’s a way to use your body to learn stuff about yourself.
Interesting person: Oh, like yoga. I already do yoga.*
* Or Feldenkrais or Qi Gong or Alexander Technique or or or …
So I was telling my mentor how tired I was of explaining. I was done with the explaining and I was done with people not getting why it was different or why anyone would want to do something that sounded so challenging.
And he asked me exactly the right question.
This is what he asked:
“Listen, maybe I also don’t care about patterns or change or yoga or any of that stuff. But I care about you. Why do you practice Shiva Nata?
You’ve said yourself that it’s hard and it makes you feel stupid and half the time you kind of hate it. Why?”
And I knew exactly why.
For the moments of bing. For the tiny realizations. The moments of oh that’s why I do things that way. The zap. The blink. The tingly, gradual understanding that I don’t have to keep doing things the way I’ve been doing them.
Because my world is infused with possibility.
That’s what it is. Moments of bing. On demand.
He said, you mean epiphanies. And I said okay. Hot buttered epiphanies.
Where I think my people are getting stuck.
There are a lot of Shivanauts now.
I never really learned how to describe Dance of Shiva very well, and I still stutter when I talk about it.
But that stopped being a problem. Because my duck has a cult following. People basically do Shiva Nata just because Selma thinks it’s cool. That’s enough.
And I don’t have to convince anyone anymore, gott sei dank.
But in the meantime, there are a lot of people out there — my people — hungry for epiphanies.
And like Briana and like Anna and like Pearl, they want a to see something fall from the sky or to find the message written in enormous letters.
Which I get. Who doesn’t want that?
It’s just that it’s so much more useful to use the practice to get blips and drips of information in regular doses. To know more about what you’re tripping over. To know what your walls are saying.
And then when the tiny gasps lead to the big explosion, awesome. And when they don’t, you have room to appreciate the tiny gasps.
I’ve always said there’s only one way you can’t get epiphanies.
But maybe I was wrong.
The one way that I knew that people could do Dance of Shiva and not get epiphanies was to not actually truly challenge themselves.
Because without challenge there is no learning. It might seem that you’re challenging yourself because you’re doing it badly, but if you were in class with me we’d be reaching new levels of fabulous screwing up, rocking your brain with hard, training it to make new connections.
And believe me. There would be zing.
But I realize now that there is also another way to miss epiphanies. And that’s to just miss them.
To miss them by overlooking the mini-moments of understanding that come together to become epiphanies.
To be so involved with expectations of the Big One that the small ones don’t get processed or acknowledged or practiced.
Though even if you do? I’m pretty sure some epiphanies will come along anyway. As long as you’re challenging yourself, it’s pretty hard to avoid.
Okay. I swear. This is the conclusion. Well, it’s conclusion-ey.
Here it is.
If it’s not helpful for you to have this waiting for epiphanies anticipation hanging over you, drop it. We can throw out the epiphanies.
Not throwing them out for good.
But yeah, maybe moving them aside to make room for small understandings. Because that’s the important thing. That, and the having a conscious, intentional relationship with yourself part.
The rest is icing. And it will come.
And an especially firm comment zen for today.
I am kind of obsessive and protective and crazed about Dance of Shiva.
Without that marvelously crazy practice changing my brain, rewriting my patterns and giving me a new relationship with the world, there would be no blog. The Fluent Self would not exist in any form.
And I might not even have a duck.
So please please please be gentle with my baby.
Started Shivanata a few months ago.
Sometimes there are big, noticeable epiphanies (POOF! which take a while to assimilate fully), and sometimes it’s just a bunch of little, matter-of-fact realizations that only make the smallest of “piph” sounds…and sometimes I get impatient that it’s not POOF! POOF! POOF! all the time.
But recently I figured out (piph!) that it comes down to this: I like myself better on days when I do Shivanata.
in my little baby practice (i think 3 weeks now? something like that) i started off with pretty much an immediate, jaw-dropping, 3-pages-of-journaling kind of epiphany. they felt like the proverbial lightening bolt (which is one reason that thing is probably so danged proverbial, huh?) and i felt like i was getting to Know Myself in a deeper way than any other practice.
oh, and i was happy, too: light and full of ease and just in general my better self, less weighted down by the ugly anorak of self-doubt.
which is awesome, obvs,
sometimes the realizations slow down; i often don’t have time to meditate and reflect on what’s just happened to me but instead jump up to get ready for the rest of the day. sometimes, when i have more time to sit, they wallop me (i am an ocean cave! there’s a masochistic basketball coach living inside me! i can be safe in the present moment! and other such things that make so little sense when i try to communicate their power). most of the time, though, there’s just this incredibly deep sense of not just being comfortable in my own skin, but REVELING in it, which is slightly miraculous but not in the epiphany-ish sense. and writing! i started writing poems again! and journaling!
i read in a book the other day that the light at the end of the tunnel is looking at the situation in the upside down way: the light at the tunnel can become just another tunnel, but the tunnel itself has the power to become light. so it is, i think, with epiphanies: they are potential tunnels. if i focus too much on them, i’ll miss out on everything else that comes along with my practice, or start to push myself too hard to get them, and ignore everything else. i think i’m learning what i’m supposed to be learning: i may very well be my own developing epiphany.