Dead Perfect

hillel-keep-dancing“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.” – Daniel Hillel

She texts: “Happy New Year! I am so in need of a Nia class and was hoping to come to your class tomorrow…”
I text back: “Oooh! Yes, please!”

My friend Susan has moved back to town. She was one of my first Nia teachers until she moved to Seattle years ago. In 2006, we did our Black Belt training together. Even though she’s been far away, I have stayed fond of and lightly connected to her.

Now she’s coming to class.

I know myself. I’ve been in this situation before. I know how I get when I want things to go a certain way. I want things to go perfectly. I want to welcome Susan to our community and I want to teach well in her presence. I’m also working on a new routine which can sometimes be a bumpy ride.

So I do what usually do: I over prepare. This time, though, I see that I’m doing it. I tweak and tweak the playlist. I practice my choreography. I plan what I want to say. I see what I’m doing but I do it anyway.

When I get to class, she’s there and beautiful and radiant like she is. I’m relaxed since I TOTALLY know what I’m doing and how it’s going to go (perfectly, right?). I set up the room, choose some upbeat welcome music and clip on the mic. I stand in front of the class and I welcome Susan to Charlottesville.

So smooth, am I.

I glide to the stereo to start my perfectly perfect playlist and … it’s not there. I’ve somehow synced the wrong music. I have a playlist but it’s not the one I’d planned. The class waits quietly.

“Okay, Universe / The Gods / Nia,” I laugh to myself. “Thanks for the reminder. This is not going to be perfect. That’s cool. Let’s see what happens.”

I take a breath. We start dancing.

Then the mic cuts out. And comes back. And then cuts out again. We keep dancing while I change the batteries.

A few songs later and I realize that this playlist is 10 minutes too short for this class. I need to add more music somehow. While we’re free dancing to Brown Eyed Girl, I find a song to insert. I make a joke about “a little iPod burp” as I fumble with the plugging and unplugging and we keep dancing. Near the end and I’m still short so we dance into a meditation to a sweet, contemplative David Wilcox song.

And then class is over. It wasn’t perfect…it was alive.

In her classic book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chödrön, writes:

We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience.

The class didn’t go as I’d planned, thank goodness. It was alive not in spite of the snafus and missteps but because of them. There was space for laughter and breath and singing to Van Morrison. It had fresh air.

Perfect is an illusion. Perfect is dead.

Part of me does know this. I know that life is stepping into the river and letting go of the shore. I know this, I do. But evidently, I need reminders.

  1. Lori Raphael said:

    This is so familiar. Needing to be perfect might stop me from stepping in as a Nia teacher- or it might stop me from leaving the house!

    • Perfection can be seductive and destructive. As Ani Pema points out, I can be hypnotized by the illusion that if I do everything perfectly, I’ll be in control and safe. But since there really is no such thing as perfect and since reality is fluid and uncontrollable, it never works. What a sadness for the world to miss out on you and your teaching due to a misunderstanding, an illusion. Come on out into the beautiful mess. ❤

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