Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pushing My Edge

As much as I appreciate and benefit from many Buddhist teachings and practises, I’m not by nature a “middle way” kind of woman. My ex often said I was a “zero or a one”- which is binary-speak for all or nothing. He could literally take hours to wake up fully on the weekends, complaining when I asked him a question that he’d “just gotten up” even though there was a coffee mug in his hand and a fire burning in the wood stove. I, on the other hand, tended to hit the ground running or (on a day when the CFS/ME was bad) just hit the ground. There always been minimal space in me for meandering mid-stream between awake and asleep. (And no, that is not what caused the CFS/ME, although it does make the pacing to preserve energy with this illness sometimes a challenge.)

My tendency to want to run full out or rest deeply seems consistent with the medicine name Mountain Dreamer, given to me more than twenty-five years ago by a shaman who told me it meant, “one who likes to find and push the edge.” Generally I’ve been okay with that although my understanding of what constitutes an “edge” has deepened. For instance, sometimes quitting something is pushing the edge, and at other times, seeing something through to completion is a stretch outside our habitual comfort zone. The “edge” really is in the eye of the mountain climber.

Having said that, I think I may have just. . . . .well, outdone myself in the edge-pushing category. And I say this as a woman who once went into the wilderness alone to fast and pray in solitude for twenty-two days and nights to find direction in my life. In some ways what I have just signed on for is a much bigger stretch for me than vision questing.

I’ve registered for a four day workshop in September entitled: “Tango as a Door to Presence.” That’s right- Tango! Now forget that I can’t really afford the trip and will have to drive a long distance over two days to get there (albeit at a beautiful time of year for a fall colours road trip.) Skip right over the fact that my health is. . . .unpredictable at best and this workshop goes into the evenings (and I currently go out about one evening a month.) Ignore the fact that I am an introvert who likes group situations where I have a lot of choice about how much to interact or participate, and a dance workshop requires consistent participation.

Let’s just start with this: I don’t tango! In fact, I have not done much dancing at all for the last decade. Which means this little adventure will put me on the dance floor with unknown partners, doing a structured dance I do not know, ten years older (and a few pounds more bountiful) than the last time I publically attempted to do even free-style movement to music outside the privacy of my living room.

What appealed to me was the idea of experiencing the practise of presence- of bringing full attention to the experience of the present moment- into the body-centred, emotionally expressive tango. What attracted me was the certainty that this would indeed push my edge- that I could learn something new about myself, about presence, about what it is to be fully here now.

The workshop leaders (who are both tango instructors and practitioners of A.H. Almaas’ Diamond Approach to meditative inquiry) explain that each participant will be either a “leader” or a “follower” in the dance for the full four days. I asked to be a follower because. . . . well, because my natural tendency is to lead. I feel safer in charge. It is much more of a challenge for me to bring full awareness to the experience of being open to and following the one who steps into my energy (with my permission, of course.) So, I signed up for what is, for me, the more challenging role because. . . . I want to push my edge.

Am I having second thoughts? Ha! Second, third. . . . and twentieth! Of course, everyone else I tell about this is wildly enthused about my going. (People are generally very enthused about other people pushing their edge.) When my friend Ingrid heard about it, she replied, “Ooo, you’ll need outfits!”

Outfits?! Yep, this will definitely push my edge.

Oriah (c) 2012

(And just in case you’d like to have a look-


  1. Hi, re my Buddhism comment on your last posting I think you might like this

    1. Thanks- enjoyed that very much- am familiar with the affliction :-)

  2. That sounds fabulous Oriah. I'm a Tango Therapist in Calgary and wish I was going with you. Once you return home just know that there's a large tango community in TO and even larger in Montreal. Upcoming workshops in both cities in the next few months and I look forward to meeting you at one of them - or in Buenos Aires - as you will undoubtedly become addicted to this dance.

  3. Good for you Oriah! Wishing you the best of luck. I love your open-mindedness in allowing this workshop to teach you something new about yourself. That is always worth pursuing, in whatever form. I recently read in a blog that the most important characteristic of a writer is courage. And you are demonstrating that :)

  4. Sounds like a great way to step out of your comfort zone. I'd probably have a lot of second thoughts about doing this also..even though the tango is quite appealing to me. Have fun and don't forget to put the rose between your teeth.

  5. Hi Oriah, I learned and danced Tango for one and a half year and I definitely pushed my edges! One of the best things was (as it might be for you) to learn to follow. And it became so much joy for me just to follow, once to be NOT in charge, but to let go, to trust someone else... And yes, as you will be constantly concentrated on the signals coming from your partner, you are automatically only in the present moment. I felt very refreshed after my lessons, after having forgotten everything else for an hour. I loved it.
    (I stopped dancing tango again because of some social problems in the local scene. I didn't have a constant partner and was dependent on other unbound dancers. That was quite disappointing as they were unbound because of lacking dancing skills. Despite strong efforts I didn't manage to get a reliable constant partner, but this may be totally different in your scene, so this just for your info.)

  6. I would love to read about your experience with this class.