Wake Up, Wake Up

One week from now, it will be two years since I have last posted an article. Honestly, I do not know where to start but updating this blog was inspirited by a group of young people who were introduced to my blog by their teacher, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Last year, I was informed by Leilane that her Grade 11 class in Esperanza National High School in Agusan del Sur, Philippines was using one of my articles as an example for their 21st Century Literature Class. When I first heard it, I was flattered. “Oh wow! Really?” I thought. Then it was followed by willies because it dawned on me that they might stumble into some articles which I would not recommend they read (or if they would, at least with adult guidance). I thought of discouraging my friend by telling her that my blog is not updated and there might be other blogs out  there that are much more fitting for young readers, but my friend was deadly set on her lesson. After that I just crossed my fingers and  hoped that her students will take the valuable lessons home and not replicate the horrid ones.

My concern obviously made me realize the importance of curbing the recurrent crassness of ones thoughts and acknowledging the repercussions of the words I have put out there. I have fairly recently learned to be more mindful of my brutal honesty. Being more mindful means that the process is still ongoing. It is not an easy feat (this I tell you). What I have slowly comprehended though is biting my tongue or removing myself in situations that would have provoked me to tread on hostile grounds with friends and acquaintances. My motto (if it can be helped): No more drama.

What do I write to a group of 16 to 19 year olds who are itching to pounce at life? Do I reflect on that old article I wrote six years ago about no one is too old to change the world? Nah. It might be helpful but not entirely tailored for this young group. Should I ask them what is their nagging ‘whys’ and maybe even follow it up with a cliché notion of “dig deep within yourselves” which I myself have a difficult time of converting into tangible action. No, I do not think so. When I was at that age, I have absolutely no idea which road to take.  I was clueless what my reasons were and if there was even a chink during that time where my reasons were revealed to me, I paid no attention to it and simply went with the pubescent flow. I had daydreams and imaginations but they were in haywire. Like many young people, I was hungry (sometimes to the point, even greedy). I wanted them all in one time and I was just all over the place. The ending – I achieved a miniscule something, nothing, or worst, something half-baked.

And because I did not achieve what I hoped to achieve, a streak of wallowing in negativity followed. I was bitter, angry, frustrated, disappointed, doubtful, and sad (not always in the same order) about many things. I misplaced my aggression (even on inanimate objects). Played the blame game. Made my friends’ ears bleed with my whining. Cried and screamed about how fate has wronged me. Mourned in my so-called graveyard of dreams (Goodness, my theatrics knew no bounds.)  I swear God must have been rolling His eyes countless times whilst muttering “There she goes again.” Do not get me wrong. I was not always a looming dark cloud. After the negativity, sometimes even in between, I had bouts of happiness, enthusiasm, certainty, and passion for life. This is not an indication of crazy. Many people go through it too, only I am not like ‘many people’ and I had an obsession with being dramatic when I was younger.

Since I am fresh from Patricia Kuyper’s ‘contact improvisation’ workshop, I would like to relate what I learned from this workshop and share a message that I pray will help in any way possible in finding ways around this exciting and beautiful, sometimes scary, world we live in.

Listen

One of the phrases that Patricia kept repeating during the workshop was to listen. Listen to yourself. Pay attention to how your body reacts to everything around you. The advice is more demanding than we assumed, but it makes sense. Remember that cliché notion I mentioned about digging deep within yourselves? That is actually possible. It will however require you to work harder than usual.

During the workshop we were taught to find a comfortable spot and position where we can be ‘still’ for a couple of minutes with our eyes closed while listening to our breathing. It was the most taxing activity for me (for the reason that I am simply not the type of person who could stay put, much more for a couple of minutes). Nonetheless, the activity forced me to listen to what my body is doing and feeling, to what it was telling me. I discovered that there is a rasp when I breathe deeply (which actually freaked me out a bit), that the buzz in my not-so-good left ear gets a little bit louder when my eyes are closed, that the sound created by another friend’s feet scratching on the yoga mat was disturbing for me (but was relaxing for her), that my right knee was hurting even more with the position I have chosen (which I copied from another friend who looked quite comfortable doing it), that I kept peeking at other people around to check on what they are doing.

The activity required concentration with specific focus on oneself. I have to admit that during the first few days, it was a challenge but the more I listened to my body, the clearer the message was. If you listen intently, you will know what works for you and what does not. If you mind yourself and deviate from mirroring other people too much you will discover what you truly want and revel in it at your own pace. If you pay attention to where your mind drifts to, then you will most likely have an idea what you would like to achieve.

Be Guided

If someone offers an opportunity to guide you, take it. Do not say, “I already know.” No. You do not know. Heck, even at this point in my life, I doubt what I know about many things. Take note though that this someone should be experienced and genuinely sincere, for there are always shoddy characters lurking out there who would appear certain but were actually as clueless as you are. Allow yourself to be guided but do not be guided blindly.

In some of the activities in the workshop, I have learned to follow my partner’s direction and to pay close attention to where her weight is, sometimes her breathing, and I found it easier to close my eyes when I do this. As a newbie, I was still groping around the concepts of contact improvisation and I allowed Patricia and the other participants in that workshop to guide me in exploring, albeit the struggle.

The reason why I am highlighting this is mainly because of what it was like when I was 16.  I wish someone had guided me. I wish I had someone who actually sat me down and discussed my interests. I am not talking about a 1-hour session. I am talking about a daily follow-up on my goals or skills because in truth, at that age, I knew nothing about how the world worked and I needed someone older to course me through a specific direction. Because I, most of the time, was left to fend for myself, I did what most juveniles did – got into trouble, cut classes, wrecked my grades, wasted time at the arcades or disco bars, and danced. I guess the only thing constant in my life is dancing. I have been dancing ever since I was 6 and I rehearsed even more in high school because I was earning a measly sum for every production that I took part in. Because I could take care of myself, many people assumed that I can also manage on my own. I let people believed I could manage but in truth, I was struggling. I needed help but I did not know who to turn to, where to go, and how to talk to the best candidates who can guide me through puberty and on to adult life.

As you grow older, you will learn that accepting guidance has no social, economic, and age requirement. Many times in your life, you will learn from people younger than you, who have less in financial gains but are richer in other ways, whose body parts do not equal yours. You will learn and you will continuously do so until you meet The Man Upstairs. The learning experience is not a phase. It is a constant element in your life, so welcome it with an open heart and a sharp mind.

Ask

One of the things that I have promised myself was to never lie to myself. If I am confused or struggling and I needed help, I will muster courage and ask. I will raise my hand or walk up to someone who can clarify things for me. I will not be embarrassed to admit that this or that feat is a challenge even if admitting would mean for some close-minded people that I am the weakest link. I kept that promise during the workshop. I talked to people about my struggles and raised my concern with Patricia. I asked questions.

But back in high school, I put up ‘the  brave’ facade. In truth, I was terrified. Have you watched ducks swimming? Watch those ducks swimming so serenely in the pond – they look so calm and collected on the outside, but paddling their webbed feet like crazy underwater. That was what it was like for me. I dared not ask questions, nor asked for help in general because I was scared that I will be laughed at or rejected. I was always made to believe that if you asked questions, you were either stupid or you were doubting those you were addressing the questions to. Asking for help meant you were either incapable or will be wasting someone’s time. I know this might sound ridiculous to many readers but there is a reason why these thoughts were ingrained in my head at a young age. I only unlearned these years after I have graduated from college. I wish someone assured me that it was okay to ask questions or to ask for help. There is no shame attached to it.

A piece of advice – after approaching the person, unless it was encouraged, ask if it was alright to talk at that time or inquire about the best time for a talk. We have to consider that the person has his or her own schedule to adhere to and the kind of answers you will receive is affected by how much time the person has.

Show Up

This actually boils down to one word – DISCIPLINE. Ah, this irritating sense of regulation is something that everyone struggles with. I still struggle with this sometimes especially when it involved food or waking up early in the morning to go to work or a class. I have to constantly remind myself that whatever dreams I have conveniently concocted in my head will not come into realization if I do not push myself. If I wanted to continue earning money, I needed to move my ass and report for work. If I wanted to earn my masters degree, I needed to attend classes. If I wanted to have a good performance, I needed to rehearse. If I wanted to travel to Cambodia, I needed to save. If I wanted to learn French, I needed to practice everyday. If I wanted my relationships to be fruitful, I needed to nurture them.

This is also not be limited to big goals. It should also resonate all the way to what many people refer to as token dreams like if I wanted to build snow angels, I needed to brave the cold winter. If I wanted to have a happy refrigerator, I needed to walk back and forth to the supermarket for my groceries. If I wanted to make ube ice cream, I needed to learn the recipe and try. If I wanted to drink hot coffee then I would have to boil water. Everything required me to move something, from one point to another, and to do the work. The gist is to show up for my dreams. To exert an effort and propel the universe to advance towards a certain direction. Because even though dreams do come true (never all at the same time), they do not happen on their own.

It would have been nicer though if someone rammed this down my throat when I was younger. Developing this at an earlier age – discipline to wake up early, discipline to set study time in the evening, discipline to rehearse and review my technique everyday, discipline to eat a balanced diet, discipline to read academic books – would have been more convenient. If I had cultivated some of these (everyday) many years ago, then they would have been a routine by now. As what the elders always say, “It is always easier to nurture a sapling than pruning a primed tree.” This does not mean that as an adult you can no longer create and recreate routines in your life. It is still possible, only they require double the effort and triple the dedication because we are now talking about battling habits we have learned and relearned along the way, which we will now need to unlearn.

Relax

This last part sounds like a piece of cake, piece of pie. Not exactly. It is not easy to drop your guard down. This was one issue I shared with Patricia – that I honestly do not know how to just let go as easily as the others. I was seriously thinking I have trust issues which is probably why my defense was always up. It manifests physically with the way I sit, the way I breathe, the way I talk, the way I think, the way I move my body, the way I look at people, the way I followed her instructions. I did not know to relax. There was always something that I wanted to do, to say, to put in order, to fix, to build fences around my mind so to protect myself from monsters I have overthrown years ago. The fear of their return follows me around so the walls stayed up. I was worried that there was no structure and the stillness she encouraged everyone to make peace with was, for me, a disquieting experience.

But I will share what she told me which made all the difference. She told me that she could not advise me exactly how I can let go or what the best way to relax is. She said that only I can do that for myself. Only I know the true workings of my body and that I have to find that myself. She reiterated not to hurry for there is no rush. Take time and not be pressured by the others. It is not a competition.

Again, it goes back to LISTEN and chill (but chill responsibly). So you do not know what you want just yet. Do not panic. It is not the end of the world. You have time. We all have time. It is what we do with time that counts and as long as you are utilizing it to pursue happiness (and not borrowing someone else’s) then you are fine. Some people discover what they want at a young age, some people had an inkling of it at one period, some are oblivious of it. We do not have the same pace. If at one point you catch yourself hyperventilating because you felt that you were lagging behind or seemed lost. Stop before you give yourself a heart attack. Take a breather and appreciate the place you are in. Feeling lost sometimes helps us re-evaluate our priorities.  I do not encourage you to keep falling for this circumstance though. If you make a habit out of getting lost or losing yourself without taking into heart the lessons, then you are already making a choice to be irresponsible.  Remember that we have a duty to find our purpose. God would have not breathe life into us if we have no role to play.

There. Those were the lessons I placed in my basket (as how Patricia would say it) during the workshop. I hope you will find meaning in them like the way I did.


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