Boundaries Practice 002
On presence and condemning anti-AAPI hate
A line that I have found myself repeating over the years, to myself and others, and even during Boundaries Practice: “I feel most present when I’m dancing.”
I was taught to have stage presence, something I could put on and wear like a mask for the benefit of others. I was taught that holding precisely seven directives in mind at once was the correct number of things to be holding, be they related to the position or coordination of body and limbs, synchronization with others and music, a choreographer’s demands, a teacher’s adjustments, or “focus” (where I was projecting with my head, chest, and eyes). I was also taught that I could and should juggle an obscene number of commitments in order to dance that often allowed only 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, with few breaks during waking hours.
In the famous words of Merce Cunningham, dance gives you nothing back. “You have to love dancing to stick to it,” he says. But is love enough? (I’m tempted to segue into Matt James’ After The Rose special this week, in which we learn that it obviously isn’t.) At some point in my childhood, I decided rather arbitrarily that dance was what gave my life meaning more than other things did, even as the industry initiated the process of placing me in its maw, chewing me up and spitting me out somewhere down the line. Dance not only gives you nothing other than the sheer thrill of performing (if you can get the work), it may actively strip you of time, money and your healthy body image, for starters. It’s also possible to love dancing and hate the life it gives you, one that is physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and otherwise draining. And even the thrill of performing, so tied up with receiving recognition or approval from an audience or critic or choreographer, is becoming increasingly suspect to me.
I’m learning that stage presence is very different from regular presence. Regular presence is holding one thing in mind: now. It’s for me, not for anyone else, although of course my being present benefits others. It can be simply an exhale, a moment where you know you are here.
In Boundaries Practice last week, we discussed how presence is a muscle; it can be practiced, exercised. We found presence in meditation, in writing, in cooking, in being with friends, in going for walks, in cuddling a pet, in exercise. Even in work and with tech, we found that we can cultivate presence by setting up zones in physical space for different kinds of activities or virtual meetings. We can also set timers, use full-screen or airplane mode, and turn off notifications in order to help us focus on a single project. We discussed the Instagram Timer, which is a boundary so easy to dismiss that I wonder if it is a boundary at all and not just a trigger for guilt.
To wrap up, I shared that I often find myself caught in the exhausting “toggling” state, literally jumping between tabs in my web browser and forgetting with each new tab where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. Extrapolated outwards as a metaphor for life, this state might feel similar to helplessness, and I suspect it is also a trade-off of having my hand in many projects and occupations at once, and rarely giving myself downtime. By building up my ability to be present, I can try to identify sooner when I’m toggling and give myself what I need in order to move forward: a break, food or water, a plan for my time, a purging of commitments if necessary so that I can actually do the thing I was meaning to do. Then I can move on to the next, if I even want to.
More on Clubhouse this Tuesday at 7 PT.
A Love Letter to Asians (From a White Lady)
Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 149% during the pandemic. I am furious, just as I am that police and civilians can’t stop shooting Black people, and just as I was when young white men much like Robert Aaron Long couldn’t stop shooting children. I want to at least speak, and yet I know that words are not enough. I am donating and I am attempting to amplify the work of the incredible Asian artists I know, but at the same time I continue to live without fear of working late or going out after dark. To my friends who are Asian-Americans, and Asian-American women in particular, I love you so so much. I’m incredibly ashamed that you are experiencing this in a time and a place where things should be better for you.
The Weekly Stretch
Standing with feet hip width apart, grounded through the heels, clasp hands behind your back and bring your interlaced hands to your left hip. While inhaling, lift through your spine out of the top of your head and arc over to your left side. Exhale and while maintaining your hands at your hip, allow the right shoulder to release and the chest to open. Inhale to expand the ribs and go a bit further, then exhale and return to standing. Repeat 3x on each side. Can also be done kneeling, either up on knees or sitting down on heels. By Taylor Unwin
I’m thinking about the essay in Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror where she writes about performativity online and IRL.
In response to the Atlanta shootings, Jiayang Fan reflects on “the split second in which a smidgen of sexual interest transmutes into racist scorn.”
During BP, we touched on the incredible work of The Center For Humane Technology. A great place to start is with their podcast, Your Undivided Attention.