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Certainty

January 1, 2018. New Years Day.

I don’t know about you, but 2o17 was a rough year for me in many ways.

I’m fine with it being over.

But I don’t want to be in a rush to change everything. There are many things that are GREAT and that I’m GRATEFUL for.

Sure, there are  lots of things I’d like to change, but before I go there, I want to focus on what’s working, what feels good, and what I want to keep.

This week, when everybody’s focused on resolutely changing stuff, let’s focus on what we love and what we want more of.

We can get to that change thing soon, but for now, start with what’s great. What do you want to keep?

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don't know question mark 1I resist not knowing how things will go
And yet
What do I really know for sure?

When I stop to think about it, most of modern reality seems unreal
and nothing, or very little anyway, is for sure.

Everything changes. That may be all I know for sure.

And yet we pretend we know, we act as if we know even as we float in the groundlessness.

So.
I don’t know.

My practice is to relax into the reality of not knowing
To feel my breath moving,
My fingers writing,
My ears listening to a cover of Bruce Springsteen.

don't know question mark 3“The more I see, the less I know.” – Michael Franti 

I don’t know what to write.

I start three different posts on three interesting topics all with nice quotes to get me going … and I’m staring at the screen with a heavy feeling in my chest and that stupid blinking cursor poised above an empty page.

Some days, I don’t know anything about anything and I’m not even sure what’s going on.
Sometimes I just don’t know.
Actually, I never know.

If you read this blog much at all, you know that most days I feel anxious about one thing or another. At the moment, I slide into my tense, jittery anxiety jacket about not knowing. In particular, not knowing what the next few months will look like.

My husband Frank and I are putting our house on the market in early April. The house we want to move into is available in September. With even a modicum of calendar skills, you’ll notice there’s a space between those two things. Space and about a thousand moving, multicolored Rubik’s Cube parts.

So I get anxious some days because we don’t know. And Frank calmly and kindly tells me, Actually, we never know.
Right, right. I keep forgetting that: we never know.
We just pretend we do.

All this leads me to a cascade of wonderings about the nature of reality, our perception, and of course, The Matrix.

I ask myself, What do I know for sure?
Over lunch I ask Frank (poor thing), What do you know for sure?
Even together, we don’t come up with much.

Everybody wants to be happy. We disagree on this one: I say yes, he says no.

Everybody will die someday. Frank is holding out for our brains going into the nutrient bath so we can live in a virtual reality which leads to…

I’m sitting here at this table with you. In this reality, says Frank. Yes, yes, the Matrix, I say. An alternate reality of which I am unaware is challenging to argue.

Everything changes. That one we agree on.

Pretty slim pickings for a question that seems like it should have way more answers. And that’s the thing: for whatever reason, our human brains want things to be solid and for sure. I suppose it feels safer to think we know how things will go but that’s a pretty lame safety net since it simply isn’t the way things are.

We pretend we know, but we don’t. We create an illusion of solidity, when actually, everything is groundless.

Except.

Except for this moment. If we set aside the whole alternate-reality-Matrix thing, I can find some solidity, some ground in this moment. Feeling the sensations that are happening right now and making the best choice from there is as close as I can get to knowing anything.

As we get the house ready to show and I clear out cabinets and closets, I keep thinking of the meditation on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances:

1.) I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
2.) I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape ill-health.
3.) I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
4.) All that is dear to me and everyone that I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
5.) My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

While this meditation may seem like a serious bummer, the Buddha offered it as a reminder to wake up from our denial of impermanence and our constructed illusion of knowing. It’s an invitation to get comfortable with not knowing and see that freedom and peace can be found right here.

Despite my human tendency to want to know, I never know. Times like these when my not knowing is so patently obvious can help me release my grip, relax, and be here.

thisUnbelievable. Doubt, certainty, certainty, doubt. Two weeks of being on call for jury duty and I did not have to go in, not even once. I’m either the luckiest person in Charlottesville, or I’ve used up all my luck for the next decade. It’s almost as if the Universe wanted to mess with me a little and then let me off the hook. In the meantime, while I wasn’t doing my civic duty, we were dancing to a bunch of different routines that we drew out of a hat — most of which I hadn’t done in their entirety in years.

On Monday and Tuesday, we focused on Certainty and Doubt and what each of them sounds, moves, feels like. On Wednesday, we focused on se soinge (which means, in French, “take care of yourself” … thank you, Candace!). Thursday, a meditation mantra: “It’s like this.” Always helpful for me (especially when revisting not-recently-visited routines) to remember to stay in my body and in the present since there is not a single pingle thing I can do about anything in the past or future. (Right, right, I knew that, I knew that.)

I had such a great time paddling around in the river of the unknown, I’m planning to do the whole pull-it-out-of-a-hat thing every so often: jury duty or no.

ANYway, below are the playlists from this week’s classes (including the routine names and choreographer). A couple music notes:  a bunch of Bob Holroyd’s extraordinary music came up this week, so if you’re not familiar with his work, it’s worth checking out.  And two of my favorite albums in the past 10 years:  Afro Celt Sound System’s Further in Time and 1 Giant Leap.  ACSS is a band that draws its (often changing) members primarily from the UK and Africa.  They blend their styles into a super-delicious smoothie for the ears.  And 1 Giant Leap.  A perfectly brilliant project of allowing poets and writers and musicians from around the world make art together without actually ever meeting.  Pure genius.  EnJOY.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or how I can help more.

Have fun. Dance on.
Xo
Susan

Jury Doodie & The River of the Unknown, Week 2 ~ Monday, August 12, 2013, 1045am Miracle & Wonder (Choreography: Susan)

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – 5:48 – Paul Simon
All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints – 3:15 – Paul Simon
The Obvious Child – 4:10 – Paul Simon
Graceland – 4:51 – Paul Simon
I Know What I Know – 3:13 – Paul Simon
The Boy in the Bubble – 3:59 – Paul Simon
You Can Call Me Al – 4:40 – Paul Simon
Crazy Love, Volume II – 4:19 – Paul Simon
Gumboots – 2:45 – Paul Simon
Can’t Run But – 3:37 – Paul Simon
So Beautiful Or So What – 4:09 – Paul Simon
Born At The Right Time – 3:48 – Paul Simon
Spirit Voices – 3:56 – Paul Simon
Under African Skies – 3:37 – Paul Simon
The Boy In The Bubble – 4:30 – Peter Gabriel

Jury Doodie & The River of the Unknown, Week 2 ~ Tuesday, August 13, 2013, 9am
AO (Choreography: Carlos Rosas)

A Different Space – 8:43 – Bob Holroyd
Journeyman – 6:41 – Bob Holroyd
Something Understood – 4:24 – Bob Holroyd
Drumming Up a Storm – 5:59 – Bob Holroyd
African Drug [Original Tribal Mix] – 6:02 – Bob Holroyd
Adrift in Kerala – 6:07 – Bob Holroyd
The Sheer Weight of Memory – 5:28 – Bob Holroyd
Dark Waters – 4:35 – Bob Holroyd
Earthwatching – 4:14 – Bob Holroyd
Open – 2:59 – Bob Holroyd
A Promise to Return – 2:21 – Bob Holroyd

Jury Doodie & The River of the Unknown, Week 2 ~ Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 1055am
TranceVision (Choreography: Carlos Rosas)

On The Forest Floor – 5:05 – Bob Holroyd
Alhambra Pt 1 – 1:21 – Natacha Atlas
Duden – 6:41 – Natacha Atlas
Vision – 6:08 – Heldegard von Bingen
Desert Wind – 7:48 – Banco de Gaia
Amor Real – 7:26 – Jon Anderson
Fun Does Not Exist – 6:21 – Natacha Atlas
Through Cinemas – 5:55 – Loop Guru
Ho Doi – 13:40 – Yulara

Jury Doodie & The River of the Unknown, Week 2 ~ Thursday, August 15, 2013, 9am Music, Movement & Magic (Choreography: Susan)

North – 6:49 – Afro Celt Sound System
North, Pt. 2 – 3:01 – Afro Celt Sound System
When You’re Falling [Featuring Peter Gabriel] – 5:14 – Afro Celt Sound System
Ma’ Africa – 4:49 – 1 Giant Leap: Mahotella Queens/Ulali
Braided Hair – 4:03 – 1 Giant Leap: Neneh Cherry/Speech
Ta Moko – 5:10 – 1 Giant Leap: Mako Black
Passion – 5:46 – 1 Giant Leap: Michael Franti
Daphne – 7:03 – 1 Giant Leap: Eddi Reader/Mahotella Queens/Revetti Sakalar
Persistence of Memory – 4:29 – Afro Celt Sound System
Inion/Daughter – 4:15 – Afro Celt Sound System
Devorzhum – 6:13 – Dead Can Dance

doubt and certainty dieWhat does certainty sound like? What is the sound of doubt?
How does certainty move? How does doubt dance?
Certainty has a sensation. Where do you feel it? And doubt? Where do you feel not-so-sure?

Listen to Radio Lab’s “Are You Sure?” to hear the musicality of certainty and doubt. In conversation, witness conviction’s rhythm and the melody of hesitation. Notice how it feels to speak with confidence or indecisiveness … and how it feels to hear it.

Body, mind, and spirit all benefit from the sharp lines of clarity and the pliability of uncertainty. Are you sure? How do you know?

Doubt-and-certainty cartoonA second week of being on call for jury duty and I’ve been thinking about certainty and doubt. Of what am I truly and absolutely certain? And where am I not so sure?

We dance with certainty and doubt in our personal realities and the larger sphere. Within the judicial system, what is “reasonable doubt”? Reasonable according to whom? Within my own carefully organized calendar system, I create an illusion that I know what is going to happen every day. It’s a sham certainty that I enjoy…no doubt.

I heard a Radio Lab show recently called “Are You Sure?”. At the opening, hosts Jad and Robert actually play the sound of certainty and doubt. They splice together pieces of interviews in which their subjects were either sure or they weren’t.

So I ask you: Do you know what doubt and certainty sound like?

No matter how you answered, you answered the question. If you answered, “Yes”, “No”, “Absolutely” or something similar, that is the sound of certainty: crisp, sharp, quick, clear. And if you answered, “Hmmmm, welllll, I…don’t know” or some variation, that is the sound of doubt: wavering, floating, sliding. In musical terms, certainty is rhythmic and doubt is melodic. (The whole show is a fascinating, sometimes wrenching, exploration of three stories of certainty and doubt, and I recommend it highly. But if you don’t have time to listen to the whole piece, just listen to the beginning [0:56 to 2:36]. The snippets, all rolled together really do sound like music.)

We’ve all heard this in conversations: if my friend says, “NO!” that feels much different than if she says, “Umm, well, noooo.” Children learn to read these inflections at infancy. At even the slightest melodic response, they know there is wiggle room and will relentlessly pry into that space like a weed pushing through a cracked sidewalk.

Parenting notwithstanding, it’s healthy to have some clarity in our views but to also have some things that we’re flexible on or unsure about. A life without doubt becomes a rigid thing. Preachers and politicians and the very young sometimes hold to that crisp black and white line. It can be a dangerous place to hang out, that line of certainty. As Billy Joel sings, “the only people I fear are those who never have doubts.” (thanks, Blue!)

We know this distinction in movement. Crisp, precise movements are ones of confidence and conviction. Fluid, wobbly movements are those of hesitation and uncertainty. In the body, too, it’s healthy to have both clarity and fluidity. Know the feeling of both since sometimes sensation will come upon you before intellectual understanding and it can be helpful to know how the impulses feel.

Here’s something to play with: take something that you feel very sure about and ask yourself what it would feel like to be unsure of it. Do it the other way around, too: something that you are uncertain of, unclear, and ask yourself what it would be like to be absolutely sure. Ask yourself a question about a choice that you’ve made, a belief that you hold, or something that you either do or do not have faith in. It can help to answer out loud, like the folks on the Radio Lab show, and see what it feels like to answer differently that you would usually.

As I dive into one more week of jury duty — maybe teaching, maybe not, and choosing our routines randomly — I am definitely feeling both certainty and doubt with every day and with every song. Just as I hear the rhythm and melody in the music, I can feel my certainty and doubt about choreography, too. I’m enjoying reconnecting with the certain, familiar patterns, as well as diving in when I’m not sure what to do. I’ve also discovered some certain, unfamiliar patterns: movements that I’ve not done before but that popped up, clear and sure as lightning bolts.

Certainty and doubt. There is music in it. And wisdom. And things to discover. Experiment and let me know what happens!

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