Every once in a while, I’ll be all balled up and struggling with something and a friend will say, “A wise friend of mine once said…” And then they proceed to tell ME something I told THEM when THEY were struggling. I love/hate it when that happens. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling tired and I thought about writing a post about stopping…until I remembered that I’d written this one in 2015. Since I am in the midst of a writing class at Writer House in Charlottesville and I’m working like crazy on pieces for that, I thought it would be a good time to revisit.
(Originally published on October 18, 2o15)
How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping
~ Alanis Morissette, Thank you
It’s crazy. For 15 years I’ve been teaching and practicing movement and mindfulness but sometimes, I just don’t pay attention.
Last week, I taught some extra classes. Then I taught my regular classes and a (super fun) day-long retreat. I took a day “off” but worked on follow up and class preparation and did yoga and played catch up at my desk. Then I taught my regular classes again. By Wednesday, my battery felt not just drained but like someone had ripped it out and stomped on it.
On a Monday morning, I overhear two colleagues chatting in an office at the gym where I teach:
— Oh man, I am so tired. Are you tired?
— Me? I’m always tired.
About three-quarters through a 90-minute yoga class, I’m on my belly, doing my best to slow down my breathing. I can feel the sweat dripping off me and I can see a drop of it quivering at the tip of my nose. Take a deep breath, says Kelly. Let yourself really rest.
As she says this, I realize that the muscles in my hands and belly and feet are tense. I know class isn’t even close to being over. I’m bracing for what is coming.
Much of the time, she says, we don’t give it our all when we’re working and we don’t really stop and rest when we’re stopping. That’s why we’re tired all the time. Work when you’re working. Stop when you’re stopping.
At a Nia training years ago, my trainer asked us to choose a simple piece of choreography for a self-observation exercise. I chose something in which the base movements were only Closed Stance and A-Stance. The idea was to observe how we did the moves and to clean up our form, and here I’d gone and picked the simplest thing ever.
When I paid attention to what I was doing, I realized I was wiggling my toes and adjusting my feet and not ever landing and stopping in my stances at all. My stances never rested.
The most common complaint of new Nia students is that they develop blisters on the soles of their feet (it happened to me when I started). Blisters usually appear when movers repeatedly slide, shuffle, or twist on their feet. When they are stepping, they aren’t really stepping but “dragging their feet.”
When I’m wrestling with an essay or a tricky post for my blog and I hit a lull in inspiration, I will often stop and check email or troll Facebook or send a text. When I work, I’m not really working.
After a full day, I feel exhausted, but when finally roll into bed, I find myself rolling through what I accomplished and planning what to do tomorrow. When I stop, I’m not really stopping.
Last week I had a dream about a student. He’s been coming to my classes for a decade and I don’t think he’s ever been in the room for the first song. He always comes once we’re moving and jumps right in. At the end of class when I invite everybody into stillness, he usually does some sit ups or leg lifts and often he leaves early. In my dream, he was in class doing his thing and a voice asked, When does he stop?
For some reason (overriding the creepiness of “I had a dream about you” intro), I awkwardly mention this to him after class. He laughs uncomfortably and then says, Huh, that’s funny. I’m 75 and I’m still working. I can’t seem to figure out when to retire.
Go when you go. Stop when you stop.