- hello MaryBeth Smith
- Username: divamover
- In response to: "Who are you?" I'm a voice coach and movement educator (Feldenkrais Method), bonne vivante, blogger , cat-slave, cook; bringing high touch to a hi-tech world.
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- One Thing I Learned Recently
It's the kind of phone call you dread.
My cellphone rang yesterday morning. It was sitting right by me, not lost in the bottom of my purse, or left in the car.
I answered and heard the voice of an acquaintance. She said she was sorry to call with bad news. Our mutual friend had collapsed at home. Her husband found her on the floor and had been unable to revive her. Our friend was dead, she said.
We exchanged a few teary words, requests for information, promises of help and support. Shock, disbelief, confusion.
I always feel uncomfortable when I read a story like this, and I feel a bit frustrated in writing it.To write about her, her interests, her life, or her family seems strangely exploitive. To write about how her death has affected me seems stupidly narcissistic.
Ah, Narcissus! Self-absorbed little brat of lore, who couldn't stop admiring his own reflection in the pond. ZAP! he got turned into the flower that bears his name. There's a cautionary tale for you! Narcissus, archetype of the self-absorbed, hoarded the reflection for his own admiration.
But here's my question for the morning -- if you share your reflections -- or the act of reflection -- doesn't the sharing take on a deeper meaning? Does this sharing actually "prevent" narcissism from taking root? By sharing reflections, we have a basis for empathy, understanding, perhaps even intimacy.
My friend was the consummate hostess in every situation. She welcomed everyone, everywhere, and drew them in with her laughter, wide-ranging conversation, and always fabulous food. Wherever she was, there would be a party -- or it would feel like one. She had recently begun to train to become a Feldenkrais teacher -- work that had helped her to recover from back pain while living abroad, listening to recordings of my lessons. She threw herself into the process of learning via immersion, eager to learn and know and do all she could to benefit from the work and share it with others. As I talk to some of her other friends, this is how she approached everything. What a great way to be remembered!
Many friends from around the globe are reflecting publicly, posting their thoughts, prayers, and condolences on her Facebook page. How ironic that this contemporary tool, often held up as a flagrant contributor to the development of narcissistic personalities, should be used for such an ancient purpose. Apparently, we are made to connect with one another. Whether it is in person or through a computer screen, people are in pursuit of that basic human need. We will establish connection by any means available -- and we miss the connection when it is gone.
Yesterday I enacted my habitual pattern for times of duress. I organized a telephone tree to notify members of our Feldenkrais training. I paid a short visit to my friend's daughter. And I did my own work-- lots and lots of work.. My new behavior is letting the emotion and the words come when they will. This piece is part of that process.
What started this train of thought? Monday morning routine database management before sending my newsletter. I saw her name, clicked on it. I selected "Remove from list." The other choice was "Unsubscribe." A little info widow popped up that said, "This action is irreversible. It cannot be undone. Do you wish to proceed?"
Now the tears are flowing. I couldn't do it. Not this morning. I can deal with her death, but banishing her to the "Do Not Send" list? Isn't that worse, somehow? Not worse for her, finally free of email madness -- but much, much worse for me. I'm not quite ready to let her go yet.
So I learned, once again, that emotions WILL find their way into expression. Occasions to feel grief and sorrow come on their own -- we don't have to seek them, nor create them for others. However, in their presence, there is such sweetness in remembering the fan - f@#!-ing-tastic times I had with my friend.
- An Eye-Opener
As I think over the recent past, the biggest "eye-opener" was reading the book, "Cradle to Cradle" by William McDonough. The book was a delightful surprise.
I read this book after watching the author's TED Talk. <http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/william_mcdonough_on_cradle_to_cradle_design.html>
I had recently started to visit TED.com regularly, and I challenged myself to watch something once a week from someone I had never heard of, and in a subject area I was not familiar with. I like to think of myself as someone who is a thinker, a "creative", and open-minded in my search for information. It seemed that I should put my time and attention where my mouth was!
For some reason, I decided to take a chance on his talk. He is not flashy or particularly charismatic as a speaker. However, his quiet intensity and his vision for the world drew me in as if by a magnet.
I won't try to explain or summarize his talk, because some of the tags or buzz-words might cause you to have a stereotypic view of him or his subject -- either rejecting it out of hand, or assuming you already know all there is to know about the subject. I WILL say that, after seeing the TED talk, I leaped (yes, leaped!) out of my chair and said, to nobody in particular: "Why doesn't EVERYBODY know about this?????" I began telling almost everyone I know about the video. Their eyes glazed over. Good thing I am sort of used to that. . .
My partner and I host a book salon in Houston, TX, and shortly after we found the TED Talk, we chose this book as the monthly selection. The book is made to be completely recycleable. That tidbit will make more sense after you watch the video.
Cradle to Cradle opened my eyes to the fact that even though HUGE problems may seem to be looming on the horizon -- it is possible that most people are completely unaware of them. Even more importantly, I learned that there are people who have it covered. People who are creative, dedicated, brilliant, and who are working on solutions. We need to let them DO IT.
It also opened my eyes to an obvious realization: if the methods I already know about have not solved a particular problem -- they probably won't. I am increasingly open to the notion that a solution will be in a direction I have not explored. In other words, the solution is most likely something I don't know about -- YET. Unknown, new, never-been-tried-before -- What better reason to keep learning?
The biggest outcome from this eye-opening has been the creation of an almost insatiable appetite for new ideas: Ideas that are positive, constructive, active, and solution-based. My best advice? If there is an event like TED in your community (Houston has The UP Experience and TEDxHouston, along with numerous other lecture series), give yourself a gift and go to it! Go to it ESPECIALLY if you think it is outside of your area of expertise. You will meet some wonderful people, you will be inspired, and you will take new and intelligent actions in your own life. Go get 'em.
MaryBeth D. Smith is the Founder and Director of The Feldenkrais Center of Houston. She is a nationally-recognized expert in the area of natural performance improvement for performing artists and athletes. With over 20 years experience teaching in business, university, and community settings, she now uses the Feldenkrais Method to help people improve their self-image, function, and enjoyment in movement and in life.
- My Prophetic Dream
Shortly after I began to study the Feldenkrais Method in lessons and classes, I experienced a very interesting "side effect." Along with the increased body awareness and improved capacities that began to develop, my unconscious "woke up." I began to dream vividly every night, and to remember my dreams. This was unusual, as I rarely remembered dreams at that time. In fact, I thought it had been at least 10 years since I remembered a single dream. Here is one of the dreams that began an amazing journey!
"I was hosting a party, and the guests were arriving, milling about, and having a good time. I was dressed in a beautiful evening gown, so it was quite a party, with what seemed like celebrities and other luminaries in attendance. I also realized that I was greeting my guests in the entryway of my home -- which was the Biltmore mansion!
In my dream, the entryway was spacious and airy. Behind me was the entrance to what seemed to be a vast library. Rich wood-paneled walls and leaded-glass windows adorned the entrance to the library, which was also paneled, richly appointed, with books on shelves from the floor to the very high ceiling, as far as the eye could see. It almost felt as vast as the stacks at the Library of Congress! As I continued to greet my guests, out of the corner of my eye, I looked over my left shoulder and saw what I thought were flames inside the library! I calmly excused myself, and moved swiftly into the library to see what was going on. Indeed, a fire was raging, quickly overtaking the entire room. I realized a person was standing next to me -- a butler or something. He/she/it said, "everything is fine. There is nothing to worry about. Take your guests outside."
I left the library, closing the door behind me. I ushered my guests out of the entryway and out onto the porch, a lush green lawn sprawling ahead of us. The party continued."
Of course, this dream is full of symbology. It moved and puzzled me deeply. I soon joined a dream interpretation group, led by a Jungian analyst, in order to make sense of this new development. The dreams seemed important in some way, although I didn't know why -- and I wanted to find out.
The prophetic element was that my home in the dream -- was bigger and more wonderful -- rich, even -- than I knew. (Your home is you -- "where you live," who you really are.) The "Biltmore:" -- I was beginning to "build more" into my life. The library was all of my stored wisdom, history, culture -- information received from outside sources. It was being destroyed. However, fire is also a symbol of cleansing and transformation. My thoughts and ideas, all my ways of doing things, were in for a huge reorganization! And yet, even in the face of this crisis, I knew that everything would be fine. My "guests" continued to have a great time at the party -- in fact, I had the sense that things got even better as we got away from the library. And so, the dream put me on notice that I was on the verge of a lot of newness, and "the old" was no longer available -- in fact, it was probably dangerous, even life-threatening, to go back into the burning library. I would begin to relate to people in new ways, outside of what I knew at the time.
It took almost a year, but the dream proved to be accurate. My life changed completely and dramatically in 2002. I chose to re-build my life and came to Houston to do it. The dream has remained precious to me, now almost 10 years later, in light of a quotation from Moshe Feldenkrais. He said that the Feldenkrais Method would help people to realize their "vowed and unavowed dreams." I think about that almost every day, as I help others to "build more" in their lives.
- My Favorite Summer Memories
When I think of summers past, it is as if a movie begins to show on the screen of my mind.
My earliest memories are as a little girl, perhaps at three years old, during a time when it was safe for children to play outside without much supervision. I remember a summer afternoon, lying in the shade under a tree in our back yard, and watching clouds float by -- all afternoon. That probably happened on many afternoons,, in fact. Sometimes I would flip over onto my tummy, and spend what must have been long, long moments in fascination, looking at the blades of grass, the scalp of the earth beneath, and sometimes discovering some bugs in there. Flip again, and repeat. Put that picture of me in the dictionary, under "idyllic."
When I was about five, we were very excited to take a family vacation to Pensacola Beach, Florida. Now, seeing how that area has been affected by the BP disaster, my memories of those pure white sands are revitalized. I had never seen sand like that! I remember staying in a little motel near the beach, my Mom, my Dad, and I. The slatherings with Coppertone. I also remember getting up in the middle of the night, or so it seemed, to begin the road trip from Oklahoma to Florida. The car was loaded with suitcases, and I was loaded with Dramamine.
Other summer memories pop up. My half-brother would come for his annual visits each summer. One year, my forehead intersected with his swinging baseball bat. I remember getting five stitches at the ER. As I grew up, there were camps, swim lessons, and the compulsory crush on the hot lifeguard -- I was nine. I spent several years at Illinois Summer Youth Music in their Choral Music camps, which later influenced my choice of profession and my choice of university. Since that time, summers have held travel, music (tours and festivals, as a student and later as a teacher), and then, trips to take my children to their camps and activities.
One summer, when my son was about nine years old, Camp Capers was high and dry, but isolated by flash flooding along the Guadalupe River. My daughter and I set out on the 90-minute drive from New Braunfels to Waring to pick him up on the last day of his camp session. We were stopped by a camp leader at the freeway exit on IH-10, nearest the camp, and he informed us that the road was currently impassable to all but the largest fire trucks. He said all the other families were waiting at a little cafe up the road, and to head there to wait until we could get in to the camp. This tiny place in Comfort, TX was inundated by the human flood of about 100 people -- probably more traffic than that place sees in any given week! We waited there for several hours until it was safe to travel the remaining five miles to the camp. The kiddos were happily oblivious to what was going on in the outside world, happy to watch movies on a rainy day. The arrival of frantic parents was greeted by mystified nonchalance. It was a long drive home that night, as we had to avoid floodwaters throughout central Texas.
I had my first experience with the Feldenkrais Method during a summer internship for young voice teachers at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The National Association of Teachers of Singing sponsored the program, and part of the learning experience included a morning of Awareness Through Movement. One lesson was particularly vivid for me, starting with such tiny movements, and ending up in a large, fluid, whole-body windmill movement. The effects after the lesson were profound. I felt immediate physical effects, like the sensation that I was grotesquely lopsided! The other amazing thing was, I was able to recall every movement and every instruction of this intricate lesson -- to this day, in fact. Even though it would be another six years before the Feldenkrais Method would cross my path again in a meaningful way, I was able to recall that lesson, repeat it, and share it with my students on high-stress days.
Little did I know that such a memory would take on such significance in altering the course of my life. I've been a Feldenkrais teacher for nearly eight years now. With each class and lesson, I wonder how my students' "summer memories" might offer similar transformations.