mindset

Stupidity is Life’s Great Motivator

No one likes to feel stupid.  And something can only be stupid if you recognize you shouldn’t be doing it.  And man, we love to do stupid things anyway, don’t we?!  I prefer not to count the times I knowingly behaved like an idiot to bask in the addictive temporary high.  (Insert here numerous accounts of fleeting dead-end romances with your typical bad-boy, charging a pair of shoes well out of my budget but looked simply divine, and saying yes to an extra job that threw my schedule into a nightmare without any quantifiable gains).  Now how can one, who supposedly has a satisfactory level of intelligence, stop behaving like a brainless dummy?

Acceptance.  Appears simple-minded and self-lovey to the strong-willed hard-worker.   Appears to mean settling, giving up.

Oh the contrary!  Lord knows, “giving up” is not in my syntax.  Yet, continuously transforming myself for the better is some sort of obsessive hobby of mine.  Writing lists of goals and scratching them off brings me utter bliss and an empowering sense of accomplishment that keeps me perpetually paper seeking with pen in hand.   

In hearing about methods of transformation and true change steering from stupidity, acceptance is the “it” word.  From therapist Jenny Taitz, in her book, End Emotional Eating to Mike Tyson, in the NYTimes, the theme of acceptance lies as the root of true transformation. Taitz writes, “…”It’s about allowing yourself to experience negative emotions if they arise while you are moving towards what matters to you. Many unwanted experiences, including thoughts and feelings, can’t be controlled, but you can still commit to actions that keep you living in line with your personal values.”  And as I digest her words, I find Mike Tyson proclaiming a similar truth.  “When I would relapse in the past, I would keep getting high until I was in a car accident or got arrested.  But this time, after drinking for two or three days, I came back.  I didn’t wait for an intervention.  I just got right back on the wagon.  After years of therapy, I had learned not to beat up on myself.  I remembered that relapse is part of the recovery.”

While I have no problem identity closer with lovely, kind, intelligent Jenny, I never thought I had much in common with pit bull Mr. Tyson, yet his humble comment makes me reconsider.

As a dancer, beating up on myself, once seemed like a badge of honor.  It implied I was one who worked hard and sacrificed for my craft to become one step closer to sweet, idolized perfection. Naturally, when this abusive mindset crept into my life as an eating disorder, I was addicted to the sense of control.  I felt accomplished, because I no longer emotionally binged ate (a.k.a. acted stupid) through my stress and tumultuous emotions surrounding my college career.

Yet years later, at a healthy weight and a less obsessive mind-set, I continued to emotionally eat.  The same root problem existed – food as an emotional buffer.  I’d be stressed.  I’d be exhausted.  I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to procrastinate.  Instead of dealing in a manner that alleviated or enhanced my emotion, I’d dive straight for Stacy’s whole wheat pita chips.  Then in a shame spiral, I’d privately throw out the bag of chips that I ate in one sitting so my roommate would never discover my piggish ways – buying and finishing the bag in 24 hours.  I wanted to eat “like a lady,” and fuel in a wholesome way, to coincide with the healthy lifestyle I claimed to honor.

It’s only when I started to recognize and identify my emotions and then accept them (and I’ll add, choose to love myself enough to give myself the upmost care – sans sabotage), that I felt like a complete idiot with my hand diving in a bag of chips.  It started to make no sense.  I knew I was not hungry.  I was actually upset.  And I still would be, with or without the chips.  It became really hard to feel like an idiot and go along with choice idiotic behavior anyway.  I opted to address the emotion, the root issue at hand, rather than place blame on myself and try to stop binge eating cold turkey. All of a sudden, as I sat on the couch and looked at my salty hand feeding my mouth like a foreign demon child who didn’t know any better, and quite frankly never got the invite to sit next to me on the couch in the first place – I felt stupid. And, feeling stupid is an awesome motivator.

To be motivated by stupidity, acknowledgment and then acceptance must follow.  We must listen and notice our habitual patterns and accept our emotions with grace. If Mike Tyson is no longer biting ears, hitting the bottle, and shooting up drugs, and can come to the same wave-length as scholarly, clear-minded therapist Jenny Taitz, we all have some room to turn our stupid behaviors into smart ones (and perhaps these two spectrums aren’t much different from one another).  It may take quieting our inner ruthless bad-ass in exchange for patience and a gentler internal dialogue, but this just may result in “much less-stupider” decisions in our future.

(PS – If you are interested in Jenny Taitz’s book, End Emotional Eating click here.)

Letter To My Younger Self

I wrote this gem of a letter to myself when I was 28. I re-read it this week at 32 and I found it beautiful to remind myself. While I’ve made leaps and bounds in aspects of my person, some of these tendencies still remain feistily intact. So I wanted to share this with you in hopes that you will write a letter to your younger self and then open it up to read it 4 years later. What is one important thing you would tell yourself?? (And, the better questions – Do you still do this now against your best interest?)

Enjoy…

Dearest Christina,

Relax.  Everything you dream and desire, and then some, will come true when it’s suppose to.  Not at the exact time you expect it, or want it, because you love to be ten steps ahead of yourself. This is a blessing and a curse all at once.  Let yourself to be beautifully surprised as opportunities reveal themselves to you at their own pace.  No need to squander your endless ambition, but aim high with a patience and an absolute relish for the present.   You’ll want to get that job a year before, you’ll want that role a season beforehand, and a family for yourself while you are still performing. Each experience is beautiful in its own right, no need to rush the process.  You’ll get there girl!  Just trust your instinctive ambition and your positive daily intentions and actions and then let it go and enjoy.  Those daily baby steps in the right direction, no matter how small, are enough to get you where you want to go.  Please don’t rush the process.  Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself.  It’s necessary and allows you to clear your mind.  It is not time wasted.

Don’t fret about money.  You’ll pay you’re bills and quickly forget about last months struggles, until you get stressed the following month.  You paid them before, you’ll pay them again, and you can do so without the whining.  Look into your finances without a furrowed brow and a whine, or perhaps just a glass instead.  Understand where your money is going without overly concerning yourself with your less than ideal dancer-paycheck.  Your desire for a “real” job is strictly stemming from a desire to assimilate with consumeristic culture and grant yourself luxuries that are by no means requirements.  And it’s a simple math equation.  Do the math.

You have one body.  It is a lot more beautiful and capable than you like to give it credit for.  Your skin will not always be clear, your ankles will not always be able, your weight will not always be your most slender, you will almost always have a stray hair that needs tweezing, your boobs may feel like a hundred pounds each, your tush may have cellulite, (gasp!).  All of those versions of you are absolutely perfect.  Your capacity to change is infinite.  Your mind and body are never static and welcome the shift of perception.  There is no such thing as perfection, so whenever you want to stop holding yourself to unnecessary ideals, the more you’ll live.

Listen to your gut.  Sometimes you hear it, but opt not to listen.  It’s right.  Believe it, own up to it, and speak from it.

Love,

Your 28 year old self

When are you grateful?

Is it just at Thanksgiving dinner? When you earn that promotion? When you land that dance gig? What about being grateful for the crap in your life? What about being grateful for the parts of your body that you wish were leaner, thinner, or simply not there? What about being grateful for that argument you had with your director or boss? What about being grateful for when your dancing or life doesn’t quite go as planned? What about being grateful when you are struggling with a physical injury?

All of the things that come into our lives – good, bad, and even ugly – are gifts for us. Whether they appear to be gifts that are welcomed (yay promotion!) or are completely undesirable (yay injury!) we have attracted them into our lives and they have found us. (Yes, I absolutely believe in the laws of attraction and the power they hold within this beautiful and crazy universe).

However difficult it may be when something unfortunate comes up to bat, we navigate it with infinitely more grace if we swing some gratitude on it first and foremost. And why not? There is always something to learn. Adversity has its way of blessing us with lessons a hell of a lot more bluntly than Success.

This past week I had a “comeback” performance with Parsons Dance at the Brown Theatre in the Wortham Center in Houston, Texas. The company was double booked (a beautiful gift for a dance company – too many shows!).  There was an afternoon performance for autistic children that the current company couldn’t be present for – in came the retired Parsons-back-up-crew to the rescue! Those autistic children and their families have been dealt a different hand – one that will provide them unique, beautiful gifts and advancements all the same. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude for the state of my body and mind and how it has supported me through my life and career.

How quickly those of us who are in “good” health forget how lucky we are. How quickly we forget how amazing our bodies are – how resilient, how capable. I haven’t always treated my body with love and respect, yet it has never failed me.

Heck, I’ve starved it at times; I’ve hated on parts of it that didn’t meet the ridiculously perfect and unobtainable bar I’ve set for it; I’ve danced the hell out with it and didn’t stretch it; I’ve neglected it of the TLC of massages and baths when it was screaming at me; I’ve trash-talked to it.

Amazingly enough, it has always healed itself miraculously. It continues to stick with me after all the abuse I’ve given it.

If your body is so capable despite neglect and abuse, what is it (and are you) capable of when you are grateful for it?

Don’t let yourself suffer through poor health before you appreciate the glory of your body right now. Hardship and physical set-backs aren’t needed to be grateful for what you have right now (However sometimes they sure can speed up the process for some who can spin the positive despite them).

The more you are grateful for what you have – body and life – the more beauty, prosperity, and abundance flow right back to you.

So, before you dance, be grateful. Before you workout, be grateful. Before you create, be grateful. Before you eat, be grateful. Before you pay for something, be grateful. Before you move from your bed, be grateful. Before you rest your eyes at night, be grateful. Say it aloud to yourself. Dance your entire next class or performance with gratitude.

Share with me. What are you grateful for? How has throwing gratitude on your body and life helped you?

Go on…Be a dreamer!

I am a big time dreamer.  It might behoove me to come down to planet earth from time to time, but I rather not tie myself down to a world of logic alone.  When I dream, I get excited.  I feel alive.  I feel like anything is possible, and from that mindset, it’s the truth.

Yet…I haven’t always operated from this place and my guess is I’m not alone.

How quickly have you squashed your own dreams, or let someone else do the squashing?  If something makes you feel alive and excited, then operating from this place is useful.  It is your beautiful job to keep on dreaming, even when logic, yourself, or others are tempted to bring you down to earth.  All those childhood songs have it right! You should listen to those quixotic tunes more often, rather than dismiss them as child’s play (Seriously try it.  Walk down the street with a tune from Space Jam blaring in your headphones and you’ll feel like you can conquer the world with a smile).  There is something wise and unadulterated in youth that is worthy of fostering through all of life – and I’m advocating dreaming as one of the worthiest.

Ok, before you think I’ve whimsically and unrealistically lost my marbles – here’s some pragmatism to back up the theory of dreaming and unleash its potential to you for your own benefit in your dance and fitness practice – here on planet earth.

I believe in the power of dreaming because I’ve lived the alternative.  I would oscillate back and forth in my mind about what I could and couldn’t do.  I had wonderfully supportive parents who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up.  I believed those words and knew in my soul my passion was to be a professional dancer.  However ridden in my dogged belief, self-doubt crept.  I had some teachers who harped on me with comments delivered as problems in need of fixing.

“With turnout like that, you are never going to be a dancer.”  “Your legs are a real problem; we need to elongate those lines.”  “It is hard to make a life for yourself as a professional dancer.  What’s your backup plan?” 

Inherently those opposing beliefs, spoon-fed to me from outside voices, caused teeter-tottering internal moments of blissful boundless potential and joyless stagnating impossibility.  I would walk into a room and sometimes discount myself because the physiques surrounding me gave the allure that those dancers were highly talented.  I became acutely aware of all my physical shortcomings and it’s what I saw when I looked at myself in the mirror.  Additionally I questioned if I was going to reach the level of success I dreamed of as a performer when audition season was slow and opportunities seemed lacking.

Then something started happening.  I realized that dancers who had a body that gave off the appearance of all the potential in the world didn’t always deliver on par with their physical gifts.  Physical prowess is just a vessel where expression and artistry are harbored, where the mind has the power to generate it.  I excelled in picking up movements and adopting them as my own.  No one could limit my mind.  I knew confidently that if I mentally understood and could visualize a movement, it was only a matter of time, and often it didn’t take long, to then make it a physical reality on my body.  I began to trust my harnessed power of putting my mind behind my movements – both immediate dance moves and career moves – to achieve any results I truly desired.

When I dreamed more and limited less, my dancing – and happiness – soared.  Things changed when I visualized myself executing each little movement with sinewy length and openness.  These moments gifted me that ultimate level and quality in my dancing, and it started to naturally shift my body’s outside physicality.  There’s a general belief out there that what we are given is set and fixed, but there is more malleability and transformation available for us.  Now I’m not saying my legs are hyperextended or my turn out rivals that of Misty Copland’s, but those thoughts don’t even cross my mind.  Furthermore, my legs have become straighter in their musculature and my turn out more rotated and accessible.  Standing in fifth position went from a place of immobile “crunchy” hip flexors and a horribly stuck anterior tip of my pelvis to a place of glorious opportunity for movement.  I used to hate wearing tights since they seemingly highlighted my “imperfections,” but last week I wore fitted leggings to an audition and felt awesome.

I don’t have problems with my physicality that need fixing.  I have all the potential in the world to execute whatever movement I desire to accomplish, and my body has the capacity to change in support of these desires.

I’m channeling R. Kelly’s “I believe I can Fly” – “If I can see it.  Then I can do it.  If I just believe it.  There’s nothing to it.” 

That is freedom.

Ok.  I’ll get to the important, concrete details about dreaming, visualizing, and believing that tends to be left out of all this fluffy chatter.  (It can’t just be all Space Jam and singsongy starry-eyed melodies, or I’m just preaching a one-way ticket to la-la land without any plan of attack!)

It is not all fluff.  The operations of the soul are real.  The brain has amazing potential – much of which has barely been fully realized.  The words we speak first to ourselves, and then outwardly to others have energy and life to them.  They are as real and as tangible in our life as the legs we move with.  They create ripples of energy.  It is your choice whether you make ripples of positivity or negativity.  You need to brainwash yourself and rewire your subconscious towards the positive.

Awesome.  How can you do this?  (Disclaimer:  I’m continuously working on this myself, but here is what I’ve gathered, and you can continue to follow me as I use this method for my future gain!)

For starters, get clear about what it is you want.  Don’t just think it.  Write it down.  Be specific about why, how, where, and when.  Write about how a life like this feels.  Put a date on when this dream is a breathing reality.  Read it to yourself aloud.  And then read it again.  And again.  (I mean, how fun is that!?  You get to dream up whatever your heart desires and then believe it into reality!)

Here’s my latest dream – that is written in my journal, exists on a vision board that hangs right near my bed, and is also recorded as a voice memo in my phone (Call me crazy, I’m good with it!).  I listen to my own voice recording first thing in the morning and those are the last words I speak to myself before my head hits the pillow.  Here’s an abridged version:

I am a forever-inspired performer and teacher.  On March 3rd (My 31st birthday!), I am dancing on the Broadway stage and have a thriving business of my own with $100,000 in my possession.  My body is physically primed allowing me to reach new physical heights – great flexibility and higher and quicker jumps and footing.  Living Dance has a dedicated and involved community – reaching 5,000 followers – and inspires artists and women through dance and dance-related fitness.  I teach workshops and private sessions to get dancers and women moving passionately and at their ultimate potential so that they can obtain the results they crave.

Next, listen to your internal dialogue.  Which way do you skew (positive or negative)?  What’s the tone of your internal voice (optimistic and kind, or pessimistic and demeaning)?  Then you immediately replace any negative thoughts or tone with a positive one.   I doubted whether I wanted to put the specific dollar amount to my dream in writing for the public to see.  What if that level of financial abundance doesn’t work out for me?  What if people think I am crazy?  I felt a little silly proclaiming something that might seem ridiculous and impossible.   Oh hi there fear and self-doubt.  You have zero ability to zap my dream away from me; I’m choosing boldness and confidence instead.  The specificity and vocalization of these dreams are important.  That doubtful voice I heard as I typed proved to me that I could still believe and trust more in the deserved monetary compensation of my efforts.  There will not always be teachers or others around you that bless you with the gift of seeing more in yourself, but you absolutely can become more aware when those around you are speaking words of limitation.  I beg you to hear them, value your dreams and beliefs more, and discard them.  And then you should do yourself the favor of replacing those limiting words, with boundless ones all the same.

It’s not enough to just think, visualize, or dream about your desires.  Feel it and be emotionally invested in your dreaming.  When you infuse your desire with emotion, your subconscious starts to become infiltrated.  When your subconscious, or your soul, doesn’t believe it, that’s when those second-guessing voices creep within yourself.  Don’t get mad when they do, it takes time to switch deep-rooted thought processes.  Approach it with a lighthearted, fun curiosity.    Bottom line, just don’t be like the majority of unfortunate souls who walk around thinking, “How nice it would be if I was in great shape!” Or, “What would feel like to have that kind of career?”  You are then missing the valuable element of emotional attachment, and you will not be gifted with the change you are capable of obtaining.

Use your imagination.  Not only because it’s fun, but because it is seriously useful.  I envision myself taking class in the ultimate fashion.  Sometimes I have a larger vision in mind – I’m taking ballet class as if I’m live on the Broadway stage.  Sometimes I have a more immediate vision – I close my eyes at barre and envision my body executing the movement to a tee, or do the same thing – but with my eyes open, thank god – in center.  All I know is that it is wondrously fun and physically rewarding.

Lastly and essentially, take action on your gut impulses and the external opportunities that arise from this dreaming.  Dreaming and visualizing is great and all, but if you keep squandering the thoughts that pop up in your brain about what you can do to make them happen or generate excuses for not taking the opportunities that would advance you closer, those dreams are going to escape you.  Applying this in a class setting – whether you are dancing or performing a fitness regimen it is extremely rewarding because you are immediately taking action towards your ultimate physical goal.  As those of you who have graced the stage know too well, if you are thinking about your wobbling foot on the floor, you will be sure to keep up that wobbling and have it dictate how the movement goes moving forward.  If you think that plank pose is the hardest exercise ever, it will continue to defeat you.  If you think of yourself as overweight or out of shape, odds are you will yo-yo back and forth with fad diets, your weight, and confidence.  Be mindful; when your thoughts waiver, so does your body!

The dreaming mindset is one essential step in obtaining the results you truly desire.  You can execute a quadruple pirouette, get down to your ideal weight, or land a job.  It will take commitment, focus of mind, and patience, but if you honestly and diligently put it into effect – and ultimately take action to your internal impulses and external opportunities – it is fail proof. The sky’s your limit.  No, I’m serious.  Dream big!  And then, dream bigger! I’m doing it.  Why the hell wouldn’t you?!  If you believe yourself, you’ll get what you want!

Leave a comment and let me know what your big dreams are!  Immediate or long-term, I’d love to hear.