This is the law.
No same leaves pebbles persons places times faces grasses.
Whoever disobeys the law
~ Paul Reps
How many times? How many times have I been preparing for a Nia class and I look at a routine or some music and I think, “I can’t do that again. That would be so boring.” As a new teacher, as soon as I’d learned a routine, rather than spending more time with it and relaxing into knowing it, I quickly and immediately started learning another. “My students will be bored if I don’t have something new,” I’d say. Bored.
Nia is grounded on the idea that the body loves and thrives on variety. Principles 2 and 4, for example, point to this. Nia is based on nine different movement forms (Principle 2) and the fifth stage of freedance (Principle 4) is all about change. And there is a bigger truth: even if we did the same routine, the same movements over and over, no two classes are ever the same, no two movements are ever the same, no two sensations are ever the same. There are no sames. If we’re paying attention – really paying attention – nothing is ever the same and there is no boredom.
In his delightful and insightful dharma talk (click here to download or listen to On Mindfulness of Body and On Going Bananas On Mindfulness of Body and On Going Bananas ), Pascal Auclair tells a story about his first spiritual teacher who was disguised as a drama teacher (I love how “drama” and “dharma” are only one letter apart). He worked with this drama teacher regularly for years, and the phrase that the teacher would come back to again and again was, “Hey. We’ve never been here now before. This is completely new.” Even if they were rehearsing the same scene over and over, the teacher would pause and remind them, “Hey. We’ve never been here now before. This is completely new.”
This drama teacher taught mindfulness – although he never mentioned it. By calling attention to the newness of every moment, he guided his students to the extraordinary awareness that is mindfulness. Decades later, now a teacher himself, Pascal pauses as he recalls the story. Touchingly, wave of emotion moves through him. This first teacher – this dharma teacher in drama teacher’s clothing — taught Pascal the most essential teaching about mindfulness: there are no sames.
I am learning this lesson, little by little. I am gradually learning to slow down and sense, notice and pay extraordinary attention. I do my best to avoid multi-tasking. As you’ve probably noticed, this goes against our cultural conditioning of constant stimulation and sensory bombardment. In a time of texting and cell phones and IMs and Tweets and status updates and CGI and 500 channels on cable and extreme sports and Red Bull and … well, we just aren’t encouraged to really pay attention. We are encouraged to just be relentlessly stimulated. We can stay with superficial attention as the intensity increases. There’s no need to go deeper when you’re watching three different screens and everything in the movies is loud and exploding. Our culture says, “once I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it. What’s next? What’s new?”
This week, I’ll be teaching the same routine I taught last week. This is a learning edge for me. Showing up with the same material asks me to go deeper. And yet as Paul Rep’s Grassblade Experiencing so sweetly reminds me, boredom is optional. Every heel lead, every cross front, every stance and kick, every breath, every sensation, every one is new. Every single one. Any sense that we’ve “been there, done that” is a complete illusion.
Whether you are taking class with me or not, this week I invite you to experiment with the extraordinary attention of mindfulness. Allow yourself to be seduced and fascinated by the details of whatever you are doing – especially if it’s something you’ve done over and over. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, driving to work, dancing Agolo, reading this blog. What would happen if you really noticed the newness in everything?
This is the law, my friends. No sames. Isn’t that awesome?