Spiral; adj, coiling or developing around an axis in a constantly changing series of planes; helical. www.definition.com
I’m drawn to the phenomenon of spiraling, and whether it be evidenced by smoke, water, plants, or minerals, there’s something hypnotic about its particular action. Rather than the equilibrium of spinning, there’s something a little more dynamic about things that spiral: though they similarly move around a central axis, the action of spiraling also shifts planes and levels. That’s where things get interesting.
…is like tango
is like pottery
is like a rose…
So here’s my try at playing with an open metaphor that spirals along different planes of understanding. By holding fast to a central axis, the following three reflections spiral around a central truth: when you feel lost, connect more. These are my spiraling attempts at fluency across as many planes as awareness will allow. I hope you enjoy the ride, and as always, feel moved in some way.
Reflection 1: …is like tango…
I started taking tango lessons in the winter of 2011. I wanted to learn more about intimacy and was moved to study tango. From an outsider’s perspective, this particular style of dance seemed wisest to me in its understanding of intimacy. Very slowly, lesson after lesson, I began to understand the subtleties of the frame: how two people connect and communicate through movement. It was about listening, not showing. About waiting, not anticipating. About elasticity, not steps.
What I remember most from these lessons is a simple directive my teacher often repeated, something told to him by his teacher: “When you feel lost, connect more.” If I read that line in a book I would have conceptually agreed and moved on, without a bodily sense of its wisdom. But I now know what this phrase means in my body. “Connect more” means leaning in to feeling lost; listening, waiting, and responding with your whole sensory self. Dancing. “Connect more” means respecting the frame. And as my teacher remarked once after months of practice, “that felt so free!” He was referring to how easy the movement felt when I remembered to connect to our frame. It seems the notions of freedom and connection are interrelated in the dance of intimacy, an insight that would have eluded me were it not for a shift in perspective from observer to student. Bring on the lessons!
“When you feel lost, connect more.”
Reflection 2: …is like tango is like pottery…
If you are right handed, the wheel spins counter-clockwise. If you are left handed, the wheel spins clockwise. This was the second lesson I learned while taking a six week pottery course early this summer. With a flick of the switch on the side panel of the potter’s wheel, my instructor changed the direction of spin, helping me adapt and feel a little less awkward. The first lesson however, “be sure to centre your clay on the wheel” proved to be a much harder task. What my teacher demonstrated with ease the rest of us struggled to reproduce for the remainder of our first class. Many unsuccessful attempts were made to learn how to shape a ‘left-handed’ bowl or cup, many resulting in a muddy mess. Armed with a sense of humour and a little tenacity, I soon developed a keen appreciation for the importance of centering the clay. My teacher reminded us to anchor one of our arms to our body as we worked with the clay, otherwise, the subtle wobbling of the clay would make any attempt at making a cup a precarious undertaking, resulting in uneven walls that would eventually collapse under the momentum of the spin. It’s all a spiralling, sensitive balancing act. It’s all about connection.
“Be sure to centre your clay.” My left-handed loot.
Over the weeks I developed a particular reverence for the process of centering the clay: begin by choosing the appropriate direction of spin (clockwise, counter-clockwise), add a little water to the clay and gently press on the wheel’s pedal, anchor your arm into your side and create a frame for the clay. Spiral the clay up and down until the wobbling is but a whisper and the clay is centered. Now begin crafting your bowl. I began to think about how similar the student perspectives of learning pottery and tango were, both crafts attend to the subtleties of moving form; listening, waiting, responding, centering. Both wise metaphors on many planes of experience.
Reflection 3: …is like tango is like pottery is like a rose…
Observations and Musings on the direction of spin – May 19th, 2017
I and this rose are similar ~ we process light
Blooming in layers of concentric colour and
Shadow, unravelling our fragrance. We both happen.
This is our sacred kinship ~ we bloom as we bloom.
Unfurling gently, without effort, rooted in earth and sky, conversing with the in-betweenness of it all.
She is my sister. Only yesterday did we share the same likeness
potentiality in the soil ….. rain loving us both into being.
My sister and I bloom as we bloom…
Opening in fragrant happenings.
Spiralling perspectives ~ Round and Round we go
My experiences of learning to tango are resonant with my experiences of learning how to make a bowl, and my experiences at the potter’s wheel are resonant with my kinship with a rose. It’s all dancing, blooming, connecting, unfurling, happening. I take comfort in the central axis of this coiling metaphor: when you feel lost, connect more. Be it to each other, to a piece of clay, or to nature. A sense of freedom may bloom ~
I’m grateful to my many teachers for reminding me where center is.
Have a great week and thank you for taking the time to read.