Shawn, who cares nothing at all for sports or athleticism in any form, and would probably prefer that it all just disappear in a whoosh of smoke, has noticed how very much I do care.
As well as the way I am constantly descending to the red rug to breathe some yoga, or bounding off to dance. And that it’s basically impossible to talk to me if there’s a basketball game playing in the background. Or if it’s roller derby season.
He said, “I am very interested to hear your take on all things athletic.” Which is a sweet alternative to shaking his head and saying UGH I DON’T GET IT, and I appreciated that.
That was fourteen months ago, but I am invoking the superpower of All Timing Is Right Timing, and so here we are right now.
Dogs and frisbees.
You probably already know this about Havi because everyone knows this about Havi.
She loves watching dogs catch frisbees: that moment of leap-and-turn.
She can sit in the park for hours, captivated, watching dogs catch things.
Here is what she sees when a dog is hurling itself into the air in a perfect, compact, concise arc, rotating in space and grasping for the thing it wants most in that moment:
Power. Grace. Strength. Desire. Adaptation. Purpose. Certainty. Precision. Trust. Determination. Joy. Delight.
Ease-filled striving: combining the twin superpowers of effortlessness and effort together in the just-right amounts. Every part working simultaneously in a flawless harmonious dynamic coming-together.
And also: Perfection.
Perfection in the sense of whole and present. The way that a tree or a mountain is so completely itself and so completely there.
That’s not even the amazing part. The amazing part is that these dogs are mathematicians: solving complex problems in their head, making calculations at breakneck speed, while maintaining this state of PURE AGILITY and performing feats of triumphant aliveness.
The dog doesn’t know it’s being a genius. It doesn’t know about the calculations as they’re being calculated. At least, that seems unlikely.
That dog is living physics. That dog is living math. Not in its head. Body. In a full happy state of joyful being alive.
In great moments of athleticism, you can see someone go from thinking-person mode into I Am A Dog And This Is A Frisbee And Together We Are The Unified Connecting Of Dog And Frisbee And Actually I Am Not Even Thinking This Because Thinking Has Dissolved Into Being, Amen.
Scald Eagle in the last jam of this bout between Rose City’s Wheels of Justice and Windy City in April. Start at ONE HOUR AND NINETEEN MINUTES. And then watch it a few more times.
When Randy Pan (the announcer) says Rose City can still pull off a win, he does not actually think there’s a chance in hell it will happen. He is trying to Build Dramatic Tension because that is his job.
Everyone knows it’s never over until it’s over, this is true in most sports and especially in derby, but this? This was basically over. The likelihood of these two minutes happening the way they happened is… well, not very. Of all the alternate parallel universes we could have landed in to experience those two minutes, this is one of the more astonishing ones.
Havi was there, and she remembers hearing nothing but her heartbeat. Not registering the miracle, just the steadily reverberating thump thump thump and waves of wonder.
Here is the important part:
During these two minutes, Scald is not thinking. She is leaping for that frisbee and it is the only thing that exists in the entire world.
Some part of her mind is tracking where everyone is, making adjustments, remembering the rules, aware that she’s already sat six penalties and if she gets called for ANYTHING at all she will be expelled from the bout and it is all over.
But she herself is not thinking. Just like the dog who is not thinking about physics. In these two minutes, she is one hundred percent her pure animal self. It’s just her and the frisbee.
Yes, she’s also incredibly talented. She has a brilliant strategic mind, a warm heart, and unbelievable determination. She’s fearless, nimble, creative, beautiful, daring, speedy, playful, powerful, risk-taking, courageous, dynamic, trusting. All these things make it fun to watch her tear through a pack leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake.
But the magic is when these things temporarily disappear and there is just these dynamic alive-alive-alive harmonious moments of WANTING and LEAPING. This, for Havi, is everything.
What Havi is actually talking about when she is talking about sports.
There are two things that she is watching, and not just watching but actively DELIGHTING IN while she is watching sports.
This is most or maybe even all of what she is experiencing.
One is watching people coming into the state of being their full-on animal selves: activating this astonishing, powerful, lithe, agile grace. Being in their wholeness.
The other is watching flow. Kaleidoscopic-patterns-unfolding-and-reconfiguring. Liquid math, forms deconstructing and emerging, dancing through the raindrops, finding all the hidden pathways.
When Havi was about fourteen or fifteen she went on a hike with a group of friends.
This was not something she had experience with. She found it challenging and invigorating. It activated things in her that she had not known existed.
There was a moment going downhill, bounding from rock to rock, that tripping-but-instantly-rebalancing, grace and ease. All muscles, joints, bones, connective-tissue and cells joyfully collaborating, moving towards a shared purpose.
And in that moment Havi thought: this has to be exactly what it feels like to be a gazelle.
Havi strives for gazelle state.
She doesn’t care about “exercise” or any of the related words, building muscle, calories, getting a workout, blah etc.
She doesn’t do lunges or count crunches. She doesn’t jog. She doesn’t use machines. She doesn’t track how much or how many.
She wants to return to gazelle state, to spend as much time in optimal gazelle-ness as possible. To be at her most gazelle.
And it is for this and because of this that she walks and bounds, dances and stretches, moves and rests.
Tension and release.
Havi loves watching roller derby, basketball, baseball and football. Proper football. She does not care about American football, even though yes, it’s strategic and there are also kaleidoscopic patterns involved, configurings and reconfigurings.
She suspects it is in part because you can’t see enough of the muscles moving together. All that padding makes it hard to see the gazelles.
Havi wants to watch bodies moving. The miracle of coordination, trust, flow, grace. Tension and release.
And, another thing about Havi. While she can watch competition, She cannot be IN competition.
When Havi moves her body, it is in relation to herself. Internal space and external space. Presence. Revealing and radiating. It is about aliveness.
Havi is there for the playing and the playfulness: curiosity, awakening, reaching, wanting, trying, falling, bouncing back, exploring, bounding, leaping, landing, balancing, returning, tension, release.
Havi doesn’t care if she never catches a frisbee. She cares about the thrill of leaping, the smell of the grass, the whispered yes of aliveness.
The commenting blanket fort.
You are welcome to say things about dogs and frisbees, share a moment of appreciation, talk about gazelle state.
You don’t have to care about sport or athleticism. Or you can care a lot, and like things that I don’t! We can still be friends. Each of us gets to have our own story.
And I want to whisper here: I found it incredibly useful to write about A Topic That Doesn’t Seem Particularly Relevant To Stuck Things I Am Working On, letting it be a secret lens and a fractal flower or a proxy, to process other things along the way.
- People vary. We’ve all lead different lives and had different experiences, as well as different personal definitions for [potentially problematic] words. I hate “exercise” but love being a gazelle! For you this might be entirely different.
- This is that exquisitely rare thing that is safe space on the internet. We keep it that way through our shared practice of Not Giving Advice and Not Caretaking. This helps us make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.
- We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.
That’s it! Big love, as always, to the commenting mice, the Beloved Lurkers, and everyone who reads.
I love watching golf to see how the players handle the big pressure putts. Who can find a stillness that lets them make the putt to win? It’s amazing how a simple putt becomes so difficult when emotions, money, and a trophy are added on.
Exactly what I needed today, Havi. I am happy to add “frisbee time” and “gazelle state” to “flow” and “kairos” in my vocabulary.
Thank you for reminding me (again) just what it is about your thought processes that I adore so much. I’d have this post tattooed on me, if, of course, I was into tattoos and wasn’t terrified of needles and was completely unconcerned with what anyone thinks (in other words, if I somehow stopped being me)
Since THAT isn’t going to happen, I think I’ll just pick up a sharpie and draw a Frisbee on my hand instead.
And maybe a gazelle.
I never liked sports or exercise when i was younger, but I’ve astonished myself over the past couple decades: the yoga that led to dancing, that led to the Flail, that led to interval training which, against all logic, I really love! Love being in my body and feeling like I’m realy there!
I’m not sure how often i hit gazelle state, but i do hit it, and wow, that is just the sweetest holiest mysterious thing.
This makes me think of when I swim.
on land, I have all sorts of problems with my physical body. and while these don’t all disappear when I slip into the water, it feels amazingly like they do, for a bit. I swim forward, I am a Frog. I swim backwards, I am an Otter. It’s really something. When I come out of the water, I have a few extra sore spots and need a couple extra pills, but it’s worth it! It’s cool to be able to share this here, with others who can actually understand it. 🙂
Gazelle Power! Frog Power! Otter Power!! Oh, they are superpowers. Right!
Yes, yes! I had never thought of it in this way before. But gazelle state is exactly what I love best about being active.
And your love of dogs catching frisbees makes me wonder if you’d like AFL footy (Aussie Rules, that is) for their ‘marks’ [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_(Australian_football)]. Men leaping into the air to catch the ball is the most impressive aspect of the game. (I’m not a follower of AFL because I’d rather play a game than watch one, but I can appreciate marks for the athletic skill it takes to succeed at one.)
Not much more to say than “o…YES. THIS.” Thanks for a lovely post and a lovely reminder.
A collage of gazelle memories…
…Swimming. (Me too, Claire, me too!)
…Roller skating through my neighborhood streets as a kid.
…Bouncing, on beds and sofas, as a littler kid.
…Rolling down hills.
…Dancing, freestyle, any way I choose. Dancing, *not* as if no one is watching, but as if everyone who is watching is thinking that I am marvelous.
…Those two times in junior high when I was mysteriously *good* at something pertaining to a team sport: defending the goal posts in floor hockey, and delivering an unreturnable serve in volleyball. I couldn’t possibly have explained how I was doing any of this; my body just *knew*.
Also, yesterday I happened to read something that got me thinking about 5Rhythms dance, and feeling inspired to maybe explore it more deeply, so today’s post feels like Right Timing to me. Thanks, Havi. <3
Mmmmm, gazelle time!
I think this will be a good proxy to try for cleanup & decluttering, because after all, these require body movement and flow. The eye pounces on the pile of stuff, and the body follows. The eye scans the individual piece of paper, even, and the hand puts it in the right sort pile. And of course, a person might not be interested in cleaning or decluttering, but he/she might very will like the idea of spending some gazelle time! Especially, if when one is done, there is some open space and the gazelle can see farther, as one should on the prairie.
Oh, Havi, this is perfect. As always. Beautiful, and with perfect timing.
I love ice sports. And I used to be an ice athlete (even a fairly good one). I am the type who can’t catch or throw a ball to save my life, and absolutely *loathes* the term “exercise” or anything remotely attached to it. But I find my gazelle state in my skates, and in watching others on skates. And I can still strap on my blades and fly. Anytime. Without conscious thought or backward glance.
Too bad there’s very little ice in the Northwest. But wherever I find it, I’m there, skates ready to lace up.
I am an athlete (for fun!) and “gazelle state” describes that feeling so well. Thank you for this! It is added to my pre-game warm-up pep talks now. 🙂
How lovely, the image of the gazelle and the fascinating comments.
Made me think of how I can harness gazelle power now.
1-I had hated gym class in school because of self-consciousness. I’ve since learned to eschew thinking a bit to get to flow.
2-I am having stuff come up around decluttering because I feel too scattered to be linear. But I like the image of a gazelle, energetically bouncing from one rock to the other. That is getting it done, even if the path doesn’t look straight.
3-I’m going to Bolivia and considering the “hard way”. But for my inner gazelle, it’s as natural as catching a frisbee (if I may mix images). To the thinking mind, all the “liquid math” seems hard. But it can just happen.
Thank you for putting this into words. Gazelle state is why I dance. It’s why I have been dancing ever since I can remember. And I think it’s at least partially why I’ve always wanted to be a “good” dancer. Because in the moment of dancing, I know that I am perfect. But after the moment, the thoughts arise again. I can’t be a good dancer because I’m fat. I can’t be a good dancer because my ankles don’t work right, and have big scars on them. I can’t be a good dancer because I was never an en-pointe ballerina, or because I can’t really jump. But these are just thoughts that come up, and just because I think it doesn’t mean it’s true.
And then you talk about physics. Liquid math. Math being the thing that I hate about as much as I love dancing. Or, I have a story about myself that I hate and am no good at math beyond a certain everyday level. I have years of Fs to “prove” that I’m not good at math. Or science, which I secretly love. But what if I’m secretly a genius at it? What if my body absorbed lessons that my brain didn’t want to?
Yesterday I randomly doing the practice with the spirals again. Without thinking about it, or thinking that I SHOULD do it. It just happened. And again today. The Internal Scientists are slightly skeptical, but looking hopefully forward to reviewing the data of this experiment.
Thank you for reminding me about my relationship with my body, and how joyful it can be.
I love watching (American) football and watching dogs catch frisbees and as a kid I wanted to be a gazelle. So this is perfect! Also dancing. It’s for those gazelle moments that I dance. Remembering them and purring (OK a mixed metaphor since gazelles probably don’t purr). Thank you, Havi!
I don’t know how that ended up being Pepe in the picture instead of me. It has something to do with WordPress I suspect. Pepe is the hero of the series of humorous mystery novels I’ve been writing with my friend Curt, under the name Waverly Curtis. The first book is called Dial C for Chihuahua. The second one, Chihuahua Confidential, involves dancing dogs. Now I’m plotting ways to get gazelles into the one we’re writing now. I think a tiny Chihuahua would very much want to be a gazelle.